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Love, Love, Love Those Government Regulations

by Ellen McClennan, posted on Sunday, March 16th, 2014 at 2:42 pm

Hey you Tea Party folks, how’s that ‘drowning the government in the bathtub’ routine going??? How’s that ‘getting rid of government regulations’ working for you, huh?

My neighbor just opened up her Nicor gas bill to see a ONE month charge of $960.00. The month before was nearly $700.00. The bills were double and triple the bills from last year.

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No, she doesn’t live in a house the size of a public library. Her house is about 3,200 square feet—large for sure, but not enough to warrant one month’s heating costs of well over $900.

She checked all over her house for changes in her venting, open storm windows, and any heating leak problems she could find. NADA. NONE. Everything sealed tight. Everything.

So she called Nicor.

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Unions of Illinois Unite–Our Families Are Counting on You

by Ellen McClennan, posted on Wednesday, November 13th, 2013 at 8:41 pm

Okay Union leaders, Union members, Everybody and Anybody else who cares about Illinois families, get out of your comfort zone and get to work. The time for sitting on the sidelines is over.

We need to endorse another candidate to run for Governor. Quinn/Vallas would be a disaster. A Republican would be a disaster. We can no longer fear what traditional Democrats will think–or what traditional Republicans will think–if we ‘rebel’ against our ‘traditional’ party lines. They have both abandoned us in support of a corporate-driven tax loophole culture which is cannibalizing our schools and our state. We need to think of our children and their future in Illinois. Our kids are counting on us.

All of us who care about the education of our children, our tax burden, and the maintenance and structure of our beautiful state’s infrastructure need to open our eyes. We have a real crisis brewing and we cannot live in denial any longer.

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Hultgren and Ribble Republicans trying to end Social Security?

by Ellen McClennan, posted on Wednesday, October 16th, 2013 at 8:00 am

Looks like Randy Hultgren is finally trying to make good on some of the promises and agendas he offered at an Oswego Town Hall Meeting the summer of 2012 when he said “I’m not planning on Social Security. Most people my age aren’t planning on Social Security.” At the time, Hultgren actually paused a few moments and looked around for cheers which did not come forth. His pronouncements fell on dumbfounded ears–people could hardly believe he was attacking Social Security.

But now, over a year later, Hultgren has found about fifty other like-minded people in the House of Representatives. After joining the Suicide Caucus in August to shut down our government in their effort to defund Obamacare, Hultgren has additionally joined with fifty other Republican House members to demand Boehner use the government shutdown to negotiate Social Security reductions.

In a letter drafted by Wisconsin Representative Reid Ribble, and signed by Hultgren and 49 other House Representatives, the signers demand Boehner use the “ongoing fiscal discussions” and “this window of opportunity” (i.e. government shutdown), to address the “long-term viability of Social Security.” The letter has four demands, three which would clearly lower retiree benefits. Hultgren, Ribble and the rest, call for upping the retirement age, cutting retiree benefits by changing calculations, and for using ‘means testing’ for recipients.

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Hultgren Goes Off the Reservation With Government Shut Down

by Ellen McClennan, posted on Saturday, October 12th, 2013 at 6:25 pm

By now, it is quite clear Randy Hultgren has aligned himself with the far right wing Republican contingent responsible for shutting down our government and threatening the debt ceiling crisis. Conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer has actually termed Hultgren and his contingent of about 79 other representatives as the “suicide caucus.”

Hultgren and the rest of the Republican politicians known as the “suicide caucus” are called that because they signed Republican Mark Meadows’ letter, known as The Meadows Letter, which demands that House Speaker Boehner pass legislation to defund the Patient’s Rights and Affordability Care Act (ACA–Obamacare) and to commit to defund the ACA by using the continuing resolution to fund the government. In other words, shut down our government.

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Hultgren and Roskam Too Expensive for Us

by Ellen McClennan, posted on Sunday, September 29th, 2013 at 9:00 am

We can’t afford to keep Randy Hultgren and Peter Roskam in office any longer. They continue to waste our taxpayer money in vain attempts, 42 at last count, to end the Affordable Care Act. Each Hultgren and Roskam attempt to defund the law, which was enacted by Congress and upheld by the Supreme Court, costs us taxpayers (according to research by CBS) approximately $1.45 million.

Hultgren and Roskam join with the rest of the House Republicans in collectively spending 15% of its activity since 2011 on repealing the ACA (Obamacare), or about $17 million in Congressional Republican salaries– according to a recent report published by the New York Times.

When considering all the facts, it becomes quite clear that the Republican temper-tantrum over the ACA is nothing more than them serving the financial services industry–their primary campaign donors–rather than any concern about American people.

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Hultgren spending $58 million to protect CEO bonus checks

by Ellen McClennan, posted on Saturday, August 24th, 2013 at 11:57 am

For a politician claiming to value fiscal responsibility, 14th Congressional Representative Randy Hultgren certainly has wasted a lot of our money.

Hultgren has voted with the rest of his Tea Party coalition to repeal Obamacare 40 times. According to a recent CBS study, each Republican vote to repeal costs all of us American taxpayers $1.45 million—for a total of about $58 million.

Question: Why would Hultgren be so focused on wasting our money to repeal a law voted in by Congress and upheld by the Supreme Court?

Answer: Hultgren’s largest campaign donors come from the Securities and Investment (i.e. Insurance) industry. Check it out at OpenSecrets.org. Hultgren is protecting Insurance CEO’s paychecks at the same time he is attempting to take insurance coverage away from those who need it and billing American taxpayers millions for his efforts.

Question: So what’s so bad about Obamacare that the financial services industry wants to repeal it? After all, Obamacare just delivered millions more people into their coffers.

Answer: Obamacare restricts the profit insurance companies can make.

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Heroes on the Streets of Kane County

by Ellen McClennan, posted on Wednesday, August 8th, 2012 at 8:05 am

Dogged. Indefatigable. Diligent. Determined. Steadfast. And oh my gosh, just plain heroic. The four-dozen or so Kane County residents who circulated petitions to stop special interest money from buying favors from our politicians are my heroes. They were headed by Kaye Gamble, and were part of the national Move to Amend effort.

For days on end, they endured 90 to 100 degree heat. They asked the same question, “Are you a Kane County registered voter?” hundreds and hundreds of times. And when people were willing to stop and talk with them, they explained the same thing over and over and over again. With enthusiasm and patience. They listened and they responded with accurate information.

When people stopped to hear what the petition was about, most people signed it. But sometimes it was difficult to get peoples’ attention. Some passers- by believed the group was trying to register voters or take an opinion survey and didn’t want to get involved. But when people did stop to hear the issue, just about everybody signed the petitions, Gamble said. Some were so enthusiastic they brought their spouses, friends, and voting age children over to sign. All were thankful of the group’s efforts.

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Group Working to Make Democracy Safe for Middle Class Again

by Ellen McClennan, posted on Wednesday, August 8th, 2012 at 8:00 am

“We’ve never seen this many petitions!” Suzanne Fahnestock, Kane County Director of Elections said with a broad smile as she accepted the tall pile of petitions presented by Kaye Gamble, coordinator of the Kane County Move to Amend effort.

The group of about fifty Kane County citizens spent untold hours standing in record-breaking summer heat collecting signatures in a petition drive to place an advisory question on the ballot this November. Nearly fifteen thousand citizens signed those petitions.

The petition requests this question be placed on the Kane County November ballot– “Should the United States constitution be amended to limit the use of corporate, special interest, and private money in any political activity, including influencing the election of any candidate for public office?”

Gamble’s group is part of the national Move to Amend effort to amend the constitution in order to nullify the 2010 Supreme Court ruling of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. This ruling created Super PACs and Hybrid Super PACs, overturning decades of limits to political contributions and opening up unlimited floods of undisclosed corporate, private, special interest and foreign money into politicians’ election campaigns.

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Jesus Meets the Republican Party

by Ellen McClennan, posted on Sunday, July 8th, 2012 at 7:00 am

It was early in the morning and I was late for an appointment. But it was my brother calling, so I answered my cell.

“Hey Ellen,” he said, “You know that piece you wrote about Hultgren being unconcerned about all those people who don’t have medical insurance?”

“Well, yeah,” I said. “The one where the man asked Hultgren why he opted to take federal health insurance for himself and his family, but didn’t want the rest of us to have it?”

“Yeah, that one,” he responded. “I sent that piece to my neighbor who voted for Hultgren because he is a Christian. I thought she would see this as the betrayal of Christian morals it actually is.”

“But she didn’t see it that way, Ellen. I don’t get it,” he continued. “Didn’t we learn the Golden Rule? You know, do onto others as you would have them do onto you?”

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“Mr. Hultgren, does this bother you when you see this?”

by Ellen McClennan, posted on Thursday, June 28th, 2012 at 7:01 am

“I have a job and I have health insurance,” Representative Hultgren (R IL-14) said, and then paused for a moment proudly emphasizing the Republican spin talking point that when one has a job, one automatically has health insurance. It’s as if life is that simple. If you work, the spin goes, you have insurance. He was attempting to say that if we have jobs, we don’t need a national health insurance plan. We don’t need “Obamacare.”

The subtle part of this ‘argument’ is that not only is it flawed logically, it blames the victim. If you don’t have insurance, it’s because you don’t have a job. A job will furnish good insurance. And if you don’t have a job, it’s because you’re either not looking, or—to serve the Republican spin even further—it’s because Obama won’t do what the Republicans want so people can have jobs. So therefore, we can all blame Obama.

But this time his audience at the Oswego Town Hall meeting was not buying it as I noticed they have in the past. No one applauded. No one said, “Yeah!” There was silence as Hultgren paused and looked around for support he did not get.

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Hultgren long on spin, wrong on facts, empty of solutions

by Ellen McClennan, posted on Thursday, June 28th, 2012 at 7:00 am

Representative Randy Hultgren (R IL-14) showed typical Republican spin at his Oswego Town Hall meeting recently. When asked direct questions regarding taxes, healthcare, social security, and Citizens United, he was long on spin, wrong on facts, and empty of solutions.

One frustrated attendant who tried to get a direct answer on healthcare, commented after the meeting that Hultgren “…seemed detached and unfeeling. His voice was just so syrupy and sweet he appeared unbelievable and unconcerned.”

His comments on Social Security were a surprise but shouldn’t have been, given the Republican Party’s relationship to corporate money and financial companies wanting to gamble with social security investment money.

“I’m not planning on Social Security,” Hultgren said. “Most people my age aren’t planning on Social Security.”

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Politicians Flee the ‘Peons’

by Ellen McClennan, posted on Monday, May 28th, 2012 at 7:00 am

You could identify the politicians at Illinois’ Capital Building by their demeanor. And the same for the lobbyists who were courting their attention. Watching them all was like watching ‘Singles Date Night’ at a local country club. Only instead of alcohol being the drug of choice, it was power and influence. But if you didn’t have the power and influence of either a politician or a lobbyist, the politicians treated you like a peon.

Last week during Illinois’ General Assembly session, people came to Springfield to speak with their Senators and Representatives. They were requesting a seat at the table where changes to the Illinois’ pension system and Medicaid system are being made.

Most of them were teachers and state mental health workers, all worried about cuts their Senators and Representatives were rumored to be planning for their jobs and their pensions. They were easy to identify given they wore green shirts printed with the letters of their union, AFSCME.

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Representative Schmitz Willing to Kiss off $12,300,000,000 in Illinois Revenue

by Ellen McClennan, posted on Friday, May 25th, 2012 at 8:19 pm

“We don’t lower taxes here in Illinois,” State Representative Tim Schmitz (R) 49th district, said. “I’ve been here for fourteen years and we’ve never done that.”

“Even if it means lowering those taxes would bring in more than $6,300,000,000 in revenue for Illinois?” she said she asked.

She could hardly believe her ears. Perhaps he didn’t understand. So she explained how a graduated income tax would work for Illinois. She pointed out that forty-three states already have this kind of tax, that it would provide relief for middle and low-income residents, and that research has shown it boosts consumer spending and the local economy.

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Orwell’s Thought Police Meet the Baby Boomers

by Ellen McClennan, posted on Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012 at 7:00 am

It was a simple ride with a stranger on a train. She and I were both carrying signs from the Nurses United Rally in Chicago held on Friday, May 18. By our signs, we both knew we were on the same side of the political ‘discourse.’

Of course, the word ‘discourse’ is such a polite word that it implies what is going on in our national political blood fest is polite. It is anything but. And that is exactly what we were talking about.

“What can they be thinking?” I asked, thinking there is no real answer.

“That’s the problem,” she replied. “They’re not.”

And for the first time in a long time, I had the opportunity to think out loud with another person who was also thinking out loud about the nastiness, vitriol really, that is going on in our national political scene.

For the first time I began to understand. I began to see the big picture of how and why people can so easily be influenced to believe and act in ways that are so contrary to their own self-interests.

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We’re a Country Needing Heroes

by Ellen McClennan, posted on Monday, May 21st, 2012 at 7:49 pm

We’re a country needing some heroes. And we really need them here in Illinois where for decades politicians have joined with the rest of our country’s politicians in selling out the middle class, starving the funding for our public schools and communities, and protecting large corporations and the One Percent.

For forty years, at the state and federal level, politicians have worked for big business interests attacking our labor unions, pension plans, small farms and businesses. Big business interests lobbied politicians, sometimes people in them became politicians or formed “Think Tanks” to lobby politicians. They ended regulations (Glass-Steagall) and opened up the banking system to gambling. They’ve gambled 401 Ks and mortgages. They lobbied for corporations to become monopolies. They lobbied for tax breaks, loopholes, and subsidies.

This has been a systematic, well thought out plan carried out by large moneyed interests and big business. A corporate lawyer named Lewis F. Powell in 1971 first outlined the plan on paper. Powell wrote a long memo to Eugene Sydnor, Jr. the then Director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Called the Powell Memo, it outlined the plan for advancing corporate influence by deregulating corporations, building an array of institutions to push for unbridled corporate capitalism, and to diminish individual’s interests. It targeted unions and schools.

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Nurses Stand Up to Politicians

by Ellen McClennan, posted on Sunday, May 20th, 2012 at 8:40 pm

He was a shirtless man walking around the crowd of demonstrators holding up a sign that read: “Since you politicians are going to f&#k me, you could at least wear a condom. That’s 99% effective.” The young man said he was angry politicians have slanted healthcare legislation in the direction of the 1% and left the average person out of the equation.

While there was understandable frustration like this expressed by some at the rally, most of the signs were directed toward solutions. One read, “Heal America. Tax Wall Street,” and on the back, “An Economy for the 99%. Healthcare for all. Jobs with Dignity. Quality Public Education. A Healthy Environment.” Or, another sign, “Single Payer Healthcare.” Another read, “Real Funding. Speculation Tax,” and another, “Tax Wall Street.”

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“Corporations are People, Teachers are Not. Fix That!”

by Ellen McClennan, posted on Sunday, May 20th, 2012 at 7:29 pm

A five-year-old girl sitting in a wagon held a sign that read, “How can this be my fault? Tax the 1%”

Her mother, Dr. Annette DeAngelis-Marshall, who came to the teachers’ rally in Naperville this past Thursday, May 17th, was pulling her. Dr. DeAngelis-Marshall is a special education teacher consultant and advocate who came to the rally as a citizen, taxpayer, and teacher to demand attention from politicians enacting pension changes for Illinois teachers.

“I’ve tried to speak to Darlene Senger but she doesn’t listen to me.” DeAngelis-Marshall said.

Senger is on Governor Pat Quinn’s task force charged with the job of changing the teachers’ pension system. Frustration with Senger was echoed by dozens of other people attending the rally. Approximately two hundred people were there. While most were teachers, some were union workers, college students, Occupiers, retired teachers, and just plain parents. All were taxpayers with a stake in good public schools.

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Teachers and Citizens Demand a Seat at the Pension Funding Table

by Ellen McClennan, posted on Sunday, May 6th, 2012 at 10:06 pm

A group of about forty people from Northern Illinois Jobs With Justice gathered in the noon day sun outside Illinois Senator Mike Noland’s office in Elgin on Friday, May 4th.  The people wanted Senator Noland to hear their concerns about the lack of revenue and funding for Illinois teachers’ pensions.  Senator Noland is one of four legislators appointed by Quinn to a task force to solve this issue.  While earlier State Senator Mike Noland (D-Elgin) had informed the group he would not be present to respond to their rally, he unexpectedly showed up

John Laesch, from NIJWJ, announced the rally was about the group’s concern regarding the State’s lack of funding for teachers’ pensions, but Noland didn’t seem to understand until the end of the rally that the citizens standing before him had not been sent by the Illinois Education Association (IEA) and were instead concerned citizens and workers—about half of whom happened to be teachers.

“This is a workers’ issue. And we are concerned that our legislators have not funded our teachers’ pensions. We have a revenue problem here. This is a concern to all taxpayers and to all people who work for a living,” said Laesch.

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