Friday, April 29, 2016

Yep, Employers Lie

About. Everything. But mostly, about why they can't pay workers a living wage.
More than a year after a new minimum wage took effect in Seattle—$12.50 an hour now for small employers, increasing to $15 an hour by January 2018—prices at most stores haven’t gone up.
In a new report, researchers from the University of Washington presented data that showed “little or no evidence” of price increases in most sectors. Before the minimum wage law took effect, most retailers said they would have to charge more—and most low-wage workers were worried that they would have to spend more for necessities. So far, that hasn’t happened.
The researchers also checked the prices of things like rent and gas, because they wanted to understand how the law might affect the biggest expenses for low-income families. Those didn’t change either—not a surprising finding, since apartments and gas stations don’t rely on much labor.
The steady prices in the retail sector were more unexpected. “We looked in grocery stores, drugstores, and other types of retail outlets—we were focusing once again on places where your middle class or low-income families would be more likely to shop,” says Jacob Vigdor, a public policy professor at the University of Washington. “The fact that we didn’t find very many price increases in those types of outlets was a little bit more surprising to us.”
I wonder, if you went back a 100 years and looked at economic predictions, would any group come out more wrong than employers’ apocalyptic prognostication every time labor legislation was proposed?
 Or in the immortal words of Wonkette:
Reminder, kiddos: raising the minimum wage is entirely feasible, and every argument against it is fucking stupid, and the people who make those arguments are universally assholes. Full stop, the end, period, we’re done here, mic thrown through the center of the Earth.
Democratic legislators in Kentucky tried to get a pathetic minimum wage increase to 10 bucks through the General Assembly this year, but it died before Governor Lying Coward could even get a chance to veto it.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Matt Bevin Doesn't Know What the Fuck He's Doing, Part 21

For forty years, it's been standard repug operating procedure to put the foxes in charge of all the public services henhouses: public health, worker safety, education, environmental protection, you name it.  But the one that they really slaver over because of the potential to obscenely enrich the already wealthy at the expense of consumers is the Public Service Commissioner.

The PSC regulates all the fundamental services the people need to live: water, electricity, natural gas, phone service.

The PSC decides how much of a rate increase the corporations that control those services get to cram down your throat to increase their profits.  The PSC decides which fracking companies get to run explosive, toxic chemical pipelines through your front yard without your permission.  The  PSC decides how much it costs to heat or cool your home, bathe with clean water, call 911 in an emergency.

The last thing you want to do is appoint to the PSC "bidnessmen" who will let utilities run roughshod over Kentuckians.

So of course that's what Governor Lying Coward has done.

From the press release:

Governor Matt Bevin has appointed Robert Cicero, a Florence businessman, to the Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC).

“Bob Cicero’s experience as an independent businessman and his background as an accountant will be an asset to an agency that makes decisions affecting the lives of nearly every Kentuckian,” Gov. Bevin said. “I am grateful for his willingness to serve the Commonwealth in this key position.”

Cicero was appointed to a serve the remainder of a term that expires on July 1. He is eligible for reappointment to a full four-year term.

Since 2011, Cicero has been co-owner of High Performance Coolers LLC, which sells high-end coolers for personal and commercial uses. He previously was owner of MCM Clinical Research LLC and chief financial officer and treasurer of Aristech Acrylics LLC, both in Florence.

Cicero holds a Master of Business Administration degree from the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh.

“I am delighted to have someone with Bob’s extensive knowledge of the issues facing Kentucky businesses join the Public Service Commission,’’ Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Charles G. Snavely said.
"Issues facing Kentucky businesses."  The PSC is not supposed to give a flying fuck about "issues facing Kentucky businesses." The PSC is supposed to care about regulating PUBLIC SERVICES to the benefit of, you know, THE PUBLIC.

But to Bevin and his business appointees, the public is just a source of money to be siphoned into the offshore tax-haven accounts of the filthy rich.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

No, Matt Bevin Did NOT Restore Voting Rights

Governor Lying Coward did it again.

The next-to-worthless "felony expungment" bill had but one purpose: fooling the public into thinking Bevin had restored voting rights.  And it worked.  All of the media coverage conflate the brand-new-this-year expungment bill with the real voting rights restoration bill that advocates have been fighting to get passed for years.

The repug state senate killed the voting rights bill every year, but passed the expungement bill without a peep.  The repugs haven't had a change of heart; they passed expungement because it is NOT a voting rights restoration bill.  It does NOT restore voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences.

It just makes it impossible for advocates to get a REAL voting rights restoration bill passed.  "We don't need that; Governor Bevin signed the same thing in 2016."

No he did not.  But with the "expungment" bill, he and the senate repugs killed it for good.

Meanwhile, Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia demonstrates how to do voting rights restoration correctly.

Terry McAuliffe is no friend of the netroots progressive movement. For a long time he has represented to many on the left a centrist and business-friendly version of the party that they would prefer to leave behind in favor of a more ideological position.

That said, McAuliffe’s decision to restore voting rights to over 200,000 convicted felons who have served their time and finished parole proves once again that regardless of intra-party fights over progressive or neoliberal ideas, it matters deeply who gets into power between Democrats and Republicans.

The Virginia decision is particularly impactful because of the long, racist history of the rule barring felons:
The action effectively overturns a Civil War-era provision in the state’s Constitution aimed, he said, at disenfranchising African-Americans…
Amid intensifying national attention over harsh sentencing policies that have disproportionately affected African-Americans, governors and legislatures around the nation have been debating — and often fighting over — moves to restore voting rights for convicted felons. Virginia imposes especially harsh restrictions, barring felons from voting for life.
The far-right swerve of the Republican Party in in recent decades means that even the most conservative Democrat is usually far superior to even the most liberal Republican at anything above the hyperlocal level. It is important for the Democratic Party to nominate candidates who support policies that improve lives, but it’s also important for even the most jaded voters to remember that no matter how frustrated they may become with the party’s standardbearers, it still matters greatly who holds office.

That said, it’s also important to remember that such executive actions by governors have limited effect until a unified liberal Congress can step in to require states to reverse discriminatory practices by national fiat—otherwise the executive actions of a Democratic governor can be simply overturned by a conservative:
In Kentucky, Gov. Matt Bevin, a newly elected Republican, recently overturned an order enacted by his Democratic predecessor that was similar to the one Mr. McAuliffe signed Friday.
Matt Bevin, of course, was elected in Kentucky in part because of low voter turnout among Democrats. That had direct consequences for thousands of dispossessed and disenfranchised people.

Elections have serious consequences, and voters should remember that—even if they may not be entirely happy with their choices.

P.S. It’s worth noting for the record that Washington Monthly was among the first publications to write seriously about the injustice of denying the vote to convicts who had served their sentence, and did so over 15 years ago

Sunday, April 24, 2016

"Hillbilly" Betrays Family to Push Repug Lies

Shame on you, J.D. Vance.  All that powerful prose about family loyalty and beating people bloody for the slightest insult, thrown away as a defense of repug, conservatard racism.

"Hillbilly Elegy" purports to be a revelation of the real reason white working-class people are suffering in this country.

It's even written by an actual working-class white person!  A self-proclaimed "hillbilly!"  With statistics to back up his bullshit!

I'm sure his accounts of family violence, struggles with substance abuse and poverty are true; it's the lessons he draws from them that are lifted straight from the elitist conservative pages of the National Review.

T-bone steaks bought on food stamps?  That canard is older than you, son.

Poor people don't need welfare; they just need to get off their lazy asses? Um, didn't you just disprove that very lie in the previous chapter?

Poor whites aren't racist; they just hate "Obama" (never "President Obama") for unknown reasons.

Vance deplores the economic and social collapse of the Ohio town where he grew up without ever recognizing, much less acknowledging, that it was repug tax and deregulation policy that encouraged corporations to abandon places like Middletown.

And that it is repug austerity budgets that deny impoverished residents the decent jobs, housing, education and treatment they need to recover.

No, no, it's all the fault of "liberal" welfare.

For shame, J.D. Vance.  You may have a Yale Law degree and a six-figure job for a biotech company, but the uneducated, jobless "failures" you despise back in Breathitt County know the truth better than you do.

Who Has a Cure for Cancer?

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Forget Trade: TPP Gives Corporations Veto Power Over National Laws

That's not hyperbole.  Under the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, corporations can force countries to repeal all laws protecting consumer health and safety, clean water, clean air, safe food - anything that might cost a corporation a single penny in profits.

Ever wonder what it's like to live in a third-world country?   In a Randian paradise where only corporations have rights? Where the Kinder-Morgan can frack the fuck out of your front yard for free?  When Congress approves TPP, we'll find out.

Congress isn't just not debating it, Members who want to see what's in it must do so alone in a locked room and aren't allowed to bring a record devise-- or even a pen and paper! Those who have done so say only two of the 26 chapters cover traditional trade matters. The bulk of the document, which must be accepted or rejected without any modification, consists of new rights and privileges for multinational corporations (especially international banks and pharmaceutical companies) and irrevocable constraints on government regulation. The document makes it easier for companies to move jobs offshore, take control of natural resources and prevent the regulation of financial services. Kiss the whole concept of "Buy American" or even "buy local" bye-bye-- banned under the agreement.

Conventional courts cannot adjudicate individual trade disputes in the countries where they occur. All disagreements must be decided by “Investor State Dispute Resolution” conducted by TPP Tribunals staffed by lawyers from the private sector who are empowered to force governments to pay unlimited fines to corporations that believe their profits are in jeopardy.

Plotted in secret, the TPP is a corporate coup d’├ętat benefitting the drug, energy, banking and agribusiness industries. It was supposed to take effect this year but the process was delayed when Australia refused to submit to the corporate court system and New Zealand objected to pharmaceutical companies determining the price of drugs sold in New Zealand. All countries denounced America’s demand that regulations on financial speculation be eliminated and drug patent monopolies be extended so that the introduction of generic equivalents could be postponed for years.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Ky Gov Vows to Find the Real Murderer

The danger here is not just that Bevin is wasting tax dollars on a fake search for "corruption," or even that this faux "investigation" will provide a long-term cover for actual corruption by Bevin and his cronies.

No, the real danger is that this witch hunt will target, attack and destroy innocent workers trying to perform needed public service that the libertarian freaks want eliminated.

I can hear the mob's cries now:  "Burn them!"

From the press release:

Governor Matt Bevin Launches Special Investigation into Public Corruption

FRANKFORT, KY (April 19, 2016) -  Today, in light of areas of serious concern dealing with potentially illegal and unethical contracting processes during the previous administration, Governor Matt Bevin announced a special investigation.

Governor Bevin has asked the Secretary of the Finance and Administration Cabinet, Col. Bill Landrum, using the extensive investigative powers given to him in KRS Chapter 45, to prepare and issue an RFP for a thorough, in-depth investigation and report by an attorney or law firm with experience in investigating activities and contracts.

Once selected, this firm will work closely with Secretary Landrum and his staff, including the Cabinet’s new Inspector General, whose appointment will be announced in the coming days, to make findings and issue a report. 

Under KRS Chapter 45, such investigation will include the ability to subpoena witnesses and records as may be necessary to accomplish the investigative goals. 

“A thorough, independent investigation like this can expose and cast light upon prior unsavory — and perhaps illegal — practices, but can also provide the public a degree of confidence in a fair and transparent governance that was so glaringly absent in the past administration,” said Governor Bevin.

Please find attached the Governor’s full remarks as prepared for delivery.