Sunday, July 06, 2008



Corrupt politicians mean bad news for working folks... always

Today's L.A Times ran a startling editorial, Working Without A Net about how the Bush Regime has shredded what Ronald Reagan once acknowledged was a bottom line "safety net" for Americans. One of the most ignorant and venal people ever elected to federal office, North Carolina neo-nazi Virginia Foxx, insists that everything is wonderful and if the Democrats would just stop badmouthing Bush's fabulous accomplishments the country would be like her concept of heaven. "Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina," the Times tells us, "recently distilled this view with Nixonian flourish, declaring: 'This is not a failed economy. We are not in recession. What a shame that Democrats want to talk down the economy.'" Consumer confidence isn't that much higher than it was during the Depression. 8 in 10 Americans-- including Republicans in North Carolina-- think the country is headed in the wrong direction. The price of gas-- at least where I live-- is much closer to $5/gallon than to $4/gallon (and is $10/gallon in England, which augers poorly for our future here. And unemployment and inflation are rising as rapidly as home pries are falling. We really appreciate the straight talk from Rep. Foxx and her candidate for president, Senator McCain, the two of whom have rubber stamped every single Bush Regime agenda policy that has brought our country to this state.

The Times editorial writer, Peter Gosselin, author of High Wire: The Precarious Financial Lives of American Families, thinks Foxx is all wet and that there is a much better explanation for what's going on with the mood of the country.
Working Americans and their families arrived on the doorstep of the current economic crisis uniquely ill-equipped to cope with its consequences. Rather than having gained a financial protective coating during the period of growth that preceded it, working families up and down the income spectrum were actually nudged further out on an economic limb and therefore were primed for being picked off once problems emerged.

It's not that the growth of the last generation wasn't real; it was. The U.S. economy doubled in size between 1980 and last year. It's not that all of the benefits of the just-past era went to those at the top (although a very substantial chunk did); millions upon millions of Americans prospered right along with the super-rich.

But the prosperity we enjoyed was purchased at a price of diminished security for our families and ourselves. Even as our incomes went up, economic risks-- the costs of being laid off, of suffering a work-stopping illness or of a catastrophe like a house fire-- that were once largely borne on the broad shoulders of business and government were being shifted onto the backs of ordinary families, from the working poor to the reasonably rich.

That means that even before the current crisis struck, families were primed to take steeper financial falls than in the past, ones from which they'd have a harder time recovering. And now that trouble is upon us, they are falling in greater and greater numbers.

The changes that have made Americans more vulnerable have occurred in the struts that hold up working families and that have held them up for generations. Jobs, benefits, housing, health coverage, college and retirement savings, even bought-and-paid-for insurance all played crucial roles in maintaining families' economic stability during the second half of the 20th century. But the protective value of each has been weakened over the last generation.

Gosselin explains the erosion of employer-provided benefits, the lion's chunk of what working families have always relied on, even more so than Social Security and Medicare, which are primarily for retired people. ERISA, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, governs Americans' assurance they will receive work related health insurance and 401 (k) benefits, as well as the remedies when corporations decide to forego payment.
ERISA's congressional authors intended the law to protect employee benefits. We know this because they said so right in the law's preamble. But over the last generation, the Supreme Court and increasingly conservative federal appeals courts have rendered a series of decisions involving ERISA that have made it easier for employers and their agents to deny benefits to workers and their families.

Yes, a reactionary federal judiciary has been catastrophic but a reactionary federal judiciary has been appointed by reactionary presidents and confirmed by reactionary senators. Not just reactionary, but very much bought-off by the industry that benefits most from the rulings-- the Insurance Industry. Not including candidates for the presidency-- each of whom was given massive contributions-- in the current election cycle the Insurance Industry has been most generous to its biggest shills in the Senate: $279,033 for Mitch McConnell (R-KY), $228,250 for Max Baucus (D-MT), $204,894 for John Cornyn (R-TX), $191,049 for John Sununu (R-NH), $182,399 for Norm Coleman (R-MN), and $152,950 for Susan Collins (R-ME). Not a single one of these crooked political hacks represents his or her constituents' interests; each represents the interests of their paymasters in the insurance industry. Each is a disgrace to government and, in a world where politicians didn't make their own rules of conduct, each would be in prison for bribery. You're notice that this is a bipartisan list and that there are both Republicans and a Democrat on it. Dr. Steven Porter is neither. He left the Democratic Party after nearly beating a Republican who is very big on taking corporate bribes and then representing their interests, Phil English. Porter is running for that House seat in northwest Pennsylvania again this year-- but as an independent. He also looked at the erosion of the intent of the ERISA statutes:
The AP released an article today which explains how employers are using federal law to deny benefit claims to their employees and their beneficiaries. The article explains that even though they feel horrible about ruling against people whose health and insurance claims have been denied, judges are compelled to uphold the ERISA law which allows corporations to refuse benefits.
Congress could easily amend the law to allow for large suits against such corporate action, but Congress has done nothing of the kind. And why are we not surprised? When we look at the amounts which the health and insurance lobbies have paid in hefty campaign contributions to Congress, why on earth should we expect Congress to work for the benefit of the people?
The recent estimate of total lobby money spent to buy off Congress exceeds $20 billion. Of that amount, $1.38 billion was spent by the pharmaceutical lobby, $1.06 billion by the insurance lobby, and another $1.6 billion by the health and hospital lobbies. These are small amounts when compared with the total expenditures and profits of the industries involved. In the large picture, they are bargain prices for Congressional protection.
We shall hear very little about this from our Presidential candidates, and even less about it from the major party candidates running for Congress. It is not politic to bite the hands which feed one’s campaign. And even if a major party member spoke up, the ostracism he or she would face from the remainder of the party would probably outweigh the moral obligation which Congress owes the people it is supposed to serve.
It is just one more reason for voters to think outside the Republican/Democratic box-- a box designed to imprison Americans in the choice between the frying pan and the fire.

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At 1:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Porter is a fool for running as an independent. Why again are you supporting him?

At 8:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post on a topic that doesn't get enough play. I especially liked your description of Virginia Foxx. What an accurate representation of a truly miserable representative.


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