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Nurses Union Condemns Budget Deal

Posted by randyshannon on December 11, 2013

Federal Budget Deal is an Endorsement of Austerity at the Expense of All of Us

nnuNNU
December 11, 2013

http://www.nationalnursesunited.org/press/entry/national-nurses-statement-on-federal-budget-deal/

National Nurses United, the nation’s largest organization of registered nurses, today expressed dismay and alarm over the federal budget deal announced yesterday, saying it will perpetuate the harmful effects of austerity, especially with so many in Main Street communities continuing to feel the painful effects of the Great Recession caused by Wall Street speculation.

“There is no reason to cheer an agreement that requires unwarranted pension cuts for federal workers, including VA nurses who earned that pension, underfunds nutrition programs and fails to extend assistance for the long-term unemployed,“ said NNU co-president Jean Ross, RN.

“Austerity budgeting, reflected in this latest deal, continues the disturbing focus by politicians in both parties in Washington, who should be fighting for jobs at living wages, restoration of the disgraceful cuts in food stamps, healthcare for all, housing assistance, and other human needs, not simply how to please Wall Street and the banks,” said Ross.

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Live Discussion of Budget Agreement by Congressional Progressives

Posted by randyshannon on December 11, 2013

RepBarbaraLeeMcGovern

Keith Ellison

Big news on budget agreement between Sen. Patti Murray and Rep. Paul Ryan, respective leaders of Senate and House budget committees. Agreement cuts pensions, unemployment compensation, and Medicare reimbursements, and raises airfares. Restores across the board cuts to military and domestic programs. No tax hikes on the billionaires and corporations, and no cuts in subsidies to oil, coal, and gas industry.

Hear Progressive Caucus leaders Rep. Keith Ellison, Rep. Barbara Lee, and Rep. Jim McGovern discuss these developments live at the Progressive Democrats of America Roundtable discussion tomorrow at 1pm.

http://www.weactradio.com/roundtable/

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Iceland to write €24,000 off every household mortgage

Posted by randyshannon on December 6, 2013

Iceland to write €24,000 off every household mortgage

Despite international opposition, the Reykjavik government will press ahead with the debt relief plan.

Tue 10:14 AM
The Blue Lagoon, Grindavik, Iceland

The Blue Lagoon, Grindavik, Iceland
Image: Chris Ford via Flickr/Creative Commons

THE ICELANDIC GOVERNMENT has announced that it will write off household mortgage debt in order to kickstart the economy.

Under the plan, every household in the country will have €24,000 worth of debt written off.

The move was part of the election manifesto of the Progressive Party, led by Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson.

The idea will cost the country €1.2 billion and will begin in mid-2014. Iceland has been burdened with debt since the 2008 financial crisis, which saw the krona collapse.

A government statement said that the plan would kick-start consumer spending.

“Currently, household debt is equivalent to 108 per cent of GDP, which is high by international comparison.

“The action will boost household disposable income and encourage savings.”

The plan has been criticised by the IMF, the OECD and various economists, with the IMF saying that the country has “little fiscal space” for the move, while the OECD says the plan should be limited to low income housing.

The measure has improved the country’s rating with Standard & Poor’s, who upgraded the economic outlook from negative to stable.

Note by Randy Shannon

There are a little over 75.5 million homeowners in the USA. What would happen if every homeowner in this country were to receive the same kickback from the US government that Iceland is paying out? Well, each homeowner would get a check for $32,800.00.

This would be a total outlay from the US Treasury of $2.46 trillion. If this were done in monthly payments over a four year period the amount would be $51.4 billion per month. Does this sound like a lot of money?

The bankers don’t think this is a lot of money. Right now the Federal Reserve is transferring $82 billion per month to private US banks that are insolvent due to the 2008 financial crisis. The Fed is printing US dollars, “buying” worthless mortgage backed securities from these zombie banks, and the banks are depositing the cash back into the Fed and earning interest. That interest is paid by us homeowners.

So for about 40% less outlays per month the Federal Reserve could kickback the same amount to each US homeowner as the Government in Iceland is doing. Now the Federal Reserve and US Treasury are saying that this $82 billion a month is stimulating the economy, but the percent of people employed has remained unchanged since 2008. The unemployment rate has dropped because people have given up looking for a job. If the bankers in control of our country’s finances really wanted to stimulate the economy they would and they could do the same as Iceland and it would cost less!

 

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Rep. Barabara Lee on Nelson Mandela’s Passing

Posted by randyshannon on December 5, 2013

Congresswoman Lee on Nelson Mandela’s Passing

Dec 5, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 5, 2013
Contact: Carrie Adams (202) 225-2661

Washington, D.C.— Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) issued the following statement on the passing of former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela:

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of Nelson Mandela, and my thoughts and prayers go out to his friends, family, and the people of South Africa. His legacy will live on forever in how we live our lives and fight for freedom and justice in a multi-racial society. We must pause and remember Madiba in his greatness; he used his life not for himself, but for the good of his country and the good of the world, and his spirit will live on.

“Even throughout his 27 years of incarceration and brutal treatment, his spirit was never broken and this stands as a testament to the power of reconciliation. Not only is Nelson Mandela the father of the liberation movement in South Africa, but he also laid the framework for modern liberation movements throughout the world. With a dignified defiance, Nelson Mandela never compromised his political principles or the mission of the anti-apartheid movement, fighting the global AIDS pandemic, ending poverty and preserving human rights.

“During Mr. Mandela’s trip to the United States in 1990, it was a great honor to be a member of the host committee that welcomed him to my district of Oakland, California.  One of my proudest moments as a member of Congress was when I led the effort to remove Mr. Mandela and the ANC from the U.S. Terrorist Watch list in time for his 90th birthday.  I served as an official election observer for the 1994 South African elections when President Mandela was first elected, and it was a magnificent reminder that perhaps one day my own country would elect an African American president.

“Mr. Mandela exuded a larger-than-life presence and a humble spirit that was remarkable; he is my hero and an inspiration to us all. While this earth will miss the physical presence of Nelson Mandela, his indomitable nature, his gentle spirit, and overwhelming smile will remain with us all. My heart is heavy as we mourn the loss and celebrate the life of this great warrior.”

###

Follow Barbara Lee on Facebook and Twitter at @RepBarbaraLee. To learn more, visit lee.house.gov.

 Congresswoman Barbara Lee is a former Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) and currently serves as CPC Whip and Chair of the Task Force on Global Peace and Security. Congresswoman Lee serves as a representative from the United States to the 68th General Assembly of the United Nations.

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Lorain Labor Council Candidates Win Local Elections

Posted by randyshannon on December 4, 2013

Ohioans Elect Two Dozen City Councilors on Independent Labor Ticket

 235 18

After one too many sell-outs by the local Democratic Party, the Lorain County central labor council decided to draw “a line in the sand” and run their own city council candidates on an Independent Labor Party ticket. Two dozen won seats—including union teacher Joshua Thornsberry, shown canvassing with his young son, who beat the head of the local Chamber of Commerce. Photo: Joshua Thornsberry.

Union-dense Lorain County, Ohio, is now home to an independent labor slate of two dozen newly elected city councilors—recruited and run by the central labor council there. All labor’s candidates had strong showings last month, and all but two were elected.

“This was a step we took reluctantly,” said Lorain County AFL-CIO President Harry Williamson. “When the leaders of the [Democratic] Party just took us for granted and tried to roll over the rights of working people here, we had to stand up.”

A series of disputes between organized labor and the Democratic leadership led the labor council and its allies to recruit and run their own slate in this Democratic stronghold, home of Ohio’s largest steel and auto facilities.

‘The Final Straw’

The unions had worked for years to build a labor-community partnership that resulted in a Lorain city Project Labor Agreement (PLA), which required that city contracts be staffed by at least 75 percent local and 9 percent minority workers, and unionized during the period of the project.

But Mayor Chase Ritenauer pushed the city council to repeal it in May 2013—just two months after its passage.

“It took us three years to negotiate this historic agreement,” said Joe Thayer, marketing director of the Sheet Metal Workers Union, “and it took them three days to kill it!”

The city council voted 8-2 in favor of the repeal. It was reported that an estimated $29.6 million in city road and water projects were soon to be awarded.

“Before we had the PLA, Lorain regularly hired contractors from outside the city and county,” said Rick Lucente, councilman and Steelworkers member, who voted no on repeal. “Repealing the PLA is taking work away from people here and revenue away from our city.”

The next big fight was over a contract dispute involving the Teamsters and the city. Mayor Ritenauer, with some of the council members, borrowed city trucks from nearby Elyria—another Democratic stronghold—and actually worked on the trucks to try to break the sanitation workers’ strike.

“That was the final straw,” according to Williamson. “You just plain do not cross a picket line and scab! There has to be a line in the sand.”

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Pope Francis rips capitalism and trickle-down economics

Posted by randyshannon on November 27, 2013

Pope Francis rips capitalism and trickle-down economics to shreds in new policy statement

 By Travis Gettys
Tuesday, November 26, 2013 11:48 EST
Pope Francis (AFP)
Topics:
In case there was any doubt left, Pope Francis made it clear that he shares little in common with U.S. conservatives.

The pontiff released his Evangelii Gadium, or Joy of the Gospel, attacking capitalism as a form of tyranny and calling on church and political leaders to address the needs of the poor.

“As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems,” the pope said in the 224-page document that essentially serves as his official platform.

Pope Francis said that inequality was the root of social ills, and prayed for world leaders with more empathy and sense of social justice.

“I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor!” Pope Francis wrote. “It is vital that government leaders and financial leaders take heed and broaden their horizons, working to ensure that all citizens have dignified work, education and healthcare.”

The pope has already drawn the ire of some conservative Catholics, particularly in the U.S., for his open-minded comments on social issues such as homosexuality, abortion and contraception, and he’s also previously criticized capitalism for promoting greed.

But his latest statements put those concerns into sharper focus – and puts him in sharp contrast to American conservative leaders who prize the unfettered free market and promote the Randian theory of objectivism, or rational self-interest.

“I am interested only in helping those who are in thrall to an individualistic, indifferent and self-centered mentality to be freed from those unworthy chains and to attain a way of living and thinking which is more humane, noble and fruitful, and which will bring dignity to their presence on this earth,” the pope wrote.

He also launched a broadside against former President Ronald Reagan’s signature economic theory, which continues to serve as conservative Republican dogma.

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Obama’s DreamWorks Economy and the Challenge for Democrats

Posted by randyshannon on November 27, 2013

Today's Ideas and Actions | OurFuture.org

“Americans think the system is rigged. They are ready to throw the bums out. They want to know who will be the change. Who understands how hard it is out there for working families, for the young trying to get started, for older workers headed into retirement without a pension or savings. Who is prepared to take on the special interests, the big banks and the corporate tax dodgers? And who stands in the way?”

“If Democrats are to have any shot in 2014, they have no choice but to be the change. They have to be willing to indict an economy that does not work for working people. They have to call out the special interests and the inside deals. They should be lining up fights – to raise the minimum wage, to close tax havens and use the money to rebuild the country and put people to work, to break up the big banks and censure the Justice Department and regulatory agencies that have failed to hold bankers accountable for the epidemic of frauds and fixes that they used to fleece their customers. They’ve got to move on slamming shut the revolving door that undermines any hope of independent government. And they should make it clear in fight after fight that Republicans are standing in the way.”

US-POLITICS-ECONOMY-OBAMAPresident Obama’s DreamWorks Economy and the Challenge for Democrats

November 27, 2013

 Robert Borosage

President Obama traveled to Hollywood’s DreamWorks studio to address the economy yesterday.  The speech itself was economical, recycling many of his favorite tropes.  But it revealed the perils Democrats face if they let the president define their agenda and argument over the next months.

Contrary to the current media craze, health care reform isn’t the problem.   Public approval of government, the president, and Democrats has plummeted in the wake of the botched Obamacare launch.  But as the system gets fixed and more and more Americans get access to affordable health care, the foul tempers will calm; the political hemorrhaging will stop.  Supporters may still bear some scars in the 2014 elections but the wounds will have largely healed.

No, the problem is that the president wants to sell this economy.  By next year’s elections, he’ll be in his sixth year and he wants Americans to know that “America has largely fought our way back. We’ve made the tough choices not just to help the economy recovery, but to rebuild it on a new foundation.”

Only Americans aren’t buying:  68% think we are on the wrong track.

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John F. Kennedy’s Vision of Peace

Posted by randyshannon on November 21, 2013

John F. Kennedy’s Vision of Peace

By Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Rolling Stone

21 November 13

 

On the 50th anniversary of JFK’s death, his nephew recalls the fallen president’s attempts to halt the war machine.

john-f-kennedy

n November 22nd, 1963, my uncle, president John F. Kennedy, went to Dallas intending to condemn as “nonsense” the right-wing notion that “peace is a sign of weakness.” He meant to argue that the best way to demonstrate American strength was not by using destructive weapons and threats but by being a nation that “practices what it preaches about equal rights and social justice,” striving toward peace instead of “aggressive ambitions.” Despite the Cold War rhetoric of his campaign, JFK’s greatest ambition as president was to break the militaristic ideology that has dominated our country since World War II. He told his close friend Ben Bradlee that he wanted the epitaph “He kept the peace,” and said to another friend, William Walton, “I am almost a ‘peace at any price’ president.” Hugh Sidey, a journalist and friend, wrote that the governing aspect of JFK’s leadership was “a total revulsion” of war. Nevertheless, as James W. Douglass argues in his book JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters, JFK’s presidency would be a continuous struggle with his own military and intelligence agencies, which engaged in incessant schemes to trap him into escalating the Cold War into a hot one. His first major confrontation with the Pentagon, the Bay of Pigs catastrophe, came only three months into his presidency and would set the course for the next 1,000 days.

JFK’s predecessor, Dwight D. Eisenhower, had finalized support on March 17th, 1960, for a Cuban invasion by anti-Castro insurgents, but the wily general left its execution to the incoming Kennedy team. From the start, JFK recoiled at the caper’s stench, as CIA Director Allen Dulles has acknowledged, demanding assurances from CIA and Pentagon brass that there was no chance of failure and that there would be no need for U.S. military involvement. Dulles and the generals knowingly lied and gave him those guarantees.

When the invasion failed, JFK refused to order airstrikes against Castro. Realizing he had been drawn into a trap, he told his top aides, David Powers and Kenneth O’Donnell, “They were sure I’d give in to them and send the go-ahead order to the [U.S. Navy aircraft carrier] Essex. They couldn’t believe that a new president like me wouldn’t panic and try to save his own face. Well, they had me figured all wrong.” JFK was realizing that the CIA posed a monumental threat to American democracy. As the brigade faltered, he told Arthur Schlesinger that he wanted to “splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.”

The next confrontation with the defense and intelligence establishments had already begun as JFK resisted pressure from Eisenhower, the Joint Chiefs and the CIA to prop up the CIA’s puppet government in Laos against the communist Pathet Lao guerrillas. The military wanted 140,000 ground troops, with some officials advocating for nuclear weapons. “If it hadn’t been for Cuba,” JFK told Schlesinger, “we might be about to intervene in Laos. I might have taken this advice seriously.” JFK instead signed a neutrality agreement the following year and was joined by 13 nations, including the Soviet Union.

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Important Message from Kentucky

Posted by randyshannon on November 21, 2013

Herald-Leader Editorial

Message from Martin County: What’s good for Eastern Kentucky good for U.S.A.

Eastern Kentucky needs a nation that’s committed to economic justice. What we have is identical in Martin County and the U.S.: Great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few while the middle class is hollowed out and those at the bottom watch their opportunities dwindle along with their hope.

Martin County home

Martin County home

November 21, 2013

It’s always been easy to think of Eastern Kentucky as separate and apart from America’s mainstream.

It was true at the turn of the 20th century when John Fox Jr. wrote wildly popular novels about guileless mountaineers.

It was true in 1963 when Harry Caudill wrote of the region’s brutal exploitation in Night Comes to the Cumberlands, the book that launched a War on Poverty.

And it’s true today when we read of poverty’s stubborn persistence 50 years after Night in Herald-Leader reporter John Cheves’ powerful reporting from Martin County.

Martiki Mine in Martin County. EPA has loosened restrictions on selenium pollution from mountaintop removal mining, resulting in widespread destruction of fish.

Martiki Mine in Martin County. EPA has loosened restrictions on selenium pollution from mountaintop removal mining, resulting in widespread destruction of fish.

The temptation is to think of this troubled, yet compelling, place as aberrant and unique — The Other America, as Michael Harrington said in the title of his famous 1962 book about poverty in America.

But the notion of Appalachian exceptionalism has never been reality and is more wrong today than ever.

Far from being an outlier, the region, if anything, is a microcosm of this country and the challenges facing all of America.

Any plan for igniting Eastern Kentucky’s moribund economy will have to be built on principles that would work anywhere: Local ownership; support for entrepreneurs; a healthy, educated workforce; healthy land, clean water, good food; towns and parks where people want to visit, live and invest; accountable, honest government; clean energy, and, as Lexington Mayor Jim Gray often says, an authenticity of place.

By the same token, Eastern Kentucky can never pull itself up in a country where the deck is stacked overwhelmingly in favor of the rich and powerful, where Congress won’t raise the minimum wage to make work a rational alternative to disability, or tax the wealthy to support early childhood programs, first-generation college students or the kind of investment in research and infrastructure that built U.S. prosperity and the middle class.

250 million gallons of coal sludge released into Big Sandy Creek block access to a home in Martin County, KY.

250 million gallons of coal sludge released into Big Sandy Creek block access to a home in Martin County, KY.

Eastern Kentucky needs a nation that’s committed to economic justice. What we have is identical in Martin County and the U.S.: Great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few while the middle class is hollowed out and those at the bottom watch their opportunities dwindle along with their hope.

Another common thread will sound like fighting words in coal’s kingdom. The 21st century’s biggest challenge will be making the transition away from fossil fuels to avert a climate catastrophe without strangling economic opportunity.

Since the 1970s, any prosperity in Martin County, limited though it has been, came from coal. The price has been poisoned water, land and, according to a growing body of science, sickened people.

Even without the climate crisis, though, Eastern Kentucky coal has become noncompetitive in the marketplace. Hardly anyone relishes change, but when change is inevitable, the smart look for opportunities.

Corruption, as endemic to Eastern Kentucky as ginseng and gospel hymns, is far from unique to the region. Somehow, though, our despair grows the closer the corruption.

An impoverished place like Martin County steers college scholarships to the children of public school administrators instead of poor kids and seems just plain hopeless. Meanwhile, we tolerate a U.S. tax code that’s a collection of favors for the special interests that finance political candidates.

Soon after President Lyndon B. Johnson declared the "War on Poverty" in 1964, he visited Martin County. He was photographed with the Fletcher family on their front porch.

Soon after President Lyndon B. Johnson declared the “War on Poverty” in 1964, he visited Martin County. He was photographed with the Fletcher family on their front porch.

The fact that the mountains have no corner on corruption does not excuse the plague of grand and petty thievery, cronyism and nepotism.

Eastern Kentucky must clean up its image by eradicating corruption if it is to attract outside private investment or keep its bright young people. Honest competitors will go elsewhere to find a game that’s not fixed.

And, just think, if Eastern Kentucky leads, maybe Congress will take a hint and clean up the tax code.

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Social Security: “It’s Values, Not Math”

Posted by randyshannon on November 19, 2013

Senator Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren on Social Security: “It’s Values, Not Math”

November 18, 2013

[Mr./Madame] President, I rise today to talk about the retirement crisis in this country – a crisis that has received far too little attention, and far too little response, from Washington.I spent most of my career studying the economic pressures on middle class families – families who worked hard, who played by the rules, but who still found themselves hanging on by their fingernails. Starting in the 1970s, even as workers became more productive, their wages flattened out, while core expenses, things like housing and health care and sending a kid to college, just kept going up.

Working families didn’t ask for a bailout. They rolled up their sleeves and sent both parents into the workforce. But that meant higher childcare costs, a second car, and higher taxes. So they tightened their belts more, cutting spending wherever they could. Adjusted for inflation, families today spend less than they did a generation ago on food, clothing, furniture, appliances, and other flexible purchases. When that still wasn’t enough to cover rising costs, they took on debt – credit card debt, college debt, debt just to pay for the necessities. As families became increasingly desperate, unscrupulous financial institutions were all too happy to chain them to financial products that got them into even more trouble — products where fine print and legalese covered up the true costs of credit.

These trends are not new, and there have been warning signs for years about what is happening to our middle class. One major consequence of these increasing pressures on working people – a consequence that receives far too little attention – is that the dream of a secure retirement is slowly slipping away.

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