By Lenny Goldberg, California Tax Reform Association, and Roy Ulrich, Goldman School of Public Policy at U.C. Berkeley
(This article first appeared in the California Progress Report.)
Jerry Brown’s most recent budget proposal takes a meat ax to vital programs, including Medi-Cal and in home support services (IHHS). Why do we refer to them as “vital?” IHHS, for example, helps the disabled and seniors live safely in their own homes, thus obviating the need to place them in more costly outside facilities.
The governor’s plan represents the latest and worst in a spending cuts-only approach which California seems to specialize in. Reaping the benefits of this approach are the rich and powerful. The losers are those without high-priced lobbyists: the poor and the weak.
There are several potential revenue sources the rich and powerful have been able to avoid while other states,
Here’s a fun fact you probably didn’t know: Arizona’s notorious SB 1070 law was born in a Walmart.
Yes, the inspiration for the most draconian anti-immigrant legislation in the nation, a measure that permits law enforcement to ask about immigration status, one that swings the door wide open for racial profiling—SB 1070—reportedly sprang from a moment of inspiration at a Walmart checkstand.
This origins story is brought to you courtesy of the Ministry of Citizenship, a faux MinuteMan-style group that purports to be a fan of the legislation. According to the Ministry, it happened this way: state representative Russell Pearce, the measure’s sponsor, “hatched the idea for SB 1070 late one night while waiting in the checkout line at Walmart.”
“Here I was just trying to buy some Cheetos and cat litter, and the crowds were just horrendous,” the Ministry quotes Pearce as saying.
Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers and long-time activist who has lent her strength to countless social and economic justice fights, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama on Tuesday.
“Dolores was very gracious when I told her I had stolen her slogan, ‘Si, se puede.’ Yes, we can,” Obama joked during the ceremony. “Knowing her, I’m pleased she let me off easy, because Dolores does not play.”
He explained that throughout Huerta’s work, “She has fought to give more people a seat at the table. ‘Don’t wait to be invited,’ she says, ‘Step in there.’”
“I was humbled, thrilled, and surprised. I never expected to be nominated,” Huerta, 82, told the Daily Beast about the honor. She said the medal highlights the power of “organizing at the grassroots level,” and “how important that is in keeping our democracy alive.”
David Brooks, the usually buttoned-down columnist for the New York Times, succumbed recently to a peculiar eruption of Id. Like many of his fellow conservatives, he’s in a snit about The Life of Julia, an Obama campaign slideshow that portrays the title character benefiting from federal programs like Head Start and Social Security. (See my previous article here.) Brooks casts Julia as a “vision of government as national Sugar Daddy, delivering free money and goodies up and down the life cycle.” My attention was riveted by that term, “Sugar Daddy,” which doesn’t just refer, say, to a rich uncle, but to an older man who showers gifts on a young woman, often, by implication, in return for sexual favors. It’s difficult to imagine Brooks taking a detour into so dark a recess of the imagination if it had been The Life of James.
Economic development in Arizona is now by corporations for corporations and the public is left to in the dark as to how its tax dollars are spent. Last year the state’s Department of Commerce was replaced by the public-private Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA), steered by a board of mostly corporate representatives. The ACA’s website picture shows the board of directors as Governor Jan Brewer with 18 corporate titans. The bottom of the page mentions a smaller number of “ex-officio” public officials associated with the board who aren’t named or pictured.
Though not listed on the website, the ACA also depends on corporate donations for its office space, its corporate-sized CEO salary, and much of its operating budget. The arrangement would pose unsettling conflict-of-interest problems for any authority that performs a public function.
But this isn’t just any agency. Its task is to try boosting the state economy by handing out taxpayer-financed subsidies to individual companies of its choosing.
It’s hard to know where to begin. A co-worker walked onto the restaurant floor after her break. She was shaking her head. She’d been on the computer downstairs.
“It’s official,” she said. “Obama was born in Kenya. He wasn’t born in America.”
I took a deep breath. The kind normally reserved for hearing alien abduction stories. The kind of deep breath I have to take before telling my nephews that there is no monster living in their closet. The kind of deep breath I take before watching Fox News.
What I find fascinating, appalling and comical about “Birther” conspiracy theories is that it doesn’t matter how many times Obama himself shows his birth certificate. They all derive from the notion that President Obama is not being honest with us. That he is lying.
A recent post by the right-leaning Breitbart.com might even explain the origin of the Obama birthplace rumors.
We all know the wealthy and well-connected are accustomed to playing by their own set of rules. Their high-powered lawyers and lobbyists write special exemptions for them the rest of us would never be able to get.
For instance, G.E. made $14.2 billion in profits yet paid no taxes to the federal government – in fact, they got a refund. Despite crashing our economy and getting a massive bailout from taxpayers, the big banks somehow evade meaningful financial industry regulations. Corporate CEOs are slashing the jobs, wages and retirement of rank-and-file workers, but still giving themselves record bonuses and golden parachutes.
It’s not that there aren’t rules that we should all live by to make this a more fair and equitable society. It’s just that the very wealthy know how to get around those rules by creating a maze of exemptions that allow them to gain even more power at our expense.
The president’s re-election campaign recently unveiled an Internet slideshow demonstrating to women some possible consequences of their votes this fall. The Life of Julia, a mini-biography in 11 episodes, has an imaginary toddler, Julia, enrolling in a Head Start program, a 27-year-old Web-designer Julia benefiting from mandated preventive health care coverage, and a retiree Julia living “comfortably” on Social Security. And it contrasts the fate of these programs under Obama and Romney policies. Visually engaging but hardly dramatic, well-pitched but far from edgy as campaign advertising, The Life of Julia, I am tempted to say, is not all that interesting in itself.
Not so the conservative response to Julia. Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, pronounced the slideshow “creepy” and “demeaning.” Julia’s life is “banal and hackneyed,” wrote William Bennett, in a more literary frame of mind. Ross Douthat perceived liberal “condescension” at every turn of Julia’s fictional life.
(The following action alert comes from ClimatePlan.org; news of the alert first appeared at Housing California, which lists 18 Los Angeles County projects that could be affected by the transfer of housing construction funds.)
Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is considering using unencumbered housing funds from former redevelopment agencies to balance the 2012-13 state budget. Such a sweep would impact at least 175 pipeline developments poised to create 23,455 construction-phase jobs in the next two years.
In recent comments to the Sacramento Bee, Steinberg raised the possibility of abandoning his SB 654, which would preserve the low-mod balances for their original intended use. A survey indicates this move would threaten construction of at least 10,215 homes that were counting on the availability of redevelopment funding to move forward.
Key Assembly members recognize the value of the jobs and taxes generated by home construction,
This week the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor sent letters to every elected official in L.A. County (including Congress members), urging them to return all campaign contributions they may have received from Walmart – and to refuse future donations from the retail giant. The letter, which is signed by a broad spectrum of union leaders, juxtaposes Walmart’s alleged bribery scheme in Mexico with L.A. City Hall’s quick approval of the corporation’s permits for a new store in Chinatown. (The letter’s text appears below.)
“It doesn’t take campaign finance reform,” the signatories say, “to prevent Walmart from wrapping its tentacles around our political system in L.A. County.”
(The following post first appeared May 1 on Truthdig.)
By Bill Boyarsky
By chance, the revelation of how Apple evades millions of dollars in taxes broke three days before May Day, when workers of the world traditionally protest such injustice.
Although the Apple practices aren’t illegal, the dodging of taxes on revenue generated, to a large extent, by low-wage Chinese workers, was a perfect introduction to this year’s May 1 observance, highlighted by the Occupy movement’s call for strikes and demonstrations around the country. The goal: Protest corporate domination of an economy being pulled downward by growing income inequality and intractable unemployment.
The New York Times reported that the technology company has used loopholes to reduce its tax bills in 21 states and overseas by billions of dollars annually by creating subsidiaries in places with low-tax or no-tax policies.
(The following announcement has previously appeared on other Web sites, including LA Progressive.)
Practically everyone has an opinion about Obama’s health care, but few understand it, according to the latest Associated Press poll. The future of the president’s Affordable Care Act lies in the hands of the Supreme Court, which is expected to make a decision on the Act’s constitutionality in June. Meanwhile 40 million people are without health insurance.
A free public conference – Health Care: Where Are We Now? — will address the health-care debate:
Saturday, May 12, from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
at Pasadena City College, Harbeson Hall
1570 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
A coalition of community based organizations in Southern California led by the League of Women Voters Pasadena and Health Care for All – San Gabriel Valley is sponsoring the conference.
Other organizations include Physicians for a National Health Program,
Republican legislators in Michigan have a new target, the Michigan Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC). Apparently at the behest of industry lobbyists, GOP Representative Joe Haveman proposed limiting the funding of public universities that allow their students to get internship credits for working with ROC.
The cause is rather specific: a few interns participated in a picket line outside Andiamo, an Italian restaurant in Dearborn, near Detroit. Workers had sought to get paid overtime and get the owner to stop making them pay for their uniforms, among other demands. The company’s response (alleged surveillance and intimidation) led to several NLRB charges and a AFL-CIO sponsored boycott. The good news is, the dispute was settled back in May, 2011. The protests in question occurred back in 2009 and 2010.
As this blog post shows, restaurant industry folks weren’t too pleased, and thus the proposed new rule. The governor’s not in favor,
By Zack Kaldveer
Consumer Federation of California
As California families continue to reel from the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression, health insurance premium rates have soared by 153 percent since 2002, nearly five times the rate of inflation.
Businesses are finding it difficult to pay for these rate hikes, and pass the increased costs on to workers. Business owners and employees are forced to absorb these rising costs or search for less expensive – and less comprehensive – coverage options.
This injustice isn’t so hard to comprehend considering only four insurance companies control 71 percent of the California market – setting premiums behind closed doors and without accountability.
While businesses and families struggle to pay unaffordable premiums that have double digit increases every year and workers face high unemployment and stagnant wages, Blue Shield lavished its CEO with a $4.6 million salary and then proposed premium rate hikes as high as 59 percent in 2011 (but later revoked the proposal due to a massive public outcry).
(Note: This post first appeared April 28 on L.A. Progressive.)
According to US Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, more people die in the American workplace in a single year than have been lost in nine years of war in Iraq. “Each day in America, twelve people go to work and never go home,” she told the audience at the Action Summit for Worker Safety and Health held at East Los Angeles Community College on April 26, one of many events leading up to Workers Memorial Day, April 28, an annual date of remembrance for those killed, injured, or sickened on the job.
María Elena Durazo, Executive-Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, reported there were 500 work-related deaths in 2011 in California and “Workers are still being fired for speaking out in order to avoid death.”
This loss of life and countless serious injuries,
Three weeks ago March Madness in Washington gave way to April Apoplexy, a time when conservatives put aside the boring tasks of creating jobs, loosening credit and saving people’s homes in order to follow their true passion – kicking the ladder away from Americans who are trying to climb up to better lives. And what easier way to do this than to gut the work of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), an agency that has become a favorite chew toy of Congressional right-wingers?
Remember the doomsday predictions made by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others when the NLRB insisted that businesses put up the board’s tiny poster advising employees of their rights? That teapot tempest is now clogging up the federal courts, thanks to the chamber, but such mischief is nothing compared to what the chamber’s caddies in Congress have been up to.
The Supreme Court’s deliberation on the Affordable Care Act goes to the heart of differing visions of the American concept of “freedom” and “liberty.” It’s a debate worth having.
In court this week, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. described what real freedom looks like. “There will be millions of people with chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease,” he said, “and as a result of the health care that they will get, they will be unshackled from the disabilities that those diseases put on them and have the opportunity to enjoy the blessings of liberty.”
Verrilli’s argument evokes FDR’s famous “Four Freedoms Speech” that included freedom from “want” and “fear.”
FDR repeatedly articulated and elaborated upon those ideals. On June 8, 1934, in a special message to Congress he said:
“[I]n the earlier days, the interdependence of members of families upon each other and of the families within a small community upon each other” [provided fulfillment and security.] “The complexities of great communities and of organized industry make less real these simple means of security.
Segretti, of course, was the Nixon operative who specialized in “ratfucking” – waging covert political warfare designed to embarrass Democrats running for office through forging inflammatory letters in their names and other deceits. Convicted as a Watergate conspirator, Segretti faded from history but his antics would be refined and expanded upon by Karl Rove and, later still, by James O’Keefe, who infamously showed up at ACORN offices impersonating a pimp in order to discredit the nonprofit group.
New York Times writer Michael Powell now presents an alarming overview of how contemporary ratfuckers have geared up to sabotage progressive organizations and political candidates. The piece revolves around John M. Howting, a young man who recently walked into the offices of a community action group,
It was quite a sucker punch Walmart landed against the community last week in the über-retailer’s fight to open a 33,000-square-foot store in L.A.’s Chinatown. The shot sneaked in, quick, low and hard–but ultimately didn’t end the match.
The scene last week: Los Angeles City Council chambers in City Hall, minutes before a unanimous March 23 vote on an emergency motion to temporarily ban chain stores (such as Walmart) from opening in the historic Chinatown neighborhood.
Suddenly, a startling announcement by a city bureaucrat—Walmart has obtained the permits needed to move forward in Chinatown—okayed only the day before the critical City Council vote.
The head of L.A.’s Department of Building and Safety himself, Robert R. “Bud” Ovrom, was there to deliver the news and further clarify the situation—namely, that the proposed ban would not interfere with the World’s Largest Retailer’s Chinatown plans.
Assemblymember Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa), elected in 2010, has so far made a career out of demonizing workers and attacking workers’ rights. From collective bargaining to pensions, Mansoor never saw a cherished worker right he didn’t hate. Last year, he even took time to honor anti-union Midwest legislators, whom he calls “courageous” and with whom he stands “in solidarity.”
It’s not surprising, then, that he’s become something of a shill for the campaign to silence workers’ political voice through this fall’s corporate power grab initiative. According to the Pacifica Institute, Mansoor vocally supports the measure, which proponents deceptively call the “Stop Special Interest Money Now Act,” arguing that it will limit “the influence of special interest money.” (Of course nothing could be further from the truth. It’s nothing other than a muzzle on workers that will make our system even more corrupt,