Indian People’s Action Conducts Youth Training

The Native Organizers Alliance (NOA), a network of grassroots Indian groups, is only as strong as its local affiliates. In Montana, we’re proud to have Indian People’s Action (IPA) in the NOA!

IPA has a long history of grassroots organizing in Montana with significant victories over the past two years on voting rights, health care, and addressing injustice in the judicial and prison systems.

Michaelynn Hawk, executive director of IPA said, “This year, IPA set the goal of expanding our leadership to include more young activists because in Indian Country, a large percentage of the population is below the age of 30 years old.”

The KTVQ.com website carried a news story on the July 24-26 youth training.

“The weekends are a time to kick back and relax for many people, but this Friday through Sunday, the Indian People’s Action convenes in Billings to work through serious issues.” And the article concluded with, “The organization aims to increase what it calls ‘the movement building capacity of Indian Country in Montana’.”

And that’s just what they did! Young people came from the Crow, Northern Cheyenne Reservations, as well as from Missoula. The participants engaged in in-depth sessions on environmental issues, criminal justice, health care and organizing Native-style. One of the participants said in the group evaluation, “I wish the training was longer.”

Lita Pepion, an IPA board member, said, “It is important to have events like this to continue our tradition of passing on knowledge from old to young (and vice versa),” She also said, “ Whatever we do today will impact the next seven generations and our work helps to assure future generations will have improved access to social, racial and economic justice as all people, regardless of ethnic background or any other identifier, should have.”

The IPA board of directors participated with great enthusiasm because they believe in the future work in Montana Indian Country. As one board member said, “We want them armed with the knowledge, skills, connections and ability to begin working toward social justice in whatever issue they are passionate about.”

Indian People’s Action is also an affiliate of the Alliance for a Just Society.

To Fight Racism, Protect Voting Rights

The cold-blooded murder of nine people at a Charleston church made it impossible to deny the persistence of racism across the nation. So do the symbols of support for slavery and segregation that remain emblazoned on public property throughout the South, and scattered among some Northern states as well.

What will it take to bring real racial justice to our country? For starters, protecting the right to vote.

A century after the end of the Civil War, Southern segregation thrived because of lynch laws, poll taxes, and other institutional restrictions on African Americans. One of the great achievements that finally broke the back of Jim Crow was the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which enshrined the right to vote in federal statute for the first time.

The Voting Rights Act mandated federal review of any new voting rules in 15 states, most of them in the South, with histories of discrimination at the polls. Two years ago, the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision on Shelby County v. Holder effectively gutted the enforcement tools of the federal voting law.

The right to vote is still the law of the land — in principle — but the Supreme Court ruling turned the protection of those rights over to state and local authorities.

Since the ruling, states such as Arizona and Kansas have passed restrictive voter ID laws. And North Carolina ended early voting and same-day registration.

They’re far from alone, and this voter suppression isn’t limited to the states that joined the Confederacy. But I can’t help wondering how jurisdictions that still wrap themselves in the rebel flag can be counted on to safeguard fair voting rights.

To protect against discrimination, Congress must pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act. The bill would repair the damage the Supreme Court inflicted two years ago on voter protections.

The Senate version, introduced by Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy, would provide federal observers where necessary. It would also require federal permission for states to change their voting laws, and it mandates bilingual voting materials where appropriate.

You’d think that following a tragedy like the one that struck the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a bill protecting voting rights would sail through Congress. Sadly, you’d be wrong.

What are the stonewalling legislators so worried about? The answer is clear: The black vote threatens them.

Black voters accounted for 12 percent of the national electorate in the 2014 elections, up from 11 percent in 2010 but below the significant 13 percent in 2012. That year — when President Barack Obama was running for reelection — black turnout eclipsed white turnout by about 2 points.

In some Southern states, such as North Carolina, African-American voters make up over 20 percent of the electorate. Black voter turnout in that state has increased dramatically in the last 15 years.

With the 2016 election right around the corner, maybe that’s something Southern Republicans are worried about. After all, they’ve already denied residents of most Southern states access to Medicaid expansion and a living wage. Now they’re threatening their voting rights too.

By all means, take down those Confederate flags. Move the monuments to museums. But more importantly, begin addressing the deeper issues those symbols represent — both in the South and throughout the country. Legislators must raise a flag guaranteeing the right to vote for everyone.

Celebrate 50 Years of Medicaid by Expanding It to Cover More People

Persistence pays off. Let’s remember this as we celebrate 50 years of Medicaid on July 30.

In 1965, Medicaid entered the world as a Medicare add-on for low-income families. Now, the program provides comprehensive coverage to more people than any other insurer in the United States. Almost 70 million people in the U.S. turn to Medicaid for their health coverage.

But Medicaid is much more than the country’s top health insurer. It’s also a key battleground for the future of our country.

As we stake out this future, we have big questions to answer about who will benefit from all our country has to offer — and who will wind up excluded from those benefits. We also have big questions about how such decisions are made.

Will we be a United States where we all enjoy the security that contributes to a happy and healthy life? Or, will be a country where the economy is based on indebtedness and limited options for the majority, with snowballing enrichment of the hyper-affluent? No less important, will we be a country where billionaires answer these questions, or will we renew our democratic principles?

For 50 years, Medicaid has been doing the hard work of expanding our national community. It has provided health care to people of limited means and people of color — people who have long found themselves shut out of quality employment and, along with it, health insurance. For years, Medicaid has saved lives that the private sector didn’t find profitable enough to save.

The power of Medicaid is more than symbolic. In practical terms, Medicaid demonstrates the difference that government can make in our families and communities. According to the Commonwealth Fund, adults covered by Medicaid report getting high-quality, timely health care at — but at much lower rates of medical debt.

That’s why the billionaire-backed far right put Medicaid in its crosshairs. What could be more frightening to this bloc than a government program that invests in the lives of people of limited means and, in terms of both quality and cost-effectiveness, gives the private market a run for its money? This is also why the progressive fight for Medicaid expansion — now being waged across the country — is so important.

The battles are far from easy. Nineteen states still haven’t taken up Medicaid expansion available under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), despite effective grassroots campaigning – and despite desperate calls for expansion from those among the nearly four million shut out of the benefits of the ACA because of this refusal.

This rejection of Medicaid expansion is so cruel and callous — and so steeped in racial injustice — that it’s easy to forget how far we’ve come.

From the very start, nothing about Medicaid — or Medicare, for that matter — was fated to be. In 1965, both programs came as the fruit of cresting movements for economic and racial justice. The powerful American Medical Association threw its weight against the legislation, fearing “socialized medicine.”

Meanwhile, the National Medical Association (representing African American physicians), the NAACP, the labor movement, and many others voiced the need for a government role in health care – including taking to the streets with their demand.

From this victory, we’ve made Medicaid a keystone of our health care system — turning back three major attempts to block-grant the program between 1981 and 2004 — thanks to committed, effective grassroots organizing and activism.

We’ve had losses along the way — eligibility barriers targeting immigrants being the most significant — but our victories have been greater than the losses. Since 1965, we’ve expanded Medicaid to bring in millions more children, pregnant women, and people with disabilities. People from all walks of life now count on Medicaid to cover everything from asthma treatment for kids to assisted living services for parents and grandparents.

And let’s not forget that our current fight for Medicaid expansion is also the outcome of progress — the ACA’s historic opening of Medicaid to adults without children. This was and continues to be tremendous win. To make it possible, hundreds of thousands of community leaders marched in the streets, called their lawmakers, and raised their voices on social media and in the press. Most states have responded by picking up the Medicaid expansion.

In short, thanks to ongoing grassroots pressure, more people turn to Medicaid than could ever have been imagined back in 1965. We stand to win even more as we push for full Medicaid expansion in all 50 states — each and every one of them.

The fight is about vision and values, but we shouldn’t see it in partisan terms. Many states have adopted Medicaid with bipartisan support or under the leadership of Republican governors. Take Nevada, New Mexico, and, most recently, Montana as examples.

The Republicans who have come out in support of Medicaid expansion know that it’s right thing to do, both morally and in terms of good government. Even in states stalled on Medicaid expansion – states like Alabama, Idaho, and Mississippi — most people agree. (This includes 62 percent of residents of the Deep South.) They want Medicaid expanded.

But they face an astroturf, billionaire-funded opposition so mired in a government-is-bad ideology that its adherents would rather see people die than see a public program succeed. This opposition is fueled by Koch brothers’ dollars funneled through Americans for Prosperity (meaning prosperity for billionaires). When nervous Republicans look over their shoulders, it’s AFP suits they see, making threats.

They should look more broadly. It’s our cause that has the support of the public, of the businesses in our communities, and the doctors that keep us healthy. We — and not those who don’t care if their fellow humans die for lack of health care — offer an inclusive vision. It’s a vision that everyone can get on board with and that — with 50 years of success under our belts –we know is going to win.

Winning on Student Loan Reform … From CT to MT

Across the country, student loan borrowers and their allies have been organizing to make college more affordable and push for state-level reforms that address the mountain of student debt that’s weighing down students and families. And they’re winning… all the way from Connecticut to Montana.

In Connecticut, where the 2015 legislative session ended at midnight on June 3rd, Alliance affiliate Connecticut Citizen Action Group (CCAG) co-convened and provided staff support for the Higher Ed, Not Debt – CT coalition, a coalition of community and labor allies that formed last fall and championed affordable higher ed and student loan reforms in the legislature this year.

CCAG’s work with the coalition – including releasing the Connecticut version of the Alliance’s A Mountain of Debt report last fall, mobilizing its grassroots membership through public events and calls to action, and driving under-the-dome engagement at the legislature – helped push some breakthrough wins on student loans before the session gaveled out.

The Alliance congratulates the Higher Ed, Not Debt – CT coalition for these exciting wins, including:

Passing a Student Loan Bill of Rights that gives borrowers somewhere to turn for help and gives the banking commissioner the authority to investigate and take action against bad-acting loan servicers. This bill of rights creates a dedicated student loan ombudsman position in the state Banking Department to review and act on borrower complaints, to compile and publicize complaint data, and to educate borrowers and the public about student loan issues. It establishes licensure requirements and standards of conduct for student loan servicers. And it authorizes the banking commissioner to conduct investigations and examinations and take enforcement action against servicers who violate licensing provisions.

Passing in-state tuition for DREAMERS – immigrant students who attend high school in Connecticut but, despite having residency in the state, have been barred from paying in-state tuition because of immigration status. With out-of-state tuition often coming in at triple in-state rates, this made the costs of higher education prohibitive for many. Passing in-state tuition is an important step toward justice and educational opportunity for immigrant students.

Passing a landmark student loan refinancing bill. This bill allows the Connecticut Higher Education Supplemental Loan Authority (CHESLA) to refinance qualifying student loans. Crucially, the bill gives CHESLA the authority to refinance private student loans (which often come with punitive interest rates) into public CHESLA loans with lower rates and better protections. This bill also reforms CHESLA’s lending practices to ensure that it provides more aid to low-income students who have the greatest financial need.

This progress in Connecticut is exciting. So is the news from Montana, where the Montana Organizing Project (MOP) has been collecting stories and organizing around student debt issues, too (MOP released the Montana edition of A Mountain of Debt last fall). This year, MOP took on a longshot fight in the legislature to roll back the criminalization of student debt – and won!

The criminalization of student debt has been a troubling – and growing – trend nationwide. Going into this year, 22 states (including Montana) had laws on the books that allow the state to revoke a state-issued professional license (like a nursing license) if a borrower defaults on student loans.

But Montana went even further: under a statute passed in 1997, the state could suspend a driver’s license indefinitely if a borrower failed to pay back student loans.

In a sprawling state like Montana where public transportation infrastructure is poor and driving is a practical necessity to get to work, members of the Montana Organizing Project concluded this law was just plain kicking people when they’re down… so they kicked into action to do something about it.

MOP engaged the state Department of Justice around the issue, analyzed the Montana Code to develop a fix, and worked to build support both inside and outside the legislature to reverse this punitive law. The resulting bill, HB 363, passed the Montana House and Senate with bi-partisan support and was signed into law by Montana Governor Steve Bullock – a promising victory for efforts to roll back the criminalization of student debt.

Hats off to the teams in Connecticut and Montana for winning these fights, and putting forward models that can inspire action and catalyze new campaigns for affordable higher education and student loan reform across the country.

Daley Weekly: High Water, Low Ethics and Oak Flat Disaster

Highways

It looks like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is closing in on a three-year deal on the Highway Fund. Most of the destructive pay-for provisions that were in some earlier version have been pulled out and the package might get close to 70 votes. Given that the House passed an eight-month phony-money plan, it looks to me that this debate might just be over.

We reported last week about an effort by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) over in the House to do a big, six-year highway plan linked to some form of international tax reform. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), with the quiet assent of some of the Democrats, had floated a terrible tax plan in order to try to bait Ryan and the R’s into a large infrastructure investment. McConnell simply slipped past them, cut his deal with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), got rid of some of the onerous pay-for gimmicks, and moved forward.

It will make no difference, but it might be fun speculate whether or not some might be having buyer’s remorse after watching Schumer, their anointed future leader, maneuver them into a horrible deal and get totally out strategized by McConnell.

Immigration

To the disgust of many and surprise of few, the House passed a bill designed to intervene in the cities that have become sanctuaries for immigrants. The demagoguery on this issue was led by Donald Trump – and the excuse provided by a hardened criminal who shot a woman in San Francisco. He had been repeatedly deported and had done time in prison. The legislation would withhold federal funds from sanctuary cities where they decline to turn their local police departments into immigration enforcement agencies.

The bill passed by a 241 to 179 margin. Six Dems voted for it and five Rs voted against it.

Detention

I know Gentle Reader that you will be surprised to learn that I hold the consecutive detention record for my high school. “You will come to detention until we tell you to quit.” Of course, they never did tell me to quit. If I hadn’t graduated I would still be there. So stuff about detention gets my attention.

During the last Bush administration the decision was made to establish some holding pens where undocumented mothers and their children would be detained together. They called them “family detention” centers. Sounds benign, doesn’t it? Family-oriented and all. Well the place down by Austin, Texas where they set this up actually was a damned mess. Kids in prison suits, without private toilets, sleeping under the lights and going without schooling.

The Obama Administration decided largely to abandon this approach, but when the wave of Central American refugee kids started arriving they re-opened a family detention center in New Mexico where refugee children are held for extensive periods of time for assessment of their asylum status and in preparation for deportation. They are kept there month after month.

I was detained for an hour a day in high school, but imagine being a kid locked in what is effectively a full time prison all day every day for months on end. Reports of the effect of this extensive incarceration on the children are heart rending.

Over a month ago, a delegation of Members of Congress led by Rep. Louis Gutierrez (D-IL), visited the facility and immediately called for its closure. In late June, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson visited and announced a policy that would free the detainees when they had established a cause for consideration of their asylum status.

The efforts to close these kinds of facilities should get a boost from a study done by the American Immigration Council outlining how humane approaches, including the provision of legal counsel, are just as effective as detention.

I wish the folks who wrote this report had been around when I needed them, but it is wonderful that they are with us now to show how we can effectively get rid of this inhumane system.

Racism

Presidential candidates among the D’s are getting their pant cuffs caught in their bike sprockets because they don’t get the very clear focus of the Black Lives Matter activists. Great story in the Washington Post about how they keep wanting to say “Black lives matter, white lives matter, all lives matter.” What they are finding hard to deal with is the idea that racism is not something being inflicted on either whites or all lives. Racism is about blacks killed by the cops, and a lot of other stuff indeed.

The candidates are getting a hard schooling in this when they are being heckled and confronted by activists. As the candidates struggle to figure this out, all of us will be drawn into the dynamic. Racism has become an issue in the Presidential campaign.

Dust Off That Public Option

Big announcement that mega health insurance company Anthem is trying to buy the nearly as mega Cigna. If this deal goes through you can pretty much kiss off competition in a whole lot of insurance markets.

We’re gonna have to swim for it!

You had better get on with the trip to Venice that you have been putting off until next year.

There is a new report out about the increasing pace of global warming from a group of scientists led James Hansen, the NASA scientist who first helped put this issue on the national stage back in 1988.

This new study warns: “If the ocean continues to accumulate heat and increase melting of marine-terminating ice shelves of Antarctica and Greenland, a point will be reached at which it is impossible to avoid large scale ice sheet disintegration with sea level rise of at least several meters.”

Several meters is a whole hell of a lot higher than the more current assumption of a rise of a meter, which is trouble enough. The scientists also worry that the pace of change may be more rapid than previously thought.

Those who are weak swimmers are invited to master the art of walking on water. If you can do neither, Venice soon may be off your itinerary. They already have to put out risers so folks can pass across a flooded Piazza San Marco to get north a few canals to sample the fritto misto and buy gelato for the kids.

Oak Flat

We report here about Oak Flats on the chance that some of you may have missed the story in the New York Times about how Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a saint to many, engineered a corrupt fine print deal in the Defense Authorization Act that gave sacred Apache land over to a couple of foreign mining companies.

Oak Flats is located on land that was protected from mining under the Eisenhower Administration. For centuries the Apaches have used this land for acorn gathering and for coming of age ceremonies for girls. But there is a billion tons of copper under Oak Flats and the little McCain provision gives this area over to two mining firms from Australia and Britain in return for some other land they purchased in Arizona that is otherwise worthless and has no meaning for the Apaches. When they get done with it Oak Flats will be a two-mile wide toxic hole a thousand feet deep.

Phase Out Medicare

In spite of repeated warnings in these pages, Presidential candidate Jeb Bush continues to make ad lib policy remarks that raise serious questions about the direction he wants for the country.

Last week he suggested that we had to “phase out” Medicare. Huh? Yep. You can read theactual transcript of his remarks. Aids later clarified that he really means that the program has to be reformed, etc., etc. While those of us who rely on Medicare to ease our health care costs in our senior moments contemplate the meaning of these remarks, the Bush campaign might want to figure out how to keep its candidate from rambling into these positions that are sure to be topics of negative advertising should their guy get the nomination.

Clinton Email

Meanwhile the saga of Hillary Clinton’s email continues to plague her candidacy. The Inspector General for the State Department has turned the issue over to the Justice Department for the investigation of possible criminal charges associated with classified information.

Drugs

While the stories continue about the apparent attempt by the Obama Trade Representative to make it impossible for our government to negotiate pharmaceutical prices, a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows that an overwhelming percentage of the public want us to fight costs by doing exactly that. Eighty-seven percent want the government to be able to negotiate for cheaper drug prices.

Klepto Banking

The big banks just got a new rule that they are going to hate. They either have to increase their reserves or reduce their size. The rule comes via the Federal Reserve and flows from reforms adopted in the post economic collapse Dodd-Frank legislation. Let the screamin’ and yellin’ begin. OK, puns that have to be explained are not very good, but Janet Yellen chairs the Federal Reserve.

Tax Extenders

It looks as though Senate Majority Leader McConnell is having his way with a strategy aimed at getting all the juicy stuff done this year so that he can concentrate on getting a lot of campaign related stuff done next year, just prior to the elections.

For months there have been rumors and blogs about how the package of some 55 tax loopholes known as extenders would be a vehicle used to make permanent some big tax breaks for the corporate oligarchs. This week the Senate Finance Committee rolled out and passed a bill that is a simple, straight two-year extension of these loopholes. Nothing permanent. This will probably avoid a protracted fight over this stuff. It also eliminates a possible vehicle that many advocates were hoping to have in order to make improvements in the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit.

Honesty About Agony

Mike, a professor of Lit down in Portland, writes to point out that I got a bit beyond my headlights with the agony metaphor in the last Weekly. He indicates that the word agonpreceded the introduction of a second character into Greek tragedy and was not at first associated with a heroine’s confrontation of her terrible fate. Our word for agony does however come from this source, so we were mostly right. I report on this to you because the Daley Weekly intends to set a high standard for itself. How can we be so bold as to suggest that the world is filled with liars and cheats if we are not ourselves clear about stuff?

Schedule

The Congress is around through the first week of August and then they depart for a month.

 

Walmart’s Offshore Tax Havens Hurt Small Businesses That Support Communities

A recent report released by Americans for Tax Fairness exposed Walmart for their evasive tax practices and revealed that the retail giant is holding over 78 billion dollars in offshore subsidiaries. Our members were quick to speak out against these practices and took to the media to make their voices heard.

Matt Birong, owner of 3 Squares Café (a cute and comfortable spot in Vergennes, VT) and member of the Main Street Alliance of Vermont, compared the high road business practices of his company to the extractive economic policies of Walmart and other multinational corporations in his article, featured in The Hill.

“Small businesses like mine are being squeezed by tax policies written for the upper echelon. Even though our revenue sheets look much different than those of the retail giant, we are forced to supplement the income of their employees and absorb a larger share of the tax responsibility,” said Birong.

Kelly Conklin, a member of the Main Street Alliance national executive committee, owner of Foley-Waite cabinets in New Jersey, also weighed in on the issue and spoke about growing his business while supporting his community in his article, featured in the Augusta Free Press.

“Small businesses can’t afford an army of accountants and tax lawyers like Walmart can to create offshore tax-avoidance strategies,” said Conklin. “None of us have shell corporations in Luxembourg. Even if we could pull off such financial shenanigans, I honestly believe most of us wouldn’t want to.”

“We’d rather contribute what we should to the public good and see our communities thrive right alongside our businesses,” said Conklin.

Small business owners already face stiff competition from large corporations, like Walmart, that can execute bulk purchases and drive down prices. The latest tax evasion revelation demonstrates just how far the scales are tipped in favor of big businesses.

Congress can act to rein-in these practices – and our leaders will continue to work to make sure their voices are heard on this issue.

NY Fast food workers win $15 minimum wage

Fast food workers in New York are getting a raise!

Hard work by our affiliates Citizen Action New York and Make the Road New York – along with dozens of other allied organizations and unions, and thousands of workers who took to the streets and shared their personal stories – has paid off  in a huge victory.

Yesterday, the New York State Wage Board approved gradually raising the minimum wage for New York City fast food chain employees to $15 an hour by 2018. Fast food workers throughout New York state will gradually raise to $15 an hour by 2021.

“This is a huge victory for fast food workers, and for everyone working for low wages in New York,” said LeeAnn Hall, executive director of the Alliance for a Just Society.  “It puts pressure on employers in other low-paying industries to start paying their workers a living wage.

“I applaud the hard work of everyone who fought for this important moment,” said Hall.

Fast food workers are paid less than any other occupation, and fast food work is projected to be the second largest growing occupation (PDF) in the country, with more openings than nearly any other.

This momentous victory brings fast food workers in New York significantly closer to earning a wage that will allow them to support themselves. It will boost their own financial stability, their communities, and the economy for all of us.

In New York and many other states, $15 is still a modest wage. This increase however allows workers to come closer to making ends meet.

In the report “Families Out of Balance” by the Alliance for a Just Society, our research shows that a living wage for a single adult is $18.47 an hour in New York state and is $22.49 an hour in New York City.

A pay raise is long overdue for all our workers nationwide. Tomorrow marks six years since the federal government last raised the minimum wage – to $7.25 on July 24, 2009.

A bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate Wednesday by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and in the House by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

If the wage can be raised in Seattle and New York and Los Angeles and so many other cities, it can be raised nationally – and we can do it.

Congratulations New York! The struggle continues!unnamed (4)

Fast Food Workers in New York are Getting a Raise!

Hard work by our affiliate Citizen Action of New York – along with dozens of other allied organizations and unions, and thousands of workers who took to the streets and shared their personal stories – has paid off  in a huge victory.

Yesterday, the New York State Wage Board approved gradually raising the minimum wage for New York City fast food chain employees to $15 an hour by 2018. Fast food worker wages throughout New York state will gradually raise to $15 an hour by 2021.

“This is a huge victory for fast food workers, and for everyone working for low wages in New York,” said LeeAnn Hall, executive director of the Alliance for a Just Society.  “It puts pressure on employers in other low-paying industries to start paying their workers a living wage.

“I applaud the hard work of everyone who fought for this important moment,” said Hall.

Fast food workers are paid less than any other occupation, and fast food work is projected to be the second largest growing occupation in the country, with more openings than nearly any other.

This momentous victory brings fast food workers in New York significantly closer to earning a wage that will allow them to support themselves. It will boost their own financial stability, their communities, and the economy for all of us.

In New York and many other states, $15 is still a modest wage. This increase however allows workers to come closer to making ends meet.

In the report “Families Out of Balance” by the Alliance for a Just Society, our research shows that a living wage for a single adult is $18.47 an hour in New York state and is $22.49 an hour in New York City.

A pay raise is long overdue for all our workers nationwide. Tomorrow marks six years since the federal government last raised the minimum wage – to $7.25 on July 24, 2009.

A bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate Wednesday by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and in the House by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

If the wage can be raised in Seattle and New York and Los Angeles and so many other cities, it can be raised nationally – and we can do it.

Congratulations New York!

 

Daley Weekly: Don’t Be Fooled By Names – “Family Flexibility” is a Fail

Iran

Big debate starting in Congress over the nuclear pact negotiated between the U.S., Iran and the world’s nuclear powers, including China and Russia.

The conservatives don’t like it, but have proven hard pressed to figure out just why – they don’t trust the Iranians, or they don’t want them to get the money that will come with lifting sanctions, or the Israelis are upset, or the Saudis might try to get a bomb themselves. The central idea that Iran is not now able to make a bomb does not seem to be the issue.

Obama immediately vowed to veto any Congressional act that tried to undo the deal. It looks like he probably will hold enough votes to prevent an override. Watch the Congressional action turn to something that does not undo the deal, but lets them look like they are sticking a pencil in the President’s eye – something about what happens if the deal is broken, or what happens in ten years.

This debate will be all the rage in your nation’s Capital for the next few weeks, but it’s a big win for the President.

Farce Turns to Tragedy

The agon is the portion of the Greek Tragedy where the heroes and heroines confront their fate. It is the origin of our word agony. The Greek agony came last week when they submitted to austerity imposed largely at the insistence of the Germans in return for a bail out of their economy. Since there is no capacity to stimulate growth and no money to invest in the economy, this plan simply will not work.

The International Monetary Fund and the French seem to understand that it will not work and are trying to find another way, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel is ailing from the austerity bug and apparently is intent on punishing the Greeks by inflicting the symptoms of this disease on them.

The Greeks actually are showing heroism in the face of some rough treatment by the rest of Europe – they have tried not to desert the European community.

Infrastructure

Remember the old saw comparing the legislative process to sausage making? Well we have a great example going now in the Congress over the need to put money in the Highway Trust Fund.

Last week we reported about a bad plan being offered by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Democrats have been reluctant to criticize this give away to the multi-national corporations because they are anxious to produce the largest possible amount of funding for the Trust and thus the maximum amount of economic stimulus. Schumer’s most important ally is Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) over in the House. Ryan wants to link infrastructure funding to the largest possible tax deal.

Nevertheless, these plans may not even be considered if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is successful in pushing a short-term fix for the infrastructure program. Since he doesn’t want to do the sensible thing and raise the gas tax, McConnell is scratching around for a way to pay for the program for a couple of years. How about using unspent mortgage relief money, or cutting federal employee retirement benefits, or by making it easier to deny Social Security benefits? No, we did not make any of these up, they are actually offered by various Republican sources.

Meanwhile, over in the House they cobbled together some more phony money deals and passed an extension of the fund until December. The Democrats had suggested that long term funding could come from closing corporate tax loopholes, but their plan was voted down.

We will know in a week or so whether the bad short-term McConnell plan will get through the Senate. If it doesn’t, watch out for the bad long-term Schumer plan to become the framework for a debate that could last until Christmas.

Walker

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker finally announced his candidacy for the Presidency. We have been breathless with expectation. He joins Governors Bobby Jindal and Chris Christie as examples of politicians who have adopted the austerity ideology and have driven their state’s economies into the ditch – all the while bragging about their records. Walker’s announcement prompted a series of stories about how poorly the state’s economy is doing compared to neighboring Minnesota.

Walker cut funding for education, attacked collective bargaining and civil service, and refused to expand Medicaid – among other things on the Koch Brother’s austerity agenda.

Wisconsin is rated thirty-fourth among the states in terms of job growth.

Meanwhile, next door in Minnesota where the Democrats increased taxes, expanded Medicaid and made investments in education, they are experiencing an economic boom, ranking fifth in the nation in economic growth.

Medicaid

It looks as though Alaska will join the growing group of Medicaid expansion states. After the Alaska Legislature failed to enact Independent Governor Bill Walker’s expansion proposal, he announced that he was going to go ahead and do it anyway.

Trumped Up Charges

In the last Daley Weekly we asked whether or not Trump had peaked. Lest you did not believe this to be a possibility, you might speculate about how Trump’s ridiculous attack on Senator John McCain (R-AZ) will be seen by his base. Late in the week Trump gave all the R candidates something to react to when he claimed that Senator John McCain was not a war hero because he had been captured. Trump’s ego and mouth just got him in real trouble even with those who admire his racist remarks about Mexicans. If spending six years in a prison camp doesn’t pretty much give you a corner on the hero thing I don’t know what does. It will be interesting to see how Ted Cruz (R-TX), who has been kissing The Donald’s backside, deals with this one.

Let’s hope that the polls change enough to get Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) into the Republican Presidential Debate set for month’s end. He had the sense to go on national TV and denounce Donald Trump’s comments about Mexicans. Graham even went so far as to declare that if the Republicans did not reject this stuff they would lose both the election and the moral authority to govern the nation. I think that Graham’s war mongering has and would get us into more foreign sewers than we can possibly clean, but someone needs to be on the stage to speak against The Donald’s racist fulminations.

SHOP Exchanges

Apparently enrollments in the SHOP exchanges, which started last year, are dangerously low – a mere 10,700 employers have bought in, which equates to about 85,000 lives nationwide. Shops have experienced technology problems and a lack of competition. Employers complain about complications and cost. Small business tax credits are available to far too few businesses due to size limitations. Small businesses had looked to these markets as a way to expand health insurance coverage for their employees.

What’s in a Name?

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Well maybe, maybe not. Some Republicans introduced a bill in the House called the “Working Families Flexibility Act.” The idea behind this act is to prevent employers from having to pay overtime for work beyond the forty-hour week. You could choose paid leave or comp time, but no overtime pay.

Remember how sacred the forty-hour week was a couple of months back when they were trying to change the ACA requirement that benefits go to employees who worked up to thirty hours? Anyway, this “flexibility” is an absolute crock and it is intended to cost you money and give the corporations another break.

Sorry to get all flowery here but it isn’t my fault. After all, it is Shakespeare who dreams up these metaphors. Here’s another one: “Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.”

Paid Sick Leave

Oregon joined California, Connecticut and Massachusetts in requiring employers to provide paid sick leave for their employees.

Low Income Tax Credits

As the Republican Congress goes through its machinations over how to make the rich even richer, it is critical that the Minority Party use its power to make sure that the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit be made a part of the legislation. And merely renewing them won’t be enough. The hole in the EITC that excludes childless adults should be eliminated. The CTC should be indexed to inflation. When you discuss this whole matter with your friends and Members of Congress, you might want to school yourselves with some excellent information and framing supplied via a webinar given last week on these credits by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities and the Coalition on Human Needs.

Criminalization

President Obama seems to be doubling down on efforts to reduce criminalization. He commuted the sentences of 46 low-level drug offenders and visited a federal pen. He is asking Congress to join with him to overhaul the criminal justice system and reduce the national prison population. He argues that this is an aspect of national life that is “particularly skewed by race and by wealth.”

Karl Marx wrote that religion is the opiate of the people. I think he got it bassackwards. It turns out that opiates are the religion of the people. Hence the failure of the so-called war on drugs. The drugs won. And now we are going to have to figure out how to free the POWs.

Contraception

Remember Hobby Lobby? This was the name of a case in which the Supreme Court threw a spear into the provisions of the Affordable Care Act that attempted to guarantee women access to cost-free contraception through health insurance. It looked as though the idea was pretty much meaningless for millions of women. The Administration has been trying to do what they call inside the D.C. Beltway “thread the needle” with an accommodation for religious institutions. They may have done it. The Little Sisters of the Poor were not happy and sued. They lost when a federal appeals court ruled that the plan does not impose a substantial burden on the nuns’ practice of their religion.

Schedule

Congress is pretty much in continuous session through the first week in August when they break for a month. August might be a good time to see if you can catch your local Congress member back home and to ask them whether or not they will work to break the Sequester that is strangling domestic spending and pressing a brake on an economy that needs to be stimulated.

Bill Daley, National Legislative Director
bill@allianceforajustsociety.org

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Bill Daley
http://allianceforajustsociety.nationbuilder.com/