This is what buyer’s remorse looks like

Polling shows massive buyer’s remorse about John Kasich in Ohio and Rick Scott in Florida, and Working America members are offering up some of the descriptions polling leaves out.

Keep in mind as you read this that Working America members don’t mostly identify as liberal or progressive. Around 60% of them are moderates and conservatives who nonetheless don’t want to see an economy that only works for the wealthiest, or government run by corporate CEOs.

In Ohio, we rarely if ever mention Gov. John Kasich. That’s why it’s especially striking that more than 50% of our members are organically expressing a visceral dislike of him. Four-letter words are frequently used to describe him—along with “greedy,” “a weasel,” “dragging the state backward” and “a Wall Street guy.” They also say things like “he doesn’t care about us” and “I can’t believe I voted for him.” One organizer captured the sentiment this way: “Bush is probably far more popular than Kasich with our members right now.”

Same thing in Florida. Our canvassers report that members are spontaneously bringing up Gov. Rick Scott up to six times per night (per canvasser). Their comments are essentially always negative: “That’s the biggest mistake we made.” “He’s making the problem worse.” “He’s doing everything we didn’t want him to do.” Many new members are volunteering that they are Republicans, and that they still don’t like him.

Unfortunately, governors like Kasich and Scott can still do a lot of damage, even with their constituents solidly opposed to their policies. But this kind of engaged, enraged citizenry could make some state legislators think twice before blindly supporting their governors’ attempts to break America’s middle class.

GE: Jon Stewart gives up

Of the top ten tax avoiders, GE has been drawing the most attention:

ThinkProgress has been following this story aggressively.

Top ten tax avoiders

The Fox pundits keep saying that corporate taxes are stifling the creation of jobs. I have a question for for them: can you get lower than zero?

Turns out you can! Not only did many of America’s most profitable corporations pay tiny amounts in taxes, but they also got refunds back from the government (refunds defined as negative income tax liability). We are basically subsidizing businesses that are already successful – “free market”indeed.

Read this list of Top Ten Tax Avoiders below, and think about the closed schools, struggling students, empty firehouses, and the unemployed workers dreading the day their benefits run out. It doesn’t need to be this way.

1) ExxonMobil made $19 billion in profits in 2009. Exxon not only paid no federal income taxes, it actually received a $156 million rebate from the IRS, according to its SEC filings. [Note: Our post last April reported that ExxonMobil was owed $46 million by the IRS.]

2) Bank of America received a $1.9 billion tax refund from the IRS last year, although it made $4.4 billion in profits and received a bailout from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department of nearly $1 trillion.

3) Over the past five years, while General Electric made $26 billion in profits in the United States, it received a $4.1 billion refund from the IRS.

4) Chevron received a $19 million refund from the IRS last year after it made $10 billion in profits in 2009.

5) Boeing, which received a $30 billion contract from the Pentagon to build 179 airborne tankers, got a $124 million refund from the IRS last year.

6) Valero Energy, the 25th largest company in America with $68 billion in sales last year received a $157 million tax refund check from the IRS and, over the past three years, it received a $134 million tax break from the oil and gas manufacturing tax deduction.

7) Goldman Sachs in 2008 only paid 1.1 percent of its income in taxes even though it earned a profit of $2.3 billion and received an almost $800 billion from the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury Department.

8 ) Citigroup last year made more than $4 billion in profits but paid no federal income taxes. It received a $2.5 trillion bailout from the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury.

9) ConocoPhillips, the fifth largest oil company in the United States, made $16 billion in profits from 2007 through 2009, but received $451 million in tax breaks through the oil and gas manufacturing deduction.

10) Over the past five years, Carnival Cruise Lines made more than $11 billion in profits, but its federal income tax rate during those years was just 1.1 percent.

(h/t @BernieSanders and @MotherJones)

After removing history, Maine politicians move to repeat it

A new bill in the Maine House of Representatives would allow employers to pay workers under 20 as little as $5.25 an hour, and would remove limits on how many hours a minor can work in a day.

The bill, LD 1346, also eliminates the maximum number of hours a minor 16 years of age or older can work on a school day and allows a minor under the age of 16 to work up to four hours on a school day during hours when school is not in session.

With Maine’s unemployment above 7 percent, state Rep. Paul Gilbert (D) wonders why Republicans are pushing to create a pool of cheap labor when so many people are begging for jobs.

“If we had a shortage of job applicants or potential workers, then you could look at other populations to ease that strain on the workforce,” Gilbert told The Huffington Post. “But we don’t have that right now. We have an excess of job applicants here in Maine, as well across the country.”

Not only does this have nothing to do with creating jobs or bringing unemployment down – it’s a dangerous repeat of history. See what co-sponsor Rep. Bruce Bickford (R) had to say about it:

The sponsor of LD 1346, Rep. David Burns (R), did not return a request for comment. But co-sponsor Rep. Bruce Bickford (R) said that the government should stop standing in the way on child labor issues.

“This is in no way an attempt to abuse child labor, which some may look at and say, ‘We’ve fought hard for kids and we’ve done this or that,’” he said. “Kids have parents. Let the parents be responsible for the kids. It’s not up to the government to regulate everybody’s life and lifestyle. Take the government away. Let the parents take care of their kids.”

Thing is, Bruce, these laws were put in place in 1847 – that’s 164 years ago – to keep young children from being exploited. And you know what? They’ve worked pretty well since then.

The bill isn’t being pushed by parents, it’s being pushed by industry groups like the Maine Restaurant Association – who have every incentive to be able to pay kids less for more work.

Maine has 7 percent unemployment and a 20 percent high school dropout rate. The last thing Maine needs to do is educate kids less on their way to receiving less wages for more work.

I’ll say again: Nothing about this will put a single person back to work, nor will it reduce the deficit by a penny. It’s about politicians doing the bidding of wealthy donors and hoping the Middle Class is too exhausted, undereducated, and overworked to notice us going back to the labor laws of the 19th century.

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Don’t Judge Me

A group of working women from all over the country convened at the White House Monday to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, during which 146 people – mostly young immigrant women and girls – lost their lives.

The women were joined by Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and Valerie Jarrett, who serves as Senior Advisor to the President as well as Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls.

One of the women was longtime Working America member Diane Stallard, who we last saw in DC when she lobbied for extending unemployment benefits in December 2010. Diane has been without stable employment for 18 months after being laid off from Qwest in October 2009 – in part due to Qwest’s outsourcing of human resources jobs to India and China. Through Working America, she has become passionately involved with organizing and advocating for the unemployed.

When I spoke to her this afternoon, she had good news to report: she had found temporary work through the Denver Public School system. “It’s a good thing they had a day off today, or I wouldn’t have been able to come,” she said, smiling.

We discussed the plans in Florida and other states to cut unemployment benefits even though the number of people out of work remains high. Contrary to what the right-wing talking heads would believe, extending unemployment benefits doesn’t subsidize laziness – Diane calls that attitude “judgmental.”

“They don’t know everybody’s story,” she said, “don’t judge me that I haven’t been able to find work in 18 months. Don’t judge me that I’ve been on unemployment. Don’t think that I’m lazy, because I can prove to you and show you the thousands of resumes I’ve sent out.”

“Don’t judge everybody, because there are a lot of people who would rather work than collect unemployment,” she said.

I followed up about the number of resumes – turns out she wasn’t exaggerating. “I have a big box…I have to keep them all for unemployment purposes, in case they want to check…about a thousand resumes over the past three years.”

On the topic of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, Diane saw many parallels with what is going on today. “At the time of the fire, the average salary was between $300 and $600 a year. The owners of the company had just refurbished their house for close to $100,000,” Diane said. “Corporate greed didn’t just start today.”


Cutting jobs to create jobs. Huh?

Texas is embarking on a curious path for boosting its economy and creating jobs.

From CNN:

Texas could see more than 600,000 jobs disappear if lawmakers adopt the $83.8 billion budget that will go before the state House late next week, according to a state agency.

Harsh spending cuts in the budget could cost more than 263,500 private sector jobs and 343,000 government positions over the next two years, according to estimates released Wednesday by the Legislative Budget Board, a bipartisan committee.

The budget cuts will also impact education, health, and social service spending.

The governor of Texas had this to say:

Perry, a Republican, said the government must cultivate a favorable climate for job creation. That includes balancing the budget without raising taxes.

So, to create jobs, he has to eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs. The logic escapes me. Ensuring that there are fewer taxpayers is helpful….how? Ensuring less education, and more poverty is enticing to business….how?

The Texas business community is already concerned about poverty and a high drop out rate in the state. From the Houston Chronicle:

The demographer who warned a decade ago about Texas’ unhappy mix of dismal education achievement and high poverty is more concerned than ever. Actually, he’s frightened.

Also getting restless are growing numbers of Texas business executives. Some don’t see much leadership from politicians or the private sector in attacking the trend line that demographer Steve Murdock says will result in three of every 10 workers not having a high school education by 2040.

The “cut revenue, cut spending” solution for budget balancing is popular in certain circles right now, and may indeed endear Governor Perry to a small segment of his constituents. He seems interested in seeking higher office, and this may help him get campaign funding. But for anyone actually looking to the future, this seems like a disaster in the making.

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Scott Walker to rail money: “I want you back”

During the 2010 campaign, now-Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) railed against government spending. Shortly after his election, he proudly rejected federal funds that would have helped build a high-speed rail route between Milwaukee and Madison.

Well wouldn’t you know it: That rail money opened its bedroom window last night and saw Gov. Walker holding a boombox over his head playing Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.”

But seriously, Scott Walker is now seeking rail funds to upgrade Amtrak’s Chicago-to-Milwaukee Hiawatha line, some of which he rejected just four months ago. The funds were then offered to Florida to connect Tampa Bay and Orlando, but Gov. Rick Scott (who also campaigned against government spending in 2010) turned it down as well. Now the money is back on the table, and the US DOT has received applications from many cash-strapped Midwestern states.

Walker’s “I want you back” declaration is the latest in the high-speed rail soap opera that has generated a lot of political headlines but not a single job.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who was Walker’s general election opponent last fall, is genuinely pleased with the news, but his fellow Milwaukee Democrat, Alderman Robert Bauman, feels differently:

Milwaukee Alderman Robert Bauman criticized Walker for applying for the same stimulus dollars he scoffed at earlier. The $810 million would have expanded public transportation to new parts of the state, Bauman said, yet Wisconsin “kicked in the face of the federal government” by rejecting the dollars as an example of government run amok.

“Now we here we’re applying for the same federal stimulus money, the exact same source of money, and somehow this is wonderful and good and this is going to promote the economic fortunes of southeastern Wisconsin,” he said.

It’s hard to be truly disdainful of a job-creating rail project. I would love to see some of Milwaukee’s many laid-off construction workers get back to work. But Bauman is right: those guys could’ve been back to work months ago if Walker hadn’t been busy posturing.

This is what you have to remember about Scott Walker and the other union-busting governors: It’s not about the economy, it’s not about jobs, it’s not even about the deficit. It’s about politics. A few months ago Scott Walker wanted to stand up to the Obama Administration and receive a round of golf claps from the Beltway GOP. But after driving Wisconsinites into a recall frenzy, he’s realizing he might have to do something truly radical: his job.

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Take action to continue unemployment insurance for jobless Missourians

From NELP:

On April 2nd, Missouri could become the only state in the country to abruptly cut-off federally-paid unemployment insurance benefits to struggling out-of-work job-seekers.

That’s because four Missouri State Senators are holding up a bill that would continue federally-funded Extended Benefits (EB) for thousands of Missouri’s hardest-hit unemployed workers and their families.
As a result, nearly ten thousand Missourians will have those benefits cut-off prematurely next week. Another 56,000 face having those benefits cut-off shortly.

The bill, which is a simple technical adjustment to state law to allow the Extended Benefits to continue through 2011, has already passed the state House. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon supports it and wants the state Senate to pass it so that he can sign it. A clear majority in both parties and the Senate’s leaders support it and want to bring it to a vote.

But Senators Jim Lembke, Brian Nieves, Will Kraus and Rob Schaaf have kept the Senate from voting on it for weeks – endangering this crucial aid for thousands upon thousands of Missouri’s struggling job-seekers.

And why are they blocking the Extended Benefits bill? They say they want to make a point against federal spending. So they have picked these federally-funded unemployment benefits to lodge their protest – for what amounts to 0.002 percent (that’s two one-thousandths of a percent) of the federal budget.

These are benefits that go to Missourians, who spend them on family necessities in local Missouri businesses. Holding up and cutting off these benefits will hurt Missouri workers and their families, and hurt Missouri businesses.

Take action here.


Paying more for less

In an effort to disguise higher food prices, companies are putting less food in the same sized packages. From the NY Times:

One shopper noticed when she made dinner for her 9 kids:

“Whole wheat pasta had gone from 16 ounces to 13.25 ounces,” she said. “I bought three boxes and it wasn’t enough — that was a little embarrassing. I bought the same amount I always buy, I just didn’t realize it, because who reads the sizes all the time?”

Ms. Stauber, 33, said she began inspecting her other purchases, aisle by aisle. Many canned vegetables dropped to 13 or 14 ounces from 16; boxes of baby wipes went to 72 from 80; and sugar was stacked in 4-pound, not 5-pound, bags, she said.

It’s stealth reduction.

In every economic downturn in the last few decades, companies have reduced the size of some products, disguising price increases and avoiding comparisons on same-size packages, before and after an increase. Each time, the marketing campaigns are coy; this time, the smaller versions are “greener” (packages good for the environment) or more “portable” (little carry bags for the takeout lifestyle) or “healthier” (fewer calories).

Marketing strategies are so cynical. They take for granted that we’re too dumb to notice.

This was the paragraph that grabbed me:

Thomas J. Alexander, a finance professor at Northwood University, said that businesses had little choice these days when faced with increases in the costs of their raw goods. “Companies only have pricing power when wages are also increasing, and we’re not seeing that right now because of the high unemployment,” he said.

The unemployment numbers haven’t gone down significantly, but we never hear about the huge numbers of people out of work any more. We never hear about job creation. All we hear about is the deficit, and how dismantling the social safety net is the solution. Even I know that a budget isn’t balanced by cutting alone. We need revenue – the kind created by having a working population.

Food and gas prices are going to continue to rise. This means tougher times ahead for those who are already hurting.

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Running government like a business?

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley talks a lot about “running government like a business.” She’s not the only politician to do so—it’s a pretty popular thing to say in recent years.

But it’s actually a pretty outrageous thing to say, as South Carolina blogger Laurin Manning explains:

The sole goal of a business is to maximize shareholder value and profits. (But making money off running a government is illegal. Is this what Haley means?) In order to increase profits, businesses must maximize revenues and minimize costs. Therefore, the leaders of the businesstate of South Carolina should raise taxes as much as possible (because taxes = revenue in government) while cutting costs (services) to the bone. Then pocket the budget surplus (profit).

And a few questions about how this would work:

  • Don’t most – if not all – well-run businesses seek to grow? Don’t Republicans want to shrink government? Isn’t a business that is shrinking an unprofitable one?
  • Are the citizens of the businesstate of South Carolina the customers? Or the shareholders? Or both?
  • Do Haley campaign contributions = stock?

Although the way Haley—and other governors like Ohio’s John Kasich, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, and Florida’s Rick Scott—have been running their states, it sure seems like their answer to that last question might be a resounding yes.