Originally Published: 12/8/2012
Iceland: I told you about this before - how Iceland took a different route from EU countries and has been successful. (TWW, Iceland, 10/13/12) I happened to run across this piece by Salim Lamrani that sets out what Iceland did in detail. They not only rejected “austerity,” they told the EU to take a flyer and re-wrote their constitution. As a result, they’re flying high. (Pravda)
Arizona: If you remember, Obama changed immigration rules to allow people brought to the U.S. as children to get legal work visas for 2 years. (TWW, DREAM Act, 6/16/12) The issuance of a work visa is accompanied by a Social Security number. Arizona, however, has refused to give them driver’s licenses which, now here legally, they should be able to obtain. Interestingly, the state is issuing licenses to non-citizens with work permits not obtained through Obama’s program. In other words, if you’re not Hispanic, you’ll get the license. (AzCentral)
California: According to a study by UC Berkeley’s Institute for Industrial Relations, California taxpayers are forking over $86 million a year to provide healthcare and other public assistance to the state’s 44,000 Walmart employees. Now, multiply that by 50 states. We taxpayers are funding a major part of their cost of doing business. Walmart privatizes the profits and socializes the costs.
Michigan: The Legislature passed, and Govern Rick Snyder said he’ll sign, a “right-to-work-for-less” bill. There are multiple bills. Private and public sector employees are included. They are pushing to get this done by the end of the year because the Democrats gained 5 seats in the House in the last election which will narrow the Republicans’ majority and they might not get it passed. (Reuters) Look at the statistics on right-to-work states. Only 1 of the 10 states with the highest per capita income in 2010 was a right-to-work state. 7 of the 10 states with the lowest per capita income in 2010 were right-to-work states. Of the 10 fastest-growing states, only 3 are right-to-work states. 6 of the 10 states with the most residents not insured for health care were right-to-work states. (Detroit Free Press)
Republican Plan: Speaker of the House John Boehner (R, OH) sent a letter to the president with the Republican’s plan to avoid the Fiscal Cliff. In essence, it’s the Romney/Ryan plan. Didn’t we just vote on that? Their plan decreases the tax rate for the highest income earners, as if it wasn’t low enough already. Check out the graph on the top marginal federal tax rates since World War II for both wages and capital gains. (Think Progress) The Republican plan hopes to get new revenue from closing tax loopholes, officially known as tax expenditures. The proposal doesn’t say how much additional revenue they believe this will bring in but the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) has told us it won’t bring in much, if anything, and that it’s a lousy idea. And CBPP’s estimate doesn’t account for the tax accountants that can figure out ways to avoid the taxes no matter what deductions are eliminated. Then there’s the spending cuts: an unspecified savings by raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67, $800 billion by cutting Medicaid, and cuts to the Affordable Care law (Obamacare) and “hundreds of billions in savings in other mandatory spending, including reforms to Federal employee compensation and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.” It doesn’t say how much, if anything, of this is to come from Defense. In fact, there are no details whatsoever as to what deductions they would eliminate (which would cause people to calculate how much savings, if any, would ensue and who would be hit by the change) or how Medicare savings would be achieved. Interestingly, the proposal states that it is based on a plan put forward last year by Erskine Bowles. This is not the Erskine Bowles/Alan Simpson plan which, by the way, was never passed by the committee they chaired. Paul Ryan (R, WI), VP candidate, sat on that committee and voted against their plan. However, Bowles denied that this was his plan and said that what he suggested was just “a back-of-the-envelope suggestion.” (NY Times)
Discharge Petition: House Democrats filed a discharge petition on Tuesday. This would force the House to vote on the Senate’s bill that extends the Bush Tax Cuts for the middle class but allows the rates to expire for the wealthiest. Now they have to get 218 votes to get the petition out of committee and onto the floor, meaning some Republicans are going to have to vote with the Dems. (The Hill)
Creating Jobs: According to the Economic Policy Institute, extending unemployment compensation would create more jobs than extending the Bush Tax Cuts. “The upper-income Bush tax cuts would boost GDP growth by 0.1 percentage point, increasing nonfarm payroll employment in 2013 by only 102,000 jobs.” But, continuing the emergency unemployment compensation “would do 3 times as much in terms of GDP growth and support 300,000 to 400,000 jobs.”
Pentagon Budget: The Senate passed 98-0 the appropriation bill for the Department of Defense. It’s different from the House version so it will have to go to a conference committee. They appropriated $631 billion, $17 billion more than what Obama requested. His request was for $614 billion, of which $89 billion was for the war in Afghanistan. Maybe they think this will offset the mandatory cuts if the Sequestration Agreement goes into effect. (TWW, Super Committee, 11/23/11) In addition, it - once again - bars using funds to transfer Gitmo prisoners. One good thing is it “trims” civilian and contract workers. The bill includes additional funding to deploy troops to American embassies and consulates. Obama has threatened to veto it. (AFP)
Keeping Up With the Joneses: Yeah. This is so childish. The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) is under the Secretary of Defense. Originally it was meant to deal with military intelligence, but good ole Donald Rumsfeld built it up to - well, uh - pad his power. Now it competes with the CIA and it’s trying to literally keep up with them. It’s being expanded to “send hundreds of additional spies overseas as part of an ambitious plan to assemble an espionage network that rivals the CIA in size.” (Washington Post) Here’s somewhere else we could cut some spending.
Military Proselytism: West Point Cadet Blake Page has resigned due to “what he sees as the illegal infusion of military procedures and events with fundamentalist Christian proselytizing.” He wrote: “Countless officers here and throughout the military are guilty of blatantly violating the oaths they swore to defend the Constitution. These men and women are criminals, complicit in light of day defiance of the Uniform Code of Military Justice through unconstitutional proselytism, discrimination against the non-religious and establishing formal policies to reward, encourage and even at times require sectarian religious participation.” (NBC News) We’ve heard about this before (TWW, Military Proselytizing, 8/27/11; First Amendment, 8/28/10; WTF Alert, 1/23/10; Converting Iraqis, 5/31/08; America Supports You, 10/27/07; Separation of Church & State, 12/29/07; Promoting Religion, 10/6/07), but this young man as really put it on the line. My hat’s off to him.
Marijuana: The U.S. Department of Transportation is going to continue to enforce federal bans against marijuana use by employees in Colorado and Washington where it is now legal. The decision also applies to states where medical use of marijuana is legal. The ban will remain in place for DOT employees like “pilots, school bus drivers, truck drivers, train engineers, and others.” They will “still face suspension for testing positive for marijuana, even if they have obtained a physician’s recommendation to use the drug.” (Raw Story)
Obamacare: According to a recent study by the Commonwealth Fund, consumers saved nearly $1.5 billion last year due to Obamacare. This is due to the requirement that insurance companies spend 80% of premiums on actually delivering care. About $1.1 billion of the savings came in rebates to people when insurance companies didn’t meet this requirement. (TWW, Health Insurance Rebates, 4/28/12) The rest of the savings is due to insurers becoming more efficient in order to limit their administration costs. (McClatchy)
Big Pharma Wins: A panel of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan has handed Big Pharma quite a victory. A pharmaceutical representative for GlaxoSmithKline hawked his wares for uses not approved - so-called off-label marketing. GSK agreed to pay $3 billion in fines “for promoting antidepressants and other drugs for unapproved uses” and Johnson & Johnson reached a settlement for $181 million with consumer fraud groups in 36 states and the District of Columbia “over its market of Risperdal.” But the Circuit Court panel decided this was okay, saying the ban on off-label marketing “violated the representative’s freedom of speech.” (NY Times) Say what?
Rights of the Disabled: The United Nations asked us to ratify a treaty that would assure that member nations guarantee that the disabled enjoy the same rights and fundamental freedoms as their fellow citizens. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was modeled on our Americans with Disabilities Act, which we passed 22 years ago - and most states have followed with their own laws. So, did we ratify it? Hell, no. It needs a two-thirds vote (66) to pass a treaty and it only got 61. Yeah, something that is absolutely common sense and makes no difference to our country and 38 Republicans voted against it. Amazing. 155 nations have signed the treaty and 126 have ratified it, including Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia. And we can’t? I’m so embarrassed. Senator Jim Inhofe (R, OK) thinks that the UN is going to run American life. (Guardian) Former Senator Rick Santorum (R, PA) led the charge against ratification. Read his disjointed statements for yourselves. (The Daily Beast) Home-schoolers were the major force behind the opposition. (Washington Monthly)
Global Warming: If we don’t do something soon, we’re toast. Literally. We’re going to bake. According to a new study published in Nature Climate Change by Global Carbon Project, we’re on track to increase the earth’s temperature by 9°F by 2100. Climate scientists have told us that the “point of no return” mark is 3°F. In 2011 global carbon emissions were 54% above 1990 levels.
Oil Dispersants: Remember the oil dispersant Corexit used to get rid of the oil in the Deepwater Horizon spill? (TWW, Dispersants, 1/29/11) U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Carl Barbier (TWW, BP Lawsuits, 8/14/10; see also TWW, Oil Industry and Federal Judges, 6/12/10) ruled that Nalco, the maker of Corexit who poured about 2 million gallons of the crap in the Gulf, could not be held liable for any health-related claims. (Huffington Post) Nalco was being sued by clean-up workers who developed mysterious respiratory illnesses after exposure to Corexit. (Huffington Post) Barbier owns corporate bonds with both Transocean and Halliburton, the 2 parties responsible for the disaster.
Marine Drones: Good news; bad news. The good news is that the Navy is going to stop using dolphins and sea lions for patrolling under boats and detecting explosives. The bad news is that they’re going to use small, “torpedo-shaped robots,” or drones, instead. And some of the marine animals will keep their jobs “for port security and retrieving objects from the sea floor.” (U-T San Diego)
Unemployment: Employers added 146,000 jobs last month, dropping the unemployment rate to 7.7%. (McClatchy)
Business Profits: They’ve hit an all-time high. “In the third quarter, corporate earnings were $1.75 trillion, up 18.6% from a year ago . . . That took after-tax profits to their greatest percentage of GDP in history.” [Emphasis added.] However, workers’ wages “have fallen to their lowest-ever share of GDP.” [Emphasis added.] (CNN Money) Where’s all the money going? Wanna guess?
Hostess: The bankruptcy fiasco continues. While employees have lost their jobs and most of their pensions (TWW, Hostess, 11/24/12), the bankruptcy judge gave them permission to pay executives a $1.75 million bonus to encourage them to stay while things wind down. (Hartford Courant)
Auto Sales: Total industry sales in November were up 15% from last year, the biggest jump since January 2008. (AFP)