Saturday, October 30, 2010
Senator Jim Webb D-VA), a member of the Joint Economic Committee, called on federal regulators to implement strong reforms to prevent high-risk investing from again endangering the national economy. Webb joined 17 other senators in submitting comments to the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) yesterday to ensure that proprietary trading restrictions of the Restoring American Financial Stability Act are implemented as intended by Congress.
“After taxpayers were forced to bail out banks and other systemically significant financial companies whose proprietary trades went awry, we determined that the economy and taxpayers need strong protections against an increasingly casino-like financial system,” the senators wrote. “High-risk investing is an appropriate and legitimate activity in a free market system, but it cannot again imperil our nation’s economic well-being.”
The restrictions were added to the financial reform law to address speculative proprietary trading by bank fund managers, which creates tremendous risks for the institutions themselves and conflicts with the interests of their customers. The group of senators provided detailed guidance to regulators to help them effectively implement and enforce the statutory language. The group also provided copies of the implementation instructions to the heads of the federal agencies responsible for implementing Wall Street reform.
The FSOC is a collaborative body established as part of the financial reform legislation to monitor and address risks to financial stability. The FSOC is chaired by the Secretary of the Treasury and authorized to facilitate regulatory coordination, recommend stricter standards, and break up firms that pose a “grave threat” to financial stability, among other responsibilities. The FSOC is currently requesting comments regarding the implementation of the Merkley-Levin provisions to restrict proprietary trading, also known as the “Volker Rule.” Sen. Webb cosponsored the Merkley-Levin provision during the Senate floor debate on financial reform.
“Despite having just emerged as a nation from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, powerful interests will seek to weaken the Merkley-Levin Volcker Rule protections,” the senators wrote. “We in Congress resisted those efforts and provided you with a clear mandate and broad authority to act. The American people are now relying upon you to fully carry out the law.”
The text of the letter follows:
Dear Members of the Financial Stability Oversight Council:
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act sets forth a clear mandate to end high-risk, conflict-ridden financial activities at our nation’s banks and systemically significant nonbank financial companies. It does so by ending proprietary trading within our nation’s banking entities, limiting their relationships with hedge funds and private equity funds, and restricting such activities at systemically significant nonbank financial companies, as well as explicitly prohibiting conflicts of interest.
As co-sponsors of the Merkley-Levin Amendment, which ultimately became Section 619 of the Dodd-Frank Act, we urge the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) to provide guidance to regulators that can help them effectively implement and enforce the statutory language as Congress intended.
After taxpayers were forced to bail out banks and other systemically significant financial companies whose proprietary trades went awry, we determined that the economy and taxpayers need strong protections against an increasingly casino-like financial system. High-risk investing is an appropriate and legitimate activity in a free market system, but it cannot again imperil our nation’s economic well-being.
To ensure that the Merkley-Levin proprietary trading restrictions (also called the “Volcker Rule”) are most effectively applied, Section 619 directs the FSOC to conduct a study and make recommendations on how to best implement its provisions. (Bank Holding Company Act of 1956 (12 U.S.C. 1841 et. seq.), §13(b), as added by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Pub. L. No. 111-203, §619 (2010).) As one of the FSOC’s initial tasks, this study will be a critical test of whether the FSOC lives up to its statutory mandate of independence, regulatory cooperation, and professional analysis. We hope that each member of the FSOC, voting and non-voting, will participate fully in this effort.
In crafting recommendations to ensure the Merkley-Levin provisions are implemented as intended, the FSOC will undoubtedly need to address many issues. We would like to focus your attention, however, on a few critical points:
The term “trading account” should cover all types of accounts that may be used to conduct proprietary trading.
The extent of permitted activities, particularly “market making” and “risk mitigating hedging,” should be strictly and clearly delineated to ensure that high-risk proprietary trading stops, while economically beneficial and risk-reducing activities continue. Capital charges governing these permitted activities should also be vigorous enough to protect the economy and U.S. taxpayers from risks arising from them.
The relationships between covered financial firms and the private funds they manage or sponsor should be carefully circumscribed to prevent those private funds from being used to circumvent the law’s limits.The terms “material conflicts of interest” and “high risk” assets and trading strategies need to be meaningfully defined so as to safeguard U.S. taxpayers from unfair practices and systemic risk.
Capital charges and quantitative limits for systemically significant nonbank financial companies should be vigorous so as both to discourage and to reduce the risks and conflicts of interest from proprietary trading at these entities.
The law’s anti-evasion provisions should be implemented in a way to ensure regulators have clear authority to prevent abusive and evasive tactics from undermining the Merkley-Levin provisions.
Implementing these provisions also means establishing a regulatory structure capable of meaningful enforcement. We urge you to consider recommending a two-tiered, cooperative regulatory structure. At the first tier, regulators should conduct real-time monitoring and enforcement. Trading and markets regulators, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission, may be in the best position to take a leadership role in monitoring trading and positions, much like they do for insider trading, position limits, and other trading provisions. The newly-created Office of Financial Research may assist in standardizing the data collection and review efforts. At the second tier, regulators should review firms’ policies and procedures and conduct in-depth portfolio-level examinations. Banking regulators, such as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Federal Reserve Board, may be in the best position to conduct these broader reviews of firms. This type of two-tiered, cooperative approach would enable regulators to share the implementation burdens and also play to their traditional strengths.
You have been assigned to a vital task: to protect the American people from a financial system that has too often been distorted by proprietary trading practices and conflicts of interest that placed a firm’s own interests ahead of the interests of its clients. We recognize that reining in these practices will not be easy. Despite having just emerged as a nation from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, powerful interests will seek to weaken the Merkley-Levin Volcker Rule protections. We in Congress resisted those efforts and provided you with a clear mandate and broad authority to act. The American people are now relying upon you to fully carry out the law.
Thank you for this opportunity to comment on the FSOC study to implement Dodd-Frank Section 619.
John Kasich is very consistent about some things. Kasich has never wavered in his support for job destroying "free trade" agreements and corporate outsourcing. The former Congressman loves sending Ohio jobs to China but lacks the same passion when it comes to defending the right of citizens to keep and bear arms. Kasich seeking the Ohio Governorship and Mike Dewine (running for Attorney General) have a track record of support gun control legislation.
Ohio gun owners are getting fired up about the upcoming elections, and for Kasich and DeWine, this is not good news.
Recent campaign tactics by Republicans have riled gun owners and bolstered support for Democratic candidates Ted Strickland for Governor and Richard Cordray for Attorney General.
"Until recently, Kasich and DeWine have had no use for gun owners in Ohio," said Jim Irvine, Chairman of Buckeye Firearms Association. "But as election day gets closer and the polls get tighter, they're suddenly treating us like long-lost friends. It's like they're saying to gun owners, you're stupid. Ignore our anti-gun records and vote for us."
According to Irvine, the Ohio Republican Party has been sending mailers talking about each candidate's respective stance on guns.
"It's laughable," said Irvine. "In fact, it's outright insulting. Even though Kasich and DeWine are Republicans, they both have a long and infamous record of working against Ohio gun owners. Democrats Strickland and Cordray are proven, steadfast friends."
According to Irvine, Kasich has a terrible voting record. "Kasich voted for handgun restrictions in 1986, voted for a ban on deer hunting in 1992, and voted for the Clinton/Schumer Gun Ban and earned an F rating from the NRA in 1994.
"He went on to vote against stopping the harassment of law-abiding gun owners by the BATFE in 1995, voted against big game hunting in 1997, voted to restrict gun shows in 1999, and voted twice to increase background checks aimed at closing down gun shows.
"Maybe the worst came in 1999," said Irvine shaking his head, "when Kasich voted for the D.C. Gun Ban. It's not just one vote, it's a pattern of hostility toward gun owners. You just can't run from a record like that."
The National Rifle Association's John Hohenwarter observed, "Kasich's stance on the Second Amendment changes from year-to-year like the weather changes from day-to-day."
And what about DeWine? Irvine says it's even worse.
"Mike DeWine was thrown out of his U.S. Senate seat by voters in 2006 after being endorsed by the anti-gun Brady Campaign because his record 'really wowed' them. That's because he consistently cast his votes with the most anti-gun legislators in the Senate.
"In 1999, he voted to require background checks on all guns sold at guns shows yet voted against more penalties for drug and gun crimes. He opposed legislation to protect gun manufacturers, distributors, dealers and importers from frivolous lawsuits designed to put them out of business.
"Human Events Online named DeWine among the top 10 anti-gun U.S. Senators because he was consistently the only Republican to stand up on the Senate floor and speak in favor of gutting the Second Amendment."
Political pundits frequently talk about the long memory and voting power of gun owners. So even though voters are focused on jobs and the economy, Ohio's election could actually turn on the gun issue. That would help Ted Strickland and Richard Cordray, two Democrats with a long history of supporting gun rights, be re-elected next week.
This is clear from pre-election polls showing Strickland and Cordray as the only statewide Democratic candidates in statistical dead heats.
Irvine said, "It's shaping up to be a terrible year for Democrats nationwide. But the strong pro-gun history of these two Democrats is what's keeping them in the race."
Buckeye Firearms Association (www.BuckeyeFirearms.org) is a grassroots political action committee (PAC) dedicated to defending and advancing the right of Ohio citizens to own and use firearms for all legal activities, including self-defense, hunting, competition, and recreation. They work to elect pro-gun candidates and lobby for pro-gun legislation.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Nate Hodgson sums up the Republican war against the middle class perfectly in a letter from the Durango Herald News editorial page:
Why does the Republican Party hate middle America? According to 2008 census data, Americans' median household income was $52,000 with 13 percent of the population living below the poverty level - below $21,000 for a family of four. Coloradans fared a little better with a median household income of $57,000 and 11 percent in poverty.
With the Bush tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003, the divide between the "haves" and "have nots" in America has skyrocketed. According to 2010 census figures, less than 5 percent of Americans earned more than $180,000 a year and they added to their annual incomes last year, while the overwhelming majority of families at the median level, $50,000, slipped closer to poverty.
The Obama administration, to its credit, has proposed closing this gap by extending the Bush tax cuts only to individuals making less than $200,000 and families making less than $250,000. The Republican Party, on the other hand, has championed tax relief for the über-wealthy at the expense of the middle class. In fact, Republicans pride themselves on a political platform that ensures the richest 1 percent will continue to own 40 percent of all American wealth.
The Republicans are supported by FOX News and AM radio hosts who bombard American airwaves with anti-tax rhetoric. Many of these self-proclaimed "conservative" celebrities would continue to see a direct personal benefit from an extension of Bush era tax cuts. These defenders of the rich, while daily skewering Obama, remain notoriously tight-lipped about the rampant wealth redistribution tactics of the upper class - for example, the wealthy executives at Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America who personally benefited from the Bush-era bank bailout, even giving themselves $10 million bonuses, while the overwhelming majority of Americans saw a precipitous decline in income.
At a time when middle America is seeing a decline in income, it is time that the Republican Party do more than simply bash Obama and defend continued bail-out and tax relief for America's super-wealthy. Americans of all classes need to pull together and do their part.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
As the number of homes around the country entering the foreclosure process continues to steadily rise, a recent report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) suggests that giving homeowners the right to rent their house at a fair market price may be one of the best ways to address the nation's foreclosure crisis.
"With roughly one-in four mortgages underwater, the loan modification plans put forth so far have done little to help homeowners facing foreclosure," said Dean Baker, Co-Director of CEPR and an author of the report. "Right to Rent, on the other hand, would benefit millions, provide families with real housing security, and could go into effect immediately."
The report, "The Gains from Right to Rent in 2010," analyzes the costs of renting versus owning a house in several major cities and finds that the Fair Market Rents in these metropolitan areas is often much lower than the cost of ownership.
"Ordinarily, the gap between owning and renting is not that large." continued Baker. "Due to the enormous run-up in house prices over the housing bubble years, however, ownership costs now vastly exceed rental costs in many of the bubble markets and homeowners in these markets have much to gain from having the opportunity to remain in a home as a renter following a foreclosure."
The report documents the costs of renting and owning before and after taxes in 16 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) and details substantial savings gained from renting across all scenarios depicted. The various scenarios consider the costs of mortgage payments, property taxes, insurance and maintenance costs, and mortgage deductions. An appendix is included that compares ownership and rental costs across 100 MSAs as well.
Under Right to Rent legislation, such as HR 5028, sponsored by representatives Grijalva (AZ) and Kaptur (OH), Congress would temporarily alter foreclosure laws to let foreclosed homeowners remain in their homes as renters for a substantial period of time. This would save families from being kicked out of their homes and would go far to stop the blight of foreclosures affecting many of our communities. This plan requires no taxpayer dollars and no new bureaucracy to implement.
More details on the Right to Rent plan can be found at: http://www.cepr.net/index.php/component/option,com_issues/Itemid,22/issue,35/lang,en/task,view_issue/
WASHINGTON – Congressman Bart Gordon’s bill closing loopholes in federal law that have been exploited by meth producers was signed into law on Tuesday by President Obama.
“Every year, Tennessee is one of the top states when it comes to meth production, use and busts,” said Gordon. “To combat this epidemic, we have to go straight for the source, making it more difficult for the producers of this drug to get their hands on precursor materials.”
The Combat Methamphetamine Enhancement Act (H.R. 2923) requires all retailers of pseudoephedrine and ephedrine products, products used to make meth, to register with the U.S. Attorney General, and requires distributors of these products to sell only to retailers who are registered to sell controlled substances. It also provides the Department of Justice legal basis to fine those not in compliance with the law. These regulations close significant loopholes in a 2006 law that first brought these products behind the counter.
“Four years ago, Congress began to tackle this issue head on,” Gordon added. “It takes a multi-pronged approach to fight meth through regulation, education and prevention. This bill is another step in the right direction.”
As Chairman of the Science and Technology Committee, Gordon has fought the spread of meth and worked to reduce its impact on communities. His committee has held hearings and advanced legislation aimed at developing partnerships and cooperation among local, state and federal agencies.
In 2007, Gordon authored the Methamphetamine Remediation Research Act, which directed the National Institute of Standards and Technology to develop meth detection equipment for field use. The law further required the Environmental Protection Agency to develop model, voluntary, health-based clean-up guidelines for use by states and localities with the goal of making sure the sites of former meth labs are safe and livable.
During his time in Congress, Gordon has led efforts to address and curb drug abuse in Middle Tennessee. Gordon has secured more than $1 million in federal funding to help local law enforcement crack down on meth production. He has also helped implement juvenile drug court programs in Middle Tennessee communities and worked to make drug education information more available in Tennessee’s public schools.
Republican-oriented Susan B. Anthony List faces sanctions for distorting record of pro-life Democrat
Faith in Public Life reports:
FPL has extensively documented the lengthy misinformation campaign over the course of the health care debate, starting last year when opponents of reform argued that the bill included federal funding of abortion. These attacks have continued unabated in the run-up to the November election - as predicted months ago.
But now one of these groups, The Susan B. Anthony List - which is spending over $1.5 million on a campaign alleging that pro-life Representatives who supported health care reform voted for federal funding of abortion - may have broken the law in their deceptive campaign. The Cincinnati Enquirer reports today:
A three-member panel of the Ohio Elections Commission ruled in favor of U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus today in his complaint against the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List.
The panel's "probable cause" finding means there will be another hearing to determine if the group broke Ohio law that bars making false statements in campaigns. Driehaus is up for re-election on Nov. 2. In the meantime, attorneys for both sides can begin taking sworn depositions.
Driehaus, a Democrat from West Price Hill, is fighting the group's plans to erect four billboards saying he favored taxpayer-funded abortions because he voted for the national health care bill.
Driehaus' Cincinnati attorney, Paul DeMarco, intends to depose SBA members to find out what they consider federal funding of abortions.
"They're actually conceding the argument that there is no new federal funding," Driehaus said.
The 1970 Hyde Amendment allowed federally-funded abortions in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.
A date has not been set for another Elections Commission hearing where evidence will be argued. The commission can then recommend a public reprimand or prosecution, which can result in fines or jail time.
"This is a big deal," Driehaus said today. "The media made a big deal about this, (Steve) Chabot calling me a liar and now the Ohio Elections Commission came out on my side."
Driehaus has said the group is attacking any pro-life Democrat who supported the federal health care bill "because they're partisan."
The group's spokesman was not immediately available for comment today.
Ohio law allows the elections commission to issue a public reprimand, or refer the case to the Franklin County prosecutor. A criminal conviction for making false campaign statements is punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
We'll be keeping a close eye on this story as it develops
U.S. Representative Chet Edwards (D-Texas) said the expected announcement Friday that the Social Security Administration will not be increasing the cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) for Social Security recipients in 2011 requires Congress to act to protect seniors. The marks the second year in a row that seniors have not received a COLA update for Social Security. Edwards has cosponsored legislation, H.R. 5987, the Seniors Protection Act to provide a $250 payment to 54 million Americans who rely on Social Security including 118,084 in District 17.
Congressman Edwards said, “Monthly expenses for prescription drugs, medical costs, and utilities continue to rise for seniors and their Social Security benefits should keep up. There is no reason an increased burden should fall on seniors and people with disabilities, especially during tough economic times. I have helped pass into law a $250 payment for seniors this year and we should continue that policy until Social Security cost-of-living-adjustments are updated.
In 2009, Edwards helped pass into law a one-time $250 payment to Social Security recipients to assist seniors living on fixed incomes. Edwards has also supported House passage of legislation that would freeze Medicare Part B premium increases to prevent seniors from taking on additional financial burdens during tough economic times especially since there was no Social Security cost-of-living increase this year. After passing the House, the legislation freezing Medicare Part B premiums stalled in the Senate.
Social Security was the primary source of income for 64 percent of retirees who got benefits in 2008, according to the Social Security Administration. A third relied on Social Security for at least 90 percent of their income. The cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, are automatically set each year by an inflation measure that was adopted by Congress back in the 1970s. Based on inflation so far this year, the trustees who oversee Social Security project there will be no COLA for 2011.
Edwards concluded, “Congress should address the COLA issue as soon as we return in November. Seniors are the foundation of our communities and protecting their retirement security and the guaranteed benefits of Social Security should be one of our highest priorities. The fact is that while other retirement savings lost an average of 32% of their value during the recession, Social Security continued to provide a reliable income for our seniors. We need to make sure it stays that way.”
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
AFL-CIO and Working America release first-of-its-kind, zip code searchable database
In the worst economic crisis in a generation, the AFL-CIO and Working America released a first-of-its-kind, zip code searchable database that illustrates how corporate outsourcing has hollowed out American towns and cities. The Job Tracker released by the AFL-CIO and its community affiliate Working America provides a new tool for people searching for information on the local impact of outsourcing. The dynamic interactive database lists information on more than 400,000 corporations and subsidiaries and uses data from dozens of public sources to allow visitors to find out which companies have exported jobs overseas, violated health and safety codes or engaged in discriminatory or other illegal practices.
On a conference call to release the database, speakers noted that experts and the public alike will now be able to easily search through a huge compilation of data on corporate outsourcing.
"Because of Job Tracker, corporations who have taken advantage of lax trade policies in America and abroad will no longer be able to hide behind the veils of bureaucracy," said Karen Nussbaum, Executive Director of Working America. "Every night on our neighborhood canvasses, we hear from people who want to know which companies are profiting off the loss of their jobs. Corporations have created a global race to the bottom and working people won't stand for it."
Visitors to the Job Tracker site can search the database by company name, zip code and industry. Within seconds, detailed results are culled from a database that draws from sources including U.S. Department of Labor's Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) records, Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act notices, Occupational Safety Health Administration records and more. The Job Tracker site also enables visitors to use Facebook and Twitter and email to report companies exporting jobs in their communities.
Since 2000, the United States has lost more than 5 million manufacturing jobs and 850,000 information sector jobs, many of which have been shipped overseas. Faulty trade and tax policies continue to lead to outsourcing as corporate executives boast record-breaking profits and salaries.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka noted the impact of faulty trade and tax policies that make it even easier for corporations to outsource jobs. He pointed to the benefits of such a tool for working people as they rebuild an economy that works for all and assess elected leaders' records in the election.
"We must demand that our leaders show that they stand with working families -- fighting to create jobs, rejecting unfair trade deals and putting us on a path to make things in America again," said Trumka. "For the first time, working people have one place to see the real impact of the failed policies of the past that gave corporations the ability to ship American jobs overseas. With this new data as a benchmark, working people will have the ability to separate the economic patriots from the corporate traitors at the ballot box."
As part of Job Tracker, Working America is also releasing a "white paper" entitled OUTSOURCED: Sending Jobs Overseas: The Cost to America's Economy and Working Families, which details how trade policies have outsourced good jobs. http://www.workingamerica.org/upload/OutsourcingReport.pdf Working America will share the results with members of Congress and the economic community as a new analysis on what policies must be passed to turn our economy around.
Working America, the community affiliate of the 12 million member AFL-CIO, represents workers without a union at work to mobilize around economic issues like health care and good jobs.
Writing at The Volokh Conspiracy, David Kopel explains how pro-gun rights Democrats play a critical role in protecting our Second Amendment rights:
Earlier this week, I wrote that NRA would be foolish obey the wishes of Republican activists who want the NRA to endorse only Republicans, and especially to not endorse endangered House Democrats. Here are some data on NRA endorsements, and some of the actions that dozens of House Democrats have taken to merit their endorsements:
NRA Senate endorsements in 2010: 23 Republicans, 2 Democrats.
NRA House endorsements in 2010: 197 Republicans and 61 Democrats.
There were 251 Congresspersons who signed the pro-Second Amendment incorporation congressional amicus brief in McDonald v. Chicago. Of the signers, 81 were House Democrats, and 19 were Senate Democrats, including Majority Leader Harry Reid.
A top NRA priority in Congress is H.R. 2296, to reform the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives. Of the 243 cosponsors, 76 are House Democrats.
Another NRA-favored bill is H.R. 442, the “Veterans’ Heritage Firearms Act,” would create an amnesty period to allow the registration of war trophies (e.g., an automatic rifle captured from the North Vietnamese Army) that were brought into the United States between 1934 and 1968. There are 211 cosponsors, 66 of whom are House Democrats.
The bill that would have the most significant practical effect for most gun owners is H.R. 197, the “National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act .” Sixty-five House Democrats are among the 209 cosponsors.
Early in the Obama adminisration, Attorney General Eric Holder said that the 1994 ban on so-called “assault weapons” and magazines holding more than 10 rounds, which sunset in 2004, should be re-enacted. Sixty-five Democratic Congressmen signed a letter to the Attorney General, opposing a new ban. In addition, Ike Skelton, the Missouri Democrat who chairs the Armed Services Committee, sent a separate letter to Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer expressing his opposition to the Attorney General’s remarks. The show of Democratic opposition demonstrated that there was no chance that a ban could pass Congress. Since then, Attorney General Holder has not made any public statements in favor of gun bans.
As the numbers above illustrate, Democrats constitute an indispensible part of the pro-Second Amendment majority of the current Congress. Without the NRA’s strong working relationship with so many Democrats, 2009-10 would have seen the enactment of destructive legislation for gun rights, rather than the constructive legislation which has become law.
The following pro-gun rights Democrats have received the NRA endorsement:
AL-2: Bobby Bright
AR-4: Mike Ross
Ca-18: Dennis Cardoza
CO-3: John Salazar
CO-4: Betsy Markey
FL-2: Allen Boyd
Ga-2: Sanford Bishop
Ga-8: Jim Marshall
Ga-12: John Barrow
IA-3: Leonard Boswell
IL-11: Debbie Halvorson
IL-12: Jerry Costello
IN-2: Joe Donnely
IN-8: Trent Van Haaften
IN-9: Baron Hill
KY-6: Ben Chandler
MD-1: Frank Kratovil
MI-1: Gary McDowell
MN-1: Tim Walz
MS-1: Travis Childers
MS-4: Gene Taylor
MO-4: Ike Skelton
NC-7: Mike McIntyre
NC-8: Larry Kissell
NC-11: Heath Shuler
ND-At Large: Earl Pomeroy
NM-1: Martin Heinrich
NM-2: Harry Teague
NM-3: Ben Lujan
NY-20: Scott Murphy
NY-23: Bill Owens
NY-24: Mike Acruri
OH-Gov. Ted Strickland
OH-6: Charlie Wilson
OH-16: John Boccieri
OH-18: Zack Space
OK-2: Dan Boren
OR-5: Kurt Schrader
PA-4: Jason Altmire
PA-10: Chris Carney
PA-11: Paul Kanjorski
PA-12: Mark Critz
PA-17: Tim Holden
SD-At Large: Stephanie Sandlin
TN-4: Lincoln Davis
TN-8: Roy Herron
TX-17: Chet Edwards
UT-2: Jim Matheson
VA-2: Glenn Nye
VA-5: Tom Perriello
VA-9: Rick Boucher
WI-3: Ron Kind
WI-8: Steve Kagen
WV-Senate: Joe Manchin
WV-3: Nick Rahall
Democratic Senators Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Harry Reid of Nevada are also proven supporters of gun rights.
Letter from NRA praising Senator Reid for his defense of the right to keep and bear arms. http://media.lasvegassun.com/media/pdfs/blogs/documents/2009/07/15/Reid_-_NRA_Letter.pdf
Monday, October 11, 2010
Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper (D-PA) is fighting back strongly and aggressively against lies about her record on abortion spread through an ongoing media assault featuring false information and financed by private organizations with undisclosed donors. Armed with the facts and the truth, Dahlkemper is telling the 3rd District not to believe the lies her opponents are selling.
To counter these unconscionable attacks, the Dahlkemper campaign is currently airing one new television ad and one radio ad in 3rd District media outlets. The ads sternly refute the falsehoods being spread about the Congresswoman's staunch pro-life principles by political organizations that are not required to disclose their funders and pay no regard to the truth or the facts.
Watch and listen to the ads at the following links: http://kathydahlkemperforcongress.com/videos/kathy-dahlkemper-life, http://kathydahlkemperforcongress.com/videos/kathy-responds-attacks, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0OgCy921cA
"When you hear my opponents talk about my views on life, know that they are absolutely false,” Dahlkemper says in a television ad. “They should be ashamed to lie about this just to win an election.”
In the radio ad, Sister Mary, a Catholic nun who knows Kathy Dahlkemper personally, speaks out against the attacks, calling Kathy “an honest woman of strong character.”
Sister Mary makes a clear, unassailable statement affirming Kathy Dahlkemper’s pro-life values: “If anyone tells you that Kathy Dahlkemper is not a woman in favor of life, just know it is not true.”
“I am pro-life and I always have been. This is who I am. It is despicable that anyone would take this most sacred issue—the issue of life—and lie about it to gain points at the polls. Western Pennsylvanians deserve better than that,” said Dahlkemper. “These ads set the record straight about me and about the people who are willing to lie to win an election.”
With these new ads, Congresswoman Dahlkemper is personally explaining to 3rd District voters the truth about her lifelong pro-life beliefs, using facts, not falsehoods, about the new health care law. These news ads also make it clear that the Congresswoman will not allow any lie or misstatement to go unchallenged by the facts and the truth concerning her pro-life positions and record.
Congressmwoman Dahlkemper issued the following open letter earlier this year concerning her support for the health care reform and protecting the sanctity of human life.
An open letter from Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper about the ban on federal funding of elective abortions:
Protecting the unborn was, is and always will be one of my most deeply held personal values.
That's why when confronted with my own unplanned pregnancy at 21, I chose life. It's a decision I've never regretted.
I've taken my pro-life values with me to Washington and have fought to preserve the sanctity of life. I helped ensure that the first health care reform bill prevented federal funding of abortion. When the Senate refused to put those same protections in place for the unborn, I stood firm against pro-choice groups in Washington.
Pro-life Members of Congress like me kept a hard line: no federal funding could be used for elective abortion through the new health care reform. Period.
Our work paid off when the president signed a rock-solid executive order to do just that—clearly ban the use of federal funds for elective abortions in the new health care reform law.
Now, politically-motivated groups are making false claims that Pennsylvania's new high-risk insurance pool, which offers affordable health insurance to the people in our community who have been refused by private insurers because of a “pre-existing condition,” will use federal funds for elective abortions.
That is simply untrue.
The nonpartisan, independent fact-checking organization PolitiFact rated this claim as FALSE.
The Pennsylvania Insurance Department has clearly stated, “Pennsylvania will – and has always intended to – comply with the federal ban on abortion funding in the coverage provided through our federally funded high risk pool.”
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the federal agency who will provide the funding, has clearly said, “In Pennsylvania and in all other states abortions will not be covered in the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) except in the cases of rape or incest, or where the life of the woman would be endangered.”
And just in case the message was not clear, I called on HHS Secretary Sebelius to explicitly tell the states that they must strictly follow the ban on federal funding of abortion, or lose their federal funding altogether.
It's all there in black & white: no federal funds will be used for elective abortions in Pennsylvania or anywhere else in the United States.
Preserving the sanctity of life is an issue that Western Pennsylvanians care about passionately, and so do I. That's why I wanted to give you the facts.
If you would like further information about this or any other topic, please email me or call my office at 1-877-KATHY 4U (528-4948).
President Obama's plan for fixing America's intrastrucure has drawn praise from the American Society of Civil Engineers. ASCE's Exective Director Patrick J. Natale stated: "Our nation’s economy can’t survive without the stable foundation infrastructure provides. It allows goods to move across the country, water to flow from our taps and energy to be accessed with the flip of a switch. But, for decades, we have allowed that foundation to crumble."
Natale called for a dedicated source of funding and an increase in federal leadership on infrastructure and urged Congress to work with the Obama Administration on this critical national issue.
A civil engineering expert says that $50 billion is a good start but not enough to reverse the deterioration of our roads, bridges, water and sewer systems.
"All of the various components of our infrastructure are in serious need of attention and should be given priority, even in times of fiscal belt-tightening," says Henry Petroski, a Professor of Civil Engineering at Duke University.
"President Obama's call for spending $50 billion on America's transportation infrastructure is good news, but the amount is far from the $2.2 trillion that the American Society of Civil Engineers has estimated it would cost to bring the nation's total infrastructure up from the poor grade of D that it received in 2009 to a level that would enable the country to remain strong and prosperous."
"It is not only our roads, railways and airports that are in serious need of repair and renewal. As recent events have demonstrated, the aging water and gas lines buried beneath our streets can break without notice and give rise to flooding, fire, destruction and death. All of the various components of our infrastructure are in serious need of attention and should be given priority, even in times of fiscal belt-tightening. What we do not maintain today will surely cost much more to repair in the future."
Dr. Petroski recently elaborated on the U.S. infrastructure crisis in The Chronicle Review:
The present state of the American infrastructure—roads, bridges, water supply, and the like—has been given an overall grade of D by the American Society of Civil Engineers, which regularly issues infrastructure report cards. The engineers' estimate of how much it will cost to raise the grade from poor to acceptable is $2.2-trillion over a five-year period. Such a vast amount of money is unlikely to be available over the next decade.
When the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly known as the stimulus bill, was passed in 2009, the word "infrastructure" was frequently invoked. Since then, prominent signs have gone up proclaiming that paving and other highway projects owe their very existence to stimulus money. However, less than $100-billion of the $787-billion total has in fact gone toward infrastructure construction projects.
In the meantime, our infrastructure continues to age and deteriorate. In many of our older cities, some of the cast-iron pipes that bring water to homes and businesses are a century old. Earlier this year a burst water main in the Boston area resulted in an eight-million-gallon-per-hour leak and led the governor to declare a state of emergency. Affected residents were warned to boil their water before drinking it.
As surely as water runs downhill, so will our infrastructure over the coming decade. Putting off preventive maintenance and replacing obsolete equipment are tempting ways to find cuts in a deficit-ridden municipal budget. New York City took that path during its fiscal crisis of the 1970s, and large and small cities across the country can be expected to do so in the coming years. Even if such action helps local economies recover by the year 2020, the infrastructure will be in such a sorry state that it will be near impossible for it to earn a passing grade.
Potholes know no politics; they will continue to develop as surely as rain turns to ice in winter. Bridges will corrode and collapse. Pipes will crack and burst. The physical foundations of our civilization will crumble under the weight of our complaints about it and our neglect of it. It will happen so fast that it will be impossible to keep up with its repair.
Infrastructure is a fancy contemporary term for what used to be known as public works. The change in terminology may have helped distract the voting public from seeing it as their collective obligation and a civic responsibility. But no matter what it is called, we will continue to depend upon our infrastructure for our safety and quality of life. If we do not recognize the urgency of maintaining it, we can expect the deterioration of our infrastructure to be a defining idea of what it means to be a citizen in a declining civilization.
Petroski is an expert on the history of engineering and technology, and the author of several books, including "The Essential Engineer: Why Science Alone Will Not Solve Our Global Problems" (2010); "Success through Failure: The Paradox of Design" (2006); and "Pushing the Limits: New Adventures in Engineering (2005).
Sunday, October 03, 2010
Standing up against a Chinese government that has devastated American workers, Congressman Zack Space (D-OH) voted to crack down on China’s illegal policies by taking aim at China’s manipulation of its currency. By labeling it an illegal subsidy, the bill would allow the United States to retaliate against Chinese manufacturers.
“China’s policies have killed jobs in Ohio, and it’s past time for us to fight back,” Space said. “American workers know why their jobs are disappearing. China is crushing our manufacturers by illegally subsidizing all of its products.”
“Some politicians want us to sit back and watch. I won’t allow it. I won’t give international corporations a free pass to outsource more American jobs. We are going to bring the Chinese government to justice.”
China’s government-manipulated exchange rate makes it cheaper to buy yuan than the market would dictate. This undervaluation of the yuan makes Chinese goods cheaper for Americans while making American goods more expensive to Chinese consumers and consumers around the world.
H.R. 2378, the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act, would direct the U.S. Department of Commerce to declare China’s undervaluation as a prohibited subsidy, allowing the U.S. to respond with countervailing or antidumping duties. It passed the House on Wednesday evening by a vote of 348-79. As the letter notes, the Economic Policy Institute reported that 2.4 million American jobs were lost between 2001 and 2008 as a result of China’s policies.
Writing in U.S. News and World Report, Ross Eisenbrey rebuts the notion that the retirement age must be raised for American workers:
Raising the retirement age as a way of "saving Social Security" is like the general's line in the Vietnam War: "We have to bomb the village to save it."
No, we don't have to cut benefits as a way to save them. And that's all that raising the retirement age does: It cuts benefits for all retirees, no matter the age they choose to retire. The last increase, from age 65 to age 67, cut benefits for an average retiree by 13 percent, a loss of more than $28,000 over the course of a typical retirement. And that increase hasn't even fully taken effect yet!
It's not immediately obvious, but raising the retirement age to 68 would cut benefits even for someone who waited until 69 to retire, because today, you get a bonus for waiting until 68 or 69. But when the retirement age increases, the bonus disappears for the 68-year-old and is cut in half for the 69-year-old.
And the fact of the matter is that benefits are already less than modest. In fact, the average retiree's benefit is only $14,000—less than the minimum wage. Millions of retirees now and in the future will have no income beyond Social Security, so they can't afford any kind of benefit cut. Three and a half million seniors are already below the poverty level, even with Social Security.
Why are we even debating Social Security cuts, instead of benefit improvements? One reason is that right-wing ideologues hate Social Security and have been trying to destroy it or privatize it for decades. They want benefit cuts because they see the program as socialism (or as former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson, who cochairs President Obama's deficit commission, put it, "a milk cow with 310 million tits"). Social Security does have a long-term financing problem, but the cause is growing income inequality, not the fact that Americans are living longer. Congress anticipated the baby boom's retirement back in 1983, raised the retirement age, increased taxes, and collected a trust fund that is already more than $2 trillion and will eventually peak at $4.2 trillion.
What Congress didn't anticipate was that the salaries of high-income people would rise sharply while wages for most Americans would stagnate. The limits on taxable income were set in a way that allows more and more income of the well-off to go untaxed. Most people don't know that someone making $300,000 or even $30 million a year pays no more in Social Security taxes than someone earning roughly $107,000. In 1983, 90 percent of wage and salary income was taxed, but today it's less than 84 percent. That's a huge windfall for the rich and a serious shortfall for Social Security.
What's indisputable is that Social Security does not and cannot contribute to the nation's long-term debt, so deficits are not a reason to raise the retirement age or make any other benefit cut. The program cannot borrow, so it only pays benefits that have been raised through dedicated taxes or interest earned from the trust fund's bonds. If, in 2037, as is expected, the trust fund is depleted, benefits will be reduced automatically to ensure that no deficit is created.
Americans already work longer than they did 40 years ago. And while it's true that we're living longer, the gains in life expectancy have been uneven. Higher-income men are living 5½ years longer than in 1982, but lower-income men are living only 1½ years more. And lower-income women have seen their life expectancy decline.
So the right answer to the program's financing problem isn't to make people in physically demanding jobs work until they drop. It's to make the rich pay a fair share of the taxes needed to fund full benefits. If the rich paid taxes on the same share of national income as they did in 1983, 40 percent of the funding shortfall would disappear. (If it was good enough for Ronald Reagan, how can they complain?) But they should pay more. Most Americans want to see the cap on taxable income lifted entirely. If both employers and employees paid the 6.2 percent Social Security tax on the entire salary of employees earning more than $106,800, the entire funding shortfall would be eliminated.
Preserving Social Security benefits is critical to the American middle class. Republican Senate candidates like Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky are promising to support raising the retirement age. Candidates hostile to middle class interests like Paul and Rubio must be defeated. Find out where your candidates stand on Social Security and vote for those who will protect our benefits.
The California State Council of Retail Clerks published a pamphlet about the Taft-Hartley Act in 1948. It begins:
"Let's get one fact straight from the start:
"The Taft-Hartley is aimed at you.
"It's aimed at your wages, at your hours and working conditions, at your job security. Its target is your pocketbook--your standard of living.
"It strikes at you through your union--by crippling your right to organize and maintain a union of your own choosing--limiting your right to strike and picket and boycott--by choking your rights of free speech and free press.
"You used these rights to organize your own union, to fight for a better standard of living. You used them to win higher wages, shorter hours, better conditions on the job. Your union has been your chief weapon.
"Now, the full force of the law has been turned against you--crippling your hard-won rights instead of strengthening them--weakening and, in the long run, destroying your union."
Since the Taft-Hartley Act allowed states to pass laws effectively blocking the right of employees to bargain collectively, workers have been calling for an end to this unjust laws. Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) has introduced legislation to repeal the Taft-Harley Act.
WASHINGTON,DC – Congressman Brad Sherman announced the introduction of dramatic legislation that would eliminate so-called “right-to-work” laws, which was applauded by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. Sherman has a strong record of supporting working men and women and earned a 100% rating from the AFL-CIO.
Right-to-work laws require unions to represent non dues-paying employees, thereby undermining the basic premise and promise of union membership and creating free riders – people who are exempt from paying their fair share. Right-to-work laws create different standards for union membership in different states. This results not only in confusion over the regulation of union membership, but also places a higher cost on worker representation in labor rights states. Right-to-work laws have come to be known as right-to-work-for-less laws, because employees in states with these laws average about $5,333 a year less than workers in labor rights states.
Even a conservative American Enterprise Institute scholar argues that right-to-work laws would violate international labor standards that have been accepted by most of the world for decades. Similarly, in testimony at Congressman Sherman’s March 10, 2010 hearing entitled “International Worker Rights, U.S. Foreign Policy and the International Economy”, the U.S. Department of State expressed concerns about efforts to undermine the right to organize throughout the world.
“I do not believe that there should be a right to be treated unfairly or to endure unnecessary restrictions. Right-to-work laws strip unions of their legitimate ability to collect dues, even when the worker is covered by a union-negotiated collective bargaining agreement. This forces unions to use their time and members’ dues to provide benefits to free riders who are exempt from paying their fair share,” said Congressman Brad Sherman. “These laws are harmful to states like California, which allows labor unions to organize, because now we have to compete with the race to the bottom as our companies have to compete with those where the workers would like better wages, working conditions and benefits but are unable to organize to get them.”
"With the introduction of legislation banning so-called right-to-work, Congressman Sherman has once again demonstrated his strong commitment to working families," said Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO. "Right-to-work laws undermine the economy and weaken workers' ability to bargain for better working conditions, which translates into lower pay and fewer benefits for everyone."
In 1947, Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act stripped the Federal government of its role in protecting the American workers’ right to freedom of association by allowing states to pass legislation that eliminates the ability of unions to collect dues from their members. The result is a confusing web of labor laws that encourages a race to the bottom.