It is a time of fear in the face of freedom, a time of an emptying country and swelling cities, a time for the widening of previous roads and the opening of new paths, yet a time when these paths are mined by knowing algorithms of the all-seeing eye. It is the time of the warrior's peace and the miser's charity, when the planting of a seed is an act of conscientious objection. These are the times when maps fade, old landmarks crumble and direction is lost. Forwards is backwards now, so we glance sideways at the strange lands through which we are all passing, knowing for certain only that our destination has disappeared. We are unready to meet these times, but we proceed nonetheless, adapting as we wander, reshaping the Earth with every tread. Behind us we have left the old times, the standard times, the high times. Welcome to the irregular times.
Fortunately, you don’t have to make that choice. As I mentioned back in 2010, Skater Socks makes those stripey tube socks in all kinds of colors right here in the USA, so you know that your socks aren’t being made by forced labor, child labor or poisoned labor.
Three years on, my Skater Socks are still going strong, so now I can tell you they’re long-lasting, too. Give ‘em a shot.
The Democratic Party likes to tell economic progressives that it is their ally. The Democrats claim that they would happily advance an economically progressive agenda, if only the Republicans didn’t control the U.S. House of Representatives.
The legislative record of the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate shows a different picture. When the Senate Democrats have been given opportunities to pass economically progressive legislation, they have typically failed to do so.
For example, last year, independent senator Bernard Sanders, currently tied for the position of the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate, introduced the End Polluter Welfare Act, which would have eliminated more than 110 billion dollars in government subsidies for the oil industry, which continues to charge Americans high prices for fossil fuels in spite of receiving huge amounts of corporate welfare. Not even one Democrat in the Senate would support the bill.
That was last year, of course. Today, the Democrats have a stronger hand in the U.S. Senate, and so, if they really wanted to advance a progressive economic agenda, we’d see more clear evidence of it.
Instead, we’re seeing the opposite from the Senate Democrats. We’re seeing S. 954.
S. 954 is commonly referred to as the Farm Bill. It might more accurately be referred to as the Starve Impoverished Americans Bill. Part of the program of “reform” that will be created if S. 954 is passed into law will be the elimination of 4 billion dollars in food stamps that are used to provide food to impoverished American families.
The Democratic Party isn’t just going along with this starvation legislation. It helped to create it in the first place. What’s more, last month, the Democrats were given the chance to fix S. 954 by restoring food stamps spending to normal levels, with Senate Amendment 931. However, 26 Senate Democrats voted against this amendment. These Democrats voted specifically to cut billions of dollars in food aid to desperate Americans.
Senate Democrats refused to reduce 110 billion dollars in gifts to oil companies. Then, they refuse to restore just a fraction of that spending to feed people in need.
Today, the Senate Democrats have a final chance to repair this injustice. They have a chance to vote against the draconian S. 954. S. 954 is scheduled to be considered for passage by the entire U.S. Senate.
What do you think the chances are that the Democrats will finally keep their promises, and vote to defend a progressive economic vision for America?
If you’ve been paying attention, you know the chances are next to nothing. It’s time for sincere progressives to recognize that the Democratic Party doesn’t represent their point of view. It’s time for American progressives to invest in the Green Party.
Roll Call shares the news that former congressman Bob Dold will be running to take back the seat he lost to Democrat Brad Schneider in 2012. As a member of Congress, Bob Dold specialized in the filing of bills that would suspend or eliminate fees on for the importation of various foreign chemicals. On just one day — May 14, 2012 — Rep. Dold introduced 20 pieces of legislation, each of which would suspend the duty paid by corporations who import chemicals made overseas.
Seven of these pieces of legislation, if passed, would have directly benefited the Dow Chemical corporation. Dow Chemical, which was recently found guilty of international price fixing, has moved many of its chemical plants overseas to countries whose repressive governments guarantee special tax breaks and a steady supply of underpaid workers. Now, in a bid for economic gain on the flip side of its globalization strategy, Dow Chemical wants to stop paying import duties when it brings its chemicals back into the United States. The following bills eliminate duties for Dow Chemical imports:
According to House Lobbying Disclosure reports, the Dow Chemical corporation hired lobbyists to effect passage of all these bills. According to the same source, Dow Chemical is the only entity to have hired lobbyists in 2012 to effect passage of H.R. 5347, H.R. 5348, H.R. 5360, H.R. 5361, H.R. 5362, and H.R. 5363 (the other corporation hiring a lobbyist on H.R. 5346 is the agrichemical producer Nufarm Americas).
Guess who was a recipient of campaign contributions from the Dow Chemical corporation in the 2011-2012 election cycle? Yes, as you can see for yourself, Bob Dold received an influx of Dow Chemical PAC money.
This may (or may not) be the tip of an iceberg: thanks to the deregulation of reporting on campaign finance, chemical megacorporations like Dow can contribute as much money as they want to the re-election of industry-serving politicians like Bob Dold as long as communications are made “independently,” and they don’t have to report a penny of it to you or me.
P.S. I should go out of my way to note that it would be wholly inaccurate to characterize Bob Dold as a wholly-owned political tool of the Dow Chemical corporation. After all, another two of the 20 bills mentioned above benefit another multinational chemical corporation, Asuterasu Seiyaku Kabushiki-gaisha, from which Bob Dold has also received campaign contributions.
It’s not about what you ate for breakfast: at its best, Twitter is a democratic news feed of sorts, serving up 140-character headlines written by whoever wants to write them, linking to longer, more informative articles written by journalists or citizens. Twitter feeds can subvert the story line supplied by the corporate-dominated news media. Last week, I wrote a pair of articles about H.R. 1406, a bill passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives that would end overtime pay and instead allow corporate employers to push workers into longer hours at odder intervals for less pay. What are others saying about this bill (which now sits in the thankfully slow Senate)? The directs me to these articles:
Sponsored by Rep. Martha Roby (AL), the dubiously-titled “Working Families Flexibility Act” (H.R. 1406) would remove the requirement that employers pay a cash premium for overtime work and instead allow them to offer employees compensatory time off. The effect would be an FLSA that is undermined of its only incentive against excessive hours and a cheaper way for employers to demand mandatory overtime.
Eileen Appelbaum, a senior economist with the Center for Economic Policy and Research, says the bill’s major effect would be to hurt workers, “likely increasing overtime hours for those who don’t want them and cutting pay for those who do.”
Scenario: Boss Bob comes to Mary and says, “I need you to work Sunday. Jane has to take her mom to the nursing home, but corporate has a no overtime rule right now, so it will have to be for comp time, that OK with you Mary?” How often do you really think Mary is going to say “no”?
So Mary keeps getting “asked” to work Sundays throughout the summer and into the holiday shopping season, for comp time of course. Mary, one day, says to Boss Bob, “I would like next Friday off for little Jimmy’s school play. I’ll use eight hours of comp time.”
Ah, but Boss Bob needs Mary because Jane finally quit, and there is a hiring freeze by corporate. He has an out. The law says an employee who has requested the use of such compensatory time shall be permitted by the employee’s employer (Boss Bob) to use such time within a reasonable period after making the request if the use of the compensatory time does not unduly disrupt the operations of the employer.
Boss Bob states they are swamped, and Mary has to work.
H.R. 1406 basically allows employers to roll time worked over 40 hours into “compensation time” instead of overtime it is a true end to the 40 hour work week.
Under Current law , hourly employees are paid 1 1/2 times the rate for hours worked more than 40 hours However, with H.R. 1406 , Employers can take all of those wages earned above 40 hours and put into a pot for future time off AT EMPLOYERS discretion.
In order to take a day off employees have to hope their employer allows them to work over , This takes away the incentive for employers to offer actual sick leave, It’s also possible Employers will cease hiring new employees when they can simply run a few ragged for 60 or 70 hours without having to pay them more than their base pay, this also amounts to a no-interest loan to employers from workers.
The House will be voting on H.R. 1406, The Working Families Flexibility Act, which lets employers offer “comp time” instead of overtime pay. The problem is that employers will pressure workers to take comp time instead of overtime, which reduces paychecks and gets rid of the incentive to hire more people. Later, the employees will be pressured to not take that comp time, or will have to be “on call,” etcetera.
It is important to note that the law does not guarantee workers the right to actually use the comp time they get instead of extra pay. Employers can put it off forever. You can’t use this time when you want to, only when the employer decides it is okay.
A century ago, workers were a lot more “flexible” than they are now. Veritable Gumbies in the mills and mines and factories they were, distorting their lives to slog 10 or 12 hours a day, six – even seven – days a week.
Then came the 40-hour week. And weekends. And eventually sick days. And paid vacation days. Now, bosses at mills and mines and factories regard these rules as coddling and consider the workers accustomed to them as unyielding to corporate demands.
The GOP has an app for that. It’s called the Working Families Flexibility Act. This legislation that the Republican majority in the U.S. House is expected to pass this week would force some old-time flexibility into 21st century workers. The forced flexibility act would award bosses the power to “offer” compensatory time off instead of overtime pay. Bosses, not workers, would determine when the comp time could be taken. The proposal puts control in corporate hands, obliging wage earners to bend over backward for bosses exactly like their Gumby ancestors were compelled to.
Trade unionists and labor rights activists died to achieve the goal of eight-hour days and 40-hour weeks. They were shot and beaten in the streets during demonstrations organized by the eight-hour movement. Their slogan was: “Eight hours for work; eight hours for rest; eight hours for what we will.”
While the National Restaurant Association was lobbying members of Congress on H.R. 1406, it also was sending money to the same members of Congress. Is receipt of money from the National Restaurant Association associated with the likelihood a member voted “Yes” on H.R. 1406, to end overtime pay in America? You bet it is. A full 95% of politicians in Congress who took cash from the NRA voted to end overtime pay for workers, compared to 52% of politicians overall.
The official title of H.R. 1406 uses the cover phrase “Working Families,” but to understand the bill’s passage, you’ve got to follow the money.
If you’re one of those Republicans who say that people shouldn’t worry about climate change, because it will bring economic benefits to America as a result of increased agricultural yields, you need to take a look at the evidence to the contrary offered today in the form of a vote in the U.S. Senate. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand offered an amendment to the Senate’s farm bill (S.Amdt. 931 to S. 954). The farm bill as currently written takes $400 million dollars away from food stamps, and uses that money to pay for increasing agricultural insurance costs that are related to an increasing rate of extreme weather events.
No single extreme weather event is evidence of climate change, but the increase in the rate of extreme weather events as the years go on is in accord with scientific predictions of the consequences of climate change. As time goes on, annual damage to farmers’ fields, orchards, and herds is getting larger. To keep the agricultural system intact in spite of increasingly erratic climate, the federal government is having to increase its subsidies to agricultural insurance plans, and is increasing the assistance it gives to farmers in their payments of agricultural insurance premiums.
That money had to come from somewhere. The Senate has chosen to take away $400 million dollars poor families that depend on food stamps to eat in order to fill in the gap. Gillibrand’s amendment would have reversed the farm bill’s cuts to food stamps, and paid for the reversal by taking money out of the federal subsidies for agricultural insurance. Today, the Senate voted against Gillibrand’s amendment, with a vote of 70 in opposition, and only 26 (24 Democrats and the Senate’s 2 independents) in favor.
It was a tough choice for senators to make. Should they protect money to feed Americans now, or provide money to protect against losses due to climate change, hoping that the insurance subsidies will keep the U.S. agricultural system from collapsing? Few people will eat if farmers can’t recover from climate catastrophes.
What the U.S. Senate should have done a generation ago was to pass strong climate legislation to end America’s dependence on fossil fuels and provide adequate funding for sustainable energy infrastructure. The Senate still hasn’t passed that legislation, and as a result of its climate cowardice, the U.S. Senate today was forced to choose which Americans would become the newest victims of climate change. The Senate chose to let Americans on food stamps go hungry.
The longer the U.S. Senate waits to pass serious climate legislation, the more choices like this it will be forced to make. More and more Americans are going to be segregated off into the category of climate losers, as our political leaders seek to protect those elite groups with the best lobbyists from the consequences of our nation’s inaction on climate change.
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