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Berry Craig: Kentucky Union Members Who Voted For Trump Are Having Buyers Remorse Now


By BERRY CRAIG

AFT Local 1360

Donald Trump carried all but two of Kentucky’s 120 counties, and he collected a whopping 62.5 percent of the vote.

Kentucky is among only a dozen states where the president’s popularity is 50 percent or higher. He’s at 51 in the Red State Bluegrass State.

Nationwide, Trump received votes from 43 percent of union households, according to a Roper poll. The survey didn’t break down the results state by state. The president probably did as well or better among Kentucky union households.

Anyway, go ahead and call it whistling past the graveyard. But the 51 percent number suggests that buyer’s remorse is creeping up in the border state I’ve called home for all my 68 years.

I’ve packed a union card for about two dozen years. Most of us in organized labor voted for Hillary Clinton, the AFL-CIO-endorsed Democrat. But I’m hearing about rumblings of regret in union ranks.

We said Trump was—and still is—a fraud and a con man. He ran on a standard Wall Street Republican platform with planks supporting:

— “right to work” (On the campaign trail, Trump said he preferred RTW states to non-RTW states.)

— repeal of the prevailing wage on federal construction projects

— deep cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid

— sharp rollbacks in federal regulations that safeguard worker safety and health on the job, protect consumers and shield the environment from polluters

— hefty tax breaks for corporations and rich people and tax crumbs for the rest of us

The Trump-Republican Robin-in-reverse tax bill came up at this month’s meeting of the Paducah-based Western Kentucky AFL-CIO Area Council, where I’m recording secretary.

“We’ve always preached that what’s good for the union is good for everybody, and it has been historically,” said delegate Jimmy Evans, IBEW Local 816 business manager.

He cited as proof the tax legislation, which AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called in a statement “nothing but an attack on America’s workers.” He added, “We will pay more, corporations and billionaires will pay less. It’s a job killer. It gives billions of tax giveaways to big corporations that outsource jobs and profits.”

The devil is always in the details. Under the tax bill, corporations can deduct payments to union-busting lawyers, but union members can’t deduct their union dues, according to the USW.

“Previously, employees could potentially write off work-related expenses that added up to more than 2 percent of their gross income, and for which an employer didn’t reimburse them,” explained CNBC’s Annie Nova.

Nova also wrote that the axing of “miscellaneous itemized deductions” for a lot of taxpayers might not sound like a big deal, but she cautioned that their disappearance “will leave a hole in many workers’ pockets, experts say.”

The end of those deductions “was a shot across the bow of union members,” Evans said. “But it also affects a lot of non-union members that work construction, just like it does our construction members.”

Nova also said workers can no longer deduct “work-related legal fees…medical examinations required by an employer, union dues and licenses.”

She quoted Seth Harris, a deputy labor secretary under President Barack Obama: “The really big story of the tax bill is that it favors capital over labor. It’s heavily skewed to benefit people who get money without working, as opposed to those who labor for a living.”

Harris also told her that many workers who itemize have a lot of different expenses — including mortgages — that would still make itemizing worth their while. He added that deductions for corporations are still abundant.

In addition, Nova quoted David Kamin, a law professor at New York University who was an economic policy advisor in the Obama administration: “While people can say there’s a doubling of the standard deduction, those who have significant unreimbursed business expenses will not do as well.”

She also interviewed Martin Davidoff, a New Jersey CPA and tax attorney who said it’s unfair that companies can still deduct the “so-called cost of doing business.”

“Take a look at McDonald’s,” he told Nova. “They spend $50 million on a Superbowl ad, and they get to deduct it.”

Tax attorney Paul Drizner said that under the tax bill, many teachers will be forced to choose between spending less on their classrooms or taking home less from their salaries. (Teachers can still can claim a $250 above-the-line deduction on unreimbursed workplace expenses if they itemize or not, according to Nova). “Teachers shouldn’t be paying out of their own pocket to put their lessons together,” said Drizner in the story.

Evans said it’s not just the tax bill that has union members rethinking the ballots they cast for Trump and other Republicans. “Now they’re wanting to get back on board and be on our side again. They see that those things we fought for is what helped them.”

I carry AFT and NEA/KEA retiree cards. More than a few community college and public-school teachers not only voted for Trump in 2016, they also cast ballots for GOP Gov. Matt Bevin the year before. (Most of us in AFT and KEA also voted for Jack Conway, the KEA and Kentucky State AFL-CIO-endorsed Democratic gubernatorial hopeful.

The fact that the president’s popularity rating in Kentucky is 11.5 percentage points lower that his victory margin suggests that many Trump backers regret their votes. We’ll know more in a Feb. 20 special House election in Bullitt County.

The incumbent, Republican Dan Johnson, took his own life. His widow, Republican Rebecca Johnson, who shares her late husband’s ultra-conservative views, wants to replace him. Her opponent is state AFL-CIO and KEA-endorsed Democrat Linda Belcher, whom Dan Johnson unseated in 2016.

KEA warned that the tea party-tilting Bevin could turn out to be the worst governor for public education in a long time, if not ever. Unions warned he was a union-buster to boot.

In 2017, he and his GOP-majority legislature pushed through a bill authorizing charter schools, which drain much-needed funds from public schools. (With Bevin cheering them on, GOP lawmakers also passed a “right to work” law and repealed the prevailing wage on state construction jobs.

Bevin’s proposed 2018 budget takes a meat-axe to education spending from kindergarten through higher education, including community colleges and state universities. He also wants to gut the workers’ compensation program.

Too, in the phony name of pension “reform,” Bevin has proposed a measure that would curb some benefits for current employees and retirees and force most new hires onto risky 401(a) programs.

Teachers are up-in-arms over the pension bill. (The GOP-majority House has been devising its own pension bill behind closed doors but has yet to release it.)

“It’s great to see all the educators getting involved,” Evans said. “But you know what it took to get them involved? Somebody is dipping his hand into their wallets.”

Evans hates to say, “we told you so,” but he reminded the delegates at our meeting that, all along, organized labor has been telling union members what politicians like Trump and Trump fan Bevin “want to do to them. It’s the same in our ranks. It’s taken politicians dipping into their wallets to get a lot of people re-engaged.”

 

Article originally appeared in the Kentucky AFL-CIO blog and reposted with permission.

America Needs Real Federal Investment To Repair Our National Infrastructure

Today, President Trump announced his “Trillion dollar infrastructure plan” that many say, completely misses the mark.

ThinkProgress explains how the new program is going to work (in theory):

“The proposal aims to turn $200 billion in federal funds into a $1.5 trillion investment over the next ten years by placing most of the financial burden on states and cities, which will have to cover at least 80 percent of the cost of any infrastructure project in order to qualify for federal grants, likely through higher taxes, tolls, and other user fees. The $200 billion number is a dramatic reduction in federal cost-sharing from years past.

…According to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) annual Infrastructure Report Card, the United States needs to invest $4.59 trillion by 2025 in order to improve the country’s infrastructure — a figure three times larger than even the rosiest estimate in Trump’s proposal and more than 20 times larger than the $200 billion actually allocated.”

Larry I. Willis, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) said “plan undermine the diverse needs of our transportation network” in his statement:

“We have long called for America’s infrastructure crisis to be met with a massive infusion of new federal investment that will grow the economy and create good, middle-class jobs. While we appreciate the spotlight President Trump has shined on the need to rebuild America, too many aspects of this plan undermine the diverse needs of our transportation network and the businesses, communities, and working families that depend on it.

“Robbing other federal priorities — including important transportation programs — to pay for infrastructure will only add to our growing problems. Furthermore, devolving the federal government’s funding responsibility to cash-strapped states and municipalities will leave too many projects and jobs behind.

“Congress now has an opportunity to craft a bipartisan proposal that will rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, fuel a new wave of middle-class job creation, and bolster the American economy in a way that works for everyone. Getting there will require robust federal investment, stabilizing the Highway Trust Fund for surface transportation needs and prioritizing Buy America rules and longstanding labor protections that support good jobs and raise wages.

“Creating an infrastructure network capable of supporting a 21st-Century economy requires real federal commitment. It is now time for Congress to take the lead and we stand ready to support that effort.” 

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka also released a statement on Trump’s infrastructure plan: 

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, our country’s grade on infrastructure is a D-plus. The infrastructure we use hundreds of millions of times each day is literally crumbling after decades of neglect. Our cars drive on broken roads, our children cross failing bridges, our loved ones ride on unsafe rail, our outdated electrical grids waste incredible amounts of power all while working people pay the cost of inaction.

President Trump has rightly noted the urgency and scale of America’s infrastructure crisis, and he has an opportunity to fix it. Unfortunately, today’s proposal relies more on accounting gimmicks and Wall Street investors than on a new federal commitment, which leaves states and municipalities to pick up the tab.

The right infrastructure plan will lift our communities and drive our economy forward for generations to come. That’s why this issue is so important and why the AFL-CIO and our affiliates are working actively with Congress to craft legislation that achieves these goals in a bipartisan way. If our nation’s leaders are serious about building America, they need to step up with trillions of dollars in new federal funding that supports America’s jobs, America’s resources and America’s products. And they need to uphold high labor standards and good wages and protect working people on the job. If they do, we have the most highly skilled and well-trained workforce ready to get the job done.

Well known economist, Robert Reich, posted a short video about the new infrastructure plan calling it a “huge tax giveaway for the rich.”  He warns that we would be turning over our public roads and bridges to private corporations who will install new fees and tolls.

This afternoon the Washington Post reports that President Trump is looking to “divest” in government assets and privatize government services. He is even proposing selling off, Washington National Airport (DCA) and Dulles International (IAD).

“The Washington region’s George Washington Memorial Parkway and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, both run by the National Park Service, are listed as “examples of assets for potential divestiture.” It was not immediately clear what public or private entity might buy those roads, whether they might be tolled, or other details. Same with the two airports in Virginia, which are leased from the federal government.

…Efforts to privatize federal assets were discussed early in the administration by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, National Economic Council director Gary Cohn and other advisers as a preferred way to come up with capital for much needed improvements.

A high-profile Trump effort to move the nation’s air traffic control system out of government hands was blocked in Congress.”

Even the fiscal conservative group, The Concord Coalition, says the numbers just don’t add up.

The administration is focusing a great deal of attention on its infrastructure plan but counting on most of the money for it to come from state and local governments as well as the private sector. The federal government would provide only $200 billion of the $1.5 trillion spending goal. Yet the budget proposes transportation and other infrastructure cuts of around $200 billion and there is no clear, credible explanation of this juxtaposition or how any new infrastructure spending would be financed.

Trump says he is open to the possibility of raising the federal gas tax, which has not been done since 1993. This would be a reasonable step. But just hinting at such an increase is not enough; the president should show real leadership by calling on Congress to approve a specific gas tax hike.

No matter how you slice it, this infrastructure plan stinks. If it goes through, the public will be forced to cough up more money to fix the roads and bridges, but that money will go right into the pockets of the executives of the billion dollar corporations who have bought up all of our public roadways.

“Right to Work” Rears Its Ugly Head Again

It must be Groundhog Day. There’s another Supreme Court case that could “deal a major blow to labor unions.”

Yes, the National Right to Work Foundation is getting another chance to impose “Right to Work” on the entire nation through Supreme Court fiat.

Nevermind how voters may feel about it. After Maine lawmakers passed “Right to Work” in 1947, voters repealed the law by a two-to-one majority. In 1958, California and Colorado voters refused “Right to Work” by three-to-two margins; Ohio voters turned it down two-to-one; and voters in the state of Washington said “no” by a margin of nine-to-five. Ohio lawmakers ignored the 1958 ballot results and passed “Right to Work” in 2011; and voters repealed the law by an overwhelming margin. Missouri lawmakers passed “Right to Work” last year; but the law is now on hold, and voters will have the final say in a referendum this fall.

Nevermind the state legislatures that have had second thoughts about “Right to Work.” In both New Hampshire and Delaware, state legislatures adopted “Right to Work” in 1947 – and then repealed it in 1949. Louisiana’s legislature passed “Right to Work” in 1954 and repealed it in 1956 (and then passed it again in 1976). Indiana passed “Right to Work” in 1957 and repealed it in 1965 (and then passed it again in 2012).

Nevermind that conservatives are supposed to be opposed to judicial activism. The National Right to Work Foundation wants the Supreme Court to make “Right to Work” the law of the land. The Foundation has been using court cases to chip away at labor unions since 1968 – and they’re proud of it. You can read a list of the court cases they’ve brought against unions here.

If they succeed, what happens next? All the press coverage has been about the potential damage to labor unions. But what about

Government contracting? The National Right to Work Foundation wants the Supreme Court to rule that government contracting is an “inherently political” process. That may sound good to the Foundation, in the context of union-busting, but what about the rest of government contracting? At last report, the federal government negotiated more than 3.8 million contracts a year, totaling about $440 billion in spending – and about 2% of the federal workforce was made up of “contract professionals” (who are not union members). What happens if the Supreme Court adds “politics” to the list of reasons a procurement decision can be challenged? Will taxpayers or business competitors be able to challenge contract decisions on the basis of politics? (For instance, the $24 million refrigerator upgrade to Air Force One – was that decision tainted by the $16.7 million in lobbying that Boeing paid for, last year? The more than $1 million its PAC has “invested” in this year’s federal campaigns? The more than $2 million it spent on the 2016 campaigns?)

Employers’ rights? The National Right to Work Foundation wants the Supreme Court to rule that an employee’s “right” to not associate with the union takes precedence over his employer’s right to determine conditions of employment. That may sound good to the Foundation, in the context of union-busting, but what about the rest of employer-employee relations? What happens when an employer requires a security clearance, but the employee wants to associate with terrorist organizations? When an employer wants to maintain a mainstream “brand” but the employee wants to use Facebook and Twitter to advertise his association with the American Nazi Party?

States’ rights to decide the terms and conditions of their workers’ employment?

40 years’ worth of judicial precedents, not just in labor law, but also First Amendment interpretation? (If workers’ First Amendment rights trump their public employers’ interests, won’t that open the floodgates for “leaks” to the press?)

What about all the other potential ramifications of this case?

Yep, it’s Groundhog Day. Another opportunity for the Supreme Court to overlook long-term consequences, in a case brought by political insiders.

Remember Citizens United? Citizens United President David Bossie is on the GOP’s National Committee and a “veteran conservative operative.” The Supreme Court used his court case to overturn campaign finance laws. Now Congress is openly doing what their donors (not voters) want. Read the Brennan Center’s How Citizens United Changed Politics and Shaped the Tax Bill.  Read Politico’s Big donors ready to reward Republicans for tax cuts. Is this really what the Supreme Court had in mind, when it ruled in Citizens United?

Remember Hobby Lobby? Salon describes how Hobby Lobby is “quietly funding a vast right-wing movement.” The Supreme Court used its case to give religious rights to for-profit corporations, and now we’re beginning to see the consequences. Cardozo Law Review explored how employers could use the Hobby Lobby decision to sidestep employment-discrimination laws. And at least one federal court has already allowed a corporation to fire an employee for “religious” reasons, notwithstanding the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Notice how “Right to Work” is being pushed by special-interest organizations? The Koch-connected American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity. The Koch-affiliated US Chamber of Commerce. And, of course, the Koch-funded National Right to Work groups. Notice how it’s not being pushed by actual businesses? Not in New Hampshire. Not in Ohio. But the ripple effect of this court case could be huge.

Groundhog Day. Janus v. AFSCME. Another chance for the Supreme Court to reinforce the impression that it’s an extension of the Republican Party. After all the headlines about Merrick Garland and Neil Gorsuch, what are citizens supposed to think? Both President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell claim Justice Gorsuch as “an accomplishment.” The RNC based a fundraising campaign on his confirmation. The Court just blocked a lower court’s order that North Carolina redraw its election maps, because the old maps were unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering that favored the GOP. (And now Pennsylvania’s GOP legislators want the Court to block a similar ruling in their state.)

Groundhog Day. Another attack by the special interests that have been transforming our government into an oligarchy. (“Oligarchy” – government by the few, especially despotic power exercised by a small and privileged group for corrupt or selfish purposes)

Voters’ view, last election day: 72 percent agree “the American economy is rigged to advantage the rich and powerful.” 75 percent agree that “America needs a strong leader to take the country back from the rich and powerful.”

Granite Staters’ view, now: only 14% think voters have more influence than special interests.

Groundhog Day, the movie, reminds us that we can be doomed to repeat the same thing over and over until we “get it right.” (How fitting that the movie is now back in theaters for its 25th anniversary.)

It’s supposed to be our government. When are we going to get this right?

Senators Shaheen And Hassan Urge President to Prioritize Rural Broadband in Infrastructure Proposal

(Washington, DC) –  As the administration prepares a broad infrastructure plan and approximately 23 million Americans living in rural areas still lack access to high-speed broadband, Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined their Senate colleagues in a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to include funding to support broadband deployment in unserved rural areas across the country.

“In an increasingly interconnected world and global economy, we must include in our discussion of infrastructure not just roads, bridges and waterways, but also high-speed internet access. While the vast majority of Americans have access to high-speed internet service, there is a stark disparity between urban and rural America,” wrote the senators. “This digital divide puts many rural Americans at risk of being left out of critical technological advancements and economic gains. The longer we delay investing in quality telecommunications for rural residents, the more challenging it will become to bridge the digital divide. As you finalize your proposal to invest in our nation’s infrastructure, we urge you to include at least $40 billion in funding for broadband deployment to help reach unserved Americans in rural and remote areas.”

Senators Shaheen and Hassan have both fought tirelessly to expand high-speed mobile access to rural areas in New Hampshire and across the nation. Last year, the senators sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai and the FCC Commissioners asking the FCC to renew its commitment to the Mobility Fund, which is a key rural broadband funding source. Shaheen and Hassan have also both repeatedly expressed concern that repealing net neutrality rules will eliminate equal access to an open and free internet and harm rural communities, small businesses and consumers.

 


The full text of the letter appears below and can also be read here:

Dear President Trump:

As we enter 2018, there is broad agreement that investments in infrastructure are a critical component of strengthening our economy and promoting growth. Accordingly, we await the opportunity to review the Administration’s infrastructure plan and remain hopeful that there is common ground for us to work together to improve our nation’s crumbling infrastructure.

In an increasingly interconnected world and global economy, we must include in our discussion of infrastructure not just roads, bridges and waterways, but also high-speed internet access. While the vast majority of Americans have access to high-speed internet service, there is a stark disparity between urban and rural America. This digital divide puts many rural Americans at risk of being left out of critical technological advancements and economic gains. The longer we delay investing in quality telecommunications for rural residents, the more challenging it will become to bridge the digital divide. As you finalize your proposal to invest in our nation’s infrastructure, we urge you to include at least $40 billion in funding for broadband deployment to help reach unserved Americans in rural and remote areas.

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 2016 Broadband Progress Report, 10 percent of Americans lack access to high-speed internet in their homes. While that figure has been improving over time, it obscures a troubling statistic: the profound gap in access between Americans who live in rural and urban areas. While only 4 percent of urban Americans lack access to fixed broadband, 39 percent of Americans who live in rural areas—23 million people—lack access to high-speed broadband. For Americans living on rural tribal lands, the statistics are even bleaker, with 68 percent of people lacking access to broadband. If we intend to ensure that all Americans have access to broadband, we must make rural communities a priority for high-speed internet access.

The United States has always been at the forefront of technological innovation and the digital economy. But when almost 40 percent of our rural citizens lack broadband access and children grow up in households without access to the internet, we jeopardize the ability of our citizens to meaningfully participate in the civic and economic life of our country. As a nation we have long understood the importance of promoting access to advanced technologies, from electricity to telephone service to broadband, and we have long recognized the role that government plays in supporting the deployment of those critical services. We must continue working to ensure that no American is left without access to technology that has become integral to daily life.

As you prepare your infrastructure plan, we urge you to include funding to support broadband deployment to connect families, facilities and businesses in unserved rural areas across the country. We look forward to working with you to promote investments in quality telecommunications infrastructure for rural America.

Sincerely,

CWA President: Working People Are Worse Off After One Year Of Trump Presidency

CWA President Chris Shelton Responds To Trump’s State of the Union Address

“President Trump tried hard to spin his record on “defending American workers,” but the truth is that working people are much worse off one year into the Trump presidency.

“The tax cut that the President and Republicans jammed through Congress gives billions of dollars to corporations and the 1 percent at the expense of the rest of us. Some companies have doled out bonuses, and those extra dollars always make a difference to working families. But instead of putting more money into creating good jobs and increasing wages, these corporations have made it clear that their tax break will be used mainly to enrich executives and shareholders.

“Here’s the reality for working people after one year of the Trump administration:

  • Corporations are encouraged by the corporate tax bill to send even more jobs overseas. We’ve seen call center closings by some of the biggest U.S. corporations, with work shifted to the Philippines, Dominican Republic and other countries. Other big corporations like General Electric, Microsoft, Lowe’s, Nabisco and others have recently announced new closings and more jobs going overseas.
  • Plans for a renegotiated NAFTA still include the worst elements of past U.S. trade deals, including special rights for investors and the failure to include enforceable labor and environmental standards.
  • Federal regulations covering job safety and health, wage theft and workers’ rights have been reversed, putting workers at greater risk for job injury and illnesses and giving employers more opportunity to cheat workers of their rightful wages.
  • Instead of “draining the swamp,” President Trump has filled his administration with Wall Streeters who have moved to weaken protections for working people’s retirement savings and block regulations that safeguard consumers from bank and credit industry abuses.

“U.S. Representative Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) hosted CWA Local 1170 member Dustin Newman at the State of the Union address, to spotlight the Trump administration’s failure to save good jobs. Newman, an Army reservist from Rochester, N.Y., was laid off in January along with 31 other Frontier Communications employees as part of a larger company-wide downsizing.

“In contrast to the President’s empty promises, CWA and working people have a clear agenda. We want to keep good jobs here in the U.S., and raise wages for working families.  We expect a real plan to improve our roads, bridges, highways and public buildings that is not based on big tax handouts to private companies and budget cuts.  We want fair treatment for the “dreamers” who came to this country as children and who have become full contributing members of our communities and our nation.

“That’s the agenda that millions of working families support.”

 

Read the full SOTU transcript here

Video of the SOTU available here

The NH Congressional Delegation Responds To Trump’s State of the Union Address

Last night, President Donald Trump delivered his State of the Union address to Congress.  The speech was full of self gratification and praise for the Republican tax bill that was forced through Congress, despite huge opposition from the American people.

The New Hampshire Congressional delegation responded to Trump’s State of the Union address. Below are the statements from all four of the NH Congressional Delegation.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen

“I appreciate the attention the President devoted to the opioid crisis in his remarks this evening, but words are not enough. I was proud to have Jeanne Moser, who tragically lost her son to a fentanyl overdose and has done so much to raise awareness about substance use disorders, as my guest to help highlight the urgent need for help in New Hampshire and across the country to respond to this crisis. The President must finally begin fulfilling his promise to deliver treatment resources. Over the past year, President Trump has only devoted lip service to respond to the opioid epidemic. Instead of any meaningful action, the Trump administration has made numerous attempts to undermine existing programs that have proven to be critical in battling this crisis in New Hampshire. I continue to stand ready and willing to work with the President to deliver these resources that are so needed. The urgency of this lifesaving effort cannot be overstated.

“The President was right to address the desperate state of our aging infrastructure. I believe this is an area where Republicans and Democrats can work across the aisle, and I encourage President Trump to deliver an ambitious plan to Congress that provides the resources to begin these critical upgrades and repairs. Granite Staters are becoming all too familiar with crumbling roads and bridges, and water and wastewater systems, that have far outlasted their intended use.”

In the days leading up to the President’s address, Shaheen distributed purple ribbons to her senate colleagues to wear during the State of the Union Address to raise awareness about the opioid epidemic and substance use disorders. To further bring attention to the opioid crisis, Senator Shaheen brought Jeanne Moser of East Kingston as her guest, who lost her son in 2015 to a fentanyl overdose and has advocated in the years since to bring awareness to substance use disorders.

As the lead Democrat on the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Shaheen has led efforts in Congress to combat the opioid epidemic. She recently introduced bipartisan funding legislation to prioritize states hardest hit by the opioid epidemic, including New Hampshire, and has consistently urged the Trump administration to consider bipartisan action as the public health emergency continues to devastate Granite State communities.

Senator Maggie Hassan

The Senator brought McKenzie Harrington-Bacote, who works as the Program Administrator for the Office of School Wellness in the Laconia School District, as her guest of honor for the President’s address.

“While President Trump touched on many important issues tonight, we’ve unfortunately seen this script before from the President – lots of big promises, but little action to back them up. Since taking office, the President has delivered huge giveaways to corporate special interests and the ultra-wealthy, but he has not come through for middle class families or for communities reeling from the devastating opioid crisis. That’s why what really counts is not his words, but what he does tomorrow and in the days that follow.

“I brought McKenzie Harrington-Bacote, who works to prevent substance misuse and support Laconia students impacted by the opioid crisis, as my guest of honor to the President’s speech in order to highlight the importance of getting more resources to those on the front lines of this devastating crisis. While I appreciate that the President spoke about the importance of stepping up efforts to combat this crisis, he once again failed to lead in calling for more federal resources to strengthen treatment, prevention, recovery, and law enforcement efforts. Struggling families and communities don’t need words, they need real help.

“The President also discussed the need to rebuild our highways, roads, and bridges, another issue where there could be real bipartisan common ground. As a member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, I look forward to working in a bipartisan way to evaluate the Administration’s proposal and ensure that it would actually meet the needs of New Hampshire, not simply pass the buck to local communities.”

“No matter what the President says or does, I will continue to work with members of both parties to expand economic opportunity and support innovative businesses, step up efforts to combat the opioid crisis, and keep our country safe, secure, and free.”

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter

“After his Joint Address last year, I said that President Trump had created deep divisions in our country and disregarded our shared values: tolerance for religious and ethnic diversity, freedom of the press, good health and opportunity for working families, the well-being of our beautiful planet, and the rule of law. That was only 40 days into his presidency. A year later, it’s clear that nothing has changed.

“The President needs to stop throwing red meat to his base and stink bombs to the rest of us if he wants to get anything constructive done. I was saddened and alarmed that the President used this opportunity to spout hateful and xenophobic rhetoric that is far from the uplifting image of America, the shining city on a hill.

“America is the greatest country on earth, but the constant lying, the scandals, and the dangerous policies coming from the White House do harm to our people and environment, imperil our democracy, and erode confidence in our institutions. He continues to endanger our national security.

“I am also deeply concerned about what President Trump did not say tonight. There was no roadmap to a better future. He did not ask Congress for emergency funding to combat the deadly opioid epidemic that is devastating our communities. And he did not ask Congress for new legislation to improve veterans’ access to quality healthcare or invest in VA medical centers. We need to find a way forward and pass a long-term budget agreement that fully funds critical national priorities such as infrastructure, health care for veterans, national security, our military, the opioid crisis, funding for community health centers, and disaster funding.”

Congresswoman Annie Kuster

“Tonight President Trump discussed several issues important to the Granite State, including efforts to take on the opioid epidemic and the need to improve our aging infrastructure. Unfortunately, it’s long past time the President put actions to his words on both of these critical issues. Declaring the opioid epidemic a national health emergency was the right thing to do, but without funding it’s a meaningless gesture. As the founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force, I’m working to make real progress on this crisis and just last week 50 members of the Task Force wrote to President Trump urging him to work with Congress to appropriate the funding necessary to bolster prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts as well as support law enforcement.

“We need to fix red listed bridges, aging roads, airports, railroads, and deteriorating infrastructure to create jobs, increase public safety, and boost our economic competitiveness in New Hampshire and across the country. Far too many people in New Hampshire lack access to adequate internet services, and any 21st Century infrastructure plan must expand broadband in rural communities. As I’ve learned, the devil is in the details and I will closely examine President Trump’s infrastructure proposal and look for opportunities to work across the aisle on behalf of all Granite Staters.”

Read the full SOTU transcript here

Video of the SOTU available here

AT&T “celebrates” by promising sliver of tax savings to employees

You probably saw the headlines this morning: “AT&T giving $1,000 bonuses after tax bill.”  According to press reports, AT&T plans to give those bonuses to 200,000 US employees. That’s $200 million AT&T is promising to share with its employees. Sounds like a lot of money.

New AT&T Logo in Dallas, TXBut according to its annual report, AT&T would have paid $6.9 billion in federal taxes at the 35% corporate tax rate.[1]  Congress just cut that tax rate by 40%. For AT&T, that could mean a tax savings of $2.76 billion a year.

Do the math.  AT&T is celebrating – and making headlines – by promising a one-time employee bonus equal to about 7.25% of what it can expect to save on taxes next year.

One other thing: AT&T paid stockholders $11.8 billion in dividends during 2016.

So, this headline-grabbing employee bonus is equal to about 1.7% of what AT&T paid to stockholders last year.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

Just weeks ago, proponents of the tax bill promised that it would “mean at least $4,000 more in income every year for the average household.”

Communications Workers of America asked some of the country’s largest employers to guarantee “that working people will receive the raises the administration promised and ensure that the bill’s treatment of overseas profits will not result in domestic job loss.”

“Together, through collective bargaining, we can ensure that promises about wages and jobs are kept,” wrote CWA President Chris Shelton.

“By pushing employers for this raise, CWA proves that working people have power when we join together to negotiate for a fair return for the work we do. Unions remain the most effective means for working people to stand together and achieve wage growth and keep good jobs in the U.S.,” Shelton said. “If you don’t ask for your fair share you’ll never get it – so join a union and start asking.”

– – – – – – – – – – – –

The $1,000 per-employee bonus announced yesterday is a good start.  But even if AT&T raises those 200,000 employees’ wages by $4,000 (as the tax bill proponents promised):

  • that would still be less than one-third of what AT&T can expect to save from the 40% drop in the corporate tax rate
  • that would still be less than 7% of what AT&T paid out to stockholders as dividends last year.

And if this tax “reform” is followed by Social Security and Medicare “reform” – as Congessonal leaders promised, earlier this month – we’re all going to need to remember this, come next November’s elections.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

ICYMI, here are some other recent headlines about AT&T:

AT&T plans to lay off nearly 300 at center in Dallas next year

AT&T lays off DirecTV workers despite pledge to create jobs

AT&T layoffs in 2018 to take place across Missouri, Michigan, & 4 more states

AT&T looking to cut 80,000 jobs in five years

[1] According to Note 11 of the annual report, AT&T’s effective tax rate was only 32.7% last year – not 35% – so its windfall from yesterday’s tax bill may be lower than $2.76 billion/year.

Trump And Right to Work And Janus v AFSCME

AFT Local 1360

Janus was a Roman god with two faces, each looking in the opposite direction.

“Janus-faced” means two-faced, or deceitful. It aptly describes the Trump administration and the other big-time, union-busting backers of the plaintiff in Janus v AFSCME Council 31.

The case, which is before the U.S. Supreme Court, could, in effect, force all public employee unions into a “right to work” framework. Also, it could “further undermine the rights of workers to choose, in a democratic process based on a majority vote, to support the payment of fees or dues for those represented by a union and protected by the collective bargaining agreement,” according to Bill Londrigan, president of the Kentucky State AFL-CIO.

AFSCME has several members in Kentucky.

Federal law requires a union to represent all hourly workers at a unionized job site. Under a state RTW law, workers can enjoy union-won wages and benefits without joining the union and paying dues or paying the union a fair-share fee to represent them.

Janus is part of the whole effort to turn back the clock on workers and unions by undermining our ability to represent our members by shutting off our financial resources,” Londrigan said. “Now with Janus, the focus is primarily on the public-sector, which has been the fastest growing part of the labor movement.”

In the Janus case, Mark Janus, an Illinois state government employee, is suing AFSCME because he doesn’t want to pay the union a fair-share fee. Rabidly anti-union groups like the National Right to Work Committee and the State Policy Network are behind him.

Organizations like the NRTWC and SPN claim they support “worker freedom.” Their real purpose is crushing unions. The SPN admits it’s goal is to “defund and defang” public employee unions.

“Under current law, every union-represented teacher, police officer, caregiver or other public service worker may choose whether or not to join the union — but the union is required to negotiate on behalf of all workers whether they join or not,” explained Roberta Lynch, AFSCME Council 31 executive director, in a Springfield, Ill., State Journal-Register guest column.

Council 31 represents 100,000 active and retired public service workers, including Janus.

She added, “Since all the workers benefit from the union’s gains, it’s only fair that everyone chip in toward the cost. That’s why 40 years ago a unanimous Supreme Court [in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education] approved the kind of cost-sharing arrangements known as fair share.”

Trump’s solicitor general has filed an amicus curiae brief in support of Janus.

Even so, the president says he’s the champion of workers. Yet on the campaign trail, he said he preferred “right to work” states to non-RTW states. He ran on a platform with a plank calling for a national right to work law.

“The Janus v. AFSCME case is an effort by powerful corporate interests to outlaw fair share, encouraging workers to contribute nothing toward the cost of union representation,” Lynch also said. “It actually began as a political scheme by Gov. Bruce Rauner, who shortly after taking office issued an executive order and filed a lawsuit trying to ban fair-share fees.”

After a handful of Kentucky counties passed local RTW laws, Rauner, a Republican, started pushing for local “right to work” zones in Illinois municipalities. Under federal law, only states can pass RTW measures. GOP Gov. Matt Bevin and his Republican-majority legislature made Kentucky a RTW state in January.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, one of the most anti-union lawmakers in Washington, has proposed a national RTW law.

Messmer’s Statement On Trump Banning Words From The CDC

Messmer on Trump Administration Science/Language Suppression And Making America Not So Great Again

Portsmouth, NH– The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced that the Trump Administration told them that 7 words are now forbidden from official documents.

FORBIDDEN WORDS/PHRASES ARE:

1. Vulnerable
2. Entitlement
3. Diversity
4. Transgender
5. Fetus
6. Evidence-based
7. Science-based

A senior policy analyst at CDC was told to instead use phrases like: “based on recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.”

State Rep and Congressional Candidate for New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District, Mindi Messmer released the following statement:

“I could see this coming and this is my rallying call to run for Congress – as a woman and a scientist. Prohibiting the use of these 7 words, that are the basis of what defines us as Americans, is deeply offensive. We are nation that respects science, human rights and diversity and we make decisions based on science and facts not perception or whims. Suppressing speech, sanitizing government records, assaulting science, ethnicity and gender dangerously threaten public health and the basic fiber of the United States.

“We are not going backwards. We must continue to move forward.

“Millions of Americans face the threat of becoming refugees due to sea level rise. This is unprecedented and we have no historical base from which to draw to solve these problems. We need scientists, like me, involved in policy making to solve complex issues like these.

“As we face national threats to our drinking water from PFCs and other toxins, we need scientists like me to enact policy that will clean and protect drinking water and the environment for our children and generations to come.

“Send me to Congress to continue to maintain our integrity as a nation and fight against Making American Not So Great Again.”

Are you angry yet? Tax “reform” will be followed by Medicare, Social Security “reform”

Late last night, the Senate passed its version of the tax cut bill.  Next step? According to GOP leaders, it will be “entitlement reform.” Which includes the Social Security and Medicare benefits you have been paying for – with every paycheck – since you started working. Just like they’ve been talking about since the Bush tax cuts.

Congress won’t have to do anything, to cut Medicare by $25 billion next year.  If President Trump signs a final version of this bill, according to the Congressional Budget Office, it will create a budget deficit that will trigger $25 billion in automatic cuts to Medicare.

And if “chained-CPI” is still in the bill, Congress won’t have to do anything to cut Social Security benefits, long term. “Chained-CPI” is a way of calculating inflation that incorporates a ratcheting-down of benefits. It assumes that senior citizens who can’t afford steak don’t need a cost of living increase because they can buy chicken, instead. And those who can’t afford to buy chicken can buy tuna. And if they can’t afford tuna…  It’s the cat food thing. (Read our 2013 post about chained-CPI here.)

BUT they’re already planning more cuts. Because at some point, our government is going to have to do something about our national debt. Which has quadrupled since the Bush tax cuts.  Which is now equal to more than $170,000 per taxpayer. Which has increased by $745 billion – almost 4% — since the debt limit was suspended on September 8th.  Which was only 11 weeks ago.

Having a hard time wrapping your head around what you just read?  Let’s try it again.

On September 8, 2017, Congress suspended the debt limit.  Since then (only 11 weeks), the debt has grown by more than $745 billion. And Congress is cutting taxes in order to add $1.5 Trillion to that number.

It’s pretty clear that Congress is creating a “debt problem” that they’re going to “solve” by going after Social Security and Medicare.

Newsweek: Republicans will cut Social Security and Medicare after tax plan passes, Rubio says
Forbes: How the GOP tax plan scrooges middle class, retired and poor
Washington Post: GOP eyes post-tax-cut changes to welfare, Social Security and Medicare

This isn’t a surprise.  Back in 2004, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan suggested cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits to pay for the cost of the Bush tax cuts.

Looks like that’s still the strategy. Here’s where it goes from being “strategy” to “theft.”

Since 2012, most workers have been paying more into the Social Security system than they can expect to receive in benefits.

People retiring today are part of the first generation of workers who have paid more in Social Security taxes during their careers than they will receive in benefits after they retire. It’s a historic shift that will only get worse for future retirees, according to an analysis by The Associated Press.

Back in 2001, 57% of Americans wanted to roll back the Bush tax cuts to protect (what was then) the budget surplus. A whopping 92% wanted to prevent Congress from using Social Security for any other purpose. But at last report, about $3 trillion of the national debt is now owed to the Social Security system.

So… if you’ve already put more in to the Social Security system than you can expect to get out of it – and Congress wants to put even more tax cuts on the nation’s credit card – and Congressional leadership wants to pay down that extra debt by cutting Social Security… that means the money to pay for these tax cuts is coming out of your pocket.

Are you angry, yet?

—————————————–

Public Citizen reports that at least 6,243 Washington lobbyists have been working on this tax bill.  That’s almost 12 lobbyists per legislator! Read about some of the last-minute add-ons – including an amendment that exempts a college in Michigan and a carve-out for cruise ships docking in Alaska – here. Wondering who benefits from this tax bill? Read about analyses done by the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation here.

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If you want to contact your elected federal officials about this, please do so on your own time and using your own personal phone/email. (Most employers prohibit using work time or resources for this sort of thing.)

Contact information for President Trump is available here.

You can find contact information for your two US Senators here.

You can find the phone number and website for your US Representative here.  (If you don’t know who your Representative is, check here.)

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