Three steps for progressive resistance and rebuilding as Trump era launches

protest-wage

People protest in support of a higher minimum wage in New York in 2015. (Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg)

As the new year begins, any honest progressive knows the political outlook is bleak. But if we’re going to limit the damage that President-elect Donald Trump inflicts on the country, then despair is not an option. The real question, as Democracy Alliance President Gara LaMarche recently said, “is how you fight intelligently and strategically when every house is burning down.”

Indeed, with Trump and Republicans in Congress aggressively pushing a right-wing agenda, progressives will need to invest their resources and attention where they can do the most good — both now and over the next four years. With that in mind, here are three steps to take to resist and rebuild as the Trump administration gets underway.

First, while strong national leadership is certainly important, progressives must recognize that the most significant resistance to Trump won’t take place in Washington. It’s going to happen in the streets led by grass-roots activists, and in communities, city halls and statehouses nationwide.

There is real potential for cities and states to act as a bulwark against Trump’s agenda. On immigration, for example, a coalition of mayors from across the country — including New York and Los Angeles but also cities throughout the Rust Belt and the South — are already coordinating to fight Trump’s deportation plans. Local Progress, a national network of city and county officials, is working to protect civil rights and advance economic and social justice. And while the Trump administration may ravage the environment, cities and states can also continue the fight against global warming; in particular, California has the potential to become a global leader on the issue, and Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has defiantly pledged to move forward with plans to slash carbon emissions in the state regardless of Trump’s policies.

Cities and states also give progressives an opportunity to play offense by advancing policies that truly improve people’s lives, while providing a concrete and actionable blueprint for the rest of the country. Take the Fight for $15. Last year, 25 states, cities and counties approved minimum-wage increases that will result in raises for millions of workers nationwide. And despite Trump’s hostility to workers, there are campaigns to increase the minimum wage planned in at least 13 states and other localities over the next two years, representing a real chance to build on that progress.

The Post’s Abby Phillip explores some of the questions Democrats are facing after Hillary Clinton’s defeat against Donald Trump in the presidential election. (Bastien Inzaurralde/The Washington Post)

Second, as New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman writes, “We need a broad commitment from activists and donors to take back state governments.” Even if Democrats do well in the midterm elections, they are unlikely to regain control of Congress until after the next round of redistricting, in 2020. Yet there will be 87 state legislative chambers and 36 gubernatorial seats up for grabs in 2018. Progressives would be wise to adopt a laserlike focus on winning these races.

A strong performance at the state level in 2018 would do more than improve progressives’ ability to combat Trump’s policies. It would also help create a stronger pipeline of leaders who could eventually run for higher office, following in the steps of incoming House members Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.). Crucially, it would also give progressive Democrats more influence over congressional redistricting in 2020, boosting the party’s prospects at the national level. For that reason, it’s noteworthy that President Obama is planning to get involved in state legislative elections and redistricting after he leaves office, though grass-roots efforts will remain paramount.

And third, it will be critical for progressive leaders in Washington to amplify local progress to drive a national message. In the absence of a single party leader — especially one whose success depends on compromising with congressional Republicans — there is more room for strong, populist progressive voices to emerge in opposition to Trump.

Already, Sens. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Jeff Merkley (Ore.) are stepping up,and they will be joined in the House by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, whose members will play a key role in recruiting and running progressive candidates, connecting with grass-roots movements and driving local issues into the national sphere. Working alongside activist groups, progressive Democrats can present a clear alternative vision for the nation.

To that end, the race for Democratic National Committee chair presents a significant opportunity to shift the party’s direction. Regardless of who prevails, progressives would be wise to insist on a return to the 50-state strategy that former chairman Howard Dean championed and that all of the current candidates say they support. Ultimately, the party’s fortunes will depend on recruiting a new generation of progressive leaders, especially women and people of color, who can harness the power of social movements and drive it into electoral politics — everywhere in the country, at every level of government.

January 3 at 8:02 AM

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/three-steps-for-progressive-resistance-and-rebuilding-as-trump-era-launches/2017/01/03/c52908d8-d112-11e6-a783-cd3fa950f2fd_story.html?utm_term=.8a7f0559709f

Is Donald Trump’s Cabinet Anti-Woman?

anti-women

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Donald J. Trump’s campaign was dogged by accusations of misogyny. Now his cabinet is shaping up to be one of the most hostile in recent memory to issues affecting women, advocacy groups for women say. Tax credits for child care and the prospect of paid maternity leave are exceptions to a host of positions that could result in new restrictions on abortion and less access to contraception, limits on health care that disproportionately affect women and minorities and curbs on funding for domestic violence, as well as slowing the momentum toward raising the minimum wage or making progress on equal pay.

Consider their positions on these issues.

Domestic violence

Jeff Sessions, Mr. Trump’s selection for attorney general; Tom Price, chosen for Health and Human Services secretary; and Mike Pompeo, the pick for C.I.A. director, all voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act in 2013, which funds shelters and services for victims of domestic violence, because of amendments extending protections to L.G.B.T. victims. The act is up for reauthorization next year.

Pay discrimination and equal pay

Senator Sessions and Representative Price also voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which extended the statute of limitations to allow women to sue for pay discrimination.

Mr. Sessions, as well as Elaine Chao, Mr. Trump’s choice for transportation secretary, opposed the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would have strengthened federal equal pay laws for women.

Minimum wage

Ms. Chao, in her tenure as secretary of labor in the George W. Bush administration, opposed raising the minimum wage. President-elect Trump generally opposed raising the federal minimum wage during the campaign, although he occasionally contradicted himself. Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, points out that two-thirds of minimum-wage earners are women, who dominate fields with low-paying service jobs.

Mr. Trump, who supported the right to abortion as recently as 1999, opposed abortion during the campaign. And so do almost all of his cabinet picks, including Betsy DeVos, his nominee for education secretary; Nikki Haley, for ambassador to the United Nations; and Ms. Chao. Governor Haley signed a bill into law in South Carolina banning abortions from 20 weeks, a rollback from the medically established viability standard of 24 to 26 weeks.  Ben Carson, his nominee for Housing and Urban Development, is a longtime abortion foe.

In Congress, Senator Sessions and Representatives Price and Pompeo have consistently voted for abortion restrictions, including a ban on abortions after 20 weeks and against funding for Planned Parenthood and Title X, because abortion is included in these family planning services.

A Trump administration may well restrict funding for family planning or abortion in programs overseas to which the United States contributes.

Contraception

In Congress, Mr. Sessions, Mr. Price and Mr. Pompeo all voted against requiring employers to provide health care plans that included contraception, citing religious liberty.

In an exchange that went viral in 2012, Mr. Price scoffed at the notion that any woman could not afford contraception as part of his opposition to the Affordable Care Act, which requires contraceptive coverage without co-payments as well as a range of other preventive services for women. “Bring me one woman who has been left behind,” he said at the Conservative Political Action Conference. “Bring me one. There’s not one.”

As numerous women’s advocacy groups have demonstrated, high co-payments for birth control have been a significant deterrent for many women.

Medicare and Medicaid

Mr. Price proposes offering states lump sums, known as block grants, for Medicaid. These measures could disproportionately hurt women, particularly poor and minority women, since they would end up reducing the amount of federal money going to the states for health care. Medicaid is the main source of health care for low-income women, providing prenatal and maternity care as well as paying for nursing home care, which affects women more because they live longer. Under Obamacare, federal money to expand Medicaid has helped to narrow a longstanding gap in health care between blacks and whites.

Mr. Price has also proposed that the federal government provide a contribution that could be applied to private insurance or Medicare. Some fear those changes would hurt women because they become sicker as they age and would be more likely to exceed a fixed federal contribution.

“They will frame this as flexibility, but it’s about the federal government paying less or making it easier for states to cut back on services,” said Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families.

Take Action: Tell Your Legislators to Raise the Wage

Here are two things you can do:

1) Take one minute right now to send a message to your legislators telling them that you support raising the wage in Oregon: bit.ly/rwolegislator

2) Join Raise the Wage for a Rally in the Capitol this Thursday, January 14 at 3:45 p.m.Follow this link to register bit.ly/rwojanuary and please email me (michelle@noworegon.org) if you plan to attend.

legislature

Questions for Those Who Oppose Raising the Minimum Wage

November 2015

by Chuck Sheketoff

Tomorrow’s Friday Forum at the City Club of Portland should be a great one, revolving around the club’s recently released report Portland Needs a Higher Minimum Wage (PDF).

The report, the product of a six-month investigation by the club’s research committee, rightly concludes that Portland needs a higher minimum wage and that the legislature ought to remove the law that preempts the city from lifting the wage floor above the statewide minimum. The study also found that a “report by the Oregon Center for Public Policy effectively refutes the” canard that minimum wage increases will be mostly offset by loss of public benefits.

I won’t be surprised if at tomorrow’s Forum opponents issue the familiar “the-sky-will-fall for small businesses” type objections to raising the minimum wage, either locally or statewide. When they do, I hope panelists and City Club members asking questions will challenge the naysayers and educate the audience.

The last time that the legislature raised the minimum wage was in 1989. The increase enacted then upped the minimum wage by 42 percent over less than a two-year period.

That increase was in the same ballpark as what’s being discussed now. For instance, raising the minimum wage to $13.50 (by January 2018 or 2019 according to filed proposals) would amount to a 46 percent increase. In other words, what’s being discussed now is not new. We did it before, and the Oregon economy kept cruising along.

I want to know from the naysayers, ”How do you explain that Oregon’s economy has in the past absorbed a minimum wage increase of a magnitude similar to what is being discussed right now?”

I want to know from small business naysayers, ”How did your small business weather the 1989 increase? Tell us what worked.”

Following the 42 percent minimum wage increase fully phased in in 1991, small businesses experienced nearly a decade of uninterrupted growth. The small business sector found a way to adjust to that increase and others with no apparent impact.

I want to know from the naysayers, “How do you explain that past minimum wage increases have not dented small business growth in our state?”

We can and should learn from history. Our economy in general and small businesses in particular have not only weathered similar increases, they have flourished. I hope we learn how that happened at tomorrow’s Friday Forum to allay the concerns of opponents.


This post was originally published on www.blueoregon.com on November 5, 2015. The original post can be found at http://www.blueoregon.com/2015/11/questions-those-who-oppose-raising-minimum-wage/.

– See more at: http://www.ocpp.org/2015/11/05/blog20151105-questions-minimum-wage-oregon/#sthash.sZ1ZIp4C.dpuf

See more at: http://www.ocpp.org/2015/11/05/blog20151105-questions-minimum-wage-oregon/#sthash.sZ1ZIp4C.dpuf

Facebook Just Improved Wages and Benefits for Contracted Employees

by on • 1:39 PM

Facebook Incorporated Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg announced today that the social media powerhouse will be requiring improved benefits from its contractors, including higher pay, paid leave, and a $4,000 new child benefit.

rvlsoft / Shutterstock.com

Sandberg stated that contracted workers’ new benefits will include a $15 minimum wage, a minimum of 15 paid leave days for holidays, sick time, and vacation, and $4,000 in child care benefits for new parents who do not receive paid parental leave. As Sandberg acknowledged, these new requirements particularly benefit women workers.

“Women, because they comprise about two-thirds of minimum wage workers nationally, are particularly affected by wage adjustments,” explained Sandberg. “Research also shows that providing adequate benefits contributes to a happier and ultimately more productive workforce.

“Now Congress should follow the lead of Facebook and many cities and states and raise the federal minimum wage and pass paid sick days for U.S. workers,” commented Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal who praised Facebook’s action. “Today almost half of women workers to do have one day of paid sick leave. It’s inhumane,” said Smeal.

The new standards at Facebook will affect food-service workers, janitorial staff, security guards, and other contracted workers. Sandberg hopes to implement these benefits to a broader set of vendors within the year.

The company “expects to bear the cost of the new standards as vendors increase their rates,” according to the Wall Street Journal. “We think it’s the right thing to do with our community and the right thing to do with our business,” Sandberg said. “So we think it’s an expense worth bearing.”

Media Resources: Facebook Newsroom 5/12/15; Wall Street Journal 5/13/15;

http://feminist.org/blog/index.php/2015/05/13/facebook-just-improved-wages-and-benefits-for-contracted-employees/

Working, But Still Poor – Oregon Center for Public Policy

Working, But Still Poor – Oregon Center for Public Policy.

Working, But Still Poor

by Tyler Mac Innis

A View of the State of Working Oregon

Work is not a sure path out of poverty. The official poverty line, based on a formula developed in the early 1960s, underestimates what it takes to make ends meet today. But even with the bar set too low by an outdated calculation, some employers pay too little to lift many working Oregon families above the poverty line.

Lawmakers can enact policies that will lift low-wage workers out of poverty and help them get ahead. Lawmakers should increase Oregon’s minimum wage and enact rules that better protect workers from dishonest employers who steal wages. They should also better fund services that help low-paid working families succeed, such as child care subsidies and job training for workers with dependent children.

Families living in poverty often confront barriers to employment, such as physical or mental health problems, children’s health issues, domestic violence and lack of affordable child care.[1]

Nonetheless, most families with children living in poverty in Oregon are working families. In other words, a poor child in Oregon likely has a working parent.

In 2013, among Oregon’s poor families, more than seven out of 10 (72 percent) had at least one parent who worked.[2]

In total numbers, there were nearly 72,000 Oregonians living in poverty despite belonging to a household with at least one full-time worker in 2013.

To put that in perspective, that is close to the entire the population of Medford (76,000), Oregon’s eighth largest city.

Having a full-time working parent does not prevent children from growing up in poverty.

In 2013, among Oregon children living in poverty, two out of seven (28.8 percent) lived in a home in which at least one parent worked full time.

Rates of poverty among working families are particularly high among Asian and Latino families.

In 2013, nearly nine out of 10 Asian families (86.8 percent) and Latino families (86.4 percent) living in poverty had at least one parent working at some point during the previous year. By comparison, the figure was about seven out of 10 (70.4 percent) for non-Hispanic white families.

The rates of poverty among working families for other communities of color were not statistically different from the rate for non-Hispanic whites.

Single working mothers are more likely to live in poverty than single working fathers in Oregon.

In 2013, 31.9 percent of single working mothers lived below the poverty line, compared to 18.1 percent of single working fathers. For those working full time, 13.1 percent of single mothers and 3.3 percent of single fathers lived in poverty.
Women tend to earn less than their male counterparts and are more likely to work in low-wage jobs.[3]

Lawmakers Must Help Ensure that Work Pays for Poor Families

To reduce poverty in Oregon, lawmakers must help make work pay for poor working families — which are the majority of the state’s poor families.

First and foremost, lawmakers should ensure employers pay a decent wage. In part, this means increasing the state’s minimum wage. Oregon’s minimum wage is not high enough to lift a full-time worker raising two children out of poverty. Workers deserve a substantial increase in the minimum wage, one that lifts families out of poverty.

Lawmakers also ought to enact strong protections against wage theft. A minimum wage counts for little when dishonest employers cheat workers out of the wages they have earned. Too often employers commit wage theft by forcing workers to work off the clock, stealing tips or not paying their workers at all. Lawmakers need to put in place new rules making it harder for dishonest employers to engage in wage theft and easier for the state and workers to enforce wage laws.[4]
Lawmakers should increase funding for services that help poor working families succeed on the job. For example, the Employment Related Day Care (ERDC) program, which subsidizes child care for low-income working families, is so poorly funded that eligible parents are often put on a waiting list and are unable to secure child care. Employment training programs such as the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills (JOBS) program, a program for very poor families with dependent children, currently serves a fraction of those who could benefit because of funding constraints.

Oregon lawmakers can act to make work pay and ensure working families are not poor despite their work efforts.

[1] For a discussion of barriers to employment see Heidi Goldberg, Improving TANF Program Outcomes for Families With Barriers to Employment,Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, January 22, 2002.

[2] This analysis uses 2013 American Community Survey (ACS) Public Use Micro Sample (PUMS) microdata. The analysis focused on Oregon households living in poverty with a related child. The ACS categorizes work experience as “full time in the past 12 months,” “less than full time work in the past 12 months,” and “did not work in the past 12 months.” Less than full time includes short-term and seasonal work. For example, a person who worked 40 hours per week for 10 weeks during the winter holiday season in a retail position would be considered to have worked less than full time by the ACS. This analysis looks at the share of households in poverty with children where at least the head of household or the head’s spouse had some work experience in the 12 months prior to the survey response. While a person who worked “less than full time” could also be considered long-term unemployed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which defines long-term unemployment as joblessness for 27 weeks or more and actively looking for work during that time, that person is still correctly counted by the ACS as having worked less than full time during the past year. Similarly, a person who “did not work in the past 12 months” under the ACS survey might not be considered “long term unemployed” under the BLS survey if the person was not actively seeking work. One is a survey of who has been working and one is a survey of who has been unemployed; they are not meant to be mutually exclusive. Unless otherwise noted, all data in this fact sheet comes from OCPP analysis of American Community Survey data.

[3] For more on the gender pay gap, see Jane Farrell and Sarah Jane Glynn, What Causes the Gender Wage Gap? Center for American Progress, April 19, 2013, and Francine D. Blau and Lawrence M. Kahn, The Gender Pay Gap: Have Women Gone as Far as They Can?, Academy of Management Perspectives, February 2007, pp. 7-23.

[4] For more on wage theft, see: Oregon’s Wage Theft Problem Persists, Oregon Center for Public Policy, January 14, 2013.

Posted in Minimum Wage, Poverty, Role of Government, TANF, Wages.
More about: erdc, race and ethnicity, wage theft, working poor
– See more at: http://www.ocpp.org/2014/12/04/fs20141204-working-still-poor/#sthash.9sUEEDTH.dpuf

Bright Spots in the 2014 Elections

Devin Burghart

IREHR has documented many of the human rights setbacks in the 2014 elections. At the same time, there are some important victories to highlight. These include victories in areas of women’s rights, pro-worker legislation, and gun safety.

Women’s Rights

Despite the defeat of the pro-immigrant Measure 88 in Oregon, there were some hopeful signs for human rights in the state. Oregon voters overwhelmingly passed Measure 89, 63.8% to 36.2%, the Oregon Equal Rights for Women Initiative, which guaranteed that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the State of Oregon or by any political subdivision in this state on account of sex.”

Other states voted to protect women’s reproductive rights. Two states rejected so-called “personhood” measures, which would have severely restricted women’s reproductive rights and would have granted legal rights to fertilized eggs. For the third federal election in a row, Colorado voters rejected “personhood,” as did nearly two-thirds of North Dakota voters. One setback for women’s reproductive freedom, Tennessee, where voters amended their state constitution to explicitly say that it does not protect abortion rights.

Pro-Worker Legislation

Spurred on by efforts around the country to organize fast-food workers and re-ignite the conversation about income inequality, four states passed minimum wage increases, from $8.50 in Arkansas by 2017, to $9.75 in Alaska by 2016. South Dakota and Nebraska also raised their minimum wage. Wisconsin voters (who re-elected staunch anti-union governor, Scott Walker) also passed a non-binding measure calling for a $10 wage. At the city level, San Francisco passed a $15 wage by 2018, and nearby Oakland passed $12.50 by 2015. It is estimated that more than 600,000 workers will benefit from these increases.

Paid sick leave was another issue that many low-wage workers have demanded. Massachusetts’ voters passed a ballot measure guaranteeing paid sick leave to an estimated 1 million workers. Three cities also passed sick-leave measures: Trenton, New Jersey; Montclair, New Jersey; and Oakland, California.

Gun Safety

The National Rifle Association and their allies lost big in Washington State, where 60% of voters passed I-594, a ballot measure extending background checks to all gun sales and transfers. The state’s voters also rejected I-591, a ballot initiative backed by the NRA, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, and local Tea Party groups, which would have constrained gun safety efforts.  The NRA and their allies also failed to unseat governors in Colorado and Connecticut, who passed gun safety measures in the wake of the Sandy Hook mass shootings.

Last modified on 11.13.2014
http://www.irehr.org/issue-areas/tea-party-nationalism/tea-party-news-and-analysis/615-bright-spots-in-the-2014-elections

Our Choice Between a Strong America and a Weak America

George Polisner – Friday, November 7, 2014

usa_politics_750

Near the end of 2008 America was on the precipice of economic collapse –which would have also had a severe and lasting impact upon global markets and the world. Since 2009 we’ve experienced a long slow recovery from the cliff.

There are numerous issues we must face quickly as Americans or America will perish as a footnote in history –characterized as a “nice try”. We can either be remembered as the society that recognized our strengths and addressed our weaknesses –or we can be known as a once promising society that waited for magic to happen until it did not.

The vital issues as I see them:

The Corruption of the Political and Judicial Environment

Influence of money on elections and representation

Remember one of the key issues in the founding of America – “No taxation without representation”? When we each cast a vote (assuming we do and that our vote is counted), we have an expectation that our elected officials will advocate for our interests. Regardless of your political ideology –do you really believe that your vote or mine compared to a million dollar check from Exxon Mobil, the Koch Brothers, General Electric or Monsanto will have the same value with our elected officials?

The Constitution and Bill of Rights established an intent for representational fairness. Furthermore, three branches of government were created to provide greater protection against the corrupting influence of wealth. My friends that are very liberal with affinity with the green party are justified in their anger and frustration with the present system. My libertarian friends are absolutely correct to be livid as well. Unless you are the person collecting the check from Exxon, Chevron, WalMart, GE, Monsanto, the US Chamber of Commerce or the Koch brothers –you are completely justified in your alarm, frustration and anger.

So why are we fighting each other instead of the system that is subverting our government? –More about that later.

Under our present system it takes generally takes massive amounts of money to run a successful campaign. GMO labeling is a great example –where despite the will of the people –citizen initiatives for GMO labeling have been narrowly defeated due to being outspent by opposition from the likes of Monsanto, Pepsi, Kellogg’s and others by 10 – 1 or more. Media purchases (commercials on TV/Radio, newspaper ads, magazine ads and direct mail are all incredibly expensive.

In recent years the perfect storm was intentionally created to erode our ability to have a representative government. The conditions were set forth by the evisceration of the “Fairness Doctrine” (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairness_Doctrine – which had provided a mechanism for equal and fair broadcast time) and the recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings in “Citizens United” v. the FEC and McCutcheon v. the FEC.

Influence of money on budget and appropriations

Part of the role of government is to determine how to allocate and invest our taxpayer dollars to keep America strong now and for future generations. This is also an area that has caused significant anger and frustration among Americans. This is due to a lack of alignment of how our money is allocated (societal priorities) and the inefficiencies and corruption in the present system.

When people talk about “Big government” versus “a government so small we can drown it in a bathtub” what some are really saying is we want an efficient government that provides the services we need at the federal, state and local levels.

While “drowning government” is used as a battlecry by Grover Norquist and others -they are actually not interested in addressing inefficiency or corruption. They are simply manipulating the masses from civic/political participation and to privatize –so they can transfer and consolidate additional wealth to the top 1%. Most of my conservative and liberal friends agree –if our/their home is on fire –we’d like a well-trained group of first responders that can react quickly and save life and property. If we drive over a bridge we have an expectation that it won’t collapse. If we need a license to drive our vehicle –we’d like to make sure we can get in, be tested and evaluated and licensed. If we turn on our water faucet –we expect clean, safe good tasting water –not a flammable sludge.

The problem becomes when Monsanto or another large company, industry (via a lobbying group) or extremely wealthy individuals write large campaign donations (or hire family and friends of our elected officials) –there is an absolute expectation that our representatives will reward them with lucrative government contracts –or projects that are not aligned with our societal priorities or imperatives. These are “pork projects”, “earmarks” or “bridges to nowhere” –and create justified anger among taxpayers.

Voter Rights

If we truly aspire toward a democracy –we must act like one. We should be making every effort to make voting accessible, simple and highly encouraged.

The voter suppression movement is antithetical to democracy –and those behind such efforts harbor such a complete contempt for America, the Constitution and Bill of Rights –as a nation we should be considering the revocation of their citizenship and eliminating their ability to live in or do business in the United States. A pattern of interference by any individual, group of individuals, lobby or business entity should be investigated and upon a finding of guilt –there should be severe civil and criminal consequences.

All federal, state and local elections should allow absentee voting and receive ballots no less than 30 days prior to election day. Election season should include at very least two legally recognized holiday’s: Issue Day in which broadcast media provides time for all candidates and groups representing major societal issues access to airtime and Election day should also be a paid holiday.

Furthermore we must have law that establishes clear transparency and accountability in elections. Until we can separate money from campaigns -we must demand clear labeling of ballot initiatives including who is sponsoring and funding them. We cannot allow front groups to obscure the real power and motivation behind initiatives.

For example we can not tolerate an unholy alliance between oil companies to attempt to eviscerate law established to protect air quality through a front group called “Citizens for Healthy Clear Air”. We must have the mechanisms to understand that Chevron contributed 5 million dollars, Exxon contributed 5 million dollars -not a “citizens” organization “concerned” with air quality.

Voter Responsibilities

With rights come responsibilities as citizens. We must take the time to understand the candidates, their voting records, their stated positions (and until we can separate money from campaigns and appropriations) who is funding them.

We must look beyond the attack ads, yardsign, soundbite and promises to understand the candidates or ballot initiatives. There is excellent, well-researched information that is published by many different trusted organizations that can guide you if you need help.

People have died or have been beaten in order to win the right to vote. When we do not vote (whether due to apathy, cynicism or a “boycott”) we are not only dishonoring these courageous men and women –we are simply letting Monsanto, WalMart, McDonalds and Halliburton determine what America should look like.

Growing Economic Inequality

Tax code and policy

Since the 1960’s our tax code has changed, become more complex and now clearly favors corporations and the wealthiest Americans. When an administrative assistant is investing a greater percentage of their earnings into American society through their taxes than a wealthy venture capitalist or ExxonMobil -the tax code is clearly a key contributing factor to the growing abyss between working families and the wealthiest Americans. While many may say this erodes the quality and dignity of the American dream for most people -it is far more disturbing on deeper levels as it weakens the American economic system. Our economic engine fuels America -so by weakening our engine -it absolutely weakens this country.

Our tax policy should encourage the type of investment as well as divestment that is aligned with our national, state and local objectives. For example -if from a National Security perspective -we seek to limit our dependence on oil imports -our tax policy should include credits for the purchase of electric vehicles, mass transit passes, solar/wind for home use -while paying for those credits with additional taxes on gasoline or other carbon use.

Estate taxes should provide an exemption up to three to five million dollars and be adjusted for the cost of living every five years. While some argue this represents a double tax (presumably income/capital gains taxes during one’s lifetime) and then again upon death -it is not about fairness -it is about protecting America from the conditions that exist today -an obscene concentration of wealth among the wealthiest 1%. This creates a significant imbalance of power and wealth -and each subsequent “trust fund” generation is more insulated from real American life -while being able to assert more influence and power over such lives. Estate taxes protect the path to democracy from an  “economic cancer”. With diminished or zero estate taxes we are led directly to the oligarchy we’ve become today.

Corporations

Corporations use our infrastructure, education system, resources and people. The basic rule should be -if you want to conduct business in America -you should pay taxes here. When ExxonMobil is generating record quarterly profit and pays zero tax and a small business trying to survive is paying taxes -there is something inherently wrong. If America’s strength and promise is grounded in fairness -we must address this. Fair taxes are not anti-business. Providing a landscape in which small businesses can thrive -while large enterprise can still provide a solid return on investment (without harming society) should be a goal. As tax revenues are invested in government services -and appropriations for a future, stronger America -large corporations need to either provide their fair share or agree to no longer conduct business in the lucrative American market,

Minimum versus living wages

Lately the stagnant federal minimum wage has been in focus. The federal minimum wage in America is $7.25 per hour. Based upon a 40 hour work week this is $290.00 per week (gross wages).

21 million workers (an estimated 16% of the American workforce) would be postively impacted by a change in policy on wages. The average CEO in 1965 made 20 times the average worker salary.

In 2013 average CEO compensation was 295.9 times average worker compensation. There are a handful of CEO’s that have (or continue to have) the leadership, vision and work ethic -that they have made a company what it is (or in some cases have created entire industries). They have risked their own capital (or convinced others to put capital at risk -not an easy task) and have created opportunities for 100’s or 1,000’s or 10’s of thousands of American workers.

Most of the rest of the class of CEO’s are managers -not leaders. They may have a well-recognized name or following. They may have created higher equity value for a company by shifting costs to society (by reducing the workforce, transferring jobs to lower paying areas around the world, legally evading U.S. tax responsibility through tax loopholes and keeping worker wages stagnant). They are not innovating or creating any value for America or the world -they are simply shifting costs on paper.

To create stock/shareholder gains by reducing the American workforce, busting unions and keeping workers fearful (and reducing worker wages) should not be tolerated by American society.

For example -there are many that would say -the free market will take care of itself (although we’ve yet to actually see a free market -and likely never will). However in near “free-market” conditions WalMart (one of America’s largest employers) keeps average worker wages low and is vigorously anti-union. This causes many WalMart workers to supplement their negligible wages with food stamps and other vital social services that we all pay for (in our taxes). This at a time in which they were paying $100’s of millions of dollars to executives as “performance bonuses”. Yet many consumers continue to shop there because, you know, “Save money. Live better!”.

I’d propose that while we increase the federal minimum wage -many state and local governments should also address minimum wage, raising it beyond the federal minimum if the local region has a higher cost of living. Furthermore -large corporations like WalMart, McDonalds and others should be held accountable for a higher, “Living Wage”.

As Americans -we should be supportive of any worker that is employed and trying to improve their own economic standing and that of their families. And we need to make sure the largest, most successful enterprises are not simply taking care of their executives and to a lesser degree, their shareholders. They must treat their employees fairly and certainly not have an expectation that American taxpayers will cover part of what should be fair wages.

Healthcare Costs

American healthcare and drug costs are out of control. There are two fundamental issues -access to care and cost containment. Between 1999 and 2009 according to RAND healthcare costs nearly doubled for the average American family with little improvement in quality of care.

Furthermore -prior to the introduction of the Affordable Care Act -a growing number of American’s had no access to healthcare coverage in America.

Individual responsibility

In the scope of the American healthcare system -we each bear some responsibility to ourselves our families and society. If we are to be a relatively unhealthy nation, filled to excess with fast, fried food, smoking, drinking (among other cultural issues we discuss later leading to substantial mental health costs -we exacerbate expenses and diminish the quality of the average american life. While government should not dictate individual diet or health -government can certainly make recommendations that must be unfettered by lobbying by meat, fast food, drug, tobacco, GMO or other industries that are seeking profit without regard to American health or healthcare costs. However a person that indulges in high risk behavior -should not shift their costs to society -the cost of healthcare coverage should not be “one size fits all”. The additional costs of healthcare related to conditions of obesity should be borne in part by the individual through a tax on fast or unhealthy food and additional taxes on companies that profit from such products. Additional healthcare costs associated from smoking and alcohol should be addressed in a similar manner.

Food/Beverage/Tobacco/Firearms Responsibility

Companies and entire industries that create health risks should be taxed and such taxes should be earmarked to offset any additional societal costs related to such behaviors including health and education for Americans to live more content, healthy lifestyles.

Employer versus Societal

I believe that as a nation we have a fundamental responsibility to each other to ensure that Americans have access to food, clothing, shelter and healthcare. While an employer benefits from greater productivity (and thus profit) with a healthy workforce -and should encourage positive behavior (fitness, nutrition, incentives for remaining in good health) -it is ultimately our responsibility as a society. Whereas the Affordable Care Act is an attempt to help contain costs (through a competitive, “free-market” exchange and the negotiating leverage that comes from adding 30-50 million people that previously had no access to healthcare coverage) -the intent of the ACA is also to provide a societal mechanism for access to coverage. As more employers have shifted the burden of additional heathcare costs to employees (via the co-insurance payment) -I believe we unfairly burden employers with rising healthcare costs. Such costs should be borne by society in a single payer system of care. While many may vehemently disagree (as evidenced by protest signs such as “I want government out of my healthcare”) on single payer -I suspect much of the negative reaction has been driven by misinformation from insurance companies, insurance lobbyists and people like the Koch brothers. If you have a choice between government weighing in on healthcare or the CEO of Blue Cross/Blue Shield or a group of wall street analysts (and let’s face it -those are the choices we have) -who do you think is more likely to approve a necessary and vital procedure for your child? A CEO that has their executive bonus tied to cutting costs and driving profit? Good luck with that. Frankly -the only people I’d like involved in my healthcare is me and my doctor. Nevertheless -the system itself has to be administered -and healthcare is one industry (of several) that should not be driven by the motive of profit. There are other, better ways to measure the efficacy of the system without paying a CEO tens or hundreds of millions of dollars while healthcare costs continue to spiral out of control.

Military/Defense Costs There is no question in this volatile world we need a strong, well-equipped and capable national defense with the ability to rapidly and effectively deploy in order to protect American and allied life around the world. Nevertheless -the military procurement process is bloated and there are many well-known areas of waste and corruption. The manner that we address our defense costs needs to radically change. In the year 2015 we will be spending over a trillion dollars (between mandatory and discretionary federal budget) on military services. This represents approximately $3,300 per year for every man, woman, child and infant in America. In 2011 we outspent the next 15 countries (including Russia and China) combined and outspent the second country (China) by five times (see chart below).

Education

The American education system was once one of the best in the world. An international study found that the U.S. is now 19th in combined testing of Mathematics, Science and Literacy. This is important. As many Americans have begun to correlate energy policy to American security (the more dependence upon oil imports and global volatility -the more we have to spend on military to protect our global energy interests) people have not yet considered the connection to global leadership in education to national strength.

Eighteen education systems had higher average scores than the United States in all three subjects. The 18 education systems are: Australia, Canada, Chinese Taipei, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong-China, Ireland, Japan, Liechtenstein, Macao-China, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Republic of Korea, Shanghai-China, Singapore, and Switzerland.” (http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/pisa/pisa2012/pisa2012highlights_1.asp)

 

This is of great concern for the future of American society. When we do not have to depend upon other, potentially unstable regions of the world -we do not have to increase our military capability to remain strong and secure. Our ability to synthesize new materials that will improve the quality of American and perhaps life around the world rests with our future scientists, mathematicians and research.

 

If we lag in education -we will have to depend upon discoveries and materials that came from elsewhere (if they are even made available to us). At present we have a military advantage over any other nation -however that is due to superior technology, science and research. How long will that advantage last when we are lagging behind at least 18 other countries in education?

 

Furthermore -the cost of higher education in America is rising exponentially (while again -the American profit before people approach to student loans will continue to transfer wealth and weaken the American economy).

 

How many of our youth -if surrounded with leading K-12 schools -that are safe havens from violence, bullying, guns might have gone on to be the next Albert Einstein, Jonas Salk, John Kenneth Galbraith or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. -instead of imprisoned, sent to war or trying to survive in America with menial employment -because we as a society squandered an opportunity to support them.

 

If there is any place where our investment as a society should be clear -for a strong America now and especially in the future -education is the place. Our schools should be places where learning is inspired, world class and safe. It is the place where we show our youth that we value their life and past generations encourage each new generation to go beyond, add to American and global knowledge and chart a better, safer future for all. It should be unfettered education predicated upon the fundamentals of reading, writing and mathematics -and should include continuous new scientific knowledge and theory as it becomes available. It should be publicly funded -and in no way should ExxonMobil or the Koch Brothers be teaching climate theory, McDonalds should not be sponsoring nutrition classes and WalMart should not be sponsoring business or consumer courses. And education should be well-rounded in culture, languages, humanities, music and the arts -all to help future generations appreciate and protect the gifts provided by past generations.

 

Public College and Universities in America should be tuition free -and we should fund materials and limited student expenses -either through low interest loans or grants for those that do not have the economic ability to fund themselves. When higher education is unaffordable -it limits our societal ability to have every individual reach their potential -and when we do not provide the incentives -we weaken American society now and in the future.

Racism and Gender Discrimination

If we are to consider ourselves an advanced and civilized society -there is no room for discrimination or pay inequity. Work performed by an individual should be compensated on the basis of the quality and value of the work, not predicated upon anatomy or the color of one’s skin.

 

There remains a vast difference in how we seek to be perceived as a nation -and the deep seated fear and hatred we harbor against others. Unlike the recent Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decision that we are a post-race society -there is racism running through most threads of American life -and in some regions -it is not even hidden.

Energy Policy

Our energy policy over the last 50 years has been defined by Big Oil, Coal and the Nuclear power industries. Abdicating such important policy to the profit motive has led us to the brink of climate catastrophe (or Nuclear catastrophe as Fukushima continues to demonstrate an important lesson about nuclear power generation through fission technology). It has also is responsible for shifting incredible wealth to one of the most politically unstable parts of the world -and we have paid for this policy- and continue to do so with the blood of our sons and daughters (as well as many innocent civilian lives). We must rapidly transition to a safe, renewable energy strategy. The answer does not lie beneath the surface of America in the form of dangerous fracking technology. The answer is not in an environmentally ill-advised pipeline. The answer is blowing in the wind -as well as solar energy, transitioning to electric and/or hydrogen powered vehicles and other technologies that minimize carbon emissions and contribute to catastrophic climate change. We need to apply the same rigor to the “energy” race as we once did to the space race. It is at an absolute minimum a matter of national security.

Domestic Security, Drug Policy, Police and Prisons

We would all like to raise our families and enjoy a life free from crime (well, I suspect most of us anyway). Addressing quality and dignity of life in the areas outlined above (namely economic inequality, racism, education, healthcare) are all proactive investment in domestic security. When people and communities are valued over profit and wealth -there is simply less crime. We are human however -and thus crime will happen. Our lack of proactive investment in society and in communities that have led to widening economic inequality is a factor in more crime as well as drug and alcohol abuse in America. Police and prisons are a reactive expenditure when we fail.

Media

A democracy is predicated upon a well-educated populace and access to unfettered, real and independent news. Such news should not be mired in opinion or filtered to produce a specific way of perceiving events -that is a fundamental difference between news and propaganda.

When news (or the “Fourth Estate”) becomes beholden to a particular perspective -it is no longer trustworthy, credible or of value. Many years ago major American broadcast news competed for viewers on the basis of investigation, integrity and were not held accountable for profitability by the leading broadcast networks. News was viewed as a public service -and part of the price broadcast networks paid for leveraging American society-owned “broadcast commons” or airwaves. In the late 1970’s television shifted and with it -news became accountable to produce profit. Not only has this diminished the quality of news (whereas arguably the entertainment value has increased) -the profit motive is often directly in conflict with reporting the news. As a society -we must make a renewed investment in competitive and real news sources that are effective, efficient and not beholden to a political or corporate perspective. Media should be well funded through societal investment from tax revenues and not filtered by industry lobbyists, politicians or from foreign investment. Furthermore -numerous cable channels procured distribution capability by establishing an “educational” component to their programming. For example in many markets while the “News” show Hannity spews hate and lies corresponding to the political perspectives of the foreign owner of Fox News, Rupert Murdoch the line-up of thoughtful programming that is helping to educate and inspire America is as follows:

  • The History Channel: “Pawn Stars: The Adventures of Corey and Chum”
  • TLC (formerly called The Learning Channel): “19 and Counting: Jesse’s Engagement (can’t wait for Jesse to have 19 kids)”
  • Arts and Entertainment: “Godfather of Pittsburgh -I’m the Big Guy”
  • Discovery: “The Town That Caught Tourettes?”
  • National Geographic: “Alaska State Troopers -Cut in the Gut”
  • Bravo: “Vanderpump Rules”
  • Science: “Which Universe Are We In?”

-a question that seems more than reasonable when putting the above list together. These are a small bit of evidence with regard to why we must read more and watch TV less. What was sold to society as a great boon to education and knowledge has simply been another way in which we are fed opinions via “news” programming, told who to hate and who to blame for our problems. And in between the above programming or “Honey Boo Boo” (thankfully cancelled as of this writing), or watching Ted Nugent or Sarah Palin shooting defenseless animals from helicopters or the Duggars spewing out another child -in complete denial that the world has finite resources while pretending their genes are so remarkable -the only thing better than 19 Duggars must be 20 Duggars! -while I do not recommend violence of any kind -shooting your TV might be considered justifiable from my perspective.

Immigration

Many hardworking American families have been ripped apart by deportation. A society that claims “family values” and then separates parents and children is drowning in its own hypocrisy. We owe it to the history of how America was founded (by immigrants) and achieved greatness (by immigrant labor) and how we continue to put food on our tables (most of which has been provided through backbreaking efforts of immigrant labor. We need a new round of amnesty (for those that are want to yell ‘Merica here and talk about building a big fence -it was your political idol -Ronald Reagan that signed Immigration Amnesty into law in 1986 -see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_Reform_and_Control_Act_of_1986)

Whereas the resources that American society has is finite -we do need sensible controls and a forward thinking immigration policy -and we need to address where we are at today. By not providing amnesty -we devastate communities and create more uncertainty and anxiety for an important part of America.

Privatization

People want to eliminate corruption and drive perceived and real inefficiencies out of government services and systems. Many are told that privatization is a key to creating a competitive landscape and such competition will lead to efficient use of our societal investment. The reason privatization is not a panacea is it creates competition for profit. As a private enterprise -I can succeed by increasing revenue or lowering costs or both. Often if I lower costs -I diminish the services I provide. Whether I succeed or fail is not based upon the societal outcomes or results we desire -it is purely upon profit or loss of the enterprise.

 

Government should be held accountable and should be transparent in the funding and outcomes of agencies providing public service. However the profit motive is often in direct conflict with providing the services we need as a society. Privatization tends to benefit the already wealthy -as any reduction of costs (due to stagnant salaries, reduced workforces, lack of retirement or other benefits) -are generally shifted to executives and stockholders. This is why there is so much pressure on industries that historically have been government services to privatize. It is sold to us as “greater efficiency”. It is more frequently intended to transfer and consolidate wealth.

Acknowledging Our History

America aspires to be a strong and benevolent beacon of hope for humanity. A place where people are valued over things, innovation and hard work are rewarded and there is opportunity for all that are willing to work hard. Even if we “right” the ship -I believe we must understand our complete history, acknowledge our past mistakes, remedy them if we can and look to a future that is not encumbered by our past. From genocide (the trail of tears), slavery, imperialism, wars prosecuted on the basis of lies and interference in other sovereign governments (such as the assassination of Allende in Chile, the multiple attempts to assassinate Castro and destabilize Cuba meddling in Central America and elsewhere in the name of “national security” should be cast into the light, studied and readily understood so in the future we do not make similar mistakes. We must redefine what is in our national interests -and it should be predicated upon keeping Americans and our allies safe in America and abroad -it should not be predicated upon protecting the accumulation of wealth -or protecting the interests of large, multinational corporations over the rights of indigenous people.

Cultural Societal Illness

The pursuit of profit and wealth (and the accumulation and consolidation of wealth) has become the American focus. From “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”, “Real Housewives of Wherever”, “Cribs”, music videos, expensive cars and the constant bling paraded in front of us in a barrage of commercials for Cadillac’s, Lincolns, BMW’s and so on. We are told we can be much happier if we buy more luxurious homes, cars and jewelry. In fact -we’re told if we don’t shop, the terrorists win. I believe if we don’t shop (and consume) in a more evolved way -”the terrorists” do win.

As a nation we have lost our way. We have had the quality of American life eroded over the last few generations. We have abdicated our American values to money and material wealth. Instead of a sense of community where people would take care of each other, children could be outdoors playing until dinner -we’ve become a suspicious, fearful nation. We’re worried that our jobs could be eliminated at anytime -because the new CEO wants to hit quarterly expectations and take a large bonus. If we are fortunate enough to have a mortgage payment we’re hoping we don’t lose our home as so many recently did. If we pay rent -we hope the owner doesn’t increase the rent so we are faced with a “should I buy my medicine or groceries” decision for ourselves or our family. Some are so frightened they want to take their assault rifle or handgun with them wherever they go -which then creates more fear. A young person graduating from college or university (if they were fortunate enough to have the support to attend) graduates while encumbered with tremendous debt. Any thought of using the education for public good or services is lost as young adults enter the job market with home mortgage-like debt.

    • A pristine forest was once a day or weekend in nature. Now forests are managed and clearcut for profit.
    • We sing about “Purple mountain majesties” in “America the Beautiful. Now we remove mountaintops for mining interests and profit.
    • Our water ways were once unspoiled, precious resources. Now they are perfect to carry our toxic waste out to sea where in the Gulf coast they can mix with the oil disaster caused by BP and Halliburton.
    • For years our diplomatic solution was to send in the Marines (even if it meant invading the wrong country and creating instability and chaos for generations).

We have supported brutal dictators like Pinochet, Noriega, Batista, Trujillo and others in exchange for giving our large corporations unfettered access to their natural resources, people and markets. However when they no longer follow our directives we cut them loose.

We fund prisons but not schools.

Are you fortunate enough to be able to attend college? We’ll make sure you start your your life burdened with significant debt.

We pay our educators, first-responders, nurses and others next to nothing and accuse them of “bankrupting” the American system.

We allow our political landscape to be sold to the highest bidder.

We won’t allow two people that love each other to marry -however we advocate passionately for the right of someone to acquire possession of an assault weapon at a moment in time in which their anger, depression and situation drives them to take their own life and many more around them.

We complain about traffic while driving slowly or stopped, alone in our carbon polluting cars, trucks and SUV’s -and protest against a high-speed train or other forms of mass transit -because it is “wasteful”.

  • We see poverty in other countries and think “what a shame” or we quickly turn the page or change the channel without thinking about the abject poverty that exists in America.
  • We are distressed when people are killed at a mall -but don’t give much thought to the child that walks to and from school in an area plagued by drive by shootings and violence.
  • We see the parade of people of color being detained on “Cops” because they may have stolen a car, assaulted someone or had drug paraphernalia and are glad they are arrested, convicted and behind bars -yet when a massive fraud created the most severe economic crisis in America since the Great Depression -we patched the system up with taxpayer money -slapped a few wrists and then Congress fought for less regulation and enforcement (and continue to do so).
  • We are shocked about what Lindsey, Miley, Amanda or Justin do next -and could care less that an American drone strike or bomb just killed a group of innocent children or a wedding party in a dangerous place whose name we cannot pronounce.
  • We gather in the tens of millions to watch the Super Bowl or American Idol -but we don’t vote -and then we wonder why our quality of life is being eroded, how wealthy Corporations are now “people” and money is now “speech”. We care less about who you are and more about what you do, what car you drive and what you have.

We claim we are hated for our freedom? I suspect we are admired for our “freedom” and are simply held accountable for what we do with it. In 2008 we were tired of illegal wars and occupation. We were tired of a deregulated business climate that led us to the precipice of economic ruin. We were tired of tax cuts for the wealthy and record deficits. We still believed in the American dream. We had hope again. In 2014 we elected a Congress (whether we voted or not) that will advocate for the same policies that brought us to the brink of economic collapse. And this time -the stakes are much higher -our environment and economic systems are at risk.

What Can We Do?
Each election cycle will be viciously fought from herein, the odds against and the stakes higher. We will be fighting against a monumental wave of money pouring into campaigns, attack ads, media buys and opinions masquerading as news.

We are divided (and conquered) in many ways. The politics of wealth focus on our differences, tell us who to blame and corrupt the system to create cynicism and apathy.

If we are to survive as a nation -we must unite around the things that we agree upon. The last few election cycles have provided insight into how America can win -not how a party wins. There were numerous ballot initiatives placed by citizens that received enough petitions/signatures to become part of the local and/or state ballot. As our legislators have largely failed America for a long time -we can work on American outcomes that “We the People” want, share resources across state and local boundaries and put critical issues to vote from sea to shining sea. While electronic petitions have become popular -we need a mechanism to go beyond the petition and draft American law. There are too many recent examples of massively popular support for an issue that dies in Congress because it is wildly unpopular with the people and industries that are buying Congressional representation.

The outcomes most all Americans want are things like:

  • Legislators and Politicians that will put our communities and country first.
  • Government services that are effective, transparent and accountable to taxpayers.
  • A political and judicial system that is well-insulated from corruption,
  • World class, safe, inspiring K-12 Education.
  • Well-paid educators that will inspire the next generation to learn and go beyond previous generations.
  • Textbooks and education that cover the best body of knowledge we have today -free from political or religious debate.
  • Affordable college and universities.
  • An opportunity for all hard working people to improve their quality of life.
  • Access to high quality, affordable medical, dental, vision and mental health care.
  • Clean air.
  • Safe, clear, good-tasting water.
  • Everyone paying their fair share of taxes.
  • Well-paid first-responders that can afford to live in the communities in which they serve.
  • The economic opportunity to create a better, safer future for our children.
  • Mass transit systems that are inexpensive, fast and efficient.
  • Retirement security for our aging population.
  • Housing, healthcare and services that honor our Veterans.
  • A mechanism to address the out of control economic inequality that has become a cancer to the American economic and political system over the past few generations.
  • Communities that are developed and funded to address abject poverty -so every American can enjoy opportunity, prosperity and truly look forward to a better future.
  • Roads, highways and bridges that are well-maintained and safe.
  • State and National parks to protect pristine areas and coastline for ourselves and future generations of America and the world.

Examples of the type of results we may want to support together (not grounded in political ideology -grounded in concepts and policy that will strengthen America for this and future generations):

  • Election Day Holiday Act: All official Federal, State and Local elections will provide mail-in/absentee balloting beginning at least 30 days prior to Election day and accept ballots until the polls close on Election Day. Election Day will be a paid, nationally recognized American holiday.
  • Political Truth in Advertising: Any content in a political advertisement that is determined to be false or misleading will require a label that identifies the advertisement as false and misleading and will require a response advertisement to the opposing campaign without charge. Furthermore, any attack advertisement will be no longer be exempt from civil libel laws or penalties. A pattern of false advertising will result in criminal fraud charges.
  • Political Funding: No individual, group or organization can provide more than $100 for a campaign. No group or corporation may donate to a campaign outside of the jurisdiction of their HQ.

The outcomes we as Americans want and the method to enact law can be at the local, State or Federal level.

We are developing the “how” we do this -and need your help. We are working on launching a social network called “CivWorks” that protects your privacy, does not sell advertising and provides many of the social features you enjoy today with Facebook, Google+ or other platforms and will use a small monthly subscription fee to fund our initial development, new features and functions that you would find useful and for ongoing not-for-profit operations.

The difference is that we are integrating the features that will allow you to connect with interested or concerned people in your area to work on issues we all care about and how we can either begin ballot initiatives or actually draft and track law we want passed by our local government, State government or Congress -and tracking the bill to see which elected officials support it -and which do not.. Working together on both legislative and budget/appropriation outcomes we want for ourselves, our families, our communities and America -we can shift political power back to “We the People” and create a better America and world for future generations.

Posted by George A. Polisner at 10:27 AM

http://alonovo.blogspot.com/2014/11/our-choice-between-strong-america-and.html

This Simple Fix Could Lift Hundreds of Thousands of Working Women Out of Poverty

 This Simple Fix Could Lift Hundreds of Thousands of Working Women Out of Poverty

Michelle Chen on June 4, 2014 – 12:51 PM ET
Photo (Courtesy: OUR Walmart, @forrespect)

Lashanda Myrick, a Colorado mother of two, came to Walmart last year seeking a steady job that would help her provide for her children. Instead, she got a job that made it harder to be a mom. When she drops her young daughter off at night at her mother’s house so she can work the overnight shift stocking shelves, she thinks about how her irregular work schedule disrupts her parenting schedule.

“It’s hard not to be able to tuck her in. And it hurts me that my child can’t sleep in her own bed at night. And there’s nothing I can do,” she said at a press conference earlier this week organized by the labor coalition OUR Walmart. “It breaks my heart … because I really have no choice.”

Myrick’s experiences illustrate the ugly duality of the Walmart economy: while consumers enjoy low prices and unlimited selection, workers get low wages and impossible choices. Family versus work, a poverty wage or no job at all.

A new report from the left-leaning think tank Demos reveals the structures of inequality that keep women like Myrick at the lowest rungs of the Big Box retail labor force. Today, researchers found, roughly 1.3 million women working retail jobs live in or near poverty; a typical woman salesperson earns just $10.58 an hour. On top of utterly low wages, women in retail, including many family breadwinners, face a stunning gender gap, typically earning only 72 cents for every dollar earned by male counterparts. That’s a cumulative annual wage deficit of $40.8 billion, equivalent to $381 billion in “lost wages” for women by 2022.

The losses run deeper than their paycheck. Workers skip doctor’s visits because they lack paid leave time and scrimp on groceries to pay the bills. With just 5 percent of retail workers granted paid parental leave, new parents are pressured to rush back to work, potentially jeopardizing their newborn’s health. These day-to-day hardships tax public resources, too, as working-poor families absorb public funds in the form of food stamps, Medicaid and other public assistance programs.

The structural impoverishment is compounded by chaotic, unstable schedules. As we’ve reported before, retail work often puts workers “on call,” with irregular hours that vary weekly or daily.

Meanwhile, the retail sector is expanding rapidly, sucking more workers into the low-wage workforce as middle-income jobs evaporate in the hobbling economic “recovery.”

The lack of job security and union representation deters workers from agitating for better pay and working conditions, perpetuating a cycle of instability and impoverishment in a constantly churning workforce.

But Demos suggests an elegant strategy for addressing multiple inequities at once: a cross-the-board wage hike at large retailers (with 1,000 or more employees). According to the report, raising hourly pay to a level equivalent to $25,000 per year for a full-time worker—about $12.25 an hour—would help close the gender wage gap and lift the poorest workers out of poverty, with trickle-up benefits for the whole labor force.

An estimated 437,000 working women will move out of poverty or near poverty once their wages increase to the new minimum. Family members, too, will benefit from the raise. In all, 371,000 female workers and their family members will leave the ranks of the impoverished. Another 517,000 will rise above the near poverty cutoff.

A mandatory wage hike would be no “job killer,” either. Demos projects that the guaranteed income would actually be an economic boon. More money in low-income workers’ pockets would stimulate consumer spending, boost sales and ultimately add about 105,000 to 136,000 jobs to the workforce. The projected boost to the GDP would range from $12.1 billion to $15.7 billion, the majority generated by women workers.

Relative to the industry’s soaring profits, the additional labor costs would come pretty cheap. The proposed base wage would require a $21.5 billion investment, which represents some 4 percent of the industry’s total 2012 payroll. The effect on retail prices is hard to predict, but even if bosses passed half of those costs on to shoppers, a typical family would pay less than $18 extra over the course of a year—a negligible surcharge for a measure that could help narrow structural income and gender gaps.

Still, $25,000 is not a magic number. Rather, the analysis is framed around a benchmark salary cited by Walmart worker advocates, who note, with outrage, that most of the company’s workers earn less. The proposed hourly pay of $12.25 falls below wage demands put forward by other activists—particularly the $15-per-hour demanded by the fast-food workers’ movement, the citywide campaign that pushed through a $15 wage floor in Seattle, and similar initiatives emerging in other cities.

Aside from a pay raise, women working part-time, who make up an estimated 44 percent of the retail workforce, need an even greater boost to attain a sustainable livelihood. Nearly one in three of those women want full-time work, according to researchers. And even workers who are classified as full-time often see their earnings undermined when their hours are cut back, because under the erratic “just in time” scheduling system, their hours vary wildly depending on fluctuations in inventory.

Please support our journalism. Get a digital subscription for just $9.50!

So Demos advocates a $12.25 hourly base wage for both full-time and part-time workers. Moreover, to improve overall working conditions, the report urges big retailers to give “involuntary” part-timers more hours, while instituting fairer scheduling practices. Workers should, for example, be informed about their schedules weeks in advance, instead of just days, or be guaranteed a certain number of hours per week, or alternately, a basic weekly pay level, regardless of hours worked.

According to Demos policy analyst Amy Traub, mega-retailers could afford to offer both more hours and more pay, particularly with the added knock-on effects of the elevated wage levels in terms of increased sales. “This is not a poor industry,” Traub says, and given the potential business gains from a better-compensated workforce, “A raise for employees and improving scheduling would be an investment in human capital for these companies.”

Myrick has a different investment in mind, as she goes on strike today as part of the nationwide “Walmart Moms” campaign. “Many times I have to choose between getting shoes for my daughter or my son”, she recalled, “and that’s no choice that a parent should have to make.” As she struggles to balance her work and family needs, a modest raise won’t fix everything, but it might spare her at least one impossible choice.

http://www.thenation.com/blog/180118/simple-fix-could-lift-hundreds-thousands-working-women-out-poverty#

Obama pledges to address gender pay gap, warns Dems could get ‘clobbered’ in midterms

Obama pledges to address gender pay gap, warns Dems could get ‘clobbered’ in midterms

By Reuters
Friday, March 21, 2014 2:52 EDT

President Barack Obama used a speech at a community college on Thursday to begin a series of events highlighting economic issues affecting women such as the gender pay gap in which women earn three-quarters as much as their male counterparts.

He spoke at the Orlando campus of Valencia College, a two-year institution that has been recognized for placing students in jobs and sending them on for higher degrees. Many of the students at Valencia are older and are returning to school fort training that will lead to higher-paying work.

Women are “facing unfair choices or outdated workplace policies that hold all of us back, and that has to change,” the president said.

The White House plans similar events in Denver, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and New York. The administration says the meetings will lead to a short list of actions the president can take by executive order, push Congress to act on, or launch with business collaboration. The measures would all be aimed at making it easier for women to find good jobs and be paid at levels that match those of their male counterparts.

“The president has a range of tools and he wants to figure out which are the right ones,” White House adviser Valerie Jarrett told reporters.

The White House Council of Economic Advisers released a report last week saying that although more women are earning higher educational degrees and filling a wider range of jobs than in the past, they continue to earn less than men. Full-time female workers make 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, the CEA said.

As part of efforts to spur gender pay equity, the Small Business Administration will hold a conference to identify ways to get more women trained and start careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, professions with higher salaries.

“To improve earnings, we need to get women in higher paying occupations,” said Betsey Stevenson, a member of the CEA.

Obama urged Congress to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour from $7.25, a proposal that faces strong opposition from many Republicans. The White House says the increase is particularly important for women, who constitute a large share of the minimum wage workforce.

Women have been steady supporters of the president and of Democrats, and Obama wants to rally support among voters to prevent the Republicans from winning control of the Senate in November elections.

At a fundraiser later at the Miami home of former basketball all-star Alonzo Mourning, Obama warned Democrats that failure to turn out and vote in November congressional elections could get them “clobbered.”

“The problem is not that the American people don’t agree with us,” he said. “Politics have gotten so toxic.”

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/03/21/obama-pledges-to-address-gender-pay-gap-warns-dems-could-get-clobbered-in-midterms/