January 2010 Archives

Voters in Oregon passed tax increases on corporations and the wealthy.  This was in spite of well-funded corporate campaigns against the measures.

Measure 66 raises tax rates on individuals who earn more than $125,000 and couples with incomes greater than $250,000. Measure 67 increases business taxes. Fifty-four percent of voters had approved both measures with more than 80 percent of the vote counted late Tuesday.

At Calitics Robert Cruichshank writes, Oregon Voters Deliver Game-Changing Victory,

The opposition ran a well-funded campaign, led by Nike, Columbia Sportswear, and other big businesses. They were joined by Ari Fleischer's FreedomWorks and the libertarian publisher of the Oregonian, who used to be at the Orange County Register before it went belly-up. Together they ran a campaign arguing that the tax increases would worsen unemployment. But 55% of voters have rejected that, and instead showed that when a truly progressive campaign is waged, the right-wingers can be beaten. Even on taxes.

... Their message was deeply progressive:
These reforms protect nearly $1 billion in vital services like education, health care and public safety. These funds preserve class sizes, save jobs for teachers, provide seniors with in-home care, and provide health care for thousands of Oregonians through the Oregon Health Plan. In this time of economic crisis, we must protect those who have been hit the hardest - seniors, children and the unemployed - without putting more of a burden on the middle class.


It's a message that works nationally. And it's a message that'll work here in California. Voters don't like seeing their neighborhood schools close, or mass layoffs of teachers, or ending care for the disabled, or kicking kids off of health care. They don't want it, and are willing to raise taxes to prevent it.

The important lesson to learn is that the public wants government: good schools and roads and courts and police and fire protection.  And the public understands that building solid public structures is the key investment in future prosperity.

California leaders can now feel free to lead and understand that the public is behind them if they raise taxes on the wealthy and corporations in order to find needed state government programs.

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The Supreme Court has unleashed the unlimited use of corporate resources to influence our elections.  This doesn't immediately change our state and local elections, which already suffered under a great deal of corporate influence.

In the understatement-of-the-week the Sacramento Bee writes, Supreme Court decision could affect Barbara Boxer race,

California state campaign finance rules already allow corporations and unions to give directly to independent expenditure campaigns without limits, so the court decision will have little impact on state contests.

But the decision overturns federal rules requiring that corporations and unions establish political action committees, or PACs, to spend on elections.

. . . "It certainly changes the Boxer race," Stern said. "It means corporations, without setting up a PAC, can spend as much as they want opposing Boxer."

let's see, will unlimited corporate resources unleashed against Boxer make a difference?  Do ya think?

Meanwhile, over at Calitics, some of the diaries express a stronger opinion:

The Day Democracy Died

"The outlook isn't pretty after today. Elections will never work in the same way as they have before, and power has taken a giant swing towards the right."

Did Democracy Die in America

We already have a dominance of corporate spending in CA elections.  It really takes place in the machinations involved in the ever increasing number of initiatives, where the airways fill with misleading hyperventiated negative commercials that only Gary South could love.  

Take any major issue we are dealing with: Health Care and Climate Change come most to mind, and figure out how the will of the people is anything more than the will of the corporation.  Consider the power of Exxon-Mobil and or Chevron vis-a-vis climate change legislation and offshore drilling.  Consider the power of Stewart Resnick regarding water.

It is universally agreed that in the short-run this will bring a huge advantage to Republican candidates, who already are big supporters of one-dollar-one-vote corporatism over one-person-one-vote democracy.  However, in the long term this really means the parties will become factions of corporate interests lining up against other factions of corporate interests.  Perhaps ExxonMobil on one side and Chevron on the other, each trying to buy legislation to give them advantages over the other.  The people won't be players any longer.


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Lessons From Massachusetts

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The Republican candidate won the special election in Massachusetts to replace Senator Kennedy, giving them 41 votes.  The Republicans have filibustered every single bill this year, and this clinches their ability to block the President's agenda.  If this sounds familiar to Californians, it's because in California the Republican minority is able to block budgets, and we have seen the results.

There are lots of sophisticated explanations for the election's outcome, mostly involving people being upset at particulars of the health care bill.  But I don't really think that the people who voted for the Repubican candidate were all that well informed about differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill, the "public option," or other intricacies of in-progress legislation.  

Instead, when looking for the reasons people voted this way, I think we should take the Republican candidate's word for it.  On his website he says it is for the following reasons:

At his September 12 announcement of candidacy for the U.S. Senate, Senator Brown articulated a core set of beliefs that guide his thinking.
  • Government is too big and that the federal stimulus bill made government bigger instead of creating jobs
  • Taxes are too high and are going higher if Congress continues with its out-of-control spending
  • The historic amount of debt we are passing on to our children and grandchildren is immoral
  • Power concentrated in the hands of one political party, as it is here in Massachusetts, leads to bad government and poor decisions
  • A strong military and vigorous homeland defense will protect our interests and security around the world and at home
  • All Americans deserve health care, but we shouldn't have to create a new government insurance program to provide it
Here's the thing.  Most of the assumptions underlying these statements are simply wrong - factually incorrect.  They have been pounded out by a corporate/conservative misinformation machine that just makes stuff out and puts it out there on TV, the radio, email forwarding and every other channel they can find.  

But the facts are that the federal stimulus didn't "make government bigger," the "out-of-control spending" occurred under the previous Republican president, we spend more on military than every other country in the world combined - and it is the largest government spending program and contributing to the debt, and the health care reform specifically doesn't create a government insurance program (it should) and saves money rather than increase spending.

The Right has a message machine that has been repeating misinformation and getting away with it, because: 
1) The leadership of the other party has let them get away with it.
2) There is no comparable megaphone with which to refute the misinformation.

The same is true here in California, and we may be heading for similar election turnovers.  Republicans repeat things that simply are not true, but there is lack of leadership from elected democrats and almost no megaphone with which to counter the untruths. The example we regularly bring up here is the assertion, repeated over and over, that businesses and rich people leave California because of taxes and regulations.  Of courase this just isn't true, but is formulated in a way that sounds like it could be true if you just don't think about it, and leads to large corporations having even more power over our lives and the wealthy having an even greater share of all income and wealth.

Of course, people and businesses that do leave the state do so because of the high cost of living, which is the result of so many poeple wanting to live here.  It just costs more to live in a nicer place.  And as I wrote last week, it is a nicer place because of the government and the public structures that We, the People built.  In other words, California is a nicer place because of those regulations and taxes!

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Support Women's Health Care

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We are passing this along:

We Will Not Be Thrown Under the Bus!

On January 13th, Not Under the Bus, the premier women's health care campaign from the Women's Media Center, is asking women everywhere to take action against the discriminatory, anti-choice language that exists in both the House and Senate health care bills. These bills would effectively roll back women's health care coverage in the area of reproductive rights. It is up to all of us to make sure we don't get thrown under the bus by politicians in Washington.

Here's how you can TAKE ACTION on Wednesday, January 13th:
Tweet: Take Action today with @NotUnderTheBus. Demand that women's rights be protected in #HCR: http://bit.ly/7u15IG #underthebus

Post our video to your Facebook page, Blog, or status:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUtLTB6zKbo

Donate your Facebook Status to raise awareness:
"Today is Take Action Day with NotUnderTheBus.com. What are you doing to demand pro-choice, fair health care? http://bit.ly/7u15IG Take Action. Write an op-ed, call your Senator, and sign a petition. Demand that women's rights be protected in health care reform."

Sign and Share Our Petition: Tell lawmakers in Washington to keep women's health care safe, fair and covered and urge them to strike any anti-abortion amendments from the final bill. http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/do-not-throw-women-under-the-bus


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Lots of people want to live in California.  This is a good thing.  Conservatives try to portray this as a bad thing.  Let me explain.

George Will repeats the conservative narrative that people and companies leave California because of taxes and regulations.  He writes,

It took years for liberalism's redistributive itch to create an income tax so steeply progressive that it prompts the flight from the state of wealth-creators: "Between 1990 and 2007," Voegeli writes, "some 3.4 million more Americans moved from California to one of the other 49 states than moved to California from another state."

Actually, any people and companies that move from California do it because the cost of living is so much higher and that is because it is a desirable place to live.  California was the envy of the rest of the country through most of the 20th century.  The best state government in the country used our taxes to build the best public structures -- the schools, colleges, roads, courts, water systems, etc. that attracted the innovative industries and the economy prospered even more.

What conservative propagandists like Will leave out is that so many people want to live here because of what the taxes and regulations created.  These public structures are what attracted so many people and businesses that the cost of living here went up.  They are trying to make people think this is a bad thing, and are trying to make people think the government and the public structures it builds are the problem rather than the source of our prosperity.  In essence they want to sell off what We, the People built and keep the proceeds for themselves.

The social contract used to be that We, the People built up the infrastructure of "public structures" like the legal system, schools, roads, water system, etc.  And this is what enabled businesses to prosper.  Then the businesses and people who did well paid back by pitching in with the proceeds to keep that system of public structures up to date.

It worked.  California built up the best schools and colleges, etc. so places like Silicon Valley and biotech grew up and thrived, and the state became a great place to live, attracting so many people and industries.  But this infrastructure was taken for granted.  Because this system was so solid and well-maintained people were able to start deferring maintenance, cutting everything, etc so that the big corporations and wealthy could have their taxes cut.  (Yes, the middle class got a bit of that through Prop 13 but even that primarily benefited commercial property.)

In essence the state has been living off of the past savings account of infrastructure that was built up in the 60s and 70s.  But now we're in 2010 with a 70's system. The schools are near the bottom in the country and the college and university system has been gutted.

We're STILL just getting by on living off of the last of what we built up in the 60s and 70s, but that is at an end now and the savings account is exhausted.  It is time to start to rebuild the infrastructure we used to be so proud of.  It is time to ask the wealthy and corporations that are here because of what the taxes and regulations built to pitch in again and start to rebuild that savings account of public structures and infrastructure.

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One of the key right-wing priorities is to outsource government functions and privatize whatever they can. We've seen the trend from the early '80's with allowing the healtcare industry to become a for-profit based industry (and how they have profited!), to deregulation of the airlines, charter schools, water systems, war (hence the title Blackwater for the infamous private army that has wreacked havoc on the people of Iraq and elsewhere) to establishment of private prisons to house our criminal population.
 
There are reasons that we have government-run services and programs. Those reasons have been glossed-over or forgotten, but shouldn't be. First, the government, unlike the private sector, is answerable and responsible to the people. Second, there is accountability and "sunshine" or transparency with how these government run entities operate.
 
With none of the above, and with private profit the singular purpose, we lose our ability to control how these programs are run and the impact they have on us as a society. Plain and simple, this is bad for democracy and bad for our communities.
 
Regardless of how it's couched, privatizing our prisons as an excuse to improve our public universities is dishonest at best, and destructive to the fabric of our nation at worst. Assemblyman Ted Lieu provides a look at this as our guest blogger of the day. -- HBJ

The Blackwater Solution to California Prisons is Unacceptable
By Ted Lieu
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I agree with the Governor that we need to increase higher education spending so that California spends more on higher education than prisons. However, there are smart ways to reform our prison system, shortsighted ways, and outright dangerous reforms. The Governor's proposal to hand over our corrections system to for-profit corporations is dangerous. We should reform our prison system by better rehabilitating prisoners and reducing California's sky-high recidivism rate. Contracting out government's core responsibility of public safety will not reform our prisons; instead we will endanger the public and cause inhumane consequences.

Religious institutions across the board condemn private prisons as both inhumane and ineffective. The Presbyterian Church USA stated, "Since the goal of for-profit private prisons is earning a profit for their shareholders, there is a basic and fundamental conflict with the concept of rehabilitation as the ultimate goal of the prison system...for-profit private prisons should be abolished." The Catholic Bishops in a resolution stated, "We bishops question whether private, for-profit corporations can effectively run prisons. The profit motive may lead to reduced efforts to change behavior, treat substance abuse, and offer skills necessary for reintegration into the community."

Private prisons are also dangerous, both to prisoners and to the public. In 2003 a report by Grassroots Leadership detailed a range of failures by CCA, a for-profit private prison company, including: failure to provide adequate medical care to prisoners; failure to control violence in its prisons; and escapes.

I voted no last year on the corrections budget bill because it was cutting rehabilitation programs and parole supervision, both of which will result in increased recidivism. The Governor's current proposal is even worse. Abandoning government's core responsibility of public safety by contracting out and injecting a profit motive will result in disastrous consequences. Our nation has already been burned by our experience with Blackwater. California cannot afford to have its own Blackwater problem.


Assemblymember Ted W. Lieu, candidate for Attorney General, represents the 53rd Assembly District, which stretches from Venice and parts of Los Angeles to Torrance and Lomita along the coast. He was elected in September 2005, re-elected in November 2006, and re-elected again in November 2008.

Assemblymember Lieu has led the fight in California against Wall Street's excesses and fought to reform the subprime mortgage system and reduce home foreclosures. As an activist legislator, he has taken on special interests and successfully authored laws in the areas of public safety, child sex offenders, domestic violence, the environment, education, health care, veterans issues, and transportation. Numerous law enforcement, civic, and community groups have recognized Ted for his accomplishments.


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You hear it over and over again from California conservatives, "Cut taxes and cut spending," and "government spending is too high."

So what does this mean to YOU? How does this affect your life?

Simple answer, cutting spending means that your schools, roads, police and fire protection, lines at the DMV, parks, environment, food safety inspections, services to help small businesses and courts all deteriorate. It means that it costs more - much more - for you to send your kids to college. That is what "cut government spending" means.

And in spite of what you think, their promise of cutting taxes rarely means your taxes. There is a huge concentration of income and wealth at the very top, which means that tax cuts really mostly benefit the very, very wealthy. Even the well-known Prop 13, thought of as helping homeowners, shifted the tax burden from the corporate owners of commercial property to middle class citizens. From, Corporate loopholes make Prop. 13 crippling for state:

Thirty years ago, commercial property owners contributed 59 percent of property tax revenues and residential property owners contributed 41 percent. Today, we see a virtual flip: commercial property owners contributed just 43 percent of property taxes in 2008, while residential property owners contributed 57 percent.

Another thing you constantly hear are calls to cut the number of government employees and their benefits. If you think about it, layoffs and pay cuts for government workers (teachers, police, firefighters, road workers, etc.) translates into increasing pressure to cut your own wages as well, plus it means fewer customers for California's small businesses, fewer teachers in our schools, increased crime rates, etc. Cutting their benefits means that your own benefits come under pressure as well.

Conservatives promising that cutting taxes and spending are good for you have held sway for the last few decades. They are always promising that tax cuts will make things better for regular people. But they haven't gotten better. The real tax burden keeps shifting further and further away from the wealthy and powerful and onto the backs of the middle class. Meanwhile the things that our government does for us are reduced and reduced, so life gets harder.

The lesson to learn is: glowing promises of a free lunch usually mean that you are the lunch.


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This page is an archive of entries from January 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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