We have a lot to be thankful for this year, including (in no particular order):
Union members who have volunteered their services to strengthen their communities (read more here).
All the activists—including those in Congress—working for a road map to citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans.
Connecticut and the four localities (Portland, Ore.; New York City; Jersey City, N.J.; and SeaTac, Wash.) that now require paid sick days.
The five states and two localities that have raised the minimum wage this year (California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Montgomery County, Md., [measure passed yesterday, county executive confirms he will sign into law], Prince George’s County, Md., [pending county executive signature] and SeaTac, Wash. [where there may be a recount]).
The 10 states that have expanded access to the ballot (California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia and West Virginia).
Contrary to what The Washington Post and the billionaires who are trying to cut Social Security by pitting young people against seniors say, the nation does face a retirement crisis and Social Security doesn’t need to be cut. It must be—and can be—strengthened, said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in a powerful speech on the Senate floor Monday.
Just 18% of private-sector workers have traditional defined pension plans, and even with some employers providing 401(k) plans, she said that nearly half of workers lack access to those limited plans. More than 44 million workers have no retirement assistance from their employers.
With tens of millions of people more financially stressed as they approach retirement, with more and more people left out of the private retirement security system and with the economic security of our families unraveling, Social Security is rapidly becoming the only lifeline that millions of seniors have to keep their heads above water.
But instead of taking on the retirement crisis, instead of strengthening Social Security, Warren said, “some in Washington are actually fighting to cut benefits.”
So long as these problems continue to exist and so long as we are in the midst of a real and growing retirement crisis—a crisis that is shaking the foundations of what was once a vibrant and secure middle class—the absolute last thing we should be doing is talking about cutting back on Social Security. The absolute last thing we should do in 2013— at the very moment that Social Security has become the principal lifeline for millions of our seniors—is allow the program to begin to be dismantled inch by inch.
Cutting Social Security would mean cutting benefits for the two-thirds of seniors who rely on it for the majority of their income, said Warren. It would also affect the 14 million whose Social Security benefits keep them out of poverty.
While those calling to cut Social Security hid their intentions behind the claim that their “chained” CPI proposal is just a more accurate way to calculate the cost-of-living increases for seniors, Warren said:
“Chained” CPI? It’s just a fancy way of saying cut benefits…[instead] with some modest adjustments, we can keep the system solvent for many more years—and could even increase benefits.
No retirement crisis? Tell that to the millions of Americans who are facing retirement without a pension. Tell that to the millions of Americans who have nothing to fall back on except Social Security. There is a $6.6 trillion gap between what Americans under 65 are currently saving and what they will need to maintain their current standard of living when they hit retirement. $6.6 trillion, and that assumes Social Security benefits aren’t cut. Make no mistake: There is a crisis.
She also said the call to cut Social Security “has an uglier side.” The Post editorial and groups pushing Social Security cuts, like billionaire Peter Peterson’s “Fix the Debt” organization, are trying to drive a wedge between younger people and seniors by framing the debate as a choice between “more children in poverty versus more seniors in poverty.”
The suggestion that we have become a country where those living in poverty fight each other for a handful of crumbs tossed off the tables of the very wealthy is fundamentally wrong. This is about our values, and our values tell us that we don’t build a future by first deciding who among our most vulnerable will be left to starve.
Warren told the senators, “We don’t build a future for our children by cutting basic retirement benefits for their grandparents,” but instead:
We build a future for our kids by strengthening our economy, by investing in education and infrastructure and research, by rebuilding a strong and robust middle class in which every kid gets a chance and the most vulnerable have a strong safety net.
“Chained CPI is like the vampire of American politics,” Silvers said. “It keeps being shot through the heart and it keeps reviving. The reason it keeps coming back is because it has billionaires behind it.”
Naturally, the network’s anchors didn’t much like the sound of that. CNBC is one of Wall Street’s main TV mouthpieces, and it is in Wall Street’s interest that Social Security and Medicare are perceived as “entitlements” instead of the earned benefits of workers. After all, they want our politicians to balance the budget and “fix the debt” on our backs, not by raising taxes on their large incomes and investments.
The exchange Silvers had with CNBC anchor Simon Hobbs crystallized this clearly.
Damon Silvers: We’re being really clear. We’re not going to give cover to Democrats who think it’s a good idea to take away economic security from our most vulnerable citizens. We’re extremely clear about that and not embarrassed about it whatsoever. We want a really clear message out there. If you cut social security benefits or medicare benefits to our seniors, to our most vulnerable people in the country, you are going to get no support on it. It only treating them fairly there will be any progress going forward.
Simon Hobbs: Are you as clear on the reality that if you have don’t cut entitlement benefits this country may well go bankrupt?
Damon Silvers: That’s frankly not true. That’s a lie put forward by billionaires who don’t want to pay higher taxes. Social Security is the best funded aspect of our retirement system today and Medicare’s long-term issues are integrated with the long-term issues of our health care system. Neither program is overgenerous. In fact both programs are undergenerous. The only people who believe what you said are people not counting on those programs and who are worried their very large incomes will be taxed.
1. “There is nobody in this country who got rich on their own. Nobody. You built a factory out there—good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory….Now look. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea—God bless! Keep a hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”—September 2011.
2. “People feel like the system is rigged against them, and here is the painful part, they’re right. The system is rigged.”—September 2012.
3. “Hardworking men and women who are busting their tails in full-time jobs shouldn’t be left in poverty.”—August 2013.
4. “Look around. Oil companies guzzle down the billions in profits. Billionaires pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries, and Wall Street CEOs, the same ones that direct our economy and destroyed millions of jobs still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them. Does anyone here have a problem with that?”—September, 2012.
5. “It is critical that the American people, and not just their financial institutions, be represented at the negotiating table.”—Summer 2009.
6. “Americans are fighters. We’re tough, resourceful and creative, and if we have the chance to fight on a level playing field, where everyone pays a fair share and everyone has a real shot, then no one—no one can stop us.”—September 2012.
7. “And that’s how we build the economy of the future. An economy with more jobs and less debt, we root it in fairness. We grow it with opportunity. And we build it together.”—September 2012.
8. “I understand the frustration, I share their frustration with what’s going on, that right now Washington is wired to work well for those on Wall Street who can hire lobbyists and lawyers and it doesn’t work very well for the rest of us.”—October 2011.
9. “If you’re caught with an ounce of cocaine, the chances are good you’re going to jail….Evidently, if you launder nearly a billion dollars for drug cartels and violate our international sanctions, your company pays a fine and you go home and sleep in your own bed at night.”—March 2013.
10. “Corporations are not people. People have hearts, they have kids, they get jobs, they get sick, they cry, they dance. They live, they love and they die. And that matters. That matters because we don’t run this country for corporations, we run it for people.”—September 2012.
11. “If there had been a Financial Product Safety Commission in place 10 years ago, the current financial crisis would have been averted.”—Summer 2009.
12. “Nobody’s safe. Health insurance? That didn’t protect 1 million Americans who were financially ruined by illness or medical bills last year.”—February 2005.
Visit the convention website to learn more details to follow the action at convention online.
Our country needs workhorses, not showhorses. We need depth of knowledge, not empty slogans. Most importantly, we need leaders who will fight for working families all of the time, not some of the time.
Let’s get specific. We need leaders who will protect the earned benefits of Medicare and Social Security. We need to stand firm against the relentless attacks on the essential functions of government: the unprecedented filibuster abuse, the man-made paralysis of the National Labor Relations Board, and the dismantling of our hard-fought protections against the Wall Street crimes that plunged American workers into deep recession.
This isn’t abstract. American workers can’t afford anything less. And that’s why we strongly urge Massachusetts voters to support Ed Markey for U.S. Senate on June 25.
Ed Markey has represented Massachusetts in Congress for many years. He’s been in the majority and the minority. He’s served with Democrats and Republicans in the White House. Through it all, he has consistently striven to make our country cleaner, more equal, more technologically savvy, and more transparent.
The camera at the bottom of the ocean that showed the oil leaking out of the BP Deepwater Horizon rig in 2010? That was Ed Markey. The creation of an entire Congressional committee devoted to developing clean energy jobs? That was Ed, too. New requirements for airline cargo screening to keep us safe? Markey.
It’s been 13 days since Elizabeth Warren defeated Republican Scott Brown to become the next U.S. Senator from Massachusetts. Even though she doesn’t officially assume the office until January, there’s a group of people already freaking out about the very real prospect of Senator Warren: bank lobbyists.
And who could blame them? They had a true friend in Scott Brown, who took more contributions from the financial industry than any other Senator or candidate, and who worked to weaken Wall Street reform just weeks after his election.
The contrast couldn’t be greater with Elizabeth Warren, who made her mark on the TARP Oversight Committee grilling bank execs and Treasury Secretary Geithner over their handling of the 2008 bank bailout. She’s already faced down Wall Street’s lobbyist-lawyer armada in 2010, when she successfully set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) which has already recouped $425 million to consumers.
So the idea of Warren in a position to make policy governing banks has Wall Street and K Street in a tizzy, according to Mother Jones’ Andy Kroll:
Aides to two senators on the banking committee tell Mother Jones the industry has already moved to block Warren from joining the committee, which is charged with drafting legislation regulating much of the financial industry. “Downtown”—shorthand for Washington’s lobbying corridor—”has been going nuts” to keep her off the committee, another Senate aide says.
The “going nuts” has intensified since two Senators on the committee, Jack Reed (D-RI) and Tim Johnson (D-SD) have expressed support for Warren joining their ranks. Reed has been pushing hard for Warren, telling George Zornick of The Nation “I can’t think of anybody that’s come to the Senate with thirty years of detailed knowledge of the industry…” Johnson, the Banking Committee’s Chairman, expressed that he would “welcome her to the Committee if that’s what she wishes.”
The final decision, however, lies in the hands of Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader. It also depends on the complex backroom Senate version of musical chairs, where various Senators are watching to see who takes what committee assignments before they make their intentions clear.
But let’s be clear about why the “Downtown” lobbyists are going nuts. They aren’t just frightened of a Senator who believes Wall Street shouldn’t operate like a casino. They are also frightened of a Senator who is as untethered to political party as Warren is:
Warren isn’t necessarily loyal to “Team Blue”—Democrat elected officials, their staffs, and the lobbyists connected to them. They point to Warren’s early clashes with the Obama administration’s Treasury Department over the financial sector bailout as evidence that she cannot be counted upon.
Scott Brown is still the Senator from Massachusetts until January, so for the purposes of the “lame duck” session he’s still the one to watch. But as the success of a petition from Daily Kos demonstrates, there’s a hunger for a pro-consumer, anti-Wall-Street-casino Senator among American working families – and real fear of it from the lobbyists “Downtown.”
As a candidate for U.S. Senate, Elizabeth Warren’s campaign is running a lot of ads on TV. But if you want, skip those 30-second spots and watch this six-minute clip of Warren in 2009, in her previous role on the Congressional panel overseeing the Wall Street bailout, hammering Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on how favorably the way banks were treated during the process.
Geithner and Warren are both Democrats. But partisanship goes out the window as Warren asks question over question. Why did so much money go to AIG? Why was this process so different from that of the auto industry? And overall, why are these enormous, reckless financial institutions, whose very actions made the costly taxpayer bailout necessary, being coddled while middle class families suffer the consequences?
This is why working families need Elizabeth Warren in the U.S. Senate: because she has the experience, knowledge, and passion to take Wall Street to task – in stark contrast to all too many current members of Congress, regardless of party, who think it is their duty to do Wall Street’s bidding.
For Massachusetts families, Warren is a worthy successor to the Ted Kennedy legacy in that she fearlessly prioritizes working class families above all else. But she would also be a senator for a new era, one in which “corporate personhood,” eroding worker rights, and yawning inequality threaten our country in ways Kennedy could not have predicted.
And we don’t have to imagine the kind of tenacity Elizabeth Warren would bring to the U.S. Senate. We’ve already seen it in her fight to create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which pitted Warren and her allies against the greatest lobbying force the financial industry has ever assembled. She succeeded, and in its initial months the CFPB has an impressive record of accomplishment: keeping credit bureaus honest, protecting consumers from being harassed by debt collectors, and the remarkable collection of $425 million in unfair credit card fees from American Express, Discover, and Capitol One.
While Warren’s work even outside the Senate has already resulted in $425 million back in the pockets of consumers, incumbent Scott Brown’s work in the U.S. Senate has resulted in more obstruction and unemployment. Promising to be an independent voice during his last campaign, Brown voted with fellow Republicans to block three different jobs bills: the comprehensive American Jobs Act, a bill to create infrastructure jobs, and a bill to help states rehire public workers like teachers and first responders. Had they passed, 11,000 unemployed Massachusetts workers could have jobs right now.
The greatest point of contrast, however, comes back to Wall Street. While Warren has committed to protect consumers from Wall Street’s recklessness and abusive behavior, Scott Brown is their faithful servant. He has received over $3.3 million in campaign contributions from the financial sector this cycle, more than any other member of Congress or Congressional candidate. He has repaid them by voting for tax breaks for millionaires and against tax cuts for those making less than $250,000. In the process of passing the 2010 Wall Street reform bill, Brown slipped in an exemption to allow banks to continue to invest in risky hedge funds and private equity firms.
The contrast is clear: A crusader for Wall Street and the financial industry, or a crusader for Massachusetts working families. We wholly endorse the latter, Elizabeth Warren, for U.S. Senate. Plan your vote now.
Meet Scott, a tall, handsome Massachusetts resident who drives a pick-up truck. I’m not talking about Scott Brown; I’m talking about Scott Johnson. Scott Johnson is a volunteer with Working America Quincy’s campaign to help Elizabeth Warren – Scott Brown’s opponent – win the US Senate seat in Massachusetts.
In my first conversation with Scott Johnson, he explained to me that he wants someone in office who will represent us. As he stated, that means someone who shares our values. Scott Brown may resemble Scott Johnson, but Elizabeth Warren will represent Scott Johnson. That’s why Scott Johnson is dedicating time, thought, and energy to giving Elizabeth Warren the opportunity to serve as our next US Senator.
Scott Johnson is well-aware that the decisions our politicians make can affect us tremendously. It’s clear to him that we’ve got to elect the people who make decisions with working families in mind. Scott explained in submissions to the Quincy Patriot Ledger last week:
I work in construction, and I’ve been searching for steady work since 2008. Whenever a job ends, my coworkers and I always feel like it will be a struggle to find another one. One of my friends moved to Maine and wants me to move up there for a job. I am now forced to choose between my home and basic financial stability.
President Obama’s American Jobs Act would have invested in infrastructure and education, and would have provided work for workers like me. It was a missed opportunity. US Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren has another jobs plan: one we can’t afford to miss. Her Rebuild Now Plan would put people back to work fixing our infrastructure and our schools. I’m supporting her, because she fights for us, and I encourage readers to support her too.
Scott’s letter highlights what so many folks in Quincy have told me: “Elizabeth Warren fights for the middle class / the working class / the little guy / us.” Elizabeth Warren’s Rebuild Now jobs plan will create many thousands of needed family-sustaining job opportunities for residents of the Commonwealth, while equipping Massachusetts with the infrastructure it needs to compete and thrive. Scott Brown’s image-based campaign can’t hold a candle to Elizabeth Warren’s vision and track record as a dedicated fighter for working families. In fact, the more that Working America organizers and volunteers talk to folks about Brown’s and Warren’s records and plans on the issues that matter to them (like family-sustaining jobs, corporate accountability, and education), the more folks support Elizabeth Warren.
With dedicated volunteers like Scott Johnson working to bring voters the information they’re hungry for, I’m looking forward to watching Elizabeth Warren keep on rising in the polls.
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, a Democrat, and Republican Senator Bob Corker have worked on a bipartisan bill for weeks meant to overcome disputes on an issue of high importance to the Obama administration.
One source familiar with the Dodd-Corker talks said the two may announce an agreement on Friday and release a summary of the details of their deal next week.
One key component is to put a new government watchdog for financial consumers in the Federal Reserve, instead of making the watchdog an independent agency or housing it in another agency, two policy analysts said in a research note.
But independence is key, wherever the CFPA is located—that’s a requirement that cannot be compromised or consumer protection is compromised.
“My first choice is a strong consumer agency,” the Harvard Law professor and federal bailout watchdog said in an interview with the Huffington Post. “My second choice is no agency at all and plenty of blood and teeth left on the floor.”
I suspect that even Republicans, in their hearts, understand the need for real reform. But their strategy of opposing anything the Obama administration proposes, coupled with the lure of financial-industry dollars — back in December top Republican leaders huddled with bank lobbyists to coordinate their campaigns against reform — has trumped all other considerations.
That said, some Republicans might, just possibly, be persuaded to sign on to a much-weakened version of reform — in particular, one that eliminates a key plank of the Obama administration’s proposals, the creation of a strong, independent agency protecting consumers. Should Democrats accept such a watered-down reform?
I say no.
There are times when even a highly imperfect reform is much better than nothing; this is very much the case for health care. But financial reform is different. An imperfect health care bill can be revised in the light of experience, and if Democrats pass the current plan there will be steady pressure to make it better. A weak financial reform, by contrast, wouldn’t be tested until the next big crisis. All it would do is create a false sense of security and a fig leaf for politicians opposed to any serious action — then fail in the clinch.