Faint Praise and Small Favors: Clocking Out

It’s a shame that “probably won’t completely shut down the government in September” is the nicest thing you can say about Congress.

FHFA acting director Edward DeMarco continues to insist that Fannie and Freddie won’t do principal reductions.

One study suggests principal reduction could save taxpayers $3.6 billion.

DeMarco may be abdicating his duty–and preventing a fix that could lower unemployment.

“Deciding whether debt relief is a good policy for the nation as a whole is not DeMarco’s job.”

What has really happened to wages since the 1970s?

Rebate checks from insurers are in the mail to millions as we speak thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

Well played, the Onion: “2012 Election Likely To Be Decided By 4 Or 5 Key Swing Corporations.”

Some Pennsylvania election workers say they won’t enforce voter suppression law. One Delaware county official calls the law “ludicrous.”

Related: Official in charge of enforcing PA voter ID law says, and we quote “I don’t know what the law says.”

Also: Check out TurboVote – it could be an election game changer.

Graphic of the day: comparing Senate Democrats’ and House Republicans’ tax proposals.

Ohio Union Members Pitch In to Help Wounded War Vet

Reposted from the AFL-CIO NOW Blog

Union members in the Marietta, Ohio, area are joining with several charitable organizations to raise funds to build a “smart home” for Army Private First Class Kyle Hockenberry who lost both legs in an improvised explosive device attack in Afghanistan last year.

The Parkersburg-Marietta Building and Construction Trades Council has volunteered the labor to build the house. The group is also working with the Gary Sinise Foundation and the Tunnel to Towers Foundation’s Building for America’s Bravest initiative in promoting an Aug. 16 fund raising concert in Marietta featuring Sinise’s Lt. Dan Band. Sinise portrayed double amputee Lt. Dan in the movie “Forrest Gump.”

Troy Ferrell, Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 972 business manager says:

Kyle has sacrificed a lot for his country, and now it is time we give back to one of our own.

The completely customized “smart home” will help “restore his dignity and freedom,”  says Building for America’s Bravest website. The home will have special features to assist with Hockenberry’s mobility. A prior “smart home” built through Sinise’s foundation was controlled through an iPad. Watch the YouTube video on the special features here.

Tickets for the concert at Marietta College are available here and you can click here to make a donation.

Voters First Ohio Pounds the Pavement, Delivers 750,000 Signatures for Fair Districts

Voters First, the coalition community groups backing a fair districts amendment for Ohio, announced Saturday night that it collected over 750,000 signatures, all but assuring a place on the November ballot.

Working America organizers and members were among those pounding the pavement, showing up with clipboards at everywhere from zoos to parades to Cleveland Indians games, talking to Ohioans about how a fair district amendment would make politicians more accountable to their constituents.

It was a close call. On the first July 3 deadline, Voters First turned in an initial batch of 450,000 signatures – only 385,000 were required. Unfortunately, a review from the Secretary of State’s office invalidated nearly half of the signatures.

Things looked bleak, but organizers and volunteers put the pedal to the metal to gather an additional 300,904 signatures before the final July 29 deadline. With 750,000 in, there’s a strong chance that the initiative will clear the threshold and Ohio will get to make their voice heard on adding a Fair Districts amendment to the state constitution.

This effort wasn’t backed by a political party, or by an influx of SuperPAC dollars. It was powered by citizens like Mary Ann from Cleveland, who attended or helped organize 12 signature gathering events. It was built by Nancy in Painesville, who redoubled her efforts after the initial July 3 disappointment and helped push the initiative over the edge. It was supported by Sylvia, another Clevelander who hosted meetings in her home to get her friends and neighbors involved.

All the volunteers who showed up at Farmers Markets, drive-thrus, grocery stores, libraries, and sports games with petitions in hand helped make this happen.

We’ll keep you updated as the signatures move through the approval process. Until then, a hearty congratulations to Voters First, the League of Women Voters, Mary Ann, Nancy, Sylvia, and the rest of the great team that is fighting to give power back to the people.

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99 and Counting: Clocking Out

“We should be more concerned with maximizing the franchise, not restricting it.

There’s a reason that Republican leaders in key swing states are pursuing these laws so hard right now.

Media watchdog to reporters: you know what the voter suppression push is about. So why not say it?

Related: Pennsylvania’s new voter-restricting law could have flipped the outcome of the 2008 presidential election in the state.

99 days away–or sooner? Early voting will be key this year.

A new study shows that the for-profit college industry is heavy on taxpayer dollars, light on actual college degrees.

What can we do to help lower mortgage principal for underwater homeowners? A terrific read.

Related: Could the Obama administration enact Sen. Merkley’s refinancing plan without Congress?

Romney’s plan would slow or even reverse economic growth in the near term.

A personal health crisis really illuminates how important the Affordable Care Act is.

How Israel holds health care costs in check.

Capital One pays $12 million in fines after violating the rights of members of the armed forces.

“The first thing needed if we’re to get people out of poverty is more jobs that pay decent wages.”

Fortune 500 CEOs are giving to Romney by a 4-to-1 margin over Obama.

Graphic of the day: “too big to fail,” in charts.

9 to 5? More like 24/7

In case you missed it, Working America launched a new workplace advice column called Dear David, named after our Organizing Director David Wehde. If you have a workplace question and feel like you have nowhere else to turn, submit your question here. For more great answers, check out our archive. -Doug

I have a lot of responsibility; it changes frequently and requires a lot creativity. I love my job. However, it’s also the kind of job that I could be working 24/7. I’m constantly drawn into long days and work at odd hours, and more and more I’m left with the feeling that I just can’t keep up. I’m beginning to feel the strain. How do I keep from hitting the wall?
— Working for the Weekend… That Never Comes, Portland

Answer:

OK, are you giving yourself any time to relax, take a break? If not, spend five minutes now looking at adorable pictures of kittens and puppies here: http://cuteoverload.com/

Seriously, I bet if you talked to friends, family, coworkers, you would find that a lot of people are struggling with the same question. It could be you—do you take on more than is realistic for the time, skills, or experience that you have? That’s a pretty easy trap to fall into if you are eager to please or don’t have a clear sense of your own limits.

If you’re not into blaming yourself, talk to some co-workers.  It could be you can modify this punishing workplace culture with a few of you leading by example.  And check out your company’s policies on work hours – it could be you’ve got back-up there.

But you may need to join up with national efforts to restore sanity to work hours.  In the U.S. we’ve got the WORST employment policies when it comes to hours in the industrialized world.  Check out Family Values @ Work for a way to get paid sick days the law of the land.

Reposted from Dear David

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Happy Birthday, Medicare!

It was 47 years Ago today that President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the two bills that created Medicare and Medicaid, guaranteeing health care coverage to retirees and people in poverty.

The new laws led to a dramatic decline in poverty rates among senior citizens and a broadening of health care coverage for the most vulnerable people across the country. It’s a major accomplishment that’s worth celebrating—and protecting.

The Strengthen Social Security campaign has a great set of reports coming out that detail how these laws affect each state. That’s not just a set of statistics—that’s parents and grandparents, friends and neighbors who have basic health care coverage.

Unfortunately, the debate over Medicare isn’t settled. After all, Rep. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who chairs the budget committee, has targeted the guarantee of Medicare for demolition. The proposal Ryan wrote—the proposal which passed the U.S. House this year and which Mitt Romney has endorsed—would replace Medicare with a voucher system that would radically shift costs towards retirees and drastically cut Medicaid. Ryan has pulled the Republican Party hard to the right with his zeal for privatization—and Medicare and Medicaid, two critical safety nets, are the next target of his crusade to “radically curtail the government’s role in protecting citizens from life’s misfortunes.”

And one key piece of moving us towards health care access that’s truly universal is the Medicaid expansion in the Affordable Care Act. It would save lives by giving coverage to millions who currently fall through the cracks. That’s now under threat from governors like Florida’s Rick Scott, Texas’ Rick Perry and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, who put a much higher value on scoring ideological points than they do on expanding health care coverage.

So it’s a very happy 47th birthday for Medicare and Medicaid—but we’re going to have to fight hard to make sure they get to see 48.

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The Dark Money Rises: Punching In

Voters First Ohio comes in with enough signatures for Fair Districts amendment.

Another reason to thank Obama for bold action on the auto rescue: Michigan’s recovery outpacing the rest of the country.

The U.S. Olympic team might’ve worn Chinese-made uniforms on Friday. But the uniforms for the Russian gymnastics team? Made in Pennsylvania.

Related: Why are American bridges being made with Chinese steel?

If Gov. Kasich joins fellow governors in rejecting Medicaid expansion, it could leave 600,000 Ohioans uninsured.

Former Florida GOP chair: We wanted to keep African-Americans from voting.

Related: If “provisional ballots” become this year’s “hanging chads,” Ohio could be this year’s Florida.

AFT unanimously passes new resolution on testing.

Report: 5 food companies run by anti-worker right-wingers.

Undisclosed election spending in 2012 election hits $172 million – more than half of all independent spending.

Clocking Out: The Old College Tie Edition

Oh, for heaven’s sake…looking at the chances of an Electoral College tie.

(Incidentally, who wins in the case of an Electoral College tie? The newly-elected U.S. House.)

The GDP report explained in six charts.

Who is affected by Pennsylvania’s new voter suppression law?

Many Pennsylvanians may not have the right ID to vote under the law, even if they think they do.

Early voting will be more important than ever this year.

Republican Senate candidate in Ohio is invested in funds betting against U.S. treasury bonds–which would mean he would profit from a default.

Dark money nonprofits” like Karl Rove’s Crossroads are looking for new loopholes to keep their donors secret and stay on the air.

Sanford Weill, former Citigroup CEO, explains why he now thinks it’s time to break up the big banks.

Occupy Our Homes stops a Bank of America foreclosure auction in Minnesota.

Corporations are paying out less and less of their money in wages.

Debunking the myths that minimum wage opponents rely on.

Fox News reporting on the economy isn’t remotely true.

Why don’t more reporters understand how taxes work?

What did Romney learn from the Bush years?

Song for the Day: Mountain Goats, “Old College Try”:

We Need to Do More to Boost Lackluster Growth

Today the latest numbers are out on the economy, and the best word to describe it is “lousy.” The Department of Commerce reports that GDP—the measure of the total output of goods and services in the country—only grew by 1.5% over the last three months. The economy isn’t collapsing like it was at the end of 2008, but it’s also not growing quickly enough to help pull us out of the hole that recession put us in.

The reason for it is clear, as one economist tells CNN:

“The outlook is very bleak from a consumer’s perspective,” said Wells Fargo economist Sam Bullard. “We’re seeing such weak job and income growth right now, there’s not a lot to propel consumers forward.”

This isn’t just an abstract statistic to our members. We talk to thousands of people every week, and they don’t need an economist looking at a chart to tell them what’s wrong; they’re living it.

One reason for the weakness is that we’ve lost hundreds of thousands of jobs in education, safety and other public services. That doesn’t just affect people who lose those jobs—it hurts their local businesses and the people they’re now competing against in the job market. As Paul Krugman puts it, this is “an economy hobbled by premature austerity.”

Another reason is that we still have a long way to go to fix the housing crisis. Too many working people are being held back by big payments on underwater mortgages, and foreclosures are still devastating families and neighborhoods.

You’ll hear a lot of people talking today about how the economic sluggishness is due to deficits, or regulation of corporations, or even people not being nice enough to the wealthy. These people, to put it politely, are not entirely respectful of your intelligence. The broad consensus of economists is that this storyline has no connection to reality. Indeed, Romney’s agenda is upside-down from what we need to fix the near-term challenges and could even make things worse:

There’s nothing in these policies which would deal with the immediate economic problem — a significant lack of aggregate demand…you actually have a plan to contract the economy.

So what do we need to do about it? For starters, we should be passing a plan like the American Jobs Act—provisions of which were repeatedly filibustered by Senate Republicans last year. That would have put hundreds of thousands of people back to work in schools, fire stations, police stations and infrastructure projects. We also need to be doing more to keep people in their homes, including by reducing the principal on their mortgages to their homes’ actual value.

These are things we can do—but they’re being actively blocked by members of Congress whose economic theories take place in a fantasy world.

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Clocking Out: ReBushification Edition

George W. Bush 2.0:” “When he’s forced to get specific, [Romney’s] solution to the practical problem is the standard Republican agenda.”

“His advisors are nearly identical to the ones who staffed the Bush administration, and helped bring the economy to its knees in 2008.”

Speaking of George W. Bush 2.0, a great profile of the ways Bush’s top political operative Karl Rove is trying to buy elections in 2012.

Yesterday’s vote on taxes in the Senate was both democratic and sensible–and it “exposes the true priorities of the Republicans.”

Some relief may be available for Ohioans who have faced wrongful foreclosure.

93-year-old Vivian Applewhite testifies in Harrisburg about how Pennsylvania’s voter suppression law hurts her.

Payday lenders in Missouri have dumped $1.6 million into buying political influence.

“Lowered wages for factory workers push down wages for almost everybody else…This declining purchasing power explains why the recession happened.”

House Democrats introduce a bill to increase the minimum wage to $9.80.

Study: the Medicaid expansion could save lives.

Walmart accused of firing two employees for speaking out.

Do ALEC-backed policies help boost a state’s economic growth? No.

Related: Walgreen’s and GM drop their ALEC membership.

Banking exec Sanford Weill has a change of heart, reviving the debate over “too big to fail” banks.

Neil Barofsky, former TARP inspector general and author of the new book Bailout, says Americans are right to be angry about financial misconduct and the failure to rein in the banks.

Watch: Ezra Klein interviews Barofsky about Wall Street’s power in Washington.

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