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Union member Ken Kraft announces he will seek Northampton County seat

03.14.11

MARCH 2011, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Union member Ken Kraft announces he will seek Northampton County seat

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, January 16th- Union member Ken Kraft announced on February 16th his candidacy for the Northampton County Council. Mr. Kraft wants to replace the retiring long-time serving Democratic Council member Ann McHale, which has supported the labor community during her time on Council. Ms. McHale also served as President of the nine-member Northampton County Council.

“As a person who believes in community and public service, I look forward to serving the residents of Bethlehem, Hellertown and Hanover as their voice on County Council. I will be a strong advocate for the needs of our region and will always be available to listen to their concerns,” stated Mr. Kraft.

Mr. Kraft is a Assistant Business Manager for the Painters and Allied Trades International Union (PATIU) District Council 21. District Council 21 represents PATIU members throughout the Lehigh Valley. PATIU members work within the construction trade industry.

Mr. Kraft is a life long resident of Bethlehem and a graduate of Freedom High School and served in the United States Marines.

“As a Council member, I will work tirelessly to attract quality, family sustaining jobs, keep taxes stable and deliver high quality services to the residents. I love Northampton County and I will help keep it a great place to live, work and raise a family,” Mr. Kraft added.

Currently, Republicans hold the majority on the County Council.

Economic think-tank states ARRAct helped jobless rate

03.14.11

MARCH 2011, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Economic think-tank states ARRAct helped jobless rate

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, February 18th- According to the Keystone Research Center, a economic research group in Harrisburg, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRAct) has worked and the key to reining in the federal fiscal deficit lies not in job-crushing spending cuts and tax breaks for the rich in policies that create new jobs and boost middle-class wages.

“Policymakers remain fixated on the wrong deficit. For Main Street families, the jobs deficit and the wage deficit matter a lot more than the federal fiscal deficit,” stated Stephen Herzenberg, Ph.D., and an Economist and Executive Director of the Keystone Research Center.

The organization stated the prolonged joblessness and stagnant wages will continue to stifle tax revenues. By closing these deficits, policymakers can rein in the fiscal deficit, while building on the success of the ARRAct), which saved 400,000 jobs in Pennsylvania and prevented the state’s unemployment rate from rising above 15 percent.

February 19th marked the two-year anniversary of Congress’s passage of the ARRAct.

Mr. Herzenberg stated Pennsylvania is emerging from the recession with job growth exceeding that of many other states. In 2010, Pennsylvania added more than 65,000 jobs, ranking third among the 50 states in the number of jobs created.

“Continued investments in infrastructure boosting skills and innovation in critical industries, and in unemployment benefits are key to keeping our economic momentum going and reining in the job deficit. A starting point on the wage deficit would be to raise the minimum wage, and requiring that companies receiving state job-creation subsidies not pay below market-based norms for their industry,” added Labor Economist Mark Price, Ph.D.

According to the Keystone Research Center, the unemployment rate in Pennsylvania and the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) would have been much higher without the policy actions taken by the Federal Reserve, the Bush Administration and the Obama Administration and the United States Congress in the wake of the Great Recession.

The organization released data that shows the unemployment rate in the Lehigh Valley would have been more than 15 percent as of December 2010 with nearly 27,000 jobs saved by federal intervention.

“By acting forcefully when the economy was on the verge of collapse, policymakers applied the historical lessons of the Great Depression. Pulling back now will cost jobs and set the recovery back. Those who forget history, as the saying goes, are doomed to repeat it,” said Mr. Herzenberg.

The estimates were derived from national-level analysis of the impact of federal economic intervention that was co-authored by economist Alan Binder and John McCain economic adviser Mark Zandi.

Gov. Tom Corbett: Pennsylvania’s Savior

03.11.11

by Walter Brasch

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett may be the most adept politician in America.
With the nation focused upon the union-busting Tea Party-backed Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Corbett has snuck in a plan to mine the state’s resources, increase employment, reduce educational problems, and whack unions upside the head at the same time. Miraculously, the public sector unions, so happy they wouldn’t lose collective bargaining, have even said they don’t mind being whacked.

In his first budget address, Corbett said he wants to freeze wages for all state employees, almost every one of them part of the middle class. Although the average wage is about $35,000 a year, according to AFSCME, the state’s primary union for public sector workers, families of four should easily be able to still afford the same luxuries as the governor who is paid $165,000 a year and has a mansion, expense account, and house staff.

As a bonus, Corbett plans to freeze wages of all public school teachers. Those are the people whom Laura Bush numerous times while in Washington said were grossly underpaid. But, since she was a teacher and not a Wall Street banker—you know, the kind who make money the old-fashioned way, by stealing from the poor—it’s obvious she was a tax-sucking Big Government, Commie-loving, knee-jerk liberal who worked only a six-hour day for only a half a year, and gorged herself at the public trough. Thus, her views should be dismissed as nothing less than self-aggrandizement at the public’s expense.

Cutting an additional $1 billion from public education is bringing Corbett cheers from the tax-burdened masses who have yet to figure out that the cuts will force local school boards to raise taxes to cover essential educational expenses. But, the brilliance of Tom Corbett is that by freezing teacher salaries, he also spares local school boards the sweat of trying to explain why they have to raise taxes, drop programs, and close schools.

Now, let’s look at the State System of Higher Education (SSHE). Corbett plans to reduce the $465 million appropriation to a lean $232 million, roughly what it was in 1983 when the state system was created. That’s the true spirit of conservatism in America—bringing back the 1980s when Ronald Reagan was president.

The 14 state-owned universities enroll about 120,000 students. Some classes have only 40 students. That’s highly inefficient. By cutting funding, Corbett helps assure fewer high-paid professors who inflame students with the ideas of left-wing radicals like Socrates, St. Augustine, and Oliver Wendell Holmes. There’s hardly any difference between 40 and 200 students in a class. The prof still has to prepare only one syllabus, one lesson plan, and talks into only one microphone. Besides, testing is more efficient when it’s computer-scored multiple choice questions. If students want to chat with their prof, all they have to do is take a number and wait their turn for their allocated five minutes face time each semester.

Cutting resources also helps the socialization of the students. On at least one campus, all two-student dorm rooms now have three students in them. This is a 50 percent increase in student interaction, allowing for more academic discussions about a wide range of topics, such as ceramics (the proper way to smoke pot), nutrition (light vs. dark brews), and psychology (improving the effect of hazing techniques on freshmen.)

And speaking of psychology, why do all the colleges have to have psych programs? Times are tough, and the luxury of a psych major at all the colleges doesn’t fit into Corbett’s education plan. It would be more cost efficient for only six or seven colleges to teach psych courses, thus cutting excess faculty and resources, while filtering students into the more efficient large sections at fewer colleges.

We also don’t need geography courses at any of the colleges. How many Americans knew where Korea or Viet Nam were before we went to war? Grenada, Iraq, and Afghanistan? All we have to do is keep bombing countries, and Americans learn about them. No wasteful expenses like full-color maps, globes, or professors. End of that problem.

The state can save money by dumping all foreign language programs. This is America, after all, and students should be speaking English.

Music, art, and theatre programs can also be eliminated since anyone in the creative arts is a liberal hippie who doesn’t earn enough to contribute to Republican political campaigns but can cause trouble, nevertheless. For the same reason, social work programs should be cut. That would result in fewer social workers to record poverty, homelessness, and disabilities, making it seem that the Commonwealth is just chock full of rich people with no problems.

Corbett has also brilliantly solved unemployment. The state appropriation, which will be only about 16 percent of the cost to run the colleges, will force higher tuition. This will yield one of two possibilities. First, it will separate the scum—the students who come from lower- and middle-class households—from the “true” scholars, the “preppies” who will be able to contribute to Republicans’ political campaigns. Second, if the masses wish to receive a college education, they will have to increase their work hours; their parents will have to work four jobs instead of three to afford tuition and the already extraordinarily outrageous fees. But there is light at the end of this tunnel of despair. Box stores and fast food restaurants always have openings. Not only will students not waste time by doing menial chores like studying, they and their families will help reduce the unemployment rate. And, remember, the family that works together for minimum wage suffers together, a true family value.

Students not fortunate enough to afford college would be able to look forward to expelling a lot of gas. By pushing for even more drilling and by not taxing the gas extractors, Corbett, the industry’s mascot, creates even more jobs. Like the coal, steel, and timber industries, all of which once were unionized, the non-unionized natural gas industry will have to hire thousands. Since we know that the owners believe in social justice and the rights of their workers, they may even build company towns, complete with match-stick houses, stores selling overpriced merchandise, and company-paid doctors who may or may not treat green-mulch lung disease, depending upon the company’s cost-to-benefits ratio. If the owners become rich enough in the Commonwealth of No Tax Gassy Pennsylvania, they may even hire a recent lit grad to be the industry’s hazardous materials inspector.

After 20 or 30 years, when the gas is mined out, and the companies move to other states to strip their resources and exploit their workers, Pennsylvanians will be able to proudly say they once worked for a fracking company—all thanks to the vision of Gov. Tom Corbett.

[Walter Brasch is an award-winning columnist, and the author of 16 books. You may contact him at walterbrasch@gmail.com]

U.S. Senator Ben Cardin Receives Early Endorsement of Maryland state and d.c. AFL-CIO

03.10.11

Press Release: U.S. Senator Ben Cardin Receives Early Endorsement of Maryland state and d.c. AFL-CIO

Baltimore, MD — U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) has received the unanimous endorsement of the Maryland State and DC AFL-CIO’s Committee on Political Education (COPE), which represents over 300,000 union members and more than 500 local unions.

“Ben Cardin is a champion in the U.S. Senate for working families not just in Maryland but across the nation,” said Fred Mason, president of the Maryland State and DC AFL-CIO. “An early endorsement means local unions can begin to educate their members on why it is important to support Ben Cardin.”

“I have worked hard in the Senate and throughout my career to protect working men and women and their families. My priority, particularly during these tough economic times, is to help create and sustain quality job growth while solving the problems facing middle class families,” said Senator Cardin. “Unions have been a key part of protecting America’s shrinking middle class and have helped to lift up all workers. I will continue to actively support the rights of workers to collectively bargain and I am honored to receive this early endorsement from my friends in labor.

“We need to stop blaming hardworking teachers, nurses, firefighters, and other public sector workers who are essential to the safety and future of our communities. As leaders, we should be working together toward common solutions to the problems hurting American families, rather than placing blame or making scapegoats. We need to restore a sense of balance and civility to the debate, as well as our economy.”

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Teamsters Union Local 773 files labor complaint against school bus contractor

03.10.11

MARCH 2011, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Teamsters Union Local 773 files labor complaint against school bus contractor

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, February 14th- The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 773, Hamilton Street in Allentown, filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia alleging First Student bus company, 1812 South 12th Street in Allentown, violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

According to the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge, which was discovered by the newspaper while reviewing petitions and complaints filed at the National Labor Relations Board, the Union alleges the Employer, violated Section 8 (a), subsections (1) and subsection (5) of the NLRAct.

The newspaper is the only member of the local media that reviews and publishes the information.

First Student provides bus transportation services for several school districts in the Lehigh Valley and according to the ULP employs around 204 workers in the Allentown unit.

“The above named employer, by and through its agents, has violated the Act by engaging in direct dealing and by unilaterally changing a term and condition of employment after certification of the bargaining representative and prior to negotiating a first contract. The above named employer, by and through its agents, has also violated the Act by failing to bargain in good faith when it assured the bargaining representative that the company would continue to calculate the rate of a pay as it had historically done at this location and then unilaterally implemented a change to the method of calculation,” states the complaint.

The ULP names Don Swift as the company representative to be contacted.

SEIU Local 32BJ files more complaints against Sodexo Inc.

03.10.11

MARCH 2011, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

SEIU Local 32BJ files more complaints against Sodexo Inc.

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, February 14th- The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 32BJ filed more labor complaints with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia alleging a Lehigh Valley employer continues to violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

The SEIU filed several more Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charges against Sodexo Inc., which is a food service contractor and provides food service for three Lehigh Valley Hospitals.

The three hospitals, the Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest, Good Shepherd, and Sacred Heart, cafeteria workers are part of a national campaign by the SEIU to gain a national labor agreement with Sodexo Inc. Local 32BJ of New York, NY, is conducting a ten-state organizing campaign of the food service workers. Sodexo Inc. is headquartered in France.

The newspaper has discovered the SEIU filed two additional complaints against the Employer, after filing numerous ULP’s during 2010 against Sodexo Inc.

On January 28th, 2011, the Union filed a ULP alleging the Employer barred employees at the Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest in Allentown from wearing Union shirts.

“The Employer participated in, acquiesced in, and/or caused hosptial security officers’ conduct in threatening to call police if employees, who were engaged in Section 7 activity, did not move from the public sidewalk in front of the hospital,” states the complaint.

On February 8th, 2011, the SEIU filed a complaint against the food service contractor alleging the Employer gave service employee Shari Kurtz, who is employed at the Good Shepherd Hosptial in Allentown, a negative employment evaluation based on her concerted, protected activity, including organizing with Local 32BJ, and gave her a lower pay raise as a result of such negative evaluation.

The ULP states there are 32 food service workers at the hosptial.

IBEW Local 1600 files labor complaint against PPL electrical energy company

03.10.11

MARCH 2011, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

IBEW Local 1600 files labor complaint against PPL electrical energy company

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, January 20th- The union that represents employees of the PPL Corporation, which provides electrical energy, filed a labor complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia alleging the employer violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 1600, Grange Road in Trexlertown, on January 28th filed a Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge against PPL alleging the employer violated Section 8 (a), subsections (1) and (5) of the NLRAct.

“Since on or about July 23rd, 2010, the Employer has failed and refused to bargain in good faith with the Charging Party. The Charging Party and the Employer are parties to a Collective Bargaining Agreement covering the period May 17th, 2010 to May 11th, 2014. The Charging Party is the exclusive bargaining representative for the affected employees of the Employer,” states the complaint, which was reviewed by the newspaper.

The newspaper is the only member of the local media that reviews ULP’s filed at the NLRB and publishes the information.

The labor complaint was filed on behalf of Local 1600 by Allentown Attorney Quintes Taglioli.

According to the ULP, there are approximately 5,000 workers employed by PPL, which is headquatered in Allentown.

“The parties have set forth in the predecessor Collective Bargaining Agreement in Article XIII, Section 2(C) overtime procedures for Field Service.

The Employer has unilaterally determined that it will no longer adhere to the Agreement.

It has thereby refused to bargain in good faith with the Charging Party by unilaterally charging terms and conditions of employment without bargaining in good faith. Further, the Collective Bargaining Agreement has incorporated by reference Memorandum of Agreement and the Employer’s unilateral refusal to comply with that Memorandum of Agreement violates its duty to bargain in good faith,” the Unfair Labor Practice continued.

Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Region’s unemployment rate decreases to 9.0 percent

03.10.11

MARCH 2011, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Region’s unemployment rate decreases to 9.0 percent

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, February 4th- According to labor data provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Center for Workforce Information and Analysis in Harrisburg, the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 9.0 percent, decreasing by four-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. The MSA includes Lehigh, Northampton, and Carbon Counties of Pennsylvania and Warren County, New Jersey. Twelve months ago the unemployment rate for the region was 9.7 percent.

There are fourteen Metropolitan Statistical Area’s in Pennsylvania and the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Metropolitan Statistical Area is tied with the Reading MSA for the third highest unemployment rate.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has the highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 9.5 percent. The Johnstown MSA has the second highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 9.2 percent.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 8.5 percent, decreasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report, which was released approximately four weeks ago. There are 538,000 Pennsylvania residents without jobs, but that number does not include residents that have exhausted their unemployment benefits and stopped looking for work.

Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted workforce of 6,358,000 and 5,819,000 of them have employment. The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was reported to be 9.4 percent, decreasing by four-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. That number also does not include residents that have exhausted their unemployment benefits and stopped looking for work.

There are 14,485,000 residents nationally unemployed but counting workers that have exhausted their benefits or have been unable to find full-time work there are more than 20 million Americans without jobs. After workers have exhausted their unemployment benefits they are no longer counted as unemployed unless they continue to apply for work.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 5.8 percent, decreasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report. The Lebanon MSA and the Lancaster MSA are tied for the second lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 7.2 percent and the Altoona MSA has the third lowest unemployment rate at 7.3 percent. The Harrisburg MSA has the fourth lowest rate at 7.6 percent.

The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force in Pennsylvania with 417,000 civilians. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor force at 2,953,000 with 259,100 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest labor force at 1,218,400 with 96,500 without jobs; the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has the fourth largest labor force in Pennsylvania at 282,400 civilians with 26,700 without jobs; and the Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA has the fifth largest civilian labor force at 282,200 with 23,500 without employment.

Lehigh County has the lowest unemployment rate within the MSA at 9.1 percent, decreasing by five-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and dropping by six-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago. Lehigh County has a civilian labor force of 175,300. There are 15,900 Lehigh County residents without jobs, decreasing by 1,100 from the previous report.

Carbon County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 10.4 percent, decreasing by six-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and decreasing by one full percentage point from twelve months ago. Carbon County has a civilian labor force of 31,000 with 3,200 residents without jobs, decreasing by 300 from the previous report.

Northampton County unemployment rate is 9.2 percent, decreasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report and decreasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from twelve months ago. Northampton County has a civilian labor force of 151,000. There are 13,800 Northampton County residents without jobs, decreasing by 300 from the previous report.

Three Fatal Republican Mistakes That Could Spell Their Defeat Next November

03.07.11

Three Fatal Republican Mistakes That Could Spell Their Defeat Next November

by Robert Creamer

The weatherman on TV describes it everyday. “A cold front will pass through our area tomorrow afternoon and with it, a major wind shift.”

Historians may one day pinpoint the last several weeks as the time when the front passed — and the political winds shifted decisively.

The combination of Governor Scott Walker’s proposal to strip middle class union members of their rights to have a seat at the table in determining their wages and working conditions – and the draconian cuts in services to average Americans promoted by Republicans in Congress – have caused a fundamental shift in American public opinion and political momentum.

Three major Republican political mistakes have contributed mightily to their sinking political fortunes, and they could spell disaster for their candidates next November.

First, Republicans forgot the fundamental truth that it is much more difficult to take something away from people that they already have, than to prevent them from getting something for which they aspire.

It’s one thing to campaign against the possibility of better health care – or against legislation that would restrain the power of banks to sink the economy. It’s quite another to propose measures that would cut someone’s pay, eliminate their power to bargain, or slash services that benefit everyday Americans– even worse to propose cutting Social Security or Medicare. Those kinds of proposals are downright personal. They really make people angry.

Nothing changes a political calculus like “facts on the ground.” That’s why the Republicans are crusading so hard to prevent the Affordable Health Care Act from being implemented. Once it’s in force, millions of stakeholders will form a political army that will prevent it from ever being repealed.

For the year after Medicare was passed in 1965, support was pretty lukewarm. Once people started benefiting, support skyrocketed. Now, of course, it’s the Republicans (who actually opposed Medicare) who tried to convince seniors that the Affordable Health Care Law would cut their Medicare benefits – which of course it did not.

During the health care battle, Republicans banked heavily on the fact that those who aspired to get health insurance would not be as well organized or as vocal as those who feared that the law might cause them to lose the health coverage they already had. Their entire strategy was based on building fear among the vast majority who had insurance or Medicare. That is one of the reasons why it was so difficult to pass health care reform. It’s also why — even though Democrats won the battle to pass the bill — we, temporarily at least, lost the war for public opinion.

Had a public option – or Medicare buy-in for those under 65 – been part of the measure, a large number of people would have been vested with benefits much sooner than the 2014 effective date, when most of the other benefits take effect. It simply would not have taken four years to construct a system that allowed people below 65 to buy in to Medicare, which of course is an on-going concern. That would have increased levels of public support for the law much more rapidly, and is one of the reasons Republicans fought these provisions so doggedly.

Of course there are, in fact, many Americans who already benefit from the health care law – including hospitals full of sick kids who are no longer subject to the insurance industry’s outrageous lifetime caps or limitations on coverage for pre-existing conditions. And more and more of the public is coming to realize that Republican claims that the law would degrade their current benefits are simply deceitful propaganda.

But the fact is that most historic changes in the political wind have happened as a result of major political battles that involved actual or perceived attempts to take away concrete benefits already enjoyed by a large segment of the electorate.

The game-changing battle that turned the tide after the Republican sweep of 1994 involved the Republican shutdown of the Government and their attempt to cut Medicare and Medicaid. After the disastrous Bush re-election of 2004, the winds shifted toward Democrats when Bush tried to privatize Social Security. The health care battle – and the perceived attempt by Obama to undermine current health care benefits – set the table for the Democratic defeat in 2010. Of course, the financial collapse that cost millions of Americans their pensions and jobs closed the door on any possibility that the Republicans who presided over the disaster could defeat Barack Obama in 2008.

The Republicans have forgotten this important history lesson. Take away things that people already have and you’re in for a world of trouble.

Want to know how completely they’ve forgotten this lesson? Just last week, House Speaker John Boehner actually told the Wall Street Journal that his budget will attempt to cut Social Security and Medicare. This, in spite of polling that shows virtually zero support among the voters. There will be a firestorm of opposition. Go right ahead, John, make our day.

Second, the Republicans have forgotten the all-important political principle, that you can’t believe your own spin. That’s especially true if you spend all of your time talking to the small group of people who agree with you. Take the House of Representative’s newly-elected Tea Party Caucus. This insular crew talks to each other – repeats each other’s slogans – listens to Fox News and has convinced themselves that most Americans agree that government spending is the worst thing since murder and mayhem.

They have talked themselves into actually believing that the “American people” sent them to Washington to cut back on the “massive growth” of the federal government and cut spending at all costs. This was, of course, never the case. The Republicans won in November mainly on the strength of a protest vote from an electorate that was furious that the economy had not improved – that there were not enough jobs.

But now that the Republicans have begun to propose concrete cuts to important public services, their view of what the “American people” want is completely disconnected from reality.

Last week’s NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed that a 51% to 46% majority says the government should do more, rather than less. Fifty-six percent say that jobs and economic growth should be the government’s top priority compared to 40% who rate deficit reduction that way.

By 54% to 18%, Americans do not believe that cuts in Medicare are necessary to reduce the deficit. Forty-nine to twenty-two percent say cuts in Social Security are not needed. Fifty-six percent say cuts in Headstart Programs are “mostly” or “totally unacceptable.” Seventy-seven percent say the same of cuts in primary and secondary education. Majorities also call unacceptable cuts to defense, unemployement insurance, student loans, and heating assistance to low-income families.

On the other hand, while Republicans rail against increases in taxes – even for the rich, a whopping 81% favor placing a surtax on people who make more than a million dollars. Sixty-eight percent want to end the Bush tax cuts on those who make over $250,000.

An overwhelming 77% support the right of public employees to collective bargaining.

To top it off, a Rasmussen (Republican) poll shows Wisconsin Governor Walker’s positives dropping to 43%, and his negatives soaring to 57%.

The winds have shifted – and because they believe their own spin, many Republicans have yet to notice.

Bottom line is that these guys think they’re flying straight and level, and they’re really in a steep dive.

Third, the Republicans have failed to learn that you can tell people that up is down, and black is white, for only so long. Or to paraphrase one of the founders of the Republican Party: “You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”

Over and over, the Republicans have repeated their mantra that we need to “cut spending” in order to create jobs. Now, it is certainly true that controlling the nation’s long-term deficit will benefit the economy in the long haul. You can even make a case that when government debt begins to sop up lots of available credit, it can be a drag on private sector investment and growth. But no reputable economist agrees that cutting spending now – as we are just emerging from a recession – will create jobs. Just the opposite.

Companies are sitting on two trillion dollars of cash. There is no shortage of capital for expansion. There is a shortage of economic demand. Businesses invest in new plants and equipment and hire new workers when there are people out there demanding their products and services.

That’s why economists like Mark Zandi, of Moody Analytics, who was an economic adviser to John McCain’s presidential campaign, issued a study last week showing that the HR1 – the Republican spending bill for this year — would destroy 700,000 jobs.

That’s why Goldman Sachs – hardly a left-leaning economic institution – issued a report saying that the Republican budget plan will knock 2% off this year’s GDP, which would do real damage considering that the Government expects the GDP to increase only 2.7% this year.

And the public is beginning to get the picture. The polling shows that voters want investments that actually do increase long-term growth – investments in education, research and infrastructure – that will allow us to win the future.

American voters are a pretty smart group. If they are presented a choice between recklessly slashing the budget on the one hand, and investing to assure that our kids will have more opportunities than we do, they choose the future every time. After all, what Americans really want is to feel confident that together we can once again reclaim the American dream.

Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on Amazon.com.

Recovery, Taxes, Government Spending and Astonishing Stupidity

03.03.11

Published on The Smirking Chimp (http://www.smirkingchimp.com)

Recovery, Taxes, Government Spending and Astonishing Stupidity

By Larry Beinhart

The current economy is routinely and universally referred to as the worst recession since the Great Depression.

It makes sense, therefore, to look back at government tax and spending policies during the Depression and what the results were.

1932 — Hoover raises [1] the t op tax rate from to 25 to 63 percent.

1933 — Roosevelt comes into office. He begins spending at the same time that new tax hike comes into effect. The Depression bottoms out.

1934 — Recovery begins [2]. The GNP rises 7.7 percent, unemployment falls to 21.7 percent.

1935 — New government spending [3] on public works and rural electrification. A push to strengthen labor and raise wages. New taxes through the creation of Social Security.

The GNP grows [4] another 8.1 percent, and unemployment continues to fall.

1936 — The top tax rate is raised [5] again. This time to 79 percent.

GNP grows a record 14.1 percent; unemployment falls even further.

1937 — Roosevelt is afraid of deficits! He cuts spending [6] for 1937.

There’s a new recession. It continues for a year.

1939 — The U.S. borrows [7], resumes deficit spending, this time on a military build-up. The recession ends.

1941 — America enters World War II.

In economic terms, it’s the New Deal on steroids. The top tax rate goes up to 91 percent [8]. Nonetheless, government spending is so high that by 1945 the deficit is 123 percent of GDP [9]. Unemployment is ended by employing 16 million people directly in the armed forces and millions more are employed producing war material and supporting the military.

The Great Depression is finally over.

When taxes were raised the economy improved. Every time. Deficits had no negative effect on the economy. Indeed, when deficits were at their highest, the economy boomed.

After spending was cut — to balance the budget — a recession immediately followed. When taxes were raised and government spending resumed — with deficits — that recession ended.

When taxes were raised again, and government spending went sky high, the Great Depression finally ended.

So here we are. We refused to raise taxes. The recession continues. Now, we’re going to cut spending.
_______

http://www.smirkingchimp.com/print/34692/

Big Business Paid For Their Beds, Now Republicans Have to Lie in Them

03.03.11

by Walter Brasch

Historian and satirist Thomas Carlyle said “a lie cannot live.” However, Mark Twain casually remarked, “It shows that he did not know how to tell them.”

More than a century later, newly-elected Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-dominated Wisconsin legislature have proven themselves to be “quick studies,” having learned how to tell whoppers about the working class and unions. Here are just a few.

LIE: The public workers’ pensions are what caused much of the financial crisis not just in Wisconsin but throughout the country. Gov. Walker has repeatedly said, “We’re broke . . . We don’t have any money.”

FACTS: Wisconsin had a $120 million surplus when Walker came into office in January. Had the newly-elected Republican-dominated Legislature in January not given about $140 million in special tax breaks (also known as “corporate welfare”) to business, the state could have had a surplus, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. About two-thirds of all Wisconsin corporations pay no taxes at all, according to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.

Wisconsin could also save significant expenses by having state-employed fiscal analysts, not Wall Street investment counselors, handle the entire pension investment portfolio. Wisconsin pays about $28 million to state managers to handle about half the portfolio; it pays about $195 million to Wall Street investment brokers to handle the other half, according to the 2010 annual report of the Wisconsin Investment Board.

Noam Chomsky, in an interview with Amy Goodman of “Democracy Now,” correctly points out, “the population in the United States is angry, frustrated, full of fear and irrational hatreds. And the folks not far from you on Wall Street are just doing fine. They’re the ones who created the current crisis.” The Great Recession has cost states revenue, not because of the workers’ salaries and pensions but because the values went down because of lax oversight primarily during a Republican administration. Even with the Wall Street crisis, and lower-than-expected revenue, the Wisconsin pension fund is fully funded, able to meet its obligation for several years, according to the independent PEW Center for the States.

Columnist Robert Greenwald says the “shortfall” would be wiped out if Wisconsin brought home only 151 troops from the war in Afghanistan. If the U.S. left Afghanistan completely, the state would save $1.7 billion, according to Greenwald’s analysis.

LIE: The reason the Republicans throughout the country want to end collective bargaining by the public service unions is to bring fiscal responsibility to the states.

TRUTH: In January 2010, the Supreme Court by a 5–4 decision along party lines declared that corporations enjoy the protection of the First Amendment. This meant that companies could increase funding and advertising for candidates. As expected, the Chamber of Commerce and corporate America gave vast amounts of money to Republican and conservative candidates; labor donated to liberal and Democratic candidates, who traditionally support the working class. In the 2010 mid-term election, seven of the top 10 donors contributed to conservative and Republican candidates. The other three in the Top 10 were labor political action committees. Eliminating collective bargaining for public sector workers would destroy the union movement and significantly reduce the influence of labor in campaigns. Walker has already shown his colors and intent when he was caught in a radio prank. On Feb. 23, Ian Murphy, editor of The Buffalo Beast, pretended to be billionaire David Koch, a supporter of far-right causes, and a major contributor to Walker’s gubernatorial campaign. Punked by the 20-minute call, Walker seemed to be little more than a sycophant for Big Business. The Republicans’ reaction? Instead of worrying about possible ethics violations by the governor, the Republicans planted a bill into the legislature to criminalize prank phone calls

LIE: The unions are greedy and won’t budge.

FACTS: The 267,000 Wisconsin public sector workers, as well as all elected officials, Democrat and Republican, do pay very little to their pensions. However, the unions have already said they’d be willing to pay a higher contribution, essentially taking an 8 percent pay cut, and negotiate fairly other parts of the contracts. Gov. Walker not only refused to budge on his autocratic stand, he refused to take calls from elected Democrats and bluntly told the Milwaukee Journal, “I don’t have anything to negotiate.”

LIE: Gov. Walker’s proposal affects every union in Wisconsin.

TRUTH: He exempted firefighters and police from his draconian assault upon unions, possibly because he was attempting to get support from the first responders, while mining sympathy from the public. What he didn’t count on was that the firefighters and police unions are firm in their opposition to the abolishment of collective bargaining.

LIE: Gov. Walker says he’s just helping the worker when he argues for elimination of the “dues check-off,” saying the workers would have more disposable income.

TRUTH: Eliminating dues check-off would cripple unions, which would have to rely solely upon voluntary contributions.

LIE: Gov. Walker enjoys wide-spread support for his stand against the unions.

TRUTH: Walker has been governor less than two months. If the election were repeated, he’d receive only about 45 percent of the vote, according to the independent Public Policy Polling (PPP) of Raleigh, N.C. More important, while only 3 percent of Republicans voted for Tom Barratt, the Democratic candidate in the November election, 10 percent of the Republicans say they’d vote for him in a new election, according to PPP. The Republican governors of Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Indiana have said they will not follow Walker’s lead, and will support the rights of public workers to bargain collectively. The massive protests in Wisconsin—more than 100,000 in Madison on the same day—and throughout the nation give evidence that Walker doesn’t have the popularity he and his supporters believe. A New York Times/CBS poll, released March 1, indicates only about one-third of the nation supports the campaign against public sector collective bargaining. A week earlier, an independent USA Today/Gallup poll had almost the same results.

LIE: The protestors are unruly, and should be arrested for violating the law.

TRUTH: The First Amendment gives people the right to assemble peacefully. There have been no arrests because there have been no crimes committed by the protestors. Further, when the governor and the Legislature demanded that protestors be thrown out of the state capitol, and not allowed to stay overnight, the chief of the Capitol Police refused to do so, believing the order was a violation of Constitutional rights. In contrast, Walker had actually considered, and then rejected, the idea of planting troublemakers among the protestors—a “dirty trick” that dates back to the ’60s.

LIE: Public sector union workers are overpaid.

TRUTH: A USA Today analysis, published March 1, shows that, on average, public service workers, with wages and benefits included, are paid about $2,500 more per year than those in the private sector. In Wisconsin, the difference is only about $1,800. However, government workers usually are “older and substantially better educated than private sector workers,” according to researchers Robert Pollin and Jeffrey Thompson, professors of economics at the University of Massachusetts. But, again contrary to the lies spewed by the anti-worker Rabid Right, individual union workers, when compared to the same criteria as private sector workers, actually earn 4 percent less income, according to the Center for Economic Policy Research. In Wisconsin, public sector union workers actually earn 4.8 percent less total compensation, according to research published in February by the Economic Policy Institute. One statistic stands out. “The average member of AFSCME, our largest public-sector union, earns less than $45,000 a year,” says author/journalist Bill Press, “and retires after a career in public service with a whopping pension of $19,000 per year.”

LIE: Public service union workers are lazier than non-unionized private sector workers.

TRUTH: Strong labor unions generally have higher productivity, according to independent research done by Harley Shaiken of the University of California, because there are not only better work conditions, but also a better-educated workforce, less turnover, and better communication between management and labor.

Walter Brasch, during a 40-year work career in mass communications has been a member of several unions, in both the private and public sectors. He is a syndicated newspaper columnist and the author of 16 books, including With Just Cause: Unionization of the American Journalist. He can be contacted at walterbrasch@gmail.com