Seattle Election Initiative Aims to Take Big Money Out of Campaigns

This article was contributed by Rosalind Brazel, communications manager for Washington Community Action Network (Washington CAN!)

The Honest Elections Initiative campaign aims to take big money out of politics and give low income people a real voice in electing leaders who represent them.

On Monday, June 1, more than 32,000 signatures were delivered to the Seattle City Clerk. Initiative 122 would change the way City of Seattle campaigns are financed.

Seattle voters would receive vouchers, four of them for $25 each, that could be given to the candidates or campaigns of their choosing. I-122 would also set limits on the maximum contribution an individual could make to a campaign.

New lobbying, disclosure and enforcement measures are also infused into this initiative to amplify the voice of the voter. The funds would come from a property tax – about $8 a year for the average homeowner.

Washington CAN! Leader Chettie McAfee was a guest speaker at the Honest Elections press event outside Seattle City Hall on Monday.

“The interests of banks and big developers do not align with the interests of people like me: women, people of color, and people with low incomes. A system where money influences who becomes an elected official, is a system where money influences political priorities and the direction of this city.”

If the clerk validates at least 20,360 of the signatures submitted, I-122 will appear on the November ballot. If passed, this would be the only system of its kind in the U.S.

Daley Weekly: Federal Budget Horror 2016 (Don’t Read This Alone)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Goes National

Both Houses of the Congress have begun processing their budgets for fiscal year 2016.

Those of you who enjoy terror movies will take special pleasure in this version of the Daley Weekly wherein we devote ourselves to a summary of the Congressional Budgets.  They amount to a Chainsaw Massacre for the nation.

The budgets are plans intended to guide tax and spending policies in the coming year. They set goals for the various appropriations committees. The resolutions can be adopted with a mere majority vote, but are not actual law and do not go to the President for approval. Budget bills also can set procedural rules for various policy proposals and can be used to pass legislation without the possibility of a filibuster in the Senate.

Budget Committee Chairs in both Houses issued plans this week and the process began on the effort to adopt them before their theoretical April 15 deadline.

Both budgets are comprehensive blueprints for economic malaise. They could not possibly be worse.

The underlying frame for both budgets is the intent to “balance the budget” in the next decade. To reach this goal the House proposal would reduce federal funding by $5.5 trillion ($4.5 trillion in the Senate) while raising no new revenues.

Entitlements:

Both budgets will make major changes in Medicare, Medicaid and food stamp programs. Additionally, the House (but not the Senate) proposal also contemplates some sort of process that will fast track changes in Social Security. Wrapped in undefined rhetorical terms like “flexibility,” the proposals would block-grant and cut funding for entitlements. The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is merged with a newly block-granted Medicaid program. SNAP, the food stamp program, is block-granted and cut by $125 billion. Medicare is “partially privatized” and turned into a voucher program.

Sequester:

This refers to the automatic cuts in defense and domestic programs set in place a few years ago. The House plan slips money into an off budget defense fund to be used for overseas wars and lets the cuts to domestic programs proceed. The Senate plan anticipates that sequester will proceed for one more year.

ACA:

Both plans anticipate the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, including expansions in Medicaid coverage. All totaled, about $3 trillion are cut out of health care programs.

Taxation:

There are no new revenues contemplated in either budget. The House proposal makes room for tax reform without any specificity about what that might mean, but they do not intend to use this to raise revenues. There are some tax breaks for the affluent: repeal of the Medicare tax expansions in the ACA and the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). These would reduce federal revenues by $1.3 trillion over ten years. At the same time they appear to let the expanded Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit lapse in 2017 – a tax increase for thirteen million low-income families. So taxes go up for low income families – but are cut for the affluent.

Reconciliation:

This is the procedural process that permits the passage of substantive legislation without needing sixty votes in the Senate. The House proposal would apply reconciliation rules to eight different policy proposals, but the Senate would apply it only to repeal of the ACA.

Gimmicks:

Both proposals use revenues in the amount of about $2 trillion that come from taxes in the ACA even though they repeal the rest of the Act. The House proposal plans to cut $1.1 trillion in domestic programs but provides little detail about where it might come from. Associated narrative does suggest that such things as Pell Grants, supplemental security income, housing, veteran’s programs, pensions, and farm programs are likely candidates, but we do not really know because they choose not to say.

The House plan includes no accommodation for the “extenders” – the annual package of tax breaks largely of benefit to corporations. Since it is impossible to believe that they do not intend to pass a passel of these, the refusal to mention them means that they intend to blow another hole in the budget without accounting for them in the plan.

Late news suggests that a “typo” in the House plan understated the cuts planned for federal employee pensions and health care by a mere $900 million, bringing the corrected total to $1 billion instead of $100 million.

Both proposals use “dynamic scoring,” a completely bogus assumption that draconian cuts will lead to economic growth and, therefore, increased tax revenues.

Economics:

If these plans are adopted, they will have an inevitable impact on the economy. Federal spending will be at record lows as a portion of the GDP. Experiments like this in states and in other countries have led to economic stagnation. The policies in these budgets are almost exact parallels to the recession inducing economic policies in Greece, Portugal, and Spain.

Timing:

Both the Senate and the House have passed their versions out of committee. The Senate did adopt an amendment increasing defense funding. The budget leaders apparently hope to pass the bills through each House of the Congress by the end of next week.

Bill Daley, national legislative director

 

New Jersey Small Businesses Still Adrift Two Years After Sandy

NJ worried businessesSince Superstorm Sandy hit the east coast in November 2012, small business owners who were promised financial assistance to help their businesses excited abut rebuilding and recovering, are still waiting for the funding to appear. Corinne Horowitz, the business representative for the New Jersey Main Street Alliance, describes their frustration as they search for solutions.

By Corinne Horowitz

 

Small business owners who were devastated by Sandy in November 2012 are outraged over the mishandling of Sandy business grants by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and Gov. Chris Christie’s Administration. 

Working with the New Jersey Main Street Alliance, business owners attended the economic development public hearing, townhall meetings, and finally organized a press conference to call for investigation and oversight of the program.

The federal Sandy Relief Bill passed in January 2013 allocated $260 million for the Stronger New Jersey Business Grant Program to provide grants of up to $50,000 to affected businesses “for working capital or construction needs.”  Businesses that were at first relieved by the anticipation of rebuilding and recovering from the storm, soon became dismayed what has turned out to be a daunting process.

Read more

Bad Medicine Report Details Influence of Pharma in DC Budget Failure

Released to the Press

September 25, 2013

 

New Report Analyzes Interest Group Influence in Blocking Proposed Cost Saving Measures in Medicare

Report Finds Influence of Pharmaceutical Industry as Major Impasse to Common Sense Budget Fixes

Congress has failed to act on a commonsense, good-government approach to controlling health care costs. The significant resources the pharmaceutical industry has put toward influence and access has rendered Congress unable to act in the public interest.

Bad Medicine Report.image

 

Bad Medicine: Pharmaceuticals’ Prescription for Profits Over People, released by the Alliance for a Just Society details the overwhelming influence of Big PhRMA on congressional outcomes and finds that the imbalance created by industry spending harms both the interest of the American people and our democratic process.

Read more

Native Americans Train to Defend Mother Earth

On August 23rd, Alliance affiliate, Indian People’s Action of Montana opened camp for a 3 day Direct Action training camp. Indian People’s Action brought Moccasins On The Ground to Montana. Drawing Native Americans from across the country to defend Mother Earth they trained activists in nonviolent direct action to stop the Keystone Pipeline that the Canadian developer, TransCanada is building to carry crude oil from the Boreal Forests of Albert, Canada across the United States to the Gulf Coast.

Many Native groups believe that the Environmental Impact Study did not adequately consider potential damage to American Indian Tribes and Tribal members in Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, whose water aquifers, water ways, cultural sites, agricultural lands, animal life, public drinking water sources and other vital resources could be damaged by the project.

100 trained defenders of Mother Earth and Sacred Waters

100 trained defenders of Mother Earth and Sacred Waters

Read more

Will SEC order a dose of sunlight for corporate political spending?

Mary Jo White, the new Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, was recently confirmed to a five-year term that secures her position until 2019. With that kind of job security, Ms. White should be able to rise above the partisan pressures of Washington politics and advance a proactive agenda at the SEC that furthers its mission of protecting investors and promoting transparent, well-functioning markets.

But already, Chair White’s resolve is being put to the test through the debate on a proposed SEC rule that would require disclosure of public companies’ political spending. Read more

Daley’s View: Bernanke Out. Who Steps In?

One of the great Inside the Beltway debates this August is about who should replace Ben Bernanke who is retiring as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

So who cares?

Summers: Silent on Wall Street Accountability

Well, you probably should.

Much of the talk is about Larry Summers, former Secretary of the Treasury, former Obama economics advisor, former President of Harvard

University, and current Wall Street investor.

Read more

CellBlocks and Border Stops

The Institute for Pragmatic Practice, Union Theological Seminary and the Alliance for a Just Society are hosting our fifth symposium,

Cell Blocks & Border Stops. Hundreds of organizers, academics, policy leaders, journalists, theologians and grassroots activists will convene and examine the intersection of immigration control and mass incarceration, and to consider the future of activism and organizing in these areas.

Today, more than seven million people are under control of the criminal justice system (prison, probation, parole or detention) exceeding the combined populations of Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, and Staten Island.

Eleven million immigrants-roughly the population of Ohio-are out of compliance with federal immigration law, and at constant risk for harassment, detention, and deportation.

Counting friends, families, colleagues, and neighbors, tens of millions of people today are directly affected by the sprawling immigrant control and criminal justice systems. Poor Black and Brown people have been born this burden most heavily, driven by long-standing beliefs in racial inferiority and white supremacy.

REGISTER HERE– http://bit.ly/clblocks

But these systems leave few untouched.

Join us and noted scholars and activists Cornel West and Pramila Jayapal among many other noted speakers to end the dehumanization of millions of mothers, fathers, sons and daughters by law enforcement and the criminal justice system.

[Click here for a full event Agenda.]

REGISTER here– http://bit.ly/clblocks