Weekly Audit: Your Vote, Your Economy—Why Today’s Election Matters to Your Pocketbook

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Election Day is finally here, and control of the House and the Senate hangs in the balance. The differences between parties could not be more stark. Republicans have promised to repeal health care reform and slash government spending for social programs, all while preserving tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Some of the more radical ideas bandied about this election season—by conservative candidates with a decent shot at winning—include privatizing social security and eliminating the Department of Education.

Anti-tax ballot measures

Josh Holland of AlterNet runs down the most economically important ballot initiatives facing the electorate today. Some of these measures could cripple states for decades to come.

For example, Coloradans are voting on a spate of radical anti-tax amendments including Amendment 60, which would eliminate all property tax increases passed since 1992 and halve property taxes over the next decade. If Initiative 1053 passes in Washington State, any future hikes in taxes or fees would have to be approved by a 2/3rds majority of legislators or by voters. In tough times, the promise of preempting tax increases may seem attractive, but those entranced by the 2/3rds rule should look to California as a cautionary tale. The state is structurally in the red because legislators can pass spending bills by simple majority but they need a 2/3rds majority to raise taxes.

Holland writes:

If you could create a political party that convinced a large number of people that by electing you they could eat all the ice-cream they want, and then sit on their butts watching TV all day and never put on an ounce, you’d have a pretty good chance at gaining power. That’s what the conservative movement has done in terms of taxes and spending.

In other words, it’s easy to say no to tax increases when you don’t stop to think what those taxes pay for. Everyone’s in favor of “limited government” in the abstract, but everyone likes roads, schools, firehouses, clean water, and other publicly-funded amenities.

Union-busting at the ballot box

Speaking of dubious ballot initiatives, at Working In These Times, Michelle Chen reports on several anti-union ballot measures that are designed to kill the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) before it’s even passed. EFCA is (currently moribund) proposed federal legislation  that would make it easier for employees to form unions.

Voters in Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah are grappling with ballot initiatives that would make it impossible to implement EFCA at the state level, should it ever come back to life at the federal level. For example, Utah’s proposed Amendment A would rewrite the state’s constitution to guarantee a secret ballot for unionization votes. These ballot initiatives are touted as a defense of workers’ privacy, but the real goal is to institutionalize as many barriers to unionization as possible.

All working people should be concerned about restrictions on their right to organize because unionization is a proven path to higher wages and greater job security. Even people who don’t belong to a union should care because high union density in an industry tends to increase wages for the industry as a whole, non-union workers included.

Wage equality and the social contract

Election day is a good time to reflect on the big questions: What do we owe each other as a society? What would a just economy look like? Mikhail Zinshteyn of Campus Progress argues that one of the basic tenets of the social contract in a capitalist system is that rewards should be proportional to production. If you produce more, you should get paid more.

Yet the widening gap between productivity and real wages in America shows that that our economy is not delivering on this basic tenet of fairness. Workers are more productive than ever, and in a just world, you’d expect they’d share in that extra wealth. Yet real wages have remained largely stagnant. The extra wealth is going overwhelmingly to those who own the companies. The people who actually create the wealth are being left out in the cold.

Stakes are high for working families

Sarah van Gelder explains in Yes! Magazine why it is so important for working families to turn out this season and vote their financial interests:

The Great Recession is creating hardship for families in every part of the country. More than 6 million Americans fell below the poverty line in the last two years, and nearly a quarter of all children under the age of six are living in poverty. Unemployed workers are typically going jobless for six months, nearly twice as long as they have during any time since World War II. Median household wealth fell by 20 percent since 2007, retirement savings have evaporated, and now some are talking about dismantling Social Security. This is not the year to stay home. Our families can’t afford it.

In tough times, domestic violence on the rise

In ColorLines, Julianne Hing reports that rates of domestic violence tend to increase as the economy deteriorates. The category of economic abuse becomes more salient as money becomes more scarce. The abuser can either extort money from the victim, and/or use their own money as a weapon to dominate the victim. Sadly, as the need for programs to protect the victims of domestic violence is rising, state budgets are shrinking.

When voters look at their tax cut ballot initiatives today, they should consider the services their taxes underwrite, including programs for the most vulnerable, like battered women’s shelters. It’s easy to say no to taxes. It’s hard to tell a battered woman that she has nowhere to go because the shelter was shut down.

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.

The Winter of Our Discontent: Republicans are Singing 'Let it No, Let it No, Let it No'!

WANDERINGS, with Walter Brasch

by Walter Brasch

 The party of NO, sometimes known as Republicans, has been consistent in its contempt for America.

President Obama wanted to continue the Bush tax cuts, but limit them only to those individuals earning less than $200,000 a year and families earning less than $250,000 a year. That would eliminate tax cuts for all but the richest 2 percent of Americans. The NO Party, which hypocritically emphasizes how much it wants to reduce government, demanded that all tax credits be approved. To extend the tax cuts to the wealthiest 2 percent would add about $854 billion to the national debt and do little to add jobs or stimulate the economy, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, two of the richest people in the world, oppose extending tax cuts to the rich. A majority of Americans and Congress oppose extending tax cuts to the rich. But the minority in the Senate held Americans hostage.

They threatened to filibuster the bill and to block all legislation, no matter how critical, if the wealthy weren't included in the tax break. Pending legislation would extend unemployment benefits to almost two million Americans. That legislation also had a majority approval in both house of Congress. The NO people have consistently used the threat of filibuster, which requires 60 votes in the Senate to stop it. 

At one time, Republican and Democratic leaders met, discussed, argued, and reached civil compromise that advanced the interest of the American people. This has not been the case the past decade. The Republican NO, when it controlled Congress and the executive branch during the Bush–Cheney era, had demanded that legislation be passed on an "up or down" simple majority vote. Now in the minority, they have become the obstructionists to progress and the will of the majority of Americans. In doing so, they have now fused two persona—the school yard bully and the boy who strikes out, blames the umpire, and grabs the team ball and runs away.

Falsely claiming it would protect Americans from runaway spending—while still asking for more than $1 billion in pork barrel funding—the NO Party then threatened a filibuster on the estate tax. The Democrats wanted the first $1 million to be tax exempt. The NO Party demanded a $5 million exemption for individuals and $10 million for couples, with the maximum tax above that 35 percent rather than the previous maximum, of 55 percent. If approved at the level the conservatives wanted, the new legislation would affect only 3,600 estates and add about $20 billion to the nation's debt.

While protecting the wealthy, the NO Party also blocked a one-time payment of $250 for senior citizens receiving Social Security. There was no annual cost-of-living increase this year because federal guidelines showed that inflation was not at a level that would trigger the increase, even though medical costs continued to rise. The House voted 254–153 to make the payment, but 290 votes were needed under the House's "special rules." In the Senate, the vote was 53–45 for the special payment, and failed because of the Republican filibuster threat.

The same miscreants then blocked legislation to provide financial compensation for the nation's first responders who were exposed to toxic ash at the 9/11 attacks and had to seek medical treatment. The Senate voted 57–42 to provide health care. But the No Compassion Party, which had already spewed millions of words about how they are more patriotic than anyone else, won by threatening a filibuster that ended any help to firefighters, police officers, and the thousands of volunteers who risked their lives to save others.

It isn't only financial interests that cause the NO Party to block progress. Still proclaiming its objective is to block any Obama legislation and prevent him from being a two-term president, the NO Party also tried to block a bill to give women equal pay. Only four senators voted for that bill.

The Republicans continue to block a vote for the continuation of START Treaty, begun under Richard Nixon and pushed by Ronald Reagan, which involves reduction of nuclear arms.

Apparently, the NO Party, now dominated by the extreme right wing, by its recent actions believes it's acceptable to harm the nation while protecting the rich and special interests.

 [Walter Brasch is an award-winning social issues journalist, and the author of 17 books. You may contact him through his website, www.walterbrasch.com]

 

The Winter of Our Discontent: Republicans are Singing 'Let it No, Let it No, Let it No'!

WANDERINGS, with Walter Brasch

by Walter Brasch

 The party of NO, sometimes known as Republicans, has been consistent in its contempt for America.

President Obama wanted to continue the Bush tax cuts, but limit them only to those individuals earning less than $200,000 a year and families earning less than $250,000 a year. That would eliminate tax cuts for all but the richest 2 percent of Americans. The NO Party, which hypocritically emphasizes how much it wants to reduce government, demanded that all tax credits be approved. To extend the tax cuts to the wealthiest 2 percent would add about $854 billion to the national debt and do little to add jobs or stimulate the economy, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, two of the richest people in the world, oppose extending tax cuts to the rich. A majority of Americans and Congress oppose extending tax cuts to the rich. But the minority in the Senate held Americans hostage.

They threatened to filibuster the bill and to block all legislation, no matter how critical, if the wealthy weren't included in the tax break. Pending legislation would extend unemployment benefits to almost two million Americans. That legislation also had a majority approval in both house of Congress. The NO people have consistently used the threat of filibuster, which requires 60 votes in the Senate to stop it. 

At one time, Republican and Democratic leaders met, discussed, argued, and reached civil compromise that advanced the interest of the American people. This has not been the case the past decade. The Republican NO, when it controlled Congress and the executive branch during the Bush–Cheney era, had demanded that legislation be passed on an "up or down" simple majority vote. Now in the minority, they have become the obstructionists to progress and the will of the majority of Americans. In doing so, they have now fused two persona—the school yard bully and the boy who strikes out, blames the umpire, and grabs the team ball and runs away.

Falsely claiming it would protect Americans from runaway spending—while still asking for more than $1 billion in pork barrel funding—the NO Party then threatened a filibuster on the estate tax. The Democrats wanted the first $1 million to be tax exempt. The NO Party demanded a $5 million exemption for individuals and $10 million for couples, with the maximum tax above that 35 percent rather than the previous maximum, of 55 percent. If approved at the level the conservatives wanted, the new legislation would affect only 3,600 estates and add about $20 billion to the nation's debt.

While protecting the wealthy, the NO Party also blocked a one-time payment of $250 for senior citizens receiving Social Security. There was no annual cost-of-living increase this year because federal guidelines showed that inflation was not at a level that would trigger the increase, even though medical costs continued to rise. The House voted 254–153 to make the payment, but 290 votes were needed under the House's "special rules." In the Senate, the vote was 53–45 for the special payment, and failed because of the Republican filibuster threat.

The same miscreants then blocked legislation to provide financial compensation for the nation's first responders who were exposed to toxic ash at the 9/11 attacks and had to seek medical treatment. The Senate voted 57–42 to provide health care. But the No Compassion Party, which had already spewed millions of words about how they are more patriotic than anyone else, won by threatening a filibuster that ended any help to firefighters, police officers, and the thousands of volunteers who risked their lives to save others.

It isn't only financial interests that cause the NO Party to block progress. Still proclaiming its objective is to block any Obama legislation and prevent him from being a two-term president, the NO Party also tried to block a bill to give women equal pay. Only four senators voted for that bill.

The Republicans continue to block a vote for the continuation of START Treaty, begun under Richard Nixon and pushed by Ronald Reagan, which involves reduction of nuclear arms.

Apparently, the NO Party, now dominated by the extreme right wing, by its recent actions believes it's acceptable to harm the nation while protecting the rich and special interests.

 [Walter Brasch is an award-winning social issues journalist, and the author of 17 books. You may contact him through his website, www.walterbrasch.com]

 

A New Pledge of Allegiance for a New America

We’ve become a nation selfish to a fault.

We don’t want to pay taxes, but we want services.

We launch hate filled screeds about taxes as tyranny, yet don’t lift a finger to stop the steady erosion of real constitutional rights.

We rebel against the idea that health care is a right and then complain about how high the insurance rates of the insured explode from de facto coverage for those who have none.

Social Security is an unfair entitlement to those who don’t use it. It’s what keeps a loaf of bread in the house when they do.

If poor people need help, let them visit the local church. Of course, they’ll be taken care of… if they aren’t gay, or Muslim, or mentally unstable, or any of a thousand other reasons.

Unemployed people are a bunch of lazy goldbrickers living off the public dole. Unless, of course, we become them.

We want to cut taxes to cut a deficit, but want to give more tax revenue to businesses who pass it along to shareholders with nary a job created.

It’s only a matter of time…

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United State of Me, and to the republic which only I want, one person, among millions, and selfishly, with as little liberty and justice as possible for anyone who disagrees with me.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

 

 

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