Monday, September 24, 2012

Today’s GOP

Another Perspective

Donald L. Foley, National Business Agent, retired

Are you a Republican? Because your father or your mother was? Because you view yourself as conservative? First let me ask, are you an American with the values I believe are held by most Americans? Most Americans are possessed of a deep desire to see the world of our children a better place than the world we grew up in. Most Americans are compassionate; we often favor the underdog. We feel a dedication to the idea that all men and women are created equal and ought not to be trampled upon by the wealthy and powerful. We believe avarice is a vice not a virtue and that each of us deserves to be protected from the powerful and avaricious. We expect protection from exploitation of ourselves, our fellow human beings and our land. We expect government to spend our tax dollars wisely and to protect us; we want good highways, good schools, real and adequate public services. We have a belief that every human being has a right to a decent standard of living, and to receive assistance in achieving that, if needed. We believe that poverty is an evil that an enlightened society can alleviate, and that everyone deserves adequate health care.

If you believe these things, either take back the Republican Party from those who have commandeered it to serve only the wealthy and powerful – or admit that the “Grand Old Party” can no longer represent you. But whatever you do, don’t believe for a minute that today’s GOP is a conservative party representing ordinary American citizens.

Today’s Republican Party is not the party that put Dwight Eisenhower into the White House – nor Richard Nixon nor, even, Bush No.1. It is not a conservative, fiscally responsible party dedicated to American values.

It’s not your father’s GOP. The Republican Party has apparently abandoned its old role as the voice of conservatism in America. You remember, the Democratic Party was the “liberal” side of American politics; the Republican Party was the “conservative” side. Two sides of one coin. Well, in case you have missed it that coin is now held exclusively by the Democratic Party. The Republicans, on the other hand, have been taken over by a radical element fully supported and manipulated by the wealthiest individuals and corporations in the world. The GOP proclaims the supremacy of the individual, as if that could create a civilized world.

Certainly, the allure of the lone individual carving out a homestead, a settlement, a business on his or her own – demonstrating strength of character and the ability to take advantage of opportunities that accrue from freedom – is attractive. But most of us know that those who strike out on their own, without help from anyone often barely eke out a living, struggle just to survive and often fail miserably. Most of us recognize that there is, indeed, strength in numbers; that humans are social animals who value the support of our families and of society in general; that it was a communal effort of thousands of individuals who joined together to form America as a nation. We recognize that we do not want to live in a dog-eat-dog world, having to compete for every scrap we can wrest from someone less fortunate. But that is exactly what today’s GOP offers America.

Led now by Mitt Rmoney, the GOP advocates a radical perversion of traditional American values. He and the Republican party advocate radical individualism that would only protect the richest and most avaricious. They claim that the wealthiest Americans and the corporations they run should be set free of burdensome taxation and regulation – and that this “freedom” would benefit the entire country. Unfortunately, there is simply no evidence to support the propaganda.

When the wealthiest and their corporations paid the highest taxes ever in the four decades after World War II, the country boomed and produced a vibrant “middle class” composed largely of ordinary working class Americans. The GOP’s darling Ronald Reagan began dismantling that and the “middle class” has spiraled down since then to a point, now, where it may soon not be populated by any ordinary working class Americans. After George W. Bush’s famous tax cuts for the wealthy (the so-called “job creators”) the country only declined and our national debt grew exponentially. We ended the Bush years of radical trickle down economics and deregulated capitalism with the Great Recession of 2008-2009. One of the consequences of that economic collapse was the transfer of billions of dollars of wealth from the “middle class” to the wealthiest. We have yet to fully recover from the plundering of our wealth, struggling under GOP obstruction of every effort by President Obama to produce jobs and recovery.

Rather than pursue reform and recovery, GOP candidate Rmoney would continue, if not increase, the free ride for the wealthiest and their corporations on claims that “job creators” ought not be burdened with an “increase” in taxes. But, if decreasing the “job creators” tax burden were good for the economy, the GOP cannot explain why millions of jobs were lost from the economy during the Bush presidency and especially because of the Great Recession or why American corporations now sitting on more than $2 trillion dollars in unused capital are not “creating” jobs. In fact, neither Rmoney nor the GOP can rationally explain much. But then, maybe they don’t need to.

Maybe the GOP is right. Maybe American voters will be persuaded by lies and distortions of fact. Maybe the radical minority who support the GOP radical social issues will turn out enough votes to put Rmoney over the top, because that minority really does not pay attention to what really motivates the Rmoney GOP – more wealth for the wealthy.

But, if Rmoney and the GOP prevail in November, will you be prepared for their promises? Will you be prepared to see women denied all forms of family planning? Will you welcome the elimination of the school lunch program? The end of food stamps for poor people struggling to feed their families? The elimination of federal assistance for college loans and Pell Grants? The end of Social Security as a defined benefit program, converted to individual 401k Wall Street casino accounts? The end of Medicare as a defined benefit program, converted to individual health insurance shopping? Will you welcome the end to collective bargaining as unions become regulated out of existence? Will you be rewarded by the “I’ve-Got-Mine” GOP agenda? And, really, isn’t that what today’s GOP is all about? If you cannot make it on your own, tough shit. Roosevelt had the “Fair Deal” program to restore the economy, Johnson had the “Great Society” program to end poverty – today’s GOP has the “I’ve Got Mine” agenda for America.

Will you vote for all these things? Or will you vote to preserve fundamental American values and send President Obama back to the White House in the hope of seeing him move the country forward?

There are many things I had hoped for from President Obama that he has not done; there are many things President Obama has done that I find infuriating. But I will be working for his reelection and voting to return him to the White House. It is not merely the classic choice of the lesser of two evils; it is a matter of hoping to preserve what America is supposed to be about.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Statement by AFL-CIO’s Union Veterans Council on Mitt Romney Tapes

September 18, 2012

The following statement was issued today by James Gilbert, Director of the AFL-CIO’s Union Veterans Council and veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, in response to recently-aired comments by presidential candidate Mitt Romney:

“Though unsurprising, Mitt Romney’s comments are shamefully disrespectful to all of America’s veterans and military families. The same 70,000 American troops currently serving in Afghanistan whom Romney neglected to acknowledge in his convention speech are a part of the 47 percent he says ‘should take personal responsibility and care for their lives’. U.S. Troops keeping us safe and serving in designated combat zones like Afghanistan – not required to pay federal income tax during that time of service – know far more about responsibility than Mitt Romney.

Romney’s ignorant criticism of government ‘entitlements’ show total disregard for the families of the more than 6500 American service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. As someone with a family member killed who leaves behind a wife and young child that receive survivorship benefits, this is personal for me as it is for many other veterans and military families.

Furthermore, these disgraceful comments show his lack of concern for the nearly 50000 Wounded Warriors who receive vocational and occupational therapy, the 8.3 million veterans in the U.S. that receive care at one of 152 VA Medical Centers or nearly 1400 community-based outpatient clinics around the country. The $11 billion cut to the VA in year one of the Romney-Ryan budget was enough to know just who he means when he says ‘my job is not to worry about those people.’”

Keri A. Shanks, Senior Secretary

AFL-CIO Media Outreach Department

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Forward by Charles Breiterman from the Iowa Postal Worker Tabloid April-May 2012 Issue:

Below is an article by Frederick Douglass from the August 17, 1871 issue of his newspaper, 'The New National Era. “America had its cheap labor lobby back in 1871, and it has one today in the form of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Immigration Works and Bill Gates himself testifying before Congress for more H-IB visas. Frederick Douglass attacked the cheap-labor lobby's "fair-seeming phrases" immediately in the first sentence. We all know that today’s cheap labor lobby has similar "fair-seeming phrases" that I will not repeat here since they are all over the mainstream media. The issues that deeply concerned Frederick Douglass in 1871 are very relevant today.

"Cheap Labor" by Frederick Douglass

How vast and bottomless is the abyss of meanness, cruelty, and crime sometimes concealed under fair-seeming phrases. Take the one we have made the caption of this article as an illustration. Ostensibly the demand for cheap labor is made in the interest of improvement and general civilization. It tells of increased wealth and of marvelous transformations of the old and the worthless into the new and valuable. It speaks of increased traveling facilities and larger commercial relations; of long lines of railway graded, and meandering canals constructed; of splendid cities built, and flourishing towns multiplied; of rich mines developed, and useful metals made abundant; of capacious shops on every sea abroad, and of amply cultivated fields at home; in a word, it speaks of national prosperity, greatness and happiness. Alas! However, this is but the outside of the cup and the platter-the beautiful marble without its dead men's bones within.

Cheap Labor, is a phrase that has no cheering music for the masses. Those who demand it, and seek to acquire it, have but little sympathy with common humanity. It is the cry of the few against the many. When we inquire who are the men that are continually vociferating for cheap labor, we find not the poor, the simple, and the lowly; not the class who dig and toil for their daily bread; not the landless, feeble and defenseless portion of society, but the rich and powerful, the crafty and scheming, those who live by the sweat of other men's faces, and who have no intention of cheapening labor by adding themselves to the laboring forces of society. It is the deceitful cry of the fortunate against the unfortunate, of the idle against the industrious, of the taper-fingered dandy against the hard-handed working man. Labor is a noble word, and expresses a noble idea. Cheap labor, too. seems harmless enough, sounds well to hear, and looks well upon paper. But what does it mean?? Who does it bless or benefit? The answer is already more than indicated. A moment's thought will show that cheap labor in the mouths of those who seek it means not cheap labor, but the opposite. It means not cheap labor, but dear labor. Not abundant labor, but scarce labor; not more work, but more workmen. It means that condition of things in which the laborers shall be so largely in excess of the work needed to be done, that the capitalist shall be able to command all the laborers he wants, at prices only enough to keep the laborer above the point of starvation. It means ease and luxury to the rich, wretchedness and misery to the poor.

The former slave owners of the South want cheap labor; they want it from Germany and from Ireland; they want it from China and Japan; they want it from anywhere in the world, but from Africa. They want to be independent of their former slaves, and bring their noses to the grindstone. They are not alone in this want, nor is their want a new one. The African slave trade with all its train of horrors was instituted and carried on to supply the opulent landholding inhabitants of this country with cheap labor, and the same lust for gain, the same love of ease, and loathing of labor, which originated that infernal traffic, discloses itself in the modem cry for cheap labor and the fair-seeming schemes for supplying the demand. So rapidly does one evil succeed another, and so closely does the succeeding evil resemble the one destroyed, that only a very comprehensive view can afford a basis of faith in the possibility of reform, and recognition of the fact of human progress.

The trade of the slave-trader across the sea was a track of blood. Her wake drew into it a procession of hungry sharks to feast upon human flesh, diseased, dead, and dying. The slaves were literally stowed between decks, without regard to health, comfort, or decency. The great thought of captains, owners, consignees, and others, was to make the most money they could in the shortest possible time. Human nature is the same now as then. The Coolie Trade is giving us examples of this unchanged character. The rights of a Coolie in California, in Peru, in Jamaica, in Trinidad, and on board the vessels beating them to these countries, are scarcely more guarded than were those of the Negro slaves brought to our shores a century ago. The sufferings of these people while in transit are almost as heart-rending as any that attended the African slave trade. ". (Originally published in 1871)

Source: As printed in Salt City Post (PPA)

Military Veterans &Social Security Benefits

By:Bob Wood-Vice President, Milwaukee, WI Area Local APWU

There is a little known fact about additional Social Security benefits for those who served their county in the Armed Force

If you served between January 1957 and December 2001 you may be eligible for up to $1,200.00 per year of earnings credit -which can make a substantial difference in social security monthly payments upon your retirement.

You must bring your DD-2image14 to the Social Security Office and you must ask for this benefit to receive it!

Keep this article in your files and use it when you apply for Social Security down the road.

Social Security website:

Since 1957, if you had military service earnings for active duty (including active duty for training), you paid Social Security taxes on those earnings.

Since 1988, inactive duty service in the Armed Forces reserves (such as weekend drills) has also been covered by Social Security.

Under certain circumstances, special extra earnings for your military service from 1957 through 2001 can be credited to your record for Social Security purposes. These extra earnings credits may help you qualify for Social Security or increase the amount of your Social Security benefit.

Special extra earnings credits are granted for periods of active duty or active duty for training. Special extra credits are not granted for inactive duty for training.

If your active military service occurred...

From 1957 through 1967, the U.S Social Security Administration will add the extra credits to your record when you apply for Social Security benefits.

From 1968 through 2001, you do not need to do anything to receive these extra credits. These credits should automatically be added to your record.

After 2001, there are no special extra earning credits added to your account.


The information that follows applies only to active duty military service earnings from 1957 through 2001. Here's how the special extra earrings are credited on your record.

Service in 1957 through 1977:

You are credited with $300.00 in additional earnings for each calendar quarter in which you received active duty basic pay.

Service in 1978 through 2001:

For every $300.00 in active duty basic pay, you are credited with an additional $100.00 in earnings up to a maximum of $1,200.00 a year. If you enlisted after September 7, 1980, and didn't complete at least 24 months of active duty or your full tour, you may not be able to receive the additional earnings. Check with Social Security for details.

FYI: This benefit is not automatic; make sure you ask for it.

Source: The Hi-Lites (PPA)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Government of the People

Another Perspective Donald L. Foley - Maintenance NBA, retired

“. . . that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

– Implored by Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863, at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

. . . government of the people, by the corporations, for profit . . .

Sometimes images of the first RoboCop movie come to mind as I contemplate our circumstances today and what lies ahead. These images derive from one of the movie’s basic premises – that a corporation owned the city and operated its services. And, indeed, it was that for-profit corporate control that brought about the disastrous circumstances faced by the public in that dystopian future.

As we move further and further from Lincoln’s entreaty for the country, we desecrate the enormous sacrifices he sought to honor. As capitalist corporations exert more and more control of how society operates, the interests of the public diminish toward nothing. Today we continue to suffer the consequences of corporate capitalism gone wild. With the dismantling of the wise regulatory boundaries on the financial sector of private enterprise (under the unwise leadership of Bill Clinton) venture capitalists ran rampant – devising ever riskier tricks to serve their greed. Financial schemes became an industry unto itself. But the wealth with which the schemers gambled was not their own; it was house money, thus making the risk so much easier to take. And when everything fell apart – as a few predicted it would – it was as if no one was prepared for it. And, of course, the huge financial institutions that had not previously existed, but which were now “too big to fail” had to be salvaged. And when they were, because of the lofty position of those who had brought this all about, no one was truly held to account – no one, that is, but the public.

The public had made the grievous mistake of failing to pay sufficient attention. Clearly, then, it was all our fault. We had not demanded that the old regulations not be dismantled. We had felt comfortable investing money in the Wall Street casinos. We had accepted the staid advice that investments need no attention, just stay the course, get in for the long haul, investments always gain in the long haul . . . Really?

Thus, corporations and their dutiful servants gained enormous wealth while the rest of the world suffered, and continues to suffer. The collapse of the economy in late 2008, early 2009 was the greatest transfer of wealth that may have ever occurred. It transferred enormous amounts of public wealth into the hands of the Wall Street casinos and, thus, into the pockets of those who run the casinos. Those who gained so much have never been required to restore to the rest of us what we lost, not the wealth, not the jobs, not the personal independence, not societal equilibrium. While 99% of the American citizenry continue in the downward spiral that started in the 1980's and have fallen precipitously since late 2008, the wealthiest are doing quite well. The large corporations – not your Mom and Pop small businesses, but the real corporations – are now sitting on more than two trillion dollars excess capital. Since corporate capitalists have suffered little and gained tremendously from the economy’s collapse, does it not stand to reason that it should be they who spend that wealth to improve our economy? No, not according to the capitalists, not according to Republican politicians – no, the wealthy have no debt for the havoc they wreaked.

Instead, what passes these days for public policy debate is a narrative created by the so-called “conservative” think tanks with an ideological imperative to dismantle government in service to the public and to replace it with a government in service to corporate capitalism. There is nothing truly conservative about this. It would dismantle our American democracy. It would place greed as the chief motivation for policy, instead of public good. That narrative spews its venom through legislative initiatives written by ALEC and promoted in state legislatures and through political propagandizing protected and encouraged by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. That narrative seeks to turn ordinary Americans against their own government, to convince them that government ought not protect public interests because that inhibits capitalist enterprise, and to convince them that – because government is the enemy – their neighbors who work in public service, government jobs are also the enemy. This is why the Republican Party has chosen to target public sector employees (and, of course, their unions) as being over compensated and leeching taxpayer money for extravagant benefits and pensions. And, apparently, that narrative is succeeding – judging by the result in Wisconsin’s recall election, in which 37% of union labor households voted for Governor Walker! All around the country public employees, their wages, their benefits and their unions are under attack.

Do you really believe that is because the Great Recession of 2008/2009 was caused by the excesses of public employment? Do you really believe it was the teachers, the fire fighters and police officers (nearly 70% of state and local public employees) who brought down the economy? Do you really believe simply continuing to pay for public service as we have for generations is preventing the economy from moving forward? If so, then you have accepted the radical corporate capitalist Republican Party narrative. But the narrative has nothing to do with reality. (See the report Some Basic Facts on State and Local Government Workers, October 28, 2011, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities,

Once the public accepts the idea that the government and public employees are to blame for the nation’s woes, it should be an easy sell to convince them that private enterprise should assume control. Wisconsin has already passed laws to sell off public assets to private enterprise. After all, what good is an asset if the wealthiest cannot make a profit off it? Take health care, for example. The United States provides lousy medical service to its population in a system dominated by for-profit insurance companies, who have only recently been required to use 80% of their revenue for actual medical services. That leaves 20% to pay for overhead – including substantial profit. Compare that with the U.S. Government Medicare system. Medicare operates at a 4% overhead, expending 96% of its revenue for actual medical services – sorry, no profit.

But, again, reality has little sway these days. Unless the American public quickly realizes neither government nor we, the ordinary citizens of this country, are the enemy, corporate capitalism will continue its relentless drive to control America. And we will truly become a government of the people, by the corporations, for profit.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on Chicago Teachers Strike

September 10, 2012

Chicago’s students, teachers and educational support staff – in fact, the entire city of Chicago -- deserve a school system that works for everyone.  That is what this strike is about, and that is why the AFL-CIO wholeheartedly supports the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU).

We are all united in support of a collectively bargained result that ensures educational success for every student in Chicago. Chicago schools require change and reform, but those changes will only work for the students if they are done collaboratively and reflect the input of the teachers and paraprofessionals who actually do the hard work of education.

We’ve been monitoring this situation closely and in close touch with the AFT, the parent union of the CTU. No one wants to strike.  And teachers recognize the enormous financial strain facing the district and the city. But right now, Mayor Emanuel’s proposal does not provide the elements necessary to ensure success for Chicago’s students or educators. We’d like to thank Chicago’s educators, Jorge Ramirez and the Chicago Federation of Labor, who are working together to ensure a successful school system for every child.