Rants &amp; Raves for the Week of April 4th, 2011

Rants & Raves for the Week of April 4th, 2011

Wisconsin-style worker-bashing took a trip to California this week when Riverside County supervisors endorsed a measure to gut pension benefits for new hires. The proposal—which might not even be legal—creates a second-tier where new workers would not only fund pensions entirely on their own, but would also be forced into a stripped-down and non-negotiated plan. Now, we know what you’re thinking: How does attacking future employees—who will only be hired when our economy recovers—address immediate budget gaps? The answer is simple- this move is nothing but a vicious attack on public employee retirement security and a naked stab at union-busting.


With our budget crisis deepening the day, the California Republican Caucus held a press conference this week to announce they are leading a trip to Texas next week to get economic tips from the Lone Star State. Yes, Texas. The same state that is facing a $27 billion deficit. The same state that’s seen its unemployment rate double in the recent years. The same state that has one of the highest rates of poverty and lowest per-pupil spending in the country. Here’s an idea — instead of wasting time hobnobbing on a junket to Texas, why doesn’t the GOP get to work on helping solve OUR budget crisis? That way, maybe we can prevent even more devastating cuts to schools, public safety and programs for seniors, children and people with disabilities from being inflicted on our communities. Too much to ask? Considering the CA GOP’s history, probably.


Speaking at a press conference Thursday, GOP Assemblymember Diane Harkey set a new standard for insensitive political rhetoric when she compared California’s job-creating high-speed rail project to “cultural genocide.” The jaw-dropping bit of improv from Harkey was part of the launch of the California Republicans’ “Speak Out” tour on the California budget. Maybe they should consider renaming it the “Think Before You Speak Out” tour.


Medicare, along with Social Security, allows Americans to grow old free of the fear of abject poverty, sickness and early death. Medicare guarantees that 47 million seniors and the disabled get the health care they need. But now Congressional Republicans are attacking Medicare and Medicaid in an attempt to privatize the system, cut benefits and increase out-of-pocket expenses for seniors and the disabled, who will wind up spending more and getting less of the medical care they need. Republicans claim the cuts are necessary to balance the budget — but if they were really were concerned about skyrocketing medical costs that drive Medicare growth, shouldn’t they have been first in line to support federal health care reform?


Whether it’s gutting health and safety and environmental laws, attacking unions or giving massive tax breaks to corporations, Republicans somehow manage to spin their extreme right-wing actions as good for the economy. So we shouldn’t be surprised that in the Republican alternative universe, eliminating over 51,000 jobs is supposedly good for the economy. Ohio Governor Kasich is actually bragging about his new study that found his proposed cuts to education and local government will eliminate 51,000 jobs – that’s nearly double the number of jobs created since Kasich took office. And not just any jobs, but good, middle-class jobs. It doesn’t take a PhD in economics to know that during these tough times, we should be creating jobs, not slashing good jobs. But it does take a heart to care about the lives of people who have to live with massive layoffs, slashed social services and programs and a stagnant economy, and that’s something Kasich and his GOP cronies just don’t have.


When was the last time you got a 27 percent annual raise? In these hard times, most California families are barely getting by. But everybody's in it together, right? Apparently not. A new analysis USA Today found that CEO pay went up 27 percent in 2010, nearly hitting pre-recession levels. That put the median CEO salary at $9 million a year, with a median bonus of another $2.2 million. Instead of using all that extra money corporate America seems to have lying around to make their mega-rich execs even righter, maybe it’s time they start actually creating jobs and paying their fair share in taxes. It’s the absolute least they can do for the American people who have lost $12.8 trillion in wealth since the 2007.


Our old friend State Senator Bob Dutton is at it again. Continuing his crusade against public servants, he tweeted this week that “More Americans work for the gov’t than in manufacturing, farming, fishing, forestry, mining and utilities combined.” Gee, Bob, maybe if your friends in the GOP wouldn’t have bent over backward to support corporate outsourcing and “free trade,” we would have more manufacturing jobs here in the US. But they did, and now we don’t. And now you want to go after the jobs of teachers and firefighters? No wonder you are quickly becoming a fixture in our weekly rants.


This week, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that will make it much easier for young adults to stay on their parent’s coverage after their 19th birthday. Federal health reform allows parents to keep their 19-26 year old children on their health plans, a provision that could enable 1.5 million uninsured Californian young adults to access health insurance. The provision went into effect in September 2010, and immediately 27,000 young adults enrolled through CalPERS on their parents’ plans. However, those parents would have to pay taxes on their kids’ coverage because California did not conform to federal exemptions for young adult coverage. Until now. Governor Brown’s signature on AB 36 (Perea) closes the health care tax loophole and makes health coverage for young adults on their parents’ plans tax-exempt. That’s the best tax news we’ve heard all year!


If you agree that public employees should enjoy collective bargaining rights, congratulations! According to a new poll from Tulchin Research, you’re among the wise 61% of Californians that understand collective bargaining is the only way for workers, public or private, to have a real voice on the job and guaranteed rights in the workplace. (Only 32% disagreed.) The poll comes on the heels of another recent poll found that more than half of likely voters (52%) agreed that tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy are what’s driving the budget gap, while less than a third (32%) felt that public employee pensions and benefits were to blame. Now, if only similar percentages existed within the legislature, we might be looking at real budget solutions rather than petty politics and finger-pointing.


When a supercenter like Wal-Mart comes to town, communities get so excited at the prospect of new jobs that they rarely take the time to understand the real economic impacts. But numerous studies have shown that when a supercenter like Wal-Mart opens, local businesses and other retailers are devastated and often end up closing. So rather than create new jobs, supercenters merely replace existing good jobs with significantly lower-paying jobs. If you’re swapping out one job for another, the new one should actually be a better job, or at least comparable — but how does anyone know that ahead of time? This week, the California Senate Governance and Finance Committee approved SB 469 (Vargas), which would require localities to study the economic impact of a supercenter before granting approval. While small business groups and unions came together to support this bill, Wal-Mart stood strongly opposed. Hmmm, wonder why the retail meg-giant is so afraid of the facts coming out…


“Let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge, to make America what it ought to be.” One day after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. shared these inspiring words with striking sanitations workers in Memphis (who were fighting for the same basic rights in 1968 that are under attack today in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and dozens of other states across the nation), he was shot and killed — but his dream for fairness and justice for all workers still lives on. On Monday, April 4th, the 43rd anniversary of MLK’s death, working families, civil rights activists, progressive leaders, students, elected officials, seniors and others across the nation came out en masse to honor the legacy of MLK standing up for workers’ rights and speaking out against the right-wing attacks on the middle class. In California, more than 10,000 joined the dozens of rallies, marches, vigils and worksite actions that were held in every corner of the state. Although the events themselves varied, the underlying message remained the same – We Are One. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us, and we must stand together to defend our rights. It’s what MLK would have done.