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Doug Jones’ Victory Is A Major Win For Labor And Could Be The Vote To Stop The GOP Tax Scam

“Doug Jones’ victory is not only an enormous win for working people in Alabama, but it’s also a victory for all Americans who are ready to stand up to the current Congressional leadership’s politics and policies,” wrote CWA in a brief statement.

Organized labor pushed hard in Alabama with what they called the “largest political program in state’s history.”

“The largest labor political program in the history of the state of Alabama has propelled Doug Jones to victory. Rarely considered an important union state by political analysts, Alabama has a higher union density than Florida and Virginia and nearly the same union density as Iowa, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin,” stated the AFL-CIO.

“This victory proves working people are a powerful political force, even in states where most people count us out,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Working people are tired of the status quo and Alabama proved that we have the power to change it and improve the lives of everyone. This is only the beginning of a potent movement to win back the freedoms of workers in America.”

“CWA members in Alabama know that Doug Jones has spent his career fighting for workers’ rights and civil rights,” said Richard Honeycutt, Vice President of CWA District 3 which includes Alabama. “I’m confident that Senator Jones will push for policies that protect working families and keep good jobs in Alabama.”

Overall the coordinated labor campaign sent out more than 116,000 mail contacts, nearly 40,000 worksite fliers and speaking with nearly 100,000 union members on the phone and at the door, Alabama working families were educated and mobilized in this historic election. African American women, who were a major factor in electing Doug Jones, make up 12% of union membership in Alabama and were nearly a quarter of all contacts by the labor program.

“Doug Jones’ victory, and the defeat of Roy Moore, should send a shockwave to those elected officials who have had a single-minded focus on advancing their agenda of destroying programs that help working families in order to finance tax breaks for corporations and the 1%. Just as we saw in the elections earlier this year in Virginia, the voters are demanding that political leaders be held accountable for their broken promises to working people,” conclude CWA.

“I am so proud of every person who volunteered and worked tirelessly to make this the biggest, most successful political program in the history of our great state,” said Alabama AFL-CIO President Bren Riley, a member of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 12L. “Together with the support of so many unions, we turned out union members and households to drive home an incredible win for Alabama’s working families.”

Seating Senator Jones

Today is was reported that the House and Senate have reached a compromise on the GOP Tax Plan and are pushing for a vote by the middle of next week.

“The GOP tax bill that passed the Senate by one vote is nothing but an attack on America’s workers,” said Trumka in a statement following the party line vote in the Senate earlier this month. “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.

“President Trump said that he wanted to lower taxes for everyone as a Christmas gift to America, but this bill is simply a lump of coal to working families across the country. The only real gift is the major tax giveaways to Wall Street, big corporations and the super-rich, when what our country needs is investment in our schools and infrastructures that creates jobs,” Trumka concluded.

“The Republican tax plan is a handout to millionaires, billionaires, and big corporations that will raise taxes on working families and give corporations new incentives to send more U.S. jobs overseas,” said CWA President Chris Shelton after the tax plan passed the House in early November.

Now that Doug Jones has won the special election, people are calling on Senator Mitch McConnell to seat him before any more votes are taken, specifically the GOP Tax Plan.

Jason Kander a Democrat and the former Missouri Secretary of State said he certified the special election of Congressman Jason Smith, a Republican, so that he could be seated less than 18 hours later.

The advocacy group Social Security Works is encouraging people to sign the petition demanding that Sen. McConnell seat Jones before voting on what they call the “GOP Tax Scam.”

Social Security Works wrote, “Alabama voters didn’t just reject Roy Moore. They rejected the Republican Party’s disaster of a tax bill, which is a handout to billionaires and corporations―paid for by gutting Medicare, Medicaid, and other vital programs.”

“Doug Jones could be the vote that kills the Republican tax scam. But Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan are rushing to jam through the tax scam before he has his chance.”

The people of Alabama have spoken and they want Doug Jones to be their voice in the Senate and that includes his vote against the GOP Tax Plan.

In Case You Don’t Remember: The Republicans Have a “Jobs Plan”

Haven’t read this morning’s New York Times? Here’s what you’re missing:

WASHINGTON — Anticipating a takeover of Congress, Republicans have assembled an economic agenda that reflects their small-government, antiregulation philosophy… The proposals would mainly benefit energy industries, reduce taxes and regulations for businesses generally, and continue the attack on the Affordable Care Act. It is a mix that leaves many economists, including several conservatives, underwhelmed.

What’s on the list?


View Fraccidents Map in a larger map

What’s not on the list?

  • Fixing our roads and bridges (even though more than 177,000 bridges around the country are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete)
  • Overhauling immigration laws (maybe Fox News and the Tea Party think xenophobia is good for the country)

Look again, at that last omission from the Republicans’ “Jobs Plan.”

A bipartisan Senate-passed bill on immigration would increase economic growth by 3.3 percent in a decade and save $175 billion by then, the Congressional Budget Office estimated.

Look again, at what could have been… if only the GOP hadn’t been so determined to stop anything and everything President Obama proposed.

When Mr. Obama sent Congress his jobs package three years ago, several forecasting firms estimated that it could add up to 150,000 jobs a month in the first year.

(Read about the Senate GOP filibuster here.)

Then, remember that the GOP’s opposition started on the first day of Obama’s first term.

WASHINGTON — As President Barack Obama was celebrating his inauguration at various balls, top Republican lawmakers and strategists were conjuring up ways to submarine his presidency at a private dinner in Washington.

And then, think about what this “GOP Jobs Plan” is really all about.

GOP Jobs Plan

The real story behind Congressional dysfunction

Take five minutes and watch…

Maryland Representative Chris Van Hollen explains how Speaker Boehner bends to the will of the Tea Party Caucus — and keeps the House from voting on bills that would pass, if members were just allowed to vote.

Just one example:

If the Speaker of the House brought up the comprehensive immigration bill – that has already passed the Senate – if he brought that up for a vote in the House today, it would pass.  We could have it on the President’s desk by this afternoon.

 

Does The Government Shutdown Mean “The End of the World”? The Radical Religious Right Thinks So

The End of the World Is Nigh

Ok, so maybe the government shutdown IS “the end of the world.”  At least as far as some Tea Party leaders are concerned.

Yes, seriously.  No, this is not a joke.

This eye-opening analysis comes from Rev. Morgan Guyton, a pastor in Louisiana:

I wanted to do some research into the theological roots of Senator Ted Cruz, the standard-bearer of the Tea Party Republicans behind the shutdown… It turns out that Ted’s father, Rafael Cruz, is a pastor with Texas charismatic ministry Purifying Fire International who has been campaigning against Obamacare the last several months. He has a distinct theological vision for what America is supposed to look like: Christian dominionism.

Here’s Christian Zionist charismatic pastor Larry Huch, a year ago, when he was introducing Sen. Cruz’s father as a guest preacher at Huch’s “New Beginnings” megachurch:

But here’s the exciting thing… The rabbinical teaching is… that in a few weeks begins that year 2012 and that this will begin what we call the end-time transfer of wealth.  …It’s said this way: that God is looking at the church and everyone in it and deciding in the next three and a half years who will be his bankers. And the ones that say here I am Lord, you can trust me, we will become so blessed that we will usher in the coming of the messiah.

Here’s how the Rev. Guyton distills the current state of Cruz’s theology:

The reason governmental regulation has to disappear from the marketplace is to make it completely available to the plunder of Christian ‘kings’ who will accomplish the ‘end time transfer of wealth.’ Then ‘God’s bankers’ will usher in the ‘coming of the messiah.’ The government is being shut down so that God’s bankers can bring Jesus back.

—–

OK, take a minute to breathe here.  Remember that most Christians (including, particularly, Rev. Guyton) don’t believe that bankers can bring Jesus back.  (Most Christians take a very different message from the Bible.  Remember my post “The Republicans Make an Offer on Sequestration”?)

But it’s a very enlightening perspective on the current federal crisis.

—–

Prepared for even more enlightenment?  Read Rev. Guyton’s post on “The God of No Compromise and the Government Shutdown.”

[For evangelicals], the word ‘compromise’ has always been a bad word. It means to allow non-Christian values and influences to corrupt your devotion to Biblical truth.  … a stormtrooper evangelical Republican must categorically reject any idea that is generated by a Democrat because accepting it would amount to a compromise of worldview.

This need to “categorically reject” Democratic ideas helps explain why the right-wing Heritage Foundation so adamantly opposes Obamacare.  If you’re a policy geek, you might remember that the Heritage Foundation actually proposed the individual mandate, back in 1989.  But now that’s a Democratic policy… Sen. Cruz believes it’s a reason to shut down the government.

It also helps explain why – no matter how hard President Obama may try to “compromise” – his attempts to “meet in the middle” are always going to be rejected.  Read “Translating from TeaPartyese: What ‘negotiate’ really means.”

“Let Them Eat Cat Food”: The Truth Behind The GOP’s Ten Year Push To Cut Social Security

marie antoinetteAs the latest GOP-caused national crisis begins to coalesce around the Tea Party’s demand for Social Security cuts… here are some facts worth remembering:

  1. Even though President Obama included chained-CPI in his FY14 budget proposal, it wasn’t his ideaChained-CPI – which incrementally reduces Social Security benefits – was first proposed in 2003 by then-Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan as a way of cutting the federal budget deficit.  (Read Greenspan’s testimony to Congress here.)
  2. Almost exactly a year later, Greenspan was back before Congress, arguing that “Congress should make President Bush’s tax cuts permanent and cover the $1 trillion price by trimming future benefits in Social Security and other entitlement programs.”
  3. The American public has never supported the Bush tax cuts. Just months after the first round of tax cuts was passed, in 2001, a Washington Post poll found that 57% of Americans wanted to roll back the tax cuts in order to preserve the federal budget surplus. (Yes, we had a surplus, back then.)
  4. The Bush tax cuts primarily benefited the folks at the top of the food chain.  The top 1% received more tax benefits than the bottom 80% of taxpayers combined.
  5. Even Bush’s own economists disavowed the idea that lower taxes improve the economy.  Back in 2006: “Even under favorable assumptions, making the tax cuts permanent would have a barely perceptible impact on the economy.  Under more realistic assumptions…the tax cuts could even hurt the economy.”

So here we are, 12 years after the public said “repeal the tax cuts”… 10 years after Greenspan suggested using chained-CPI to reduce the budget deficit… nine years after Greenspan explicitly told Congress to choose between tax cuts and Social Security… seven years after Bush economists reported that his tax cuts would likely hurt the economy…

..and there’s a faction of the Congress insisting on even more tax cuts… and Social Security cuts… or they’re going to blow the economy to smithereens.

As you’re watching events unfold in Washington, over the next few weeks, remember this fact, too:

By 2010, even Alan Greenspan thought the Bush tax cuts should go away.

—–

Got the aspirin bottle handy?

In his 2003 testimony to Congress, Greenspan also suggested a third path: increased immigration.  “Short of a major increase in immigration, economic growth cannot be safely counted upon to eliminate deficits and the difficult choices that will be required to restore fiscal discipline.”

(But it turns out that that same small faction in Congress doesn’t like immigrants, either.)

—–

Don’t know what the chained-CPI brouhaha is all about?  Read the latest report from the National Committee for the Preservation of Social Security and Medicare here.

Here’s how I look at it:

Chained-CPI is a vivid example of the “race to the bottom” that unions have been trying to stop for years.  It assumes that when personal finances are tight, consumers will alter their purchasing behavior and buy cheaper products.  Then, since they’re spending less, Congress figures they’ll need less money in Social Security benefits.

It’s the image of a senior citizen, trying to make ends meet, who gives up buying beef because she can only afford chicken… and then her Social Security benefit drops, so she gives up chicken and buys tuna… but with the next benefit drop, she can’t afford tuna anymore.

It’s the cat food thing.

(And BTW… given that about 12% of our nation’s jobs are in retail… I gotta wonder about the idea of “solving” a federal fiscal crisis by slowly strangling consumer spending.)

“GOP VALUES” — How The GOP Shows Favoritism to Unearned Income over Hard Work

Something else I don’t understand about Republican dogma…

GOP rhetoric seems to idealize the virtues of hard work:  “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” “Just get a job.”  “Quit freeloading.” It’s like they actually believe the Horatio Alger myth.

But look at our federal tax structure, and the changes Republicans have forced through since Ronald Reagan.   There is no reward for hard work.  Instead, our current tax system is tilted strongly in favor of those who already have money.  Investment income — unearned income — is now taxed at about half the rate of wage income.

Flashback to the 2011 debt-ceiling crisis: “Even an architect of the Bush tax cuts, economist Glenn Hubbard, tells Rolling Stone that there should have been a ‘revenue contribution’ to the debt-ceiling deal, ‘structured to fall mainly on the well-to-do.’ Instead, the GOP strong-armed America into sacrificing $1 trillion in vital government services – including education, health care and defense – all to safeguard tax breaks for oil companies, yacht owners and hedge-fund managers. The party’s leaders were triumphant: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell even bragged that America’s creditworthiness had been a ‘hostage that’s worth ransoming.’ ”

Now, let’s look at the impact that this VERY ODD tax preference has had on the US economy.

What happens, when our tax system rewards investment income, rather than actual work?

  1. Private equity “investors” use acquired corporations to borrow money – and then use that borrowed money to pay themselves dividends.  “Investment”?  Not hardly.  The acquired corporations go belly-up when they can’t pay pack the debt, leaving hundreds (or thousands) of workers unemployed.  Read “What Mitt Romney Taught Us about America’s Economy.”
  2. CEOs take more compensation as dividends, rather than wages.  Even accounting for inflation, top-tier taxpayers took home six times more dividends in 2009 than in 1992.  “But each dollar paid to the CEO in dividends costs the company (and the economy) a whole lot of money that could have been reinvested. Going back to Fred Smith as an example, his 15 million shares in the company represent only a fraction of the outstanding stock. For Mr. Smith to receive $8.5 million in dividends, personally, the company has to pay out well over $100 million in total dividends – money that could have been invested in new hires, or new planes, or new facilities (or improved employee benefits).”
  3. Some of those CEOs “invest” that money in politics.  And the cycle repeats itself.

“Pull yourself up by your bootstraps”??!? Bootstraps are getting very hard to find, these days.

(But please don’t shop for them at Walmart.  The corporation’s “Lowest Prices” policy has had a devastating effect on the US economy.  “Wal-Mart has the power to squeeze profit-killing concessions from vendors. To survive in the face of its pricing demands, makers of everything from bras to bicycles to blue jeans have had to lay off employees and close U.S. plants in favor of outsourcing products from overseas.”   Meanwhile, Walton family members – who receive about half of all dividends paid by Walmart – are doing just fine.)

Want to keep the government afloat? Here’s the list of House GOP demands


Just like the old Ginzu Knife commercials… “But wait, there’s more!”

Yes, House GOP leaders are insisting on a one-year delay of Obamacare (aka, the Affordable Care Act) as a condition of resolving this latest federal fiscal fiasco.

But that’s not all they’re looking for.

As compiled by the New York Times, here’s the list of House GOP leaders’ other demands:

…fast-track authority to overhaul the tax code, construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, offshore oil and gas production and more permitting of energy exploration on federal lands… roll back regulations on coal ash, block new Environmental Protection Agency regulations on greenhouse gas production, eliminate a $23 billion fund to ensure the orderly dissolution of failed major banks, eliminate mandatory contributions to the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, limit medical malpractice lawsuits and increase means testing for Medicare, among other provisions.

Does anybody (other than Fox News and a few hundred Internet trolls) still think the House leadership is trying to “compromise” and resolve this latest Congress-created crisis?

 

Political Extremism in Congress is Stifling Efforts to Improve Social Security and Medicare

2013-08-15_shaheen_social_securityYesterday, about 60 people gathered in the Dover Public Library to celebrate the 78th anniversary of Social Security.

Special guests included NH Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Max Richtman, President of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

Both speakers emphasized the need to take Social Security out of the federal budget debate.  “Social Security has a $2.7 trillion surplus,” Richtman observed.  “It is not contributing to the federal deficit.”

Shaheen was frank about the situation in Washington right now, describing the political polarization and its effects.  She explained how a minority of extremists has kept the Senate from appointing members to a conference committee on the federal budget – essentially blocking Congress from passing a bill that would fund the federal government during the fiscal year that starts in six weeks.  She said Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is expected to run for President in 2016, had single-handedly blocked the appointment of conference committee members on the last day before the Senate left for its August recess.

2013-08-15_shaheen_social_security3Shaheen said she understands that many seniors have a hard time making ends meet on their Social Security benefits, and said she supports raising benefits “in principle”.  “We need to have that conversation in Washington,” she said.  “But that’s not going to happen unless the partisan environment changes.”

Both speakers supported the idea of a special commission to look at the long-term future of the Social Security program, similar to the “Bipartisan Commission” that was appointed by President Ronald Reagan. “Back in the 1980s, there were only four months of solvency left,” Richtman recalled.  “Now, even without any changes, Social Security will remain solvent at least through 2033 – possibly longer, if the economy improves.”

Both speakers also endorsed the idea of raising the cap on earnings that are subject to the Social Security tax.  Right now, only the first $113,700 of an individual’s earnings are subject to Social Security taxes.

Richtman described how increased economic inequality has affected program revenues.  Historically, between 91% and 92% of all wages paid in the United States had been subject to the Social Security tax; but now, only about 81% of wages are covered by the tax.  As the middle class has lost ground, Social Security has lost revenues.

Both speakers also discussed a bill sponsored by Sen. Shaheen, which would allow the Medicare program to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies regarding drug prices.

When Medicare Part D was enacted in 2003, Congress specifically prohibited Medicare from negotiating with drug manufacturers for group discounts.  “I wonder who was in the room when that piece of the bill was drafted?” Richtman asked, and the audience laughed.

Economists have estimated that Medicare could save between $50 billion and $100 billion a year in prescription drug costs by negotiating prices.  The Veterans Administration, which does negotiate drug costs, pays an average of 58% less than Medicare providers for the most-commonly prescribed medications.

In the current partisan environment, GovTrack.us gives the bill a zero percent chance of passage.

Yesterday’s “birthday celebration” was sponsored by the New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans, the Granite State Organizing Project, New Hampshire Citizens Alliance and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

House Democrats Blast Senate GOP Leader for Blocking NLRB Nominees

Mitch McConnell, Filibuster King by DonkeyHotey via FlikrLooks to me like it was unanimous. Earlier this week, 201 House Democrats sent a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, expressing their “serious concern” about his position on nominations for the National Labor Relations Board.

Here is some of what House Democrats said:

This is nothing more than a blatant and cynical attempt to shut down the NLRB’s lawful ability to investigate and remedy unfair labor practices. …The NLRB provides critical protections to American workers and gives businesses much needed labor certainty. Each day that the Board sits idle is one in which workers’ lawful rights are put at risk. This continued ideological obstructionism is denying hardworking Americans the crucial worker protections that the NLRB provides.

Read their full letter here. I looked through the signatures and didn’t see a single House Democrat missing. Do you know how hard it is to find unanimity in Washington, DC these days?

The National Labor Relations Board is an independent federal agency vested with the power to safeguard employees’ rights to organize and to determine whether to have unions as their bargaining representative. The agency also acts to prevent and remedy unfair labor practices committed by private sector employers and unions.

Federal courts have previously ruled that the NLRB needs a minimum of three members in order to have the authority to make rulings. If there are less than three members, the Board cannot issue any decisions or take any official actions.

Right now, there are only three members of the NLRB – and the term of one of those members expires on August 27th. If Senate Republicans continue to block confirmation votes on NLRB nominees, then very soon the Board will be down to only two members – and then it will have no authority to protect collective-bargaining rights.

Here’s another thing that concerns House Democrats:

Specifically, [Senator McConnell’s] office stated that the Senate will not vote on the full package of Board nominees unless current Board members Ms. Sharon Block and Mr. Richard Griffin are replaced.

Apparently, Sen. McConnell now wants to give Senate Republicans veto power over the NLRB Board members who are already in office.

And here I thought that the Republicans are the minority party in the Senate. Yet, they’re holding hostage the rights of 80 million private-sector workers around the country, by refusing to allow the Senate to vote on any replacement NLRB members.

And yeah, the Republicans are using President Obama’s “recess appointments” to spin their decision to paralyze the NLRB. But I looked back – and since 2002, only one NLRB member has joined the Board through the usual nomination-confirmation process; all the other members joined through a recess appointment process. And even before that, Presidents appointed NLRB members during Senate recesses. President Reagan appointed two members during Senate recesses; President George H.W. Bush appointed one. So it’s not like President Obama somehow invented the process of recess appointments.

No, what’s really going on here is that the Senate GOP is using parliamentary maneuvers to make sure the NLRB loses its ability to act.

If there is no one to enforce workers’ rights, do workers still have those rights?

Maybe not.

  • You can read about Panera Bread baker Kathleen Von Eitzen here. (And please remember her and her coworkers, the next time you’re thinking about eating at Panera Bread!)
  • You can read about Illinois pressman Marcus Hedger, fired for being a shop steward, here. (He just lost his house to foreclosure, waiting for the job reinstatement and back pay that the NLRB awarded more than nine months ago.)

Rights? Our rights?

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to use delays and parliamentary maneuvers to strip rights away from 80 million Americans. House Democrats have protested – unanimously. Isn’t it time we did, too? Here’s how to contact him.

What Does The GOP Stand For? Why Are More Republicans Not Pushing Back Against Their Current Direction

Republican Presidents

Only a fool would try to deprive
working men and working
women of their right
to join the union of their choice.
– President Dwight D. Eisenhower

In New Hampshire, about 40% of union members are members of the Republican Party.

 

If you’re part of that 40% — or even if you’re not — there’s an opinion piece in today’s New York Times that you really ought to read.  Here’s an excerpt:

This is not a situation that any freethinking Republican should accept. Skewing income toward the upper, upper class hurts our economy because the rich tend to sit on their money — unlike lower- and middle-income people, who spend a large share of their paychecks, and hence stimulate economic activity.

But more fundamentally, it cuts against everything our country and my party stand for. Government’s role should not be to rig the game in favor of “the haves” but to make sure “the have-nots” are given a fair shot.

 

Maybe if more “life-long Republicans” challenged the direction the GOP has been taking lately… if party leaders could be convinced to return to the party’s core principles… if rank-and-file Republicans stood up and said “our party should stand for more than just protecting the rich”…

…maybe then the folks down in DC could end their gridlock and actually solve our economic problems.

 

Read the New York Times piece by former FDIC Chair Sheila Bair here.

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