News & Notes July 19, 2012

I was up in Sullivan County last weekend with some old friends from high school.  It was great to share good times with them and get away for a bit.  No internet, no cell phone, just good company.  Things get stressful and hectic in presidential election years so a few getaways are good.

State Rep Mike Gerber is resigning at the end of the year to go to work in the private sector.  he has been a strong pro choice advocate from Montgomery County.  We wish him well but will miss him in Harrisburg.  Mike was one of the good guys.

MoveOn hits Mitt:

Can every CEO who commits a crime simply say they “retroactively retired” to get off?  What, exactly, does that mean?

Obama/Biden has been doing some great hit pieces:

A Keystone Research report out today shows Corbett’s slash and burn austerity budgets have cost PA 28,000 public sector education jobs.  Nationally cuts in the public sector have cost us 750,000 private sector jobs.  See, people have to have money in order to be consumers.  No money, no spending.  Business owners will tell you their biggest problem is customers who aren’t, or cannot, buy their products and services.  The issue is demand.   Throwing people out of work hits the overall economy and winds up costing other people their jobs.

Time has a habit of putting things in perspective.  Iraq for example, was planned immediately after 9/11 and had nothing to do with those attacks.  They were simply the pretext and used to lie us into war.  Wes Clark tells a story:

Revenues from table games at Pennsylvania’s casinos is up 31%.  Most of this money would have gone to other states.

Former MontCo Commish Jim Matthews has agreed to terms surrounding his part in corruption.  The brother of MSNBC’s Chris Matthews was bought and paid for by the likes of corrupt Bob Asher.  He steered county contracts to campaign contributors.  Asher, of course, is infamous for fixing a state contract in return for a $300,000 kickback to his PA GOP and went to prison for the deed.  When Jim Matthews crawled into bed with this crook he got fleas.  Happens all the time.

Doctors in Abington are protesting a ban on abortions at the hospital after the church purchased it.  Why do Catholics hate women and children so much?  Soon large hospitals may be the only places women can get abortions in Pennsylvania.  Limiting them in Abington infringes on their constitutional rights.

Rep. Fitzpatrick Ducks Questions on Ryan Budget Votes

Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick was confronted by constituents about his votes to dismantle Medicare and he avoided the issue.  Once a moderate Republican who then embraced the radical politics of the Tea party to win back his seat he must remember that the 8th District is a swing seat.  No one runs away with large margins in this Bucks centric Congressional District and ducking constituents won’t be good for his electoral health.  Voting to end Medicare as we know it will lose him tons of votes.  He has an obligation to answer direct questions about his voting record.

Fitzpatrick isn’t alone.  Sen. Toomey also ducked questions.  Today he voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act too.

Gov. Gasbag Delivers Budget Address

Tom Corbett addressed Pennsylvania’s General Assembly this morning with his annual budget address and illustrated, again, that he isn’t the sharpest tack in the box.  Let’s face it, he’s one of the dullest tacks in the box.  he’s too stupid, for example, to understand that government spending creates economic activity ($1.42 for every $1 spent), that not everyone sitting on a local school board is an intelligent person (many can’t even spell themselves), that state officials can manage welfare programs quite well, or even that FDR delivered more than four State of the Union speeches.

The Governor, wholly owned by the natural gas industry (hence his nickname), promised more painful cuts to both education and welfare.  He claims he didn’t cut funding for basic education and lambasted those of us who said he did.  Last year his budget cut $1 billion from K12 education.  He blamed those cuts on Ed Rendell who, he says, used stimulus money for education (instead of shovel ready projects).  

His cuts to public welfare have resulted in 200,000 Pennsylvanians losing medical coverage.  He promised more pain.  He stood again and said he refuses to raise taxes.  Thus far that adamant stand has cost the Commonwealth $300 million in gas extraction funds, money desperately needed to feed poor Pennsylvanians.  He said he will merge welfare programs and turn them into block grants to counties.  This means, as Sen. Hughes said on PCN, he is passing the buck from the state to counties.  That means your county property taxes will rise to cover the cost of these programs.

He also pledged to continue cutting the state workforce, cutting jobs instead of creating them as he promised during his campaign.

He will find money for a new cadet class for the Keystone Kops.  115 more Troopers will also see a merging of the PSP with the state’s homeland security operation.  Let’s hope this isn’t more militarization of law enforcement.

He quoted many people from FDR to Barack Obama in attempting to justify his austerity measures.  I notice he neglected to include some others such as this:

“…the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped. ” ~ Last Speech of Hubert H. Humphrey

“A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” ~ Mahatma Ghandi

He also announced a new task force to study higher education.  He keeps creating these bodies because he’s to dumb to figure things out for himself.  He said tuitions are out of control but doesn’t seem to comprehend the link between constant cuts in state aid to higher education and rising tuition rates.

When it comes to Tom Corbett  I’m reminded of a quote from a movie:  “stupid is as stupid does.”

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Marches For Jobs

As the state and national situation for working people grows dimmer and dimmer union members in Pennsylvania are rallying for jobs this Labor Day weekend.  The nation’s biggest deficit is in jobs and the people are angry and getting angrier as elected officials in Harrisburg and Washington keep eliminating jobs instead of creating them.

From the unions:

WASHINGTON — Unions in Pittsburgh are bringing a special focus on jobs and the unemployed to their Labor Day parade this year, dubbing the event a “March for Jobs.” Organizers expect more than 70,000 people to march in Monday’s event, but they’ve made clear to politicians perceived to be hostile to the labor movement that they will be turned away.

“This year we are inviting union and non-union, laid-off, unemployed and underemployed workers and their families to march with us on the eve of President Obama’s much anticipated announcement of a jobs program aimed at putting America back to work,” said Jack Shea, president of the Allegheny County (Pa.) Labor Council.

“We will be marching to show President Obama we are behind all serious efforts to create jobs and encourage him to pull out all the stops by putting the power of the federal government fully behind an aggressive jobs program,” Shea added.

Earlier this week, a group of union officials in Wisconsin made headlines for barring GOP politicians from marching in the Labor Day parade in Wausau, Wis. The labor council reversed its decision after Wausau’s mayor said the city would not co-sponsor an event that bans individuals based on party affiliation.

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO spokesman Marty Marks said that only friends of the labor movement, regardless of political party, are invited to march in the Pittsburgh Labor Day parade. The local labor council reimburses the city for parade-related expenses.

About six Republican politicians were invited to march this year, along with a larger number of Democratic officials. Invited guests include U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (R), U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D) and state Sen. John Pippe (R-Allegheny).

Two prominent GOP politicians who were not invited to march were U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey and Gov. Tom Corbett. When asked what the labor council would do if they said they wished to participate, Marks replied, “We would politely decline their participation.”

In fact, the Allegheny County Labor Council has already turned down Joshua Wander, the sole GOP candidate for Pittsburgh City Council. Shea told Wander that the parade was invitation-only and the council had already endorsed his opponent, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

“Many candidates do march,” Wander told the newspaper. “I not only wanted to walk as a candidate, but I also wanted to walk for the Republican Party.”

In 2009, Vice President Joe Biden marched in the Pittsburgh parade.

Marks said that while the Labor Day event always features unemployed workers marching with their affiliated unions, this is the first year there will be a special place for the unemployed in the parade to emphasize the need for job creation.

“We represent workers, not just union workers. The work we do helps all workers, and we don’t want these people forgotten,” said Marks, addding, “We want to put the focus back where it needs to be. It needs to be on creating jobs, and helping these people we want to feature in our parade because they deserve it. They’re working Americans who want to work. America wants to work, Pennsylvania wants to work, and we want people to know it and not forget it.”

The Pittsburgh parade kicks off at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, preceded by a press conference with unemployed workers at 9:30 a.m.

No New Jobs

The New Austerity is beginning to have its effect on the economy as no new jobs were created in August.  The net total of zero reflects job losses due to massive Republican (Tea Party) budget cuts across the country.  You cannot create jobs when you’re cutting them.

Meanwhile consumer confidence is declining along with the stock market.  The market collapses following the debt ceiling deal are hurting the overall economy as people see their investments disappear.  The lack of confidence in the future means businesses aren’t hiring.  We have been put into a downward spiral due to conservative radical ideology and signs point to another repeat of the fall 2008 collapse.

President Obama does not escape blame because he gave in to the demands for cuts.  Americans want JOBS but no one in Washington seems to be listening.

The State of Working Pennsylvania

Every September the Keystone Research Center issues its State of Working Pennsylvania.  They introduced it today via a conference call with media representatives and the data is alarming.  One of four Pennsylvania workers found less paid work last year than they desired.  43% of likely voters either were unemployed or knew someone unemployed.  There are 7 1/2 applicants for each job opening and even college graduates and those with advanced degrees have seen their unemployment rates double.

3400 Pennsylvanians have lost their jobs due to government budget cuts.  On average there are 513,500 unemployed workers in Pennsylvania every month and at some point last year 14.3% of all Pennsylvanians were out of work at some point.  That comes to 938,100.

Update:  A White House statement on jobs this morning says 20,000 local government jobs were lost in August and 398,000 since February.  Those are national numbers.  Budget cuts cost jobs.

Meanwhile CEO pay rose 23% while worker’s wages declined 3.1%.  Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast earned $31,000,000.  Wages rose only for the top 5% of wage earners in the Commonwealth.  Business profits now comprse 26% of all national income yet companies are not hiring.

There exists a serious shortage of demand, for workers, for products and for services.  As wages stagnate and jobs are cut to austerity budgets the ripple effect will send the economy into another recession.  Rural Pennsylvania will be hit especially hard as Social Security, food stamps and unemployment compensation runs out.  UE benefits expire at the end of this year.  Social Security and food stamps are on the chopping block in Washington.

Every dollar of government spending has a ripple effect through the economy.  My spending is your income and if I can’t spend you lose income.  Each dollar spent by government creates $1.42 in economic activity.  Yet Gov. Corbett is sitting on $1.5 billion in extra revenues the state could use to stimulate our economy.  This would have been enough to NOT cut any educational budgets.

We need a further round of vigorous stimulus spending including revenue sharing, something originated by President Nixon, infrastructure work to repair our failing systems and to produce good living wage jobs.  Contracting now is inexpensive and borrowing is attractive due to low interest rates.  We could begin building schools, roads, bridges, mass transit, water and sewage systems and the like at a substantial savings because contractors are underbidding to gain work.  Issuing bonds for the work would be cheap and we’d have the improvements for the foreseeable future.

Unfortunately Gov. Corbett doesn’t see things this way.  Like many others in his Party he has become a fan of austerity.  These “leaders” want to roll back economics which actually work, regulations which actually work and monetary policies which actually work for a system which gave us a succession of boom and bust economies from 1857-1928.  During that era of non governmental interference in markets America was in recession 48% of the time.  Things were radically unstable and people lost their entire life savings regularly.

Since then our economy has been in recession only 18% of the time.  Why would we return to failed policies?  As the KRC says in its report “Advocates of austerity idolize a time when recessions were longer and more frequent.”  Vote Republican and this is what you’ll get.  Unfortunately for the red “T” of Pennsylvania this is what they voted for and they’re going to be hurt disproportionately.  I suppose you get what you deserve sometimes.

Pelosi Vows to Protect Medicare & Social Security

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi visited Santa Fe, New Mexico yesterday and told an audience at the Mary Esther Gonzales Senior Center she will not allow the Congressional Super Committee “to be a chopping block for” the programs.  She ridiculed Texas Governor Rick Perry for calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme and said Social Security shouldn’t even be used in the same sentence with deficit reduction.  Social Security has nothing to do with the federal deficit.

The unannounced visit with local Congressman Ben Ray Lujan and others provided a forum for the former Speaker to condemn those who were silent while the deficit was being amassed by former President Bush with tax cuts for the rich and two unfunded wars.  I do recall Speaker Pelosi voting to fund the Iraq War however.  

Social Security was put on the negotiating table by President Obama during negotiations on the debt ceiling even though it is self supporting, is safe until 2037 and can be expanded by lifting the cap on contributions.  In these harsh economic times the program should be expanded instead of cut back and as more and more Americans lose their pensions more of us are dependent on Social Security.  Lifting the cap on incomes subject to taxation would solidify Social Security and allow an expansion of benefits.

Medicare is in trouble because of runaway health care costs.  The President’s bill will do little to rein them in and does nothing to provide a public option for those mandated to buy insurance from for profit, private corporations.  Expanding Medicare by adding benefits and making it a national single payer plan solves those issues, gives access to quality medical care to every person and ends the runaway costs adding to the deficit.

The solutions to both deficit reduction and health care costs adding tot he deficit are real and actual and reasonable.  They can be accomplished by passing The People’s Budget and help Americnas rather than hurting them.  Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Santa Fe was welcome and her words important.

Note:  I am visiting Santa Fe, New Mexico.