Nel's New Day

December 5, 2012

Conservatives Meet to Work against Majority

ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council responsible for creating such laws as those that promote anti-immigration, stand-your-ground, and voter suppression, met a couple of weeks ago to decide how to destroy the people in the United States. The Heritage Foundation’s James Sherk discussed “how to limit union influence,” and the finance committee heard a presentation on “The Effects of Dodd Frank on the States,” sure to be an unhappy perspective on ways to help consumers.

Task force documents showed that the meeting concentrated on which of its destructive bills to “sunset” and retain, perhaps a response to the past year’s intense criticism when over 40 large corporations cut their links with ALEC. The organization also suffers from multiple complaints that it has violated its charitable 501(c)(3) status allowing special interest groups to write off lobbying expenses. As people became more savvy about ALEC’s actions, they got more vocal about elected officials who are more accountable to special interests than to their voters.

Before last year, ALEC successfully moved to privatize everything from schools to prisons and put legislators under corporate control. It was when identical bills popped up in a large number of states that journalists started looking into the background of these bills. By November, negative publicity caused 117 ALEC members to lose their elections.

Starting last April, ALEC struggled to erase trails for their most controversial legislation, and in July they promised to expand membership among “underrepresented segments,” probably meaning people of color and progressives. They hid their activities by sending members a link, that expires in 72 hours, to an Internet drop box instead of communicating through emails that might be discovered through an open records request.

ALEC is also using a public relations firm to examine public interest groups seeking information about its activities and then libel these groups to its legislative members.

The shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida, when the killer claimed to be self-defense, brought information about ALEC to the forefront. Now another black 17-year-old has been killed, and again the killer is using ALEC’s law as his justification. As Jordan Russell Davis sat in his car with friends, 45-year-old Michael David Dunn fired nine shots into the car after complaining that their music was too loud. None of the teenagers was armed.

Even if ALEC just stuck to economic issues, it would cause great damage to the people. A study released last week by the Iowa Policy Project and Good Jobs First shows the correlations between ALEC policies and less prosperous state economies and concludes: “A hard look at the actual data finds that the ALEC…recommendations not only fail to predict positive results for state economies — the policies they endorse actually forecast worse state outcomes for job creation and paychecks. ”

According to the study, instead of boosting states’ fortunes, ALEC’s preferred policies provide “a recipe for economic inequality, wage suppression, and stagnant incomes, and for depriving state and local governments of the revenue needed to maintain the public infrastructure and education systems that are the true foundations of long term economic growth and shared prosperity.”

As if ALEC wasn’t bad enough, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) have joined forces to destroy the new health care act. Because they receive hundreds of millions of dollars from the insurance industry, they need to keep funneling money to private insurers. Currently they want to repeal a provision imposing a fee on some insurance policies to help subsidize coverage for millions of uninsured low-income people.

If they succeed, insurers can sell a highly profitable insurance product to small employers with mostly young and healthy male workers, allowing these employers to avoid the future state insurance exchanges for worker coverage. The employers would be exempt from complying with important consumer protections in the health law and make coverage only affordable and available to those stay healthy.

The Chamber and the NFIB took their fight to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners that just finished meeting in Washington. There, the Chamber pressured the NAIC to ease the way for insurers to sell this “stop-loss” coverage to small businesses which could then side-step state regulations. Stop-loss means that the employer assumes the risk of paying medical claims, but only to a previously-negotiated amount when the stop-loss insurer pays. The policy would be a disaster for employers with young female and older workers; doing this would drive up costs for small businesses who have these employees.

Leading the charge is the Illinois Chamber of Commerce with some of the biggest sellers of stop-loss insurance–WellPoint, UnitedHealthcare, Humana and Cigna—on its board. Part of NAIC understands that this will subvert the purpose of the health care act; another committee is keeping NAIC from voting it down by asking another committee to gather more information.

Today’s Asides from the News: Walmart could have prevented November’s fire in Dhaka that killed over 100 people if they had signed a contract agreeing to pay higher prices so the 4,500 Bangladesh clothing factories could afford fire safety improvements. The company met with others purchasers of the factories’ clothing—Gap, JC Penney, Sears, etc.—in April when Walmart set the tone by refusing to do this. According to a study by the Worker Rights Consortium, the cost to Walmart would have been less than 10 cents per garment. PVH Corp., which owns the Tommy Hilfiger brand, and the German retailer Tchibo signed on to the fire safety measures memorandum. You can sign a petition asking that Walmart meet basic safety and human rights for its workers. 

There were a few places where Arizona governor Jan Brewer wasn’t this week: she didn’t attend the state ceremony certifying the delayed election results, and she couldn’t be found among members of the National Governor’s Association who met with the President to discuss how the “fiscal cliff” will impact states. It seems she was found in Afghanistan. Is it possible that she now knows that she can’t run for a third term as governor and is aiming for the president’s position?

Mitt Romney  found a job—back with Marriott, the company that got in trouble with the IRS because of the ways it avoided taxes in the 1900s. Romney headed the audit committee in 1993 to 2001 when Marriott had a tax shelter known to attorneys as “Son of BOSS.” Marriott lost their court rulings in both 2008 and 2009.

Good news for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)! He just finished paying off his student loans.  He said that when he graduated from law school in 1996 he had almost $150,000 in student debt, a sum ridiculed by wealthy Republicans who think that it’s outrageous that students are allowed to run up debts like this. Two years ago, he had between $100,001 and $250,000 in debt, but now he’s paid back the student loan—with the proceeds of his book, An American Son, which he touted at the Jack Kemp Foundation Awards dinner as “the perfect holiday gift and available on Amazon for only $11.99.” I wonder if he had copies there to sell.

The most amazing news of the day is that the Senate passed the $631 billion defense authorization bill, The National Defense Authorizations Act, unanimously with a vote of 98-0. The bill restores threatened Pentagon biofuels programs, issues new sanctions against Iran, and changes U.S. detention policy for American citizens. A unanimous vote has occurred for the defense bill in the Senate only twice in 51 years. The Pentagon policy bill now heads to a House-Senate conference committee, where there are numerous differences that must be resolved including a ban on same-sex wedding ceremonies on military bases. It’s not a done deal yet!

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