Chamber Manipulations

Want an in-depth look at how the Chamber of Commerce operates? Grittv has it:

Meanwhile, Think Progress details some of the tactics the Chamber has used to push back against criticism:

Manipulating Google And Blogs: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce retains public relations giant Fleishman-Hillard for much of their online communications work. Fleishman-Hillard VP Pat Cleary posts on the Chamber’s blog, and says he works closely with conservative bloggers through RedState. Other Chamber lobbyists collaborate routinely with conservative bloggers through the Heritage Foundation’s Bloggers Briefing to help get the message out for business lobbyists. As Cleary has told conferences of business lobbyists, he helps trade associations like the Chamber buy AdWords to promote the business lobby’s message. For example, when anyone Googles the words “US Chamber” and “foreign,” they see a link to the Chamber’s false response that it receives only $100,000 from foreign affiliates.

Paying For Television Pundits: GOP lobbyist John Feehery has appeared on cable television to attack ThinkProgress’ reporting, taken to Twitter call President Obama a “business-hating socialist” for calling attention to this story, and even penned an article in The Hill newspaper to defend the Chamber and lie about our investigation. Feehery never mentioned the foreign corporate direct donations to the Chamber’s 501(c)(6). But more importantly, neither The Hill nor any of television outlets Feehery appears on disclosed the fact that Feehery’s public relations firm, The Feehery Group, counts the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as one of its clients. Shortly after our story broke, Feehery was hired by another public relations/lobbying firm, Quinn Gillespie, which is also a client of the Chamber. Moreover, Fox News’ parent company is an active member of the Chamber, and hate-talker Glenn Beck met with the Chamber’s second in command earlier this year to plot the 2010 election. While Fox hosts and Beck have endlessly defended the Chamber’s secret money, there has been no disclosure of the network’s financial ties to Chamber lobbyists.

The Chamber Owns Fake News Sites: As the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard reported, the Chamber owns a variety of news websites in West Virginia, Illinois, and elsewhere, while also maintaining a wire service called Legal Newsline. All of these websites posture as independently owned and objective journalism outfits, and do not disclose that they are fully owned subsidiaries of Chamber lobbyists.


Premiums Rising Again? But Why?

Lots of people are apparently being told that their health insurance premiums are going up because of the Affordable Care Act. Let’s think about that.

First of all, when was the last time your premiums didn’t rise? As of 2008,

Since 2001, premiums for family health coverage have increased 78 percent, according to a 2007 report by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Premiums averaged $12,106, of which workers paid $3,281, according to the report.

So, before the Affordable Care Act, premiums were going up steadily and quickly. But now…premiums are going up only because of the Affordable Care Act, or so some would have us believe?

NPR takes a look at these claims.

“To the extent that the insurance companies blame the new law for rate increases, they know better,” Angoff says. “They’ve said themselves that the new law would only raise rates by between 1 and 2 percent.”

And even those increases would pay for a number of new benefits.

It is true, though, that there’s a reason other than “premiums have been going up for years”:

Insurance industry consultant Robert Laszewski says there’s still another reason premiums are rising so rapidly right now, particularly for individuals: the bad economy.

“What happens in a down economy is that people who are healthy have a tendency to drop their health insurance sooner, maybe [because] someone in the household has lost their job,” he says. “But if you’re sick, you’re going to do everything you can — you’ll take a second mortgage on the house if you have to — to pay your health insurance premiums because you think that maybe you’re going to use the insurance.”

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Our National Shame

The increasing numbers of children living in poverty and the corresponding rise in the number of homeless families with children in our country is one of the dirty secrets left undiscussed in this ugly election season.

Homeless in Utah:

The lingering recession has taken a toll on Utah’s youngest residents, leading to a 48 percent increase in the number of homeless school-age children since 2008, according to state data released Wednesday.

That’s pretty dramatic. The number of school aged homeless children has nearly doubled in 2 years. It’s not a campaign issue. No one is talking about it. There’s more outrage being expressed about Juan Williams getting fired by NPR.

In Nebraska:

The number of homeless students in Nebraska public schools increased 26 percent in the past school year as the limping economy forced more parents into shelters or other temporary living arrangements.

Schools reported 2,210 homeless students last school year, or 458 more than the year before, according to the Nebraska Department of Education.

The Omaha Public Schools reported 661 homeless students last year, an increase of more than 20 percent.

In Colorado:

School District 51 identified 500 homeless children last year, and already 275 students have been identified the first quarter — “substantially higher than it’s ever been at this time of year,” said prevention services coordinator Cathy Haller.

“We estimate (based on national statistics) at any given time there’s another 20 percent (100 kids) not enrolled who should be,” Haller said.

Worst of all is this report on homeless children from the group First Focus (PDF):

Analysis of recently released federal data shows that the number of homeless children and youth identified in public schools has increased for the second year in a row, and by 41% over the past two school years.

You’d think this would make headlines.
You’d be wrong.

Seven states saw a decrease in the number of homeless school-aged children. The remaining 43 states saw increases. In some cases the increases were huge. Iowa saw a 136 % increase.

Finally, there’s this PBS story about homeless children. It will make you weep.

It’s shameful that this isn’t even a topic in our upcoming elections. It’s shameful that we aren’t ashamed.

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This Election is for the Working Class

By Kim McMurray – Philadelphia

This election is for them: for the working class. This election is for the ones that Wall Street forgot about while executives gambled with their pensions and sold them subprime mortgages. The ones who saw their economy come crashing down around them, but stood up, tightened their bootstraps and gave Wall St. the money it needed to survive, only to watch it wasted on bonuses (emphasis on the “us”).

This election isn’t for the “us,” the Old Boy’s Club, the suits and cigars on Wall St fighting any kind of change that might level the playing field, or give a hand up to those who need it. It is not for the corporations pouring money into campaigns in hopes that the tax cuts for the rich will stay the same while services for the working class are slashed to pieces.

This election is for them. It’s for the dads that survived the first round of layoffs, worrying every night about a pink slip, only to be taken down by the second. This election is for John the plumber who fell behind on his mortgage payments when jobs were few and far between. He owed the bank $8,000. Through hard work, scrimping and saving, he managed to pay them $6,000. This election is for the day that John and his family were turned out of their home.

It’s for the moms who had to choose between making a mortgage payment and putting food on the table. This election is for Cheryl, who was told that her son needed a math tutoring program but couldn’t afford it. This election is so education and shelter don’t have to be mutually exclusive. And it’s for the man in New York who read about Cheryl’s plight on this blog and offered to pay for her son’s program.

This election is for the unemployed. It’s for every person that Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett called “lazy.” For Angela who has worked her entire adult life in management and is now applying for minimum wage jobs. Or Howard, who has applied to at least two hundred jobs in the past two years and is constantly told that he is too old or too qualified. This election is for Francine who worked hard to put herself through college and graduate school and now works ten hours a week teaching yoga. This election is for the letter that came in the mail telling her that she made too much to qualify for food stamps.

This is for the ones who don’t have any more time. We were told that it couldn’t be done. Mainstream political thought said that this year was for the Republicans, that Wall St. business would continue as usual, that the unemployed didn’t matter. Maybe, terribly, they are right. But as Election Day gets closer, an amazing thing is happening. The working class is catching up. In some key races, working family friendly candidates are moving up in the polls. Election Day is less than a week away and voters have a simple question: will you stand up for those that Wall Street forgot? Will you be on their side?

Chamber vs. Chamber

Your local Chamber of Commerce does not necessarily agree with the political positions taken by and negative ads run by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – and increasingly, local Chambers want people to know that. AlterNet has a rundown.

“I now have a standard e-mail saying we’re not a chapter of the U.S. Chamber that I have to send out a couple of times a week,” Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce president Timothy Hulbert told Washington Monthly.

Earlier this month, the Greater Hudson Chamber of Commerce in New Hampshire disaffiliated from the U.S. Chamber. Executive vice-president Jerry Mayotte told the Nashua Telegraph, “We didn’t like the fact that the U.S. Chamber was supporting particular candidates. We don’t think it’s good business practice to do so.”
The nearby Souhegan Valley Chamber of Commerce has never been a member, telling the Telegraph, “We cover a very large area, and in our towns, there is a broad range of political viewpoints.”

“It’s a matter of practicality,” Camden-Rockport-Lincolnville Chamber of Commerce executive director Dan Bookham told the Free Press, a Midcoast Maine newspaper. “We have a diverse membership of 600 people, from Tea-Partiers to Marxists. It would just cause disruptions and arguments in the business community.”

The more extreme the US Chamber of Commerce gets, the more its false claims to representing small business are stripped away. Remember that in 2008, just 19 contributors gave the Chamber a third of its revenue. Remember how it claimed to represent 3 million businesses, but it turned out the real number was more like 200,000. Remember how the Chamber’s position on climate change was too extreme for Exelon, Apple, Pacific Gas & Electric.

The Chamber represents the very biggest and greediest corporations. By contrast, the vice-president of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce says:

“This is just suspect,” says Pinto. “The whole activity of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is suspect, and their motives are suspect, and their donors are suspect. My donors are not suspect: my donors are Sabrina’s Cafe and Isgro’s Bakery. Our 5,000 members are concerned about trash and crime. That’s the stuff we have to deal with on a daily basis.”


Privatizing Social Security

Think Progress has been taking a close look at laws that might come out of a Republican-controlled Congress (if that’s the outcome of next week’s elections), and yes, Social Security could be at risk. As TP notes, after their failure to privatize Social Security in 2005 Republicans learned to hide that that was their intention. But that doesn’t mean they don’t want to do it.

In total, 47 percent of House Republicans and 49 percent of Senate Republicans are on record supporting the privatization of Social Security. Some, including Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), want to go even further and “wean everybody” off of Social Security altogether.

Here’s the list of Republicans who have supported privatizing Social Security. Read it and think about this: if they’d succeeded at putting Social Security into the stock market in 2005, what would have happened to America’s senior citizens when the financial collapse hit in 2008?

Here are the 104 Republicans in Congress who support privatizing Social Security (leadership in bold):

Senate (20)

Jeff Sessions (AL) Richard Shelby (AL) Jon Kyl (AZ)
John McCain (AZ) Saxby Chambliss (GA) Chuck Grassley (IA)
Richard Lugar (IN) Pat Roberts (KS) Sam Brownback (KS)
Mitch McConnell (KY) Roger Wicker (MS) Thad Cochran (MS)
Judd Gregg (NH) James Inhofe (OK) Tom Coburn (OK)
Jim DeMint (SC) Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX) Bob Bennett (UT)
Orrin Hatch (UT) Mike Enzi (WY)

House of Representatives (84)

Jo Bonner (AL-01) Spencer Bachus (AL-06) Trent Franks (AZ-02)
Wally Herger (CA-02) Dan Lungren (CA-03) Devin Nunes (CA-21)
David Dreier (CA-26) Jerry Lewis (CA-41) Ken Calvert (CA-44)
Dana Rohrabacher (CA-46) John Campbell (CA-48) Darrell Issa (CA-49)
Duncan Hunter (CA-52) Doug Lamborn (CO-05) Jeff Miller (FL-01)
Ander Crenshaw (FL-04) Ginny Brown-Waite (FL-05) Cliff Stearns (FL-06)
Adam Putnam (FL-12) Connie Mack (FL-14) Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-18)
Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25) Jack Kingston (GA-01) Lynn Westmoreland (GA-03)
Tom Price (GA-06) John Linder (GA-07) Phil Gingrey (GA-11)
Tom Latham (IA-04) Steve King (IA-05) Judy Biggert (IL-13)
John Shimkus (IL-19) Dan Burton (IN-05) Mike Pence (IN-06)
Rodney Alexander (LA-05) Roscoe Bartlett (MD-06) Pete Hoekstra (MI-02)
Vern Ehlers (MI-03) David Lee Camp (MI-04) John Kline (MN-02)
Erik Paulsen* (MN-03) Todd Akin (MO-02) Roy Blunt (MO-07)
Virginia Foxx (NC-05) Howard Coble (NC-06) Sue Myrick (NC-09)
Patrick McHenry (NC-10) Jeff Fortenberry (NE-01) Lee Terry (NE-02)
Scott Garrett (NJ-05) Peter King (NY-03) John Boehner (OH-08)
John Sullivan (OK-01) Tom Cole (OK-04) Jim Gerlach* (PA-06)
Bill Shuster (PA-09) Joseph Pitts (PA-16) Joe Wilson (SC-02)
Gresham Barrett (SC-03) Bob Inglis (SC-04) Zach Wamp (TN-03)
Marsha Blackburn (TN-07) Louie Gohmert (TX-01) Sam Johnson (TX-03)
Jeb Hensarling (TX-05) Joe Barton (TX-06) Kevin Brady (TX-08)
Michael McCaul (TX-10) Mike Conaway (TX-11) Mac Thornberry (TX-13)
Ron Paul (TX-14) Randy Neugebauer (TX-19) Kenny Marchant (TX-24)
Michael Burgess (TX-26) John Carter (TX-31) Pete Sessions (TX-32)
Rob Bishop (UT-01) Jason Chaffetz (UT-03) Eric Cantor (VA-07)
Doc Hastings (WA-04) Dave Reichert (WA-08) Paul Ryan (WI-01)
Tom Petri (WI-06) Shelley Moore Capito (WV-02) Cynthia Lummis (WY-AL)

*- Reps. Gerlach and Paulsen initially co-sponsored bills that would privatize Social Security before withdrawing their co-sponsorships.


The Beat Goes On


Hawker Beechcraft distributed 60-day layoff notices to 350 salaried employees Friday and confirmed a timeline by which it will eliminate about 800 union jobs.

Beechcraft is eliminating union jobs, but the work will get done elsewhere:

Boisture said that the 820 Machinists union layoffs, announced last week, will be completed by August 2011 and the work will be transferred to plants in Mexico and third-party suppliers.

Meanwhile, at Xerox:

Xerox Corp., the printer and business-services provider, raised its 2011 profit forecast and said it plans additional cost cuts, including the elimination of 2,500 jobs.

Per-share profit next year, excluding some costs, will be $1.05 to $1.10, compared with the previous projection of at most $1.05, Norwalk, Connecticut-based Xerox said today in a statement. Analysts had estimated $1.08 on average.

Cutting jobs to increase profits – a familiar story.

Profit this year, excluding some costs, will be 92 cents per share to 93 cents, the company said, compared with analysts’ average estimate of 92 cents. Xerox’s adjusted per-share profit excludes items such as restructuring and acquisition costs.

In order to increase profits by roughly 10 cents per share, 2500 people will lose their jobs.

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“We are a low-wage country”

Workers at a BMW plant in South Carolina make $15 an hour. That’s about half what German BMW workers make.

The trade debate in the United States usually focuses on the jobs lost to factories in the developing world. But the recession has forced countless skilled workers in this country to consider jobs they would have rejected in the past. They now offer foreign manufacturers a resource that was far less common just a few years ago: cheaper wages for better talent.

“We are a low-wage country compared to Germany,” said Kristin Dziczek, director of the Labor and Industry Group at the Center for Automotive Research. “And that helps put jobs here.”

But the price of having a more globally competitive workforce means more in the United States could fall well short of the middle-class living standards that manufacturing workers once could expect. Wages adjusted for inflation have declined for these workers since 2003.

This is what concerted class warfare waged on working people by corporations and the wealthiest brings us to. Now the US is a place where, even as good jobs are still leaving our shores, other countries come to find cheap labor—and our economy is such that, as the article details, “a former manager of a major distribution center for Target; a consultant who oversaw construction projects in four Western states; a supervisor at a plastics recycling firm” are all just hoping to get these $15 an hour jobs.

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Interesting Things Around the Internet

99ers in the Spotlight

60 Minutes ran a long feature on the 99ers last night. It’s a very good segment, but there’s one big thing missing: While the segment mentions the deficit repeatedly, it doesn’t mention that unemployment benefits help local economies and that putting people back to work—even if it means deficit spending in the short term—will increase the government’s revenue base and reduce the deficit. That’s a really important fact (and it is a fact) to remember when we talk about the best policies to put our economy back on track.

Still, it would be hard to watch this and not understand the depth of this crisis.