Diversion Politics and Factual Errors with ‘Americans for a Tiny Sliver of Rich People’

By Stephen Herzenberg, Third and State

Jennifer Stefano, the Pennsylvania director of Americans for Prosperity, published an op-ed in the Harrisburg Patriot-News Friday – the latest salvo in an organized right-wing assault on nutrition assistance and other safety net spending.

The op-ed claims that the number of Americans who receive some kind of subsidized food assistance is at more than 101 million and “has surpassed the number of full-time private-sector workers in our country.” Actually, there are 114 million private-sector workers in the United States, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data for June 2013, but who’s counting.

Americans for Prosperity is a conservative advocacy group funded in part by the Koch Brothers. It is the 1% looking out for the interests of the 1%.

As I noted, Jennifer Stefano’s op-ed is part of a larger campaign to cut safety net spending. Food stamp spending in the current slow economy has temporarily risen to about 0.5% of GDP, from about 0.33% of GDP in the early 1980s recession. Of course, that recession was much shorter and shallower nationally than the recent Great Recession.

Today food assistance remains well targeted: 85% of households participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, have gross incomes below the poverty line; 98.5% have disposable (or “net”) incomes below the poverty line. SNAP provides only $1.50 per person per meal and is scheduled to drop to $1.30 per person per meal in November. (Stefano has nothing to say about the preservation of farm subsidies for agribusiness – the most generous “food program” in the United States.)

Stefano presents the temporary growth in food assistance as a “kitchen table” issue. Let’s put it in perspective. Another kitchen table issue is the dramatic decline in the share of the economic pie going to the vast 99% of Americans – because the share going to the top 1% has risen by about 10 percentage points, The temporary increase in food stamps spending is thus about 1/50 the size of the not-so-temporary increase in the share of income going to the Koch Brothers and, I’m guessing, other funders of Americans for Prosperity.

Stefano’s piece is part of a well-oiled effort to distract middle-class families from the real cause of their economic struggles. When you look at the facts, that cause is not rising taxes or spending on social programs. It’s the rise in economic inequality (and, to a lesser degree, the fall in taxes paid by the more affluent).

Here’s hoping that Pennsylvanians and Americans will keep their eyes on the ball and not fall for the obfuscations of groups like Stefano’s.

News & Notes October 18, 2012

The Koch brothers and other billionaire company owners are using intimidation and threats to get their employees to vote Republican.  I thought voter intimidation was illegal?

Joe Pitts sent me a mailer today.  Has he forgotten who I am?  Why would he waste money trying to get my vote and claim he’s working to create jobs.  That what GOP Congressional candidates promised in 2010.  They, including Pitts, proceeded to block every job bill submitted by the president.  These assholes vowed to force the President to fail by filibustering every bill in the senate then turn around and blame HIM for the lackluster job creation numbers.  I thought conservatives believed in personal responsibility?

Mitt Romney blamed parents for violence done by their children during the debate.  Then his 42 year old son said he wanted to slug the president.

Any woman who votes for Mitt deserves what she’s going to get.  By the way, it won’t be a job.  More likely, if you’re a woman, voting for Romney will cost you your job.  Signing the Ryan Budget will slash government programs, many of which are staffed by women.  Cuts in education will cost female teachers their jobs.  Tax cuts will deepen the recession causing more layoffs.

Mitt syas he’ll cut taxes for the rich and won’t increase them for the middle class.  Guess who that leaves to pick up the tab?  Poor people.  Here’s a basic economics lesson:  you tax money.  Poor people don’t have any.

The state House was busy at the end of its session for the year.  After taking all summer off our hard working Representatives are off for the rest of the year.  Don’t you wish you had a job like that?  A charter school reform bill went unpassed.  It would have strengthened ethics and reporting for these bloodsuckers.

A gas chamber ban for animal shelters did pass.

A Senate bill allowing companies to keep your state income tax withholding is on a path for passage.  This would create a new Delaware type loophole for out of state corporations putting local firms at a competitive disadvantage.  It also robs taxpayers of their contributions to state government.

Sen. Larry Farnese is justly proud of his bill outlawing straw purchases of guns.  The bill strengthens current law.

Gov. Gasbag says he will sign a bill criminalizing sexting by teens.  There’s nothing like forcing kids into court for being young and dumb.  That’s it, give them a criminal record for showing their tits.

One of the few good things to be accomplished by this radical conservative state House was the voting down of a bill violating the Fourth Amendment.  It would have authorized police to obtain DNA samples, without warrants to search person’s bodies, for even summary offenses.  The ACLU said this today:  The government is constitutionally mandated to explain to a court why it wants to search someone,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “This bill undermined that fundamental liberty by allowing warrantless searches of a person’s body.”

The US Court of Appeals for the Second District struck down DOMA today.  It says it violates the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment.  From the American Foundation for Equal Rights:  

“Today’s decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit continues the unceasing momentum toward marriage equality for all Americans and affirms that discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans is unfair, unjust, and unconstitutional.  The body of evidence in support of marriage equality is clear and convincing.  This decision, as well previous decisions in other DOMA cases and in our federal constitutional challenge to California’s Proposition 8, signals that the arguments opposing the recognition of marriage for gay and lesbian Americans have no legal basis.  With today’s ruling, we are one step closer to the day when marriage equality is a reality for every American.”

I ran into a Birther yesterday while getting my Element inspected.  He insisted that President Obama is a Muslim born in Kenya.  As evidence he cited his wedding ring with its Arabic inscription saying “there is no God but Allah.”  This is yet another myth created by Faux News.  I explained to him that he’s been brainwashed.  I won’t waste precious breaths trying to reason with fools who have chosen to live in a parallel universe where there is no reality.

New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman is retiring and his seat is being contested by former Congresswoman Heather Wilson (disgraced in the GonzalesGate scandal) and Congressman Martin Heinrich.  Spanish normally win elections in The Land of Enchantment.  They have a saying in Santa Fe:  “the Indians have the land, the Spanish have government and the Anglos have the money.”  Democrat Heinrich is leading in the polls rather nicely.  They debated last evening.  I’m hoping to interview both outgoing Sen. Bingaman and incoming Sen. Heinrich next month while in Santa Fe.

Former Sen. George McGovern entered hospice care earlier this week and now is reported as being unresponsive.  He ran for president in 1972 against Richard Nixon.  A paranoid President sent a team of bungling burglars into Democratic headquarters in the Watergate.  The rest was history.

Berks Democrats keep embarrassing themselves.  This time Democratic DA John Adams endorsed Republican Attorney General candidate David Freed.  Another one may be financing the campaign of a Tea party candidate against a fellow Democrat.  I’m digging into campaign finance reports on that one.

Don’t trust those polls allegedly showing the race getting close in our Commonwealth.  If Obama thought there was any chance of losing our 20 electoral votes he’d be here along with Bruce Springsteen and Bill Clinton.  Meanwhile Mitt Romney sent his Pennsylvania spokesman on to Virginia.

Speaking of Virginia that state’s Health Commissioner resigned today over new abortion clinic regulations going into effect.  Gov. Bob McDonnell is trying to convince women to vote for Mitt but he can’t keep his head of Health because he’s so extreme on women’s women’s reproductive rights.  From the Associated Press:

Virginia Health Commissioner Karen Remley has resigned over the state’s controversial new abortion clinic regulations.

Remley submitted her resignation to Gov. Bob McDonnell Thursday. Her resignation is effective immediately.

Remley said in the letter that issues surrounding the development and enforcement of the clinic regulations have created an environment that compromises her ability to fulfill her duties. She did not elaborate.

The state Board of Health last month adopted regulations that require existing abortion clinics in Virginia to meet the same construction standards as new hospitals. Abortion-rights advocates argued the strict standards could force most clinics out of business.

Here in Pennsylvania our Dept. of Health has granted waivers to abortion clinics for many of the onerous new regulations forced upon them by Senate bill 732.

Skeptic Comes Around on Climate Change

With 97% of the world’s scientists already on board about the perils posed by global climate warming one of the last prominent holdouts has come around.  Professor Richard Muller, in a study financed by the Koch Brothers, strayed from their anti-science doctrine and announced it is real and caused by humans.

Climate change deniers have formed their own, small, Flat Earth Society with massive funding from energy billionaires to brainwash America that science is evil and cannot be trusted.  ExxonMobil, the Koch Brothers and other hugely rich financiers have a stake in the argument:  their vast profits from the burning of fossil fuels.  They argue we cannot afford to cut back severely on the use of fossil fuels and that doing so will adversely affect the American way of life.

Yes, it will.  Yes, it will be expensive and hurt the economy but the alternative is the extinction of homo sapiens.  As we destroy our planet the survival of our species is at risk.  Are we really stupid enough to sit around doing nothing and die off because we allowed some idiot billionaires to convince us not to do what must be done?  In the U.S. the answer to that question, so far, is yes.

The conversion of Prof. Muller is important if it convinces some of the brainwashed masses they’re wrong.  Is it too late?  The drought in the Midwest and the wildfires say it might be.  No one knows if we’ve passed the tipping point where nothing we do will change the path we’ve set for our future.  Some people are afraid the tipping point has passed.  All we can do is wait and see.  I fear for the next generation and what they face because we did nothing.

Metcalfe’s Planned Parenthood Bill Would Jeopardize Federal Funds

Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, the darling of ALEC, has introduced a bill to defund Planned Parenthood.  His illogic is that he wants to prevent state funding of abortions.  Pennsylvania law already prohibits that and no state funds are used to pay for abortions.  What his bill would do is to close 42 health clinics which serve Pennsylvania residents.  These clinics perfomr pap smears, breast and cervical cancer screenings, tests for sexually transmitted diseases, HIV testing and routine ob/gyn examinations for many poor people for whom Planned Parenthood is their only medical provider.

It would also jeopardize all federal funding for women’s health care through Medicare and Medicaid.  When Texas enacted a similar law it lost $35 billion.  Metcalfe’s bill would be a violation of federal law.

Gina Rodriguez of the HHS Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services graciously sent me links regarding the law and its consequences.  I met her recently at a White House Hispanic Action Summit and asked her if this would happen.  In an email yesterday she wrote:  “Freedom of choice to all willing & qualified Medicaid providers is a fundamental principle of the program.”

When Texas enacted Mr. Metcalfe’s extreme legislation it received this letter from Health and Human Services.  When the state refused to budge it lost all federal funds for women’s health programs.

Are we going to stand for such an extreme agenda based on a lie?  Are we going to stand aside while a non-elected group like ALEC uses Metcalfe to push its radical agenda and destroy women’s access to needed health care?  Any legislator in Harrisburg who co-sponsors this bill, votes for it in committee or on the floor should be aware of its consequences.  Ignorance is no exception for being responsible to the women of Pennsylvania.

Disclosure:  I am a member of the Board of Directors of Planned Parenthood Association of Pennsylvania, Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates and Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Political Action Committee.

Campaign 2012: Romney Wraps It Up

It’ll officially be Obama versus Romney now that Mitt has wrapped up enough delegates to secure his Party’s nomination.  There wasn’t much doubt after Rick Santorum pulled out prematurely.  Conservative Super PACs are prepared to spend $1 billion+ supporting the Mormon from Massachusetts.  The DCCC celebrated the milestone by issuing this ad:

Trump’s Birtherism isn’t keeping Romney away from the $2 million he was able to raise for him and he refuses to dismiss the craziness surrounding the issue.  It is time for Mitt to stand up to the radical extremists he embraced whole heartedly to gain the delegates.  He went all the way to the edge of the cliff of radical Republican politics to pander to Tea baggers and evangelical christians who think his Mormonism is a cult.

There’s nothing Mitt won’t say or do to become president.  The scary thing about the billion dollars is that this is above and beyond what Romney will raise and will come from a select few billionaires attempting to buy the White House.  80% of all Super PAC money has gone to support conservatives.  It has been raised by a very few people.

Romney has but two things on his resume qualifying him to run:  His tenure at Bain Capital and his term as Governor of Massachusetts.  He can’t run on that liberal record as Governor where his jobs record was scant and allegations about why he had his staffers sweep their computers clean and leave nothing for archives after his term ended leave questions about his integrity.  The Washington Post took a look at his record as Governor today:

Romney’s judicial nominees and his ill-fated effort to reform a politicized system offer a window into how he made some of his most important decisions as the state’s chief executive. As a Republican governor in a strongly Democratic state, he started as a good-government idealist, bumped up against an entrenched system and ultimately decided to work within it. And if, as Romney suggests, his time as governor is a key selling point for the presidency, his judicial appointments may be one of the most lasting legacies.

Though he once said people connected to state government would be at a disadvantage in seeking judgeships, Romney ended up appointing seven lawyers from inside his administration.

In his final 17 months in office, Romney pushed through a surge of judicial nominees, some with controversial records, others with the kind of political connections he had once condemned, records show. They included a former consultant for Bain & Co., the consulting firm where Romney made his reputation in business;a former Republican legislator rejected as too political by the screening panel, and a court clerk who had been reprimanded for asking a female co-worker to perform a lap dance at a strip club.

The road to the White House goes through Pennsylvania.  Our 20 electoral votes are critical so both campaigns will be here frequently.  Their surrogates will also pass through so, again, it’ll be an exciting time as the Keystone State again goes into the national spotlight.  Get out there with your video cameras and get more of the Obama monkey moments.  Let’s show the nation how racist and ignorant Romney’s supporters are.

Cartwright Slams Holden For Koch Money

The PA-17 race heated up yesterday when Matt Cartwright leveled an attack on Tim Holden for accepting campaign contributions from the infamous Koch Brothers.  The two billionaires finance much of the right wing infrastructure (Cato Institute, ALEC, Heritage Foundation, etc) along with campaigns against science and for extreme candidates.  You can learn about them in the new Robert Greenwald film Koch Brothers Exposed.

There are no bigger skeletons to have on your contributor list, if you’re a Democrat, than Charles and David Koch.  People avoid buying products made by their companies, among them Georgia-Pacific (paper products like toilet paper and paper plates) in order to avoid doing business with these folks.  The Cartwright disclosure is toxic for Holden, I don’t understand why he’d accept their money or how he explains this to fellow Democrats.

Of course therein lies the problem:  Tim Holden isn’t really a Democrat.  He’s an elephant in a donkey suit pretending to be a Democrat.  I was told by someone in Schuylkill County that when he was the County Sheriff he was a registered Republican but switched to run for Congress because Berks County (Democratic) was in the District.  He’s always voted like a Republican so I don’t doubt this report though I’ve seen verification of it.  No matter, I judge someone’s party affiliation by their actions, not their words.  Tim Holden can claim all he wants that he’s a Democrat but his voting record in Washington says he’s a Republican.  Cartwright went after him in this press release:

Holden Takes Money from the Worst of the Worst

He Simply Must Send the Money Back

For Immediate Release: April 11, 2012

MOOSIC, PA – As if we needed more proof.  As if his voting record didn’t say it all.  As if Tim Holden didn’t spend his entire 2010 campaign touting his conservative credentials, he made it crystal clear in 2000 ways written on a small piece of paper.  Yes, Tim Holden actually took money from the Koch Brothers.

Five minutes on Google, and any American who doesn’t want our environment destroyed, all labor laws eliminated, no limits on Wall Street traders, our judicial system in chains, and the federal government out of business so the age of robber barons can return would tell Tim Holden, “Give that money back.”

“Tim Holden has said he will begin voting more like a Democrat,” Matt Cartwright recounts from statements Mr. Holden has made since beginning his 2012 campaign.  “Well, this is his first chance to prove it.  Give the money back.  It’s that simple.  These guys want nothing less than to destroy the Democratic Party, so they can help turn the USA into their own China with no regulations, no labor laws and no legal system.  Give the money back.  And then stand before the people you seek to represent and debate the issues.”

Last week, a documentary on the Koch brothers was released a few hours after a Wisconsin newspaper exposed an FBI investigation involving the two billionaires.  The video can be seen here:  http://www.kochbrothersexposed…  Some facts:

·        Koch Industries began in the Soviet Union with engineering contracts under Joseph Stalin, and today they are worth more than $50 billion, a fortune exceeded only in America by Bill Gates.

·        Their business is among the top ten polluters in the United States.  One product they produce that has received little attention is formaldehyde.  They produced 2.2 billion pounds last year while working to keep it from being classified as a carcinogen.  (Sounds like the Halliburton loophole.  No need to wonder where they came down on that.  The same as Tim Holden.)

·        They have pledged $60 million to defeat Obama, after they began the American Energy Alliance, which is already spending millions on the same cause and after spending tens of millions trying to defeat health care reform.  (Can anyone recall which Democrat from Pennsylvania opposed this core Democratic initiative?)

Matt Cartwright is a Democrat, running for Congress in the 17th Congressional District, which now includes parts of Carbon, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe and Northampton Counties, as well as all of Schuylkill County. Cartwright is running for Congress to bring jobs to Northeast Pennsylvania, and make sure that corporations and wealthy Americans pay their fair share of taxes.

News & Notes December 16, 2011

You’ve got to admire the moxie and gall of Michele Bachmann.  Last night she claimed that PolitiFact had said everything she said was true.  PolitiFact:  No we didn’t.  They gave her a “pants on fire” for lying…yet again.

Christopher Hitchens died yesterday.  The elegance of his writing left one in awe, whether you agreed with him or not, everyone both loved and hated the man at times.  He wrote what he thought, what was on his mind and didn’t care what anyone else thought.  His free spirit is gone and we’ve all lost someone special.

Mike McQueary, testifying in Harrisburg at the preliminary trial for two PSU officials, says he told Joe Paterno about witnessing disturbing things of a very sexual nature between Coach Sandusky and a young boy.  Paterno told him he’d done “the right thing” by coming to him.  Assuming he meant by not going to police this is enough to justify Paterno’s firing.

Protesters marched in New York protesting the disenfranchisement of millions of voters.  Their target:  the infamous Koch brothers who finance such fringe legislation.

Tea Party Patriots leader Mark Meckler was arrested at Laguardia Airport for carrying a Glock pistol.  Not having a permit for the gun in New York carries a 15 year sentence.  I wonder if he’ll “get” religion about racial tolerance at Sing Sing?

Chris Dietz is running for State Representative in the 104th District of Dauphin and Lebanon Counties.  I know Chris and he’s an impressive young man.  His partner Alex Reber is a Board member of Planned Parenthood of Northeast and Mid Penn.

Here’s a great story about the tyranny of Daryl Metcalfe in the State Government Committee in Harrisburg.  The man is an unapologetic bully pushing through his fringe agenda.

More on happenings in Harrisburg from Andy Hoover of ACLU-PA:

The environmental damage from global warming is worse than anticipated.  Giant plumes of methane are coming to the surface in the Arctic Ocean.  Methane is about the worst pollutant possible is expanding climate change.  Gas drilling, or fracking, releases large amounts of methane also.  We simply must drastically reduce our use of carbon based fuels.

Here’s a real shocker:  Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio is a racist.  Tell us something we didn’t already know.  Yes, so he was racial profiling Hispanics… Tell us something we didn’t already know…

In this Year of the Protester, as Time calls it, some of them disrupted a hearing of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission:

Bill Maher does it again:

Fourth Cain Accuser Details Harassment

A fourth woman ha snow come forward alleging sexual harassment by Herman Cain.  This time we have specifics including groping.  The GOP presidential candidate still has not properly addressed this issue and his pattern of lying and avoiding accountability is troubling for someone seeking the White House.  Meanwhile his supporters, probably the same people who condemned Bill Clinton, are pouring money into the Cain effort.

The charges of sexual harassment are drowning out a deeper and more serious scandal however.  The Milwaukee Sentinel reported that Cain’s deep ties to the infamous Koch brothers and their Americans For Prosperity front group resulted in violations of election and campaign finance laws.  Campaign manager Mark Block, previously convicted in Wisconsin for election law violations so serious he was banned from political activism for three years, formed non profits used to pay for Cain campaign expenses.  Non profit organizations are barred from spending funds on presidential campaigns.  The non profits were connected with Americans For Prosperity.  They paid for iPads and campaign travel to the tune of $40,000.

Cain already is under attack for using political funds to buy copies of his book from which he personally profits (royalties).  In my opinion this is far more serious than the sexual harassment because it reveals a pattern of corruption.  When you combine it with that it raises serious questions about character.

Big Business Paid For Their Beds, Now Republicans Have to Lie in Them

by Walter Brasch

           Historian and satirist Thomas Carlyle said “a lie cannot live.” However, Mark Twain casually remarked, “It shows that he did not know how to tell them.”

           More than a century later, newly-elected Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-dominated Wisconsin legislature have proven themselves to be “quick studies,” having learned how to tell whoppers about the working class and unions. Here are just a few.

           LIE: The public workers’ pensions are what caused much of the financial crisis not just in Wisconsin but throughout the country. Gov. Walker has repeatedly said, “We’re broke . . . We don’t have any money.”

           FACTS: Wisconsin had a $120 million surplus whenWalker came into office in January. Had the newly-elected Republican-dominated Legislature in January not given about $140 million in special tax breaks (also known as “corporate welfare”) to business, the state could have had a surplus, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. About two-thirds of all Wisconsin corporations pay no taxes at all, according to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.

            Wisconsin could also save significant expenses by having state-employed fiscal analysts, not Wall Street investment counselors, handle the entire pension investment portfolio. Wisconsin pays about $28 million to state managers to handle about half the portfolio; it pays about $195 million to Wall Street investment brokers to handle the other half, according to the 2010 annual report of the Wisconsin Investment Board.

           Noam Chomsky, in an interview with Amy Goodman of “Democracy Now,” correctly points out, “the population in the United States is angry, frustrated, full of fear and irrational hatreds. And the folks not far from you on Wall Street are just doing fine. They’re the ones who created the current crisis.” The Great Recession has also cost states revenue, not because of the workers’ salaries and pensions but because the values went down because of lax oversight primarily during a Republican administration. Even with the Wall Street crisis, and lower-than-expected revenue, the Wisconsin pension fund is fully funded, able to meet its obligation for several years, according to the independent PEW Center for the States.

           Columnist Robert Greenwald says the “shortfall” would be wiped out if Wisconsin brought home only 151 troops from the war in Afghanistan. If the U.S. left Afghanistan completely, the state would save $1.7 billion, according to Greenwald’s analysis.

           LIE: The reason the Republicans throughout the country want to end collective bargaining by the public service unions bargaining is to bring fiscal responsibility to the states.

           TRUTH: In January 2010, the Supreme Court by a 5-4 decision along party lines declared that corporations enjoy the protection of the First Amendment. This meant that companies could increase funding and advertising for candidates. As expected, the Chamber of Commerce and corporate America gave vast amounts of money to Republican and conservative candidates; labor donated to liberal and Democratic candidates, who traditionally support the working class. In the 2010 mid-term election, seven of the top 10 donors contributed to conservative and Republican candidates. The other three in the Top 10 were labor political action committees. Eliminating collective bargaining for public sector workers would destroy the union movement and significantly reduce the influence of labor in campaigns. Walker has already shown his colors and intent when he was caught in a radio prank. On Feb. 23, Ian Murphy, editor of The Buffalo Beast, pretended to be billionaire David Koch, a supporter of far-right causes, and a major contributor to Walker’s gubernatorial campaign. Punked by the 20-minute call, Walker seemed to be little more than a sycophant for Big Business. The Republicans’ reaction? Instead of worrying about possible ethics violations by the governor, the Republicans planted a bill into the legislature to criminalize prank phone calls

           LIE: The unions are greedy and won’t budge.

           FACTS: The 267,000 Wisconsin public sector workers, as well as all elected officials, Democrat and Republican, do pay very little to their pensions. However, the unions have already said they’d be willing to pay a higher contribution, essentially taking an 8 percent pay cut, and negotiate fairly other parts of the contracts. Gov. Walker not only refused to budge on his autocratic stand, he refused to take calls from elected Democrats and bluntly told the Milwaukee Journal, “I don’t have anything to negotiate.”

           LIE: Gov. Walker’s proposal affects every union in Wisconsin.

           TRUTH: He exempted firefighters and police from his draconian assault upon unions, possibly because he was attempting to get support from the first responders, while mining sympathy from the public. What he didn’t count on was that the firefighters and police unions are firm in their opposition to the abolishment of collective bargaining.

           LIE: Gov. Walker says he’s just helping the worker when he argues for elimination of the “dues check-off,” saying the workers would have more disposable income.

           TRUTH: Eliminating dues check-off would cripple unions, which would have to rely solely upon voluntary contributions.

MYTH: Gov. Walker enjoys wide-spread support for his stand against the unions.

           TRUTH: Walker has been governor less than two months. If the election were repeated, he’d receive only about 45 percent of the vote, according to the independent Public Policy Polling (PPP) of Raleigh, N.C. More important, while only 3 percent of Republicans voted for Tom Barratt, the Democratic candidate in the November election, 10 percent of the Republicans say they’d vote for him in a new election, according to PPP. The Republican governors of Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Indiana have said they will not follow Walker’s lead, and will support the rights of public workers to bargain collectively. The massive protests in Wisconsin-more than 100,000 in Madison on the same day-and throughout the nation give evidence that Walker doesn’t have the popularity he and his supporters believe. A New York Times/CBS poll, released March 1, indicates only about one-third of the nation supports the campaign against public sector collective bargaining. A week earlier, an independent USA Today/Gallup poll had almost the same results.

           LIE: The protestors are unruly, and should be arrested for violating the law.

           TRUTH: The First Amendment gives people the right to assemble peacefully. There have been no arrests because there have been no crimes committed by the protestors. Further, when the governor and the Legislature demanded that protestors be thrown out of the state capitol, and not allowed to stay overnight, the chief of the Capitol Police refused to do so, believing the order was a violation of Constitutional rights. In contrast, Walker had actually considered, then rejected, the idea of planting troublemakers among the protestors-a “dirty trick” that dates back to the ’60s.

           LIE: Public sector union workers are overpaid.  

           TRUTH: A USA Today analysis, published March 1, shows that, on average, public service workers, with wages and benefits included, are paid about $2,500 more per year than those in the private sector. In Wisconsin, the difference is only about $1,800. However, government workers usually are “older and substantially better educated than private sector workers,” according to researchers Robert Pollin and Jeffrey Thompson, professors of economics at the University of Massachusetts. But, again contrary to the lies spewed by the anti-worker Rabid Right, individual union workers, when compared to the same criteria as private sector workers, actually earn 4 percent less income, according to the Center for Economic Policy Research. In Wisconsin, public sector union workers actually earn 4.8 percent less total compensation, according to research published in February by the Economic Policy Institute. One statistic stands out. “The average member of AFSCME, our largest public-sector union, earns less than $45,000 a year,” says author/journalist Bill Press, “and retires after a career in public service with a whopping pension of $19,000 per year.”

           LIE: Public service union workers are lazier than non-unionized private sector workers.

           TRUTH: Strong labor unions generally have higher productivity, according to independent research done by Harley Shalen of the University of California, because there is less turnover, better worker communication, better work conditions, and a better-educated workforce.”

           [Walter Brasch, during a 40-year work career in mass communications has been a member of several unions, in both the private and public sectors. He is a syndicated newspaper columnist and the author of 16 books, including With Just Cause: Unionization of the American Journalist. He can be contacted at walterbrasch@gmail.com]