After a decades-long effort to place ideologically committed “movement” members in the judicial branch of government, funded by extremely wealthy individuals and their corporations, it looks like the resulting corporate/conservative wing of the Supreme Court is ready to make a ruling that would bankrupt public-employee unions. And clearly already-decimated private-sector unions will be the next target.
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Monday in the case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. In this case the Court is asked to overturn a unanimous 1977 decision that said public-employee unions can charge nonmembers a fee to cover the cost of the services the unions are required by law to provide those nonmembers. The fee does not cover political activities of the union, only the cost of services the unions must, by law, provide.
If the corporate/billionaire class gets its way – and it looks like it will – the terrible inequality you see in the country today is nothing compared to what’s coming. Having grabbed all the income gains since the recession, having wiped out the middle class, having pushed so much to the top that a few families now have more wealth than all of the rest of us combined, now the corporate/billionaire class is coming after the rest of the money in the economy.
The Supreme Court has once again decided to reconsider “settled law.” This time it is a case involving the rights of public-employee unions to charge employees a fee for the services the unions are required by law to provide to all employees – even those who are not members of the union. The goal is to bankrupt the unions by denying them the funds necessary to perform the required services.
The argument is that since unions protect working people’s pay and rights, paying fees for union services therefore violates the “free speech” of those who support concentrated wealth and power.
This case is going to be argued before the Supreme Court on Monday. Here’s why you need to pay attention.
Payment For Services Unions Are Required By Law To Provide
When a public-employee union negotiates a contract, even employees who are not union-members get the pay increases, sick pay, vacation pay, union services and other benefits of the contract. Union services include the cost of collective bargaining, administering the resulting contract, and representing employees who have grievances under the contract.
Currently, unions are required by law to provide these services to every employee covered by a union contract, even if those employees are not union members. So, the unions charge an “agency fee” to those non-union employees to cover the costs.
Public-Employee Unions Support Communities, Not Just The Workers
Public-employee unions, by their nature, fight for the interests not just of employees but of the entire community. On a Wednesday call about the implications of the Freidrichs case, members of public-employee unions described how their unions help them serve the whole community.
Vincent Variale, a New York Fire Department EMS lieutenant and 9/11 first responder, said it is important for first responders to have a voice at the table, because they fight for preventive safety regulations, good equipment and adequate staffing levels.
For example, he said that on 9/11 they had no respirators, so it was hard to provide medical care as needed. His union local brought these concerns to the fire department and fought to get better equipment. Now they have respirators and protective equipment that allows them to work in harsh environments, like building collapses, providing medical care that is needed. And now that there is such a concern about “active shooters,” the union is proactively trying to get bulletproof vests. This demonstrates how unions protect the citizens their members serve.
Pankaj Sharma, a high school teacher in Illinois, talked about how his union works to stop cuts to the most marginalized and at-risk students. Special education, for example, is an expensive program and is often a target for cuts. The union fights this. The union also advocates for referendums to get high quality facilities. Because teaching has a high turnover rate, the union created a mentoring program to help keep teachers. This helps school districts and the students.
Coming Soon: Not Just Public Employees
In 2014 the Court ruled 5-4 that the First Amendment prohibited unions from collecting a fee from home health care providers who are not members of the union, even though the union was required to provide services.
Because of the makeup of the Court it is likely to rule in Freidrichs that nonmembers no longer have to pay those fees while the unions will still be required to provide those services. (Why else would the Court have taken this case?)
These cases are about public employees, but undoubtedly all of this is intended to lead also to attacking the same requirements for private-employee unions. This is about making every state a “right-to-work” state, and suppressing unions and wages.
Corporate Conservative Court Is Reconsidering Supposedly “Settled” Cases
In 1977’s Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that public-employee unions can charge this fee. So for decades this has been considered to be “settled law.”
But now the Supreme Court has a majority of members who made their way to the court with corporate-funded conservative backing. So the court is systematically reversing older “settled” cases that affect corporations, workers rights, and other elements of conservative ideology like voting rights and womens’ rights.
This time the conservatives on the Court are reconsidering the unanimously and four-decade-settled Abood decision. The case the Court is using to accomplish this is Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. The court is going to decide if non-union public employees will still be required to pay for the services unions required by law to provide them. All bets are that it will be another 5-4 decisions in favor of the corporate-conservative position.
The “Free Speech” Argument
The argument being used this time is that making people pay for services they receive, even when those services are required by law, violates their “freedom of speech.” This is said to be about “speech” because unions represent working people, enabling them to band together and collectively bargain, and thereby confront those with concentrated wealth and power on a more level playing field. Therefore, by their very nature, unions are engaging in “political activity,” and making people pay for the services unions provide is “unconstitutionally compelled political speech.”
In other words, because unions engage in the activity of fighting for better wages, rights, and protection, therefore the “rights” of those who would deny people those things are put at risk if unions are funded. Assisting unions in this mission by paying this fee thereby violates the free speech of those who support concentrated wealth and power.
We The People vs Concentrated Wealth And Power
The current majority of the Supreme Court was brought to its position with funding and backing of those on that other side – corporate-funded conservatives. These are the “people” whose “free speech rights” the Court says are being violated if unions receive funds enabling them to represent working people. These corporations are also the “people” who the Court ruled are allowed to put unlimited money into our elections because of “free speech.”
The Supreme Court repeatedly takes the position that anything that protects working people and regular citizens from concentrated wealth and power is by its very nature “political advocacy” and therefore violates the “free speech” of those few with concentrated wealth and power.
But the United States of America was founded by We the People – all of us “created equal” – with the purpose of banding together to protect ourselves and secure our liberty from concentrated wealth and power. This Supreme Court is consistently issuing 5-4 rulings that go against the very reasons our country was founded and our Constitution was written.
As the Supreme Court hears this case on Monday, that day will mark the beginning of a week of action to ensure that the public is aware of what’s at stake: the ability of workers to stand up for themselves and for the people they serve. Please visit America Works Together – a coalition of working people and their allies, working people like teachers, nurses, firefighters, and other public service workers who are passionate about our work, and learn more about what you can do during the week of action.
In a country with a Constitution beginning with the words, “We the People,” should our economy work for all of us instead of just a few of us? You would think it should work for We the People, but example after example shows how it is actually rigged to work for only a few people.
Here is a new video of the speakers at the Postal Banking petition delivery:
Nearly 28 percent of U.S. households (54 percent of African-American households) are forced to turn to payday lenders, check-cashers and other financial predators, because they can’t get accounts at private banks. Postal banking — having the post office offer simple savings accounts, bill paying, debit card and ATM services and small loans — would provide low-cost financial services through the nation’s 30,000 U.S. Post Offices.
Every other developed country has a postal banking option to serve their people. We do not. Because we do not, if Americans can’t get a bank account they are forced to rely on predatory services. That rigs the financial services game against We the People.
If you need to see a doctor in England you just do, and you don’t have to pay to do it. Almost every other developed country provides health care to serve their people. We do not. We are instead on our own — forced to purchase private insurance with its high deductibles and co-pays.
We are banned by law from buying into Medicare until we are 65 — and Republicans are trying to get rid of that by turning Medicare into a limited voucher to buy private scam insurance. That rigs the health care game against We the People.
How about our internet service? Did you know that municipalities — or the Post Office — could offer us “public option” high-speed internet at a very low cost? (In many countries their Post Office offers internet and phone options to the people.) But by and large we don’t get a public option. Instead we have to rely on telecommunications monopolies who deliver slow broadband speeds and make us pay whatever they say we have to pay. (And don’t forget the fees!) This rigs the internet/telecommunications game against We the People.
Public Options Forbidden
We have been through decades of “privatization” – turning public services over to private enterprise. They lay off the well-paid, unionized public employees and hire people at minimum wage. This cuts the tax base, hits local businesses, and forces foreclosures. On top of that, minimum-age employees require public services like food stamps just to get by.
The privatizers justify that by saying that private businesses always do everything better than government. But if We the People decide that we want to provide ourselves with a public option for a service, this is banned because it would be “unfair competition” with the private sector.
Why would it be unfair competition? Because government offers economy of scale, public oversight of operations, transparency, higher standards, good service, and most of all doesn’t have to push all the gains to a few people at the top. This last is, by the way, the real reason for privatization — to push all the gains to a few people at the top.
Our government is meant to serve We the People, instead of just some people. When We the People are not allowed to offer each other public options, it rigs the economy against us and in favor of an already-wealthy few.
“I don’t believe in some foreign “ism”, but I believe deeply in American idealism.” – Senator Bernie Sanders
Sen. Bernie Sanders billed his talk Thursday at Georgetown University as a speech on “democratic socialism,” but it was immediately clear that what Sanders was really talking about were not the ideologies of a Cold War adversary but deeply American traditions of fairness that have been under attack by ideologues brandishing American flags.
Sanders anchored his speech as building on President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1944 “Second Bill of Rights” address. “Real freedom must include economic security.” he said. “That was Roosevelt’s vision 70 years ago. It is my vision today. It is a vision that we have not yet achieved. It is time that we did.”
In the presidential campaign Republican candidates are proposing even more austerity as a solution to the lackadaisical recovery, combined with tax cuts for the rich and deregulation of Wall Street and the giant corporations. Democrats, on the other hand are proposing infrastructure investment and a number of other positive solutions.
There used to be something called “the HP Way.” This was the description of the way Hewlett-Packard (HP) conducted its business and treated its employees and customers.
Management was informal, and the majority of the company’s engineers worked in an open environment, rather than offices, to encourage communication and teamwork. In Bill Hewlett’s word, “the HPa Way is a core ideology … which includes a deep respect for the individual, a dedication to affordable quality and reliability, a commitment to community responsibility, and a view that the company exists to make technical contributions for the advancement and welfare of humanity.”
“The HP Way” had its heyday in the 1960s, and today is credited with helping grow the corporation from a $538 garage outfit in 1939 into the $125 billion behemoth it is today.
There was an emphasis on life outside of work: HP bought up land for recreational activities around the world, and pioneered Friday afternoon beers at the office, for instance.
Experts like Malone say that approach became a model adopted by many in Silicon Valley –including crosstown peers like Apple Inc and Cisco – and helped differentiate the technology giants on the U.S. West Coast from their more strait-laced brethren back east.
That was the old way that HP did business.
Then Came Carly
Then came Carly Fiorina and the new American business model. Fiorina was appointed CEO of HP in 1999 and began to rid the company of its old-fashioned way of doing business – and employees. In 2002 she pushed through a merger with Compaq over the objection of 49 percent of the company’s shareholders (along with the vocal objections of Walter Hewlett, son of one of HP’s founders. See definition: “divisive“.) The goal of the merger was to grow the company, to reduce costs by shedding a huge number of duplicated employees – and to become big enough in the computer industry to make Microsoft reduce its licensing fees for their operating system. But profits and HP’s stock price sank.
In a 2004 analysis, “Losing the HP way,” the Economist reported, “Ms. Fiorina reacted by giving another glimpse of her tough side, firing three top executives on the spot, and stubbornly sticking with her strategy.”
“In the five years that Fiorina was at Hewlett-Packard, the company lost over half its value. … During those years, stocks in companies like Apple and Dell rose. Google went public, and Facebook was launched.
… And I have to point out the obvious: If the board was wrong, the employees wrong, and the shareholders wrong—as Fiorina maintains—why in 10 years has she never been offered another public company to run?”
Bill Taylor, writing at the Harvard Business Review, in “How Hewlett-Packard Lost the HP Way” quotes Thomas Perkins, “the legendary venture capitalist and a former HP director (who has hardly covered himself in glory during this mess), who told the New York Times back in August: ‘I didn’t know there was such a thing as corporate suicide, but now we know that there is. It’s just astonishing.’ ” Perkins was talking about circumstances under a different CEO, but those circumstances commenced under Fiorina’s leadership at the company.
“Corporate suicide.” Perkins may not have understood this at the time, but he was also talking about how the new American business model and adherents like Fiorina have divided and destroyed our country.
Defining Moments In Republican Debate
There were two defining moments for Fiorina in the second Republican debate. One was when she responded to Trump’s insult about her looks, saying, “I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.”
Fiorina played the victim card well. Republicans love being victims.
In 2010, Fiorina was caught on an open mic commenting on Boxer’s hair as she was prepping for an interview with CNN affiliate KXTV. Fiorina told her staff that someone saw Boxer on television and “said what everyone says, ‘God what is that hair?’ So yesterday!”
Fiorina lost that campaign for U.S. Senate – her first and only previous attempt to gain political office and experience inside government. Starting at the top: First a run for the Senate and then, losing that, a run for the presidency.
Fiorina’s other defining moment in the debate was her emphatic description of the contents of a video supposedly catching Planned Parenthood selling baby parts for profit. She asked debate viewers to watch the videos and, “watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.”
Fiorina is wrong: Nobody watching the Planned Parenthood tapes would see those things. I know, because I recently watched the 12 hours of video that included all footage shot inside clinics.
The videos were produced by the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group that argues Planned Parenthood has profited from procuring fetal tissue for researchers. The videos do show Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue, sometimes in ways that are callous and jarring. But there is no moment where Planned Parenthood discusses procuring fetal tissue for profit, nor is there the scene that Fiorina describes.
… Either Fiorina hasn’t watched the Planned Parenthood videos or she is knowingly misrepresenting the footage. Because what she says happens in the Planned Parenthood videos simply does not exist.
This was entirely a fabrication on Fiorina’s part. Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo writes of this:
Fiorina has a habit of simply making things up. In the case of the parts of the Planned Parenthood videos, the way she made it up seems to verge on the pathological. Again she says she saw something in these videos that completely wasn’t there. And she doubled down on it the next day. This is just lying through your teeth or just being so indifferent to whether things are true or not that it amounts to the same thing.
… [J]ournalists have special responsibilities to look past caricatures and the familiar. In this case, they’re failing that test. You should not be able to tell a slew of small fibs in a big debate and one mammoth one and not have it become part of the campaign discussion at all.
Republican Corporate Establishment Pushing Fiorina Over Trump
The HP Board felt that Fiorina would come in, cast aside the old-fashioned “HP Way” and transform HP into a modern, streamlined, neoliberal money-making machine.
Skip ahead a few years and the Republican establishment appears to have decided that Carly Fiorina, disgraced HP CEO, “debate winner,” maker-up of stuff, will save them from Donald Trump. So the corporate media outlets are pushing Fiorina hard. Blogger Atrios, in “I Guess Jeff Sent A Memo” (referring to Amazon CEO and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos), included this picture of a list of Washington Post columns, which is representative of what is going on across the media right now:
Fiornia’s campaign created this online ad in response to Trump’s insult:
Brilliant marketing. But in the ad Fiorina refers to the “Democrat” party. As silly as this insult is, it is also significant and revealing. This phrase in the ad is a “dog whistle” to the far right. “Democrat Party” is an old Joe McCarthy/John Birch Society insult, used by the far, far right to identify themselves as part of their cult. Hendrik Hertzberg wrote in 2006 in the New Yorker about this word use, in “The ‘Ic’ Factor“:
There’s no great mystery about the motives behind this deliberate misnaming. “Democrat Party” is a slur, or intended to be—a handy way to express contempt. Aesthetic judgments are subjective, of course, but “Democrat Party” is jarring verging on ugly. It fairly screams “rat.”
… In the conservative media, the phenomenon feeds more voraciously the closer you get to the mucky, sludgy bottom. “Democrat Party” is standard jargon on right-wing talk radio and common on winger Web sites like NewsMax.com, which blue-pencils Associated Press dispatches to de-“ic” references to the Party of F.D.R. and J.F.K.
… This is partly the work of Newt Gingrich, the nominal author of the notorious 1990 memo “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control,” and his Contract with America pollster, Frank Luntz, the Johnny Appleseed of such linguistic innovations as “death tax” for estate tax and “personal accounts” for Social Security privatization. Luntz, who road-tested the adjectival use of “Democrat” with a focus group in 2001, has concluded that the only people who really dislike it are highly partisan adherents of the—how you say?—Democratic Party. “Those two letters actually do matter,” Luntz said the other day.
So this is an introduction to Carly Fiorina. New top-down “business models” that shed people and humanity, and divided and destroyed a time-honored company. Playing the victim for things she herself has done to others. Sneaky “dog whistles” to the anti-woman far right in a video that pretends to advance the cause of women.
Will the country go the way of HP if Fiorina and her backers succeed in winning the nomination and presidency? One former HP worker told me, “The one area that Carly succeeded in was this: destroying jobs at HP and creating tens of thousands of victims with lots of ill-will toward HP. Carly was a great job-destroyer. Why not send her to Washington to see what she can do for America?”
When “Jeb!” Bush started campaigning for president, people starting asking, “Wait, was W the smart one?” Now the rest of the Republican candidates are causing people to ask, “Wait, is Trump the reasonable one?”
Wednesday night we will all get a chance to see the next round of the freak show. Who would have thought that Donald “Mexicans are rapists” Trump would stand out in the Republican field as the rational one? But consider this:
● Running second to Trump, Ben Carson wants to cut taxes on billionaires all the way to 10 percent, while requiring the poor to pay more. Along with the other Republican candidates, he denies the science behind climate change. Carson is the candidate who said, “Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. And it is in a way, it is slavery in a way…” He also proposes letting tax-dodging corporations hoarding more than $2 trillion outside of U.S. out of paying most of the up-to-$700-plus billion they owe.
● Scott Walker is now campaigning almost entirely on destroying unions.
● The Jeb Bush tax plan gives a (another) huge ($3.4 trillion) tax cut to billionaires and corporations.
● John Kasich closed half of Ohio’s womens’ health clinics, forced Ohio women to get ultrasounds before an abortion, forced Ohio rape counseling centers to not mention abortion and demands that Congress defund Planned Parenthood, saying this is all a “Christian moral imperative.”
● Ted “Shut Down the Government” Cruz wants to shut down the government again over funding for Planned Parenthood. So does Bobby Jindal. So does Carly Fiorina.
● Even worse, Mike Huckabee would put the U.S. into default over the debt ceiling to defund Planned Parenthood. He would also give “due process” rights to fetuses.
● Carly Fiorina says “liberal politicians” caused California’s terrible drought.
This could go on and on – you get the idea: These people are nuts. In this crowd, Donald “Laziness Is a Trait in Blacks” Trump stands out as the reasonable one. Consider this:
● Trump says CEO pay is too high, even “disgraceful,” and his Republican voters love it.
● Trump says he was “strongly” against the Iraq war, and his Republican voters love it.
● Trump says cutting Social Security would not be fair to people who need it, and his Republican voters love it.
● Trump calls for raising taxes on hedge-fund managers, and his Republican voters love it.
● Trump is not blindly pro-“free trade” and has come out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and his Republican voters love it.
● Trump even says “single-payer” health care works elsewhere, and his Republican voters love it.
All of these go against conservative orthodoxy – and have helped propel Trump into the lead.
Trump’s Republican Base Rejects Conservative Ideology
During the first Republican debate, the moderators tried to turn the Republican audience against Trump by saying he goes against conservative ideology. “Mr. Trump, it’s not just your past support for single-payer health care. You’ve also supported a host of other liberal policies.” It didn’t work. Following the debate Trump’s support among Republicans surged.
For decades that Republican Party has run a game in which they get votes by feeding “red meat” to “the base” and then, once in office, pass tax cuts for the rich and grant favors for giant corporations while cutting the things government does to make people’s lives better. They offered weak cover stories to justify this economic assault on 99 percent of us, like “tax cuts increase government revenue,” “government takes money out of the economy,” “corporations making decisions is better than government making decisions,” “giving money to billionaires increases jobs.”
Meanwhile the things they promised the base (based on racism, nativism, theocracy) were never actually enacted because they needed to be kept around as red-meat issues for the next election. A significant portion of the Republican electorate finally got fed up with being played.
So along comes Trump, challenging this corporate-conservative orthodoxy on economic issues while still brandishing many of the red-meat policies on social issues the Republican establishment has used to get the votes. Trump is exposing that the Republican base is not as locked into the conservative dogma of trickle-down, austerity economics as the Republicans establishment leadership would have us believe.
Trump goes where the base has been trained to go, combined with obvious popular positions. And he is able to do this because he’s able to self-fund his campaign.
Trump doesn’t offer actual solutions. He says, “I’ll just do it.” He says “I’m rich.” (See inside some of his mansions here.) He says of his competitors, “They’re all stupid.”
Trump’s basic message is, “I’ll make the trains run on time.” This sounds great compared to the rest of them, who say, “I’ll destroy the government, launch endless wars, deny basic scientific and economic facts and give everything of value to a few billionaires.” Who would have thought there could be a gathering that makes Donald “if Ivanka Weren’t My Daughter, Perhaps I’d Be Dating Her” Trump look good. We’ll see how this holds up at Wednesday’s 2nd Republican debate.
P.S. By the way, why haven’t there been any Democratic debates?
The world is out of balance. Everyone’s nervous. There is a glut of money floating around the world and no one offers a “safe place” to put it. The stock market is way up, way down, way up, way down – sometimes all on the same day. China’s currency is having dramatic swings while the U.S. has an enormous, humongous trade deficit.
Super-wealthy people are making and losing hundreds of millions (sometimes billions) in a day – none of it on making or doing actual things that matter. Inequality is soaring. (The top 25 hedge fund managers earn more than all kindergarten teachers in the U.S. combined.) And all around the world, there’s very little actual economic growth.
Meanwhile, most people barely (or don’t) have enough to get by.
Republican economics has been stated a thousand ways by a thousand (always paid) voices. But the basic idea behind all the schemes has been hard to pin down. Finally Republican front-runner Donald Trump has spelled it out in a way anyone can understand.
Thursday’s Progressive Breakfast (you should subscribe, it’s free, it’s really good) contains a story in which Trump clearly articulates the Republican/Billionaire/Wall Street case for a low-or-zero tax on corporate profits: “because they don’t want to pay the tax.”
Trump Sides With Multinationals Donald Trump backs repatriation in Time interview: “Pfizer is talking about moving to Ireland. Or someplace else … Do you know how big that is? It would wipe out New Jersey … They have $2.5 trillion sitting out of the country that they can’t get back because they don’t want to pay the tax. Nor would I … We should let them back in. Everybody. Even if you paid nothing it would be a good deal. Because they’ll take that money then and use it for other things. But they’ll pay something. Ten percent, they’ll pay something.”
There it is in a nutshell. The Republican case for low or no taxes: “because they don’t want to pay the tax.”
Businesses are run for a profit that goes into the pockets of the business’ “investors.” To be an investor requires that you have money. This is a rigged system that by definition channels the returns and gains of our economy to the people who have money in the first place.
That system forces a terrible business model: investors try to squeeze money out of businesses as fast as they can. Then they move on. People who put the money in have even more money, but leave behind them a trail of squeezed-out ruin. This squeezing of the business involves squeezing the workers, squeezing the product, squeezing the customers and squeezing the government out of any taxes that might be owed.
This is bad for America’s long-term economy, people, environment and — since it brings about intense concentration of wealth — bad for our democracy, too. But hey, it’s great for a few already-wealthy people at the top.