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Guest Column: The Age Of A Fractured Political System

Dr. Thomas J. Mackell, Jr.By Thomas J. Mackell, Jr., Ed.D.

This is an age of fractured jobs, a fractured economy, fractured families, a fractured political system, a terribly fractured American Dream and where the political protagonists, our elected leaders, are in need of spinal transplants.

The soon-to-retire greying generation is experiencing no pensions. Those pensions are promises that will not be kept, leaving thousands of employees in dire straits when they are most vulnerable. Roller-coaster retirement accounts subject to the whims of the market. Longer life spans and higher health care costs. Children in college. Young adults with staggering student-loan debt who are financially incapable of purchasing a home. Aging and ailing parents. A will to work but fewer jobs to be had.

America is dying for a champion who makes preserving the middle class a top priority. They want somebody who can level the playing field so that Main Street doesn’t always come second to Wall Street. Someone who is not running networks of oligarchs who take advantage of our weakened campaign finance laws to manipulate the democratic process in pursuit of their self-interests.

This is the scenario as we head into the 2014 Congressional elections with predictions that Republicans will hold the House of Representatives and, perhaps, gain control of the Senate.

If that happens, forget a Congress that looks out for the little guy.  In conjunction with a non-caring Congress, today, unfortunately, the concept of freedom has come to mean the freedom of the wealthy to do whatever they want, without regard to the consequences for the rest of us. In reality, the 1 percent has undertaken a serious effort to buy elections.

At any kind of gathering whether it be at work or at home, Americans are expressing disappointment about the way things run in Washington. They don’t see them dealing with the multitude of problems facing our nation. Their approval rating is at an all-time low. Many citizens say they see no value in bothering to vote.

Clearly, the constant bickering between the Republicans and Democrats is wearing thin on Main Street and leads to a notion of false equivalency. The Pew Research Center says that Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines than at any point in the last two decades.

The GOP has done all it can to undercut the Obama presidency. Democrats had to fight back. The line is drawn in the sand which has resulted in blind allegiance or blind hatred.

But let’s put the blame where it belongs: on the Republican side of the aisle. The Republicans must end their internal civil war between the moderates and the Tea Party aficionados.

Recently, a number of the members of Congress who have announced their plans to retire have expressed their frustration with the cantankerous environment in Washington and their inability to get things done.

When even the pols start complaining, you know that things are really bad. If they can’t find solutions then we are, truly, in deep trouble.

Despite this horrendous dilemma, failing to vote surely will make things worse. We have a solemn obligation to go to the polls. Neglecting the most fundamental responsibility of citizenship invites complacency and encourages political abuse. Showing up on Election Day proves we are in the game, that we care and that we want to see change.

There are areas of this country where people have been removed from the ranks of eligible voters and GOP operatives are doing all they can to suppress participation by traditional Democratic constituencies.

Today, the American workplace is plagued with wage theft, disrespect of culture, pressure, unsafe environments, unbridled automation and more. Everything solid is melting into air. This should not be tolerated in modern America. We must vote our pocketbook to protect our livelihoods and our well-being.

We must encourage our union memberships, thoughtful young folks and retirees to go out on Election Day and exercise their right to vote. They must be engaged in their communities and serve as an example to those who might stay away. Staying home is not an option. It will only continue and calcify this dangerous divisiveness.

Dr. Thomas J. Mackell, Jr. is Senior Consultant to the International Longshoremen’s Association, AFL-CIO for political, legislative and public affairs.

Senate Republicans Blaming Public Employees for State’s Revenue Shortfalls

NH Retirement Coalition

CONCORD – Yesterday, New Hampshire Senate Republicans were quick to attack their fellow legislators and public employees after Standard & Poor announced New Hampshire’s bond rating was adjusted following a court ruling on the Medicaid Enhancement Tax (MET).

In 2007, responsible and bipartisan retirement reforms were enacted. Instead of allowing these changes to work, in 2011 Sen. Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) and his fellow Senate Republican colleagues added to the unfunded liability (UAAL) by slashing employer contributions. Due to Senate Republicans’ so-called pension reforms in 2011, they increased the UAAL by 11.5% – adding over $400 million to the state’s underfunded status, exacerbating the problem. These failed policies were a contributing factor to New Hampshire’s lowered bond rating.

Embracing real pension reform for newly hired employees and encouraging an open discussion with public employee groups would have been a responsible solution to our state’s financial concerns. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans refused to discuss retirement security for all public workers, and sentenced newly hired police officers and fire fighters to a future reliance on taxpayer-funded services.


For more information on the New Hampshire Retirement Security Coalition, please visit nhretirementfacts.com and follow us @NH_RSC

Strong Republican Support For Mike Cryans For Executive Councilor

Current and Former Republican Leaders Launch Republicans for Cryans Committee

Hanover – Two weeks before the March 11th Election Day, two dozen current registered Republicans and former Republicans leaders are launching Republicans for Cryans, highlighting the broad bipartisan support for Mike Cryans across the district.  Mike Cryans is running in the special election for Executive Council District One covering northern New Hampshire.  Members of the Republicans for Cryans Committee will be reaching out to fellow Republicans across the district and discussing why Mike Cryans is the best choice in the March 11th election.

The Cryans campaign is competing for each and every vote.  As a Grafton County Commissioner, Cryans built a strong record of real accomplishments by reaching across the aisle to get things done.  For 16 years, he worked side by side with late Executive Councilor, and fellow Grafton County Commissioner Ray Burton.

“Having such broad support from Granite State Republicans, Democrats and Independents is a great honor,” said Cryans.  “From Claremont to Conway and Littleton to Laconia, I am talking to voters about my vision for a stronger economy for northern New Hampshire and how much is at stake in this election.”

“Mike Cryans is not partisan, his actions will be well thought out, inclusive, wise, benign and constructive Cryans is the only candidate who will serve in the manner we are accustomed to, that being like Ray Burton. Cryans will not allow politics to get in the way of helping people,” said former Republican Senator Mark Hounsell of Conway.

“Mike Cryans has a deep understanding of the District especially from Lincoln on up to the Canadian border. His knowledge of the area and commitment to public service make him the best man to fill Ray Burton’s position on the Executive Council,” said Ken Randell, Republican and former State Representative from Laconia.

“Mike is born and bred in the North Country, I feel he is the candidate who best understands the needs facing the North Country and the District,” said Wayne Presby, a Littleton Republican and President of the Mount Washington Railway Company.

“I have been a Republican for most of my adult life, but partisan politics and radical rights and lefts have soured me on both parties.  I’ve finally given myself the freedom to vote for the person and not the party.  The seat of executive council requires a collaborative person with a knowledge of best business practices and the willingness to work in the best interest of the people of the state of New Hampshire,” said Hillary Seeger, a Republican candidate for Select Board in Meredith.  “Mike Cryans is the man for this job.  His astute sense of fiscal responsibility along with his positive and caring attitude make him by far, the candidate who will get my vote.”

Mike Cryans is running a people powered campaign.  In addition to the Republicans listed below, more than 740 individuals of every political party are supporting Cryans, because they know he will work hard every single day to deliver commonsense solutions for his constituents.

Media request for individual members of Republicans for Cryans can be sent to tbaker@nhdp.org.


The Republicans for Cryans Committee includes:

Herb & Fay Lloyd, Bethlehem

Lisa Capaldo, Canaan

Mark Hounsell, Conway; former Republican State Senator

Mary Grimes, Columbia; Ray Burton’s sister

Richard A. Crate Jr., Enfield; Police Chief

Lynn Presby, Freedom; retired New Hampshire State Police Colonel, current Racing and Gaming Commissioner

Lynne Whitacre, Hanover

Ray Labombard, Hanover

John Manchester, Hanover

Ray Abbott, Jackson; former Republican Carroll County Commissioner

Richard Coggon, Laconia

Ralph Hough, Lebanon; former Republican State Senate President of NH 1993-1994

Joel Bedor, Littleton

Dick Hamilton, Littleton

Winston Merrill, Littleton

Wayne Presby, Littleton

David M. Miller, Littleton

Hillary Seeger, Meredith; Republican candidate for Select Board

Gerald Coogan, New London

Bonnie Ham, North Woodstock; former Republican State Representative

David Babson, Ossipee; Republican Carroll County Commissioner

Steve Panagoulis, Plymouth ; former Republican Grafton County Commissioner

Ken Randell, Tilton, former Republican State Representative

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka On Republican Hostage Taking

As of today, it is clear that the Republican Party and the Tea Party have become one and the same when it comes to federal fiscal policy. House Republicans have decided that they will shut down critical public services, stiff public servants, hold America’s credit rating hostage and kill off jobs because they are upset that President Obama decisively defeated Mitt Romney last November. That some Republicans are participating in this fiasco against their better judgment does not obscure their responsibility. All responsible voices must speak and act against policy making by hostage taking.

It’s bad enough that Republicans’ intellectually dishonest austerity policies have starved the United States of the public investment necessary for shared prosperity in the future. Sequester was and remains a complicated name for a disastrous policy. But somehow Republicans have managed to go from pushing irresponsible policies to something even worse.

Shutting down the government would weaken demand, reduce employment and roil markets. Punishing federal workers and taxpayers to prove a point is a temper tantrum worthy of a four year old, not a policy choice of a responsible political party.

We stand with President Obama as he rejects unequivocally all Republican hostage taking. And we agree with the President that it would be a disastrous precedent for our democracy if we have any negotiations over the debt ceiling.

This is the moment for working people to bring pressure on behalf of a shared, popular and responsible agenda.  Repeal the job-killing sequester. Reject any cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits.  Protect food aid for the poor.  And create jobs and raise hundreds of billions of dollars to invest in our future by ending all tax subsidies for outsourcing.

US House Republicans Try To Force A Pay Cut To Federal Workers In Boehner’s “Plan B”

Once again House Republicans are after the Federal workers.  This time they want more from workers in the form of a 5% increase to the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS).  This once again proves that the House Republicans are trying to use the Federal workers as their personal piggy bank.

From GovExec.com:
“House lawmakers passed legislation requiring spending cuts to accompany Speaker John Boehner’s Plan B tax proposal, including major changes to federal employee retirement plans, before Boehner pulled the Plan B bill from the floor Thursday evening for lack of GOP support.”

A 5% increase in pension costs added in with the proposed  three year pay freeze is a net loss in pay for millions of middle class families.

National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen M. Kelley also wrote to House members. “Make no mistake,” she said, “an increased contribution toward one’s pension, with no corresponding increase in benefits, is a pay cut.”

Thankfully the White House was ahead of the proposal.

“President Obama threatened to veto the measure, saying “the approach put forward in this bill, virtually identical to earlier legislation, eliminates the defense portion of the pending sequester and does so in a way that imposes far greater cuts in the non-defense part of the budget than the existing sequester would entail.”

The previous legislation that the President is referring to was passed in the House along party lines and has yet to be (most likely will never be) discussed in the Senate.

As it was previously reported Speaker Boehner never called for a vote on his ‘Plan B’.  Congresswomen-Elect Annie Kuster had this to say.

“After failing to pass even their lopsided ‘Plan B’ proposal, it’s now clear that House Republican leadership is not serious about coming together to pass a balanced plan to reduce the deficit and avert the fiscal cliff. Instead, with the threat of across-the-board spending cuts and tax increases looming, they have simply given up. This is not what responsible governing looks like. With the clock ticking, both parties need to come back to the table to pass a balanced, bipartisan solution that averts the fiscal cliff, reduces the deficit, asks the wealthiest to pay their fair share, protects seniors and the middle class, and strengthens the economy.”

Annie is right, it does not seem that the House Republicans have any interest in avoiding this fiscal cliff that they created all because they refuse to increase taxes on the ultra-wealthy.  Guess what House GOP, if you do nothing the taxes are going up anyway!

Congressman Guinta’s Politics Are What Are Gridlocking Congress

Do you want to know why our Congress is gridlocked?  It is because of people like (soon to be former) Congressman Guinta.  In conversation about the possibility of increasing taxes on the people who make $250,000 or more,  he told the NH Union Leader

“I cannot see a scenario where I vote to raise rates”

Really Congressman, there is no senario where you would raise taxes?  The is the TEA Party mentality that has gridlocked our Congress for two years now.   This could also be why Congressman Guinta will not be returning to Washington DC in January.

At least Congressman Bass is willing to consider the idea (though his is not likely to support it).  He signed a letter to fellow members stating that

“all options for mandatory and discretionary spending and revenues must be on the table.”

Congressman Guinta is trying (poorly) to turn this back on the President.

“Shame that the President has positioned this as raising taxes on a certain class of people rather than talking about cutting taxes for the middle class.”

The problem that Congressman Guinta does not seem to understand is that we are talking about taxes on the ‘middle class’.  If we go over the so called ‘fiscal cliff’ then the middle class would see an increase in their taxes by $2000 dollars.

Even seven term Congressman Bass can see the writing on the wall.  The President wants the Republicans to agree to the tax cuts for the middle class and increases on the wealthy. If the House Republicans do not agree Bass knows what will happen.

“the alternative is have everybody’s taxes go up and then the President comes back in late January and says, ‘I’m going to offer the American people the biggest tax cut in American history,’ and it’s going to be exactly the tax cut he wants (for the middle class) now.”

Personally I am not in favor of this idea (though it would be as effective) and here is why. If we let the tax cuts expire and the push a tax cut for the middle class then all of the Norquist Pledge zombies can still walk around saying ‘I did not agree to a tax increase and stand by my pledge.’  No I want to see them actually WORK TOGETHER with the Democrats and make something happen.

The only people who are not willing to compromise are these TEA Party / Norquist Pledge Republicans who oppose any tax increase no matter what cuts come with them.  This is wrong!  I hope we see a deal before the end of the year, but I want the President to stand firm on his 2% tax hike.  Even if that means I have to jump of the imaginary, completely fabricated, fiscal cliff.

399 Days Without Action on American Jobs Act

Today marks Day 399 of the Senate filibuster of President Obama’s American Jobs Act.

What’s a “filibuster”?  It’s a procedural method used by a minority of Senators to prevent a vote on proposed legislation.  In this case, Republican Senators have been blocking a vote on the American Jobs Act since October 2011.

The American Jobs Act would provide $132.6 million for highways, transit, rail and aviation here in New Hampshire.

It would provide $120.9 million in funding to pay for teachers, police and fire fighters, right here in New Hampshire.

More than $70 million in funding for public school construction, here in the Granite State.  Another $8.7 million to modernize facilities in the Community College System of New Hampshire.

Read more about how the American Jobs Act could benefit New Hampshire here.

Tomorrow will be Day 400.  It takes a two-third vote of the Senate to end a filibuster — and that’s not likely to happen if Senate Republicans continue to care more about party loyalty than they care about our nation’s economy.

One of those Senate Republicans represents us, here in New Hampshire — and you can call her to ask that she help end the filibuster on S.1660, so the Senate can finally vote on the bill.  Sen. Kelly Ayotte has offices in Manchester (603-622-7979), Nashua (603-880-3335), Berlin (603-752-7702) and Portsmouth (603-436-7161).


A Must Hear Report On NH House Speaker Bill O’Brien and Partisan Politics In NH

I wanted to share a radio spot from This American Life in which they talk with Annmarie Timmins from the Concord Monitor,  as well as many of the Representatives from the NH House.

A portrait of what it looks like when politics gets polarized, and how hard it is for people in the middle to hang on. Producer Sarah Koenig explains what happened when a wave of Republican politicians swept to power with a three-to-one majority in 2010. New Hampshire’s a small state, and the shift to a more divisive in-your-face kind of politics happened very quickly, so it’s possible to see exactly what’s gained and lost when that happens. (30 1/2 minutes).

A special report from Sarah Koenig (former Concord Monitor reporter)

The report covers everything from Union Busting Tea Party Leadership, Rep Vallencourt’s  German statement, and blocking the Concord Monitor reporters out of the press conferences.

Below is the full special report.


Top 10 Reasons Why New Hampshire Doesn’t Want a Governor who is “Scott Walker on Steroids”

The New Hampshire Republican Party has invited Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to keynote the state Republican Convention this weekend.

Watching Walker lead the convention should be a cautionary tale: Republican gubernatorial candidate Ovide Lamontagne has promised that, if he is elected, he will be “Scott Walker on steroids.”

Here are the Top 10 Reasons Why New Hampshire Doesn’t Want a Governor who is “Scott Walker on Steroids”:

10. New Hampshire believes that taxpayer money should be spent carefullyThe federal government is investigating Wisconsin’s use of block grant monies under Gov. Walker.  According to press reports, federal monies have been improperly awarded as “forgivable loans” rather than being required to be paid back, and to businesses which had not been reviewed for financial soundness.  The federal monies have been paid out by a private corporation run by a political ally of Scott Walker, rather than by a state agency.

9. Scott Walker has a dismal record on the economy.  On Walker’s watch, only about 27,000 jobs have been added in Wisconsin (which has a population four times larger than New Hampshire’s).   Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is still 25% higher than New Hampshire’s.  Wisconsin’s poverty rate is 50% higher than New Hampshire’s.

8.  New Hampshire cares about the quality of our children’s education.  On national standardized tests, the percentage of children scoring “advanced” is 25% higher in New Hampshire than in Wisconsin.  Almost a third of Wisconsin fourth-graders don’t have a basic grasp of reading.  And that’s likely to get worse as the long-term effects of Scott Walker’s “war on teachers” begin to show.

7.  New Hampshire likes our politicians to be independent.  Scott Walker isn’t.  After he was elected Governor, Walker’s first priority was making tax code changes which were drawn from the “wish list” of the corporate lobbying group ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council).  Read the Center for Media and Democracy’s report “Wisconsin: The Hijacking of a State” at http://bit.ly/JSvZKf.

6.  Scott Walker has divided Wisconsin.  Walker won a bitter, polarizing recall election with only 53% of the vote – after spending more than $30 million to convince voters he should be allowed to serve out his term.  More than two-thirds of his money came from outside the state.   With the backing of outside groups, Walker was able to outspend his opponent nine-to-one.

5.  Our municipalities can’t afford needless cuts in state aid.   Walker cut state aid to municipalities by $100 million, saying the cut was “necessary” to balance the state budget – but instead Wisconsin has a $126 million budget surplus.   Will municipalities get their money back?  Or will it go toward additional cuts in business taxes?

4.  Scott Walker likes the headlines too much.  Ever done a Google News search on “Scott Walker” and gotten less than 50,000 stories?  Walker seems to spend a lot of time in other states campaigning with one or another Republican politician.  Or he’s trumpeting his decision to spend $2 million on a move-to-Wisconsin marketing campaign.  Or he’s making headlines advising Mitt Romney.  Or… whatever it takes to make the news.

3.  New Hampshire wants our politicians to uphold the Constitution.  Both federal and state courts have ruled that Scott Walker’s signature anti-union law violates the Constitution.  But Walker’s still trying to enforce it.

2.  New Hampshire doesn’t like hypocrisy.   When the subject was football, it only took one wretched call by a scab referee before Scott Walker started tweeting that NFL owners should “return the real refs.”   Walker apparently values the quality of services provided by union referees – at the same time he trashes his own union employees.

1.  Scott Walker doesn’t represent the values of New Hampshire Republicans.  In New Hampshire, Republicans believe in the constitutional rights of free speech and association – and Republicans believe in collective bargaining.  About 40% of New Hampshire’s union members are registered Republicans.  Why is Scott Walker trying to throw us out of our own party?


YEAH!! New Hampshire is Un-employment is Down, is it Really That Exciting News?

By NH Labor News

House Republicans and House Leadership were quick to say how their newly enacted policies and budget cuts are putting New Hampshire back on the right track and are creating jobs.  Is this .1% reduction in unemployment news really something we should be praising? While we can all agree that a reduction in the state’s unemployment percentage is a good thing.  The house leadership is boasting NH “has more people in NH working now since recession started in 2008 (2)”.  In an editorial from the Union Leader, Speaker O’Brien stated: “Given several months for these changes to take hold, employers are responding enthusiastically. Over the past three months, we have increased the number of New Hampshire citizens who are working by almost 7,200. That’s a tremendous sign of confidence in the future of the state’s economy (1).”  That all sounds good, however they are leaving out some key information.

In a related article from the Union Leader they reported that: “In November, 707,960 residents were working, an increase of 3,050 from the previous month and an increase of 6,590 from November 2010, according to seasonally adjusted estimates.”  There are two things that need to be noted here.  The number of working Granite Staters and the increase from last month.

First lets look at the “Highest Employment since 2008″.  They are correct.  The 707,960 is the highest number of employed Granite Staters since 2008.   Let us not forget that in April of 2011 the Employment number in NH was “707,867”(4).  April was before all of the State Budget laws were passed and took effect.  This means from April to November, NH has had a net gain of a whopping 93 people.  This means that means that NH has finally recovered from the massive cuts to the State Budget and those people who were laid off over the summer have finally returned to the workforce.  Remember the average time of un-employment now is around 40 weeks and Unemployment Insurance may be the only way these people survive.  (Take a moment to tell our Senators to Extended the Unemployment Insurance)

So where are all these new jobs they are all excited about?  RETAIL!  That is right.  The jump in jobs in November is due to an increase in retail workers.  Thats right we are moving it to the busiest shopping season and most stores were scrambling fill vacancies prior to the holiday rush.  In Nov. Retail and Clothing add 6,100 jobs.

Retail Trade added 3,800 New Jobs in Nov (1,300 over YTD) (2)
Clothing & Clothing Accessory Stores, and General Merchandise Store: added 2,300 new jobs (400 over YTD) (2)

 Of the jobs that were created last month 6,100 of them were low paying (most likely temporary) jobs.  According the the NH.GOV website the averages of the retail jobs in NH rank on the bottom end of the pay scale. Of the “Bottom 10 occupations by Mean (average) wage” seven of the ten are in the retail and food service industries.  Cashiers in the Retail section of the NH Workforce employs 22,610 people with an average wage of $9.49 per hour (3).  If you add in the Retail Salesperson (22,470 ppl, avg. wage $12.50) you get  45,080  employees who earn an average $10.99.  I wonder how many of those 45,000 people are even offered health insurance?  I also wonder how many of those people are working in Retail because it is the only thing hiring, since they last their jobs earlier this year?

So while the Speaker has been boasting about creating 7,200 more jobs we should remember what those jobs are.  We should also not forget “there were 700 fewer jobs in state government. Wholesale trade lost about 500 jobs and manufacturing lost some 300 positions (5).” The real question will be how much will our Unemployment go up after the holiday season is over and retailers drop their seasonal help?

1) http://www.unionleader.com/article/20111216/LOCALVOICES/712169985
3) http://www.nh.gov/nhes/elmi/pdfzip/econstat/oes-survey/2011/Wages-2011.pdf
4) http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LASST33000005?data_tool=XGtable
5) http://www.nhbr.com/businessnewsstatenews/943064-257/n.h.-jobless-rate-dips-again-in-november.html

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