Category Archives: Congress

Volunteer Signature Gatherers are Collecting Signature for Initiative 735

A grassroots volunteer signature gathering effort is underway in Washington State for Initiative 735. Initiative 735 is sponsored by WAmend – a coalition of citizen groups working for a US constitutional to overturn Citizens United and other US Supreme Court decisions that have unleashed a flood of money by large donors and special interest groups and corporations.

WAmend is pushing tor an amendment that would declare that corporations are not people and money is not free speech under the US constitution. It wants all political donors to be disclosed and not kept secret and wants the US and states to have the power to regulate money donated in political campaigns.

Volunteers are collecting signatures in 2015 to place Initiative 735 before the Washington State Legislature next year. Valid voter signatures from  8% of those who voted in the last Governor’s race are required to qualify an initiative. That is 246,372 for this cycle.  I-735 is targeting to collect 330,000 signatures by the end of the year to cover invalid signatures, including those who sign more than once or who are not registered voters.

If the Washington State Legislature does not enact I-735 it will be placed on the Nov 2016 General Election Ballot. The Legislature can place an alternative on the ballot and voters would vote first to pass an initiative and then pick one of the two versions.

If you would like to sign the initiative you can go to the I-735 website at www.WAmend.org and request a petition be sent to you if there is not a location nearby where you can sign. You can also volunteer to join the campaign and help collect signatures. Volunteers are critical to the success of this effort and are greatly appreciated.

The official ballot title, summary and a link to the actual initiative is below:

Ballot Title
Initiative Measure No. 735 concerns a proposed amendment to the federal constitution.

This measure would urge the Washington state congressional delegation to propose a federal constitutional amendment that constitutional rights belong only to individuals, not corporations, and constitutionally-protected free speech excludes the spending of money.

Should this measure be enacted into law? Yes [ ] No [ ]

Ballot Measure Summary
The measure would urge the Washington state congressional delegation to propose a federal constitutional amendment clarifying that constitutional rights belong only to individuals, not corporations; that spending money is not free speech under the First Amendment; that governments are fully empowered to regulate political contributions and expenditures to prevent undue influence; and that political contributions and expenditures must be promptly disclosed to the public. The measure would urge the legislature to ratify such an amendment.

View Complete Text PDF

Initiative 735 is in response to the big money in our election process. Big corporations, wealthy individuals and other special interest groups through the sheer impact of possessing lots of money have the ability to dominate the electoral process in our country . Initiative 735 asks that Congress help end this dominance of the electoral process by big money by passing a resolution to the states for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and other court decisions. Three quarters of the States would need to ratify a constitutional amendment for it to be valid.

2015 Washington State Minimum Wage to Increase to $9.47/hr.

Washington State’s minimum wage will increase 15 cents on January 1, 2015 to $9.47 per hour.  Every year Washington State’s minimum wage increases based on inflation increasing the  Federal Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) over the last 12 months ending Aug. 31 of each year.  Initiative 688 passed by voters in 1998 was the first state in the nation to add the requirement that the minimum wage each year must be increased based on inflation.

The National Conference of State Legislatures  website has a list of all states and what their minimum wages will be next year. They note that nine states will have an increase based on their state laws requiring they be indexed to inflation. These state are Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, and Washington. Oregon will have the second highest state minimum wage after Washington State next year at $9.25 per hour.

The current Federal minimum wage is $7.25. Twenty nine states and the District of Columbia next year will have a higher  minimum wage than the Federal minimum wage. Attempts have been made in Congress to raise the Federal minimum  wage which is not indexed to inflation but have been rebuffed by Republicans who have taken the approach to oppose any legislation being pushed by President Obama.

The Federal minimum wage was last increased on July 24, 2009 – over five and a half years ago. The wage increase was part of passage of the Fair Labor Practices Act.  As the US Department of Labor notes “The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor standards affecting full-time and part-time workers in the private sector and in Federal, State, and local governments.”

President Obama has proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Republicans who are more concerned about supporting corporate America than working families  have repeatedly opposed such legislation. President Obama in a direct attempt to circumvent Republican’s negative approach to addressing America’s problems  like income equality hurting those on the bottom of the economic ladder, signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for those working for Federal contractors to $10.10 per hour.

GOP – the Party of the Grand Old Polluters

It seems that the GOP – the Grand Old Party has in recent years transformed itself into representing the Grand Old Polluters – the oil, gas and coal industries. It wasn’t always so. As Paul Krugman points out in a column entitled “Pollution and Politics” in the New York Times:

“…the reason pollution has become partisan is that Republicans have moved right. A generation ago, it turns out, environment wasn’t a partisan issue: according to Pew Research, in 1992 an overwhelming majority in both parties favored stricter laws and regulation. Since then, Democratic views haven’t changed, but Republican support for environmental protection has collapsed.”

Krugman says that party ideology, namely that government needs to be limited and not restrict free enterprise is one reason but that the most likely underlying reason is “rising inequality”:

“The basic story of political polarization over the past few decades is that, as a wealthy minority has pulled away economically from the rest of the country, it has pulled one major party along with it. True, Democrats often cater to the interests of the 1 percent, but Republicans always do. Any policy that benefits lower- and middle-income Americans at the expense of the elite — like health reform, which guarantees insurance to all and pays for that guarantee in part with taxes on higher incomes — will face bitter Republican opposition.” 

Krugman’s analysis of the Republican Party’s sleeping with the polluters is pretty much the same as what Naomi Klein is saying in her recent book, “This Changes Everything – Climate Vs. The Climate” The environment and the climate are being ravaged by the polluters who are resisting responding to climate change because it will ultimately repudiate their cash cow – the burning of fossil fuels to generate energy.

The polluter’s cash cow has unfortunately been producing and belching and expelling gases like CO2 and methane that Naomi Klein notes 97% of climatologists say is causing uncontrolled climate change that threatens the future of life on this earth. Climate changing emissions are continuing to rise, with drastic changes occurring, including increasing loss of glaciers, melting of the polar ice cap, rising sea levels and ocean acidification. Klein asserts that:

“…we have not done the things necessary to lower emissions because these things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology for the entire period we have been struggling to find a way out of this crisis. We are stuck because the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe – and would benefit the vast majority – are extremely threatening to an elite minority that has a stranglehold over our economy, our political process, and most of our media outlets.”

Corporate globalism according to Klein has worked to

“…lock in a global policy framework that provided maximum freedom to multinational corporations to produce their goods as cheaply as possible and sell them with as few regulations as possible – while paying as little in taxes as possible …

The three pillars of this new era are familiar to us al: privatization of the public sphere, deregulation of the public sector, and lower corporate taxation paid for with cuts to public spending .. Very little, however, has been written about how market fundamentalism sabotaged our collective response to climate change, a threat that came knocking just as this ideology was reaching its zenith.”

Klein goes on to say much more and I urge you to read “This Changes Everything – Capitalism Vs. The Climate“. She is tackling the same issues that Progressive Democrats have been trying to address and suggests that drastic change is need. Too many Democrats have followed a line of accommodation and centralism and compromise, thinking that this was the way to move forward.  Unfortunately Republicans and the multinational corporations and the wealthy interests and people they represent have been more skilled at conning the American people and others around the world into believing that helping the multinational corporations would be good for them.

The greed mentality and profit triumphed  over the public good and a sharing of wealth  in the free market economic game. The resultant extreme income inequality that has resulted is only one of the major disasters of the unfettered free market free for all.  Worsening climate change and environmental degradation has also happened. The world under the free market system is now conducting a giant experiment on environmental change and degradation and the earth’s ability to adapt and survive. Unfortunately there are no referees to stop the experiment if it starts to spiral out of control. There are no rules it seems save increase profits. It is a rigged game that saner heads need to call an end to now. There are too many injuries to people and to the earth all for the increased profits of a few who have externalized the costs to the many.

Most Americans Don’t Share in Growing Economy

The main reason voters gave for their voting as they did in the Nov 2014 election was the economy as it affected them. Despite job growth going up and unemployment going down and the stock market going up and GDP increasing, most Americans were not sharing in the economy doing better.

As Steve Rattner points out in a New York Times article entitled “Inequality Unbelievably, Gets Worse” :

 “Inflation-adjusted earnings of the bottom 90 percent of Americans fell between 2010 and 2013, with those near the bottom dropping the most. Meanwhile, incomes in the top decile rose.”

Democrats got blamed for the impacts of this growing income inequality in the US. Ironically conservative Republican policies rather than progressive Democratic  policies have exacerbated this inequality. Republicans did a better job of blaming people’s economic woes on Obama and deflected their own culpability and contribution in opposing things like repealing tax loopholes on big oil and other profitable corporations  and pushing for lowering taxes on the rich.

In charts presented in Rattner’s piece, he notes that because of the US’s relative low tax rate compared to that of other developed countries, less funds are available to help people in need of government assistance. The result is that the US ranks at the top as having the most inequality. Rattner says:

“That’s because our taxes, while progressive, are low by international standards and our social welfare programs — ranging from unemployment benefits to disability insurance to retirement payments — are consequently less generous.

Conservatives may bemoan the size of our government; in reality, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, total tax revenues in the United States this year will be smaller on a relative basis than those of any other member country.”

Democrats unfortunately did not talk about what they and Obama had been doing to help working families despite Republican opposition.  Again Rattner noted:

To his credit, President Obama has succeeded in keeping income disparities from growing even wider, by such measures as by forcing tax rates on the wealthiest Americans up toward fair levels.

Democrat Jason Ritchie running in WA CD 8 against Dave Reichert

Democrat Jason Ritchie is running in Washington’s 8th Congressional District against incumbent Republican Dave Reichert. Washington state’s 10 congressional districts are currently held by 6 Democrats and 4 Republicans. Picking up an additional Democratic Congressional seat would help in the Democrat’s national effort to take back the US House of Representatives from the Republicans. Considering that President Obama won the 8th Congressional District when he ran for re-election in 2012 makes a Democratic pickup possible. The 8th CD is one of only 17 CD’s nationally where Obama won and a Republican Representative won. Continue reading

Targeting Democratic Voters to Win in the 2014 US Senate Races

Non-presidential election years like 2014 can be tough for Democrats who have tended to do better in years when more voters turn out.  Will 2014 be better? A lot is at stake for Democrats on the national level with the Republicans pushing to take over the US Senate and keep control of the House. The New York Times published  a 2014 Senate Landscape Analysis on 3/2/2014 breaking down the upcoming Senate races.

Senators serve for six years.  The current makeup of the US Senate is 53 Democrats and 2 Independents who vote with them, and 45 Republicans.  Republicans need 6 more Senators to get the majority and flip the Senate. The New York Times analysis shows 34 continuing Democrats and 30 continuing Republicans.  Of the seats up for election in 2014 they count 6 solid Democratic seats and 5 leaning Democratic. They count 12 solid Republican seats and 1 leaning Republican.  And in the middle there are 12 states that could “flip” and go either way. Continue reading

Republicans in Congress Wage War on Poor by Opposing Raising the Minimum Wage

The Republican War on the Poor is evident in their continued opposition to raising the national minimum wage.  Like on many other issues they are out of tune with the American people.  Fully three quarters of the American people support raising the national minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9.00 according to a Gallup poll released this week.  Almost as many support indexing it to inflation so the issue does not have to be raised every few years in Congress and held hostage to Republican obstructionism.

As Gallup notes:

Despite President Barack Obama’s State of the Union call to raise the wage to $9 — and widespread rallies populated mainly by hourly fast-food workers — legislation that would accomplish this goal has thus far languished. More recently, the Obama administration has voiced support for the Harkin-Miller bill, which would raise the minimum wage even higher — to $10.10.

Republicans in Congress have continued to support tax breaks for the wealthy and oppose raising taxes in general which has benefited the wealthy the most. At the same they are resolutely opposed to helping people on the bottom of the economic ladder. Republicans in the US House in March voted unanimously against raising the minimum wage to $10.10.

As the Huffington Post reported in March:

A proposal by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour over the next two years and increase the wage for tipped employees to 70 percent of the minimum wage was defeated, with every House Republican voting against the motion. On the Democratic side, six lawmakers voted against the measure, and 184 Democrats voted for it.

Washington State’s minimum wage is currently the highest in the country at $9.19.  It is indexed to inflation and will increase to $9.32 next year.  It covers both retail workers and agricultural workers.  It has an exception for 14 and 15 year olds who can be paid at 85% of the minimum or $7.81 per hour.

Washington voters twice passed initiatives to raise the minimum wage in recent years.  The last time in 1998 they added a provision to index the minimum wage to inflation. That Initiative, Initiative 688, passed with a 66% yes vote.

Voters in SeaTac, Washington on the Nov 2013 ballot are passing a proposal to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15/hour. As of Nov 14 the measure is ahead by 52 votes. And it looks like if it wins, next up will be a court battle.

Time to Increase the Federal Minimum Wage and Index It to Inflation

As the Huffington Post points out it’s been 4 years since the last increase in the Federal minimum wage. It’s time to raise the minimum wage and index it to inflation so that Congress does not repeatedly ignore inflation impacts on the wages of low income workers. Corporate millionaires  seem to have no problem getting their income raised. Why do Republicans in Congress hate low income workers?

If you raise the minimum wage, low income workers will spend the money and help the economy.  Henry Ford long ago understood that if he didn’t pay his workers reasonable wages they weren’t going to be able to buy his cars. It seems conservative and Tea party Republicans in Congress both don’t understand or care.

As an article a year ago in Deseret News noted:

The federal minimum wage, which is $7.25, hasn’t changed since 2009. In real terms, America’s lowest-paid workers make less than they did in 1968, according to Remapping Debate. With an annual income of $15,080, a full-time minimum wage worker’s salary is just under the 2012 federal poverty threshold of $15,130 for a family of two. It falls well below the poverty threshold for a family of three, which is $19,090.

A year later nothing has changed. Republicans continue to sneer at low income workers rather than working for fairness and a more equitable distribution of the fruits of business that don’t just increase wages and benefits for those at the top and increase dividends for stock holders, while ignoring the real life day to day plight of many of their workers.

While Congress is under siege by Republican lawmakers opposes raising the minimum wage, states have fared better in increasing it. As Stateline pointed out earlier this year:

“…minimum wage hikes at the state level have been popular among voters: Since 1998, proposed increases have been on statewide ballots 10 times in nine states, and all of them were successful. In those elections the ballot measures won an average of 65 percent of the vote, according to the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, a progressive Washington, D.C., group that advocated for the hikes.”

Washington State has the highest state minimum wage in the country at $9.19 an hour. It has remained as a leader in keeping pace with inflation because when it was passed by the voters it included language for an automatic increase each year based on inflation. When Initiative 688 was passed by the voters in 1998, Washington State  was the first state in the country to put in place an automatic inflation increase each year. Unfortunately the federal minimum wage law does not and is subject to continual delays and battles in Congress to try to increase it to keep pace with inflation.

New Jersey has a minimum wage increase initiative on the ballot this year. Stateline notes that

If New Jersey voters approve the measure on the ballot there, the state would become the 11th with annual automatic increases to the minimum wage indexed to inflation: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington already index. In all of them except Vermont, voters approved the measure with the automatic hike at the polls.

Congress needs to act to be fair and just to low income workers in our country. Conservative politics driven by Tea Party Republicans and libertarian philosophy needs to be shown for what it is – a hypocritical joke where tax breaks for corporations and special interests rule their decisions to benefit the well off and few while millions struggle to meet basic living expenses.

The country is continuing under conservative policies to further divide the rich and poor.  Wealth continues to be concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer Americans. More states need to push for increases in their state minimum wage, putting more pressure on Congress to act.  Republican anti-worker positions needs to be challenged  and voters supporting state minimum wage laws that include automatic increases for inflation are one way to do that. In addition continued pressure needs to be put on Congress to act.

 

Senator Warren says give students same break as banks

Unless Congress acts by July 1, 2013 student loan rates will double from 3.4% to 6.8%. Meanwhile banks borrow money from the US Government at only .75%.  Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has filed a bill to give students the same loan rate as banks for a year.  Why should taxpayers be supporting banks – a private interest over a public interest – helping students to complete college.

In a Huffington Post article entitled Elizabeth Warren: Student Loans Should Have Same Rate Big Banks Get and in an article by Joan McCarter on Daily Kos entitled Elizabeth Warren: Students should get the same loan rate as big banks  a video is included of Warren’s statement before the US Senate:

“Some people say that we can’t afford to help our kids through school by keeping student loan interest rates low,” said Senator Warren. “But right now, as I speak, the federal government offers far lower interest rates on loans, every single day–they just don’t do it for everyone. Right now, a big bank can get a loan through the Federal Reserve discount window at a rate of about 0.75%. But this summer a student who is trying to get a loan to go to college will pay almost 7%. In other words, the federal government is going to charge students interest rates that are nine times higher than the rates for the biggest banks–the same banks that destroyed millions of jobs and nearly broke this economy. That isn’t right. And that is why I’m introducing legislation today to give students the same deal that we give to the big banks.”

“Big banks get a great deal when they borrow money from the Fed,” Senator Warren continued. “In effect, the American taxpayer is investing in those banks. We should make the same kind of investment in our young people who are trying to get an education. Lend them the money and make them to pay it back, but give our kids a break on the interest they pay. Let’s Bank on Students… Unlike the big banks, students don’t have armies of lobbyists and lawyers. They have only their voices. And they call on us to do what is right.” 

Daily Kos, joined by the Center for American Progress  goes a step beyond just reporting the story and posting the video by including a link to urge people help push this legislation by urging their Senators to co-sponsor this legislation.  Click on this link to tell the Senate to give students the same low interest rates the big banks get

Please help build support for this bill by joining in this effort.

 

 

Background Checks for Guns Supported by 91% of Americans

As Rachael Maddow notes, more Americans support background checks for people buying guns at gun shows than support capitalism, Italian food, or taking a vacation. What don’t Republicans in Congress and in our state legislature not understand? Talk about being out of touch.

The Washington Post ABC poll was conducted March 7 – 10th. As Bloomberg News reports:

More than nine in 10 Americans favor mandatory background checks for purchases at gun shows,  according to a poll out today.

The ABC News/Washington Post survey showed 91 percent supporting such checks, with 8 percent opposing them. Making illegal gun sales a federal crime was backed by 82 percent, with 15 percent in opposition.

President Barack Obama’s call to ban military-style assault weapons is supported by 57 percent and opposed by 41 percent.

A second poll done by the Quinnipiac University from Feb 28 to March 4th found similar results:

By an 88 – 10 percent margin, including 85 – 13 percent among voters in households with guns, American voters support background checks for all gun buyers. Voters also support 54 – 41 percent a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons and back 54 – 42 percent a nationwide ban on the sale of ammunition magazines with more than 10 rounds.

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to move forward on background check legislation. The Committee vote was 10 to 8 with all 8 Republicans voting no.  Republicans are not listening to voters but to the NRA and gun lobby money. In the Quinnipiac Unviersity poll 83 % of Republicans polled supported universal background checks. Republicans continue to be out of tune with the public’s strong support for Congress to act to control gun violence.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has also by a 10 to 8 party line vote approved the ban on assault weapons proposed by President Obama and to limit ammunition clips to a maximum of 10 bullets.

Members of the Judiciary Committee:

Democrats Voting YES

Patrick Leahy – VT

Diande Feinstein – CA

Chuck Schumer – NY

Dick Durbin – IL

Stephen Whitehorse – RI

Amy Klochbar – MN

Al Franken – MN

Christopher Coons – DE

Richard Blumenthal – CT

Mazie Hirono – HI

Republicans Voting NO

Chuch Grassley – IA

Orin Hatch – UT

Jeff Sessions – AL

Lindsey Graham – SC

John Cronyn – TX

Michael Lee – UT

Ted Cruz – TX

Jeff Flake – AZ