10 Ideas to Save the Economy

— by Brian Stewart

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich proposes solutions to some of our nation’s toughest challenges.

These 10 ideas could save our economy for the many—not just the wealthy few. We are offering common-sense solutions to the problems we face today and explaining why they are necessary and important. It’s a bold agenda—from raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, to expanding rather than cutting Social Security, to making public higher education free, to raising taxes on the wealthiest members of our society to pay for it.

He hopes to “change the national conversation and put these ideas on Congress’ agenda as well as to make sure these ideas are addressed on the campaign trail for the 2016 presidential election.”

The first video in the series, on increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, comes just hours after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in a New York Times op-ed that he would task the state’s labor commissioner with convening a panel focused on raising wages for 180,000 fast-food workers in the state. Organizers pushing for minimum wage hikes praised the move. “Fast-food workers going on strike and speaking out for $15 and union rights have sparked a global Fight for $15 movement that is leading cities, states and elected officials to raise wages,” said Flavia Cabral, a 53-year-old mother of two from the Bronx who works at McDonald’s and is a leader in the Fight for $15 movement.

People thought we had no chance to win when we first started calling for $15 here in New York City. But today $15 is the new baseline for service jobs all in all kinds of industries all over the United States. Seattle passed $15, San Francisco passed $15 and now New York City is going to be next. Elected leaders realize that helping workers win $15 an hour is a winning political issue. Helping people improve their lives and move into the middle class is and always has been a winning political issue.

The second video in the series features Reich outlining key policies that will help working families succeed economically, including universal child care, paid family leave, and ensuring equal pay for equal work.

According to MomsRising Executive Director and CEO Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner:

The sad fact is right now having a baby is a leading cause of poverty spells in the United States. Every day we hear stories from our more than one million MomsRising members about their struggles with unequal pay, lack of paid family leave and paid sick leave, and lack of access to affordable child care. These are fundamental issues that need to be addressed so our families and our economy can thrive. The fact of the matter is that our labor force is 50% women for the first time in history, but our public policies are still stuck in the Stone Ages. It’s time to catch up.

Gubernatorial Forum at Gershman Y

— by John Oliver Mason

Candidates for Governor of Pennsylvania were asked questions as a community forum held in the Elaine C. Levitt Auditorium of the Gershman Y on Sunday, March 23, 2014. The participants were:

Governor Tom Corbett and Democratic candidate Tom Wolff were invited but did not attend.

Synopsis after the jump.
Introductions

Gloria Gilman, Chair of Philadelphia Neighborhood Networks and Co-Coordinator of the Philadelphia Council of MoveOn, greeted the audience, saying,    

The coalition’s goal is to help educate voters (about) the upcoming primary, to be held May 20th-remember that date-and to recognize the importance of the role the Governor (of Pennsylvania) plays in our lives. We came together to look at the issues upon which the governor has influence that effect the grassroots of this city. We’re posing questions on issues that really matter to us, in which the candidates have not necessarily committed to their positions, or where we think it might be possible to differentiate their perspectives.

Tracy Gordon, Deputy City Commissioner of Philadelphia, spoke of a new effort of the City Commissioners’ office (which oversees voting in the city) for assuring voter turnout in the May primary.  Gordon read a letter from City Commissioner Stephanie Singer, who was in Harrisburg at the time:

While many Philadelphians vote in presidential elections, many fewer vote in midterm elections. This low turnout has far-reaching consequences. One in every eight registered voters in Pennsylvania (live in) Philadelphia. But candidates for statewide office spend less than one-eighth of their time campaigning in Philadelphia. They favor the counties with higher voter turnout, and who can blame them?

The result is statewide officials, such as governors, who don’t understand us or respond to our needs as well as they would if (voters) turned out to vote in large numbers…Every vote you cast is a vote not only for a candidate, but also for your neighborhood, and for your demographic group. Every vote you cast supports the work of local leaders who represent you. Every vote you cast  makes Philadelphia strong.

Gordon displayed a new handbook from Singer’s office for voters with questions about election procedures, and she directed voters to Singer’s office’s new website for more information. The book, said Gordon, explained how to vote by absentee ballot, how to write in a vote, and deadlines for registering to vote.

The moderators for the forum were Daniel Denvir, writer for Philadelphia City Paper, and Holly Otterbein, correspondent for WHYY-FM. “The gubernatorial election is in November,” started Denvir, “and there’s a lot at stake for our schools, the environment, and the welfare of our city’s people.” Otterbein described the format of the forum, saying, “We’re going to give each candidate one minute and thirty seconds to respond to each question.” The candidates gave brief introductory statements.

On Pennsylvania’s Refusal to Expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act

On health insurance, Otterbein said that Pennsylvania has not expanded its Medicaid rolls under the Affordable Care Act; Governor Corbett has asked for federal funds to pay for private coverage for residents.

Katie McGinty said,

You always have to look at a person’s track record… This is a governor who, as attorney general, fought tooth and nail to stop the availability of health care coverage. He’s not changed his stripes. This is a governor who has presided over ninety-seven thousand people being dropped from our health care and medical assistance rolls.

McGinty said the Corbett plan was a “voucher-izing” of  Medicaid, which means

there would be fewer people covered, it will cost more, and coverage will be less effective…We want to expand Medicaid, we want to say yes to the forty-billion dollars that should come to Pennsylvania as five hundred thousand people get that health care.

Allyson Schwartz said that the Medicaid plan the Corbett administration submitted to the federal government

creates obstacles, reduces benefits, and it hurts people who are on Medicaid or should be…As governor, one of the first things I would do is accept that Medicaid money…and we use it for our Pennsylvania residents.

Jack Wagner said,

I oppose Governor Corbett’s proposal, and I believe we need to (enroll) the five hundred thousand Pennsylvanians that need better health care…Even the very conservative governors across the country have adopted this proposal. It is federal tax dollars, that all of you have paid to the federal government, that will finance this proposal one hundred percent for several years…We are denying our own resources coming back to serve our own people.

Rob McCord called the governor’s health care proposal

immoral and inefficient… We’re depriving five hundred thousand people of coverage that’s already been paid for, with your taxpayer dollars…Medicaid is more efficient, not less efficient, than the short-term-oriented-profit-maximalizing firms in providing care to those who are currently not covered.

On Pennsylvania’s Ban of Abortion Coverage under the Affordable Care Act

The next health question was about the Pennsylvania’s ban on abortion coverage in the health insurance exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act. McCord said,

We need to make private, personal health care decisions that women and men make private. I’m as profoundly pro-choice as anybody in the country.” McCord called it “absurd that we are subsidizing the consumption of Viagra, and making it difficult for women to make their own procreative choices.

McGinty said she opposed such restrictions, adding,

I would aggressively and determinedly to overturn it.” The Corbett administration would suggest, she added, “that this is about taxpayer-funded abortions…This is about whether individuals, and women in particular, have the right to shop for and choose  the health care that is best for them. This is about private companies offering that health care that women want to choose and select.

Schwartz reminded the audience of her work in Congress

during the whole debate on the Affordable Care Act to make sure that women have access to the full range of reproductive health services that we need to use…Many of you know I am not new to this issue,

and she mentioned her work in establishing the Elizabeth Blackwell Health Center in Philadelphia.

Wagner said,

I believe that a woman should have access to safe health care under the law…But I will be very frank with everyone, I’m a pro-life Democrat, I believe that a woman should have access to abortion for rape, incest, and (to save) the life of the mother.

On Restoring the State’s Social Safety Net

Daniel Denvir asked questions about taxes and economic issues. Denvir pointed out cuts to poor people in state cash assistance, and cuts by Congress in the Food Stamp program; he asked if elected governor, would they reinstate these programs, and what would they do to strengthen the state’s social safety net.

McGinty said this approach was “wrong headed, (and) as the leader of the Commonwealth you want to lift people up and give them the ability to prosper, and this has been the opposite direction.” She called the cuts in Food Stamps “terribly wrong, and I would have opposed them,” and the federal Food Stamp cuts came along with the governor cutting state food assistance, adding “those dollars need to be restored.” McGinty added that Pennsylvania is fourth in the country in states with a long-term unemployed population.; with “job training, apprenticeships, job assistance, I will invest in people.”

Schwartz spoke of her time in the Pennsylvania Senate when Governor Tom Ridge cut people from general assistance; “It’s been going on for a while,” she said, “and I opposed those cuts…it hurt a lot of people, and it made it harder for them to be successful.” Noting her work in the Senate to extend long-term unemployment, “To make sure people can get back on their feet,” Schwartz added, “we do need to make sure that people can support them selves and their families, and that they have support during tough times.”

Wagner said,

Food assistance is as basic and as important as any (other social) program…As Auditor-General I looked at a wide variety of programs within (the welfare system), and quite frankly fraud, waste and abuse exist. But we never found that in the food assistance program,” which he called “one in which we should strongly support. We can actually save money in certain programs if we do a good job managing it, and provide more of those resources that we save into food assistance.

McCord said, “Yes, of course, I will restore general assistance for those who need it…This is really personal for me,” and he recalled his mother attending college and graduate school, and said, “I never would have thought, looking back at that beginning, that she would ever suffer from economic insecurity, but she did, and that motivates me.” Noting that “good, hard-working people often touch the edge of poverty,” McCord said, “It’s important not to blame the victim.”  

The forum was organized by Philadelphia Neighborhood Networks and the Philadelphia Council of MoveOn.org. Several groups in coalition co-sponsored the event, including the Jewish Labor Committee, AFSCME District Council 47, the AIDS Law Project, Americans for Democratic Action, the Arab-American Community Development Corporation, Ceasefire PA, Coalition of Labor Union Women Philadelphia Chapter, Bread and Roses Community Fund, Decarcerate PA, Education Voters of PA, Friends of Farmworkers, National Lawyers Guild, Liberty City Democratic Club, Media Mobilizing Project, Philadelphia Democratic Progressive Caucus, Philadelphia Jobs With Justice, PhillyCAM, and others. These sponsoring organizations submitted questions for the candidates to be asked.

Raise the Minimum Wage: Make Work Pay Once Again

— by Mark Price, Estelle Sommeiller

The top 1 percent of Pennsylvania earners took home more than half the total increase in income over the past 30 years, and saw more than 10 times as much growth in income as the bottom 99 percent, a new report from the Economic Analysis Research Network (EARN) found.

The report findings reinforce the need for a new policy direction in Harrisburg and Washington, D.C. to restore broadly shared prosperity and widespread opportunity, including a much-needed increase in the minimum wage.

After the jump: Minimum wage’s real value.
The levels of inequality we are seeing in Pennsylvania and across the country provide more proof that the economy is not working for the vast majority of people and has not for decades. It is unconscionable that most American families have shared in so little of the country’s prosperity over the last several decades.

In Pennsylvania, the top 1 percent took home 51.5 percent of the total increase in Pennsylvania income between 1979 and 2011. The average income of the bottom 99 percent of Pennsylvania taxpayers grew by 12.1 percent, while the average income of the top 1 percent grew by 125.5 percent — more than 10 times as much.

This 1 percent economy is not just a national story but is evident in every state, and every region. Nevertheless, the fact that inequality in the U.S. declined for more than four decades between the 1940s and the 1970s shows that there is nothing inevitable about the extreme levels of inequality we are currently seeing.

US & Australian Commanders-in-Chief Deplore Sexual Assaults

On May 7, President Obama spoke out against sexual assault in the military:

The bottom line is: I have no tolerance for this. I expect consequences. So I don’t just want more speeches or awareness programs or training, but ultimately folks look the other way. If we find out somebody’s engaging in this, they’ve got to be held accountable – prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period.

Stars and Stripes reports that Navy Judge Commander Marcus Fulton criticized the President as Commander-in-Chief for having made comments that might “unduly influence any potential sentencing.”

I could not disagree more.

We need more leaders like Australia’s Commander-in-Chief (see video below) who are willing to take a strong moral stand against not just sexual assault but also sexual harassment and sexual degradation. Each defendant is innocent until proven guilty, but once found guilty there should be no question about the seriousness of the charges leveled against them. If the military justice system does not understand this, then Congress should give the criminal justice system responsibility in this matter.

Chief of Australian Army message regarding unacceptable behavior

Message from the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison to the Australian Army following the announcement on Thursday, 13 June 2013 of civilian police and Defence investigations into allegations of unacceptable behaviour by Army members.
Military sexual assault survivor Trina McDonald delivers petition to Congress

Trina McDonald-who survived multiple sexual assaults while serving in the U.S. Navy-traveled to Washington, D.C., to deliver more than 215,000 signatures from her MoveOn.org petition and a CourageCampaign.org petition to Congress. Trina is calling on Congress to move the prosecution of military sexual assaults out of the chain of command. This change would make it safer for survivors like her to report their assaults.

A Metaphor for the Bush Tax Credits Destroying the Middle Class

Two years ago today, Senator Bernie Sanders filibustered the extension of the Bush Tax Credits. Ligorano Reese put Sanders speech to music by Michael Galasso using a melting ice sculpture as a metaphor to represent the middle class in this video entitled “A Thousand Cuts”. Bush tax cuts will expire at the end of the year.