Franklin County Democrats

The official site of the Democratic Party of Franklin County, Missouri

As ALEC, the Koch Brothers, and other extreme corporate lobbying groups push state legislatures around the country, including in Missouri, to enact strongmanRight-to-Worse and other anti-paycheck bills a backlash is growing.  Turns out even conservatives don’t like their paychecks getting smaller and their standard of living declining.  This sentiment was expressed in a recent opinion piece by Nicholas Kristof – The Cost of a Decline in Unions.

The abuses are real. But, as unions wane in American life, it’s also increasingly clear that they were doing a lot of good in sustaining middle class life — especially the private-sector unions that are now dwindling.

“All the focus on labor’s flaws can distract us from the bigger picture,” Rosenfeld writes. “For generations now the labor movement has stood as the most prominent and effective voice for economic justice.”

I’m as appalled as anyone by silly work rules and $400,000 stagehands, or teachers’ unions shielding the incompetent. But unions also lobby for programs like universal prekindergarten that help create broad-based prosperity. They are pushing for a higher national minimum wage, even though that would directly benefit mostly nonunionized workers.

I’ve also changed my mind because, in recent years, the worst abuses by far haven’t been in the union shop but in the corporate suite. One of the things you learn as a journalist is that when there’s no accountability, we humans are capable of tremendous avarice and venality. That’s true of union bosses — and of corporate tycoons. Unions, even flawed ones, can provide checks and balances for flawed corporations.

Many Americans think unions drag down the economy over all, but scholars disagree. American auto unions are often mentioned, but Germany’s car workers have a strong union, and so do Toyota’s in Japan and Kia’s in South Korea.

In Germany, the average autoworker earns about $67 per hour in salary and benefits, compared with $34 in the United States. Yet Germany’s car companies in 2010 produced more than twice as many vehicles as American companies did, and they were highly profitable. It’s too glib to say that the problem in the American sector was just unions.

Joseph Stiglitz notes in his book “The Price of Inequality” that when unions were strong in America, productivity and real hourly compensation moved together in manufacturing. But after 1980 (and especially after 2000) the link seemed to break and real wages stagnated.

It may be that as unions weakened, executives sometimes grabbed the gains from productivity. Perhaps that helps explain why chief executives at big companies earned, on average, 20 times as much as the typical worker in 1965, and 296 times as much in 2013, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Lawrence F. Katz, a Harvard labor economist, raises concerns about some aspects of public-sector unions, but he says that in the private sector (where only 7 percent of workers are now unionized): “I think we’ve gone too far in de-unionization.”

Get ready for the Mea Culpa…

He’s right. This isn’t something you often hear a columnist say, but I’ll say it again: I was wrong. At least in the private sector, we should strengthen unions, not try to eviscerate them.

I applaud Mr. Kristof for having the strength to look at the facts and reach a new conclusion.  To admit it in print is an act only a strong man could commit.  Any strong men in the Missouri legislature ready to stand up for worker rights?

WalMart’s announcement last week that it would be boosting employee wages to $9 this year and $10 next year is a long overdue development. Image result for Image, world's largest yacht So overdue it raises the question – why now?

Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s landmark decision to boost wages for half a million employees will increase pressure on rival retailers such as Target Corp. to follow suit as the labor market tightens and worker pay climbs nationwide. The world’s largest retailer said Thursday that it would begin paying all of its U.S. hourly workers at least $9 an hour by April and $10 an hour by next February. The plan will result in raises for about 500,000 workers in the first half of the current fiscal year and cost about $1 billion, the company said in a statement. Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private employer, is trying to reduce turnover among its 1.3 million U.S. workers, which would in turn cut training costs and improve service at its 4,400 domestic stores. With the unemployment rate dropping and jobs more widely available, Wal-Mart’s move may ripple through the retail industry, including at Target.

While it is undeniable that when the nation’s largest employer raises wages there will be an effect on wages in the rest of the economy.  It happened in the 1950′s when General Motors was the largest employer in America and as wages increased at GM the affect reverberated to the benefit of other American workers.  To use a little minor league business lingo – What was the root cause?

The mainstream/corporate media explains it with reasoning like the above excerpt.  Sure, employee turnover and productivity are factors but there are other reasons that they don’t even want to mention – out of sight, out of mind is their operational creed. These reasons are pressures generated by worker advocates like the Occupy movement, labor unions either directly through organizing or financing of groups like OurWalmart, and workers at these companies and others like the FastFood $15 movement.  These are to be avoided by the corporate media lest there be copycat movements or proveImage result for Image, bass boat to be inspirational to workers in other industries.

Of course, these movements have combined with individual need and real world economics to raise awareness that income inequality is exploding not just because the wealthy have set the table but because the scraps falling off the table aren’t enough to live on. I know the GM workers of yesteryear and WalMart workers of today recognize the efforts of other worker advocates to help them achieve a better standard of living.

Let’s hope the tide of rising wages helps dockworkers and oil refinery workers currently involved in labor actions achieve improvements that will flow to other workers.  Who knows, this year’s negotiations between the UAW and automakers may provide even more momentum to a tide that will lift all boats not just the yachts that are already loaded with champagne and caviar.

This week’s audio netcast: Historian and LBJ expert Julian Zelizer says Hollywood missed an opportunity with the movie “Selma.” Former Image result for Image, radioCongressman Mike Barnes calls Vladimir Putin “a KGB thug” but says he has lost his swagger. And Bill Press talks with Erica Sagrans, head of the group trying to draft Elizabeth Warren.

Legislative Update
by Otto Fajen, MNEA Legislative Director
Number 7   Feb. 19, 2015
This message is coming to you from the Missouri NEA Legislative Update listserv (
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This month’s Atlantic magazine has a look at some of the forces lining up against the potential Presidential campaign by Hillary Clinton.  Among The Hillary Haters by Hanna Rosin describes some of these folks.

From wacky…

Up to this point in our conversation, Tyrrell had been polite and jovial, but now he moved out of lazy-Sunday-morning mode and to the Image result for Image, hateedge of his chair.

“They wouldn’t understand that the Clintons used Arkansas state troopers as pimps.”

It was as if someone had propped him up before an audience, pushed a button, and turned him on. More pronouncements poured forth, at least half a dozen, a heated “lest we forget” filtered through the National Enquirer.

“They wouldn’t understand that Clinton and Mrs. Clinton privately hired PIs to harass the women who were sleeping with him.”

“They wouldn’t understand the repeated thwarting of election laws and financial caps on fund-raising.”

“They wouldn’t understand the funny money coming out of China and other parts of Asia.”

“They wouldn’t understand that she stole White House furniture.”

To the focus group driven professionals…

If she runs for president in 2016—as all evidence suggests she will—Hillary Clinton will face something more like a vast right-wing conglomerate. This time around, the groups will be well funded, solidly professional, and thoroughly integrated into the party establishment. America Rising, which employs more than 50 people, is a new opposition-research group that’s preparing a Clinton strategy for the Republicans far in advance of the campaign. It sends “trackers” with portable video cameras to all her events, in hopes of catching a gaffe, and uses polling and focus-group research to determine ways to define her before she has a chance, once again, to define herself. The Free Beacon has its own research division and a “war room” for what it calls “combat journalism”—most of it, recently, directed at Clinton. The small but busy Stop Hillary PAC is putting together a “grass-roots coalition” that aims (as its name suggests) to ensure “Hillary Clinton never becomes president.” Citizens United, the group that won the Supreme Court case allowing a flood of new campaign spending, is producing a movie about Clinton’s performance as secretary of state, focusing on whether she did enough to protect the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, where militants killed ?the U.S. ?ambassador to Libya and ?three other Americans in 2012. Americans for Prosperity, a group funded by the Koch brothers, turned its conference last August into a forum for a wide range of Hillary bashing.

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The Sunday Post-Dispatch featured this Letter to the Editor from Rev. Teresa Mithen Danieley.Image result for Image, rejection

Right-to-Work would undermine the dignity of working people and would make it even harder for Missouri families to make ends meet.  According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics average annual pay for 2013, people in Right-to-Work states earn 12.2 percent less than people in other states(43,028 compared with $48,998), and families in states with these laws make 11.8 percent less than families in other states($49,220 compared with $55,788).

If Missouri legislators really care about people and families in our state, they will refuse to concede to pressure from outside lobbyists. They will reject right-to-work once and for all.

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Last week’s Sunday Read was an in-depth look at the chasm between conservative economic policy and real world economics.  This week we feature Image result for Image, denialSalon’s analysis of Nobel Economist Paul Krugman and his piece “Be very, very afraid”: Paul Krugman on the GOP’s scary economic “experts”

The latest evidence came Wednesday, when Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker — one of the GOP’s leading 2016 contenders — attended a New York dinner hosted by supply-side grandees Art Laffer, creator of the notorious Laffer Curve; CNBC host Larry Kudlow; and Heritage Foundation chief economist Stephen Moore. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who’s gearing up for a second White House bid, kissed the supply-siders’ rings last month.

That these men have become political powerbrokers attests to the sorry intellectual state of the GOP, Krugman contends. They don’t just cling to the fantastical — and empirically disproven — idea that tax cuts will bring deficits down. They’ve also made embarrassingly inaccurate forecasts about the Obama-era economy, predictions that have done nothing to damage their standing within the Republican Party.

“‘Get ready for inflation and higher interest rates’ was the title of a June 2009 op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal by Mr. Laffer,” Krugman notes, while ”what followed were the lowest inflation in two generations and the lowest interest rates in history. Mr. Kudlow and Mr. Moore both predicted 1970s-style stagflation.” Kudlow and Laffer, Krugman points out, have at least admitted that their predictions were wrong.

What’s the takeaway? “Across the board, the modern American right seems to have abandoned the idea that there is an objective reality out there, even if it’s not what your prejudices say should be happening,” Krugman observes. “What are you going to believe, right-wing doctrine or your own lying eyes? These days, the doctrine wins.” That doesn’t just hold true for economic policy, he writes; it also helps explain conservatives’ hysterical claims about health care reform, as well as the persistent influence of foreign policy “experts” who assured us that the Iraq War would be a smashing success.

Returning to the GOP’s economic quacks, Krugman concludes, “Clearly, failure has only made them stronger, and now they are political kingmakers. Be very, very afraid.”

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William Greider talks about the first bill passed by the Republican controlled U.S. House of Representatives.  It is designed to limit funds in the DisabilitysignDisability program in Social Security.  For more information check out Social Security Works.  Here is an excerpt from Mr. Greider’s Why Is No One Talking About the GOP’s Plan to Send Millions of Disabled Americans into Poverty….

Despite their virtues, many conservative Republicans have an unfortunate habit of picking on the weak and disadvantaged, slandering the people least able to fight back. We saw a glimpse of this callousness in Mitt Romney’s disparagement of the “47 percent” who are “takers” living off the hard-working “makers.” The newly empowered GOP majority in Congress is going down the same road—targeting the millions of sick or injured Americans who receive Social Security disability payments.

This is a favorite old canard of self-righteous right-wingers. They label these unfortunate people as shiftless and suggest none too subtly that many are faking their injuries and illnesses. The GOP has been pushing this cold-hearted slander for at least thirty-five years, ever since the glorious reign of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s (who remembers Reagan’s imaginary “Welfare Queen” who drove to pick up her welfare check in a Cadillac?).

McConnell-Boehner Republicans are now reviving the Gipper’s big lie, claiming the Social Security system is in crisis because of swollen disability benefits. Allegedly to save the system, these so-called fiscal conservatives intend to cut benefits and throw out those supposedly able-bodied slackers. Once again, their facts are bogus. Never mind, their story line is concocted to arouse anti-government resentment among people who are themselves strapped for income.

This is why we need “bleeding-heart liberals”—politicians who will stand up to defend the scorned and tell the truth about the Republicans’ propaganda

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