Please Note: Democratic Candidates May Have Lost, But Progressive Issues Won

— by David Morris (reposted from CommonDreams)

Ballot initiatives more accurately take the ideological pulse of the people because debates over issues are not disrupted by the personality politics and subterfuge that dominate candidate races. (Photo: Susy Morris/flickr/cc)

On November 4th Democrats lost big when they ran a candidate but won big when they ran an issue.

In 42 states about 150 initiatives were on the ballot. The vast majority did not address issues dividing the two parties (e.g. raising the mandatory retirement age for judges, salary increases for state legislators, bond issues supporting a range of projects).  But scores of initiatives did involve hot button issues.  And on these American voters proved astonishingly liberal.

Quote01Voters approved every initiative to legalize or significantly reduce the penalties for marijuana possession (Alaska, California, Oregon, Washington, Washington, D.C.)  It is true that a Florida measure to legalize medical marijuana lost but 57 percent voted in favor (60 percent was required).

Voters approved every initiative to raise the minimum wage (Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, South Dakota). Voters in San Francisco and Oakland approved initiatives to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2018.  The good citizens of Oakland and Massachusetts overwhelmingly approved more generous paid sick leave.

Both Colorado and North Dakota voters rejected measures that would have given the fertilized egg personhood under their criminal codes.

Washington state voters approved background checks for all gun sales and transfers, including private transactions.

By a wide margin Missourians rejected a constitutional amendment to require teachers to be evaluated based on test results and fired or demoted virtually at will.

By a 59-41 margin North Dakotans voted to keep their unique statute outlawing absentee owned pharmacies despite Walmart outspending independent pharmacist supporters at least ten to one.

The vote in Colorado offers a good example of the disparity between how Americans vote on candidates and how we vote on issues.  A few years ago the Colorado legislature stripped cities and counties of the right to build their own telecommunications networks but it allowed them to reclaim that authority if they put it to a vote of their citizens.  On Tuesday 8 cities and counties did just that. Residents in every community voted by a very wide margin to permit government owned networks even while they were voting by an equally wide margin for Republican candidates who vigorously oppose government ownership of anything.

Republicans did gain a number of important victories. Most of these dealt with taxes. For example, Georgia voters by a wide margin supported a constitutional amendment prohibiting the state legislature from raising the maximum state income tax rate. Massachusetts’ voters narrowly voted to overturn a law indexing the state gasoline tax to the consumer price increase.

What did Tuesday tell us?  When given the choice between a Republican and a Democrat candidate the majority of voters chose the Republican.  When given a choice between a Republican and a Democrat position on an issue they chose the Democrat.  I’ll leave it up to others to debate the reasons behind this apparent contradiction.  My own opinion is that ballot initiatives more accurately take the ideological pulse of the people because debates over issues must focus on issues, not personality, temperament or looks.  Those on both sides of the issue can exaggerate, distort and just plain lie but they must do so in reference to the question on the ballot.  No ballot initiative ever lost because one of its main backers attended a strip club 16 years earlier.

I am buoyed by the empirical evidence: Americans even in deeply red regions are liberal on many key issues. And I am saddened that these same voters have voted to enhance the power of a party at odds with the values these voters have expressed.  The challenge, and in an age where billions of dollars in negative sound-bites define a candidate it is a daunting one, is how to make the next election on issues, not personalities.

  This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

David Morris is Vice President and director of the New Rules Project at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which is based in Minneapolis and Washington, D.C. focusing on local economic and social development.
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Exploited by Your Tax Dollars

The federal government supports more U.S. low wage jobs than McDonald’s and Walmart put together.

By Martha Burk

Martha Burk

McDonald’s really stepped in it this summer when the fast food empire created a budget for its underpaid employees to help them make ends meet on the low wages they bring home after flipping burgers all week.

At first, the McBudget didn’t include any money for food or gasoline, then it fixed that by telling its full-time workers to get a second job. It allocated only $20 a month for health insurance — less than half of what it costs to carry McDonald’s most affordable coverage option.

The golden arches deservedly came under fire and faced widespread ridicule.

McD-Budget
from Practical Money Skills Site Budget Journal July 2013

This blunder underscored how huge corporations like Mickey D’s and Walmart are responsible for the majority of our nation’s low-wage jobs. McDonalds has been offering this sort of happy meal “financial literacy” program in concert with Visa Inc. and  Wealth Watchers International since 2008. But they’re not alone, there’s another player in this mix that’s responsible for creating more poverty-level jobs than these two companies combined. It’s good ol’ Uncle Sam.

That’s right. The federal government supports more U.S. low‑wage jobs than McDonald’s and Walmart put together, according to a recent report from Demos.

One reason why we don’t hear much about it is that these exploited workers don’t get a paycheck directly from the U.S. Treasury. They work for contractors — companies that are paid with your tax dollars to staff government facilities and do government-funded work around the country.

Contractors get big bucks to make goods, like military uniforms, and provide services. These companies do construction jobs, employ home health care workers, and are responsible for cleaning government buildings.

Though the contracts can total billions of dollars, frontline workers are paid at poverty levels. After decades on the job, these workers may never get a raise that brings their pay above our paltry minimum wage.

Guadalupe Rodriguez is an example. She has worked for almost 20 years for a janitorial company at Union Station, a federal property. She receives no benefits and has never made more than the minimum. Workers who are undocumented, and there are some, are paid in cash and cheated out of even that lowly sum.

These workers exploited by companies raking in your tax dollars number about two million. On top of that, there are at least one million underpaid farm workers taken advantage of by Big Ag companies subsidized with government handouts.

Well, some of these underpaid federal contract workers are mad as hell, and they’re not going to take it anymore. Rolling strikes in Washington have been held this summer at the Smithsonian Institution, Union Station, and the Ronald Reagan building. Led by the union-backed Good Jobs Nation, the strikes are sure to spread to other cities with large numbers of government-contracted workers.

The Demos report urges President Barack Obama to issue an executive order that would mandate higher wages and benefits as a condition of federal contracting, an already common practice at the municipal level.

Better yet, why not cut out the middlemen? Uncle Sam used to employ people directly, with decent wages and benefits. Now those jobs are outsourced to corporations making big profits on the backs of workers.

By allowing contractors to pay low wages and no benefits, the federal government is forcing us taxpayers to pick up the tab for the help these employees must have to make ends meet — services like Medicaid, food stamps, and subsidized child care.

There’s no sane reason why corporations should be allowed to benefit from billions of your tax dollars to line their already overflowing pockets, all the while keeping your neighbors in poverty.


Martha Burk is the director of the Corporate Accountability Project for the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO) and the author of the book Your Voice, Your Vote: The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Power, Politics, and the Change We Need. Follow Martha on twitter @MarthaBurk. Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)

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Where Do You Buy Your Prescription Drugs?

There’s a great post over an AlterNet today about the prices of Generic drugs that you really should take the time to read.

“According to a new Consumer Reports  investigative study published Thursday, there is rampant variation in the price of generic drugs as large U.S. pharmacy chains — including CVS, Rite Aid, and Target — marking up the prices of generic drug versions for common medications by as much as 18 times what wholesale chains like Costco charge. That price variance ends up costing Americans, who spend an average of $758 out-of-pocket on drugs every year, hundreds of dollars in unnecessary spending each month.”  Read the rest of this article …

Generics

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2012-12-02: What I’ve Been Reading

Iceland Did it Right…and Everyone Else is Doing it Wrong

News Report: Iceland’s commitment to its program, a decision to push losses on to bondholders instead of taxpayers and the safeguarding of a welfare system that shielded the unemployed from penury helped propel the nation from collapse toward recovery, according to the Washington-based fund. The rebound continues to wow officials, including International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, who recently referred to the Icelandic recovery as “impressive”.

Deja Moo (BS) All Over Again

Robert Reich, Déjà vu All Over Again Op-Ed: Haven’t we been here before? It’s as if the election never occurred – as if the Republicans hadn’t lost six or seven seats in the House and three in the Senate, as if Obama hadn’t won reelection by a greater number of votes than George W. Bush in 2004. And as if the fiscal cliff that automatically terminates the Bush tax cuts weren’t just weeks away. Déjà vu all over again.

Robert Reich, Bungee-Jumping Over the Fiscal Cliff Op-Ed: What’s the best way to pressure Republicans into agreeing to extend the Bush tax cuts for the middle class while ending them for the wealthy? The President evidently believes it’s to scare average Americans about how much additional taxes they’ll pay if the Bush tax cuts expire on schedule at the end of the year. He plans to barnstorm around the country, sounding the alarm.

Why Are Cows Tails Dropping Off?

imageFracking Our Food Supply, Elizabeth Royte | The Nation:  In Louisiana, seventeen cows died after an hour’s exposure to spilled fracking fluid. (Most likely cause of death: respiratory failure.) In north central Pennsylvania, 140 cattle were exposed to fracking wastewater when an impoundment was breached. Approximately seventy cows died; the remainder produced eleven calves, of which only three survived. In western Pennsylvania, an overflowing waste pit sent fracking chemicals into a pond and a pasture where pregnant cows grazed: half their calves were born dead. The following year’s animal births were sexually skewed, with ten females and two males, instead of the usual 50-50 or 60-40 split.

Ambient air testing by a certified environmental consultant detected elevated levels of benzene, methane, chloroform, butane, propane, toluene and xylene—compounds associated with drilling and fracking, and also with cancers, birth defects and organ damage. Her well tested high for sulfates, chromium, chloride and strontium; her blood tested positive for acetone, plus the heavy metals arsenic (linked with skin lesions, cancers and cardiovascular disease) and germanium (linked with muscle weakness and skin rashes).”

GMO Cops: Biotech Giant Hires Former Cops to ‘Enforce Patents’

Anthony Gucciardi, News Report: “So perhaps DuPont has realized that they better start shaking down their clients now before their empire ultimately collapses along with Monsanto. And if it’s not resistant rootworms, horrendous failures to yield, or a disturbingly high rate of farmer suicide, its the numerous country-wide bans on GMOs that continue to be announced each month. From Russia to Peru (which passed a monumental 10 year ban), GM crops are effectively being phased out of the international food supply.”

Kenya Bans Importation of GMO Foods

Video Feature: Public Health minister Beth Mugo subsequently directed all Public Health Officers at all ports of entry and all other government regulators to enforce the ban on importation of Genetically Modified Foods in the country. This she says was following the decision made by the cabinet to ban the importation of GMO foods into the country due to inadequate research done on GMOs and scientific evidence provided to prove the safety of the foods until such a time that the country will certify that they have no negative impacts on the health of consumers.

Sorry Monsanto: Govt Admits GM Bt Cotton Crops Fail 40%

Lisa Garber, News Report: The government of Maharashtra, a state in western India, has acknowledged for the first time that Bt cotton is a failure that will likely reduce yields by 40%, from 3.5 to 2.2 million quintal. The region’s cotton farmers will face about Rs6,000 crore, over 1 billion USD. Accumulated losses are to be even more staggering: Rs 20,000 crore, or about 3.6 billion USD, due to rising cultivation costs.

Are Human Genes Patentable? Supreme Court Will Decide

BRCA1 and BRCA2 are two of the 23,000 genes in the human genome, 20 percent of which have been patented.  We all have these genes, but women with certain genetic mutations are estimated to have up to an 85 percent lifetime risk for breast cancer and 50 percent risk for ovarian cancer.  Myriad Genetics obtained patents on the “isolated” forms of the two genes, which simply means it patented the human gene once removed from the cell.  This includes the BRCA genes from every person in the United States.  Myriad has enforced its patents on the genes so that it has a monopoly on BRCA genetic testing.

Appeal vowed in Nevada same-sex marriage ruling

Karen Golinski, Amy CunninghisA federal court challenge to Nevada’s ban on same sex marriage has been turned back in U.S. District Court, but proponents vowed Friday to fight on with an argument that a pair of state laws regarding same-sex unions unconstitutionally make gay couples “second-class citizens.”  Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund attorney Tara Borelli noted that a Thursday ruling by U.S. District Chief Judge Robert Jones came a day before the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether to take up the gay marriage question, and just weeks after voters approved same-sex marriage in three states and defeated a ban in a fourth.

Report: America’s Domestic Workers Raise Kids, Care for Seniors, Run Households Without Benefits, Protections or a Living Wage

Domestic Workers.Mike Ludwig, Truthout: The first-of-its-kind assessment of the domestic workforce finds that the people who substantially help drive the US economy are themselves overworked, underpaid, sometimes abused and often in dire economic straits.

Methyl Iodide Federal Registration Pulled

imageOne of the most toxic pesticides on earth is now off the market thanks to an Earthjustice lawsuit.  The company that manufactures methyl iodide, an extremely toxic pesticide that is often applied to strawberries, is no longer applying for federal registration of the chemical – effectively ending its toxic legacy. Check out the interview below with Greg Loarie, our attorney who led the case against methyl iodide! Click SHARE or LIKE!

 

GOP Extremists Continue to Push Repugnant Anti-Women Laws

Pro Choice.

This absurd period of legislative history that became dubbed the “war on women” (though it affected people of all genders) culminated in this year’s notorious spate of comments from Tea Party-approved candidates about rape — legitimate, god-willed or otherwise — and resulted in the biggest anti-misogynist backlash at the ballot box we’ve seen in a long time.

Women handily voted for Obama, vetoed extreme anti-choicers and listed abortion as an important issue in exit polls. But in several states, GOPers seemed not to get the message. At all. Some of them are continuing to fight the same battles, in some cases putting women’s access at risk.

New push to reduce antibiotic use in farm animals

Officials with Keep Antibiotics Working, whose mission is to eliminate the inappropriate use of antibiotics in food animals, urged the White House and Congress on Wednesday to push forward with legislation limiting antibiotics in livestock immediately.

They argued that American lives are at risk because farmers are feeding healthy animals a high volume of unneeded antibiotics, and when those animals enter the food supply, humans are developing resistance to certain bacteria.

Ending the US War in Afghanistan? It Depends on the Meaning of the Word ‘War’

Dave Lindorff, Op-Ed: How do you “end” a war by simply having one side say it’s over, unless you actually do stop fighting and walk away? Certainly the invading side in a foreign war can call that war quits, but if the other side doesn’t, and the invader stays on the battlefield — which in Afghanistan is the whole county — you haven’t ended it at all. The other side will continue to hit you until you’re gone.

EPA Slaps BP and in the Process, Punishes the Pentagon

R. Jeffrey Smith, New Analysis: EPA acted two weeks after the corporation entered guilty pleas in federal court to 14 criminal counts, including manslaughter, related to the spill. It was not a speedy decision, however, since EPA employees began considering a contracting ban years ago in response to a BP oil spill in 2006 and a refinery explosion in 2005. “Do we want to do business with this  foreign corporation, which has a horrendous record of chronically violating U.S. law?”

Latest Sanction Against BP Goes Beyond Gulf Spill

Abrahm Lustgarten, News Analysis: When the Obama administration temporarily banned BP from federal contracts Wednesday, it pointed to BP’s “lack of business integrity” and conduct relating to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill. The sanction, however, has been years in the making. BP has been criminally convicted in four previous cases — including a 2005 explosion in Texas that killed 15 workers — and the EPA has been considering broader debarment proceedings against the company since at least 2005.

Conflict of Interest?  Susan Rice, Top Candidate for Secretary of State, Has Millions Tied to Canadian Tar Sands

Stephen Lacey, News Report: “According to a report from OnEarth Magazine, Rice has millions of dollars tied up in top Canadian energy companies — including TransCanada, the company pushing for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Because the pipeline crosses international borders, its approval falls under the jurisdiction of the State Department. That means Rice — or any other candidate tapped to head the State Department — would be responsible for approving or rejecting the project.”

Thinking the Unthinkable: What if America’s Leaders Actually Want Catastrophic Climate Change?

Dave Lindorff, Op-Ed: What if the leaders of the United States — and by leaders I mean the generals in the Pentagon, the corporate executives of the country’s largest enterprises, and the top officials in government — have secretly concluded that while world-wide climate change is indeed going to be catastrophic, the US, or more broadly speaking, North America, is fortuitously situated to come out on top in the resulting global struggle for survival?

Why Climate Deniers Have No Scientific Credibility – In One Pie Chart

Jim Powell , News Analysis: “Global warming deniers often claim that bias prevents them from publishing in peer-reviewed journals. But 24 articles in 18 different journals, collectively making several different arguments against global warming, expose that claim as false. Articles rejecting global warming can be published, but those that have been have earned little support or notice, even from other deniers.”

Warehouse Worker Lawsuit Targets Walmart

Adithya Sambamurthy and Jim Morris, News Analysis: The staffing agencies have agreed to pay a collective $450,000 in fines and back wages to settle citations issued by California labor officials, who raided the warehouse the same month the lawsuit was filed last year. Schneider, which was not cited by the state, said in a statement that it “played no role in determining the rate or method of pay” that led to the violations. By adding Walmart – the warehouse’s only customer – to the lawsuit, lawyers for the workers are seeking to prove that the company pressured Schneider to hold down costs by underpaying subcontractors.

How Congressional Republicans and Fox News Displayed their Profound Debt Ceiling Ignorance

Jeff Spross, News Analysis: “The debt limit does not control or limit the ability of the federal government to run deficits or incur obligations. Rather, it is a limit on the ability to pay obligations already incurred.” The President does not have discretionary control over how much the country borrows. Obama’s new proposal gives him no such control. It would merely make hikes in the ceiling automatic, in accordance with the debt necessitated by budgets Congress has already passed.

Avoiding a New American Recession

Martin Feldstein, Op-Ed: “America’s national debt has more than doubled in the past five years, and is set to rise to more than 100% of GDP over the next decade unless changes in spending and taxes are implemented. A well-designed combination of caps to limit tax expenditures and a gradual slowing of growth in outlays for entitlement programs could reverse the rise in the debt and strengthen the US economy.”

Why Austerity Economics Hurts Low-Wage Workers the Most

Robert Reich, Op-Ed: Walmart – the trendsetter for big-box retailers – is also doing well. And it pays its executives handsomely. The total compensation for Walmart’s CEO, Michael Duke, was $18.7 million last year – putting him number 82 on Forbes’ list. The wealth of the Walton family – which still owns the lion’s share of Walmart stock — now exceeds the wealth of the bottom 40 percent of American families combined, according to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute.