More Budget Talk, and Excellent Evidence for Raising the Wage: Punching In

 

The 2015 budget

Obama’s progressive budget, fantasy or soon-to-be reality?

With an upcoming election, the new budget provides a sharp contrast between the right and the left.

The minimum wage debate

Great news for raising the wage: The state with the highest minimum wage also has the most jobs.

Medicaid expansion

The privatization of Medicaid? Arkansas’ unique, private-insurance-through-public-funding plan has survived.

Protesters in favor of Medicaid expansion were arrested in South Carolina, yesterday.

These four states are nearing a compromise on expansion.

Unemployment insurance

An interesting, and very personal look at the people who are coping with the loss of unemployment benefits.

 

Tags: , ,

Call Me Radical, But I Think A Good Budget Requires More Than “Spirit”

blog_delawareloophole

The following is a guest post from Pittsburgh Working America member Kayleigh Metviner

I participated in a press conference on Tuesday with the local chapter of Working America,  a national economic justice organization, to call for a Pennsylvania state budget that favors education and social services over corporate tax cuts.

A few hours later, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett presented his vision for the state budget, which was not expected to be anything to cheer about. Now, I am a newcomer to Pennsylvania, and I am not going to write in-depth about Pennsylvania-specific politicians and issues. What I am more interested in here is the disconnect between legislation that is both feasible and favored by a majority of citizens, and the legislation that is proposed by Corbett.

Why politicians who face abysmal approval ratings (23 percent for Corbett last week) still try to get reelected is beyond me, but Corbett’s budget proposal is clearly aimed at garnering support this year. And even though most self-identified progressives would rather drink West Virginia’s water than see Corbett reelected, his attempts to pass legislation that appeals to the majority could still be a good thing. Unfortunately, his actual budget proposal makes that very unlikely.

In his speech, Corbett said that his budget sets the agenda in the “spirit” of expanding public education, which…niceBut the state budget doesn’t have a column for spirit, and very few of us have managed to exchange spirit for goods and services.  So where is the money for education coming from?

Mainly from a highly unlikely projected increase in state revenues.  Despite having predicted a budget deficit by the end of the 2014-2015 fiscal year just a couple months ago, and despite revenue having come in short even of that projection in January, Corbett’s spending plan is dependent on a 4 percent increase in revenue this year.

In contrast, the budget that Working America and community members across the state support would see education and social services funded mainly by closing corporate tax loopholes, like the well-known Delaware tax loophole that deprives many states (except Delaware) of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

We presented this proposal before the release of Corbett’s plan because we wanted to make it clear that there is a viable alternative to empty, feel-good promises and more of the same political floundering that leaves the majority of us, in Pennsylvania and around the country, in a perpetual state of disadvantage. Crafting a state budget is undoubtedly a complex matter, but in the face of complexity, let’s turn to logical and equitable solutions, not “spirit.”

Text JOBS to 30644 to join Working America’s movement for economic justice in Pennsylvania.

Photo by onepittsburgh on Instagram

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Demanding Jobs and Fair Taxes in Ohio

The tax structure in Ohio is grossly unfair: the richest 1% pay a state tax rate of about 6.3%. The rest of us pay about 10% to 12%.

There’s a silver lining here: it means that there’s untapped potential revenue to pay for great schools, infrastructure, local government services, health care and more. To fund aggressive job creation improve quality of life, we could simply rearrange the tax code so that the richest Ohioans are paying a bottom-line rate that is closer to the rates that the rest of us are already paying. This would directly create good jobs providing vital services—and it would create private sector jobs by putting money directly into the pockets of the people providing these services. That money would be spent in businesses, who would hire more employees to meet the demand. That’s how economics works when the economy is depressed, like it is right now.

That’s the vision behind Working America’s listening tour and educational campaign around the state budget this year. We reached out to 10,000 members to see how they responded. Members were overwhelmingly supportive of the campaign: more than 3,000 took the time to write personal, handwritten letters about how fair taxes would help their communities. Most of our members are moderates and conservatives, but it doesn’t matter where you stand in terms of political ideology. Hardly anyone thinks that it makes sense, or is fair, for the richest people to pay a far lower tax rate than the rest of us.

Unfortunately, we have a Governor and a legislature whose views on this issue are directly opposed to the views of most working Ohioans. Before he was first elected, the Governor expressed his hope that the income tax would be phased out completely. The income tax is the main tax that richer Ohioans have to pay, but a relatively small share of the taxes paid by the rest of us. Sure enough, Kasich is doing everything he can to make taxes even more unfair. Hi proposed budget would have given the richest 1% of households a hand-out of more than $10,000 per year–but raise taxes on most Ohioans even further. I’m not kidding.

That hand-out was to be paid for by increasing sales taxes, which hit the rest of us much harder than the rich, and in cuts to education and local governments, including public safety. Public pressure from Working America members helped scale back the Governor’s original obscene requests, but he still ended up giving the richest 1% about $6,000 per year. This was paid for by a sales tax hike, and changes that will either hurt schools or increase local levy costs. The Governor’s budget takes money and resources from the rest of us and gives it to the richest 1%. It just doesn’t make economic sense.

The Governor’s theory seems to be that taking money from the rest of us, and giving it to the rich, will create jobs. Administrations since Governor Taft have been testing this theory for a while now. Starting in 2005, we’ve had continual tax cuts for the rich that helped make our taxes less fair. Since then, we have been 47th in the nation in job creation, just like basic economics would predict. The Governor continued with that failed approach in his first budget, and doubled down on it in the last budget. It should surprise no one that, over the last year, Ohio was once again 47th in the nation in job creation…and the jobs that have been created haven’t been very good. Undeterred by the continued failure of the theory, the Governor has continued to double down on his approach.

Working America members were frustrated by Kasich’s determination to make an unfair and destructive situation even worse. So on August 20th, Working America members, along with allies like the Alliance for Retired Americans, held a press event at the Ohio State House. We brought with us more than 3,000 letters to Governor Kasich.

Unfortunately, when members spoke to the governor’s staff about this important question, we were told that the rich already pay plenty, and were briskly sent on our way.
We aren’t deterred by this response. It is often hard to get political elites to understand how disconnected they are from their constituents, but we are strengthened and encouraged by the results of our listening tour. We’re hopeful, because we know that Ohioans across the political spectrum share our perspective, even if some of our politicians do not.

If you’re feeling like we can’t make a difference, I encourage you to join us as we reach out to communities across Ohio. Ask a few people with different political views if they think it is fair that the rich pay a lower tax rate than the rest of us. You’ll discover that you can find common ground with people you would have never suspected.

Tags: , , , , ,

Trumka Says, ‘Wall St. Has Not Been Asked to Contribute a Dime in the Name of ‘Shared Sacrifice,’ Revenue Neutral Tax Reform Is ‘Offensive’

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called on corporate America today to pay its fair share, saying, “At a time when the 1% have demanded so much sacrifice from working people in the name of deficit reduction, we must ask something of big corporations. That means “revenue positive” corporate tax reform that raises significant amounts of new tax revenue.”

Read the rest of the statement below:

We must start by ending all tax incentives for outsourcing jobs overseas, which would raise more than $583 billion in tax revenue over 10 years.

For many years, the AFL-CIO has called for Wall Street and multinational corporations to pay their fair share in taxes to help pay for the investments we need to make in jobs here at home. However we are concerned that several recent proposals for corporate tax reform do not raise nearly enough revenue because they squander huge sums of money on lowering tax rates for profitable Wall Street corporations.

Wall Street has not been asked to contribute a dime in the name of “shared sacrifice,” while working people have already sacrificed far too much.  The suggestion that tax reform should let Wall Street and big corporations get away with paying no more than they pay now is offensive.  The suggestion that such “revenue neutral” corporate tax reform should be coupled with cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits is an obscenity.

We are especially concerned that proposals to lower the corporate tax rate by a specific amount could lead to cutbacks on tax expenditures, such as the domestic production activities deduction, that encourage manufacturing in the United States.  Limiting such expenditures could discourage investment, production, and employment here in America even if the corporate tax rate is lowered.

Finally, we reiterate that the AFL-CIO opposes cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits, no matter what form they take and no matter who proposes them.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , ,

GOP ‘Ideas’ Man Eric Cantor Offers Up Two Paths To Destroy the Economy

On Sunday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said that Republicans would be open to restoring some of the funding lost in the job-killing sequester if new cuts to social safety net lifelines were put in place.  In effect, Cantor is suggesting replacing one policy that hurts the economy and suppresses job growth with another policy that does the exact same thing.

“What we need to have happen is leadership on the part of this president and the White House to come to the table finally and say we’re going to fix the underlying problem that’s driving our deficit,” Cantor told Fox News’ Chris Wallace. “We know that is the entitlement programs and the unfunded liability that they are leaving on this generation and the next.”

Actually, Cantor is completely wrong about Social Security and Medicare causing the deficit. The current deficit is caused primarily by the Great Recession, but also by the Bush tax cuts and two wars that were never paid for. From the Economic Policy Institute:

chart

From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

chart2

The deficit is already more or less stabilized for the next decade. In future decades, projected deficits are driven almost entirely by health care costs, but this is a problem of both the private and public sectors.  Medicare and Medicaid have lower costs than private insurance and have done a better jobs of controlling costs over the past 40 years.

Cantor offers a false choice that would do little to cut the deficit or boost the economy or job growth and would harm our most vulnerable citizens.  Republicans are still focused on the wrong “crisis.”  While the evidence is quite clear that what the U.S. needs most is more jobs and investment in infrastructure, Cantor and his fellow Republican “leaders” are focused on deficit reduction that economists have said isn’t necessary, and, in fact, is a drag on the economy and job creation.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Pursuing Economic Justice in Ohio

Emma Godsey writes from our Columbus office.

A lot of people here in Ohio are fed up with the way they’re being treated by Gov. Kasich and the state legislature—but there’s a way to step up and work for justice. Through Working America, people here in Ohio are forming community action teams to focus on the economic issues that are most important to them. As a member Coordinator for Working America, I’ve had the privilege of getting involved with community action team meetings in Franklin County.

Ohio’s community action teams are focused on a few critical issues, including Medicaid and the state budget. Brynette, a community leader in Franklin County, sees accepting expanded federal Medicaid funds as a key issue for Ohio families. “One thing expanded Medicaid funds will do is give full coverage to older adults, specifically senior citizens who are uninsured. Some seniors who need around-the-clock attention will be finally able to afford 24 hour care,” Brynette said. Expanding Medicaid to 600,000 Ohioans will also cover single adults without children, people with disabilities, and low income households. It will also bring billions of dollars into state revenue. Gov. Kasich supports the expansion of Medicaid, so we’re hopeful that we can get to a victory soon.
Where Kasich hasn’t been helpful, though, is on the recently passed state budget, which has a number of flaws that hurt working-class families. When the budget was first introduced, members were horrified to see Gov. Kasich’s proposed tax changes, which would hand the richest 1% $10,000 a year, leaving the working class to pay the difference. Members immediately took action, writing well over 3,000 letters to State legislators to let them know that they’re paying attention to what they did on the budget. They were able to get the word out about the problems with Kasich’s budget by writing letters to their local newspapers, too. With this pushback from members and our allies, we were able to rein in Kasich’s big tax giveaways to the rich by almost half. Another great accomplishment was getting $250 million dollars put back in the education budget.

We’re glad about what we were able to accomplish on the state budget, but we know we have a long way to go—we want to make sure the biggest corporations and the very rich pay their fair share, so that our schools and the services we depend on get the funding they need. If Kasich thinks we’re just going to accept the policies he’s pushing, he’s got another thing coming.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Standing Up for North Carolina Schools

Joyce, a Working America member, is from Greensboro.

Here in North Carolina, a very regressive Republican-controlled legislature has proposed big changes in our public education system. Their plan could result in our state having the most extensive voucher program in the nation, up to $50 million in public tax dollars for vouchers over a 2 year period.

In addition to this, the legislature wants to cut back on money spent for teacher assistants, textbooks, and technology. It’s a double whammy: the legislature’s plan will end up privatizing and weakening our public schools.

Our state needs just the opposite – it needs a strong public education system that is fully integrated, with each classroom having a diverse pool of students to reflect our state’s diverse population—and every school having the steady funding it needs.

I’m not going to sit back and let it happen. As a Working America member, I took action. I led a forum at my church on the proposed changes to NC’s school vouchers and charter school program. I helped circulate petitions on public education. I wrote a letter to the editor to my local newspaper and I called the office of my state senator to express my views.

Your voice can make a difference, too.If you live in North Carolina, please contact your state senator and state house representative about these public education issues.

Tags: , ,

Governor Corbett Pretends to Care About Education to Sneak Through Liquor Privatization Plan

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and his allies in the state legislature are proposing a plan to privatize the state’s 600 Wine & Spirits stores.

The Governor claims this plan will generate funds that can be used toward education, which we take with a grain of salt since he has cut billions from education during his tenure.

The truth is, this is just the latest in Gov. Corbett’s longstanding pattern of cutting or privatizing anything in the Keystone State that isn’t nailed down.

Pennsylvania Wine & Spirits stores, run by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB), generate nearly $500 million every year for the state treasury. These funds are used to pay for education and other public services. The stores also account for about 5,000 family-sustaining jobs, many of them union.

Gov. Corbett says “getting the state completely out of the liquor business” and instead auctioning off up to 1,200 liquor licenses to individual stores could generate $1 billion over the next four years, to be used toward “the education of our children.” We don’t believe that for a second, and here’s why:

In the past two years Gov. Corbett has shown apathy or downright hostility towards the education of Pennsylvania children: starting with his first budget that cut state education funding by $1.1 billion, so deep that teachers in the cash-strapped Chester Upland School District famously worked for no pay. On top of that, he has made giant cuts in funding for state colleges, reduced funding for early childhood education, abandoned “costing-out” studies that are used ensure poorer school districts get adequate funding, and trumpeted privately-run charter schools at every turn. One columnist called it “bombing public education back to the stone age.”

It’s also worth noting that Vahan Gureghian, owner of one of the state’s largest charter schools, is a huge Corbett campaign donor.

So no, we don’t believe Gov. Corbett when he says this privatization plan is about the education of our children.

More likely, he is interested in generating revenue for private liquor companies, shrinking the available funds the state treasury (to give him an excuse for the next round of cuts), dismantling the PLCB, and busting up the union that advocates for thousands of Pennsylvania Wine & Spirits employees.

That he is doing so while claiming to care about educating our children is nauseatingly cynical – preying on the insecurities of Pennsylvania parents and teachers to sneak through a plan that benefits private corporations.

Put another way, it’s classic Tom Corbett.

Take Action: Tell Gov. Corbett and the legislature to protect 5,000 jobs and badly needed revenue – stop the liquor privatization scheme.

Tags: , , , , ,

Pennsylvania: Pushing Back on Corbett’s Bad Budget

As Pennsylvania continues to suffer under the current state budget – a budget that tore resources and opportunities away from children, students, and people who need essential social services – Pennsylvanians are facing the prospect of another unconscionably brutal state budget. Gov. Corbett’s new budget proposal would jeopardize public school students, kindergarteners, children with special needs, college students, college hopefuls, people with disabilities, working- and middle-class property owners, and people who rely on public transit and Access to get to work and keep their jobs. Gov. Corbett’s budget takes from the aforementioned people so that he can provide tax breaks for gargantuan corporations (including a $100 million dollar business tax break new this year!).

Working America members here are floored by how backwards and disgraceful Gov. Corbett’s budget priorities are. Working America members, unlike Governor Corbett, believe that quality education and people’s basic well-beings cannot be sacrificed so that enormous corporations can enjoy more cash. Consequently, Working America members are organizing to restore the opportunities, educational quality, and human services that reflect our values, and that allow our communities (and economy) to thrive.

Working America members here in PA have been writing, calling, emailing, and organizing meetings with their elected officials to express that we absolutely need a budget that:

- Restores funding for public and higher education
- Restores funding for social services
- And closes corporate tax loopholes

Along with contacting elected officials in support of such a budget, Working America members have been writing letters to the editor, speaking at press conferences, and mobilizing friends and family to take action along with them. One of our members wrote a letter to the members of her church, inviting people to be a part of a state budget solution. She would like to share her letter with everyone:

Dear friends,
Perhaps you’ve noticed that Governor Corbett’s budget is quite austere. Proposed cuts to education and social services this year are an encore of last year’s deep cuts.

As I noted in my letter in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

I recall my school days during the ’50s and ’60′s. Parents wanted their children to do better than they, and they knew taxes for public schools would actualize that dream. Students, families, communities and institutions thrive when a country invests in the future, its children. Yet after draconian cuts to education last year, Gov. Tom Corbett wants more cuts this year.

Gov. Corbett’s proposed state budget would gut social services along with education. We constituents must ask ourselves: is the gutting of education and social services in line with our values as Pennsylvanians and as Americans?

A great and free nation acknowledges and acts upon its privilege to tend to the liberty and dignity of those who need assistance in a consistent and responsible manner. Social services are a generous and progressive tradition that express the goodwill instilled in America’s DNA and help us to realize the promise of a more perfect Union.

Would you take a moment to respond to Gov. Corbett’s draconian budget proposal by calling your state senator and state representative? Click here to find their contact information, and see the following 4 points for quick guidance on speaking with your elected officials about our state budget:

-Provide a personal comment in relation to education or social services
eg: “Fully funding education is important to me because it is an investment in our future. Also, there are many poor and elderly people in my community who need help from social services, and this community functions better and is safer when we take care of them. It’s the moral thing to do.”

-Express that we need full restoration of education and social service funding

-Express that we can afford quality education and essential social services by closing corporate tax loopholes

-Leave your name and address to demonstrate that you’re a constituent

If we each take action, even just one action, our strength in numbers will be outstanding. Please take 2 minutes to show your support for quality education, essential social services, corporate accountability, and Pennsylvania’s future by calling your elected officials in support of a decent state budget.

Sincerely,
Benita

Tags: , , , , ,

Paul Ryan’s Bad-Deal Budget

To help end the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt proposed “the New Deal.” Now Rep. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who chairs the House Budget Committee, has a different idea: call it “the Terrible Deal.”

Ryan released his budget today and, unsurprisingly, it’s a blueprint for a very different country—one in which the rich get trillions in tax cuts and the most vulnerable see their safety net cut away. “If you’re very wealthy and believe struggling families have it too easy, you’re going to love what the House GOP has put together,” notes Steve Benen.

In Ryan’s vision for the country, programs that are vital to education, infrastructure, health care and retirement security get slashed or eliminated. Most notably, Ryan continues (in a slightly watered-down form) his push to replace the guarantee of Medicare with vouchers for private coverage. The effect of this over the long term is a massive shift of costs to seniors as their health care vouchers give them less coverage over time.

The Medicaid program, which provides a guarantee of coverage to the very poorest, comes in for even bigger cuts. As Slate’s Matt Yglesias says, what Ryan’s plan does is “make Medicaid beneficiaries get by with less health care.” The suggestion, coming from Ryan, that what he’s trying to do is “strengthen” Medicaid is, as Yglesias points out, insulting nonsense.

Taken together, Ryan’s plans to replace Medicare, slash Medicaid and repeal the Affordable Care Act would leave the number of uninsured people “much higher” with reduced access to care generally.

Health care programs aren’t the only ones that face cuts. Everything from food stamps to highway funding gets targeted, in ways that impose austerity on an economy still recovering from recession. (And, just as a bonus, the modest regulations on Wall Street set by the recent financial reform bill are swept away.)

Ezra Klein, looking at the Ryan budget, says that Ryan expects the poorest to bear nearly all of the burden:

Ryan prides himself on making tough choices. But where such choices need to be made for politically powerful constituencies…Ryan punts. When such choices need to be made for programs that the poor depend on, however, Ryan is considerably more specific, and considerably more willing to inflict real budgetary pain on current beneficiaries.

What do we get in exchange for all of those cuts? Well, the wealthy and large corporations get around $3 trillion in tax cuts, although Ryan claims his tax plan will actually be revenue-neutral because of changes to tax deductions he isn’t interested in specifying, and because of growth projections based on the classic economic theory of “because I said so.”

And worth noting is that at least one expert has looked at the number and determined that Ryan’s proposal would, contrary to his zealous declarations, actually increase the deficit.

Washington, D.C. is kind of a funny town, where conventional wisdom is set by the preferences of a small political and media elite rather than by reality. And in Washington D.C., Ryan gets credit for being “serious,” “brave” and “an expert” for the way his budgets flatter the ideology of the conventional-wisdom-setters. But it takes no bravery or seriousness to pander to wealthy campaign donors and highly-paid pundits by telling them how much everyone else needs to sacrifice.

Jonathan Bernstein puts it even more concisely: “in budgetary terms, there’s no reason to take this thing seriously, or to give Ryan any points for courage.”

Politics is about priorities, as I often say. Rep. Ryan has, with this budget, made it clear what his priorities are: low taxes on the very wealthy, the demolition of the Medicare guarantee, and a government that does almost nothing to help people get ahead. Those are his values and he’s entitled to them—but the thousands of people we talk to every week aren’t exactly clamoring for less security for themselves and lower taxes for the rich.

Photo of Rep. Paul Ryan by Gage Skidmore on Flickr

Tags: , , , , , ,