Should we Democrats stay silent as our house burns down?

Friends and fellow Democrats,

Our house is on fire. The fate of one million children is in that burning house. Our public schools are on in danger of collapse.  In 2008, we were 47th in the nation in school funding. Since then, billions more have been cut. The fire is growing worse every day and every year. Yet even though it is the Paramount Duty of our State legislature to provide a fire truck to put out this fire, and even though the Democratic Party has clear majorities in both the House and the Senate, last week Ross Hunter proposed a budget slashing billions more from our public schools – including suspending a monthly Basic Education payment – something which has never been done before in the history of our State. This week, Ed Murray proposed a budget which would slash school funding even more than Ross Hunter’s draconian budget! In fact, Ed would slash Basic Education funding by hundreds of millions of dollars more. Ross and Ed tell us they can not use the Fire Truck to put out the fire – because it might upset Tim Eyman.   

Resolutions have been passed unanimously by the 45th LD Democrats and the 32nd LD Democrats and some County Democratic organizations demanding that our Democratic Leaders use the fire truck to put out the fire. All of these Resolutions point to the Paramount Duty in our State Constitution – a Constitution which our Democratic Leaders have sworn an oath to uphold. 

We are now told we should not pass these Resolutions. Our Coalition Partners want us to think small and go slow and remain silent and trust our leaders – the same leaders who got us into this mess in the first place. Despite being faced with BILLIONS in budget cuts, we are told we should support House Bill 2078 which would shave a mere $44 million per year from tax exemptions our State hands to Wall Street Bankers. What we are not told is that on page 2, line 20 of this bill, it states: “the total amount each person may deduct under this section for any calendar year may not exceed one hundreds million dollars.”  So every Wall Street banker still gets $100 million in corporate welfare??? For reference, one hundred million dollars would pay for at least one thousand teachers. Instead of corporate welfare for the 10 major banks – each of which is making billions in record profits – we could save the jobs of 10,000 teachers and save the future of one million school children. 
The $44 million proposed cut in corporate welfare represents less than a 5% of the total we give away every year to these Wall Street Bankers – the very bankers who brought down our economy. According the Bureau of Economic Analysis, these same banks handed out a record $50 billion in bonuses to their top executives in 2010. http://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/national/gdp/gdpnewsrelease.htm 

This is our elected Democratic Leaders’ idea of a solution to our multi-billion dollar fire? $44 million represents less than 1% of the billons being cut from our public schools. For that matter, $44 million represents less than 1% of bank bonuses in 2010! Shockingly, the DOR has stated that no other State even offers this exemption! Yet we are asked to remain silent as our house burns down and be happy House Democrats have offered us this squirt gun of a solution. 

This week Ed Murray offers us another even smaller squirt gun. Senate Bill 5944 would not provide a single dollar to help put out the fire. Instead, it enshrines the Unconstitutional Two Thirds Tim Eyman rule for nearly every source of revenue except tax exemptions. When union leaders complained that this bill would not come close to putting out the Fire which is destroying our Schools and our State, and may make the fire worse, Ed told them to stay silent because he had 20 years worth of experience and he knows better than the rest of us what is best for our State. This is the same Ed Murray who in 2003 voted for the Boeing Blackmail bill which started the fire of corporate tax breaks in the first place. The same Ed Murray who earlier this week proposed cutting Basic Education funding by hundreds of millions of dollars. Ed Murray needs to spend less time writing bills which only add fuel to the fire – and more time reading our State Constitution, 

The question now is whether we as loyal Democrats will heed the call of our Coalition Partners to remain silent as our house burns down? Or will we instead pass Resolutions demanding that our elected leaders honor our State Constitution and their Paramount Duty to put out the fire by suspending BILLIONS in tax exemptions to the wealthiest most profitable corporations in the history of our planet?  

It is never too late to change course, It is never too late to speak truth to injustice. It is never too late to demand that our elected officials uphold their oath of office to honor our State Constitution. Please go to our website, realwashingtonstatebudget.info and read more about what is really happening in Olympia . Urge your friends and neighbors to sign our Petition. It is never too late to at least try to put out the fire.

Regards, David Spring springforschools@aol.com.

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The Republican Plan: Increase Deficit, Transfer More Money to the Rich

From TPM

In addition to acknowledging that seniors, disabled and elderly people would be hit with much higher out-of-pocket health care costs, the CBO finds that by the end of the 10-year budget window, public debt will actually be higher than it would be if the GOP just did nothing.

Under the so-called “extended baseline scenario” — a.k.a. projections based on current law — debt held by the public will grow to 67 percent of GDP by 2022. Under the GOP plan, public debt would reach 70 percent of GDP in the same window.

In other words, the spending cuts Republicans would realize in the first 10 years would be outpaced by deficit increasing tax-cuts, which Ryan also proposes.

Is there any limit to the pain and suffering the GOP will inflict on the poor, the disadvantaged, veterans, and the middle class in order to further enrich the wealthiest individuals and corporations?

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Red Shift and the dangers of electronic, absentee, and Internet voting

I subscribe to the email list of BlackBoxVoting, the nonpartisan voting integrity organization whose director, Bev Harris, lives in Renton, WA.

In this article I’ll give a very brief taste of the issues. Visit Black Box Voting and read To The American Media: Time To Face The Reality Of Election Rigging for more information.

The gist of the matter is this:  our voting systems are vulnerable to all sorts of behind-the-scenes manipulation. Unless all aspects of the voting process — Who can vote? Who does vote? How are the votes counted? — are open to public scrutiny, there is little reason to trust the outcome. Relying on “the experts” to count the votes for us is an invitation to fraud.

The aforementioned article To The American Media: Time To Face The Reality Of Election Rigging (authored by Jonathan D. Simon, Executive Director of Election Defense Fund) says:

Study after study–from Princeton, to Johns Hopkins, to NYU’s Brennan Center, to the California Secretary of State’s office, to the GAO itself ( see http://tinyurl.com/3hz7xj2 ) –conclude that this counting process is obscenely vulnerable to insider manipulation and outsider hacking. So have many studies examining computerized voting abroad–which is why countries such as Germany, Ireland, and Holland have begun turning back to human counted ballots. There is consensus verging on unanimity among the experts.

There is something known as the “red shift.” It occurs when votecounts are more Republican (or more in favor of whatever candidate or ballot issue the Right supports) than the baselines–including exit polls, tracking polls, noncompetitive elections, and handcounts. Since 2002 the red shift has been pervasive. That’s right: for all intents and purposes, there is no blue shift.

In the Senate elections (16 out of 18 competitive races red shifted), the Governorship elections (11 out of 13 races red shifted), and in the House (a total red shift of 1.9 million votes).

The mad rush to computerized voting machines introduces risks of hacked votes.

In many states there are little or no protections against third parties submitting fraudulent absentee ballots: anyone with access to the voting list can send in fake absentee ballots.

At each point in the voting and tabulation process, it is important that the chain of custody be observable by the public.

Visit here to see additional short videos on the topic.

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Cut workplace injuries, not workers compensation

Last Thursday night the state experienced the tragic on the job fatality of a worker at the Smurfit Stone Recycling Co.,  a paper recycling plant in Renton.  Rudimentary research efforts reveal that the state has a significant problem of fatal workplace injuries and that Smurfit Stone has a highly questionable workplace safety record.

This only calls more attention to the need to crack down on workplace safety problems as a way of saving money in the workers’ compensation system rather than cutting benefits.

More detail about how people are dying in workplace incidents can be found on the website of the Bernard Law Group.

http://www.4injured.com/blog/personal-injury/woman-killed-in-recycling-plant-accident/

The state government’s data on workplace fatalities can be found at this website:

http://www.lni.wa.gov/claimsins/insurance/datastatistics/laborstatistics/default.asp

After the shock of last week’s fatality, it is even more shocking to learn that there were 75 fatal workplace injuries in the state in 2009, the latest year for which a table exists.  There were 83 in 2008 and 88 in 2007.   Classified by industry, 60 were from private industry, 29 were from goods producing industry, 17 were from natural resources and mining and 17 were from agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting.  Classified by event, 23 were from transportation, 22 were from assault and violent acts, 19 were from contact with objects and equipment, 5 resulted from falls and 3 resulted from exposure to harmful substances and environments.

High Beam research reported on October 3, 2009 that the Smurfit Stone company was fined $19,325 for OSHA violations stemming from the electrocution of a worker at its container board mill in Fernandina Beach, FL.  OSHA had previously issued a citation and notice of penalty Angust 25 for serious violations, five of which were electrical hazards.   This also suggests that  a low level of fines was issued by OSHA under the Bush administration, creating an environment of lax standards.   

According to the website of attorney Steven J. Malman in Illinois, on June 10,2010 Smurfit Stone settled an unlawful business practices case over alleged concealment of workers injuries and discouragement of workers compensation claims.

This is a report of criminal charges filed by Monterey County against Smurfit Stone for covering up injury data to create the appearance of lower injury rates.

www.4injured.com/blog/personal-injury/woman-killed-in-recycling-plant-accident/

This case was settled by the company, as was the Illinois case.

 www.co.monterey.ca.us/…/Press%20Release-%20Smurfit%20Stone%20061610.pdf

More on this case can be found at: http://www.workerscompensation.com/compnewsnetwork/news/smurfit_stone_fraud.html

[Note: I do not understand why WordPress insists on putting text in italics with an underline and will not format this thext in regular type.  Perhaps the WordPress mavens can provide information on this]

Chapter11cases.com contains a link to legal documents concerning the claims of asbestos injury sufferers in the company’s bankruptcy case.

One of the company’s plants caught on fire in May 2010:

http://chronicle.augusta.com/latest-news/2010-05-26/firefighters-work-put-out-blaze?v=1274898726

Fire crews reported that the cause was an electrical problem in a piece of equipment:

http://www.wrdw.com/home/headlines/94941634.html

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Hiding Behind Tim Eyman


Democratic leaders hiding behind Tim Eyman
Democratic leaders hiding behind Tim Eyman


[From top right, clockwise:  House Chair Rep. Frank Chopp,  Sen. Steve Hobbs,  Rep. Judy Clibborn, Gov. Christine Gregoire,  House Ways & Means Chair Ross Hunter (on bottom left), Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, House Majority Floor Leader Larry Springer,  Lt. Governor Brad Owen (on upper-left)]

During the run-up to the 2010 election, our Democratic leaders depended on advocacy groups and Bill Gates, Sr. to market the idea of fair taxation. Now, despite the unconstitutionality and immorality of I-1053, our leaders fail to challenge I-1053.

Our leaders don’t lead.

Most of them say they oppose and certainly regret I-1053. But they won’t stick their necks out to challenge it.

Wouldn’t it be better to lose an election than to lose your soul?

The core problem is that voters vote against their own self-interest, because progressive voices are drowned out, squelched and disorganized. And part of the reason for that is the Democrats’ failure to lead. Perhaps the politicians fear retribution from the voters. Perhaps some (a few?) of them are corrupt and really don’t give a damn.  I’m sure that some of our legislators are afraid of the lobbyists who would descend like locusts on Olympia were they to try to remove tax exemptions.   For whatever reason, our leaders hide behind Tim Eyman.

Another problem is the over use of citizen initiatives. The reason we don’t have direct democracy (where the voters vote for legislation, without relying on elected representatives in Congress) is that many issues are too complex for the average person. Furthermore, voters are easily deceived and can be convinced to vote for unjust initiatives, such as I-1053, which are against their own self-interest.

BTW, someone suggested I show scenes of suffering and loss that will result from I-1053.  If people send me such images I’ll combine them into a Flash animation that might be more effective than the static image above.

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Demonstration for Fair Budget in Olympia, Washington

Wensday Media has a bunch of hours of video coverage of the week at the Capitol in Olympia. We are working on editing at this point. Looking for an informative, entertaining video project at the end of the process. Here is a couple of minutes of the project to date.

Hope you enjoy. Danny Kelly, the musician in this piece, is simply great.

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The REAL meaning of the Tea Party

Anti-tax protester holding signs

(Photoshopped from a real Tea Party protest photo)

To be fair, I’m sure many Tea Partiers are sincere in their desire to see an end to government corruption and handouts to special interests. But the Tea Partiers are allying themselves with Republicans, the most culpable practitioners of special interest government that serves the interests of the corporations and the super-rich.  In their zeal to stop government waste,  Tea Party libertarians will throw the baby (good government) out with the bath water (bad government) and leave the country even more in the control of special interests.  Tax breaks, subsidies, deregulation, outsourcing, and bailouts for the rich. Layoffs, service cuts, and foreclosures for the poor and the middle class.

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Political Extortion

What will it take for elected Democratic legislators in our state, and the governor, to refuse to accede to extortionists?

EXTORTION – excerpt from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/

“The term extortion is often used metaphorically . . .   It is also often used loosely to refer to everyday situations where one person feels indebted against their will, to another, in order to receive an essential service or AVOID LEGAL CONSEQUENCES . . . . .

“Neither extortion nor blackmail require a threat of a criminal act, such as violence, merely a threat used to ELICIT ACTIONS, money, or property from the object of the extortion.”

Unfortunately, a pattern of Democratic acquiescence has set in with the passage of Eyman’s I-1053.  This is not the same as being willing to compromise, a necessary part of democratic governance.

We are at a financial impasse caused by the apparently tacit agreement among Democrats in our legislature not to challenge Eyman’s I-1053 voting restrictions on the legislature in matters of taxation. Presumably, this is due to fear of possible political fall-out at the next election.

Because I-1053 is unconstitutional on its face since it is in direct conflict with at least four articles of the Washington state constitution, its status must be determined by our state Supreme Court.

Until its constitutionality is settled,  the legislature should proceed on the premise that it is not constitutional, especially in the area of ending or suspending selected corporate tax reductions.

This would enable the legislature to produce a budget for our educational needs that more closely resembles the needs of a modern state, instead of the Draconian lopping off of essential parts that the proposed budget now entails.

It changes nothing at all for the victims of current budget priorities if the Democratic enablers of Eyman’s I-1053 in our legislature are in pain and wish they could do otherwise.

What they must do is undertake a reassessment of whether or not to confront the extortionists head-on for the benefit of the people of our state.

Washington voters have repeatedly shown their support for education. With truthful, forthright explanation of why we must remove tax exemptions  in order to restore funding for education in this exceptionally straitened economic context, the potential “political fall-out” could not only be avoided, but turned into a political victory.

How much courage does it take to do the right thing?

Elaine Phelps

WSDCC State Committee Woman
President, May Arkwright Hutton Chapter, WSFDW

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Washington Uprising! Demonstrators Occupy the Capitol and Demand Fair Budget

Folks are coming to Olympia in droves this week to demand a fair State budget. This is a week of action based on demands for a fair budget that were delivered to thCourtesy US Uncut Olympiae lawmakers on March 17Courtesy Devin CP at Flickerth. The Olympia Coalition for a Fair Budget put on a bang-up day of speech and music and entertainment on Tuesday, April 5th. Washington Can took up the action on Wednesday, April 6th. US Uncut joined OLY Fair Budget and Washington CAN and by Wednesday night, hundreds of people had occupied the rotunda, chanting and singing for a fair budget.

SEIU, AFSME, and health care unions are expected to take up the baton today and tomorrow. If you are in the area, come to Olympia. The march today begins downtown at Sylvester Park at 11:00 am and heads to the Capitol. Bundle up, it’s a little chilly this morning, but it’s going to burn off and be a beautiful day to be at the State Capitol.

Hope to have video up soon.

Devin CP at Flicker has a good set of photos up from the action yesterday. Sorry about the blurry pics, I am still working on grabbing video of the actions and trying to find the hours needed to capture the video from digital tape and render it to something that plays on the web.

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Breaking news: Protesters take over WA State Capitol

[Update Thursday morning from Sandra Vanderven at the protest:

There are more people who are willing to keep the occupation going tonight, and it isn’t unreasonable to think you’ll get away with it as we did.  I would be very happy if you wanted to join up with the various organizations that are making things rock down here.  If there’s a volunteer who wants to put car pools together, please drop me a line and we can get you set up to arrange it.
In case the state government issues have escaped your view, there is a budget process going on that is going to kick people off of health care, and hurt the poor and vulnerable in so many other ways, yet there are unconscionable tax breaks to the rich and the corporate which are going unscathed.  Our legislators insist there’s nothing they can do about it, and to that we say, “no excuses.”
Come on down, smuggle in a sleeping bag.  It will be a good time.
Sandra VanderVen
MoveOn Regional Organizer

 

]

 

Carol Davidek-Waller reports, “I just got a message from Sandra Vanerven of Move On that the hundreds of people have occupied the Capitol Rotunda in WA. The stranger concurs. http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2011/04/06/protesters-occupy-capitol-rotunda-arrests-being-made.  Civil disobedience is what is left. Sandra has asked us to post the information on our facebook pages.”

Olympia Capitol Building

The background to this protest is the passage last November of a regressive and unconstitutional anti-tax initiative, I-1053, which restricts the ability of legislators not only to raise taxes, but also to eliminate the many tax exemptions that riddle Washington State’s tax system.  Most voters almost certainly were unaware of the provisions in the initiative that favor the super-rich over the poor and middle class.

The Seattle P-I and The Stranger and DailyKos too are reporting that protesters angry about budget cuts and about tax breaks for the super-rich are staying overnight at the Capitol Building in Olympia.  Reportedly, the Governor instructed police not to arrest them.

Another friend wrote, “Marylea and I took the week off to be involved in the week of action at the Capitol.  We were in the Rotunda with the demonstrators and left about 7 pm to go start editing video footage. We have been shooting video of the rallies at the Capitol this week.  Hope that you can all come to Olympia tomorrow and Friday to support a fair budget.  —
Solidarity!”

Reportedly, police have refused to allow pizza to be delivered to the protesters.  Starving them!

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