Main Street: Your recovery will come from the left, not the right. #GetMoneyOut #NeverForget915

The American public got played (again) for chumps back in 1999 when we weren’t in the streets protesting Slick Willy’s signature of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.

It wasn’t the first time. It undoubtedly won’t be the last time, either, unless we’re willing stand up once and for all time against the failed ideology of conservatism.

So, what has GLBA wrought? The ’08 crash, for one thing.

Now there’s hope for us and for Main Street:

As it happens, a trial just ended in Sacramento in which a jury was convinced that “executives intended to make fraudulent loans.” Here’s the thing, though: It wasn’t the government that made the case against the financiers; it was the defendants.
“Finally, Wall Street gets put on trial: We can still hold the 0.1 percent responsible for tanking the economy”; Thomas Frank, Salon, Sept 7, 2014.

The real estate bubble that Wall Street executives knowingly manufactured while knowing they’d escape unscathed is finally coming to some justice.

It’s about time. Their crimes and the travesty they created turns 6 years old next week.

NeverForget915

Now, I know some of you still believe the libertarian fantasies of Invisible Hands and “free market” solutions. Wake up, please. Those are fantasies conjured up in the imagination of a sub-par Russian novelist and then perpetuated by the likes of big business propagandists like Milton Friedman and the Koch Brothers. It’s not the real world, and you have been duped.

I know lots of you like to mix in large doses of Wall Street hero-worship, too. You think people like Jamie Dimon, Dick Fuld, and  Lloyd Blankfein are people of admirable character with great and endless ambition who make for exemplary role models because of the wealth and power they have amassed.

Again, you have been duped. Open your eyes. They and people like them play you for a fool. They are the ones who drove the economy right off the cliff. They have never paid a dime of recompense and, with extremely rare exceptions, have not done a minute of time behind bars for their crimes. What’s worse is that they’re still in charge.

Finally, there’s this. I know you hate hearing it because you know it’s true. Reaganomics.

Too many of you insist on believing the lie that is trickle down economics. The economy has been slow to recovery because the government bailed out Wall Street instead of Main Street. The rich got paid off for their mistakes and then took their money offshore. Banks have been operating at a federal funds rate of effectively zero for how many years now, and still no money seems to be reaching anyone except the largest and most profitable corporations.

Do you not get it yet? The government didn’t do enough 6 years ago and it still hasn’t done enough to stimulate true growth and real prosperity at its source – the MIDDLE CLASS AND THE POOR WHO ACTUALLY DRIVE THE ECONOMY WITH OUR SPENDING!

Please look at the facts. Please stop telling yourself that less regulation is always better.

Please stop voting for people who think money is speech and corporations are people.
(Does it surprise anyone that the 18 Senators who voted today against an amendment to overturn Citizens United were all Republicans?)

Please stop ignoring the fact that all the gains in our rigged economy are going to the top, that none of it will ever trickle down to you, and that all the gains are privatized while all the losses are socialized because too many of YOU insist on voting against YOUR OWN economic self-interests.

Please stop voting for Clintons and Bushes and Ryans and Pauls and Romneys.
(Yes, Clintons, too, and any other corporatist Democrats. They are part of the problem, too, just not to the same degree as Republicans and their pesky little brothers and sisters in the libertarian and tea parties.)

I get it. It’s your choice. You’re free to vote for whomever you like. You’re also free to keep playing the role of the rich person’s chump.

Just know this. There’s a growing number of people who will keep revealing the truth while you believe the lies. We will keep working to get money out of politics while you continue to vote for Big Money, whether you realize it or admit it, or not.

We will keep doing this in the hope that you’ll one day come to your senses. We will keep doing it with the certainty that if you don’t come to your senses, well, at least there’s hope for your (and our) children and grandchildren. Remember this. It’s their eyes we’ll all have to look into someday.

One more thing you must know. It’s the only logical conclusion anyone can come to in light of the last 35 years or so, and that’s this. Conservatism is a failed ideology.

Whether its ISIS or Westboro; whether its bin Laden or McViegh; whether it’s Bibi or Cruz, conservatism in all its forms and flavors is a failed ideology.

In political and economic terms, it has failed everyone except for the very rich and the very powerful who wish to go on subjugating and oppressing workers and ordinary citizens.

No society has ever advanced by being conservative, or by looking inward or backward, or by concentrating more and more wealth and power into fewer and fewer hands. This is the very definition of conservatism today in America. Make no mistake about it. There is one and only one political party embracing the failed ideology of conservatism. One.

Main Street, your salvation is not going to come from ideologues who want to conserve the status quo of unequal power and unfair capital distribution. You must see by now that nothing is going to trickle down to you. There’s nothing for Big Money to gain by pressing politicians for policies that help you to thrive.

Remember this. It wasn’t liberals and progressive who drove you and your fellow business owners to the brink of extinction by bribing or threatening local zoning boards in order to get sweetheart tax deals for the likes of Walmart. It wasn’t liberals and progressives who put Main Street out of business by driving down prices for goods and services by moving manufacturing overseas and then importing cheaply made products back to store shelves. It wasn’t the poor or the disenfranchised or the liberals and progressives who, once they had forced you out of business, continued to pass tax reforms that further enriched the rich, tried to kill unions, and who caused your standard of living to stagnate and decline by ensuring that the only jobs left in your communities were the ones paying minimum wage.

These are not liberal and progressive ideals, but they are at the very core of conservative ideology and it’s evil offspring, Objectivism – a perverse euphemism for a degree of vile greed and selfishness to qualify as a psychosis.

Look, it’s time we all became progressives. It’s how society will progress.

More than that, it’s time we all took the fight directly to conservatives and libertarians using the facts and history they cannot deny and which proves, once and for all time, to Main Streets everywhere that, on election day and with extremely rare exceptions, a vote for a Republican or libertarian is a vote against yourself, our economy, our society, and our future.

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Note to poor and middle class conservatives: You have it wrong. You should join the #FightFor15

Instead of suggesting that the fast food or retail or any other worker would be OVERPAID at 15, why aren’t EMTs, tree climbers, and construction laborers protesting WITH their fellow UNDERPAID workers?

A protester in New York holds up a placard as fast-food workers and union members call for an increase in the minimum hourly wage to $15 and the right of workers to join unions. (Photo: Peter Foley, epa) Source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/12/05/fast-food-strike-wages/3877023/
A protester in New York holds up a placard as fast-food workers and union members call for an increase in the minimum hourly wage to $15 and the right of workers to join unions. (Photo: Peter Foley, epa) Source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/12/05/fast-food-strike-wages/3877023/

Someone I know from central PA is making that case against fast food workers.

It’s the same strange and illogical argument I’m seeing only in conservative circles.

The case they’re making is this; somehow increasing wages for fast food workers is wrong because people like EMTs, tree climbers, construction workers, and trained chefs don’t make $15/hour.

I don’t get that logic.

How does holding down or fighting against increases in fast food wages HELP these other workers?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 122 occupations in the York-Hanover area paying a median hourly wage of less than 15 bucks an hour. The list includes people doing all kinds of work vital to our society. People like farmworkers, childcare, tire changers, home health aides, butchers, mental health and substance abuse social workers, ophthalmic lab techs, substitute teachers, and EMTs.

If everyone working in these 122 occupations in that market alone joined forces, they would be unstoppable. In York-Hanover, they represent 656 out of every 1,000 jobs.

Nationwide, there are 330 occupations listed by the BLS with a median hourly wage of $15/hour or less.

Now imagine the possibilities for a better standard of living for everyone – including you poor and middle class conservatives – if you joined forces with every other worker in America and protested together instead of against one another.

 

York-Hanover labor stats sorted by hourly median wage, 1 of 2
York-Hanover labor stats sorted by hourly median wage, 1 of 2
York-Hanover labor stats sorted by hourly median wage, 2 of 2
York-Hanover labor stats sorted by hourly median wage, 2 of 2

Celebrate Labor on Labor Day – YouTube

Published on Aug 29, 2013

Robert Reich, the Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration and the subject of the upcoming documentary “Inequality for All,” shares a Labor Day message about how we can do better by workers. In the video, he announces a petition campaign to pressure McDonald’s’ and Walmart’s CEOs to pay their workers a fair wage of $15/hour.

 

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/mcdonalds-and-walmart.fb48?source=s.fb&r_by=48422

Source: www.youtube.com

Celebrate labor on Labor Day and everyday. It’s time more of us stood up for labor and stopped allowing the lie of trickle down economics to go unchallenged.

 

It was labor and the middle class who made this country great. It was not capital, it was not Wall Street and it was not and never will be the wealthy. They are nothing without the rest of us.

See on Scoop.itDidYouCheckFirst

Koch Company and Labor Unions: One Degree of Separation

See on Scoop.itDidYouCheckFirst

Strange brew cooked up on K Street: Charles, David and organized labor.

 

by Russ Choma on April 22, 2014 3:26 PM 

The influence industry sometimes produces strange bedfellows. Case in point, according to recently filed lobbying disclosure reports from 2014’s first quarter: The same lobbying firm that represents Koch Companies Public Sector and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in their efforts to keep the IRS from tightening up regs on dark money groups also represents one of the biggest names in organized labor.

Of course, organized labor is not necessarily unfriendly to the idea of outside money groups; unions have made great use of super PACs and have beenlinked to liberal dark money groups likePatriot Majority. But the prevailing narrative of partisan politics puts unions on the opposite side of the battlefield from the billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch (and by extension the conglomerate they own, KCPS).

<and the point not to miss>

The Carpenters union spent $20,000 on lobbying in the first quarter, and spent $320,000 in all of 2013. 

 KCPS, on the other hand, spent $10.4 million last year on lobbying.  Read more athttp://www.opensecrets.org/news/2014/04/koch-company-and-labor-unions-one-degree-of-separation.html ;

Greg Russak‘s insight:

An interesting and important article that includes this fact:

 

The Carpenters union spent $20,000 on lobbying in the first quarter, and spent $320,000 in all of 2013. 

 KCPS, on the other hand, spent $10.4 million last year on lobbying. 

See on www.opensecrets.org

Excerpts from “The Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations and Issues for Congress”

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations and Issues for Congress” is a comprehensive primer on international trade in general and on the scope of the TPP. I highly recommend it to everyone.

“This report examines the issues related to the proposed TPP, the state and substance of the negotiations (to the degree that the information is publically available), the specific areas under negotiation, the policy and economic contexts in which the TPP would fit, and the issues for Congress that the TPP presents. The report will be revised and updated as events warrant.” (excerpt from Introduction; page 2) 

This blog post pulls out some of what I thought were some of the more interesting and revealing passages, along with some thoughts and questions I have about them.

 

From the Summary

Twenty-nine chapters in the agreement are under discussion. The United States is negotiating market access for goods, services, and agriculture with countries with which it does not currently have FTAs: Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Vietnam.

Outside of Japan, I’m struggling to see the attraction these other markets represent. Brunei, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Vietnam have a combined population of 124.7 million people and a combined GDP of $629 billion. We import a whopping $49.7 billion from and export an even more abysmal $20.9 billion to these 4 countries.

TPP Countries

 

The present negotiations are not being conducted under the auspices of formal trade promotion authority (TPA)—the latest TPA expired on July 1, 2007—although the Administration informally is following the procedures of the former TPA. If TPP implementing legislation is brought to Congress, TPA may need to be considered if the legislation is not to be subject to potentially debilitating amendments or rejection.

Setting the tone right from the start: without TPA – aka Fast Tracking – the TPP could be, “subject to potentially debilitating amendments or rejection.” It’s only going to be considered to be that to its proponents, isn’t it?

From the Introduction

The TPP draws congressional interest on a number of fronts. Congress would have to approve implementing legislation for U.S. commitments under the agreement to enter into force. In addition, under long-established executive-legislative practice, the Administration notifies and consults with congressional leaders, before, during, and after trade agreements have been negotiated.

The “before” and “during” consultations are apparently missing if we’re to believe representatives like Alan Grayson, Rosa DeLauro, Elizabeth Warren and all the co-signors of letters from both the House and the Senate to the president expressing their concerns about this treaty.

This report examines the issues related to the proposed TPP, the state and substance of the negotiations (to the degree that the information is publically available), the specific areas under negotiation, the policy and economic contexts in which the TPP would fit, and the issues for Congress that the TPP presents. The report will be revised and updated as events warrant. (page 2)

“This report examines the issues…” This isn’t the same and shouldn’t be confused with the USTR keeping the Congress informed about what is being negotiated. If the USTR was doing that, Wikileaks wouldn’t need to leak documents, would they?

 U.S. participation in TPP negotiations serves several strategic goals in U.S. trade policy. First, it continues and expands a U.S. trade policy strategy that began with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which entered into force in 1994, of using FTAs to promote trade liberalization and potentially to spark multilateral negotiations in the World Trade Organization (WTO). The George W. Bush Administration expanded the use of this strategy under the rubric of “competitive liberalization,” negotiating 11 FTAs with 16 countries. The last three of these FTAs—with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea—were approved by Congress in 2011. However, the future direction of this policy was uncertain, given the low commercial value of some of these agreements and lack of new obvious partner countries. Meanwhile, an increasing web of bilateral and regional FTAs, were being concluded among other parties in the Asia-Pacific region and worldwide. The Bush Administration’s and then the Obama Administration’s adoption of the TPP signaled that the United States remains engaged in regional free trade negotiations.  (page 4)

So, how is the TPP not NAFTA on steroids?

Japan’s membership in the TPP with the United States would constitute a de facto U.S.-Japan FTA. A large segment of the U.S. business community has expressed support for Japanese participation in the TPP, if Japan can resolve long-standing issues on access to its markets for U.S. goods, services, and agriculture. However, the Detroit-based U.S. auto industry, the United Autoworkers union, and Members of Congress with a large auto-industry presence in their districts have expressed strong opposition. Other segments of the U.S. business community have expressed support for Japan’s entry into the TPP negotiations, although some have conditioned their support on Japan’s willingness to address long-standing issues. (page 16)

Not all industries and unions are expressing support for the TPP.

The draft TPP outline indicates that financial services, including insurance and insurance-related services, banking and related services, as well as auxiliary services of a financial nature, will be addressed in a separate chapter as in previous FTAs. (page 23)

Financial services getting its own chapter. Can anyone believe that that’s one that, without question, has global implications. Wouldn’t we love to know the details about what’s being negotiated on it? I’d settle for knowing that elected representatives like Senator Warren had the details.

According to the November 2011 outline, as in previous U.S. FTAs, the TPP will have a separate chapter on telecommunications trade. The TPP is to promote access to telecommunications networks for foreign services suppliers and transparency of regulations pertaining to telecommunications services. Along with these objectives, the United States sought and obtained in the KORUS FTA commitments to allow U.S. investment in foreign telecommunications companies.

Negotiations over the services provisions likely will lead to controversy between the developed countries, including the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and Singapore, and developing countries. Developed countries have pushed for greater market access for services. Developing countries have been more cautious on liberalization in services trade as they fear competition in sectors they view as a source of domestic employment and worry about the political implications forcing open sectors that are often controlled by politically powerful interests. Also, the United States may also be challenged to open its market to providers of maritime services. The United States has also been pressed to liberalize access to its market through the so-called mode-4 delivery temporary entry of personnel to provide services. No U.S. FTA negotiated after the agreements with Chile and Singapore agreements includes provisions on the temporary movement of personnel. (page 24)

Another separate chapter, this one seemingly prime for the likes of Verizon, AT&T, and the globe’s largest equipment makers to build and run networks in developing nations and with great economies of scale that give them huge advantage over any domestic companies which actually would innovate instead of stifle innovation the way the above oligarchs have in the U.S.

This would also seem to open up the US market for the importation of extremely cheap overseas labor:  liberalized “access to its (U.S.) market through the so-called mode-4 delivery temporary entry of personnel to provide services.”

 In the 112th Congress, 68 Members of Congress wrote to President Obama to urge the Administration not to negotiate government procurement provisions that would limit the application of Buy American provisions through extension of government procurement opportunities and obligations to TPP partner countries. However, Canada reportedly tabled a proposal during the Singapore round that would obligate sub-federal entities to open procurement projects funded by a central government to competition from firms in TPP countries. (page 25)

No big deal, I guess, if we’re ok with our tax dollars going to pay foreign corporations who underbid and win government contracts. What’s to keep them from importing cheaper labor instead of hiring American workers?

And what do we get in return? Domestic companies who can now bid for and win foreign government contracts for which they can be pretty much counted on to hire local and cheaper labor in those overseas markets.

Reactions to USTR’s reported new proposal have been critical of the change in approach and say it raises additional questions. Five anti-smoking groups expressed disappointment that USTR retreated from its earlier proposal that would have made it more difficult for tobacco companies to challenge domestic tobacco control measures under trade agreements. These groups note that USTR’s latest approach is “far weaker” than originally envisioned because it does not recognize tobacco as a “uniquely harmful product” or provide a way for countries to regulate tobacco in order to reduce its use. They also point out the new language would not cover lawsuits filed by tobacco firms and would not provide countries that have strong tobacco control measures with the protection needed to fend off challenges by the tobacco industry. (page 32-33)

Anyone who isn’t aware of what Philip Morris is doing about Australia’s decision about cigarette packaging needs to get up to speed on it to understand why this part of the TPP could be bad for keeping tobacco companies in check while it’s still legal for them to sell their deadly products. (http://www.ag.gov.au/internationalrelations/internationallaw/pages/tobaccoplainpackaging.aspx)

Technical barriers to trade (TBT) are standards and regulations that are intended ostensibly to protect the health and safety of consumers and for other legitimate purposes, but through design or implementation, discriminate against imports. In order to minimize trade distortion, WTO members must adhere to the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade. The TBT Agreement covers voluntary standards that industries apply, technical regulations that governments impose for health and safety purposes, and assessment procedures that governments employ to determine that a product meets required standards. The TBT Agreement establishes rules and procedures for member countries to follow, including making sure that standards, technical regulations, and conforming assessment procedures are applied non-discriminately and in a manner not more trade restrictive than necessary. It addition, it requires that members practice transparency as regulations are developed and applied, that international standards are used where appropriate, and that the domestic technical regulations of trading partners are recognized as equivalent to domestic regulations when possible. (page 40)

The TBT Agreement seems designed to essentially put decisions about standards and regulations into the hands of corporations.

 Foreign Investment (pages 41-42)

This entire section, which includes discussion on the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) process, is evidence that this document actually is only a primer. There’s nothing about what is being negotiated or even how any issue will be negotiated under ISDS.

Click here for more on my concerns about ISDS.

 The issue of the treatment of worker rights in the TPP has provoked debate among TPP partners and among U.S. stakeholders. In late December 2011, the United States reportedly submitted a proposal on labor issues to the other TPP partners. According to one report, the proposal largely reflects the requirements contained in the May 10th Agreement that countries should uphold core ILO principles. The proposal reportedly would go further by indicting how these principles would be implemented by requiring countries to have labor laws related to minimum wage requirements, work time, and occupational health and safety. The U.S. proposal reportedly would also require TPP countries to take measures to reduce trade in products made through forced or child labor and to apply labor laws to export processing zones and free trade zones. To date, none of this information has been corroborated publically by U.S. officials. (page 44)

“To date, none of this information has been corroborated publically by U.S. officials.”
Why not?

Though some business groups, government officials, and labor groups have all expressed an interest in strong SOE provisions in the TPP, it remains unclear what form such provisions may take. (page 47)

More proof this document is only a primer and offers little to nothing about what is currently being negotiated. If there’s one thing I would think there would be transparency about, the concern and worry about State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) would be it.

In the case of Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand had concerns about Canada’s supply management system for dairy and poultry. The United States was also interested in leveraging action on Canada’s long languishing legislation to modernize its copyright laws. In return for entry in the talks, Canada and Mexico reportedly agreed not to seek to reopen chapters already agreed in the TPP, or possibly, sub-chapters that contained areas of agreement. In the end, because of the sensitivity of the issues under discussion to the countries involved, outside of the negotiators themselves, it may never be known what commitments were made to gain participation in the talks, if any. (page 53)

Seems like the perfect place wrap this up.