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ALEC goes secret
ALEC is currently organized as a charity under section 501(c)(3) of the tax code, meaning donations to the group are tax deductible but have to be disclosed. Charities aren’t allowed to lobby, but many state and federal officials said that’s what ALEC was really doing. Now the group is setting up a new arm, called the Jeffersonian Project, organized as a social welfare organization under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code. Such groups are allowed to lobby, and though donations are not deductible, they do not have to be disclosed. (That’s why they have become the vehicle of choice for secret donations in support of political candidates, which has corrupted the campaign process.)
Political center a myth - no chance of a 3rd party coalition
There is so much pop psychology surrounding swing voters, but there is very little evidence that there are key demographics in the population that are inherently swing voters.
- The Calo family
Jay Calo running for 105th State House seat
11/25/13 report by Otsego County Democratic Party Secretary Bob Mammel
Democrat Jay Calo has announced his candidacy for the 105th Michigan State House seat.
The incumbent, Republican Tea Partier Greg MacMaster, has announced that he's going to run for the State Senate, not the House, so this will be an open seat.
Jay lives in Gaylord and has a website, www.votecalo.com.
Secret donors to 501(c)(4) corporation influence governor
Unfortunately, the lofty vision of Governor-elect Rick Snyder didn’t last long.
Just five weeks after he took office he had his very own 501(c)(4) social-welfare corporation: New Energy to Reinvent and Diversify – the NERD Fund. In its first two years of operation, the NERD Fund raised $1,686,000 and ran unaccountable government activities out of the Governor’s office. The NERD Fund is not required by law to disclose its donors to the public, and it hasn’t.
What’s wrong with that? Set aside the Governor’s relentless positivism for the moment. Think about the donors. Do you suppose they are anything but rational economic actors? Do you suppose that it never occurred to them that they had the opportunity to be undisclosed special supporters for an official who can propose a $50 billion budget, veto a law, reinvent regulation, appoint judges, authorize no-bid contracts, supersede local governments and generally administer state government?
We have a new Web page, Absentee Ballots, that briefly summarizes the process for obtaining an absentee ballot and provides the links to the Michigan Secretary of State pages that detail the absentee voting process and the form for requesting a ballot.
American health care poor compared to other advanced countries
Even as Americans struggle with the changes required by health care reform, an international survey released last week by the Commonwealth Fund, a research organization, shows why change is so necessary. The report found that by virtually all measures of cost, access to care and ease of dealing with insurance problems, Americans fared poorly compared with people in other advanced countries.
A doctor's answers to questions posed by Koch brother's anti-Obamacare ad
Gerrymandering dooms our democracy
If we’re going to save America from repeated near-disasters like this month’s war over the government shutdown and the near-default on our debt, we’ve got to have an urgent conversation about gerrymandering, both in Michigan and the entire nation.
The practice of “gerrymandering” — drawing congressional and legislative districts to favor one political party or the other — is at the core of our deeply dysfunctional and hyper-partisan political system that produced the shutdown and nearly resulted in default.
Virtually all the Tea Party-backed, hard-right congressional representatives who provoked the recent crisis are from districts so heavily gerrymandered Republican that they’re in virtually no danger of voter backlash in a general election. If an incumbent’s seat is gerrymandered safe, there’s no political downside to adopting whatever radical ideology is fashionable at the moment.
Let’s not beat around the bush. Unless we cut the cancer of gerrymandering out of the core of our political system, our days as a great nation are numbered, doomed by a dysfunctional, hyper-partisan and crisis-prone politics. We need a serious conversation about reforming this practice, and it needs to start right now.
Fox News hires fake bloggers
As Media Matters for America reports, based on NPR media reporter David Folkenflik’s new book Murdoch’s World, Fox News’s PR agents fanned out to create dummy accounts in order to rebut critical material in the comments sections of blog posts regarding Fox News.
As Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein put it last year in their book, “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks,” the G.O.P. has become “an insurgent outlier — ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”
But there’s one more important piece of the story. Conservative leaders are indeed ideologically extreme, but they’re also deeply incompetent.
Tea Partiers are not "conservatives"
Whether they did so out of conviction or fear, House Republicans bent to the will of the dominant Tea Party faction of their party and voted 228 to 1 on Sept. 20 to make continued financing of the federal government contingent on defunding the Affordable Care Act.
Whatever you think of this strategy, the tactics are radical. How can Republicans, courting a full-fledged fiscal crisis, claim to be conservative?
According to FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver, “most members of the House (of Representatives) now come from hyperpartisan districts where they face essentially no threat of losing their seat to the other party.” The Other has been redistricted away from us. We’re talking only to those who agree with us.
Of 435 Congressional districts, Silver says perhaps 35 are competitive. In the remaining 400 districts we mostly talk to ourselves. And we mostly talk about the Other. It’s easier to refer to a Republican as a “Neanderthal” when all my neighbors are Democrats, or to label the President an “African Muslim” if only anti-Obama folks.
Moolenaar and MacMaster oppose Medicaid Expansion
9/6/13 by Bob Mammel
Our representatives in Lansing, Republican John Moolenaar and Republican Greg MacMaster, both voted against Medicaid expansion for their constituents. Medicaid expansion is designed for the working poor, those with incomes below 113% of the poverty line. For a single person, that’s about $15,000 a year.
Our Republican legislature failed to make the expansion “immediate”, which means that it won’t go into effect until after the current legislative session is complete in March, 2014, instead of January 1, 2014, when the program starts in other states. Every day beyond January 1, 2014, that Medicaid expansion is not in place, costs Michigan $7 million a day in lost federal revenue, revenue that goes to other states.
Moolenaar, who voted against Medicaid expansion, also voted two years ago (November, 2011) to give himself and fellow sitting senators lifetime health care at taxpayer expense. The senator claims we can't afford to give health care to the working poor.
America is doing a great job in creating low-skill workers
If you wanted to create a system that limits educational options and consigns the vast majority of poor American children to continue to live in poverty, just look around you. Whether you live in urban or rural America, the results of an educational design which cripples young learners who are not among those most fortunate and nurtured are in evidence.
It is not just corrupt inner-city schools which are part of this educational design; it is the school in your community.
Ronald Reagan would not be a Republican today
Bob Dole no longer recognizes the Republican Party that he helped lead for years. Speaking over the weekend on “Fox News Sunday,” he said his party should hang a “closed for repairs” sign on its doors until it comes up with a few positive ideas, because neither he nor Ronald Reagan would now feel comfortable in its membership.
“It seems to be almost unreal that we can’t get together on a budget or legislation,” said Mr. Dole, the former Senate majority leader and presidential candidate. “I mean, we weren’t perfect by a long shot, but at least we got our work done.”
The current Congress can’t even do that, thanks to a furiously oppositional Republican Party, and that’s what has left mainstream conservatives like Mr. Dole and Senator John McCain shaking their heads in disgust.
The difference between the current crop of Tea Party lawmakers and Mr. Dole’s generation is not simply one of ideology. While the Tea Partiers are undoubtedly more extreme, Mr. Dole spent years pushing big tax cuts, railing at regulations and blocking international treaties. His party actively courted the religious right in the 1980s and relied on racial innuendo to win elections. But when the time came to actually govern, Republicans used to set aside their grandstanding, recognize that a two-party system requires compromise and make deals to keep the government working on the people’s behalf.
The current generation refuses to do that. Its members want to dismantle government, using whatever crowbar happens to be handy, and they don’t particularly care what traditions of mutual respect get smashed at the same time.
Munetrix reports City of Gaylord in financial trouble
Wayne County rated an 8, on a 1 to 10 scale in which 10 is close to financial catastrophe. And eight of 23 municipalities rated 6 or worse were in Wayne County. Nearby Flint rated a 7, as did Detroit – which was just described as “insolvent” and in “dire financial straits” in a preliminary assessment by emergency manager Kevyn Orr.
But the Munetrix breakdown also detected trouble in places such as Bangor, a Van Buren County city of 1,885, which earned a 5; the Village of Middleville south of Grand Rapids, a 5, the Northern Michigan City of Gaylord, a 4. The state capital of Lansing rated a 6.
Equal Pay Day
Today marks Equal Pay Day in the United States, a date noted on the calendar every year to symbolize how far into 2013 women must work to earn what men earned in 2012.
While we, both as a state and as a nation, have come so far in terms of recognizing the importance of equality in terms of race, gender and, thankfully, sexual orientation as well, the truth of the matter is that women are still facing discrimination in their paycheck every single day. Even more troubling is that for the first time in years, the problem has actually gotten worse.
The latest report from the National Women’s Law Center shows that the earning gap between men and women widened across the nation recently as women are earning only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men with that gap even larger for women of color. Here in Michigan we’ve fallen to 45th in terms of income equality between men and women in the United States with women earning only 74 cents compared to men in our state.
Yet, at a time when we should be working to find solutions to this problem, Republicans seem content to make it worse. While “Right to Work” has been widely criticized for a number of very valid reasons, one critically important one is the fact that it jeopardizes language in contracts that unions have fought for to require equal pay for women. Unfortunately, even as I spoke out on the Senate floor to point this fact out to my Republican colleagues as they rushed to pass that terrible legislation, they responded with indifference.
We can, and must, do better. As we mark today as Equal Pay Day across the United States, let’s remind legislators here in Lansing that as we fight to create jobs across Michigan we must also fight to enact the policies that value women’s work and foster a thriving economy for us all.
We owe it Michigan’s next generation of women leaders to do nothing less.
Michigan Senate Democratic Leader
Michigan's Attorney General not "Guardian of the People"
Medicines heal. But on occasion, they also harm. And when they do, we need someone to protect us. That responsibility, in part, lies in the hands of the Michigan attorney general -- the "Guardian of the People." And yet, despite his response to the recent meningitis outbreak, Attorney General Bill Schuette is also among a group of legislators responsible for making Michigan citizens more vulnerable to these harms than the citizens of any other state in the nation.
Our State Senator, John Moolenaar, sponsors bill allowing health care providers to withhold services
Health care professionals and institutions could withhold services if they had a moral religious or conscientious objection to the service according to a bill passed by the state Senate Health policy committee today.
Republican deficit scolds hurting young
- Yet there is, as I said, a lot of truth to the charge that we’re cheating our children. How? By neglecting public investment and failing to provide jobs.
You don’t have to be a civil engineer to realize that America needs more and better infrastructure, but the latest “report card” from the American Society of Civil Engineers — with its tally of deficient dams, bridges, and more, and its overall grade of D+ — still makes startling and depressing reading. And right now — with vast numbers of unemployed construction workers and vast amounts of cash sitting idle — would be a great time to rebuild our infrastructure. Yet public investment has actually plunged since the slump began.
Or what about investing in our young? We’re cutting back there, too, having laid off hundreds of thousands of schoolteachers and slashed the aid that used to make college affordable for children of less-affluent families.
And why are we shortchanging the future so dramatically and inexcusably? Blame the deficit scolds, who weep crocodile tears over the supposed burden of debt on the next generation, but whose constant inveighing against the risks of government borrowing, by undercutting political support for public investment and job creation, has done far more to cheat our children than deficits ever did.
Fiscal policy is, indeed, a moral issue, and we should be ashamed of what we’re doing to the next generation’s economic prospects. But our sin involves investing too little, not borrowing too much — and the deficit scolds, for all their claims to have our children’s interests at heart, are actually the bad guys in this story.
Michigan legislators again punishing teachers and faculty
This week Michigan’s Right-to-Work law goes into effect. It was preceded by several weeks of new acrimony, as two legislative committees passed measures that would deny needed state funds to two of our research universities and several of our K-12 school districts as a form of punishment for negotiating long-term “win-win” agreements between management and labor.
Apparently Michigan legislators were angry over universities and community colleges and school districts coming together with their employees, and in spite of Right-to-Work, figuring out how to reforge agreements that both save taxpayers money, and refocus on kindergartners learning their ABC’s, and graduate students doing cutting edge research.
Apparently this violated the “spirit” of Right-to-Work, which to Michigan legislators means: you are supposed to keep punishing your teachers and faculty.
What unions have done
From 3/27/13 Mlive.com comment by David Edwards
Did you know that labor unions made the following 36 things possible?
- Weekends without work
- All breaks at work, including your lunch breaks
- Paid vacation
- Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
- Sick leave
- Social Security
- Minimum wage
- Civil Rights Act/Title VII - prohibits employer discrimination
- 8-hour work day
- Overtime pay
- Child labor laws
- Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA)
- 40-hour work week
- Workers’ compensation (workers’ comp)
- Unemployment insurance
- Workplace safety standards and regulations
- Employer health care insurance
- Collective bargaining rights for employees
- Wrongful termination laws
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)
- Whistleblower protection laws
- Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA) - prohibits employers from using a lie detector test on an employee
- Veteran's Employment and Training Services (VETS)
- Compensation increases and evaluations (i.e. raises)
- Sexual harassment laws
- Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
- Holiday pay
- Employer dental, life, and vision insurance
- Privacy rights
- Pregnancy and parental leave
- Military leave
- The right to strike
- Public education for children
- Equal Pay Acts of 1963 & 2011 - requires employers pay men and women equally for the same amount of work
- Laws ending sweatshops in the United States
Party with only 46% of vote won 64% of Michigan's Congressional seats
Home-court advantage is a perennial topic of conversation in college basketball, but Michigan Republicans have to be congratulated – or pilloried – in how they have created a huge advantage for themselves in congressional elections. As this Bloomberg visual details, Michigan Republicans win by losing.
Even though they gained only just under 46 percent of the vote in congressional races in 2012, they took 64 percent of the seats (9 of 14).
“Jocelyn Benson, interim dean of the Wayne State University Law School in Detroit and a Democratic voting rights advocate ... ‘The only real solution’ to decreasing congressional polarization is for states to create “an independent redistricting commission that has the power to not only draw the map but enact it as well,’ Benson said.”
Fixing gerrymandered Michigan districts
Yesterday, Democrats in the Michigan State House introduced a Joint Resolution that would significantly reform the redistricting process that happens every decade after the national Census. In contrast to the current process where the political party that is in control creates districts that favor their candidates and makes it harder for the opposition party to win seats, the new process would be conducted by a bipartisan commission, would be far more transparent, would allow input from any Michigan citizen and, perhaps most importantly, would prohibit the type of gerrymandering that currently plagues our state.
House Joint Resolution I was introduced by Representative Jim Townsend and co-sponsored by Representatives Jeff Irwin, Phil Cavanagh, Dian Slavens, Andy Schor, Marilyn Lane, and Sean McCann. The resolution would amend sections 2, 3, and 6 of article IV of the state constitution of 1963 and, if passed by at a least two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate, would put a proposal on the ballot for Michigan voters to consider. This process does not involve the Governor of the state.
The new commission would consist of nine members:
One member selected by the Speaker of the House
One member selected by the Minority Leader of the House
One member selected by the Majority Leader of the Senate
One member selected by the Minority Leader of the Senate
Five members selected by the Auditor General
All commissioners would be required to be a registered voter in Michigan. Individuals would NOT be allowed to serve on commission if they:
Have been appointed to or elected to any public office
Have been employed by a political party or a political party caucus in the immediately preceding 5-year period
Have received compensation as a registred lobbyist in the immediately preceding 5-year period
Are employed by an organization from which members of the commission are prohibited from receiving gifts or loans
Have entered into a contract with the State of Michigan or are employed by a person who has entered into such a contract
Commissioners would not be permitted to solicit or accept gifts or loans from registered lobbyists, a union, a business registered with the State of Michigan, a political action committee, a nonprofit organization or a 501(c) or a 527 organization.
Members of the public would be allowed to submit redistricting plans and all of the business that the commission performs would be required to be in compliance with the Open Meetings Act. Additionally, all of their work would be subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
Finally, and this is the piece that makes me the most happy, there are very strict rules about how legislative and congressional districts can be drawn. No longer will there be, for example, islands of one district in the middle of another one simply to benefit a single political party. The resolution requires that districts be “areas of convenient territory contiguous by land”. Areas “that meet only a points of adjoining corners are not” considered “contiguous”.
Bipartisan. Independent. Transparent. Open. This proposal has all of the hallmarks of a true democracy and a legitimate redistricting process. While it will chap the butts of Republicans who have been so shrewd in their redistricting over the past 20 years, they will have a very hard time defending a vote against this resolution and the people of Michigan would very likely support it as a ballot proposal as well.
This incredibly important resolution is now in the Elections and Ethics Committee. We’ll keep a very close eye on its progress.
Republican rejection of Obamacare in Michigan increases costs for small business
The Small Business Association of Michigan supports the broadening of eligibility criteria to participate in the Medicaid program...
The reality is that people go to our health-care system and they get care, and if they can’t afford it, they still get care but it’s uncompensated. Uncompensated care actually gets passed along to those who can pay. It’s called cost shifting and it’s been happening for a very long time. And it has found its way into the base rates of health insurance for small businesses all across the state.
Medicaid expansion makes good business sense for Michigan’s government, its businesses and, most obviously, its uninsured – because getting coverage for the uninsured matters to business.
Obamacare has expanded coverage, saved consumers money, reined in health care costs and improved quality of care
Republican leaders in Congress regularly denounce the 2010 Affordable Care Act and vow to block money to carry it out or even to repeal it. Those political attacks ignore the considerable benefits delivered to millions of people since the law’s enactment three years ago Saturday. The main elements of the law do not kick in until Jan. 1, 2014, when many millions of uninsured people will gain coverage. Yet it has already thrown a lifeline to people at high risk of losing insurance or being uninsured, including young adults and people with chronic health problems, and it has made a start toward reforming the costly, dysfunctional American health care system.
PEW Center poll shows GOP favorability at 20-year low
Andrew Kohut is the founding director and former president of the Pew Research Center. He served as president of the Gallup Organization from 1979 to 1989.
In my decades of polling, I recall only one moment when a party had been driven as far from the center as the Republican Party has been today.
The Republican Party’s ratings now stand at a 20-year low, with just 33 percent of the public holding a favorable view of the party and 58 percent judging it unfavorably, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. Although the Democrats are better regarded (47 percent favorable and 46 percent unfavorable), the GOP’s problems are its own, not a mirror image of renewed Democratic strength.
Americans’ values and beliefs are more divided along partisan lines than at any time in the past 25 years. The values gap between Republicans and Democrats is now greater than the one between men and women, young and old, or any racial or class divides.
Why ultra-conservatives like the sequester
Ultra-conservatives believe that Democracy gives them the liberty to seek their own self-interests by exercising personal responsibility, without having responsibility for anyone else or anyone else having responsibility for them. They take this as a matter of morality. They see the social responsibility to provide for the common good as an immoral imposition on their liberty.
Why the stock market is at record highs