Money needed to rescue Basic Health is out there

Last November, Steve Ballmer, the 33rd wealthiest person in the world with a net worth of $33 billion, sold off $2 billion in stock to “diversify his holdings and to help with tax planning.” So much for job creation. This month Paul Allen, with $14 billion in wealth, bought a refurbished Russian MIG fighter jet. And Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon, whose net worth is $12.3 billion, refuses, in any state where he can get away with it, to collect sales taxes on Amazon sales, further starving state governments from revenue for middle class services (and giving him a big advantage over bookstores on Main Street!).

What do these guys have in common? They are among the wealthiest people in the world, and they want their wealth only for themselves. So they all pitched in with six figure contributions to defeat Initiative 1098 last year, which would have taxed their income above $400,000. Not a lot, but why give up anything when you are at the pinnacle?

Here’s why: That 1098 money would have funded Basic Health, which is about to run out of money. What would Paul Allen, Steve Balmer and Jeff Bezos say to the woman who just wrote me about her situation?

“This can truly be a life or death issue for some of us. I was diagnosed with a very early-stage melanoma just two weeks ago, and now need to be seen by the dermatologist every couple of months, and also have other medical issues. My husband has had abnormal PSA tests in the past that we need to monitor.

“We feel very lucky to be on Basic Health. I don’t know what will happen to us if it ends…”

Mr. Allen, Mr. Ballmer and Mr. Bezos: We can’t make you fund public services. But your hearts might lead you there. Why don’t you simply give $100 million for Basic Health? That’s about seventeen one-hundredths of your combined wealth — small change for the health of the citizens of our state. You are not broke. And we don’t need to be.

(Excerpted with permission of the author from Money needed to rescue Basic Health is out there)

Economic Opportunity Institute

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Washington Uprising

Courtesy IWW

Wensday Media is going to print today with a flyer in support of the week of action that starts tomorrow in Blaine, WA and moves on to Seattle and Olympia and beyond over the next few days.  It’s a full schedule of activity for the next 8 days.

See you in the Streets!

You can download the flyers from Small Blue Planet. The only difference in the two flyers is the signage is different, otherwise identical content.

You are welcome to print, disseminate, repost.

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Recall Politics

Bold Progressives is reporting that the recall petition has the signatures for a recall election of Wisconsin State Senator Dan Kapanke.  I believe Mr. Kapanke has an R behind his name.

Have the neocons over-reached?  Do the attacks on public employees, AARP, push the electorate over the line?  We can only hope.  Maybe more Democrats will stand up and show that they are willing to fight for progressive causes?

It’s time for a change, baby.

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Thoughts on achieving real change

Real change in our country has never been easy.  The main avenue for its success has always been by pushing, and pushing, and pushing against prevailing standards and power blocks.  What may look impossible today becomes less so if pressure continues and expands.  The right wing certainly knows this. Today’s liberals/progressives seem not to be up for the long-range struggles.

One thing is absolutely guaranteed: no pressure from progressives, no progress.
The Democratic leaders in the state legislature, apparently with the acquiescence of their caucuses, have decided that if they in any way challenge Eyman’s I-1053 they will antagonize the voters and could lose the majority in 2012.  They may be right.

They could also be wrong.  The restrictions on revenue that I-1053 imposes, unconstitutionally in the opinion of many including me (not a lawyer), are so severe that many extremely important and popular programs are being radically diminished or totally eliminated by – guess who? – the Democratic majority.  True, they are deeply anguished by having to do this, they wish it were otherwise, but (their) political “acumen” tells them it is the only course to follow if they are to be re-elected.

What ever happened to Democrats fighting for what they believe in, namely, socio-economic fairness and justice, each generation to enjoy a better life than its predecessors?  What about making the case to the voters that the Republicans and major corporations here and nationally are engaged in a long-term class war against labor and the middle class, etc etc etc?
From a  member of the shrinking “Democratic wing of the Democratic Party”

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Reichert, Republicans, Declare war on AARP

AARP opposes privatization of Social Security, supports the Affordable Care Act, and its executives give disproportionately to Democrats. Now Dave Reichert and other Congressional Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee are going full ACORN on AARP.

Because AARP lobbied for the Affordable Care Act, and because some provisions may (prepare to gasp) benefit the organization, Congressman Dave Reichert (WA-08) along with Congressmen Wally Herger of California, and Charles Boustany of Louisiana, are challenging AARP’s tax exempt status and calling for an IRS investigation.

“During this investigation it became very clear that despite its privileged tax-exempt status, in many cases, AARP represents a for-profit entity, in fact, an insurance company,” Boustany said.

Reichert challenged AARP’s motives.

“The real overarching question here that I think that seniors across this country should be asking AARP is, who are you working for? Are you with the seniors of America?” Or are you out to make money for AARP?”

By definition, AARP makes no profit, and has no shareholders to distribute profits to. What it does have is a lot of money to promote the interests of its members, lobby Congress, and fund various charitable organizations.

AARP is big, and the CEO makes a lot of money. But it is neither an insurance company nor a for profit organization. Congressman Sander Levin of Michigan called this for what it is; a “witch hunt”.

Is this an indication that Reichert is a lame duck?

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Washington Uprising – A Community Response to Budget Cuts

I think for the next ten days, my thoughts, time, money are on the Washington Uprising.

A bunch of groups are coordinating activities around the State and carrying the message to the Governor and the Legislators in Olympia. Washington State is jumping on the austerity bandwagon. We have a Democratic Governor, Christine Gregoire, who is a reasonable person. Governor Gregoire is no Scott Walker, but she is not fighting for us. She is not fighting for her own values. The War on the Poor has to stop. The Class War is in full gear. The top 2% of wealth and income scale have to be forced to start paying their fair share. Once that happens, we have no need for the cuts. You cannot balance the budget on the backs of the poor and disabled, you have to balance the budget by fixing the revenue streams that fund critical public endeavors like education, health care, parks, transportation, housing, services to the disabled, and so much more.

If trickle down economics worked for the benefit of all of us, if deregulation of private industry created responsible wealth and employment, if the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few created stable communities, we would all be eating rainbow pie by now.

Government serves functions that private, for-profit industries will never address. If there is no money, no profit in it, the globalization capitalists have declared war on it. Prisons are fine because they can be operated at a profit by corporations. We can keep schools are if we can get rid of qualified teachers and privatize education and put control in the hands of private entrepreneurs to create cash flow and train a work force to flip burgers and fry potatoes. Health care is great if we can manage cost and ration care to create stock dividends and CEO bonuses and not get too concerned about the actual health of the population sitting in the waiting room or standing in line at a free clinic.

Have to stop and work on a media project in support of the activities being planned for next week. Hope you can take a day off next week. I am taking the week off to be involved in the activities. If you want to know more about the Washington Uprising, try

We are Washington. It’s one website that organizers are using to get the word out.   Olympia Coalition for a Fair Budget is another website that is getting the word out and organizing activities.

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Top Ten Reasons Rob McKenna Should Not Be Governor

#10) Indifference to racism in our criminal justice system
Last year, during a KZOK radio interview regarding Farrakhan v. Gregoire, Attorney General Rob McKenna appeared to dismiss the problem of racial discrimination in our criminal justice system when, in response to a direct question about prison race disparity, he answered:

“unfortunately, our prison population is disproportionate based on race, but disproportionality isn’t in and of itself an indication of racial discrimination.”

That was all he had to say on the matter, even though the court found, without dispute, systemic racial bias in our criminal justice system.

Armed with the facts that racial discrimination plagues our criminal justice system at all levels, and asked a specific question about racial disparity in prison, McKenna not only failed to acknowledge the problem, he implied it does not exist.

#9) An enemy of gay rights
In 2004, King County Superior Court ruled that gay couples could marry. County Councilman Rob McKenna responded by warning of the slippery slope to incest and polygamy. From The Seattle TImes:

“[McKenna] criticized the ruling’s wording as too broad and said its argument that there is no compelling state interest to deny marriage to two people in a committed relationship could leave marriage open to blood relatives or those practicing polygamy. “It threatens to destroy all standards we apply to the right of marriage,” he said.”

McKenna has a habit of endorsing rabidly anti-gay candidates, like Hans Zeiger, who has famously called the NEA a terrorist organization and warned that the Girl Scouts are “allied with the abortion industry and Planned Parenthood”, and that their convention “will be a gathering of radical feminists, lesbians, and cookie peddlers”.

#8) We can’t trust what he says
From the start, AG McKenna has maintained that his suit to overturn the Affordable Care Act is intended to reverse only the unconstitutional parts, not the entire bill.

“In a nutshell, this case addresses two aspects of the federal healthcare law: the individual insurance mandate and some of the changes to Medicaid in terms of their impacts on the state. The case does not challenge any of the benefits or expanded programs in terms of what people will receive. All of those benefits — all of those new insurance regulations affecting, you know, preexisting conditions and 26-year-olds being able to stay on their parents’ policies — all of that takes effect. We’re not challenging any of it because I don’t think any of it’s unconstitutional (emphasis added).”

Yet a motion, which McKenna signed off on, asked for, and actually received in Florida, a summary judgement to throw the entire Bill out.

#7) Pro-choice, except when he isn’t
While maintaining he is pro choice, McKenna has supported parental consent and apposed late-term abortions. He was also listed on a Christian Coalition voters guide as a an opponent of “abortion on demand”. We can anticipate that a Governor McKenna will acknowledge a woman’s right to choose, while otherwise supporting every measure to restrict reproductive rights.

#6) Refused to represent the Commissioner of Public Lands
In a power overreach, AG McKenna left Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark twisting in the wind, refusing to represent Goldmark and the State Department of Natural Resources on appeal in a case involving condemnation of DNR property by the Okanogan PUD. From the DNR website:

“It is essential that the Office of the Commissioner of Public Lands has the ability to carry out its fiduciary responsibility to the trusts, and not having counsel leaves the Common School Trust defenseless,” said Goldmark. “The Supreme Court will be answering a very important question around the role of the Attorney General to set policy for the entire state.”

Goldmark was forced to sue AG McKenna to essentially force him to do his job. (The State Supreme court has heard the case, but not yet ruled.)

#5) Anti-union
On the County Council, McKenna fought collective bargaining agreements and efforts to do business with unionized companies. As Attorney General, he characterized collective bargaining by public employees as “dangerous”, and appealed a State Supreme court ruling which authorized teachers unions to use dues for political purposes.

#4) Fighting health care reform
McKenna has gone rogue in his efforts to overturn the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – a pursuit of questionable authority, inexplicable in terms other than political, and contrary to the wishes and interests of the citizens he ostensibly serves.

#3) A power monger
McKenna’s policy setting overreach vis-à-vis the DNR and Okanogan PUD dispute, and participation in the suit to overturn the Affordable Care act, are indications that as Governor, he would take the most expansive view of his powers, and use them, as Republican governors do, to further the interests and policy objectives of the far right.

#2) Ich bin ein Teapartier
The following comment by McKenna says it all.

“The grassroots movement reflected in the Tea Party is exactly what this country is about. [snip] “Fewer regulations, fewer burdens upon our employers is what the Tea Party’s about. It’s an economic movement, a fiscal movement. We get that. The lefties don’t get that.”

If that isn’t convincing, I offer this Gingrich-esque opinion of President Obama:

“We have a man who, as president, is far to the left of center, farther to the left of center, I should say, than any American president we have ever seen. Farther to the left than FDR.”

#1) He’s a Republican
We’ve seen what Republican governors have done in Wisconsin, Ohio, New Jersey, and Florida, to name just a few. Never underestimate the damage a conservative can do at the helm of a state. Christy is destroying jobs in New Jersey while privatizing the government. Unions in Ohio, Wisconson, and other states are under siege, and Rick Scott is systematically enriching himself while undermining the poor and middle class in Florida. Almost everywhere, reproductive rights are under fire and education is being gutted.

There isn’t any bill imaginable that could pass the legislature restricting unions or reproductive rights that McKenna wouldn’t sign. He’s a Tea Party shill that thinks unions are dangerous and President Obama is left of FDR.

Rob McKenna is no moderate Republican. There aren’t any of them left.

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The go-slow approach to fixing Washington State's tax system

A letter to a Democratic activist who called for a go-slow approach to eliminating tax preferences. (For background, see Failed KCDCC Resolution a Good Idea and Fair School Funding Coalition.)

Thank you for your well-written and thoughtful analysis.  I admire your commitment to the cause of justness and fairness.  The real “enemy” is conservatives, not fellow progressive Democrats.

You may even be correct that the best approach, legislatively, is a slow, incremental one —  chipping away at tax preferences one by one.   Trying immediately to legislate away the exemptions of Boeing and Microsoft may be inviting disaster or ridicule.

But the important point I want to make is this. Fine, maybe the legislators shouldn’t start by taking on Boeing and Microsoft.  But we grassroots Democrats need to push our political leaders, and the public dialog, to the Left.

After all, it’s just a resolution, and we, as members of the resolutions committee, have no legislative power.  Our legislators and governor largely ignore our platform and resolutions already.   Our job, as grassroots Dems, is to push the envelope — to extend what’s possible.

You see, the problem is that there are very few audible voices calling for the elimination of tax exemptions. The governor and legislators are waiting for others (advocacy groups, the grassroots) to lead. Our leaders don’t lead.

Perhaps the role of groups like the King County P&R Committee should be to start stating the truth: the emperor has no clothes. It’s outrageous that the super-rich get bailouts, subsidies, and tax breaks; they ship jobs and profits overseas.  Meanwhile, the middle class and the poor are getting layoffs, service cuts, and foreclosures.

Republicans always justify tax cuts by calling taxation a “job killer.”  If we let them win that argument, we’ll lose the war.  The political dialog has moved so far to the right in recent years, that Democrats can’t state their truths without being shouted down.  The Right controls the terms of debate and we can barely be heard.

Moreover, as you and others have pointed out, taxes don’t in fact kill jobs. (Anyone have any good documentation of this factoid?)

Boeing prospers off government funding, as a weapons manufacturer. Won’t they support education? Microsoft and Amazon should be even more eager to fund education. Actually, they hire thousands of Asian software engineers on H1-B visas. Entire teams are often foreigners. Could Microsoft have gotten where it is without government services and protections? Government is like the operating system of a nation.

Democrats and progressives need to stop being meek about their values.

Yet I agree that the resolution could and should be amended.  Explicit mention of Boeing and Microsoft should be removed.  (In fact David Spring has done so in a recent revision.)  Already it, reasonably, calls for just a temporary, one-year suspension of the tax breaks.  It could be weakened further to call for, say, a partial elimination of the tax exemptions.  The factual claims can be checked out and corrected, if necessary.  They’re not too far off.   With such changes, it would be a reminder that tax breaks for rich corporations and people are unfair given the inequality of wealth and the cuts we’re facing.

In an ideal world, David’s resolution would be acceptable.  It is, in fact, reasonable.

So, in short, yes, I agree, the legislators may need to go slow with regard to attacking Boeing and Microsoft’s tax preferences; on the issues of taxation in general and the unconstitutionality of I-1053, they should go fast.  But we aren’t legislators. We’re the grassroots. We need to push the envelope to the Left.

The go-slow approach is likely to take too long to succeed.  The Left needs to raise the public’s awareness about the injustice of unfair taxation. Wisconsin and Republican over-reach can help.  Apparently, our legislators and governor won’t.

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