Category Archives: Think Progress

>Hug a Union Member Today in Remembrance of What Unions Have Meant to Every American

>Before people gang up on and bash those that are in unions, whether the union is a private sector or public sector union, remember what you have received because of their efforts.

In a column over at ThinkProgress, REPORT: Five Things Unions Have Done For All Americans, they list five things that have made a major difference in all American’s lives that many of us take for granted today, there are others not listed like the minimum wage and safe working environments, but you’ll get the point.
Take time today to hug a union member in remembrance for what they have given us, instead of bashing they for what you perceive they are trying to take away or cost us:

1. Unions Gave Us The Weekend: Even the ultra-conservative Mises Institute notes that the relatively labor-free 1870, the average workweek for most Americans was 61 hours — almost double what most Americans work now. Yet in the late nineteenth century and the twentieth century, labor unions engaged in massive strikes in order to demand shorter workweeks so that Americans could be home with their loved ones instead of constantly toiling for their employers with no leisure time. By 1937, these labor actions created enough political momentum to pass the Fair Labor Standards Act, which helped create a federal framework for a shorter workweek that included room for leisure time.

2. Unions Gave Us Fair Wages And Relative Income Equality: As ThinkProgress reported earlier in the week, the relative decline of unions over the past 35 years has mirrored a decline in the middle class’s share of national income. It is also true that at the time when most Americans belonged to a union — a period of time between the 1940′s and 1950′s — income inequality in the U.S. was at its lowest point in the history of the country.

3. Unions Helped End Child Labor: “Union organizing and child labor reform were often intertwined” in U.S. history, with organization’s like the “National Consumers’ League” and the National Child Labor Committee” working together in the early 20th century to ban child labor. The very first American Federation of Labor (AFL) national convention passed “a resolution calling on states to ban children under 14 from all gainful employment” in 1881, and soon after states across the country adopted similar recommendations, leading up to the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act which regulated child labor on the federal level for the first time.

4. Unions Won Widespread Employer-Based Health Coverage: “The rise of unions in the 1930′s and 1940′s led to the first great expansion of health care” for all Americans, as labor unions banded workers together to negotiate for health coverage plans from employers. In 1942, “the US set up a National War Labor Board. It had the power to set a cap on all wage increases. But it let employers circumvent the cap by offering “fringe benefits” – notably, health insurance.” By 1950, “half of all companies with fewer than 250 workers and two-thirds of all companies with more than 250 workers offered health insurance of one kind or another.”

5. Unions Spearheaded The Fight For The Family And Medical Leave Act: Labor unions like the AFL-CIO federation led the fight for this 1993 law, which “requires state agencies and private employers with more than 50 employees to provide up to 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave annually for workers to care for a newborn, newly adopted child, seriously ill family member or for the worker’s own illness.”

Read more >>> Here

Leave a comment

Filed under AFL-CIO, health coverage, minimum wage, Think Progress, union bashing, union benefits

>Sunday Must Reading

>

I’ve come across a few articles posted on different websites over the past couple of days that should be must reading for those that support the rights of union members, both public and private, to engage in collective barganing.

They deal with what is going on in Wisconsin and public opinion on what’s happing, not only in Wisconsin , but also across the country. These posts can be found on Forbes.com’s Policy Page blog by Rick Ungar, ThinkProgress.org and from the Washington Post’s Plume Line blog by Greg Sargent.

Rick Ungar’s post over at Forbes is titled “The Wisconsin Lie Exposed – Tax Payers Actually Contribute Nothing to Public Employees Pensions” informs us that public employees in Wisconsin fully fund their own pension system… the state adds no tax payer money to the fund contrary to what people have been hearing.

“Gov. Scott Walker says he wants state workers covered by collective bargaining
agreements to “contribute more” to their pension and health insurance plans.
Accepting Gov. Walker’ s assertions as fact, and failing to check, creates the
impression that somehow the workers are getting something extra, a gift from
taxpayers. They are not. Out of every dollar that funds Wisconsin’ s pension and
health insurance plans for state workers, 100 cents comes from the state
workers. “

Over at ThinkProgress they post, “Top 10 Disastrous Policies From The Wisconsin GOP You Haven’t Heard About” where they talk about how:

“…Walker’s assault on public employees is only one part of a larger political program that aims to give corporations free reign in the state while dismantling the healthcare programs, environmental regulations, and good government laws that protect Wisconsin’s middle and working class. These lesser known proposals in the 144-page bill reveal how radical Walker’s plan actually is…”

And Finally Greg Sargent’s Plume Line post over at the Washington Post, “Public employees not such an easy scapegoat after all” informs us that according to recent Gallup Poll “…Public employees are turning out to be far harder to scapegoat in the public mind than many predicted…”

* Among those who make less than $24,000 annually, 74 percent oppose the proposal, versus only 14 percent who favor it.
* Among those who make $24,000 to $59,000, 63 percent oppose the proposal, versus only 33 percent who favor it.
* Among those who make $60,000 to $89,000, 53 percent oppose the proposal, versus only 41 percent who favor it.
* Among those who make $90,000 and up, 50 percent favor the proposal, versus 47 percent who oppose it.
Sargent concludes:
“…For all the attention being lavished on the likes of Chris Christie and his supposedly successful formula of targeting public employees as the new “welfare queens,” the bigger and more interesting story is that they aren’t turning out to be such easy targets, after all.”
Take a look at these articles and see what you think, I really believe they are must reads. If the radical right-wing and the GOP are successful in stripping public workers of their rights, it wont be long before they attack private sector worker looking to eliminate overtime, health, pension and other long standing rules.

Leave a comment

Filed under Forbes.com, Gallup poll, Gov. Chris Christie, Gov.Scott Walker, Greg Sargent, labor unions, public employees, Rich Ungar, Think Progress, Washington Post, Wisconsin

>Justice Thomas Omitted His Tea Partying Wife’s Income From Financial Disclosure Forms

>On Thursday of this past week, I posted a story about how US Supreme Court Justices, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, participated in political strategy sessions with the group Citizens United. Afterward they voted in favor of overturning a century’s worth of campaign finance laws which benefited Citizens United. Their (Scalia and Thomas) actions in this case were wrong, clearly unethical and a blatant example of judicial activism which should cause the US Attorney General to look into appointing a special prosecutor.

Now comes word from the website ThinkProgress.org that Justice Clarence Thomas hasn’t disclosed his wife’s income for the past six year. During which time she has earned over $680,000 from the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing, conservative think tank with ties to the Tea Party movement.

ThinkProgress writes:

“Federal judges and justices are required by law to disclose their spouse’s income — thus preventing persons who wish to influence the judge or justice from funneling money to them through their husband or wife. Yet, as the Los Angeles Times reports, Justice Clarence Thomas has not complied with this requirement for years…”

“This revelation that Justice Thomas failed to comply with his disclosure obligations comes as he is caught up in another ethics scandal regarding his participation in fundraisers for far-right political groups. Thomas once attended a gathering of wealthy corporate activists convened by billionaire Charles Koch to raise money for right-wing political causes, and he also attended at least one fundraiser hosted by the far-right think tank that used to employ his wife….”


I don’t know if there is any past precedent that would allow a sitting US Supreme Court Justice to be removed from the bench for conduct unbecoming of a Justice, but do know that there has been lower court judges and justices that have been removed from their benches for similar or lesser offenses.
If these allegations turn out to be true, than I think impeachment and removal from the court is appropriate punishment for Justice Thomas.

1 Comment

Filed under Citizens United, ethical violations, financial disclosure, Heritage Foundation, Justice Clarence Thomas, Tea Party, Think Progress

>Supreme Court justices ‘participated in political strategy sessions’ before Citizens United

>Has the time finally come to appoint a special prosecutor to look into Supreme Court rulings of two justices, Scalia and Thomas for conflicts of interest and the selling of their decisions ?

After reading the following that was post over at Rawstory.com I am beginning to think so:

On the first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United, which overturned nearly a century of restrictions on campaign spending, a progressive group has asked the Department of Justice to look into “conflicts of interest” two justices may have had when issuing the ruling.

In a petition to be sent to the department this week, Common Cause will argue that Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas should have recused themselves from the campaign finance decision because of their involvement with Koch Industries, a corporation run by two conservative activists who many say directly benefited from Citizens United.

“It appears both justices have participated in political strategy sessions, perhaps while the case was pending, with corporate leaders whose political aims were advanced by the decision,” the letter alleges, as quoted at Politico.

The group will urge the department to disqualify Scalia and Thomas from the ruling. If that were to happen, the Supreme Court could vacate the ruling, effectively returning the campaign finance restrictions that existed until 2010. But, as Common Cause itself admits, the odds are against it.

At the center of the group’s claims is a document from Koch Industries unearthed last fall by ThinkProgress and the New York Times. In an invitation to a Palm Springs retreat to be held this month, Charles Koch boasted that previous events were attended by Scalia and Thomas.

Read more >>> Here

1 Comment

Filed under Common Cause, Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Clarence Thomas, NY Times, Politico.com, Raw Story, Think Progress, U.S Supreme Court

Tea Party Profiteers: How Republican Operatives Are Exploiting Economic Anxiety For Power, Cash

I wonder if tea partiers really care that their movement has been corrupted and taken over by profiteers and charlatans?

Think Progress
Republican partisans — aided by lobbyists and corporate front groups — are exploiting the legitimate feelings of anger and distrust among many struggling Americans. These operatives and profiteers, many of them experienced public relations professionals, have set up sophisticated social networking portals and online solutions to control the flow of information within tea party organizations. As gatekeepers to ostensibly open forums, these political operatives and profiteers have been able to set the political agenda of the tea parties and hand out marching orders. And tea party profiteers are making millions cashing in on the movement. They are selling tea party support to candidates and policies which continue the legacy of Bush-era unregulated capitalism and corporate bailouts:

Eric Odom: Odom, who appears regularly on Fox News and on other venues as a spokesman for the tea party movement, is at the center of tea party profiteering. Odom maintains dozens, possibly hundreds of tea party websites and community forums which he controls through a “Ning” technology based social networking platform. Odom’s vast online control of county, state, and issue oriented tea party websites is done through his two for profit consulting companies: American Liberty Alliance and Strategy Activism, LLC. His American Liberty Alliance has served as a hub between disparate tea party groups and right-wing front groups. In a biographical video he posted on YouTube, Odom explained that he has worked for years on local and statewide Republican campaigns developing “stealth type marketing…some say ‘attack sites.’” He boasted that he built “sites behind the scenes, many of them to this day no one today knows I took part in, some of them were actually very effective in defeating the opponent.” While it is unclear exactly who is paying Odom now for his tea party profit ventures, Odom has delicately straddled independent populist rhetoric while proclaiming that his network will work exclusively for the election of Republican candidates this year.

Allen Fuller: According to Tennessee business records, Odom’s Strategic Activism, LLC business partner is Republican new media consultant Allen Fuller, who also maintains a firm called Flat Creek Public Affairs. Fuller may be the best clue to find out who pays Odom. On his website, Fuller counts Jane Norton, the GOP candidate for Senate in Colorado, as a client, and also receives payments from several other Republican members of Congress. Fuller helps corral tea party support to American Majority, a Republican training organization.

Glenn Beck: Beck, the most powerful promoter of the tea parties in the media, often rants during his regular programming that investing in gold is the only way to hedge against a supposed deep inflation in the future. He does not disclose, however, that gold companies are his primary sponsors, or that the gold companies he promotes have predatory fees: Goldline, one of Beck’s sponsors, sells gold for 30-35% more than market value. “Here’s the deal, call Goldline, study it out, pray on it,” Beck advises his listeners. Beck has cemented his control over the tea parties by launching his own 9.12 project network of social networking sites — which are hosted by his for profit media company Mercury Radio Arts.

Tea Party Nation: As a for-profit business, Tea Party Nation organized the Tea Party Convention this year at Nashville’s swank Opryland Gaylord hotel. The convention, set at the “grassroots” ticket price of $550 per person, features a Madison Avenue fashion company selling tea party jewelry and a paid ($120,000) speech by Sarah Palin. Tea Party Nation also maintains a message board.

Dick Armey: As ThinkProgress has documented, Armey has a long history of organizing conservative grassroots causes in support of his corporate clients. Armey presents himself as a ideologue, who helms his nonprofit FreedomWorks as a mere exercise in his free market beliefs. But while Armey rails against the Wall Street bailout and efforts to rebuild the foundations of the economy, his own lobbying firm represented AIG, Lehman Brothers, and Merrill Lynch during the bailouts. Indeed, even his nonprofit still pays him a lobbyist salary of $550,000 per year.

Tea Party Express: The Tea Party Express bus tour, and affiliated political action committee, has raised funds using tea party messages. The Tea Party Express effort has been a slick public relations gimmick of the Sacramento-based consulting firm Russo, Marsh and Rogers (RMR). RMR has worked on several stealth campaigns for Republican clients, including the underhanded push to recall Gov. Gray Davis (D-CA). In any case, the Tea Party Express, which RMR staffers operate, has proved to be a cash cow for RMR — in 2009 alone, it plunged at least $1,025,559 of money it raised back into RMR.

The profiteers say that the original American revolutionaries cast their tea into the Boston harbor as a simple rejection of taxation, so the modern tea party movement should similarly reject increased financial regulations, health reform, and taxes on the rich. But the history tells a different story. Boston revolutionaries rejected subservience to the East India Company, a British-run international corporation. They cast the tea into the harbor as a symbolic message to say that their taxes should go back into the American community, not subsidizing the profits of London elites and foreign corporations. Now, Republican tea party profiteers are trying to exploit the movement, pushing them to oppose policies which would actually liberate the middle class and crack down on international corporations. Despite the populist rhetoric, the profiteers see the tea party movement as a pool to extract fundraising dollars and volunteers for Republican campaigns. Indeed, RNC Chairman Michael Steele, himself a former lobbyist, has said that he has an “expectation” that tea partiers loyally toe the Republican line.

Leave a comment

Filed under Glenn Beck, profiteers, Republican Operatives, Tea Party, Think Progress

Corzine: It’s unbelievable that a lawbreaker gains a reputation as king of law enforcement

In this video posted on the net by Think Progress, Governor Corzine is sitting down at an interview with Think Progress reporters at I believe the NetRoots Nation convention in Pittsburgh.

The 35 second video clip is rather cryptic in nature, but I can only guess that the governor is talking about Chris Christie when he says “It is hard to understand how a lawbreaker gains a reputation as king of law enforcement and uses that as a platform…”

Who else could Jon Corzine be referring too, if not Christie?

Leave a comment

Filed under Chris Christie, Gov. Jon Corzine, NetRoots Nation, Think Progress

Can Canadians Purchase Private Health Insurance?

The August Town Halls have buried any meaningful coverage of the health care debate. Groups like Freedomworks and Americans For Prosperity are generating wild rumors about the proposed health care reform and the overwhelming majority of media coverage has merely contrasted protesters’ claims with administration retorts, while failing to correct the record. The format creates the illusion of balance and, by giving equal time to a false claim, pads disingenuous arguments.

Fortunately, this report from NPR’s Sarah Varney is a respite from the norm. Rather than reprinting the claim that Canadian health care system indiscriminately rations care, Varney actually examines the Canadian health care system and concludes that it’s getting a “bum rap.” Just like Medicare beneficiaries who protest against “government health care,” protesters who use Canadian care as an example of “government interference” or rationing, will be surprised to learn that the Canadian health care system relies on both government and private insurers to provide Canadians with comprehensive coverage:

Canada has a universal health care system that’s paid for through income taxes and sales tax. All Canadians are covered, and they can see any doctor they want anywhere in the country with no copays or deductibles….And while the individual provinces and territories set their overall health budgets and administer the health plans, the delivery of medical care is private. Doctors run their own businesses and then bill the government.

As it turns out, the system works fairly well:

– Physicians in Canada earn a good living and aren’t faced with the same administrative hassles that American doctors gripe about.

– The Commonwealth Fund looked at deaths that could have been prevented with access to quality medical care in the leading 19 industrialized countries. In the latest survey, the United States ranked last and Canada came in sixth.

– When federal spending on Canadian health care declined during a recession in the 1990s, lines for non-urgent procedures — and some urgent ones — grew. In response, Canada’s government poured billions of dollars into reducing wait times in the five medical areas deemed most troublesome, including cancer care, cardiac care and joint replacement surgery. And wait times for these services has dropped: Most provinces now report those times on publicly available Web sites.

Few Canadians go south for medical care. Canadian researchers say it’s a bit like getting struck by lighting — it’s extremely rare, but when it happens, everyone talks about it.

– Public opinion polls continue to show strong support for publicly financed, universal health care in Canada.

Varney contradicts the oft-repeated claim that Canadians can’t purchase health insurance coverage by writing that many Canadians purchase private coverage for “optometry, dentistry and outpatient prescription drugs” — services the public plan does not cover. Yet at the end of the piece, she quotes a pollster who notes that the Canadian health care system “‘is not something that everybody is completely satisfied with or complacent about.’ About half of Canadians say they would like the option to buy a private health insurance plan. Currently, that’s not allowed.”

Canadians can purchase supplemental private coverage for services that are not covered by the public plan, but cannot purchase private insurance for basic services. As CBC News points out, private health insurance is “a crucial part of the system,” and Canadians spent about $43.2 billion on private coverage in 2005. Private insurance covers “anything beyond what the public system will pay for. For instance, should you have to spend some time in the hospital, the public system will cover the cost of your bed in a ward, which usually has three other patients. If you want a private room, the extra charge will come out of your pocket, unless you have extended health coverage either through your employer or through a policy you have bought yourself.”

Basic services are covered by the government precisely because the large risk pools allow the government to negotiate cheaper rates with providers and control health care costs. The government fears, with good reason, that if Canadians can leave the purchasing pools, the government’s market power would diminish.

Leave a comment

Filed under Americans for Prosperity, Canadian health care system, NPR.ORG, private insurance, The Wonk Room, Think Progress, universal coverage