Friday, September 02, 2005

Listening to the Chief

Wade Rathke, ACORN's Chief has been discussing the aftermath of Katrina on his blog. It's worth reading. Here's a sample.

Helene O’Brien, ACORN’s National Field Director, called me in the afternoon weeping about the TV film of people dying in the Convention Center and yelling that we had to do something, because our people were dying. What could we do? What works?

So, we put out a call on the email alerts and to all of our members to all their Congressperson and demand that the poor of New Orleans and the victims of this disaster get immediate help. Some of our offices are calling for sit-ins in the offices of their representatives until they know there is help.

Is this a decision or a cop-out? It’s a nothing, but it simply a way to allow everyone to do something in a situation where there is almost nothing we can do at the depth of our powerlessness.

My daughter, now a real organizer, talked to me at mid-night from the Tampa office where she and other young organizers had been making calls and running off flyers because they wanted to do something, so they were doing what they knew how to do. It was hard to tell her that there was no way to move 100 people at the Site Fighters Conference to a Congressional office. There were no busses. There was no gas. Maybe at the end of the conference we could have everyone made a cell phone call to the 800 number for Congress at the same time, so that they could do something.

There was silence.
She said it was lame.
It is lame.

I’m ashamed that we have worked so hard for so many years to organize so many thousands of lower income families and built so much power in so many areas and absolutely in New Orleans, but it turns out simply to not mean much when the
price of being poor is reduced to dollars and cents in a disaster and converted to life and death.


At the bottom line as an organizer one learns that sometimes it is not a question of doing the right thing or the wrong thing, but at least of doing something, allowing people to act in some way, to have a voice and to speak strongly with that voice.

Yesterday. the WFP has encouraged our supporters to contribute to the Red Cross. ACORN also needs help rebuildng. You can do that here.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Jerry Nadler is smart and wise

From Erik Engquist in Crain's:

Four Democratic members of Congress including Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-Manhattan, plan to introduce a bill that would make it easier for victims of Hurricane Katrina to declare bankruptcy.

A bankruptcy reform law that passed earlier this year and takes effect on October 17 imposes new hurdles for people seeking to escape their debts through bankruptcy. Democrats had offered an amendment carving out an exception for victims of natural disaster, but it was defeated on a party-line vote.

The bill’s sponsors believe the measure has a better chance in Katrina’s wake.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Fusion Buzz - Part 2

Deanna Zandt, who manages the Start Making Sense project over at Alternet refers readers of her blog to the Nation story about the WFP and fusion politics.

Towns' CAFTA Sellout was a Flip-Flop

The crack research staff at Public Citizen have documented Rep. Edolphus Towns' flip-flop on CAFTA. Check out this research report:
The Nov. 19, 2004, congressional floor speech of Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) left no doubt that he opposed a proposed Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). The lengthy statement described, in detail, why CAFTA would harm most people in the affected nations. Yet nine months later, on July 27, Towns cast a decisive vote in favor of CAFTA that allowed the controversial trade pact to eke through the U.S. House of Representatives 217 to 215. Although the CAFTA text was unchanged between Towns’ 2004 speech and the congressional vote on the six-nation expansion of NAFTA, Towns provided one of the deciding votes in favor of the trade agreement.

Selling out is bad enough. Going back on his word? A look at campaign finance records makes one hesitates before saying priceless.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Statement from Dan Cantor re Poverty Stats



Reacting to news from the Census Bureau that the poverty rate in New York City rose significantly, from 19 to 20.3 percent, Dan Cantor, executive director of the Working Families Party said:

"It would be nice if the mayoral candidates talked less about tax cuts and rebates and more about realistic strategies for lifting the one out of five New Yorkers who live in poverty into the middle class."

The WFP has not yet endorsed a New York City mayoral candidate.


Some Bad News for NYC's Working Families

Annual poverty stats are out from the census bureau. Poverty rose again in George W. Bush's America.

Locally in New York City, the news is especially bad: "The only city with a million or more residents that exhibited a significant change in poverty level last year was New York City, which saw the rate increase from 19 percent to 20.3 percent," the AP reports.

Fusion Buzz

Discussion around Alyssa Katz's Nation story on fusion voting and the WFP is really percolating. Good post on MyDD from Scott Shields. Scott writes:
One system I've always been a huge fan of is New York's fusion voting... Why would anyone vote for a major party candidate on a third party line? Well, by supporting Eliot Spitzer as a Working Families Party candidate rather than as a Democrat, for example, voters send the message that the issues Working Families champions -- universal healthcare, a living wage, strong labor protection -- are very important to a significant segment of their base. It also gives independent voters an excuse to vote for major party candidates that they might not otherwise vote for... Fusion may not be a silver bullet. And it may not be a realistic proposal for every state. But it's an interesting alternative and one that I think reform-minded Democrats should give some thought to.

And he rebuts the argument that fusion could help the right as much as the left:
I can understand the concern about the right using fusion to their advantage as well. But with the Republican Party already skewing so far to the right, it's hard to imagine that a conservative third party could pull the GOP much further and still win elections. And to the extent that progressive third parties can support progressive Democrats, I'd argue that the risk is worth it.
Bravo to Scott for taking on this argument head-on. What else do folks think about this question?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Super-Duper Story

Check out Alyssa Katz's fantastic story in The Nation. Here are some tidbits:

Fusion is powerful. Voting in the Working Families column is no wasted
gesture--every ballot counts. It sidesteps the Nader Effect, since voters can
show their support for a progressive party agenda without spoiling the chances
of a candidate--usually a Democrat--who has a shot at winning. And if there's an
opportunity to take out a bad Democrat, like former Albany DA Paul Clyne,
Working Families can run its own candidate...

Working Families has become a fixture in local political races in the state's bigger cities and in the suburbs of New York City, delivering a get-out-the-vote apparatus and its progressive WF brand label in exchange for influence over candidates' policy agendas. Some of those relationships spawn legislative breakthroughs, including a 2002 living-wage law in Westchester.

Sorry - subscription required for the full text at The Nation site, but email the wfp at if you're interested in a reprint.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Say a prayer for Peter King

Hard to think of anyone in Washington more obnoxious than Long Island Congressman Peter King. With IN THIS TOGETHER's help, a multi-denominational group of religious leaders visited his office yesterday to implore the Congressman to defend the social compact of Social Security, and urge him to oppose privatization. "It's our duty as Christians to take care of the elderly, widows, orphans and persons with disabilities and Mr. King knows that," said Mary Dewar, of the Long Island Council of Churches. "It is this deep moral concern for maintaining and building a compassionate society that brings us together."

King's response as reported today in Newsday?
"God forgive them for they know not what they do. I base my decision on facts, reason and informed social conscious and not left-wing pseudo-theology."

Time to get Congressman King a radio talk show and get him out office, no?

(Read more about the fight to hold New York's elected officials accountable to defend the promise of Social Security at, the WFP's statewide action coalition)

Monday, August 22, 2005

Meeks Update

David Sirota has the latest:

Rep. Greg Meeks (D-NY) is quickly becoming an important cautionary tale about what happens when Democrats sell out their working class base. After voting for things like the Central American Free Trade Agreement and the bankruptcy bill, Meeks has been the target of much local criticism in his home district. And he hasn't taken it too well.

First, New York's powerful Working Families Party and top unions held a public rally to demand the House Democratic Leadership remove Meeks from his committee assignments. Meeks responded by having a staffer claim that the criticism of his votes were somehow "racist." Ridiculous.

Now, Meeks' hometown paper hammered him for selling out. Meeks responded by trying to stop other papers from publishing critical stories about his votes (see
one of those stories here).

Here's a little advice to Meeks and other Democrats who are consistently undermining their party and America's middle class: if you don't want to be criticized for selling out, THEN DON'T SELL OUT. It's just that simple.

But what's a little bit of thuggery to a sell-out, right?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Against HCSA? Murdoch's Hypocrisy Knows No Bounds

Today's Post editorial objects to the Health Care Security Act, which the City Council is on the verge of passing. HCSA would ensure that city supermarkets do not pass on the cost of their employees' health care to the taxpaying public. (Kudos to Jobs with Justice, the Brennan Center and the entire coalition that has pushed the bill to this point. The WFP made support for HCSA a key priority in its City Council endorsement process this year.)

For years and years, the Post has railed against the rapidly rising burden that Medicaid imposes on New York's taxpayers. How surprising then that the Post would oppose legislation that seeks to control these costs. Could it be that the only thing Rupert Murdoch dislikes more than a society in which we share the burden of caring for one another is an alliance between the labor movement and high-road employers?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Slouching Past Deadwood

Erie County government is apparently leapfrogging the 19th century and heading straight towards the 18th as it struggles to find an affordable level of public services. First the housing police were eliminated in Buffalo. Now it's county sheriff patrols that are on the chopping block.

Even, Deadwood, that model of frontier public sector efficiency had a vigorous sheriff.

The cornerstones of government in Erie County are being demolished, in part, by the region's failure to move towards a fair and stable revenue mechanism and regional planning that doesn't undermine Buffalo's economy.

Look for pirates on Lake Erie soon.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Some Tompkins County Folks Have Their Wal-Mart Message Down

The Tompkins County Living Wage Coalition has set its sights on Wal-Mart. See this ad on the front page of the local PennySaver this week:


Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Andy Stern Pushes the Dems (via Huffington)

One of the celebrities posting on opening day of Arianna Huffington's mega-blog is SEIU's Andy Stern. Wherever one falls in the Big Debate About The Future Of The Labor Movement, Stern asks some hard questions about the Democratic Party:
What were the Democrats thinking when they highlighted wealth over work--choosing people making the rules over those playing by them.

When Democrats ask why workers vote against a party that represents their economic interests -- you have to ask what party is that?

Is it Bob Rubin's Wall Street party or, as Thomas Frank describes in his book, the party perceived in the heartland as Northeast intellectual, Volvo driving, Chardonnay drinking liberals, or the party of those who work for a living?

Thursday, May 05, 2005

More Bush Social Security Hypocrisy

Today's Times brings the news that the Department of Labor is trying to silence labor unions that are seeking to defend their members' pensions and protest the Bush administration's radical plan to privatize Social Security and impose deep benefit cuts on middle class working families.
In a letter on Tuesday to the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the Department of Labor said it was
"very concerned" that pension plans might be spending workers' money to
"advocate a particular result in the current Social Security debate."

You know what? I'm very concerned that the Social Security Administration is spending my money to advocate a particular result result in the Social Security debate.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Pozen Horse

Remember the mythological story of the Trojan Horse?
The Greeks devised a new ruse - a giant hollow wooden horse. It was built by Epeius and filled with Greek warriors led by Odysseus. The rest of the Greek army appeared to leave whilst actually hiding behind Tenedos and the Trojans accepted the horse as a peace offering. A Greek spy, Sinon, convinced the Trojans the horse was a gift despite the warnings of Laocoon and Cassandra. Helen and Deiphobus even investigated the horse. The Trojans celebrated the raising of the siege hugely, and when the Greeks emerged from the horse the city was in a drunken stupor. The Greek warriors opened the city gates to allow the rest of the army access and the city was ruthlessly pillaged - all the men were killed and all the women taken into slavery.
The new packaging for Bush's Social Security proposal should set off a few alarm bells for students of Greek mythology. Progressive price indexing, the ironically named proposal designed by a Democrat named Robert Pozen, would result in deep cuts to Social Security checks received by retiring working class families.

Democrats in the House and Senate should be very wary of opening the gates to the Pozen Horse. Their recent track record is mixed.

Friday, April 29, 2005

You Need Live Music to Have a Decent Party

Welcome Local 802! The largest union of professional musicians in the world -- Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians -- has joined the WFP, and we're thrilled to have them in our band of labor and community affiliates.

If you care about live music, take 20 seconds to sign Local 802's electronic petition at

Finishing off Rocky

The Drug Policy Alliance is gearing up to finish the job of full reform of the Rockefeller drug laws. The state legislature took the first steps towards full reform last December -- after witnessing the David Soares' upset victory in his campaign to become Albany County District Attorney (a campaign that the WFP helped turn into a referendum on Rockefeller drug law reform).

But much more needs to be done, and DPA is gearing up to finish the job that tireless advocates and families have been working at for nearly 30 years. A big event is coming up:
A “phase 2” victory is now on the horizon. The Alliance has been hard at work with the Real Reform coalition to influence the next round of reforms, and the State Assembly is currently drafting a reform bill which the Alliance will analyze upon its release. On May 6, 2005 the Alliance will join coalition partners from Real Reform New York at a major press conference on the steps of City Hall in New York City to show our support for real reform of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. The press conference will feature community advocates like Cheri O’Donoghue, (whose son Ashley is serving a 7 – 21 year Rockefeller sentence), State Senator Eric Schneiderman, and the Alliance’s director of public policy, Michael Blain, among others.

Despite last fall's progress, this remains a very important fight.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

In New York, it's spelled W-F-P

David Sirota asks what happened to the party of the working class.
... an increasing number of Democrats are abandoning the party's traditional working/middle-class base. Adding insult to injury, Roll Call today reports that these turn-coat Democrats demanding an apology from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for having the nerve to call them out for voting for the credit card industry-written bankruptcy bill - a bill that most rational people know completely sells out average Americans. Yet, as writer Matthew Yglesias correctly notes, "I've yet to hear a good explanation - or even an attempt at an explanation -- from anyone in the 'centrist' faction as to what [Democratic defectors] were doing on the bankruptcy bill" (See Atrios and Dailykos for more on this specific issue).

One simple question jumps out from all this pathetic news: What happened to the Democratic Party, the party that bills itself as representing the middle and working class? Certainly, there are still terrific individual Members of Congress who fight for the middle /working class. But in general, the party is clearly facing an insurgency from people who do not care about average Americans' economic concerns. So the question again: what happened to the Democratic Party - the party that is supposed to fight for regular people? I'd like an answer.

In New York, it's spelled W-F-P.

Moving and Shaking in Albany

Democracy in Albany posts about the Third Ward race shaping up in Albany where Soares campaign aide and 1100 organizer Corey Ellis is going to be taking on (down?) incumbetn Michael Brown:

Corey Ellis has announced his intention to challenge incumbent Michael Brown for the 3rd ward Common Council seat in Albany. From the TU:

"Our current representative has been a loud voice, but he has not brought hope to our community"

Now the TU refers to Michael Brown as "fiery". What makes one "fiery"?

Calling your fellow common council members cockroaches.

Sending out political mailings attacking your other common council members and using tax payer dollars to do it.

Refusing to show up in court for your involvement in a voter fraud case.I think a new voice for the 3rd ward sounds like a great idea.

A Solid Plan

Our brother Eddie Bautista's guest op-ed in Sunday's Daily News is a must-read for all those concerned about the city's, and the region's, trash issues. Here it is in full:

Each borough should handle its own trash


Plans to change the city's sanitation program so that garbage gets floated
out of the city on barges - not hauled out of town on trucks every day -
represent a smart, fair way to correct a terrible injustice in how New York
handles its trash.

Right now, it literally takes millions of truck trips a year to get the
city's trash out of town - and over 80% of the garbage is trucked, stored, and
bundled for interstate transport at waste transfer stations in just four of New
York's 59 community districts.

Not one waste transfer facility is in Manhattan; most are concentrated in
low-income communities in the South Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens.

The diesel fumes from all the trucks carry high concentrations of fine
particulate matter, contributing to the staggeringly high rates of asthma in
these neighborhoods.

The city's environmental leaders, including Marcia Bystryn of the League of
Conservation Voters and Mark Izeman of the Natural Resources Defense Council,
are united in calling for an end to this injustice. The new Solid Waste
Management Plan proposed by the mayor is an important step in the right

The plan would convert many city-owned properties - distributed equitably
around the city's waterfront - into state-of-the art marine transfer stations.
Every barge used to float trash away would carry the equivalent of 15 long-haul

Most importantly, under the mayor's plan each borough would handle its own
waste at these waterfront locations.

The big challenge of making the plan work is Manhattan. The borough
generates more than 40% of New York's commercial putrescible waste - the
smelliest, rotting garbage - but it all gets trucked daily to communities in
Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens.

Manhattan has three dormant marine transfer stations that were operational
until a few years ago - at 59th St. and 12th St. on the Hudson River and 91st
St. on the East River. These are ideal locations for new stations that use good
design, new technology and a smart operational plan to handle the borough's

It's unjust for communities of color and working-class New Yorkers in the
outer boroughs to bear the city's trash burden alone. Fairness demands that each
borough needs to be responsible for its own waste, and the mayor's plan will
make sure that happens.

Eddie Bautista is lead organizer of the Organization of Waterfront

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Billy Joe Armstrong on the Bankruptcy Bill

Indicia of the penetration of the wretched stench of the Credit Card Issuer Protection Act passed by Congress comes in this a posting about the band Green Day on Crooked Timber, quoting their lead singer at a recent concert:

the line of the night was certainly when Billie Joe Armstrong introduced the band, culminating in this: “And I’m George W. Bush.”

Crowd: “Boo!”

Armstrong: “You better hope you don’t go bankrupt.”


Organizing the Middle East

Interesting story in The New Republic by Joseph Braude, courtesy of Crooked Timber, recommending that the U.S. support unionization of the Arab world as a way of advancing democracy:
In light of the fact that 15 of the 19 hijackers on September 11 were
Saudis, it’s hard to fathom why the United States would even consider ignoring a
secular movement in the Gulf with reasonable goals and thousands of members. ...
The Gulf unions, by contrast, according to the American labor official, desire
logistical support and training from the United States—a sentiment you don’t
hear very often from the traditional Arab labor headquarters in Damascus. To be
sure, the Bahraini unions are—and the Kuwaiti unions are about to become—members of the Damascus-based establishment. All the same, their eagerness for American partnership is an opportunity to plant the seeds of meaningful political change. ... What can the United States do for these unions in practical terms? In
countries where there are no unions, the U.S. government should demand to know
why—well before a free trade agreement is signed. Laws restricting public
assembly—which exist in many Gulf states—ought to be eased in any country
wishing to sign a free-trade agreement with the United States. But the right to
assemble is only the first step in a long road that should lead to the rights to
strike and collectively bargain—which either don’t exist or are severely
constrained in all Gulf states. And it’s not just the U.S. government that has a
role to play. In countries where unions are already active and feisty, like
Bahrain and Kuwait, American labor unions should lend support to their
counterparts by offering advice and tactical training.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Mike Has Kind Words for a WFP Idea

Michael Bloomberg on WABC Radio (4/22/05):
“Taxes are a necessary evil. If you’re going to pay the municipal workers we talked about, provide the great services we talked about, there are intelligent ways to do it. Take a look -- the Working Families Party has come up with some ideas on how do you raise revenue without driving people out of the city. There are a number of other people who have – advocates for New York City schools – who have come up with other suggestions.”

The WFP/Alliance for Quality Education Tax Proposal:
Continue the City's personal income tax surcharge on New Yorkers making more than $500,000 per year. Dedicate the proceeds to reduce class size.

Last week, Bertha Lewis, WFP State Co-Chair said: "The simple question we’ll be asking every politician, including Mayor Bloomberg, is this: Do you stand for tax cuts for the wealthy or making sure our children have a sound basic education?”

We think we may have heard Mayor Bloomberg's answer.

Rutenberg's Overstatement

Whatever one thinks of Gifford Miller, Allan Jennings and NY Times City Hall bureau chief Jim Rutenberg, a certain amount of perspective seems inadvertently absent from this sentence in Rutenberg's lede today:

Allegations of sexual harassment against Councilman Allan W. Jennings Jr. of
Queens, which first surfaced more than a year ago, presented Gifford Miller
with his first major test as the Council's speaker.
(emphasis added)

Rutenberg, who is generally an outstanding reporter and analyst, can perhaps be forgiven. He was covering presidential media wars during the property tax fight, the budget fights of 2002 and 2003 and the lead paint bill debate.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

How much does a political line cost?

In Newsday today:
One Bloomberg insider derides Working Families as a "bargain-basement" line for
the Democrats.

Well, if there's one politician in New York who knows something about how much it costs to buy a political line ...

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Organizing, Millworker Style

Former Sen. John Edwards, the featured speaker at the WFP's blockbuster fundraiser last week, had this to say today about propsoed new federal legislation that would facilitate labor organizing:
As I have been traveling across the country looking at ways to help families escape poverty and join the middle class, I have seen time and time again that joining a union is one of the best ways to lift people out of poverty. Americans in unions earn 27% more than Americans not in unions.

Today, Congress is introducing bipartisan legislation to restore a worker's right to organize. The Employee Free Choice Act would make it harder for employers to prevent workers from joining a union.

All too often, America's workers face harassment and intimidation when they try to join a union. They work hard for our country, but our laws aren't working for them. This important legislation would change our laws so that workers - not employers - can decide whether to start a union.

Please help America's workers by contacting your Senators and U.S. Representative and asking them to cosponsor this critical legislation immediately.

This bill would ensure a worker's right to join a union by requiring employers to recognize a union if a majority of employees have designated the union as their bargaining representative. Also known as "card check," this system offers a free and fair way for American workers to decide whether to join a union.

And this act strengthens penalties against employers who violate the rights of their workers while they are trying to organize a union and negotiate their first contract.

Americans all across the country want the chance to build a better life for their families. They want a fair wage, good health care coverage and the option of joining a union. It is wrong for employers to interfere with their right to organize.

We need your help to ensure that the rights of America's workers are protected. By asking your representatives in Congress to support this legislation, you can help build an America that respects the rights of all its citizens.

Right on.

We're not holding our breath waiting for this Congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, but kudos to its 119 (at last count) co-sponsors for forcing their colleagues to choose publicly whose side their on.

MoveOn's Not Bankrupt

Anyone who says MoveOn is an uncritical appendage of the Democratic Party should check this out.
In an aggressive ad buy starting today, targets the Democrats' number two in the House, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). The group believes Hoyer failed progressives by not rallying Democrats against the bankruptcy bill, which they say caters to credit card companies and special interests.

"Last year, half the personal bankruptcies in America were ordinary working people with extraordinary medical debt," an avuncular announcer reads in their 60-second radio ad. "You'd think Steny Hoyer would've helped them. Think again."
Of course, Hoyer was not the only House Dem sleeping with the enemy.

[Reminder: Comment on this post by clicking on COMMENTS below]

Monday, April 18, 2005

Mission Corrupted

(Courtesy of The Stakeholder)

Rep. George Miller (D-CA) blasted the growing politicization of the U.S. Department of Labor today, at the same time as the agency "frequently fails in its primary mission to protect American workers and that misuses public resources." Miller's dead-on critique follows below and is available in its original form on the web here.

Representative Miller Says Labor Department is Growing Increasingly
Cites Decision to Investigate AFL-CIO’s Social Security Campaign as Example of Misuse of Public Resources

Monday, April 18, 2005

WASHINGTON, DC -- Representative George Miller (D-California) said today that he harbors serious concerns that the Bush Administration is turning the Department of Labor into a partisan political organization, one that frequently fails in its primary mission to protect American workers and that misuses public resources.

Miller cited a recent decision by the Labor Department, prompted by a letter from two Republican lawmakers, to consider launching an investigation of the AFL-CIO over the trade federation’s public outreach campaign on Social Security as evidence of the growing politicization of the Department. The AFL-CIO has publicly opposed the President’s plan to privatize Social Security, and Miller said the investigation appears to be retaliatory.

“I am deeply concerned that partisan politics is dominating the decision making at the Bush Labor Department to the detriment of its official mission to honestly represent and protect the interests of America’s working women and men,” said Miller, the senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee.

“Under President Bush, the Department of Labor has increasingly shifted its resources and attention away from protecting workers and towards attacking the organizations that represent workers. It looks like this has more to do with using official resources to retaliate against organized labor because it opposes certain Bush Administration policies, not because there is a documented concern about
increased legal violations by organized labor.”

The Labor Department’s shifting focus is confirmed by an analysis of its

Funding for staffing at the Department’s Wage and Hour Division, which enforces overtime, minimum wage, and child labor laws, dropped $113 million between 2001 and 2005. And the Administration has not sought any increase in that division’s staffing budget for the 2006 fiscal year.

Meanwhile, funding for staffing at the Office of Labor Management Standards (OLMS), which investigates labor unions, increased $74 million (28.2 percent) over the same period. This has happened even though union financial reporting is now automated and digitized for online searches, and even though the share of the American workforce that belongs to a union – now at 7.9 percent of the private sector – is at an all-time low.

Yet the Administration is now seeking an additional $48 million for fiscal year 2006, a 14.3 percent increase over 2005, for OLMS staffing.

Congressmen John Boehner (R-OH) and Sam Johnson (R-TX) sent a letter to Secretary Chao in March that accused the AFL-CIO of several violations of the law for its Social Security campaign.

“Those accusations are without any merit,” said Miller. “The claims are an overreach of stunning proportions. Nevertheless, they have gained currency with the Bush Administration, which has made no secret of its desire to undermine labor unions.”

Miller raised his concerns in a letter today to Secretary Chao. Miller’s letter states that the accusations from Reps. Boehner and Johnson lack both legal and factual support and warns of the effects that an investigation of the AFL-CIO over its Social Security campaign would have.

“Any effort to use Department of Labor’s investigative arm to bully political opponents and chill their First Amendment Rights would set a shameful precedent, and would constitute an abuse of governmental authority,” Miller wrote in his letter.

“America’s labor unions have a Constitutional right to speak out on issues affecting the economic security of their members, free of governmental intimidation and threats.”

Bush Administration Using Taxpayer Dollars to Fund Partisan Events

Miller also criticized the Department for considering this investigation in light of the Department’s own efforts to promote President Bush’s privatization proposal. For example, the Department’s web site features a link on its front page to ‘,’ an Administration web site advocating privatization of Social Security. Secretary Chao herself recently spoke at an event in Pittsburgh that was part of the Administration’s ‘60 Stops in 60 Days’ Social Security tour.

“These events are highly partisan, complete with reported blacklists to exclude people because of their views, yet they are paid for with taxpayer dollars,” said Miller.

A Contrast with Labor Department’s Sweetheart Deal with Wal-Mart

In February, Miller criticized a deal between the Department of Labor and Wal-Mart that gives the giant retailer 15 days of prior notice before launching an investigation into a complaint of a violation of wage-and-hour law. In effect, Miller said, that deal would allow Wal-Mart to sweep complaints under the carpet before they are investigated. Miller contrasted that decision with the Department’s decision to investigate the AFL-CIO.

“Wal-Mart, an enormous corporation that has contributed lavishly to the Republican Party, gets special treatment even in the face of numerous violations of child labor laws,” said Miller.

“Meanwhile, the AFL-CIO, the primary organization representing American workers, might now get investigated even when no legitimate evidence has been presented to support the need for an investigation.

“The conclusion is inescapable: The Bush Administration is using the
Department of Labor as another weapon in its considerable political arsenal, to the detriment of workers and taxpayers. I am calling on Secretary Chao to stop using the department for partisan political purposes and return to the responsibility the department has to fairly represent American workers.”

What Would Marty Markowitz Say?

Evening with the Democratic Candidates for Mayor

“A Forum for the Candidates to Discuss Their Vision for NYC"

hosted by

Brooklyn Young Democrats, New York Urban League & Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce

Thursday, April 21, 2005 6-9PM

Program Begins at 6:30pm – Please Arrive on Time

Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College
68th Street between Lexington & Park Avenues

A. Take the 4 to the 6 ? Fuhgeddaboutit?
B. Whatsamatter with Brooklyn College? or
C. Oy! It's like the Dodgers all over again!

Tom DeLay & Co.

A correspondent reminds us of another connection in the whole DeLay/Abramoff scandal that hasn't been written about in the round of stories this year.

Karl Rove's assistant and gatekeeper, Susan Ralston, was hired at the suggestion of Abramoff.
Abramoff had his own person at the exact center of power of the free world. Think Abramoff used that connection? How does this fit into Abramoff-DeLay? Something to think about.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Top 10 Reasons the Times Is Wrong

The Times editorial page got it mostly* wrong in its analysis of the state's third parties. Cross-endorsement is good for New York and good for democracy. Here's why:

1. The best response to the Independence Party is to defeat it politically, not legally. The Times is right to have a problem with the vastly disproportionate amount of power Lenora Fulani has through the ballot line she controls. But defeating the Independence Party politically, by exposing its dearth of values and its spectacle of corruption is preferable and less threatening to First Amendment values. Liberal Party R.I.P.

2. Effective third parties are the most effective way to actually fix Albany. The Times editorial page (when it deigns to discuss state issues) is fixated on the need to repair the 'dysfunction' of state politics. In fact, third parties (like guess who) have been the most potent force in starting to break the logjam of dysfunctionality that the Times rails against. By cleaving the legislature's conspiracy of stasis in 2004, the WFP was responsible for both forcing an increase in the state minimum wage and the first step towards meaningful reform of the Rockefeller drug laws.

3. The power of third parties with a distinctive political perspective to cross-endorse solves the "spoiler" problem. Does the Times really prefer a Naderite universe? The ability of a third party -- conservative or progressive -- to offer a way for citizens unhappy with some aspect of the Democratic or Republican parties to still cast a meaningful vote. Voting on the Conservative line for Bush in 2004, for example, or for Kerry on the WFP line, sends politicians an important message without wasting a vote.

4. Cross-endorsing third parties are the best way to enfranchise minority views. Short of proportional representation, which the Times has not supported, cross-endorsement is the most effective mechanism within the American tradition of ensuring that minority perspectives are heard. Winner-take all elections, the American model, discourage (even silence) minority opinions. The ability of potent third parties forces major parties to consider and negotiate with groups that would otherwise be voiceless.

5. The absence of cross-endorsement cements the power of the two-party system. Given the entrenched power of the two major parties and the concentration of wealth and power supporting the status quo, it's VERY difficult for a new political party to grow without building relationships with an existing party. Cross-endorsement permits this. Prohibiting cross-endorsement virtually guarantees that the two-party status quo will never be upset.

6. The Times' argument places it on the wrong side of history (Part I). The movement to abolish political party cross-endorsements around the turn of the century comes from Wall Street special interests, terrified at the potency of the alliance between agrarian and industrial labor movements with progressive forces.

7. The Times' argument places it on the wrong side of history (Part II). The United States is virtually alone among mature democracies in the persistence of its two-party system. Nearly every advanced democracy in the world enjoys the diversity of debate among more than two major political parties. The ability to build multi-party coalitions is a key to the strength of these pluralistic systems. The prohibition on cross-endorsement (the rule in nearly every other state) has retarded the advancement of robust democracy in the U.S.

8. The Times' argument about "party shells" has as much relevance to the State Democratic and Republican parties. The state's most organized political party is actually the WFP -- with more staff and infrastructure than any other party in the state.

9. The biggest problem with political parties -- corruption and patronage -- is not particular to cross-endorsing third parties. Unchecked, unaccountable centers of power tend to become corrupt. Agreed. That's the story of the Liberal Party in New York. But it's also the story of the Republican Party in Nassau County and the Tweed-era Democratic Party in New York City. That's not a problem that's cured by eliminating cross-endorsement. In fact, third parties are one of the best mechanisms available for insurgents to reform corrupt major parties.

10. One voter's ballot "clutter" is another voter's choice. The Times complains about "pretend political parties cluttering the ballot." That's all well and good if you're 100% happy with the 'choice' offered between the Republican and Democratic parties. And you're secure enough in the arrogance of your own opinion to make that determination for every one of your fellow citizens (ah, the power of the printing press). But if you're not that happy, or not that secure, that clutter represents additional voices and additional choices for your neighbors.

Agree? Send a letter to the editor of the Times by e-mailing

* Mostly wrong because they're right that pols could stop kow-towing to kooky Fulani.

[Comment on this post by clicking on "COMMENTS" below]

George Pataki Used to be a Pretty Smart Guy

This is crazy. According to a Michael Cooper story in Saturday's Times, Gov. Pataki drew a comparison between former State AG Dennis Vacco and current AG Eliot Spitzer, with Vacco being superior because under his regime there were no "overly aggressive investigations" that threatened people's retirement income.

Pataki used to be a pretty smart guy (evil, but smart). Now he's just a suck-up to the Wall Street Journal editorial page and the Republican wing of the Republican party.

Arguing that Eliot Spitzer, through his successful investigations of Wall Street brokerages, the insurance industry and the pharmaceutical industry, has threatened retirement security? Give us a break!

Eliot Spitzer has done more to try to restore the integrity of the marketplace than any other elected official in the United States. And it's only a marketplace with integrity that can reduce the risk of pension investments and thus enhance retirement security.

Pataki and his crowd are going to have to do better than that.

[Comment on this post by clicking on "COMMENTS" below]

Friday, April 15, 2005

Credit Card Issuer Defense Act of 2005

This is not good news. The bankruptcy "reform" bill passed the House yesterday. Some very disappointing votes among the New York House delegation. See them at

Want to know why this bill is SO BAD? Good story at

And this was especially disappointing: One New York City Democrat whipping votes to ensure passage.

"The Voice of the Growing Centrist Movement"

Kevin Sheekey: Mike for Mayor's campaign manager: "The Independence Party is the voice of the growing centrist movement in New York politics, which is why centrist Democrats like Senator Schumer, Attorney General Spitzer, and Council Education Chair Eva Moskowitz have taken that line in recent years."

Sheekey was responding to this exchange on NY1:
Dominic Carter: According to a 1995 Anti-Defamation League report this is what you they quote you as saying about Jews. Jews had to quote "sell their souls to acquire Israel and are required to do the dirtiest work of capitalism – to function as mass murderers of people of color – in order to keep it." Did you make that comment? Did you write that?

Lenora Fulani: Well, a couple of things. One is so many of these quotes have been quotes that have been in plays that Dr. Fred Newman has written in exploring some very important issues having to do with the conflicts that people on the left and people on the right have been in relative to Israel. I actually don't remember the particular quote. It’s one that comes up from time to time. One of the things I've always wanted to ask, what is anti-Semitic about it? Basically what it comes down to is a dialogue that's been going on in this country and in the world on the left by many people including progressive Jews about the role of Israel in the Middle East.
Uh, Kevin, the center of what?

[comment by clicking on "comments" below]

Thursday, April 14, 2005

One Agenda for Fairer State Taxes

The good folks at the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy have proposed a series of measures to produce a fairer state tax system and ensure adequate revenues for New York to provide a sound basic education to every student in the state.

Some of the key recommendations are:

-- Making the personal income tax more progressive, helping to offset the regressivity of New York's state and local sales and property taxes.

-- Making up for declining corporate tax revenues -- which contribute only half as much to the state's economy as they did twenty-five years ago -- by broadening New York's corporate income tax base.

-- Modernizing New York's regressive sales and excise tax system by broadening it to include more goods and services and providing tax credits to low-income taxpayers.

-- Restructuring New York's regressive property tax, which hits low and middle income taxpayers most heavily, as they are based on home values rather than income levels.

Worth checking out the press release summary here and the full report here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

What They Said!

"Unnecessary, irrational and unaffordable." The Washington Post editorial page on eliminating the death tax. Can't say it any clearer.

Daily Anthony

Hadn't seen this before. Today's Times reports on growing dissatisfaction in Democratic circles with New York City mayoral candidates, and mentions that, to build support online
[o]ne of the Democratic candidates, Representative Anthony D. Weiner, has been posting his own notes on [] to try to galvanize those who visit it. He argued that he had been making substantive points but that the local news media have been slow to pick up on them - an argument similar to those of the other campaigns yesterday.
To save you the work, here are his posts:

And apparently, Rep. Weiner isn't the only elected posting regularly on DailyKos...

Monday, April 11, 2005

Another Ramirez Prank?

Ben Smith has this interesting item on his blog:
So somebody is making a pitch for Hispanic Bloomberg volunteers on Craigslist:

"If you are interested in volunteering for a major political race then keep reading. As you know, NYC, post 9/11, the city had to come to grips with the destruction of the World Trade Center and the lives lost.... Based on this, NEW LEADERSHIP was what people voted for. That LEADERSHIP was one given to a gentleman by the name of Michael Bloomberg, your current mayor... [Feel] free to come on board and volunteer for Mayor Bloomberg.

The reply-to address is Anyone know who that is?
A commenter on Ben's blog then helpfully suggests that the e-mail address belongs to a bizarre-looking GOP consulting firm called American Strategies LLC.


With Terence Tolbert on board Mike for Mayor and Fernando Mateo possibly on his way, Kevin Sheekey hires a West Point cadet named Brett to recruit Latino volunteers on Craigslist?

Are we sure this isn't another Ramirez prank?

Fusing Oregon

The effort to spread fusion voting (the ability of political parties to cross-endorse candidates, as in New York) around the country is growing. Progressives, seeing the success of the WFP in New York in advancing a good jobs/good schools/good government agenda, are exploring similar tactics. Check out this great post from

Did you work hard to elect John Kerry, but worried that if he won, it might not make that big a difference in economic policy, education policy, health care or even foreign policy? Did you vote for Ralph Nader in 2000, but worry that you were throwing your vote away or worse yet, helping to elect George Bush? Are you frustrated by the number of working people who vote Republican, against their own economic self interest? Do you think the Democrats have lost their focus? Do you want to make your voice heard in elections as more than a symbolic protest? Well, now that the election is over, and we're facing four more years of George Bush, it's time to talk about fusion.

Back when our democracy was younger and more vibrant, fusion was a common voting system throughout the US, including in Oregon. There were multiple parties competing for votes based on strong and clear programs.

But precisely because it gave a choice, and a voice, to militant workers and farmers, the Republicans outlawed it in all but a few states at the turn of the last century. Fusion is now legal only in a few states, and only used actively in New York and Connecticut.

Fusion gives voters a new choice, a way to make their vote meaningful without being forced to vote for a hopeless candidate, or wind up helping elect a distasteful one. Fusion voting permits more than one party to nominate the same candidate, or cross-endorse, so that voters can vote for the party that stands most strongly for their issues while knowing their votes will go to someone with a chance to win. The votes from the different parties are tallied separately, reported publicly, and then combined for that candidate's total.

Using fusion, minor parties can demonstrate in clear and unequivocal terms how much support they can deliver to a candidate by highlighting the number of votes a candidate receives on each party's line. This gives greater influence with candidates and elected officials, especially when a third party provides the margin of victory. Imagine that fusion had been legal in 2000. People could have voted for Al Gore on the Green Party line, making it clear that his margin of victory came from people who cared about Green Party issues. Or, if Oregon had had an 'education party' in 2002, Ted Kulongoski might know exactly how important saving public education is to Oregon's future, and his own.

That's what happened in the 19th century, when fusion was legal in Oregon and there were viable populist parties. In Oregon we even elected an 'anti-monopolist' reform Governor, Sylvester Pennoyer, who campaigned against 'the intolerable tyranny of trusts and corporations,' using fusion. The populists at the time regularly 'fused' with the Democratic Party. As a result, the Republicans lost their grip on the Northwest and many populist reforms were put in place. In the 1890's, the Republicans focused their energy on making fusion voting illegal, and they succeeded in Oregon and in most other states.

New York State gives us the best example of what fusion voting can accomplish. There in 1998, the Working Families Party, a coalition of labor unions (including SEIU, AFSCME, Communications Workers, Teamsters, UAW, UNITE-HERE, Laborers) and community organizations formed the Working Families Party. It now has over 60 affiliate unions and community organizations and over one million members in chapters throughout New York State. The Working Families Party regularly fuses with Democrats, and with the occasional Republican, who support their issues, which include living wages, fair progressive taxes, support for public education, and universal health care. The Party will run their own candidates when neither of the two major parties' candidates support working families' issues, but their greatest impact comes from aggressively promoting their issues rather than personalities, and using fusion by cross-endorsing major party candidates who commit to support WFP issues.

As a result of WFP pressure, New York State has managed to avoid the right wing tax cut frenzy. In 2002 the WFP led the fight for solving the New York City budget crisis through progressive revenue increases, not deep social service cuts as Oregon and so many other states have done. The WFP has also been given substantial credit for the passage of strong campaign finance legislation in New York City, a $2/hour raise in the NY State minimum wage, and the recent repeal of the worst aspects of the Rockefeller drug laws, which set the bar two decades ago for mandatory sentencing. For more details about their structure, history and many accomplishments over the past five years, visit the Party's website at

Here in Oregon we have long suffered a gridlocked Legislature from which we get no real solutions to our current fiscal, education, health care and environmental crises. Could fusion voting make a difference? Can we imagine forming our own Working Families Party in Oregon to build a strong majority for basic economic issues, issues of education, living wages, clean jobs and energy, health care, affordable housing, and support for the fair tax structure needed to provide those things where corporations and wealthy individuals pay their fair share? Could such a party appeal to the many working people, including some 40% of union members, who now vote Republican on 'cultural issues?'

In New York the Working Families Party attracts voters from the right, left and center. They get culturally conservative, Catholic, union voters in the suburbs and upstate New York who think the Democratic Party stands for elitism. They attract voters with no party affiliation who are generally distrustful of both major parties. And they get votes from the left and from progressive Democrats who think the Democrats should and could be much better on many issues and who want to send a message without throwing their vote away or helping to elect a Republican.

Unlike instant runoff voting (IRV), fusion voting focuses on issues rather than on candidates. Recognizing that it is hard to recruit good candidates, and harder yet to raise the money necessary to make them visible enough to win an election, fusion allows a third party to focus instead on being a party, raising issues, building constituencies for those issues, and holding candidates accountable on those issues once they are elected.

On April 12 there will be a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters, (7:00 p.m. at the Unitarian Church on NW 12th and Salmon) about the state of our political parties and current reform proposals. Among the speakers will be Dan Cantor, the Director of the Working Families Party in New York. Put it in your calendar and join the discussion of how to take back our democracy.
To comment, click on "Comments" below.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

I guess it doesn't take THAT MUCH time to build a law firm

Tuesday, April 19, 2005 GIULIANI in Hilton Head, SC: Rudy Giuliani in Hilton Head, SC: fundraiser for state Attorney General Henry McMaster. [The State, 1/31/05]


Saturday, May 7, 2005 GIULIANI in High Point, NC: Rudy Giuliani in High Point, NC: deliver the commencement address at High Point University [Greensboro News & Record, 3/4/05]

Friday, May 19, 2005GIULIANI in St. Paul, MN: Rudy Giuliani keynotes Center of the American Experiment annual dinner [ABC News, 3/25/05]

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed...

I noticed a new slogan on C. Virginia Fields' web site: "Let New York be New York Again."Reminds us a bit of John Kerry's toying with a campaign slogan borrowed from Langston Hughes ("Let America Be America Again").

Of course, Fields also has campaign literature bearing the banner, "A Mayor for All New Yorkers" mentioned in the Daily News last week. That slogan was borrowed from Ferrer '01.

Power Used for Good - Syracuse and the WFP Model

Great news from Syracuse today. It looks like the Common Council will pass the Living Wage bill that was defeated three years ago.

As retribution against one of the Councilors, Mike Atkins, who blocked the bill, the WFP backed a candidate named Tom Seals, who thrashed Atkins on Election Day. As in the David Soares race in Albany* and the Wayne Hall race in Hempstead,** the WFP demonstrated that it could make incumbents pay the ultimate political price for impeding the progressive agenda.

But it's not about vengeance. It's about results. And we see that now in Syracuse. Councilors formerly opposed to the legislation have switched sides and support a bill that will give hundreds of low-income workers a living wage. That's the WFP model.

To comment on this post, click on "Comments" below.

* David Soares upset incumbent Albany County DA Paul Clyne on a campaign based on Soares' support for, and Clyne's opposition to reform of the Rockefeller drug laws.

** Wayne Hall upset incumbent Mayor James Garner, running a campaign based on Hall's support and Garner's opposition to Living Wage legislation in the Village of Hempstead.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Pope and working families

So much has been said about Pope John Paul II over the last several days that I hesitate in posting this short note. He is perceived in progressive circles as a controversial figure, with much resistance and resentment about his positions on what are generally called social issues in this country. But for those whose daily work focuses on economic issues, there is much to laud in the Pope's legacy.
  • John Paul II was an inspiration for the trade union movement, both in Poland and around the world. As the AFL-CIO observes:
    "The pontiff’s most powerful statement on workers came in 1981 in the encyclical Laborem Exercens—'On Human Work'—in which John Paul called for 'ever new movements of solidarity of the workers and with the workers. This solidarity must be present whenever it is called for by the social degrading of the subject of work, by exploitation of the workers and by the growing areas of poverty and even hunger.'"
  • John Paul II was not shy about pointing out the evils of naked capitalism. In Centesimus Annus, the Pope wrote:

    "In spite of the great changes which have taken place in the more advanced societies, the human inadequacies of capitalism and the resulting domination of things over people are far from disappearing. In fact, for the poor, to the lack of material goods has been added a lack of knowledge and training which prevents them from escaping their state of humiliating subjection.... It would appear that, on the level of individual nations and of international relations, the free market is the most efficient instrument for utilizing resources and effectively responding to needs. But this is true only for those needs which are "solvent", insofar as they are endowed with purchasing power, and for those resources which are "marketable", insofar as they are capable of obtaining a satisfactory price. But there are many human needs which find no place on the market. It is a strict duty of justice and truth not to allow fundamental human needs to remain unsatisfied, and not to allow those burdened by such needs to perish. It is also necessary to help these needy people to acquire expertise, to enter the circle of exchange, and to develop their skills in order to make the best use of their capacities and resources."
It is inevitable in the days and weeks following the Pope's passing that competing interests will seek to claim and elevate portions of John Paul II's legacy. His work on behalf of workers and unions and his advocacy for social and economic justice should not go unnoticed.

Monday, April 04, 2005

80% of Life Is Showing Up

Woody Allen is credited with saying, "80% of life is showing up." Showing up on time, we think he meant. And that must explain the waves of self congratulation that swept Albany last week, and the wave from the editorial board bleachers.

However, we commented earlier on some of the well-known major substantive deficiencies in the budget. And now this:

Michael Rothfeld of Newsday explains an appalling under-the-radar bit of corporate welfare bile that was snuck in the back door:
A provision buried deep in the budget approved by the State Legislature on Thursday extends a tax break that was meant for poverty-stricken areas but in practice benefits some of New York City's most successful companies.

Those who stand to gain from the five-year extension include four companies run by former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in the heart of Times Square; along with Ernst & Young, the accounting firm with $14.5 billion in annual revenues; Morgan Stanley, the investment bank that employs more than 50,000 people; and Proskauer Rose, one of the nation's largest law firms.
Our good friend Frank Mauro at the Fiscal Policy Institute reminded us over the weekend how appalling this giveaway worth tens of millions of dollars is compared to Pataki's continuing effort to get the Legislature to go along with a SUNY and CUNY tuition increase.

We also note again that the aforementioned tax break comes simultaneously with the icnrease in the regressive sales tax borne most weightily by working class New Yorkers.

As Woody well knows, the other 20% counts too.

Discuss by clicking on "Comments" below.

p.s. Props to Good Jobs for New York for highlighting the giveaway to the media.

Friday, April 01, 2005

What part of 'April 15' does she not understand?

Erie County Comptroller Nancy Naples did it again (or, oops, she didn't).

One Night: 900 Voters, 3 Empty Chairs

Amherst. Staten Island. Massapequa.

Three IN THIS TOGETHER town hall meetings on Social Security on Wednesday night. Three Congressmen (King, Fossella and Reynolds) without the courage to face their constituents. Three empty chairs symbolizing their absence, including this one:

The only that seemed to make the constituents of the AWOL Congressman madder than the threat to Social Security was the dereliction of duty by their elected representatives.

Great work by the IN THIS TOGETHER team!

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Barbara Smith of Arbor Hill

Today's Times Union covers the campaign announcement of Barbara Smith, who is running to represent the 4th District in Albany's Common Council.

No one worked harder or smarter to help David Soares win his campaign for D.A. than Prof. Smith. It's hard to imagine anyone who cares more about her community than Prof. Smith. She is a passionate and hard-headed advocate for children,, working families, civil rights and quality of life in he rneighborhood.

Folks who know something about Albany politics say that Arbor Hill and the Common Council would benefit immensely by having an independent voice represent that neighborhood.

Election Day is still a long way off, but this is VERY EXCITING NEWS.


While Barbara Smith has not been officially endorsed by the WFP, you may find this information useful:

Friends of Barbara Smith
c/o Sue Lynn Miller
61 Lawn Avenue
Albany, NY 12204

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Rudy and Bernie: It Begins to Make Sense

After absorbing Ben Smith's must-read tour de force examination of Rudy Giuliani's personal finances, it becomes clearer why the former Mayor was so willing to vouch for Bernie Kerik's nomination to be Homeland Security. While it would be hard for anyone to top Kerik's bid for most ethically-challenged former member of the Giuliani administration, one has to give the G-Man himself credit for trying.

Viewed through the optical lens of someone who made $80,000 off a Tsunami relief fundraiser, just for example, one can see why things like the WTC pied-a-terre may have just looked like a shrewd real estate transaction.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

State Budget: Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down?

Okay, so it's probably going to be on-time. A major accomplishment given the history of the past 20 years.

And what's probably in it? A phase-out of the high-income PIT surcharge. An increase in the sales tax downstate. Corporate tax "reform" that will benefit large multinational employers, and cost the state $140 million.

What's probably not in it? A resolution to the school funding crisis. Full funding for child care.

I've left out a lot. Fill in the gaps. Is Albany on the road to being fixed? Comment by clicking on the word "Comments" below.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Breaking News: A Republican on the Mayor's Team?

Wonder how in the world in the Albany Times Union seems to have scooped Room 9 on a significant staffing development on Mike for Mayor campaign?

Joining Bloomberg team

John Haggerty Jr., who heads Pataki's legislative affairs office, will leave his $99,425-a-year state job to return downstate. The Queens native will be New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's deputy campaign manager, administration sources said.

Haggerty, who also worked for former Republican state Attorney General Dennis Vacco, is the son of Jack Haggerty, chief counsel and adviser to former Senate Majority Leader Warren Anderson.

Might the placement of this item in an upstate paper be a good way to reduce the attention it receives downstate? Compare it to the exclusive B1 Times attention that the MfM hires of Tolbert, Brennan and Loeser received. We'll see.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Sirota Says It

David Sirota, who I compliment when I refer to him as a poor man's Thomas Frank, largely works inside the Democratic Party, but offers a strident reminder as to why it's so important to do what the WFP does every day:
[P]rogressives must continue fighting, and continue putting pressure on BOTH Republicans AND Democrats who capitulate to Corporate America's every wish [the bankruptcy bill, the class action bill ...], no matter what the social cost... That's why it is so important for progressives to not only go after the GOP when they ignore average Americans, but also hold those who undercut the Democratic Party accountable.

It Pays to Be Wal-Mart

The Common Bastard has this appalling bit of news:

The U.S. House has approved a federal highway bill that includes $37 million for widening and extending the Bentonville street that provides the main access to the headquarters of Wal-Mart Stores.

Boozman spokesman Patrick Creamer said the congressman’s request for the money was penciled in for $3 million when the bill was in committee.

Pay an $11 million fine - 20 minutes worth of sales - with the bonus of no criminal charges for using illegal immigrant workers, initially ask $3 million for road improvements and get $37 million in the end. This has to be one of the best games of political patty-cake I have ever seen. I wonder if they would let me be the baker’s man in this political dough game…

Money is the yeast, brother.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Quote of the Day: Talking Transit

One of today's Times editorials discusses new sources of revenue to fund capital transportation projects statewide, and offers some specific ideas for new revenue sources:

"Right now, New York's lawmakers are haggling about how much of the $106-billion-plus budget should go for transportation... The real fight, of course, is who should pay. An additional source of revenue must be found, and the choice should be based on what is fair, not who has the most high-powered lobbyist. Some of the more reasonable options are a tax on new cars, a motor vehicle registration tax or a surcharge on real estate transfer taxes for sales of properties over $1 million."
Of course new revenue is needed. Are these the right choices?

Let's see if we can get a discussion going. Just click on the word "Comments" below to jump in.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Taking Requests

Newsday reports today on NY City Council Speaker Gifford Miller's ability to sing the Irish national anthem aas well as a Neil Diamond medley.

The Speaker apparently is always learning new tunes. So, we're taking requests for him he eon the blog.

And while we're at it, we're working on some numbers of our own for the 2006 gubernatorial campaign, including this crowd-pleasing golden oldie and this classic stomp.

The mike is yours. Comment away.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Taxes and reality

Alex quotes Mayor Bloomberg questioning the all-tax-cuts-are-good-tax-cuts orthodoxy. It's a welcome and very rare momement of candor (though to be fair, our Mayor has done better than most politicians on this isue.) Because on the question of taxes and the economy, conventional wisdom and empirical evidence are so far apart that one despairs of any kind of rational discussion.

Common sense sugegsts that lower taxes perhaps aren't everything, of course. Where are taxes higher, in New York or Mississippi? In Sweden or Somalia? And where would you rather live?But the economic evidence is also quite clear: lower taxes are, if anything, associated with lower economic growth, especially when you consider that cuts in taxes mean cuts in public services too.

The best recent overview of this literature is a little book from the Economic Policy Institute called Rethinking Growth Strategies by Robert Lynch. Here's what Lynch says:

A review of the hundreds of survey, econometric, and representative firm studies that have evaluated the effects of state and local tax cuts and incentives makes clear that these strategies are unlikely to stimulate economic activity and create jobs in a cost-effective manner. ... recent econometric studies find that state and local taxes have either a positive or no effect on economic activity, and most of the studies that suggest taxes have a small negative effect on economic activity do so only when public spending is held constant as taxes increase—a circumstance that is highly uncommon in the real world.

The literature on the effects of state and local public services indicates that state and local spending may stimulate economic growth and create jobs. In addition, the studies that have examined the net effects of simultaneously changing taxes and public spending--arguably those studies that provide the best "real world" measure of the effect of state and local tax cuts--generally find that raising taxes and using the additional revenues to pay for more public services enhances economic growth and expands employment.

It follows that, if taxes are not a decisive factor and public spending can be a positive force, then the use of tax cuts to create jobs can carry uneconomical "costs per job." Even with optimistic assumptions, for each private-sector job created by state and local tax cuts, governments may lose between $39,000 and $78,000 or more in tax revenue annually. This substantial revenue loss forces governments to lay off public employees in numbers that probably exceed the number of jobs created in the private sector. The net effect of tax cuts is thus likely to be a loss of employment. In addition, the public would lose the value of the public services that would no longer be provided. So, while access to jobs is clearly a vital concern in today's economy, public officials and voters should focus not solely on faith in tax cuts but on the best ways to get employment results. In the end, any jobs that might be gained by cutting taxes can be more than offset by the jobs lost as a result of cuts in public services.

No one likes to pay higher taxes. But the idea that cutting taxes is the ticket to faster growth and more jobs is one of the biggest myths in American politics today.

The T word

Two published items to comment on from the past couple of days, bearing on the equity of taxes in New York.

First, the Albany Times Union notes Mayor Bloomberg's honest look at the effect, and benefits, of public investment funded by the City's tax revenue stream. The Mayor isn't always this candid or consistent, but kudos to the T-U ed. board for recognizing the Mayor's realism when it seeps out. They quote Bloomberg thusly: "When you say taxes are too high, you're talking about a number out of context. The real issue is after you pay your taxes, what kind of a life do you have?" That's right, isn't it? The T-U goes on to note that equity and progressivity are important issues too.

Which brings us to an interesting development on Long Island. The Nassau County Tax Assessor, perhaps speaking out of school, but very publicly, called for study of replacing the property tax that funds education with an income tax. Depending on its structure, not a bad idea, right? Though, somewhat ironically given his views on local funding of Medicaid, Tom Suozzi seems not to think so.

What do you think? Can we create more good at the city, county and state levels with more investment? In what? And from what revenue streams?


Friday, March 11, 2005

Follow the Money, the Lines or the Power?

New York has the most dysfunctional legislature. New York is the wild west of campaign finance. New York's state debt is out of control.

If you were the fourth person in that notorious room, which item on the ever-growing reform agenda would you push hardest and first.

Advocates spoke out yesterday in favor of redistricting reform (see the Times and public radio stories).

Some in the WFP tend to talk a lot about the need to start with reforms necessary to ensure small-d democratic process, like redistricting and campaign finance reform (though that's not an official position).

Some of our friends argue that it's really the imbalance of power between the legislature and the governor (as dramatically illustrated by the recent Court of Appeals decision on gubernatorial authority in the budget process).

And of course, there is the Brennan Center view: despite a first round of reforms, the legislative process remains unsound.

What say you? What's the most important item on the reform agenda?

Thursday, March 10, 2005

A Sick System

The Syracuse Post-Standard, not the most progressive paper in the state, in an editorial today urges comprehensive health care reform as it observes the contrast between 3 million uninsured New Yorkers and exploding executive compensation at upstate insurer Excellus.

They had an excellent year. The vice chairman of the Rochester-based company, which provides insurance for 2 million New Yorkers, earned nearly $1.7 million. The president and CEO received almost $1.5 million and the executive vice president was paid $1.3 million. Fifty-three other employees were paid more than $200,000.

However, the paper stops short of prescribing specific solutions and instead urges the company's suits to take symbolic steps by limiting their own pay.

The paper's dead-on about the need for reform and right to start point fingers at insurance company largesse. We need to continue the discussion. What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Can't Make This Stuff Up

We're mostly going to keep this blog to WFP issues, but some things are too ... too something to overlook.

Courtesy of Bob Hardt's Itch page at NY1, this correction in today's Times:
“A report in the New York pages yesterday in the new feature headed "Ink," about the Rev. Al Sharpton's weight-loss plan, misstated the frequency of his workouts in some copies. He exercises three times weekly, not three times a day.”
Now that would be something.

Congress Fails on Minimum Wage

The Albany Times Union and the Daily News (2nd item) both editorialize today on Congress's failure to increase the minimum wage, in stark comparison to the New York state legislature's action last year.

Why can't Congress do the right thing? Would it help if the Dems made increasing the MW a higher priority? Or, um, another political party increased in its national scale? I say yes and yes.


Monday, March 07, 2005

Spotlight Story: "W's ax offers little hope to lift city's poor"

Richard Motta, president and CEO of Volunteers of America-Greater New York, spells out some of the devastation President's Bush proposed budget would cause in a Daily News op-ed:

Under the President's proposed budget, New Yorkers will lose $207 million in community block grants - money earmarked for literacy and senior programs and desperately needed funding for child care for needy families. The budget also would slash some $31 million in after-school programs for city kids and English classes for immigrants.

Worse, this follows a $50 million reduction in federal housing aid that will soon send more than 6,000 of New York's poorest tenants scrambling for a place to live.

While advocates, the labor movement and others focus attention on the Social Security fight, the Bush administration is moving forward with a despicable program of cuts to important parts of the safety net. Motta is dead-on in his effort to shine a light on the impact of these efforts.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Quote of the Day

"President Bush is supposed to bring his Social Security road show to New Jersey tomorrow. But critical reviews indicate this production tour has been a flop. And hopefully it will soon reach the end of its run - without any Social Security privatization bill reaching Congress. In old Broadway lingo, the president's privatization proposal 'bombed in New Haven."
-- Bergen Record editorial (courtesy of Talking Points Memo)