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The Next Two Years Should Be Interesting Listening To The Science Deniers (Op-Ed By Susan Bruce)

Scanning electron micrograph of Ebola virus budding from the surface of a Vero cell (African green monkey kidney epithelial cell line. Credit: NIAID

(original title)
In the United States, in the 21st Century
By Susan Bruce for the Conway Daily Sun

Scanning electron micrograph of Ebola virus budding from the surface of a Vero cell (African green monkey kidney epithelial cell line. Credit: NIAID

Scanning electron micrograph of Ebola virus budding from the surface of a Vero cell (African green monkey kidney epithelial cell line. Credit: NIAID)

Three weeks ago, the news was all Ebola, all the time. Todd Kincannon, the former Executive Director of the South Carolina Republican Party announced, “the protocol for a positive Ebola test should be immediate humane execution and sanitization of the whole area. That will save lives.” The President was labeled inept and weak at handling the crisis! We needed more leadership! Retread Congressman-elect Frank Guinta insisted that there needed to be a travel ban. Congressman Steve Stockman of Texas accused Obama of unleashing Ebola on Murka to seize more power. Louie Gohmert (whose continual reelection is proof that we shouldn’t wait for Texas to secede, we should just go ahead and build a wall around the state) claimed that Ebola is “the Democrats war on women.” Women are nurses, you see.

Corrupt blowhard and birther Donald Trump blamed Obama for Ebola, referred to him as “Barry Sotoro,” and called for his resignation. This, dear readers, is the same Donald Trump who was chosen by the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications as the keynote speaker at their First Amendment Awards dinner. The award was given posthumously to James Foley. James Foley was a reporter who lost his life in pursuit of reporting from dangerous areas of our world. Choosing Trump as the keynote speaker at an event honoring this brave man is a level of tone deafness that surprises even me, coming from the Loeb/McQuaid crowd. This can only be described as an obscenity. Trump used the opportunity to bloviate about Obama. He’s still bleating about the need for Ebola quarantines. The one true thing he said was to James Foley’s parents, “Your son was far greater than I, and far greater than I will ever be.”

Obama was even criticized for not having a Surgeon General. The reason we don’t have one is Rand Paul. The President’s choice for Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murphy regards gun proliferation and violence as a health problem. Senator Paul, Republican of the NRA district, placed a hold on Dr. Murphy’s nomination.

There have been 4 cases of Ebola in the United States. One man died.

New Congresswoman and juggler of hog testicles, Joni Ernst of Iowa was at an event the other day talking about Ebola. Reporter Charlie Pierce pointed out that there was (on that day) a single case of Ebola in the United States. Ernst’s response? “That’s your opinion,” she said. Buckle up kids. The next 2 years are going to be a bumpy ride.

There are zero cases of Ebola in the United States. That was accomplished without travel bans or humane executions. Now that there isn’t a low information electorate to whip into a frenzy of fear, we won’t hear much more about it. It’s not as if we actually care about sick people in Africa.

In other news, a whole lot of bizarre was just elected to legislatures across the land.

In Colorado, Tea Party Pastor Gordon Klingenschmitt was just elected to the state legislature, with 70 percent of the vote. Klingenschmitt claims to have performed numerous exorcisms on gay people. Gay people “want your soul,” he says. He also claims to have performed an exorcism on President Obama, to rid him of the demons of tyranny. How disappointed Klingenschmitt must be that Obama is still black.

This guy was elected by a huge percentage. In the United States in the 21st century.

In Georgia, newly elected Congressman Jody Hice is worried about lunar eclipses. It seems that the religious right thinks that lunar eclipses are signs of God’s impending judgment against Murka for the sins of gay equality and abortion. Jody Hice has a talk radio show, and told his listeners that the appearance of blood moons “has preceded world changing, shaking type events.” In another era, living in a cave, Hice would have been advocating blood sacrifices to the gods to appease them. In the 21st century, he was elected to the US House of Representatives.

New Wisconsin Congressman Glenn Grothman once warned that sex education classes are a secret plot to turn kids gay. He’s also said that money is more important for men than women, that days off from work are “a little ridiculous,” that Kwanzaa is a conspiracy promoted by white people, and that people on food stamps don’t act poor enough. In the 21st century, this man was elected to Congress.

New Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke told a Republican group that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is “the antichrist.” Naturally when he was called out for his comment, he claimed he was joking.

Joni Ernst isn’t just an expert on Ebola. She told Iowans last year that Agenda 21 agents were likely to start moving people off their agricultural land and sending them to the cities, after which their land would be confiscated. Agenda 21 is a non-binding treaty on sustainable development that was written over 20 years ago. Ted Cruz predicts Agenda 21 will bring an end to paved roads and golf courses. Both of these people are elected members of the US Congress, in the 21st century.

Ben Carson, a columnist at World Nut Daily is gearing up for a presidential run. He recently announced that he would cut back on voter fraud by undocumented workers by revoking their citizenship and deporting them.

Here in NH, the electorate has apparently determined that we need to revisit the 2011-2012 legislative debacle. The humiliation and destruction visited upon the state during those years was apparently easily forgotten, so now we have some retreads being sent back, along with a bumper crop of Free Staters and other dubious characters.

With the Republicans in control of the NH House, the position of Speaker is being hotly contested, and the rumors are rampant. Bill O’Brien wants desperately to return to his position as Official Petty Tyrant, and has reportedly sent out a hatchet man to threaten, cajole, and bribe various members to support him, with promises of committee chairmanships. The Tea Party-John Bircher- Free Stater crowd loves O’Brien. He’s unencumbered by truth or ethics.

On the other side of the GOP, Senator Kelly Ayotte, former governors John Sununu and Steve Merrill, former Congressman Charlie Bass, and former Speakers Doug Scamman and Donna Sytek are all urging House members to support Rep. Gene Chandler as Speaker. The decision will be made next week.

An O’Brien Speakership on the cusp of the First in the Nation Primary can only be a disaster for the NH Republican Party. That he’s even being considered for the position should frighten any thinking person.

“This is your democracy, America. Cherish it.”  ~ Charlie Pierce

LTE: Our Country And Our Veterans Deserve Better

letters to the editor

During the Iraq war we air shipped, about 12 billion dollars in cash to Iraq and now we have trouble accounting for most of this money.  The top 10 percent of our population, that have 90 percent of the wealth, they may have an idea as to where some of this missing money is but I can tell you where it is not going!  We have returning servicemen that need jobs; some have none because when they left their job, it was guaranteed to be there; then when they came back, if the company moved out of the country, sorry no job and we allow this to happen.  The younger returning veterans, who had no job before leaving, are welcomed home to minimum wage jobs with family unfriendly benefits at a retail box store selling merchandise that is not made in this country.  We have politicians that want to lower or do away with the minimum wage, who is funding their campaign?  We have politicians that want more free trade agreements for us.  The last ones worked just fine, look at the unemployment numbers.  Ross Perot was correct about the giant sucking sound!  We have been deficit spending for more than 70 years, and now it has become a game for the rich or middle class to who will pay.  The Tea Party wants it paid back immediately without new taxes.  When this country becomes a divided rich and poor nation, we will become a weak nation just like the ones we try to help.  We need leaders, a truthful news media and zero lobbyist.

Joe Gallagher,
Manchester

“New Congress Could Surprise Voters”

LIUNA - The Laborers' International Union of North America

Terry O’Sullivan, General President of LIUNA – the Laborers’ International Union of North America – made the following statement today on the results of the mid-term elections:

While there were some surprises last night, hopefully the biggest surprise will be that Congress finally does its job and works in a bipartisan way to make America better.

Congress has the opportunity to work together to end six agonizing years of polarization and gridlock by moving forward on key pieces of legislation. Congress could secure energy independence and unlock hundreds of thousands of good jobs by passing a long-term fully funded transportation bill and encouraging a sound all-of-the-above energy policy. Congress can and should tackle comprehensive immigration reform and make the necessary changes to the Affordable Care Act so that multi-employer plans, which have responsibly and effectively provided healthcare for generations, are not dismantled and destroyed.

Safe roads and bridges, immigration reform, the healthcare of millions of Americans, and our nation’s energy future are not Republican issues or Democratic issues. They affect Americans of all political views and are issues on which both parties should lead.

What happened in the US Senate yesterday? (Hint: They’re not trying to overturn Citizens United anymore.)

Money Corrputs by Light Brigading via Flikr
Money Corrputs by Light Brigading via Flikr

photo by Light Brigading via flikr

Yesterday, the Senate GOP voted to block any further consideration of a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

That means the amendment won’t go over to the House of Representatives for a vote.

And it won’t go out to the 50 states for a ratification vote.

The proposed amendment would have explicitly authorized Congress and state legislatures to set campaign finance limits. (Read more about Citizens United and the resulting “unprecedented amounts of outside spending” in the 2010 and 2012 elections here.)

So… those 16 states that have already voted in favor of a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United? Sorry, folks.

All those other states – including New Hampshire – whose state Legislatures have shown interest in a constitutional amendment? Sorry, folks.

Those 80% of ordinary Americans – including 72% of ordinary Republicans – who oppose Citizens United? Sorry, folks.

The Senate GOP knows better than you do.

So you don’t get a vote on this.

Who to thank, for taking the states’ vote away? The 42 GOP Senators who voted to block the amendment yesterday.

citizens_united_switched_votesOr, more bizarrely, the 25 Senators who on Monday night voted to let the amendment proceed – but by Thursday afternoon, had changed their votes to block it. (And yes, that would include New Hampshire’s own Senator Kelly Ayotte.)

If those 25 Senators had voted the same way on Thursday as they voted on Monday, the constitutional amendment would be going to the House. And then, maybe, out to the 50 states for ratification votes.

So… what happened during those 68 hours, to make those 25 Senators change their votes?

Can’t tell for sure, from out here in the hinterlands. The news is full of the Oscar Pistorius case… 9/11 remembrances… the Ray Rice case… ISIS and the spectre of terrorism. But there’s relatively little press coverage of this attempt to amend our Constitution.  The 80% of Americans who oppose Citizens United probably don’t even know that the Senate took a vote yesterday.

Here’s my best guess: I think Mitch McConnell happened. I’m guessing that the Senate GOP Leader told them how to vote… and the 25 Senators did. (Even Arizona Sen. John McCain, one of the sponsors of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, more commonly known as the McCain-Feingold Act.)

That’s just a gut-instinct guess, but there are two things behind it.  First, during Committee consideration of the amendment, the GOP members marched in lockstep to oppose the amendment. Every recorded Subcommittee and Committee vote was strictly along party lines.

Second reason: GOP Leader McConnell has opposed campaign finance limits since… well, it seems like forever.

Take some time and listen to the GOP Leader’s speech at a June “retreat” for billionaires organized by the Koch Brothers.

In his remarks, GOP Leader McConnell tracks the history of campaign finance reform efforts “back to the beginning of the 20th century” … and how they “petered out” during “the great prosperity” of the 1920s. (Do you think he remembers how the 1920s ended?)

He reminisces about his own efforts to block passage of campaign finance reform:

We had filibuster after filibuster, which in my first term in the Senate I was leading. And then it came back again in the first two years of Clinton. The bill would pass the House, the bill would pass the Senate, and then it would go to conference. And I was so determined, I came up with a new filibuster. That’s all I’d ever done before was filibuster and go in, go into conference. We had to do it all night long. Under (inaudible) procedure every senator had an hour, and if you didn’t show up right on time, you were out of luck.

Everybody rallied together. This was about two months before the great fall election of 1994. Everybody rallied together. We went around the clock. Everybody showed up on time. And I thought, well, maybe we’re finally through with this nonsense.

He says “The worst day of my political life was when President George W. Bush signed McCain-Feingold into law.”

He talks about his own lawsuit to overturn McCain-Feingold. (You can read the Supreme Court decision here.)

He talks about what has happened since his lawsuit.

So what really then changed the Court was President Bush’s appointment of John Roberts. The most important was Sam Alito because we lost the McCain-Feingold case five to four because of Sandra Day O’Connor. The majority was all liberal. Then she retired, and Sam Alito replaced her, and we now have the best Supreme Court in anybody’s memory… Now, that’s where we are today. I’m really proud of this Supreme Court and the way they’ve been dealing with the issue of First Amendment political speech. It’s only five to four, and I pray for the health of the five.

And then he talks about some other things of interest to his audience of billionaires: like minimum wage… environmental regulation… regulation of the financial services industry. And he promises to use federal spending bills to “go after” those issues.

And I assure you that in the spending bill, we will be pushing back against this bureaucracy by doing what’s called placing riders in the bill. No money can be spent to do this or to do that. We’re going to go after them on healthcare, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board (inaudible).

And – in response to a mostly-inaudible question from David Koch about “free speech” and amending the Constitution – GOP Leader McConnell says:

Having, having struck out at the Supreme Court, David, they now want to amend the Constitution. … These people need to be stopped, and believe me, something that I thought to do (inaudible) what is spent (inaudible) independent coordination?
(Laughter.)
(Applause.)

Yeah, read that again: “These people need to be stopped.”

THAT’s why I’m guessing “Mitch McConnell happened” to those 25 Senators who switched their votes between Monday and Thursday.

What can we do about it, now? What can we – the 80% of Americans who oppose Citizens United – do, now that the Senate GOP has blocked the amendment?

We can make it a campaign issue.

Scott Brown in 2010 Image by Wiki Commons

Scott Brown in 2010
Image by Wiki Commons

Starting here in New Hampshire, with Scott Brown… who, as Massachusetts Senator, helped block the DISCLOSE Act back in 2010. Here in New Hampshire, 69% of us want a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. Even among Granite State Republicans, six out of 10 want a constitutional amendment. (Sen. Ayotte: who were you listening to, when you voted yesterday?) How do you think Scott Brown will vote on this, if he is elected in November?

We need to make Citizens United an issue in the 2014 campaigns.

There’s not all that much else we can do, at this point.

—–

If you want to wander through Leader McConnell’s campaign finance disclosure records – including $14.8 million in “large individual contributions” – click here. Remember: that’s just contributions to his official campaign.

“Outside spending” is much harder to track. So far, during this election season, McConnell has also “been boosted by $2.2 million in positive ads, mainly by the [U.S.] Chamber. Outside Republican PACs have already spent $7 million on ads attacking his Democratic challenger, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.”

A running tally of money that “non-profits” have spent on electioneering so far in the 2014 campaign is available here.

—–

More information about grassroots efforts to support the “Democracy for All” amendment is available here.

Tuesday’s NHLN story about the amendment is here.

Can We Overturn Citizens United? US Senate will vote again later this week.

Cash Bribe Politician Money
(FLICKR LIght Brigading

(FLICKR LIght Brigading)

Last night, the proposed constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United moved one tiny step forward. By a 79-18 vote, the US Senate invoked cloture to end a GOP filibuster of the measure.

That means the Senate will actually be able to vote on the amendment, probably later this week. But will it pass? One Hill reporter says, “The amendment is almost certain to fail.”

That’s because constitutional amendments require a two-thirds vote in the Senate – and until last night, the Senate GOP had been working in lockstep to defeat (or undermine) the measure. Every recorded Subcommittee and Committee vote was strictly along party lines: with the Democrats in favor of moving the proposal forward; and the Republicans trying to keep it from seeing the light of day.

So even though some GOP Senators (including NH Sen. Kelly Ayotte) voted to end the filibuster last night, it’s quite possible they will be pressured into voting against the amendment when it comes up for a vote.

If the Senate approves the amendment, it will still need to be approved by the House and ratified by two-thirds of the states. (Read more about the process here.)

Cash Bribe Politician MoneyWhat’s at stake: The Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission helped unleash unprecedented amounts of outside spending in the 2010 and 2012 election cycles. (Read more here.)

It has led to billionaires like Sheldon Adelson wielding incredible personal influence.

It led to Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell making a pilgrimage to a “secret strategy conference of conservative millionaire and billionaire donors hosted by the Koch brothers” where he promised to block debate on “all these gosh darn proposals” like increasing the minimum wage, extending unemployment benefits, and allowing students to refinance their college loans.

Now, Mitch McConnell may believe – as he told those prospective donors – that “all Citizens United did was to level the playing field for corporate speech…. We now have, I think, the most free and open system we’ve had in modern times. The Supreme Court allowed all of you to participate in the process in a variety of different ways.”

But America is seeing through that spin.  

Sixteen states have already endorsed the idea of a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

More than 500 local governments have already supported such a change. (Here in the Granite State, the list includes: Alstead; Amherst; Andover; Atkinson; Barnstead; Barrington; Bradford; Bridgewater; Chesterfield; Conway; Deerfield; Eaton; Exeter; Francestown; Henniker; Hampstead; Hudson; Kingston; Lee; Lyme; New Boston; Northwood; Rindge; Tilton; Wakefield; Webster; and Windham)

And the public? America is united on this issue. There is more agreement on overturning Citizens United than on just about anything else. 80% of Americans – and 72% of Republicans – oppose Citizens United. Here in New Hampshire, 69% of Granite Staters support a constitutional amendment like the one the Senate will finally be voting on. (Amendment supporters include six out of every 10 NH Republicans, and almost three-quarters of NH independents.  Senator Kelly Ayotte, are you listening?)

So this past weekend, the GOP tried out some new spins, trying to rationalize why they will be voting against something that eight out of 10 Americans support.

New Spin #1: It’s the Democrats! “‘Senate Democrats have long been funded by a group of billionaires bent on maintaining their power, yet they pretend to be outraged’ by the spending of the Koch brothers and their allies. …In advance of Monday’s floor debate, Senate Republican staffers circulated a chart showing the reach of Democracy Alliance…”

(No, this spin does not explain why Republicans want to maintain the Citizens United status quo. If the Republicans and the Koch Brothers are truly outraged by Democratic big-dollar contributors – why don’t they vote to approve the constitutional amendment?)

New Spin #2: Guns! (Yes, really.)

Here’s how the National Rifle Association described Citizens United: “The court declared unconstitutional the parts of the law that had been enacted for the explicit purpose of silencing the NRA and its members. Of course, the gun-banners in the White House and Congress opposed the decision because it thwarted their plans.”

Here’s how the NRA described the amendment to overturn Citizens United: “As the title of the proposed constitutional amendment suggests, S.J.R. 19 is intended to allow anti-gunners in Congress to silence their critics and to control the gun ‘debate.’”

(The actual title: “Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to contributions and expenditures intended to affect elections.” And: while the NRA may be #5 on the list of non-profits that spend money on electioneering… the proposed amendment isn’t actually about guns. It’s about allowing Congress and the states to “regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.” It’s about “protect[ing] the integrity of government and the electoral process.”)

Does the GOP really think either of these spins is going to stick any better than the “Citizens United leveled the playing field” spin?

Why is this such an important issue for those of us in the Labor movement?

Reason 1: “Whatever slice [of political contributions] you look at, business interests dominate, with an overall advantage over organized labor of about 15-to-1. Even among PACs – the favored means of delivering funds by labor unions – business has a more than 3-to-1 fundraising advantage. In soft money, the ratio is nearly 17-to-1.”

Reason 2: Mitch McConnell, shilling for those billionaire donors: “In late April, Senate Republicans, led by McConnell, successfully filibustered a bill to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, a widely popular measure that would increase wages for at least 16.5 million Americans. Earlier in the year, McConnell also led a filibuster of a three-month extension of unemployment insurance to some 1.7 million Americans.”

Is our government really for sale to the highest bidder?

The 2014 campaigns are breaking fundraising records set in the 2012 and 2010 elections.

Isn’t it time to send this constitutional amendment to the states for a ratification vote?

163 Members of Congress Demand a Vote, Not Silence, to Prevent Gun Violence

Gun

Reps. Shea-Porter, Thompson Lead 163 House Members in Calling for a Vote on Gun Violence Prevention Legislation

WASHINGTON, DC – In the wake of recent shootings in Portland, Las Vegas, and Santa Barbara, Representatives Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01), a member of the House’s Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, and Task Force Chairman Mike Thompson (CA-05) led a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) signed by 163 Members of Congress demanding a vote on substantive legislation to address gun violence.

“Our nation has suffered at least 74 school shootings since the Sandy Hook massacre,” Shea-Porter, Thompson, and 161 of their colleagues wrote. “The factors allowing these rampages are no mystery: loopholes in the background check laws, straw purchases, restrictions on law enforcement, and gaps in our mental health system. Dozens of legislative proposals that address these factors have been introduced and await consideration. But despite wake-up call after wake-up call, a shameful tradition of Congressional inaction continues.”

“Moments of silence on the floor of the House are not enough.  The last thing these victims and their families need is further silence from this Congress. They deserve a vote,” they continued.

Recently on the floor of the House of Representatives, Shea-Porter called on Speaker Boehner to allow a vote on legislation to help prevent more deaths from senseless gun violence.

The Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, which is chaired by Thompson, released a comprehensive set of policy principles that will reduce gun violence and respect the Second Amendment.

Of those recommendations, one of the most important pieces is H.R. 1565, bipartisan legislation written by Reps. Thompson and Peter King (R-NY) and cosponsored by Rep. Shea-Porter, to strengthen and expand background checks. This legislation bolsters the Second Amendment rights of lawful gun owners and helps keep guns from criminals, terrorists, and the dangerously mentally ill.

Right now, a criminal in many states can buy a firearm at a gun show, over the internet, or through a newspaper ad because those sales don’t require a background check.  H.R. 1565 requires comprehensive and enforceable background checks on all commercial gun sales, including those at gun shows, over the Internet, or through classified ads, while providing reasonable exceptions for family and friends. Background checks would be conducted though a licensed dealer in the same manner as they have been for more than 40 years. The Thompson-King bill bans the creation of a federal registry and makes the misuse of records a felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

“Congressional silence is not a sign of respect, but rather an institutional indictment. We must right this wrong. You must allow a vote on substantive legislation to address gun violence,” Shea-Porter, Thompson and others concluded in their letter.

Full text of the letter to Speaker John Boehner is below. The full list of signatories can be found here.

+++

June 26, 2014
Speaker John Boehner
Office of the Speaker
H-232, US Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Speaker:

We agree with you that we must honor the victims of the recent shootings in Portland, Las Vegas and Santa Barbara. But moments of silence on the floor of the House are not enough.  The last thing these victims and their families need is further silence from this Congress. They deserve a vote.

Our nation has suffered at least 74 school shootings since the Sandy Hook massacre. The factors allowing these rampages are no mystery: loopholes in the background check laws, straw purchases, restrictions on law enforcement, and gaps in our mental health system. Dozens of legislative proposals that address these factors have been introduced and await consideration. But despite wake-up call after wake-up call, a shameful tradition of Congressional inaction continues.

Gun violence has affected constituents in every Congressional district, and as their representatives, Members of Congress deserve the opportunity to vote on bills that would address this epidemic. 

Congressional silence is not a sign of respect, but rather an institutional indictment. We must right this wrong. You must allow a vote on substantive legislation to address gun violence.

Sincerely,

 

Granite Stater Talks To Small Business Subcommittee On Importance Of US Manufacturing

Annie Kuster

Kuster Introduces Windham Resident at U.S. House Small Business Subcommittee Hearing

Business analyst Shirley Mills testified about the importance of bringing manufacturing jobs back from overseas to strengthen the New Hampshire economy

Annie Kuster

Congresswoman Kuster welcomes Windham resident Shirley Mills to the U.S. House Small Business Subcommittee hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – This afternoon, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) introduced Windham resident Shirley Mills at a  House Subcommittee Hearing, where Mills testified on the importance of American-made manufacturing. The hearing was held by the U.S. House Small Business Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax and Capital Access.

Shirley Mills is a business analyst at the Boston Company who has done extensive research on how American-made manufacturing can strengthen our economy. During her testimony, she highlighted companies’ efforts to bring manufacturing jobs back from overseas, a practice commonly referred to as “reshoring.” Mills argued that bringing these jobs back home is not only a smart financial move for American companies, but it will also support badly needed job creation across the United States. She outlined the steps that must be taken for reshoring to continue on a large scale, and discussed regulatory measures Congress should support in order to encourage growth and job creation in the manufacturing sector.

“By supporting New Hampshire companies that are bringing jobs home from overseas, we can continue to grow our manufacturing sector and create good, middle class jobs for years to come,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “At today’s hearing, I was thrilled to introduce Ms. Mills, whose clear research demonstrates how American-made manufacturing can strengthen New Hampshire businesses and improve America’s economy overall. I sincerely thank her for sharing her expertise with us today.”

Ms. Mills highlighted how the “clustering” of industrial infrastructure can encourage manufacturers to bring jobs back to the United States.  To support clustering and improve the competitiveness of American manufacturing, Kuster is a cosponsor of the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act, bipartisan legislation to authorize a network of centers of manufacturing innovation.

As a member of the House Small Business Committee, Kuster has prioritized efforts to foster job creation, grow the economy, and support New Hampshire’s manufacturing industry. She recently unveiled her Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Agenda, a blueprint based on meetings with Granite State residents, families, business owners and others, that outlines common sense steps to help create jobs in New Hampshire and around the country. She has also supported a series of “Make It In America” proposals focused on reshoring jobs and reviving the U.S. manufacturing economy, and has fought to establish a Manufacturing Innovation Institute in New Hampshire.

At Armed Services Hearing Shea-Porter Reiterates Opposition to Base Relocation and Closure (BRAC)

Submarine enroute to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard
Submarine enroute to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

Submarine enroute to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

 

WASHINGTON, DC –During a House Armed Services Committee hearing this afternoon on the Navy’s FY 2015 budget request, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) spoke directly to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus about her opposition to additional rounds of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC).

“I have the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in my district, and you know how famous they are for the great work they do…their record is absolutely wonderful,” Shea-Porter said. “My question is very simple. In considering a future BRAC, is the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in that equation at all? I believe their work is essential, and my question is, do you and does the Navy?”

Mabus noted that all of America’s Naval Shipyards, including Portsmouth do “incredibly good work.” He also noted that because the Navy has not been authorized to do a BRAC, he could not comment on how a potential BRAC evaluation would look.

Congresswoman Shea-Porter continues to believe that the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is essential to our nation’s security.

“When you see the work that they’re doing and recognize how essential it is for national security, I hope that will get a full measure of consideration,” Shea-Porter added.

As a member of the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee, Shea-Porter helped pass a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act explicitly prohibiting additional rounds of BRAC. The legislation stated “nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize an additional Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round, and none of the funds appropriated pursuant to the authorization of appropriations contained in this Act may be used to propose, plan for, or execute an additional BRAC round.” That language is now federal law.

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is one of four public shipyards in the United States, and it’s the only public Shipyard on the East Coast.

Senator Shaheen Introduces Bill To Help Students Manage Debt

SenJeanneShaheen

Shaheen’s legislation would give students access to comprehensive online database to manage debt and better navigate repayment 

SenJeanneShaheen

Senator Jeanne Shaheen
Image from WikiCommons

(Washington, DC) – In a new effort to help students better manage their debt burden, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced legislation today that will strengthen an existing federal student loan data system to give students more comprehensive access to and a better understanding of debt and repayment options. Shaheen’s proposal, the Simplifying Access to Student Loan Information Act, calls for the development of a central online portal that will allow students to review all their public and private student loans as well as repayment options in one place, which would in turn help students better manage, understand and repay their debt.

“While higher education is one of the best investments we can make to keep our country a magnet for jobs and economic opportunity, the soaring costs of higher education are pushing middle class families and students into debt,” Shaheen said. “For many Americans, student debt prevents them from buying a home, getting married, starting a family and pursuing career goals.”

“We need to not only make college more affordable and accessible, but better help students manage their costs and debts after they graduate,” Shaheen continued. “My proposal will give students in New Hampshire and across the country tools to help better manage repayment, know their options and get help when they need it.”

Nationally, students hold nearly $1.2 trillion in student debt, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Project on Student Debt estimates that 74 percent of New Hampshire students leave school carrying loan debt. In total, the group also estimates average debt for New Hampshire students is nearly $33,000. Shaheen’s legislation would help students manage their debt burden and navigate the borrowing and repayment processes with confidence.

Specifically, the Simplifying Access to Student Loan Information Act would amend the Higher Education Act and the Truth in Lending Act to expand the National Student Loan Data System to include comprehensive student loan information for both private and public student loans. Currently, only federal student loan information is available within the database. Shaheen’s proposal would create a virtual one-stop shop where students and borrowers can better manage their debt and gain easier, more comprehensive access to debt and repayment options. Additionally, the legislation Shaheen introduced today would require the Secretary of Education to establish a competitive five-year pilot program to encourage non-traditional, personalized outreach to student borrowers to encourage better communication, which would ultimately lead to the development of suggested best practices for reducing default, forbearance and deferment rates.

Throughout her career Shaheen has worked to make college more affordable and accessible, leading efforts to increase access to higher education for New Hampshire students and voting to maintain low interest rates for Stafford loans  and the Pay As You Earn repayment plan to help students and families manage college tuition. Shaheen’s legislation follows a recent call to the President, urging him to work with Congress on a plan to lower student debt.

The full text of the Simplifying Access to Student Loan Information Act is available here, and the following organizations, colleges and universities have endorsed Shaheen’s bill:

 

·         Colby Sawyer College

·         Community College System of New Hampshire

·         Dartmouth College

·         Franklin Pierce University

·         Granite State College

·         Keene State College

·         National Association for College Admission Counseling

·         New England Association for College Admission Counseling

·         New England College

·         New Hampshire Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators

·         New Hampshire College & University Council

·         New Hampshire Higher Education Assistance Foundation

·         New Hampshire Institute of Art

·         Plymouth State University

·         Rivier University

·         Saint Anselm College

·         Southern New Hampshire University

·         University of New Hampshire

 

What The F&@#: Issa Proposes End To Six Day Delivery To Save Military Retirees COLA’s

Image from the Muskegon Chronicle
http://www.mlive.com/news/muskegon/index.ssf/2010/03/no_saturday_mail_delivery_no_p.html
Image from the Muskegon Chronicle http://www.mlive.com/news/muskegon/index.ssf/2010/03/no_saturday_mail_delivery_no_p.html

Image from the Muskegon Chronicle

The depth of Congressman Darrell Issa’s distain for the unionized workers at the US Postal Service knows no bounds.  Now he is pitting the USPS against the US Military.

Government Executive reported this morning:

A new bill would undo the recent cuts made to certain military retirees’ pensions, and in exchange allow the U.S. Postal Service to end Saturday mail delivery.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, on Thursday proposed legislation that would restore full cost-of-living adjustments for young military retirees.”

To recap, the bi-partisan budget deal that everyone was giddy over last month made cuts to Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) for veterans who retire after twenty years of service, but have not reached the full retirement age of 62.  To put this into context, this would be a person who could be as young as 38 years old, receiving a military pension, who would receive 1% less in a COLA increase than those retiree’s over the age of 62.

I am against cutting benefits to any worker who has done their time and completed their service after the fact.  That is not the case here.  This change means that these working age retirees will not get the full cost of living increase, which does not mean they are going to see their paychecks go down, as some are implying.  Also nowhere does it say that a retired veteran cannot get another job after they leave the military.  Just look at all the government contractors like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, who routinely hire veterans as military specialists.

You know who else hires a ton of veterans, especially those who have been medically discharged?  The US Postal Service, that is who.  In 2007 the USPS employed over 680,000 people and of that 25% were veterans. (Note 8% of total workforce is listed as disabled veterans).

While that information is great to have, it is not the true point of this post.  The fact that Congressman Issa is, yet again, proposing to cut the Postal Service to five-day delivery is a sham.  He is trying to pull the wool over your eyes, by saying that eliminating Saturday delivery will save the government enough money to offset the retiree’s COLA cuts.

The fact is that the USPS does not take any money from the US Government.  The USPS is a completely self-funded operation, paid in full by the postage on the parcel.  The real issue the USPS is facing is the pre-funding mandate set forth by Congress in 2006.  That mandate requires the USPS to pre-fund all retiree benefits for the next 75 years before 2016.

Congressman Issa and the Postmaster General have used this mandate to make claims that the USPS is going bankrupt.  It is true the USPS cannot afford to pre-pay retiree benefits at 7-times (7X) the normal rate. What corporation could afford that?  They are using this as a way to push the USPS, and its unionized workforce out, and replace it with private companies like UPS and FedEx, who make more money for the 1% on Wall Street.   Let us not forget how UPS and FedEx botched holiday deliveries, while the slow and steady postal service delivered all their packages on time.

This legislation is the biggest shell game I have ever seen.  Instead of just reinstating the cuts to retiree’s, Congressman Issa is suggesting that we steal money from the USPS (which he claims is going bankrupt), and give it to these retiree’s.

If the USPS is failing, as Congressman Issa has said over and over, how exactly is stealing more money from them going to save it?

Rep. Peter DeFazio: "There's no substitute for a universal postal system. The private sector can't fill that gap."  WATCH: http://on.msnbc.com/1dWH1vi  Image from the ED Show

Rep. Peter DeFazio:
There’s no substitute for a universal postal system. The private sector can’t fill that gap.”
WATCH: http://on.msnbc.com/1dWH1vi
Image from the ED Show

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