Common Sense2’s August Issue

Common Sense2 is out with another great edition of material about progressive issues.  Chuck Brown, the publisher, sent this notice of August’s content:

Welcome to this our 12th issue of CS2. Sorry Republicans, Conservatives, Hacks and Blue Dog Democrats, we’re still here to annoy the hell out of you and we’ll do our best to do so. There’s so much to sink your teeth into this month. It’s not every month you get to see a Democratic Congress do away with the 4th Amendment. Bush yells terrorism and 24 Democratic Senators have urine running down their pants legs as they rush to vote FISA immunity. This puts a rough burden on the “so-called” Democratic activists because in addition to their normal apologizing and excuse-making for this pandering, posturing do-nothing Congress, now they have to pretend they don’t see the dismantling of The Bill of Rights that is taking place. Rough job but somebody’s got to do it. Reminds me of my favorite Congress quote from the great Mark Twain that goes something like this: “If your an idiot. If you’re a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”

Well CS2 isn’t making excuses for anyone, least of all the New Yorker magazine for their recent Obama cover that has created quite a stir. As soon as I saw it I thought why doesn’t someone do a cover like this on the McCain’s. I asked our superb cartoonist Sheldon Kaplan if he was willing to do it. Asking Sheldon if he wants to take a shot at John McCain is like asking a dog if he wants to eat. Here’s the result: Our New Yorker Cover.

The privatization crowd is alive and well in the land pillaging anything that’s not nailed down with the active cooperation of bought-off politicians. When they think your not watching, that’s when they strike. Ron Stouffer and Rosie Skomitz are not about to sit still while this nefarious mob dismantles our medicare system. In The Death of Medicare – Part II our health care crusaders blow the whistle on them.

I’m very selective when I choose someone to honor as one of CS2’s Unsung Hero’s. John Scott sure fits the bill. Here’s a progressive who makes no apology for it. Not the hand-wringing sort, John knows what he believes and is not shy in telling you what that is. John’s articulate and interesting and I enjoyed myself in taking this interview. In this, part 1, John gives you his background and political philosophy. Next month john concludes with his take on a host of today’s vital issue. Don’t miss: John Scott: A Progressive Speaks Out.

You never know who you’re going to meet in a bar and what they’re going to say to you. Here I relate a small adventure I had in 1983 called Drinking With Abbie.

Some of you may recall my two-part interview with Peter Johnson titled The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be. Science Fiction aficionado Timothy Bossard recalls it very well. Tim, who last appeared in these pages with his wonderful review of Al Gore’s book The Assault on Reason, takes exception to Peter’s claim that Science Fiction is dead and was murdered in the 80’s. In this well-written essay Tim asserts that science fiction is alive and well. Check out Who Murdered Science Fiction?

Lora Williams takes my breath away. She makes me envious. I read this short story and wished to be able to write like her. CS2 introduces our first fictional short story with Sophie. I think you’ll agree that we set the bar very high for those who follow.

Dr. Michele Ramsey has been with CS2 right from the beginning. Her insights into politics and how words are used in politics in special. Her essays never fail to teach and inform. Here she takes on the elitism charge that Republicans are trying to use against Barack Obama in: Reframing the Anti-democratic, Anti-American, and Anti-intellectual Rhetoric of “Elite”.

Stats show that Eric Johnson is one of CS2’s most popular authors. Here he makes one of his too infrequent appearances with a piece that is guaranteed to stir up some readers: Abominations: Shrimp, Sodomy, and The Lame Case Against Gay Marriage.

When there’s an unpopular truth that needs to be stated, when there’s an opinion that some would rather not hear, count on Dorothy Reilly to have the courage and integrity to bring it to the fore. Here she does just that in taking issue with Barack Obama’s recent steps to the center (or as Dorothy would say to the right) in I Want More.

Kathleen Welch always leaves me wanting more every time I read her. Professor Kwitz is no exception as she takes us further down The Road Less Traveled.

Jack Lindeman is CS2’s jack of all trades. In this issue he contributes two pieces along with finding us our first short story. Jack recalls a trip in Amsterdam In Focus. He also contributes a wonderful poem: Movie Version of Paul Bowles’ The Sheltering Sky.

Jack Straw, the pen name of a well known Berks County activist, weighs in with a review of George Lakoff’s thinking in Losing Our 18th Century Minds.

Walter Brasch, who has quickly become one of most popular authors, has two pieces one on politics and one on travel for your enjoyment: It’s Still The Economy, Stupid and Geo Beach: A Swamp Yankee in the Last Frontier.

It’s fun to watch our High School book reviewer discover some classic works that I read when I was his age. In this issue James Patrick reviews Gore Vidal’s Myra Breckenridge.

On a sad note, the young boy who was profiled in our Sept. 2007 CS2 has passed away. Ron Stouffer and Rosie Skomitz eulogize him in Dylan Brown, an Inspiration.

Kevin McCloskey keeps wowing us with more protest art from Oaxaca, Mexico. We’re sure you’ll agree that this art is mesmerizing with: Asaro Images of Oaxaca.

We have our usual line up of top rate poetry assembled and selected by our poetry editor Jack Romig:

Necrophilia by Steven M. Sloan

Good Guys and Bad Guys by Laurence Overmire

Emancipation Proclamation by Laurence Overmire

Superstition Concerning Blackletter by Jack Romig

Fell Facades by Steven M. Sloan

We have some humor:

8 Amazing Holes-submitted by Karan O’mara Voytaz

We’re Voting Republican-submitted by Pat Brown

To Sylvia Baylor let me bow in awe. She has assembled an unbelievable amount of information about our cover story Bonus Gate: The Assault On Our Democracy

If you care about decency in our politics. If you care about the integrity of our elections, then this should alarm you in the extreme. It’s a moment of truth for the Democratic clubs, especially those who claim to be progressive, and activists across the Commonwealth. Will the Dems rise to the occasion and demand that those running for office call publicly for the party to dump those responsible and replace them with forward-looking progressives that we can be proud of. Or will it be business as usual with activists acting like groupies for the hacks that brought us this mess? Time will tell. We’re watching and we’ll let you know dear reader.

Reading’s Pagoda Turns 100

That icon atop Berks County’s Mount Penn is turning 100 Friday.  The Japanese Pagoda which has become a landmark of Reading stands atop the mountain overlooking much of Berks.  A celebration begins Friday and goes on through next weekend:

The Pagoda, that quirky mountaintop icon of the City of Reading, celebrates its 100th birthday Friday, Aug. 8, and everyone is invited to the party that will continue throughout the weekend.

A full schedule of events is planned – beginning with a centenarians’ birthday breakfast bash Friday morning and ending that evening with an unprecedented fireworks extravaganza with the Reading Phillies at First Energy Stadium and along the length of Skyline Drive. The R-Phils are hosting their own unique Pagoda birthday party before and during the game against the Erie SeaWolves.

The Pagoda’s history will be feted Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Among the activities are a Japanese Zen Buddhist blessing and dedication with pilgrimage to the 18th-century Japanese bell on the observatory floor, a variety of proclamations and gifts to the Pagoda, birthday cake and a “Happy Birthday” rendition led by the Berks Children’s Classical Chorus.

The party continues Saturday with a full day of events at the Pagoda and a special play and Ringgold Band concert at City Park. A shuttle provided by the Manor at Market Square will transport partygoers between City Park and the Pagoda.

Both days will feature live broadcasts by WEEU radio personalities.

On Sunday, everyone can help create a Pagoda mural during second Sunday activities at the GoggleWorks. And, throughout the weekend, members of the Pagoda Writers Group will be on hand to collect thoughts on the Pagoda for a special centennial book to be published in time for the holiday season.

“This will be an exciting weekend for Berks County,” said Mayor Tom McMahon. “While we will celebrate the future with the opening of the IMAX theatre in downtown Reading and a major economic development announcement by Gov. Rendell, we will also honor our past with the centennial celebration of the Pagoda and set the stage for its preservation.

“Everyone is invited to the party – and everyone can celebrate even if it’s simply enjoying the spectacular fire works from your own backyard.”

All events at the Pagoda and City Park are free. Tickets remain available for the R-Phils game Friday evening. Refreshments will be available for purchase at the Pagoda Café.

Volunteers are still needed on site at the Pagoda on Friday and Saturday. To volunteer, please contact Cindy Heminitz in the mayor’s office at 610-655-6320.

“We’re looking forward to a birthday party that will make history,” said Cindy Kauffman, Reading special events coordinator and Pagoda manager. “The Pagoda belongs to everyone and we want all the citizens of Berks County to share in this special day.”

Murder and Racism in a Pennsylvania Coal Town

Bigots don’t stop and think before making their incendiary remarks for political hay.  People like Lou Barletta.  They demonize immigrants (only those of color, though, which is interesting) and blame all their community’s ills on these people desperate to survive because the U.S. destroyed the economies in their native countries.  Then horrendous acts such as this one in Shenandoah happen and they claim shock.  No, don’t be shocked Mr. Barletta, this is the normal outcome of your bigotry and intolerance, qualitites we do NOT need more of in Washington.

Lou Barletta has blood on his hands.

This is a guest column:

Mining Racism and Murder in a Northeastern Pennsylvania Coal Town

by Walter Brasch

On a street in Shenandoah, Pa., deep in the heart of the anthracite coal region, six White teens took their racial hatred to a higher level. They confronted 25-year-old Luis Ramirez, an undocumented worker, and beat him to death.

           At first the police chief, the mayor, and borough manager refused to believe racism was involved. Although there was already racial and ethnic tension in the 5,000 population town, the town’s political leaders were united in one belief-it was just another street fight gone bad. “I have reason to know the kids who were involved, the families who were involved, and I’ve never known them to harbor this type of feeling,” said the borough manager.  

It took police almost two weeks, even with several witnesses, to finally arrest four of the teens. The district attorney charged two of the teens with homicide, aggravated assault, and ethnic intimidation, and two others with aggravated assault and ethnic intimidation. Unindicted co-conspirators are millions of Americans and the far-right mass media.

           It’s common for people in a nation that is in a Recession to complain. They’re frustrated with their lives, with bad working conditions, dead end jobs, and low incomes. They’re frustrated by skyrocketing prices, obscene corporate profits, and do-nothing legislators. The problem isn’t “us,” they believe, but “them.” Others. Outsiders who “invaded” America.

           A century ago in the coal region, good ole boy Americans complained about the Irish and Poles who took “our” jobs in the mines. For decades, Whites kept Blacks out of almost all but the most menial jobs, and then lynched those who they found to be too “uppity.” During the 1920s and 1930s, the masses of Germans, trying to rationalize their own economic distress, decided the problem was the Jews-and  Americans went along with that ethnic racism. We blame Asians. Africans. Muslims. Anyone who’s different.

           In today’s America, it’s the “Illegals,” the code-name for undocumented Mexicans. Of course, undocumented Swedes or Canadians or anyone with White skin pass under the radar. Anyone with dark skin doesn’t.

However, politicians and pundits together yell that “illegal” means just that. “What’s not to understand about ‘illegal’,” they screech. They claim they aren’t after any one race or people. Just get rid of illegals. You know, the ones who take “our” jobs. Take “our” welfare. Take “our” education. Take “our” health care. For free! And, while they’re taking, say the forces of righteousness and purity, these illegals become criminals. Some do. But most don’t.

           You can’t reason with people in their own crises. You can’t tell them that our prisons are filled not with undocumented workers but with American citizens. You can’t explain that most undocumented workers don’t want hand-outs because they don’t want to be known to the authorities. Volumes of data won’t convince some of the masses that undocumented workers, the illegals, often live in near-poverty and don’t get welfare. They don’t even go to the ER when necessary, and so their illness or injury “runs its course” while destroying other body systems because these undocumented workers, already exploited by American business, are afraid of being identified and deported.

           In our schools, hatred festers and breeds. Jokes about race, ethnicity, religion, women, gays, and anyone not “us” are told and retold by students-and by teachers and principals who should know better.

           Two decades ago, the hatreds would have been somewhat isolated, confined to the corner saloon or social club. But now, self-aggrandizing politicians and media talk show hosts and pundits, who erroneously believe they are populists, spew hate-filled torrents of bigotry and fear-mongering.

           I don’t know if the six teens who murdered Luis Ramirez listen to talk radio, watch Fox News, or read web blogs and anonymous call-ins and letters to the local newspaper. They don’t have to. Their community does.

[Walter Brasch is professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University, a syndicated columnist, and author of 17 books. His latest book is Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush, available through amazon.com and other stores.]

 

News From Washington: Jason Altmire

Jason Altmire, whom Congressional Quarterly has identified as one of the most independent Members of Congress (we may agree or disagree with Altmire on various issues but he’s a huge improvement over Melissa Hart!), has also been busy this week.

ALTMIRE ENDORSES BIPARTISAN ENERGY PLAN

Bill opens up new areas in OCS for drilling, provides historic investment in alternative energy

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Congressman Jason Altmire (PA-04) has joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Congressman John Peterson (PA-05), in introducing a comprehensive energy package to address America’s energy crisis. The bipartisan legislation would open up new areas in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) for drilling and provide an historic investment in developing alternative forms of energy. The National Conservation, Environment, and Energy Independence Act (HR 6709) repeals the 125-mile moratorium on gas and oil production in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. This would permit drilling in areas that are at least 25 miles from the coastline, but provides states with the option to opt out of production on areas between 25 and 50 miles offshore. This bill also lifts prohibitions on the development of oil shale.

With the royalties generated from the production of oil from these new areas, the National Conservation, Environment, and Energy Independence Act would invest an estimated $1 trillion in the research and development of alternative sources of energy – including coal, nuclear, solar, and wind – to move us away from our dependency on foreign oil.

“In order to address America’s energy crisis, members from both parties in Congress need to work together to find solutions. This comprehensive energy package is bipartisanship at its best, a common sense compromise that will move this debate forward so we can help families struggling to pay high gas prices,” said Altmire. “This bipartisan energy legislation would increase domestic production of oil by opening up new areas in the OCS for drilling and provide an historic investment in alternative energy to move us away from our dependence on foreign oil.”

“Western Pennsylvania stands to benefit from increased federal investment in alternative energy, in particular nuclear and coal,” Altmire continued. “Our region is a leader in the nuclear energy industry and sits atop vast coal deposits, both of which could be developed into clean sources of energy and lower the costs of energy for homes and businesses.”

The National Conservation, Environment, and Energy Independence Act would release 70 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to reduce gas prices in the short-term. Since Congress suspended daily shipments of 70,000 barrels of oil to the SPR in early July, the average price of gasoline has dropped for the first time in months. The release of 70 million barrels could provide additional short-term relief to families struggling with the high price of gas. President Bush, President Clinton, and the first President Bush each tapped or suspended shipments to the SPR, resulting in a 33 percent drop in oil prices in 1991; a 19 percent drop in 2000; and a 9 percent drop in 2005.

ALTMIRE INITIATIVES TO LOWER TEXTBOOK COSTS, IMPROVE WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT TO BE SIGNED INTO LAW

In all, four Altmire initiatives will become law as part of the

Higher Education Opportunity Act

(Washington, D.C.) – A proposal introduced by U.S. Congressman Jason Altmire (PA-04) and Congressman Tim Ryan (OH-17) that will help lower textbook costs for college students is one of four Altmire initiatives now set to become law as part of the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HR 4137). The final version of this bill passed the House today by a vote of 380-49 and is expected to pass the Senate tonight, clearing it for the president’s signature. As a member of the House Education and Labor Committee and as a member of the conference committee that worked out differences between the House and the Senate versions of this bill, Altmire played a key role in shaping this legislation.

“High textbook costs are a significant financial burden for students today. In fact, one recent study found that the average student spends approximately $1000 a year on textbooks,” Altmire said. “That is why I worked with Congressman Tim Ryan to create a grant program that will expand the number of textbook rental programs for college students. Textbook rental programs have been already been a great success, with many of them reducing textbook costs by as much as 75 percent.”

Another Altmire initiative included in the Higher Education Opportunity Act will help community colleges better prepare students to meet local businesses’ needs. Today, students are often discouraged from participating in workforce training because they cannot receive financial aid or credit for doing so.  To remedy this problem, Congressman Altmire successfully proposed an amendment that will help fund partnerships between community colleges and employers to develop college courses through which students can earn credit while they receive workforce training. The Community College of Allegheny County, Butler County Community College, and the American Association of Community Colleges have all endorsed this initiative.

“A recent study found that 82 percent of employers in Pennsylvania have trouble finding qualified workers,” Congressman Altmire said. “By better tailoring community college coursework to meet emerging workforce needs, we can prepare students to succeed in the job market and supply local businesses with the talent they need to continue growing.”

Two other Altmire initiatives that were included in this bill will provide grants for teacher preparation courses at minority-serving institutions to help improve the diversity of America’s teaching corps and require the Department of Education to accept the Department of Veterans’ Affairs certifications of total and permanent disability for loan forgiveness purposes. This will end the burdensome and duplicative process that many disabled veterans must currently go through to obtain student loan forgiveness.

The Higher Education Opportunity Act is the first reauthorization of the Higher Education Act in 10 years and contains several additional provisions that will encourage colleges to rein in tuition increases, restore integrity and accountability to student loan programs, simplify the federal student aid application process, and expand college access and support for low-income and minority students.

ALTMIRE FIGHTS TO PROTECT GUN OWNERS’ RIGHTS

Introduces Second Amendment Legislation Scheduled for September Vote

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Congressman Jason Altmire (PA-04) today introduced legislation with fellow conservative Democrats that will protect Americans’ constitutional right to own firearms. On June 26, the Supreme Court ruled that District of Columbia residents have the right to own guns – overturning the District’s unconstitutional ban on firearms that had been in effect for the past 32 years. In the wake of this decision, however, the D.C. City Council passed a new law which limits D.C. residents’ right to bear arms and undermines Americans’ constitutional rights.

“The U.S. Constitution clearly provides Americans with the right to keep and bear arms, and the Supreme Court recently reaffirmed this right by overturning the District’s gun ban,” said Altmire. “The Second Amendment Enforcement Act that I introduced today will ensure that government does not infringe upon the rights of law abiding citizens in the District of Columbia. Further, it takes important steps to protect the rights of gun owners across this country by demonstrating Congress’s commitment to upholding the Second Amendment.”

The Second Amendment Enforcement Act (H.R. 6691) – which is endorsed by the National Rifle Association – will protect D.C. residents’ right to bear arms by:

   * Restoring the Right of Self Defense in the Home:  Current D.C. law requires gun owners to render their firearms inoperable, thus useless, unless they are in imminent danger of an attack or an attack is underway – an unrealistic and overly restrictive approach.  This legislation would repeal that law and allow gun owners to keep their firearms stored in such a way that they would be readily available for self defense purposes.

   * Authorizes Purchases of Firearms by D.C. residents:  D.C. residents are effectively barred from purchasing a firearm because there are no federally licensed firearms dealers in D.C. and federal law prohibits individuals from purchasing firearms outside their states of residence.  To fix this, the Second Amendment Enforcement Act will enable D.C. residents to legally purchase guns from a federally licensed dealer in Maryland or Virginia.

   * Repeal Overly Restrictive Registration Requirement:  The D.C. Council has created an overly restrictive registration scheme that unfairly restricts citizens’ rights to legally own firearms.  This legislation restores the Second Amendment rights of D.C. citizens by removing the lengthy and burdensome procedures put in place by the D.C. Council.

   * Repealing the D.C. Semiautomatic Ban:  Although the Supreme Court ruled that the D.C. government could not restrict the ownership of handguns, current D.C. law circumvents the ruling by defining most handguns as machine guns.  To restore the right of D.C. citizens to own a handgun for the purposes of self defense, this legislation eliminates D.C.’s overly broad definition of machine gun and instead utilizes the definition that currently exists in Federal law.

ALTMIRE VOTES FOR UNPRECEDENTED INVESTMENT IN VETERANS HEALTH CARE

Altmire pushed for increased funding for veterans initiatives while testifying before the House Budget Committee in February

(Washington, D.C.) — To help the Veterans Administration (VA) care for an aging veterans population and an influx of wounded soldiers from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. Congressman Jason Altmire (PA-04) today voted for a $4.6 billion increase in funding for veterans’ health care. The Military Construction-VA Appropriations Act for FY 2009 (HR 6599), which passed today by a vote of 409-4, will provide a total of $118.7 billion to improve and expand health care services for veterans, repair aging VA facilities, and build improved housing for military families.

Congressman Altmire testified before the House Budget Committee in February urging them to provide the VA with the full funding it needs to care for our nation’s heroes.

“No group should stand before our nation’s veterans when we make decisions about our federal budget,” Altmire said. “Last year, Congress provided an historic $11.8 billion increase in funding for veterans’ health initiatives.  That funding has helped to improve care at facilities nationwide. Today, we are building upon that success by once again providing the VA with the funding it needs to repair aging facilities, reduce the huge backlog in veterans’ disability claims, and expand access to health care. America’s veterans risked everything to defend our country, and I believe it is our duty to provide them with the best possible care and services.”

This legislation will help speed up the processing of 396,000 outstanding veterans’ disability claims, including 5,900 outstanding claims in western Pennsylvania,

by providing the VA with funding to hire 2,100 additional claims processors. Last year, Congress provided the VA with funding for an additional 1,800 claims processors, which has already begun to reduce the backlog.

This bill will also reduce the number of uninsured veterans by enrolling 10 percent of Priority 8 veterans in the VA’s health care system. It is estimated that one-half of all uninsured veterans are Priority 8 veterans who have been unable to seek care at VA facilities because they exceed income limits.

Recognizing the burden that high gas prices have placed on veterans who must drive a long way to get to VA medical facilities, this bill also increases the beneficiary reimbursement rate from 28.5 cents a mile to 41.5 cents a mile.

“America’s veterans have a great champion in Congressman Jason Altmire,” said Congressman John Spratt (SC-5), Chairman of the House Budget Committee. “Congressman Altmire’s compelling testimony before the House Budget Committee in February highlighted the need to increase funding for the Veterans Administration so it can keep pace with rising demands. Congressman Altmire deserves credit for helping to ensure that Congress will continue to provide the funding needed to strengthen health care and services for America’s heroes.”

 

News From Washington: Paul Kanjorski

KANJORSKI AND CASEY MEET WITH SISTER ADRIAN AND OVER 300 CHILDREN

Friends of the Poor Participates in 23rd Group Trip to Washington

WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Paul E. Kanjorski (PA-11) and Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) met with over 300 children from Northeastern Pennsylvania who were visiting the nation’s capital with Sister Adrian Barrett, IHM, and the Friends of the Poor, a non-profit organization based in Scranton.  This marks the twenty-third year of Friends of the Poor’s Summer Learning Trip to Washington.  Both legislators spoke to the audience on a variety of issues.

“The Summer Learning Trip to Washington provides these children with the opportunity to visit our nation’s capital and learn about our country’s history,” said Congressman Kanjorski.  “Northeastern Pennsylvania is blessed to have Sister Adrian put her heart and soul into providing these kinds of experiences to children who may never otherwise get them, and a trip like this could change their lives.  It shows her deep love for these children, which is the greatest gift that anyone can give to others.”

News From Washington: Joe Sestak

The emails have piled up the past two days as Congress was busy considering several bills.  I watched some of the debate on CSPAN (news junkies still their fix on vacation), mostly the discussion about equal pay for women.  It was interesting to watch one Republican actually argue against this bill claiming talking points put out by the BushCo Department of Labor.  Some people have no shame!

Meanwhile I’m going to package each Member of Congress’ statements in individual articles.  This way, if you live in the 7th CD, for example, you can catch up on Joe Sestak’s votes.

Congressman Sestak Votes to Strengthen Prohibition of Gender-Based Wage Discrimination



Washington, DC – The Equal Pay Act of 1963 has considerably impacted wages for women, but discrimination based on gender has not been eliminated, partly due to shortcomings of the law. To address a significant flaw that has permitted many employers to pay women less than men, Congressman Joe Sestak (PA-07) voted in favor of the Paycheck Fairness Act (HR 1338), which passed the House 247-178. This legislation places the burden of proof on employers for cases in which a gender pay disparity exists, and protects employees who share information about wages.

“It is unacceptable that the US Census reports that women only make 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man,” said Congressman Sestak. “This legislation represents an important step toward the ultimate goal of equal pay for equal work.”

Current law dictates that employers can raise “any factor other than sex” to justify pay differences between men and women, regardless of whether the factor is related to the employee’s job or to the business. This bill requires that non-gender reasons for any gender-based wage disparity have a “business justification.” An employer would be required to demonstrate that the disparity is based on a factor other than gender, such as education, training, or experience, that is not based upon or derived from a gender-based differential, and is “consistent with business necessity.” Such a defense on the part of the employer would not apply if the employee could prove that an alternative employment practice exists that would serve the same business purpose without producing the differential, and that the employer subsequently refused to adopt the alternative.

“We must take every possible action to stop employers from rewarding their workers on any basis other than quality of performance,” said Congressman Sestak. “I fully support the measure in this bill that punishes gender-based discrimination in the same way as other forms of wage discrimination by allowing women to sue for compensatory and punitive damages.”

Furthermore, this legislation bars employers from retaliating against employees for sharing information about their salaries. Employees such as payroll and “human resources” personnel would not be protected by the bill if they disclose the wages of other employees to individuals who do not otherwise have access to this information. They would be protected, however, if they were discussing wages with another employee who has access to wage information; if they were discussing their own wages; or if such disclosure was in response to a complaint or charge or is pertinent to an investigation. The bill provides that employees would be considered to work in the same establishment if the employees work for the same employer at workplaces located in the same county or similar political subdivision of a state. In addition, the bill maintains current law regulations which allow employees to compare wages with employees outside their physical location if the company’s salary and staff decisions are made by a central administrative unit or if the employees frequently interchange locations.

Finally, this bill requires the Department of Labor to conduct studies that will assist in reducing the current pay differential. The bill requires the department to complete, within 18 months of enactment, a survey of pay data already available. In addition, the measure requires the Department of Labor to conduct studies and provide information to employers, labor organizations and the public on ways to eliminate pay disparities. The Department would be required to conduct and promote research; publish findings from studies and other materials; and sponsor and assist state and community informational and educational programs; and provide information on the means of eliminating pay disparities. The Department would then issue regulations concerning the collection of pay information from employers identified by sex, race, and the national origin of employees.  The Department of Labor, in consultation with the Department of Education, will also establish a grant program to provide negotiation skills training for girls and women. Such training programs would be intended to help girls and women strengthen their negotiation skills to obtain higher salaries and equal pay.

Born and raised in Delaware County, former 3-star Admiral Joe Sestak served in the Navy for 31 years and now serves as the Representative from the 7th District of Pennsylvania. He led a series of operational commands at sea, including Commander of an aircraft carrier battle group of 30 U.S. and allied ships with over 15,000 sailors and 100 aircraft that conducted operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. After 9/11, Joe was the first Director of “Deep Blue,” the Navy’s anti-terrorism unit that established strategic and operations policies for the “Global War on Terrorism.” He served as President Clinton’s Director for Defense Policy at the National Security Council in the White House, and holds a Ph.D. in Political Economy and Government from Harvard University.  According to the office of the House Historian, Joe is the highest-ranking former military officer ever elected to the U.S. Congress.

Congressman Sestak Votes for Critical Legislation to Help Students Pay for College



Washington, DC – As part of his ongoing efforts to make post-secondary education affordable, Congressman Joe Sestak (PA-07), a Member of the House Education and Labor Committee, voted to amend and extend the Higher Education Act of 1965 (H.R. 4137). This legislation expands student aid, helps to streamline the college financial aid applications process, and restores accountability and integrity to student loan programs. Today’s vote to agree to the conference report passed by a 380-49 margin.

“A college education is essential today in the global economy, but more and more, the rising cost of a college is putting a college degree further out of reach for America’s students,” said Congressman Sestak.  “Additionally, students and families face an overly complex federal student aid application process and a student loan industry that has been mired in conflicts of interest and corrupt lending practices. This legislation today will not only make college more affordable and accessible, but the bill would reform our higher education system so that it operates in the best interests of students and families, while boosting our competitiveness and strengthening America’s future.”

New provisions added to the act increase the maximum Pell grant from $5,800 to $8,000 per year, create a “higher education price index” to help students and their families compare tuition increases at different colleges, and bars lenders from giving schools financial perks in order to get on a “preferred lender list.”

Additionally, Congressman Sestak introduced two amendments included in the bill. The first addresses the lack of transparency among colleges, specifically regarding the transfer of academic credit between postsecondary institutions. A student’s inability to transfer credit may result in longer enrollment, more tuition payments, and additional federal financial aid. National data indicates that, on average, transfer graduates take about 10 more credits and 3 more months to complete their baccalaureate degree than non-transfer graduates. It is estimated that loss of credit among transfer students is over $5.2 billion per year. Congressman Sestak’s amendment encourages states and public institutions of higher education to develop management systems for course equivalency, transfer of credit, and matriculation.

“More than 40 percent of students attending a college or university transfer at least once before they complete their undergraduate degree,” said Congressman Sestak. “However, despite increases in student mobility, institutions have not adjusted with substantive changes in the manner in which they oversee and articulate the transfer of college student academic credit. I believe it is time for institutions to develop new strategies to improve gaps in credit transfer agreements and facilitate transparency of credit equivalencies between institutions.”

The second amendment expands physical therapy to the list of “areas of national need” for which graduates of programs in physical therapy can receive loan forgiveness of up to $10,000 over a five year period.

“According to the American Hospital Association, physical therapists represent the occupation for which the greatest percentage of vacancies exists in our hospitals across our nation, at 11.4 percent,” said Congressman Sestak. “This is at a time when the demand for physical therapists’ employment is projected to grow 27 percent within eight years, even as 58 percent of our hospitals were reporting in 2006 that therapist recruitment was more difficult than the year before. I believe it is imperative we add physical therapists into the ‘areas of national need,’ to ensure the Secretary of Education has direction to provide loan repayment forgiveness to boost the number of graduates of physical therapy programs, who provide vital services to children, adolescents, and Veterans.”

This legislation also provides a $10,000 loan forgiveness program for individuals serving in several other high-need areas. It allocates up to $2,000 per year for five years for nurses, early childhood educators; foreign language specialists, librarians; teachers; speech language pathologists; national service participants; school counselors; public sector employees; nutrition professionals; medical specialists; and mental health professionals.

The measure also encourages study in math and science with a Math and Science Scholarship Fund that would provide aid to students who commit to five consecutive years of service in a math or science field after graduation, while the Math and Science Incentive Program would provide loan forgiveness of up to $5,000 of accumulated interest if a student agrees to work for five consecutive years in a math or science field.

Student Loans

To address recent injustices in the ways student loans have been issued, this agreement incorporates the provisions of the Sunshine Act (HR 890), including a ban on lenders offering opportunity pools “as a quid pro quo for placement on a preferred lender list or for a specified loan volume.” In “opportunity pools,” lenders could give an institution of higher learning a fixed amount of private loan funds, which are passed on to students who would normally be ineligible for such loans. The college or university then could make the provider a preferred or exclusive lender of federal student loans on its campus.

This measure prohibits any employee who is employed in the college financial aid office or has responsibilities relating to education loans or other student financial aid, and who serves on an advisory board, commission, or a group established by a lender or group of lenders from receiving anything of value from the lender or group of lenders. The agreement contains the following additional provisions:

         o     Gift Prohibition – Bars postsecondary education institutions, officers, and employees from receiving any gift from a private lender in exchange for any advantage in its loan activities.

         o     Revenue Sharing – Bars lenders from sharing profits from their loan activities with higher education institutions in exchange for an advantage to the lender in its loan activities. This prohibition includes gifts to postsecondary education institutions or their employees.

         o     Prepayment Penalties – Prohibits private lenders from charging borrowers fees for paying off their loans early.

         o     Loan Disclosure – Requires lenders to make disclosures of loans to borrowers when the advertisement or solicitation of loans is done, at the time of the approval applications, and when loans are finalized.

     Provisions to produce more qualified teachers:

         o     Teach for America – Reauthorizes the Teach For America program, which recruits and trains recent college graduates seeking to enter into the teaching profession.

         o     Early Childhood Education Taskforce – Provides for newly created state taskforces to create comprehensive state-wide early childhood education systems.

         o     Augustus F. Hawkins Centers of Excellence – Creates “Centers of Excellence” to provide grants to historically black colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions to improve teacher quality and preparation.

         o     Best Practices Study – Requires the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study to develop best practices in teacher education.

     Other measures in this bill include:

     Students in the Armed Forces

         The measure requires colleges and universities to treat students returning from military service as continuously enrolled students, and allows a family’s nursing home expenses for students injured while on active duty to be calculated when deciding how much a student should receive in student loan aid.

     Higher Education Price Index

     This legislation requires the Education Department to create “higher education price increase watch lists” on the department’s Web site that report the full price of tuition and fees, as well as the cost of room and board for students living on campus. The department would also be required to post an online chart that compares the percentage change in states’ appropriations per student enrolled in institutions of higher education.

     The agreement penalizes states that reduce their total higher education funding for any academic year beginning after July 1, 2008, to an amount that is less than the average amount allocated by a state over the five most recent academic years. The Education Department could grant states waivers due to exceptional or uncontrollable circumstances, such as natural disasters or an unforeseen decline in revenue.

     Violation of this requirement (without a waiver) would result in the Education Department withholding some federal higher education funding for that state. The agreement does not, however, authorize the reduction of states’ access to Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership (LEAP) grants, which are awarded to students with exceptional financial need. Rather, the measure would allow the Education Department to withhold funding for College Access Challenge Grants, a much smaller grant program that provides federal assistance to projects aimed at low-income students.

     Free Loan Applications Simplification

     The agreement requires the Education Department to maintain the free application for federal student aid forms in a printable form and provide a printed copy of the full paper version of the application process upon request, containing the following provisions to simplify the free application process for student aid:

         o Encourages the Education Department to reduce the number of questions requiring an answer by 50% over five years;

         o Creates a two-page form for students and families who qualify for the “auto-zero” family contribution;

         o Requires students reapplying for federal student aid in subsequent years to provide only updated information. Current law requires applicants to re-file a new application; and

         o Requires the Education Department to allow students and families, before applying for aid, to receive estimates of their expected family contribution, and an estimate for their amount of financial aid.

AC/SMART Grants

The measure allows legal permanent residents to receive Academic Competitive (AC) and Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) grants. It also amends the SMART grant program to clarify that a student pursuing “eligible courses of study” at institutions where students do not declare majors is still eligible for such grants.

Minority College Assistance

Predominantly Black Institutions

The agreement establishes new designations for such institutions. The measure defines predominantly black institutions as having an enrollment of “financially needy undergraduate students;” an enrollment of undergraduate students at least 40% of whom are African-American; and that has at least 1,000 undergraduate students of whom at least 50% are enrolled at the institution are low-income or first generation and are registered in a bachelor or associate degree program.

Native Americans

The measure defines Native American non-tribal institutions as having an enrollment of undergraduate students that is not less than 10% Native American students, and are not already designated as a tribal college or university.

Historically Black Colleges & Universities

The agreement adds the following graduate programs to this designation – Alabama State, Bowie State in Maryland, Delaware State, Langston University in Oklahoma, Prairie View A&M in Texas, and the University of the District of Columbia School of Law.

Graduate & Postsecondary Programs

Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need

These fellowships are designed to enable colleges and universities to provide assistance to graduate students who are studying in areas of national need, giving priority to grants aimed at preparing professors to train teachers in science, technology, math, special education, as well as training for teachers with limited English proficiency.

Patsy Mink Fellowships

This measure re-authorizes Patsy Mink fellowships, which are awarded to students of minority groups to acquire masters’ degrees or doctorate degrees in academic areas where minorities are underrepresented.

Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education

The agreement authorizes the Education Department to make grants to, or enter into contracts with, colleges and universities and other nonprofit entities, that are intended to improve postsecondary education opportunities. The fund covers a number of new initiatives, including a scholarship for family members of veterans or members of the military and a “best practices” center to support single parent students.

Students with Disabilities

This measure establishes a National Center for Information and Technical Support intended to improve the dissemination of best practices related to working with postsecondary students with disabilities, and improve the recruitment, retention, and completion rates.

Incentives & Rewards for Low Tuition

This measure includes a number of initiatives intended to encourage colleges and universities to keep costs down, including competitive grants for institutions that have an annual net tuition increase of 1% or less, as well as bonuses given by the Education Department to institutions for distribution to students receiving Pell Grants.

Patsy Mink Fellowships

This provision re-authorizes Patsy Mink fellowships, which are awarded to students of minority groups to acquire masters’ degrees or doctorate degrees in academic areas where minorities are underrepresented.

House of Representatives Passes Congressman Sestak’s Resolution to Reduce School Violence



Washington, DC – From the shootings at Columbine to the tragedy at Virginia Tech, violence in schools has resulted in many heartbreaking headlines in recent years. As part of his ongoing effort to find methods of reducing school crime, and to institute crime-preventing regulations, Congressman Joe Sestak (PA – 07) introduced a resolution (H. Res. 1288) expressing Congressional support for the designation of September as National Campus Safety Awareness Month (NCSAM). Today, the House voted unanimously in favor of the measure, which builds on work the Congressman has done in the District – where he has hosted an Anti-Violence Summit as well as education summits that have addressed the issue of ways to reduce violence – and in Washington, where he has advocated for better reporting of incidents in schools.

“We are more aware now than ever about the importance of keeping our nation’s college students safe,” said Congressman Sestak. “National Campus Safety Awareness Month, which comes at the beginning of the new school year, offers a perfect opportunity to provide students with critical awareness that they need to help stay safe on campus. Campuses, like any other community, have to deal with crime and this awareness better equips every member of the community to protect themselves and prevent crime.”

Currently, in accordance with the federal Jeanne Clery Act, the nation’s colleges and universities are required to publish and distribute an Annual Campus Security Report, maintain a public log of all crimes reported to them, and provide warnings of crimes that represent a threat to the security of students and employees. From these reports, it has been revealed that 37 homicides, 8,114 forcible-sex offenses, 8,923 aggravated assaults, and 3,071 cases of arson occurred on campus from 2004 to 2006. Additionally, between one fifth and one quarter of female undergraduates will be the victim of a completed or attempted rape, usually by someone they know, during their college careers; however, fewer than five percent of these incidents are reported to the police according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

As part of the process of producing this resolution, the Congressman met with representatives from Security on Campus Inc., an organization based in King of Prussia that was founded by the parents of Jeanne Clery, who was raped and murdered as a student at Lehigh University. The Clerys and staff have worked tirelessly to improve campus safety and security throughout the country, including working to pass six federal laws dealing with college campus safety- most notably, the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crimes Statistics Act.

To address violence in secondary schools, Congressman Sestak made the topic one of the themes of a field hearing on No Child Left Behind held at Radnor High School.  The hearing was attended by Dale Kildee, Chairman on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education. Radnor Middle School Principal Anthony Stevenson testified about the need to have a “positive and welcoming school climate” to help students “avoid high risk behaviors like substance abuse and violence.”

The Congressman has used the comments he has heard in the District to try to make practical legislation in Washington, where he has worked on a related amendment to the No Child Left Behind Act. Since an Education Committee hearing on dropout prevention when Members questioned panel witnesses on the problem of underreporting of student violence and crime, Congressman Sestak has advocated to include in the legislation standard reporting metrics that would ensure that the federal government can collect appropriate data to effect policies that improve school safety. Part of the problem relates to the “persistently dangerous” school label under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, as school administrators fear backlash from parents, the community, and media.  For example, during the 2003-04 school year, only 26 of the nation’s 91,000 public schools were labeled “persistently dangerous.” Forty-seven states and the District of Columbia proudly reported that they were home to not a single unsafe school.

“We must make certain that school administrators operate in conditions under which they are comfortable with fully disclosing violent acts,” said Congressman Sestak. “Additionally, appropriate metrics must be put in place to ensure that the federal government can collect such data to effect policies to improve the safety of our nation’s schools. Until we can correctly define the problems that we have both at secondary and post-secondary schools, it will be extremely difficult to combat violence effectively.”

Earlier this year, the Congressman’s Anti-Violence Summit featured panels of local experts, law enforcement officers, and religious and community leaders who discussed the role of violence in our community and how interfaith and community organizations can partner with elected officials to reduce it. Specifically, panelists and audience members mentioned ways to steer youth away from activities and groups that can lead to involvement in illegal activities.

“I fully recognize that violence and crime know no boundaries,” said Congressman Sestak in discussing the critical need to bring together a variety of leaders to address the issue. “We need the full force of our citizens, community organizations, religious leaders and elected officials as we seek pragmatic solutions to violence and its causes.”

Next week, the Congressman will hear additional perspectives on ways to reduce the likelihood of violence in schools when he holds a teachers’ roundtable at Chichester Area High School’s Education Center. The event is scheduled for Wednesday, August 6 at 9:30AM.

Congressman Sestak Votes to Protect College Students from Losing Health Insurance

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With health care costs rising and placing a greater burden on American families, Congressman Joe Sestak (PA-07) voted for Michelle’s Law (H.R. 2851), a bill that he co-sponsored to address a specific unjust practice that affects individuals trying to put themselves or their children through college. This legislation ensures that dependent students who take a medically necessary leave of absence do not lose health insurance coverage.

“Allowing insurance companies to take students off their parents’ plan because of an illness puts an unfair and unnecessary financial weight on families, making it difficult for affected students to afford the care they need as well as the education they are pursuing,” said Congressman Sestak. “I entered politics primarily because of my passion to improve healthcare in this country. While living in a pediatric ward with my daughter, I saw other families who could not afford critical treatments, while my family received needed care through the military’s health plan. I am committed to advocating for affordable healthcare for everyone, particularly for our youth. In addition, when you consider the importance of a post-secondary education in today’s global marketplace, this law not only does the right thing morally, but also helps affected individuals get the education they need to positively contribute to our economy.”

Specifically, this legislation amends the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), the Public Health Service Act, and the Internal Revenue Code to prohibit group health plans from terminating coverage of students who become severely ill and take a certified medical leave of absence. This allows students ages 18-24 to stay on their parents’ health insurance for up to one year.

The bill is inspired by, and named after, Michelle Morse, a New Hampshire college student who died of colon cancer in 2005. Michelle’s doctors had recommended that she reduce her course load while undergoing chemotherapy treatments, but doing so would have caused her to lose health care coverage under her family’s insurance. Michelle continued attending classes full time as she struggled with treatments, tragically losing her battle later that year.

Congressman Sestak Votes to Protect Children from Dangerous Products

Washington, DC – To effectively address the growing number of unsafe children’s products that make it on the market, Congressman Joe Sestak (PA-07) voted in favor of, and the House passed by a 424-1 margin, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (HR 4040). Today’s vote was on the final agreement of the bill’s conference report. This legislation takes unprecedented steps to prevent items with lead from being sold, strengthen the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and increase oversight to ensure that CPSC does its job.

“It is unacceptable that 45 million toys and children’s products needed to be recalled in 2007, with some containing nearly 200 times the legal amount of lead,” said Congressman Sestak. “This bill implements regulations that will allow us to significantly decrease the number of dangerous products that become available for purchase and, in the occasional occurrence when something unsafe is allowed into American homes, it will be much easier for families to find out if they own a product that needs to be recalled.”

Provisions designed to reduce injuries caused by merchandise include a prohibition of any lead beyond a minute amount in products designed for children under age 12, and a ban on more than a miniscule measurement of phthalates, a group of harmful chemicals sometimes added to plastics. In addition, the act mandates third-party, pre-market testing for compliance with safety standards, including lead regulations, by certified laboratories of children’s products.

One factor that has made the increasing number of toy recalls more troublesome is the lack of resources at CPSC. The agency lost 15 percent of its workforce between 2004 and 2007. An authorization of appropriations starting at $118 million in 2010 and ending at $136 million five years later will significantly impact the ability of CPSC to inspect products and operate recalls efficiently. The Commission will also receive assistance from manufacturers, who will be required to place distinguishing marks on products and packaging to aid in recalls. In addition, this bill requires CPSC, within two years, to provide consumers with a user-friendly, searchable database on deaths and serious injuries caused by consumer products, and to share information with State public health agencies in a way that will allow federal and state agencies to easily work together on this issue. Funds provided to CPSC include a specific travel allowance for the Commission’s commissioners and staff, who will be prohibited from using industry-sponsored travel.

Furthermore, this legislation includes measures to make certain that the above provisions are carried out correctly, authorizing injunctive enforcement of federal law by State Attorneys General and providing whistleblower protections for private sector employees who allege violations of any CPSC-enforced product safety requirements.

“Lawmakers at the local, state and federal levels need to make consumer safety a priority, and do all they can to ensure that people-especially children-remain protected from dangerous products,” said Congressman Sestak. “Every American deserves the peace of mind of knowing that when they purchase a product, their government has made every effort to make sure it is safe.”

Media: Tell the truth about the fallacy of off-shore drilling!

The corporate cable media has been getting its talking points from the Bush Administration and the McSame campaign. The talking heads know they personally have an interest in promoting off-shore drilling, so they don’t tell the truth to the regular joe like you. The truth is:

1) Off-shore oil drilling pollutes and would destroy our beautiful beaches, coastlines and would destroy the health and livelihood of our most precious and vulnerable, until now protected animals- in ANWR or The Arctic National Wildlife refuge. Also, there is information that exists that oil drilling has caused extensive pollution in New Orleans that has been worsened by Hurricane Katrina.

2) The Bush Administration have already been given authorized land to drill in and they simply have not.

3) The McBush campaign are trying to use this as a wedge issue, as cannon fodder, so that way it takes away from the issues you truly care about: the economy and pocketbook issues.

4) The oil men have a specific, selfish interest in drilling for oil to line their pockets and have already admitted to having a pre-determined, vest oil interest In Iraq and originally invaded the country because of that interest.

5) The media is making fun of your intelligence: they are not talking about immediate solutions to gas prices, like cutting out corporate welfare tax subsidies to oil companies that are making billions to your detriment.

6) Bush can easily release the national oil reserves that he has been filling with oil for the last 7 years, that are 97% full right now, ready for emergencies. And let me inform you,  this is an emergency if I say so myself- and the American people believe it to be, too.

7) It is flagrantly dishonest for the media to follow talking points from the Bush-McSame people, withholding information from you, and making fun of your intelligence like this by repeating disgusting, filthy, oil-drenched lies.

8) It would take until 2017 to authorize and go through with the oil drilling process off-shore and on ANWR and would only take off a few cents off the price that would be swallowed up by oil companies anyway.

9) Why haven’t we been talking about the oil speculators that have been driving up the price of oil since it has been de-nationalized hours after the end of the Carter Administration?

The American people are smarter than that. It is enraging that they would try to pull the wool over your eyes and make fun of your intelligence like this. You should demand the truth from these cable news ratings-chasing reporters- they need to give you the truth about your pocketbook matters.

Kanjorski Fighting For PHEAA

We all know the serious problems encountered by PHEAA over the past 18 months:  corruption, incompetence, arrogance, hubris, the normal fare these days for anyone in Harrisburg.  Unfortunately a lot of money which could have been used for student loans was instead squandered on facials, limos, luxury resort vacations and many other unfortunate uses.

PHEAA does appear to be getting cleaned up under new management and the financial meltdowns have hurt the student loan sector.  One of the chief things needed in this area are affordable interest rates.  The usury being imposed on college students is immoral.  I was at a number of Clinton events where the college students in attendance were asked what they were paying in interest on their college loans.  They were unconscionable amounts, up to 30%!  The normal seemed to be around 20%.

How can anyone ever expect to pay back $100,000 loan at 20-30% interest?  These graduates are having to forego jobs such as being educators or social workers due thit his debt load.  They will be saddled with this debt for most of their adult lives leaving them unable to spend discretionary income, purchase homes, or save for retirement.  This is very bad policy.

KANJORSKI: ADMINISTRATION MUST WORK

HARDER TO PROVIDE FUNDING FOR PHEAA

September Financial Services Hearing Will Examine

Student Loan Problems

WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Paul E. Kanjorski (D-PA), the Chairman of the House Financial Services Capital Markets, Insurance, and Government Sponsored Enterprises Subcommittee, insisted that the Administration work promptly to fix problems in the auction rate securities market, especially for student loan originators.  Since the start of the credit crunch, this market has dried up, making it especially difficult for many student loan lenders, like the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA), to get the funding needed to make student loans this fall.  At the press conference, Chairman Kanjorski and the other leaders of the Financial Services Committee also announced plans for a September 18 hearing on providing needed support for student lenders and fixing this frozen market.

“Congress enacted a law in May to help student loan originators affected by the credit crunch, but the Administration has not yet used its full authority to help non-profit lenders like PHEAA.  The school year is beginning.  We can wait no longer.  The Administration must take swift action to implement this law effectively,” said Chairman Kanjorski.  “Moreover, the Administration and regulators must step up their efforts to fix the lack of money currently available in the market, which is making it difficult for lenders to finance student loans.  Our September hearing will shine a bright light on this dark corner of our financial markets.”

James Preston, the President and CEO of PHEAA who joined Chairman Kanjorski, Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA), and Financial Services Committee Ranking Member Spencer Bachus (R-AL) at the press conference, agreed that improved implementation of H.R. 5715, the Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act, would make money more available to the student loan lenders that help to make the dream of a higher education possible.

In his remarks Mr. Preston said, “PHEAA is grateful to Rep. Paul Kanjorski and to his colleagues in the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation who have supported PHEAA’s efforts to seek a long-term solution to the collapse of the market for auction rate securities.  …We need a long-term solution to unlock the billions of dollars of capital trapped in these auction rate securities and allow the marketplace for federal student loans to return to normal.”

Chairman Kanjorski was the first Member of Congress to sound the alarm on the crisis facing the student loan market at the beginning of the year.  He is now leading the charge to ensure that H.R. 5715, enacted on May 7, lives up to its full potential.  Implementation problems have prevented many lenders from getting the money needed to make loans to students.  Even though H.R. 5715 provides the explicit authority to purchase student loans going back to the 2003-2004 school year, the Administration has only put in place plans for loans made in the 2008-2009 academic timeframe.

To address this problem, this week Chairman Kanjorski is leading his Pennsylvania Congressional colleagues in writing to Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and Secretary of the Treasury Henry M. Paulson, Jr. to encourage them to consider new ideas to help thaw the frozen markets for student loan securities.  This letter will highlight a proposal made by PHEAA and other non-profit lenders to make more money available for student loan originators.

“I have reached out to the Administration since February because I have been especially concerned about how a lack of student lender funding could affect higher education opportunities.  Congress has already acted.  It is now time for the Administration to take appropriate action to fix this problem, for the sake of our country’s education financial system,” added Chairman Kanjorski.  “I am very disappointed at the failure of the Administration to implement H.R. 5715 effectively, and I remain just as concerned about the ability of our federal regulators and the financial industry to fix the broader problems of the auction rate securities marketplace.”

The $330 billion auction rate securities sector continues to sputter.  Before February, auction rate securities were considered extremely safe investments, but because of the economic downturn and need for broker-dealers to preserve cash, tens of thousands of investors have found themselves trapped and unable to get their money out of these investments now that new investors refuse to buy these products.  With $80 billion in outstanding notes, student loan originators are the largest participant in this marketplace.

“We have waited patiently for the private sector and financial regulators to solve these problems.  We can wait no longer.  The time, therefore, has come for us to convene a congressional hearing,” concluded Chairman Kanjorski.  “At this September 18 hearing I will focus on the Administration’s efforts to fix the problems of student lenders.  We will also examine how this problem has affected trapped investors and raised the borrowing costs of municipalities.  Finally, we will explore what regulators and the industry have already done to fix it, what they are currently doing to fix it, and what more they can do to fix it.”

Walmart mobilizes its managers against Obama and the Democrats

Walmart is trying to mobilize all of its store managers all over the country to lobby against Obama and the Democrats in the presidential election. For the past few weeks, Walmart managers have been summoned to mandatory meetings where propaganda was spouted about downsides of workers unionizing. Employees who attended the meetings were told that they would have to pay hefty union dues, would nothing in return and would have to strike without compensation. They were also told that unionization would allow the company to cut jobs. Human resource managers told employees that voting for Barack Obama would invite unions in.

The company has the nerve to participate in “propaganda” against its own employees…just to systematically “control” its “wage slaves.” They have no right and this is “labor abuse.” The “systematically-abused” workers need to be told their rights and have their rights guarded and stood up for. Another attempt by the country to “pillage” democracy through “wage slavery and corporate-sponsored manipulation.” i don’t know about you, but I’m saying no to shopping over there and tell your friends about how they’re wielding their “power” and their “upper-hand” through the worker trying to feed their families and telling them how to live their lives through the “strings” on their wallets. C’mon, “wake up, Walmart!”

Read more about this story here on Wall Street Journal website: http://online.wsj.com/article/…