AARP: Social Security Should Not Be Part Of Deficit Discussion

Social Security does not contribute to the deficit in any way. The government has borrowed money from the program, not the other way around. Complaints about the need to come up with money to pay for people retiring are because Republicans used Social Security money to give tax cuts to the rich, and now that the money is supposed to be paid back so it can fund people’s retirements — which means getting the money from where the money went — they are trying to make people think the greedy old people shouldn’t be paid.
AARP: Social Security Should Not Be Part Of Deficit Discussion.
Here are facts: Social Security has a huge trust fund, and is self-funded. (Compare that to the huge military budget!) It is not in any kind of “trouble.” The propaganda that it is “going broke” is part of a strategic plan hatched by corporate conservatives to prepare the public for accepting the dismantling of the program, nothing more. I have written about this many times. Here is one post that lays this out.
AARP had to be pressured by progressives to stand up for Social Security. From the story,

Three progressive organizations — Social Security Works, Credo Action and the blog FireDogLake.com — launched campaigns aimed at pressuring AARP to stand up for Social Security after HuffPost reported that the elderly lobby was planning to host a high-level “salon-style conversation” with deficit hawks and advocates of cutting Social Security. Tens of thousands — including thousands of AARP members — signed petitions urging AARP not to support benefit cuts.

Senators Filibustered For $23,582,500

This week the Senate filibustered the effort to stop giving huge, huge tax breaks and subsidies to oil companies. Why did they filibuster? FOR MONEY.
See Senators Who Voted To Protect Oil Tax Breaks Received $23,582,500 From Big Oil | ThinkProgress
What more needs to be said? This is filed under corruption & corporate rule.

Apple/Foxconn Promises — We’ll See

The “independent” audit of working conditions at Apple’s Chinese manufacturing supply chain is out, and it is not good. Workers are being exploited in ways that violate human rights standards and laws, and letting them get away with this is costing us our own jobs. Apple’s suppliers promise to improve conditions, make workplaces safer, stop forcing such long hours and lift wages. Foxconn even says they’ll start obeying Chinese law — but not until next year! If this really does happen can China keep its competitive advantage?
“Free Trade”
By opening up so-called “free trade” we made democracy a competitive disadvantage. We just let in goods made in places where people have no say, and as a result there is no environmental protection, little worker protection, terrible working conditions, very low wages and terrible exploitation of people. So of course that undercuts goods made where people have a say, and therefore demand better. We made We, the People having a say (democracy) into a competitive disadvantage! Because we make this mistake we lost millions of jobs, tens of thousands of factories, and entire industries. We devastated out not just towns and cities, but entire regions. (See Free Trade Or Democracy, Can’t Have Both.)
Free People Won’t Tolerate That
A recent groundbreaking New York Times story by Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher, How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work, exposed how workers are treated by Apple’s suppliers. Summary: Steve Jobs told President Obama, “Those jobs aren’t coming back,” because factories in China have people living in crowded dorm rooms where they can be rousted in the middle of the night and made to work 12-14 hour shifts, 7 days a week, standing the whole time, for very little pay, using toxic chemicals, and all kinds of other violations of human rights. Corporations can’t get “performance” and “efficiency” and “productivity” — profits — like that out of free people who have a say, so they move their operations over there and lay off workers and close factories over here. (Important note: it’s not just Apple, Apple is the biggest so the company name is really shorthand for the real culprits: namely, all of them.)
The FLA Report
This NY Times story had quite an impact. Apple was worried that people’s knowledge of their exploitation of workers in China might affect profits. So Apple responded by hiring the Fair Labor Association (FLA), a “labor monitoring group” that has no actual organized labor organization participation, to conduct an audit of working conditions at Apple’s Chinese suppliers. The report found numerous violations of labor standards and even Chinese law. For example, the report found “numerous instances where Foxconn defied industry codes of conduct by having employees work more than 60 hours a week, and sometimes more than 11 days in a row.” In addition, the report “also found that 43 percent of workers had experienced or witnessed accidents, and almost two-thirds said their compensation “does not meet their basic needs.”
TPM: Apple Supplier Foxconn Violated Workers Rights, Audit Finds,

The 60-plus hour work week found at the factories is above both China’s official legal maximum, 49 hours, and the maximum standard allowable by the Fair Labor Association (FLA), the organization that Apple paid to conduct what it said would be an independent audit.
… The FLA inspection also revealed that “more than 43 percent of the workers report that they have experienced or witnessed an accident,” and “a considerable number of workers felt generally insecure regarding their health and safety,” especially pertaining to aluminum dust, which caused an explosion at a factory in the city of Chengdu in 2011 that killed four workers and injured 77, as the New York Times reported.

Apple’s Own Published Standards Violated Chinese Law!
Chinese law limits weekly work time to 49 hours but “industry code” and Apple’s standards limits weekly hours to 60. That Apple’s (and other companies) own published standards violate even Chinese law demonstrates they were aware they were ignoring the law and using what they could get out of the workers. It demonstrates that these companies are knowingly engaged in illegal exploitation of workers, for profit. It also demonstrates that the Chinese government has been ignoring its own laws.
HuffPo: Foxconn Apple Factories Violated Chinese Labor Laws, According To Fair Labor Association

The Washington-based Fair Labor Association says Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., the Taiwanese company that runs the factories, is committing to reducing weekly work time to the legal Chinese maximum of 49 hours.
That limit is routinely ignored in factories throughout China. Auret van Heerden, the CEO of the FLA, said Hon Hai is the first company to commit to following the legal standard.
Apple’s and FLA’s own guidelines call for work weeks of 60 hours or less.

Promises
In a PR attempt to soften the impact of the FLA report, Apple’s suppliers made promises to improve.
NY Times, Electronic Giant Vowing Reforms in China Plants,

Responding to a critical investigation of its factories, the manufacturing giant Foxconn has pledged to sharply curtail working hours and significantly increase wages inside Chinese plants making electronic products for Apple and others. The move could improve working conditions across China.

And, get this, they promise to start obeying the law — by July of next year,

Foxconn’s promises include a commitment that by July of next year, no worker will labor for more than 49 hours per week — the limit set by Chinese law.

WaPo: Pledge by Apple’s iPhone manufacturer in China could set off new round of wage hikes,

Foxconn, owned by Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., promised to limit hours while keeping total pay the same, effectively paying more per hour. Foxconn is one of China’s biggest employers, with 1.2 million workers who also assemble products for Microsoft Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co.

From the HuffPo story,

“The report will include new promises by Apple that stand to be just as empty as the ones made over the past 5 years,” said SumOfUS.org, a coalition of trade unions and consumer groups, ahead of the release of the report.

And from the TPM story,

“For months now, SumOfUs.org members have been calling on Apple to clean up the working conditions in its supply chain in time to produce the next iPhone be the first ethical iPhone,” the spokesperson told TPM, “That hasn’t changed at all. Our campaign is going to continue until real workers see real improvements — and so far Apple has been all talk and no action.”

We’ll See
This is one of those “believe it when we see it” situations. Phrases like “lip service” come to mind. We’ll see. Apple’s supplier promises to start obeying the lay — by July of next year! Wow.
But here is a question: where is our government on this? American companies are breaking laws overseas, exploiting workers and violating human rights standards. They are hoarding the resulting cash offshore to avoid paying their taxes, when we have a national deficit. These actions by these companies are wiping out our jobs and communities. Where is our government on this?
Click here to see the Fair Labor Association report.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Open Letter From Europe Against American Labor Intimidation Practices

“EMPLOYEES OF U.S. SUBSIDIARIES OF GERMAN COMPANIES, ESPECIALLY T-MOBILE USA, SHOULD BE ABLE TO EXERCISE THEIR UNRESTRICTED RIGHT TO OPT FOR ORGANIZED REPRESENTATION IN THE COMPANY WITHOUT FEAR.”
In an ad in the NY Times yesterday, 11 leading German legal scholars and politicians called on Deutsche Telekom and other German companies to stop using American-style union-hating tactics at their American subsidiaries. In particular they asked these companies to “end all collaboration with U.S. consultants who advise employers how to fight employee representation.”
Remarkable
What is remarkable about this letter is the difference between European and American attitudes toward working people and labor rights. In Europe it’s just a given that working people have dignity and respect. To Europeans it is shocking to see a company try to fight against its own workers! In the US working people face an atmosphere of constant intimidation, always pushing for lower wages, cuts in benefits, longer working hours, and subservience.
The letter speaks for itself, please read it: (click for original)

To T-MOBILE USA and Other U.S. Subsidiaries of German Companies
AN OPEN LETTER ON WORKERS’ RIGHTS
Globalization and the current crisis present particular challenges for the economy. Germany’s social market policy faces these challenges with its commitment to stakeholder values including employees and its responsibility towards the community. The respect for the interests of different players has already proven to be beneficial in previous periods of change. Essential elements of this approach are respectful cooperation and a balance of the differing interests of employees and employers. Since employees are in a structurally weaker position compared to employers, the freedom of association and freedom of opinion as human rights are especially vital.
The signatories urge that the employees of U.S. subsidiaries of German companies, especially T-Mobile USA, should be able to exercise their unrestricted right to opt for organized representation in the company without fear. They must not be influenced, pressured, or intimidated by employers if they exercise their basic right for freedom of association. The human right of freedom of speech notably entails this right as well.
Even in the Federal Republic of Germany there are shortsighted employers and lawyers who believe they can get away with a lack of integrity and respect toward unions and work councils and who think they can forgo cooperation. Practical experiences and scientific studies show, however, that employer conduct based on this model will ultimately be harmful to the company.
We encourage T-Mobile USA and the other U.S. subsidiaries of German companies to take these experiences to heart and to abandon all efforts at union avoidance. Likewise, we ask them to end all collaboration with U.S. consultants who advise employers how to fight employee representation.
Däubler-Gmelin, Prof. Dr. Herta, former Federal Minister of Justice, attorney, Berlin
Baum, Gerhart R., former Minister of the Interior, attorney, Düsseldorf
Müntefering, Franz, former Federal Minister for Labor and Social Affairs, German MP, Berlin
Schmoldt, Hubertus, former Chairman of the Labor Union IG Mining, Chemical and Energy
Hensche, Detlef, former Chairman of the Labor Union IG Media, attorney, Berlin
Merzhäuser, Michael, attorney, Berlin
Dieterich, Prof. Dr. Thomas, former President of the Federal Labor Court and former Judge of the Federal Constitutional Court, Kassel
Blüm, Dr. Norbert, former Federal Minister for Labor and Social Affairs, Bonn
Struck, Dr. Peter, former Federal Minister of Defense, President of Friedrich – Ebert – Foundation, Berlin
Däubler, Prof. Dr. jur. Wolfgang, university professor (labor law, business law, international law), Bremen
Schwegler, Dr. Lorenz, former Chairman of the Union for Trade, Banking and Insurance Carriers, attorney, Düsseldorf
Learn more at www.WeWorkBetterTogether.org

Did you see that last line? Learn more at www.WeWorkBetterTogether.org
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Every Progressive Should Know About The “Budget For All”

Every progressive should know about the Congressional Progressive Caucus’s “Budget for All.” In fact, every American should know about this budget. But the corporate news media sure isn’t going to tell people. So you should help get the word out. Read and Share the One-Page Handout. Email this post to friends, relatives, and especially to your right-wing brother-in-law.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus has put together a “Budget for All” that “puts Americans back to work, charts a path to responsible deficit reduction, enhances our economic competitiveness, rebuilds the middle class and invests in our future.” This budget “makes no cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security benefits, and asks those who have benefited most from our economy to pay a sensible share.”

Our Budget Puts Americans Back to Work
Our budget attacks America’s persistently high unemployment levels with more than $2.9 trillion in additional job-creating investments. This plan utilizes every tool at the government’s disposal to get our economy moving again, including:
• Direct hire programs that create a School Improvement Corps, a Park Improvement Corps, and a Student Jobs Corps, among others.
• Targeted tax incentives that spur clean energy, manufacturing, and cutting-edge technological investments in the private sector.
• Widespread domestic investments including an infrastructure bank, a $556 billion surface transportation bill, and approximately $2.1 trillion in widespread domestic investment.
Our Budget Exhibits Fiscal Discipline
• The Budget for All achieves $6.8 trillion in deficit reduction, hits the same debt to GDP ratio as the Republican budget, and has lower deficits in the last five years, but does so in a responsible way that does not devastate what Americans want preserved.
• We achieve these notable benchmarks by focusing on the true drivers of our deficit – unsustainable tax policies, the wars overseas, and policies that helped cause the recent recession – rather than putting the middle class’s social safety net on the chopping block.
Our Budget Creates a Fairer America
• Ends tax cuts for the top 2% of Americans on schedule at year’s end
• Extends tax relief for middle class households and the vast majority of Americans
• Creates new tax brackets for millionaires and billionaires
• Eliminates the tax code’s preferential treatment of capital gains and dividends
• Abolishes corporate welfare for oil, gas, and coal companies
• Eliminates loopholes that allow businesses to dodge their true tax liability
• Calls for the adoption of the “Buffett Rule”
• Creates a publicly funded federal election system that gets corporate money out of politics for good
Our Budget Brings Our Troops Home
• Responsibly and expeditiously ends our military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving America more secure at home and abroad
• Modernizes our military to address 21st century threats and stop contributing to our deficit problems
Protects American Families
• Provides a Making Work Pay tax credit for families struggling with high gas and food cost 2013-2015
• Extends Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child and Dependent Care Credit
• Invests in programs to stave off further foreclosures to keep families in their homes
• Invests in our children’s education by increasing Education, Training, and Social Services

Let people know that there is a budget alternative that respects We, the People.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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The FOX Effect

The WSJ, part-owned by a Saudi oil price, tells me:

CO2 is not a pollutant. Life on earth flourished for hundreds of millions of years at much higher CO2 levels than we see today. Increasing CO2 levels will be a net benefit because cultivated plants grow better and are more resistant to drought at higher CO2 levels, and because warming and other supposedly harmful effects of CO2 have been greatly exaggerated. Nations with affordable energy from fossil fuels are more prosperous and healthy than those without.

What do real scientists say? Reuters: Global Warming Close to Becoming Irreversible,

The world is close to reaching tipping points that will make it irreversibly hotter, making this decade critical in efforts to contain global warming, scientists warned on Monday.
Scientific estimates differ but the world’s temperature looks set to rise by six degrees Celsius by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are allowed to rise uncontrollably.
As emissions grow, scientists say the world is close to reaching thresholds beyond which the effects on the global climate will be irreversible, such as the melting of polar ice sheets and loss of rainforests.

Republican Budget For Billionaires

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The new Republican budget (called the “Ryan Budget” by DC insiders) reflects current electoral reality: billionaires and corporations now finance candidates, and we get government of, by and for billionaires and corporations. The rest of us no longer matter, except as “the help” and, at least to the extent we haven’t been entirely fleeced, a flock to harvest. This budget starts with $10 trillion in tax cuts — mostly for the rich. After adding $10 trillion to the deficits Republicans then claim that severe cuts are necessary to “fight deficits.” Right. Details below.
Keep in mind where we are starting from: The way our economy and tax system is already structured, the top 1% received 93% of income gains from recovery. As Mitt Romney’s tax returns demonstrated, those at the very top — whose income comes as checks generated by the money they already have — already pay much lower tax rates than those of us who work for a living.
Shock Doctrine
“Nothing is more important in the face of a war than cutting taxes. — Republican Majority Leader Tom Delay, 2003″
After passing tax cut after tax cut, and military spending increase after military spending increase, and starting war after war, Republican borrowing has added up. So now Republicans terrify the public, telling them that budget deficits will lead to the destruction of the country — and soon. After a decade of screaming “9/11,” “9/11,” noun verb “9/11,” they now scream “deficit, deficit, deficit.” Then with the public suitably stirred up and terrified they offer “solutions” they say are necessary to cut the scary deficit (that they caused, for this purpose).
Behind a blizzard of fog and mirrors, the new Republican budget completes the ongoing shift of our government and our economy away from “we are in this together” democracy to a “you are on your own” system that is entirely for the benefit of a few at the top.
Cuts Taxes For The 1%
The smoke and mirrors: they claim this budget is necessary to reduce deficits, but it doesn’t even pretend to. Instead it starts by cutting taxes on the rich and their corporations by another $4.6 trillion while making permanent the Bush tax cuts, costing another $5.6 trillion. It gives a $187,000 tax cut To every millionaire!
Cuts Jobs
Ethan Pollack at the Economic Policy Institute describes how Ryan’s budget cuts would cost jobs — 4.1 million of them:

Paul Ryan’s latest budget doesn’t just fail to address job creation, itaggressively slows job growth. Against a current policy baseline, the budget cuts discretionary programs by about $120 billion over the next two years and mandatory programs by $284 billion, sucking demand out of the economy when it most needs it and leading to job loss. Using astandard macroeconomic model that is consistent with that used byprivate- and public-sector forecasters, the shock to aggregate demand from near-term spending cuts would result in roughly 1.3 million jobs lost in 2013 and 2.8 million jobs lost in 2014, or 4.1 million jobs through 2014.*

Cuts Everything Government Does For Regular People
This budget starts with $10 trillion in tax cuts for the wealthy! After handing billionaires and their corporations trillions, increasing deficits by an additional $10 trillion, the Republican budget then cuts the things government does for the rest of us: Medicare, Medicaid, food assistance and public investments (mostly infrastructure and education), and pretends it is necessary because of deficits. (It increases funding for military contractors.)
What is cut? The following is from an analysis by the Office of Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer:
A Choice of Two Futures: A Look at How the Republican Budget Ends Medicare, Destroys Jobs, Benefits the Wealthy
Ending the Medicare guarantee and raising health care costs for seniors:

  • Ends the guarantee of health security and shifts higher costs onto seniors and the disabled over time.
  • Increases seniors’ health care costs just like last year’s budget – which drove up costs by over $6,000 per year, according to CBO.
  • Reopens the prescription drug donut hole, increasing seniors’ drug costs by up to $44 billion through 2020, including $2.2 billion in 2012 alone, according to HHS.
  • Increases seniors’ out-of-pocket costs for preventative care and annual checkups by over $110 million in 2012 alone, according to HHS.
  • 54-year-olds would have to save more money just to cover health care costs – an analysis of last year’s budget showed they would have to save an additional $182,000, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans at the expense of working families:

  • Provides millionaires an average tax cut of $150,000.
  • Reduces revenue by $4.6 trillion on top of the $5.4 trillion cost of permanently extending all of the Bush tax cuts and other expiring provisions, according to the Tax Policy Center.
  • May force working families to pay higher effective tax rates to cover some of the cost of this $4.6 trillion tax cut for the wealthy by eliminating deductions.

Turning Medicaid into a block grant that jeopardizes access to affordable health and nursing home care for seniors and the disabled:

  • Cuts a total of $1.7 trillion from Medicaid over the next decade, and according to CBO, is on track to cut the program by 75% by 2050. According to the Urban Institute, block granting the Medicaid program could result in between 14 million and 27 million people losing coverage. An additional 17 million people, who gained Medicaid and CHIP coverage through health care reform according to the CBO, would also lose that coverage as a result of repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Making it harder for Americans to receive Social Security benefits:

  • Increases backlogs that delay people from getting benefits that they are due and could leave up to 90,000 people with disabilities waiting for a decision in 2013 and leave 300,000 more people with disabilities waiting for a decision each year over the next decade.

Weakening our ability to out-educate competitors and build a competitive workforce:

  • Reduces Pell Grants by more than $1,000 for 9.6 million students in 2014 and could eliminate Pell Grants for over one million students over the next decade.
  • Kicks 60,000 low-income children out of the Head Start program in 2013 and 200,000 low-income children out of the program each year over the next decade.
  • Cuts Title I funding, which could result in nearly 11,000 teachers and aides losing their jobs in 2013 and nearly 38,000 teachers and aides losing their jobs each year over the next decade.
  • Cuts funding for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which could result in 7,800 special education teachers, aides, and other staff serving children with disabilities losing their jobs in 2013, and 27,000 teachers, aides, and staff losing their jobs each year over the next decade.
  • Reduces work-study funding, meaning almost 37,000 students could lose access to college work-study opportunities in 2013, and more than 166,000 students could be affected each year over the next decade.

Slashing assistance to low-income families:

  • Cuts the WIC program (Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children), kicking 700,000 pregnant or postpartum women, infants, and children off the WIC program and leaving another 100,000 without access to critical foods necessary for healthy child development in 2013. Each year over the next decade, the cuts would kick 1.8 million women, infants, and children off the WIC program and leave another 100,000 without access to critical foods.
  • Converts SNAP into a block grant beginning in 2016, which could jeopardize access to food assistance for millions of Americans.
  • Cuts HUD’s rental assistance programs, resulting in over 116,000 fewer low-income families housed through the Housing Choice Voucher program in 2013 and 400,000 fewer low-income families housed through the program each year over the next decade.
  • Risks permanent loss of affordable units that serve 1.1 million Americans.

Repealing patient protections and putting insurance companies – not American families – in control of health care:

  • Allows insurers to once again be allowed to discriminate against up to 17 million children with pre-existing conditions.
  • Subjects 105 million Americans once more to arbitrary lifetime caps on their health insurance.
  • Increases 54 million Americans’ out-of-pocket costs for preventative care.
  • Puts up to 15 million Americans who are sick or injured at risk of being dropped from their private insurance because of a simple mistake on an application.
  • Eliminates tax credits for up to four million small businesses, which are already providing more affordable care to two million workers. [Figures provided by HHS and the Treasury Department]

Weakening national security:

  • Cuts COPS hiring grants, which could result in 75 fewer local police hires and 6,200 fewer bullet proof vests for state and local law enforcement personnel in 2013, and 285 fewer local police hires and 23,000 fewer vests each year over the next decade.
  • Cuts Department of Justice (DOJ) funding, resulting in 1,311 fewer federal agents to combat violent crime, pursue financial crimes, secure the border, and ensure national security in 2013, and 4,587 fewer agents each year over the next decade.
  • Cuts DOJ funding resulting in 948 fewer prison guards to maintain safe and secure federal prisons in 2013, and 3,319 fewer prison guards each year over the next decade.
  • Reduces Department of Homeland Security funding for preparedness efforts of state and local governments, which could mean 100 firefighters and 80 emergency managers not being hired or laid off in 2013, and 400 firefighters and 300 emergency managers not being hired or laid off each year over the next decade.

Undermining American competitiveness by cutting investments in science, medical research, space and technology:

  • Cuts funding for biomedical research by NIH, meaning 500 fewer grants NIH could award in a cutting-edge field in 2013 and 1,600 fewer grants each year for the next decade, limiting research that could lead to new cures for diseases.
  • Cuts funding for NSF, which could result in NSF making up to 1,100 fewer competitive research and education grants supporting over 13,000 researchers, students, and teachers in 2013 and 4,000 fewer grants supporting almost 48,000 researchers, students, and teachers each year over the next decade.
  • Cuts NASA funding and puts jobs at risk by forcing the agency to terminate major programs and potentially close major facilities.

Threatening our clean energy future:

  • Cuts investments in the Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and its applied research program, known as ARPA-E, that was established specifically to conduct energy research that industry by itself cannot support but where success would provide dramatic benefits for the nation.
  • Eliminates jobs by setting back efforts to put a million electric vehicles on the road, retrofit residential homes, and make commercial buildings more efficient.
  • Fails to boost all energy sources by eliminating tax support for renewable energy generation and the domestic jobs created by those energy projects.
  • Unless otherwise noted, all figures from OMB.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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