February 2011 Archives

We are all under attack, from public employees in Wisconsin and several other states, to the DC budget-cutters (just a few weeks after giving a huge tax cut to the rich) killing off NPR, slashing the EPA, consumer protections and so many other things government does for We, the People. Turn out tomorrow - Egypt-style - and demand that We, the People be heard from.

According to MoveOn's Rally to Save the American Dream site There is now a San Francisco event as well as a Sacramento event, a Los Angeles and San Diego are also planning major rallies.

This is a chance to show your support for public employees in Wisconsin and everywhere, and for working people everywhere, and for ourselves. a href="http://pol.moveon.org/event/americandream/?rc=rsad_bg_caf">Click here to locate an event near you. In addition the US Uncut site shows even more events planned Click through to see what is nearyou. (Follow the US Uncut Twitter feed here.)

From the Rally to Save the American Dream site:

  
Rally to Save the American Dream
In Wisconsin and around our country, the American Dream is under fierce attack. Instead of creating jobs, Republicans are giving tax breaks to corporations and the very rich--and then cutting funding for education, police, emergency response, and vital human services.

On Saturday, February 26, at noon local time, we are organizing rallies in front of every statehouse and in every major city to stand in solidarity with the people of Wisconsin. We demand an end to the attacks on worker's rights and public services across the country. We demand investment, to create decent jobs for the millions of people who desperately want to work. And we demand that the rich and powerful pay their fair share.

We are all Wisconsin. We are all Americans.

This Saturday, we will stand together to Save the American Dream. Be sure to wear Wisconsin Badger colors--red and white--to show your solidarity. Sign up today to join in!


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On the heels of Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Iowa, Tennessee, Florida and other states, California Republicans have introduced a Wisconsin-style bill to strip public employees of the right to union bargaining. San Francisco Chronicle, yesterday, Showdown brewing over CA state employee pensions,
   
On Tuesday, Assemblyman Allan Mansoor, R-Costa Mesa (Orange County), introduced a bill that would strip public employees of their ability to collectively bargain for retirement benefits.
But what else would you expect? What is interesting is the rest of the story

The recent Speak Out California post, Discover The Network Out To Crush Our Public Workers looked into who is behind the attack on public employees, tracing back from an LA Times op-ed by Marcia Fritz of the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility. Fritz pops up again in the Chronicle story,
   
That [pension reform] "isn't just a state problem, it's far worse in cities," said Marcia Fritz, president of the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility, a nonprofit pension reform group. ... "We need the leader of California to stand up and lead on this issue," Fritz said. "And if he doesn't, we'll go around him, just like people did on Proposition 13 (in 1978 during Brown's first stint as governor). And I don't think he wants that."
Also popping up in the Chronicle story,

"I don't think Brown wants to take on his union pals," said Steven Greenhut, author of "Plunder! How Public Employee Unions Are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives and Bankrupting the Nation."
From Speak Out California's Discover The Network Out To Crush Our Public Workers,
   
The Pacific Research Institute has a mission to "champion freedom, opportunity, and personal responsibility for all individuals by advancing free-market policy solutions." The Director of PRI's Journalism Center wrote a book called, "Plunder: How Public Employee Unions are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling our Lives and Bankrupting the Nation."
In the "Network" post I wrote about "Cookie-Cutter Think Tanks,"
   
These are just a few of the network of conservative "institutes," etc. around the country. Just a very few. (Here is a list of 185 organizations purporting to be conservative state think tanks, a list of 40 conservative national organizations with state networks and a list of 306 organizations purporting to be conservative national think tanks and 65 conservative "family policy" organizations. There are other lists with other criteria.) 
As you follow these threads you discover layer upon layer of corporate/conservative front groups, masking their activities and funders with more layers of front groups. They all have similar mission statements, have similar people on their Boards with similar backgrounds, cover the same issues the same way, and even use remarkably similar language. They seem to be not just connected but interconnected. The sheer number of these similar "think tanks" make it appear that there must be a machine somewhere that stamps these things from a template. That machine is named "Scaife/Coors/Koch..." (Please read also and spend some time here.)
I haven't written Part II of the post yet, but in the research I found a "think tank" that had no purpose except to release one "study" by Lanny Ebenstein of the California Center for Public Policy, which is not to be confused with with the California Public Policy Center, of Pension Tsunami, which is discussed in the post. In today's Santa Ynez Valley Journal story, END APPROACHING FOR PUBLIC UNIONS?, Ebenstein pops up, with a new organization:
   
... a new group called Californians for Public Union Reform has spearheaded an effort to place an initiative on next year's state ballot that would end employee collective bargaining, the behind-closed-doors process by which unions negotiate salaries, health care and other retirement benefits on behalf of employees. 
Lanny Ebenstein, chairman of the group and a professor of economics at UCSB, said the proposal to curtail collective bargaining is a key component to fiscal reform, and one that he believes will help solve California's budgetary woes the same way Walker thinks the decertification of all public-sector unions will balance Wisconsin's budget. ... 
 "Something is fundamentally wrong with the system, and it's obvious what the elephant in the room is: Public sector employees are receiving too much compensation," he said.
That's the ticket, public employees -- teachers, police, DMV workers -- caused the recession. THEY are the reason states are out of money. Tax cuts for the rich had nothing to do with it.

Right. Blame the workers, who have already taken pay cuts, increased retirement age, foreclosures, etc.  Certainly not Wall Street or the wealthy who are taking an ever greater share of the country's income and wealth...

P.S. There is a Rally to Save the American Dream in Sacramento this Saturday, being organized by MoveOn.org and others to support working people, details here.

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Sacramento is still stuck.  George Skelton lays it out in the LA Times, in, California lawmakers need to get moving,

   
Republicans can't get out of their fix without angering the anti-tax crowd they cower to. Either they compromise and allow a tax extension measure to be placed on a special election ballot or they're seen as obstructionists or, worse, irrelevant, doing nothing in Sacramento except drawing their public pay and perks.

. . . Democrats seem to be moving at a brisk pace on spending cuts, but Republicans still are crawling on tax negotiations.

. . . The Legislature needs to pass a compromise package within the next three or four weeks in order for Brown to call a special election in June. If that deadline is missed, the earliest balloting would be in late September, because voters tend to ignore political pitches during the summer vacation season.

Republicans hold just over 1/3 of the votes in Sacramento. That is just enough to block everything, including allowing the public to express their wishes. And that is what they are doing. A shutdown seems to be their goal.

Update -- Dick Morris lays out the Republican strategy nationally, and it clearly is the same as in California: Create a budget deadlock on purpose, never mind the effect on citizens, use it to increase your own political power:

A Budget Deadlock Will Defeat Obama, But a Compromise Might Save Him,

A budget deadlock, played out over months, will doom President Obama and assure his defeat. But an easily won compromise will help him get re-elected.

. . . If the Republicans hold firm in demanding huge spending cuts and Obama does not give in, the question of whether or not to cut spending will dominate the nation's political discourse for months on end and will spill over into the 2012 election.

To assure that it will, the Republicans should hold firm to their budget spending cuts without surrender or compromise. If necessary, it is OK to vote a few very short term continuing resolutions to keep the government open for a few weeks at a time, always keeping on the pressure.

. . . If Obama offers a half a loaf, the GOP should spurn it for weeks and months.

Does this or does it not sound exactly like the Republican plan in California, too?


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It is difficult to read, watch or listen to the news without hearing that public employees are paid too much and get "lucrative" pensions and this is "bankrupting" your state, county or city. Public officials are "in bed" with "union bosses" and state and local government; taxpayer dollars are wasted to pay for people who don't do much work but live the good life. "Reports" and "studies" confirm this.

People hear the same story over and over and over and over, seemingly coming from everywhere: public employees have it good, with extravagant pay and "lavish" or "plush" pensions, while taxpayers are taking it in the shorts. Public-employee pensions are "bankrupting" the state/county/city. "Unfunded liabilities" are "out of control" and it is time to do something about it before it is too late.

This is part of a broad, nationwide attack on public employees and their unions, and through them, on government and democracy itself.


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Here is a letter in a recent "Mr. Roadshow" column in the San Jose Mercury News. The letter illustrates the problems in plutocratic/libertarian thinking vs democracy. (Note: Caltrain is the commuter-rail line serving towns between San Francisco and San Jose.)

Your recent article on Caltrain's $30 million deficit is once again showing your socialist leanings. Saying Larry Ellison of Oracle or Sergey Brin and Larry Page of Google or Steve Jobs of Apple should rescue Caltrain is one of your famous inane ideas. If Caltrain cannot operate without taxpayer funding, it should go out of business. Just how much taxpayer money is used to fund the likes of Southwest Airlines, Greyhound Bus or any taxi services? As a taxpayer, I have never received a billing statement from any of these companies for not using their business! If you want the rich to pay for Caltrain, I suggest you tax rich athletes, actors, entertainers, the major news network anchors and, of course, rich politicians such as Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, Nancy Pelosi and John Kerry, to name a few. Private business is the heart of America! Not government! Maybe you should quit the Mercury News and go to work for Gov. Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown and become director of Caltrans.

Let's look at the assumptions in this letter:

  • If XXXX cannot operate without taxpayer funding, it should go out of business. (Insert Caltrain, Public Radio, schools, libraries, health clinic for the poor, etc., as needed.)
  • Private business is the heart of America! Not government!
  • No taxpayer money goes to help airlines, bus companies, etc. operate.
  • Never mind the idea of public infrastructure, courts, etc. that provide the underpinnings of all business. An airline can't operate without an airport, air traffic control, weather forecasting, etc. A bus or taxi company cannot operate without roads, police, and the rest of the system. No business would exist without courts and the financial system...

    I want to explore a deeper question. What are we, as citizens in a democracy, entitled to? Yes, that word, "entitled." There are things we are entitled to because we are human beings and citizens. We are supposedly still a one-person-one-vote system and not a one-dollar-one-vote system, and we are supposedly entitled to equal opportunity, equal access and an equal voice.

    But for-profit systems only respect those with lots of money. In a democracy is it right to require people to have a lot of money have access to transportation? To health care? To information?

    What are your thoughts?

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.


    Comments (2)
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    This page is an archive of entries from February 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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