CEO pay for major US companies continues to soar as income inequality and the outsourcing of good-paying American jobs increases. Outsourcing has become a hot presidential election topic with candidates calling out corporations that say they need to save money by sending jobs overseas. Meanwhile, according to the new AFL-CIO Executive Paywatch, the average CEO of an S&P 500 company received an annual income of $12.4 mln in 2015 — 335 times more money than the average rank-and-file worker.

The Executive Paywatch website, the most comprehensive searchable online database tracking CEO pay, showed that in 2015 the average production and nonsupervisory worker earned about $36,900 per year, a wage that when adjusted for inflation, has remained stagnant for 50 years. 

“The income inequality that exists in this country is a disgrace. We must stop Wall Street CEOs from continuing to profit on the backs of working people,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Last month, when I stood with the Carrier workers in Indianapolis whose jobs making home heating furnaces are being shipped to northern Mexico, I saw firsthand how corporate greed destroys communities. Carrier is a subsidiary of United Technologies and its CEO Gregory Hayes made nearly $10.8 mln in 2015. It’s shameful that a CEO can make that type of money and still destroy the livelihood of the hardworking people who make the company profitable.”

Mondelēz International, highlighted in this year’s Paywatch, represents one of the most egregious examples of CEO-to-worker pay inequality. The company, which makes Nabisco products, including Oreos, Chips Ahoy and Ritz Crackers, announced earlier this year that in order to reduce costs, it is sending 600 family-sustaining jobs from Illinois to Mexico, where workers face poor labor and safety standards. Mondelēz CEO Irene Rosenfeld made $19.7 mln in 2015 — that’s $9,471.15 per hour.

“It seems that hard work doesn’t matter anymore. This is the corporate attitude,” said Mary Willis, who was among hundreds of Nabisco workers from the South Side of Chicago laid off in March. “They quit me. I didn’t quit them. It used to be that places like Nabisco were proud places to work, but now workers like me are tossed to the curb despite years of dedication.”

While the trend of companies putting profits over people is rampant, working people are fighting back. The AFL-CIO has endorsed the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) boycott of Nabisco products made in Mexico.

Working families also are joining striking Verizon workers on the picket lines fighting for a fair contract. Verizon wants to ship more good jobs overseas, outsource work to low-wage contractors and transfer workers away from their families for months at a time, provoking the strike by 39,000 working men and women who help make it so profitable. Over the past three years, Verizon has made a record $39 bln in profits. In 2015, CEO Lowell McAdam made $18.3 mln — 498 times the average pay of a rank-and-file worker.

More information about United Technologies, Mondelēz and Verizon’s massive CEO-to-worker pay disparity and inequality among S&P 500 companies can be found at www.paywatch.org.

TRUMP CAMPAIGN JUST KIDDING ABOUT $6M FOR VETS. Back in January, Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump boycotted a debate moderated by sometimes-rival Megyn Kelly of Fox News, opting to host a stunt fundraising event for veterans’ charities instead. He boasted at the time that the event raised $5 mln and that he had personally donated $1 mln from his self-proclaimed $8.7 bln fortune — for a $6 mln total haul.

Josh Israel noted at ThinkProgress (5/21) that days after the event, Trump lauded himself for an event that could “not have been better.” “I did something great for veterans,” he claimed, adding, “You know, as they say when something works out, it was a ten. And I didn’t know it was going to be a ten.”

But in April, the Wall Street Journal reported that the promised beneficiaries had apparently received just a “fraction of the promised money.” Trump deflected these criticisms, telling CBS News “I don’t have the final numbers, but the money we raised for veterans has been mostly distributed. We’re looking for some other really worthy places to distribute the final [funds] … But for the most part, it has been distributed. We raised millions of dollars.”

On 5/20, Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski revealed that the fundraiser actually netted less than initial claims. Lewandowski told CNN that he did not “know the exact number,” but explained that the $6 mln figure reflected only pledged donations — not the amount actually collected. The Washington Post quoted Lewandowski as putting the total raised at just $4.5 mln, but he later told CNN that that number was incorrect.

As Trump has already contributed $43 mln to his campaign, it is noteworthy that he did not opt to make up the difference, given his stated concern that “illegal immigrants are treated better in many cases than our vets,” Israel noted.

Jon Soltz, an Iraq War veteran and chairman of VoteVets, said in a news release Trump “hid behind veterans to get out of that debate as a publicity stunt and earlier this week, when investigated by reporters, his campaign admitted that he overstated the amount he actually raised by millions.

“It’s pretty bad that he would lie about what he raised for veterans charities, and apologies aren’t enough. Trump is a billionaire. Or at least a millionaire ... probably (we’d only know if he’d released his taxes). It’s time for him to personally fork over the millions of dollars he said he raised, but didn’t.”

Soltz added, “The truth is, Donald Trump is a massive fraud — a ‘carnival barker’ as one-time presidential candidate Martin O’Malley put it. And if he keeps putting veterans in the middle of his three ring circus just to elevate himself, he’s going to eventually pay a price. We’re happy to help make sure that day comes.”

JOURNOS: TIME TO PRESS TRUMP ON EX-WIFE’S RAPE ALLEGATION. With Donald Trump making rape accusations, first against Mexican immigrants and now against Bill Clinton, Josh Marshall noted at TalkingPointsMemo.com (5/23), “it’s really incumbent on reporters to bring up the fact that there is sworn testimony from Trump’s then-wife Ivana that he raped her in a fit of rage over a failed baldness remediation surgery. Come on, folks. Get it together.”

Trump’s top GOP supporters are now saying his plans to deport millions of undocumented Mexican immigrants was never real and is actually just a matter of issuing undocumented immigrants with new paperwork, Marshall wrote. “Trump himself has now moved on from immigration politics to dredging up allegations about Bill Clinton that range from unsubstantiated to discredited to ridiculous,” Marshall wrote. “But here’s the thing: Trump’s former wife Ivana said Trump raped her in a sworn deposition. Given how central a role rape accusations have played in Trump’s campaign - against Mexicans, political opponents, etc. it is clearly a highly germane question, as frankly it would be for any presidential candidate.”

The details surrounding the alleged rape are bizarrely novelistic even by Trumpian standards, Marshall noted. According to Ivana, Trump was driven to freakish rage by a failed anti-baldness surgery - a so-called ‘scalp reduction’. But the actions are very clear cut. According to her deposition, which was part of the couple’s 1990 divorce, Trump flew into a rage, attacked her, held her down and began pulling hair out of her head to mimic his pain and then forcibly penetrated her.

The 1990 divorce case between the two Trumps was granted on the grounds of Donald’s “cruel and inhuman treatment” of Ivana, the TheDailyBeast.com reported (7/27/15). The settlement, under which the Trumps agreed on the division of assets, was finalized in 1991. Her divorce involved a gag order that keeps her from talking about her marriage to Donald Trump without his permission.

Trump of course denies Ivana’s claim, Marshall noted. And Ivana Trump, who now has an amicable relationship with her ex-husband has gone to great lengths to downplay the incident. But she has never taken back the claim, only stating that while she said he had “raped” her she did not “want my words to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense.”

TPP WOULD WORSEN TRADE BALANCES, ITC REPORTS. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade and economic agreement between the US and 11 other Pacific Rim countries, will increase the job-killing US trade deficit by a whopping $21.7 bln, the US International Trade Commission (ITC) reported (5/18). Among the potential impacts cited by Public Citizens Global Trade Watch (tradewatch.org), the ITC expects:

• A worsening balance of trade for 36 out of 55 US agriculture, manufacturing, and services sectors that the ITC featured. This includes vehicles, wheat, corn, auto parts, titanium downstream products, chemicals, seafood, textiles and apparel, rice and even financial services. Auto parts would be hard hit with employment projected to decrease by 0.3%.

• An increase in the US global trade deficit by $21.7 bln by 2032.

• Even the US services trade balance will worsen by 2032 as service imports of $7 bln swamp the estimated increase in exports of $4.8 bln and five of nine service sectors will see declines.

• A $24 bln dollar increase in the manufacturing trade deficit and a decline in output for US manufacturing/natural resources/energy of $10.8 bln as exports would increase by $15.2 bln and imports would increase by $39.2 bln by 2032.

• Tiny US economic growth gains ($42.7 bln or 0.15%) and income gains ($57.3 bln or 0.23%) by 2032. In other words, the ITC projects that the US would be as wealthy on 1/1/2032 with TPP as it would be on 2/15/2032 without the TPP.

The TPP also would empower more foreign corporations to sue the US government in private tribunals to demand taxpayer compensation over US laws they claim violate their TPP rights and that the Investor State Dispute Settlement System is expanded to allow new grounds for financial service firms to challenge domestic policies.

Global Tradewatch also noted that the ITC has underestimated the increase in the US trade deficit caused by almost every pact it has assessed, but the trade deficit increase the ITC does project from TPP implementation would equate to 129,484 American job losses, counting both exports and imports, according to the latest administration trade-jobs ratio. This makes even more curious the ITC estimate that the TPP would raise employment levels by 0.07% (128,000 jobs) in 2032.

“This report spotlights how damaging the TPP would be for most Americans’ jobs and wages given it concludes 36 out of 55 US agriculture, manufacturing and services sectors spotlighted by the ITC would see a worsening trade balance while the ‘upside’ projection is miniscule gains in economic growth, despite these findings being based on the same widely criticized methodology and unrealistic assumptions that have resulted in past ITC reports systematically overstating the benefits from trade deals that ended up causing serious damage,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Tradewatch.

Congress is expected to consider the TPP in the lame-duck session after the general election, under expedited “fast-track” rules that prohibit amendments or filibusters. Wallach has said the best chance for defeating the TPP is in the House.

VA. REPUBLICANS SUE TO STOP 200K EX-FELONS FROM VOTING. Republican lawmakers in Virginia filed a lawsuit (5/23) to block the governor from restoring the voting rights of more than 200,000 residents with felony convictions. The case now before the Virginia Supreme Court argues that the Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) exceeded his constitutional power by signing an executive order restoring the full civil rights of all residents who have already served their felony sentences and completed supervised parole or probation.

Until April, Virginia had been one of just four US states that permanently disenfranchised most people with felony convictions.

“The Governor is authorized to restore the voting rights of any convicted felon through an individualized grant of clemency, but he may not issue a blanket restoration of voting rights,” the lawsuit states.

Since the governor’s executive order in April, a small army of voting rights advocates have fanned out across the Commonwealth to register as many of these 200,000 people as possible before this November, when they could have tip the balance in the presidential election in the crucial swing state. Nearly 4,000 formerly disenfranchised ex-offenders have already registered.

“I’ve had grown men cry and hug me. I’ve seen women do the happy dance and shout,” said Karen Fountain with Virginia New Majority, the group taking the lead on the registration campaign. “You can see in that moment that they feel they are worth something. They go from no self esteem to self esteem. It’s just great to see.”

Fountain has been going out six days a week, clipboard in hand, combing the lower-income neighborhoods of Richmond, Virginia looking for people who have just regained the right to vote. One of the dozens of people she registered was Virginia native Randy Tyler, who lost his voting rights in 1995 due to a grand larceny conviction.

“Before, I felt like I was left out. I felt like even though I live in America, I wasn’t a part of it,” he told ThinkProgress. “But now, I have the privilege of saying who I want to elect for the presidency. I might be the one vote that makes a difference. I feel like a citizen of the United States again.” (Alice Ollstein, ThinkProgress, 5/23)

SUPREME COURT STRIKES DOWN GERRYMANDER. Nearly two years ago, a federal court struck down Virginia’s congressional maps, finding that state lawmakers engaged in an unconstitutional racial gerrymander when they packed tens of thousands of African-American voters into the already strongly Democratic district represented by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) — thus effectively diluting the impact of black voters in the state. In 2012, the year of the last presidential race, the state’s gerrymandered maps allowed Republicans to capture 8 of the state’s 11 congressional seats, despite the fact that President Obama won the state by 3 points.

Ian Millhiser noted at ThinkProgress that on 5/23, the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal brought by three Republican members of Congress who hoped to maintain the old maps. Though the Court’s decision in Wittman v. Personhuballah expresses no view on the merits of the case, it effectively allows the lower court’s order to stand.

That’s good news for Democrats, but also probably not earth-shattering news. In January, the lower court drew new maps for the state that corrects the racial gerrymander in Scott’s district by redrawing that district and a few that surround it. The primary impact of these new maps will be felt in the state’s fourth congressional district, currently represented by Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA).

According to Forbes’ attorneys, this district will be “completely transform[ed] from a 48% Democratic district into a safe 60% Democratic district.” So that almost certainly means an additional Democratic member of Congress under the new maps.

Virginia itself, which has a Democratic governor and a Democratic attorney general, chose not to appeal the lower court’s order, which is why the appeal to the Supreme Court was brought by three members of Congress. Forbes’ counsel told the justices that he intended to run for reelection in a different district, and this formed the basis of the justices’ unanimous decision that Forbes could not pursue this appeal. Because he would no longer run for office in the most impacted district, the justices explained, “we do not see how any injury that Forbes might have suffered ‘is likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision.’”

The Court also held that two other lawmakers, Reps. Robert Wittman (R-VA) and David Brat (R-VA), could not pursue their appeal because they failed to cite evidence in the record showing that they were more likely to lose their upcoming races under the new maps.

So chalk up a small victory for Democrats that will make it marginally easier for them to take back the House of Representatives — a task that remains quite daunting due to unfavorable maps in many key states.

It is unlikely, however, that this decision will do much to deter future gerrymanders. The state drew unconstitutionally gerrymandered maps, and yet it still got to run two entire elections under those maps. If it takes courts this long to respond to illegal gerrymanders, lawmakers still have a strong incentive to keep drawing unconstitutional maps. (Ian Millhouser, ThinkProgress, 5/23)

AMERICANS INSURED AGAINST THEIR WILL. The “Republican Party has spent the past seven years trying to save the country from the appalling tyranny of something resembling universal healthcare, which passed through the totalitarian means of getting enough votes in a democratically elected national legislature and being signed by a democratically elected president,” Charles P. Pierce noted at Esquire.com (5/17). The results are in, sheeple. Lady Liberty weeps,” as the Centers for Disease Control reported that the number of uninsured persons has declined in the past year. In 2015, 28.6 mln persons of all ages (9.1%) were uninsured at the time of interview—7.4 mln fewer persons than in 2014.

In other words, for the first time, more than 90% of the American people currently are oppressed by having health insurance. Pierce inquired, “Who will free us from this authoritarian nightmare?”

Pierce was kidding, but Kevin Drum noted at MotherJones.com (5/20) that the Kaiser Family Foundation’s latest survey shows growing dissatisfaction with Obamacare coverage, as the number of people who are dissatisfied has gone up from 20% in 2014 to 31% this year. “The main complaint is about premiums and deductibles,” Drum noted. “As it happens, premiums haven’t actually increased all that much, but deductibles have, which means that even modest premium increases strike people as unfair.”

The poll also found that 66% of people were satisfied with the insurance they got through the Affordable Care Act, with 52% rating it good and 14% rating it excellent. That’s down from 74% satisfaction in 2015, when 56% rated it good and 18% excellent.

“As usual, I’d be cautious about drawing any conclusions from this. It’s only a year or two of data, and the Obamacare market is still shaking out,” Drum wrote. “Still, it’s genuinely unfavorable news—except for conservatives, who finally have something bad they can point to without actually lying about it.”

FAST FOOD WORKERS MOVE ON TO UNION RIGHTS. Ever since fast food workers staged their first strike in 2012, their basic demands have been twofold: an increase of their pay to at least $15 an hour, and the right to form a union.

Bryce Covert noted at ThinkProgress (5/23) that they’ve made significant headway on the first demand, helping to secure the passage of a $15 minimum wage in two states and a handful of cities. But now they plan to make good on the second half.

At a convention of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in Detroit, a delegation of fast food workers who have been leading the Fight for 15 movement announced that the group will hold a vote this summer about whether to join the union.

“Fifteen dollars an hour is becoming a reality for millions of workers. Now, we want to zero in on the other part of our demand: union rights,” Terrence Wise, a McDonald’s and Burger King worker who is a member of the Fight for 15 National Organizing Committee, said in a press release. “We are excited about joining together with SEIU to energize that effort and forge a new kind of worker organization that helps lift tens of millions of Americans out of poverty.”

The biggest hurdle in fast food workers’ path to unionization is the franchise model used throughout the industry, which means that many restaurants are owned by much smaller franchisees rather than the large corporations like McDonald’s or Burger King. Companies have argued that the structure means that they can’t be held responsible for working conditions in stores they don’t own directly. Workers have sued McDonald’s for wage violations under the argument that the company controls franchisee workplaces through the use of technology, the National Labor Relations Board has found McDonald’s to be liable for workplace conditions.

Still, it’s unlikely that the fast-food workers can get recognition for being unionized. That’s why, if fast food workers vote in favor of joining SEIU, they won’t become dues-paying members. Instead, they will be formally part of the union system but not pay in, at least at first, according to BuzzFeed News.

SEIU President Mary Kay Henry said, “SEIU has a long history of partnering with groups of workers who were given no chance to win unions, but who were nonetheless able to forge new, powerful organizations. Our commitment to helping fast-food workers win a union follows decades of successful campaigns that resulted in workers ranging from janitors to home care workers to hospital workers joining together and winning unions to have a voice at work and build a better life for their families.”

“We have never let an outdated labor law stand in the way of workers being able to stand together,” she told BuzzFeed. “We did it 90 years ago for janitors, 40 years ago with every public employee, and 15 years ago for home care workers.” All of those groups of workers faced their own obstacles on the traditional path to unionization but made it there in the end. (Bryce Covert, ThinkProgress, 5/23)

HOUSE R’S CAN’T RESIST GAY-BASHING. House Republicans just couldn’t help it. As Daily Kos noted, on Wednesday (5/18), they passed a defense spending bill that would have allowed federal contractors to use their claimed religious beliefs as an excuse to fire lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Fighting back, the following day Democratic Rep. Sean Maloney (CA) offered an amendment to a different defense appropriations bill that would have overturned this anti-LGBT provision. Amazingly enough, despite the GOP’s wide majority in the chamber, it passed.

Or so it appeared. As the clock for the two-minute vote expired, 182 Democrats and 35 Republicans joined together to give Maloney’s amendment 217 votes; the rest of the GOP could only muster 206 votes against it. But Republicans held the vote open for another six minutes, enough time to coerce seven of their number to switch their votes “quietly from the back benches,” as Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer put it.

Soon after, Hoyer tweeted out a list of the turncoats. Of the seven, Daily Kos noted, fully four are potentially vulnerable this fall: California Reps. David Valadao and Jeff Denham, Iowa Rep. David Young and Maine Rep. Bruce Poliquin. While all of these men are quite conservative, they all at least had the brains to oppose this particular instance of anti-LGBT bigotry … but not enough fortitude to resist when their party leaders came demanding obedience.

And that’s a real problem for them, because all four of the districts went for Barack Obama in 2012, and all four are on the Daily Kos Elections’ list of races that either will be or could become competitive in November. “The coverage of this skullduggery has already been unflattering, and this quartet will not only get painted by their Democratic opponents as bigots but as flip-floppers, too.

“Oh, and if you’re wondering why the GOP was so insistent on making sure the Maloney amendment failed, Rep. Charlie Dent (PA), one of the provision’s Republican supporters, explained that the more conservative members of his party didn’t want to get stuck voting for a defense bill with a pro-LGBT amendment attached to it. So House GOP leaders figured they’d sacrifice a few congressman in bluer seats to protect the ultra-wingnuts from possible primary challenges. The Republican war rages on—and only Democrats stand to benefit.”

In the Senate, where Democrats need five more seats to regain the majority, at least eight Republican seats are considered “in play.” They include Florida, where Sen. Marco Rubio did not seek re-election; Illinois, where Sen. Mark Kirk (R) faces a challenge from Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D); New Hampshire, where Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) faces a challenge from Gov. Maggie Hassan (D); Ohio, where Sen. Ron Portman faces a challenge from former Gov. Ted Strickland (D); Pennsylvania, where Sen. Mike Toomey (R) faces a challenge from Katie McGinty (D), an environmental adviser to Vice President Al Gore and President Bill Clinton and a former chief of staff for Gov Tom Wolf (D); Wisconsin, where Sen. Ron Johnson (R) faces a rematch with former Sen. Russ Feingold (D).

Democrats also have designs on Sen. Richard Burr’s seat in North Carolina and Sen. John McCain’s seat in Arizona, particularly if Donald Trump draws a lot of Latinos to the polls. Democrats also must defend Sen. Michael Bennet’s seat in Colorado and the seat Sen. Harry Reid is giving up in Nevada.

Among developments in Senate races:

● FL-Sen: Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera is out with his first TV spot ahead of the crowded late August GOP primary. Lopez-Cantera starts by telling the camera, “I think anybody who serves in public office should have a little contempt for government in their heart. Then you are always constantly trying to fix the problem.” The candidate continues by bragging that he’s always found ways to save money, and says he wants to “take the money out of the government’s hands [and] put it into the people’s hands,” because people are better at managing their money than government. This… isn’t exactly riveting TV.

● NH-Sen: Democrat Maggie Hassan is the latest candidate to make a large autumn TV reservation. Hassan, who is trying to unseat Republican Kelly Ayotte, has purchased $6 mln in fall TV time.

● PA-Sen: The Democratic group Senate Majority PAC is going up with a $1.2 mln ad buy aimed at Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. It opens with one cat scratching the other’s back, as the narrator declares, “You know what it means: You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” The narrator than accuses Toomey of getting rich on Wall Street while supporting policies that helped banks make risky practices. The ad ends with another image of those cats and a final meow.

● The US Chamber of Commerce is launching a $10 mln ad buy hitting Democrats in six Senate seats. In New Hampshire, they argue that Maggie Hassan has a record of taxing the state to pay for her huge spending policies.

In Ohio, they accuse Ted Strickland of crippling the state’s economy while he was governor. Of course, like all conservative groups, they decline to mention that Strickland was in charge of the state during the worst of the Great Recession, and make it sound like he was just an irresponsible idiot. The narrator than promotes GOP Sen. Rob Portman as someone who wants to fix the mess they claim Obamacare has caused. The Chamber’s ads in Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin are not available yet. (DailyKos.com, 5/23)

OBAMA’S SURPRISING POLL SUPPORT GOOD NEWS FOR DEMS. After the 2014 midterms, the chattering class said President Obama was “finished,” Steve Benen noted at Maddowblog.com (5/23). “The election results were a stinging rebuke to the White House and its agenda, and unless Democrats wanted to invite the public’s fury, Obama would have no choice but to give up on his ambitions and start giving the Republican Congress at least some of what the GOP wanted.”

But the president proceeded to ignore all of these assumptions, pursuing his agenda with the increased enthusiasm of a leader who recognized he needed to make the most of his remaining time in office, Benen wrote. And over the course of the year, Obama’s approval numbers changed — quickly, and a lot. In a recent weekly average, Obama was at 51-45 — the opposite of where he was on 1/1/16 and a 12-point swing since then.

“What’s more, this president will be the first two-term incumbent of the television era to aggressively hit the campaign trail during his last year in office, and the more popularity he enjoys, the greater the effects will be,” Benen noted.

The Los Angeles Times recently reported that Obama’s approval rating is almost identical to that of President Ronald Reagan in his final year in office – the last time the incumbent’s party won a third election in a row.

For the record, Benen noted, according to Gallup, on 5/23 in 1988, Reagan’s approval rating was 48%. As of 5/22, Obama was at 52%.

From The Progressive Populist, June 15, 2016


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