City Govts are Raising Standards for Working People—GOP State Legislators are Reversing Them

A new EPI report analyzes the recent wave of preemption laws passed by state legislatures to undercut local labor standards. EPI associate labor counsel Marni von Wilpert shows that preemption activity has increased dramatically since 2010, as Republican-controlled state legislatures have repeatedly struck down local government efforts to improve the working conditions of their residents. Just last week the minimum wage in St. Louis was lowered from $10 per hour back down to $7.70 per hour because of a preemption law passed in Missouri. Von Wilpert provides an overview of five areas affected by preemption—minimum wage, paid leave, fair work scheduling, prevailing wage, and project labor agreements—and details the impact of preemption throughout the United States.  Read the Full Report.

Dear So-Called President Trump: Where’s My Protest Paycheck?

— by Peter Dreier

The author, with his twenty-year-old daughter Sarah, marching against the Trump agenda on Saturday, January 21, 2017 in Los Angeles. (Photo: Courtesy of Peter Dreier)

Dear So-Called President Trump:

I was among the roughly five million Americans who took to the streets in cities across the country a few weeks ago in opposition to your outrageous policies regarding women, Muslims, school children, immigrants, workers, the environment, and people who need health care. (That’s me in the photo above with my 20-year old daughter Sarah). I left my home around 7 am, took the subway from Pasadena to downtown Los Angeles, and participated in the demonstration — marching, holding signs, shouting chants, listening to speakers and musicians — until about 4 pm. I got back on the subway and returned to my house around 5 pm. In other words, I spent about 10 hours involved in the protest.

That was the largest one-day protest in American history. A majority of the five million participants (750,000 in LA alone) were protesting for the first time. I didn’t really understand what brought them out to protest on a sunny Saturday when they could have been doing so many other things. But your recent Tweet explained why.

Last week you Tweeted that “Professional anarchists, thugs and paid protesters are proving the point of the millions of people who voted to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

Thank you for the reminder. I forgot to pick up my paycheck for protesting. Whomever is paying people to protest left me off the list — or just ripped me off. Since the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, I am owed at least $72.50 for the 10 hours I spent protesting that Saturday. However as of this January 1 the California minimum wage is now $10.50 an hour, so I’m actually owed $105, and even more if the people who are paying people to protest against you abide by overtime rules.

If all five million Americans who protested that day got paid the federal minimum wage, and if people spent an average of five hours protesting, those patriotic rabble-rousers are owed a total of at least $181 million in unpaid protest wages.

I think you’ll agree that putting $181 million in Americans’ pockets is good for the economy. If you will recall the Economics 101 course you probably took at college, that is called an increase in “consumer demand.” Economists also call it the “multiplier effect.” The five million protesters will spend that $181 million in their local economies — boosting sales, revenues, and jobs. So thank you for reminding us that protest is good for the economy.

You will be pleased to know that Americans will continue to protest your policies for the next four years. Not all the protests will be as large as the January 21 women’s march, but the number of Americans who feel compelled to protest against you will certainly grow as you pursue reckless, dangerous and inhumane policies. Every week, in cities, suburbs and small towns across America, people will be in the streets, at town meetings, on college campuses, at their workplaces, at airports, in churches and synagogues, and elsewhere raising their voices in opposition to almost everything you are trying to do.

Let’s take a conservative estimate that every week, on average, 100,000 Americans engage in some kind of local protest over the next four years. Let’s assume that each person spends an average of three hours participating in protest and earns the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. That adds up to $452 million during your four years as president — assuming you are not impeached.

Of course, you won’t be surprised that in addition to all those local protests, at least four times a year, Americans will mount the kind of major nationwide protests that we saw a few weeks ago, with five million people taking to the streets. So let’s add another $181 million for each protest — four times a year, for four years. This will increase the protest payroll by another $2.9 billion. Altogether, that’s $3.42 billion in protest paychecks over four years. I haven’t even factored in the higher minimum wage levels in many states and cities.

You are already doing your part by adopting policies and making statements that make Americans so angry that they are joining protests in record numbers. But if you’d really like to do something to improve the economy even more, you could raise the federal minimum to $15 an hour. That would quickly and dramatically increase America’s protest payroll and be a real boost the economy.

I realize that it is selfish of me to bring this up, but what about all the back pay I’m owed for the protests I’ve participated in since the 1960s? I’ve been to hundreds of protests for civil rights, against the Vietnam war, for women’s rights and against apartheid, for more funding for public schools, against the U.S. overthrow of Chile’s president Salvador Allende and against U.S. aid to the Nicaraguan contras, against police killing of unarmed Black Americans, in favor of workers’ rights, and against government bail-outs to Wall Street banks.

As you can see in the above photographs, I brought my twin daughters Amelia and Sarah to a protest in Los Angeles in 2002 against the U.S. invasion of Iraq and I joined with my wife Terry, our dog Mia, and our friends last year at a huge march of workers and supporters demanding a $15 minimum wage in my hometown of Pasadena. (You’ll be please know that we won that fight). On a rainy night two weeks ago I joined about 150 people at a protest in front of the $26 million Los Angeles mansion owned by Steve Mnuchin, the Wall Street predator (known as the “foreclosure king”) who was your campaign finance chair and whom you’ve nominated to be Secretary of the Treasury. (That’s me, with the gray hair, behind the sign).

Shouldn’t the hundreds of millions of Americans who, over the years, sat in at lunch counters, participated in strikes, carried picket signs for reproductive rights and same-sex marriage, rallied against nuclear weapons, and shouted “no justice, no peace” and “end racism” get paid for their protest activism? Rep. John Lewis, who put his body on the line hundreds of times for social justice — and whom you described as “all talk, no action” in a twitter tantrum last month — would be owed a fortune in back protest pay.

Do you think we could find a “so-called” judge who would be sympathetic to this wage-theft cause and order the owners of Protest Inc. to compensate us for our labor?

I don’t consider this reparations for radicals and reformers. I see it as the kind of economic nationalism you’ve been talking about. You can’t export protest jobs. These are Americans jobs for Americans. As any economist could tell you, those back payments would do wonders for the economy.

Just as George W. Bush was known as the “war president,” and Barack Obama was known (at least by Republicans) as the “food stamp president,” you will surely go down in history as the “protest president.” You’ve done more than any other U.S. president to unite Americans and galvanize them into an oppositional protest movement. You’ve called us “paid protesters.” Once we all get paid, we will feel proud to have helped make America great again.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Peter Dreier is E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics, and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department, at Occidental College. His most recent book is The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (Nation Books, 2012). His other books include: Place Matters: Metropolitics for the 21st Century (University Press of Kansas, 3rd edition, 2014), and The Next Los Angeles: The Struggle for a Livable City (University of California Press, revised 2006). He writes regularly for the Los Angeles Times, Common Dreams, The Nation, and Huffington Post.

Gutting Protections for Working People?

Concerns are rising that Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress are preparing to revoke a suite of Obama-era executive orders that have provided basic protections for U.S. workers.

These executive orders raise wages, improve worker safety, and help ensure that taxpayer dollars do not support companies that break the law. Specifically, the orders under threat:

  • Provide paid sick leave for federal contractors
  • Limit gender and race wage discrimination by increasing pay transparency
  • Boost wage growth by requiring a minimum wage of $10.20 for federal contractors—lower than what is needed but higher than the current federal minimum wage of $7.25
  • Safeguard federal contract workers from being forced into unfair internal arbitration systems that make it harder to fight back against discrimination, wage theft, and other violations of worker rights
  • Require transparency from contractors about violations of labor laws and ensure that federal dollars don’t reward unscrupulous employers

Approximately 25 percent of the U.S. workforce is employed by companies that do business with the federal government, representing $500 billion of business each year on contracts for goods and services. The federal government has the responsibility to ensure that these taxpayer dollars are used to do business with honest employers who comply with workplace protections.

If President Trump were serious about enacting a real agenda that supports working people, he would not gut rules that support good jobs and workers’ rights. He would not eliminate paid sick leave for over one million federal contract workers. And he would not nominate a labor secretary whose fast-food chain has a long history of wage theft and who himself has a long record of anti-worker and anti-government rhetoric.

The Obama-era executive orders hardly constitute a radical agenda. Instead, it is the anticipated actions by President Trump and the GOP controlled Congress that signal something radical—a radical assault on the workers candidate Trump claimed to support.

If President Trump were serious about protecting working people, he would advance an agenda designed to promote a fair economy, not implement executive orders that hurt millions of people.

Become a Co-Sponsor of the Real Agenda for Working People

President-elect #donaldtrump and conservatives on Capitol Hill are preparing to unleash a series of economic policies in an attempt to undermine years of progress.

Tax cuts for the rich and corporations, deregulation of finance and worker protections, and assaults on unions would all undercut U.S. workers’ economic clout, not increase it.

The blame for workers’ plight should be placed squarely where it is due: on the corporate owners, top managers and Wall Street financiers, and the policymakers in their sway.

We must stand united to protect U.S. workers and families from the conservative tried-and-failed trickle-down policies of the past.

Stand together and become a co-sponsor of the five-point Real Agenda for Working People to create an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few. This agenda is a yardstick for measuring the Trump Administration’s policies.


A Real Agenda for Working People:

Restore full employment
Create an economy where employers have to compete for workers by raising wages

  • Launch a 10-year, $1.2 trillion public investment program in infrastructure, clean energy, scientific and medical research, early child care, education, and health care delivery.
  • Create public employment programs for areas with high unemployment rates and with large concentrations of low-wage workers.
  • Nominate and retain Federal Reserve Board governors who will pursue full employment and wage growth.

Strengthen—not gut—rules that support good jobs
Preserve and expand rules that support good jobs and create economically secure families and a fairer economy

  • Raise the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2025 and index it to wage growth.
  • Build a universal, nationwide child care system.
  • Enact paid family and sick leave and promote sensible work scheduling.
  • Strengthen the Department of Labor to enforce labor standards including employee misclassification, wage theft, and prevailing wage violations.
  • Use all the tools at our disposal to eliminate discrimination in hiring, promotion, and pay of women and workers of color.
  • Reform immigration laws to provide legalization and a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants.
  • Reform—rather than expand—guestworker programs so that temporary migrant workers are not underpaid and have access to labor standards and workplace protections.
  • End forced arbitration in employment contracts and consumer financial services agreements.

Protect the basic human right of worker organization
The freedom to bargain collectively

  • Strengthen protections for working people who organize and promote change through collective action.

Level the playing field that trade agreements slanted against workers
Globalization depresses wages—and our trade policy makes it worse

  • Fight exchange rate misalignments that hamper U.S. exporters and lead to trade deficits.
  • Enforce trade laws that help U.S. workers.
  • Reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other trade agreements that protect U.S. and multinational corporations but not workers.

Raise top tax rates to invest in America and restore power to the bottom 90 percent
The top 1 percent do not need tax cuts that increase their incentive to further rig the economy’s rules

  • Eliminate tax preferences for executive pay, or make deductions for executive pay contingent on granting rank-and-file wage increases equal to productivity growth.
  • Implement a financial transactions tax (FTT).
  • Raise top marginal income tax rates.

For more details on the Real Agenda for Working People visit www.epi.org/workers-agenda.

Catherine Cortez Masto is the Progressive Nevada Needs in the Senate

Endorsement by UNLV Rebel Yell

There is a monumental political fight raging on right now. In certain ways, this fight is just as important as the one to keep the racist, dangerous demagogue Donald Trump out of the White House.

Our Congress has been overrun by the antiquated and ineffective Republican party, and it’s time for Democrats to reclaim the majority. Right here in Nevada, this critical battle it is being led by former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto.

Cortez Masto is a progressive Democrat running to fill Harry Reid’s seat in the Senate, and she is taking on her reactionary Republican opponent, Joe Heck, and his corrupt corporate backers.

Being a popular candidate amongst college students, it was quite exciting when Cortez Masto agreed to speak with the Rebel Yell about her campaign.

“[My campaign] is about fighting for working families, and families in general,” Cortez Masto explained. “I always felt it was important to fight for the people most vulnerable. Our economy is moving in the right direction, we came out of the worst recession we’ve ever seen, but there are still a lot of families unfortunately struggling.”

As a native Nevadan who spent eight years as Attorney General, she has seen first-hand the struggle that many people in our state have gone through, and knows what measures must be taken.

Cortez Masto supports raising the minimum wage, equal-work-for-equal-pay, comprehensive immigration reform, protecting social security and making college affordable. She has publicly opposed the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that allows uncapped political expenditures by nonprofit organizations.

Cortez Masto also opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a huge multi-national trade agreement that was negotiated in complete secrecy and gives greater freedom to businesses and corporations to move jobs overseas.

“I learned from my parents that when you have certain opportunities and you’re blessed, you give back. You continue to fight for your neighbors and friends,” she said.

Cortez Masto is more than just talk. All one needs to do is look at her record in politics to find that she has been a champion for these issues. As attorney general, she prioritized the rights of women and children.

Her monumental successes against sex-trafficking and abuse will no doubt be at the forefront of her legacy in our state. One of her proudest accomplishments was the bill she introduced to criminalize sex trafficking.

“It passed our legislature unanimously, and was signed by the governor. It really strengthened our laws against pimping, but it was also important because it started putting victims on the path to becoming survivors,” Cortez Masto said.

Protection of the disenfranchised should be a priority of the government, not just a platitude spoken by career politicians.

This is the type of common sense Cortez Masto utilizes in her approach to legislation.

“We have to find ways to approach violence with common sense. Expanding background checks is common sense. Not letting somebody buy a gun on the internet is common sense!”

Giving beneficiaries of the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAMers) a pathway to citizenship, taking dark money out of politics and helping college students get their degrees without falling into crippling debt are all common sense measures Cortez Masto fights for.

Heck has been leading a fight of his own. His fight is against civil liberties, equality, education and the environment..

“There are stark contrasts between the two of us,” Cortez Masto seemed happy to explain to me. “You just have to look at Joe Heck’s voting record in Congress. If we’re talking about just education, he voted to cut pell grants and wouldn’t even lock in an interest rate [on loans].

He has fought to defund Planned Parenthood 10 times, voted against equal pay three times, he is opposed to increasing the minimum wage. He actually signed onto a bill to criminalize abortion.

“I think he is more interested in protecting big corporations,” Cortez Masto concluded.

The claim that Heck is a puppet for corporate interests is not a difficult conclusion to arrive at when one considers that the oil business magnates, the Koch Brothers, have spent millions of dollars trying to get him elected.

Heck was also an admirer of Donald Trump until he rescinded his support in a cowardly act to save his own political career after Trump’s sexual assault comments were leaked.

Though Cortez Masto received endorsements from Bernie Sanders, President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, and is running against a backwards opponent, she is still locked in a dead tie.

Cortez Masto cannot win unless we all vote on election day. Nevada’s seat in the Senate is too valuable of a position to ignore, and she needs our vote to take the progressive cause to Washington.

“This particular seat alone is enough for the Democrats to take back the majority, and if we really want to get something done, we need to elect progressive Democrats who will fight for the things Bernie talked about,” Masto said.

Catherine Cortez Masto is that progressive, and I endorse her to be our next Senator. I hope you will join me in casting your vote for her on or before election day.

Key points:

Cortez Masto is a progressive Democrat running to fill Harry Reid’s seat in the Senate, and she is taking on her reactionary Republican opponent, Joe Heck, and his corrupt corporate backers.

[…]

As a native Nevadan who spent eight years as Attorney General, she has seen first-hand the struggle that many people in our state have gone through, and knows what measures must be taken…Cortez Masto is more than just talk. All one needs to do is look at her record in politics to find that she has been a champion for these issues. As attorney general, she prioritized the rights of women and children.

[…]

Heck has been leading a fight of his own. His fight is against civil liberties, equality, education and the environment.

Heck has fought to defund Planned Parenthood 10 times, voted against equal pay 3 times, he is opposed to increasing the minimum wage. He actually signed onto a bill to criminalize abortion. “I think he is more interested in protecting big corporations,” Cortez Masto concluded.

The claim that Heck is a puppet for corporate interests is not a difficult conclusion to arrive at when one considers that the oil business magnates, the Koch Brothers, have spent millions of dollars trying to get him elected.

Heck was also an admirer of Donald Trump until he rescinded his support in a cowardly act to save his own political career after Trump’s sexual assault comments were leaked.

[…]

Cortez Masto cannot win unless we all vote by election day. Nevada’s seat in the Senate is too valuable of a position to ignore, and she needs our vote to take the progressive cause to Washington.

Reagan Sold Your Future, Trump Will Too

White working-class voters should think twice before electing another flag-waving, immigrant-bashing, billionaire-enriching politician.

— by

Mitchell ZimmermanTwo generations ago, many white working-class Democrats bought into Ronald Reagan’s promise of a better nation. Eager for “morning in America” — and swayed by fear that advances for black people would come at their expense — they didn’t see that the shadow of a long sunset was creeping over their lives.

Because the GOP had another, darker agenda. One that didn’t include them.

Reagan Democrats were left with a president who blamed and criticized people of color, while billionaires got to enjoy a president who helped them grab the lion’s share of America’s wealth.

Today, Donald Trump is singing the same song, promising salvation and blaming immigrants, blacks, and Muslims for America’s woes. And if enough white men join the chorus, they may doom themselves to another decade of declining economic opportunity.

Trump, like his GOP predecessors, is making a lot of people feel good about their hatred for those they don’t consider “real” Americans. But indulging in enmity for people who are different comes at an economic price.

(Photo: Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com)
(Photo: Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com)

If you’re a typical middle-class worker today, you’re probably deep in debt, with little means to plan for a brighter future for your kids, and no way to deal with an unexpected financial emergency. Meanwhile, you watch the ultra-rich grow ever-wealthier.

What you might not know is that productivity — the value of everything America makes — has grown by two-thirds in the decades since Reagan’s administration. But with the GOP lending a hand, giant corporations and the super-rich captured nearly all of the added wealth that American workers generated.

The statistics for those growing ever-richer today are staggering.

In 1980, top CEOs made 42 times as much as the average worker. Now they make 373 times as much. And the share of household wealth owned by the top tenth of the one percent increased from 7 percent in 1980 to 22 percent today.

But in the last 35 years, the wages of middle-level workers have scarcely budged. On average, they’ve gotten a yearly raise of one-sixth of one percent. For someone making $40,000 a year, that’s a whopping $69 more per year.

This is no coincidence. Policies launched during Reagan’s presidency and pushed forward by his successors are responsible.

First, Republicans have stymied efforts to raise the federal minimum wage for decades. When corrected for inflation, the minimum wage is actually lower than it was in 1980.

Second, they targeted unions. Strong unions help everyone, because they set a pay standard that nonunion employers follow. Both Reagan and the Bushes appointed pro-business members to the National Labor Relations Board, who ignored unlawful attacks on unions and undermined bargaining rights.

Weakened unions made it easier for employers to devour all the fruits of increased productivity.

Third, their huge tax cuts favored the wealthiest. George W. Bush added trillions to the public debt, while the top one percent received more than a third of his so-called “tax relief.” During the Bush years, if your income was over $3 million per year, you got an average tax bonus of $520,000.

Meanwhile, services ordinary people rely on were starved, weakening our government’s ability to fund schools, or protect our water, food, and drugs.

These reverse-Robin Hood policies would continue under Donald —”you’re fired!”— Trump.

Take, for instance, his International Hotel, which conducts an unlawful anti-union campaign. And Trump’s proposed tax cuts would give $1.3 million each to the wealthiest tenth of the richest one percent.

Meanwhile, Trump continues to waffle about whether there should even be a federal minimum wage.  Actually, he believes “wages are too high.”

So if you think you’re overpaid, Trump’s your man.

But descendants of Reagan Democrats on the fence about a President Trump should heed the warning of history before inviting another flag-waving, immigrant-blaming, black-bashing, billionaire-enriching politician to the oval office.


Mitchell Zimmerman is an intellectual property lawyer who devotes much of his practice to pro bono work. Distributed by OtherWords.org

Just a Win v. a Landslide Victory

Vote00This November — this is what a win might look like:

  • Hillary Clinton wins, and becomes the country’s first woman president
  • Democrats take back the Senate
  • A Democratic Senate confirms Hillary’s pick to fill Antonin Scalia’s vacant seat on the Supreme Court, breaking conservatives’ decades-long majority on the bench

And this is what a landslide just might look like:

  • All of the above, PLUS:
  • Democrats take back the House of Representatives
  • President Hillary Clinton and the new Democratic Congress turn the most progressive party platform in history into reality, creating a public option for healthcare, expanding Social Security, protecting voting rights, raising the minimum wage, reforming immigration, tackling climate change, and making college debt-free

Are you registered to vote?  Are you committed to cast your vote for Democrats up and down the ballot?  If you want the “landslide” results, then commit to vote!  Early voting polls open in Nevada on Saturday, October 22.  Mark your calendar or to-do list now and commit to vote early!  But, if you can’t find the time to vote early on the many opportunities you will have to do so, make sure you make it to the polls on Tuesday, November 8, 2016.

Paying for Low-Wage Pollution

Whether it’s half a dozen of one or 6 of another, we continually find ourselves contributing to the socialization labor costs as corporations incorporate poverty wages into their wage compensation schemes.  The article below may look at how Cook County, IL is looking for ways to combat those practices, but I thought it was apropos as food for thought, as you vet those candidates you choose to support with your coveted vote at the ballot box this fall.


Economic justice activists are championing laws that shift the costs of toxic poverty wages from communities to corporations.
— by Liz Ryan Murray

liz-ryan-murrayImagine if a corporation set up shop in your community and immediately dumped toxic sludge in your local waterways and buried radioactive waste next to your biggest playground. You and your neighbors, I bet, would demand full compensation from that corporation to pay for the clean-up and public health costs.

You’d have a strong case.

What about corporations that pollute communities not with chemicals, but with poverty wages? The impact can be every bit as toxic, and yet companies that pay low wages get off scot-free. In fact, their CEOs usually get bonuses.

Economic justice activists across the country are fighting back against this outrage. They’re demanding that corporate polluters pay a price for low wages.

In the Chicago area, for instance, Cook County commissioners are considering a bill that would slap fees on corporations employing more than 750 workers at less than the local living wage — currently $14.57 per hour, or $11.66 with health benefits.

Walmart_fair_wages_minimum_wage_labor_workers
Courtesy of National People’s Action

Under this proposed Responsible Business Act, companies would pay the local government $750 per employee each year for every dollar their wages fall below the living wage. The bill would generate an estimated $580 million in the first four years.

Community stakeholders would get a voice in deciding how to spend this revenue to help low-income residents. For example, some of that money might boost health care options, pre-trial services, and housing assistance.

Why not just raise the minimum wage? In an ideal world, it would be the best solution. That’s why “Fight for $15″ campaigns are catching on. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Americans still live in places where wages won’t lift working families out of poverty anytime soon.

Low-wage employer fees provide a good alternative by targeting the large corporations that can afford to pay their workers more, but are choosing to drive low-wage pollution instead. This approach encourages these companies to raise wages while leveling the playing field for the businesses that are already taking the high road.

As long as poverty wages persist, we’ll all pay the price.

Poverty wages leave workers with too little buying power. Local businesses suffer when local people can’t afford to buy their products and services.

And young people suffer, too. Researchers have linked high poverty rates to lower educational achievement and poor health. And poverty wages make high poverty rates inevitable.

Low-income people, especially in communities of color, also face a far greater risk of being arrested and jailed for minor offenses, leaving them with even higher barriers to future economic opportunities.

Who subsidizes these poisonous poverty wages? Taxpayers.

To keep their families healthy and safe, low-wage workers have little choice but to turn to public assistance programs. Reforms like Cook County’s Responsible Business Act could help us recoup some of these costs.

Large corporations are “socializing labor costs,” sums up Will Tanzman of IIRON, the Illinois-based economic and social justice organization that’s part of a growing movement for the Responsible Business Act. One local poll, he points out, shows county residents favoring the bill by a 2-1 margin.

Connecticut activists pushed a similar bill last year. A new law in that state mandates the creation of an advisory board where workers will join employers, public assistance recipients, elected officials, and other stakeholders to develop recommendations for how the governor and state legislators can address the public cost of low-wage work.

Activists and elected officials elsewhere, including Colorado and New York, are also exploring the possibility of applying low-wage employer fees.

These campaigns aren’t about demonizing public assistance. In the richest country in the world, we should have a safety net strong enough to ensure that all our most vulnerable people live in dignity. That ought to be a matter of national pride.

But a system that lets overpaid CEOs underpay workers and then get taxpayers to foot the bill for the damage that results? None of us can take any pride in that.


Liz Ryan Murray is the National People’s Action policy director. Distributed by OtherWords.org and cross-posted at Inequality.org

Hair Force of One

The Mis-Education Of The Republican Party
— by CAP Action War Room

The GOP presidential field needs an education, but for the moment their only teacher is Donald TDebaterump. With President Ronald Reagan’s Air Force One casting a shadow over them, eleven GOP candidates spent three hours debating largely about Donald Trump and failing to address the many key issues facing working families. On education, raising wages, and health care, the GOP candidates said close to nothing, instead doubling down on attacks on immigrants, women’s health, working families, and the Iran nuclear deal. Over three grueling hours of television, the Republican candidates mentioned “middle class” just three times, “health care” twice, and “students” just once.

What the GOP Candidates Failed to Mention:

Ensuring Access to an Affordable, Quality Education. Families are finding it harder and harder to access an affordable, quality education. Between 2000 and 2011, the cost of higher education grew three times faster than overall inflation and students are being saddled with debt. However, the Republican candidates were silent on whether they would support measures such as allowing Americans to refinance their student loans and restoring public investment in education. Not only did Republicans ignore the plight of students seeking a higher education, they also ignored the needs of our youngest learners. High-quality public preschool programs range from $6,500 to $11,000 across the country—putting them out of reach for many families. But on solutions like providing universal pre-school, the Republicans were mum.
Raising Wages for Working Families. Higher wages are what working families need most. Instead of seeing their incomes improve, middle class households saw their incomes fall 2 percent between 2000 and 2011. However, the Republican presidential contenders overwhelmingly failed to offer, or support, real solutions that would improve incomes for families, such as raising the minimum wage or reforming overtime rules.

A Plan to Improve Access to Health Care. On a day when new data became available showing that the number of Americans lacking health insurance dropped by more than eight million people in 2014, Republicans once again attacked the Affordable Care Act (ACA) but offered no alternatives. Before the implementation of the ACA, health care costs were skyrocketing. From 2002 to 2012, health care costs paid by a family of four with an average employer-sponsored PPO plan rose by 85 percent. The ACA, however, has helped control rising health care costs. At the same time, the ACA has improved access to health care. Overall, 15.8 million people have gained coverage since the ACA’s marketplaces opened. Republicans, however, have offered no ideas on how to keep improving upon the successes of the ACA, instead continuing to call for repealing the ACA.

What the GOP Candidates Did Say:

Follow Trump’s Lead on Immigration. Trump’s extreme rhetoric on immigration is often credited with putting immigration right at the center of the GOP presidential primary. But at the debate on Wednesday night, several Republican candidates went out of their way to show that they stand with Trump on his extreme positions.

  • Trump doubled down on his claim that birthright citizenship isn’t settled in the Constitution, saying, “Well, first of all, the — the 14th Amendment says very, very clearly to a lot of great legal scholars — not television scholars, but legal scholars — that it is wrong.” Trump wasn’t alone–Rand Paul, the author of a constitutional amendment to repeal birthright citizenship, restated his support for ending it.
  • Trump again raised his plan to build a wall between the United States and Mexico to deter illegal immigration, even though the border is more secure than ever. The other GOP candidates, however, raced to outdo Trump: Chris Christie jumped at the opportunity to say that he would push to establish “more than just a wall,” pledging “electronics” and “drones,” while Ben Carson said he would turn off the “spigot that dispenses all the goodies so we don’t have people coming in here.”

Defund Planned Parenthood. During the debate, the GOP candidates spent much of their air time attacking women’s health. In rushing to declare that they support defunding Planned Parenthood, they ignored the fact that Planned Parenthood provides critical health care services for millions of women.

  • Jeb Bush believes “that Planned Parenthood should[n’t] get a penny from the federal government.” This is not a surprising statement from a man who previously said he was “not sure we need a half billion for women’s health issues.” However, Planned Parenthood helps millions of women—in 2013 alone it served more than 2.7 million patients and provided 10.6 million services, including the treatment of chronic diseases and authorization for hospital care.
  • Ted Cruz called Planned Parenthood a “criminal enterprise” and says he’s “proud to stand for life.” But 90 percent of Planned Parenthood’s activity is preventive care. Defunding Planned Parenthood would limit women’s access to lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control, and more.

Give Tax Breaks to the Wealthy Few. Several GOP candidates talked about their tax plans and records on taxes at the debate, but their rhetoric was the same rehash of tired Republican talking points: cut taxes on the wealthy to boost the economy. That didn’t work before, and it won’t work again.

  • Bush promoted the $19 billion in tax cuts he pushed as Governor of Florida, but analysis of his time in Florida show that he catered his tax cuts to the wealthy. What’s more, Bush’s tax plan, just released last week, would be a massive giveaway to the wealthiest Americans, would blow a hole in the deficit, and give Bush a personal tax savings of $774,000.
  • Walker claimed that under his watch, Wisconsin passed $4.7 billion in tax cuts “to help working families, family farmers, small business owners and senior citizens,” but the richest 20 percent reaped a full half of the benefits of his income tax package — all while Wisconsin ranked 44th in the country in middle class income growth under Walker.
  • John Kasich boasted about having the “largest amount tax cuts of any sitting governor,” but he neglected to mention that his so-called “tax cuts” benefited wealthy Ohioans. Under Kasich’s tax proposals, the average tax bill went up for the bottom 60 percent of taxpayers, while the top one percent of taxpayers saw an average tax cut of nearly $12k.

Tear Up the Iran Deal. Last night, many of the GOP candidates offered much of the same, similar-sounding bluster we have heard on the campaign trail: tear up the Iran deal on “day one.” Their empty rhetoric presented no real leadership, just more partisan attacks on a tough-minded deal.

  • Cruz claimed that the Iran deal “will only accelerate Iran’s acquiring nuclear weapons.” He continued to say that if elected, he would “rip to shreds this catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal.” Far from being a bad deal, the agreement cuts off all pathways to an Iranian nuclear weapon and is verifiable through rigorous international inspections of Iran’s nuclear supply chain and facilities. This accord proves that American diplomacy — and not war — can bring meaningful change to make our homeland and the world safer and more secure.
  • Walker casually remarked, “I’d love to play cards with this guy because Barack Obama folds on everything with Iran.” That is simply not true. The Iran deal is the result of years of tough-minded American diplomacy and a comprehensive strategy. The deal is backed by our partners and allies across the world, but conservative GOP candidates are putting politics over patriotism.

BOTTOM LINE: The eleven GOP candidates had an opportunity last night to offer real solutions to the key issues they face. But on education, working families, and health care, the GOP candidates came up empty. Instead, they spent their stage time fighting with each other and catering to the most extreme wing of the Republican Party. What we need are real leaders ready to tackle the problems facing working families, not panderers who are alienating entire communities of Americans.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.


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Bernie Sanders: Agenda for America—12 Steps Forward

Bernie Sanders, a challenger to Hillary Clinton, for President of the United States has put forth his “Agenda for America”

  1. Rebuilding Our Crumbling Infrastructure
    We need a major investment to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure: roads, bridges, water systems, waste water plants, airports, railroads and schools. It has been estimated that the cost of the Bush-Cheney Iraq War, a war we should never have waged, will total $3 trillion by the time the last veteran receives needed care. A $1 trillion investment in infrastructure could create 13 million decent paying jobs and make this country more efficient and productive. We need to invest in infrastructure, not more war.
  2. Reversing Climate Change
    The United States must lead the world in reversing climate change and make certain that this planet is habitable for our children and grandchildren. We must transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energies. Millions of homes and buildings need to be weatherized, our transportation system needs to be energy efficient and we need to greatly accelerate the progress we are already seeing in wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and other forms of sustainable energy. Transforming our energy system will not only protect the environment, it will create good paying jobs.
  3. Creating Worker Co-ops
    We need to develop new economic models to increase job creation and productivity. Instead of giving huge tax breaks to corporations which ship our jobs to China and other low-wage countries, we need to provide assistance to workers who want to purchase their own businesses by establishing worker-owned cooperatives. Study after study shows that when workers have an ownership stake in the businesses they work for, productivity goes up, absenteeism goes down and employees are much more satisfied with their jobs.
  4. Growing the Trade Union Movement
    Union workers who are able to collectively bargain for higher wages and benefits earn substantially more than non-union workers. Today, corporate opposition to union organizing makes it extremely difficult for workers to join a union. We need legislation which makes it clear that when a majority of workers sign cards in support of a union, they can form a union.
  5. Raising the Minimum Wage
    The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is a starvation wage. We need to raise the minimum wage to a living wage. No one in this country who works 40 hours a week should live in poverty.
  6. Pay Equity for Women Workers
    Women workers today earn 78 percent of what their male counterparts make. We need pay equity in our country — equal pay for equal work.
  7. Trade Policies that Benefit American Workers
    Since 2001 we have lost more than 60,000 factories in this country, and more than 4.9 million decent-paying manufacturing jobs. We must end our disastrous trade policies (NAFTA, CAFTA, PNTR with China, etc.) which enable corporate America to shut down plants in this country and move to China and other low-wage countries. We need to end the race to the bottom and develop trade policies which demand that American corporations create jobs here, and not abroad.
    [Sign the petition to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership — another trade deal disaster]
  8. Making College Affordable for All
    In today’s highly competitive global economy, millions of Americans are unable to afford the higher education they need in order to get good-paying jobs. Further, with both parents now often at work, most working-class families can’t locate the high-quality and affordable child care they need for their kids. Quality education in America, from child care to higher education, must be affordable for all. Without a high-quality and affordable educational system, we will be unable to compete globally and our standard of living will continue to decline.
  9. Taking on Wall Street
    The function of banking is to facilitate the flow of capital into productive and job-creating activities. Financial institutions cannot be an island unto themselves, standing as huge profit centers outside of the real economy. Today, six huge Wall Street financial institutions have assets equivalent to 61 percent of our gross domestic product – over $9.8 trillion. These institutions underwrite more than half the mortgages in this country and more than two-thirds of the credit cards. The greed, recklessness and illegal behavior of major Wall Street firms plunged this country into the worst financial crisis since the 1930s. They are too powerful to be reformed. They must be broken up.
  10. Health Care as a Right for All
    The United States must join the rest of the industrialized world and recognize that health care is a right of all, and not a privilege. Despite the fact that more than 40 million Americans have no health insurance, we spend almost twice as much per capita on health care as any other nation. We need to establish a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system.
  11. Protecting the Most Vulnerable Americans
    Millions of seniors live in poverty and we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country. We must strengthen the social safety net, not weaken it. Instead of cutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and nutrition programs, we should be expanding these programs.
  12. Real Tax Reform
    At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, we need a progressive tax system in this country which is based on ability to pay. It is not acceptable that major profitable corporations have paid nothing in federal income taxes, and that corporate CEOs in this country often enjoy an effective tax rate which is lower than their secretaries. It is absurd that we lose over $100 billion a year in revenue because corporations and the wealthy stash their cash in offshore tax havens around the world. The time is long overdue for real tax reform.