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March to Stop the Freeloaders

6:03 am in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

The nation’s greedy corporations and insatiable wealthy are fattening themselves on workers. There’s no trickle down. It’s the opposite; the rich have been sucking the economic lifeblood from the middle class for decades.

When reckless Wall Street banksters get taxpayer-funded bailouts, billionaires get tax breaks and gigantic corporations like GE and Bank of America pay absolutely no federal income taxes, they’re getting for free the very public services that enable them to make massive profits in this country – the courts, the roads, the trade regulators, the patent enforcement.

The middle class doesn’t get those big time special deals and loopholes. Workers pay their taxes. As a result, it’s workers footing the bill for the government services that enrich the rich. Greedy corporations, their CEOs and the right-wing politicians they buy with tens of millions in campaign cash are freeloaders.

It’s time workers stood up to the freeloaders. Join Monday’s We Are One rallies. These demonstrations across the country by religious groups, social justice organizations and labor unions will illustrate that the middle class is mad as hell and not going to take trickster economics anymore.

It’s time for greedy corporations and the insatiable rich to pay their fair share. It’s time to stop cuts to the government programs most treasured by and vital to the middle class and the vulnerable in this country – education, public transportation, Social Security. It’s time to stop right-wing attempts to terminate democratic rights like collective bargaining and voting without harassment. It’s time for the middle class to stop paying for everything and for the insatiable rich and greedy corporations to start sharing the sacrifice required to recover from the economic crisis caused by reckless gambling by Wall Street bankster corporations.

March for your rights Monday. March for the middle class facing record rates of foreclosure, unemployment, child poverty, and loss of opportunity as country club conservatives cut off college loans and Head Start. March for the right of college students to register and vote in the towns where they study. March for the right of workers to band together, elect representatives and bargain with employers for better pay and working conditions. March for the right of the people to insist that corporations pay at least the same rate of taxes as workers do. March to end tax breaks for the wealthiest one percent who have now acquired more wealth than all the workers in the bottom 90 percent.

Greedy corporations, the insatiable wealthy and their purchased politicians have for three decades skewed public policy to enrich themselves while pushing down wages and benefits for the middle class.

From 1947 to 1975, a time of strong unionization in the workforce, real wages of average workers increased with productivity. The 75 percent rise in productivity and the nearly matching rise in wages gave the United States the largest, most vibrant middle class in the history of the world.
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False Fear: Cyborgs Instead Of CEOs

8:06 am in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

Cyborg

Cyborg by mize2oo5, on Flickr

The nightmare for far too many is Cyborgs. The public fears HAL, the 2001 Space Odyssey computer that killed astronauts rather than forfeit its objective.

So terrified of the sentient machine, citizens overlook the allegory. The soft-spoken, reasonable-sounding HAL behaves exactly like a greed-driven, multi-national corporation. The corporate mission is profit. With 29 workers massacred in a Massey mine explosion and 11 slain in the BP oil rig explosion in just one month last year, greedy corporations have shown they’re willing to kill rather than forfeit their profit objective.

In America, the UK and Europe, the entities that should be feared — greedy corporations — are pulling politicians’ strings. Reckless speculation by multi-national financial corporations took down the world economy, creating the worst recession since the Great Depression. Governments – in the UK, Europe and America – used worker tax dollars to bail out the banks. Now those big banks are granting outsized bonuses and pay packages to their executives while demanding that governments balance recession-ruined budgets with cuts to social services, education, pay and pensions for government workers and worker’s rights to collectively bargaining for better lives.

Workers, students and pensioners in the UK and Europe have protested these measures for a year, from general strikes in Greece to national strikes in France. In the U.K. students, in the largest numbers since the 1960s, protested education fee increases. Last weekend, the U.K.’s Trades Union Congress (TUC) organized the March for the Alternative in which a quarter million demonstrators walked for five hours in London to protest austerity imposed on workers while corporations get breaks.

The diamond-crusted rich on both sides of the Atlantic have determined that workers and the vulnerable will pay the consequences of the bankster-caused recession. And they’re exploiting the financial crisis to strip workers of collective bargaining rights, preventing them from ever regaining what they’ve lost.

That is what’s going on in Wisconsin — and in a half dozen other American states where right-wing legislatures and governors are passing or pressing for legislation decimating workers’ rights to collectively bargain, even after workers accepted pay cuts to help balance budgets.

The disingenuousness of these right-wing governors in blaming public employees is clear. First of all, many of the state leaders granted huge tax breaks to corporations, lowering the states’ anticipated revenues, then demanded state workers bear the brunt of filling budget deficits.
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Wisconsin Subterfuge Violates American Democratic Values

8:10 am in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his crew of country club conservatives this week brutalized the nation’s democratic traditions to secure legislation demanded by big corporations and billionaire conservative financiers like the Koch brothers – legislation stripping workers of collective bargaining rights.

Walker & Crew succeeded in terminating workers’ rights – but they achieved that only by violating traditional American democratic values. They positioned themselves with dictators who act against the will of the people, deny free speech rights and suppress protests.

They violated the state’s open meetings law, breached the right of Wisconsin residents to rally in their own state capitol building, and contravened conventional standards of fairness by voting to deny workers their rights without assembling a quorum of senators.

Free speech and free access to government protect America’s democracy. Walker & Crew disregarded First Amendment rights repeatedly.

Just this week, Walker & Crew locked protesters out of their own capitol building in Madison. They locked the few protesters already in the building out of the meeting rooms where senate and house members voted. They denied access even to progressive Wisconsin Assembly members, one of whom climbed through a colleague’s window to gain access to his workplace.

In the weeks since Wisconsin’s 14 progressive senators fled to Illinois to prevent the chamber from achieving the quorum needed to vote on a measure spending the people’s money, Walker & Crew also shut down access from the capitol to a web site posted by protesters. And they severely restricted protesters’ access to the capitol where a sit-in and sleep-in began in mid-February.

Protesters, who peacefully gathered in Madison in the tens of thousands, began chanting, “Whose house is it?” referring to the capitol. “It’s our house,” they responded.

That’s not the way Walker & Crew saw it. They said voters gave them control of the people’s house in last fall’s elections. That, apparently, means to them that they don’t have to listen to the will of the people anymore. Polls show a large majority – more than 60 percent – of Wisconsinites oppose stripping workers of collective bargaining rights.

Walker & Crew didn’t listen to the people. And they repeatedly attempted to shut the people up. The First Amendment was written and adopted to protect the people from that kind of oppression by political leaders.
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On Women’s Day, GOP Attacks Women

8:48 am in Labor, Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

Not like Valentine’s Day, which is about love and chocolate, or Mother’s Day, which is about sentimentality and breakfast in bed, International Women’s Day is about equality and autonomy.

The first commemoration occurred on March 19, 1911, a time when most governments in the world, including the U.S. and Canada, barred women from voting and most employers refused to hire women, ghettoizing them in sweatshops.

Six days after that first international call to action for women, flames engulfed such a sweatshop, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City, killing 146 workers, the vast majority of them young women aged 16 to 25, some of whom jumped to their deaths from the 9th floor rather than burn.

Women can vote now. They can hold most jobs, though not all, including combat positions in the U.S. military. And their pay is only 75 percent of men’s. So the struggle for equality and autonomy is not over. Yet the GOP is intent on setting women back. If the Republican governors across the country succeed in confiscating collective bargaining rights from public sector workers, women will be hurt most.

The grotesque working conditions at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, including locked and blocked exit doors, a failed fire escape, and fire hazards such as oily floors and wicker baskets of scraps, will be invoked on this centennial commemoration of International Women’s Day, as they were during observances in the early years after the tragedy. These conditions epitomized the very kind of oppression that International Women’s Day had been created to eradicate.
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Making America the Best Place on Earth to Work

8:09 am in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

Not the wars. Not greenhouse gasses. Not even the deficit. The issue most important to Americans is jobs.

Despite that, jobs failed to make an appearance in the State of the Union address.

The talk was all about business. Business was doing better. Business needed taxpayers to help pay for research and innovation. Business will get government help to eliminate pesky regulations. Business must have lower taxes.

The most telling statement was this:

“We have to make America the best place on Earth to do business.”

Especially because it wasn’t matched by a companion:

“We have to make America the best place on Earth to work.”

The speech expressed a policy in which business is the focus of government, taking precedence over workers. The American colonists created a government for their own benefit; they did not constitute an agent to serve business. A policy giving corporations primacy is risky for American workers.

The state of the union noted that happy days are here again for corporations and banks:

“Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again.”

Never mentioned, however, were the 14.5 million unemployed Americans, the sustained record rate of foreclosure, and the increasing poverty and food bank reliance among citizens of the richest nation in the world.

The state of the union outlined a plan under which the government will coddle corporations, essentially proving companies government welfare using American workers’ tax dollars. If businesses create jobs for workers as a result, fine. If they don’t, there’s no plan to exact a penalty.

For example, under the policy described in the speech, American workers will fork over tax dollars to pay for research and development for businesses that are sitting on a record $1.8 trillion in cash reserves — hoarding it rather than creating jobs.

The president said:

“Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race. And in a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology — an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.”

Maybe it will create new jobs. Hopefully. But no guarantees were offered. Mentioned as a business success story in the speech was a Michigan company, Luma Resources, which began manufacturing solar shingles with the help of a $500,000 government grant. It created 20 jobs, $25,000 a job. American taxpayers might think that’s a little pricey, but what’s worse is the potential for Luma Resources to go the way of Evergreen Solar, squandering the corporate welfare.

Evergreen, the third largest maker of solar panels in the U.S. and recipient of at least $43 million in corporate welfare, announced earlier this month it would close its main American factory in Massachusetts and move manufacturing to China. Eight hundred Americans will lose their Evergreen jobs by April.

Evergreen officials said China will give the company even higher amounts of corporate welfare, which, of course, makes sense since China is not a capitalist country. Its economy is government controlled. And that government routinely violates international trade regulations – by providing banned subsidies to industries and by deliberately devaluing its currency.

No matter how better educated American workers get. No matter how much more innovative. No matter how much more productive. No matter how many tax dollars the government spends on research and development, if the corporations that benefit move manufacturing overseas, the American workers who paid for it will suffer.

In fact, it’s more than suffering; it’s betrayal by their government that provided tax benefits to companies for off-shoring jobs. It is betrayal by their government that fails to stop violations of trade laws by countries like China that lure away firms like Evergreen.

At the end of the State of the Union speech, the president said:

“From the earliest days of our founding, America has been the story of ordinary people who dare to dream.”

An ordinary American dreams of a family-supporting job, owning a home, saving enough to pay for a child’s college education, helping to build a safe community. Corporations aren’t Americans, no matter how often the U.S. Supreme Court grants them rights that the U.S. Constitution guarantees to human beings. Businesses aren’t citizens. Their allegiance isn’t to America. It’s to profits. They dream only of dollars. They concede no responsibility to family, community or country.

They were not included when the president said:

“Tucson reminded us that no matter who we are or where we come from, each of us is a part of something greater — something more consequential than party or political preference. We are part of the American family.”

The top priority of the American government must be making America the best place on Earth for Americans. If that’s good for corporations, great. The government must never place American citizens second.

Time to Wield the Foreign Policy Stick

9:35 am in China, Economy, Foreign Policy, Korea, Labor by Leo W. Gerard

Map of China (source: CIA World Factbook)

America plays the role of abused partner in its relationship with China. Although the Asian giant repeatedly injures U.S. industry by violating international trade rules, America has responded, almost exclusively, by pleading and begging for China to stop.

China says it’s sorry. And continues to violate the rules. America respectfully beseeches China to discontinue manipulating its currency, and China says it will. Then it allows the value to increase a completely insignificant amount. Still America does nothing. Nothing. It simply accepts the abuse.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Michael Williams, senior vice president of U.S. Steel stood with me Wednesday at a press conference in Pittsburgh to urge President Obama in his meetings this week with Chinese President Hu Jintao to announce that America is done with soft talk. We want President Obama to tell President Hu that America has heard enough promises; the United States is bucking up and pulling out that big stick that Teddy Roosevelt carried in foreign policy negotiations.

This is a rare issue on which politicians, Republican and Democrat, manufacturers and organized labor all agree. Here’s what Sen. Casey said at the press conference, “In my estimation, and that of a lot of Americans, the time for talking is over. The time for action is now.” He, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., plan to introduce legislation next week to force the federal government to hold China accountable, to enforce compliance with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules – rules that China agreed to comply with when WTO countries permitted it to join even though it is a non-market economy.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Rights Come with Responsibilities; the Right Shirks Theirs

8:49 am in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

Five years ago, a 47-year-old Missouri woman began a duplicitous on-line courtship through MySpace with a 13-year-old neighbor who once had been friends with the woman’s daughter.

The adult, Lori Drew, flirted with the 13-year-old, Megan Meier, through the guise of a fictitious, 16-year-old character named Josh Evans. Suddenly, “Josh” broke up with Miss Meier, writing to her, “the world would be a better place without you.” Just hours later, Miss Meier hung herself in her bedroom.

Words have consequences.

Drew wasn’t charged with the child’s death. In fact, a judge reversed her conviction on computer fraud charges, saying the law was intended to deal with hacking, not murder. But for most Americans, there is something deeply disturbing, something morally, if not criminally, wrong with deliberate torment, with predatory viciousness. Drew eluded accountability the same way conservatives are seeking to evade culpability after their irresponsible speech has provoked the delusional to violence.

It’s hard to draw a line directly from Drew’s cruel words to the noose around Miss Meier’s neck. Similarly, it’s difficult to directly link violent political rhetoric like Sarah Palin’s illustration showing gun sight cross hairs on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ Arizona district to the shattering of Giffords’ office door after her vote for health insurance reform last March or Jared L. Loughner’s shooting spree last weekend that left six dead and Giffords and 13 others wounded.

What is clear, however, is that vile and threatening communication that becomes so repetitive that it’s routine has the effect of sanctioning an atmosphere of violence. . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Republicans Don’t Trust Americans

9:32 am in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

Republican fund-raisers are treating Americans like little children, as if the GOP knows best and must shelter the youngsters from the truth.

It’s like when a kindergartner asks his father if mommy is coming home soon, and the widower replies that she’s on a long business trip. The parent is attempting to shield the child from the cruel truth, afraid the little one can’t handle it.

That’s what Republican campaign fund-raising groups are doing by concealing their donors from the public. The GOP does not trust Americans to handle the information. Republican operatives want to shield voters from knowing who is actually paying for GOP attack ads. The GOP fears the consequences if Americans know the truth – exactly which giant corporations and Wall Street banksters are funding vicious screeds against Democrats because those covert donors believe Republicans will deliver for big business.

The secret GOP benefactors are right about one thing: A Republican majority will work for the rich. In a study of income growth post WWII, Princeton political scientist Larry Bartels determined that earnings rose faster at all income levels under Democratic administrations, but especially for the middle class and the poor. Under Republican presidents, the wealthiest benefited the most, increasing income inequality.

After the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court struck down decades of precedent in January in its Citizens United ruling, defining corporations as “persons” and permitting them to pour unlimited cash into political advertising, Democrats offered legislation to temper that newly-granted corporate power. Called the DISCLOSE Act – for Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections — it would have required revelation of corporate donations.

Republicans wanted concealment of their corporate sources, however, and scuttled the DISCLOSE Act. This freed private political fund-raising groups to take as much money as they can from corporations while providing a cloak of anonymity.

The Republican and Democratic parties still must disclose donors, and unions like the United Steelworkers (USW), which get their political action committee contributions from American members, must provide detailed information on how much they spend, which candidates they support, and the names of people who supply in-kind services as well as the value of the services.

The story of health insurers’ disclosed contributions to political parties reveals why Republicans prefer to keep Americans in the dark about gifts to GOP private fund-raising groups.

Public reports show that last year, the health insurance industry split its donations between the two parties, but this year, after passage of health insurance reform, the contributions are running three to one for Republicans. The insurance corporations have made their demands clear to Republican beneficiaries. They want Republicans to retain in the law the financial windfalls for insurance corporations – that would be mandates that uninsured Americans get coverage and fines for those who don’t. And they want Republicans to delete aspects that will cost insurance companies – that would be benefits for Americans like requirements that insurers cover sick children and injunctions against dropping policy holders when they get sick.

Wendell Potter, a former executive at Cigna Corp., one of the nation’s largest health insurance corporations, told Noam N. Levey of the Chicago Tribune:

“The industry would love to have a Republican Congress. They were very, very successful during the years of Republican domination in Washington.”

Voters need to know that insurance corporations overwhelmingly favor Republicans and what the industry expects to get from the GOP. But Americans will not know how much money insurers and other corporations give to shadowy Republican fund-raising groups and what those donors demand.

A New York Times investigation provided some insight into one GOP shadow group, the American Future Fund. It has spent $6 million so far on ads attacking Democrats in 13 states. The Times discovered that Bruce Rastetter, CEO of Hawkeye Energy Holdings, one of the nation’s largest corn-based ethanol companies, provided the seed money for American Future Fund. The Times determined that American Future Fund money is funding ads to defeat Democrats who sit on legislative committees that directly affect the ethanol industry and agricultural subsidies.

Two other secretive Republican groups, American Crossroads GPS and the so-called U.S. Chamber of Commerce, plan to spend $145 million to crush Democrats while concealing their funding sources from Americans.

American Crossroads GPS, brainchild of Republican operative Karl Rove, plans to spend $70 million. Mel Sembler, a shopping mall magnate, told the New York Times that wealthy donors have given the GPS group six and seven-figure checks, and Republicans said one donor, who they refused to name, gave several million dollars. Sembler told the Times why clandestine giving is so attractive to corporations:

“They want to be able to be helpful but not be seen by the public as taking sides.”

What they don’t want to be seen doing is lining their pockets by buying Republican politicians. Neither do the Republican beneficiaries.

Like GPS, the so-called U.S. Chamber of Commerce is an elephant-sized player in the secretive Republican support game. It has spent $25 million on more than 8,000 ads slamming Democrats and backing corporate Republican candidates. It plans to spend $50 million more.

Oddly, the commerce group calls itself the U.S. Chamber while admitting foreign firms and soliciting funds from corporations in places like Bahrain, India and Singapore whose interests may conflict with those of American companies and American citizens. An investigation by Think Progress, a project of the non-partisan Center for American Progress Action Fund, revealed that the so-called U.S. Chamber has accepted at least $885,000 from 84 foreign firms, money that it placed in the same account from which it draws funds to sponsor ads attacking Democratic candidates.

The so-called U.S. Chamber denied that it illegally co-mingles money it gets from foreign corporations with funds it uses to attack Democrats. When Think Progress and others asked the so-called U.S. Chamber to divulge the account’s firewall to the public, the so-called U.S. Chamber responded by repeating its assurance that it does nothing wrong and asserting, “We are not obligated to discuss our internal procedures.”

Basically, the so-called U.S. Chamber is saying, “trust us,” to the American public. On the other hand, the “U.S. Chamber” and groups like American Crossroads GPS don’t trust the American public to know their donor lists. What they don’t trust is that Americans will do what the GOP wants on Nov. 2 if Republicans’ corporate donors are exposed.

The USW challenges the “U.S. Chamber” and GOP funding groups like American Crossroads GPS to show their trust in the American people by disclosing their donors.

Assert Yourself, America; Don’t be an Illegal Trade Victim

7:56 am in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

Long-suffering victim is hardly the American image. Paul Revere, Mother Jones, John Glenn, Martin Luther King Jr. — those are American icons. Bold, wry, justice-seeking.

So how is it that America finds herself in the position of schoolyard patsy, woe-is-me casualty of China’s illegal trade practices that are destroying U.S. renewable energy manufacturing and foreclosing an energy-independent future?

Come on, America. Show some of that confident pioneer spirit. Stand up for yourself. Tell China that America isn’t going to hand over its lunch money anymore; international trade law will be enforced now.

That’s the demand the United Steelworkers (USW) union made this week when it filed a 5,800-page suit detailing how China violates a wide variety of World Trade Organization (WTO) obligations.

The case, now in the hands of the U.S. Trade Representative, shows how China uses illegal land grants, prohibited low-interest loans and other outlawed measures to pump up its renewable energy industries and facilitate export of those products at artificially low prices to places like the United States and Europe.

The U.S. aids renewable energy industries, like solar cell and wind turbine manufacturers, but no where near the extent that China does. And the American aid lawfully goes to renewable manufacturers that produce for domestic consumption. China, by contrast, illegally subsidizes industries that export, a strategy that kills off competition.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

America’s Choice: Leave a Legacy of Hell or Bequeath Clean Air

4:30 pm in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

At the turn of the 20th Century, smoke meant jobs. When noxious fumes spewed from factory stacks, workers brought home paychecks. Industries hired. The future was bright as molten iron flowing from a blast furnace.

In industrial Pittsburgh’s heyday, the smoke was so dense streetlights remained lit at noon. White collar workers changed soot-covered shirts mid-day. The region’s residents suffered high rates of asthma and emphysema. In 1948, an inversion trapped industrial pollution in a small town south of Pittsburgh, killing 20.

Smoke also meant death and disease.

Now, however, good-paying industrial jobs need not exact untimely death from workers and their families. In fact, it’s the opposite. Development of clean renewable energy generators – the likes of wind turbines, solar cells, biomass – would create family-supporting industrial jobs in America and would reinforce traditional manufacturing jobs in the U.S., including those in steel mills, solar cell fabrication plants and wind turbine factories, such as those built by Gamesa in Pennsylvania.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →