The New York Times, in a June 20 article, "The Slump Has Ended But Not the Gloom," reiterates establishment talking points, that jobs are increasing and growth has accelerated, and wonders why working people don't feel better about the economy. But Nathan Newman, in "Statistics are Not Reality" at nathannewman.org, notes that the jobs being created don't pay much. That leads to questions about whether economic growth, as reflected in the gross domestic product, represents higher living standards for working people any more. As a share of GDP, he notes, wages are at their lowest level in decades. The employment report showed that hourly wages for non-supervisory workers rose by only 2.2% in the year to April, while consumer prices inflated 2.3%. The Economic Policy Institute (epinet.org) has compared this recovery to the past eight recoveries and found that this time corporate profits are breathtakingly higher and wage gains are almost non-existent.
NLRB ASSAULTS LABOR RIGHTS. Due to revolving appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, the Bush administration only recently gained the majority it needs to crack down on labor rights. Nathan Newman reports that the five-member board recently decided to strip workers in non-union settings -- 91% of private employees -- of rights under the labor law. In 1975, the Supreme Court declared that anyone meeting with a supervisor where they thought they might be fired or disciplined had the right to a labor representative to act as a witness. In 1982, the NLRB decided this right applied to workers in non-union settings who had a right to a fellow worker there in a similar role. Three years later, when Reagan appointees dominated, the board reversed that decision. But in 2000, in what was called the Epilepsy Foundation decision, the Clinton labor board restored the original right non-union workers had to a witness when they may be fired. This interpretation of the labor law was upheld as valid even by the often anti-union D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2001. But the Bush board in a new decision, IBM Corp., killed that right for non-union workers, allowing employers to discipline them without witnesses or moral support. See more at www.nathannewman.org.
Also, the NLRB voted 3-2 on June 7 to review "neutrality pacts," where companies agree to recognize the union if a majority of workers sign cards supporting the union, the Detroit News reported June 9. So-called card-check agreements are considered the most effective tool to organize new members, but critics say workers may be coerced into signing the cards and secret elections are a fairer way to determine the union's fate. The anti-union National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has filed petitions to decertify unions at two plants that supply parts to automakers.
HEALTH CARE CAUSES STRIKE. Maytag experienced its first strike at its Newton, Iowa, plant in 30 years when workers of Local 997 of the United Auto workers walked off the job in June, rejecting a new contract that included workers picking up more of their health-care costs. The Des Moines Register noted June 20 that it's the same story across the country as rising health-care costs pit employers against employees. Employers who pay for health care find themselves at a disadvantage to employers who stiff their workers. And many workers delay retirement because many industries have stopped offering health care for retirees. It's estimated that US automakers spend $1,300 per midsize car manufactured to cover health insurance for employees. But in Canada, where the government operates and subsidizes health care, carmakers do better, even after the higher taxes paid to cover the government health system. The US has a similar system -- Medicare -- but only for people 65 and older. It provides standard, universal coverage, with low administrative costs. "Maytag in Iowa is a reminder of problems that plague businesses and workers across the country," the Register editorialized. "Maytag is trying to run a business. Employees are trying to do what's best for themselves and their families. The breakdown in negotiations is a result of self-preservation tendencies on both sides. It's neither party's fault. To the extent the breakdown is about health care, it's the fault of the United States' cockamamie system of job-based insurance. If America had a universal system like every other advanced nation, it wouldn't even be an issue."
PATIENTS GET BILLS, NOT RIGHTS. George W. Bush lied about the Texas Patients' Bill of Rights, which the Supreme Court struck down June 21 at the urging of his administration. "I signed into law some of the toughest patient-protection laws in the nation [and] I support a patient bill of rights for all patients, similar to those already enacted in Texas," Bush wrote when he was running for president in an Aug. 17, 2000, USA Today op-ed entitled "I Will Build On My Record." As the Center for American Progress noted, Bush actually didn't sign the law -- he let it pass without his signature rather than risk a veto override.
"Before the Supreme Court, the Bush administration opposed the Texas law, instead joining two managed-care companies, Aetna Health Inc. and Cigna HealthCare of Texas Inc.," the New York Times reported. Those two companies alone have given President Bush and the Republican Party more than $1.7 million since 2000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics
As Kos noted at DailyKos.com, "There's no place where Bush has been more dishonest than with this issue. He opposes the Texas Patients' Bill of Rights, but it is passed by a veto-proof majority in the Texas legislature, so Bush lets it pass into law without a signature. Yet in a debate with Gore, Bush blatantly lies, claiming he signed it. (The media was too busy calling Gore a liar to write about Bush's REAL lies.)"
Bush and his health insurance benefactors won. The Supreme Court invalidated state authority to hold HMOs accountable for damages in state courts, saying federal law supercedes it. Don't expect a GOP Congress to come to the rescue.
INNOCENCE IS CONSOLATION PRIZE. When an Idaho jury found Sami Omar Al-Hussayen innocent of terrorism under the PATRIOT Act June 10, it was called a victory for civil liberty, but Geov Parrish noted at workingforchange.com that the University of Idaho graduate student and Saudi national still got hauled off and jailed for more than a year on flimsy evidence. He had volunteered his time to a Michigan-based group, the Islamic Assembly of North America, to set up a website that promoted the study of Islam. The website contained a link to another website set up by a group the US government had listed as a terrorist organization. Another link pointed to a site that, among a huge volume of postings, contained four short documents written by radical clerics discussing the war in Chechnya and the conflict in Palestine. One of these documents sanctioned suicide attacks and mentioned flying airplanes into buildings. That was it. Al-Hussayen was charged as a tertiary "terrorist" -- giving help to a group whose website linked to a group that published, among its library of documents, writings that advocated terror, even if he didn't know the links and documents were on the site.
The case against Al-Hussayen was so thin that his lawyers called only one witness, former CIA Near East division chief Frank Anderson, who testified about terrorist recruitment methods and questioned the FBI's notion that people give up their jobs and family connections to go join a jihad in Chechnya or Palestine after simply reading a few postings on the Internet.
After Al-Hussayen's acquittal, Anderson said, "I take satisfaction in the verdict. But I am embarrassed and ashamed that our government has kept a decent and innocent man in jail for a very long time."
Parrish added, "it was a little more than that. A major test case of the PATRIOT Act was rebuffed, but the government accomplished what it wanted: destroying a life as an example to other foreign nationals in the US. Al-Hussayen's wife and children have been deported, his studies interrupted, his friends and associates alienated and his liberty and sense of personal security taken completely away from him. How many other foreign nationals, living or studying or working in the US, will take comfort from the fact that he was acquitted -- and how many will take this and other cases as a warning to step very, very carefully in The Land of the Free?
"In all likelihood, Al-Hussayen himself will return to Saudi Arabia, to rejoin his wife and children and rebuild his life. And in all likelihood, John Ashcroft's men will prosecute more PATRIOT Act cases with little or no substance in the future -- secure in the knowledge that, just as they consider their Commander-in-Chief above the law, the law itself can be used to harass innocent people, and nothing will be lost."
BUSH DEALS WITH ANTI-UNION REGIME. Labor unions and fair trade advocates in mid-June condemned the Bush administration's secretive negotiations with Colombia, Ecuador and Peru to create a "US-Andean Free Trade Agreement." The US is negotiating the trade deal despite Colombia's notorious record of human rights abuses, which include the murders of 464 trade unionists in the past three years and 295 receiving death threats last year alone, making Colombia "the most hostile country in the world for trade unionists." Also murdered in Colombia last year were 13 human rights defenders. Colombian government complicity in human rights abuses has been underlined by recent statements by President Álvaro Uribe Velez that accused human rights observers of "providing cover for terrorists" and threatening to "imprison" and "deport" human rights workers from certain areas. The trade negotiations, which have been low-profile, were scheduled to wrap up June 18 in Atlanta, Ga. The Citizens Trade Campaign (CTC), a national coalition of environmental, labor, consumer, family farm, religious, and other civil society groups founded in 1992 during the fight over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), is fighting the deal. See www.citizenstrade.org.
DISPLACED WORKERS SUE LABOR DEPT. The US Department of Labor (DOL) has systematically violated a law requiring it to provide job retraining to workers who have lost their jobs because of trade agreements, according to a lawsuit filed June 17 by Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid and Public Citizen on behalf of Asociación de Trabajadores Fronterizos (the Association of Border Workers, or ATF). The Trade Act of 1974 creates a Trade Adjustment Assistance program for workers who lose their jobs to foreign competition. Workers are to receive training so they can obtain a job that pays at least 80% of what the workers made previously. However, the DOL instead has approved remedial English classes for thousands of Hispanic workers despite the fact that these classes do nothing to help the workers learn new job skills. DOL's own Office of Inspector General documented that more than $100 million in federal funds were spent on ineffective English classes in El Paso, Texas, alone. As a result, Hispanic workers who lose good jobs to overseas competition often end up in minimum wage jobs that they could have obtained even without the DOL's remedial education classes. Records show that the DOL pays roughly $8,000 to train each worker in other states, but only $2,000 to train the average worker along the US-Mexico border. See www.citizen.org.
HUD SEC'Y: NO HOUSING PROBLEM. HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson astounded housing industry representatives, housing advocates, and low income people who heard him speak at the National Press Club luncheon on June 17 when he said "rental housing is affordable and plentiful." The National Low Income Housing Coalition noted that just a week before the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University released its annual State of the Nation's Housing report that found, "Although the overwhelming majority of Americans are well housed, nearly a third of all households spend 30% or more of their incomes on housing, and 13% spend 50% or more. In addition to widespread affordability problems, crowding is on the increase, some 2.5 million to 3.5 million people are homeless at some point in the year, and nearly 2 million households still live in severely inadequate units." HUD's own Worst Case Housing Needs report finds more than 5 million renter households in the US have "worst case" housing needs. There is an absolute shortage of housing that people with low incomes can afford. On a national basis, only 43 rental housing units are affordable and available for every 100 extremely low income families who need them. But the administration plans $1.6 billion in cuts to the Section 8 housing voucher program, the linchpin of national affordable housing policy, for 2005. It also in late April announced unexpected -- and retroactive -- changes to the housing voucher program in 2004. These changes will cut authorities' administrative and program funds and, in some cases, reduce the number of vouchers in use or reducing the rent a voucher can cover. See www.nlihc.org.
BERKELEY: CORPORATIONS HAVE NO RIGHTS. The Berkeley City Council on June 15 unanimously passed a resolution calling for constitutional amendments to deny constitutional rights to corporations. Council members and other proponents explained that corporate money is not entitled to protections offered by the Constitution -- that the Bill of Rights is for live human beings only, WorldNetDaily.com reported June 16. The Peace and Justice Commission, reportedly inspired by a documentary, The Corporation, asked for the resolution to recommend amendment of state and federal constitutions to retract clauses that have been interpreted to grant corporations the rights of persons. In addition, the commission wants a declaration that the expenditure of corporate money is not a form of constitutionally protected speech. The towns of Arcata and Point Arena, Calif., have passed similar resolutions. See reclaimdemocracy.org.
SEEK COLORADO ELECTORAL SPLIT. A group is pushing to change Colorado's constitution to award the state's nine presidential electoral votes proportionally as a percentage of the statewide popular vote. The People's Choice for President has begun to collect the 68,000 votes it will need to get the measure on the Nov. 2 ballot. It would take effect with this year's presidential election. Maine and Nebraska already have proportionate EV allocation. Republicans, who lead the state in voter registration 36% to 30% Democratic, with the rest independent, oppose the change, since all nine electoral votes likely would go to Bush otherwise, according to current polls. Rick Ridder, a Denver Democratic political consultant, is running the Colorado campaign.
UNLICENSED LAWYER GETS JUDGE NOD. George Bush, apparently testing how far he can push the loyalty of Republican senators, has sent them a nominee for the federal appeals court in Washington who has been practicing law in Utah without a state law license for the past four years, the Washington Post reported June 21. Thomas B. Griffith, the general counsel for Brigham Young University since August 2000, had previously failed to renew his law license in Washington for three years while he was a lawyer based in D.C., the Post reported. Griffith, 55, is a member of the Republican National Lawyers Association and was the lead counsel for the Senate during the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton.
In related news, Manuel Miranda, the GOP staff aide who was fired from the Senate Judiciary Committee when he was caught filching Democratic memos from Senate computers, got a job with the "Ethics in Nominations Project" of the conservative "Coalition for a Fair Judiciary." Tim Dunlop of Roadtosurfdom.com notes, "How do these fine conservatives know the confirmation process is 'corrupt'? Because of the internal Democratic Judiciary Committee memos that the head of their new ethics project stole last year." The theft of the Senate memos is still the subject of a federal criminal investigation.
N.Y. TIMES, AP ATTACK KERRY WEALTH. Following the Republican playbook that depicts John Kerry as an effete playboy and George W. Bush as the solid everyman, the New York Times' Jodi Wilgoren and the Associated Press' Nedra Pickler had good sport June 21 mocking Kerry for cavorting over the Father's Day weekend with wealthy friends at his wife's seaside retreat on tony Nantucket Island. In her NYT report, Wilgoren noted the prices of everything from homes on the island (average $1.4 mil -- Mrs. Kerry's was valued at $9 mil in 1995) and the "gentleman's fishing vessel" Kerry used (priced at $150,000) to the menu where the Kerrys and Sen. and Mrs. Ted Kennedy dined ($36 for sauteed sea scallops). The AP's Pickler, who has made a name for herself with snarky reports on Democratic pols, wrote, "After a week of campaigning for the less fortunate, John Kerry went on vacation with the fabulously wealthy." She noted that tempura Maryland soft shell crabs cost $33 at the restaurant where the Kerrys and the Kennedys dined. Both stories mentioned that Bush prefers to spend much of his down time at his "ranch" outside Crawford, Texas, but neither story mentioned the Bush family's net worth, or the value of his "ranch." See dailyhowler.com.
PHILLY NEWS BACKS KERRY. The Philadelphia Daily News (philly.com) on June 16 became the first major newspaper to endorse Kerry for president It cited the Bush administration's "failure to shepherd the country through a tough economic downturn, failure to keep the nation focused on the true enemies to our security. He has failed in even the one challenge he set out for himself at the beginning of his administration -- to bring the country together. His has been one of the most ideologically driven and divisive administrations in recent times." Instead, Kerry offers "a concrete, pragmatic direction for the nation," including removal of incentives to outsource jobs overseas, rolling back tax cuts for the rich, expansion of health care and withdrawal of special privileges for polluting industries and oil companies. The Daily News chose to make an early endorsement "[b]ecause this race promises to be close and Pennsylvania is one of 18 swing states that can go to either candidate. For Kerry supporters to prevail they must do more than just vote, they must bring a ringer into this contest: the more than a million people in the region who did not vote in the last presidential election. We believe these non-voters -- who will have to be mobilized over the next few months -- are the key to victory."
NEWSPAPERS HIT BUSH ON IRAQ LIES. The New York Times editorialized that President Bush "should apologize to the American people" for misleading the US on Iraqi ties to al Qaeda. The Financial Times was even harsher in its judgment: "The Bush administration has misled the American people. It has isolated the US, as American diplomats and commanders pointed out this week. And its bungling in Iraq has given new and terrifying life to the cult of death sponsored by Osama bin Laden. Above all, it inspires little confidence it is capable of defeating the spreading al-Qaeda franchise, which always was the clear and present danger."
KERRY SPENDING OFFSETS REAGAN BOUNCE. John Kerry outraised and outspent George W. Bush in May. Kerry took in $31 million and spent $32 million, finishing the month with $28 million. Bush spent $22 million and started June with $63 million on hand. Both candidates have been raising and spending money at a record pace as Bush spent $85 million on a 15-week, mostly negative ad campaign that harmed Kerry's image but failed to put the incumbent in a commanding position. A Harris Poll conducted June 8-15 gives Bush a 48-42 lead (51-41 amongst "likely voters"). But DailyKos.com notes that the only tracking poll of the race, at RasmussenReports.com shows that any bounce might be ebbing. Kerry has a 3-point lead, reversing a Bush 3-point lead gained during the Reagan lovefest. (The poll's margin of error is 3%. Better evidence of the Reagan bounce might be seen in Rasmussen's congressional numbers, DailyKos noted. The day before Reagan died, June 4, the numbers were D 43, R 36. After the week-long Reagan memorial, the numbers closed to D 40, R 38. On June 21, the gap had widened to the largest Democratic lead -- D 45, R 36.
In the electoral vote count, in states where a candidate was ahead by 5 or more points, Kerry was leading 210-203, with 125 electoral votes in the toss-up category. The race tightened as Michigan moved from a Kerry lean to a toss-up and North Carolina moved from a toss-up to a Bush lean. Projecting electoral votes based upon which candidate was ahead in Rasmussen's state polls through June 15, Kerry was ahead, 286 to 247, with 5 remaining toss-up votes in New Mexico where Rasmussen has not yet released data.
When Kerry gets $75 million after the Democratic convention concludes on July 29 he will no longer be able to use private donations for campaign costs. Bush will be able to use private funds for an extra month until he is renominated Sept. 2.
SCIENTISTS BLAST BUSH. Kerry got the endorsement of 48 Nobel-Prize-winning scienists who blasted the Bush administration for "comprising our future." I a letter, they said, "By reducing funding for scientific research, they are undermining the foundation of America's future. By setting unwarranted restrictions on stem cell research, they are impeding medical advances. By employing inappropriate immigration practices, they are turning critical scientific talent away from our shores. And by ignoring scientific consensus on critical issues such as global warming, they are threatening the earth's future. Unlike previous administrations, Republican and Democratic alike, the Bush administration has ignored unbiased scientific advice in the policy-making that is so important to our collective welfare."
DEMS PICK ON DELAY. Tom DeLay's troubles keep mounting. For some time now, Bradford Plummer reports June 16 at MotherJones.com, "hints of dirty financing and whispers of bribery" have floated around the halls of Congress, but without much effect until a "full-blown ethics complaint" was filed by Chris Bell, a Texas Democrat who was unseated last March mainly because DeLay forced redrawing of Bell's and other Democrats' districts this past year. Bell's complaint -- the first leveled against a House leader since 1997 and the days of Newt Gingrich -- could have been a laundry list of Delay's wrongdoing (using funds meant for children's charities to fund RNC parties, his attempts to get civil servants in the Treasury Department to analyze John Kerry's tax plan (verboten), or his "grossly improper collaboration with his brother, a lobbyist, to push through key environmental legislation"). Instead the complaint concentrates on three main transgressions: DeLay's (alleged) acceptance of $56,000 in the form of contributions to GOP campaigns and in return for "energy legislation favors from DeLay and Rep. Billy Tauzin," the illegal laundering of corporate donations into "local GOP campaigns," and, of course, when DeLay "ordered the FAA to hunt down state democrats who had fled Austin, in order to hold up the DeLay-sponsored gerrymandering." House Republican are trying to block Bell's complaint. US Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill., moved to bar lame-duck Congress members such as Bell from filing ethics complaints because he "has no stake in the institution." The House Administrative Committee prevented Bell from distributing a "Dear Colleague" letter outlining his charges against DeLay and House Democrats were warned not to bring up the matter in floor debate. A Democratic state prosecutor in Austin, District Attorney Ronnie Earle, also is investigating potential violations of state law by DeLay and business lobbyists in the campaign that brought a Republican majority to the state House, which enabled the redistricting. Republicans have threatened to file similar complaints against Democrats.
MERCURY FALLING IN VACCINES. Iowa is leading the way in a movement against thimerosal, the mercury preservative used in vaccines and thought to have links to the appearance of autism disorders in children. Annette Fuentes of In These Times (June 9) reports on the Hawkeye State's "parent-led movement to establish a link between thimerosal and autism and to hold accountable pharmaceutical companies and the federal health agencies that permitted its use since the '40s." In 1999 the CDC issued a recommendation (though not a ban) that thimerosal be no longer be used in vaccines. Even so, some vaccines, among them flu shots, contain trace amounts of the preservative. The anti-thimerosal movement faces both medical and governmental hurdles, beginning with the federal advisory Institute of Medicine's conclusion that the charges against thimerosal lacked substance, followed by the filibustering of a bill that would ban thimerosal in Missouri. Not surprisingly, the man who prevented the bill from coming to a vote, Sen. Ken Jacob, got two $500 contributions, one from GlaxoSmithKline and the other from Novartis Pharmaceuticals, both vaccine manufacturers. In Iowa the news is better but not overwhelmingly so, at least from the point of view of parents whose children (they believe) have been harmed by thimerosal. Writes lawyer Andrew Waters, "As far as impact on litigation, it will be relatively minimal for the time being." That's because a ban in Iowa does not, in and of itself, establish a link between thimerosal and autism, nor does it carry with it the weight of a national ban. Co-founder of SAFE Minds Sallie Bernard describes herself as "optimistic" but, she admits, "a lot depends on how the issue is seen in the next couple of months."
DOUBLE BIAS. Many capable women face the unfair challenge of overcoming a double bias in the workplace; one that involves both gender and color, Stacey Teicher reports in "Double Bias: How Some Women Cope," in the June 14 *Christian Science Monitor*. Women of color typically make less than their white counterparts and are less likely to advance as quickly in their chosen profession. Part of the problem, Teicher writes, is that they are stereotyped not only by men (the glass ceiling) but by other women as well. These difficulties were the impetus behind Working Mother Media's organization of a forum, which took place last month and brought together "a mix of women to talk across racial lines." The facts are these: minority women made up 1.3% of corporate officers in Fortune 500 firms in the year 2000, compared with 12.5% for women as a whole. And, on average, women of color earned 11% to 25% less than white women. "On the other hand," Teicher notes in a depressing aside, "these differences -- while substantial -- are narrower than the ones that male minorities face." One theme that seems to run through forums like Working Mother Media is then need for mentoring and connection across racial lines. Said one attendee, "if you had a few people you could go to and ask the dumb questions, someone who would say, 'Read this book, take that transfer,' -- it would make a world of difference"
MARRIAGE WEAK IN CONSERVATIVE STATES. While Republicans depict themselves as defenders of family values, strongholds of the GOP have the highest divorce rates in the country. States of the old Confederacy have a divorce rate 23% higher than the rest of the country (4.8 vs. 3.9 per thousand persons), Doug Henwood noted in *The Nation* (7/5/04). "The 'red' states -- those carried by Bush in 2000 -- have a divorce rate 29% higher than the "blue" (Gore) states (4.5 vs. 3.5 per thousand). Makes you wonder about family values," Henwood wrote. In 1994, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Jersey ranked first, second and for having the lowest divorce rates, with 2.4, 2.8 and 3.0 per 1,000 population, respectively, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, while Oklahoma, Arkansas and Nevada had the highest divorce rates of 6.7, 7.1 and 9.0 respectively. The national rate was 4.6. For more information on divorce rates see www.divorcereform.org.