“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?
Everyone is jumping up and down over the fact the House of Representative finally did something! Yeah, they passed a bill! The fact is that passing this budget is a big deal for a couple of reasons.
Passing this budget means that we will not be forced into another government shutdown. The budget funds the government for the next two years. This also means that Congress will not be jumping from crisis to crisis every three months.
Passing this budget also means that the house can actually put aside their ideologies and pass legislation is a bi-partisan way. Speaker John Boehner did something nobody expected him to, and chastised the right-wing conservative groups for trying to block this budget. The question is whether or not Speaker Boehner will continue this rebellion and start to actually pass a few bills in the house.
I know just where Boehner can start, comprehensive immigration reform. You know the bill that already passed the Senate with strong bi-partisan support, and is just waiting for the House to pass it. The Speaker has said on multiple occasions that passing immigration reform is a major part of the Republican agenda and it should be done.
Sadly the House of Representative closed up shop for the year. They went back home to their districts without even discussing immigration. Now we must wait until early January until we see if John Boehner will bring the bill to the floor for a vote.
“Our immigration system desperately needs reform. Our broken system puts significant strain on our communities. It also hurts American workers and legal immigrants, not to mention illegal immigrants, whose families live on the margins of our society,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH).
That means we will have to wait about 25-30 days before the House reconvenes and a vote can be held. In those 30 days over 30,000 aspiring citizens will be deported. 30,000 families ripped apart. On average 1,100 aspiring citizens are deported every day.
To add further insult to these people who are chasing their own version of the American Dream, the Immigration Policy Center reports that immigrants are being mistreated while in US custody.
“Overall, we find that the physical and verbal mistreatment of migrants is not a random, sporadic occurrence but, rather, a systematic practice. One indication of this is that 11% of deportees report some form of physical abuse and 23% report verbal mistreatment while in U.S. custody”. (Emphasis added)
If we put these figures into action that would mean that in the next 30 days while Congress is on vacation and not passing immigration reform, 3,000 immigrants will be physically abused during their deportation.
As if physically abusing immigrants already in custody is not enough, it is now being reported that over “one-third (1/3) of all immigrants taken into US custody had their belonging taken from them and not returned.” Some items may be trivial, but not all of them. “Among deportees who were carrying Mexican identification cards, 1 out of every 4 had their card taken and not returned. The taking of possessions, particularly identity documents, can have serious consequences and is an expression of how dysfunctional the deportation system is.”
The Immigration Policy Center continues:
“Our study finds that migrants processed through Operation Streamline, or held in detention for a week or longer, are most likely to have their possessions taken and not returned.”
How can this be happening? Just because they are not American citizens does not mean that the US Government can trample their rights. This is just another reason we need to pass immigration reform. We must put an end to the daily deportation of these aspiring Americans.
To bring attention to the need for real immigration reform advocates began a ‘Fast for Families’ on the National Mall. Many of the faster’s are well known in the ongoing fight for immigration reform, including Eliseo Medina. The Fast For Families includes bio’s of all of the faster’s, and this is what they said about Eliseo:
“Eliseo Medina is described by the Los Angeles Times as “one of the most successful labor organizers in the country” and was named one of the “Top 50 Most Powerful Latino Leaders” in Poder Magazine. Medina served as the International Secretary-Treasurer of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) for 17 years (1996 – 2013)”
They began their fast with a declaration.
“What is our faith, our words and our history worth if not translated into action, sacrifice and redemption? The world has witnessed the beliefs and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez translate in courageous acts of civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance to gain justice for a community of people who were underserved and discriminated against. We now humbly attempt to follow the examples of these great teachers and the teachings of Scripture to align our own hearts with the heart of God, who desires justice for immigrants and immediate justice for the 11 million undocumented immigrant brothers and sisters within our borders. Our faith requires nothing less. Today begins our vow to abstain from sustenance.”
After 30 days of surviving on nothing but water, the fasters have handed the torch over to a new group of fasters. Congressional Representatives and union leaders quickly stepped up to fast for immigration reform. Every day since, members of Congress and immigration advocates have come forward to fast on the National Mall in their place.
How many families will have to be ripped apart by deportation before Speaker John Boehner will bring an immigration bill to the floor of the house?
How many people will be physically abused, and have their property and identification cards stolen from them before Speaker Boehner will bring an immigration bill to the floor?
What does it take to convince the Speaker that we need immigration reform now!
Federal employees feel “devalued, dispirited and discouraged” due to budget cutbacks, AFGE leader says
WASHINGTON – Federal employee morale is at an all-time low according to a new governmentwide survey, and the leader of the nation’s largest federal employee union faulted Congress for pushing policies that favor spending cuts over economic growth.
“Pay freezes, furloughs and budget cutbacks are the reasons why federal employee morale is in the dumps, and lawmakers who have been leading the charge to slash government spending with abandon have no one to blame but themselves,” American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. said.
A report released today by the Partnership for Public Service, “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government,” says 57.8 percent of federal employees are satisfied in their jobs, which is the lowest it’s been since the survey began in 2003. The Partnership report is based on the Office of Personnel Management’s annual survey of the government’s more than 2 million workers.
Federal employees have had their pay frozen for an unprecedented three consecutive years, and many lost a week of wages this summer due to sequestration-related furloughs. New federal employees are being required to pay substantially more toward their retirement to help pay down the U.S. deficit. Meanwhile, budget cuts due to sequestration have resulted in hiring freezes, cutbacks in employee training and other reductions that have impaired service delivery to the public at many agencies.
“Politicians have been telling federal employees for years that they’re not worth receiving a fair wage, that their jobs aren’t worth funding, that the services they deliver to the American people aren’t as important as continuing to subsidize Wall Street corporations with lucrative tax breaks,” Cox said.
“Should it come as any surprise that federal employees feel devalued, dispirited and discouraged? Federal employees join the government to serve their country and give back to the community, but some politicians have turned them into the enemy and made them the scapegoat for all of the country’s problems.”
Rather than targeting federal employees and services for harmful cuts, Congress should focus on reforming our broken tax system and investing in programs and projects that will create good-paying jobs and restore the U.S. as an economic leader in the 21st century, Cox said.
“Slashing government spending for vital programs that benefit millions of Americans won’t create a single new job, and going after the pay and benefits of federal employees won’t make the government more efficient,” Cox said. “Hopefully this report will serve as a wake-up call to members of Congress.”
New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)
This week the Senate will vote on the bi-partisan budget deal that was crafted by Rep Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray. Everyone has a bone to pick with this budget, but that will not going to keep it from passing.
The budget bill has already passed the House and there was opposition from both sides of the aisle. The bill is now moving to the Senate where New Hampshire’s own, Senator Kelly Ayotte, joined a few of her fellow Republicans to oppose the budget bill.
From the Washington Post:
“In a joint statement last week, Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said they cannot support the legislation because it “disproportionately and unfairly targets those who have put their lives on the line to defend our country.”
“The budget agreement, crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), would reduce cost-of-living adjustments for working-age military retirees by 1 percent starting in December 2015, although the existing rate would apply again once former service members reach age 62.”
The proposed change is projected to save the government $6 billion, but Ayotte said it “pays for more federal spending on the backs of our active duty and military retirees.”
Wait a minute; Senator Ayotte is opposing the budget because it takes 1% or $6 billion dollars away from the Veterans retirement program that only affects Veterans who retire prior to age 62. That is right, that is what she is opposing.
“AFGE rejects the notion that there should be a trade-off between funding the programs to which federal employees have devoted their lives, and their own livelihoods.”
Where was Senator Ayotte’s opposition when the non-military federal employees were getting beat down by Congress?
“Unions and employee groups have been fighting the pension change. They say federal workers have already “sacrificed over $113 billion for deficit reduction since 2011″ — the figure being based on 3 years without a pay hike and the bigger contribution new hires must put toward pensions.”(Money.CNN)
She was right there voting with the Party to continue to balance the budget on the backs of federal workers, just not the military veterans.
The truth is that this ‘strong opposition’ is nothing more than grandstanding by a Senator who has become the darling of the Republican Party. Her opposition engages the hard right Republicans who already oppose the budget because it increases spending. She can use her opposition to fundraise from those same far right Republicans.
The truth is this budget bill will pass, even with Senator Ayotte’s opposition. She will not be alone in her ‘Nay’ vote for this budget but with the Democratic majority in the Senate, the bill will pass. Basically it is a free vote for her, to FAKE – I mean – MAKE a stand against the overspending Democrats who are out to harm the beloved military veterans.
With such strong opposition to proposed cuts to our veterans, you would expect Senator Ayotte to be demanding for restoration of all the cuts made to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
“Accordingly to a report out this week from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, approximately 900,000 veterans are currently dependent, in whole or part, on food stamp benefits to care for their themselves and their families.” (Forbes 10/30/13)
Senator, don’t tell us your outraged at these cuts to the veterans pensions, while you do nothing for the nearly 1 million veterans who are living off food stamps. I respect and honor the service these men and women have done for out country, but you need to be consistent in your outrage.
Are they heroes who cannot afford cuts to their retirement, or are they ‘one of those people’ who are living off food stamps?
The truth is, they are both and Senator Ayotte, you should remember that the next time they want to make budget cuts to all of theses social programs.
Author’s Note: Some of you may be wondering what is a labor union advocate doing talking about gun control and Sandy Hook. The answer is simple. I have three children who attend an elementary school just like Sandy Hook. I would also like to point out that two of the largest labor unions in New Hampshire are the teachers unions (NEA-NH and AFT-NH).
One year ago we all were stunned by the horrific event at a little elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. This tragic event that took the lives of twenty innocent school children, and six brave educators. As Adam Lanza entered the school, with guns blazing he managed to fire over 150 rounds from his mother semi-automatic rifle with 30 round magazines.
The day after the shooting the American Federation of Teachers released this short video honoring the brave educators who sacrificed their lives to protect the children in their care.
That day, and every day since, people have been asking ‘what are we going to do about Newtown’? For the first weeks that followed the shooting, people across the country were up in arms and calling on Congress to pass sweeping gun reforms. A completely organic grassroots organization called ‘Moms Demand Action’ started pushing for background checks and smaller magazines on all weapons sales.
The argument quickly became a fight between common sense, and the National Rifle Association. Across the country labor unions and other groups like Moms Demand Action, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and Americans for Responsible Solutions (Gabby and Mark Giffords PAC) began an all out war with the NRA right on the steps of the Capitol.
“We demand a vote, Gabby Giffords demands a vote” cried President Obama during his State of The Union address. As every day passed more pressure was being put on Congress to pass the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act, commonly referred to as the background check bill. A bill that would require background check on all gun sales, closing the loophole that allows people to buy guns without a background check at gun shows and on the internet. The bill also placed a limit on the size of magazines, and ultimately pushed for a ban on all assault rifles.
Momentum and public support grew every single day leading up to the vote. People overwhelmingly supported background check on all gun sales. The court of public opinion was completely against the NRA, who led the charge to kill the bill.
The bill failed to break the 60-vote threshold (54-46) to overcome the Republican Filibuster. The vote was strictly down party lines except for one stray Republican (John McCain) who voted with Democrats to pass the bill to strengthen the background check system. (Note: four Democratic Senators voted against the bill: Baucus (D-MT), Begich (D-AK), Heitkamp (D-ND), Pryor (D-AR))
After the Senate failed to pass the Safe Communities, Safer Schools Act people became even more outraged. Demand Action – a campaign by the Mayors Against Illegal Guns — started calling out every single Senator who voted against the bill with ads like this.
The National Rifle Association even floated the idea that we should arm teachers with guns, because ‘the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.’ Many people, including myself thought that was just too much. We are trying to keep the guns out of our schools and the NRA wants every teacher to be packing heat.
Here we are, one year later, and what have we accomplished? What have we done to stop the carnage of gun violence in America? The Boston Globe reports:
“A Law Center scorecard shows that 18 states weakened their gun restrictions in 2013, 11 states and the District of Columbia strengthened them, and 10 states passed a combination. Both sides in the gun debate, however, manage to find hopeful signs in that tally.”
Where is that outrage that we all felt last December 14th as we were all forced to see the images of teachers and children running away from the Sandy Hook Elementary School, or the images of the twenty children and six heroic teachers who we will never see again. Where is that outrage now as the majority of the nation has yet to see any change in our gun laws?
The group Moms Demand Action released a statement along with a very powerful advertisement calling for an end to the ‘silence’. Moms Demand Action are hosting ‘end the silence’ rallies all across the country to make the plea that we do not need more moments of silence, we need stronger gun laws to prevent these types of tragedies.
“One year ago, 20 beautiful children and six brave teachers and administrators were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in a tragedy that is still impossible to comprehend,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein. “On that morning, a deranged killer shot his way into what should have been a safe place, with an assault weapon and enough high-capacity ammunition magazines to kill as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time. The massacre was the product, in large part, of our nation’s weak gun laws—laws that allow military-style assault weapons to be sold legally and that permit criminals and domestic abusers to easily obtain weapons at gun shows and over the Internet without a background check.”
Since Newtown there has been at least 20 different schools shooting claiming the lives of dozens of innocent people. When will it stop? When will Congress wake up and do what is right for public safety? I refuse to let this be another flash in the pan that fizzles out after time. I hope that this one-year anniversary of the tragedy at Newtown reignites the fire we once had to effect much needed changes in our gun laws. I am also proud of the labor leaders like Randi Weingarten and Lily Eskelsen Garcia who using their positions as labor leaders to continue to fight for stronger and more effective gun laws.
Some on the Congressional Budget Committee seem to be misguided on what their task is by seriously considering a proposal to eliminate Saturday mail delivery. The Postal Service has reported an operating profit of $600 Million for Fiscal Year 2013. Its first profit since 2008. Parcel revenue soared to an all time record high of $12.5 Billion. Increasing 8% over last year. So you would think that this is a time to increase service not to decrease it. The USPS is growing to the point that some parts of the country have instituted a limited 7 day’s a week parcel service. Its time to grow the service not shrink it.
This week the Congressional Budget Committee is considering sneaking in a poison pill that would in all probability kill the Postal Service over time and eliminate thousands of jobs immediately. This Budget Committee was set up to mitigate the harmful effects of the Federal Shutdown and sequestration on jobs and public services. Instead incredibly they are exacerbating the problem on both fronts by reducing arguably the most popular and effective part of the Federal Government.
Though the Postal Service makes an operating profit it is under constant attack by some members of Congress because it provides a popular government service delivered by unionized workers. Government Services and unions are the top targets of the privation zeal of the right-wing. Ideology trumps common sense with these politicians. Somehow they never mention that the worlds best Postal Service does not use ONE CENT of tax payer money
This committee is also attacking the entire Federal workforce by taking $20 billion out of government workers paychecks by increasing workers share of retirement costs.
These same members of this budget committee seem to have no issues with spending billions of dollars every year on a F-35 fighter jet program that literally can’t get off the ground. Yet seem hell-bent on reducing a cost neutral public service that unites our entire country.
The Postal Service financial report is only made gloomy due to an unprecedented retiree health care mandate. The mandate requires the Postal Service to fully fund retiree health care benefits decades in advance, was responsible of 100% of FY 2013 losses and 80% of losses implemented in 2007. This mandate has manufactured a postal crisis that is being used by some politicians to dismantle it.
Apparently the elimination of Saturday delivery will be tied to a trigger that can easily be manipulated by congress and result in disaster for millions of Americans who rely on the Postal Service. These same phony triggers were included in Michigan’s notorious anti union legislation Public Act 4. That destructive law was fortunately repealed by voters last month. We must prevent this Budget Committee from making a similar mistake.
Congress expects to unveil its 2014 budget plan on Friday so the time is short to let members of congress know that eliminating Saturday mail delivery is not an option that makes economic sense. It’s a false choice that the Postal Service must shrink to survive.
The least productive Congress ever should stay in Washington
until a budget is agreed to
WASHINGTON, DC – With only six legislative days remaining before the House of Representatives goes home for the holidays, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter added her name to the newly introduced H. Res. 424, legislation that would prevent Congress from adjourning for the remainder of the year unless it passes a budget conference report by December 13th.
“The least productive Congress ever should stay in Washington until a budget is agreed to,” Shea-Porter said. “Without fulfilling this basic function, there is no question that Congress should not go on vacation.”
The 113th Congress is on track to have the least productive year in Congressional history. But next Friday, the House of Representatives is scheduled to go home for the holidays until January 7th. Earlier this week, Speaker of the House John Boehner had this outrageous response for reporters asking about progress in the Republican-led Congress: “We’ve done our work.”
Without agreeing to a budget, Congress risks another government shutdown and credit default as early as January 15, 2014. Without authorizing the nation’s Farm Bill, the price of milk could skyrocket to $8.00 per gallon in January. Additionally, unemployment insurance, common sense gun legislation, and jobs bills all remain on the table but unpassed.
Earlier today, Shea-Porter supported a motion that would have forced Congress to pass a budget conference report before adjourning for the year. In early August, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter spoke on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives asking Congress to extend its session in order to end sequestration and pass job-creating legislation. You can watch the video here.
The Securities and Exchange Commission came under fire yesterday from organized labor and members of Congress. Both took aim at what corporations are not telling the public.
New Hampshire Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, along with 32 other Congressmen, sent a letter to Mary Jo White, the Chairman of the SEC. (Click here to view the full letter.) The letter calls for new SEC rule-making for publicly traded companies to disclose CEO pay and the ratio between CEO’s and their average employee.
“Over the course of my lifetime, I’ve watched American workers become more productive than ever, only to see wages remain largely stagnant. Over those same decades, CEO pay has gone through the roof, rising from 42 times the average pay of workers in 1980 to 354 times that of the average worker today,” Shea-Porter said. “In 2012, the CEO of J.C. Penney (JCP) made 1,795 times that of the average JCP employee. It’s time for publicly traded companies to report on this disparity.”
The letter notes that it is important for investors to know the salaries of chief executives at publicly traded corporations. At the same time, it is essential that these salaries be contextualized through comparison with the median employee salary at the firm. The proposed rule also reflects public concern over disparate levels of executive compensation and the need to have this information available in an understandable format.
Peter Drucker, one of the 20th century’s best-known business theorists, wrote that the ratio of CEO-to-worker pay was best kept between 20-1 and 25-1. One way to reduce without cutting CEO pay is to raise the wages of the average worker.
The 32 Members of Congress to sign the letter noted that they found no credibility in the idea that the burdens of documenting the ratio between CEO pay and median employee compensation will be too high. “Companies already track how much they spend on personnel including salary and benefits,” the letter reads. “Firms that set up advanced computers for high frequency trading or that master the concept of just-in-time inventory should be able to figure out the median salary using basic software.”
While Congress is trying to create more transparency in CEO pay, organized labor took aim at corporation’s political spending.
“We are disappointed that the Securities and Exchange Commission is not including a rulemaking to require disclosure of corporate political spending on its regulatory agenda for 2014. The SEC’s Division of Corporate Finance had been previously scheduled to consider whether to recommend a proposed rule in 2013.
Since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, we have seen a dramatic increase in political spending by corporations. Yet much of this spending is not disclosed to investors who own public companies. Without transparency, there is a danger that executives will spend money in ways that do not benefit investors.
Just as labor unions are legally required to publicly disclose their political spending, public companies should be held to the same standard. Nearly 700,000 individuals have written the SEC to support this requested rulemaking. We urge SEC to put corporate political spending disclosure back on its agenda for 2014.”
Many large companies are using their profits to sway political elections and then using their newly gained political clout to push for policies that only benefit the ultra-wealthy 1%. Manly this is benefiting the corporations CEOs, while the company is taking more from the average worker for healthcare and benefits.
In the 2012 election there was an estimated $6 Billion dollars spent campaigning. Most of that money was funneled through ‘Super PAC’s’ that do not have to disclose their donors. Corporations donate millions of dollars to support candidates that will roll back workers rights and labor laws that greatly impact large employers.
We need more transparency from these corporations. How is their money being used to influence the political process and how much they shell out to their CEO’s? If we knew some of these details it would shed some light on how easy it would be for employers to raise the wages of the workers.
With time running out, Congresswoman Kuster presses for a vote on bill to extend Unemployment Insurance for Granite Staters
In letter to Speaker Boehner, Kuster urges action on legislation to renew the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which would give Granite Staters struggling to find work a vital lifeline
Without Congressional action, 1.3 million Americans – including 1,300 Granite Staters – will be cut off from vital unemployment insurance benefits just days after Christmas
Kuster to Boehner: With less than 10 legislative days remaining before benefits expire, the time to act is now
WASHINGTON, D.C. – With critical unemployment insurance for the long-term unemployed set to expire just days after Christmas, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) today called on Speaker Boehner to allow a vote on legislation to renew the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program for another year. In a letter to Speaker Boehner, Kuster said that an extension of unemployment insurance benefits will provide a vital lifeline to Granite Staters and other Americans who are still struggling to find work as the economy continues to recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression. Kuster, who also reiterated her call for Congress to focus like a laser on job creation, underscored that with only ten legislative days remaining before benefits are set to expire, the time for action is now.
“While our economy has made important progress since the Great Recession, too many people in New Hampshire and across the country are still struggling to find work. Now is not the time to cut off unemployment insurance benefits that are helping these families survive as they search for jobs,” Kuster wrote. “I therefore respectfully request that you allow a simple vote on legislation that will protect these benefits and the hardworking families who count on them.”
Last month, Kuster cosponsored legislation that would extend unemployment insurance benefits for another year and highlighted a report which estimated that without Congressional action, 1.3 million Americans – including 1,300 Granite Staters – would be cut off from their benefits on December 28.
Last year, unemployment compensation helped keep 2.5 million Americans out of poverty, including 600,000 children. Not only would losing these benefits hurt New Hampshire families, it would also have a negative impact on economic growth. Recent estimates have found that allowing the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program to expire would cost our economy 310,000 jobs and reduce first-quarter economic growth by roughly four-tenths of a percentage point in 2014.
The Emergency Unemployment Compensation program was first authorized in 2008 and has been reauthorized on several occasions since then, most recently as part of the Jan. 1, 2013 fiscal cliff agreement, with the number of weeks of federal benefits substantially reduced over the last two years.
Key findings from the report Kuster highlighted last month include:
1,300 Granite Staters will lose unemployment insurance on December 28, 2013
Failure to extend unemployment insurance would cost economy 310,000 jobs, according to the Economic Policy Institute
37% of unemployed have been without a job for longer than six months
Economy still has 2 million fewer jobs than before Great Recession began
With fewer than ten legislative days remaining before unemployment insurance benefits are set to expire, I write to urge you to immediately allow a vote on legislation that will extend these vital benefits for individuals who are still struggling to find work. As you know, without Congressional action, 1.3 million jobless Americans – including more than 1,300 individuals in my home state of New Hampshire – will lose their unemployment insurance benefits just days after Christmas.
Not only would losing these benefits be a painful blow to my constituents who are still struggling to find work, but it would also hurt our economy. Some recent projections have found that allowing the Emergency Unemployment Insurance program to expire would cost our economy more than 300,000 jobs while shaving four-tenths of a percentage point from first quarter economic growth in 2014. That would hurt the long-term unemployed in my district and negatively impact our entire economy.
While our economy has made important progress since the Great Recession, too many people in New Hampshire and across the country are still struggling to find work. Now is not the time to cut off unemployment insurance benefits that are helping these families survive as they search for jobs. I therefore respectfully request that you allow a simple vote on legislation that will protect these benefits and the hardworking families who count on them. With fewer than ten days to act, Congress needs to immediately extend these vital benefits and focus like a laser on creating jobs and opportunity for the middle class.
Thank you for your attention to this critical issue.
So, earlier today a federal judge ruled that Detroit’s “Emergency Manager” could go ahead with bankruptcy proceedings – and, as part of the bankruptcy, cut public pension benefits that would otherwise be protected by Michigan’s state Constitution.
Judge Rhodes ruled Tuesday that Michigan’s [constitutional] protections for public pensions “do not apply to the federal bankruptcy court,” adding that pensions are not entitled to “any extraordinary attention” compared with other debts. (Read the New York Times article here.)
Think about that, carefully – because to me, that is the single most frightening part of this whole situation. The judge held that federal bankruptcy law trumps a state constitution.
One more time: according to this morning’s ruling, a law passed by Congress can invalidate a provision of a state constitution.
Take a minute and look at all those rights guaranteed by the New Hampshire Constitution. (Read it here.)
Now, think about what it means, if Congress has the power to take those freedoms away.
Article 7 of the New Hampshire Constitution:
The people of this state have the sole and exclusive right of governing themselves as a free, sovereign, and independent state; and do, and forever hereafter shall, exercise and enjoy every power, jurisdiction, and right, pertaining thereto, which is not, or may not hereafter be, by them expressly delegated to the United States of America in congress assembled.
How does that work, if state constitutions can be trumped by a federal law?
Read previous NH Labor News coverage of the Detroit situation here.
Read the statement from AFT President Randi Weingarten on this ruling here.
Read yesterday’s NH Labor News story about Illinois here.
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