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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.

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.

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Nation of Change in a post entitled Democrats Swipe Right Wing ‘Soundbite Magic’ offers the following as what Democrats will talk about in 2014:

“Democrats will bang the drum this year: 1) to keep government open, 2) raise the minimum wage (with midterm ballot propositions), 3) keep unemployment insurance going, however marginal, 4) defend to the death the sanctity of Medicare and Social Security, 5) urge immigration reform overdo for decades, and 6) take pot shots at the open Citizens United spigot. Most will gingerly endorse climate change and gay rights. This campaign only has to be bold enough to dramatize the rightwing contradiction of spending billions to get elected to government, then methodically gumming up the works to prove that government is the enemy.”

Left out is the relationship between the economy and jobs and income inequality. Andy Stern, speaking at Town Hall in Seattle on January 7, 2014 in a talk entitles “Innovation and the Future of Labor” presented a much more complex dialogue that is emerging and that progressives are talking about. What’s happening is that the “economy” is growing but growth in jobs and wages are not. The issue is not just raising the minimum wage, which is important, but in ensuring that all Americans share in the economic growth, not just the top 1% or 2%.

Stern noted that 11 million jobs were lost since 2008 and only 8 to 9 million have come back. And while GDP has gone up by 50% and profits have gone up 70%, wages have gone up only 4%. The profits have gone to the very wealthy at the top, not to the average wage earner. Since the recession started low wage jobs increased from 24% to a majority now.

Many factors have contributed to this but one Stern spent time discussing was the continued increase in the use of robots. The real emerging issue here is as there is less and less need for human labor how do you provide economic support to the masses of people who really can’t find work through no fault of their own. It is not because they are lazy and want to leech off the employed. Our nation is undergoing a real transition in the nature and composition of its workforce and citizens economic livelihood as a result.

Republicans are not addressing these issues at all, falling back on outdated moral righteousness outrage and blaming government overspending and placing blame for issues like unemployment on the victims. Democrats, while increasingly concerned about the profound changes occurring, need to also update their basic understanding of what is happening and work for solutions to address the new economic reality facing our society.

It is a challenge for all of us but we need to start finding solutions soon. Our economic reality of increased joblessness, decreased wages for most Americans despite economic growth, drastically growing income inequality, increased pressures on many citizens ability to meet basic human needs, and the loss of real opportunity and equality for most citizens to better their economic security is increasingly affecting the future of our nation and its citizens.

The infamous Koch Brothers have entered the 2012 Washington State Governor’s race.  Surprise – they are supporting Republican Rob McKenna. McKenna is running against former Democratic Congressman Jay Inslee.

On Thursday, October 18, 2012, Americans for Prosperity, based in Arlington filed a C6 with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission that they were spending $27, 985 on a radio ad supporting Rob McKenna.

Americans for Prosperity  was founded by the oilmen Koch Brothers –  David H. Koch and Charles G. Koch, both of Koch Industries.

Wikipedia notes that:

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is an American conservative political advocacy group headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. AFP’s stated mission is “educating citizens about economic policy and mobilizing citizens as advocates in the public policy process.” The group played a major role in the Republicans’ 2010 takeover of the House of Representatives, and has been called “one of the most powerful conservative organizations in electoral politics.”

Sourcewatch writes that:

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is a group fronting special interests started by oil billionaire David Koch and Richard Fink (a member of the board of directors of Koch Industries). AFP has been accused of funding astroturf operations but also has been fueling the “Tea Party” efforts.  AFP’s messages are in sync with those of other groups funded by the Koch Family Foundations and the Koch’s other special interest groups that work against progressive or Democratic initiatives and protections for workers and the environment. Accordingly, AFP opposes labor unions, health care reform, stimulus spending, and cap-and-trade legislation, which is aimed at making industries pay for the air pollution that they create. AFP was also involved in the attacks on Obama’s “green jobs” czar, Van Jones, and has crusaded against international climate talks.

So far the spending by Americans for Prosperity is small potatoes in this state but this could quickly change. Kirby Wilbur, the Washington State  Republican Party Chair, was the state coordinator for Americans for Prosperity in 2010 and they successfully dumped money into last minute mailers against Democratic legislators who did not have sufficient time to respond to the last minute mailers. They are spending lots of money nationally and are doing it without disclosing their donors. This needs to change in disclosure laws.

As the Guardian in a just released articles states:

Americans for Prosperity, the Tea Party-aligned group part-funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, is building a state-of-the-art digital ground operation in Ohio and other vital battleground states to spread its anti-Obama message to voters who could decide the outcome of the presidential election.

The group hopes that by creating a local army of activists equipped with sophisticated online micro-targeting tools it will increase its impact on moderate voters, nudging them towards a staunchly conservative position opposed to President Obama’s economic and healthcare policies. Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is spending tens of millions of dollars developing its local strategy, already employing more than 200 permanent staff in 32 states. …

AFP has already spent $30m so far this election cycle in opposing President Obama and other prominent Democratic candidates and their policies. It says it aims to reach up to 9 million targeted voters in crucial swing states, through the efforts of its 2 million activists.

 

Kathleen Drew, who is running for Washington Secretary of State, is a top priority race for Progressive Majority. Washington State was one of the first states that Progressive Majority got involved in.  They have has a good record of helping to elect progressive candidates and are now involved in campaigns in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas in addition to Washington.

Besides Kathleen Drew, here are the other candidates Progressive Majority is prioritizing for help in the Nov 6, 2012 General Election:

Steve Bergquist, State Representative, District 11

Roslynne Reed, Mason County Commissioner, District 2

Marcus Riccelli, State Representative, District 3

Tom Riggs, State Representative, District 10

David Sawyer, State Representative, District 29

Yoshie Wong, State Senator, District 28

 Linda Wright, State Representative, District 39

Here is the short writeup Progressive Majority put up about Kathleen Drew.

Kathleen Drew Kathleen Drew is running for Secretary of State in the state of Washington. She is the only Democratic woman running for constitutional statewide office this year and if elected, will be the first Democrat elected Secretary of State in Washington since 1960. A long-time resident of Washington, Kathleen has a long record of public service marked by the successful advocacy for issues ranging from ethics to environment. In 1992, Kathleen was elected to the State Senate, becoming the youngest woman ever to hold that office. As a public servant, Kathleen wrote the state’s ethics laws for state employees and elected officials and worked with three west coast governors to promote ocean health.

On January 1, 2012 Washington State’s minimum wage will increase to $9.04.  Once again Washington State will lead the nation in having the highest minimum wage.  Oregon’s minimum wage will increase to $8.80. 

The minimum wage level of Washington State, Oregon and 8 other state’s is indexed to inflation and the consumer price index. In 1998 Washington voters passed Initiative 688. It was the first state to index it’s minimum wage to inflation and set the standard for other states to follow rather than every few years waging battles to try to increase the minimum wage when inflation went up. The other eight states are Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, and Vermont.

As CNNMoney notes, “Minimum wage rates in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington will rise between 28 and 37 cents per hour on Jan. 1 …Rates in these states will range from $7.64 per hour (in Colorado), to $9.04 (in Washington) in 2012.” Nevada does not raise its minimum wage until July 1st and Missouri, even with an adjustment, does not exceed the Federal minimum wage.

Increasing the minimum wage has positive effects on the economy.  As CNNMoney noted:

 “The small boosts for 2012 are estimated to tack an extra $582 to $770 a year onto the paychecks of full-time workers, according to the National Employment Law Project, a non-profit advocacy group.

What’s more, the increases could be a mini-boost for the economy. The expected rise in consumer spending as a result of the wage increases would add $366 million to the nation’s gross domestic product and lead to the creation of more than 3,000 full-time jobs.”

The Economic Policy Institute calculates the actual impact in even broader terms.

Across these eight states, an estimated 1,045,000 workers will be “directly affected.”  These are workers whose current wages are between the existing state minimum wage and the new Jan. 1 minimum wage. In addition, another 394,000 workers will be “indirectly affected” by the increase. These indirectly-affected workers are those whose current wages are just above the new Jan. 1 minimum, and are likely to also see a wage increase as employers adjust their overall pay structures to reflect the new minimum (the “spillover” effect).

Despite the benefits of indexing the minimum wage to inflation, the national minimum wage is not indexed to inflation. Thus as the cost of goods like food and gas go up, the buying ability of minimum wage workers decreases. The current Federal wage is currently only $7.25.  That’s just a little over $15,000 a year.

The federal minimum wage needs to be indexed to inflation. Congress has a dismal record of increasing the minimum wage.  From 1997 to 2007, the minimum wage was stuck at $5.15 despite increases in inflation. In legislation passed in 2007 it went up to $5.85 in June 2007, then to $6.55 in June 2008 and then to $7.25 in June 2009. No further increase have been made in the last 2 1/2 years.

Barack Obama, as part of his transition team agenda, said he would work to raise the minimum wage and index it to inflation.  We need to hold him to his promise and to put Democrats and Republicans on the spot as to standing up for helping low income workers make it in this economy.  Republicans will voice all their usual objections but there is no better way to convince voters of whose interests they really represent than to challenge them to support working Americans by raising the minimum wage for the lowest paid workers.

And progressives in the states that have initiatives would be wise to run minimum wage initiatives with an inflation index in 2012.  With all the attention on the vast disparity of wealth distribution in this country that has gotten worse, its time to put on the ballot measures that work to redress this imbalance and that point out the differences between the goals of Republicans and Democrats.  Democrats have joined with Labor in working to help raise the pay of lower wage earners. Republicans have not.

The following includes the latest endorsements by the 36th District Democrats for the August 16, 2011 Primary and also for the November General Election:

King County Assessor:  Lloyd Hara
King County Director of Elections:  Sherril Huff
King County Council, District 4:  Larry Phillips
King County Proposition 1 (Veterans and Human Services Levy):  Approve
Port of Seattle, Position 2:  Gael Tarleton
Port of Seattle – Position 5:  Dean Willard
Seattle City Council, Position 1:  Bobby Forch & Maurice Classen (dual)
Seattle City Council, Position 3:  Bruce Harrell
Seattle City Council, Position 5:  Tom Rasmussen
Seattle City Council, Position 7:  Tim Burgess
Seattle City Council, Position 9:  Sally Clark
Referendum 1:  “Approve” Position (Pro-Tunnel)
Seattle Schools, District 1:  [No Endorsement]
Seattle Schools, District 2:  [No Endorsement]

The 33rd District Democrats in South King County have made the following endorsements for the August 16, 2011 Primary Election:

King County Council District No. 8: Joe McDermott
King County Assessor: Lloyd Hara
Port of Seattle Commissioner Position No. 2: Gael Tarleton
Port of Seattle Commissioner Position No. 5: Dean Willard
City of SeaTac Council Position No. 1: Barry Ladenburg
City of SeaTac Council Position No. 3: Othman Heibe
City of SeaTac Council Position No. 5: Dave Bush
City of SeaTac Council Position No. 7: Mia Su-Ling Gregerson
City of Tukwila Mayor: Pamela Linder
City of Tukwila Council Position No. 6: Kate Kruller
Court of Appeals, Division No. 1, District No. 1 Judge Position No. 2: Michael Spearman
South King Fire and Rescue Commissioner Position No. 4: Mark L. Thompson
South King Fire and Rescue Commissioner Position No. 5: James A. Fossos
Highline School District Director Position No. 1: Sili Savusa

The 37th District Democrats in South Seattle have made their endorsements for the August 16, 2011 Primary.. It is a top 2 Primary with the top 2 voter getters in a race moving on to the November ballot.  It is an all mail in ballot and voters must have their ballots postmarked by Tuesday August 16, 2011 to count,

37th District Democrats Primary Endorsements:

King County Measures

King County Proposition No. 1 Renewal of the Veterans and Human Services Levy

APPROVE

King County Candidates

Joe McDermott – King County Council District 8

Dean Willard – Port of Seattle Commission Position 5

Local and Municipal Candidates

Bobby Forch – Seattle City Council Position 1

Tom Rasmussen – Seattle City Council Position 5

Sally J. Clark – Seattle City Council Position 9

Ed Prince – Renton City Council Position 5

Kate Kruller – Tukwila City Council Position 6

Local and Municipal Measures

City of Tukwila Proposition No. 1 Formation and Funding of Tukwila Pool Metropolitan Park District

APPROVE

The 43rd District Democrats in Seattle have completed their Primary 2011 Endorsements.  The all mail in Primary ends on August 16, 2011.  Ballets are mailed to voters and must be postmarked by Tuesday August 16, 2011 to be valid.

King County

Seattle City Council

Seattle School Board

Port of Seattle Commission

Ballot Measures

 

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