As the Department of Labor released employment statistics (8/3) that showed the economy netted 163,000 new jobs in July but the unemployment rate increased a tick to 8.3%, Republicans blamed President Obama for the slow pace of economic recovery, but Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO labor federation, blamed Republicans for standing in the way of economic recovery and called for infrastructure investments and political reforms.

“The US economy is still struggling to climb back from the deepest, most dangerous recession since the Great Depression. This month progress was faster, as the economy added 163,000 net new jobs, but that progress is still inadequate. In particular, unemployment rates remain unacceptably high for African-Americans (14.1%) and Latinos (10.3%), and the number of long-term unemployed remains stuck at 5.2 million,” Trumka said

“Given the depth of the recession and the damage done by thirty years of anti-worker policies, we knew recovery would be slow and difficult. But we did not dream that Republicans in Congress would take every opportunity to slow and stymie the recovery process from day one – cynically hoping that Americans would blame the President for the damage they inflict on the economy.

“The key to building a durable recovery that leads to long-term shared prosperity is empowering workers to share the benefits of productivity growth. But Republicans continue to obstruct vital policies aimed at creating jobs and restoring growth while they hold the middle class hostage to their demands for more tax cuts to benefit the richest two percent of Americans. Their stubborn and short-sighted obstruction of any measures that might boost job creation puts our recovery at risk.

“This November’s election is about the future direction of our country. We face a choice between austerity policies that offer no hope for a better future versus shared prosperity policies based on investing in America and restoring our democracy. The labor movement is committed to the policies of ‘Prosperity Economics’ (prosperityforamerica.org), along with political reforms that will unite and strengthen America.”

Yale University Professor Jacob Hacker and Roosevelt Institute Founder Nathaniel Loewentheil (7/31) released their paper, “Prosperity Economics: Building an Economy for All” (prosperityforamerica.org), which argues that current austerity policies have failed and are holding back growth and increasing inequality in the US. The paper calls on the federal government to start rebuilding the American dream.

The report proposes the US should:

• Invest $250 bln per year for the next six years to rebuild our nation’s crumbling roads, bridges, ports, airports and public transportation.

• Guarantee every worker has a voice in the workplace, including a quick, fair process for workers to choose union representation and have the power to bargain collectively.

• Enforce stronger penalties on companies that violate labor laws.

• End the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2%, noting that the Bush tax cuts are the largest single contributor to our current revenue shortfall.

• Restore America’s manufacturing base by ending the trade deficit and tax incentives for offshoring.

• Provide help to states and localities to hire back teachers, first responders and other public servants.

• Implement a financial transaction tax to discourage short-term speculation and reduce the chance of financial crises while funding job creation and public investment.

• Protect existing pensions and provide a simple, universal mandatory pension for all that would guarantee a lifetime benefit to provide real retirement security to workers. 

• Protect the right to vote to ensure every voice is heard in the political process. Repeal disenfranchisement and voter ID laws and adopt same-day voter registration, provisional voting and other measures to maximize voter access.

• Free government from corporate interests by reinstating the firewalls between investment and banking.

VAST POTENTIAL FOR GREEN ENERGY IN WEST. Federal lands in six western states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah — could house clean energy projects with the potential to harness more than 34 gigawatts of solar, wind, and geothermal energy over the next two decades, enough electricity to power 7 mln homes, the Center for American Progress reported (8/6). With supportive federal policies to realize this goal, such a development could stimulate more than $137 bln in investment in the renewable energy sector, creating more than 209,000 direct jobs.

Already, the American West leads the way in construction of clean and renewable electricity projects on the ground, spurred forward by policies including state renewable electricity standards and government investments in clean technologies. A recent Bureau of Labor Statistics study reflects this success, determining that in 2010, “green goods and services” accounted for 527,083 jobs in those six western states.

To capture the full economic, energy, and public health benefits from this opportunity, the report concludes, the federal government should adopt four essential policies:

To help the region become a leader in development of homegrown American energy not subject to volatile fossil-fuel prices, creating jobs that cannot be outsourced and developing technologies for export to other countries, the report recommends a national clean energy standard of 80% by 2035, with 35% for renewable electricity; a clean resources standard for electricity generated by resources on public lands and waters; renewable energy zones; and comprehensive electricity transmission reforms to rehabilitate our aging system.

Additionally, building these projects will create direct investment in these six states. Over the coming decade, many large financial institutions plan to invest in clean energy. Wells Fargo & Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and Bank of America Corp. have pledged to invest a combined $120 bln in clean tech. Responsibly building clean energy projects on America’s eligible public lands can help attract these investments, particularly in more rural areas that would benefit from the jobs and economic opportunity that the new projects can bring. Additional supportive policies are essential to turn these opportunities into reality.


MENDACIOUS MITT SAYS ‘TRUST ME’ ON TAXES. Mitt Romney wants us to take him at his word that he has paid a “very substantial amount of taxes” every year over the dozen years for which he refuses to release tax returns — at least “so far as I can recall,” which is not a disclaimer that invites trust.

When ABC’s David Muir asked Romney if he had ever paid a lower effective tax rate than the 13.9% he paid on his 2010 returns, the only year for which he has released tax returns Romney replied, “I haven’t calculated that. I’m happy to go back and look but my view is I’ve paid all the taxes required by law.” When Muir asked if he would look, Romney backed down, “I haven’t looked at the tax rate paid year by year. I know that I pay a very substantial amount of taxes and every year since the beginning of my career so far as I can recall.”

In the first place, Jed Lewison noted at DailyKos.com (7/30) that, even if Romney’s recollection is accurate, by “very substantial,” Romney apparently means 13.9%. And Romney added the disclaimer, “I’ve paid all the taxes required by law.”

Maybe. Maybe not. But he has not released any evidence to back up his statements and he has shown such a contempt for facts in his campaign for the presidency that nothing he says can be taken at face value. Steve Benen of Maddowblog.com has documented more than 450 lies told by Romney and his campaign since January. The 28th installment of the weekly series, “Chronicling Mitt’s Mendacity,” on 8/3 included 28 lies told by Romney in just the previous week.

Those lies included Romney’s statement that Obama raised taxes on the middle class (the individual mandate to which he referred would apply to an estimated 1% of the population); that “President Obama doesn’t have a plan” to create jobs (Obama proposed the American Jobs Act that would have created as many as 2 mln jobs this year if Republicans had not blocked it); Romney said “we have fewer jobs that have been created” under Obama (but by Romney’s own standard, nearly 4.5 mln private-sector jobs have been created under Obama); and Romney claims during his one term as governor “I added jobs. We’ve added more jobs than the president has in the entire country” (when in fact Romney had one of the worst jobs records of any governor).

Condemning the Affordable Care Act, Romney said, “Obamacare, we simply can’t afford trillions of dollars in more federal spending. It gets more and more expensive as time goes on.” (That’s the exact opposite of reality, as determined by the neutral Congressional Budget Office, which found that “Obamacare” cuts the deficit, and the saving increase as time goes on.) Romney also argued, “We simply can’t afford to have federal bureaucrats telling us what kind of health care we can have.” (There is nothing in the Affordable Care Act that empowers bureaucrats to tell Americans what kind of health care they can have.) Romney soon added, “And we sure as heck can’t have Obamacare cut Medicare by over $500 billion.” (Romney says this a lot, but he’s lying as the $500 bln refers to cost savings, including a reduction in subsidies for private insurers, that do not reduce benefits to seniors.

Romney unveiled a “report card” in Colorado that claims job creation has gone down during Obama’s first term. (That’s plainly false, as the US economy added 163,000 jobs in July, the 29th consecutive month of private job growth since the economic collapse that started under George W. Bush.) The same “report card” claims unemployment has gone up under Obama. (It’s actually down from 10% in 2009, and is slightly lower than it was when Obama took office.) The “report card” says the budget deficit has gone up since Obama took office. (The deficit has gone down since Obama took office. It was $1.3 tln on Inauguration Day 2009, and it’s projected to be $1.1 tln this year.)

Over the weekend, Romney claimed that Obama was trying to strip military members of voting rights in the election, after the Obama campaign filed a lawsuit to stop Ohio from stripping early voting rights from other Ohio citizens. Under the old law, which was passed after long lines and other issues plagued the state on election day in 2004, people could cast early ballots until the day before the election.

When Republicans took over the statehouse last year, they passed new laws that restricted voting on the weekend before the election to military personnel and citizens who live overseas. The lawsuit filed in federal district Court in Ohio by the Obama campaign, the Democratic National Committee and the Ohio Democratic Party argues that the last three days of early voting should be open to all voters. In 2008, 93,000 voters cast ballots in the three days before election day.

Jon Soltz, chairman of VoteVets.org, wrote at ThinkProgress.org (8/6) that the claims that the Obama campaign was suing to restrict the voting rights of military in Ohio got his blood boiling. In fact, Soltz said, in supporting the Ohio law that would do away with the three days of early voting for all but those covered by the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, Romney was supporting the restriction of voting rights for as many as 913,000 Ohio veterans. “In short, Mitt Romney supports efforts to make voting more difficult for the very people who have put their lives on the line after swearing an oath to uphold our Constitution and democracy,” Soltz wrote.

SADLER UP IN TRY TO TURN TEXAS PURPLE. As Democrats try to keep their Senate majority, which now stands at 53-47, they’re defending 23 seats and looking for vulnerable Republican seats. One of their longest shots is Paul Sadler, a former Texas legislator from East Texas seeking the seat that Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a relatively moderate Republican, is giving up. Sadler was a leader of public school reforms when the Democrats were still in nominal control of the Legislature in the 1990s. He would be a credible candidate if he could get the word out, but he was only able to raise $139,000 in the primary race while the Republicans spent $40 mln. Sadler faces Ted Cruz, a Tea Party Republican who won the Senate nomination by knocking off the sitting lieutenant governor who was backed by Gov. Rick Perry. Lou Dubose noted at WashingtonSpectator.org that Cruz also was bankrolled by the anti-government Club for Growth.

“The stakes were big: ... And right-wing corporate/ideological funders rose to the occasion. This was a victory for reactionary, out-of-state money, not the $25-donors writing checks to the Cruz campaign,” Dubose wrote.

“Yes, Cruz believes there is a conspiracy between George Soros, environmentalists and the United Nations to close down the nation’s golf courses.

“But golfers’ rights were a sideshow in the campaign. Cruz is a small-government extremist. After he takes his oath of office in January, he will find his place on the right of Kentucky Tea Party Senator Rand Paul. They share the same beliefs. US out of the UN Shut down the EPA. Expand gun rights. Cut the deficit and cut taxes. And above all, look to Ayn Rand as a guide to governing. Nothing new here, except that Cruz will provide another vote for the obstructionist Senate Tea Party caucus.”

Republicans don’t figure that they’ll have to spend much to keep that Texas seat in the general election, but Dubose noted that Texas already should be a tossup “purple” state, since minorities already are in the majority and the two largest cities — Houston and Dallas — are dominated by Democrats

“The voters are there, waiting to be educated, registered, and moved to the polls. Yet no one is spending the money necessary to do it. What is needed is some effort from outside—say the Oregon Bus Project [which registers voters and then gets them out to vote] — to do that groundwork,” Dubose wrote.

“There are as many as 600,000 unregistered voters in Harris County, which includes the city of Houston, most of them minorities who would vote Democratic — if someone would get them registered and to the polls. 

“If Democrats want a purple state, or a blue one, they should begin with money and organization, just as Karl Rove did when George H.W. Bush and James Baker III brought him to Texas in 1978 to build a Republican Party where there was none.

“A final thought. Money is critically important in all elections, in particular in a year when Democrats are defending incumbent members of Congress and a president — all under assault by right-wing Super PACs unleashed by the Citizens United decision.

“But if Paul Sadler had $10 million to spend in a race against Ted Cruz, he would at least make it a race.”


ALTERNATE PARTIES LINING UP. Jill Stein won the Green Party nomination for president at the party’s convention in Baltimore (7/14). Stein had 193.5 delegates, compared to 72 for comedian Roseanne Barr, who did not attend the convention, the Associated Press reported. Stein told AP she hopes the Green Party will be on the ballots in 40 states in November, but so far the party has qualified in only 23 states, including battleground states of Colorado, Florida, Michigan and Ohio. “We are in it to win it, but we’re also in it to build it, and those are both wins in my book,” Stein, a physician, told AP. The Green Party has qualified for federal matching funds.

Stein is proposing a Green New Deal designed to create 25 mln jobs and jump-start a green economy for the 21st century to help address climate change and make wars for oil obsolete.

She ran against Mitt Romney for Massachusetts governor a decade ago, getting 3% of the vote. She also ran unsuccessfully for secretary of state in 2006 and governor in 2010. She was elected to a town meeting seat in Lexington, Mass., in 2005 and 2008.

Gary Johnson, who served two terms as Republican governor of New Mexico, is the nominee of the Libertarian Party, which will be on at least 30 state ballots. He was praised by conservatives for reducing the size of state government while overseeing a major road building program and shifting Medicaid to managed care and leaving the state with a $1 billion budget surplus. But his criticism of the War on Drugs, support for legalization of marijuana and alarm at the erosion of civil liberties made him an object of scorn of the national Republican Party. He also is pro-choice, pro-gay rights and non-interventionist in foreign policy.

Johnson started off running for the Republican presidential nomination and appeared in the first GOP debate sponsored by Fox News in May 2011, but was not allowed in further debates until a September 2011 Fox News debate. In December 2011 he announced he would seek the Libertarian nomination, which he received (5/5) at the party’s convention. He has qualified for federal matching funds.

The paleoconservative Constitution Party will be on 17 state ballots, with Virgil Goode, former Republican congressman from Virginia, as its presidential candidate.

The Justice Party, which was organized in November 2011 to promote the candidacy of Rocky Anderson, former mayor of Salt Lake City, Nev., is on six state ballots. Anderson sees himself as the liberal alternative to the two main militarist, corporatist parties. He will be on ballots in Colorado, Connecticut, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and probably Michigan, Ballot Access News reported.

Americans Elect, which was supposed to propose a pro-business centrist for the ballot, abandoned its plans in May, announcing that it would not run a presidential candidate this year. The organization said it intended to preserve as many of its 30 hard-won ballot access lines as possible, Richard Winger reported in Ballot Access News, but since then it has decided not to submit petitions it has collected for party status in Georgia, Idaho and Texas and it won’t run candidates for lesser statewide offices in any of the states in which it is ballot-qualified; and it didn’t protest the failure of some California county election offices to include “Americans Elect” as a choice on voter registration forms.


MITT ATTACKS WELFARE WAIVERS HE USED TO SUPPORT. Mitt Romney’s campaign launched an attack (8/7) accusing President Obama of gutting welfare reform, claiming that the administration’s decision to offer waivers to states that develop innovative ways to meet the law’s work requirement is actually an attempt to “remove work participation rate requirements all together.” But Travis Waldron noted at ThinkProgress.org (8/7) that not only is the ad false. (The administration’s plan maintains the work requirement, but allows states to experiment with other methods of transitioning recipients from welfare to work.) It also is disingenuous, as it fails to mention that, as governor of Massachusetts, Romney supported the same waiver program he is now criticizing. Romney was one of 29 Republican governors to sign a 2005 letter from the Republican Governor’s Association to congressional leadership touting the benefits a similar waiver program would bring their states.


PELOSI CALLS REPUBS ‘E COLI CLUB.’ House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi dubbed Republicans the “E. Coli Club” for the party’s willingness to cut programs protecting Americans’ health and safety. Pelosi was in Boca Raton, Fla., to tell an audience of about 100 that former West Palm Beach mayor Lois Frankel, a Democrat running for Congress, would be a fighter for Social Security and Medicare, programs the Republican leadership seeks to weaken or dismantle. But Meteor Blades noted at DailyKos.com (8/7) that Pelosi really hit the mark looking more broadly at GOP budget whacks, even interjecting a Southernism with a sharp edge—”bless their hearts”:

“I say to [Republicans], do you have children that breathe air? Do you have grandchildren that drink water?,” Pelosi asked. “I’m a mom and I have five kids ... as a mom I was vigilant about food safety, right moms? If you could depend on the government for one thing it was that you had to be able to trust the water that our kids drank and the food that they ate. But this is the E. coli club. They do not want to spend money to do that.” [...]

“Bless their hearts, it’s the philosophy Republicans in Congress have,” Pelosi added. “And bless their hearts, they act upon their beliefs. It’s an ideology. We shouldn’t have a government role. So reduce the police, the firemen, the teachers, reduce their role and give tax cuts to the high end. That will stimulate the economy and everything will be good.”

“Sadly, Pelosi’s E. coli remark isn’t hyperbole,” Blades wrote. “There was a time just a bit over a century ago when many Republicans, including President Teddy Roosevelt, took a different view of things. During that 20-year-long era, progressive legislation was passed to break up corporate trusts, extend rights to workers and do thing that today we take for granted, like inspecting food. The dominance of corporate money both in economics and politics, the attacks on workers’ rights and cutbacks even in what is spent on making sure our food is safe illustrates just how retrograde the Republicans have been.

“Not only are they bucking for membership in the E. Coli Club, they aren’t even being economically efficient about it, something they like to give themselves high marks for. They seek, for instance, to ax $700 million out of the Food and Drug Administration’s budget to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act. That legislation, in the spirit of the progressive legislation of 100 years ago, is designed to reduce the numbers of foodborne illnesses in the United States. Currently, those illnesses kill 3,000 Americans annually and force the hospitalization of 128,000. Cost: an estimated $152 bln. Even if people’s health and lives don’t matter to them, you would think Republicans would care about the money.”


BROWN PROPOSES ‘FAIR TRADE’ BILL. With negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) continuing, US Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) has unveiled a new effort, the 21st Century Trade Agreements and Market Access Act (S 3347), to restore congressional oversight to trade negotiations and ensure that American trading partners play by the same fair trade rules as the US.

“It’s time for an honest assessment of what our trade agreements have yielded and recognize where changes are in order. After we’ve seen more than five million jobs lost to our ‘trading partners,’ in NAFTA, CAFTA, and China, and with new export opportunities not enough to offset our trade deficit, it’s time for a new direction in trade policy,” Brown said in a press release. “The TPP is an opportunity to learn from the past. And that means demanding that our trade partners uphold the same labor, environmental, and human rights standards that we do.”

The TPP is a proposed trade agreement that would link several countries in North, Central and South America with countries in the Asian Pacific. In addition to the US, current TPP countries include Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam; Canada, Mexico, and Japan have announced their intent to join the TPP.

Sherrod’s bill ensures that US trade policy exports US products and not US jobs, said Brooke Harper of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch (tradewatch.org). He asked that fair-trade advocates ask their senators to co-sponsor S 3347.

From The Progressive Populist, September 1, 2012



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