Weekly Audit: Standoff Continues in Wisconsin

 

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

The 14 Democratic state senators who fled Wisconsin to thwart the passage of a draconian anti-union have no plans to return.

On Sunday night, a Wall Street Journal blog reported that the senators planned to return soon. Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly found it odd that the piece didn’t contain any direct quotes from the exiled Democrats. The claim that the Democrats were planning to return rested on a paraphrase of State Sen. Mike Miller said about the Democrats coming back. Miller says the Journal misconstrued his remarks and that the Dems are only coming back “when collective bargaining is off the table.”

It would be an odd time for Democrats to return. Republican governor Scott Walker has offered them zero concessions. Furthermore, as Benen observes, Walker’s popularity is plummeting. The latest poll by the Wisconsin Research Institute puts the governor’s approval rating at 43%, with 53% disapproving. A majority of respondents had favorable opinions of state Senate Democrats, public employee unions, and teachers’ unions.

Benen writes:

The significance of these polls can’t be overstated — they stiffen Democratic spines, while making Republicans increasingly nervous about standing behind an unpopular governor with an unpopular plan.

In YES! Magazine, Amy B. Dean explains why every American should care about the situation in Wisconsin. The collective bargaining rights of public employees are the central issue in this standoff. Walker is testing a radical new approach to unions and several other Republican governors are poised to follow his model if he succeeds. It is naive to assume that the war on unions will end with the public sector.

Jobs gap

Writing at The Nation, Chris Hayes explains why Washington doesn’t care about jobs. Hayes argues that Washington elites are insulated from the toll of unemployment by class and geography. The jobless rate for workers with college degrees is only 4.2%, which is less than half of the official unemployment rate of 9% and a quarter of the 16.1% underemployment rate. (The underemployment rate counts both the jobless who are still looking for work and those who have given up and left the labor force.) Furthermore, Hayes notes, the unemployment rate in greater Washington, D.C. is only 5.7%, which is lower than that of any other major city in America. He writes:

What these two numbers add up to is a governing elite that is profoundly alienated from the lived experiences of the millions of Americans who are barely surviving the ravages of the Great Recession. As much as the pernicious influence of big money and the plutocrats’ pseudo-obsession with budget deficits, it is this social distance between decision-makers and citizens that explains the almost surreal detachment of the current Washington political conversation from the economic realities working-class, middle-class and poor people face.

Even as the overall unemployment rate falls, economic recovery proves elusive for many workers of color, Shani O. Hilton reports at Colorlines.com. The February jobs report shows that the economy added 192,000 jobs, with overall unemployment falling by a tenth of a percentage point, bringing joblessness to its lowest rate since 2009. However, the unemployment rates for black and Hispanic workers remained fixed in February, at 15.3% and 11.6%, respectively.

Hilton notes that even if the economy were to add 200,000 jobs a month, it would take three years to bring general employment up to pre-recession levels.

Public innovation

The stereotype is that the private sector drives innovation. However, as Monica Potts reports in The American Prospect, industry’s well-deserved reputation for innovation is built on a foundation of publicly funded basic research. Conservatives often argue that the private sector would pick up the slack if public funding for basic research were reduced. Potts argues that public funding for basic research is essential because companies will naturally gravitate towards research that has an immediate payoff, instead of investing in cultivating deeper scientific understanding through basic research.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Audit for a complete list of articles on economic issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Mulch, The Pulse and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

Krauthammer: Obama Has Republicans Right Where He Wants Them

Pundit and perpetually dour Travelocity Gnome Charles Krauthammer, took to his token WaPo seat today to inform the world that the Compromiser-in-Chief really hornswoggled those waskly Republiwabbits with his captiulation compromise on the Bush tax cuts. A plan so clever that Obama, Democrats, and apparently judging by their reactions, Republicans too, are just too dim to see.

Yup Chuck, that wiley old Kenyan socialist has ‘em right where he wants ‘em now!

According to the Great and Glorious Oz-Hammer, Obama tricked Republicans into what the Wall St. Journal calls, “a second, stealth stimulus package” worth a $1 trillion by agreeing to tax cuts for all and extra money for those not lucky enough to be unemployed corporate titans.

Psst…don’t tell anyone that many economists see the tax cuts for the wealthy as making up the lion’s share of the trillion and providing the least stimulus – unless by stimulus you mean stimulus for yacht and corporate jet makers.

Oh wait! The wealthy already get private jet service as part of their measly compensation packages. Silly me!

Alienating Voters for Fun and Profit
Obama gave up his objection to tax cuts for the rich – before negotiations even started – in exchange for tax cuts for everyone and unemployment money the Republicans didn’t care a whit about anyway – except to the extent that the have nots would’ve been momentarily pissed if they got nothing.

Now here’s the genius of Barack Machiavelli’s plan. Give the Republicans what they really want (tax cuts for the rich) in exchange for letting them off the hook for their most outrageous and politically embarrassing proposals (no middle class cuts and unemployment continuation).

Then, kick the can down the road so that Republicans will be in power and more easily able to strip the tax cuts down to only those for the More Money Than God tax bracket while pummeling Obama with accusations that those budget-busting middle class tax cuts and extended unemployment benefits just ruined the economy. Ruined I say!

If the Republicans gave a crap about their constituents – other than their corporate donors I mean – the unemployment extension shouldn’t have needed to be negotiated. It was a worthless bargaining chip as far as the Republicans were concerned, “Let the little people have their crumbs. Pass the $5,000 per ounce caviar Mr. Halliburton.”

As for middle class taxpayers it’s not such a ‘victory’ either. The deal could raise taxes for 1-in-3 workers. And as usual, the working poor get bupkis. The Obamicans giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other.

Lighting $100 Cigars with $100 Bills
The Bush tax cuts were passed during the period of the inflating bubble. The corporate titans could light $100 cigars with $100 bills worth $200. Middle class folks could buy homes well-beyond their means with money loaned by banks engaged in the world’s largest 3-card monty game. Most everybody, except those losing their jobs to offshoring, was working. And, we were flush enough to finance two wars – creating much of the deficit Obama inherited – “off the budget books”.

There’s an old fable that makes too much sense to possibly be true. To balance a budget you have to have more coming in than you have going out. But when your economy is built with all the stability of a Jenga game on quicksand you won’t be able to do it quickly. The economy took a long time to get so thoroughly and royally hosed.

It’ll take sacrifice and austerity by EVERYONE – yes Robber Barons and your super-citizen corporations, this means you. It also means middle class folks who won’t like to bite the bullet, but guano happens. The poor aren’t generally paying taxes anyway because the tax on zero is, oddly enough, zero.

The truly fiscally responsible way would’ve been to give no tax cuts to anyone. The rich and middle class are where the money is and are best equipped to weather the storm, even if income disparity is as equal as an elephant on the other side of a scale from a squirrel. Not a popular solution, but everyone suffers equally, if not proportionately, and the treasury is that much closer to getting more coming in than going out.

As for the extension of unemployment benefits, pass them independent of any deals. The politicians have shafted these people quite enough already, giving them a break is the least they could do. At least that money will be spent on something useful, like keeping a roof over the unemployed’s heads and food on the table. It’ll cost a little, but not as much as the cuts.

Rich folks, and those who ride their ample coattails, I know it’s tough to forgo that yacht the size of an aircraft carrier, but come on. Dig deep. Get the holiday Christmas spirit. Middle classers, you’ll have to suck it up as you always do. That sucks, but it is the way of capitalism – greed always wins.

The Republicans don’t give a damn what the electorate thinks of them. The Democrats are more disorganized than a herd of feral cats. And Barack…poor, poor Barack…got his feelings hurt because he’s become mono-partisan – that special state of grace where everyone – left, right, and center – thinks you’re an incompetent boob.

No more negotiating. No one ever negotiates anything that’s good for the country and it just depresses the hell out of the rest of us.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

If you missed Restore Fairness' latest video on racial profiling, here's your chance

From the Restore Fairness blog-

This Sunday, October, 24th, Breakthrough‘s Multimedia Manager, Madhuri Mohindar, will present the Restore Fairness campaign’s immigration work at Union Docs in Brooklyn, New York on a panel titled, “Global Perspectives in Digital Media.” The panel will look at the ways in which digital technology and emerging platforms have opened up new ways of reflecting life around the world; technologies that have changed not only the medium, but also revolutionized the message and the ways in which it is received and acted upon. The panel, curated by Union Docs and Mandy Rose, will also feature producers from Video Nation (BBC 2)WSJ.comGlobal Lives, and Metropolis (VPRO).

In addition to discussing Breakthrough’s popular video game, ICED- I Can End Deportation, which was the first 3D video game on immigration and immigrant rights, Madhuri will screen a clip from our Restore Fairness campaign’s new documentary, “Face the Truth: Racial Profiling Across America,” produced in partnership with the Rights Working Group. Using powerful personal stories, this documentary showcases the devastating impact of racial profiling on communities around our country, including the African American, Latino, Arab, Muslim and South Asian communities. Besides compelling personal stories, the documentary features interviews with notable law enforcement and civil society leaders, all of whom decry racial and religious profiling as a pervasive problem that is not only humiliating and degrading for the people subjected to it, but one that is unconstitutional, ineffective as a law enforcement practice, and ultimately damaging to community security.

Take a look at Kurdish American Karwan Abdul Kader’s moving story in Face the Truth: Racial Profiling Across America-

Face the Truth: Racial Profiling Across America from Breakthrough on Vimeo.

Before you head to Union Docs, take a look at how the “Face the Truth: Racial Profiling Across America” documentary has been making waves across the blogosphere. Last week it was featured on Jack and Jill Politics, a popular blog that deals race and politics, in an article addressing Bill O’Reilly’s bigoted comments about American Muslims and the building of a mosque near the 9/11 site in downtown Manhattan. Most recently, the widely-read blog, Racialicious, also wrote about the documentary and urged people to watch it.

If you want to hear about how Breakthrough uses popular culture tools and digital media to build human rights culture, head over to Union Docs this Sunday, October 24, 2010. The panel runs from 7:30 – 10:00 pm, and is being held at  322 Union Avenue, Brooklyn, NY. For more information on the event, click here.

Photo courtesy of uniondocs.org

Learn. Share. Act. Go to restorefairness.org

 

 

 

Ground zero and the mosque — does the court of law have it right?

From Restore Fairness blog. Welcoming a new mosque near the site of 9/11 attacks is seen by those opposed to it as a symbol of terrorist victory and a weak U.S. On the other hand, supporters see the openness and tolerance of this act as a powerful bridge to interfaith interaction and peace. But, plain and simply, to the court of law religious tolerance isn’t up for debate.

There's more...

Department of Justice vs. Arizona

From the Restore Fairness blog.

In the short time since Arizona passed SB 1070 into law, it has become one of the strongest and most controversial symbols of our nation’s debate on immigration. SB 1070 requires the police to stop anyone that has a “reasonable suspicion” of being undocumented but once enacted, it is believed that may well lead to unconstitutional racial profiling and a breakdown of trust between police and the communities they protect. But SB 1070 is also emblematic of the frustration that many have with our broken immigration system, a sign that states have decided to take immigration into their own hands as Congress remains in a deadlock over immigration reform. The latest catalyst for this debate -  a lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice brought against the state of Arizona and SB1070 on July 6th, 2010.

Analysis over the implications of the lawsuit are rife in the media. Many are looking at the lawsuit and its potential for setting a new precedent with regards to the tussle between the federal government and state laws around immigration. Previous precedent shows a tendency for federal courts to side with the federal government on cases when states and cities pass laws that conflict with federal immigration law. An article in the Wall Street Journal traces this precedent back to laws in the 1880s aimed at limiting Chinese immigration. While the dispute could go either way, some analysts hold that that the federal court could only block sections of the law, while allowing some others to be enforced.

By bringing a lawsuit against the state of Arizona, the Obama administration (via the Justice Department) has taken a strong stand against the law. But an article in the Washington Post discusses further implications of this stand. The article quotes the Democratic strategist who spoke about the implications of the lawsuit for the Democrat party -

There is probably some short term pain politically given how popular the law is…But considering the demographic changes the country is undergoing, long term, there is a lot of upside in advocating for Latinos and comprehensive immigration reform.

While the Obama administration is advocating for comprehensive immigration reform, the Democrat party has continued to play safe so as not to alienate the large electoral base that supports the Arizona law and other enforcement heavy approaches to immigration. On the other hand, many Republicans, who support the law and an enforcement heavy approach, continue to emphasize a secure border-then reform approach, a rhetoric that leads to little progress on the issue. Republicans such as Senator John McCain, who previously argued for comprehensive reform, have abandoned their support of an immigration overhaul in the face of resentment and anger from within the party as well as from anti-immigrant groups such as the Tea Party Movement.

In the midst of all these actions are ordinary people suffering disruptions to their everyday lives on account of an immigration system that remains unjust and broken.

Photo courtesy of americasvoiceonline.org

Learn. Share. Act. Go to restorefairness.org

 

 

 

Diaries

Advertise Blogads