Supreme Obstruction: Senate Leaders Want a Constitutional Shutdown

This article by LeeAnn Hall and Fred Azcarate was originally published in The Hill.

Which of our elected officials truly believe in constitutional government – and which of them don’t? The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is putting senators to the test on this question – and the right wing is failing that test at a time when there’s a growing call for a more inclusive, more responsive democracy in our country.

The United States Constitution, the basis of our government, lays out a clear process for filling a vacancy such as that created by Scalia’s death: the president nominates a candidate and the Senate advises.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said that the Senate should obstruct the appointment of a ninth justice to the Court, and his colleagues on the right followed suit.
What they’re proposing is nothing short of another government shutdown—this time of constitutional proportions.

It’s a point made by some of their Senate colleagues. “When the hard right doesn’t get its way,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday, “their immediate reaction is to shut [government] down.”

We’ve seen the consequences of government shutdowns when right-wing members of Congress decide they do not want to do the job of governing: furloughed employees, shuttered public buildings and parks, delayed veterans’ death benefits, Main Street businesses cut off from loans, and billions of dollars lost to the economy.

Shutdowns harm real people because government is an important force in our lives and our communities. But none of that matters to the right-wing obstructionists in Congress.

Yet, while Schumer’s statement certainly reflects current dynamics in Congress, his statement doesn’t go far enough.

Obstructionism is more than a tactic the right wing uses when it doesn’t get its way. Obstructionism also expresses the right’s ideology about the role of government in our lives.

From their perspective, government should serve individual and corporate property rights and national defense. They call this “small government,” but it’s not about size. It’s about who government works for and whose interests it serves.

The fight over the Supreme Court comes when an increasing share of the public is demanding a government that responds to the needs of all of us – not just a few. Yet the right wing wants a more exclusive government, as best exemplified by their recent attacks on voting rights – the most virulent attacks since Jim Crow.

Many cases now pending before the Supreme Court – cases the right-wing wants to shut down – have a bearing on our creation of that more inclusive, more responsive democracy so many are clamoring for. Without nine members, it cannot issue definitive rulings.

Employees who want dignity in their workplaces, including the right to unionize and the right to overtime pay, will have to wait until 2017 for a decision on those rights.

Women will have wait for an answer on their right to abortion and contraception. People with cases in the criminal justice system will have to wait for an answer on their right to a jury free of racial bias.

Immigrant parents will have to wait for an answer on their right to remain with their children, and to live at peace in their communities.

With more than 300 days left in President Obama’s term, there’s plenty of time for Senate hearings. Justice Scalia himself was confirmed after 85 days. What’s unprecedented is not the timeframe for review but the fact that the right wing still has not adjusted to the reality of a black president.

They’d do best to adapt. Our country is looking more and more like the president. It’s also looking more like those calling for their rightful place in our democracy: women, people of color and immigrants. Failure to recognize these voices will hurt at the ballot box.

The Constitution is for the entire country, as should be remembered by senators who keep copies of it in their pockets. Shutting down the Constitution means shutting down our democracy, and we the people won’t stand for it.

Hall LeeAnn@allianceforajustsociety.org is the executive director of Alliance for a Just Society, a national research, policy, and organizing network working for economic, racial, and social justice. Azcarate fazcarate@usaction.org has been the executive director of USAction for the past 2 and 1/2 years. For 30 years, he has been an organizer, trainer and social movement leader with grassroots, community and labor organizations.

 

REPORT: Debt Collectors Profit From Aggressive Tactics

For Immediate Release
January 26, 2016
Contact: Kathy Mulady, (206) 992-8787
kathy@allianceforajustsociety.org
REPORT PROFILES COMPANIES WITH THE MOST COMPLAINTS ABOUT
ABUSIVE AND DECEPTIVE DEBT COLLECTION TACTICS

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should write strong rules to protect
consumers from abusive collection practices

SEATTLE – Companies engaging in debt collection activities use abusive and deceptive practices that include harassing people for debts not owed, threatening illegal actions, calling people at work, and contacting their employers and neighbors.

These are among the findings of a new report, Unfair, Deceptive & Abusive: Debt Collectors Profit from Aggressive Tactics, released today by the Alliance for a Just Society. Researchers analyzed 75,000 consumer complaints filed during the last two years with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The report profiles the 15 companies with the most complaints. The list includes:

  • Encore Capital Group – San Diego, CA
  • PRA Group – Norfolk, VA
  • Enhanced Recovery Company – Jacksonville, FL
  • Citigroup – New York, NY
  • Expert Global Solutions – Plano, TX
  • JPMorgan Chase – New York, NY
  • Navient (the student loan servicer) – Wilmington, DE
  • Wells Fargo – San Francisco, CA

The CFPB is considering whether new rules are warranted to protect consumers from deceptive and aggressive collection practices. Next steps in a rulemaking on debt collections are anticipated as early as February.

About 35 percent of adults in the U.S. with a credit file have a report of debt in collections, leaving a broad swath of households vulnerable to abusive collection tactics.

“This analysis makes it clear that debt collectors routinely engage in unfair, deceptive and abusive practices to maximize their profits,” said LeeAnn Hall, executive director of the Alliance for a Just Society. “We need the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to stand up for consumers and write strong rules that ends these abusive practices.”

The report includes detailed recommendations to end abusive collection practices.

Meanwhile, secretive groups with undisclosed funding sources have launched a series of dubious attacks on the Bureau since November, seeking to undermine its work to strengthen consumer protections in the financial sector.

“We need the CFPB to stand strong in the face of these deceptive attacks from dark money groups with financial industry ties,” said Hall. “It’s time to rein in abusive debt collection practices and we need strong leadership and a strong rule from the CFPB to do it.”

Findings from the report include:

  • More than 40 percent of the complaints were about continued attempts to collect debts consumers said they did not owe.
  • Nearly 20 percent of complaints were about collectors’ communication tactics; 8 percent cited false statements and 7 percent cited the collector taking or threatening an illegal action.
  • Complaints tied to credit card debt were most common, followed by medical debt, payday loans, student loans, mortgage debt, and finally auto debt.
  • The two companies with the most collection-related complaints, Encore Capital Group and PRA Group, each more than doubled their profits from 2010 to 2014.

The report’s recommendations for the CFPB’s rulemaking include:

  • Apply the new debt collection rules to original creditors – such as payday lenders, credit card companies, and banks – along with third-party collectors and debt buyers.
  • Strengthen remedies and increase penalties to stop abusive debt collection practices.
  • Require debt collectors to have complete documentation before initiating collection actions.
  • Set specific limits on phone calls from debt collectors to prevent harassment.
  • Prohibit the sale, purchase, and collection of time-barred debt (also known as “zombie debt”).

#   #   #

The Alliance for a Just Society is a national organization that focuses on social, economic and racial justice issues.

The full report can be found here: http://allianceforajustsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/2016.01_Debt.Collectors_FINAL.pdf

Promising Practice: Moving from Coverage to Care

Since passage of the Affordable Care Act, millions of people in the United States have gained health coverage, often with the help of professional enrollment assisters. But getting people signed up for insurance is just the first step toward ensuring that they get needed health care. This Promising Practice Policy Brief discusses the role that assisters can play in helping people understand their coverage and put it to use.

Promising Practice: Making Medicaid Part of the Welcome Home

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, many adults are now eligible for health care coverage, such as Medicaid, that had been closed to them before. Among these newly eligible adults are many people leaving prison — and Medicaid can make a big difference in helping them transition back home. This Promising Practice Policy Brief discusses options for states.

Promising Practice — Making Medicaid Part of the Welcome Home

Winning the Fight for $15 in 2016

Millions of low-paid Americans rang in 2016 with a raise, as a handful of state minimum wage increases went into effect on the first day of January.

Many of those raises are a barely noticeable 15 or 20 cents an hour — little comfort to people struggling to make ends meet. But workers in the cities and states that voted for more robust wages last year saw much more significant gains.

Minimum wage workers in Alaska, California, Massachusetts, and Nebraska, for example, are finding a dollar-an-hour increase in their paychecks. Workers in Hawaii are enjoying an extra $1.25 an hour. In Seattle, some workers at bigger companies are seeing a substantial $2 hourly increase as the city’s $15 minimum wage is phased in.

The national campaign for a $15 minimum wage emerged as a leading economic justice issue last year. It’s also a critical racial justice issue: Half of all African-American workersand almost 60 percent of Latino workers make less than $15 an hour.

The momentum to raise the minimum wage will only increase in 2016 as public support grows. Yet too many states — 21 of them, concentrated mainly in the South — haven’t budged from the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, unchanged since 2009.

Many of these holdouts have deep pools of poverty. Most deny poor families health care by refusing to expand Medicaid, and nearly all have held the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers to $2.13 an hour for 25 years.

The problem with efforts to raise the wage city by city and state by state is that it leaves out workers in states without a citizen initiative process, or in communities without strong unions or leadership. Millions of low-wage workers are at risk of becoming a left-behind underclass.

That means it’s time for Congress to increase the national minimum wage — and to abolish the lower, sub-minimum wage for tipped workers. If they aren’t sure how to do it, leaders from New York to Los Angeles have provided plenty of examples.

Research from my organization, the Alliance for a Just Society, shows that a living wage for a single adult ranges from $14.26 in Arkansas to $21.44 in Hawaii. On average, a worker would have to put in 93 hours a week just to get by on the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

The numbers underscore the crisis facing families in our country.

Often, low-wage workers are told that the solution is to go get a better-paying job, but the reality is there are nowhere near enough jobs that pay a living wage. The occupations with the most job openings — in retail and restaurants — pay the least, and they’re most likely to be part-time.

We’ve become a low-wage nation, with implications that reach far beyond just low pay. Low-wage jobs also mean part-time hours, unpredictable schedules, and no benefits or paid sick leave — making it impossible for workers to break even.

It’s unacceptable that anyone who works full-time in our country should go hungry, homeless, or without care for their child. This is the year to make all wages living wages. Without action, Congress is endorsing the creation of a new class of poverty among our workers.

Jill Reese is the associate director of the Alliance for a Just Society, a national organization focusing on economic and racial justice. AllianceForAJustSociety.org
Distributed by OtherWords.org

This article first appeared in OtherWords.org
http://otherwords.org/winning-the-fight-for-15-in-2016/

“Patchwork of Paychecks” Not Enough Jobs to Go Around

For Immediate Release
Dec. 8, 2015
Contact: Kathy Mulady
Communications director
kathy@allianceforajustsociety.org
(206) 992-8787

Patchwork of Paychecks

Only half of all job openings pay $15 an hour or more

It’s easy to tell a low-wage worker to “go get a better-paying job,” but the reality is there are nowhere near enough jobs that pay a living wage to go around. The occupations with the most job openings pay the least, and are often part-time.

New research by the Alliance for a Just Society released today shows that nationally there are seven job seekers for every job that pays at least $15 an hour. Only 54 percent of all job openings in the United States pay $15 an hour or more.

(Fact sheet here.)

In no state are there enough living wage job openings to go around.

Job seekers in California, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and South Carolina struggle the most, with 10 job seekers for every living wage job opening.

No state has fewer than three job seekers for every job opening that allows a single adult to make ends meet.

(State-by-state table of job seekers and job openings)

Patchwork of Paychecks gives a detailed look at the availability of living wage jobs and full-time work. Additionally, stories from workers juggling multiple jobs illustrate the struggle people face when they can’t find full time work, or work that pays enough.

“This report makes it painfully clear that the economy isn’t creating enough living wage jobs, and that lawmakers must take action to raise the wage floor for all workers and to enact other policies to support working families,” said Jill Reese, associate director of the Alliance for a Just Society.

Before the Great Recession, involuntary part-time workers made up 11 percent of all part-time workers. Since then they have consistently made up more than 20 percent of all part-time workers.

For millions of workers, living-wage work is out of reach – especially for women, Latinos and Latinas, and workers of color who are more likely to work part-time.

“The increasing shift to low-wage work doesn’t just mean less pay. For many workers, it means fewer hours at low wages, unpredictable schedules, wage theft, and no paid sick leave – making it impossible to ever get ahead,” said Allyson Fredericksen, author of “Patchwork of Paychecks.”

The Alliance for a Just Society, a national organization focusing on economic and racial justice, has produced reports on jobs and wages since 1999.

Patchwork of Paychecks is the second report in the Job Gap Economic Prosperity Series that is produced by the Alliance annually

Jill Reese, associate director of the Alliance, and Allyson Fredericksen, author of “Patchwork of Paychecks” are available for interviews.

For the full report: https://jobgap2013.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/patchwork_of_paychecks.pdf

State-by-state table of job seekers and job openings:

http://allianceforajustsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Patchwork-Table-2.pdf

Fact Sheet

“Patchwork of Paychecks”

  • Nationally, four of the top five fastest growing occupations pay less than $15 an hour. They are: retail salespersons; waiters and waitresses; cashiers; and food preparation and serving workers, including fast food.
  • Nationally, for jobs that pay at least $15 per hour, there are seven job seekers for every job opening.
  • The occupation category with the most projected job openings, retail salesperson, pays a median wage of $10.29 per hour.
  • Nationwide, there are more than 17.7 million job seekers. There are 5 million job openings total, paying any wage. Of those, 2.7 million pay at least $15 an hour.
  • In 34 states, less than half of all job openings pay enough for a single adult to make ends meet.
  • In California, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and South Carolina there are 10 job seekers for every living wage job opening.

People of Color

  • The Alliance reported last year that only 52 percent of full-time workers of color earn $15 per hour or more. This includes:
  • 51 percent of black workers
  • 50 percent of Native American workers.
  • 42 percent of full-time Latino and Latina workers
  • 57 percent of female workers earn at least $15 per hour.

Part-Time Work

  • The proportion of involuntary part-time workers is double what it was before the Great Recession (11 percent of part-time workers were involuntarily working part-time in 2007 compared to 21 percent in 2014).
  • Latinas and Latinos, and workers of color are more likely to work part-time in most states and nationally, making it even more difficult for them to make ends meet.
  • Part-time work also includes a number of other obstacles to making ends meet. Unpredictable or on-call scheduling is more common for part-time workers than for workers overall, and makes it nearly impossible to work more than one part-time job.

# # #

Patchwork of Paychecks Fact Sheet

“Patchwork of Paychecks”

Fact Sheet 

Nationally, four of the top five fastest growing occupations pay less than $15 an hour. They are: retail salespersons; waiters and waitresses; cashiers; and food preparation and serving workers, including fast food.

  • Nationally, for jobs that pay at least $15 per hour, there are seven job seekers for every job opening.
  • The occupation category with the most projected job openings, retail salesperson, pays a median wage of $10.29 per hour.
  • Nationwide, there are more than 17.7 million job seekers. There are 5 million job openings total, paying any wage. Of those, 2.7 million pay at least $15 an hour.
  • In 34 states, less than half of all job openings pay enough for a single adult to make ends meet.
  • In California, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and South Carolina there are 10 job seekers for every living wage job opening.

People of Color

  • The Alliance reported last year that only 52 percent of full-time workers of color earn $15 per hour or more. This includes:
  • 51 percent of black workers
  • 50 percent of Native American workers.
  • 42 percent of full-time Latino and Latina workers
  • 57 percent of female workers earn at least $15 per hour.

Part-Time Work

  • The proportion of involuntary part-time workers is double what it was before the Great Recession (11 percent of part-time workers were involuntarily working part-time in 2007 compared to 21 percent in 2014).
  • Latinas and Latinos, and workers of color are more likely to work part-time in most states and nationally, making it even more difficult for them to make ends meet.
  • Part-time work also includes a number of other obstacles to making ends meet. Unpredictable or on-call scheduling is more common for part-time workers than for workers overall, and makes it nearly impossible to work more than one part-time job.

Statement from LeeAnn Hall: “Closing the door to refugees is about hate and fear – not safety”

PRESS STATEMENT
Nov. 20, 2015
Contact: Kathy Mulady
Communications Director
(206) 992-8787

Statement from LeeAnn Hall, Executive Director of the Alliance for a Just Society:

Of all the nations worldwide, the United States, built on welcoming those fleeing persecution at home, should be first to offer a safe harbor to refugees in a time of need.

Instead, Thursday, House Republicans, joined by 47 Democrats, hastily passed a bill that effectively ends the current U.S. refugee program for people fleeing the brutal civil war in Syria – a war our government is actively involved in.

Let’s be clear, closing the door to refugees is about hate and fear – not about safety.

In the days following the tragic terror attacks in Paris, politicians in our country flooded the airwaves and the Internet with racist and alarmist rhetoric. At a time when the United States should be embracing all victims of violence, they are stirring distrust.

Meanwhile, France is reaffirming its commitment to take 30,000 Syrian refugees. In the wake of their own suffering, the French haven’t turned against the most vulnerable in their moment of greatest need.

There’s no evidence refugees had anything to do with the Paris attacks, or that curbing refugees would make anyone safer. It won’t.  More than half of U.S. governors have said they’ll reject refugees. This is false and xenophobic posturing; blocking refugees is not within their authority.

The Alliance for a Just Society represents families in grassroots communities and organizations throughout the country. We stand together in rejecting racism, xenophobia, and religious intolerance – they have no place in our country. This is a time to pull together, not a time to create deeper divides.

The Alliance for A Just Society and its affiliates are calling on governors and legislators to welcome refugees and to reject a growing climate of intolerance and hate.

Our affiliate Virginia Organizing is taking this message to Rep. Bob Goodlatte because of his outspoken opposition to welcoming Syrian refugees and One America is supporting Gov. Jay Inslee for his support of refugees.

# # #

 

Daley Weekly: Crises and Confrontation

Apologia pro vita sua

Things began getting away from me about two weeks ago and I now am three weeks in arrears. So, a new beginning, a fresh start, and a promise to be a more faithful correspondent.

Two Senior Politicians Forgo the Presidency

The first of course is Joe Biden, who has tossed in the towel. Would have been fun to watch him run. He always brings a sparkle with him whenever he enters a room.  If the D’s keep the White House maybe Secretary of State, but no Presidency.

The second is Paul Ryan, who now appears to be headed into a cul de sac known as the Speakership. Much of Ryan’s hesitation about taking this office must originate from the almost sure bet that a Speaker is unlikely to be President – too much blame for every crazy idea dreamed up by the caucus.  It’s going to be hard to figure how Ryan can get much of anything out of the House because of the obstructionist promises he apparently made to the Tea Bagger faction.

The Grand Bargain at Last

There is news this week that the White House and the House Republican leadership (John Boehner version) have fashioned a plan to fund the federal government for two years. The agreement apparently uses some $80 billion to give a modest lift to the sequester spending caps for both domestic and defense programs. It also will extend the debt lid to March of 2017. Funding would come through standardizing the eligibility rules for the Social Security Disability Insurance program, but it also rescues the Disability Insurance program from the limbo the House placed it in months ago.

The deal also gets funding through some cuts in provider pay in Medicare, and by selling some oil now held in the U.S. Petroleum Reserve. There also are provisions preventing a sharp spike in Medicare premiums. However, it adds a provision that allows folks with student debt to be chased by debt collectors who use robocalls – something currently prohibited. (How do these things get into a deal like this?)

The agreement will last beyond the 2016 election. So it looks like Boehner is going to take some lumps in order to clear the decks for Paul Ryan to save him from having to wrestle with the alligators as he ascends to the Speakership.

What They Have Not Done

They have not renewed the Child Nutrition Programs.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund is still expired.

Infrastructure funding through the Highway Trust Fund is still unresolved.

The “tax extender” package is still pending.

And, God knows, while they are at it, they could enact comprehensive immigration reform, restore the Voting Rights Act, mandate caps on carbon emissions, and pass the Medicare for All single payer plan.

Benghazi

The other big thing in D.C. last week was the prosecution of Hillary Clinton before an investigative committee. After revelations by House Members and committee staff that the whole thing was designed to bring down Hillary, the hearing showed a sense of desperation – at least to get her to look deceitful or confused. After trying everything this side of waterboarding, nada.

Representative Trey Gowdy (R-SC), the Chair of the Committee was especially clear in his assessment of what the hearings had produced:

“I think some of Jimmy Jordan’s questioning — well, when you say new today, we knew some of that already. We knew about the emails. In terms of her testimony? I don’t know that she testified that much differently today than she has the previous times she’s testified.”

This is the product of seventeen months of investigation and the expenditure of nearly $5 million?

Now watch them double down with some kind of report written by a team of science fiction authors coached by the few still living members of Joe McCarthy’s staff.  Doubling down will inevitably raise a question about whether or not they know the correct answer to the question “what’s two times nothing?”

TPP

Apparently the 12-nation negotiation on the big trade pact is finally ready for prime time, but the text is not yet public. For some reason – maybe I am just being stubborn – I have been advising everyone to read it before attacking it. I want the opposition to form around actual provisions in the agreement, not on shifting ideologies and political posturing. Let’s face it – we will have problems with this agreement, given the troubling involvement of corporate interests in the negotiations. But our opposition needs to be factual, on policy grounds, and against the provisions of the pact.  Let’s root our concerns on what actually is there. It won’t be long – D.C. leaks like a sieve.  One leak already out provides new international protections for the patents of pharmaceutical companies. Surely there is more to come.

Once we discover the troubling stuff in this deal, we have to react with force and confidence. The pro-corporation gang has the upper hand given that the anti-Obama Congress gave the President “fast track” authority a couple of months ago. This means that the President submits an unamendable plan that cannot be filibustered.

Social Security

Just to clarify the confusion about inflation in the economy the government has announced that there is so little inflation that Social Security beneficiaries will not receive a cost of living increase in the coming year.

Economics

The Wall Street Journal reports that companies are indicating a serious slowing in the economy. You have to consider the source here a bit, but, if they are correct, consumer spending is falling and the pace of economic activity is going negative for the first time since the recovery began. Time for a little stimulus to get the momentum turning back in the other direction, but don’t expect the Journal to editorialize in favor of higher government spending.

What is wrong here? We built a post-WWII middle class and became the envy of the world. Then we decided to shift the income growth from the middle class to the wealthy. Now we are wondering why the middle class, burdened with student debt, extortionate drug costs, fraudulent foreclosures, stagnant wages, and inexplicable insurance costs, are not buying the latest electronic gadgets built by exploited labor.

The explanation about the economic stagnation is quite simple. Our corporate uber-masters decided that the destruction of the middle class in the U. S. was irrelevant to their wealth accumulation – they could sell their trinkets to the unsuspecting natives in China. Tiny little miscalculation – China decided that they could sell their trinkets to us. Win-Win became loss-loss.

Presidential Campaign  

Both Democrat-for-a-Day Lincoln Chaffee and what’s his name from Virginia have announced that they are suspending their campaigns.  The next Republican Debate is tonight.

Language Access

The Office of Civil rights in the Department of Health and Human Services is working on regulations to implement the civil rights sections of the Affordable Care Act. The Alliance for a Just Society is encouraging everyone to send comments on these rules encouraging HHS to add interpretation in the medical setting for non-English speakers. After all, if you cannot talk to the doctor in a language you both understand, how can you get useful medical care? You can sign a petition here that will be forwarded to HHS.

Muddle East

Here’s some fun news about the land of perpetual conflict. Our FBI has found a group with apparent Russian connections working out of Moldova who have been trying to sell radioactive material to Middle Eastern operatives. Apparently poison gas may not be potent enough.

Jambalaya, Crawfish Pie, File Gumbo

Paul Prudhomme died. Loved his cookbook – Cajun, as in real French stuff, with spice and emphasis. Sorry vegans, but one of my favorite recipes is from Prudhomme’s repertoire – a pork roast layered with veggies sautéed with white, black and cayenne pepper, thyme and dried mustard. He also teaches how to make and use roux. Incomparable gumbos. I once tried to eat in K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen, his restaurant in New Orleans, but the line was so long I ended up in an inferior imitation where I had to console myself with strong drink.

Polarization

Report in The Washington Post regarding evidence that the U.S. electorate is not becoming increasingly polarized. This, despite a perception that there is an extreme polarity emerging between the various parties, factions and ideologies. So if the electorate is not polarized, what is going on in Congress? Your trusty reporter has a couple of theories.

First one is that the money is driving extremes. The dark money donors are not passing the cash to the folks who say that they can bring everyone together, rather they seem to be sending it to folks who demand ideological purity and exclaim that they are just a little bit more radical than the next person.

Second, there is a little thing called Gerrymandering. While drawing the district election lines is a partisan art, legislatures have locked some solid factions in place that are representing a significant enough minority to command attention in the Congress. This appears particularly true of the Tea Bagger-bunch in the House who have some 40 or 50 votes and have put an ideological lock on the Majority Caucus.

Third, the proliferation of ideological media voices also increases the perception that polarization is both extreme and critical for access to airtime. Do the folks who watch Fox News ever tune in on MSNBC? Probably not much.

Banks

Did you know that the big banks are getting a 6 percent dividend on the money they invest in the Federal Reserve?  What is the return on the cash you have stuck in your savings account? The total amount that banks receive from the Fed will amount to $17 billion over the next decade. Surely the return you get on your money in your bank is proportionately equal to the cash they get for pretty much doing nothing?

Well the fun may be over. One of the plans being considered to pump money into the Highway Trust Fund to pay for infrastructure projects would cut this rate from 6 percent to 1.5 percent. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) has already told the banks that this will be a part of the plan. Bank lobbyists are blanketing the Hill trying to kill this thing, but they may be in trouble.

Coral is the New White

When you pick through the list of designer colors for your apartment’s new paint job, coral is one of your options. That honey hued little paint sample soon may be passé.  The corals are turning white. The extreme El Niño in the Pacific is challenging them so much that they are forced to reject their hospitality as symbiotic hosts, slough away the parasites that give them their color, and turn a ghostly white. Then a bunch of them die.

I saw one of the Koch boys on TV the other day. The reporter asked him about the idea that he was just trying to buy power. He answered that he was trying to reduce the power of the government. And he smiled when he said it. This must be an important theme for Koch’s petroleum companies, the fourteenth largest polluter in the country. No government and they can pollute at will.

It is getting pretty difficult to witness this sort of crap. I have children and grandchildren.

But, just to add to the concern, Scientific American is reporting that Exxon Mobile knew about climate change as early as 1977 but persisted in deliberately spreading misinformation about the problem anyway.

I do not know what denial mechanism inside them lets these people ignore the evidence of the fires burning their farms or the seawater lapping at the lawns of their costal mansions, but ignorance is no longer an excuse. We have to begin regarding their assault on the rest of us as premeditated.

Schedule

The Congress will be in session until November 20, that should be plenty of time for a whole bunch of crises and confrontations.

 

Bill Daley, National Legislative Director

Pay Up! Long Hours and Low Pay Leave Workers at a Loss

In recent years, a number of cities have raised their minimum wage to $15 an hour, which is significantly above federal and state minimum wages. These changes have prompted debate around the country regarding what constitutes an adequate minimum. This report contributes to that conversation by providing living wage figures, finding that current minimum wage rates are far too low to meet individuals’ and families’ needs.

Pay Up CoverBy Allyson Fredericksen

Pay Up! Report (pdf)

How many hours does a minimum wage worker have to put in to make ends meet?

Our table has the answer for all 50 states.