New Hampshire State Workers Go Back To The Table As Governor Seeks $25 Million In Labor Cost Cuts – 10/23/09
One week ago 250 state workers in New Hampshire were sent layoff notices after the union rejected a contract offer that would have included furloughs. The two sides are discussing plans to return to the negotiation table and figure out other ways to cut costs – the State Employees’ Association hopes the solution will result in the layoffs being reversed. Governor John Lynch is seeking a way to cut $25 million in labor costs and he made the proposal that workers accept 19 furlough days over two years or he could cut jobs.
Is Senator Olympia Snowe backtracking on her previous statement that she supports a public health insurance plan? Jesse Russell reports:
By Doug Cunningham
More than 500 union members and health care activists in Washington, D.C., this afternoon packed the sidewalks in front of and across the street from the meeting of the giant health insurance lobby group, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), in support of health care reform.
AHIP, whose top honchos, including its head, Karen Ignagni, are meeting at the Capital Hilton to plot their assault against health care reform, refused to meet with any of the seven families who traveled here to tell how they were denied needed health care despite having insurance coverage.
Before marching to the Hilton, hundreds gathered at the AFL-CIO building, where AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka laid out the principles that must underlie any health care reform: a real public option to decrease costs for families and create competition, employer responsibility so companies like Wal-Mart are held accountable and no new taxes on workers’ benefits.
As Trumka said:
Health care reform isn’t to make insurance companies happy, it’s to make the American people healthy! Today we are going to make sure that they hear loud and clear what this fight is about. It’s about the families who will be with us at the Capital Hilton—the families who’ve suffered so much—not about the big insurance companies’ bottom line.
They think it’s OK to make more money by calling everything under the sun a pre-existing condition and denying people coverage. We’re here to say it’s not OK. They think it’s OK to make more money by controlling 94 percent of the markets and not giving people any choices. We’re here to say it’s not OK. They think it’s OK to keep making more money by blocking health care reform. We’re here to say it’s not OK.
We’re going to let insurers—and our senators—know that we have no time to wait, Trumka said. We need health care reform now.
Cheers to Health Care for America Now (HCAN), which was key to sponsoring this event.
Today, the U.S. Senate confirmed Joe Main—by unanimous consent—as the new leader of the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).
Main is a longtime advocate for safety and health in the mining industry. He worked 22 years as director of Occupational Health and Safety for the Mine Workers (UMWA). That’s a huge change from the Bush-era head of MSHA, coal-industry lobbyist Richard Stickler, who came under fire for failure to enforce mining safety laws.
Cecil Roberts, president of the UMWA, said Main would be a strong advocate for miners and praised President Barack Obama and the Senate for a great choice:
We sincerely believe that Joe’s long experience as an advocate for miners’ health and safety on the job will bring a refreshing change to an agency that for too long has favored production over strong enforcement of workplace safety and health in America’s mines.
Nothing can replace careful attention to strong safety and health practices in the workplace by both miners and management every day on the job to ensure that miners’ lives and limbs are not put at risk. But with such strong and outspoken advocates of workplace health and safety as Joe Main, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and President Obama on the side of working miners, we believe that those operators who in the past have chosen to put increased production ahead of miners’ health and safety will no longer be allowed to get away with it.
When you’re a member of the American Bankers Association (ABA) meeting in Chicago amid the worst U.S. jobless crisis and most disastrous economy since the 1930s Depression, what’s the logical move to make?
Dress up in a Roaring ’20s costume and party like it’s 1929.
Proving yet again that not only do taxpayer-bailed-out CEOs have no shame, word has it that they plan to flaunt their taxpayer-fueled wealth in our faces, the ABA is sponsoring its Roaring ’20s party in conjunction with its Oct. 27–29 meeting.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will lead thousands of mad-as-hell Americans in a rally outside the ABA meeting on Oct. 27, demanding financial reform and re-regulation that will allow us to rebuild our communities, our lives and our economy.
(If you’re in Chicago, join us Oct. 27 at 10:30 a.m. CST. The march departs from the corner of East Wacker Drive and Stetson Avenue. After about a 15-minute march, the rally will be outside the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers at 301 E. North Water St.)
Because when they’re not stocking up on Jay and Daisy attire, Big Bankers and financial institutions are using the $700 billion in taxpayer bailout money to attack proposals like the Consumer Financial Protection Agency that would actually help working people while decreasing the chance of another Big Bank-fueled financial meltdown. Of course, they’re not using all of our money to fight reform. Some of it—about $7 billion—is going to bonuses for top CEOs.
For decades, these bankers have been dealing to each other, inventing more and more exotic financial vehicles together and basically regulating themselves. No one is safe while they are doing business with each other without oversight or regulation. A 2006 Citigroup report clearly puts it all out there: While the rich are getting a greater share of the wealth, and the poor a lesser share, political enfranchisement remains as was—one person, one vote.
Unfortunately, a big problem in making financial reform happen is actually trying to explain what’s involved. Who understands this stuff? Here’s a simple outline of what the union movement is pushing for right now in Congress.
The Consumer Financial Protection Agency. President Obama’s proposed agency would protect the public against credit card and mortgage rip-offs. The agencies that were supposed to protect us from financial meltdown failed. The new agency would place consumer protection authority in the hands of a single entity that would monitor banks and other institutions—but not your butcher, as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ludicrously claimed.
A council of regulators to identify and fix systemic risks that could threaten the entire financial system—risks such as institutions becoming “too big to fail,” too complex or too interconnected. When the government intervenes, the goal must be to protect the public, not just rescue executives and rich investors. The past year has proven that the Federal Reserve Board is just too close to the banks. Either we need to reform the Fed or we need to give this job to a truly public agency.
Bring the “shadow markets” into the daylight. Most people—like Michael Moore’s Wall Street guy—probably don’t really know what hedge funds, private equity funds and derivatives are or do. You’re not supposed to—it makes them easy to manipulate. They’ve been unregulated and totally lacking in transparency. These vehicles need serious regulation and oversight before they suck more money into the black hole of convoluted transactions.
Reform corporate governance and CEO compensation to protect the interests of long-term investors—people saving for retirement, not speculating.
As Robert Shapiro notes on the NDN blog, CEOs are richer than ever: “We didn’t need this latest and most conspicuous instance of greed at Goldman Sachs to know that the compensation provided to the uppermost echelons of American business is out of control.”
Since 1990, the pay of American CEOs has jumped from 90 times the average workers’ pay to 250 times—compared to 15 to 30 times for British, French and Japanese CEOs.
Wealth inequality in the United States has been long in coming, according to a new paper by the Center for Economic Policy Research:
While the United States has long been among the most unequal of the world’s rich economies, the economic and social upheaval that began in the 1970s was a striking departure from the movement toward greater equality that…was a central feature of the first 30 years of the postwar period. This is…the direct result of a set of policies designed first and foremost to increase inequality.
Hearkening back a few decades ago when we were told to relax and love to learn the bomb, David Dayen noted yesterday how a Goldman Sachs executive offered us little people similar advice for this jobless era: We “must tolerate the inequality.”
And just to show how big-hearted they are, financial giants are offering jobless workers gigs standing in line for wealthy financial industry lobbyists. Seems the well-coiffed from Goldman Sachs and other beneficiaries of taxpayer bailout money don’t want to wait to get into congressional hearing rooms—where these lobbyists are fighting to kill regulatory reform and proposals like the Consumer Financial Protection Agency and other reforms that would actually help America’s workers.
Wealth inequality is no accident. And on Oct. 27, thousands of us will take our message directly to Jay and Daisy.
This is a cross-post from the Firedoglake blog.
Seth Michaels is posting live from Washington, D.C.
Today, top officials from the health insurance industry are meeting at the Capital Hilton in Washington, D.C., to plot their opposition to health care reform.
A lobbyist for America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) said yesterday that health reform needs to be killed, and the insurance industry has spent record-breaking sums on TV ads, lobbying in the District of Columbia and other tactics to hold on to their power over America’s health care system.
We’re rallying today to let the insurance companies know they won’t win this fight. We will get health care reform this year that gives everybody affordable, quality coverage.
Today, health insurance industry bigwigs are meeting in Washington, D.C., to plot out their strategy to defeat health care reform. We’ll be rallying to show them that we won’t accept anything less than affordable, high-quality coverage for everyone.
Here’s what else is happening in the fight for health care:
- Health insurance companies, drug companies and their front groups have been breaking records in their fight to keep control over our health care, spending millions this summer on TV and lobbying in D.C.
- Senators are looking to rein in the insurance industry by ending the industry’s exception from anti-trust laws.
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is taking the lead on fighting for a public option to compete with insurers.
- So is actress Heather Graham, in a great new ad by MoveOn.
- Thanks to the catastrophic loss of jobs during this economic crisis, some 4 million people have lost health coverage, Families USA reports.
- Alliance for Retired Americans members Phil Feaster and Judy Cato join health care experts in a new video to explain why health reform will help seniors get better prescription drug coverage and preventative care.
- Supporters of health care reform aimed to deliver 100,000 phone calls to Congress on Tuesday. Instead, they made more than 300,000 calls.
- When an anti-reform “expert” came to Capitol Hill to claim that reform along French, Swiss or German lines would increase bankruptcies, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) set her straight. (Thanks again, Minnesota!)
- In Sacramento, Calif., hundreds of people showed up for an overnight vigil for health care reform that started Monday and ran through Tuesday, and health care supporters met Tuesday in Bakersfield as well.
- Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) has set up a new website to honor and raise awareness about the thousands who die from lack of health coverage every year.
Economist Jeff Madrick, director of policy research at The New School’s Bernard Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis, is among several key speakers at next week’s Building the New Economy conference here in Washington, D.C. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard also are among keynote speakers. Here, Madrick shares with us why government involvement in the economy is essential to ensure a robust, successful nation.
America had been living a free-market myth for a generation until the credit crisis of 2008 and 2009 descended on the nation—and the world. One expression of that myth, found frequently on the editorial pages of the popular media, was that government does not grow economies, business does. In other words, government, don’t meddle where you’re not needed. Politicians are even easier to belittle than government itself.
I have spent much of my professional life making the opposite point. Government does indeed grow economies. It creates jobs and it produces prosperity. When politicians make correct decisions, they indeed make economies grow. There is no example of a major rich nation in the world whose government does not:
- Educate its children and teenagers.
- Build its roads, bridges, superhighways and airports.
- Establish regulatory bodies to minimize financial busts.
- Develop sanitation and water systems and health care standards.
- Support those who are temporarily unemployed.
- Provide a public pension to the elderly and a subsidy to the poor.
This is the call of big government. Label it proportional government if the words “big government” bother you. It is people getting together to do what they believe they must. And, yes, this is what good politicians do. Let’s call it like it is.
As economies grow larger, societies more populous, scientific and social knowledge deeper, and interconnections more complex, government grows as well—at least in societies that succeed. And when government works as it should, it is also typically the leading agent of change. As economies progress, societies learn more, and expectations rise, government’s main purpose is to manage, foster and adapt to this change. It is a profound task.
Our own government has a history of managing and adapting, often radically, to change, looking ahead, not backward. It did so in the face of influential forces, fearing the future and aiming to protect established interests, which invariably opposed new obligations for government: financing the canals in the 1820s, building free primary schools starting in the 1830s and high schools in the late 1800s. In the early 1900s, our government developed government-built sanitation and water systems that made the cities possible; created a central bank to mitigate the disruption of boom-and-bust cycles and regulate unstable financial markets; and enforced labor rights such as hours worked, job safety and a minimum wage.
All myths are by definition simplistic. The one that became entrenched in the late 1970s and early 1980s had as its core claim that government’s presence was usually an impediment to prosperity and that the best course for the U.S. economy was to reduce aggressively government’s size and reach. So popular was this destructive notion that the end of the “era of big government” was announced proudly in 1996 by a Democratic president, Bill Clinton.
In the past 30 years, government, with a few exceptions, did not adequately sustain and nurture society or help it adapt to change. Government invested less in America, it regulated less, and it led less. It was a lost generation.
The financial crisis occurred because of this widespread disdain for and distrust of government. Under ideological pressure to which both political parties subscribed and under the influence of powerful vested interests, government stepped back and gave financial markets largely free rein. Very risky investments were made with enormous levels of debt—the failure of one firm could take down an entire industry. Common sense was discarded and new, highfalutin theories about the rationality and efficiency of markets dominated thinking at the best universities, the halls of Congress and the boardroom of the nation’s central bank. Always, the argument was the financial community understood risk better than any government could.
When you comb the serious academic evidence about how and why economies grow, you will find that no case can be made that big government or even high taxes impede economic growth over time. History offers no lesson about the values of minimal government. There has never been a laissez-faire modern economy. To the contrary, the evidence shows that government typically contributed vitally to growth. As odd as it is to have to say this, without effective government, America would be poor today.
The lost faith in government has detrimentally affected almost all aspects of life in America in the past generation: health care, education, retirement security, the quality and durability of jobs, family time available to raise children, rising prison populations and the nation’s wealth itself.
Government is not always good. It requires vigilance and weeding. But it also requires the confidence and understanding of its people. These it must earn, but the people in turn also must learn their own history, free of ideological cant and petty anger.
The major question today is whether the deep setbacks caused by the credit crisis will awaken the nation to the need to revitalize government again. If America returns to the norms of the past 30 years, the nation will not succeed.