Right to Work Laws Part 5 – Social Issues Series

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This term “right to work” has been bandied about for a while now.  Since it actually sounds like something good – the ability to help people get a job maybe? I was curious about it, what it actually means, and where it has come from.  I found the following explanation of this term on at http://www.nrtw.org/rtws.htm

“A Right to Work law secures the right of employees to decide for themselves whether or not to join or financially support a union. However, employees who work in the railway or airline industries are not protected by a Right to Work law, and employees who work on a federal enclave may not be. Moreover, a Right to Work law does not prohibit limitations on when a dues deduction authorization card can be revoked. Workers should carefully read the fine print before signing such a card.”

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In other words, this means that a worker can enjoy all the rights of a union member while at the same time not paying union dues.  You may ask what the point of this is.  Well, the point is to weaken unions by denying them the money needed to run the union.  Now, the next question would be, “does this matter?”  Well, unions have been getting a bad rap from most places lately.  So, let’s ask this question:  “how have unions helped the worker?”

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Here are a few things that unions have achieved for the American worker:  the weekend – before unions’ workers often worked an average of 61 hours a week; how about a decrease in wage inequality – at the time when most workers belonged to a union income inequality was at its lowest; child labor was common before unions (although some politicians would like to see it return); http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/2/4/1274794/-GOP-pushes-for-Return-of-Child-Labor

http://www.rawstory.com/2011/01/gop-senator-calls-federal-laws-child-labor-unconstitutional/

http://www.politicususa.com/2014/05/16/republicans-bring-child-labor-tobacco-farms-south.html

Employer-based health care coverage is another benefit workers have received due to unions; and finally family and medical leave from your work.  There are also lots of other benefits that most employees have that are due to unions, even though they may not belong to a union themselves.

http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2011/03/05/148930/top-five-things-unions/

Unions have benefited all workers by forcing laws to regulate safety in the workplace.  Before unions, workers were often killed or injured in the unsafe environments that ran rampant in the workplaces. http://www.aflcio.org/Issues/Job-Safety  OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is the most important part of work-place safety.  Unfortunately there is an on-going effort to dismantle this department.  http://www.politicususa.com/2014/05/23/republican-effort-rollback-workplace-safety-regulations-literally-killing-americans.html

There is an on-going effort to dismantle all unions across the U.S.  In states where this effort has become laws (known as “right to work”), the effects of such laws have had major consequences.  One consequence has been lower wages in states with these laws http://www.epi.org/publication/right-to-work-states-have-lower-wages/  Other consequences include negating the ability of the union in fighting for the worker rights including wages, safety and health.  http://www.epi.org/publication/right-to-work-research/    https://www.workplacefairness.org/unions-right-to-work

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Since Right to Work laws cause lower wages, who stands to benefit from these laws?  Is it the worker, who is earning less?  No, that doesn’t make any sense.  So, who does benefit?  Let’s take a wild guess, shall we?  It’s the business owners, of course.  Where does the “research” claiming benefits to workers from right to work come from?  One source is the Heritage Foundation.  I discussed the supporters of these foundations in my Dark Money Series, but will include a few of more links here.

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Heritage_Foundation

http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/heritage-foundation

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jan/17/dark-money-review-nazi-oil-the-koch-brothers-and-a-rightwing-revolution

There is also the little known history of the “right to work” movement.  The founder, Vance Muse was a racist oil lobbyist who opposed:  women’s suffrage; ending child labor laws; Catholics as well as other social movements.

http://www.southernstudies.org/2012/12/the-racist-roots-of-right-to-work-laws.html

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What do you think of right to work laws?  Let me know in the comments.

 

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American Renewal Part 3b in Social Issues Series

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This is a continuation of my post from last Wednesday regarding the list of American Renewal achievements from the RNC.  Here is the list from the RNC regarding the American Renewal goals stated.  In this post I’m writing about the last five achievements, since I wrote about the first six in my post from last Wednesday.

CONSTITUTION – Our Constitution should be preserved, valued and honored.

ECONOMY – We need to start growing America’s economy instead of Washington’s economy so that hard-working Americans see better wages and more opportunity.

BUDGET- we need to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution, make government more efficient, and leave the next generation with opportunity, not debt.

HEALTHCARE – We need to start over with real healthcare reform that puts patients and their doctors in charge, not unelected bureaucrats in Washington.

VETERANS – Our veterans have earned our respect and gratitude, and no veteran should have to wait in line for months or years just to see a doctor.

SECURITY – Keeping America safe and strong requires a strong military, growing the economy, energy independence, and secure borders.

EDUCATION – Every child should have an equal opportunity to get a great education; no parent should be forced to send their child to a failing school.

POVERTY – The best anti-poverty program is a strong family and a good job, so our focus should be on getting people out of poverty by lifting up all people and helping them find work.

VALUES – Our country should value the traditions of family, life, religious liberty, and hard work.

ENERGY – We should make America energy independent by encouraging investment in domestic energy, lowering prices, and creating jobs at home.

IMMIGRATION – We need an immigration system that secures our borders, upholds the law, and boosts our economy.  https://www.gop.com/principles-for-american-renewal

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The next achievement is that of Education.  The RNC claims that every child should have access to a “great” education.  Except when they shouldn’t.  The Republicans have voted to cut the budget for education at every turn.  They also don’t believe that students should get loans for higher education.  There is also the issue that “charter schools” are for profit; they educated far fewer students than public schools for more money, etc.  Here is a link regarding these and more problems with charter schools.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2014/05/20/a-dozen-problems-with-charter-schools/ and  http://democrats.budget.house.gov/fact-sheet/fact-sheet-republican-budget-cuts-education and http://www.usnews.com/opinion/knowledge-bank/2015/06/25/why-the-gops-education-funding-bill-gets-an-f

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As far as poverty is concerned, the RNC claims that their goal is to lift people up out of poverty and put them to work.  Again, look at their record.  How do people get lifted up out of poverty when their wages are at or below poverty levels?   As I stated earlier, there is also the issue of the Republicans continuing the tax breaks on corporations that ship American jobs overseas.  http://takingnote.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/03/04/republican-hypocrisy-on-the-minimum-wage/ and http://www.politicususa.com/2014/03/15/republicans-dream-nation-wage-slaves-obama-overtime-pay-rules.html

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The next achievement that I’d like to look at is values, which the RNC has stated as “Our country should value the traditions of family, life, religious liberty, and hard work.”  This definition is pretty vague, so I looked in other places for a more definite definitions of values. I found the following:  “Our country should value family, life, and hard work. This is why we insist that public policy – from taxes to education, from health care to welfare – should be created to strengthen and support, not hurt, American families. Individuals and families should be able to maintain their independence from government, raise their children by their own values and build communities of self-reliant neighbors.”  https://www.gop.com/issue/family-values/canonical/  Some of these same advocates for traditional family values also advocate:  hate against certain groups, including but not limited to:  LBGTQ+; persons of different ethnicity; persons of different religions; and persons of a different race. http://occupydemocrats.com/2016/02/18/southern-poverty-law-center-republican-party-is-now-a-hate-group-2/   Also, I would like to briefly bring up the point that in recent years the Republicans in Congress have been “caught” in affairs and scandals.  http://reverbpress.com/politics/republican-family-values-politician-caught-in-sex-scandal-forced-rep-to-resign/ and then there is this http://occupydemocrats.com/2015/09/30/republican-anti-gay-family-values-hypocrite-caught-cheating-on-wife-in-sex-tape-scandal-steps-down/

That’s enough for the sex scandals.  If we start to talk about other “values”, these would include:  greater poverty (or below) wages; healthcare for all, including women’s health; good public education; clean air and water; shelter and food. These, again are values that the republicans have fought against.   This article talks about these issues.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/philip-slater/the-real-meaning-of-famil_b_50006.html

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Now we come to the issue of Energy.  The RNC says that it wants to help America become energy independent and keep jobs here at home.  Again this sounds like a valid and good goal.  What does it mean, though?  So far, the Republican candidates for President have said that we should use all sources of energy whether or not they are polluting.  They are there and we should use them.  Some of them oppose tax credits for solar and wind while at the same time are planning to continue the tax credits for oil, gas and coal. http://www.lcv.org/assets/docs/presidential-candidates-on-renewable.pdf  Not only that, but the Republicans have repeatedly voted against any form of clean energy.   https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/11/17/amid-record-global-temperatures-congress-to-vote-to-stop-obamas-clean-power-plan/  As far as keeping jobs here at home, once again we have Republicans giving tax breaks to corporations who send jobs overseas.  http://republicansexposed.org/republicans-support-tax-breaks-for-companies-sending-jobs-overseas/

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Now, last but of course, not least, there is the goal of Immigration.  This seems to be a hot-button issue in this election year.  The stated position within the American Renewal document sounds fairly valid and sensible.  “…an immigration system that secures our borders, upholds the law, and boosts our economy.”  However when we take a closer look at the rhetoric coming from the Republicans we see a different side to the immigration issue.  The Republican contenders for President have moved far to the right by vowing to deport millions of illegal immigrants, break-up families and deport children.  http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/jan/18/donald-trump-pulls-republicans-further-right-on-im/?page=all   Here you can read comprehensive statements by all the Presidential contenders regarding their stances on immigration.   https://ballotpedia.org/2016_presidential_candidates_on_immigration  While there has been a lot of verbiage regarding illegal immigration, at the same time there has been little in the way of policy on the subject.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-w-traphagan/the-gop-the-new-know-noth_b_9010454.html

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So, American Renewal.  What do you think?  Where do you stand?  While I personally feel that these are good goals, I don’t really feel that given the information that I’ve found from legitimate sources that the Republican Party has either delivered on them, or in most cases moved to achieve them.  Let me know in the comments what your viewpoint is.

 

American Renewal – Part 3a in Series – Social Issues

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This is the third part in my series on Social Issues.  In the first and second parts I talked about Civil Oligarchy and Entitlements.  In this post I’ll be writing about that doctrine called “American Renewal” by the Republican National Committee.  Due to there being eleven principles that together create American Renewal, I will be writing about the first six of them today, and finishing up with the last five next Wednesday.  When I first started on this post I didn’t realize how long it was going to be.  I went on the RNC website and copied out their list of eleven important principles for what they are calling American Renewal.  These are listed below in their entirety.

CONSTITUTION – Our Constitution should be preserved, valued and honored.

ECONOMY – We need to start growing America’s economy instead of Washington’s economy so that hard-working Americans see better wages and more opportunity.

BUDGET- we need to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution, make government more efficient, and leave the next generation with opportunity, not debt.

HEALTHCARE – We need to start over with real healthcare reform that puts patients and their doctors in charge, not unelected bureaucrats in Washington.

VETERANS – Our veterans have earned our respect and gratitude, and no veteran should have to wait in line for months or years just to see a doctor.

SECURITY – Keeping America safe and strong requires a strong military, growing the economy, energy independence, and secure borders.

EDUCATION – Every child should have an equal opportunity to get a great education; no parent should be forced to send their child to a failing school.

POVERTY – The best anti-poverty program is a strong family and a good job, so our focus should be on getting people out of poverty by lifting up all people and helping them find work.

VALUES – Our country should value the traditions of family, life, religious liberty, and hard work.

ENERGY – We should make America energy independent by encouraging investment in domestic energy, lowering prices, and creating jobs at home.

IMMIGRATION – We need an immigration system that secures our borders, upholds the law, and boosts our economy.

https://www.gop.com/principles-for-american-renewal

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These all sound like upstanding and even helpful ideas.  However, when I decided to do a little research into whether or not these goals were being achieved by the elected Republicans in Congress, I found little in the way of these goals being met.

To begin with, the goal of following the Constitution remains unachieved.  One example of this is the stated (and signed) promise to not allow the President to nominate a new Supreme Court Justice.  Since nominating a new justice according to the Constitution should be done by the President, the Republicans in Congress are impeding an important duty of both the President and themselves.  http://www.thenation.com/article/yes-president-obama-can-still-nominate-a-supreme-court-justice/  and http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/24/us/politics/supreme-court-nomination-obama.html

In the second case, the RNC states that one achievement that that republicans would like to see come to fruition is an economy where hard-working Americans see better wages and more opportunity.  This again is rather interesting since they have repeatedly voted against raising the minimum wage. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/republicans-minimum-wage/  As far as opportunity is concerned, Republicans also vote against that by continuing to give tax breaks to corporations that send American jobs overseas.  http://www.politicususa.com/2014/07/30/senate-republicans-vote-american-jobs-blocking-bill-outsourcing-tax-breaks.html

The balancing the federal budget is another achievement of the RNC.  However, again, the Republicans in congress have blocked any advance on this process by voting to keep corporate taxes and taxes on the extremely wealthy at exceedingly low rates.  http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-0415-eichelberger-taxes-20150415-story.html

Another achievement that the RNC talks about is a new form of healthcare that will cover us, and put us in charge of our own healthcare.  Again, there is a little bit of double-talk, since we are in charge of our own healthcare (unless of course we are discussing woman’s healthcare, which I will do so in a separate post).  With all their talk of a new reform after they vote to get rid of Obamacare; they are vague on any new form of healthcare, in fact, with all the talk about replacing it, all we get are non-answers.  There is no new healthcare to replace it with – or if there is it has yet to be shared with the American people.  http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/01/gop-not-going-to-reveal-obamacare-replacement.html#  http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-congress-obamacare-repeal-20160106-story.html

The RNC also says that veterans have earned respect and gratitude; and that they should not have to wait an unseemly long time for healthcare.  So, what are they doing to rectify this situation? Well, here is one article which details how the Republicans have been trying to take benefits away from veterans.   http://www.politicususa.com/2015/11/11/republicans-congress-dishonoring-americas-veterans.html  Another article highlights the records of the Republican politicians running for President and their views on benefits for veterans.  As you can see, no matter what the rhetoric is, there is little in the way of respect or gratitude given to our veterans.  http://correctrecord.org/the-gop-on-veterans-issues/

The next achievement is security of country.  The RNC is extremely concerned with our security, be it our borders or our international security.  This administration has spent about $20 billion dollars on border security, but if you listen to the Republican rhetoric you would never guess it.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/earl-ofari-hutchinson/gop-hypocrisy-rides-high-immigration_b_5574869.html  Not only that, but they have refused to discuss or vote on any solutions to the immigration problem that they are so concerned about.

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Here I am going to stop.  I’ve put a lot of effort into this post, and I hope that you go to the links that I’ve provided.  If you have comments please share them.  I’d like to know what you think of these “American renewal” goals. Next week I will finish with the rest of the list.

Civil Oligarchy – Part I in Series

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Jeffrey Winters wrote an informative book entitled Oligarchy in which he explains the different types of oligarchies, and talks specifically about where American politics is in all this. One of his findings is something called a Civil Oligarchy, which he makes a claim that America is one. I’ll let the following excerpt explain this for you.

Contemporary America (along with other capitalist states) instead houses a kind of “civil oligarchy.” The big difference is that property rights are now guaranteed by the impersonal laws of an armed state. Even oligarchs, who can be disarmed for the first time in history and no longer need to rule directly, must submit to the rule of law for this modern “civil” arrangement to work. When oligarchs do enter government, it is more for vanity than to rule as or for oligarchs. Good examples are New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former presidential candidate Ross Perot and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
Another feature of American oligarchy is that it allows oligarchs to hire skilled professionals, middle- and upper-class worker bees, to labor year-round as salaried, full-time political advocates and defenders of the oligarchy. Unlike those backing ordinary politicians, the oligarchs’ professional forces require no ideological invigoration to keep going. In other words, they function as a very well-paid mercenary army.
Whatever views and interests may divide the very rich, they are united in being materially focused and materially empowered. The social and political tensions associated with extreme wealth bond oligarchs together even if they never meet, and sets in motion the complex dynamics of wealth defense. Oligarchs do overlap with each other in certain social circles that theorists of the elite worked hard to map. But such networks are not vital to their power and effectiveness. Oligarchic theory requires no conspiracies or backroom deals. It is the minions oligarchs hire who provide structure and continuity to America’s civil oligarchy.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article31064.htm

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How has this affected America? Well as Jane Mayer explains so well in her book Dark Money, the richest of the 1%; in other words, the richest .01% of American society has put its money where its interests are. They have taken advantage of tax laws to create tax-free Trusts which in turn fund think tanks, and non-profits. That all sounds good, right? Aren’t non-profits usually do-gooders for society as a whole? Well, believe it or not, a non-profit does not  have to actually benefit society as a whole. Crazy? Well, yes, until you realize that a non-profit is actually simply a tax term and a way to avoid paying any – taxes, I mean. These non-profits are then funded by the Trusts and/or the think tanks to push an agenda meant to specifically benefit the extremely wealthy. Just a note, when the extreme wealthy set up a Trust, and then donate the interest of the capital to non-profits for 20 years, no taxes need to be paid by the Trust – at all, ever. Of course, the owners of these trusts have set up their own non-profits to help push policies which in turn will benefit themselves.

So what, you say? Well if you think that this doesn’t impact your life, you are indeed mistaken. In the book Dark Money, Mayer has of course done her homework as an actual investigative journalist and shown us all exactly how this has impacted our lives. As an example, the Koch brothers decided that since they were being fined by the EPA (numerous times) for polluting the air and water, they would create a Trust, which in turn created “Think-Tanks” which would then write “papers” against the EPA. Please note, a “paper” put out by any think tank does not get “peer reviewed”, and can therefore state anything the writer (or the writer’s boss) wants it to say. These are not scientific papers, just opinion papers masquerading as scientific papers. These papers then get published and become used as a truth by politicians to push the .01% opinions. Have you ever wondered where certain politicians get their numbers from when they are pushing an idea? This is why some people believe that the earth is flat; that it is only 6,000 years old; and that there is no such thing as Global Warming. Think tank papers – not “peer reviewed” scientific papers, used to advance agendas that benefit no one but the extreme wealthy.

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August 24, 1996, Lively, TX: a rupture of a steel pipeline operated by Koch Pipeline Company, LP (Koch), created a butane vapor cloud which ignited as two residents in a pickup truck drove into the cloud. The occupants of the truck died from thermal injuries. About 25 families were evacuated from the area. Damages related to the accident exceeded $217,000. credit: National Transportation Safety Board

Now, how do the non-profits fit into this puzzle? They also can fund politicians, however, if you fund politicians from a non-profit, you can hide where the money funding the politician has come from. Pretty clever, no? That way the .01% of the rich, funding certain politicians can remain hidden. Unless of course, you’ve got an investigative reporter who’s been on your tail for many many years, collecting evidence and following the money.  This process has come to be called “dark money”, since it’s extremely difficult to find out who exactly is providing the funding.

Some of the Trusts and Think Tanks and Non-profits that are exclusively funded by the .01% are as follows: American Legislative Exchange Council; Cato Institute; Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation; Heritage Foundation; Institute for Justice; Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment; Reason Foundation; Federalist Society for law and Public Policy Studies; Institute for Humane Studies; and the list goes on and on. I’m including the link where you can see some more.

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Koch_Family_Foundations

Lest you think that I’m “picking” on the Koch family, other families involved in this business include the following: Charles Chase; John M. Olin (who by the way became involved after Olin Corporation was fined for creating “Love Canal” (please look this up); Lewis Powell; Richard Mellon Scaife; Lynn and Harry Bradley. These again, are just a few mentioned in Dark Money.

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Do your own research, look everything up, and comment.  If you so desire, you can find all the information that I write about here referenced in the back of the book Dark Money.  I’d like to know what you think. Let me know if you found this easy to understand.  I plan on publishing the next post in this series next Wednesday.

 

Learning About Our Country

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While I don’t really want to be political, I do want to encourage all of you to read Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer. I am recommending this book to all, since it is so important for all Americans to understand how democracy has been undermined in our country.

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I read this book last week, and I also battled depression from it. It’s not an “easy” read; however, it is an important one. I also took seventeen pages of notes while reading. This process helped me keep track of all the various corporations, think tanks and non-profits that have been paid for by the extremely wealthy in order to keep themselves extremely wealthy.

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Since this is an election year, I wanted to make sure as many people read this book as is possible. Once you read it, I hope that you end up with a better understanding of what has been going on in our country for the last 25 years. I also plan on writing a series of posts regarding this issue beginning next week. Just remember as you read the book that Jane Mayer has pages in the back of the book footnoting her facts. Also, she has not been sued for defamation, slander or libel.
Please read, comment and let me know what you think.