Nel's New Day

September 7, 2015

Good News, Bad News from Labor Day, 2015

Republicans love to blame the Democrats for destroying the coal industry, but conservatives are the people who decimated the economy in the South through their eradication of the unions. For a century, union organizers were shot, beaten, and stabbed in their fight to get reasonable pay and safe conditions underground, but now the last union mine in Kentucky has been closed. Younger workers took their wages for granted, and now not one working miner belongs to a union, the only protection that mine workers have had.

Conservatives curse the unions but fail to realize that they are responsible for the rise of the middle class.

union_density_middleclass 2

union_density_inequality 1

High income inequality has correlated with low union membership for over 100 years in the U.S. As union membership shrinks, money and power shift upwards. Data from 2010 show that all workers make more money in a pro-union state.

workers do better

Today is Labor Day, established as a federal holiday 121 years ago to celebrate labor. Oregon declared it a holiday 17 years earlier. If you have today off, thank unions. If you are working today, thank unions for other benefits such as shorter work weeks, weekends off, expanded health care through employer-provided health insurance, and the end of child labor except within religious groups. Unions also brought paid vacation, breaks, sick leave, Social Security, overtime pay, worker’s compensation, and more. If you don’t have these benefits, thank the Republicans.

In some states, union attacks brought “right-to-work” laws, which block collective bargaining for higher wages, better benefits, and protections. The “freedom” created by these laws gives corporations and the wealthy the “right-to-underpay” and “right-to-cheat” employees. In Wisconsin, the latest state to adopt this law, “right-to-work” will cause workers and families to annually lose between $3.89 billion and $4.82 billion. Workers in “right-to-work” states make $1,560 less per year than in states without the law. Women in union jobs earn $212 per week—30.9 percent—more than women in non-union jobs. The gender wage gap is also smaller for women in unions, 88.7 cents for every dollar a man makes compared to 78 cents for all workers. Men in union jobs make $173 more per week than non-union workers.

President Obama celebrated this year’s Labor Day by mandating all 300,000 government contractor employees be granted seven paid sick days per year starting in 2017. That leaves another 44 million workers without paid sick leave because the United States is the only developed nation without a paid sick leave policy. The president’s executive order adds to other orders that move toward higher minimum wage and equal pay for men and women.

Other good news comes from the job market. Republicans swore to bring jobs back when they were elected in masses, but they’ve done nothing to help workers. GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said he would reduce the unemployment rate to 6 percent by 2016 if he were elected in 2012. Right now, it’s 5.1 percent after 66 consecutive months of private sector job growth—13 million jobs—during President Obama’s six and a half years in office. Many of these jobs came from the health care job growth after Republicans called the ACA the “job killing health care law.”

The bad news comes from the loss of wages for everyone except the top echelon. Oregon is an example of this: in the past 35 years, the bottom income bracket has lost 30 percent of income in the state while the top 1 percent gained 88 percent of the income. Republicans refuse to increase the federal minimum wage, one-third lower when adjusted for inflation than in the 1960s. They also consider the Keystone Pipeline bill a “jobs bill” although it employs only 4,200 people for one year while wiping out other permanent jobs by taking over and destroying land. The GOP’s “Hire More Heroes Act” to employ veterans doesn’t count veterans as employees so that companies with more than 50 employees can avoid the ACA mandate to provide health care. Up to one million workers would lose health insurance with the redefinition of “full-time employment” as 40 hours a week in the GOP’s “Save American Workers Act.”

Another piece of bad news is the growing divergence between salary and productivity. During the 25 years prior to 1973, wages and productivity grew together, but between 1973 and 2014, hourly wages went up 8.7, adjusted for inflation, and productivity increased by 72.2 percent. The change is a major reason for the rapidly growing income inequality during the past 40 years as payment for employees went to owners of capital. Workers generate the income but don’t get an increase in hourly pay. The last four years has been worse as worker productivity increased by 21 percent while wages rose only 2 percent.

wages by bracket

Republicans claim to support a “trickle-down” economy but instead push an economy that is “gush-up.” Unregulated free-market capitalism is a “winner-take-all” wealth over the common good, and billionaires buy politicians and design education and health systems to control the bottom 99 percent of people in the United States. The average CEO earns 204 times what average workers earn, and two-thirds of the poor in the United States—68 percent—have jobs.

Hedge fund billionaires are not required to pay their fair share of taxes receive awards yet are praised. For example, John Paulson, noted for “Outstanding Contributions to Society,” got $3.7 billion by conspiring with Goldman Sachs to create risky subprime mortgages. He used other people’s money to bet against his sure-to-fail financial instruments. As U.S. wealth grew from $52 trillion to over $83 trillion between 2007 and 2014, six million more children were forced onto food stamps. Forty percent of households are food-insecure while 40 percent of the food in the United States is wasted.

Despite the decreasing unemployment rate, taxpayers fund the movement of many jobs overseas while technology eliminates others. Kodak once employed 145,000 people to do the same photo processing that Instagram does with 15 workers. Three-fourths of faculty at colleges and universities are now “adjunct” instructors, paid a pittance for part-time work. One-fourth of these teachers, almost 20 percent of college and university faculty, are forced into food stamp or other public assistance programs to survive.

Republicans claim that they want to return to the 1950s, and economically this would benefit almost everyone. In 1956, the GOP platform supported an increase in the minimum wage, an expansion of Social security, adequate coverage for the unemployed, better housing, and health care for all. “Government must have a heart as well as a head” and “America does not prosper unless all Americans prosper” were included in the GOP belief system. According to the GOP platform, “President Eisenhower’s administration brought the highest employment, highest wages, and the highest standard of living ever experience in any country.”

Today’s GOP portrays people on unemployment as leeches, but the GOP of 1956 called for “providing assistance to improve the economic conditions of areas faced with persistent and substantial unemployment.” Republicans in the 1950s also wanted to strengthen “the rights of labor unions” and protect “the right of workers to organize into unions and to bargain collectively.”

In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower looked forward to today’s GOP when he wrote:

“Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are…a few…Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

He may have been right.

July 21, 2015

Kasich: ‘Moderate’ GOP Candidate with Bad Reproductive Rights Record

Today’s late entry into the GOP presidential campaign, John Kasich, has had such a low profile that he looks better than the collection of crazies stumping the country for the GOP presidential nominee. Conservatives should love him—investment banker, Fox network commentator, budget hawk, blue-collar background, past legislator, and governor of the must-win state of Ohio for the president. His short fuse, however, may bring more excitement to the fight, currently among the field of 15 men and one woman who desperately want to be winners. For example, he prompted a walkout after yelling at a wealthy donor at a Koch brothers-sponsored conference. He told a BP employee in a meeting that oil and gas companies deserve to “have a bad reputation.” He added, “Oil companies are liars and they are going to be screwed.”

His anger is so obvious that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) accused the 63-year-old candidate of having “a hair-trigger temper.” Like candidate Scott Walker, Kasich cuts out anyone who disagrees with him. Conservative activist Matt Mayer said:

“When you criticize Kasich, you’re sort of dead to him. That’s the way it works.”

Kasich may have a better chance than when he first ran in 1999, but a downside to the incumbent-defeating state senator, congressman, and governor is that the people of Ohio voted out his signature law rolling back public sector workers’ collective bargaining rights, worse than Walker’s law in Wisconsin. “Ohio’s law … gives city councils and school boards a free hand to unilaterally impose their side’s final contract offer when management and union fail to reach a settlement,” New York Times’s Steven Greenhouse wrote. Kasich’s law also applied to police and firefighters, who were exempted from Walker’s law. Backlash cut Kasich’s approval-disapproval rating from 30 to 46, and the Ohio constitution allowed voters to put the law up for approval or disapproval. Despite his campaigning for the law, Kasich lost by 61 to 38 percent.

The 16th candidate  also opposed his own party to accept the Medicaid expansion with the argument that helping the poor is a Christian action. In the 21st century, this is an anti-GOP position. He even went farther when he claimed that limited government advocates had to do more to help the less fortunate. He presented this position at the Koch brothers event, but Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley were quick to disagree. Kasich even told the New York Times that the GOP is waging a “war on the poor.” He said that his “most important mission” was to convince conservatives that “when some of us are doing better, it is essential that we begin to figure out how to help people who are not doing better.” Preparing for his campaign, he told people to “read Matthew 25″ about feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. His arguments make the GOP uncomfortable because religious arguments to help people makes cutting those programs far more difficult.

The Ohio legislature refused to expand Medicaid so Kasich bypassed them. He went to the state “Controlling Board,” created to handle adjustments to the state’s budgetary flow and asked them to let the federal Medicaid money come into the state. When two appointees indicated that they would vote against Kasich, he simply replaced them with a final count of 5-2 in favor. Lawsuits against his action failed with the state Supreme Court upholding Kasich’s actions. A former president was Kasich’s justification:

“Reagan was fiscally responsible, but he was also pragmatic and compassionate. When we consider what Reagan would do, let’s also remember what he did do—expand Medicaid.”

Kasich’s win raised his popularity poll to 55 percent approving of his job performance, compared to 30 percent disapproval. Lawsuits against his action failed when the state Supreme Court upheld Kasich’s actions, and he won his next election with a 31-point victory.

Kasich has followed the GOP position in his support of a mentor program receiving Ohio taxpayer funding from “Community Connectors” required that the schools partner with both a church and a non-profit business and signing a bill that stopped Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency programs for at least two years. Worst, however, may be Kasich’s elimination of women’s reproductive rights.

Ultrasounds are required at least 24 hours before women who can receive oral contraception or an IUD because Ohio law equates preventing pregnancy to abortion. All women having abortions must also have ultrasounds, even if doctors find these unnecessary.

Restrictions on women’s clinics have caused Ohio to lose seven of its 16 clinics since 2011 putting the state second in closures behind Texas. That was before the latest set of highly restrictive laws attached to the state’s budget bill, one which mandates that clinics have an emergency patient transfer agreement with a hospital no more than 30 miles away. One new Ohio law forbids public hospitals from accepting such transfer agreements although Ohio law forbids public hospitals from accepting such transfer agreements. Another one law closes a Dayton clinic waiting for two years for a state variance allowing it to operate without this agreement by requiring that the clinic get a variance within two months.

These new laws are piled on top of the ones from two years ago, defunding Planned Parenthood, moving state funding from real reproductive health facilities to faith-based, anti-choice “crisis pregnancy centers, and requiring that doctors have partnerships with private hospitals—highly difficult because most private hospitals in Ohio are religious ones. Two years ago, a law stripped funding from rape crisis centers that give clients any information about abortion services and requires doctors to give women seeking abortion information about the presence of a “fetal heartbeat.” Kasich has made life harder for women in keeping from getting pregnant, having abortions, and keeping their children because the budget cuts for welfare services to single mothers went to the crisis pregnancy centers.

As conservatives in Ohio struggle to pass a 20-week abortion ban, they fail to consider that Ohio law defines fertilization as dating from the first day of the woman’s last menstrual period, actually about two weeks before true contraception. That means that Ohio could have an 18-week abortion ban as conservatives have tried to impose on the state.

Kasich imposed a policy in which counselors at rape-crisis clinics are legally prohibited from referring victims to abortion providers, even though terminating an unwanted pregnancy is still legal. The governor has not explained why the gag rule is necessary.

On the national level, Kasich’s chances are slim to none. Ranked at 12th in national polls, he hasn’t topped three percent in any of them, keeping him out of the first debates, awkward because the first one on August 6 is in his home state. Only George Pataki rates below him in the latest PPP polling. His chances and position put him in the same arena with former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, who continually pointed out the failures of the GOP base in his 2012 GOP run for president. Kashich’s team includes two key consultants for Huntsman. The Washington Examiner’s Philip Kline wrote that conservative voters should “punish [Kasich] for his expansion of President Obama’s healthcare law.” Other conservative pundits such as Avik Roy, who works for Rick Perry, and Jason Hart, Watchdog.org reporter, agree with Kline.

Republicans from defense hawks to protectors of corporate tax breaks were upset with Kasich, then U.S. representative when he helped broker an agreement with President Clinton and congressional Republicans to balance the U.S. budget in 1997. How long Kasich will last, no one knows. His campaign 16 years ago ended in July 2000 because Bush had much more money than he did. When Kasich dropped out 16 years ago, he said about Bush’s slogan, “This business of compassionate conservative, I wish I’d thought it up.” Now he’s co-opted the description.

September 26, 2012

Last Two Weeks – Part Two

Republican desperation is getting more and more obvious as Election Day gets ever closer–41 days now.  Mitt Romney is back on the campaign trail blaming the president for the loss of over 500,000 manufacturing jobs during the last four years while his company, Bain Capital, has been sending them out of the country for years.

Missing in his talking points were the facts that George W. Bush lost 4.5 million manufacturing jobs in eight years and President Obama has picked up over 300,000 in the last two years. The most recent loss of manufacturing jobs are the 170 workers in Freeport (IL) who will be laid off in November when Bain sends Sensata Technologies to China. As usual, Romney tries to hide behind a “blind trust” that he said in the past that he controlled.

During Romney’s campaigning he has also accused President Obama of raising taxes during his tenure. The new Romney, however, has different information. Yesterday he told a reporter,  “[Obama’s] idea, now, he’s got one new, he’s got one new idea. I admit this, he has one thing he did not do in his first four years, he’s said he’s going to do in his next four years, which is to raise taxes.” As usual, his campaigners have tried to show that Romney really didn’t mean what he said.

The most desperate campaign tack, however, comes from a sitting senator, Scott Brown (R-MA). Throughout the summer he has attacked his opponent, Elizabeth Warren, because she has described herself as having Native American background. There’s no proof that she has this background, but that’s true of many people with the same background. My partner’s family, for example, has always told her that she is part Choctaw. No proof, but it’s part of her family legend.

In the lead-up to their debate last week, Brown declared that he knew Warren couldn’t have any Native American background because she didn’t look like one. It appears that Brown can identify ethnic background based on appearance. The situation got even uglier when his staffers, financed by tax payers, ridiculed Native Americans by fake war whoops and tomahawk chops at a Republican fundraiser.

Bill John Baker, the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation denounced Brown’s campaign staffers for their actions against Native Americans and asked Brown to apologize: “The conduct of these individuals goes far beyond what is appropriate and proper in political discourse. The use of stereotypical ‘war whoop chants’ and ‘tomahawk chops’ are offensive and downright racist. It is those types of actions that perpetuate negative stereotypes and continue to minimize and degrade all native peoples.”

After a long day of criticism, Brown decided to say that he could not condone such behavior. For the record, Brown has no proof that Warren does not have Native American heritage.

Evidently Rep. Todd Akin (R-MI), authority of how women cannot get pregnant from “legitimate rape,” is not the only family member who is knowledgeable about rape. In raging against the Republican party for abandoning her husband after his ill-conceived statement, Lulli Akin, the U.S. Senate candidate’s wife, described the attempt get Akin to drop out of the race as “tyranny, a top-down approach.” In an interview with The National Journal, she also said, “Party bosses dictating who is allowed to advance through the party and make all the decisions–it’s just like 1776 in that way.” According to Lulli Akin, that was when colonists “rose up and said, ‘Not in my home, you don’t come and rape my daughters and my … wife. But that is where we are again.”

Yesterday I wrote that Congress had left town to campaign while blaming Democrats for stalling and inaction. Here are a few things that they left undone, proving that Romney is not the only politician who doesn’t care about 47 percent of the country’s population:

  • The re-authorization of the Violence against Women Act
  • The American Jobs Act [although they blame the president for not enough jobs]
  • Sequestration [that started when the Republicans played games with raising the debt ceiling]
  • Tax Cuts for Working Families
  • The Farm Bill [with the current bill expiring in four days]
  • Veterans Job Corps. Act [passed by the Senate with a 95-1 vote, Rand Paul (R-KY) the only  opposition, and the Air Force Times reporting that the Republican-controlled House has shown “no interest in passing an Obama-initiated measure before the November elections”]
  • Wind Tax Credit [originally authored by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and providing jobs]

Many of us in this country assume that all young people are required to have an education. Not in four states, including Virginia. The state’s religious exemption from mandatory school attendance means there are no educational requirements. There may be 7,000 young people who fit into this category.

Good News:

Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas (WI) has ruled that the state law ending collective bargaining rights for most public workers violates both the state and U.S. Constitution and is null and void. The ruling comes after a lawsuit brought by the Madison teachers union and a union for Milwaukee city employees. The law was one of the first that Gov. Scott Walker brought to the state. 

Odd News:

The Mormon religion has a bad habit of posthumously baptizing people, sometimes causing great anguish to their families. Ann Romney’s father, an atheist, was baptized after his death. Many Jewish Holocaust victims have also been supposedly converted to Mormonism through this practice. Recently it was discovered that President Obama’s mother was posthumously baptized by the Mormon Church on June 4, 2008. The Mormon Church has claimed that it asked congregations to stop doing this, but it’s still occurring. [It’s old news, but I hadn’t heard this before.]

With Republican actions so misinformed and ignorant during this election round, identifying satire has become increasingly more difficult. Craig Robinson, a former political director of the Republican Party of Iowa, told the New York Times, “I hate to say this, but if [Paul] Ryan wants to run for national office again, he’ll probably have to wash the stench of Romney off of him.” The question of satire comes from Politico’s columnist, Roger Simon, when he described how Paul Ryan doesn’t like the directions “dictated by his Romney handlers.”

According to Simon, Ryan has “been marching around his campaign bus, saying things like, ‘If Stench calls, take a message’ and ‘Tell Stench I’m having finger sandwiches with Peggy Noonan and will text him later.'” According to Rachel Maddow, “the piece isn’t identified as satire, Simon is a chief political correspondent and not a satirist, and the column is filled with details and anecdotes that are, in fact, accurate. If it is satire, it’s awfully tough to tell.”

Romney got a little specific about taxes in a speech in Ohio: “We have got to reform our tax system. Small businesses most typically pay taxes at the individual tax rate. And so our individual income taxes are the ones I want to reform. Make them simpler. I want to bring the rates down. By the way, don’t be expecting a huge cut in taxes because I’m also going to lower deductions and exemptions. But by bringing rates down we will be able to let small businesses keep more of their money so they can hire more people.”

Huh?

June 16, 2012

U.S. People Need to Demand Our Rights

Five years ago this month, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favor of unions and collectively bargaining, stating,

“The right to bargain collectively with an employer enhances the human dignity, liberty and autonomy of workers by giving them the opportunity to influence the establishment of workplace rules and thereby gain some control over a major aspect of their lives, namely their work… Collective bargaining is not simply an instrument for pursuing external ends…rather [it] is intrinsically valuable as an experience in self-government… Collective bargaining permits workers to achieve a form of workplace democracy and to ensure the rule of law in the workplace. Workers gain a voice to influence the establishment of rules that control a major aspect of their lives.”

One reason for this ruling came Canada’s signing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations. Article 23 of this declaration reads as follows:

(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Under the guidance of Eleanor Roosevelt, the entire Declaration took over a year to prepare and was adopted with a vote of 48-0 with eight abstentions on December 10, 1948. The United States signed this Declaration.

Despite our nation’s support, our rights delineated in the Declaration are rapidly disintegrating throughout the United States. Article 5 opposes torture; Article 7 requires equal protection under the law. Articles 8 through 11 call for opposition to arbitrary arrest or detention and entitlement to full equality in a fair and public hearing as well as the right to be presumed innocent. Article 12 requires the right to privacy.

Article 16 states, “Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family.” Nothing is said in the Declaration about marriage being only between one man and one woman.

Article 18 cites freedom of religion, yet the United States uses fundamentalist Christian religious beliefs as its basis for its legislation  laws and gives no rights to people of another religion—or without religion.

According to Article 25,

“(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.”

People in the United States fail to have the rights described in almost half the 30 articles of this Declaration. Many people living here call this country a democracy. It has failed in the past and continues to fail now.

We need to demand our rights.

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