About Matt Murray

Matt Murray is the creator and an author on the NH Labor News. He is a union member and advocate for labor and progressive politics. He also works with other unions and members to help spread our message. Follow him on Twitter @NHLabor_News

Right-Wing PAC Makes False Claims About Medicare Advantage To NH Seniors

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter 
(image by MARCN Creative Commons On Flickr)
Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter  (image by MARCN Creative Commons On Flickr)

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter
(image by MARCN Creative Commons On Flickr)

We are a mere 241 days from the 2014 elections, and the hard right super PAC’s are already spreading lies throughout New Hampshire.

Recently the conservative super PAC YG Network sent an unsolicited mailer to the constituents of NH First Congressional district, currently represented by Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter.

The YG Network describes themselves on their website as:

“A non-profit 501(c)(4) dedicated to supporting conservative center-right policies and the efforts of policymakers who fight for those policies. By seeking solutions that create jobs, encourage innovation, instill fiscal discipline, establish a patient-centered health care system and pursue energy security, we can foster the optimal environment for America’s businesses and entrepreneurs to succeed and flourish.”

The mailer is an attack on Congresswoman Shea-Porter’s stance on the Affordable Care Act and Medicare specifically.

You can see the full flyer here.

They make the claim that Rep Shea-Porter and President Obama are trying to cut $716 billion dollars from the Medicare Advantage program.   The irony in this right-wing attack is that the $716 billion dollars in savings to the Medicare Advantage program is a key part of the Ryan Plan, the budget proposal that everyone on the right is pushing.

YG Network also claims that;

  • Millions of seniors may be dropped from Medicare Advantage.
  • Higher premiums for care.
  • Higher prices for prescription drugs.
  • Cuts in coverage of dental and vision plans.

These claims by the YG Network are completely FALSE!  Time and time again multiple ‘fact checkers’ have busted these false accusations.

Neither Obama nor his health care law literally “cut” a dollar from the Medicare program’s budget.
Rather, the health care law instituted a number of changes to reduce the growth of Medicare costs. At the time the law was passed, those reductions amounted to $500 billion over the next 10 years. Time’s passage has only boosted that number.”  (Politifact, 9-6-12)

In reality, the $716 billion is not a “cut” in benefits but rather the savings in costs that the Congressional Budget Office projects over the next decade from wholly reasonable provisions in the reform law.” (New York Times 8-18-12)

The facts are undeniable; Granite Staters saved on average $800 a year in prescription drug charges thanks to the Medicare changes as part of the Affordable Care Act.

The truth is that seniors in New Hampshire, and throughout the country, are benefiting from the changes to the Medicare Advantage program. These changes are strengthening Medicare, while saving taxpayer dollars.   Congresswoman Shea-Porter was right to support these changes that add additional funds to the Medicare Trust fund, therefor boosting it’s solvency to 2026.

Unfortunately we are still 241 days away from the 2014 elections, which means that this is only the beginning when it comes to unsolicited lies from the right-wing super PACs.

The Video That Could Change Your Entire Outlook On The Casino Gambling Bill And The Gas Tax

Diana Lacey Screen Shot Video

Once a week the State Employees’ Association (SEIU 1984) sends out their Statehouse Bulletin. The bulletin highlights what the SEA is doing legislatively in Concord.  Every week they post a summary of what bills passed, what bills failed, and what bills are coming in the next week.  This week had all of that, and a little more.

This week’s bulletin had a special video message from SEA President Diana Lacey.  The video is a ‘call to arms’ for all of the SEA members to help convince their state legislators to pass two very important bills, the Gas Tax bill (SB 367), and the Casino bill (HB1633).

While this video was intended for the SEA membership, I feel that everyone in New Hampshire should listen to what President Lacey has to say.

Whether you support expanded gambling and the gas tax increase or not you should know what this will mean to hundreds of state workers. Will it mean more devastating cuts, and more layoffs, or will it mean new jobs for public and private workers?

Please take five minutes to listen to Diana’s message.

Share this post with your friends and family throughout the Granite State to ensure that everyone knows exactly what is at stake if these two bills do not pass this week.

The SEA has started a ‘Save Our Roads’ petition, which you can sign here.

Use this link to find your State Senator and ask them to support the gas tax increase (SB 367).

Use this link to find your State Representative and ask them to support the expanded casino gambling bill (HB 1633).

 

 

Immigrants Generated $252 Million In The NH Economy

Immigration reform for america

There is no denying that immigrants built this great nation and are continuing to shape her every passing day.  Every day immigrants are coming to America to create a better life for themselves and their families.  These immigrants are chasing their own American Dream by starting their own small businesses.

Immigration reform for america

Image by Sasha Y. Kimel on Flicker

According to research from the Immigration Policy Center, between “2006 to 2010, there were 4,253 new immigrant business owners in New Hampshire.”  The IPC also found that in 2010 over 5.7% of all business owners in New Hampshire were foreign-born.

If you listen to Fox News, the only immigrants in America are freeloaders who want to collect welfare and live off the government.  This could not be further from the truth.  Those ‘lazy immigrants’ account for a significant portion of New Hampshire’s net business income.

“In 2010, new immigrant business owners had a total net business income of $252 million, which is 5.8 percent of all net business income in the state.”

Immigrants are flocking to our country to start their own small businesses in the hopes that someday they will become rich! And for some, that is exactly how it worked.

  • New Hampshire is home to many successful companies with at least one founder who was an immigrant or child of an immigrant, including well-known companies such as the footwear company Timberland. Based in Stratham, Timberland currently employs more than 5,800 people and has over $1.5 billion in annual revenue.
  • Sonny Vu, originally from Vietnam, and Sridhar Iyengar, the son of immigrants from India, founded AgaMatrix in 2001. Based in Salem, New Hampshire, their company distributes what Vu and Iyengar call the “next generation” of blood glucose monitoring products for diabetes. AgaMatrix invented and in 2012 began producing the first FDA approved blood glucose meter that directly connects to the iPhone and iPod Touch.
  • In Manchester, refugees from Bhutan opened a market in July 2013. Himalayas General Store provides familiar products from Bhutan to refugees, but also markets a wider variety of goods to other under-served ethnic groups.

The list goes on and on.

We as Americans have always taken pride in being innovative and entrepreneurial.  Many Americans take that giant leap and start their own business. For some the business grows into Apple or Facebook, for others it falls apart after a couple of months.  That – the opportunity to at least try – is the American Dream.

Millions of immigrants are stuck waiting for Congress to give them the roadmap to citizenship they need to chase their own American Dream.  They are waiting for Congress to take the first step, and let them in.

Immigration is a part of who we are as Americans.  I am an Irish, English and Polish “mutt” with roots in New England for over 150 years.  Does that make me any less of an American?  Would it matter if my grandparents were born in Mexico instead of Ireland?  No, it would (and should) not.

People from around the world are coming to the United States; and for hundreds of years we have welcomed them.

Until now.

What are we waiting for?

Now is the time we should be welcoming immigrants with open arms once again – so they can bring their entrepreneurial spirit with them, to help our economy grow.

Great News: The New Hampshire Senate Passes Healthcare Expansion

Summer interns Aislinn (NHCA) and Chris (NARAL) stood up for Medicaid expansion at the State House on June 6th.

“This is a momentous day in New Hampshire,” said Senate Minority Leader Sylvia Larsen after the New Hampshire Senate passed SB 413, the healthcare (Medicaid) expansion.  “Today’s bipartisan vote for a Medicaid Expansion compromise in New Hampshire is a tremendous step forward for our state.  Governor Hassan worked with leaders of both parties to reach a compromise that placed hard working Granite Staters ahead of partisan ideology,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley.

Today vote almost ensures the passage of this ‘healthcare expansion’ with a Democratic majority in the House, and Governor Hassan chomping at the bit to sign it.

“Today’s Senate vote in support of SB 423 brings New Hampshire one step closer to providing affordable health insurance to thousands of low-income residents,” said Deb Fournier, policy analyst for the NH Fiscal Policy Institute.

“This is also an important boost for our economy and our state budget, bringing hundreds of millions of dollars into the New Hampshire economy and giving us the opportunity to save millions in the state budget,” added Fournier.

SB 413 creates a three-stage Health Protection Program to extend affordable health insurance to low income Granite Staters: the Health Insurance Premium Program, the Bridge to Marketplace Premium Assistance Program, and the Marketplace Premium Assistance Program. Federal funding will cover 100 percent of the costs associated with the Health Protection Program, which will be repealed at the end of 2016 unless future legislatures vote to extend it.

(More information about how the new program works by the NHFPI, here)

This new healthcare expansion will help more than 50,000 hard working low-income Granite Staters acquire healthcare.  This commonsense compromise is not only good health policy; it is good economic and fiscal policy too. Economists estimate that expansion will inject $2.5 billion into the New Hampshire economy, create new jobs, and save hard working Granite State taxpayers millions of dollars.

“With expansion, 50,000 Granite Staters will no longer have to fight cancer and bankruptcy at the same time. Instead they will have the economic security that only comes with health insurance coverage,” continued Buckley.

Senator Larsen worked with Senate President Morse to find a commonsense solution that helps the people of New Hampshire, while keeping costs in check.

“This is a momentous day in New Hampshire,” said Larsen. “This legislation will strengthen our state’s economy, prevent the sort of cost-shifting that drives up health care costs on businesses, and improves the lives of 50,000 hard-working Granite Staters. This is right thing to do for New Hampshire.”

“Our action on Senate Bill 413 shows the people of New Hampshire that we are committed to working together to solve our problems with common sense solutions. I thank the Senate President and Republican Majority Leader for working closely with us to pass this important bill,” continued Larsen.

Granite State Progress has been one of the many outspoken non-profit groups pushing for the expansion of Medicaid.

“We praise the Senate for its bipartisan vote to expand health coverage to 58,000 lower income Granite Staters who need it,” said Zandra Rice-Hawkins, Executive Director of Granit State Progress. “Democrats and Republicans worked together to make this program available. A small group of GOP State Senators like Andy Sanborn and John Reagan voted to leave money on the table instead of covering New Hampshire families because they kowtowed to special interests instead of representing their constituents.”

“Policymakers heard loud and clear from constituents, health policy experts, and consumer advocates that expanding Medicaid was a win-win for New Hampshire families, hospitals, community health centers, and our overall budget and economy,” continued Rice-Hawkins.

Labor unions like the State Employees Association have been behind the expansion of Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act from the beginning.  Beth D’Ovidio, spokeswoman for the State Employees’ Association (SEIU 1984) released the following statement.

“Today, the NH Senate achieved a balance of caring for the well-being of NH families and maintaining fiscal prudence in passing SB413. We applaud them for their commitment to bringing access to affordable health care to all NH families and in so doing moving the state forward. Healthy families generate healthy and productive workers; healthy children who do better in school; and healthier seniors who will lead fuller and happier lives during their retirement years.

Under the Affordable Care Act, everyone was supposed to have a way to get affordable health insurance. People with low incomes would get low-cost or free health insurance so long as their state leaders accepted the federal funds set aside for this purpose. Today, I proudly thank our Senate for fulfilling this promise to all the hard-working people who make too little money to get discounted health insurance in the ACA Marketplace and too much to qualify for Medicaid under the current criteria. Accepting this federal funding is essential to provide them with access to low-cost insurance. It’s time to pull people out of the coverage gap.”

This is a big step for the NH Senate, showing that they can work through the partisanship and do what is best for Granite Staters.  Will they be able to use this new found bipartisanship to push for a higher minimum wage? Only time will tell.

Senate Republicans Including Senator Ayotte Are Pitting Immigrants Against Veterans

Frag Out!

Frag Out!Veterans have always been political bread and butter.  It has become a game: who supports Veterans more?  This debate has ratcheted up a couple of notches after the budget negotiation reduced the Cost of Living increases for working age retired Veterans (under 62 years of age).

The adjustment in the COLA for working age retired Veterans would save the government about $7 Billion dollars.  Of course the Veterans organizations were outraged over these cuts, and so was Senator Kelly Ayotte.

Here is a little background on Senator Ayotte.  She currently sits on the Veteran Affairs Committee in the Senate, and is married to Joe Daley who is a retired Air National Guard Lieutenant Colonel. This fight over retired Veterans COLAs is personal for Senator Ayotte because it directly affects her and her family. This cut will directly affect Joe and his retirement benefits.

I agree that we should not be making these COLA cuts to our brave men and women who retired from the military at a young age.  There are many possible solutions to restoring these cuts and the proposal that seems to be getting the most traction is the one to change the ‘Additional Child Tax Credit’ (ACTC).  It would require the person claiming the ACTC to file their taxes with the IRS under their Social Security Number.

Currently working immigrants file their federal taxes using a Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) because they cannot get a Social Security number until they are US Citizens.

This change is a direct assault on the millions of hard working immigrants who are paying their federal taxes and legally claiming their dependents under the ACTC program.  Once again, the only way to get a Social Security number is to be a US resident.  This means that if you are not a US Citizen (even if your children are), you still have to pay taxes, but you cannot claim the ACTC.

The Bipartisan Policy Center stated, “Effectively, this would allow the IRS to deny ACTC benefits to households headed by unauthorized immigrant parents, regardless of the child’s citizenship status.”

This is where the whole plan gets very complex.  For example, there are many households in the US right now headed by parents of a US citizen – but due to the immigration process, the parents are not US citizens themselves.  Even if the child is a natural born American citizen, their parents could not claim them under the proposed ACTC changes.

(Note: Senator Ayotte later amended her proposal to provide an exception for parents of US citizens.)

We are not talking about a few hundred people filing for these credits. According to the Treasury Department’s Inspector General, in 2010, ITIN filers reported $60 billion dollars in wages. The Bipartisan Policy Center reported that, “a large majority of unauthorized immigrants’ children are U.S. citizens.”

To me the issue could easily be resolved by passing a comprehensive immigration bill, like the one that has already passed in the US Senate.  We can clear up the tax questions quickly by allowing these parents of US citizens to become citizens themselves.  Making a roadmap to citizenship allows those people who are already living and working – and paying taxes – here in the United States a way to become citizens themselves.

We should stop trying to find ways to punish them for being undocumented, and find ways to help streamline the citizenship process. Some of them have been working on getting legal citizenship for years now, all the while living, working, and paying taxes like every other American.

Now our Congressional Representatives are waging war between Veterans and immigrants to find a way to restore the cuts to Veterans’ retirements.

Here is an idea to solve both problems: let’s stop building war machines that we do not need and put that money back into the budget where it can do some real good.  Like the F-35 fighter jet, which is billions over budget and still cannot fly at night.  Or the hundreds of tanks that the Army and Marine Corps do not want, which are being built just to stored in the desert boneyards, with no intent to actually use them.

By trimming the fat off the DOD budget, we can open our doors to all immigrants, feed our nation’s poor, and create a better education system through proper funding.

Or we can continue to build weapons of war that we do not want or need.

Overpaid Government Workers: New Report Highlights The Real Overpaid Government Workers

Image by Brunswyk WikiCommons

If you ask any Conservative Republican what they think about the pay of government workers, I would bet dollars to donuts they would say the same thing.  Government workers are overpaid!

The truth is that they are not entirely wrong.  They problem lies in who they believe are overpaid.  They believe it is teachers, sanitation workers, and caseworkers are lazy and overpaid.  The fact is that the real people who are scamming the taxpayers with bloated compensations are the government contractors.

This week the Center for Media and Democracy released a scathing report highlighting the obscene compensations of government contractors who are being paid with taxpayer money.

The report by CMD highlights just six of these “government” workers who, between them, raked in more than $100 million from taxpayers in personal compensation during the past few years alone.

“Given these astronomical salaries, and evidence of higher prices, poor service, and at times outright malfeasance, taxpayers have every right to be concerned about how their outsourced dollars are spent,” said Lisa Graves, Executive Director of CMD.

These top executives include:

  • George Zoley, America’s highest paid “corrections officer” and CEO of private prison giant GEO Group. Zoley made $22 million in compensation between 2008 and 2012. CMD estimates that GEO Group makes 86 percent of its revenue from the taxpayers. GEO Group writes language into private prison contracts that forces taxpayers to keep prisons full or else pay for empty beds. GEO Group has faced hundreds of lawsuits over prisoner deaths, assaults, excessive force, and more, which have led to secret court settlements.
  • David Steiner, president and CEO of Waste Management, is America’s highest paid “sanitation worker.” Steiner made a whopping $45 million in compensation from 2006 to 2012. Waste Management’s makes about 50 percent of its revenue from U.S. taxpayers, says Goldman Sachs.
  • Ron Packard of K12 Inc. is America’s highest paid “teacher.” Packard made more than $19 million in compensation between 2009 and 2013, despite the alarming fact that only 28 percent of K12 Inc. cyber schools met state standards in 2010-2011, compared to 52 percent of public schools. CMD estimates that K12 Inc. makes 86 percent of its revenue from the taxpayers.
  • Jeffry Sterba, president and CEO of American Water Works Company, is America’s highest paid “water worker.” Sterba has made $8.3 million in the three years he has been top executive. American Water is the largest for-profit provider of water and wastewater services in the United States. CMD estimates that American Water makes approximately 89 percent of its revenue from taxpayers.
  • Richard Montoni, CEO of Maximus, is America’s highest paid “caseworker.” Maximus is a for-profit firm that handles government services for poor and vulnerable residents. Montoni made more than $16 million between 2008 and 2012. In 2013, Maximus landed in hot water for improper billing in Wisconsin. In 2007, Maximus paid $30 million to settle a U.S. Department of Justice criminal investigation into fraudulent billing.
  • Nicholas Moore is America’s highest paid “road worker.” As managing director and CEO of the Australian infrastructure firm Macquarie, Moore made $8.8 million in compensation in fiscal year 2013. As a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Macquarie has pushed for privatization of public services across the board. It has long-term contracts to run Chicago’s Skyway, Indiana’s Toll Road, and the Dulles Greenway in Virginia.

We as taxpayers should be appalled by the fact that our government is paying these people millions of dollars a year with our tax dollars, while millions of children are going without food because SNAP benefits are ‘unaffordable’.

Those who are screaming we need to get our budgets under control need to look at the outrageous compensation of government contractors who are failing us at every level.

 

Read the full report from CMD here

Republicans and Democrats Push Senate Bill To Further The Destruction Of The USPS

Colburn and Carper
Colburn and Carper

Senator Coburn and Senator Carper
Image from HSGAC.GOV

Previously we reported on the fierce opposition to Senate Bill 1486 (postal reform) that was at the time, being introduced into the US Senate.  This week the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee voted 9-1 to approve S1486 with provisions that will destroy good jobs, and close post offices.

“This disastrous bill would severely damage service to the people; weaken the USPS and make it ripe for privatization, and destroy good jobs throughout the country,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein. “The APWU urges senators to vote against the bill if and when it is brought to the Senate floor for consideration.”

“Unnecessary and damaging attacks on the Postal Service’s vital networks and its employees—such as those unfortunately included in S. 1486—would only send the USPS on a downward trajectory,” said NALC President Fredric Rolando.

(The NALC also submitted this letter to the Senate spelling out the opposition to this bill.)

I am not surprised that my Senator, Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) voted for the bill, because like many others in the Republican Party, they want to privatize the USPS. HSGAC Votes on S1486 I am shocked at how some the Democratic Senators on the committee voted. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) all voted to move this legislation out of committee.

This is shocking to me because this legislation would decimate the unionized workforce of the USPS, and the Democrats are usually the party that works with labor unions, not against them.  I guess that just goes to show that when it comes to attacking organized labor, both parties share the blame.

This bill is a horrible and offers no solution to the well-documented problems in the USPS, the pre-funding obligation.  Instead the bill adds another $17 billion to the debt obligation to the USPS.  It is insane to think that if the USPS cannot pay their current financial obligations due to the pre-funding mandate, that adding another $17 billion will somehow help the situation.

Adding more financial obligations to the USPS is not the only problems with this bill.  The National Association of Letter Carriers laid out the other problems with the bill.

  • Threaten 100,000 full- and part-time postal jobs;
  • Lead to pension cuts; 
  • Weaken workers’ position in upcoming contract negotiations; 
  • Permit the USPS to close and consolidate mail processing facilities after two years; 
  • Allow the Postal Service to further reduce service and delivery standards;
  • Eliminate Saturday delivery after 2017;
  • Eliminate door-to-door mail delivery for new businesses and households, and 
  • Expose injured workers to impoverishment once they reach retirement age.

Possibly cutting 100,000 good mostly union jobs, is not the way to rebuild our economy.  We elected representatives to Congress to create jobs, not destroy them.

While the combination of postal unions was successful in preserving six-day delivery, it is only a temporary fix.  This new bill still wants to eliminate six-day delivery by 2017, along with the door-to-door service.

“Paving the way for eliminating six-day delivery and door-to-door service would hurt millions of residents and small businesses as well as the Postal Service itself, because it would slow service, drive mail out of the system and reduce the earned revenue that funds USPS,” said NALC President Fredric Rolando.

It continues to baffle me that between all of the Senators and Congressmen in Washington that none of them can seem to figure out the simple solution to the problems in the USPS.  All they need to do is pass a bill removing the pre-funding mandates, and poof, all the problems go away.

In fact the post office is becoming stronger and stronger every day.   Parcel shipments are up and with that revenue is up.

“The announced operating profit of $765 million for the first quarter is dramatic in itself—and it continues the operating profitability that began last year,” said NALC President Fredric Rolando.  “This quarter’s $765 million operating profit compares with the $100 million from the first quarter of 2013—another sign of improving postal finances.”

Rolando continued, “In light of these results, lawmakers should strengthen the postal network while addressing the remaining problem: the congressional mandate to pre-fund future retiree benefits, required of no other public or private entity in the country. Degrading the network and reducing services to the public and businesses would jeopardize the postal turnaround.”

It is truly sad to see that both Republicans, and now Democrats, are working together to further the destruction of most revered agency in the federal government.

Feb. 11th Is Your Chance To Help Raise The Minimum Wage In NH

from http://standupfl.org/event/national-raise-the-wage-day/

The fight over raising the minimum wage is heating up.  During President Obama’s State of the Union address he announced that he would use an executive order to mandate that all government contractors pay a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour.  This falls in line with the $10.10 per hour proposal that the President and Democrats have been pushing for months.

During the State of the Union called for more local legislation to push for a higher minimum wage since Congress in unable to pass the proposed increase.

Tonight, I ask more of America’s business leaders to follow John’s lead and do what you can to raise your employees’ wages. To every mayor, governor, and state legislator in America, I say, you don’t have to wait for Congress to act.”

Now is your chance to help pass a minimum wage increase right here in New Hampshire.

from http://standupfl.org/event/national-raise-the-wage-day/

On February 11th the NH House Labor Committee will hear testimony for and against raising the minimum wage.  This is where you can help.  We need people to show up and talk with legislators about why it is important to raise the minimum wage.

The specifics of HB 1403 are to raise the minimum wage to $8.25 in 2015 and then to  $9.00 per hour in 2016.  The bill will also tie the NH minimum wage to inflation, which insures that workers will continue to see an increase as their cost of living increases.

Even if you are not comfortable testifying to the committee about raising the minimum wage, we still need your help.  Just being there to show your support is important.

There are multiple events going on Feb 11th as part of this consolidated push to pass HB 1403.  The Voices of Faith for Humane Public Policy and the NH Faith-Labor Dialogue Project are hosting an ‘Interfaith Prayer Breakfast Calling for the Dignity of All Workers’ at
Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church, (21 Centre Street, Concord) at 8am.
(Please RSVP if you are planning to attend:
economicjustice.nhcucc@gmail.com)

After the interfaith service the NH AFL-CIO is holding a Raise the Wage Press Conference.  Those who support raising the minimum wage are encouraged to attend the press conference, which begins at 9:30 am in the Lobby of the Legislative Office Building.

Then at 10:30 everyone is encouraged to attend and sign in supporting the passage of HB 1403 at the public hearing (Room 305-307 in the Legislative Office Building). If you are interested in offering testimony for this bill, contact Kurt Ehrenberg, kurtehrenberg@nhaflcio.org for information and tips on delivering testimony.

Thousands of minimum wage workers need your help and your support to ensure the passage of HB 1403 to raise the minimum wage here in New Hampshire.

NH Congressional Reps Should Not Have Voted For The Farm Bill That Hurts NH’s Hungry Children

poverty

As the curator of the NH Labor News social media accounts I get a very deep, inside look at how people think about the issues taken up by the NHLN.  Usually I get attacked from the right by anti-union, right-wing zealots who tell me that I just do not understand economics, etc.  I am well versed in my responses to them.

This week I was very surprised when I was hearing outrage from the left, over the passage of the Farm Bill.  For those who do not know about this particular bill, it is full of subsidies for farmers and food producers. It is also the bill that authorizes the amount of money to be given out by the federal government in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly called food stamps.

The 2013 version of the Farm Bill was passed last summer along party lines and included $40 billion in cuts to the SNAP program.  These cuts immediately outraged Democrats including both of the Representatives from my home state, New Hampshire.

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter on July 11th 2013:

“Traditionally, Congress uses the reauthorization of the Farm Bill to work on a bipartisan basis to create fairer farming policies, a healthier America, and contribute to deficit reduction. Unfortunately, today’s legislation would endanger the health of families and children across New Hampshire by completely removing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) from the bill. Each year, SNAP benefits help 120,000 poor and working New Hampshire residents, 70% of whom are families with children, fight hunger. This program is vital to supporting food banks, soup kitchens, and hungry Americans.”

Congresswoman Annie Kuster on July 11th 2013:

“The choice between supporting New Hampshire’s rural economy or funding critical nutrition assistance programs is a fallacy. We can and must do both, and this bill fails to meet that test. I’m deeply dismayed that House leadership is willing to abandon hungry children, veterans, and seniors in New Hampshire and all across the country. It’s wrong and unacceptable.” 

“There is no question that Congress needs to pass a comprehensive, bipartisan Farm Bill, but we need to do it the right way. I continue to urge both parties to work toward a compromise that will protect vital nutrition assistance funding, improve conservation and energy programs, and provide long-term certainty for the agricultural community.”

Everyone praised our representatives for taking a stand and opposing these cuts to the SNAP program.

That was July, and now we are in the end of January, and once again the Farm Bill is up for another vote in the US House.  The 2014 version of the bill includes $8.6 billion in SNAP benefit cuts.  However this time both NH representatives voted for the bill.

CNN reports, “A bipartisan deal on a new farm bill reached earlier this week could trim $90 a month in benefits for 850,000 food stamp recipients, saving the government nearly $1 billion a year.”  The question is how much are those people rally going to get after they trim $90 a month off of their benefits? The average benefit in the US is $134 dollars per month.  Take away $90 from $134 and you are left with under $50 a month.  Not even $2 dollars a day.

The majority of the cuts to the SNAP program are coming from people who live in 16 states. 10 of the 16 states are in the Northeast, spanning from Delaware to Maine.

They say the cuts will close a loophole that gave people more money because they also received home heating oil stipends.  They claim, “the spending cuts would not remove anyone from the SNAP program while ensuring that every person receives the benefits they are intended to receive under the rules of the program,” but I do not believe them.  You cannot take money away from someone and then say they are still getting the same benefits.

After voting for the Farm Bill it was obvious from Rep Shea-Porter’s statement that this was a very difficult decision for her.

“This bill is far from perfect, but I heard overwhelmingly from Granite State farmers and small businesses that this legislation would help them grow New Hampshire’s economy and put food on our tables. I also heard from anti-hunger advocates who share my deep disappointment in this legislation’s cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and they told me that they support this bill because it would reduce the proposed level of cuts and increase funding for emergency food assistance programs.”

“It is outrageous that this legislation gives away millions of dollars to big agriculture corporations while reducing funding for SNAP. But I supported this bill because the good outweighs the bad.”

Rep Kuster’s statement also highlighted how the bill was not perfect but made no mention to the cuts to SNAP benefits.

“This legislation isn’t perfect, but it is a true compromise that will provide our agricultural producers with the support they need to thrive and continue providing Granite Staters with fresh, nutritious, and safe food.”

Rep Kuster’s statement did highlight how the newest version of the bill would add an additional “$20 million a year to food banks throughout the country”.

While I support both Rep Kuster and Rep Shea-Porter on 90% of their votes, but I have to disagree with them on this vote.   We are trading $700 million dollars a year in SNAP cuts for $20 million in food bank donations.  This is bad for low-income families, and bad for our economy.

The SNAP program helps 47 million low-income families by providing money to buy food at their local grocery stores.  SNAP directly helps the economy as well.  Data confirms that for every $1 spent by the government in SNAP benefits generates $1.73 in the local economy.  My simple math says that $8 billion in cuts will result in a loss of over 13 billion in the overall economy. SNAP is an investment in our economy, and it almost doubles our returns.

While, I have been an outspoken advocate for stopping these cuts to the SNAP program, I wonder what business industry has to say about these cuts.

Almost half of all (SNAP) redemptions are in big-box super-centers such as Walmart and Target, according to Bloomberg Industries”. (Bloomberg news)

Walmart alone was reimbursed over $18 billion dollars from the food stamp program last year alone.

CNN is reporting that cuts to the food stamp program last year hurt Walmart’s bottom line.  CNN continues:

The warnings mean the company will report a drop in earnings in the quarter that ends Friday.

It surprises me that Walmart is not lobbying for more SNAP spending, because it directly pads their pockets.  The Farm Bill is full of people lining their pockets, including 10 Republican House members who receive benefits from farm subsidies.

Now we need both of our Senators to stand up for hungry children and Granite Staters, as we are going to be unfairly burdened by the SNAP cuts. Contact your Senator and ask them not to support the Farm Bill if it includes any cuts to hungry children.  You can remind them that there are less than 2.5 million retired veterans who would be effected by the $6 billion dollar budget cut they opposed, and there are 47 million hungry families relying on $8 billion dollars in SNAP benefits.

Are ‘School Vouchers’ Being Used To Teach Anti-Union Propaganda?

Image of page 361

History has always been on of my favorite subjects – and as Edmond Burke said, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”

What if the history you were being taught differed from what really happened?  That is exactly what is happening inside the book “America Land I Love.

This book is written for eight graders but the inaccuracies in the book are astounding.  I will start with an easy one.

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Image of page 361

Yes, the title of the chapter is the ‘Rise of Big Government’.  Did you also see what the subchapter title was?  That‘s right, it is called the ‘New Deal and the Rise of Socialism in America’.

“Those who don’t know history…” etc.  If you look at the actual numbers of members in the Socialist Party, the New Deal might have been what caused the movement’s decline.

Membership in the Socialist Party actually peaked – at a grand total of about 20,000 members – in the early 1930’s, just as Congress was beginning to pass “New Deal” programs.   These days, there are about 7,000 members in the two Socialist parties, and another 2,000 members in the Communist party.

Not exactly what I’d call a “rising” movement.  But of course, I’m not the one writing 8th grade textbooks.

Let’s see what they say about the New Deal.

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Image of page 369

Well, they’re right about a couple of things.  FDR did succeed at stabilizing our nation’s banking system; and it stayed relatively stable until the 1980s Savings and Loan crisis.   And federal government programs did put people to work.  Congress also created Social Security, the program that still keeps millions of seniors from falling into poverty.  The fact is, New Deal policies helped America recover from the Great Depression.

I especially like the part that says, “The idea that government can live beyond its means is called Keynesian Economics, the creed of ‘tax and spend’ politicians.”   This is supposed to be a history book, not the editorial column.

The book goes on to say that under FDR, the government “began to operate on a deficit.”   But the word “began” is really misleading.  In fact, our country has had varying levels of deficits and debt since it was founded.  Our founding fathers borrowed money to pay for the Revolutionary War.  Alexander Hamilton’s view: “The United States debt, foreign and domestic, was the price of liberty.”

What the book author does not tell you is that after the New Deal, after WWII, the federal government had a budget surplus.  In 1948, that budget surplus equaled 4% of the GDP.

It seems obvious that the author wanted to impart his own ideology about government onto the students.

Let’s look at what he is telling our children about labor unions.

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Image of page 371

Excuse me, but that is not what the Wagner Act is about.  The Wagner Act is about blocking employers from taking certain actions against employees who want to join or form a union.

Where is the part about how unions pushed for the 40-hour workweek, overtime, child labor laws, or all of the other things that unions helped accomplish?  I am sure it will all be explained on the next page.

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Image of page 372

Nope. The author portrayed a peaceful, non-violent protest as an act of violence against the employer and the employer’s property.  I wonder what the Reverend Martin Luther King would have said about this.

As my friend Chris used to say, “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story”.  I think the book’s author took this motto to heart.

Is this what they’re teaching children in private and religious schools?  And now they want you to pay for it?

That’s right, they want you to pay for their children to attend private schools, or take lessons at home using a ‘school voucher’ from your tax dollars.

This week many organizations are coming together for ‘National School Choice Week’.  It is an annual attempt to convince people that school vouchers are about ‘freedom and choice.’

From my perspective, school vouchers are about who is going to foot the bill for children to receive ideological indoctrination that masquerades as “education.” Who pays for “education” like what’s in this book “America Land I Love”?

In New Hampshire, 85 students were granted “scholarships” to the tune of $235,000 in school vouchers to continue to attend private or home schools.

So: are your tax dollars paying for schools that teach children the ideology that government is bad, and that unions used violent actions to demand ‘higher wages and certain working conditions’?

Are your tax dollars paying for schools that reject proven scientific facts about the creation of our plant, evolution, climate change, and many more topics?

This is one of the reasons that the New Hampshire Supreme Court recently ruled that vouchers could not be used for private religious schools.

However, other states have yet to make that ruling, and are continuing to use vouchers to pay for private religious schools.

My perspective: If you want to teach your children something other than the truth, that’s your decision as a parent.  But I don’t want you using my tax dollars to pay for it.

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Images from: America Land I Love In Christian Perspective, Second Edition; A Beka Book, copyright 2006, Pensacola Christian College. (http://www.abeka.com/ABekaOnline/BookDescription.aspx?sbn=97578)