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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.

Corporate Rewards: Controlling U.S. Trade Policy

8:35 am in Business, Economy, Employment by Leo W. Gerard

Real men, real human beings, with feelings and families, fought and died at Gettysburg to preserve the Union, to ensure, as their president, Abraham Lincoln, would say later, that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Perversely, afterwards, non-humans commandeered the constitutional amendment intended to protect the rights of former slaves. Corporations wrested from the U.S. Supreme Court a decision based on the 14th Amendment asserting that corporations are people with rights to be upheld by the government – but with no counterbalancing human responsibilities to the republic. No duty to fight or die in war, for example. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court expanded those rights – ruling that corporations have a First Amendment free speech right to surreptitiously spend unlimited money on political campaigns.

Today, Lincoln would have to say America’s got a government of the people by the corporations, for the corporations.

The proposed trade agreement with South Korea illustrates corporate control of government for profit. It’s the same with efforts to revive the moribund trade schemes former President George W. Bush also negotiated with Panama and Colombia, the world’s most dangerous country by far for trade unionists, with 2,700 assassinated with impunity in the past two decades, 38 slain so far this year.

Nobody likes these trade deals – except corporations. They’re all modeled on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), both of which killed American jobs while giving corporations new authority to sue governments (read: taxpayers) for regulations – like environmental standards – that corporations contend interfere with their right to make money.  . . . 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.

Hey, Union-Busters: We’ll Give You Supermajority

5:00 pm in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

Corporate CEOs, union-busting lawyers, and conservative politicians who pander to the rich condemned a National Mediation Board (NMB) Ruling this week.

They complained that the NMB gave railway and airline workers the ability to obtain collective bargaining rights through majority-rule elections. That’s the type of balloting that occurs under universal democratic rules. Everyone qualified to vote is invited to participate, and the outcome is determined by the majority of those who cast ballots.

The anti-worker-rights groups wanted the NMB to retain a different kind of election – one that requires the winner to receive votes from the majority of all of those qualified to participate — essentially, a supermajority.

This is an exciting new development. Up until now CEOs, union-busters, and particularly conservative Republicans, have actively opposed the Employee Free Choice Act, mainly because of a provision they call “card check.” But card check provides exactly what they now say that they want – a determination made by the majority of all of those qualified to participate. So, clearly, since they’re so upset by the end of supermajority rule for airline and railroad workers, they’d be happy if Congress intervened and instituted it for all workers by passing the Employee Free Choice Act.

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