Posts tagged ‘legislation’

Progressive Congress on the Ryan Budget

by , posted on Thursday, March 29th, 2012 at 6:50 pm

“It’s time to play #ryanmadness … Join us on Twitter to see which Budget actually reduces debt AND puts Americans back to work (Hint: it’s NOT the Ryan Budget…)”

Progressive Congress was built at the intersection between the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) and the progressive movement to connect the progressive movement, ideas, and Congress. Founded by the leadership and staff of the CPC and key leaders in the progressive movement, the board includes a broad cross-section of the progressive community in the United States and the leadership of the CPC.

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Food for Thought: Solving the Jobs Crisis

by , posted on Friday, September 2nd, 2011 at 9:10 am

Cross-posted from the website of the Democratic Socialists of America.

HR 870: The Humphrey-Hawkins 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act

Although the Great Recession officially ended in June 2009, the US economy has failed to provide the jobs needed for long term, sustained growth. At the current rate of job creation most economists believe we would not recover the 8 million jobs lost until 2016. To generate the growth required to employ both the unemployed and underemployed, we need a serious commitment to job creation such as that embedded in HR 870–the jobs bill introduced by Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI). Following is a summary of this legislation as well as a discussion of why socialists – indeed all progressives – should support the bill.

A Deficit Neutral Jobs Program

HR 870 would not add a dime to the federal deficit. The jobs created by the act would be funded through a tax on the trading of financial assets: stocks, bonds, and currencies. The tax would be levied on both the asset itself and on the trading of derivatives (e.g., futures and options) based on the asset. The tax proposed in HR 870 is a very modest one of 0.25% of value traded or $1 on every $400 of value traded. The amounts raised, however, could easily exceed $400 billion/year.

The Jobs to Be Created

HR 870 is explicitly designed to put people, large numbers of people, to work quickly. HR 870’s fast track job creation focuses on painting and refurbishing schools, community centers and libraries; restoration of abandoned and vacant properties in foreclosure-decimated neighborhoods; expansion of emergency food programs; and renovation and maintenance of parks, playgrounds “and other public spaces.” These jobs, which are the ones to be filled during the first 9 months of the economic opportunity grants provided for under the Act, do not require long periods of training but instead are much like those created under the CCC and the WPA in the 1930s. After the initial 9 month period, priority is given to construction / rehabilitation / improvements of residences or public facilities. These include energy efficiency improvements and programs targeted at disadvantaged youth.

Who Would Be Employed?

HR 870 recognizes that one of the features of the Great Recession is the record high level of long term unemployment, people out of work for 26 weeks of more. These are the first to be hired under the terms of the Act. The second category of new hires is low income workers unemployed for at least 30 days.

Protections in the Act

Some job programs pose risks to employed workers because employers may replace them, often at lower wage levels, with new hires. HR 870: (i) prohibits replacement of any existing employee with someone hired with funding from the Act; (ii) requires that anyone hired under the Act be paid no lower wage than workers performing the same work; and (iii) requires that, if the Act is used to employ people in a unionized workplace, the union must agree to the terms of new hires. Finally, employment under the Act must be for a minimum of 12 months.

Why Support and Organize around HR 870

HR 870 simultaneously attacks two of the major problems of the US political economy: a labor market that fails to provide enough jobs – much less good jobs – to meet our peoples’ needs and an inefficient and bloated financial sector.

It is also rooted in the understanding that a lack of demand is the primary reason the US economy is failing to achieve levels of growth and output that are sufficient to provide employment for all who are willing and able to work. The Act is explicit in its commitment to the role that the public sector has in generating economic growth.

Jobs and the Failure of the Financial Sector

High levels of unemployment and underemployment in the US have been a growing problem over the past three decades. In the period 1945 – 1975, the unemployment rate was 4% or below during 75 months, more than 20% of the 360 month period. However, during 1975 – 2010, the unemployment rate was 4% or below during only 5 months, barely 1% of the 420 month total time.

At the same time, financial sector growth accelerated sharply, with financial sector profits reaching almost 45% of total business profits in 2005/06. It is essential to remember that finance is a cost to the economy as a whole. Finance, when functioning appropriately, simply enables the rest of the economy to perform well by lending, raising and allocating capital to businesses and households. The trading of paper claims to assets does not help the economy to grow although it may generate large profits for some financial institutions, a significant portion of which ends up in the pockets of a small number of decision makers at financial institutions. These high rewards are a strong incentive for the firm to take on additional risk, shifting focus and resources into trading rather than capital raising and allocation. Thus, taxing this socially useless activity will not only provide funds for jobs, it will also reduce the rewards of financial speculation and help redirect resources, especially talented individuals, into other occupations.

Creating Demand

How do you restart an economy that is functioning at less than full resource utilization, as in the case of the US today? The stimulus passed in early 2009 had some good features and did save a significant number of jobs. However, it was overly dependent upon indirect jobs creation, tax breaks to businesses in the hopes that they would then hire more workers. Households have cut back on their spending, reducing demand for goods and services and leaving businesses reluctant to expand output and increase hiring to the degree necessary to significantly reduce employ ment. HR 870, by using funds to hire workers quickly and directly, puts money into the pockets of working and middle class families, who will spend most of their wages on clothes, food, and shelter, increasing growth in these crucial sectors.

The Role of Government

Finally, HR 870 uses the resources and capabilities of government to restart the economy rather than cutting spending or providing additional tax breaks to employers and hoping that the result will be new hiring and a restart of economic growth. This is an explicit recognition of the central roles that government, the public sector, has in directing and generating economic growth.

What Can I Do to Help?

Building the support necessary to pass HR 870 won’t be easy. It is important to let your congressmember know that you support HR 870 and that you expect them cosponsor the bill. If you are active in your union, place of worship or political club, ask it to support the bill, too. In many communities activists are demonstrating or holding “First Friday” vigils on the day that the monthly unemployment figures are released. These actions call attention to the plight of unemployed and let the public and politicians know that we expect them to do something about the jobs crisis.

Democratic Socialists believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically—to meet public needs, not to make profits for a few. To achieve a more just society, many structures of our government and economy must be radically transformed through greater economic and social democracy so that ordinary Americans can participate in the many decisions that affect our lives.

For more on the political perspective of the Democratic Socialists of America, click here.


President Obama’s Big Deal: Cuts for Social Security, but No Taxes for Wall Street

by , posted on Wednesday, July 20th, 2011 at 2:45 pm

Cross-posted from Truthout, where it was originally published on July 18, 2011.

The ability of Washington to turn everything on its head has no limits. We are in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Even though the recession officially ended two years ago, there are still more than 25 million people who are unemployed, can only find part-time work or who have given up looking for work altogether. This is an outrage and a tragedy. These people’s lives are being ruined due to the mismanagement of the economy.

And we know the cause of this mismanagement. The folks who get paid to manage and regulate the economy were unable to see an $8 trillion housing bubble. They weren’t bothered by the doubling of house prices in many areas, nor the dodgy mortgages that were sold to finance these purchases. Somehow, people like former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan and his sidekick and successor Ben Bernanke thought everything was fine as the Wall Street financers made billions selling junk mortgage and derivative instruments around the world.

When the bubble burst, one of the consequences was an increased budget deficit. This is kind of like two plus two equals four. The collapsing bubble tanked the economy. Tax revenue plummets and we spend more on programs like unemployment insurance and foods stamps. We did also have some tax cuts and stimulus spending to boost the economy. The result is a larger budget deficit.

All of this is about as clear as it can possibly be. The large deficit came about because the housing bubble, which was fueled by Wall Street excesses, crashed the economy. Yet, we are constantly being told by politicians from President Obama to Tea Party Republicans that we have a problem of out-of-control spending.

The claim of out-of-control spending is simply not true. It is an invention, a fabrication, a falsehood with no basis in reality that politicians are pushing to advance their agenda. And that agenda is not pretty.


Loyal to a Fault

by , posted on Monday, July 18th, 2011 at 7:35 am

Like a lot of progressives, I’ve been troubled by the President’s response to the debt ceiling crisis which Republicans in Congress have been engineering lately. I’m not a deficit hawk. I believe we need more social investment, not less. So, as far as I’m concerned, both sides of this negotiation are on the wrong side of the debate.

And it’s not just that allowing the debate to narrow in this manner leads us to bad policy choices. It’s also bad politics.

Having the nominal leader of the Democratic Party himself opening the door to the possibility of Medicare cuts, even if it’s just some sort of negotiating ploy, undercuts the efficacy of a key campaign message that Democrats need to be able to run on in 2012: opposition to the desire of Paul Ryan and the Republicans to cut Medicare.

So, when the Progressive Change Campaign Committee began circulating a petition that it hoped would stiffen Obama’s spine in these negotiations, I signed on. And I posted a link to it on my Facebook wall as well, hoping that others of a like mind would sign the pledge, too.



The Business of Polluting

by , posted on Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011 at 1:13 pm

In light of the recent environmental tragedy in Japan, awareness of the growing threat of environmental toxins and pollutants has undoubtedly risen. When toxic materials enter our air and water supply, the consequences can be dire. Because the risks can be so severe, the Environmental Protection Agency has been tasked with the job of protecting the public health from these potential threats. Unfortunately, such a job is not too easy when some of the leading polluters are backed by corporate lobbyists who possess nearly endless funds. Proposing a legislation that limits greenhouse gas emissions throws a mighty wrench into the well-oiled machinery of corporate greed.



Springfield out to weaken collective bargaining rights

by , posted on Tuesday, December 28th, 2010 at 11:52 pm

The war on the middle class continues to be waged on both sides of the aisle.  This is less of a comprehensive blog about the topic and more of a call to action.  After America more or less lost our manufacturing base and moved to a service economy that exports bad debt as our main source of GDP, Wall Street types decided to start making profits off of government services.  In Illinois, this means that the fight to protect our education system from Wall Street profiteers is on.  An Oregon-based organization is pushing legislation that will deter the best and brigthest from teaching and ultimately enter Illinois’ schools into the race to the bottom.

State Representative Keith Farnham, an Elgin Democrat, is holding a town hall forum at the Gail Borden Public Library (270 N. Grove St., Elgin, IL) on Wednesday, Dec. 29th at 7:00 p.m.

Representative Farnham is on the education committee and it is important that he hear from teachers, parents and community activists before returning to Springfield in January.  It is believed that this legislation is being put together in a hurry and that it is part of a backroom deal (Republicans will get a large part of their anti-middle class agenda in exchange for a tax increase).  It is expected to pass before January 11th, 2011 (when the new assembly takes office).

This bill does not have an official number yet, but here is a screen capture of part of the copy that I obtained.  Click the pic to read the most significant part.  Click the link to read the entire bill.



Illinois General Assembly passes civil unions

by , posted on Saturday, December 4th, 2010 at 12:09 pm

While the Illinois General Assembly has yet to create jobs, pass a balanced budget, or find a way to fund the $80B pension liability, they did a very courageous thing during veto session by passing a civil unions bill.  This strikes me as one of the biggest “change” votes taken by the ILGA and perhaps the biggest act of courage in my memory. It was a positive step forward for residents of Illinois as we seek to join other states who view equality as a centerpiece for social and economic justice.

In the 21st century, I find it hard to believe that there are still people in Springfield and Washington who honestly feel that some in our society should be treated like second class citizens in the eyes of the government. But, some still voted “nay.” You can see the entire Senate vote here. You can see the entire House vote here.

If you agree that this is a good step for Illinois, please call or write members in the Fox Valley to let express appreciation or disappointment.  Altough he has delayed signing the bill until 2011, it is expected that Governor Quinn (312-814-2121 / Online Contact Form) will sign the bill.  It probably does not hurt to send the Governor a note to thank him for his support of equality.  See list of Fox Valley Representatives below.



Health Insurance and Unintended Consequences

by , posted on Saturday, July 24th, 2010 at 7:34 am

I helped write a preservation ordinance once and discovered in my research that you really need to write a clause in there forbidding teardowns while the ordinance is being considered, otherwise there’s always some asshole who will invest a ton of money in destroying his building just to prove a point to the city council about what he thinks of the proposal of the measure.

So there may be many who will be surprised to discover insurers doing things like ceasing to write insurance policies on children in order to avoid a provision of the health insurance reform bill that will kick in later this year and force them to cover children who are already sick, and there may even be those, like the author of this AP piece, who call it an “unintended consequence,” but not me.



DCCC Chair Chris Van Hollen on Lessons Learned and the Road Ahead

by , posted on Saturday, May 8th, 2010 at 6:00 am

In Red to Blue: Congressman Chris Van Hollen and Grassroots Politics, author Sanford Gottlieb tells the story of Chris Van Hollen’s successful grassroots campaign for Congress in 2002, and the lessons Van Hollen, and others, took away from that campaign in subsequent election cycles.

Van Hollen’s district

is MD-08, located in Washington DC’s Maryland suburbs. In the primary he beat frontrunner Mark Shriver, a Kennedy cousin with a lot of money to spend and a consultant by the name of David Axelrod on his team. He then went on to unseat longtime incumbent Connie Morella in the general election that fall. Morella was a well-liked, liberal Republican who had been long thought to be unbeatable, having enjoyed more than a little bit of support from local Democrats through the years on election day. And Van Hollen pulled this off in a Republican year. This was the first congressional election to be held after 9/11. The Republicans won back control of the Senate in 2002 and added to their majority in the House. Only two Democrats unseated incumbent Republicans that year. Chris Van Hollen was one of them.

Van Hollen has brought this experience to bear in his subsequent work at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). And he was not the only one to go to school on that 2002 campaign. As Gottlieb puts it:

David Axelrod told Van Hollen in 2008 that he had learned some lessons from being on the other side of the 2002 primary. It was a really good grassroots campaign, Axelrod said, with the passion on Van Hollen’s side. Van Hollen carried the lessons learned in 2002 into the successful effort to build a House Democratic majority in 2006. Axelrod and David Plouffe may have applied those lessons in the 2008 50-state race for the White House. (Gottlieb, Red to Blue, 32)

Last week Van Hollen appeared with Gottlieb at a book event in Washington, DC and talked about his attempt to apply those lessons learned to his work with the DCCC. Van Hollen’s introductory remarks, plus the question and answer session that followed, are presented below.



Separation of Corporation and State: Healthcare

by , posted on Saturday, April 3rd, 2010 at 7:59 am

My political career began on a cold evening in the dimly lit labor hall of Laborers Local 362 on Cabin Town Road, in Bloomington, IL.  It was the monthly Democratic Party meeting and I had no intention of speaking. After representatives from other campaigns spoke, I felt the need to represent my 2004 presidential pick.  The words fell out of my mouth with no cadence or inspiration and I’m confident that nothing I said was remembered by the 20-25 attendees who were being pressured by party leaders to send Rod Blagojevich another $500 contribution. But there it was: the 12 words that have somehow come to define my political activism: “The task of my generation is the separation of corporation and state.”

Perhaps the biggest abuse of taxpayer money to bail out a gang of undeserving corporations was the bank bailout. Like many people, I was outraged and nearly driven to put my name back on the ballot when the Democratic-controlled U.S. Congress passed a $700 billion bank bailout to help Bush put the finishing touches on his corporate-state presidency.  But I sat back and waited, overlooking the first year of Obama’s presidency that featured the more bailouts, more blank-check spending on Bush’s wars for profit, a wholesale attack on public education, and now, a healthcare bill written by corporations for corporations.

And so, I have come full circle as my next political steps take me back to the beginning and those first 12 words.  This piece on healthcare aims to show how the will of the people was replaced by the will of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) while support for Newt Gingrich’s Contract on America grows.  Among those following the health care reform process, it is commonly known that AHIP, the voice of insurance companies on capital hill, has played a significant role in drafting the bill.