Saturday, April 30, 2011

Bake Sale

In February, NH State Representative Jeanine Notter gave her ideas on health care for the uninsured:

“Americans are generous people. They are known to be generous people. I think, maybe you’ll agree with me, that when someone in their community has cancer and no insurance, they’re going to rally, they’re going to fund raise, and they’re going to get the treatment that person needs.”

Wolfeboro musician Seth Austin has written a musical response on behalf of the uninsured. Here he is, singing with his partner
Beverly Woods:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Civility or Censorship?

Long, long ago, back in the dim past of the year 2009, a faux-grassroots group calling themselves Tea Partiers began their mission of disrupting town hall meetings held by Congresscritters around the country. Some of you may remember this. The Tea Partiers don’t seem to, any more than they are willing to remember that they originally called themselves Tea Baggers. They’re full of pouty indignation these days about being referred to thusly, even though it is a problem of their own making.

The Teanuts howl that they are a grassroots movement, but that just isn’t so. They were very specifically created for the purpose of destroying any reforms to our miserable health care system. Right wing think tanks Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks provided education, materials, and tactics. The Koch brothers fund Americans for Prosperity. The Koch brothers are located out on the far right fringes of the far right fringe, with zillions of dollars at their disposal. In November, Koch Industries sent out a letter to their 50,000 some odd employees telling them who to vote for, with warnings of what might occur to their jobs and their country if they voted incorrectly. These are the guys who invented this allegedly grassroots movement.

The Teanuts went to the town hall meetings in their districts, with the purpose of disruption. They shouted down speakers. They howled and heckled. It was an organized effort. Memos outlining the strategy on how to organize and disrupt were created by FreedomWorks and distributed to the “grassroots.” People were told to “stand up and shout.” They did. Often there was just incomprehensible yelling that ensured that the member of Congress was unable to answer questions at all.

These same folks got in front of microphones at every opportunity to bellow about their rights being infringed upon. They gave no thought at all to the rights of those who showed up wanting to listen to their congressperson. Those disruptions had two goals. One was to create as much media as possible, with all kinds of coverage of angry, dissatisfied voters. The other, far more nefarious goal was censorship. The puppet masters behind the grassroots wanted to make sure that those members of congress had no chance to explain their positions – because that might lead to understanding and agreement, and that would be bad for the right. There was an open attempt at censoring Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in 2009. Epping Selectman Rene Archambault disagreed with a position taken the Congresswoman. Archambault didn’t write to her or call her to ask about it, he just tried to have the town prohibit her from speaking there.

The Teanuts who were elected have gone on to govern with a similar style. I’ve written extensively about what’s been said and done in the NH House during this legislative session. Regular readers of the Sun are aware that somehow, Rep. Frank McCarthy seems to have enough time on his hands during a hectic legislative session to pen weekly epistles for the paper. I feel kind of sorry for Rep. McCarthy. He ran for office at least 4 times, and couldn’t get elected, even when we had a one party system in the state. He finally was swept in during a red tide so noxious that anyone (can you say Martin Harty?) with an R next to his or her name was elected. It must be vexing to be voted in solely on the basis of party affiliation, especially having been rejected so many times before.

In February, at a hearing on repealing marriage equality I chatted with Rep. McCarthy, who told me he thought this was a hearing for a constitutional amendment. A month later, in February, at a county delegation meeting, Rep. McCarthy announced he’d voted the wrong way on an issue because he was confused. Luckily he belongs to a party that tells him very clearly how to vote on every issue, and provides him with the talking points he manages to churn out every week. This week he accused me of “ an unending barrage of demagoguery, misleading information, and outright lies.” Big words! Big accusation! Still, Rep. McCarthy failed to even list one lie told by the evil demagogue, never mind debunk it.

McCarthy has always written crabby letters to the paper. It’s disheartening to learn that he writes crabby emails to NH voters. A woman from another district sent out an email to all 400 state reps, outlining her fears about the budget. Frank’s response:

“I'm sorry but I've made it a point not to engage with individuals unless they were adults...biologically and mentally.”

To another NH voter:

“If it finally works out that you are wrong and property taxes do not go up as a result of the budget, will you admit that you and your liberal friends were wrong and vote straight republican in 2012? Where do you get your information anyway, the New York Times? We finally have a balanced budget (not seen here for years) No new taxes... whereas the dems increased taxes and fees more than 100 times during their four year tenure, No downshifting to cities and towns...dems downshifted close to 200 million dollars last year education donor borrowing, no bonds...What the heck more do you want? “

Speaking of outright lies, there’s one right there. The NH budget is balanced every year, as required by law.

It’s no surprise that the belligerent Teanuts are treating NH voters the same way they treated elected officials. What is amusing is to see one of the biggest offenders, romance novelist/local GOP boss Maynard Thomson penning a plea for civil discourse. Those of us who don’t have Teanut Magic Slate memories recall the many insulting letters to the editor, and the dishonest ads of the 2010 election cycle written by Thomson. That level of duplicity is breathtaking. Only a similar plea coming from the ever-truculent Ray Shakir could be more hypocritical.

Obviously, the Teabaglicans can’t shout down all the voters. They are increasingly desperate to keep anyone from telling the truth about what they’re doing in Concord and in Washington. They’re afraid that the same tactics they used to get where they are will be used against them in 2012. From this crowd, a plea for civility is really a plea for censorship.

“Res ipsa loquitur“ - Cicero

Published as an op-ed in the April 29, 2011 edition of the Conway Daily Sun

© sbruce 2011

A Shortage of Affordable Housing

A new study shows a serious shortage of affordable housing in the US. From WaPo:

The study offers the latest in a series of grim statistics about the scarcity of rental housing, especially for the working poor. The supply has not kept up with demand in part because of a shortage of apartments, a key source of new rentals. Developers cut back on such projects when the economy deteriorated in 2009, which drove down vacancies and boosted rents. Analysts say they expect rents to keep climbing as developers try to ramp up new projects and catch up with demand.

The number of foreclosures has also contributed to the shortage. As people are forced out of their homes, they look for rentals.

Ideally, renters should not spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, the study said. Low-income tenants have struggled during the past decade to stay within that limit. And increasingly so have renters with moderate incomes, defined as making between two and three times the minimum wage. By 2009, 7.5 percent of moderate-income renters spent more than half their income on rent, twice as many as in 2001.

Naturally as the supply decreases and the demand increases, so do the rental costs. No one is building affordable housing, either.

In a report to Congress, the Obama administration acknowledged in February that financing to build high-end rental properties is more readily available. That helps explain why for every 100 extremely low-income American families, only 32 adequate rental homes are available, the report said.

One solution has been proposed, as Joshua Holland reports in Alternet:

For the past several years, a number of economists have been calling for a “right to rent” measure that would keep homeowners whose properties are deep underwater in their units rather then sending them into the market for existing rentals. Dean Baker, who has led the charge since 2008, called it a way to help homeowners “without throwing money at the banks.” Rather than Washington's ineffective mortgage modification programs, Baker says, “we can simply temporarily change the rules on foreclosure to give people facing foreclosure the right to rent their homes at the market rent.”

Baker went on to say:

This is extremely simple and can go into effect the day after Congress passes the rule change. Judges or the court officers handling a foreclosure would be required to ask the homeowner whether they want to stay in their house as a renter. If they say yes, there would be an appraisal of the market rent of the home, and the homeowner would then have the option to stay in the house for a substantial period of time (e.g. 10 years), paying the market rent.

This would immediately give the homeowners facing foreclosure security in their housing. If they like the house, the neighborhood, the schools for their kids, they would have the right to stay there. It would also end the problem for neighborhoods of empty foreclosed houses. And, it would give banks real incentive to negotiate terms that allow people to stay in their homes as owners.

This is a sensible idea. It doesn't cost taxpayers anything, eases the rental crunch, and prevents whole neighborhoods from dying of foreclosure. Families aren't uprooted and kids can stay in the same school.

The banking lobby hates it. Those same banks we taxpayers bailed out don't want to lift a finger to help us out. Representative Raul Grijalva of Arizona has introduced HB 1548, the the Right to Rent Act of 2011. This bill failed in 2009 and 2010. If you agree with this legislation, please urge your representatives to sign on and support this very common sense approach to a problem affecting low and middle income families across the country.

cross-posted at MainSt/

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hostility on the Home Front

It seems that Congresscritters are facing a lot of tough questions, and some outright hostility at town meetings in their home states. From The Nation:

Congressman Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, continues to be confronted with tough questions on his listening-session tour of southeastern Wisconsin communities. He’s been forced to move several of the events to bigger venues to accommodate the crowds—after things got tight and tense in places such at Milton, Wisconsin, where the crowd in a small venue was challenging him at every turn.

One of Ryan’s Republican colleagues, Wisconsin Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, shut down a town hall meeting in a suburban Milwaukee community when he was challenged on economic issues in March.

This sounds a lot like the Tea Party invasion of town halls in 2009, only these folks have serious questions. The Tea Partiers intent was to disrupt, and get a lot of media attention. These folks are voters who have been suffering in this economy, and know very well when they're being trickled down on.

The core issues that are bringing people out to the GOP town meetings are opposition to Medicare and Medicaid cuts (a real hot-button issue) and support for tax hikes for the rich. This fits with those national polls shows that show Americans are very opposed to developing voucher programs to replace traditional Medicare and Medicaid and would prefer tax hikes for the wealthy.

There is no solid, factual rationale for the proposed destruction of Medicaid, Medicare, or Social Security for that matter. No wonder these guys are having such a hard time. How do you explain that you want to destroy essential social programs because of your political ideology without actually saying that's the reason?

One guy has an idea for how to deal with this:

Newly elected Illinois Senator Mark Kirk has an idea. Instead of hearing what the people have to say, the Republican senator is suggesting that members of Congress should hunker down in DC.

Brilliant! If you don't go home, you won't have to answer any pesky questions.

Here’s an example of a new Congressman handling hostility on the home front. Congressman Sean Duffy of Wisconsin may not be winning the hearts and minds of voters in his district:

from ThinkProgress

cross-posted at MainSt/

Thursday, April 21, 2011

NH Senate Passes Right-to-Work Bill

The NH Senate passed the right to work bill yesterday. From the Union Leader:

House Bill 474, which passed the Senate 16-8, would end the ability of unions to collect mandatory or so-called "agency" fees from non-union members. It would also make it illegal for companies to deduct those payments, which cover costs unions say they incur representing non-union employees.

The bill passed the NH House, but passed with not enough votes to override a veto. The House has to accept changes to the bill made by the Senate. If they do not, the bill goes to a committee of conference, to work out the details, before heading to the governor's desk. Governor Lynch has promised to veto the bill.

New Hampshire AFL-CIO President Mark MacKenzie said after the vote, "Quite simply, our state's working people were sold out today by the state Senate." Other opponents characterized the bill as a "race to the economic bottom," pushed by the National Right to Work Committee in Virginia and big corporations. Right-to-work states draw lower paying jobs and see lower average incomes, they argued.

This bill has been defeated 9 times in NH since 1992 - and most of those defeats occurred during years when the Republicans had the majority.

Three Republicans -- Sen. Sharon Carson of Londonderry, Sen. John Gallus of Berlin and Sen. David Boutin of Hooksett -- voted against the bill Wednesday, with the Senate's five Democrats.

Last week I wrote about Senator Carson being threatened as a result of her stance on this issue.

Now it comes down to whether or not there will be a veto-proof majority, which means that all 400 members of the NH House will be lobbied fiercely, by constituents and special interest groups, and so will the senators. We can only hope some minds will be changed during the next part of this battle. If this bill becomes law, NH will be the only right to work state in the northeast. This is not a distinction that will enhance our state image.

cross-posted at MainSt/

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Don't Make Us Work Till We Die

There's a new website and video being launched later tonight by the Strengthen Social Security coalition.

A number of events will be taking place around the country next week, on April 27 and 28. The theme for these events is: Don't Make Us Work Till We Die. Seniors will be dressing up in the uniform of their former occupation to illustrate the folly of raising the retirement age.

Check out the website.
There's a map of upcoming events, as well as a lot of good resources, a petition to sign, and a virtual rally, for folks who don't have an event in their state. Like NH.

The stakes are higher than ever. Rep. Ryan's Repulsive Republican Budget will privatize Medicare, slash Medicaid, and use the Social Security treasury to pay down the deficit.

We cannot allow this to happen.

Raising the retirement age won't hurt Charlie Bass or Flip Floppin' Frank Guinta - but it will hurt the people who have worked in professions that meant physical labor. I worked in restaurant kitchens for 20 years. I have a shoulder problem, and several other repetitive motion injuries. There are millions of people who are paying the physical price for the work they did.

People over the age of 55 are less likely to find work - never mind work till they're near 70. Republicans have always hated the New Deal, and they're taking a run at killing it for good.

We cannot allow this to happen.

It's important that we make a lot of noise, enough so that Obama and the cowardly Democrats who are willing to "negotiate" on this subject learn that if they negotiate with these terrorists, there will be hell to pay.

In the interest of full disclosure, this post is part of the Campaign For America's Future state blogger's network project. I'm one of the bloggers participating in the project.

cross-posted at Blue Hampshire

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Debt Collection Horror Stories

During the economic downturn, and knowing that no one is really paying much attention, some debt collection agencies are breaking the law. They're threatening and harassing the folks who have the debt - and sometimes they go after friends and family as well.

Warning: the full story at the link is upsetting and contains some direct quotes that contain racist and abusive language. From Alternet:

From racial epithets to impersonating police officers to trying to collect debts from the wrong people, some debt collectors have become increasingly abusive in recent years—and in the economic downturn of the late 2000s and early 2010s, those abuses are only becoming worse. In March, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that next to identity theft, complaints about debt collectors were the most common complaints it received in 2010; last year, the FTC said, it received over 144,000 complaints about debt collectors, which was a 17 percent increase from the 119,609 debt collector-related complaints it received in 2009. The FTC said more than 4,100 of the complaints it received about debt collectors in 2010 involved threats of physical violence.

Threats of physical violence?

Debt collection horror stories are not hard to find, and in many cases, those who have been verbally abused have actual recordings of the abuse. Tammy Henshaw of Bellville, Missouri told KMOV-TV (St. Louis’ CBS affiliate) that she was hounded by a Los Angeles-based debt collection agency after the death of her daughter Angie. When Henshaw’s daughter died, she was left with a considerable amount of medical debt; as a result, Henshaw was unable to pay the funeral-related expenses. The funeral home sold the debt to that collection agency, and abusive messages were left on her answering machine. In addition to calling her “white trash” and a “deadbeat piece of crap,” one of the agency’s collectors threatened to dig up her daughter’s dead body and hang it from a tree if she didn’t pay the debt immediately. KMOV-TV played a recording of the collector telling Henshaw, “Are you going to pay this bill or not, or am I going to have to kill you?”

Threatening to dig up her daughter's body? In the United States, in the 21st century? Over a debt?

Attorney Joseph Mauro was interviewed for this story:

Asked to list some of the most common ways in which abusive debt collectors blatantly violate federal law, Mauro said, “It’s everything. False threats of lawsuits, false threats of freezing bank accounts, false threats of garnishing pay, outright harassment in terms of name-calling and profanities, debt collectors acting like they are lawyers, debt collectors saying or implying that they are law enforcement, persistent telephone calls multiple times in a day.”

Naturally, the debt collection industry says these stories represent a small portion of their (mostly) ethical profession. Based on my own experiences and the anecdotes of other, these sorts of threats and bizarre statements may be far more common than the industry wants to admit to.

It is important for all of us to know our rights. The Fair Trade Commission enforces the FDCPA; the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The FTC's website has a lot of good information, including this Debt Collection FAQ that states clearly what and what is not legal behavior on the part of a collection agency. If you encounter harassing or threatening, please report it immediately to the FTC and to your state's Attorney General. Keep written records, and record calls if you can. Your state may also have a consumer protection agency that can help you.

cross posted at MainSt/

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Is This What You Voted For? Part 2

The current NH legislature has a GOP majority, comprised of a few old-school Republicans, mixed in with Free Staters (who moved to NH with the stated goal of dismantling our state government), Tea Partiers, and John Birchers. Thus far, they’ve caused our state more negative national attention than we’ve gotten since Pat Buchanan won the NH primary.

After running campaigns calling for balancing the budget, and creating jobs, their first act was to allow guns back in the state house. No word on how that would balance the budget. Highlights for the month of January include:

Rep. Al Baldasaro filing a Constitutional Amendment changing the oath of office taken by state and federal legislators.

Citizens denied the right to testify before an HHS Committee hearing, by Committee Chair John Reagan, who gaveled the hearing closed as soon as the primary sponsor introduced the bill.

The NH House ordered the state AG to challenge the Constitutionality of the health insurance reform bill, despite being told by the AG that ordering him to do so is in fact, unconstitutional.

Speaker O’Brien quoted as saying “Kids are voting liberal, voting with their feelings, with no life experience,” as a reason for a bill denying college kids and service members the right to vote in NH.

The House had a hearing on 2 bills that would repeal the marriage equality law, and one bill that would repeal all marriages, replacing them with a “domestic union.” Ridicule caused the House Judiciary to announce they were tabling these bills till next year. Except for the “domestic union” bill, which was judged inexpedient to legislate. Apparently no one wanted to explain to Grandpa and Grandma that they weren’t married any more.

Charlie Arlinghaus of the right wing Josiah Bartlett Center chooses $666 million as the amount of the state budget deficit. Not because it was accurate, but because it’s from the book of Revelation.

Rep. Lars Christiansen files a petition on behalf of a convicted felon – a man convicted on 69 counts of felonious sexual assault on a female relative under the age of 13. Speaker O’Brien initially approved this petition.

Speaker O’Brien hires a $75,000 a year “policy advisor,” intended to prevent him from making even more gaffes. This gives the Speaker a total of 6 staffers.

Rep. Steve Vaillancourt announces he wants to defund NH Public Television because National Public Radio fired Juan Williams. Clearly Vaillancourt doesn’t watch Sesame St, or he’d know the tune, “one of these things is not like the other.” Eventually this passed the House, with Rep. Karen Umberger speaking in favor of killing Elmo.

That was just January. The fun has continued. The NH House has voted to cut revenue by at least $240 million over the next 2 years, thereby ensuring cost shifting to counties and communities. Expect those folks who promised to “cut taxes” to actually cause an increase in your property taxes. The solution to that is simple, though:

“The property tax is a great tax because it’s voluntary. If you think your property taxes are too high, you can always sell some property. It’s all about how large you want to live. It’s a choice.” Rep. Paul Mirski of Enfield.

There you have it. Sell a few rooms of your house, and you’ll be all set!

The NH House has also tried to eliminate mandatory kindergarten, and eliminate divorce for couples that have minor children. (Can anyone say nanny state?) The House also passed tax cuts that even they recognize the state can’t afford, and tabled them, creating the illusion that they voted for tax cuts.

Rep. Dan Itse tried to give us a Permanent NH Defense force, for the upcoming invasion of Canada. This would cost the state upwards of $500,000 a year. There was also the bill to criminalize poverty, by forcing random drug testing on food stamp recipients. This bill would cost NH taxpayers around $7 million a year, while saving us absolutely nothing. The House also voted to withdraw from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, at a cost of $12 million. I thought they were supposed to be cutting costs?

NH GOP Chair Jack Kimball, and Speaker O’Brien were all listed as featured speakers at the “Nullify Now” conference that was held at SNHU. The Koch Brothers and the Free Staters sponsored the conference. Mysteriously neither of them appeared, after receiving some negative media attention.

The so-called “Birther Bill” created so much negative national attention, while also jeopardizing NH’s first in the nation primary status, that it was hastily withdrawn.

The Concord Monitor reported that 12 members of the NH House are also members of the John Birch Society, a group that the Southern Poverty Law Center has classified as an “anti-government” group. One of those legislators is from Carroll County – Norman Tregenza of Silver Lake. One wonders if he mentioned that on his campaign literature.

The House has also passed a bill to lower the dropout age, tried to do away with compulsory school attendance, and cut funding to NH colleges. NH already ranked 50th in the nation for spending on post-secondary education, and thanks to the House budget, we will rank somewhere around 80th place. Out of 50.

There’s also been a lot of ugliness. State Rep. Susan Emerson, a Republican who has been in the House for 10 years, told the Concord Monitor that Speaker O’Brien threatened to kick her out of the GOP caucus, telling her she wasn’t a Republican. Representative Lee Quandt, a Republican from Exeter was kicked off the House Finance Committee after voting against the budget. Republican State Senator Sharon Carson went to the police after being threatened by her GOP/Teanut town chair, Joe Barton. Carson opposes the so-called Right to Work law that was brought to NH by out of state special interest groups.

The jewel in the crown, of course, was House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt referring to Bishop McCormack, of the Manchester Diocese, as a “pimp and a pedophile” after McCormack spoke at a protest against the budget cuts, because he thought they would hurt the poor. Again, NH received national media attention, of the negative kind.

This legislature has made our state a national joke, while failing to do anything that will create a job – unless you work in the Speaker’s office. In fact, cuts in education will work against jobs. Companies want an educated work force. The House is making cuts that will eliminate jobs in both the public and private sector. It’s going to take decades to undo all of this.

I ask again: Is this what you voted for?

© sbruce 2011

This was published as an op-ed in the April 15, 2011 issue of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Job Losses Continue

In Idaho, 522 people will lose their jobs when the XL Four Star Beef meat packing plant closes.

In Florida 535 United Space Alliance workers were laid off on April 8. The end of the space shuttle program means the end of a lot of jobs.

In Nevada 150+ employees are being laid off from the Nevada Cancer Institute, a non-profit that has been hard hit by the economy.

In Buffalo, NY over 200 food service workers employed by Sodexo, Inc. will be losing their jobs at the end of May. Sodexo's contract with Buffalo State College has been terminated.

In San Jose, CA the technology company Cisco Systems, Inc. is cutting 550 jobs as part of a company restructuring.

In Chatsworth, GA the Shaw Industries plant is closing, and laying off 302 employees.

There is still a ceaseless drum beat of job losses around the country, yet Congress acknowledges their intent to make budget cuts that will cost both public and private sector jobs - as part of their job creation plan.

Or, as Dean Baker said in the WSJ:

Firms hire workers when they consider it profitable to do so. You have to be drinking some pretty wild Kool-Aid if you think that more firms are going to hire workers because the government is cutting spending and laying off workers.

cross-posted at MainSt/

Unequal Distribution of Pain

A look at how state budget cuts will affect California's Central Valley. From the LA Times:

The vast fruit fields, picturesque farmhouses and rolling foothills of Tulare County mask an ugly reality: Nearly a quarter of the population in this Central Valley agricultural hub lives in poverty, and one in three residents receives state aid — the largest proportion in California.

With the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown slashing billions of dollars in government services to help balance the state budget, few places will feel the effects more deeply. Local officials fear that when roughly $8 billion in budget cuts take effect, some as early as July 1, the poorest residents will tumble into homelessness.

The federal budget cuts impact the states, creating more budget cuts - and those whose lives are most precarious will have the safety net kicked out from under them. Expect a return of the tent cities we saw in 2009.


Local leaders say they are already struggling to meet the demand for social services, public safety and higher education after years of cutbacks in rural communities plagued with chronic unemployment. Much of the work here — harvesting oranges, packing boxes — is seasonal and low-wage. Among the largest private employers is Wal-Mart.

Chronic unemployment. Have you noticed that we never hear about jobs any more? Jobs, jobs, jobs were all we heard about during the elections last year. Now there's no more talk of jobs - just deficits and spending cuts.

For those who live in poverty, education is the way out - but the local college is being forced to make cuts:

To offset $400 million in reductions to the state's community college system, the campus has cut 10% of its classes and is giving admission preference to those who are closest to finishing degrees. That keeps out new high school graduates and the unemployed seeking job training.

It's hard to view this as the "shared pain" we keep hearing about. Just as the US has an unequal distribution of wealth, we also have an unequal distribution of pain. The pain is reserved for the least wealthy among us.

cross-posted at MainSt/

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Threatening Their Own

In February, the NH House passed a so-called, Right to Work law. Right to work has been trying to gain a foothold in NH since the 1990's. This keeps coming from a special interest group calling itself the National Right to Work Committee, a group based in Maryland. The NH Labor Commissioner testified at the hearing:

The state’s labor commissioner, George Copadis, testified against the bill and said the six previous labor commissioners going back decades also had opposed right-to-work legislation.

“As we have heard often, right-to-work offers workers one thing: the right to work for less,’’ he said.

Copadis said he had held meetings with 2,000 New Hampshire businesses over the six years he has been commissioner and the issue of right-to-work legislation never came up.

“This issue is just not on anyone’s radar screen other than when I come to testify before this committee,’’ he said.

Yesterday, Doug Foote mentioned NH when he wrote about Republicans turning on their own. The Right to Work bill is now before the NH Senate, and they aren't just turning on their own - they're making threats.

From the NH Union Leader:

Police are keeping a watchful eye on Sen. Sharon Carson's home after the legislator received a threatening phone call about her stand on right-to-work legislation from a man who identified himself as Newmarket Republican Town Committee Chairman Joe Barton on Sunday morning.

Senator Carson is a Republican.

Carson was a four-term state representative who was elected to the Senate in 2008. She sits on the education, judiciary and executive departments and administration committees.

The senator said she doesn't support right to work because "New Hampshire already has laws to protect its workers."


Motioning to a hefty pile of constituent cards and letters on her desk Sunday, Sen. Carson said she's been asked by many constituents not to sponsor the legislation, though efforts made by the out-of-state special interest group National Right to Work have been canvassing her neighborhood, presumably in response to her stance on this issue. She believes Barton is affiliated with this group.

In addition to threatening Senator Carson, this group is also harassing her neighbors.

Joe Barton is a member of the NH Tea Party group FreedomWorks. The NH Tea Partiers love to paint union members as "thugs," but Joe Barton, threatening a member of the majority party because she isn't marching in lockstep is a perfect illustration of the term "thug."

NH Governor John Lynch has said he will veto this bill if it reaches his desk. Stay tuned.

cross-posted at MainSt/

Thursday, April 07, 2011

The US is Not Broke

Chuck Collins is the director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies. He's long been an outspoken advocate for tax equality. He's also an heir to the Oscar Mayer meatpacking fortune. In other words, he's a wealthy man who thinks that corporations and wealthy individuals should pay their fair share of taxes.

A recent opinion piece by Mr. Collins, in Alternet:

Since 2006, General Electric has reported over $26 billion in profits, yet paid not one penny in U.S. taxes. It gets worse. They’ve actually received more than $4 billion in subsidies and corporate welfare.

GE isn’t alone. Other huge global companies such as Verizon, Boeing, ExxonMobil, and Bank of America also pay no taxes. These artful dodgers aggressively solicit government subsidies and use accounting tricks to move money to overseas tax havens like the Cayman Islands. They pretend to earn their profits offshore and then report their paper losses here in the United States–so they don’t have to pay the IRS a dime.

Wealthy individuals have also benefited from a half-century of tax reductions. If U.S. millionaires and billionaires paid taxes based on 1961 tax rules, we would have raised an additional $231 billion in federal revenue this year.

By reversing years of tax giveaways to America’s rich and the corporations that enrich them, Congress could raise trillions in revenue. We could fund the public structures that safeguard our families and our future.

Please read the whole piece. Mr. Collins goes on to list 4 things that could be done immediately that would bring in $400 billion a year.

We've been hearing a lot about cuts. We have to cut this, we have to cut that - because we're broke. What we don't ever hear about is increasing revenue. When folks cut everything they can out of their family budget, and still don't have enough to get by, they get second jobs. Our Congressional leaders seem to think that when you can't pay the bills, you quit your job. We hear a lot about "balancing" the budget, but what is proposed isn't balanced. Balance means cutting costs AND increasing revenue.

Right now we have people in Congress who would rather fire teachers and firefighters than tax the wealthiest corporations in the world. As Collins points out, our priorities are deeply skewed.

cross-posted at MainSt/

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The Smell of Patronage in Wisconsin

From Alternet:

Since taking office in January, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) has stripped public workers of their collective bargaining rights, proposed wage cuts to local government employees, and insisted that his “state is broke” and that its public workers are overpaid. But Walker applies a different standard to himself.

Today, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reveals that Walker is using state funds to pay more than $81,500 a year to the 26-year-old son of a major campaign donor with no college degree and two drunken-driving convictions.

Walker is about as subtle as a freight train. The goal of this crowd is to eliminate the unions, farm state jobs to privateers (who would conveniently just happen to be cronies and donors), and then to save the plum jobs to use as rewards for patronage.

In the coming months, we may be seeing more cases of Brian Deschanes. The anti-union law Walker signed last month also included provisions that would convert more than thirty-seven civil service positions into political appointees chosen by the Governor.

Yes, just like that. The hype over cost saving measures is just a pageant being enacted to confuse the uninformed.

Even more scathing is the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel pointing out that despite having absolutely no background or education for the position, he was not only hired, but promoted, and given a raise of over $16,000 after being there only for a few months.

He's overseeing regulatory and environmental issues for the Wisconsin Dept. of Commerce. What could possibly go wrong with having that position go to an unqualified patronage appointment?

That's where the story ended when I wrote it on Tuesday. There has been a new development:

From the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel :

Starting Wednesday, the younger Deschane will return to his job as a bureau director at the state Department of Regulation and Licensing, a post he took in mid-January at an annual salary of $64,728. His promotion led to a 26% increase in his pay.

Yup, he got demoted. One can logically assume that this is a direct result of the uproar over the original story, of an unqualified son of a donor getting a cushy job.

These are the people that Deschane beat out for the job:

The first, Oscar Herrera, is a former state cabinet secretary under Republican Gov. Scott McCallum with a doctoral degree and eight years' experience overseeing the cleanup of petroleum-contaminated sites.

The second, Bernice Mattsson, is a professional engineer who served since 2003 in the post to which Deschane was appointed.


Before Walker's office announced Deschane's demotion, Assembly Democrats on Tuesday criticized the appointment as cronyism and offered an amendment to cut the job of administrator at the Department of Commerce's Division of Environmental and Regulatory Services.

That, combined with the story going viral around the country, is most likely what motivated Walker to attempt to dial back his cronyism, so that the volume isn't quite as high.

It seems Governor Walker isn't the noble slayer of budget dragons that he claimed.

cross-posted at MainSt/