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The ALEC Cabal: How Influence Peddlers Undermine Democracy

8:24 am in Uncategorized by Gerald McEntee

"Power and Influence"

"Power and Influence" by Wandering Eyre on flickr

As the eyes of the nation are focused on lawmakers in Washington this week, hundreds of right-wing state legislators are quietly meeting with corporate lobbyists behind closed doors in a New Orleans hotel to draft far-reaching legislation. The secret meetings, underwritten by powerful special interests –  including the insurance and banking industries, big oil and the pharmaceutical giants – are part of an on-going effort to subvert the public interest by an industry backed-group shamelessly called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). This hidden collusion between well-financed lobbyists and elected legislators undermines the basic American values of public debate and full-disclosure that Americans rightly expect when our laws are made.

Through ALEC, big corporations lay out more than $6 million a year to wine and dine state legislators, and pay for expensive vacations and junkets, while at the same time drafting corporate-friendly legislation that the politicians then push when they return to their statehouses. This covert coalition of state legislators and Wall Street moneymen has been surreptitiously working out of the view of Main Street Americans to dismantle health, safety and environmental regulations, privatize vital public services, restrict the ability of working men and women to make a fair wage, and reduce the ability of seniors, students, minorities and the poor to vote. All done behind closed doors without the press or public seeing whose palm is greased.

More than 2,000 state legislators are in on the game. Over the years, with corporate backing in their campaigns, they often go for higher office, like former ALEC members Speaker of the House John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. More than 70 members of Congress and governors have attended the closed-to-the public get-togethers where corporate CEOs lay out the agenda for the year ahead. It is no coincidence that Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Gov. John Kasich of Ohio made attacks on the middle class and collective bargaining rights their top priorities, rather than find real solutions and focus on job creation, when they took power earlier this year. They are both ALEC alumni. Read the rest of this entry →

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.

Call Your Senators Today to Protect a Million Jobs

8:12 am in 2010 election, Uncategorized by Gerald McEntee

Earlier this year, Democrats in the Senate tried three times to pass legislation that would help states deal with growing Medicaid rolls, the joint federal-state health care program for the poor. Each effort has failed in the face of united Republican obstructionism. Earlier this month, The Washington Post explained clearly why this legislation should pass:

“States are staggering under the impact of the economic slump, with revenue down and demand for social services up. Some 30 states were counting on the Medicaid money to balance their budgets, as required by law. The other cuts they would be forced to make if the Medicaid funds are not forthcoming would further slow the economic recovery. Passing this package is the right thing to do, and fiscally prudent too.”

The failure to pass this help for states, experts agree, will cause as many as a million additional job losses in both the private and the public sectors. Yet Senate Republicans continue to block passage.

Now, thanks to the leadership of Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), the Senate has one more chance to do the right thing and protect nearly a million more jobs from going down the drain. Later today, the U.S. Senate has scheduled a cloture vote on a bill – H.R. 1586 – that will provide $26 billion in funding to help states deal with their budget shortfalls, bolster Medicaid and fund education jobs. But it’s up to us to win it. The Republican congressional leadership has made their strategy clear – they will say no at all costs.

This funding is fully paid for, so it is simply false for opponents to say that passage would increase the deficit. However I would be remiss if I didn’t note that a part of the funding comes from a cut in future Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamp) benefits. However, it does not take effect until 2015, which gives us plenty of time to mobilize to make sure the cut never happens.

Yet, Republican opposition to the help for the states and the education money – even if it’s paid for – intensifies as we inch closer toward November. Quite frankly, it looks clear to many that Republican leaders are doing everything they can to bring down the economy for political gain.

They think they will benefit on Election Day if more Americans lose their jobs and unemployment grows. It’s in keeping with their leader Rush Limbaugh’s professed goal in the early days of the Obama administration: “I want him to fail.” Far too many GOP legislators are taking their cues from extremists on the right, and not listening to the message that voters are sending – it’s time to end the partisanship and look out for the interest of the American people.

By a margin of more than 2 to 1, Americans believe that saving and creating jobs is more important than reducing the federal deficit to move our economy forward. Considering how tone-deaf Washington has become on jobs, it’s no wonder Americans are gloomy about the nation’s economic recovery. Republican senators need to make a choice: Are they going to continue to obstruct, or will they stand with American families who want our economy to grow and want to put people back to work?

If we fail to break the Republicans legislative lockdown today, there should be no doubt that there will be more pain for working families, more debt and a prolonged recession. Every senator needs to know that it’s time to stop the obstruction. It’s time to protect American jobs.

If you care about the future of our economy and the jobs of nearly a million Americans, call your senators immediately and tell them to vote yes on cloture.

You can click on this link to make the call. Let me know that you’ve done it. It’s time to get our economy and our country working again.