Tag Archives: politics

NH State House Watch

A service of the American Friends Service Committee, we publish it here for your easy review.  You can also access this through the AFSC website and also by requesting to receive this summary by email at the AFSC website.

2017, Issue 2

In this issue:

Chris Sununu, our new governor, was officially sworn in yesterday and took the place of Maggie Hassan on the state’s web-site as well as in the corner office of the State House.  The website includes his bio, but not his inaugural speech, which he delivered without a prepared text.

Lacking that, we recommend this recap from our friends at NH Labor News.

In his campaign and again in the inaugural speech, Sununu was clear that enacting “right-to-work” legislation would be one of his top priorities.  For now, suffice it to say, “right to work” is fundamentally about weakening the power of organized labor by obstructing the human rights of workers to organize and bargain collectively.  In so doing, it obstructs the ability of all workers to earn decent wages.  For that matter, it also obstructs the rights of employers to bargain with their workers as they see fit.

We can’t decide if “right to work for less” or “work without rights” is a better name for the legislation in question.  Let us know which you prefer, but the key point for now is that the first item on the Senate Calendar for the coming week is a hearing Tuesday at 1 pm on SB 11, the first “right to work” bill.  See below for details, and we hope to see you at the State House then.

A recent story about the first baby of the year born in Concord revealed that the baby’s father was fired from his job because he went to the hospital with his wife when she went into labor. That this is happening at a time when our new governor and legislative leaders says they support a “right to work” is an almost cosmic coincidence. The IBEW, a union representing electrical workers, has offered the newly unemployed new father the opportunity to apply for a paid apprenticeship.

This story underscores the need for workers in our state to have more of job protections and opportunities provided through the kind of collective bargaining agreements that will be illegal if “right to work” becomes law.

Some 40 members of NH Voices of Faith were in the hallways before the inauguration carrying signs bearing messages such as, “Attacks on Workers’ Rights are Wrong” and “Protect Voting Rights for All; We Shall Not Be Moved.”

Gun Rights and Voting Rights

Also high on the political agenda is the so-called “constitutional carry” provision, which would repeal the current licensing requirement for carrying a concealed handgun. That will also come up next week.  We are more than disturbed that the ability to carry weapons without registration is being lifted up as a fundamental right at the same time the ability of citizens to register to vote is facing increasing restrictions.

Debates Over House Rules

The House met for its first session Wednesday and cast two interesting votes rejecting rule changes proposed by the Speaker.  The very first vote of the session was on whether or not to institute a dress code via a rule stating, “When the House is in session, all persons in the House chamber shall be dressed in proper business attire.”  The orientation manual for legislators (which apparently does not constitute “rules”) already states, “It is expected that all members will wear suitable attire. Men are expected to wear suit jackets and ties and women are expected to wear business attire.”  In any case, the new dress code language was voted down, in a roll call vote of 151-213, thus eliminating the need for a vice-principal to enforce it and send offenders home.

On a more serious note, a proposal from the Speaker and his leadership team to eliminate the Child and Family Law Committee was voted down, 192-172. In recent sessions, the committee has often been a venue for contentious grievances over personal custody disputes, which prompted the push to abolish it and disperse its responsibilities to other committees.  But the Division of Children, Youth, and Families is under serious scrutiny following the deaths of two toddlers who were killed by their mothers while under DCYF supervision, and an independent review of the agency has recommended many changes, including hiring more than two dozen social workers. With that on the minds of House members, the majority dissented from the proposal to eliminate the Child and Family Law Committee. This week’s House Calendar names the new members of the committee, which will presumably have a lot to say about how the state will overcome the short-comings identified in the report.  We wish them well, and hope for a state budget that provides adequate funding.

Also of note was a proposed amendment to House Rule 100, which would mean that lobbyists would not be able to testify before House committees until after constituents finished their testimony. This change was soundly defeated, in a roll call vote of 121-242. Leadership on both sides were opposed.

There are no House or Senate voting sessions scheduled at this time. There are many new legislators taking office this session, so next week most committees are having orientation sessions.

Coming up in Senate Committees

Tuesday, January 19
Judiciary, Room 100, SH
9:00 AM  SB 12, an act repealing the licensing requirement for carrying a concealed pistol or revolver.  This bill is back, and has been mentioned as a priority by Governor Sununu. The Senate is starting the new year off with a bang.

Commerce, Representatives Hall 

1:00 PM SB 11,  prohibiting collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join or contribute to a labor union.  This is the first of 2017’s “Right to Work for Less” (or “Work without Rights”) bills.  In addition to Governor Sununu, the proposal has backing from Americans for Prosperity, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and other anti-worker lobbying groups.  The concept originated with white supremacists in the 1930s as a way to prevent black and white workers from uniting.  States were given authority to implement “right to work” by the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act in 1947.  AFSC-NH has consistently opposed this going back to 1979.  We’ll have more to say on this soon.

Pro-worker groups, including NH Voices of Faith, will gather in the hallway outside Representatives Hall from noon to 1 pm.

Coming up in House Committees

Tuesday, January 10

Election Law, Room 308, LOB

11:50 AM HB 218, relative to activities at polling places. This bill would prohibit the distribution of campaign materials and electioneering inside the polling place.

12:10 PM HB 253, relative to campaign materials at the polling place.  This one eliminates the prohibition on wearing campaign materials intended to influence voters at the polling place.

House Finance and Ways and Means Joint Hearing with Senate Finance and Ways and Means in Rooms 210-211
10:00 AM  The first in a series of economic and fiscal briefings on the way to creating the next state budget. These hearings will be held twice a week for at least the next few weeks. Information about the presentations can be found in the House Calendar.

Legislative Administration, Room 104, LOB

9:20 AM HB 110, requiring members of the press covering the legislature to wear name tags when in the House or the LOB.  The bill states, “each member of the press corps covering the proceedings of the general court shall wear on his or her outer garment a clearly visible name tag when working in the state house or the legislative office building.  The name tag shall consist of the person’s first and last name and the name of the person’s organization.”  Arnie and Maggie are already required to wear lobbyist badges when they are at the State House. As the publishers of State House Watch and co-hosts of “State House Watch Radio,” would they be required to wear a media badge as well?  SHW researcher Susan Bruce also writes a newspaper column, has a blog, and is the co-host of “The Attitude” on WNHN-FM. Would she be required to wear 4 media badges, or one big badge with a list?  We don’t know.  But Arnie remembers that the last time a bill of this nature was proposed, members of the State House press corps said that if it were to pass they would comply by wearing their name tags on their posteriors.

10:30 AM HCR 2, a resolution supporting efforts to ensure that students from NH have access to debt-free higher education at public colleges and universities.

11:00 AM HB 95, establishing a committee to study the feasibility of transferring authority over the university system of NH’s budget to the legislature.  Can you say “micro-management?”

Wednesday, January 11

Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Room 302, LOB

1:15 PM HB 279.  This bill makes changes to the indoor smoking act.  Under this bill, smoking would not be prohibited in public conveyances that are privately owned (we think that means taxis), restaurants, grocery stores, and cocktail lounges. Smoking would be prohibited in privately owned residences where the owner has declared smoking prohibited.  This leaves us wordless – and potentially breathless.

Criminal Justice and Public Safety, Room 204, LOB

2:30 PM HB 282 This changes prison work release provisions to add the pursuit of higher education as a potential condition for early release. Citizens for Criminal Justice Reform, which backs this bill, points out that “The bill gives the Commissioner of Corrections authority to approve this work or school release for a prisoner, even if he or she cannot afford a lawyer.”

Thursday, January 12

Education, Room 207, LOB

1:00 PM  HB 155, which increases funding for pupils attending all-day kindergarten.

The Return of “State House Watch Radio”

Our first radio show of the new year will be Monday, January 9, on WNHN-FM from 5 to 6 pm.  Our guest will be Andru Volinksy, who was sworn in yesterday as a member of the Executive Council.  You can catch us live at 94.7 FM in the Concord area or live-streamed at www.wnhnfm.org.  The show will be re-broadcast at 8 AM on Tuesday.  Podcasts will also be available shortly after the show, thanks to Fred Portnoy, our producer.

Announcements and Events

Saturday, January 7, 2017

PORTSMOUTH – “Keeping it Peaceful,” an introduction to nonviolent protest with Arnie Alpert, 10 AM to noon, at South Church, Portsmouth.  This workshop is being organized for participants in the January 21 women’s march, but others are welcome to attend.  Please register here so we can estimate how many people will be there.

Sunday, January 8

PORTSMOUTH – Civil Rights Sundays, a weekly protest in Market Square, Portsmouth, hosted by Occupy NH Seacoast, focused on opposition to the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions to be U.S. Attorney General.  From 3-4 PM.  Info on Facebook.

Tuesday, January 10

NASHUA – “Electing a President: Popular Vote or Electoral College?,” a talk hosted by the League of Women Voters of Greater Nashua, Nashua Public Library, 2 Court St., Nashua, 7 PM.  Info on Facebook.

Thursday, January 12

CONCORD – “Know Your Rights as a Worker,” a free, interactive workshop sponsored by AFSC, 6 to 8 PM at NH Catholic Charities, 176 Loudon Road, Concord.  More info on Facebook.

CONCORD – “Learning from History: the Nashville Sit-In Campaign,” a workshop with Joanne Sheehan of the War Resisters League, 6:45 to 9 PM at the Concord UU Church, 274 Pleasant Street, Concord NH.  Sponsored by the Building a Culture of Peace Forum.  Free and open to the public, with donations accepted.   More info on the web, on Facebook, or by calling LR Berger at (603) 496-1056.

Friday, January 13

CONCORD – “Investing in New Hampshire’s Future: Strategies to Maintain a Strong Workforce and a Vibrant Economy,” the NH Fiscal Policy Institute’s 4th annual budget and policy conference, 8:30 AM to 4 PM at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord.  See more here.

Monday, January 16, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

MANCHESTER– Martin Luther King Day Community Celebration, St. George Greek Orthodox Community Center, 650 Hanover Street, Manchester, 2 to 5 PM.  Robert Azzi will be the guest speaker.  Eva Castillo will receive the 2017 Martin Luther King Award.  Info on Facebook or at www.mlknh.org.

MLK Day events will also take place in Exeter, Hollis, Hanover, and elsewhere.  Watch this space for updates.

Friday, January 20

CONCORD–“Vigil of Hope and Concern” at the time Donald Trump takes the oath of office.  Meet in front of State House 11:30 to 11:45 AM, silent vigil noon to 12:15 PM, followed by gathering and facilitated discussion at 4 Park Street.  Sponsored by AFSC, UCC Justice and Witness Ministries, Pace e Bene/Campaign Nonviolence, NH Peace Action, and the Equality Center.

Saturday, January 21

CONCORD–NH Women’s Day of Action and Unity. “We will unite at the New Hampshire State House in Concord in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington and in support of our rights, our safety, our health, our families, and our environment. Together, we will send a message to elected officials in New Hampshire and Washington, D.C. that we will stand together to protect the progress we’ve made. We won’t go back!”  10 AM to 3 PM.  More info here.

With very best wishes,
Maggie and Arnie

PS – Don’t forget to “like” us on Facebook.  Search for “American Friends Service Committee-NH” to “like” us.  After all, we are your Friends.

AFSC’s New Hampshire “State House Watch” newsletter is published to bring you information about matters being discussed in Concord including housing, the death penalty, immigration, and labor rights.  We also follow the state budget and tax system, voting rights, corrections policy, and more.

The AFSC is a Quaker organization supported by people of many faiths who care about peace, social justice, humanitarian service, and nonviolent change.  Arnie Alpert and Maggie Fogarty direct the New Hampshire Program, publish the newsletter, and co-host the “State House Watch” radio show on WNHN-FM.  Susan Bruce is a State House Watch researcher and writer.  Fred Portnoy produces the radio show.

“State House Watch” is made possible in part by a grant from the Anne Slade Frey Charitable Trust.

Your donations make our work possible.  Click the “DONATE” button on our web page to send a secure donation to support the work of the AFSC’s New Hampshire Program.  Thanks!

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , ,

Why We Need a 28th Amendment

by Sam Sholi

With Congress’ approval rating at a resoundingly low 9% amongst American citizens according to a survey by Public Policy Polling, it can be assumed that the American people have finally become conscious of the fact that the U.S’ political system, or at least those within it, no longer work in their interests.

Now that Congress is less popular than traffic jams, head lice, cockroaches and colonoscopies (according to the same survey), one can’t help but wonder what has driven Congress to appear so incompetent and to be subject to such an intense level of dissatisfaction amongst U.S citizens.

The answer is clear – the major influence of corporations, lobbyists, and wealthy campaign donors has resulted in ensuring that a vast number of American politicians are now nothing more than mouthpieces for the highest earners and biggest businesses in America. This problem is compounded by the U.S Supreme Court decision in the case of Citizens United V Federal Electoral Commission in 2010, where it ruled corporations have the same First Amendment rights as people and therefore can make unlimited campaign contributions during election campaigns.

The Center for Responsive Politics (a nonpartisan, independent and nonprofit research organization dedicated to tracking money in U.S politics and its effect on elections and public policy), cited that statistically, even in the most competitive cycles during congressional elections, on average the candidates who spend the most on their campaigns usually win eight of 10 Senate contests and nine of 10 House races. The evidence conclusively proves that the defining factor in deciding who sits in Congress no longer bears any relation to your ideology, whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, or whether you are a liberal or conservative. It’s all about the money!

desjarnis rep pic

Rep. Desjarlis (R) Tennessee – a product of the system’s flaws

The effect of this has been disastrous. The fact that these politicians are predominantly elected because they can afford to run superior election campaigns means that sometimes American congressmen and senators will be elected despite being simply unfit to do their job. The most notable example of this being how last year Congressman Scott Desjarlais (TN, 4th District) was re-elected – a  Republican who was disgraced during last year’s congressional elections for having multiple mistresses and requesting one of them to have an abortion, despite running his campaign on being a pro-life, pro-family values candidate. Of course, Dejarlais spent more money than his rival for his seat.

The second problem that arises under this current system is the fact that several U.S politicians are no longer acting based on their own instincts, but for their donors. Is it really a coincidence that Gun rights groups have given more than $17 million in individual, PAC and soft money contributions to federal candidates and party committees since 1989, yet we still have failed to see any serious gun-control measures despite public outcry for it after every mass shooting in the last 25 years?

The only way to avoid this problem will be to introduce a 28th Constitutional amendment that not only overrules the decision in Citizens United, but also prevents an elite class of donors being able to exercise their current entitlement to effectively buy the country’s elections through excessively high campaign donations.  In order to achieve this, the amendment must contain a provision to make it illegal for corporations to directly or indirectly give money to any politician, and a provision which places a cap on the amount politicians can raise from any individual.

But if so many congressmen and senators are under the influence of corporate interests and wealthy donors, then why would they accept such an amendment? The answer is that they don’t have to. It is possible to bypass Congress. If two-thirds of the State legislatures (whose members are not as heavily influenced by money) call for a Constitutional Convention then it will become possible to pass the amendment.

civil rights marchers

The 1960’s civil rights movement – proving that unjust establishment practices can be brought to an end if the political will is there.

This presents a real opportunity for America to take back its democracy. But as was the case with the success of the 1960s civil rights movement amongst African-Americans, if this amendment is to be passed then there will need to be a movement with leaders (like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X) that can inspire a mass movement of people to stand up for that change.

But in order for that to happen, America must first undergo a revolution of consciousness and wake up to the fact that a vote at the ballot cannot compensate for the erosion of a democracy.

Sam Sholi is currently studying law in a university in the United States

Tagged , , , ,

Our Phantom Debt Menace

Is the game rigged?

Nick Vazzana

No matter where we look these days, we find an obsession with debt and the deficit. We hear on a daily basis that the deficit will ruin our economy, turn us into Greece and drown our grandchildren in crushing debt. How true is this understanding?

I am not an economist but I was founder and C.E.O. of a successful corporation for over 25 years. From a business point of view, debt is merely an obligation or liability to pay or render something to someone else. A problem emerges when investors lose faith in the debtor’s ability to repay the obligation. A company, similar to a country, sells bonds to provide working capital. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a bad thing for Chinese or European investors to buy U.S Treasury bonds. It demonstrates confidence in our nation’s economy.

Furthermore, the country’s wealthiest 2% tell us that any day now investors will lose faith in America’s ability to pay its bills. They warn of a run on Treasury bonds similar to what happened in Greece and see inflation skyrocketing. These scare tactics fail to recognize that the United States is not Greece and we have many safeguards in place since the Depression of the 1930’s. In addition, we overcame the Great Recession of 2008-9 thanks to a strong Federal Reserve, a competent President and a Congress that actually did its job.

Unlike Greece, we have our own currency and all of our debt, both public and private, is denominated in dollars. These dollars are not backed by gold but the full faith and credit of the Federal Government. Theoretically, our government can never run out of money because currency is physically manufactured on an hourly basis. Most citizens are unaware that currency printing began in 1861 to fund the Civil War and has always kept our economy solvent. This fact of life often leads to the following question: “If the government prints money to pay its bills won’t that lessen the value of the dollar and lead to runaway inflation?”

Economists tell us that when the government prints more money, investors may start to expect higher inflation down the road and this may push down the value of the dollar.
However, if these results do take place that would actually help rather than hurt the U.S. economy, right now. The fear of higher inflation would discourage corporations and families from sitting on cash, while a weaker dollar would make exports more competitive.

Generally speaking, our deficit is the result of higher spending and reduced tax revenue, caused primarily by a drop in personal income and the cost of two wars and necessary social programs. It is ironic that the scare-mongers of the debt menace are the very people who have benefited the most from our existing economic system.

Tagged , , ,

NYC Homeless Man Beaten by Cops

On October 16th, news broke nationally that a young man sleeping in a community center in the Crown Heights section of New York City was awakened by police and subsequently abused for almost five minutes for not complying with the cops’ demands that he submit to arrest.  The man repeatedly told the police he was allowed to be at the community center and had the permission of the center’s director, which one would think the cops would have notified to confirm and at least waited until the director came to the center to confirm.  But instead the cops acted on what appears to have been an anonymous ‘tip’ that someone was sleeping at the center without authority, thus trespassing.

How many times have people called cops asking for action on a particular issue only to have them say that they can’t act on ‘anonymous tips’, which on the whole seem to protect our rights and keep revenge seekers and busy-bodies from driving the cops all over on trivial, meaningless errands. Its still unclear why the cops felt that whoever called in had enough weight and authority for them to act by not only entering the center in the middle of the night, but to consider that person’s word of more value than a live individual or the community director, so much more weight that violating this individual’s right to safety and health was of secondary importance?

In the story as reported in Raw Story, you can see the senseless beat-down that this young man had to endure by these thugs in uniform.  Further down is the Crown Heights community coming forward to demand justice. I’m heartened to see the Jewish community coming together with the African-American community on this and I hope this is a trend we will see more of; police brutality is an issue that effects us all and we all need to be equally concerned and dilligent in calling out instances of its occurance. Far too often brutality in the African American community is over looked, despite overwhelming evidence. Let’s hope that will become more and more a feature of the past.

Raw Story: New York Police Brutally Beat Man for Sleeping at Synagogue

UPDATE: Charges have been dropped

From New York Daily News:

Brooklyn prosecutors have dropped all charges against a Jewish man videotaped getting pummeled by two cops at a Crown Heights synagogue.

Ehud Halevy, 21, was sleeping in the back room of the ALIYA youth center on East New York Ave. Oct. 8 when he was confronted by two police officers. After an argument about evacuating the premises — which the shirtless man refused to do — he was punched repeatedly by Officer Luis Vega.

A tape depicting the beatdown has gone viral and elicited angry responses from the Jewish community and elected officials, with many calling for the cops to be fired.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly had called the video “disturbing.”

“We believe the police fabricated the police report that they submitted and have failed to publicly acknowledge what really happened that night,” said ALIYA director Moishe Feiglin. He said Halevy was there with permission.

“After review of all available evidence, I have decided to dismiss the charges against Ehud Halevy,” Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes announced Monday afternoon.

Halevy was facing up to seven years in prison for the assault rap. He was also charged with resisting arrest, trespass, harassment and marijuana possessions.

The DA’s decision means the case is now closed.

A petition on change.com asking Hynes to drop the charges garnered nearly 90,000 signatures.

“Justice was done here,” said Halevy’s lawyer Norman Siegel. “There was no legal basis for the criminal charges and the dramatic video was extremely helpful.”

He said his client “was very pleased.”

The charges will be officially dismissed Wednesday.

Unfortunately, not everyone is so lucky as to have a whole unified community come together and put up such an immediate fuss that embarrasses the local department so much they can’t move fast to put the ‘incident’ out of public view.  Most victims of police brutality aren’t so lucky, often members of communities that the public has been trained to see as inhuman and in need of constant ‘correction’.

Even though Halevy and his attorney may be pleased with the outcome, nowhere in the Daily News story is any mention of punishment of the cops who obviously went way over board.  Some disciplinary action seems called for at the very least. It is disturbing that police officers who demonstrated an obvious lack of judgment and restraint still possess the power to restrain individuals without question and with deadly force.

It is distressing to say the least when a party that suffers under the weight of institutional wrong doing backs off when their personal wrong gets set right.  They forget is seems that the rest of the community needs them and their story to push for broad improvements in the institution that wronged them.  Dismissing the charges only amounts to an effort to move the stain out of the public view as soon as possible.

Tagged , ,

Damn Well About Time: UN Groups to Monitor Elections

Its damn well about time.  The ACLU and the NAACP have requested that election monitoring groups from the UN come in and monitor areas where minority vote suppression has been witnessed.  Of course the wingnuttia is having the predictable hissy fit about it, stamping their feet claiming that the UN can’t watch them because well, because they aren’t American.

Which is the point.  We want objective, fair and reasonable observation which can only come from a group completely removed from the rampant corruption coming out of the conservative even some of the moderate sides of the political landscape here.

You’d think that after all their crying and whining about ‘rampant’ election fraud, they’d welcome an outside source to monitor for such activities.  But no, apparently the wingnuts don’t like others looking over their shoulders.  I’d suggest they calm down because the best way oftentimes to find guilt is to find the one that resists the light of day the most.

 

 International monitors at US polling spots draw criticism from voter fraud groups

Liberal-leaning civil rights groups met with representatives from the OSCE this week to raise their fears about what they say are systematic efforts to suppress minority voters likely to vote for President Obama.

For more reading look here.  Thanks Daily Kos for sending out the clarion call about this.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How Psychologists Subvert Democratic Movements

Here is a posting of a very good article on how the institution of psychiatry in America has fallen in the last few decades.  From a field that with psychology, at one time devolved from a practice that worked to support the quest for human peace of mind into an arm of the capitalist state.  The popularization of the use of drugs as a means to ‘correct’ anxiety and depression are based on the idea that there exists nothing inherently wrong with living in a system that is increasingly oppressive to most working people and children.

No doubt the profit-driven pharmacology sector has banked well on the popularity of fixing the individual instead of fixing the social problems the individual struggles with.  In addition, the practice of singling out individuals as opposed to looking at the inter-play of groups and social structures that individuals function under allows the continued dehumanization of state sanctioned capitalism to go unchecked and unanalyzed.

In this article a former practicing psychologist testifies to his first-hand witness of the use of drugs and individual therapy in the alienation and dismissal of dissent as an indicators of mental disease rather than being the proverbial canary in the coal-mine, warning of the increasingly oppressive economic and social conditions of our present day society.

How Psychologists Subvert Democratic Movements


By the 1980s, as a clinical psychology graduate student, it had become apparent to me that the psychology profession was increasingly about meeting the needs of the “power structure” to maintain the status quo so as to gain social position, prestige, and other rewards for psychologists.

 Academic psychology in the 1970s was by no means perfect. There was a dominating force of manipulative, control-freak behaviorists who appeared to get their rocks off conditioning people as if they were rats in a maze. However, there was also a significant force of people such as Erich Fromm who believed that an authoritarian and undemocratic society results in alienation and that this was a source of emotional problems. Fromm was concerned about mental health professionals helping people to adjust to a society with no thought to how dehumanizing that society had become. Back then, Fromm was not a marginalized figure; his ideas were taken seriously. He had bestsellers and had appeared on national television.

Read more…

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Get A Job and Make Some Change!

What Does Democracy Look Like?

From Mark Fernald via email

Grassroots Solutions ((www.grassrootssolutions.com), a national
political field organization, is looking for dedicated individuals to
join its New Hampshire Democratic Canvass Team 2012 and go
door-to-door to talk with New Hampshire voters in Manchester and other
areas in New Hampshire about the upcoming election.

Maybe you are a student with no afternoon classes, a parent whose
children are off to college, or someone who works the night shift in
your current job but would like to earn extra money. If you are at
least 18 years old and enjoy talking with people about important
issues that affect their lives and the lives of their families and
community, then we are interested in hearing from you.

This is a fantastic opportunity for someone looking to gain experience
in the world of politics. It is a fast paced and dynamic job in a
Presidential election year.

The pay is $12.00 an hour and you have the potential to gross over
$2,500 between now and the November election. You will be paid either
by check or direct deposit every two weeks.

Bilingual English/Spanish would be an advantage. Experience on a
political or issue advocacy campaign would be great, but if you don’t
have any, we will train. This is a temporary, full-time job (3-7 days
a week).

You and your canvass partner will be expected to travel by car to
neighborhoods assigned to you each day, walk door to door, engage in a
conversation with voters, and record the results of your conversation
in an iPod mobile app. Professionalism is a must, as is the ability
and willingness to talk with a diverse group of people.

Accuracy, attention to detail, and honesty in reporting the results of
your day’s work are essential. Previous campaign or advocacy work
experience would be a plus, as would experience using computers and
devices such as iPods. Training will be provided.

The position starts immediately and continues through the end of
October. We work 7 days a week. Most shifts are around 6 ½ hours long
— 5 ½ hours of which are spent talking to voters — in the afternoon
and early evening. You and your canvass partner will meet with other
canvass teams as a group at the beginning of your shift, and will get
back together at the end of your shift to record your data.

It would be great if you could work every day, but we know that’s not
always possible. We do, however, expect you to commit to work at least
three full days per week.

If you are interested, please apply online at
http://www.formstack.com/forms/grs2012-nhrecruiting

No emailed resumes, please! You will be given the opportunity to
attach one during the online application process.

Thank you and we look forward to hearing from you!

The New Hampshire Canvass Team

Tagged , , , ,

The Poor and Low Wage Workers Pay More in Taxes than Romney

cartoon by David Horsey, LA Times

 

 

Article by John Funiciello published in Issue 487 of Blackcommentator.com

Once again, the Republican candidate for president has expressed his contempt for a large percentage of the American people, by claiming that they are “dependent” on government for their very lives and, therefore, will automatically vote for President Obama.

The real wealth of the nation is in its people.

Comments by the GOP standard bearer, Mitt Romney, were caught on tape in Florida last spring and released last week by Mother Jones magazine. In a matter of hours, the comments were seen by tens of millions and caused Romney to call a press conference to explain himself.

What he had said at a private fund-raising dinner was that 47 percent of Americans pay no federal income tax and that they are Obama’s supporters. USA Today his explanatory statement: “The president believes in what I’ve described as a government-centered society, where government plays a larger and larger role, provides for more and more of the needs of the individuals,” Romney said in Orange County, Calif. “I happen to believe instead in a free enterprise, free individual society where people pursuing their dreams are able to employ one another, build enterprises, build the strongest economy in the world.”

By now, it is clear to virtually everyone that Romney doesn’t have a clue about what real Americans’ lives are like. He certainly doesn’t know what it is like to try to stretch a $15,000 annual income and keep a family from starvation. And, he never will. In fact, living on low wages or a low fixed income is one of those weekly miracles that happen and the plight of those millions of families goes unnoticed. Out of sight, out of mind and Romney wants to keep it that way.

The rich are going to be swimming in the same pool as the rest of the country if the whole thing collapses

The GOP, as expressed by Romney in constant campaign rhetoric, wants to reduce the government, so that it never will be able to provide for that 47 percent of the electorate, which likely would never vote Republican. Only the irrational would vote for a party, the main philosophy of which is to cut taxes for the rich and corporations and cut social programs and most functions of government, except for the military and defense. But, books have been written, speculating on why average Americans, who are only one or two paychecks away from needing government assistance, continue to support the GOP platform and its philosophy. They’re out there and they do, indeed, vote Republican.

Democrats are on the horns of a dilemma. They have been subject to the same propaganda from the right wing think tanks and Corporate America for decades and have weakly fought the GOP’s efforts to diminish every function of government at every level. At the same time, they have presided from time to time over a country headed in the same direction, no matter which major party is in charge. The difference is that they don’t sing the same no-taxes-no-social-programs song that the Republicans sing.

For that alone, they have a leg up on the coming election, but this does not leave them in the clear, by any means. Many of their policies on the important issues of our time are much the same as those of the Republicans. These issues include, but are not limited to: global trade, the continuing growth of militarism, the magical vanishing manufacturing base (except for those things that are made by robots), the lack of sustainable and low-cost housing, the food system that is damaging the people’s health, the lack of an affordable universal health system, the staggering cost to students of higher education, endless war, diminishing civil rights, and the continuing assault on virtually every vital aspect of the environment. Other than that, Obama is doing better than the party of Romney.

Many of their policies on the important issues of our time are much the same as those of the Republicans.

Back in the 1980s and 90s, over-the-road big trucks had painted on them something like, “This truck pays $4,467 in road use taxes every year.” That was supposed to show everyone driving a car or pick-up that the truck bearing the sign and weighing some 80,000 pounds was paying more than its fair share to use the roads. A quick check of the “road use” taxes that a car or pick-up truck paid at the time showed that, pound for pound, the car paid about four times what those trucks paid in road use taxes and they didn’t crumble the roads to dust.

So it is with the Republicans and their insistence that the behemoths (wealthy) pay all the taxes, and that there are so many poor and low-wage Americans who pay no income taxes. (We’ll leave aside for a moment that there are giant transnational corporations that pay no taxes and lots of rich folks who pay no taxes, but that’s a subject for another discussion.) The fact is that the poor and low-income wage earners pay plenty of taxes: sales taxes, payroll taxes, gasoline taxes, excise taxes, and endlessly increasing fees for everything from driver’s licenses, to fishing licenses. Low-income Americans pay a much greater percentage of their income than the wealthy or even the middle-income earners.

Somehow, this fact of life has escaped Mitt Romney and people like him, George W. Bush and virtually his entire administration, for example. These are people who are so alienated from the lives of most Americans that they don’t know that the country’s emergency rooms are not universal health care and they are not free.

Thinkprogress.org recently noted: “For example, if you look at state and local taxes, the working poor actually pay a higher percentage of their income in these taxes (all of the other taxes and fees) in every state except for Vermont. (In) Alabama, for example, low-income families (which make less than $13,000) pay 11 percent of their income in state and local taxes, while those making more than $229,000 pay just 4 percent.”

And, Wealth for the Common Good also noted recently that the top 400 taxpayers (those who have more wealth than half of all Americans) pay lower taxes today than they have in about two decades. Their tax responsibilities have declined sharply in 70 years and, during that time, wage-working men and women have been asked to pay more. There was a time when lawmakers discerned a difference between those who could afford to pay taxes and those who were not able to pay taxes and occasionally, they adjusted the tax code to lighten the burden on the poor. This is not one of those times.

Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and most of the Republicans and many Democrats seem to have forgotten that the Democrats once stood for the New Deal (putting people back to work and giving them the means to maintain their living standards, through union organizing), the War on Poverty, and the Great Society.

Instead, at this time, in the midst of a presidential election campaign, the word poverty is barely mentioned. And, if the word “poor” is used, it is to call them lazy, parasites, and a drag on the economy and the national budget. There is no apparent plan from either party to deal with the severe problem of poverty in the U.S. Certainly, there is no plan for the two parties to come up with a plan, and that’s what it takes to solve the problems of a nation that owes its soul to the company store, that is China, Europe, Japan, and several other countries.

Romney doesn’t have a clue about what real Americans’ lives are like.
The right wing (in politics and Corporate America) in this country would do well to hold its tongue when criticizing any of those creditors, because it is people who look and act just like them who have removed the manufacturing base from the country to seek ever lower wages and lower “labor costs.” They are the ones, along with the people they employ in the Congress, who have caused the economic problems, with their constant push for lower taxes for the rich and corporations and the push for rewards for taking their plants out of the country. They have received all of that.

As we have seen, the working class and the middle class, however it is defined, are the ones who pay (remember, they somehow have morphed from citizens into consumers). When they lose their jobs, there’s no one left to pay. How hard is that for the politicians to understand? We’ve had a steady decline of jobs for decades, we have people in mid-life living off their retirement savings, and we have college graduates who might be able to pay off their student loans by the time they are 50 years old.

Like or not, the rich are going to be swimming in the same pool as the rest of the country if the whole thing collapses. Then, they will be seeking out people who have real skills for living, to show them how to do it. Generally, the rich are engaged in enterprises that produce nothing but money and we are beginning to realize that this money is worth about as much as the paper used for printing it.

The real wealth of the nation is in its people. When they are healthy, the nation is healthy. When the people are weakened or sick, the nation is sick. Poverty weakens and sickens a nation and the disparity in wealth in the U.S., at a level not seen in 80 years, has weakened the nation. No one in government at any level seems to be willing to proclaim the danger out loud and, so, the problem is not addressed and the nation is in deep trouble.

BlackCommentator.com Columnist,John Funiciello, is a long-time former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he works with family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. To contact Mr. Funiciello, please go to BlackCommentator.com.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Scott Brown Shows His Tea Party Stripes

Simpleton Math

As seems par for the course, the Massachusetts Senate race between Tea Party supported Republican incumbent Scott Brown and his Democratic challenger, Elizabeth Warren, comes down to race.  As always, when one takes the time to turn their jaundiced eye in the direction of the racist whoops and hollers, what is found is a vacuous, empty shell of a candidate. Considering the fact that Elizabeth Warren scares the absolute bejeezus out of Wall Street, you’d think that Brown’s campaign might reflect the great minds that money supposedly can hire to dream up some nefarious defense of run away capitalism. But, as usual, the corporate capitalists prove that its really hard to find a way to defend a system that will screw over the very people whose support you need.

And we hate to say as usual, but yes, as usual, lacking the ability or the will (may alienate their base?) to come out with anything close to intelligent argument, the campaign resorts to race jealousy, old affirmative action scripts and of course, just plain ignorance, as mhasegawa on the blog FortLeft shows here:

Who knew that the Massachusetts race for the United States Senate – and maybe for Democratic control of the entire Senate – would come down to race?  When I wrote about this last May I thought this was a one-off remark and since it didn’t move the polls, I figured the whole thing would die.  A lot of people who are part Cherokee didn’t register for many reasons including fear of being targeted if they were open about Native American ancestry.

But now Scott Brown has made Elizabeth Warren’s race the centerpiece of  his campaign.  He has decided that the path to re-election is to question Warren’s family heritage.  He has not produced any proof that her having “checked the box” made any difference in her tenure at Harvard Law School.  On the other hand, Warren has produced people, including Republican Charles Fried, to say either they didn’t know or if they did it made no difference.  Where’s the beef, Senator Brown?

Race in Massachusetts

Tagged , , , , , ,

O’Brien of Worcester City Council Gets It

“When someone tosses out venom and inaccurate statements, they must be answered,” he said. “This will pass legal muster, I am confident of that. The doomsday scenario that the city will have to pay legal costs is a red herring. The statement that is based on politics is also a red herring. I could care less whether this hurts me politically; I’m more concerned about whether this hurts my moral compass. To me, this is an important first step for this council and this city.” [bold ours]

This said by a city councilman at a meeting of the Worcester city council on which a new Responsible Employer ordinance was voted on this week.  The ordinance will specifically focus on contractor bid jobs for the municipality.  The words reflect a moral courage that we need to see more often.  As Mr O’Brien states, doing the right thing often has nothing to do with getting another vote, opinion polls or the endless chatter of the media.  Instead when one sits in a position of government, with the power to decide on their city’s future, they must consider the residents of that city.  Mr. O’Brien did.

Those who voted against the measure threatened that it wouldn’t stand up to the courts and of course end the world as we know it.

“Before the vote was taken, Mrs. Lukes spoke against it, saying the council would in effect be managing competition for city construction projects by limiting the companies eligible to bid on them to union shops.

She contended that the ordinance will increase the costs of city construction project by 20 percent to 30 percent.

“To what extent does free enterprise exist?” Mrs. Lukes asked. “This is bad for taxpayers, it’s bad for business and it’s bad for this country. This is more of a political decision than anything else.

“We are taking a vote that is going to lose in the courts,” she added. “I expect the courts to throw this out. The taxpayers seem to lose all around in this process.”

Ms. Laken has a point.  As construction company’s practices now do not resemble anything like the union’s and do not favor worker’s interests, yes, they might have some catching up to do.  But, that has to do with prioritizing business strategies.  Unions demand that companies, in exchange for stable, trained and well managed workers, agree to certain sets of standards in their operational priorities.  Sure cost adjustments will be required, but large companies fit to bid on commercial projects generally aren’t going to suffer the small monetary gains in order to possibly reap advantage.

The model that Ms. Laken draws upon as calling unions uncompetitive — which she does when one considers her claim that now that the tables are shifted, the non-union shops no longer have the competitive edge; that edge is based on priorities.  As a municipality that represents all people and must have within its logical interest, the financial welfare of all, then worrying about the bottom lines of businesses is not her business, especially when protecting wealth accumulation of the few over the benefit of the many — the residents she supposedly represents.

Ms. Laken uses the tired and worn-out claim that somehow looking out for the workers will not benefit employers.  Threatening that companies could suffer a 20 -30% loss of business.  While one can certainly dispute the figures,  when Ms. Laken cries about a “free market” to whom shall it be free?  Then one wonders, what interest would a representative of workers in a city have above that of the workers that make up the majority of their electorate?  This begs the question on all levels of the public interest.  Why would any civil servant believe that policies that benefit the few, especially at the expense of the many constitute worthy policies?

When this country has suffered nearly a quarter century under deregulation and now has started to reap its results, how can anyone of reasonable mind continue to support such “free market” ideology, the very ideology that has soiled this democracy.

The issue at dispute in this city council meeting encapsulates the attack on all working people that has caused the erosion of the value of a workday for all from waitresses to teachers, to mechanics to office workers.  Workers have taken on the chin the stagnation of their wages and the simultaneous rises in the cost of living.  Strangled by the false prophet of supply-side, Laffer Curve driven economics that intentionally benefited the chosen few, workers have had enough.

Attempting to claw through by leveraging their lives and hopes of bank offered credit, continuing to have faith in the educational system, taking on debt sometimes larger than a first house mortgage, suffering a pock-marked safety net and an increasingly unavailable healthcare system, workers have had enough.

Then along comes someone in a city council to belly-ache about the businesses.  Along comes a presidential candidate that sneers at the masses like so many ignorant peasants.  Workers have watched and sat quietly at home, thrown out, removed, disposed of, laid waste and left to rot on unemployment checks, as their source of sustenance moves off the continent or into oblivion; a shell of flaking bricks and crumbling mortar.

Workers have struggled alone, in silence, like champs, like martyrs from the most extreme religious sect, long hoping for redemption from something, even if it has no relation to the hell of earth.  Struggled with the pain of cancer eating their bodies, struggled with their bodies screaming in pain, rotting away with no relief.  Turned away by blind bureaucratic bodies designed for profit and not for care, they suffer alone and do not blame the system they grew up to believe in; the system of free enterprise.

They never blame the businesses, protected by petty politicians and plundering plutocrats.  Plutocrats who with the politicians as their soldiers, point the finger back at the worker and tell them, “Find your enemy within, it is not us.”  while they have their hand on the noose on every worker’s neck.  Plutocrats hire those who will work for less so they can profit more and when those not hired express anger, the plutocrats point their finger, “Find your enemy within, its not us.”

And so it is, the man from another country, the weak, the hungry, the jobless, the ones less able to fight back.

Now that has finished as well.  Finally workers have begun to figure out, to learn that all of us together are workers, whether born here, whether a woman or a man. Workers know that the sick were workers too, could be workers in the future.  Workers know the hungry is a worker without a job, the family has workers that need jobs, that need sustenance and when all workers fight together, in unison, against the forces of the plutocrat, the worker wins.

Read the entire article in the News Telegram.

Tagged , , , , , ,