"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Public Sector’

Secretive Corporate-Legislative Group ALEC Holds Annual Meeting To Rewrite State Laws Favoring Corporations

In Uncategorized on August 5, 2011 at 5:51 pm

Oldspeak: Ever heard of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council)? Probably not. This clandestine corpocratic cabal of overwhelmingly conservative Republicans has brought you such legislative gems as SB 1070 (Arizona’s “Papers Please?” Law) mandatory minimums for non-violent drug offenders, “three strikes” laws, Prison Industries Act (Prison Labor), drafed bills to change tax laws, attack worker rights, roll back environmental regulations, privatize education, deregulate major industries, and pass voter ID laws. And the bills ALEC task forces usually favor the corporations and industries they’re meant to regulate and affect. “It is in fact the case that politicians and corporations are voting as equals on “model legislation” through ALEC task forces, and corporations have the right to veto, through this process, legislation that even a majority or—a majority of politicians within those meetings would approve. Those meetings cover every area of law, including the rights of Americans killed or injured by corporations, as well as healthcare, pensions—you name it, basically it’s covered.” -Lisa Graves “More than 98% of ALEC’s revenues come  corporations, corporate trade groups, and corporate foundations. Each corporate member pays an annual fee of between $7,000 and $25,000 a year, and if a corporation participates in any of the nine task forces, additional fees apply, from $2,500 to $10,000 each year. ALEC also receives direct grants from corporations, such as $1.4 million from ExxonMobil from 1998-2009. It has also received grants from some of the biggest foundations funded by corporate CEOs in the country, such as: the Koch family Charles G. Koch Foundation, the Koch-managed Claude R. Lambe Foundation, the Scaife familyAllegheny Foundation, the Coors family Castle Rock Foundation, to name a few.” -Center for Media and Democracy So basically, as was grotesquely demonstrated by the passage of the wildly unpopular “debt deal” by the U.S. Congress, corporations’ votes count more than the elected officials who supposedly represent you, and introduce them as legislation to be made law. Some the results of this legislative alchemy? An explosion in the prison population and by extension a vastly expanded prison-industrial complex (U.S. accounts for 4% of world population and 25% of world prison population), an explosion in prison labor (to the detriment of unionized, and public sector workers) which constitutes unfair competition with corporations and small businesses who don’t use slave -er… prison labor. deregulation, reduced safety, reduced taxes on the richest americans & corporations, failed school privatization policies…. etc etc etc. More concrete evidence that the U.S. Government, has been captured by the Corprotocracy. It is obvious to any one paying attention that your government no longer works for we the people. Oligarchy In Action.”

Related Links:

The Hidden History of ALEC and Prison Labor

 

New Exposé Tracks ALEC-Private Prison Industry Effort to Replace Unionized Workers with Prison Labor

Alec Exposed

 

Center for Media and Democracy 

By Amy Goodman @ Democracy Now:

AMY GOODMAN: Hundreds of state legislators from all 50 states have gathered in New Orleans, Louisiana, for the 38th annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council, also known as ALEC. The meeting’s top donor? BP, followed by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco and Takeda Pharmaceutical Company. Critics say the Washington-based group has played a key role in helping corporations secretly draft model pro-business legislation that’s been used by state lawmakers across the country.

Unlike many other organizations, ALEC’s membership includes both state lawmakers and corporate executives. At its meetings, the corporations and politicians gather behind closed doors to discuss and vote on model legislation. Before the bills are publicly introduced in state legislatures, they’re cleansed of any reference to who actually wrote them. However, the chair of ALEC, Noble Ellington, insisted in an interview with NPR’s Terry Gross that he works for the tax-paying public. Ellington is a Republican member of the Louisiana State Legislature.

REP. NOBLE ELLINGTON: We represent the public, and we are the ones who decide. So the tax-paying public is represented there at the table, because I’m there.

TERRY GROSS: I understand that, but you’re there at the table with corporations. But at the table—

REP. NOBLE ELLINGTON: Can I interrupt you again?

TERRY GROSS: Yes.

REP. NOBLE ELLINGTON: It’s not just corporations. I’m there, and members of ALEC is the Americans for Tax Reform, the National Taxpayers Union, National Federation of Independent Businesses. Those are people that we represent, as well, and those are people who are members.

TERRY GROSS: But those are—those are all pro-business, anti-tax groups. People not represented at the table include workers, union members, teachers, students—

REP. NOBLE ELLINGTON: No, ma’am. No, ma’am. You are—

TERRY GROSS: —patients, patients who can’t pay medical bills.

REP. NOBLE ELLINGTON: You are completely wrong.

AMY GOODMAN: That was, an exchange between NPR’s Terry Gross and ALEC chairman Noble Ellington.

In recent months, ALEC has come under increasing scrutiny for its role in drafting bills to attack worker rights, roll back environmental regulations, privatize education, deregulate major industries, and pass voter ID laws. Nonetheless, this year’s annual ALEC meeting boasts the largest attendance in five years, with nearly 2,000 people in attendance. The conference features speakers like, oh, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, former West Virginia Governor Bob Wise, Wall Street Journal contributor Steve Moore, and the president of the American Enterprise Institute, Arthur Brooks.

Now, a new exposé in The Nation magazine called “The Hidden History of ALEC and Prison Labor” details ALEC’s instrumental role in the explosion of the U.S. prison population in the past few decades. According to the article, ALEC pioneered some of the toughest sentencing laws on the books today and paved the way for states and corporations to replace unionized workers with prison labor.

We’re joined now by the one of the reporters who wrote the article, Mike Elk, contributing editor to The Nation magazine. We’re also joined by Lisa Graves. She’s in New Orleans right now, where the ALEC conference is taking place. She’s executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy. Last month, the Center for Media and Democracy released 800 model bills approved by companies and lawmakers at recent ALEC meetings. We invited a member of ALEC to join us, but they denied our request.

Mike Elk, Lisa Graves, welcome to Democracy Now! Lisa, talk about what’s happening right now in New Orleans. Are you getting into this conference? What are you seeing? What are the seminars, these sessions about?

LISA GRAVES: Well, the Center for Media and Democracy was denied access to the convention with one of our cub reporters, and he was required to leave the convention hotel, the Marriott. But we have received reports, from behind closed doors, from those meetings, at which corporations and politicians are voting on model legislation. And one of the reports we received yesterday from insiders is that corporations vetoed model legislation that politicians had voted for. And so, it is in fact the case that politicians and corporations are voting as equals on model legislation through ALEC task forces, and corporations have the right to veto, through this process, legislation that even a majority or—a majority of politicians within those meetings would approve.

Those meetings cover every area of law, including tax, environment, workers’ rights, the rights of Americans killed or injured by corporations, as well as healthcare, pensions—you name it, basically it’s covered. And we’ve even seen coverage from inside about sessions with ALEC, in which they had one session called “Warming Up to Climate Change: How Increased CO2 Can Benefit You.”

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to Terry Gross of NPR speaking with the national chair of ALEC, Noble Ellington, the Republican member of the Louisiana State Legislature. Terry Gross asked Ellington why ALEC gives corporations such a big say in drafting legislation. This is an excerpt of their exchange.

TERRY GROSS: Why give corporations such a big say in drafting legislation?

REP. NOBLE ELLINGTON: Well, partly because they are one of the ones who will be affected by it. And you say “a big say,” but as I expressed to you earlier, and I think it needs to be made perfectly clear, that they have—they do not have the final say about model legislation. It is done with work with task forces, which is both public and private sector working together. But before it ever becomes model legislation or ALEC policy, it has to go through the public sector board, not the private sector. So only the public sector had the final say as to whether or not something becomes model legislation.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s the ALEC chair, Noble Ellington. Lisa Graves, your response?

LISA GRAVES: Well, it’s interesting, because what we saw and what we heard from inside yesterday is that, quite clearly, corporations can veto things before the public board that Noble Ellington sits on have a chance to approve it. So, in essence, if the corporations disagree on proposed legislation at the task force level, it never makes it to the board that Senator Ellington sits on.

The fact is that corporations exert extraordinary influence and control over this process. They can veto legislation through the task forces. They are the bankrollers of ALEC. Over 98 percent of the money that funds ALEC’s operations come from everything except for legislative dues, which are 50 bucks a year. Some legislators are so cheap, they don’t even pay it themselves; they have the taxpayer pay it for them. Meanwhile, corporations can pay $7,500 or $25,000 a year for membership, and then some corporations, like BP, a year after the disaster in the Gulf, is now the headline corporation underwriting this convention. They’re the top corporation listed in the President’s Circle for ALEC’s convention this year.

AMY GOODMAN: Taking place, of course, there in New Orleans. What has the debt deal negotiations and this whole crisis that has happened in Washington meant for this conference and for ALEC? What are they saying about it?

LISA GRAVES: Well, they haven’t—they haven’t mentioned a lot about it directly, at least in the sessions that we’ve heard reports from. However, we do know that Governor Jindal spoke sort of extensively about the power of being stubborn, the importance of being stubborn and the power of that, which I think was a direct reference to the debt negotiations. The fact is that ALEC alums include Congressman John Boehner, who’s the speaker of the House, as well as Congressman Eric Cantor, who’s the Republican leader of the House. ALEC legislation parallels legislation that has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to cap spending by government, to reduce taxes on the richest of Americans and the richest corporations, and so that agenda is moving both through Congress and through the states, and it’s an agenda whose ideas are made concrete through model legislation that ALEC produces every year. These politicians who sit on the board with Senator Ellington and others, they have approved over 850 pieces of legislation or resolutions, that we’ve made available to the public and have analyzed, and that the public is joining us, along with reporters, in analyzing. And so, we know what this agenda looks like. It looks like the same sort of deal that was pushed through in Congress this week.

AMY GOODMAN: Lisa Graves, the significance of holding this conference in post-Katrina New Orleans? I mean, you’ve talked about BP sponsoring it—of course, the huge BP oil spill. But also, all the teachers fired in New Orleans. It’s known as a Petri dish for policy in this country, and not as many people may be aware—as aware of that.

LISA GRAVES: Well, that’s right. Well, on the one hand, we certainly are happy to see money coming into the New Orleans—the New Orleans economy, even from a convention like ALEC’s, where these corporations and politicians are engaged in this sort of unprecedented joint voting.

The fact is that we had a press conference earlier this week with local school board representatives, including a Republican on the school board, as well as local teachers, who have talked about the failure of policies that basically privatize public education in New Orleans to push money out of the public school system into not-well-regulated charter schools, charter schools that have had severe problems, and how those policies have failed at the ground-floor level here in New Orleans. People who were part of that conference said they wondered where the push was coming for these proposals to just massively change the school system. It turns out these proposals are echoed in ALEClegislation that’s being pushed across the country. It’s a one-size-fits-all, McBill sort of factory within ALEC, and it serves the interests of ALEC corporations, including the ALECEducation Task Force, which is co-chaired by an online school company, a for-profit company.

AMY GOODMAN: Is there anything else you think is critical to understand about this organization that not that many people know about by name, ALEC, but may know about by laws that are passed in their states, with them not knowing where they are coming from?

LISA GRAVES: Well, we think that fellow reporters and citizens can make a lot of use of our website, alecexposed.org. We have lists of politicians. We’ve added over a thousand politicians over the past few weeks since the site was launched. We have profiles and links to profiles on some of the corporations that are the leading players withinALEC, including Koch Industries. And we also are discovering new corporations every day. For example, today, Dick Armey, who is the leader of FreedomWorks, who basically is one of the leaders of the Tea Party effort, is speaking at a luncheon, and that is sponsored by Visa. I say to Visa: “Not priceless.” The fact is that what we’re seeing here is an extraordinary influence of corporations on our policy. And we do know—and I would say, with respect to your next segment, we understand from other reporters that ALEC is denying that the Corrections Corporation of America is a member or leader of ALEC, but we have proof that Corrections Corporation of America, which has been involved in pushing this prison privatization agenda, was a member of ALEC as of at least last month.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much for being with us. “The Hidden History of ALEC and Prison Labor” is our next segment. Lisa Graves, of the Center for Media and Democracy, in New Orleans.

 

 

 

As Debt Talks Threaten Medicare, Social Security, Study Finds U.S. Spending $4 Trillion On Wars

In Uncategorized on July 8, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Oldspeak:“Why is it that state and local governments are going broke and selling everything not nailed down to stay afloat, public and government workers are being discarded in droves, infrastructure is crumbling, millionaire politricians from “both” parties want to cut social safety nets and entitlement programs for poor, elderly, sick and disenfranchised people, but the U.S. government magically can find 4 TRILLION DOLLARS to kill more innocents than bad guys in illegitimate & illegal wars using borrowed money to pay for? Why is corporate media leading us to believe that “entitlement programs” and unions, and teachers and public workers and their fat pensions are to blame for the monumental U.S. debt crisis? Why is so little attention being paid to the TRILLIONS that have been printed by the U.S. Treasury and given away to Military-Fianacial Industrial Complex to keep it running, to the detriment of many other sectors of the U.S. Economy? Why is war more vital an interest that medical care, care for the elderly, and maintenance of a robust public sector? War is big business. War expands empire. War aquires other nations oil. War promotes scarcity. War is a drug. A drug the U.S. desperately needs to kick.

RELATED LINKS

By Amy Goodman @ Democracy Now:

As part of ongoing debt negotiations, the White House has proposed slashing more than $4 trillion from annual budget deficits over the next decade — twice what Obama had proposed earlier. While much of the talk in Washington centers on taxes, Social Security and Medicare, far less attention is being paid to the growing cost of the U.S. wars overseas. A new report from Brown University has estimated the true cost of the U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan will end up costing approximately $4 trillion — far more than the Bush or Obama administrations have acknowledged. The authors of the study reveal that because the war has been financed almost entirely by borrowing, $185 billion in interest has already been paid on war spending, and another $1 trillion could accrue in interest alone through 2020. We speak with Neta Crawford, co-director of the Costs of War Project, and a Professor of Political Science at Boston University.

JUAN GONZALEZ: President Obama met with congressional leaders at the White House Thursday and vowed not to sign a short-term extension of U.S. $14.3 trillion debt ceiling beyond the approaching August 2nd deadline. As part of the debt negotiations, the White House has proposed slashing more than $4 trillion from annual deficits over the next decade – twice what Obama had promised earlier.

While much of the talk in Washington centers on taxes, Social Security and Medicare, far less attention is being paid to the growing cost of U.S. wars overseas. The U.S. military and the C.I.A. are currently carrying out operations in at least six countries – Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia.

AMY GOODMAN: A new report released by Brown University has estimated the true cost of the U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan will end up costing approximately $4 trillion – far more than the Bush or Obama administrations have acknowledged. The authors of the study reveal because the war is being financed almost entirely by borrowing, $185 billion in interest has already been paid on war spending, and another $1 trillion could accrue in interest alone through 2020. It could cost nearly another $1 trillion to pay for the medical care and disability for current and future war veterans.

To discuss the cost of war, we’re going up to Boston University to speak with Professor Neta Crawford. She’s the co-director of the Cost of War Project and a professor of political science at Boston University. The significance of this report, even as they’re debating the deficit in Washington, and talking about agreeing on deep cuts to Social Security and Medicare – Neta Crawford, the cost that the United States is spending right now in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and what you’re pointing out in this report – equally in Pakistan – right now?

NETA CRAWFORD: Yes, the United States has already spent about $3 trillion and it will spend much more than that over the next several decades, including that maybe $1 trillion that was mentioned by your reporter, on veterans and medical.

AMY GOODMAN: Lay out for us what you have found, these massive costs that we, in this country I think, have very little awareness of the media covering actual war less and less.

NETA CRAWFORD: Well, there are two aspects of that. First, the president and many people focus on just the Pentagon’s appropriation for the wars in the last 10 years, and that’s $1.3 trillion in constant dollars. But the costs are deeper than that. They go to veterans medical and disability costs, foreign assistance, homeland security, and then, as you mentioned, interest on the debt. When you add all that up, it is about twice what we tend to talk about if we just focus on Pentagon appropriations.

The other element of the costs is that future cost, which we must pay – the interest on the debt and veterans’ medical and disability. Then there’s another layer of costs which we were not able to fully calculate, which are the social costs to families and also the cost to state and local governments for veterans’ care. Then there are many other pockets of cost if you look all over the U.S. government.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Yesterday on the show we talked about the problems of post-traumatic stress with many veterans and the suicide rates. What portion of this cost that is never factored in did you conclude was a result of both the need for current medical treatment for returning veterans as well as future treatment?

NETA CRAWFORD: Well, the U.S. has already spent already about $32 billion in medical and disability for veterans, but that doesn’t include what families are spending privately nor what state and local governments are spending. Of course, all of this is an under-estimate of the toll because as you know, until recently, the U.S. was not including many people who do have traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress because those were under-diagnosed.

AMY GOODMAN: Why aren’t we seeing this reflected in the conversations on the networks, as this whole discussion about deficits takes place? The massive cost that is going into the state of war rather than back into the states of this country, that are in such dire need, Professor Crawford?

NETA CRAWFORD: I think it’s partly that after 9/11, we are in such shock and fear that this lingered, and the tendency not to question what seemed to be defense expenditures, were actually – they could have been questioned. That’s a long-term sort of hangover of the 9/11 attacks, our sort of inability to be questioning these budgets. I think another element here is that, again, the cost is sort of hidden from view and put in these different budgets so it’s hard, unless you take a more comprehensive view, to get a handle on the scale of the cost.

A third factor is perhaps that these wars have been funded mostly through special appropriations or emergency appropriations until recently. Those costs are not scrutinized as much by Congress as they out to be.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Of course, one part of that that has been now structurally put into our budget is Homeland Security. Your assessment of the enormous expenditure? Because it seems that no matter what the budget deficit is, there’s always money available for more efforts at Homeland Security. Can you talk about this impact of actually militarizing the domestic budget of the United States?

NETA CRAWFORD: That is about an additional $400 billion over the last 10 years for Homeland Security. Of course, it is in a way ironic because at the same time U.S. has spent this money to increase preparedness, it took away National Guard troops and equipment and moved them abroad. In a sense, robbing Peter to pay Paul.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Crawford, included in the cost of war – you’ve got the financial costs, far more than has been estimated before here in this country. I mean, Professors Stiglitz and Bilmes at Harvard, the Nobel Prize winning economists, say we’re talking about actually estimates over years of something like $5 trillion, but also the human casualties cost of war.

NETA CRAWFORD: We calculated, estimated about 225,000-250,000 people have died – that’s including soldiers, civilians, contractors. But more than that, we know this is a conservative estimate because in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan, there has been a tendency to under count and not report the direct war dead. In addition, we tend to focus on those were killed by bombs and bullets, but pay less attention to those who died because of lack of safe drinking water or disease or displacement and inability to eat, so that rates of malnourishment are still high in Iraq. Malnutrition is very high in Afghanistan. Millions of people in Pakistan are displaced and don’t have regular access to food and safe drinking water.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Crawford, we’ll leave it there but we’ll link to your report at democracynow.org, called Cost of War. Professor Crawford is professor of political science at Boston University.

Paving The Road To A Hungrier, Unhealthier, And Less-Educated Nation

In Uncategorized on June 23, 2011 at 11:35 am

Oldspeak:” More Change I Can’t Believe In. ‘Austerity Meaures’ ” have come home too roost. The same harsh and counter-productive cuts to education, social programs, public sector institutions/services/workers/jobs, we’ve seen undertaken in foreign countries via “Structural Adjustment Programs” implemented by U.S. backed “lending institutions” like the IMF, The World Bank, and USAID, that usually hit the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest, are being proposed by politricians right here in the U.S. of A. When President Obama starts proposing cuts to community organizing in poor neighborhoods, it tells you all you need to know. The rich matter most, the poor and everyone in between matter least. Witness the sad fact that income inequality in America is at Great Depression Era levels. The number children living in poverty is at an all time high. if it’s true that “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” , America’s greatness doesn’t amount to very much atal. Meanwhile, the financial-military-industrial complex is doing just GRAND!

By Deborah Weinstein @ Other Words:

The number of poor children had already grown by 2.1 million in 2009 over pre-recession levels, with continuing high joblessness among parents raising concerns that poverty will continue to worsen for some time. Since kids who spend more than half their childhood in poverty earn on average 39 percent less than median income as adults, we can expect lasting costs that will hurt the nation’s future economic growth.

And yet, a majority of House lawmakers want to narrow the deficit by making things worse for today’s kids.

If House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s proposal takes effect, or the even more extreme House Republican Study Committee’s budget plan prevails, the nation’s economic future will inevitably get bleaker. Those proposals would reduce the food assistance, medical care, and education available to poor children. When children don’t get adequate nutrition, research shows that they are more likely to suffer illnesses and hospitalizations. Poor health can trigger developmental problems that take a toll on school performance.

The House passed Ryan’s proposal in April along party lines. Not one Democrat supported it and all but four Republicans voted in favor of it. In the Senate, five Republicans joined every member of the chamber’s Democratic majority in rejecting it.

The House budget, best known for Ryan’s proposal to radically change and mostly privatize Medicare, would also reduce spending on food stamps by 20 percent over the next decade. If such a deep cut were implemented through caseload reductions, it would mean 8 million fewer people receiving food stamps, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. If instead the cuts took effect by reducing the amount of assistance each family receives, a family of four would lose $147 a month.

Since about half of food stamp recipients are children, such cuts would hurt the chances that those kids will graduate from high school or college, increasing the likelihood of lifelong poverty. The Republican Study Committee’s cuts are far deeper. They would cut food stamps in half over 10 years.

These proposals would have similarly harsh impacts on medical care. The House budget cuts, if implemented solely by reducing eligibility, would deny Medicaid to nearly half the people who rely on it now, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. More likely, there would be some combination of denying people altogether and reducing the care or increasing the costs for those who remain eligible. Either way, the impact would be severe. Again, the Republican Study Committee proposal would inflict even deeper cuts. That proposal calls for halving Medicaid spending by 2021.

How would these plans handle education spending? They’d cut it. We know that the House budget would cut education by nearly one-fifth next year and by a quarter by the end of the decade, with 1.7 million fewer low-income college students qualifying for Pell Grant scholarships. U.S. military spending, which nearly totals the combined military expenditures of every other nation on earth, wouldn’t be cut at all. The Republican Study Committee doesn’t spell out most of its education cuts, but it would cut all appropriations except for military spending by about 70 percent by 2021. Education funding would be slashed from preschool through college.

The GOP deficit reduction plans rely solely on massive domestic spending cuts that would heap more trouble on the recession generation’s already grim prospects. That’s counterproductive. Slower economic growth will cut tax revenue and make it harder to nix the government’s persistent budget deficit problem. Balanced-budget amendments and other proposals to place drastic limits on total federal spending would result in cuts at least as deep as the Ryan and Republican Study Committee budget plans.

There’s a better way. We can take a more responsible and effective approach that would gradually narrow the deficit and spare the programs that low-income Americans rely on through a combination of fair revenue increases and spending cuts that don’t exempt the military. Otherwise, we’ll wind up denying opportunities for a middle-class life to millions of our children.

Deborah Weinstein is the executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs, an alliance of national organizations working together to promote public policies that address the needs of low-income and other vulnerable populations. www.chn.org

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 398 other followers