Posts from the ‘Bush Tax Cuts’ Category

WASHINGTON (AFP) Wed Nov 14 2012 16:38:04 GMT-0700 (US Mountain Standard Time) Jim Watson/AFP US President Barack Obama speaks during a press conference at the White House in Washington, DC. Obama told opposition Republicans they would have to accept tax increases for the rich if the country was to avoid going over the fiscal cliff. US President Barack Obama told opposition Republicans on Wednesday they would have to AFP (

Obama stands firm on taxes in fiscal cliff showdown (via AFP)

US President Barack Obama told opposition Republicans on Wednesday they would have to accept tax increases for the rich if the country was to avoid going over the fiscal cliff. Obama said he wanted to extend tax cuts set to expire at year-end for 98 percent of Americans to mitigate the impact of the…

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House GOP Budget Would Cost States Ten Times More Than Expanding Medicaid | ThinkProgress

House GOP Budget Would Cost States Ten Times More Than Expanding Medicaid | ThinkProgress.

ss on Sep 13, 2012 at 5:00 pm

One aspect of the Affordable Care Act still in contention is the law’s expansion of Medicaid — the health care program for the disabled, seniors, and low-income Americans that’s jointly funded by the federal government and the states. The Supreme Court’s ruling on health care reform back in June determined that states could chose to opt out of the expansion without losing the federal Medicaid dollars they already recieve. Several governors — all of them Republicans — have already taken the opportunity to declare their state will not participate in the program’s expansion.

These refusals are often justified on budgetary grounds: Medicaid’s burden “increasingly shifts to Florida taxpayers in future years” and was “growing three and a half times as fast as Florida’s general revenue” as Governor Rick Scott put it. Georgia Governor Nathan Deal said of the expansion, “I think that is something our state cannot afford.” And Rick Perry, the ever blunt governor of Texas, declared, “I will not be party to… bankrupting my state.”

Ironically, however, a recent analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities determined that the budget Paul Ryan engineered in the House — which was passed by the governors’ own party, and endorsed by Rick Perry and the other leaders of the Republican Governors Association — would cost states’ budgets well over ten times as much as the ACA’s Medicaid expansion.

The CBPP determined that between now and 2022 the Medicaid expansion would cost states $73 billion. Over that same time period, the House GOP budget would cut $810 billion from the federal government’s contribution to Medicaid, on top of its repeal of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. The budget would also cut another $281 billion from federal support for schools and other state and local services. A grand total of $1.091 trillion in losses to state budgets.

In fairness to the governors, the Urban Institute ran the numbers and found that the cost of expanding Medicaid would not fall evenly on the states. (It should be noted their estimates only run through 2019.) And the majority of the states either refusing, or leaning towards refusing the expansion, have populations with unusually high portions of people that are currently uninsured but would be eligible to join Medicaid.

But even under the Urban Institute’s worst-case predictions, several of the refusing or leaning-towards-refusal states still see net savings from the new federal dollars that come with the expansion. And for those that still see net costs, such as Texas and Florida, the highest predicted budgetary hit was in the vicinity $2.5 billion. Almost certainly, that comes no where close to matching the damage that would be done if the House GOP’s budget became law.

Meanwhile, the number of uninsured Americans fell by 1.3 million in 2011 — the first time it’s gone down in four years. In no small part, the decrease was due to a boost in Medicaid and CHIP funding included in the 2009 stimulus. If all the states carry through with the far greater boost the ACA’s expansion would bring to Medicaid, as many as 17 million currently uninsured Americans could finally gain coverage.
be found here.

Mayor 1%’s new rules try to thwart protest, while groundswell of public dissent grows

In the last ten days, literally thousands of people from across Chicago and beyond rallied a massive amount of public outcry against efforts to restrict free speech and the right to dissent in Chicago.

To help folks separate spin from fact, we’ve put together this analysis to help you understand how local rules have changed in ways that undercut protest and political speech. While these revisions will not deter us from speaking out and protesting, they do change the excuses the police may use to try to prevent us from protesting.

It’s also important that we understand these changes so we can educate our friends and neighbors – and fight for meaningful change that puts people’s rights and the greater good ahead of the fear-mongering and greed that drove Mayor 1%’s push for these changes.

City Hall made only token changes to “improve” these revisions, and the worst of Mayor 1%’s proposed revisions remain. While the old protest ordinance was pretty terrible in its own right, the changes approved this week make it even worse. How? Because the revisions give the police more excuses to target protesters they don’t like and speech they oppose with greater fines and penalties. The revisions also give police more excuses to try and censor the tools we use to speak out – sound equipment, signs, banners and whatnot.

Let’s be clear, under the old ordinance, police routinely repressed speech they disliked anyway. More than a few protesters have been arrested for absolutely no reason, only to find that the police have cooked bogus charges as an afterthought – and an excuse for targeting them in the first place.

But few aldermen or reporters understand the problems with the OLD ordinance, and they certainly have no experience with the police department’s chronic selective enforcement of the rules. Most have taken Mayor 1% at his word on the impact of these changes – setting them up for serious buyers’ remorse once City Hall starts using these changes as an excuse to suppress political speech.

It’s also important to note that Mayor 1%’s latest efforts to suppress our civil liberties do not occur in a vacuum. For the past several months, personnel from the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and the Secret Service have been on the ground in Chicago working to coordinate overall security measures for the NATO/G8 summits – and have made recommendations to municipal authorities on how to “enhance” these security measures.

This occurs at a time when Obama has signed the National Defense Authorization Act and other repressive measures, and where strong evidence exists of a nationally coordinated, inter-city campaign to suppress the Occupy movement. The National Lawyers Guild and its legal partners have filed a series of Freedom of Information requests seeking evidence of this federal role in the Occupy crackdown, and they have painted an ugly picture of federal coordination at the highest levels to undermine the most basic precepts of our right to dissent.

We “strongly suspect that the 72 so-called Fusion Centers created by the Homeland Security Department around the country, and the many Joint Terror Task Forces operated by the FBI in conjunction with local police in many cities, are serving as coordination points for the increasingly systematic attacks on the Occupy Movement,” writes the Guild .

Inevitably, much of this will be litigated in the courts. Meanwhile, this latest effort by Mayor 1% and his yes-men and women – as well as his national federal partners – will not deter the legitimate right of the rest of us to speak our minds, raise our grievances and protest government policy, whether or not new “rules” give the police another excuse to try to censor us.

We may not have won on Wednesday, but every single person who spoke out, showed up, shot off an email or phoned their alderman has joined a growing groundswell of truly grassroots opposition to the abuse of power. And that is very, very powerful.

The 1% can make new rules. We honor a higher law and more fundamental freedoms: the human right to equality, dignity and peace with justice, the human right to challenge those who rip us off, undercut our health and safety and abuse our basic freedoms, and the human right to defend these freedoms with words and deeds.

Basic talking points – what has changed with the new ordinances

1. We defeated the increased penalties for “resisting arrest,” but Chicago’s onerous interpretation of what constitutes “resisting” remains, overly penalizing many forms of non-violent civil disobedience. The penalties remain a minimum fine of $25 and a maximum of $500.

2. The City originally wanted minimum violations of the parade permit and public assembly ordinances to jump 20-fold, from $50 to $1000, and double the maximum penalty from $1000 to $2000, while keeping in place the maximum jail time penalty of 10 days. The new ordinances will make the minimum fine “only” quadruple, to $200, while keeping in place the current maximum penalties of $1000 and/or 10 days in jail. The old ordinance was used to exact a “free speech tax” on messages the City disliked, and so the new ordinance just makes that much worse, while providing additional criteria to find alleged “violations.”

3. The new parade permit ordinance proposed in December and the revised version floated January 12th both required that organizers provide in their permit application – something typically prepared months before the event – “a description of any recording equipment, sound amplification equipment, banners, signs, or other attention-getting devices to be used in connection with the parade.”

Besides being logistically unworkable, this was an obvious 1st Amendment restriction. The great “concession” in the new ordinance is that it demands that organizers include in the permit application “a description of any sound amplification or other equipment that is on wheels or too large to be carried by one person, and a description of the size and dimension of any sign, banner or other attention-getting device that is too large to be carried by one person, to be used in connection with the parade.” [emphasis ours]

4. The “reformed” version of the legislation is thus only a slightly less obvious 1st Amendment restriction and begs the question, will parade organizers be required to ban “unauthorized” banners under threat of fine and/or jail time?

Speaking at the City Council’s Committee on Special Events, Cultural Affairs and Recreation meeting on Tuesday, Michelle T. Boone, the Commissioner of the Department of Cultural affairs and Special Events, tried to soft-pedal this provision by implying that there would be no penalty for violation of it. But if that’s so, why include the provision in the ordinance at all?

5. By changing the definition of what constitutes a “large parade,” the new ordinance slips in onerous insurance and other burdens on demonstration organizers. Unless one gets a financial waiver from the Commissioner of Transportation, every street march in the downtown area will require $1 million liability insurance and “indemnify the city against any additional or uncovered third party claims against the city arising out of or caused by the parade; and (3) agree to reimburse the city for any damage to the public way or to city property arising out of or caused by the parade.” Failure to provide proof of insurance with one’s permit application will be grounds for rejection of the application.

6. Under the new ordinance, one can apply to the Commissioner of Transportation for a waiver of the financial requirements “if the application is for an activity protected by the 1st Amendment to the United States Constitution [virtually every activity is protected by the 1st Amendment] and the requirement would be so financially burdensome that it would preclude the applicant from applying for a parade permit for the proposed activity. An application for a waiver of the application fee or insurance requirement shall be made on a form prescribed by and contain reasonable proof acceptable to the commissioner.”

There is no definition as to what constitutes “reasonable proof acceptable to the commissioner.” Moreover, both the old and new versions of the ordinances allow the Transportation Commissioner to “establish…rules and regulations” in addition to those specified in the legislation – i.e., a virtual blank check to institute unpopular measures that might have difficulty passing the City Council.

7. The new ordinance repeats most of the bureaucratic limitations on “public assembly” that were contained in the old ordinance. The city defines “public assembly” as any gathering that does not use the street, but does use sidewalks and “which is reasonably anticipated to interfere with or impede the flow of pedestrian traffic.”

When a member of the public raised concern about this during a City Council committee meeting, Boone tried to allay the concern by noting that the language had been lifted wholesale from the old ordinance and that “they [the police] don’t enforce a lot of it.” The reality is that there has been very selective enforcement of this provision of the old ordinance, amounting to a 1st Amendment content-based restriction.

By making the public assembly provisions a new subsection of the Municipal Code, the City will either enforce the old provisions against everyone, or continue its selective enforcement. Either result is a serious retreat away from the 1st Amendment.

8. The deputizing of police authority, perhaps even to private security outfits, remained intact in the legislation as passed. There is no sun-set clause on this provision.

9. The only “temporary” ordinance concerns the issuance of no-bid contracts. It is important to make sure that this truly goes away on July 30th as provided for in the legislation as passed.


Emanuel claimed that his mayoralty would have “the most open, accountable, and transparent government that the City of Chicago has ever seen.” As many have commented, given Chicago’s history, that’s hardly setting the bar very high. Our struggle has given the lie to Mayor 1%’s claims of transparency:

a) The approximately half-dozen aldermen in the Committee on Special Events, etc. apparently had the latest version of the parade permits ordinance when they passed it out of committee on Tuesday afternoon. It was announced that paper copies of it would be distributed to them at the start of that meeting. When one of us asked for a show of hands during public comment section as to who had read it, all six or so claimed they had.

The fact remains, though, that the “latest” versions of the legislation that the City Clerk’s office gave us 90 minutes before the Council vote on Wednesday were outdated, and as of yesterday, the Clerk’s website still only had the old versions. So there was no way the general public had access to what was being voted on and thus have the opportunity to meaningfully weigh in on them.

b) As noted above, there is only one item in the whole body of legislation that has a sunset clause. This legislation then was not just for G8/NATO, as Emanuel claimed. In a January 17 City Council committee meeting, Mike Simon of the CDOT said that the permits ordinance revisions had been in the works since 2009. As one of us said to Tunney after the committee meeting, they’ve had this under review for two years and they’ve apparently talked to all players except those who actually use the ordinance.

c) The January 12th not-for-attribution press briefing (with no paper copies of what the revisions were) was accepted with virtually no criticism by the City Hall beat press crew. This was as much a statement about them as it was about Emanuel. Right up to and after Wednesday’s vote, most accepted City Hall’s spin that there were dramatic concessions to our side in the revised legislation.

d) Next up in the transparency department – what are the G8/NATO summits going to cost city taxpayers? Mayor 1% said that “We’ll make sure that taxpayers don’t take on the bill” and in a Council committee meeting, Alderman Pope falsely claimed that “Historically host cities have been wholly reimbursed.” But wholesale violations of protesters’ rights by police have typically cost host cities millions in civil suits after the fact.

Win, lose, or somewhere in between?

Finally, there is the issue of whether or not to call what happened on Wednesday a “victory” for our side or not. Most (but not all) mainstream media accounts accepted the 5th floor’s spin that Mayor 1% had listened to the people and revised the legislation to address our concerns – a victory for protesters. We obviously don’t think so, but at the same time, it would be wrong to label what happened as a wholesale defeat.

It is standard operating procedure for the City is to introduce draconian measures to the CTA, etc. in so-called “doomsday” budgets, only to then walk back the cuts to more “acceptable” levels once there is public outcry – the “acceptable” levels being the ones they planned on instituting all along. But we don’t think that this was the initial plan for this legislation – “professional protesters” (their term) are not a group in the chain of power that they think merits any concessions. We think that they introduced the legislation in the form that they wanted it to pass, and were taken aback at the level of resistance our side was able to muster.

There was no advance plan for the January 12th Mayoral dog-and-pony shows. Those and the other spin measures were crafted in response to our resistance, and the City had to deliver at least minimal concessions in order to make them credible. If we had not fought, we would not have won anything.

Aside from the teachers and those fighting the health clinic cuts, we were the first group to take the new mayor on in a sustained battle. And we’re really not a group at all – many thousands of people who did not know each other united in opposition to the mayor’s plans. As with any new administration, there are always those in the public who hope that the new guy will be better than the old one, that he can be reasoned with, etc. This was an uphill battle on those grounds alone.

Our sustained battle over the ordinances helped take Emanuel’s credibility down at least a few notches, concretizing his reputation as Mayor 1%. Moreover, we sent the message that if the City messes with us, we will fight back tenaciously.

Given the rubber stamp nature of our City Council (reinforced by Emanuel’s deep pockets, etc.), the idea that anyone could defeat him first time out was a total long-shot. Thanks to this struggle, the odds of people defeating him on other issues in the future have gotten at least a little bit better.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Previous articles in this series can be found here, here, here and here.

Here are the new versions of the ordinances:

G8NATOSub.pdf (75 k)

Parade & public assembly ordinances, new.pdf (56 k)




Indiana unions remind voters of Gov. Mitch Daniels’ past opposition to anti-union bill as vote nears

Indiana unions remind voters of Gov. Mitch Daniels’ past opposition to anti-union bill as vote nears

by Laura Clawson

Indiana Democrats have returned to the state House after their third brief boycott aimed at slowing Republicans’ rush to pass an anti-union bill, but, according to the Associated Press, “made no promises they won’t stall again.”

If passed, the law would force union members to pay the costs of representing their non-union coworkers. The Senate is expected to vote today and to pass the bill overwhelmingly, followed by the House later in the week.

Meanwhile, the Indiana AFL-CIO will be running the ad shown above surrounding Gov. Mitch Daniels’ Republican response to Tuesday’s State of the Union, highlighting his 2006 opposition to such a law. No word on the size of the buy, but “The ad will air surrounding the governor’s response on broadcast networks in Indiana and nationally on CNN and MSNBC.”


Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 10:34 AM PST

Pro-Romney super PAC leads Florida primary spending, followed by union

by Laura Clawson

Will this union ad be a major player in the Florida Republican primary?

Politico rounds up outside spending on the Florida Republican presidential primary … and so far, a union is coming in second. Mitt Romney’s super PAC, Restore Our Future, leads the way:

[T]he organization has spent more than $2.07 million in Florida alone to fund broadcast advertisements and phone banking designed to both support Romney and attack both Gingrich and fellow GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, federal records indicate.

By contrast, the super PACs aligned with other candidates are spending peanuts so far: Just $225,000 from the pro-Santorum Red White and Blue Fund and a measly $100,000 from the pro-Gingrich Winning Our Future. That $100,000 is an internet ad buy; you have to assume they’ll be doing something more shortly.

But AFSCME’s ad buy targeting Romney, originally reported at $800,000, is in fact around $1 million. That’s still less than half what Romney’s super PAC has spent in the last few days, of course, but right now, it’s some of the most serious opposition Romney is drawing in Florida.


Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 08:44 AM PST

Kansas kicks American citizen children of undocumented immigrants off of food stamps

by Laura Clawson

For kids!

The state of Kansas has found a way to deny children who are American citizens nutritional assistance they would be eligible for—if only their parents weren’t undocumented immigrants.

While undocumented immigrants are not eligible to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, many have children who were born in the U.S. and are, as citizens, eligible for aid. Or they were until Kansas tinkered with how household income is calculated.

Here’s how the change works: Until last fall, Kansas would look at the household income of a family made up of a mixture of citizens and non-citizens, and prorate the income to the number of citizens—and remember, we’re talking about dependent children here. So for one family the Kansas City Star‘s Laura Bauer talked to, the two U.S. citizens in a family of five were counted as receiving two-fifths of the total household income of $1,600 a month. That meant they were counted as having $640 a month in income and were eligible for $280 a month in food stamps. Now, though, those two children, aged eight and three, are counted as earning their family’s entire $1,600, and $1,600 a month is too high an income for two people to qualify for benefits.

How’s that for creativity in the service of screwing immigrant families?

The family described above applied for benefits only after the children’s mother was laid off; when the children’s father worked weekends for some months, he reported the extra income and his daughters’ benefits were cut. Then, just as his weekend work and his daughters would have qualified for food stamps again, Kansas made this change going after the children of immigrants:

He now puts $50 a week aside for food to feed his family. When that’s not enough, he borrows from the rent money and the cash put aside for utilities.

His eyes fill with tears when he talks about his struggle to provide for his family.

“My family doesn’t know what I’m doing,” he said. “I try to eat at work (where his boss often provides meals and snacks) so I don’t take food away from my children at home. … The bills are coming in. Now I am getting letters on what they are going to cut off. I know every month it’s going to be worse.

“But I ask myself, ‘What is better, my kids having food or paying the bills?'”

Way to go, Kansas.


Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 07:18 AM PST

Newt Gingrich’s ‘Obama is the food stamp president’ line founded on a falsehood

by Laura Clawson

(Adam Hunger/Reuters)

Details, details. Newt Gingrich’s whole schtick about how Barack Obama is “the food stamp president” is founded on a false claim, a USA Today fact-check finds. Gingrich’s basis for the “food stamp president” thing is his specific claim that “more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history.” It would be accurate to say that under Obama food stamp enrollment has been at its highest point ever, but:

Gingrich goes too far to say Obama has put more on the rolls than other presidents. We asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition service for month-by-month figures going back to January 2001. And they show that under President George W. Bush the number of recipients rose by nearly 14.7 million. Nothing before comes close to that.

And under Obama, the increase so far has been 14.2 million. To be exact, the program has so far grown by 444,574 fewer recipients during Obama’s time in office than during Bush’s.

Obama still has time to exceed Bush, of course, but the number of people receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP, or food stamp) benefits actually went down in October. And even if, during the coming months, the number will go up enough to exceed Bush’s record, Newt Gingrich has yet to prove that he can see into the future, And even if Newt Gingrich can see into the future, he can’t change the rules of grammar such that when he says “more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama” it actually means “more people ultimately will have been put on food stamps.” So no matter what happens in coming months, right now, Newt Gingrich is a liar.


Sun Jan 22, 2012 at 09:33 AM PST

Retail industry sells New York workers short with discrimination, low wages and schedule abuses

by Laura Clawson

A large majority of the 436 New York City retail workers surveyed for the newly released study Discounted Jobs have at least some college education. They’ve been working in retail for an average of five years, and half have been at their current job for more than a year. Half of them earn less than $9.50 an hour, only 29 percent get health care through their retail job, and of the 44 percent who do have paid sick days in theory, only 54 percent have used a sick day—in many cases due to pressure from their managers and fear of retribution.

What the report, by City University of New York professor Stephanie Luce and Naoki Fujita of the Retail Action Project, shows is an educated, experienced workforce in an industry that makes it virtually impossible for workers to make a living. Even the most educated workers, who earn more than others, earn poverty-level wages:

For those with a Bachelor’s degree, the median wage was $11.50 per hour. With a median of 36 hours per week, a retail worker with a Bachelor’s degree could expect to gross just under $22,000 a year. Respondents with an Associate’s degree had a median hourly wage of $10 and 32 median weekly hours. This results in an annual gross income of $16,640, assuming year-round employment.

And, as the chart above shows, there’s a significant racial gap in wages, with Latino workers with two years on the job averaging a slightly lower pay rate than white workers with less than six months on the job. As a preview of the report, which I wrote about in December, made clear, women are also paid less than men.

One explanation commonly offered for such wage differentials within an industry is that the lower-paid groups aren’t as qualified for the higher-paid jobs in the industry. In this telling, white men in retail are just more likely to have the qualifications needed to work the more desirable jobs and get more raises. Another study of New York City employment offers a rejoinder to that notion. Sociologists Devah Pager and Bruce Western conducted an audit study, in which they had matched teams of young men with similar attributes and (fictitious; created for the study) resumes, but of different races, apply for entry-level jobs. In some cases, a white tester was given a resume that indicated he was a recently released felon, while his black and Latino counterparts did not do so. Pager and Western found that, in the teams in which no one indicated a criminal record, the white man had a 23 percent chance of getting a positive response, the Latino man had a 19 percent chance, and the black man had just a 13 percent chance of a positive response. In the teams in which the white member was supposedly a felon, those white members were about as likely as the black and Latino non-felons to get a positive response.

That part of Pager and Western’s study speaks to how likely people of different races are to be offered work at all. But they also found significant racial channeling, in which black and Latino applicants for jobs involving contact with customers were instead offered back-of-house jobs—applying for a job as a salesperson or waiter, they were offered a job as a stocker or a dishwasher. White applicants, on the other hand, were sometimes channeled upward, asked to apply for a waiter job rather than the dishwasher one they’d asked to apply for. The only white testers who were channeled downward were those who claimed to be felons, while black testers were channeled down in 10 cases and Latinos were in four cases.

These were, remember, applicants who had been chosen to be similar to each other—race aside—down to their very height, then trained to behave similarly while inquiring about jobs, then given matching resumes (except in the cases of the white testers who were given prison records). The disparate results they experienced in their “job searching” demonstrates the role that employers play in creating racial disparities in pay such as the Luce and Fujita “Discounted Pay” study finds.

Pay isn’t the only racial disparity the workers Luce and Fujita surveyed experience. Scheduling is a major issue for these workers (as anyone who has read Lightbulb‘s diaries here at Daily Kos will be well aware). More than half of the workers Luce and Fujita surveyed were classified as part-time employees, though 30 percent of the “part-time” workers reported sometimes working more than 40 hours in a week. Many reported various forms of schedule-related wage theft, such as not being paid overtime when they should have been, or being called in for a shift, then sent home quickly and not paid for a four hour shift as New York law requires. But even without wage theft, scheduling is problematic for workers:

Only 17 percent of workers surveyed have a set schedule. Thirty percent know their schedules more than a week ahead of time, and the rest – over half – only know their schedules within a week, with about a fifth getting their schedule within three days notice.

Try making child care arrangements when you don’t know your work schedule ahead of time. Try budgeting for food and to pay your bills when you don’t know how many hours you’ll be working in any given week.

Like wages, scheduling problems fall differently on different racial groups:

One of the great brutalities of the retail industry today is that workers are, on the one hand, not given the hours they need to make a living, but are, on the other hand, expected to be always available to come in to work with little notice. For poverty wages, companies demand absolute control over their workers’ schedules—and, this study finds, the burden falls most heavily on Latino workers and least on white workers. Luce and Fujita identify how “hours are the new bonus,” given as rewards or taken away as punishment. Rather than offering raises, managers just give a favored worker more hours.

Though this study focuses on New York City, the struggles these workers face are common throughout the nation. Many of the retail industry’s abuses would require massive and complex societal change. Racial discrimination, for instance, is hardly confined to retail, and while the worst instances of discrimination may be subject to some kind of legal remedy, most cases are much more subtle. Pager and Western, for instance, found cases in which their black and Latino testers were told a position had been filled but they’d be called back if the new hire didn’t work out. That doesn’t sound like discrimination, until you know that their white teammate was hired on the spot. And most job applicants don’t go around in matched teams to know when that’s happening.

But Luce and Fujita’s study does point to some relatively simple ways retail work could be improved. First, we could enforce the laws we already have, so that if you work overtime, you get paid for it and so that employers can’t call a worker in then send her home after 15 minutes and pay her only for that 15 minutes if the state law requires she be paid for a four hour shift. (Obviously managers would be a lot less likely to call people in for just 15 minutes if they actually had to pay for four hours.) Protecting and enforcing the existing legal right to organize, too, would help, since union contracts often deal not only with wages and benefits but with scheduling, and can help reduce racial and gender discrimination by standardizing wages, benefits, and schedules.

Luce and Fujita also point to laws that cities and states can pass to improve things for workers. Congress may not be passing living wage or paid sick leave laws anytime soon, but some cities and, in the case of Connecticut and sick leave, even states have done so. Given the truly wretched state of affairs their study reveals, this is an important fight to wage at any level of government we have even a small hope of changing.


Sat Jan 21, 2012 at 04:55 PM PST

This week in the War on Workers: ‘Hoosier jobs are at stake’

by Laura Clawson

And more:

  • Alternet’s Sarah Jaffe looks at rising college tuitions and a system of subsidies that help individuals rather than lowering tuitions and asks one of my favorite questions:

    In other words, the hidden subsidies are not helping those who most need help in getting a degree. It’s also helping lenders, by providing an incentive to borrow.  So why not take that $22.75 billion or so that we’re already spending and putting it directly toward making public higher education free.

  • Fifty years ago this week, John F. Kennedy opened the door for federal employees to join unions.
  • Kay at Balloon Juice takes Newt Gingrich’s child janitors idea from the perspective of what he’s saying about adult workers:

    But Newt Gingrich believes that janitors are overpaid and that children can replace adult janitors, so let’s conduct one of those thought experiments that conservatives love so much, and see if any other adult workers can and should be replaced by children.

    Could nine year olds replace the adults who cleaned up after that gathering of political and media luminaries last night? Working adults did that, after all. After the political and media celebrities left that room, real live adult janitors came in and cleaned up after them. Why didn’t Newt Gingrich suggest that the people who cleaned up after him last night be replaced by children?

    What about Gingrich’s staff? How much do they make? Can children do their work as well as they can? Why or why not? Newt Gingrich has been paid an absurd amount of money for lobbying since he left Congress in disgrace. Could a nine year old replace Newt Gingrich? How hard could Newt Gingrich’s “job” be, after all? A lot of lavish meals, ass-kissing, and bloviating, right? We could employ a hell of a lot of nine year olds on the absurd amount of money Gingrich is paid.

  • And speaking of Balloon Juice, in honor of the crappy jobs Willard Mitt Romney never had, new Juicer Betty Cracker lists the three worst jobs she ever had. How would Mitt do with those?
  • Cablevision workers are attempting to organize and join the Communications Workers of America.
  • And speaking of the CWA, its president has joined with those of the UAW and SEIU to urge New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to keep up the fight for public funding of elections.
  • With so many jobs requiring people to work unpredictable, non-traditional hours, parents face big challenges arranging for child care. Some day care centers are adding evening and even overnight hours to accommodate the demand.
  • Whatever you thought of the AFL-CIO’s new ad, the companion website Work Connects Us All is worth playing around with.
  • The General Council’s Office of the National Labor Relations Board has issued a complaint against the Hyatt Andaz in West Hollywood for increasing the number of hotel rooms housekeepers’ must clean in a shift, and threatening discipline to workers who spoke up about the problem.

    Hyatt housekeepers voiced concerns in March 2011 immediately after managers increased the cleaners’ room quota by two–meaning housekeepers were expected to complete an additional hour worth of cleaning in the same amount of time. Under the law, the hotel is required to negotiate workload increases with the workers’ union.

    The Assistant Director of Human Resources threatened to discipline workers who voiced concern about the increased workload. The complaint alleges that the Hyatt Andaz’s actions violated the National Labor Relations Act.



Sat Jan 21, 2012 at 09:00 AM PST

Van Halen supports unions – but you must be a member of the 1% to sit in the first twenty rows.

by Mark E Andersen

While reading this you are going to ask, “What does Van Halen have to do with labor”…we will get there, just indulge me for a minute…

I am a metalhead. I cut my musical teeth on artists like AC/DC, Van Halen, Iron Maiden, Aerosmith, Judas Priest, ManOwar, Slayer, Anthrax, Metallica, Megadeth, Poison, Cinderella, Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne to name just a few.

I still get pissed off when some snotty young punk music writer, who was born during this era, calls my music “Glam metal.” I grew up in that era and I can assure you it was not called “glam.” They were hair bands, heavy metal bands, hard rock bands, and in the case of Lita Ford and Vixen, hot chick metal (Please hold off on throwing eggs at me for saying “hot chick metal,” I have evolved since the eighties); however, none of them were ever “Glam bands,” “Glam metal,” or anything with Glam in the name! (Yes, I have become that old man standing in my yard yelling, “Hey you kids, get off my lawn!”)

Of all the bands I saw growing up, of all the bands I listened to…one stood out. Van Halen. Now I am not talking about Van Hagar here. For me Van Halen ended when David Lee Roth left the band and I joined the Army in 1985. Van Halen was never the same after that – with Sammy Hagar they had lost the raw edge that had attracted me to them.

I still remember the first time I heard “Eruption” – I was blown away, I had never heard anything like it before. Van Halen I changed how I listened to music. When I finally got a copy of Van Halen II imagine my surprise to find a “thanks to” the Sheraton Inn in Madison, Wisconsin.

[Van Halen] trashed the 7th floor of that hotel during the first tour – fire extinguisher fights, TVs and furniture out the windows. Alex Van Halen used to like gluing people’s doorknobs shut or putting Vaseline on the doorknobs so people couldn’t turn them.

They blamed the whole thing on their headliner…Journey.

For a twelve-year-old kid that was pretty damn cool to know that Van Halen trashed a hotel in your hometown (I was twelve, what did I know?).

“The Cradle will Rock…” off of Women and Children First was one of the first songs that really spoke to me – especially with a line like, “Have you seen Junior’s grades?”

Out of all of the Van Halen albums Fair Warning has to be my favorite – raw and edgy…songs like “Unchained,” “Sinners Swing,” “Dirty Movies,” and “Mean Street” just blew me away. No one, in my mind at the time, could come close to what Eddie could do on guitar and what Dave could do vocally.

I finally got to see Van Halen on the  Diver Down tour – they came to Madison on August 11th, 1982 – I was fifteen years old and going into my sophomore year at Madison East High School. The show cost all of twelve bucks and I got right up front – Eddie gave me a high five when he came on stage and while that show will not go down in the annals of history as one of the greatest metal shows ever, it will go down as the only time I have seen Van Halen live.

After 1984 came out, where I have to admit that I was appalled at the time with all the synthesizers, I found other newer, heavier bands like Metallica. When I went into the Army on August 1st, 1985 I had heard rumblings of trouble in Van Halen in the pages of Circus magazine. While in training at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri the rumblings of David Lee Roth’s departure were confirmed with a contraband copy of Circus that had been hidden from the Drill Sergeants and passed around the barracks.

Van Halen was never the same for me after that…not with Sammy Hagar, and certainly not with Gary Cherone. For me Van Halen with David Lee Roth will always be the soundtrack of my teenage years and because of that will always hold a special place in my heart.

Just this last week Van Halen released a new song – with Dave on vocals, you cannot imagine how excited I was…right up until I listened to the song. It was only okay – not the Van Halen of my youth by any means; however, one part of the song caught my attention:

Uncle Denny had a gold tattoo
He fought for the union
Some of us still do
On my shoulder is the number
of the chapter he was in
that number is forever
like the struggle here to win

You can hear the lyrics at about 3:06 on the video.

Awesome! Van Halen supports unions!

Then I looked up their tour schedule…thinking I could take my son if they came close enough to Madison. Imagine my disappointment when I looked up ticket prices for their Chicago show. It will cost a hell of a lot more money than twelve bucks to see them this time around.

Lower Level Seating (100 Level)
US $79.50 Ticket + US $11.24 Fees/Additional Taxes = US $90.74
US $149.50 Ticket + US $12.76 Fees/Additional Taxes = US $162.26

Main Floor Seating
US $149.50 Ticket + US $12.76 Fees/Additional Taxes = US $162.26

Club Level Seating (200 Level)
US $49.50 Ticket + US $10.56 Fees/Additional Taxes = US $60.06
US $149.50 Ticket + US $12.76 Fees/Additional Taxes = US $162.26

Upper Level Seating (300 Level)
US $49.50 Ticket + US $10.56 Fees/Additional Taxes = US $60.06
US $79.50 Ticket + US $11.24 Fees/Additional Taxes = US $90.74

Basically if I wanted to take my son it would cost anywhere from $60 a ticket up to $162 a ticket…$60 is a bit much to pay to see a band that saw its heyday end some twenty years ago; but that isn’t what really chaps my ass. What really pisses me off if the outrageousVIP ticket packages. One of the fondest memories of my youth, right up there with getting a kiss from a pretty blonde girl at the Rollerdrome, and who will remain nameless, was getting right up in front of the stage at that Van Halen show.

Ultimate VIP Package ($995.00)
Each Van Halen Ultimate VIP Package includes:
•    One reserved ticket in the front row*
•    Backstage tour
•    Pre-show party
•    Parking (where available)**
•    Early entrance into the venue
•    Van Halen Ultimate VIP commemorative laminate
•    Exclusive Van Halen gift bag
•    Commemorative VIP ticket
•    Crowd-free merchandise shopping
•    On-site VIP host

You will be required to sign a waiver & release of liability.
Package details subject to change without notice.

That’s right…you want front row, you are paying a thousand bucks per ticket, did you notice, those tickets are sold out…and that ain’t all.

VIP Package ($595.00)
Each Van Halen VIP Package includes:
•    One reserved ticket in rows 2-13
•    Backstage tour
•    Pre-show party
•    Early entrance into the venue
•    Van Halen VIP commemorative laminate
•    Exclusive Van Halen gift bag
•    Commemorative VIP ticket
•    Crowd-free merchandise shopping
•    On-site VIP host

The greedy bastards aren’t done yet!

Tour Package ($395.00)
Each Van Halen Tour Package includes:
•    One reserved ticket in the first 20 rows
•    Exclusive Van Halen gift
•    Commemorative VIP ticket
•    On-site VIP host

On the one hand Van Halen touts support for unions in their latest release…on the other, the only way you are going to get up front like I did back in 1982 is if you are a one percenter. Sorry Van Halen, you won’t be getting my money this time around – funny thing, a couple years ago I got to take my son to see Judas Priest at Summerfest in Milwaukee – we sat up front. It cost twelve bucks and I saw one of the best shows I have ever seen in my life.

Now I doubt Eddie, Alex, Wolfgang and Dave read anything I write; however, on the off chance that they do – I ask them that if they truly support unions to drop the VIP seating…donate those seats to U.S. servicemen, give them to unions to raffle off to their members…or, if they must sell VIP packages due to contractual obligation then give the money earned off of them to some worthy cause. If the 1% wants to piss away their money – fine…let them. Just don’t profit off of it. These VIP packages are just another symptom of the disease that is eating away at America, another divide between the haves and the have nots.


Fri Jan 20, 2012 at 02:29 PM PST

Compromise on union issues to keep FAA open

by Laura Clawson

Ah, the sweet smell of compromise. The good news is that the Federal Aviation Administration is likely to get its reauthorization before the Jan. 31 deadline; moreover, instead of another short-term extension it is likely to finally get a real, stable, long-term reauthorization; moreover, Republicans are dropping their demand to count workers who don’t vote in union representation elections as having voted no. The bad news? Democrats made one big up-front compromise and the National Journal is using the term “gentleman’s agreement,” as in:

The remaining disputes between Republicans and Democrats on the measure have been worked out in a gentleman’s agreement among the congressional transportation gurus.

In exchange, Democrats have agreed to include a provision that would raise the threshold for rail and aviation workers expressing interest in forming a union from 35 percent to 50 percent.

In one sense, raising the threshold from 35 percent to 50 percent is inconsequential. You don’t file for an election in which you’ll need 50 percent-plus-one support if you only have 35 percent support. But remember when Republicans were fighting the Employee Free Choice Act and their big talking point was that it removed the sacrosanct “secret ballot”? Yeah, well, what the Employee Free Choice Act said was that once a majority of workers had signed cards saying they wanted a union, they had one. Now, Republicans are demanding that a majority of workers have to go through exactly that process, only after a majority of workers sign cards saying they want a union, they additionally have to go through a so-called “secret ballot” election, with management using the time between the petition for election and the election itself to try to persuade or intimidate them into voting against the union.

Obviously we need to hear more details, but my initial take is that this is something of a win. I would’ve expected Republicans to hold the FAA hostage to … elimination of the National Labor Relations Board or something. But boy does this ever show how full of shit Republicans were with all that “secret ballot” nonsense.


Fri Jan 20, 2012 at 01:36 PM PST

Union draws parallels between Mitt Romney and Florida Gov. Rick Scott in Republican primary ad

by Laura Clawson

Florida voters have a ton of buyer’s remorse over Gov. Rick Scott, and AFSCME is putting that to use with an $800,000 Republican primary buy for the ad above, which draws a comparison between Scott and Mitt Romney. Greg Sargent reports that:

The unusual involvement of a major labor union in a GOP primary is a sign that Obama’s outside allies view Romney as the all but certain GOP nominee — and the toughest Republican in a general election.

Larry Scanlon, AFSCME’s political director, says the union may invest in other GOP primaries down the line, too, depending on the response this ad gets. He acknowledged that the union views Romney as the toughest opponent Obama could face, but added there’s no reason for labor not to start spending big money to define him right away, to influence not just the primary but the general election, too. Florida, of course, is a major general election swing state.

It’s starting to look like Mitt Romney’s record at Bain will have some unfortunate (for Romney) echo in practically every state he comes to, giving his opponents—primary or general election—plenty of local interest to work with.


Fri Jan 20, 2012 at 12:42 PM PST

Republicans want to eliminate labor board now, but wait until next time a Republican is president

by Laura Clawson

Josh Eidelson points out one of the central ironies of the Republican crusade against the National Labor Relations Board:

The Labor Board is charged with enforcing employers’ and unions’ compliance with the Wagner Act – including the anti-union Taft-Hartley amendments Congress added in 1947. […]

Although the Labor Board often fines or forbids unions that seek aggressive action against the 1%, and regularly leaves workers waiting for years to get their jobs back after being fired for organizing, Republicans are on the warpath against the agency.

During George W. Bush’s presidency, you didn’t hear a whole lot of complaints from Republicans about the NLRB—because it was busy issuing a whole bunch of anti-union decisions. And even as Republicans have been howling about how, under Obama, the NLRB was allegedly putting a boot on the neck of businesses and tilting the playing field toward unions, the board has gotten an injunction against disruptive union picketing at the Port of Longview and has fined another union for obstructing an NLRB investigation.

It’s no surprise that Republicans would be outraged at an agency’s very existence under one president after having used it aggressively under the previous one, or that they’d act as if actions taken by the board to protect workers from businesses were the sum total of what it was doing. But it’s an important reminder of just how situational their outrage is. They really are like a bunch of toddlers who go in an instant from loving a toy to flinging it down at the slightest frustration.


Fri Jan 20, 2012 at 07:27 AM PST

Caterpillar threatening to move jobs from Canada to U.S. in search of cheap labor

by Laura Clawson

Here’s another entry in the “company going to America for cheap labor” category for you: Iconic heavy machinery manufacturer Caterpillar bought a plant in Canada just two years ago—and now it’s planning to move those jobs to Indiana unless Canadian workers will agree to massive concessions. Massive like a 50 percent pay cut, giving up their pension, and more, and Caterpillar has locked the workers out to drive home how serious it is about this, as Huffington Post’s Lila Shapiro reports.

Caterpillar isn’t suffering financially; in fact, it’s been profitable consistently over the past five years and profits spiked over and above that in late 2011. And it’s not that the Canadian workers of whom Caterpillar is demanding a 50 percent pay cut make outrageously much money. It’s that the Muncie, Indiana workers earn so little: $24,000, below the median income in the U.S. and just above the 2010 poverty threshold for a family of four. Shapiro points out that:

The situation at Caterpillar illustrates an emerging problem with the nascent economic recovery: While corporations are rebounding from the depths of the recession, working Americans aren’t. Corporate profits are at their highest level in decades while worker compensation is at a relative 50-year low. Much hope has been placed in the rebound of North American manufacturing, but while the industry has added some 334,000 positions in the past two years, many of the new jobs don’t pay the old middle class wages. […]

“It’s a fundamental problem: Now we have a situation where there’s not enough purchasing power in the American economy to feed this recovery,” said Thomas Kochan, a management expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“It’s not all bad,” he continued, pointing to companies like General Electric, which have slashed wages while profits were strong in return for continued investment in the United States and the promise of more jobs. Other companies must cut wages to stay alive, such as the auto makers, which pay new workers nearly half what starting employees made before the crash.

“But if it’s just companies slashing wages because they’ve got the power to do so, then it’s dysfunctional,” Kochan said.

Standards may vary on what constitutes “companies slashing wages because they’ve got the power to do so” rather than because they need to; I suspect that MIT management expert Kochan and I locate that at rather different starting points. But there seems to be no question that Caterpillar falls into this “dysfunctional” category. Other words that might be applied include “abusive” and “evil.”


Thu Jan 19, 2012 at 02:46 PM PST

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels opposed anti-union bill before he supported it

by Laura Clawson

It’s not exactly a secret that Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels once opposed passing a so-called “right to work” law in his state, but it’s nice to have the video reminder that in 2006 he said, to a union audience:

We cannot afford to have civil wars over issues that might divide us and divert us from that path. I have said over and over, I’ll say it again tonight: I’m a supporter of the labor laws we have in the state of Indiana. I’m not interested in changing any of it. Not the prevailing wage laws, and certainly not the right to work law. We can succeed in Indiana with the laws we have, respecting the rights of labor, and fair and free competition for everybody.

Amanda Terkel traces Daniels’ shifting positions on the issue:

In March 2006, the South Bend Tribune in Indiana noted, “Daniels had said earlier this year that he opposed right-to-work legislation as too divisive. But he did not address its inherent merits or demerits.”

In December 2010, however, Daniels said that the right-to-work issue was “legitimate” but was “too big to do without having discussed it out in the open first.”

“I’ll also say I think it would have the potential — just tactically — to possibly reduce or wreck the chances for education reform and local government reform and criminal justice reform and the things we have a wonderful chance to do,” he added, acknowledging that it would be incredibly controversial.

Today, though, the Republican war on workers is in full swing and Daniels has not only given in to Republican legislators in his state who hold hurting workers and unions as their top priority, he’s become the face of their campaign.


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An Open Letter to Newt Gingrich From the Pastors of Poor Children

Mr. Gingrich,

For this you still owe our children an apology:

“Some of the things they could do is work in a library, work in the front office, some of them frankly could be janitorial; what if they clean up the bathrooms, what if they mopped the floors, what if in the summer they repainted the school; what if in the process they were actually learning to work, learning to earn money; if they had their own money, they didn’t have to become a pimp or a prostitute or a drug dealer. [If] they had the dignity of work and learned how to be around adults who actually wanted to mentor them and help them. This is not a casual comment… It grows out of a lot of thinking over many years of trying to figure out how do we break out people trapped in poverty who have no work habits.” — Gingrich

We, the students and faculty of the Delaware Annual Conference Ministerial Institute of the AME Church, representing over 34 congregations and their constituents throughout Delaware and southern Pennsylvania are outraged at your continued demeaning of poor children and their families.

As a candidate vying for the Republican Presidential nomination, to suggest that poor children collectively lack a work ethic and drive for legal and productive work is entirely classist. Your national platform is no place for such irresponsible remarks. Our children deserve better than your degrading rhetoric.

In fact, they deserve an apology, and we — their pastors and advocates — demand one.

Mr. Gingrich, what your remarks have demonstrated is a failure to acknowledge the resilience of many who work daily and yet are unable to escape poverty. For many, low wages, a poor economy, and sparse full time employment opportunities have landed many families into the category of what the U.S. Department of Labor & Labor Statistics call the working poor. Contrary to what your remarks propagate, a significant number of children in households below the American poverty line (and those one paycheck away from it) are in homes with working family members; many of them are in our congregations weekly and are active citizens.

Mr. Gingrich, not only did you get the “cause” of poverty wrong, but your “solution” is just as unsubstantiated and offensive. Mandating that poor children become the janitors of their own failing public schools to better their work ethic is not a well thought out, viable, or realistic solution. Such a proposal is not only insulting, it is ridiculous.

Where would the currently employed janitors work (obviously this is a back handed assault on union employees)? If poor children are to benefit from extracurricular employment, why not at least provide STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) opportunities to increase their competitiveness in the global marketplace? Why not invest in education reform instead of cutting back early education/head start programs? Why not put forth solutions to the unemployment crisis in our nation, so that those who have the dignity, but not the work, can have an opportunity to build a better future for themselves and their children?

But, no — instead you fan the flames of prejudice to get votes. With a move right out of Lee Atwater’s Southern Strategy play book (i.e., “Welfare Mothers” = Lazy Blacks), you have managed to stir the xenophobia and racist fears of your far right republican base with the statement:

“I’ve been talking about the importance of work, particularly as it relates to people who are in areas where there is public housing, et cetera, where there are relatively few people that go to work.” (Emphasis added)

Mr. Gingrich, the poverty of many poor minority children is the byproduct of systemic injustices that bar them from participation in the American Dream because of their racial and social location — not laziness.

We understand that you are of the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” camp, but the last time we checked Mr. Gingrich, it is impossible to pull yourself up by your own boot straps, and even more difficult when you have no boots to begin with.

Consequently, as pastors and leaders of the poor and their children, we are called to champion those without the boots of opportunity, fair play, and justice. For us not to mandate an apology for such biased, erroneous and offensive remarks would be as irresponsible as the remarks themselves. Today, Mr. Gingrich, we extend to you the opportunity to recant your “war on poor children” rhetoric and the opportunity to apologize to our children for speaking such falsehoods over their lives.

Awaiting your response,

Delaware Annual Conference Ministerial Institute

The Rev. Dr. Janet J. Sturdivant, Dean of Ministerial Institute
The Rev. Silvester S. Beaman, Chairman of Board of Examiners
Sis. Joi Orr, M.Div, Organizer & Institute Student


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How The Republicans On The FEC Are Making Citizens United Even Worse

Three Republican appointees to the Federal Election Commission may be as responsible as anyone for the lack of transparency of post-Citizens United political spending.

Two years ago today, when the Supreme Court issued its Citizens United
ruling, one bright spot was that the majority explicitly endorsed the constitutionality and necessity of disclosure rules that inform voters who paid for the political ads they see. “Disclosure is the less-restrictive alternative to more comprehensive speech regulations,” they affirmed.

Federal statutes require that for all significant “independent expenditures” and “electioneering communications” — the two major classifications for political expenditures made by outside groups unaffiliated with political candidates — the names and addresses of large donors must be identified.

But the FEC, through its rulemaking process, gave these groups a loophole. They said that the identities of donors behind the outside spending must be identified, but only if the money was specifically earmarked for the political expenditure. This means that a secretive right-wing group like the Karl Rove-linked Crossroads GPS need only identify the funders who pay for their attack ads if those donors explicitly say the money should be used for attack ads. Few do.

In April, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) asked the FEC to close the loophole for “independent expenditures” and filed a lawsuit challenging the loophole for “electioneering communications.”

Last month the six FEC commissioners killed — on a 3-3 vote — a motion to begin consideration of Van Hollen’s suggestions. By law, the agency may have only three members of any political party. By tradition, the president chooses three commissioners and the other party’s Senate leader chooses three. The three Republican appointees — Commissioners Caroline Hunter, Donald McGahn II and Matthew Petersen — were the three “no” votes. The same trio also made headlines last month when they took the view that even coordination between Super PACs and candidates might not qualify as coordination between Super PACs and candidates.

The lawsuit is still pending.

Because of these loopholes, virtually none of the funders behind the Super PAC attack ads in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina will be disclosed until well after the voters there have cast their ballots. And the funders behind 501(c)(4) attack ads may never be known.

So while it was the Supreme Court’s majority that opened the floodgates for corporate money in our elections, it is the deadlocked FEC that is keeping voters from even knowing where that money comes from.


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Food For Democracy

On January 31, family farmers will take part in the first phase of a court case filed to protect farmers from genetic trespass by Monsanto’s GMO seed, which contaminates organic and non-GMO farmer’s crops and opens them up to abusive lawsuits. In the past two decades, Monsanto’s seed monopoly has grown so powerful that they control the genetics of nearly 90% of five major commodity crops including corn, soybeans, cotton, canola and sugar beets.

In many cases farmers are forced to stop growing certain organic and conventional crops to avoid genetic contamination and potential lawsuits. Between 1997 and 2010, Monsanto admits to filing 144 lawsuits against America’s family farmers, while settling another 700 out of court for undisclosed amounts. Due to these aggressive lawsuits, Monsanto has created an atmosphere of fear in rural America and driven dozens of farmers into bankruptcy.

Farmers need your voice today. Please spread the word.

Obama to offer economic blueprint in State of the Union

WASHINGTON — Vilified by the Republicans who want his job, President Barack Obama will stand before the nation Tuesday night determined to frame the election-year debate on his terms, promising his State of the Union address will offer an economic blueprint that will “work for everyone, not just a wealthy few.”

In a video released Saturday to millions of campaign supporters, Obama said he will concentrate on four areas designed to restore economic security for the long term: manufacturing, energy, education, job training and a “return to American values.” The release came the same day as the South Carolina primary, where four candidates competed in the latest contest to determine Obama’s general election rival.

The prime-time speech will be not just a traditional pitch about the year ahead. It will be perhaps Obama’s biggest stage to make a sweeping case for a second term.

“We can go in two directions,” the president said in the video. “One is toward less opportunity and less fairness. Or we can fight for where I think we need to go: building an economy that works for everyone, not just a wealthy few.”

That line of argument about income equality is emerging as a defining theme of the presidential race, as Republicans are in their own fierce battle to pick a nominee to challenge Obama in the fall.

By notifying the millions of supporters on his email list, Obama gave advance notice to his Democratic base and trying to generate an even larger audience for Tuesday’s address.

Obama’s preview did not mention national security. He is not expected to announce new policy on that front in a speech dominated by the economy — the top concern of voters.

Obama is expected to offer new proposals to make college more affordable and to ease the housing crisis still slowing the economy, according to people familiar with the speech. He will also promote unfinished parts of his jobs plan, including the extension of a payroll tax cut soon to expire.

His policy proposals will be less important than what he hopes they all add up to: a narrative of renewed American security. Obama will try to politically position himself as the one leading that fight for the middle class, with an overt call for help from Congress, and an implicit request for a second term from the public.

The timing comes as the nation is split about Obama’s overall job performance. More people than not disapprove of his handling of the economy, he is showing real vulnerability among the independent voters who could swing the election, and most Americans think the country is on the wrong track.

So his mission will be to show leadership and ideas on topics that matter to people: jobs, housing, college, retirement security.

Vision for re-election
The foundation of Obama’s speech is the one he gave in Kansas last month, when he declared that the middle class was a make-or-break moment and railed against “you’re on your own” economics of the Republican Party. His theme then was about a government that ensures people get a fair shot to succeed.

That speech spelled out the values of Obama’s election-year agenda. The State of the Union will be the details.

The White House sees the speech as a clear chance to outline a vision for re-election, yet carefully, without turning a national tradition into an overt campaign event.

On national security, Obama will ask the nation to reflect with him on a momentous year of change, including the end of the war in Iraq, the killing of al-Qaida terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and the Arab Spring protests of peoples clamoring for freedom.

But it will all be secondary to jobs at home.

In a winter season of politics dominated by his Republican competition, Obama will have a grand stage to himself, in a window between Republican primaries. He will try to use the moment to refocus the debate as he sees it: where the country has come, and where he wants to take it.

In doing so, Obama will come before a divided Congress with a burst of hope because the economy — by far the most important issue to voters — is showing life.

The unemployment rate is still at a troubling 8.5 percent, but at its lowest rate in nearly three years. Consumer confidence is up. Obama will use that as a springboard.

The president will try to draw a contrast of economic visions with Republicans, both his antagonists in Congress and the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination.

Despite low expectations for legislation this year, Obama will offer short-term ideas that would require action from Congress.

His travel schedule following his speech, to politically important regions, offers clues to the policies he was expected to unveil.

Both Phoenix and Las Vegas have been hard hit by foreclosures. Denver is where Obama outlined ways of helping college students deal with mounting school loan debt. Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Detroit are home to a number of manufacturers. And Michigan was a major beneficiary of the president’s decision to provide billions in federal loans to rescue General Motors and Chrysler in 2009.

For now, the main looming to-do item is an extension of a payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits, both due to expire by March. An Obama spokesman called that the “last must-do item of business” on Obama’s congressional agenda, but the White House insists the president will make the case for more this year.

If anything, Republicans say Obama has made the chances of cooperation even dimmer just over the last several days. He enraged Republicans by installing a consumer watchdog chief by going around the Senate, which had blocked him, and then rejected a major oil pipeline project the GOP has embraced.

Obama is likely, once again, to offer ways in which a broken Washington must work together. Yet that theme seems but a dream given the gridlock he has been unable to change.

The State of the Union atmosphere offered a bit of comity last year, following the assassination attempt against Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. And yet 2011 was a year of utter dysfunction in Washington, with the partisanship getting so bad that the government nearly defaulted as the world watched in embarrassment.

The address remains an old-fashioned moment of national attention; 43 million people watched it on TV last year. The White House website will offer a live stream of the speech, promising graphics and other bonuses for people who watch it there, plus a panel of administration officials afterward with questions coming in through Twitter and Facebook.

© 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Obama to offer economic blueprint in State of the Union

Join The Protest Of Monsantos By The Organic Consumer Association On January 24, 2012

It is inevitable that one day Monsanto will be held responsible for the enormous human health and environmental damages arising from the so-called “responsible” use of its toxic pesticides, chemicals, and mutant genetically engineered seeds. If the Biotech Bully of St. Louis were to be held liable for its 100-year legacy of corporate criminality – carcinogenic chemical food sweeteners, Agent Orange, dioxin, Bovine Growth Hormone, poisonous herbicides, seed monopolization, and genetically engineered crops, the company’s shareholders would no doubt see the value of their Monsanto stocks plummet to zero.

Following up on two protests at Monsanto’s headquarters in 2011, OCA returns to St. Louis for the 2012 Monsanto shareholders’ meeting on January 24!

Please join OCA, Pesticide Action Network, and Harrington Investments (a socially responsible investor’s group) in St. Louis to support a shareholder resolution to examine the financial risks associated with genetically engineered crops. While an OCA representative is speaking inside the shareholders meeting, another group of us will be outside, peacefully picketing.

Come to St. Louis to Make Monsanto Pay! Contact Mike Durschmid (mikedvegan AT to join in, or RSVP on Facebook and share with your friends.

And this just in: Activists in Maui, Hawaii, in solidarity with our St. Louis action, will be peacefully protesting outside Monsanto’s Hawaii HQ location on 3555 Mokulele Hwy on the same day. For more information or to RSVP, visit the Facebook event here.

Learn more




The California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act

We are on the road to victory in California with coalition members, strategic allies, and key donors increasing their support all the time. We now have over 50 environmental, alternative health, and sustainable food organizations and businesses advocating for our cause. But, most importantly, we have over 1,500 dedicated CA volunteers trained and ready to hit the streets when signature gathering begins in February. You can go here to volunteer by gathering petition signatures in California.

This November 2012 California Ballot Initiative, which will require foods sold in California retail outlets to be labeled as such, may be the most important GMO battle of all time. A win in California will mean radical changes to food labels everywhere. Producers will either have to change the way they market Frankenfoods or else stop using GMOs altogether. We think we can reverse the biotech strangle-hold on our food system in our lifetimes.

You don’t have to live in California to donate to this historic ballot initiative.

Consumers everywhere have a right to know what’s in the food we buy and eat and feed our children, just as we have the right to know how many calories are in the food we buy, or whether food comes from other countries like Mexico or China. In the past, we’ve successfully fought for labels telling us the country of origin of products, as well as whether foods have been irradiated. Now it’s time to stand up for our right to know which foods are laced with GMOs.

Efforts to enact labeling laws in Congress and in other state legislatures have been blocked by big food and chemical company lobbyists. The California Ballot Initiative will take the issue directly to the people. For more information about the initiative visit California Right To Know and the Organic Consumers Fund.




Support the OCA and the OCF

The nationwide food fight for safe food, consumer freedom of choice, and sustainability is escalating.

In 2012, whether we’re talking about getting antibiotics out of animal feed, labeling GMOs, or passing a climate and organic-friendly Farm Bill, OCA is fighting harder than ever. With the 2012 California ballot initiative, and GMO labeling legislation gaining momentum in Vermont, Washington, Connecticut and other states, we have a real chance to hit Monsanto with the skull and crossbones they fear so much – mandatory labels on genetically engineered food. We also plan to step up our efforts to strengthen organic standards and significantly expand the market for organic food and products, especially those produced locally and regionally.

Please be as generous as you can during our January and February fundraising drive.

Donate to the Organic Consumers Association

Donate to the Organic Consumers Fund
(non-tax-deductible, but necessary for our efforts in California)




Millions Against Monsanto Campaign Update

Sunday, October 16, 2011 was the biggest day of action for mandatory labels on genetically engineered food in U.S. history. Several hundred Millions Against Monsanto World Food Day events took place around the country.

In September 2012, building on the success of World Food Day 2011, OCA member activists are going to take even bigger action! This year, we are planning a nationwide Week of Action on September 17 – 20th to demonstrate against the Monsanto-sponsored 12th International Symposium on Biosafety of Genetically Modified Organisms also in St Louis, MO. We want to organize actions at the hundreds of Monsanto locations in the US and around the world in concert with a large demonstration in St. Louis.

OCA members have been diligently collecting signatures for our Truth-in-Labeling petition across the country for months now. New petitions are coming in almost daily and being added to our online system, but we need even more volunteers to help us gather signatures through 2012. In addition to the action in St. Louis, activists in each state will also hand deliver all of the petitions we’ve gathered to their state legislators, demanding mandatory labels for genetically engineered food and demonstrating that we truly are the Millions Against Monsanto.

What can you do to help this historic campaign? Download a PDF version of our petition. Take this petition to your workplace, your local co-op, house parties, farmers’ markets and wherever you can find people who demand the right to know what’s in our food.

More info on the September 2012 Week of Action will be forthcoming. Stay tuned for more details.




Baby Food Update

Many of you took action on our alert “Tell Organic Baby Food Brands to Stop Using GMOs!” and received a misleading letter from Happy Bellies in response, denying that HAPPYBELLIES’ baby cereals contain GMOs and claiming that the DHA they use has been approved by the National Organic Standards Board.

While the NOSB did approve a generic form of DHA, this is not the DHA used in HAPPYBELLIES’ baby foods. This leaves HAPPYBELLIES in conflict with the national organic standards. We have been assured that this issue is under investigation by the National Organic Program, but we must keep the pressure on!

Click here to learn why OCA believes HAPPYBELLIES’ DHA is GMO




Little Bytes: Top Stories of the Week

Occupy Wall Street: Why Now? What’s Next?

Scientists Link Mass Death of British Bees to Farm Pesticides

Why the FDA Won’t Act Against Agricultural Antibiotic Use

Dental Patients Beware: FDA Lets Dental Mercury Amalgam Action Deadline Pass Unmet

Dr. Don Huber: Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Herbicide is More Toxic than DDT




Sponsored Message


Special rates for OCA members on a green Costa Rica vacation March 17-24: 8 days and 7 nights for $999.00!

Beatrice Blake, guidebook author and community ecotourism expert, has designed a special itinerary for OCA members that visits sustainable coffee farms near Palmichal de Acosta and organic farms in Altamira at the entrance to La Amistad International Park. These community-owned farms are members of ACTUAR, the Costa Rican Rural Tourism Association, which just won the Responsible Tourism Award at the Educational Travel Conference.

Between village and farm experiences, you’ll hike in the cloud forest to see the Resplendent Quetzal. You’ll end the trip with a couple of days relaxing and exploring the beaches near Villas Gaia on the Pacific Coast.

You will be accompanied by an experienced bilingual naturalist, who can help you exchange ideas with the people you visit and see birds and wildlife that you wouldn’t see on your own. Write beatrice AT to sign up.

Is Reversing Citizens United or Corporate Personhood Enough?

Which president told Congress: “I recommend a law prohibiting all corporations from contributing to the campaign expenses of any party…let individuals contribute as they desire; but let us prohibit in effective fashion all corporations from making contributions for any political purpose, directly or indirectly?”

If you recognize this Presidential quote, it probably means you’re a history buff (or you watch too much Jeopardy). The correct answer: Who was Theodore Roosevelt?

While the speech has become a notable quotable, it’s often forgotten that it followed public outrage surrounding Roosevelt’s acceptance of huge corporate contributions that locked-in his election in 1904.  This popular clamor for accountability (the Progressive Era; maybe they were the Occupiers of their times) was enough to move Teddy and Congress to pass the first ever Federal legislation prohibiting corporations from making monetary contributions to national political campaigns, called the Tillman Act.

Now for extra points: What happened to the Tillman Act?

Like so many other attempts over the last 100+ years to restrict, reform, reign in, eliminate and otherwise account for Big Money in politics, the Tillman Act didn’t even need to be overturned for the corporate elite to get around it. It was simply whittled away. How is this done?  In the same way Congress later banned unions from making political contributions in the 1940’s, only to see Big Labor skirt the restrictions by forming the first-ever PAC, and collecting campaign donations (sometimes coercively) outside of regular worker’s dues.

OK, now for a Civics question: What is the source of power for the corporate elite?

Throughout our history as a nation, the wealthy elite have always held power, and its not an accident, or the result of a few bad decisions, or even corruption (though those all exist), its far more structural and insidious than that.  TheConstitution itself provided—from the beginning—for a government by and for the 1%. The Founding Fathers truly believed that the best form of government was one in which wealth made the rules. At the time the Constitution was being debated, the majority of people were against it, despite how our folklore has remembered it.

Turns out the 99% of yesteryear were quite prescient indeed.

Fast-forward to the present day, the ways money has seeped through the cracks of our political system and pooled into the pockets of our elected officials has only grown despite generations upon generations of ever-ongoing reform efforts.

* Dozens of Acts of Congress have been passed attempting to address corruption in government and our elections yet for every reform our system has enabled bigger, better ways for wealth to hold the reigns.

* Lobbyists. They walk right into lawmaking areas and help write bills and buy votes. They present politicians with corporate-friendly Bills already drafted. They are well paid to successfully influence, chop and change legislation, and work deals with our elected officials and even with Supreme Court Justices. Under our Constitution this is protected as free speech and despite the numerous laws to regulate lobbyists, the practice is only on the rise.

*  Constitutional laws.  Many states—not only Montana— wrote their Constitutions to include the subordination of corporations to the will of the people, and banned corporate political expenditures in state elections.  Over the years, most of those Constitutional provisions have been amended to pave the way for more corporate-friendly laws.(Montana, of course still has this language in their Consitution, and has used it to challenge Citizen’s United)