There was a moving and powerful event this morning at Union Station in DC where low wage workers for federal contractors, leaders of the faith community, and members of Congress all did a little preaching to President Obama. Their message could not have been clearer: It is time to finally to do something real to help low wage workers step out of poverty and into the middle class.
The event was the kickoff for a new organizing initiative called Good Jobs Nation, a project that I have been working on with a coalition of faith, community and labor organizations. There was a report released by Demos, which documented that the federal government through its government contracts is the nation’s biggest creator of jobs paying less than $24,000 a year, and there was a video released at the event which does a great job of summarizing the issue which you can look at here:
Fast food workers in New York City, Chicago, and other cities; Wal-Mart workers all over the country have as well; truck drivers that take goods in and out of our nation’s ports; and workers at companies who contract with the federal government: they are all organizing.
Here's Ed Schultz, raging about this situation last year.
No, it's not your imagination. The Washington Post far too frequently slants their "news" stories in service of a pro-conservative, pro-corporate, pro-privatization agenda - whether on purpose or through sheer carelessness, it's hard to say. But this is only the latest example:
The financially struggling U.S. Postal Service plans to stop delivering mail on Saturdays starting Aug. 1, the agency is set to announce Wednesday.
This means that for the first time Americans will receive mail only five days a week, a significant shift for the storied mail agency that has suffered tens of billions of dollars in losses in recent years with the advent of the Internet and e-commerce.
Gee, that sounds right. There couldn't possibly be anything more to the story! After all, everyone you know uses email, so the internet killed it. I mean, those things you buy from eBay (another thriving internet business) must arrive by magic, right?
USPS plans to continue Saturday delivery of packages, which remain a profitable and growing part of the delivery business. Canceling Saturday mail deliveries will save USPS $2 billion annually, according to congressional and postal officials, who confirmed the news ahead of a formal announcement later Wednesday.
[...] The Postal Service said that it suffered a $15.9 billion net loss for fiscal 2012, which ended Sept. 30. That’s three times the loss recorded a year earlier.
As a former editor, I can tell you for a fact: As a group, reporters are some of the laziest people in the world. So if they get a press release about something like this, it is highly unlikely the reporter will engage his or her brain enough to probe into the reasons behind the story, because (as I said), reporters are lazy. (The pre-written narrative is "the internet killed the post office.") So the copy editor is supposed to corral the staffer and either get them to fill in those gaps, or do it themselves.
Except that with massive layoffs in the newspaper industry, it is also likely that unqualified, inexperienced staffers are now working the copy desk.
The problem lies elsewhere: the 2006 congressional mandate that the USPS pre-fund future retiree health benefits for the next 75 years, and do so within a decade, an obligation no other public agency or private firm faces. The roughly $5.5 billion annual payments since 2007 — $21 billion total — are the difference between a positive and negative ledger.
Why would the Republican-controlled Congress pass such an absurd requirement? Why, it's almost as if they were trying to put the Postal Service out of business!
Well, it's really a twofer. First, they want to break up the federal unions. And second, they want to privatize the post office and give those plum contracts to their good buddies at FedEx and UPS.
But you're not going to read that in the Washington Post. And to be fair, you probably won't get that context in the Times, either. That librul media!
Us progressive insiders are failing. Only an uprising- a real uprising, like with the SOPA bill last year- will turn the tide and stop this bad deal that cuts Social Security.
Progressive insiders have been trying our best, doing what we do. We have reminded Democrats of all the promises they have made to not cut Social Security benefits. We have had the policy discussions about why this is a bad idea for poor and middle class seniors and seniors-to-be. There have been full page ads in the Washington Post, and coalition meetings aplenty to coordinate lobbying strategies. There have been discussions with Democrats about why this is bad for them politically, showing them all the polls that make that point. Appeals to morality and the Democratic legacy on Social Security have been made. But as of now, it has all been for naught. The President is moving forward with his plan, Nancy Pelosi has jumped on board, and things are rolling. The way DC works, if the Republicans say yes (and they very well might, it has been their goal to cut Social Security benefits ever since it was created), this will happen. Unless the people speak out very, very loudly.
Here’s how DC works: when a Democratic President decides on a policy direction, most of the Democratic insiders tend to either go along, or are very low key in their opposition. In a town built on access and power, few want to directly confront the guy in charge. And you know what? Before everyone gets all worked up about that fact, they should understand that it is the nature of DC insider-ism. It’s not that all these good folks who have been working this issue are bad people or sell-outs, it is just the nature of the DC system. People’s jobs are built around access, and if you make the powers that be too unhappy, you tend to lose access. Everyone here has dozens of fights ahead of them next year and the years after that, crucial fights, and they don’t want to lose the influence they have. Is one fight, no matter how important, worth blowing up your relationships for the next battle, and the next, and the next? That is how folks here operate, and I don’t get angry about it: it is what it is, as natural as the winter following the fall.
So what happens when a President announces a policy direction is that most insiders, even those who have been loudly opposing that direction in all they had previously been doing, soften their tone. They still oppose the policy but they are more quiet, more deferential about that opposition. I've been in rooms, including when I was representing the White House on the other side of the divide, full of people who oppose what a President just announced where very little opposition is expressed- maybe a little bit of push back, maybe some technical questions, but nothing heavy. I've been on conference calls where senior people in institutions who oppose a President’s policy are rationalizing why a President did what he did and reminding people that we have other issues to fight on.
I’m not telling you this so you will get angry at the system: like I said, it is what it is. I’m telling you this so that everyone is very clear: if you want to save Social Security from serious benefit cuts that will cause seniors to go hungry and have their utilities shut off, you have to act. You have to rise up and raise hell, because otherwise this train is going down the tracks- it won’t be stopped unless a lot of people get in the way NOW.
The Capitol Switchboard number is 202-224-3121. The White House number is 202-456-1414. You can sign a petition here. But it is going to take people doing more. Make sure your parents, grandparents, and everyone else you know does something. Talk to people at work and at church and everywhere you go. Join up with groups that are fighting the battle like MoveOn and Working America. Show up at your congressperson’s office and let them know what you think. Organize a picket outside that congressional office. Do not hold anything back if you care about this issue. And maybe, just maybe, if enough of us raise some hell, this train headed down the track to cutting Social Security benefits, to taking money out of the hands of vulnerable innocents who had nothing to do with the deficits, will be forced to stop.
Oh, cry me a river. Or excuse me while I gag. Philip Rucker at the Washington Post has gone completely around the bend in an effort to drum up some sympathy for poor, lost Mitt Romney. Really, what reality is this?
Mitt Romney looks out the windows of his beach house here in La Jolla, a moneyed and pristine enclave of San Diego, at noisy construction workers fixing up his next-door neighbor’s home, sending regular updates on the renovation. He devours news from 2,600 miles away in Washington about the “fiscal cliff” negotiations, shaking his head and wondering what if.
Gone are the minute-by-minute schedules and the swarm of Secret Service agents. There’s no aide to make his peanut-butter-and-honey sandwiches. Romney hangs around the house, sometimes alone, pecking away at his iPad and e-mailing his CEO buddies who have been swooping in and out of La Jolla to visit. He wrote to one who’s having a liver transplant soon: “I’ll change your bedpan, take you back and forth to treatment.”
It’s not what Romney imagined he would be doing as the new year approaches.
Dawwww, poor Mittens. Here are some practical suggestions to cheer him up.
Get out of that house and find a billionaire to play billiards with.
Play musical cars with the car elevator.
Hire someone to make those peanut butter and honey sandwiches.
Tell Ann to buck up, we know she's the bitter one.
And indeed, Ann seems to be having the most trouble coming to grips with everything:
By all accounts, the past month has been most difficult on Romney’s wife, Ann, who friends said believed up until the end that ascending to the White House was their destiny. They said she has been crying in private and trying to get back to riding her horses.
Romney has been keeping in shape with bike rides around La Jolla, past the bistros and boutiques that hug the rugged coastline. The son of Detroit — who boasted of the Cadillacs he owned as a sign of support for the U.S. auto industry during the campaign — was spotted driving a new black Audi Q7, a luxury sport-utility vehicle manufactured in Slovakia.
This article is a complete waste of time but for that one bolded sentence. Here's a memo to anyone running for office in this country: Never assume you're entitled to it. Never. Not now, not ever. You aren't granted the right to govern this country; you earn it. We felt that entitlement in our bones, in our very core.
Not to be left out, the AP concern trolls over the "leadership void" left by his withdrawal from party "leadership." Because he provided so much of that.
Everything in this article just confirms that our instincts were exactly right. There was never a time where the Romneys gave a damn about us, the people. It was all about destiny.
Schadenfreude is so sweet and juicy. Enjoy your bed, Mitt and Ann, because you two made it.
Heh. This Washington Post story has to walk such a thin line, considering that their Kaplan division made so much more money for them than their newspaper holdings. Almost always, there is little a for-profit college offers that you can't get at community college for a lot less money. As someone who was a recruiter at one of these money mills, take my word for it: The for-profit college that's worth the enormous amount of money you'll owe is the exception, not the rule:
A Senate committee that successfully pressed for tighter regulation of the for-profit higher education sector published a report Sunday that said the business had put shareholders before students.
As of 2009, the report said, three-quarters of students in for-profit colleges attended institutions owned either by publicly traded companies or private equity firms. It said the schools excelled at recruiting students, but not necessarily at retaining them: More than half of students at for-profit schools who enrolled in the 2008-09 academic year left without a degree, the report found. Half of all non-finishers ended their studies within four months.
The findings are in line with concerns voiced last year when the Department of Education imposed stricter rules on for-profit schools that benefit from federal student loans.
The new report is titled “For Profit Higher Education: The Failure to Safeguard the Federal Investment and Ensure Student Success.” It concludes a two-year investigation by Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Including appendices, the document totals about 800 pages.
Investigators studied operations at 30 for-profit higher education companies, including industry leaders Apollo Group, Education Management Corp., DeVry and Kaplan. Kaplan is owned by the Washington Post Co.
“We uncovered two very big problems in for-profit higher education,” Harkin said in a statement. “One, billions of taxpayer dollars are being squandered. And two, many for-profit schools are doing real, lasting harm to the students they enroll.”
Mitt Romney is having a terrible week. Again. But you'd never know it from the right wing blogs and columns. Why, Charles Krauthammer just came out yesterday with the worn-out old claim in his that President Obama banished poor Churchill's bust back to the United Kingdom. How unAnglo-Saxon of him!
Can we bust this rumor once and for all? The White House hopes so, and released that picture showing Mr. Churchill's bust to prove it. From their blog post:
Now, normally we wouldn’t address a rumor that’s so patently false, but just this morning the Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer repeated this ridiculous claim in his column. He said President Obama “started his Presidency by returning to the British Embassy the bust of Winston Churchill that had graced the Oval Office.”
This is 100% false. The bust still in the White House. In the Residence. Outside the Treaty Room.
News outlets have debunked this claim time and again. First, back in 2010 the National Journal reported that “the Churchill bust was relocated to a prominent spot in the residence to make room for Abraham Lincoln, a figure from whom the first African-American occupant of the Oval Office might well draw inspiration in difficult times.” And just in case anyone forgot, just last year the AP reported that President Obama “replaced the Oval Office fixture with a bust of one of his American heroes, President Abraham Lincoln, and moved the Churchill bust to the White House residence.”
In case these news reports are not enough for Mr. Krauthammer and others, here’s a picture of the President showing off the Churchill bust to Prime Minister Cameron when he visited the White House residence in 2010.
Late Thursday night, Americans Elect, a much-ballyhooed group dedicated to securing ballot access for a serious third-party presidential candidate in 2012, issued a statement acknowledging failure.
“As of this week, no candidate achieved the national support threshold required to enter the Americans Elect online convention in June,” the statement read. “The primary process for the Americans Elect nomination has come to an end.”
Darn. I'm not sure what anyone truly thought would happen with this group, but it was not one that benefitted progressives at all. Other opinions, via Cillizza:
In the end, no candidate was able to clear the relatively low 10,000-vote threshold to “win” the Americans Elect nomination. The candidate who came closest was Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who boasts a decidedly ardent group of supporters but is far from the centrist problem-solver the founder of Americans Elect had in mind when they hatched the idea. (And Paul wasn’t even a “declared” candidate for the Americans Elect nomination; former Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer, who got north of 6,000 votes, did the best of that group.)
McKinnon and other true believers in the possibility of a third party insisted all was not lost. “The results are disappointing, but until confidence is restored in the parties and our institutions of government, disruptive ideas will continue to emerge,” said McKinnon.
Added former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican presidential nomination but since dropping out has been a major advocate for a third party: “Today’s pathetic political environment will be upended either by visionary solutions-based leadership or by the kind of disruptive organizing technology being fine-tuned by Americans Elect.”
Maybe. But the failure of Americans Elect to field a candidate in 2012 is yet more evidence that there is a cavernous gap between the idea of running a third party candidate for president and the reality of doing so — a gap no one has figured out how to bridge just yet.
Actually, I think a ticket with candidates who cancel each other out is a loser, and the death of this particular group is no great loss. Farewell, Americans Elect. Let's hope the Republican Party becomes as irrelevant as you were.
This last week we've seen how Washington's elites are able to suppress popular opinion, work against the public interest, and wrap it all up with a bow so that it looks like "democracy in action." It's not. What we're seeing isn't democracy, and it isn't a free press either. It's merely another cynical ploy to rob Americans of government programs they both need and want.
The latest assault is on Medicare. The "Ryan/Wyden plan" is a perfect case study in the cynical workings of an antidemocratic machine - a machine whose cogs are lazy journalists, whose gears are selfish politicians, and whose levers are pulled by the wealthy and powerful.
I held my fire on this for a few days, to see if more details would emerge on the proposal from Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Paul Ryan, who were initially (and deliberately vague) on its specifics. That turned it into Rorschach test for observers, and where the Washington Post sees a butterfly I usually see a vampire bat.
But Malcolm Gladwell would be pleased: It turns out that the first "blink" impression of Ryan/Wyden is the right one. It's a Medicare-killing publicity stunt that undermines the financial security of the 99 percent. And if you happen to be reading this in the Nation's Capital, please note: The "lefty" position on Medicare is supported by most Republicans.
Let's not kid ourselves. Unless we act quickly and aggressively, the Machine will succeed in killing Medicare.
We've seen this software before. It's been run against Social Security, jobs, and other government services that are both popular and effective. Here's how it works:
Concept: An intellectually thin but highly-funded network of corporate-funded and billionaire-backed "think" tanks draft a proposal that would eviscerate a popular government program.
Rollout: Congressional Republicans act in lockstep to implement the think tank's policy by gutting something that's typically supported in overwhelming numbers by Democrats and independents - and which is often backed most registered Republican voters, too.
Blowback: The backlash from aggrieved citizens comes from all across the political spectrum, but is spun by compliant media figures as a reflexive hostility to "new ideas" from "ideologues" and "extremists" on the left.
Sellout: A cynical, self-serving Democrat sees an opportunity to curry favor with billionaires, corporations, and media outlets by endorsing the radical moves the Republicans have proposed.
Spin: The media uses that Democrat's endorsement as proof that the corporate position is actually that of "responsible" and "moderate" politicians in both parties.
The software has a political side effect, too: The distinction between Republicans and Democrats is blurred a little more, depriving Democrats of a winnable election issue.
Think of these five steps as a computer program you can run in almost any situation. The only variables are the program that is to be killed, the Democrat that'll do the dirty work, and which media outlet will deliver the machine's message this time. Plug in those three items and the program pretty much runs itself - or, as they used to say in the tech world, it "executes."
This time around the government program is Medicare, the Democratic hack who's willing to undermine it for selfish reasons is Ron Wyden, and the media outlet is (who else?) the Washington Post. Here's how the five steps played out this time around:
Interesting, because a few months ago, I commented in a Post piece about long-term unemployment and they contacted me to ask if I would write about my experience. "You mean, for free?" I said, ever tactful. "Well, no, we really don't have the money," the guy said. (He said he was an intern.) I told him I wasn't interested in working on the Graham family's content farm, but "thanks for asking." So this doesn't surprise me:
At least thirteen people have departed the [Washington] Post under “cake-less” circumstances (i.e. quietly) in the past year, writes Guild unit co-chair Fredrick Kunkle.
The script goes like this: an employee is summoned to a meeting where she hears that “the bar has been raised.” She is told her work does not meet this supposed new standard. She is handed an envelope with a buyout offer and given a deadline to surrender her job or face disciplinary action because of her allegedly poor performance. She is reminded that disciplinary action progresses from warnings to suspensions and termination.
Never mind that the people targeted so far have included veteran journalists with years of distinguished service. Or that talk of a “raised bar” comes as the Post relies more than ever on interns, bloggers, freelancers, readers or comically inexperienced content creators to fill pages.
Kunkle points out that half the thirteen who have left so far this year have been African-Americans or Latinos, but that the reason this is happening is a lack of money. The Post lost $6.2 million in its most recent quarter.
Or that some allegations of poor performance – as documented by the new, pseudoscientific evaluation system and its across-the-board top score of “3” – have included highly subjective and weaselly criticisms such as inserting too many pop culture references in stories. (We are not making this up.) Other reasons worthy of disciplinary action? Not having enough sources. Not writing more “impact” stories. Not landing on A1 often enough. One staff writer was given a 30-day production quota as follows: at least one deeply textured A1 story, at least one news feature, profile or takeout worthy of the Metro front or A1, at least three dailies a week and at least three blog posts per week. No mention of a Twitter quota. Yet.
No mention of too many anonymous sources or too many self-serving leaks, of course. After all, their paper would be almost empty!
The Washington Post ran a startling story on their front page yesterday that would scare the crap out of most people -- if you didn't already understand how Social Security actually works, and that the Village elites will say just about anything to destroy it under the guise of "saving" it. Rich Eskow did a great job pulling it apart in this scathing HuffPost piece (you should go read it all):
If we had the space we'd deconstruct the entire piece. Instead we'll use a selected sample, beginning with the first line:
" Last year, as a debate over the runaway national debt gathered steam in Washington, Social Security passed a treacherous milestone. It went "cash negative."
Holy cow, that's a lot of deception in one sentence. First, the sentence conflates the national debt with Social Security. But Social Security is expressly forbidden by law from contributing to the debt! It must be entirely self-sustaining. So why connect the two in one sentence?
And that "treacherous milestone" isn't not treacherous at all. The plan's huge surplus, currently $2.6 trillion, was amassed because planners know that baby boomers would retire someday. That supposedly "treacherous" switch to "cash negative" has been anticipated for decades.
"Now, Social Security is sucking money out of the Treasury. This year, it will add a projected $46 billion to the nation's budget problems, according to projections by system trustees."
No. Social Security is entirely self-funded. This is a falsehood. And note the use of the word "sucking."
"Replacing cash lost to a one-year payroll tax holiday will require another $105 billion."
The President and Congress agreed to use the payroll taxes that fund Social Security as the mechanism for a tax break. That was a bad idea, in my opinion, precisely because it opened the program up to this kind of deception. But it's misleading at best to complain that this is adding to the nation's budget woes.
"Lawmakers in both parties are ducking the issue, wary of agitating older voters and their advocates in Washington, who have long targeted politicians who try to tamper with federal retirement benefits."
The word "ducking" is straight out of the Pete Peterson playbook. If you're not willing to back unnecessary cuts to Social Security to please billionaire political patrons like Peterson, you're somehow a cowardly politician.
Another Peterson trick is to ignore disabled recipients of Social Security and focus on the elderly, painting them as demanding, selfish, and cruel for expecting the benefits they'd paid for all their working lives. (Remember Alan Simpson's "greedy geezers" remark?) In Montgomery's case, these aggressive oldsters are "agitated" and have a practice of "targeting politicians" who cross them.