Archive for the ‘elections’ Category
Posted by carldavidson on July 24, 2015
Posted by randyshannon on July 21, 2015
Wolf, Pa. GOP to resume meetings as budget stalemate hits three weeks
HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has returned to Harrisburg as Gov. Tom Wolf and top Republican lawmakers were set to resume face-to-face meetings to discuss a three-week-old budget stalemate.
No major votes were expected today.
The Democratic governor and Republicans who control the Legislature are sparring over competing budget proposals. Mr. Wolf is seeking a multibillion-dollar tax increase to deliver a record funding boost to schools and wipe out a long-term deficit that’s damaged Pennsylvania’s creditworthiness.
Republicans passed a zero-tax increase budget with a smaller boost for education, but Mr. Wolf vetoed it, saying it didn’t meet his goals and used gimmickry to balance.
The stalemate has left the state government without full spending authority. That includes payments to schools and nonprofits and county agencies that help administer Pennsylvania’s social-services safety net.
During a regularly scheduled appearance at KDKA-AM radio in Pittsburgh today, Mr. Wolf said that bad state budgeting is costing taxpayers about $170 million a year.
Mr. Wolf said state government is paying a premium of about 1 percent interest on $17 billion in debt. He linked the extra borrowing cost to five credit downgrades that Pennsylvania has received in the past three years.
“This isn’t just Democrat Tom Wolf talking, this is people outside looking at us and right now we’re paying a premium of about 1 percent on our debt, that’s $17 billion,” Wolf said. “That adds up to about $170 million a year we’re all paying. It’s not going to education. It’s not going to roads and bridges. It’s going to the pockets of people who have bought our bonds because we don’t have a good budget.”
In the meantime, Republicans are complaining about a $750,000 ad campaign by an affiliate of the Washington, D.C.-based Democratic Governors Association that is targeting them in the showdown. The affiliate, America Works USA, has not disclosed the source of the money.
Mr. Wolf and Republicans are sparring over competing budget proposals during the stalemate, which has left the state government without full spending authority. That includes payments to schools and nonprofits and county agencies that help administer Pennsylvania’s social services safety net.
Mr. Wolf is seeking a multibillion-dollar tax increase to deliver a record funding boost to schools and wipe out a long-term deficit that’s damaged Pennsylvania’s creditworthiness. Republicans passed a zero-tax increase budget with a smaller boost for education, but Wolf vetoed it, saying it didn’t meet his goals and used gimmickry to balance.
Mr. Wolf, a first-time officeholder who became governor in January, told KDKA-AM he believes that Republicans are probably doing “some testing of me as a new governor, which I think is designed to see if I’m really serious about standing up for what I believe and what I think the people of Pennsylvania want.”
Posted by carldavidson on July 11, 2015
By Mark Gruenberg
July 10 2015 – WASHINGTON (PAI) – Hundreds of retirees, in D.C. for the legislative-political conference of the Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA), gave a warm welcome to Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind.-Vt., who is challenging Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries. They began with chants of “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!” and interrupted his speech with several long – and unprompted-standing ovations.
The enthusiasm of the ARA delegates is important: The union-backed organization has 4.3 million members in every congressional district nationwide. And those retired unionists in turn represent the consistently largest and most-active political constituency in the U.S. – Democratic, Independent or Republican – the elderly.
ARA delegates gave Sanders — a down-the-line supporter of unions, workers and their rights, the elderly, Social Security and Medicare — thunderous applause as he reiterated those stands. After his speech, delegates spent their afternoon lobbying for those causes, too.
Sanders knew what the crowd wanted, which is what he has preached for his 24-year career in Congress and what he gave to the ARA on July 9: An active endorsement of their goals. He and the delegates are led by protecting and expanding Social Security – by scrapping the wage cap on income taxed to provide for benefits and using that money to pay more to beneficiaries. The American people want that, too, Sanders declared.
“Because of the ARA and other groups like it and because of the trade union movement, there was a poll two weeks ago in the Wall Street Journal, where 61 percent of the people said ‘lift the caps,’ while 20 percent opposed,” he added, to cheers.
“But the struggle is not only to extend and expand Social Security,” he said. “It’s to have Medicare for all” – he specified it should be a single-payer government-run health plan – “and a national standard of living with dignity, raising the minimum wage to be a living wage, and to have pay equity for woman workers.” (Continued)
Posted by randyshannon on July 3, 2015
AFL-CIO’s Challenge: Tempering Unions’ Embrace of Bernie Sanders
AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka is warning labor leaders to hold off on endorsing Sen. Bernie Sanders’ bid for the presidency, saying the federation’s bylaws specify that such endorsements are to be left up to the organization on a national level.
Trumka, in a memo sent out this week, reminded groups that they are not allowed to “endorse a presidential candidate” or even work on statements or resolutions that indicate a preference for any candidate, reports Politico. Further, he said that “personal statements” are also forbidden.
“Because in years past, and already this year, a number of questions have been raised,” Trumka said, “I want to remind you all that the AFL-CIO endorsement for president and vice president belongs to the national AFL-CIO.
“State federations, central and area labor councils, and all other subordinate bodies must follow the national AFL-CIO endorsement regarding president and vice president.”
Under the organization’s procedures on endorsement, a political committee makes its recommendation to the executive council in Washington, which then submits it for ratification by leaders of its member unions. A two-thirds majority is required to approve the endorsement.
Trumka said the AFL-CIO had sent out questionnaires to both Democrats and Republicans, with a Friday deadline, and plans to interview candidates during its July executive council meeting.
National union leaders, though, are drawn to the party’s more progressive side, represented by Sanders, an independent running for the Democratic nomination, and groups in South Carolina and Sanders’ home state of Vermont have already passed resolutions that support him. Some union leaders in Iowa are also calling for a resolution to be passed at their convention in August to back Sanders.
Posted by randyshannon on April 15, 2015
As legislation to fast-track congressional approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership gets ready to finally make its debut in Congress this week, a top Democratic member of the House announced he would oppose the bill.
Representative Chris Van Hollen, the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, wrote in a letter to Representative Sandy Levin, the ranking member of the House Ways & Means Committee, that he would oppose fast-track authority, also known as Trade Promotion Authority or TPA. The letter was obtained by The Nation and its authenticity was confirmed by an aide to Van Hollen.
Van Hollen opposed a previous iteration of fast-track legislation last year, as did most other top Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. But so far, many of those Democrats (including Van Hollen) had not yet announced a position on the new TPA legislation being hammered out by Senators Ron Wyden, Orrin Hatch, and Representative Paul Ryan. (Levin opted out of those talks, and believes Congress should see at least the outline of a trade deal before taking up legislation to fast-track its approval.) Pelosi still remains publicly undecided.
If Van Hollen—a visible member of the Democratic caucus and ranking member of a major committee—ultimately supported the Wyden-Hatch-Ryan bill, it would have been a signal that House Democrats were ready to go along with the Obama administration’s trade agenda. But in his letter, Van Hollen wrote “it is clear that many [of my concerns] will not be included in a revised TPA.”
While the legislation remains behind closed doors for now, Van Hollen said continuing public opposition from Republicans made it clear that the TPA legislation wouldn’t include additional currency, labor, and environmental provisions. Moreover, he wrote that since TPA was being unveiled so close to the conclusion of the overall trade talks, “it is clearly too late for TPA to have any meaningful impact on the shape of TPP negotiations.”
Posted by randyshannon on April 4, 2015
(Washington) – Today, Congressman John B. Larson released details of the Social Security 2100 Act, H.R. 1391. Authored and introduced by Congressman Larson, the proposal stands to comprehensively strengthen benefits for current and future Social Security beneficiaries while keeping the program strong through the 21st Century:
“Social Security is America’s insurance program. In fact, it’s the insurance you have paid for!”said Larson. “Social Security lifts Americans, including children, out of poverty and boosts our economy as a whole. This is a system we can count on, and by taking common-sense, gradual steps, we can ensure that Social Security benefits keep up with the needs of current and future generations.”
“We applaud Representative Larson for sponsoring such important, visionary legislation,” said Nancy Altman and Eric Kingston, founding Co-directors of Social Security Works, in a joint statement. “In recognition of a looming retirement income crisis, an increasing squeeze on middle class families, and rising income inequality, Representative Larson has introduced The Social Security 2100 Act, which is an important step in addressing all three. Among other important improvements, it increases benefits for all current and future beneficiaries and switches to the more accurate CPI-E to better protect benefits from eroding over time. He pays for the improvements in responsible, balanced ways, including by requiring the wealthiest to pay more of their fair share and by increasing the return on Social Security’s $2.8 trillion reserve.”
Larson’s proposal improves Social Security benefits by providing:
- Benefit bump for current and new beneficiaries – Everyone will see modest increase starting in 2015.
- Improved cost of living adjustments (COLA) by adopting the CPI-E formula.
- A tax break to over 10 million Social Security recipients by raising the threshold for taxation on benefits for individual and joint filers.
- Protection for low income workers because no one who paid into the system should come out poor. It would set a new minimum benefit that will be 25% above the poverty line.
Social Security is currently estimated to remain solvent until the early 2030’s. According to the Social Security Administration’s Chief Actuary Stephen C. Goss, Larson’s proposal would make the Social Security Trust Fund fully solvent beyond the 75-year projection period (2088) and put the system into actuarial balance.
Larson’s proposal keeps Social Security strong through the 21st Century by ensuring millionaires and billionaires pay into the system like every American, by gradually increasing the payroll tax on workers and employers starting in 2018, equivalent to 50 cents per week cumulatively, and investing a portion of the reserve back into the American economy to double the rate of return on assets held by the Trust Fund.
Huffington Post Blog Congressman John Larson’s Important Plan to Expand Social Security
Posted by carldavidson on March 19, 2015
Congressional Progressive Caucus presenting its budget
8.4 Million Good Paying Jobs By 2018
$1.9 Trillion Investment In America’s Future
$820 billion infrastructure and transportation improvements
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The People’s Budget fixes an economy that, for too long, has failed to provide the opportunities American families need to get ahead. Despite their skills and work ethic, most American workers and families are so financially strapped from increasing income inequality that their paychecks barely cover basic necessities. They earn less and less as corporations and the wealthy continue amassing record profits. It has become clear to American workers that the system is rigged.
The People’s Budget levels the playing field and creates economic opportunity by increasing the pay of middle-and low-income Americans. More customers and higher consumer spending advance American businesses, not tax cuts and relaxed regulations. The People’s Budget drives a full economic recovery by creating high-quality jobs and reducing family expenses, restoring the buying power of working Americans.
The People’s Budget closes tax loopholes that companies use to ship jobs overseas. It creates fair tax rates for millionaires and provides needed relief to low-and middle-income families. It invests in debt-free college, workforce training and small businesses within our communities, helping return our economy to full employment and giving a raise to Americans who need it most. Investments in The People’s Budget boost employment and wages by addressing some of the biggest challenges of our time: repairing America’s rapidly aging roads and bridges, upgrading our energy systems to address climate change, keeping our communities safe, and preparing our young people to thrive as citizens and workers.
A fair wage is more than the size of a paycheck. It’s having enough hours, paid overtime, sick and parental leave, and affordable health and childcare. It’s being able to afford a good education for your kids and never living in fear that your job will be sent overseas. It’s knowing you can make ends meet at the end of the month. The People’s Budget helps achieve that with a raise for American workers, a raise for struggling families and a boost to America’s long-term global competitiveness.
A RAISE FOR AMERICA
o Creates more than 8 million good jobs by 2018.
o Increases functionality of Worker Protection Agencies.
o Includes a four percent raise for federal workers.
o Provides Paid Leave Initiative and Child Care.
o Supports a minimum wage increase and Collective Bargaining.
AUSTERITY TO PROSPERITY
o Repeals sequester and all Budget Control Act spending caps.
o Increases discretionary funding to invest in working families.
o Reverses harmful cuts and enhances social safety net.
o Invests in veterans, women, communities of color and their families.
FAIR INDIVIDUAL TAXES
o Equalizes tax rates for investment income and income from work.
o Returns to Clinton-era tax rates for households making over $250,000 and implements new brackets for those making over $1 million.
o Expands the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Care Credit.
FAIR CORPORATE TAXES
o Eliminates the ability of U.S. corporations to defer taxes on offshore profits.
o Ends corporate inversions that allow U.S. companies to merge offshore to avoid taxes.
o Enacts a Financial Transaction Tax on various financial market transactions.
o Ends unlimited executive pay tax write-offs.
EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR EVERY STUDENT
o Provides debt-free college to every student. o Allows refinancing of student loans.
o Invests in K-12 and provides free pre-school.
AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE
o Repeals excise tax on high-priced workers plans and replaces with public option.
o Implements drug price negotiation for Medicare.
o Reauthorizes Children’s Health Insurance Program.
o Allows states to transition to single-payer health care systems.
PROTECTING OUR ENVIRONMENT
o Closes tax loopholes and ends subsidies provided to oil, gas and coal companies.
o Enacts a price on carbon pollution without hurting low-income families.
o Invests in clean and renewable energy and green manufacturing.
o Modernizes our defense posture to create sustainable baseline defense spending.
o Ends emergency funding for Overseas Contingency Operations.
o Increases funding for diplomacy and invests in job transition programs.
COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM
Implements comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship.
ACCESS TO HOUSING
Fully funds programs to make housing affordable and accessible for all Americans.
PUBLIC FINANCING OF CAMPAIGNS
Funds public financing of campaigns to curb special interest influence in politics.
Posted by randyshannon on March 18, 2015
The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) has unveiled its fiscal year 2016 (FY2016) budget, titled The People’s Budget—A Raise for America. It builds on recent CPC budget alternatives in prioritizing near-term job creation, financing public investments, strengthening the middle and working classes, raising adequate revenue to meet budgetary needs while restoring fairness to the tax code, protecting social insurance programs, and ensuring fiscal sustainability.
Refer to the end of this paper for Figures A–C, visualizing the People’s Budget’s impacts on deficits, debt, and nondefense discretionary funding; Tables 1 and 2 detailing the policy changes within the budget; and summary tables 1 through 4 depicting budget totals as well as comparisons with the current law baseline.
The People’s Budget aims to improve the economic well-being of the working and middle classes by focusing on finally closing the persistent jobs gap, and it provides substantial upfront economic stimulus for that purpose. This paper details the baseline assumptions, policy changes, and budgetary modeling used in developing and scoring the People’s Budget, and it analyzes the budget’s cumulative fiscal and economic impacts, notably its near-term impacts on economic recovery and employment.1
We find that the People’s Budget would have significant, positive impacts. Specifically, it would:
- Accelerate the economic recovery. The People’s Budget would sharply accelerate economic and employment growth. It would boost gross domestic product (GDP) by 3.9 percent and employment by 4.7 million jobs at its peak level of effectiveness (within one year of implementation), while ensuring that fiscal support lasts long enough to avoid future “fiscal cliffs” that could throw recovery into reverse.2
- Promote job growth and achieve full employment. The budget’s near-term economic stimulus measures would create 4.7 million jobs in calendar year 2015 and an additional 3.8 million jobs over the following two years. By the end of calendar year 2018 the People’s Budget would support 9.1 million job years and would ensure a prompt and durable return to full employment.
- Make necessary public investments. The budget finances roughly $528 billion in job creation and public investment measures in calendar year 2015 alone and roughly $1.34 trillion over calendar years 2015–2017.3 This fiscal expansion is consistent with the amount of fiscal support needed to rapidly reduce labor market slack and restore the economy to full health.
- Facilitate economic opportunity for all. By expanding tax credits and other programs for middle- and working-class workers, boosting public employment, and incentivizing employers to create new jobs, the People’s Budget aims to boost economic opportunity for all segments of the population.
- Strengthen social insurance. The People’s Budget strengthens the social safety net and proposes no benefit reductions to social insurance programs—in other words, it does not rely on simple cost-shifting to reduce the budgetary strain of health programs. Instead, it uses government purchasing power to lower health care costs (health care costs are the largest threat to long-term fiscal sustainability) and builds upon efficiency savings from the Affordable Care Act. The budget also expands and extends emergency unemployment benefits and increases funding for education, training, employment, and social services as well as income security programs in the discretionary budget.4
- Smartly cut spending. The budget focuses on modern security needs by repealing sequestration cuts and spending caps that affect the Defense Department but replacing them with similarly sized funding reductions. It ends emergency overseas contingency operation spending in FY2016 and beyond, and ensures a slow rate of spending growth for the Defense Department for the remainder of the decade.
- Ask everyone to contribute his or her fair share. The budget restores adequate revenue and pushes back against income inequality by adding higher marginal tax rates for millionaires and billionaires, equalizing the tax treatment of capital income and labor income, restoring a more progressive estate tax, eliminating inefficient corporate tax loopholes, levying a tax on systemically important financial institutions, and enacting a financial transactions tax, among other tax policies.
- Reduce the deficit in the medium term. The budget increases near-term deficits to boost job creation, but reduces the deficit in FY2017 and beyond relative to CBO’s current law baseline. The budget would achieve primary budget balance (excluding net interest) and sustainable budget deficits below 2 percent of GDP in FY2017 and beyond.
- Target a sustainable debt level. After increasing near-term borrowing to restore full employment, the budget gradually reduces the debt ratio to a fully sustainable 66.0 percent of GDP by FY2025. Relative to current law, the budget would reduce public debt by $3.2 trillion (11.6 percent of GDP).
Posted by randyshannon on March 18, 2015
The Congressional Progressive Caucus unveiled its fiscal 2016 “People’s Budget: A Raise For America” one day after House Republicans released their “A Balanced Budget for a Stronger America” proposal. The CPC touted a $1.9 trillion investment in America’s future and over 8 million new jobs. The House Republicans bragged about cutting $5 trillion over 10 years. The sharp contrast between the two reflect stark differences in values and ideology – and a basic choice of whether government will serve the many or the few.
The Republican budget is rightly scorned as a fantasy, a dishonest, Orwellian document,packed with magic asterisks and budget sleight of hand. But what is interesting is what Republicans claim that they value.
Republicans believe the rich and corporations have too little money and pay too much in taxes. They believe that Wall Street needs more freedom and less regulation. They believe that too many Americans have health insurance, that the poor have too much support, that schools need less money, that college should be less affordable to children from low-wage families. They believe that the Pentagon should get more money, and fight more wars. They believe that coal and oil need subsidy, not regulation.
They argue that the economy will grow faster if government spending is cut, regulations rolled back, and budgets balanced. Balancing the budget over 10 years is important enough that they sacrifice all credibility by packing the budget with omissions and distortions in order to reach the goal nominally. But balancing the budget is not important enough to ask the rich and corporations to pay an additional dime in taxes.
The CPC budget is fiscally cautious: It would bring America’s annual deficits down and begin to reduce the national debt as a percentage of GDP. But it is grounded in the reality that America faces major challenges that can no longer be ignored.
The CPC believes that our infrastructure is dangerously outmoded, so it makes a down payment on rebuilding America. It believes climate change is real, so invests in new energy and in aiding communities already staggered by extreme weather events. It believes education is vital, so it invests in universal pre-k, aid to schools and debt-free four-year college.
The CPC believes workers need a raise. So it lifts the minimum wage, calls for strengthening the workers right to organize, and lifts the floor with paid sick days, family leave, a crackdown on wage theft, revised overtime and more. It would continue health care reform, preserve Medicare and expand Social Security.
To pay for this, the CPC exacts savings from areas of massive waste. It would trim the Pentagon budget, and require an audit for the first time. It would end subsidies to Big Oil and limit them to agribusiness. It would empower Medicare to negotiate bulk discounts on prescription drugs, and create a public option in Obamacare to keep insurance companies honest.
And the CPC insists that the rich and corporations pay their fair share of taxes. It would create new tax brackets for those making a million or more. The People’s Budget raises the estate tax for the super-wealthy. It taxes the income of investors at the same rates as the income of workers. It terminates deferral, which allows multinationals to avoid taxes on money they report as earned abroad.
And the CPC argues we should tax “bads” to reduce them. It would impose a tax on polluters for carbon emissions, rebating a quarter of the revenue to protect low-wage families. It would hike taxes on cigarettes. It would impose a tax on speculation – a financial transactions tax – to curb destabilizing, computer-driven trading. It would end tax breaks for perverse CEO compensation policies.
The CPC argues the economy suffers from an absence of demand, partly driven by extreme inequality and the hollowing out of the middle class. Government investment in vital areas provides good jobs, moves the economy towards full employment and boosts demand. Government action to lift the floor under workers will help generate demand. Government crackdown on Wall Street speculation, CEOs looting companies and multinationals shipping jobs abroad will help drive investment into the real economy, not the financial casino.
The question really is who is the master? Who does government serve? Revealingly, the CPC People’s Budget provides for public financing of elections, seeking to limit the corruptions of big money. Republicans, not surprisingly, oppose any restriction on money politics.
The Republican budget – gimmicks, perverse priorities and all – will pass the House. The CPC People’s Budget will struggle to win 100 votes on the floor. But the former only reinforces what ails us. The latter offers an alternative that makes sense, that adds up. There is a way up. The rules don’t have to be rigged to favor the few. But it will take a sea change in Washington for common sense to gain majority support.
Posted by randyshannon on March 15, 2015
AFL-CIO Suspends Political Contributions to Focus on Trade Fight Against White House
The AFL-CIO, which has spent heavily to support Democrats at the ballot box, said Wednesday it was freezing its political-action committee donations to federal candidates so it could focus on upcoming trade fights.
The labor group will fight trade deals with countries in the Pacific Rim that the White House has been pushing. Such deals, the organization said in a February statement, have promised higher wages and bigger markets to American workers but instead resulted in jobs being sent overseas.
“U.S. trade deals—from NAFTA and CAFTA to Korea and Colombia—form a mountain of broken promises made to workers,” the statement said.
President Obama, who twice received endorsements from the AFL-CIO, has faced resistance from his own party on the deals, including from Representatives Keith Ellison and Rosa Delauro and Senators Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, and Bob Casey.
“I have real concerns about it,” Casey told Bloomberg on Wednesday. “I just look at this from the perspective of Pennsylvania: We seem to be getting the short end of every stick after each trade agreement is entered into.”
Although GOP congressional leaders support the deals, conservative Republicans have expressed concerns that negotiating the trade deal would mean extending to the president more power than they would like because he is requesting authority to “fast-track” the deals, meaning Congress could only vote on them but not amend them.
“For Congress to cede oversight on such a sweeping agreement could have grave implications,” freshman Representative Steve Russell, an Oklahoma Republican, wrote on Wednesday in theHill.
AFL-CIO EXECUTIVE COUNCIL LETTER URGES CONGRESS TO STAND WITH WORKERS BY OPPOSING FAST TRACK
The labor movement will be closely monitoring how members of Congress vote on a forthcoming Trade Promotion Authority bill also known as “Fast-Track”. In a letter from the national AFL-CIO Executive Council to members of Congress, which you can view HERE, national union leaders expressed strong opposition to this bill, which would shut the public out of major trade negotiations that impact American wages and jobs as well as undermine global working conditions, environmental standards, and labor rights.
In addition to this letter, the AFL-CIO Executive Council agreed to a proposal to suspend political contributions to lawmakers until after the Fast-Track vote in Congress. According to a story by Press Associates, Inc. (PAI), union leaders also agreed that lawmakers’ votes on Fast-Track would be an important factor in determining future financial support for candidates.
Fast-Track is a reckless and undemocratic policy that allows for the authorization of trade deals with a simple up-or-down vote. This process has resulted in one-sided trade deals like NAFTA and CAFTA that have cost our country millions of jobs, reduced wages, and suppressed working standards around the world in order to clear the way for massive corporate profits. President Obama and Congressional leaders are now seeking to use Fast-Track authority to pass an equally destructive trade deal call the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) which you can learn more about HERE. You can also take action now by sending a message asking your members of Congress to oppose Fast-Track.
The message being sent by the national labor movement to Congress is clear: Fast-Track trade deals mean fewer jobs, lower wages, and a declining middle class. Members of Congress who are committed to strengthening the middle class through good jobs and fair trade must stand up to oppose Fast-Track.