Why I Don’t Have Time For Republicans – Any Of Them

This morning Ann Coulter circulated a piece saying that the Britt fiasco was the result of Republicans using “DEI” to find a SOTU spokesperson, and this is what happens when you put a female there for quota reasons instead of a white male. Because OF COURSE no one would ever put anyone other than a white make anywhere important.

I’m just so sick of this vile stuff.

I have studied the “conservative movement” long enough to understand what it is about, and their goals. I have documented the backgrounds, training, methods and funding of right-wing operatives and how they develop their propaganda and for what purposes.

I do listen to them and read their stuff, to see what they’re up to. I used to have a gig with Media Matters where I’d do a roundup of what their outlets were saying, every morning, with an analysis of the reasons they were saying it, and how that furthered their objectives. That newsletter was circulated to progressive groups and elsewhere. I had to look at things like pictures of decapitated black kids, or drawings of big-nosed greedy Jews. That was a cesspit of the worst of humanity and it left me scarred.

So excuse me for avoiding them and not approving of giving them even wider platforms and bestowing legitimacy.

The “Private Sector” Is Government “Contracting Out” Its Functions

This was originally posted at Imagine Democracy

We live in a society, and getting things done for society is what government is for. Government is society’s way to make decisions about society’s resources, economy and future. Period. Anyone who tells you you don’t need government, or that government shouldn’t do this or that, is actually just trying to BE the government, for their own benefit.

EVERY decision about society’s resources, econony and future is made by government, one way or another. Period. Every. Single. One. Socialism, capitalism, communism, dictatorship, aristocracy, oligarchy, democracy, etc are just descriptions of how that decision-making is divided up. It’s about who makes the decisions and who gets the benefits. All the “ideological” battles are really just all about keeping the public from understanding that.

In the US, supposedly a democracy where the decisions are ultimately made by “We the People,” we hear about the “public sector” and the “private sector” of our economy. What we call “the private sector” is really just the government “contracting out” the functions of managing society. Corporations are those contracts. From the recent post about corporations, Understanding What a Corporation Actually Is Can Help Restore Democracy,

We the People want to have factories to build cars or toasters. We the People could do this – build the factory, hire the managers, organize supply chains, provide insurance. etc. – ourselves but instead we have come up with corporations as a way to “contract it out” to private investors to accomplish these jobs for us.

Corporations are the contracts government makes when it “contracts out” its functions. Period. Government charters corporations to do things government doesn’t want to do itself. Those charters come with conditions and rules.

Except our currently captured government doesn’t enforce the agreements.

A Currently ‘Hot’ Example

Government contracts out money creation. We charter banking corporations to do that function of government for us. The Post Office could do that as well, but we, for various reasons, choose to let a few “capital” holders – wealthy people – do that and reap the returns.

How To Fix The World

I have come to believe it is a waste of time to discuss “policy” anymore. Billionaires and corporations control the legislative and administrative branches. And that’s that. Period.

We can’t get anything through the Congress, no matter what. The Executive branch lives in a neoliberal mindset. The agencies are controlled by lobbyists. (Once in a while something can happen, but if we fix corruption, we fix all of it.)

Activists should put 100% of effort into fixing this. Fix money in politics and corruption. Nothing we advocate can happen otherwise. Everything we fight for will happen if these are fixed – because the public wants the same things. (That’s why we do what we do.)

There really is no other fight.

Congratulations Corporations, The Next President Will Be Your Business Partner (Updated)

This post first appeared at Government Cheese – Chronicling the collapse of democracy

It hasn’t sunk in yet but yesterday’s vote to allow Republican election-rigging and keep the filibuster marks the end of democracy. From here on out the fight is over. Republican efforts to rig the next elections will now accelerate. They know they have a free hand to do what they want. The public will tune out, understanding that nothing can change.

Billionaires and corporations funded and engineered the effort to keep the filibuster. Their thinking is that they’re at the top of a system rigged in their favor, and the filibuster keeps anything from changing. The filibuster has maintained their position at the top of the pyramid, blocking all efforts by the people to use government to change the rigged system. All Republicans were part of this pay-for-play operation, of course, but so were many Senate Democrats under Obama, and now Manchin and Sinema.

The corporations and billionaires think the current system of paying politicians to keep the money flowing to them has been locked in.
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Brilliant – Watch This Clip

Watch this clip. Brilliant. Follow the money behind the votes. It really is just paid corruption.

“David Sirota critiques coverage of DC budget battles
Reliable Sources

Former Bernie Sanders campaign advisor David Sirota says the news media should be following the money on Capitol Hill, sharing context “about which industries are buying which politicians.” Sirota also argues that the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009 is impacting American politics today.”

I can’t find a way to post the clip here so Click This to watch.

So Much For The System

What was left of our “system” has now passed the turning point.

We wanted accountability for crimes we could clearly see with our own eyes. But Republicans effectively killed investigations or oversight in the Congress. The people at the top of the FBI and Justice Dept were removed and the rest held under threat of ruin. The entire system of checks and balances was besieged.

We the People were left hopeless and helpless, no part of our government able to step up and tell us why the crimes we could see happening were continuing. So we put all of our eggs in the Mueller basket for any remaining hope to save us.

We all saw collusion and obstruction in plain sight, and believed the Mueller investigation knew even more. We KNOW there was money laundering, extortion, bribery, fraud, lies and lies and lies and you name it. Don Jr lied to Congress and we know it. Erik Prince did, and we know that. Flynn and Gates and Cohen and others were given light or no sentences so they could tell us what happened.

We know that at the least Trump had lied about his plans to build Trump Tower Moscow. The Russians knew at the time that he had lied so he was compromisable. And he acted compromised. (Meeting alone with Putin with no transcription? Ending sanctions?)

Our remaining hope for accountability lay in Mueller’s investigation and we were let down. The basket dropped and our remaining eggs are broken. Those who want accountability have lost. We failed to kill the king and now we face the consequences. The right’s media/propaganda/lie machine has an ability to set the discourse and reach the public that outweighs our ability to do anything about it. Trump is now exonerated for every crime or future crime and will be beyond reach.

The right-wing drumbeat to leave Trump alone will now become merciless. Dems will now be cast as sore-losers who engaged in a plot to to smear a good, Godley man and his family for political gain. Anyone questioning Trump’s divine right to rule will be marginalized, ostracized, called you name it. Democrats will be the radicals who want to force us into communist training camps

I asked in May, 2017, “Will our system withstand the attack? We don’t know. Kleptocracy is powerful.”

Now we know the answer. The promise of a “taste” of the kleptocracy will buy Republicans a lot of good will. (Stock buybacks alone have topped $1 trillion since the tax cuts.)

The Republican project is complete. Accountability is over. Corruption rules. The rich and powerful are fully in charge. “American carnage” reigns.

Corruption: “Take The Gold Or Take The Lead”

Corruption is such an issue… This is part of a 2014 post titled Eric Cantor Goes To His Reward

I’m posting this in honor of Joe Biden cashing in on public service by receiving $200K for speeches.

Take The Gold Or Take The Lead

Our system has become corrupted and everyone knows what I mean. Everyone understands that government officials who “play ball” can get a huge paycheck after leaving government if they help certain big businesses while serving in government. The Nation explains, in When a Congressman Becomes a Lobbyist, He Gets a 1,452 Percent Raise (On Average), Secret deals, bribery and “buying” members of Congress are commonplace in today’s government. (See also: Tauzin, Billy.) (And: Public Interest Groups Call For Corruption Investigation Into Prescription Drug Law.)

Neil Barofsky was Special United States Treasury Department Inspector General overseeing the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP). In the preface to his book Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street, Barofsky explained that people in government are given two choices, “the gold or the lead.” From the NY Times review, (emphasis added, for emphasis)

Mr. Barofsky, wearing an unseasonal wool suit at odds with a “Washington-appropriate wardrobe,” is poised to let the hostess seat them at a front table of her choosing, but Mr. Allison insists on a private table in the rear. Then he gets down to business.

“Have you thought at all about what you’ll be doing next?” Mr. Allison asks Mr. Barofsky, soon adding, “Out there in the market, there are consequences for some of the things that you’re saying and the way that you’re saying them.”

“Allison was essentially threatening me with lifelong unemployment,” Mr. Barofsky concludes, and alternatively suggesting a plum government appointment some day if Mr. Barofsky would simply “change your tone.”

When Mr. Barofsky tells his deputy of the exchange, the deputy says, “It was the gold or the lead,” resorting to the lingo of their joint experience prosecuting Latin American drug kingpins in New York: Cooperate and share the riches, or don’t and get plugged.

There are “consequences” if you don’t play ball. But if you do play ball, there are rewards. And everyone knows it.

Cantor represented Wall Street instead of Virginia in the Congress. His Virginia constituents didn’t like it, and booted him. Cantor has gone to his reward: a big pot of Wall Street gold. And everyone knows it.

Solution? Make it a law: No person employed by the government in any capacity may receive compensation in any form that is significantly greater than the compensation they received for their public service, for a period of five years.

Democracy and Corruption

I wrote this in May, June 2017 but it was never published. I’m getting around to posting it now.

How Did Trump Happen To Us?

How did Trump happen to us?

We are experiencing a shock and awe attack. Every single day we face a flood of terrible things being pushed at us so fast that we do not have time to react. Our system and commons and norms and standards and protections and rule of law are rapidly being dismantled. We are overwhelmed, exhausted, our spirits wear down, we don’t know what to do. Worse, the country risks normalization and eventual acceptance of the cruelty and insanity coming from the top.

Will we get out of this? With the nuclear codes in the hands of a crazy, egomaniacal, racist, malignant narcissist, will we live another year? If we’re alive will we be in jail?

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White House Propaganda, Graft: This Is Not Normal

Early in this millennium, Mississippi’s Trent Lott was the Senate’s Majority Leader. Then it was disclosed that he had done something outside the bounds of what most Americans considered “normal” and acceptable. Lott had spoken favorably about Strom Thurmond’s 1948 Presidential candidacy on a platform of racial segregation. So he had to go.

Favorable comments about a segregationist were enough to unseat a national leader fifteen years ago. This was considered a major scandal, and a short time after his comments were revealed, Lott was forced to resign his leadership position in the Senate.

That is what “normal” used to mean. That was then, this is now.

Breitbart is a “news” website, which was until recently run by Steve Bannon. It is a far-right outlet that promotes “alt-right” concepts often involving white nationalism.

Bannon often refers to what he calls a “‘Camp of the Saints’-type invasion” to describe what he sees as a rising tide of threats to Western civilization. When he says these things,  Bannon is referring to a 1973 French novel that “describes the takeover of Europe by waves of immigrants that wash ashore like the plague,” and “reframes everything as the fight to death between races.”

Steve Bannon, race-baiting propagandist, is now the White House Chief Strategist. Yet this is not a national scandal.

In fact, Bannon is not the only “alt -right” person in the Trump White House. Other Breitbart staffers are also getting jobs in the new administration, as are other far-right figures. It is said that White House alt-right figures removed reference to the genocide of Jewish people in the White House’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day statement.

This is not normal.

President Trump recently accused former president Obama of a massive criminal conspiracy involving abusing presidential power to “wiretap” Trump’s campaign to help Trump’s opponent. This is , to say the least, not normal.

The White House has begun sending Americans a daily state-propaganda email “newsletter” called “Your 1600 Daily.” It is sent unsolicited, in violation of the 2003 CAN-SPAM Act. It comes from an official White House government email address, and is signed by “The White House. ”

One day this briefing advertised a meeting with “victims of Obamacare.” Another asks Americans to “Share Your Obamacare Disaster Story With President Trump.” Wednesday’s makes the claim, “Under his leadership, the United States will be the world’s great magnet for innovation and job creation.”

It promotes extremist news outlets like Townhall, and white nationalist outlets like Breitbart.

This is just not normal. In other times this, too, would be a major scandal.

And then there is the blatant moneymaking. Last week China granted Trump a number of lucrative trademarks, after Trump broke a campaign promise to declare China as a currency manipulator, which would have initiated a process that could lead to tariffs on Chinese-made goods entering the country.

This week we learn that the family of Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner will make at least $400 million in “a sweetheart deal” with a Chinese-government-connected firm.

But there are a number of red flags surrounding the transaction, and no way to rule out concerns that this represents just the latest instance of potential conflicts between the Trump administration’s obligation to the public and its own financial gain.

And that’s just a taste of the financial shenanigans going on. For example, despite Trump’s pledge to “drain the swamp” in Washington from the influence of lobbyists, his former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, has started a lobbying firm. See if you can guess what he’s selling to clients.

Fox News commentator Monica Crowley was asked to join the Trump White House, but had to back out after it was disclosed that she had engaged in plagiarism. Now it is reported that she is going to work as a lobbyist for Victor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian billionaire and Putin supporter. She’s making big bucks, because she has influence with the Trump White House. That is just a recent example of so many examples of corruption.

But wait, there’s more. The President of the United States is holding campaign rallies just one, two months into presidency. And he is raising “campaign funds” from donors. What?

Meanwhile the Republicans in Congress, in the thrall of corporate cash and billionaires, assist their benefactors rather than do their Constitutional duty to hold these people accountable.

This is like the story of the frog in boiling water. The water is starting to boil, but because the warming happens slowly, the frog gets used to it and doesn’t notice it is cooking.

What’s going on here is not normal. They are so much not normal and happening so fast that we risk becoming desensitized to what normal means.

So a reminder: This is not normal. Do not allow yourself to ease into any level of acceptance of this, or a belief that what is happening in our country is part of a pattern or a political pendulum that will swing the other way or a back and forth between parties or think checks and balances are going to save us and our nation.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their OurFuture site. I am a Fellow with CAF, a project of People’s Action. Sign up here for the OurFuture daily summary and/or for People’s Action’s Progressive Breakfast.

Did You Know That AARP Is A Paying Member Of ALEC?

Here is a real shocker. AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons) has been a paying member of the notorious right-wing, Koch-tied lobbying organization American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) since at least 2014.

Yes, that AARP, once known for protecting the interests of senior citizens and fighting to protect Social Security and Medicare. Yes, that ALEC — an organization dedicated to, among so many other things, privatizing Social Security and Medicare, and getting rid of public-employee pensions. AARP apparently joined ALEC even as many corporations were fleeing thanks to exposure of ALEC’s reprehensible actions.

Just wow.

Nick Surgey and Calvin Sloan exposed the story at the Center for Media and Democracy’s ALEC Exposed site, “REVEALED: AARP IS FUNDING ALEC”:

AARP, the non-profit seniors organization that exists to promote the financial security, pensions and healthcare of those over 50, is secretly funding the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization whose bills have acted against the interests of ordinary Americans, including retirees and their families.

The Center for Media and Democracy has learned that AARP has recently joined ALEC, and that it is a named sponsor of the ALEC annual meeting taking place in Indianapolis, Indiana from July 27-29, 2016.

Why does this matter?

Michael Hiltzik, Columnist at the LA Times, explains why this matters in “Why is AARP cozying up to the right-wing group ALEC while big corporations flee?”:

Among the policies that have been promoted by ALEC are several that arguably undermine the interests of seniors and retirees, AARP’s core constituency. ALEC has pushed for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which has saved Medicare enrollees millions of dollars by closing the Medicare drug benefit “donut hole.” It has opposed Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. It has targeted public pensions, pushing to cap benefits and shift workers toward defined contribution plans, which layer more market risk on individual workers’ shoulders.

ALEC’s right-wing, corporate agenda is all about privatizing Social Security, gutting pension plans, turning Medicare over to insurance companies and pushing laws that would make prescription drug prices even higher for seniors.

Talk about selling out your constituency. Just wow.

Many companies dropped ALEC after the organization’s right-wing ties were exposed by CMD. These companies include Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Kraft, Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft. (Click here for a list.) And then AARP apparently decided this all sounded good, and joined up.

Is This Even Legal?

Hiltzik’s column contains a revealing statement from AARP,

AARP’s statement acknowledged that it paid a fee to ALEC in 2016 to provide “an opportunity to engage with state legislators and advance our members’ priorities from a position of strength at ALEC’s annual meeting. AARP added, “given that Republicans control one or more chambers in 39 of the nation’s 50 state legislatures, we believe having a seat at the table at the ALEC annual meeting was necessary to our mission of representing the interests and needs of people 50-plus and their families.”

AARP says it paid a fee to “engage” with legislators and get “a seat at the table.” Paying the fee gives them a “position of strength.” This statement reveals how ALEC is set up as a “pay-to-play” corruption operation; the organization charges companies a fee for access to legislators, companies pay a fee so they can influence legislators, conservative legislators show up so they can be influenced. The public loses out on every side of that pay-to-play triangle of corruption.

Really? Paying a fee for an opportunity to engage with legislators? Or the other side of that equation, charging a fee? If this blatant corruption is legal at all, it is what is known as “lobbying.” But ALEC is a tax-exempt 501(c)3 charity that is prohibited from lobbying or engaging in politics at all. (Never mind a license for corruption.) Various complaints have been filed with the IRS, but nothing happens… Just wow.

Get Active

CMD has a petition you can sign: Tell AARP to Dump ALEC!

For decades, ALEC has plied state legislators with disinformation about Social Security, climate change, and other issues along with bills and resolutions that undermine Americans’ financial security and our future.

Please sign the following letter (and if you are a member of AARP, please also contact the organization directly and ask that they DUMP ALEC).

Also, Social Security Works is an organization that “leads the fight every day to expand and protect our Social Security system.” They want you to click this: No organization that claims to represent retirees should be anywhere near ALEC, let alone funding them. Join us in calling on AARP to immediately end its financial support of ALEC and repudiate the group.

FYI: About CMD

The Center for Media and Democracy investigates and exposes corruption. You might know CMD for ALEC Exposed, which brought ALEC to public attention. You might know them for PR Watch, which keeps an eye on how corporations use “spin.” They also operate the SourceWatch wiki.
However you know them, they do great work. Check them out.

And click through to read the entire piece exposing AARP’s membership in ALEC as well as Michael Hiltzik’s column the LA Times. They both contain so much more in-depth information than is included here.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progressive Breakfast.

Supreme Obstruction

A Supreme Court justice has died. Normally (and according to the Constitution) the process is that the president nominates a successor, the Senate holds hearings, and there is a vote on whether to confirm that nominee. According to the Constitution, that’s their job, and they took an oath to do that job.

President Obama has said that of course he will fulfill his constitutional duty to nominate a successor to Justice Scalia. But this time Republicans have announced that they will refuse to participate in the constitutional process and will not consider any nomination that the president brings them.

This is part of an ongoing Republican attack on our form of government.

Ongoing Attack On Government And Rights

The country has been through years and years of Republican obstruction of everything government does. Why is that?

The architect of the modern conservative movement was corporate and tobacco attorney Lewis Powell, and his blueprint was “the 1971 Powell Memo,” titled, “Attack on American Free Enterprise System.” The memo claimed that “the American economic system” (capitalism) and “business” were “under broad attack” from “Communists, New Leftists and other revolutionaries.” It complained of “the stampedes by politicians to support almost any legislation related to ‘consumerism’ or to the “environment.” It called on business as a class to “conduct guerrilla warfare” against this on “the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals, the arts and sciences” as well as politicians the public and the courts. The goal was for business to “consider assuming a broader and more vigorous role in the political arena.”

The memo led to the building of the massive corporation/billionaire-funded conservative “infrastructure” of ideological “think tanks,” activist organizations and media/propaganda “echo chambers” that constantly push corporate/conservative propaganda out to the public. Book after book, article after article, study after study has warned of this movement effort to alter our government away from democracy and toward a corporatocracy.

Once such conservative movement organization is the Federalist Society, established in 1982 and receiving funding since from conservative foundations including the Earhart, Bradley, Simon, and Olin Foundations, and the Carthage, Koch, and Scaife Foundations. Justices Scalia, Roberts, Thomas and Alito were all members of the Federalist Society.

For how long did the Republican majority on the Supreme Court give us one highly partisan 5-4 decision after another, reversing one hard-won civil right, environmental gain, consumer right, worker right after another? Fifteen years ago the Republican Five even forced on us a president who didn’t receive a majority of the vote.

Since Obama

After Barack Obama was elected president, the Republican minority filibustered more than 500 important bills (on issues ranging from infrastructure funding to ending tax breaks for offshoring jobs) before they took control of the Senate – an unprecedented number. But it has not just been legislation; they have blocked nominees to positions that keep government functioning. They have blocked appointments to judgeships: there are 35 Obama judge appointees who were waiting for a Senate confirmation vote long before Senate Republicans conjured up their no-appointees-during-an-election-year stance, one as far back as September 2014.

Republicans have also continually obstructed by starving government agencies of the funds they need to operate – the Internal Revenue Service is a case in point. They have even shut down the government when they could.

Republicans also dismantle government in the states, cutting taxes for the rich and corporations while cutting the things government does for the state’s citizens. Many of these governors and legislatures achieved majority status following the Supreme Court’s 5-4 Citizens United decision that opened the floodgates of undisclosed corporate and billionaire money into the political process. Once in, they passed restrictive voting rights laws and extremely partisan redistricting plans to lock in their majorities.

After so many years of this, the public is, to say the least, disillusioned to the point of giving up on government – even our current pretense of democracy.

But this has only gotten worse. This year, President Obama submitted his budget to Congress and Republicans refused to even look at it. They refused to schedule hearings before the House and Senate budget committees. They won’t let the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) come to Congress to testify.

Now, to top it all, Republicans have said they will not even consider any presidential nominee to the Supreme Court. If they prevail, the court will operate with only eight members, and precedent assures us that important cases will receive a 4-4 tie.

This Makes No Sense, Unless…

Republicans won’t consider the President’s budget? Won’t consider a Supreme Court nominee – any nominee? Won’t allow important bills to pass? Won’t allow important governmental posts to be filled? Won’t allow important government functions to be adequately funded? Dismantle important state agencies? It’s like Republicans are saying, “No, we’re not going to let you have your constitutional government.”

What is going on?

Republicans are able to do these things to our government because the “framers” of our Constitution never anticipated that a (well-funded) ideology that opposes the very concept of democratic government would capture a political party, gain seats in the Congress and, as a strategy, simply refuse to participate in the processes of constitutional government.

The Founders did require an oath of office that assumes such participation, but they did not outline steps to take should obstruction be used to block operation of the government.

If you look at all of this from a perspective that Republicans are working within our form of government, it makes no sense at all. They have a constitutional duty to pass budgets, but instead allow the government to shut down. They have a constitutional duty to confirm (or not) appointments to government positions and judgeships, but they obstruct. They have a constitutional duty to consider Supreme Court nominees, but they refuse.

But if you consider that their purpose is to fundamentally change our form of government, it all makes more sense.

People who see much of the public as “takers,” who view taxes as “theft,” who view roads, schools and social services as “free stuff” are not people who prefer a democratic form of government. They (or at least those funding them) want a different form of government where the haves have the power and the don’t-haves don’t, instead of We the People sharing the power and the country.

At some point you have to take them at their word and accept that they mean what they say: “We want to get the government small enough to drown it in a bathtub.” We are not looking at a disagreement over how to run our government here, we are looking at a disagreement over our form of government.

But our Constitution is clear on the form of government We the People have. That is why they are intent on setting the Constitution aside. We must tell Republicans that they took an oath to support the Constitution and its processes – or step aside and let We the People have our government back.

What The President Should Do

President Obama should nominate a known and dedicated liberal/progressive to the court, to balance the movement conservatives on the Court now. However, unlike the conservatives, this nominee should mean it when she or he states support the Constitution, and be ready to decide cases based on the Constitution and law, not ideology.

Republicans will always nominate a dedicated movement conservative who is sworn to advance the anti-government (and therefore anti-U.S. Constitution) conservative project, against voting rights, consumer rights, environmental rights, and for corporate rule.

It’s time the right-wing ideologues are called out for their obstruction of democracy – and to make to clear that the presidential candidates who have participated in or have endorsed that obstruction have no place in our government. It’s not just about a budget or a Supreme Court justice; it’s about restoring the principle that the United States must act as a democracy of the people, every day of every year.

Here are two petitions that you can sign to tell Republican senators to “do their job” and consider President Obama’s choice for the Supreme Court:

● The Sierra Club petition: “We Need Three Functioning Branches of Government. Don’t let Congress’s dysfunction spread to the Supreme Court. Tell your senators to do their job and go through the normal constitutionally mandated process of choosing the next Supreme Court Justice.”

● Senator Sherrod Brown petition: “Senators, do your job.” “Tell Republicans: Do Your Constitutionally Mandated Job. The Constitution is clear — the president nominates Supreme Court justices, and the Senate confirms or rejects them. But Republicans in Congress want to ignore the Constitution. They’re saying they won’t consider anyone President Obama nominates. We, the undersigned, are tired of Republicans’ hypocrisy. A Senator’s Constitutional oath applies regardless of which party controls the Oval Office. Stop making excuses and do your job.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

Why You Should Pay Attention To The ‘Friedrichs’ Supreme Court Case

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.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.