Two hundred and thirty six years ago, in January 1776, Thomas Paine published Common Sense, the wildly popular pamphlet that made the case for American freedom and helped to spark a revolution.
This year, the Tea Party hopes to turn the 2012 elections into a fight for American freedom. Their first salvo — the electric light bulb. Last month, they threatened to shut down the government unless new energy efficiency standards for light bulbs were delayed. They didn’t delay the standards but they succeeded in delaying their implementation. The final budget deal prohibits the Department of Energy from spending any funds on the new rules.
In 2007, Congress passed The Energy Independence and Security Act that included a provision authored by Republican Congressman Fred Upton giving light bulb manufacturers until 2012 to produce light bulbs that used 25 percent less energy than old-fashioned, energy wasting incandescent bulbs.
Not long after the Los Angeles social upheaval of 1992, Mayor Tom Bradley tapped Warren Christopher, former Secretary of State under Bill Clinton, and a long-time Angeleno, to lead a panel examining the issues surrounding what is still the most costly urban riot in American history. As part of his study, Christopher convened a group of clergy. He wanted to know what our parishioners may have told us about their interactions with officers of the police department that they might not say in public.
Late in the meeting, Christopher asked if we had any perspective on the role of religion in public office. There was a moment of silence, then we said something like this: People expect elected officials to hold some faith-informed values, but they don’t want politicians to impose their religion on everyone else.
This experience comes back to me in the noise and glare of the Republican presidential primaries.
It’s official: Frightwing Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Santa Clarita) will have the newly redrawn 25th District all to himself, since fellow conservative Elton Gallegly announced January 7 that he will not contest the seat – which swallows up Gallegly’s home in the old 24th District. While perhaps not as big a news item as the retirement of the party’s state Congressional delegation leader Jerry Lewis (R-Redlands), Gallegly’s surrender means McKeon, 73, will inherit the cop suburb of Simi Valley (home also to the Reagan Library) and one of the most entrenched conservative strongholds in Los Angeles County.
Buck McKeon’s fiefdom has always been something of an anomaly. The old configuration of his 25th District was a gerrymander-shaped creature that began at the eastern Ventura County Line and stretched across forest and desert to the Nevada border, then swung up along the state line all the way north to a position almost parallel with Sacramento.
The morning after covering the New Hampshire primary, American Prospect and Washington Post commentator Harold Meyerson was getting over a bad cold, but answered a few questions about whether the conservative electorate was becoming more sympathetic to populist pitches.
Frying Pan News: All of a sudden pro-business presidential candidates have been backpedaling or “clarifying” the red-meat comments that they’ve been throwing to their base – comments deriding Americans who are too lazy to be millionaires, or celebrating the joy of firing people. Are candidates suddenly feeling the average person’s pain?
Harold Meyerson: I think Mitt Romney crossed the line when he said he likes firing people. When Romney says it his background as a venture capitalist comes into play. As an actor he’s precisely the guy central casting would send to play a Wall Street executive.
FPN: So you don’t think the Republican candidates will be playing the populist card?
On February 1, 2012, I will be out of a job. That’s because at 12:01 a.m., more than 400 California redevelopment agencies will go out of business, including the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency (LACRA), where I have served as a volunteer (meaning unpaid) commissioner for nine-and-a-half years. California’s $6 billion annual economic development program used by cities to revitalize distressed neighborhoods will disappear.
This is happening because of the legislature’s adoption of Assembly Bill 26X, which was upheld by the California Supreme Court on December 29, 2011. While the consequences for me are different than for the hundreds of LACRA employees who will eventually lose their livelihoods, it’s still a personal blow.
Because, for nine-and-a-half years I have devoted a significant amount of volunteer time to making redevelopment a winning proposition for low-income communities in Los Angeles. While I admit that I have not always been successful,
(Editor’s Note: This feature first appeared on Huffington Post.)
With one statement January 5, Newt Gingrich, who constantly reminds voters about his past as a college professor, managed to mangle the facts while resorting to old-fashioned racist stereotypes to gain votes. With his poll numbers sinking, and his presidential campaign desperate, Gingrich told a crowd at a senior citizens center in Plymouth, N.H., “I’m prepared, if the NAACP invites me, I’ll go to their convention and talk about why the African American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.”
“The fact is, if I become your nominee we will make the key test very simple: Food stamps versus paychecks,” said Gingrich hoping to appeal to conservative white voters in New Hampshire and in upcoming primaries in South Carolina, Florida and other southern states. “Obama is the best food stamp president in American history.
As dismal as things may seem, we Californians actually have a few things to look forward to. The fruits of reform efforts are ripening, with three common-sense laws making their influential debuts.
This new year will see a much-needed shake-up of the State Assembly and Senate. For decades legislators drew their own districts, ones that favored incumbents and decreased voters’ power. Thanks to the California Citizen’s Redistricting Commission created in 2008 and further empowered in 2010, our state finally has fair and honest State Assembly, State Senate and U.S. Congressional districts. Many current representatives find themselves in districts they are unlikely to win next year, and are making decisions to move to “safer” districts. This will pit many voters against Sacramento’s staunch culture of incumbency when party leaders run candidates in areas they haven’t represented in the past.
Voters will see another change at the ballots in the coming year.
In a recent blog post on the “value” of running government like a business, I had some fun pretending to agree with the mantra that government decisions are best made with a “business orientation.” As a non-profit leader for the past 30 years and a part-time public official for nearly 10, I have heard this “run government like a business” adage again and again, as though it were a biblical truth. Government is best run without emotion, I have been told, with a view toward gaining “efficiencies” and getting the job done as effectively as possible. Pay what’s necessary to get the “talent” at the top to get the job done and make decisions about “cutting” — and “saving” when it comes to everyone and everything else without regard to any sense of “morality” or emotion.
Of course it’s a really bad idea to run government like a gas station or bank —
This 2012 newspaper headline wishlist first appeared on the Labor Lou blog.
1) Gingrich Sews Up Nomination
Former House speaker clears the field as Romney pulls out
2) Scott Walker Recalled
Wisconsin voters remove unpopular Republican governor
3) Clinton, Biden Swap Jobs
Convention taps Hillary for VP; Biden will head State Department
4) OWS Veterans Get Political
Wall Street protesters energize Obama campaign
5) Clarence Thomas Resigns
Conflict of interest sinks Supreme Court justice
6) Unemployment Down, Consumer Confidence Up
Optimism rising as election nears
7) Democrats Take Back House
Pelosi promises progressive agenda
8) Demands Grow to Curtail Filibuster
Senate Republicans might lose their best weapon
9) Obama Makes Labor Reform “Top Priority”
Declares unions “Key to economic justice”
10) Court’s Conservative Majority Jeopardized by President’s Pick
Justices could revisit “Citizens United”
As a resident of Lincoln Heights, I’ve always been able to use public transportation to get around. I live in what you could call a “low-income transit village.” Most of the major bus lines that connect our region are within walking distance of my home. Bus lines like the 45 and 81 provide me access to South L.A. to visit friends, while the 84 and 251 connect me to my family in East and Southeast L.A. This is on top of the Gold line and all the destinations it opens up for me.
Unfortunately, easy access to public transportation is not available to many Angelenos. This is far more than an inconvenience, because often the communities that lack bus and rail options also suffer from high poverty and unemployment rates. For those fortunate enough to have a job, driving in many cases is not an affordable means to get around,
(This column first appeared in slightly longer form on Huffington Post.)
As a House back-bencher and then as Speaker, Newt Gingrich made his name as a fiery opponent of wasteful government spending. But, in fact, he was one of Congress’s biggest spenders.
Gingrich’s big-spending habit is perhaps the most important, but the least-known, of his many hypocrisies. When will a reporter — or one of Gingrich’s GOP opponents — ask him about this in one of the debates?
The twice-divorced Gingrich’s hypocrisy on “family values” is now well-known, yet there’s another example of Gingrich’s ethical double standard. Gingrich — who quarterbacked a successful effort to force House Speaker Jim Wright, a Texas Democrat, to resign over ethics violations in 1989 — was himself embroiled in an ethics scandal during much of his own speakership. Gingrich used GOPAC — his conservative fundraising operation —
It’s just not fair. For years, business and civic leaders have been telling public officials like me to “run government like a business.” Recruit top-flight executives who know how to get things done. Spend what’s necessary at the “top” so that the over-arching goals of the enterprise can be achieved. Get rid of all of that unnecessary bureaucratic “process” that just slows things down. Make the “deals” happen and get on with the business of government.
Unfortunately, when we do just that, we get slammed. In fact, an outside observer might point out that all of this emphasis on running government like a business is just a trap for the poor unsuspecting schlubs (a.k.a., government officials) who are just trying to do what they’re told.
Case in point is the situation at the Housing Authority of the City of L.A., responsible for all public housing in L.A.
Frank Luntz, the Republican pollster and messaging guru, gave a recent talk where he described his 10 biggest Do’s and Dont’s for talking about the economy in the post-Occupy Wall Street environment. It’s worth reviewing these 10 points and reflecting on what Luntz’s insights on behalf of the 1% tell us about how we can successfully talk about the issues we care about, on behalf of the 99%.
The main thing – the frightening thing – is that Luntz has a history of actually succeeding at changing the debate in America. Why? Because Republicans like Luntz are masters of the reductive fear phrase and it comes out all over his suggestions. These are the guys, after all, who turned inheritance duties into “death taxes” and from that, advisory health committees into “death panels.” But they’re clearly on the defensive here – for the time being.
Luntz begins his talk to the Republican base by admitting,
A little while ago, after the Long Beach City Council’s Elections Oversight Committee decided to consider revising the city’s lobbying ordinance to include the kind of 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations that I work with, nonprofits and their members filled the Council chambers to defend the ordinance as it was written, nonprofit exemption intact.
The distinctions between our work of and that of paid lobbyists seemed obvious. For starters, nonprofits are working for people not – um – profit. From the arts to autism, good jobs to good mental health, sustainable food to affordable housing, nonprofits representing a broad swath of Long Beach residents and issue areas drove the message home: “We’re not lobbyists.”
Beyond wearing stickers saying “people are our special interest,” each speaker teased out more of the things that set us apart from lobbyists. Unlike lobbyists, nonprofits have several federally regulated checks in place to ensure that the issues we work on and our funding streams (among many other things) are transparent to the public.
(This feature first appeared on L.A. Progressive. Reposted with author’s permission.)
Having captured the public’s rapt attention in just two short months but now facing increasingly well-coordinated and sometimes brutal police crackdowns, the Occupy Movement faces hard questions about its lasting impact. What will Occupy 2.0 look like, many want to know, and how will it get there?
If a meeting this past weekend between representatives from a half dozen Occupy encampments in California and perhaps 200 members of the California Progressive Caucus is any guide, the Occupy Movement has already enlisted several generations of progressive activists who are eager to support, leverage, and amplify the Occupiers’ ground-breaking work.
The meeting was, indeed, a kumbaya moment, one that suggests that the movement has embedded itself deeply into the progressive political psyche.
Gathering at the California Democratic Party’s Executive Board meeting this past weekend in Burlingame,
It’s been a while since the postman rang twice, but he won’t even be ringing once on Saturdays, if new proposals to downsize the U.S. Postal Service go into effect. Like so many of the economic wars being waged today, the attack against the post office doesn’t make financial sense. The USPS is immensely profitable and it is not a department of the federal government, nor are its operations paid for with tax money. It also remains one of the most efficient and popular services — putting a movie DVD in your mailbox may have been Netflix’s neat idea, but that company isn’t the outfit whose employees deliver those movies to your home.
And yet closing down the post office and parceling out its services (or at least, the profitable ones) to private companies occupies a special place in the ether dreams of anti-government radicals and free-market privateers.
“We’re off-budget,” Larry Brown recently told the Frying Pan,
There’s something eerily Orwellian about the recent blog post, by L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce president Gary Toebben, entitled “L.A. Should Vote Down New Bureaucracy to Regulate Banks.” Mr. Toebben claims that a proposed new city ordinance that would reward banks that act responsibly toward L.A. consumers with the city’s deposits is “overly burdensome” and an “unnecessary regulation.” This is because, Mr. Toebben argues, “the federal government oversees a heavily regulated banking industry” — implying that businesses like banks and other job creators need to be left free to make lots of money, create lots of jobs so that the benefits can trickle down to everyone else.
The banking industry in the United States is “heavily regulated?” Really? Did the L.A. chamber somehow miss the great recession of 2008? You know, that one where the under-regulated banks got into so much trouble that we had to spend more than $700 billion in taxpayer money to bail them out?
These days people complain a lot about government. Our California state legislature continuously gets low marks for (not) getting things done. But as the October 9 deadline passed for Gov. Jerry Brown to sign or veto legislation passed by our state lawmakers, I decided to check on the state legislative analyst site to see what Sacramento actually did this year. (You can check bills here yourself.) I was amazed. Despite a less-than-perfect process for including the voices of all Californians, our legislators got a huge amount accomplished in 2011.
Now I know that a lot of people are worried that politicians make too much money, have too many perks, skate the edge of good ethics and high integrity. But I think that our state senate, headed by Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacto), and our state assembly, headed by speaker John Perez (D-L.A.), deserve some constituent love. You guys did a great job this year.
The protesters challenging the big banks and the super-rich won a dramatic victory in Los Angeles on Thursday, as I describe below. OneWest Bank, the biggest bank based in Southern California, and Fannie Mae, stopped their foreclosure and eviction against Rose Gudiel, a working class homeowner, in response to a brilliantly executed protest movement by community and union activists.
The question facing the activists is this: Is the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon a moment of protest or a movement for sustained change? Will Rose Gudiel become the Rosa Parks of a new economic justice movement?
As I write in The Nation (in the October 24 issue, now on-line), “If the Occupy Wall Street activists join forces with the unions and community groups, they could catalyze a massive nationwide movement to resist foreclosures and block evictions. They could also put pressure on local and state lawmakers to pass tougher legislation.
Despite my Texas upbringing, I, like many people, viewed Rick Perry’s galloping onto the national scene with equal parts horror (he is scary) and “Here we go again.” This guy genuinely questions climate change, genuinely questions evolution, executes human beings with historic vigor and believes government should be virtually dismantled – regardless of the impacts on the poor, the aged or anybody else — except when it helps the corporations he favors.
That said, there is one striking aberration in his human indifference agenda: Like his predecessor, George W. Bush, Perry acknowledges – to some degree – the contribution of immigration, legal or otherwise, to the economic health of Texas and the country. In fact – and this is killing him on the campaign trail – he has supported in-state tuition for the children of undocumented immigrants in Texas. He even said at the most recent debate in Florida that not supporting such policies meant you don’t have a heart.