It’s an election year and we are quickly approaching the time when working families will have the opportunity to go to the polls and vote against a whole host of extreme candidates who support policies that limit rights, make it even harder to afford a middle-class life and pad the pockets of their corporate buddies. One of the “Worst Candidates for Working Families in the 2014 Elections” is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
1. He opposes wage increases, prevailing wage laws and black lung benefits. He also refuses to support legislation to secure pensions for mine workers and retirees. [Courier-Journal, 8/27/14; The Nation, 6/20/14; The Associated Press, 7/3/14; S. 468, introduced 3/6/13]
2. McConnell has voted against laws that would help stop outsourcing and has even voted for tax breaks that reward corporations for exporting America’s jobs overseas. [Senate Vote 181, 7/19/12; CNN, 7/19/12; The Wall Street Journal, 9/26/10; Senate Vote 63, 3/17/05; The Washington Post, 3/20/05]
3. He said that the government should cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid—programs the working class depend on. [The Wall Street Journal, 1/6/13]
4. McConnell is out of touch with Kentucky’s working families, who are seeing their incomes fall behind the cost of living. He’s worth more than $27 million but blocked and voted against legislation to raise the minimum wage. [The Washington Post, 4/30/14; Washington Post candidate wealth profile, 2010; S. 2223, Vote 117, 4/30/14]
5. He supported massive tax breaks for the wealthy while voting against funding to keep teachers in the classroom. He sponsored legislation to permanently reduce the estate tax for the wealthy and extend the Bush‐era tax breaks for the richest Americans and opposed legislation that would give aid to states facing financial trouble to keep teachers in the classroom. [The Washington Post, 9/13/10; Chicago Sun-Times, Editorial, 2/5/10; H.R. 1586, Vote 224, 8/4/10]
6. Instead of helping jobless workers get back on their feet, McConnell blocked legislation extending unemployment insurance benefits. [Politico, 2/6/14]
7. While 40 million Americans are being crushed by student loan debt, he blocked the “Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act” that would have enabled millions of Americans with expensive student loans to refinance into more manageable payments. [S. 2432, Vote 185, 6/11/14; The Huffington Post, 6/11/14]
8. McConnell has consistently voted against laws that would make it easier for Kentucky workers to get good pay, decent benefits and real job security. [Lexington Herald-Leader, 6/21/07; Senate Vote 227, 6/27/07; Senate Vote 243, 12/28/12; Congressional Record, 12/28/12; CQ, 12/28/12]
9. McConnell blocked and voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act, a Democratic bill aimed at narrowing the pay gap between men and women. [Politico, 4/9/14; S. 2199, Vote 103, 4/9/14]
10. Many Americans believe that Washington is broken and too many politicians are playing political games instead of coming together to solve problems for working people. McConnell called himself a “Proud Guardian of Gridlock.” [Political Transcript Wire, 2/2/06]
11. According to the Washington Post, “Mitch McConnell raised the art of obstructionism to new levels. When McConnell and his united GOP troops couldn’t stop things from getting through the Senate, they made sure the Democrats paid a heavy price for winning.” [The Washington Post, 1/30/11]
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Today is National Voter Registration Day and while volunteers around the country will be on street corners, outside of groceries stores, at bus and subway stops and elsewhere to help people register, you can get started right now, right here with just one click.
If we’re going to beat back the attack on working families by the likes of Mitch McConnell, Scott Walker, the Koch brothers and other extremists, all of us—you and your family and friends—must be registered to vote.
The AFL-CIO has teamed up with TurboVote to make voting easy for you and for your friends and family. Not only can you register or update your registration, but TurboVote will help you with absentee ballots, vote-by-mail information, finding your polling place and even sending reminders by email and text so you won’t forget to vote.
In the past few years, 22 states have passed new laws restricting the right to vote and changing voter registration rules. So even if you’re already registered, you should double check that you and the people most important to you are prepared to vote this year. Have you moved since last Election Day? Make sure you’re registered to vote at your new address. Maybe your friends have moved recently and need to update their voting information.
Hendricks appears as her Mad Men character Joan Holloway, recently hired at a modern office. She is hopelessly out of place: she can’t use the modern phones, mixes a martini instead of using the water cooler, and even tries to erase text on her computer with the back of a pencil.
When questioned about her odd behavior, she brings up a few key statistics: women make 23 percent less than their male counterparts, nearly 70 percent of minimum wage workers are women, and only 15 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are female.
“So I figure if we’re going to run our businesses like it’s the 1960′s,” she says, “I’m going to act like it.”
“Or I could’ve had a stroke…I smoke a lot.”
Here’s what Hendricks doesn’t mention: that lawmakers across the country are working to to make these grim statistics a thing of the past, and that there are forces fighting equally as hard to keep the status quo.
Like its viral video hit “Minimum Wage Mary Poppins” last month, Funny Or Die is writing the book on how to use parody videos to shed light on economic issues. But often, when you include the part of the story about the individuals and forces working hard to keep things the way they are–or make them worse–everyone stops laughing.
There was a lot going on in the news last week, so no one would blame most Americans for missing a key vote in the U.S. Senate.
On July 30, 42 Senators, 41 of them Republican, filibustered a bill called the Bring Jobs Home Act, which would have ended tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas and eased the tax burden for companies who wanted to bring jobs back to the United States.
Let’s be clear about this. They filibustered the bill, meaning they didn’t even allow it to go to a full debate. They didn’t allow it to reach an “up or down vote,” where it would’ve only needed a simple majority of 50 votes to pass.
The filibuster started as a last ditch, emergency maneuver where a Senator could stand up and talk for hours upon hours to keep a vote from happening. The only way to stop the speech was a vote of 60 present Senators. But since 2008, Senate Republicans–under the direction of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)–have used the filibuster to block everything from economic stimulus to reauthorizing longstanding funding. Basically nothing can move without reaching that 60 vote threshold.
These filibusters and “cloture votes” have become so common in the last 6 years, barely anyone in Washington acknowledges how wildly ridiculous they are. The media, eager not to blame any party or individual in particular, still publish headlines like “bill fails 59-41″ without mentioning that there were 59 YES votes, and that a 41 vote minority oddly had the power to stop the bill in its tracks.
Last November, Democrats lead by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) successfully ended the use of the filibuster only for certain votes; specifically, votes on presidential appointments like judges (but not Supreme Court judges) and key government officials. Sen. McConnell and his allies howled, as if this had come out of nowhere and they hadn’t abused the filibuster for 6 years. The media pushed this as a big event, leading many Americans to believe the filibuster had ended outright.
Some Republican Senators stomped their feet and demanded continued subsidies for offshoring of jobs unless the entire tax code was overhauled, a feat that seems, well, somewhat unlikely from this record-breaking, do-nothing, Republican-thwarted Congress.
In other words: we don’t want to change the tax code until we change the whole tax code all at once. That’s not typically how things get done.
Other Republicans protested the cost. It’s true that over a decade, the change from tax breaks for offshorers to tax breaks for onshorers was projected by the Joint Committee on Taxation to cost $214 million. That’s million, not billion. And it’s over a decade, so $21.4 million a year.
Is that too high a price tag? Well…
That’s not chump change, but for comparison purposes, the state of Tennessee gave Volkswagen $165.8 millionthis year to expand its Chattanooga assembly plant. In 2008, Tennessee gave VW $577 million to build the factory in the state. That’s more than $742 million from one state to one company over six years, or, to put it another way, $123 million a year. That’s nearly six times the annual national cost of the Bring Jobs Home Act…there’s something deeply wrong with forcing Tennessee taxpayers to spend hundreds of millions to bring jobs to their state, and, at the same time, subsidize corporations moving jobs out of the state and the country.
Blocking the Bring Jobs Home Act and giving halfhearted excuses is bad enough. The other half of the injustice is how they blocked it, and how filibusters of much-needed legislation happen so often that it gets buried at the bottom of the weekly news.
Remember Obamacare? Also known as the Affordable Care Act? With news of conflict and tragedy dominating the airwaves, recent news about the sweeping new health care law has been getting swept under the rug.
That’s too bad, because here’s the basic headline: the Affordable Care Act is working, and consumers have a lot to look forward to when the next open enrollment period starts in November.
Here’s the rundown:
1.) More insurance companies are joining the exchanges. The health exchanges set up under the ACA work best when more insurance companies participate. More companies means more competition for your business, which ultimately means lower prices for consumers.
For instance, last year in New Hampshire there was only one company on the state exchange–not a recipe for healthy competition. Even so, signups exceeded expectations, and other companies are diving in to swoop up consumer dollars. For 2015 open enrollment (which begins on November 15, 2014), there will be not one more but four more companies on the New Hampshire exchange.
That’s happening across the country. In Michigan, there will be 18 companies for 2015 open enrollment versus 13 in 2014. In Indiana, consumers will have double the options to choose from. Major carriers like United, Aetna, and Cigna are wading into California’s exchange, which they previously sat out. Again, more competition means more options and lower prices for consumers.
2.) The ACA is massively cutting the rate of uninsured. Between the creation of state exchanges, the expansion of Medicaid in half the country, and the end of disgusting insurance practices (like denying insurance to those with pre-existing conditions), the Affordable Care Act is succeeding at its main goal: reducing the number of uninsured Americans.
3.) A majority of Americans want to keep the ACA. The Koch Brothers, the Republican Party, and the health insurance lobby itself have all spent massive amounts of money on a barrage of misinformation to convince the country that Obamacare is a government takeover, a socialist conspiracy, a massive waste of money, or the “worst thing since slavery,” depending on who you ask.
But as more and more people gain the peace of mind that health coverage brings, the misinformation loses its effectiveness.
A Bloomberg poll released on June 11 shows that 56 percent of Americansthink Obamacare “may need small modifications, but we should see how it works,” vs. 32 percent for repeal and 10 percent for leaving it be. The poll also finds 11 percent oppose the law because it didn’t go far enough.
A quick survey of news clips about Congress from the past year, particularly the U.S. Senate, will yield a lot of this type of phrasing: Bill fails in Senate. Senate can’t agree on new law. Gridlock rules as Senate agreement fails. Bill can’t get the votes to pass the Senate.
So when pollsters go out and ask the American people what they think about Congress, they respond in kind. People overwhelmingly want “less gridlock.” They want politicians of both parties to “work together to find solutions.” 9 times out of 10, this doesn’t happen, which leads to more dissatisfaction.
People, for the most part, are suggesting an incorrect solution because they are presented with an incorrect problem.
In the U.S. Senate, the problem is the radical abuse of the filibuster, mainly by the Republican caucus lead by Mitch McConnell (R-KY). This forces bills to need 60 votes to reach “cloture,” instead of the usual outright majority of 51 votes.
In 1975, Senate rules changed, allowing Senators to enforce a 60-vote threshold without the “talking filibuster” made famous by Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. In the interest of fairness, it’s true that neither party has their hands clean when it comes to use of the filibuster. But sheer numbers show that since Democrats took control of the Senate in 2006, and especially since President Obama was elected, the 60-vote enforcement has been out of control.
If you glance at the headlines, though, you’d think the Senate just failed to come up with the votes for this bill. Here are just a few typical (and influential) examples:
OBAMA’S JOBS BILL HITS WALL IN SENATE (WSJ)
JOBS MEASURE IS DEFEATED IN SENATE TEST (NYT)
OBAMA’S JOBS BILL FAILS TO ADVANCE IN SENATE DESPITE WHITE HOUSE PUSH (Fox News)
Political reporters have become so accustomed to the constant abuse of the filibuster, they don’t even lead with the news here: A jobs bill during an unemployment crisis has majority support, but is being blocked from a straight vote.
The Republican leader in the Senate forgot the old saying, “all politics is local,” when he went on national television and basically said that layoffs in your community are not his problem.
On CNN’s “State of the Nation,” Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) tried to defend his vote against even debating a bill that would provide $35 billion for states to rehire or retain approximately 400,000 teachers, police officers, and firefighters, a measure supported by 75 percent of Americans in a recent poll.
“I’m sure Americans do — I certainly do — approve of firefighters and police,” the Kentucky senator told Crowley — leaving out teachers. “The question is whether the federal government ought to be raising taxes on 300,000 small businesses in order to send money down to bail out states for whom firefighters and police work — they are local and state employees.”
That’s the question, he says! Senator, I think I have an answer to your question.
Let’s clarify that with some facts, shall we? That tax increase McConnell talks about is a 0.5 percent surcharge on annual adjusted income after the first million dollars you make – which according to Citizens for Tax Justice would affect 0.2 percent of Americans. If you make $999,999, you pay $0 extra. If you make $1,100,000, you pay $500 extra.
If we’re taking McConnell at his word, he’s worried that a 0.5 percent charge on a millionaire’s second million dollars will confuse him or her, and make them not want to invest, spend, or hire. Forget the total lack of demand, that extra $500 charge will make that millionaire completely flummoxed!
McConnell isn’t just out of touch with the Americans whose cash-starved communities have had to cut core employees, raising 911 response times and increasing class sizes. He’s out of touch with the business community. A survey found that businesspeople blamed the state of the economy on “poor demand” over regulation by a 25-1 margin. What they understand better than the Senator is that when you fire someone from a job, public or private, it means they are less able to buy products – any products – and that hurts every aspect of the economy, from top to bottom.
So the question is: should the federal government help your communities rehire and retain people who are critical to educating your children and protecting your families, and should they pay for it with a charge on the super-wealthy so small it hardly cuts into their pool-cleaning budget? The answer is: Yes, definitely, and absolutely.