Leo W. Gerard

President’s Perspective

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

There’s Always Money for the Boss

There’s Always Money for the Boss

Businesses always find big bucks for the boss. He wants a raise; he gets it. No problem. For workers whose sweat of the brow produces profits, well, somehow there’s never a cent for them.

In fact, last week when President Obama proposed making more workers eligible for overtime pay, fat cats and CEO sycophants expressed abject horror that companies may have to pay employees more when they work more.

No way could they pay, they protested! The proposed rule would bankrupt America, they raged. It’s not humanly possible, they fumed, for corporations that pad CEO paychecks with millions in bonuses to also manage to pay time and a half when workers labor more than 40 hours a week. Can’t be done, they cried! Well, except that it has been done since 1938.

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Inequality and Democrats

Jack Metzgar

Jack Metzgar Author, Professor

Inequality and Democrats

American politicians have an ingenious way to avoid discussing uncomfortable or controversial subjects: they declare that we need to have a discussion! When all sides agree that “we need a discussion about race,” for example, they are actually agreeing not to do anything anytime soon about racial injustice.   That’s where we are now with inequality of income and wealth.  Democrats are running against inequality without being very specific, and even some Republican political candidates find our current levels of inequality troubling and worthy of attention, but neither side has yet offered specific practical proposals to reverse our still increasing levels of inequality. And everybody eschews the “r” word – redistribution.

To adequately address our massive levels of economic inequality is a long-term project involving an array of structural economic and political changes. But with a new presidential campaign beginning, Democrats are in a position to achieve a long-lasting dominant majority if they champion a handful of redistributive tax and economic growth policies developed in detail by progressive think tanks. Dems can lock Republicans into a box of their own making, one that could take them a generation to get out of and that could, therefore, open up possibilities for more thorough-going reforms.

Here’s the box: Because Republicans rigidly oppose any new taxes that would increase government revenues while at the same time being rhetorically obsessed with balanced budgets, they can find no money to increase spending on things that almost everybody agrees are sorely needed – like massive improvements in infrastructure and education. If Dems advocate very large tax increases falling largely on Wall Street, corporations, and top-earning individuals in order to create millions of jobs by funding those needed improvements in infrastructure and education, Republicans will herd themselves right into their well-worn and now discredited “trickle-down” box of balanced budgets, deregulation, and tax cuts for the rich.

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The Real Scandal in Denny Hastert's Life

Jim Hightower

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

The Real Scandal in Denny Hastert's Life

Washington's gossip mill is spinning furiously over the recent revelations about Dennis Hastert's long hidden sexual molestation scandal. But what about the filthy, backroom affair he's been openly conducting with corporate lobbyists for nearly two decades?

During his tenure as House speaker, Hastert turned the place into the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory of corporate favors. In exchange for campaign cash for Republican candidates, corporate interests gained entry into Denny's psychedelic playhouse. With Hastert himself singing "Candy Man," the favor seekers could help themselves to the river of chocolate running through Congress' back rooms.

Remember "earmarks," the sneaky tactic of letting congressional leaders secretly funnel appropriations to favored corporations and projects? Earmarks were the trademark of Hastert's regime – indeed, Denny grabbed a $200 million earmark for himself, funding an Illinois highway near land he owned – land he then sold, netting millions in personal profit.

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Is Jeb’s Social Security Flub The Worst Bush Gaffe Yet?

Richard Eskow

Richard Eskow Writer, Host, "The Breakdown;" Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

Is Jeb’s Social Security Flub The Worst Bush Gaffe Yet?

George W. Bush: His policies brought untold harm, but at least his gaffes offered some occasional lighthearted moments. Now his brother Jeb may have outdone him in the faux pas department – but there’s nothing funny about it.

The former Florida governor has been running on a platform that includes cutting Social Security benefits, so he’s been talking about raising the retirement age. But, as it happens, he doesn’t even know what the retirement age is.

When he was asked about it, Jeb responded in the tortured syntax characteristic of his clan: “We need to look over the horizon and begin to phase in, over an extended period of time, going from 65 to 68 or 70.”

Except that the retirement age isn’t 65, and hasn’t been for some time. The current retirement age is 66, and it will continue to rise. People born in 1959 won’t be able to retire until they are 67 years old.

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June Jobs: Continued, Solid Gains, but That 5.3% Unemployment Rate Makes the Job Market Look Tighter Than It Is

Jared Bernstein

Jared Bernstein Senior Fellow, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Today’s jobs report was a bit weaker than expected, and a bit weaker than it looked at first blush. While payrolls were up 223,000 in June, in line with expectations, and the unemployment rate fell to a record low in this recovery of 5.3%, mitigating factors include:

–downward revisions in payrolls for April and May of 60,000 combined;

–the fall in unemployment was exclusively due to people leaving the labor force, not jobseekers finding work;

–thus, the labor force participation rate ticked down a significant 0.3 percentage points to 62.6%, its lowest level since the late 1970s, though see below re this important trend;

–hourly wage growth was flat in June, and is up 2% over the past year, a slight deceleration from last month’s report;

–average weekly hours worked were also unchanged, so weekly earnings were also up 2%;

–factory employment growth remains weak, up 4,000 and little changed over the past five months (construction was also a weak spot in June, adding no net new jobs).

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Reverse Citizens United; Give Power Back to the People

Reverse Citizens United; Give Power Back to the People

Union Matters

TPP Pits Americans Against Abused Foreign Workers

The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal with 11 Pacific Rim countries would pit U.S. workers against those in countries with long histories of human and labor rights violations, including child and forced labor.

Violations that would shock the conscience of most Americans are described in Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, annual reports produced by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. The 2014 report details abuses in four TPP countries: Malaysia, Vietnam, Mexico and Brunei.

The worst among these is Malaysia.  Workers there who attempt to unionize are often punished with temporary detainment, wage abatement or firing.  The State Department also reported that Malaysian companies use child and forced labor and employ victims of human trafficking. 

In Vietnam, the state department reports, it is a federal crime for workers to unionize outside of an organization that answers directly to the Communist Party.  This restriction limits workers’ freedom of association because unions are under the supervision and control of that organization, which is not run by workers.

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