Billionaire Koch Brothers Putting Stamp on 2012 GOP Nomination

This is a cross-post from NALC Activist Alert:

The billionaire Koch Brothers, head of Koch Industries, continue to influence conservative politics and their Tea Party-endorsed politicians. Through various political action groups and committees, the brothers have spent tens of millions of dollars over the past several decades on free-market, anti-government and anti-union causes.

The two brothers, David and Charles, have recently struck a chord across labor-related airwaves through their group Americans for Prosperity. AFP, known as one of the major financial backers of the Tea Party, stepped out this past spring in strong support for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s union-busting initiatives. The group ran ads in favor of Walker’s plan to strip public-sector employees of their right to bargain collectively and lobbied the governor in favor of the bill as well. Walker was obliged to listen, given that Koch Industries’ political action committee was one of the largest donors to his campaign.

Now, the Koch brothers have stepped into the 2012 GOP presidential nomination race, contributing $10,000 to Rep. Michele Bachmann’s campaign. Many thought the brothers would send Mitt Romney them first check, since they remain close to the former Massachusetts governor and have hosted events for him in the past, but the Kochs have also contributed a total of $25,000 to Bachmann since 2006.

Over the next couple of months, the Koch brothers will most likely spread their vast resources across the GOP spectrum, focusing on any candidate who embodies the brothers’ freewheeling market ideals. While we do not know how much the Koch brothers will contribute to campaigns in 2012, we do know, based on Walker and Wisconsin, the potential consequences for working men and women with such a powerful influence looming over any candidate.
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In addition to the above, we also received this word through the NALC’s e-Activist Network and NALC President Fred Rolando:

I contacted you last week to inform you that the Rules Committee in the House of Representatives was going to make a decision that could determine the fate of six-day mail delivery service.

As of today, Tuesday, July 19, the hearing that was temporarily postponed last week has not been rescheduled.

Congress is in session this week. Therefore, the hearing could take place at any time. Please visit NALC’s homepage for the most up-to-date information.

Last week, you did your part to preserve six-day delivery and, when I call on you again, I know you will take action to keep the pressure on all 435 representatives.

Thank you for your continued efforts to preserve the excellent level of service we provide, six days a week.
In Solidarity,
Fredric V. Rolando, President
National Association of Letter Carriers


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Debt Ceiling Dilemma: It Just Gets Curiouser and Curiouser

By Richard Thayer

House Speaker John Boehner miscalculated last week, saying he might accept significant revenue hikes as part of a $4 trillion deficit reduction plan, aka, the Big Deal. It seems that President Obama had called the Republicans’ bluff by putting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid on the bargaining table. The GOP had said there could be no deal as long as these entitlement programs weren’t part of the negotiations. So the president lays them out on the table. In effect he says, “I’ll call you, and raise you $100 billion.”

Speaker Boehner thought that’s what his party wanted. He thought they might have a deal.

He was wrong.

His colleagues and those on the far-far right wouldn’t hear of it. What? Tax the rich? Tax the very people who contribute to our re-election campaigns? You’ve got to be out of your ever-loving mind!”

Senator Mitch McConnell (pictured above) went on Fox News Sunday and said, “We have 9.2 percent unemployment, and their response (Democrats) is to raise taxes? I mean, my goodness, I’m for the biggest deal possible, but we’re not going to raise taxes.”

I mean, after all, if we raise taxes that would put our “job creators” in a bind and they would stop creating jobs. Right?

I don’t have the best memory in the world. I can forget things at the drop of a hat. I can be in the kitchen and think of something I need that’s in my study. I will walk to my study (which is approximately a 10 second walk) and by the time I get there, I have forgotten what I came for.

But despite my bad memory, I DO recall the kind of financial fix we were in at the end of the Bush years. When President Obama came into office, we were about to go over the precipice into another Great Depression.

During the Bush administration, despite our declaring war on Saddam Hussein, we cut taxes…twice. And those tax cuts, for the nation’s wealthiest, have been in effect now for around 10-and-a-half years. For 10-and-a-half years these so-called “job-creators” have been tax free so they can create jobs. You would think that with their having saved billions upon billions of dollars during that time (they have close to $2 trillion in savings now) they would have created a whole bunch of jobs.

Exactly how many jobs were created during the Bushy years? And how many jobs have been created in the last two-and-a-half years?

If the people who have been getting the tax breaks for the past 10-and-a-half years are going to create jobs that Senator McConnell keeps talking about, I would strongly recommend that they get on the stick and start creating them now. What the heck are we waiting for? It would seem that if the country’s wealthiest companies want us to believe that there is any truth at all to what the Republicans are saying about their being job creators, then maybe they should, like, create jobs.

Do these people think the American public is stupid?

Time will tell. We’ll know for sure whether we’re stupid or not come November 2012.

Unfortunately, by then we will all have splattered and dried on the debt ceiling.


Who Will Be the First to Blink?

By Richard Thayer

With the possibility of the US hitting its debt ceiling if our dysfunctional Congress doesn’t do something soon, hand-wringing is on the rise as our lawmakers have been busy making political points while the talking heads on television have been solemnly forecasting gloom and doom.

On the one hand, the Republicans have said over and over again that raising taxes on the nation’s wealthiest Americans — those making $250,000 and above– is off the table, while Democrats have argued that, while not “off the table,” no harm will be done to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

This game of political chicken has been going on for weeks, but now the cliff is rapidly approaching and the game has become very interesting. The question on everyone’s lips is: Who will chicken-out first?

According to Wednesday’s Washington Post, it looks like it will be President Obama.

The president is meeting with top House and Senate leaders today (Thursday) and according to the WP article, President Obama is poised to make some major concessions in order to force Republicans to put tax breaks for the wealthy on the table. The Post reports that Obama will be proposing “significant” (emphasis added) reductions in Medicare spending and will also be addressing the issue of rising Social Security costs.

The paper also reports that the White House will be looking to cut the debt by more than $4 trillion over the next decade. Previously the figure had been $2 trillion.

According to one unnamed source, “The fiscal good has to outweigh the pain.”

Unfortunately, if this is the case, those who will be receiving Social Security benefits, Medicare and Medicaid in the future will be the ones subjected to most of the required pain. Rest assured it won’t be those hammering out the particulars and it won’t be the nation’s wealthiest since the taxes they’ll be required to pay certainly won’t harm them financially.

The Fourth of July fireworks may have been set off this past weekend, but look for there to be more fireworks in the days ahead.


NLRB Proposes Changes to Expedite Union Elections

By Richard Thayer

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) fired another salvo across the bow of the Republican Party this past Tuesday. Or at least that’s the way it and their subsidiary, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are perceiving it.

The thing that has their underwear in a big uncomfortable wad is the NLRB’s proposal to change a number of its rules regarding union elections. The purpose of these changes would be to reform “the procedures it follows prior and subsequent to conducting a secret ballot election to determine if employees wish to be represented for purposes of collective bargaining. The proposed amendments are intended to reduce unnecessary litigation, streamline pre-and post-election procedures, and facilitate the use of electronic communications and document filing.”

Of course any changes in the NLRB’s rules that would give the common worker a better opportunity of voting for union representation at their job is a large bur under the Republicans’ saddle. Both the lone Republican representative on the Board as well as the Chamber of Commerce were swift to respond to the news.

Said Republican member Brian Hayes: “Without any attempt to identify particular problems in cases where the process has failed, the majority has announced its intent to provide a more expeditious pre-election process and a more limited post-election process that tilts heavily against employers’ rights to engage in legitimate free speech and to petition the government for redress. The majority (on the NLRB) acts in apparent furtherance of the interests of a narrow constituency, and at the great expense of undermining public trust in the fairness of Board elections.”

Reading that statement, I envision the good congressman giving an impassioned speech in the chamber, his face flushed, veins protruding from the sides of his neck, eyes flashing fire. Oh, the indignity of it all!

And to no one’s surprise, the Chamber of Commerce isn’t too pleased with it either. Randy Johnson, Senior Vice President of Labor, Immigration, and Employee Benfits for the Chamber had this to say: “When organized labor failed to pass its top priority, the card check bill, we knew it was only a matter of time before the administration used the regulatory process to tilt the playing field in organized labor’s favor during union campaigns. The proposed rules…are a blatant attempt to give unions the upper hand by limiting the ability of employers to exercise their free speech rights.” He concludes with this: “These assaults on statutory rights, however disguised, will be strenuously opposed by the U.S. Chamber.”

It makes you almost feel sorry for big business, doesn’t it?

The NLRB is now accepting comments on their proposed amendment through writing and by conducting a hearing on the matter on July 18 (and possibly 19 as well). We would encourage you to look over the proposed amendments and then write the Board a letter expressing your feelings. We can guarantee you that big business and the Chamber will be voicing theirs.

You can find the NLRB’s fact sheet on the proposed amendments by going here.


North Carolina Workers’ Comp Bill a Threat to Injured Workers, Both Present and Future

By Richard Thayer

It’s easy to get so preoccupied with attacks on worker’s rights in other states and on the national level that we lose sight of what’s happening in our own backyard. And if there isn’t a great deal about it in the news (in our backyard), then it’s even easier to overlook it. Until it’s too late.

While our attention has been diverted to the threats against collective bargaining, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and a plethora of other items on the Republicans’ hit list, we may have missed noticing that we have a hit squad busily at work in Raleigh concocting a plan that, if completed successfully, would adversely affect thousands of injured workers right here in North Carolina.

Perhaps another reason this bit of news has gone undetected by so many North Carolinians is because it sounds so harmless, even good. I’m referring to House bill 709, the “Protect and Put North Carolina Back to Work” bill.

The name of the bill, like some of the information being put out by the backers of said bill, is misleading. It could be more accurately called: “The Protect the Insurance Industry and Put Injured Workers Back to Work For Less Pay” bill.

The supposed purpose of this bill–that which is being pushed by its Republican sponsors and the insurance industry–is that it would allow North Carolina to become more competitive with other states that have passed similar bills and would reduce fraudulent workers’ compensation claims.

Actually, what we need right now is a bill that would reduce fraudulent claims about bills being introduced by our lawmakers that claim to be good for hard working citizens when, in fact, they aren’t.

Despite what the bill claims to be, what it actually is is a bailout for the insurance industry. And what’s good for the insurance industry is good for those politicians who are heavily funded by the insurance lobby. Thus we now have bill 709 working its way through the North Carolina General Assembly. It will be voted on fairly soon, either this week or next.

For one thing, House bill 709 would completely change the North Carolina Industrial Commission rules and those changes will affect everyone with workers’ compensation claims whether they be future or present. Here are some of the ways those with workers’ comp claims will be affected:

  • There’s a section called “suitable employment rules.” These are rules that are “suitable” perhaps for an employer, but not so much for the employee. These rules would force the injured worker back into a job that pays him less than before he/she was injured, despite their skill level. In essence, since you have drawn workers’ compensation, you’re now considered as damaged goods and thus are not deserving of drawing a decent wage for your knowledge and work skills.
  • The bill would make it extremely difficult for the injured worker to change physicians or seek a second opinion. So, if the doctor you saw initially is swayed by your insurance provider to send you back to work prematurely, then you’re pretty much stuck with that decision.
  • Your medical privacy would no longer be private. Under the provisions of the bill, as it now stands, the insurance company, attorneys and the employer would have full access to your medical records without the person’s knowledge or consent. The concept of Big Brother in George Orwell’s “1984” would become very much a reality, although 27 years late.

Among those opposed to the bill — and there are many — are North Carolina Advocates for Justice and AARP North Carolina. They are all concerned about the medical and financial challenges that this bill would create for our state’s retired, injured workers if they had to rely solely on their Social Security benefits.

Although Representative Mike Hager (R), one of the sponsors of the bill, says on his website that “this bill does not affect the benefits of anyone currently on workers’ comp,” that isn’t true. It does.

If you would like to sign a petition against House bill 709, you can go <a href="If you wait, it will be too late. Pasted from http://signon.org/sign/do-not-hurt-nc-injured?source=c.em.mt”>here.

To contact your elected official and tell them to vote “no” on this bill, go here.

If you would like additional information on the pending bill, you can find it at protectncworkers.com.

Our State Association’s vice president, Craig Schadewald, has some comments on the bill and the importance of our being politically active. That post can be viewed on our website by going here.


The Oil Barons Are a Slick Bunch

By Richard Thayer

Five CEOs representing the five biggest oil and gas producers in the United States appeared before the Senate Finance Committee this past Thursday. As Ricky Ricardo used to tell wife Lucy, they had some ‘splaining to do.

As you may have heard, our country is now experiencing a financial crisis of Biblical proportions and everyone is being asked to roll up their shirt sleeves and pitch it, make some sacrifices. You may have also noticed that, among other things, gas prices are hovering around the $4.00 a gallon mark. And in some places it’s over $4.00.

Congress is now in the process of cutting stuff that costs money, stuff like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, federal employees’ pay, union collective bargaining rights, and so on.
So this past Thursday the Senate Finance Committee asked these five very well-to-do executives to come in for a pow-wow and explain why their companies, even though they’re making record profits, should continue to receive billions of dollars in tax breaks.

One of the barons at the hearing, John Watson, 54, the CEO of Chevron argued: “Tax increases on the oil and gas industry…will hinder development of energy supplies needed to moderate rising energy prices. It will also mean fewer dollars to state and federal treasuries…and fewer jobs–all at a time when our economic recovery remains fragile.”

It should be noted here, lest you be too sympathetic with Mr. Watson, that in 2010 he was paid $14 million, this according to an AP analysis.

Prior to the day’s appearance before the committee James Mulva, CEO of ConocoPhillips,¬† sent out a press release entitled “ConocoPhillips Highlights Solid Results and Raises Concerns Over Un-American Tax Proposals at Annual Meeting of Shareholders.” Democratic members of the committee wanted to know if Mr. Mulva considered their committee, and them individually, to be un-American. Squirming noticeably in his chair, Mr. Mulva eluded repeated questions along that line. And if anyone on the committee expected an apology from Mr. Mulva, they went away from the meeting disappointed.

During the course of the meeting, when he wasn’t eluding questions concerning his un-American comments, Mr. Mulva complained to the committee: “We have shackles on us. Put us back to work.”

It should be noted that Mr. Mulva’s shackles are quite expensive. He wears nothing but the best shackles money can buy. Over the past 5 years

Senator John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va) told the gang of 5: “You’re deeply out of touch.” Not just out of touch mind you, but “deeply” out of touch.

Exxon Mobil’s CEO, Rex Tillerson, took exception to that remark. He says, “I want to assure you I’m not out of touch.” He went on to explain how his company, between 2005 and 2010, paid an average of 32 percent in US income taxes and that a tax increase would have an impact on investment decisions and possibly result in their taking their business outside the country. No doubt there was weeping in the galleries.

But before you weep too much, it should be noted that Mr. Tillerson received $29 million in total compensation last year. That’s just for one year. One year.

With his making that kind of money, why would anyone accuse him of being “out of touch.” Quite frankly, if I made that kind of money, I would most definitely be out of touch.

It’s estimated that the oil industry saves in the neighborhood of $4.4 billion each year through special tax breaks that is intended to promote domestic drilling. Not a bad neighborhood to be living in. It’s also estimated that pre-tax profits could run around $200 billion this year alone.

Says Christine Tezak, a senior Energy and Environmental Policy Analyst at Robert W. Baird & Company: “When you see profits that include the word billions, people automatically think someone is getting screwed.

Yep, pretty much.


Republican Attacks on America’s Seniors Heats Up

By Richard Thayer

Things continue to heat up as Republicans ramp up their attack on the country’s senior citizens. This past Tuesday Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis), the creative genius behind the Republican party’s “Pathway to Prosperity” budget plan, emailed his supporters complaining about¬† AARP’s recent multi-million dollar ad campaign. The ad accuses politicians of trying to pay off the nation’s huge deficit by proposing reducing benefits to Medicare. By now it’s no secret (although denied by Republicans) that the “new, improved” Medicare system would privatize Medicare, making it a voucher (vulture?)-like private system that would benefit insurance companies much more than it would senior adults.

Ryan’s email says in part: “Last week, (AARP), a left-leaning pressure group with significant business interests in the insurance industry, launched a national ad campaign that intentionally misleads seniors about the Medicare debate.”

In the email, Ryan charges that AARP receives money by endorsing certain insurance plans over others.

In turn, AARP says Ryan’s argument doesn’t make sense. If AARP was being influenced by money it receives from insurance companies, it would be backing Ryan’s budget, not opposing it. Ryan’s plan, if implemented, would shift tens of millions of Americans into the private market and, according to Ryan’s own “logic,” would benefit AARP’s “business interests.”

The Huffington Post notes that Ryan himself is the recipient of money from the insurance industry. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Ryan’s Prosperity PAC received $83,000 in contributions from the insurance industry in the 2010 election cycle and the industry also donated over $234,000 to his 2010 reelection campaign.

This attack comes on the heels of a vulgar gesture and comments toward AARP and its lobbyists made last Friday by Deficit Commission co-chairman Alan Simpson at an event hosted by the Investment Company Institute.

As the Huffington Post article points out, Simpson has been the darling of financial and investment interests because of his acidic views on Social Security and other so-called entitlement programs. They support his views (and obviously his attitude) toward these programs because privatizing them would increase their profits.

ICI represents mutual funds and other money managers who control over $13 trillion in assets.

After an extended rant about how Social Security is nothing more than a “Ponzi” scheme and “not a retirement program” he made an obscene gesture toward AARP lobbyists in the gathering saying, “Are these people patriots or marketers? They’re 1.5 percent of every mailing in the United States. One-and-a-half percent! Gah! Jeez!”

(On hearing former senator Simpson’s tirade against Social Security, Medicare, and the like, one can’t help but wonder if the cartoon character of Homer Simpson’s befuddled father isn’t patterned after him.)

Mary Liz Burns, an AARP spokesperson, responded by Mr. Simpson’s inappropriate behavior by saying, “For over 50 years, AARP has been fighting to protect the hard-earned benefits that Social Security and Medicare provide for millions of Americans today, and we will continue our work to strengthen these critical programs for our children and grandchildren.”

If you would like to contact your senator and express your views on the Paul Ryan email, his budget plan, or Mr. Simpson’s shenanigans, please click here.