Leo W. Gerard

President’s Perspective

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

Fast Tracking Democracy to Hell

Fast Tracking Democracy to Hell
Photo of workers protesting Fast Track by Steven Dietz of Sharp Image Studios for the USW

Free traders in Congress formally proposed last week that lawmakers relax, put their feet up and neglect the rigor of legislative review for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade scheme.

The TPP is a secret deal among 12 Pacific Rim nations that was covertly negotiated by unelected officials and corporate bosses. It’s so clandestine that lawmakers elected to represent the American people were refused access to the deliberations. It would expand secret trade tribunals that corporations use to sue governments over democratically established laws and win compensation from taxpayers.

The Congressional free traders want to Fast Track authorization of the TPP. Fast Track enables Congress to abdicate its constitutionally mandated duty to regulate international trade. Instead of scrutinizing, amending and improving proposed trade deals, lawmakers use Fast Track to gloss over the specifics and simply vote yea or nay on the entire package as presented. With elected officials excluded from the talks, details of the treaty deliberately shrouded in secrecy and free traders demanding lawmakers ignore the deal’s effects on constituents, this process condemns democracy.

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Koch Brothers Declare Scott Walker Is Our Man

Mary Bottari

Mary Bottari The Center for Media and Democracy/ALEC Exposed

Brendan Fischer

Brendan Fischer General Counsel, Center for Media and Democracy

Has Scott Walker won the Koch primary?

Charles and David Koch, the billionaire co-owners of Koch Industries, one of the largest privately-held companies in the world and the overseers of one of the biggest private political organizations in the country, told Republican donors in New York on April 19 that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is their man for President.

"We will support whoever the candidate is," David Koch said, "but it should be Scott Walker," according to an account in the New York Times.

Koch, whose political network plans to spend an astonishing $1 billion in the 2016 presidential elections, said "Scott Walker is terrific and I really wish him all the best. He’s a tremendous candidate to be the nominee in my opinion" (although he later said "I am not endorsing or supporting any candidate for president at this point in time.")

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The ExxonMobil Explosion That Nobody Is Talking About

Sacha Feinman

Sacha Feinman Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

The ExxonMobil Explosion That Nobody Is Talking About

Just before 9 a.m. on February 18, the ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance, California exploded, shaking the surrounding community with the force of a 1.7 magnitude earthquake, and sending a quarter ton of sulfur oxide gas into the atmosphere. With the capacity to refine more than 150,000 barrels of gasoline a day, the facility supplies nearly 10 percent of the state’s gasoline supply, and its reduced capacity increased the cost of filling up a tank of gasin California by 6 to 10 cents per gallon.My property is about 2 and 1/4 acres in size and 100 percent of it, I mean every square millimeter, was covered in the fallout.

Workers inside the refinery likened the incident to a “loud sonic boom,” and soon roughly 50 firefighters were battling a three-alarm fire. First responders initially feared the possibility of radioactive materials at the scene, though that concern was ruled out some three hours after the initial explosion.

“When you walk through that gate, you don’t know what’s gonna happen,” one unidentified worker told NBC News in the immediate aftermath of the explosion. “You don’t know if you’re gonna come back out alive; you don’t know if you’re gonna come back out with a limb missing.”

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Democrats, Too, Are Dancing to the Rich Man's Tune

Jim Hightower

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist

Democrats, Too, Are Dancing to the Rich Man's Tune

It's futile to hope that the GOP's gaggle of corporate-hugging, right-wing presidential candidates will seriously address the issue of rising inequality in our land – but where are the Democrats?

Well, Hillary Clinton has warned that, "extreme inequality has corrupted other societies." Uh... yes, but what about our society? Clinton says: "We have to have a concerted effort to meet a consensus about how to deal with this."

Huh? That's not an answer, much less a solution – it's a political tap dance around a crucial matter facing America. Why would she dodge a chance to swing away at a down-the-middle, working-class issue that's right in the wheelhouse of her party's populist strength? After all, recent polls show huge public support for direct government action to reduce the wealth gap, from raising taxes on the superrich to raising the minimum wage above the poverty level.

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The Simple Progressive Economic Agenda for Hillary Clinton (or Anyone Else)

Dean Baker

Dean Baker Co-Director, Author, Center for Economic and Policy Research

In the week since Secretary Clinton announced she is entering the presidential race, there have been numerous stories asking about the agenda that she will adopt in her campaign. In her announcement video, she indicated she wanted to be a champion for the average worker against the wealthy.

While many policies will be needed to improve the situation of the poor and middle class, there are three simple ones that could make a big difference: a more competitive dollar, a Federal Reserve Board committed to full employment and a financial transactions tax to rein in Wall Street. If Clinton or any other presidential candidate wants to level the playing field, these policies would be a great place to start.

The competitive dollar is an issue that is actually quite simple, but obscured by bad reporting in the media. The value of the dollar relative to other currencies is by far the main determinant of the country's deficit. We currently have a trade deficit of more than $500 billion a year (at three percent of GDP).

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Obamacare Healing the Sick American Health Insurance System

Obamacare Healing the Sick American Health Insurance System

Union Matters

First Amendment Violations

Recently, the Republican administration in Wisconsin took a step that seems to challenge the First Amendment to our Constitution.  According to a report in the New York Times, a Wisconsin agency that manages state lands has forbidden its employees from working on issues related to climate change while they are on the job.

Other than the obvious non sequitur inherent in this stance – since climate change quite possibly affects the lands the agency manages – there’s another significant question here.  Does such an order violate the First Amendment rights of these employees?  Let’s take a look at that amendment, the first in what’s known as the Bill of Rights, and a statement of what so many consider emblematic of our nation.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

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