Sestak-Toomey Debate

I’m at Muhlenberg College for the health care debate between Republican Pat Toomey and Democrat Joe Sestak.  The event is scheduled to begin at 6:15 pm.  The auditorium isn’t filled though it is well attended.  The College Democrats and Republicans are both here with tables in the lobby.  I’d guess the number of Toomey and Sestak supporters is probably even.  Joe Sestak will be our guest tomorrow morning on Democratic Talk Radio.  If you aren’t in the Lehigh Valley you can tune in via WGPA’s website.  There’s a link to the station on the blog.  

‘Young Workers: A Lost Decade’

(I had this story bookmarked to do but since this is such a good diary I’ll just promote it to the front page.

John – promoted by John Morgan)

Something bad happened in the past 10 years to young workers in this country: Since 1999, more of them now have lower-paying jobs, if they can get a job at all; health care is a rare luxury and retirement security is something for their parents, not them. In fact, many-younger than 35-still live at home with their parents because they can’t afford to be on their own.

These are the findings of a new report, “Young Workers: A Lost Decade.” Conducted in July 2009 by Peter D. Hart Research Associates for the AFL-CIO and our community affiliate Working America, the nationwide survey of 1,156 people follows up on a similar survey the AFL-CIO conducted in 1999. The deterioration of young workers’ economic situation in those 10 years is alarming.

Nate Scherer, 31, is among today’s young workers. Scherer lives in Columbus, Ohio, where he shares a home with his wife, his parents, brother and his partner.  He spoke at a media conference at the AFL-CIO today to discuss the report.

After getting married, my wife and I decided to move in with my parents to pay off our bills. We could afford to live on our own but we’d never be able to get out of debt. We have school loans to pay off, too. We’d like to have children, but we just can’t manage the expense of it right now…so we’re putting it off till we’re in a better place. My [work] position is on the edge, and I feel like if my company were to cut back, my position would be one of the first to go.

During yesterday’s press briefing, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka summed up the report’s findings this way:

We’re calling the report “A Lost Decade” because we’re seeing 10 years of opportunity lost as young workers across the board are struggling to keep their heads above water and often not succeeding. They’ve put off adulthood-put off having kids, put off education-and a full 34 percent of workers under 35 live with their parents for financial reasons.

Just last week we learned that about 1.7 million fewer teenagers and young adults were employed in July than a year before, hitting a record low of 51.4 percent.

As AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said:  

Young workers in particular must be given the tools to lead the next generation to prosperity. The national survey we’re releasing today shows just how broken our economy is for our young people…and what’s at stake if we don’t fix it.

Some of the report’s key findings include:

  • 31 percent of young workers report being uninsured, up from 24 percent 10 years ago, and 79 percent of the uninsured say they don’t have coverage because they can’t afford it or their employer does not offer it.
  • Strikingly, one in three young workers are currently living at home with their parents.
  • Only 31 percent say they make enough money to cover their bills and put some money aside-22 percentage points fewer than in 1999-while 24 percent cannot even pay their monthly bills.
  • A third cannot pay their bills and seven in 10 do not have enough saved to cover two months of living expenses.
  • 37 percent have put off education or professional development because they can’t afford it.
  • When asked who is most responsible for the country’s economic woes, close to 50 percent of young workers place the blame on Wall Street and banks or corporate CEOs. And young workers say greed by corporations and CEOs is the factor most to blame for in the current financial downturn.
  • By a 22-point margin, young workers favor expanding public investment over reducing the budget deficit. Young workers rank conservative economic approaches such as reducing taxes, government spending and regulation on business among the five lowest of 16 long-term priorities for Congress and the president.
  • Thirty-five percent say they voted for the first time in 2008, and nearly three-quarters now keep tabs on government and public affairs, even when there’s not an election going on.
  • The majority of young workers and nearly 70 percent of first-time voters are confident that Obama will take the country in the right direction.

Trumka, who is running for AFL-CIO president without announced opposition at our convention later this month, is making union outreach to young people a top priority. He said one of the report’s conclusions is especially striking:

Young people want to be involved but they’re rarely asked. Their priorities are even more progressive than the priorities of the older generation of working people, yet they aren’t engaged by co-workers or friends to get involved in the economic debate.

Currently, 18-to-35-year-olds make up a quarter of union membership. And at the AFL-CIO Convention, we will ask Convention delegates to approve plans for broad recruitment of young workers, as well as plans for training and leadership of young workers who are currently union members. And that’s just the beginning of a broad push towards talking and mobilizing young workers in the coming months and years.

According to the report, more than half of young workers say employees are more successful getting problems resolved as a group rather than as individuals, and employees who have a union are better off than employees in similar jobs who do not.

Read the full report here.

(Cross-posted from the AFL-CIO Now Blog.)

PA Wind Project Gets Federal Grant

Highland Wind Farm in Salix is receiving $42,204,562 from the Department of Energy as part of $500 million used nationally from ARRA funds to fuel clean energy for the next century.

“The Recovery Act is investing in our long-term energy needs while creating jobs in communities around the country,” said Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. “This renewable energy program will spur the manufacture and development of clean energy in urban and rural America, allowing us to protect our environment, create good jobs and revitalize our nation’s economy.”

Said Secretary Chu: “These grants will help America’s businesses launch clean energy projects, putting Americans back to work in good construction and manufacturing jobs.  The initiative will help double our renewable energy capacity over the next few years and make sure America leads the world in creating the clean energy economy of the future.”

Created under Section 1603 of the Recovery Act, the program is expected to provide more than $3 billion in financial support for clean energy projects by providing direct payments in lieu of tax credits.  These payments will support an estimated 5,000 bio-mass, solar, wind, and other types of renewable energy production facilities in all regions of the country over the life of the program.  As a result of this first round of funding, more than 2,000 Americans will have access to jobs in the renewable energy industry – both in construction and in manufacturing – while moving the nation closer to meeting the Administration’s goal of doubling renewable energy generation in the next few years.

Democracy Rising Tries to Stop WAMs

Democracy Rising PA is tilting at windmills attempting to stop state legislators from using their pork barrel WAMs.  WAMs stand for “walking around money” and are used for local pet projects without oversight or accountability.  These have been known to be used for very questionable uses and the legislators answer to no one as to whom receives the funds.  This is one of those areas of the state legislature which desperately needs reform.  Good luck.  This is as likely to happen as serious campaign finance limitations, lobbying accountabilty and limits and the legislative slush funds.  Until a full state constitutional convention is authorized and all these abuses are corrected outside the legislature nothing will ever be accomplished.

How Blue Dogs Killed Health Care Reform

The death of Ted Kennedy was also the death knell for real, significant health care reform.  Talking points now use the term “health insurance reform” instead of “health care reform.”  Real reform died when Sen. Baucus disallowed any consideration of single payer.  Regardless of the fact most Americans support single payer the Administration and Congress began in a weak position from which they’ve been forced to retreat by corporate funded interest groups.

This is nothing new.  The same fear mongering tactics were used against Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and every other significant progressive legislation of the last sixty years.  The insurance industry fought health care reform this way back in 1993.  Why weren’t we better prepared?  The tea baggers took the initiative as soon as Blue Dog Democrats killed a vote in July and forced the issue in the fall.  Blue Dogs killed health care reform with their obstinence.  They are solely responsible, not Republicans, for the death of this movement.

The Blue Dog Democrats are completely owned and operated by Big Pharma and the insurance industry.  They are corporate Dems who represent the interests of their corporate clients rather than their constituents.  Because they opposed a vote in July the bills got deferred until fall and now the crucial 60th Senate vote is gone.  Idiots like Max Baucus wasted valuable time and resources attempting to negotiate with Republicans who had publicly stated their mission was to make this fail to destroy the Obama Presidency.  How stupid can some Democrats be?  Sen. Grassley was being courted just before he went home and demonized the bills as being death panels determining whether Grandma would be euthanized.  You don’t negotiate with extremists like these you ignore them and do what’s best for the country.

That wasn’t accomplished because of the Blue Dogs.  If you live in a Blue Dog District as I do (Tim Holden) do NOT vote for your Member of Congress again.  I can say I have never for voted for mine and I never will.  We need to recruit candidates to run against them in Democratic primaries and force them towards the center or defeat them altogether.  These are many of the traitors who also voted for torture, warrantless wiretapping, to allow the government to look into all your financial records without warrants, the ability for authorities to enter and search your home without warrants and for secret overseas prisons.  They are Unamerican.  Now they’ve killed health care.  As your insurance premiums continue rising at 20% per year and you go bankrupt when you finally can no longer afford the coverage and become ill remember who was primarily responsible for the death of this legislation:  Blue Dog Democrats.

Republican to Kayaker: Your Safety is of No Concern

A Republican member of our statewide kayaking group left a message this morning telling another paddler he has no concern for their safety.  Fred Lutcher complained about efforts to keep a launching ramp from being axed in budget cuts saying the government already spends too much money and the Beltzville Lake Preacher’s Ramp should be allowed to close.  The kayakers and canoers there say this means a 3-4 mile paddle across a busy lake to get to the no wake zone.

No wake zones on large lakes are, by far, the safest areas for kayakers and canoers because powerboaters don’t pay attention where they’re going and don’t look for us.  Every year paddlers are run over and killed by power boats.  I know of few paddlers, for example, who will venture onto the wake area of Blue Marsh lake in Berks County because of the irresponsible, often drunk, power boaters.  In fact I watch them violate the no wake area of that lake regularly.  

For me this isn’t a big issue.  I paddle the Chesapeake Bay and other large lakes all the time and can handle the wakes.  I keep a powerful whistle close by for the assholes to keep them from ramming my boat.  Many folks out on these lakes are novices and beginners however and others simply seek a nice, restful escape from life on the water.  Forcing them to paddle 3 or 4 miles to a secure area due to budget cuts is dangerous.

Why would someone like Lutcher (who has posted other right wing diatribes on that group) put his personal financial interests above that of fellow boaters?  Because these people don’t believe in government and don’t want to admit they use valuable public services and that these are examples of good government.  Mostly they’re simply greedy.

Update:  (Nov 2011) Mr. Lutcher has been contacting me through facebook trying to get me to remove this article.  Blogging etiquette is that posts aren’t removed unless proven totally inaccurate.  Lutcher complained in a discussion on Pennsylvania Canoers and Kayakers Yahoo group that the government cuts were necessary.  As an ardent conservative his knee jerk reaction is always anti-tax and anti-government without giving any thought that, perhaps, such government programs are useful and valuable.  Because he didn’t think through the repercussions of his position he posted a political position on a discussion group where it didn’t belong.  He has posted pure political content on that listserve before (a notice of an upcoming John McCain presidential campaign appearance) which was completely off topic.

Instead of accepting personal responsibility for his mistake and commenting here defending his position and/or explaining himself he is repeatedly asking that I remove this article.  I stand behind what I wrote because of the effect Lutcher’s position would have had on his fellow paddlers forcing them to paddle an additional 3-4 miles.  That’s no small distance in a canoe or kayak.

Now he has posted on my facebook wall claiming what I wrote was inaccurate.  I did accurately reflect his position, there was no error.  How he posted on my wall in spite of privacy settings limiting that to “friends” is a mystery.  He is digging himself deeper in a hole because now he has this update to deal with.

Fred, the more you badger and harass me about this the more of it I will post here.