Monday, February 29, 2016

Who's Worth A Million?

PZ Myers has the quote of the week:

Nobody is worth hundreds of millions. Nobody. The life of the CEO making all that money is worth no more and no less than the life of the drunk homeless guy who offended Justin Keller by leaning on his car. The person who had the capital and the support to be able to go to college, make profitable connections, and get the investments to begin a startup is not working harder than the person who is doing two minimum wage jobs and getting periodically laid off by a volatile economy, and I am disgusted by these people who have failed to learn these basic lessons in life.

But greed and short-sighted selfishness and a lack of empathy seem to make up the recipe for financial success, which allows these oblivious parasites to foster more greed and short-sighted selfishness and lack of empathy.

How Matt Bevin's Austerity Budget Will Destroy Kentucky

Just like austerity budgets from faux-libertarian conservative liars have destroyed Kansas and Louisiana and entire nations in Europe.  But the obscenely wealthy are even fatter while desperate workers submit to serfdom, so: win!

When Governor Lying Coward talks about "shared sacrifice" and "tough love," remember that neither he nor any of his billionaire buddies are going to be sacrificing anything or feeling any kind of love but the cock-sucking of more tax cuts.

Many say we should "run government like a business" and "save money" by "cutting spending" and "making government smaller." Does this work? Do We the People really save money by doing these things?



After the Reagan tax cuts we "made government smaller" in several ways that are coming back to bite us now. One way we "saved money" by not "changing the oil" was by deferring maintenance of the country's infrastructure – the water systems, levees, dams, roads, bridges, airports, ports, rails systems, electrical systems, and the rest of the things we all rely on to bring us safe water, get us to work, ship products and generally move our economy and live our lives.

Now the American Society of Civil Engineers' (ASCE) most recent "Infrastructure Report Card" estimates we need to spend $3.6 trillion just to bring the infrastructure up to where it should be, never mind catching up to the rest of the word with high-speed rail and smart electrical grid systems. The bill is getting more expensive every year, and people are dying as bridges, roads and other important infrastructure components fail. Thousands died in New Orleans when the levees failed.



The Flint tragedy shows how much money "big government" actually saves us.

Michigan Republicans tried to "save money," "make government smaller" and run the city of Flint "like a business." Thousands of human beings ended up being poisoned. Now someone is going to have to pay to cover the health care needs of all those people. That someone might be the people themselves or maybe all of us will pitch in through our government, but a cost is a cost.

Someone will need to cover either the remedial education cost for all the kids whose brains were affected by lead, or the societal costs if this is not done. Then there is the cost to replace Flint's water pipes, the cost of plunging property values, the cost of all the businesses that will choose to leave or not locate in Flint.

Costs, costs, costs, some borne by government, most borne by individuals but costs nonetheless – because Republicans said we should "run government like a business" and "save money."
Flint shows how basic government spending saves all of us from paying the enormous costs of living with the danger of unsafe water.

Cutting Senior Nutrition Programs

The post "Here's A Sequester Cut You'll Feel In Your Gut" described the results from budget cuts forced by Republicans wanting to make government "smaller." The "sequester" cuts in senior nutritional programs caused seniors to need to be hospitalized for malnutrition – which costs government a tremendous amount more than the "savings" from cutting.

[F]or all the damage these cruel cuts do to actual, real people, they don’t even actually “cut” spending, they increase spending. Because doing cruel things to actual, real people leads to cruel results.
If government "saves money" by cutting nutritional programs, government ends up paying a lot of money to treat malnutrition. If government won't pay those costs because it is "saving money" by denying health care services those costs don't go away, they are just shifted onto individuals. The affected people have to pay, one way or another, with their money or their health. The communities they live in have to pay as its members suffer or become impoverished.


Local, state and Federally, government "save money" by privatizing services and selling buildings and other assets. But studies have shown what really happens when governments "save money" by privatizing.

What really happens when, say, a city "saves money" by privatizing, for example, its waste pickup services? The current employees, paid an OK salary, probably with good benefits, are laid off. The contractor hires people at low or minimum wage with few or no benefits. The business "saves money" by cutting back on personnel costs, services and maintenance of equipment.

The former city employees, if they can find jobs at all, will be paid very little, homes go into foreclosure – which lowers property values citywide. They stop being able to do much shopping, hurting the local economy. They likely will need public assistance, which means costs were shifted to another branch of government instead of being "saved." Their kids will need special services in the schools, as poor kids often do. And on it goes. Of course, they are no longer paying taxes.

Meanwhile the new workers won't be paid enough to purchase homes, do much shopping, or pay much in taxes. They probably will qualify for public assistance; their kids will need special attention in the schools.

The privatization scheme forces people into poverty and onto public assistance, eroding the tax base, forcing local wages and property values down and generally putting all of us further under the thumb of those who have convinced people who “private companies always do everything better than government.” The contractor companies are often specialists in avoiding taxation themselves. One thing private companies are good at is driving every benefit of our economy upwards to a concentrated and privileged few.


Cost Shifting

Running government like a business doesn't take something important into account: Businesses try to shift costs onto others. When government "saves money" by cutting budgets the costs are still there, but they are shifted onto individuals. And often the total cost paid by all those individuals is much higher than if government took care of things, because of the rule of economy of scale as well as the government's negotiating power.

For example, government can "save money" by not funding a fire department, and not having a fire inspector. Of course, many of us will have to spend a lot of our own money to either pay for our own fire protection or risk the cost to rebuild our houses. And all of us would have to spend a lot of money if the whole town burns down. But hey, we "saved money" not paying for a fire department.

What about government "saving money" by cutting back on education budgets? Not only does this hurt local businesses, but property values are higher when there are "good schools" nearby. So the cost is shifted onto the businesses and individuals, when you "run government like a business." Because that's what businesses do.

Shifting costs from government onto the rest of us actually costs us more money than we save on taxes.

What Is Government's Job?

What is our government for? Is it to operate like a business and make a profit off of We the People? Or is it a mechanism for all of us to decide to get together to do things that make our lives better?

If government cuts corners, tries to do things "on the cheap" like a business, we end up with results that cost more than we would have paid to do something right. When government "saves money" by shifting costs onto individuals, economies of scale and negotiating power are lost and aggregate costs go up, like what has happened in our health care system. And government cutting corners often leads to bad, even cruel results in people's lives.


There is often a good reason for those "big government" budgets.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Treason in Defense of Slavery Prevails in Mississippi

General Sherman had it right: put the South under martial law. Permanently.

Think Progress:

Mississippi’s state flag will include the Confederate battle emblem for the foreseeable future, after state lawmakers on Tuesday said they didn’t have enough support to remove the controversial symbol.
Here's an idea: the nation's first black president should make his last act in office cutting Mississippi off from every last dime of federal assistance, starting with its military installations, until it removes the Confederate battle flag from its state flag and all state property.

Connect the Dots

All the data in biology, physiology, anatomy, genetics, and the fossil record 
a small handful of vague verses and infinite confirmation bias.
All the data in biology, physiology, anatomy, genetics, and the fossil record
a small handful of vague verses and infinite confirmation bias.

War on Religion

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Some Tough Love for the GOP

Quote of the week, from Steve M at No More Mister Niceblog:

The Republican Party is an abusive drunk and deserves to wake up in a pool of its own vomit. We don't have a responsibility to clean it up and make it presentable after what it's done to us, and given what it would like to do to us in the future if given a chance. Why is the Globe so protective of the GOP? Why is it afraid to have the world see it for what it is? I say Trump should win the nomination. Let the party wallow in its own stink.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Kentucky Bill Allows Bigotry by "Faith"

No religion gets a get-out-of-obeying-the-law-free card.  Your religious "freedom" ends where my rights begin.

And stop pretending your homophobia is religious.  You want a pass to discriminate against gays? Move to Saudia Arabia, motherfuckers.

As usual, the Kentucky lege is way behind the times: bills just like this have been struck down as unconstitutional, and this one will, too.

But not before two special elections to fill Democratic House seats in March. The gay-bashing ads have already been filmed.

John Cheves at the Herald:

A Senate committee approved two “religious liberty” bills Thursday, one to legally protect businesses that don’t want to serve gay, lesbian or transgender customers because of the owners’ religious objections, and the other to protect religious expression in public schools.

The first measure, Senate Bill 180, would prohibit the government from compelling services or actions from anyone if doing so conflicts with their sincerely held religious beliefs. The bill expands the state’s 2013 Religious Freedom Restoration Act to clarify that businesses could not be punished in such cases for violating local ordinances that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.


The committee voted 8 to 1 to approve SB 180 and send it to the Senate floor. Sen. Perry Clark, D-Louisville, cast the sole “no” vote, saying the state and federal constitutions already offer adequate protection for religious liberties. Four senators voted “pass,” citing the Hands On Originals case and saying the Senate traditionally doesn’t like to approve legislation that would affect lawsuits pending in the courts.

After the hearing, a gay-rights advocate said Robinson’s bill is “an open attack” on Lexington, Louisville, Covington, Morehead, Frankfort, Danville, Midway and Vicco, which have ordinances that protect the civil rights of their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens.

“It’s a clear attack on the eight cities that passed anti-discrimination fairness ordinances to protect LGBT people,” said Chris Hartman, director of the Louisville-based Fairness Campaign. “They made it crystal clear during the committee hearing that that’s what their aims are. So we’ll be doing everything we can to halt the progress of this legislation.”
 You want your civil and human rights protected against freakazoid demands for Dominionism?  Vote Democratic.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Thursday, February 25, 2016

This. Is. Socialism.

Also known as Big Gubmint. I dare any anti-government patriot to survive a week without any of these.

From Down with Tyranny:

None of Their Damn Business

Yeah, your boss is now mining personal health and credit data on you.

Who thinks that employers would only use this information to "help" their employees? Exactly. More importantly, it's none of their damned business.

From mandatory drug testing to the fact that employees can be fired for their political speech outside of work to the notion that your bosses religious beliefs should dictate what health benefits they are obliged to provide, employers already have way too much power over workers' private lives.
There's something that protects workers from invasive shit like this: Labor Unions.  It's the only guarantee of workers' rights.  And how do you get one?  Organize. Organize. Organize.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Matt Bevin Doesn't Know What the Fuck He Is Doing, Part 16

The repugs do it every time, and voters never learn: tax cuts mean service cuts.

Bevin's proposed tax cuts are running into reality.
Meanwhile the state’s new Medicaid commissioner said that the cost of the Medicaid program — one of the largest expenditures in the budget —will cost about 20 percent more over the next two years, rising to over $3.7 billion

Rep. Jim Wayne, another Louisville Democrat, said that the state could afford these programs and more if it revised its tax system.

“If people who are as wealthy as the governor would pay their fair share in state and local taxes, we know that these type of programs could easily be sustainable,” Wayne said.
So either Bevin gets his tax cuts, or he'll throw 20% of state Medicaid people off the rolls.  Guess which one this sudden change of state benefits in two weeks to an all online site does in a state with one of the lowest percentages of home internet use in America?
 Find out where Kentucky tax dollars really come from and where they go.

And find out how you can support a tax reform plan that is fair and feasible.

Although probably not feasible as long as Governor Lying Coward is in office.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Religious Liberty

And Marco Rubio, obviously unschooled in the proper obfuscatory rhetoric, eschews the flowery prose and just blurts out what they really believe. He says on his website:
“Religious liberty is not simply the right to believe anything you want.”
Actually, that’s exactly what it is.
 As Frederick Clarkson explained in this piece, Thomas Jefferson considered his involvement in the drafting of that Virginia statute as important as his authorship of the Declaration of Independence. It was equally revolutionary: It removed the Anglican church as the official church of the state of Virginia and asserted that people were free to believe in any church, or no church, and it “shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.” It is considered the basis for the U.S. Constitution’s establishment clause, which was ratified four years after this was passed.
The Establishment Clause was a radical embrace of the Enlightenment; it was controversial then and it’s controversial now. Jefferson set out to explain his thinking on the matter. He wrote very explicitly that his intention was that the law held “within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohametan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.” And it will come as a surprise to the Christian Right who have been bamboozled by charlatans into believing otherwise, but Jefferson made it clear that the majority voted against adding any references to Christianity.
Not that this has stopped right wing hucksters like pseudo-historian David Barton, who is the CEO of one of Ted Cruz’s Super-PACs, and the looney Glenn Beck from rewriting this history out of whole cloth. It is one of the great cons in American life. Not only wasn’t the U.S. founded as a Christian nation; the founders discussed the subject at great length over many years and made it clear that it was not. What they did say was that individuals would be free to believe, or not believe, anything they want. That secular Enlightenment value is what Religious Freedom Day celebrates.
But as is their wont, the right wing has cleverly decided to use a postmodern approach to reinterpret this constitutional right as a license to impose their own beliefs on others. Just as the Second Amendment is now used to inhibit the exercise of the First Amendment, radical right-wing legal strategists have devised a plan to use the First Amendment to impose their religious beliefs on their fellow Americans. They cleverly call it a crusade for “religious liberty” when it is, in fact, an attempt to deny individuals the right to live their lives free from religious coercion.
Frederick Clarkson is the author of a new comprehensive report on this movement, called “When Exemption is the Rule: The Religious Freedom Strategy of the Christian Right.” Even those who follow this issue must be surprised at the scope of their efforts. In a nutshell, Clarkson reports that the right has created a number of new institutions and initiatives to advance the redefinition of the meaning of religious freedom. There are tens of millions of dollars from various right wing organizations flowing into these institutions to influence legal, political and cultural change. For instance:
The Becket Fund, which has litigated landmark Supreme Court cases like Hobby Lobby and Hosanna-Tabor, grew 86 percent in just four years, from FY2009 to FY2012. The national legal network Alliance Defending Freedom increased its annual revenues by $5 million during the same period (a 21% increase) while also expanding its effort to seek influential legal precedents in international courts.
In an important mainstreaming move, the conservative John Templeton Foundation funneled $1.6 million through the Becket Fund to establish a religious liberty clinic at Stanford University Law School. It opened in January 2013.
The Supreme Court’s 2014 Hobby Lobby ruling was the first high-level, national recognition of this new definition of religious freedom, which is essentially the recognition of an employer’s right to discriminate. (It allowed companies to claim a religious exemption from the Obamacare mandate that requires employers to offer contraception coverage in health insurance plans.) Essentially the court held that the religious beliefs of an employer supersedes the religious beliefs and personal conscience of individuals who work for them.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

What Matt Bevin Wants to Replace Kynect

It's saved 400,000 Kentuckians from pain, disability, poverty and death, but it came from That Ni**er in the White House, so it has to go.

Bevin claims he's just going to put everyone back on the national Obamacare, but he won't admit that his fellow repugs in Congress are working hard to kill Obamacare and return all of us to the tender mercies of the unregulated private insurance market.

Friday, February 19, 2016


Commenter Robyn Ryan at Wonkette:


Governor Lying Coward Tells More Lies in Cowardly Attack on Planned Parenthood

Really, motherfucker? You really think a baseless lawsuit against Acorn Planned Parenthood is going to vault you into the White House in 2020? 

FRANKFORT, Ky (Feb. 18, 2016) - Governor Matt Bevin today announced that the Cabinet for Health and Family Services has filed a lawsuit against Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, Inc. for operating a facility in which 23 abortions were performed unlawfully from December 3, 2015 through January 28, 2016.
False. Abortion is legal in this country, and no amount of harassing, unnecessary rules can make it not legal.  Don't libertarians and repugs hate government regulations? Because they interfere with small business?  The almighty Free Market demanded abortion services in Louisville.  How dare Faux-Bro Bevin defy the holy market?

Gov. Matt Bevin's heated statement issued Friday evening accused Planned Parenthood of providing "illegal abortions," and accused the health care nonprofit of admitting it had violated state law.
But Planned Parenthood on Saturday countered by adamantly saying it made no such admission.
"We did not perform illegal abortions," said Betty Cockrum, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky. "We worked in good faith ... following Kentucky precedent" when it comes to licensing of its new Louisville facility, she said.
The only mistake Planned Parenthood made was suspending its abortion care while Governor Lying Coward finished his hissy fit.  Which isn't over yet.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Matt Bevin Is Killing His Own Children and Yours

Because that's what celebrating the failure of actions to reduce climate warming does: it guarantees that young people are going to be living on a planet that no longer supports human civilization.

FRANKFORT, Ky (Feb. 9, 2016) - Today, Governor Matt Bevin made the following statement applauding the Supreme Court decision to freeze the Obama Administration's Clean Power Plan regulations:

Today's Supreme Court ruling is a huge win in the fight against Obama's disastrous Clean Power Plan. The Court's decision to freeze these illegal climate regulations is a victory in our efforts to save our coal jobs and protect Kentucky families from skyrocketing energy prices. We will continue to challenge these regulations as the litigations continue in court.”

Kentucky is among a coalition of states challenging the EPA rules. On January 21st, the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet joined with other states and stakeholders to submit comments to the EPA regarding the Federal Plan Requirements for Greenhouse Gas Emissions and implementation of the Clean Power Plan. 
Not to mention that Governor Lying Coward is still refusing to establish a working relationship with the truth.  Climate regulations are not illegal, the rotting carcass of Big Coal will never create jobs, conservatards have been predicting skyrocketing energy prices for thirty years and it ain't happened yet.  Bought gas lately?  

Commenter memzilla at Wonkette:

When middle-class taxpayers bear the cost of public services while the rich profit off the same public services, that's wealth socialism.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

May the Disrespect Never End

From Wonkette commenter Memzilla:

O/T, but Our Grrrl Sara Nails It.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

How Did We Do That Without Religion?


Free speech does not mean there are no limitations on what you can say, it just means the government can’t control the expression of opinions. You still don’t get to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater, or commit libel with impunity, or be obnoxious without social repercussions.
You even have the right to use words like ni**er and cunt and spic and raghead.  And when you do, everyone else has the right to call you out for being a  racist, sexist, motherfucking bigot.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Add An Anal Ultrasound and It's Perfect

Mary Lou Marzian's bill, that is.


Well, One woman legislator is trying to illustrate the issue for her male colleagues:

Conservative legislators in Kentucky, emboldened by the election of Gov. Matt Bevin (R), are moving swiftly to pass numerous new restrictions on women’s access to abortion. Bevin has already signed into law a stricter “informed consent” bill that requires a face-to-face consultation with a healthcare provider, while a forced ultrasound bill sailed easily through a Senate committee this week. (Jezebel notes that though women would be required to receive an ultrasound before an abortion, the bill does allow them to avert their eyes.)

One lawmaker, however, is trying to turn all of these restrictions on women back on men. Rep. Mary Lou Marzian (D) has filed a new bill (HB 396) creating numerous restrictions for men to access medication for erectile dysfunction, such as Viagra or Cialis. HB 396 adds the following four steps a man would have to undergo:
He must have two office visits on two different calendar days before the health care practitioner prescribes a drug for erectile dysfunction to him. 
He can only be prescribed the drug if he is married. 
He must produce a signed and dated letter from his current spouse providing consent for the prescription. 
He must make a sworn statement on a Bible that he will only use the prescription when having sexual relations with his current spouse.
Marzian, one of only three House members who opposed the informed consent bill, knows that her tongue-in-cheek bill likely won’t go anywhere, but she hopes it will help raise awareness among lawmakers about the way abortion laws intrude on a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body.

In an interview with WDRB Friday, she explained her thinking, “How would this body of men feel if the government was injecting into their private medical decisions?” The intent of her legislation is to “have government insert itself into the personal, private decisions of men — since we have already inserted it into our personal, private decisions of women.”
I would add the necessity of an anal ultrasound just because.

This isn't the first time women have brought this up God knows. And it never changes a thing. But it should focus the minds of any progressive types who don't think there's any chance that women will lose their right to self-determination. These extremist wingnuts are relentless and no matter how much time passes these ridiculous proposals keep coming up, unchanged and without any sense that they are antediluvian throwbacks. They're out there and they have political power. If they get the chance to do this, they will.
I don't get what objections there might be to Marzian's bill.  All those forced-birth motherfuckers are jeebus-feerin' kristans, right? Never crossed their minds to fuck anybody outside the fambly. And they're always whipping out the bibble for swearing something or other.

As for the anal ultrasound, give it a try, boys.  You might like it.

Gov. Lying Coward Ensures Watchdogs Can't Watch Him

The Executive Branch Ethics Commission caught and exposed Ernie Fletcher, but Matt Bevin has gutted the agency, leaving his administration free to wreak havoc with no accountability.

Adam Beam at AP:

As part of his proposed budget cuts, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin exempted what he considered to be key government services. Those not protected include agencies charged with holding him and his administration accountable.

Katie Gabhart, the executive director of the Executive Branch Ethics Commission, said the proposed 4.5 percent budget cut this year and the 9 percent cut over the next two years will devastate the agency. She said it would force her to lay off the agency's sole investigator and auditor, two employees who already work part time.

"We will be an investigative and auditing agency with no investigator and auditor," Gabhart told House lawmakers this week. "Public servants are going to violate the ethics code ... and if they know we have an ethics commission with so few resources that we can't enforce the code, then what is the point of having one?"

The cuts also include the Registry of Election Finance, the agency that makes sure politicians follow the rules when they raise and spend money for their campaigns. Executive Director John Steffen said the agency could not sustain a 9 percent cut and would not be able to hire an auditor. In response, House lawmakers suggested changing state law so fewer candidates would have to file disclosure reports.

"I don't know what statutory obligations can be changed and not render our entire agency meaningless," Steffen said.
 A single Democratic seat in the state House stands between Kentucky and the kind of all-repug government that has turned Kansas into Haiti.

Read more here:

Friday, February 12, 2016

Matt Bevin Doesn't Know What the Fuck He's Doing, Part 15

As Zandar points out, when Matt Bevin puts the profit-stealing private sector in charge of public services, we get public theft and no services.  And now, in the case of Medicaid patients, probably dead people stacked up like cordwood.

From the press release:

Governor Matt Bevin and Secretary Vickie Yates Glisson today announced the appointment of Stephen P. Miller, CPA, as Department of Medicaid Commissioner.

“As we work to redesign the Medicaid program and transition it to a more affordable, sustainable model tailored to Kentucky’s needs, it is important to have someone with a deep understanding of the healthcare industry leading the Department of Medicaid,” said Gov. Bevin. “The Commonwealth is fortunate to have someone of Stephen Miller’s caliber, financial acumen, and business experience willing to serve in this role.”

“As a CPA with more than two decades of financial management experience in a healthcare environment, I believe Steve is an excellent choice to lead the Department for Medicaid Services,” said CHFS Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Glisson. “Steve will be a tremendous asset to both the Governor and the Cabinet as we seek to address the financial unsustainability of the current Medicaid model in a way that will improve health outcomes for its members and save taxpayer dollars.”

Miller has spent the past 24 years as Vice President of Finance with the Kentucky Hospital Association (KHA), where he assisted in the development of KHA’s position on pending legislation and monitoring federal and state reimbursement issues. In his role, Miller interacted with Medicaid and Cabinet leadership on many issues related to hospital reimbursement and regulatory issues.

“I look forward to heading the agency that provides the safety net for the most vulnerable of Kentucky citizens,” said Miller.

Prior to his work with KHA, Miller served as Executive Director of Ten Broeck Hospital in Louisville, Chief Operating Officer of Our Lady of Peace Hospital in Louisville, Chief Financial Officer of Our Lady of Peace Hospital in Louisville, and Regional Controller of American Healthcare Management in Dallas.

Miller is a graduate of the University of Louisville, where he received a Bachelor’s degree in accounting. He and his wife Mary, along with their two married daughters live in Louisville.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Bevin to Sign Anti-Family Bill at Right-to-Kill-Women Rally


Yes, the people who are perfectly fine with women dying of sepsis in back alleys and unwanted children starving in the streets are holding a rally at the State Capitol in 90 minutes.

They are celebrating a bill that House Democrats failed to kill.  A bill that declares women nothing but brainless fetus vessels and forces them to give birth against their will.

And Governor Blatocysts-Have-Rights-Adult-Women-Do-Not will be there to ostentatiously sign the unconstitutional kill-women bill into law.

UPDATE, Feb. 13:  Northern KY activists are bombarding Bevin with mocking tweets.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

TPP Still Terrible For Everybody But Corporations

I remember when Rich Trumka was just a kid leading the UMW into one of its last great strikes.  He came up the traditional labor way: growing up in a union family in coal country, working in the mines, organizing a few men at a time, working UNION every single day of his life. The MBA smart asses who have been writing labor's obituary for 40 years don't understand and never will understand.  Which is why we have to follow Trumka into the fight yet again.

From the outset, the AFL-CIO provided detailed and substantive suggestions for improving this agreement and evidence to support our positions. On everything from labor enforcement to investment rules, we offered a path forward. Unfortunately, our policy recommendations were ignored, as were those from the environmental, consumer, public health, global development and manufacturing sectors. That’s what you get from secret negotiations driven by corporate and investor interests.

There are countless ways the TPP would be disastrous for working people. Here are a few of the most egregious.

After much talk about labor standards, the TPP falls woefully short. It retains the totally discretionary nature of enforcement and does nothing to streamline the process so labor cases will be addressed without delay, leaving workers with no assurance of improved conditions. The “consistency” agreements negotiated with Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei don’t add any responsibilities beyond the current labor chapter and give Vietnam five years to come fully into compliance, even though it will receive the benefits of the TPP immediately. There is no deal to address longstanding labor problems in Mexico that have not been remedied despite 20 years of efforts to enforce NAFTA.

The TPP would take a sledgehammer to American manufacturing. The auto rules of origin are so weak that a car or truck made primarily in China or another non-TPP country would still qualify for trade benefits. Popular “Buy American” rules are watered down, requiring the U.S. government to treat bidders from every TPP country as if they were American. Finally, the lack of any enforceable currency manipulation rules means foreign nations can continue to cheat U.S. companies and workers. These features make the TPP an outsourcing deal, not a trade deal.

To add insult to injury, more than 9,000 new foreign companies will be empowered to bypass U.S. courts and access a private justice system — investor-state dispute settlement — that allows them to hold U.S. federal, state and local government decisions ransom. Let that soak in for a minute. Wal-Mart’s Japan subsidiary could sue Seattle for denying a building permit. ExxonMobil’s Vietnamese affiliate could come after the United States for rules and regulations that protect our air and water.

The TPP is also a giveaway to Big Pharma, expanding monopoly rights that will allow drug companies to further drive up costs for patients. These rules are far worse than the ones in the Peru, Colombia and Panama deals negotiated by former President George W. Bush. Doctors Without Borders says the TPP would “jeopardize people’s access to affordable medicines.”

We’ve been down this road before. The Wall Street and Washington elite always tell us that this time will be different. The truth is these trade deals have ripped apart the fabric of our nation. We see the shuttered factories. We visit towns that look like they are stuck in the past. We talk to the workers who lost everything, only to be told they should retrain in another field — but Congress has been slow to fund and authorize those programs. From NAFTA to CAFTA to Korea and now the TPP, these agreements have continually put profits over people. By driving down our wages, they make our economy weaker, not stronger.
There is almost nothing good in this agreement for working people. It’s also worth noting that the labor movement in nations like Vietnam oppose the TPP as well, fearing it will make it much harder to improve conditions in their factories and sweatshops. The TPP is great if you are an elite of any of these nations or a corporate head, especially in the pharmaceutical industry. For the rest of us, such as those who want to protect our environment or labor conditions and don’t want those protections thrown away in an extra-legal court system or those of us who think that American workers who don’t have access to college educations should be able to have a good job that allows them to live a decent life or those of us who believe that Vietnamese and Malaysian workers need to have their rights expanded, the TPP is a complete disaster.

Unfortunately, because of President Obama’s support that is combined with key Democrats in west coast states with large ports that send and receive products to Asia, the TPP is almost certain to past. It would be nice if pressure was placed on relevant senators to make them fear for their political lives if they vote for the TPP, but between the 6-year election cycle for them and the lack of primary options from the left, there’s really little hope here. It was fast-track where the real decision was made. We will be living with the consequences for a long time.

Finally, the TPP is another in a seven decade series of defeats on major bills for organized labor. On everything from Taft-Hartley in 1947 to overturning parts of T-H in 1966 to the failure of a meaningful Humphrey-Hawkins full employment bill in 1978 to NAFTA to the TPP to many other labor bills, the reality is that organized labor has never had the political power to win or defeat bills that were inimical to its most dear interests. Even when labor had more power than it does today, the combination of Republicans and conservative (or pro-business, which is not always the same thing) Democrats was always enough to beat it, at least since 1938, when the Fair Labor Standards Act was the last comprehensive labor bill to become law in the United States. That’s a very long time.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Kansas Plan for Kentucky

Compared to True Randian Believer Matt Bevin, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is a big-gubmint liberal.  Four years from now, we'll be lucky if at worst we're as bad off as Kansas.

Every time one of Governor Lying Coward's proposals comes up in the Kentucky General Assembly, Democratic members should just stand up and shout "KANSAS!"

If you aren’t worried about the future of Kansas, here are some reasons to start

Mismanagement and chronic fiscal problems in Kansas are eroding the state’s ability to serve the public.

The situation is no longer one of short-term budget pain, as states typically experience in a recession. The financial problems are severe and deep-seated. They are pushing officials to make decisions that will harm Kansas and its citizens well into the future.

Misplaced priorities and poor leadership make matters worse. Some legislators say they are alarmed by turnover in crucial state agencies. Many capable employees have departed, leaving those in place often unable to deal with the crises that are arising with increasing frequency.

Conservative Republicans in the Legislature, who pushed for the deep income tax cuts at the heart of the dysfunction, are fond of saying that government needs to be run more like a business.

But in fact no business could get away with failing as spectacularly as Kansas has. The management team would be shown the door, something Kansas voters failed to do when they narrowly re-elected Gov. Sam Brownback in 2014.

Voters will have opportunities to turn over many legislative seats in elections later this year. It is crucial to recruit and elect candidates who will help reverse the damage of recent years.

Without a dramatic correction, the state will continue to spiral downward. Here we highlight a few of the areas of concern.

Road to ruin?

The raids on the state’s transportation fund in order to pay other bills are well known. Brownback and the Legislature have plundered $1.4 billion from the Kansas Department of Transportation over six years.

But now the state is engaging in even riskier practices. A little-noticed provision slipped into the budget last year opened a window for unlimited borrowing of highway construction bonds. KDOT quickly issued a record $400 million in bonds in December.

The bond rating agency Fitch reported that highway officials had disclosed that “the increase is partly tied to the state’s plan to transfer additional funds to the state’s General Fund,” meaning the administration is borrowing to funnel money through KDOT for other expenses.

Even more irresponsible is the structure of the bond issue, which requires the state to pay only interest for 10 years and begin paying off the principal after that.

KDOT Secretary Mike King told lawmakers the state will have finished paying on other bonds in 10 years time. But Kansas has rarely taken such risks in the past.

The increased borrowing isn’t reflected in highway work. While its schedule calls for repairing 1,200 miles of roads a year, the state this year is fixing only 200 miles. At that rate it won’t take long for Kansas roads to fall into serious disrepair.

Power outage

In a move that has legislators from both parties seething, Brownback’s administration last month signed a $20 million lease-purchase agreement with Bank of America to construct a new state power plant in Topeka. Never before has Kansas turned to a lease-purchase agreement to finance long-term debt.

Lawmakers weren’t consulted about the deal, which will put the cash-strapped state on the hook for $1.32 million in annual payments through 2031. The arrangement will likely require the state to demolish the aging Docking State Office Building, although not all lawmakers want to do that.

The unilaterally arranged lease agreement is typical of Brownback’s imperious management style and his inclination toward budget denial. The state’s projected revenue shortfall through July 2017 could exceed $200 million. This is hardly the time to take on a new long-term debt payment.

But canceling the lease reportedly would cost more than $400,000. So it appears to be a done deal.

Waiting game

The rollout of a new computer system for processing eligibility for Kansas’ privatized Medicare program, KanCare, has become a nightmare.

The system took years longer to build than anticipated, and costs are running about 25 percent over budget.

About 10,000 applications are pending. Advocates for disabled and elderly Kansans say clients are inexplicably being dropped from coverage. They find out they are uninsured when they visit their doctor or try to fill a prescription.

People are complaining of four-hour waits to get someone on the telephone and often no resolution of their issues once they do.

Other states, including Missouri, have experienced technical difficulties as they have upgraded software to comply with changes brought about by the federal health care law and other developments.

But fixing the problems will require money, manpower and expertise. Right now Kansas is short in all of those areas.

Point of no return?

Low pay for employees and disinvestment have created situations where Kansas is actually paying more than it should to provide minimal services.

Kansas once was heralded for offering treatment and services that helped keep former inmates out of prison. But much of that was stopped by budget cuts even before Brownback took office. Now the state pays more to support increased prison populations.

And because Kansas’ salaries are lower than in neighboring states, its prisons are beset with staff shortages that require corrections officers to work overtime at higher rates.

Staff shortages are most acute at the state’s two hospitals for people with severe psychiatric problems. Nurses and support staff at the state hospitals in Larned and Osawatomie work so many extra hours that concerns for staff and patient safety are well founded.

Because of security breaches at Osawatomie, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services cut off Medicare payments for patients. The state must now pick up the cost, about $600,000 a month.

“It is possible to cut past the point of efficiency and create costly problems,” said Kansas Rep. Melissa Rooker, a Republican from Fairway. “It’s my belief that we’re there.”

Indeed, there is no other valid conclusion. Services are breaking down in Kansas, and the longer the financial and management ineptitude continue, the harder it will be to restore them.
So, you fail to fund services at their most basic levels and that, in turn, leads to more costs down the line. Why, it’s almost as if giving massive tax cuts to the rich and emptying the government’s coffers does not actually work and instead creates a state of constant shortfall and chaos! Naw, that can’t be it. We should probably just let Brownback singlehandedly enact some more tax cuts and then everything will get sorted, right?