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Let’s Get Women Out of the Red

7:01 am in Uncategorized by Gerald McEntee

One of many women participating in efforts to recall Scott Walker. Photo by marctasman.

Workers are under attack and women are bearing the brunt of it when it comes to pay. Who’s to blame? Corporate-backed politicians typified by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

Last week, in the dead of night, Walker signed a piece of legislation that rolls back progress on pay equity in his state, where women make only 75 cents for every dollar a man earns doing the same job. (Wisconsin’s rate was already worse than the disheartening national average of 77 cents on the dollar.) Walker’s legislation repeals a 2009 law that made it easier for victims of wage discrimination to have their day in court.

His action adds another to the growing list of reasons Wisconsin voters want to recall him this June.

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has yet to denounce Walker’s anti-worker, anti-women action. Recently, Romney’s campaign officials were stumped by a reporter’s question on the topic. The reporter asked if Romney supports the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first law President Barack Obama signed, making it easier for women to sue in wage discrimination cases. Campaign officials were silent, then said only, “We’ll get back to you on that.”

No public official should have to stop and think about pay equity. It’s the right thing to do. And it’s the smart thing to do. When women do not get paid fairly, we all suffer.

Yet in places like Wisconsin, the systematic attacks on women’s pay and voices continue. Walker’s so-called “budget repair” bill passed last year broke the livelihoods of many women in the state, where the resulting layoffs and pay cuts disproportionally hit working women.

Leah Lipska, a member of AFSCME Local 1 in Wisconsin, told her story in a letter to the Washington Post. She wrote, “Aside from my full-time job with the state, I have been forced to take a part-time job at a local pizza place. Even that’s not enough to make up for my decrease in pay since Governor Walker’s law. I got so far behind on my car payments, I had to ask my parents for help. I’ve even had to go to the local food pantry. [Walker] is no hero; he’s stolen our American Dream.”

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Mitt Romney and the 1%

9:54 am in Uncategorized by Gerald McEntee

Mitt Romney has released some information on his income taxes over the past two years. Turns out he’s paid less than 14 percent on more than $40 million in income. He makes more in one day than most American makes all year, yet he pays a tax rate that is far less than what the vast majority of Americans pay. Keep in mind that Romney’s income rolled in while he did nothing but clip coupons and hit the campaign trail. It suggests that our once progressive income tax has been turned into a farce, where the very rich get away with paying less than bus drivers, construction crews and health care workers. That’s not right, and it’s why the tax laws need to be changed and changed soon.

It’s now obvious why Romney tried so hard for so long to hide his financial holdings. He’s stashed some of his money in tax havens like Luxemburg and the Cayman Islands. He’s even had a Swiss bank account. He says he’s paid taxes on all his foreign holdings, but The Los Angeles Times reports that Romney failed to disclose at least 23 funds and partnerships on his most recent financial disclosure forms, including 11 based in low-tax foreign countries. While he may not have broken any laws by funneling cash into off-shore accounts and companies, Romney has clearly broken faith with the American people. He amassed his wealth by hollowing-out companies, laying off employees, ruining communities and practicing what is kindly called “vulture capitalism.” He left thousands of families in hardship while he accrued hundreds of millions in wealth. He should be ashamed, but if we’ve learned anything over the past year, Mitt Romney has no shame.

Romney, after all, doesn’t hide that he wants a tax code that rewards the 1 percent and makes the rest of us pay far more than our fair share. He’s running for president with a plan to change the tax code to make rich Americans even richer. The Economist magazine describes his plan as “very progressive, by 15th century standards.” Romney’s “help the rich get richer” plan would reduce the taxes of the top 1 percent by more than $170,000, while adding $600 billion to the deficit. He gets defensive when his plan is attacked, just as he gets hot under the collar when people bring up his past career as a corporate raider. He claims that any criticism of his repugnant business practices is an attack on free enterprise. It is not. It’s an attack on ruthless behavior. He claims that his critics are engaging in “class warfare.” It is not that either. If anything, he’s demonstrated the truth in Warren Buffett’s statement about class warfare: “It’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

Unfortunately, Romney’s not the only candidate out there who is interested in making life easier for the well-to-do. Shockingly, Newt Gingrich’s tax proposals are even worse that Romney’s. He wants to eliminate completely the taxes on capital gains. His radical tax scheme would guarantee that most members of the 1 percent, including Romney, would pay little or no taxes at all. The middle class would be left to pay the country’s bills, including the cost of additional tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy.

Perhaps that’s why the GOP candidates spend their time distorting Pres. Obama’s record, rather than outlining their own hare-brained plans for our country. Rick Santorum goes even farther. He says talking about the middle class is misguided because, get this, it buys into “the class warfare arguments of Barack Obama.” Santorum scolded Romney for using the term in a recent debate: “The governor used a term earlier that I shrink from. And it’s one that I don’t think we should be using as Republicans: Middle class.” And why shouldn’t Republicans talk about the middle class? “There are no classes in America,” Santorum continued. Only a millionaire could believe this.

We shouldn’t be surprised that Romney, Gingrich and Santorum all support the unhinged agenda of their political allies who now control the U.S. House of Representatives. They’ve promised to support radical schemes like the Ryan Budget, which abandons programs that have helped to build and sustain the middle class, including Medicare, Social Security, education assistance, health research and job training programs. They ignore the damage done to the middle class as CEO pay skyrocketed 300% since 1990 and corporate profits doubled. These are the candidates of the 1%, for the 1% and by the 1%. If they have their way, Mitt Romney and the wealthiest people in America won’t have to release their tax returns. They won’t even have to file.

McEntee on Jobs

6:54 am in Uncategorized by Gerald McEntee

On Tuesday, the Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Eric Cantor of Virginia, told the press that he would not schedule a vote on President Obama’s American Jobs Bill. That’s appalling, but not surprising. With its current leadership, the House never schedules votes on bills to increase employment in the U.S. If you look closely at their record, you’ll see that putting more people to work is the last thing they want to accomplish. It would be bad for the billionaires who finance their campaigns, and it would hurt their chances of maintaining power.

None of the folks on TV news will mention it, but the truth is that the bosses on Wall Street and right-wing talk radio like high unemployment. It drives down wages and increases profits. That makes most corporate CEOs happy. High unemployment delights the Rush Limbaughs of the world, too. It makes President Obama fail, and that’s been their hope since day one of his presidency. Remember, it was Limbaugh who told his audience in the earliest days of 2009: “I want to see him fail.”

Limbaugh was not alone. The GOP leader in the Senate made it clear after the elections last November that jobs would not be the top item on his upcoming agenda. No, Sen. Mitch McConnell said: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Not lower unemployment. Not help for families facing foreclosures. Not financial support for students struggling to stay in school. No, the single most important thing they want is to defeat President Barack Obama.

If you understand that this is their guiding goal, much of their abysmal record on the economy begins to make sense. It helps explain the GOP’s willingness to allow taxes to be raised on 99 percent of the American public, which is what will happen if President Obama’s plan to extend the tax cuts for workers is not passed by the end of the year. That tax cut is part of the American Jobs Act, which Leader Cantor won’t schedule for a vote.

It explains the efforts by House members last spring, when the economy was beginning to recover, to launch an unprecedented months-long debate on whether the U.S. would increase the debt limit. This wasn’t about giving President Obama a blank check, as clueless Rep. Michelle Bachmann said. The Congress had already approved legislation spending the money – with the support of Rep. Bachmann. The question was whether the U.S. would live up to its commitments.

In the end, thanks to the efforts of Rep. Cantor’s and Rep. Bachmann’s allies to undermine the full faith and credit of the United States, a ratings agency lowered the rating of the U.S. debt, for the first time in history. They sent a clear message to the financial markets that the leadership in the U.S. House was willing to risk the default of the United States rather than compromise on taxing the wealthiest people in America. They succeeded in derailing the economic recovery. They got what they really wanted: higher unemployment.

Never mind that this agenda hurts millions of America’s working families. The House leadership in Washington may give lip-service to the concerns of America’s jobless, but they do what their bosses on Wall Street tell them to do. And that is: “Don’t increase taxes on the rich.”

The working middle class has been under attack for decades. Now, when we have a chance to rebuild Main Street and help hard working American families by passing a much-needed jobs bill, the leadership in the House won’t hold hearings or bring it to a vote. These people deserve all the criticism they are getting from the students, young people and activists who are targeting the House leadership’s bosses on Wall Street. That’s why AFSCME stands with the courageous participants who are broadening the Main Street movement by occupying Wall Street.

When will Congress realize that they should be working for the American people, not the obscenely wealthy CEOs, the slick Wall Street operators and the shrill blowhards on right-wing talk radio? When will they listen to the voices on Main Street, and not do the bidding of their Wall Street masters? No time soon, if Eric Cantor and Mitch McConnell have their way.

According to the latest Washington Post/ABC poll, only 14 percent of Americans think Congress is doing a good job. Those 14 percent must be working for Cantor and McConnell and their cronies in the U.S. Capitol. The rest of us think that their leadership is worthless. They take their cues from Wall Street, not Main Street. If they are not going to help put the country back to work, it’s they and their Congressional collaborators who will be looking for work after the next election.

Why Unemployment Makes the Tea Party Happy

8:21 am in Uncategorized by Gerald McEntee

DONT TREAD ON ME

DONT TREAD ON ME by DonkeyHotey

The tea party Republicans have drawn a line in the sand. The debt ceiling was raised five times during the administration of President George W. Bush. Yet, it is only now, with tea party Republicans holding the balance of power in the U.S. House of Representatives, that America is placed in the position of defaulting on our commitments, for the first time since the founding of our country.

Their irresponsible position is that corporations and billionaires should not have to share the sacrifices needed to keep our economy on track for recovery. That is why they vehemently oppose efforts to cut corporate welfare and to eliminate subsidies for the oil companies. Unlike most Americans, who believe we should pull together to find real solutions, these politicians are intent on dividing Americans by destroying programs that have broad public support. At the same time, they have done all in their power to create instability in the economy and put more Americans out of work.

With more than 14 million Americans out of the job market, it is appalling for these politicians to play games with our nation’s economy. Creating jobs and keeping Americans working have to be top priorities. But for the tea party Republicans controlling the House of Representatives, those are far from the top of their “to-do” list. Instead, they have repeatedly passed bills that would put more Americans out of work. A harsh conclusion, perhaps, but just look at the facts:

Since the tea party took over the U.S. House of Representatives in January 2011, they have pushed legislation which, if enacted, would have added more than 6.5 million additional workers to the unemployment rolls:

• The Economic Policy Institute estimates that nearly 1 million jobs would have been lost if their 2011 appropriations bill had been enacted.
• Their bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act would have cut as many as 400,000 jobs annually, according to the Center for American Progress.
• And the Ryan Budget they passed, which destroys Medicare and Medicaid, student loan programs and health care research, would put as many as 3 million more workers out of their jobs during the next five years.

Thankfully, President Obama and cooler heads in the Senate have kept these job-killing bills from becoming law. But they all passed the tea party-controlled U.S. House of Representatives.

Tea party politicians have been ramming through similar misguided bills at the state and local level. Scott Walker in Wisconsin, John Kasich in Ohio, Chris Christie in New Jersey and Rick Scott in Florida are just a few of the elected officials who have pushed policies to put people out of work. All of them turned down federal funding for transportation projects that could have produced hundreds of thousands of jobs. And they have ruthlessly cut budgets rather than ask billionaires in their states to pay their fair share of taxes. Their actions are hurting job creation, even in the private sector. As economist Adam Hirsch noted on the website Think Progress last month: “States that cut spending are seeing significantly more job losses in the private sector than states maintaining or increasing spending levels.”

In the last Congress, tea party Republicans consistently voted to increase unemployment. In August of 2010, for example, every tea party-backed politician in Congress voted against legislation to provide assistance to the states to pay for teachers, firefighters and vital public services. If they had their way, 300,000 additional jobs would have been lost, adding to the more than 500,000 state and local jobs that have been lost in recent years. The next time a tea party politician tells you that jobs are what they care about, remind them that if it had been up to them, every auto worker at General Motors would be out of work today. And what about the jobs saved or created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act? They opposed the bill kicking and screaming, yet every thinking economist in the country agrees that it saved or created anywhere from to 2 to 4 million jobs.

While they consistently pay lip service to “reducing the debt,” that is not their real goal. Their tax cuts for corporate CEOs and hedge fund managers actually increase our debt. As FactCheck.org, under Ryan’s plan “the public debt would increase from $10 trillion in 2011 to $16 trillion in 2021,” even while decimating essential programs for Main Street Americans. That’s because Ryan adds to his Draconian cuts with even larger tax giveaways to his friends on Wall Street. (Ryan wasn’t drinking tea with his Wall Street pals last week. He and two companions spent $700 on two bottles of wine at a Capitol Hill restaurant.)

One is tempted to conclude that the tea party Republicans see political benefit from increasing unemployment while President Obama is at the helm. Michelle Bachmann, in an unguarded moment last week, admitted as much. Whatever their motivation, their policy choices do not reflect the Main Street values shared by most Americans.

It is clear, however, that many of them are willing to tip the country into a double-dip recession and put the world economy into a tailspin. They are, as Warren Buffett said last week, “playing Russian roulette.” And if that leads to more unemployment, apparently the tea party Republicans really don’t care.

This is the Week

9:29 am in Uncategorized by Gerald McEntee

This is the week we’ve been waiting for.

This is the week when Democrats in Congress can prove that it is still possible for our political institutions to stand with the American people in a time of crisis.

This is the week when we will tell who is looking out for political cover and who is standing with patients, families and doctors who need health care reform.

Let’s be clear about what is at stake when the House votes on health care reform. How you answer these six questions will answer how you stand on health care reform:

  1. Should insurance companies be able to deny patients coverage if they have a preexisting condition? This bill will end the ability of insurance companies to abuse Americans who have pre-existing conditions.
  2. Should insurance companies be able to end your insurance coverage when you get sick? This bill will end their ability to do that.
  3. Should insurance companies be able to double premiums and deductibles whenever they want with no controls on their actions? This bill will regulate the insurance companies and allow the government to prevent massive hikes in premiums and deductibles that individuals and business have to pay.
  4. Should insurance companies have to pay for preventive care? This bill will require it.
  5. Should parents be able to keep their unemployed children on their policies until the young adult turns 26? That’s in the bill.
  6. Should taxpayers be paying more than500,000 in subsidies to the insurance companies? Those sweetheart deals end when President Obama signs health care reform.

Health care reform will lay the groundwork for covering an additional 31 million uninsured Americans. A family of three earning $37,000 a year would pay less than $200 per month for good health insurance for the entire family. The family’s out-of-pocket costs would be limited too, so even if someone in the family faced a serious illness, they would not have to pay more than $4,000 in out-of-pocket expenses.

Don’t believe the corporate flacks and Republican talking heads who tell you this is a complicated issue. There is nothing complicated about it. The only people on Capitol Hill who are confused about health care reform are the people in the pockets of insurance company executives. The folks you see on cable TV, who say we need to start over and spend another year — or another decade — before we pass the reform Americans need, are folks who are reading talking points written by insurance company lobbyists and Republican party pollsters. They say that the public opposes reform, but what the public really opposes are the Republican attempts to water down reform and keep the insurance companies happy.

Now, the top Republicans in Congress are spreading the lie that President Obama’s reforms will hurt Medicare recipients. They are making this up, just as they made up the charges about socialized medicine, government control of health care and death panels. These frauds — and that’s what these politicians are — claim that Medicare will be threatened by President Obama’s reforms. These are the same characters who have tried for years to cut Medicare funding and privatize Social Security. Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and Eric Cantor can run from their records, but they can’t hide. Seniors are not going to buy their new found love of Medicare.

These are the same people claiming we can’t afford health care reform. They ignore the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office, which concluded that health care reform actually cuts the federal deficit. That’s because President Obama is cutting the waste and fraud that Republicans and the insurance companies allowed to spread in the health care system. He’s asking wealthy Americans to pay a bit more so that Medicare will be more solvent and the federal government’s health care costs will decline in the years ahead. Seniors will be happy to know that these reforms will end the donut hole they face on their prescription drug benefit, so they won’t have to worry about losing their savings to prescription bills.

If you care about regulating the insurance companies, cutting the deficit, strengthening Medicare and helping working families, you need to take action today. Call your member of Congress and tell them to support health care reform. You can call your U.S. representative now toll free at 888-460-0813. Tell them the time has come to stand up to the insurance companies. The time has come to pass health care reform.

AFSCME members are doing their part. We will make tens of thousands of calls and write letters. We will spend $1 million on television ads this week to let members of Congress know that working families will not let the insurance industry and their front groups dominate the television airways as this historic opportunity to end insurance company abuses comes to a vote.

Don’t be fooled by the insurance companies, the Chamber of Commerce and the GOP operatives. If we fail to defeat the insurance companies, Americans will look back at this week as the one when we lost the best chance in generations to pass a bill to help working families deal with health care. Call your representative and tell them to support health care reform. It’s time to rein in the abuses. It’s time to control skyrocketing costs. It’s time for an up-or-down Congressional vote . It’s time to tell the insurance companies: Your time is up.