The GOP is at it Again on Disaster Relief

Monday, March 5th, 2012

The Republicans are at it again.  Faced with an outbreak of tornadoes that have caused death and destruction throughout the Ohio River Valley area, the GOP has not worked to devote whatever resources are necessary to help the impacted communities.  Instead, leading Republicans – most notably Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) and Ron Paul – have rejected the idea that the federal government should play any role in providing disaster relief.

Last Friday and Saturday, as many as 79 tornadoes struck Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio, which is likely the largest March outbreak of tornadoes in US history.  At least 39 people were killed and towns such as Moscow, Ohio; Henryville, Indiana; and West Liberty, Kentucky, were devastated.   In response, the Red Cross and numerous other organizations are working to provide aid, state and local government officials are stepping up to provide support, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) has informed the Governors of the three states that FEMA’s resources are available to help the impacted communities recover.  Kentucky’s Gov. Steve Beshear (D) has asked the federal government for disaster relief, and Indiana’s Senators have also promised to seek federal aid for their state.

Other Republicans, however, have decided to use the disaster as an opportunity to reject the idea that the federal government should provide support in disasters.  Most egregiously, Ohio Gov. John Kasich has turned down federal aid for his state.  As the Cincinnati Enquirer reported:

His decision means tornado-ravaged towns in Ohio will not get federal aid now and are not eligible at this time for potentially millions of dollars in payments and loans.

The governor said Ohio can respond to the crisis without federal help and he would not ask federal authorities to declare the region a disaster area.

“I believe that we can handle this,” Kasich said while visiting a shelter for storm victims at New Richmond High School. “We’ll have down here all the assets of the state.”

Similarly, GOP Presidential candidate Ron Paul attacked the idea of federal disaster relief, stating that “There is no such thing as federal money.  Federal money is just what they steal from the states and steal from you and me.  The people who live in tornado alley, just as I live in hurricane alley, they should have insurance.”

This is hardly a new sentiment for today’s GOP.  For example, when Joplin, Missouri was demolished by tornadoes back in May 2011, Mitt Romney, Eric Cantor (R-VA), and other Republicans similarly attacked the idea of federal disaster relief.  And the W. Bush Administration’s budget cuts, privatization, and crony governance at FEMA played a primary role in the debacle that was the relief effort after Hurricane Katrina.

These attacks on disaster relief are yet another example of how many in today’s GOP are willing to prioritize their narrow, reactionary ideological agenda over the good of the American people.  There are few more fundamental or important jobs for government than helping our fellow Americans get through and rebuild from a natural disaster.  And that is exactly why the GOP is attacking it.  In short, disaster relief is a huge flashpoint for conservative zealots because it goes to the heart of the philosophical debate between progressivism and conservatism.

On the progressive side, we believe that while government cannot and should not do everything, it can and should provide societal goods that individuals and the free market cannot or will not provide on their own. And disaster preparedness and relief is a prime example of such societal goods, as individuals cannot possibly be expected to deal with the full impacts of an earthquake, hurricane, or other natural disaster, and the “free” market is likely to respond to such disasters with price gouging and is certainly not going to fund rebuilding public infrastructure that is destroyed by the disaster.

Unfortunately, today’s conservatives have a pathological hatred of anything that suggests government – especially the federal government – might be able to help average Americans. So, they work to cut the budgets and preparedness of disaster relief agencies not only so they can free up more money for tax cuts for the wealthy, but also because they realize that inadequate government responses to disasters help undermine people’s faith in government as an instrument for good.

The most important thing we can do right now is to help the people and communities impacted by these tornadoes by donating to the Red Cross.

And we must also work to challenge conservatives’ ideological zealotry against federal disaster relief by reaffirming the fundamental role that the federal government can and must play in disaster relief, and making sure that disaster relief agencies like FEMA are sufficiently funded to be able to do their jobs effectively.

 

Weekend Reading List

Saturday, February 4th, 2012

For this weekend’s reading list we have articles on right-to-work for less laws, the benefits of regulations, the brutal crackdown on the democracy movement in Syria, how progressives can improve their use of social media, and the deleterious impact of the high proportion of low wage jobs in the US.

If you have any feedback on these articles, or would like to recommend an article for next weekend’s reading list, please let us know in the comments section or at Winning Progressive’s Facebook page.

 

Right-to-Work 101 – an explainer about how right-to-work for less laws, such as the one that was just passed in Indiana, hurt workers and the middle class, weaken our democracy, and do not lead to increased job creation.

Regulation, Employment, and the Economy – a study explaining how sensible regulations are critical to a well-functioning economy, and how the employment impacts of such regulations is generally quite low.

What’s Happening in Syria Now – a useful summary of the brutal crackdown that Bashar al-Assad’s government is carrying out against pro-democracy protestors in Hama and other parts of Syria.

Progressives Guide to Social Media – Part 1 of a great overview and how-to manual for progressives looking to use the world of social media to spread the progressive message.  The author is expecting this to be a 9-part weekly series.

Low-Wage Lessons - a report documenting how nearly 25% of US workers are in “low-wage” jobs, the reasons why our rate of low-wage jobs is higher than that in other industrialized nations, and the impacts that such a large low-wage economy has on our society.

 

WP Comments on Mitch Daniels, Foreign Aid, and Torture

Friday, May 6th, 2011

Here are our latest NYT comments on how Mitch Daniels is a doctrinaire conservative, how increased foreign aid could help impoverished people, and that torture does not work.  Help spread these progressive ideas by using the links at our Letters to the Editor Campaign center to write a letter to your local newspaper.

My comment on Gail Collins NYT column Doctor, Patient, and Politician, which talks about how Mitch Daniel’s decision to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood shows how empty his claim to be a social moderate is

Good column pointing out the emptiness of Mitch Daniels’ claims to be willing to call a truce on social issues.  I would make two corrections, however.

First, “the peculiar strain in the political right that trusts people to make their own informed decisions without government intervention except when it comes to the most exquisitely personal choice a woman could ever face” isn’t exactly accurate.  The conservatives who are opposed to the right to choose typically are opposed to personal choice in a number of other areas.  For example, they typically seek to restrict access to family planning for people of both genders, they oppose the rights of LGBT Americans to love who they choose, and they are opposed to freedom regarding marijuana, pornography, assisted suicide, and other personal choices.  In short, these conservatives have no problem supporting “big government” so long as that government is telling others what to do in their personal lives.

Second, your references to Republicans who pretend to be concerned about the deficit as “moderate” is off base.  Today’s “deficit hawks” are really “deficit vultures,” who are using deficits created by conservative economic policies as an excuse to try to eliminate Social Security, Medicare, and the social safety net.

The evidence shows that while Mitch Daniels may admirably decline to participate in some of the ridiculousness that mars much of today’s Republican Party, he is fully on board with failed conservative economic and social policies.

My comment on Nick Kristof’s NYT column Beyond Flowers for Mom, which highlights some charities that are working to help impoverished women and girls

These philanthropic projects are all admirable and important efforts to help people throughout our planet.   But what these stories also show is the amount of good we could do if we focused even a small portion of our government resources currently spent on the military instead on bringing basic health and educational services to people throughout the world.

Total U.S. foreign aid in 2009 was $44.9 billion, of which $11 billion was military aid, leaving $33.9 billion as aid for economic, health, and educational development.  By contrast, U.S. military spending is more than $700 billion per year.  Yet many of the critical health and educational deficiencies in undeveloped countries, such as access to clean water, family planning, and adequate amounts of vitamin A, could be address for relatively small investments.

Moving even a small portion of our military spending (say another $30-$50 billion per year) toward providing sanitary water sources or family planning would do far more to improve lives in those countries than does our military spending.  And by improving lives, we make societies more stable, and decrease the likelihood of those countries devolving into turmoil or becoming breeding grounds for terrorists.

In other words, such increases in foreign aid targeted toward provision of fundamental health and educational services could be an effective investment into our planet’s future that will do far more good for both our security and the lives of others than does spending that money on yet another weapons system.

My comment on the NYT editorial The Torture Apologists, which focused on how cynical and destructive efforts to justify torture are:

Of all of the arguments against torture, the most compelling is also the pragmatic one – it does not work.  Just about every credible analysis of torture shows that it does not elicit useful information.  Instead, it causes prisoners to either shut down and refuse to cooperate at all, or it leads them to make up stories that the prisoner thinks his torturers want to hear.  In fact, such fabricated stories elicited through torture provided at least part of the “intelligence” that the Bush Administration used to “justify” its unnecessary and unjustified invasion of Iraq.

If we want accurate information from detainees that will enable us to further infiltrate terrorist cells and capture or kill terrorists, our best approach is to use well-honed lawful interrogation techniques, not criminal and barbaric torture.

The Fight for American Workers Continues in Florida, Indiana, and Throughout the Country

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

The progressive outcry in Madison and elsewhere that was triggered more than three weeks ago by the Koch-funded conservative attack on public employees has turned into a sustained movement fighting for working people.  Hundreds to thousands of people have continued to rally in state capitols and other cities throughout America, and more rallies are planned for this week and beyond.  In Oregon, Gov. John Kitzhaber spoke to a rally attended by more than 700 people on Monday and vowed that collective bargaining rights would be protected in his state.  The folks at CNN, Fox “News,” and the rest of the networks might not want you to know it, but we are the majority and we are winning this battle.

Let’s keep up the pressure so that we win this battle, and The past few weeks have seen levels of sustained progressive organizing that have not been experienced in America for a number of years.  Now is the time for all of us should get involved to keep this critical fight for public employees, unions, the middle class, and the progressive movement in America going.   Below are ways for you to learn about the issues and take action – if you know of other rallies, etc. to add to the list, please let us know at our Facebook page.

LEARN ABOUT THE ISSUE

Here is an interesting article from McClatchy News about how public employee pensions are NOT bankrupting states. 

Here are some fact sheets and reports from the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association comparing private and public sector compensation and explaining why it is factually wrong to blame public employees and their unions for budgetary problems that states are facing.

Here is Paul Krugman’s great New York Times column explaining the political power play that is behind the GOP’s attack on public employees and their unions. 

FLORIDA

Legislation: Tea party Republican Governor, and Medicare fraudster, Rick Scott has proposed a budget that includes lowering corporate and property taxes while cutting $1.75 billion in education spending, reducing state employee pensions and teacher pay, and cutting Medicaid spending. 

Status: The Florida legislature starts a 60-day session on Tuesday, March 8 at which Gov. Scott’s budget proposal will be on the agenda.

Take Action:

* Contact Florida State Senators and House members

* Attend a Rally:

Rallies to oppose Gov. Scott’s budget cuts will occur in Miami, Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Gainesville, Tampa, and throughout Florida on Tuesday, March 8.  Find the rally closest to you at Awake the State.   

INDIANA

Legislation: A string of bills targeting public employees, including limits on teachers’ ability to collectively bargain and a permanent ban on the ability of future governors to allow for collective bargaining with state employees.

* Contact Indiana state legislators

* Contact Governor Mitch Daniels – 317-232-4567

* Attend a Rally:

Indianapolis Thursday, March 10 – 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

State Capitol

OHIO

Legislation: Senate Bill 5 would eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees in the state

Status: SB 5 passed the Senate, 17-16, after the GOP had to remove two of its own pro-labor Republican Senators from committees that voted on the legislation. 

On Tuesday at noon, Governor Kasich gives his State of the State speech where he is expected to continue his attack on public employees and their unions.   At 4p.m. that same day, the Ohio House starts its first hearing on SB 5.  

Take Action:

* Contact members of Ohio House of Representatives

* Write a letter to your local newspaper editor – links to newspapers available here

* Attend the State of the State Rally:

Tuesday, March 8 – 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Statehouse in Columbus

 Visit the Facebook page for the rally

WISCONSIN

Legislation: Gov. Walker’s “Budget Repair Bill” would, among other things, eviscerate collective bargaining rights for public employees

Status: Legislation pending in State Senate but cannot be voted on because 14 Democratic Senators have fled to Illinois, thereby preventing the Senate from having a quorum.  Democrats and unions have offered a number of compromises, but Gov. Walker refuses to budge.

Rallies are continuing throughout the state, and another large rally is planned for Saturday in Madison

Take Action:

* Contact your state legislator

* Write a letter to your local newspaper - links available here

* Support the effort to recall eight Republicans Senators who support Walker’s anti-labor legislation.  Democrats need to pick up only three seats to gain a majority in the state Senate.  Information on canvassing this weekend to collect signatures in support of the recall effort is available here.

* Attend a Rally:

Here is a list of rallies occurring in Milwaukee, Green Bay, Racine, La Crosse, and numerous other towns throughout Wisconsin this week. 

Madison – on Saturday, March 12 at 3 p.m., there will be another major rally organized at the State Capitol.  Schedules for buses from throughout the state are being put together and will be posted here.    

Waupun – on Thursday, March 10 at 4:45 p.m., there will be a workers’ rights rally and march starting at the Rock River Intermediate School, 451 E. Spring Street.  Thank to reader Fitz for sharing this rally with us.  

IDAHO

Legislation: The State legislature is consider a bill that would eliminate 770 teaching positions, increase class sizes, and try to move students to on-line classes by giving them a laptop.   Other legislation would weaken collective bargaining rights of teachers and begin to implement “performance-based” pay policies.

Status: The bill proposing to eliminate 770 teachers and replace them with on-line classes was sent back to committee in the state Senate, but is moving forward in the state House.

Take Action:

* Contact members of the Idaho state legislature

* Write a letter to your local newspaper editor – links to Idaho newspapers available here

* Support the students who are protesting these proposals, and join the students who are walking out of their classes

 

OTHER STATES

* Contact your state legislators and Governors

* Write a letter to your local newspaper editor -

Here are links for submitting letters to the editor for national papers, and to newspapers in Colorado, Connecticut, DelawareIllinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

* Attend a Rally:

Nashville, TN

Tuesday, March 15 – noon

State Capitol

Houston, TX

Tuesday, March 15 – 4:30 p.m.

Houston City Hall

Contact: texansdayofoutrage@yahoo.com

We’re Winning The Battle – Let’s Keep on Fighting For Public Employees and Their Unions

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

After more than a week of protests in Wisconsin, Ohio, and throughout the country, the tide appears to be turning against the attacks of Governor Walker, Governor Kasich, and the Koch Brothers on public employees and their unions.  In a poll released today, 61% of Americans oppose restricting or eliminating the right of public employees to collectively bargain over wages, benefits, and working conditions, as the Republicans are seeking to do.   More and more Democratic Governors across the country – including Mark Dayton in Minnesota, Deval Patrick in Massachusetts, Dannell Malloy in Connecticut, are coming out strongly in favor of the right of public employees to collectively bargain.  And Republicans in Ohio are already weakening their anti-union legislation, SB 5.

Let’s keep up the momentum by continuing to make our voices heard at rallies, in letters to newspaper editors, and in calls to our Governors and state legislators.

Below is a list of ways to take action.  Please let us know at the Winning Progressive Facebook Page if you know of rallies, etc. to add to this list.

NATIONWIDE – STATE CAPITOLS IN EVERY STATE

On Saturday, February 26 at noon, MoveOn and other progressive organizations are holding rallies in solidarity with public employees and their unions in front of every state capitol in the country.   These rallies are going to be used to launch an organized national effort to Rebuild the American Dream.  Please attend the rally in your state if you can, and also share the information with your friends, family, and neighbors.

WISCONSIN

*Donate to help provide food and supplies for the protesters in Madison

* Call, e-mail, or visit your state legislator – contact information available here

* Contact Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker – contact information available here

* Write a letter to your local newspaper - links available here

* Sign up to help Organizing for America’s Wisconsin chapter organize supporters of public employees and their unions

* Attend a rally:

Wisconsin – Throughout the State

Here is a list of rallies occurring in Green Bay, Milwaukee, Stevens Point, Manitowoc, Wausau, Eau Claire, Fond du Lac, Oshkosh, and numerous other communities throughout the state over the next five days

OHIO

Senate Bill 5 would eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees in the state

* Contact Ohio state legislators

* Contact Governor John Kasich – (614) 466-3555

* Write a letter to your local newspaper editor – links to newspapers available here

* Attend a rally:

Ohio – Elyria

Thursday, February 24 – noon

Downtown Elyria on the Square – 131 Court St.

Ohio – Lancaster

Saturday, February 26 – 8:30 – 10 a.m.

Corner of Main and Broad, across the street from City Hall

INDIANA

A string of bills targeting public employees, including limits on teachers’ ability to collectively bargain and a permanent ban on the ability of future governors to allow for collective bargaining with state employees.

* Contact Indiana state legislators

* Contact Governor Mitch Daniels – 317-232-4567

MINNESOTA

Legislation is pending that would eliminate vital portions of the state’s Public Employment Labor Relations Act, and freeze wages of state employees

* Contact Minnesota state legislators

* Contact Governor Mark Dayton – 651-201-3400 – thank him for coming out in strong support of public employees and their unions!

* Write a letter to your local newspaper editor – links available here

* Attend a rally:

Minnesota – Duluth

Thursday, February 24 – noon – 1 p.m.

Duluth City Hall

COLORADO

Legislation to reverse former Democratic Governor Bill Ritter’s executive order allowing collective bargaining has been stopped so far.  Ultimately, however, the issue is expected to come down to how hard new Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper is willing to fight for public employees and their unions.

* Contact Colorado state legislators

* Contact Governor John Hickenlooper – (303) 866-2471

* Write a letter to your local newspaper editor – links available here

OTHER STATES

* Write a letter to your local newspaper editor -

Here are links for submitting letters to the editor for national papers, and to newspapers in Connecticut, DelawareIllinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

* Contact your state legislators and Governors

* Attend a rally:

Arizona – Tucson

Friday, February 25 – 5 p.m.

University of Arizona – on the Mall

Florida – Orlando

Thursday, February 24 – 6:30 p.m.

In front of the University of Central Florida

Illinois – Peoria

Thursday, February 24 – 5 p.m.

Peoria County Courthouse – 324 Main Street

New Jersey – Trenton

Friday, February 25 – noon – 3 p.m.

Statehouse – 125 W. State Street

Pennsylvania – Philadelphia

Thursday, February 24 – 11:30 a.m. -2:30 p.m.

Tom Paine Plaza – Across from City Hall

Pennsylvania – Pittsburgh

Thursday, February 24 – noon

USW Building – 60 Blvd of the Allies

If you plan to attend or if you have questions, please call Catherine at 412-456-2985

Texas – Corpus Christi

Friday, February 25 – 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.

Corner of S.P.I.D. and Staples Street

Washington State – Spokane

Friday, February 25 – 4:30 – 5:30 p.m.

Corner of Ruby, Division and North River Drive in front of Wendy’s Restaurant

We Stand Together or We Fall Together

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

This video from the Wisconsin AFL-CIO states perfectly the belief that motivates the union movement and progressivism – We Stand Together, or We Fall Together.   Now is the time for us progressives to continue to stand up and continue to fight for our union sisters and brothers in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, and other states that are under attack by conservatives who are doing the bidding of the Koch Brothers and other billionaires.

On Tuesday, more than 5,000 people showed up in Ohio to protest SB 5, Governors Mark Dayton in Minnesota and Deval Patrick in Massachusetts came out with strong statements in support of public employees and their unions, and hundreds of people showed up at solidarity rallies in Boston, Providence (Rhode Island), Juneau (Alaska), and everywhere in between.  We are winning the battle on this issue, but need to keep on making our voices heard through letters to the editor, calls to our Governors and legislators, and attending rallies that are continuing through this week.

Please let us know at the Winning Progressive Facebook Page if you know of rallies, etc. to add to this list.

WISCONSIN

*Donate to help provide food and supplies for the protesters in Madison

* Call, e-mail, or visit your state legislator – contact information available here

* Contact Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker – contact information available here

* Write a letter to your local newspaper - links available here

* Sign up to help Organizing for America’s Wisconsin chapter organize supporters of public employees and their unions

* Attend a rally:

Wisconsin – Throughout the State

Here is a list of rallies occurring throughout the state during this week.

OHIO

Senate Bill 5 would eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees in the state

* Contact Ohio state legislators

* Contact Governor John Kasich – (614) 466-3555

* Write a letter to your local newspaper editor – links to newspapers available here

* Attend a rally:

Ohio – Columbus

Rally for workers w/Jesse Jackson

Wednesday, February 23 – 11:00 a.m.

Teamsters Hall – 555 E. Rich St.

For more info, contact 614-441-9145 or brian@progressohio.org

INDIANA

A string of bills targeting public employees, including limits on teachers’ ability to collectively bargain and a permanent ban on the ability of future governors to allow for collective bargaining with state employees.

* Contact Indiana state legislators

* Contact Governor Mitch Daniels – 317-232-4567

MINNESOTA

Legislation is pending that would eliminate vital portions of the state’s Public Employment Labor Relations Act, and freeze wages of state employees

* Contact Minnesota state legislators

* Contact Governor Mark Dayton – 651-201-3400 – thank him for coming out in strong support of public employees and their unions!

* Write a letter to your local newspaper editor – links available here

* Attend a rally:

Minnesota – Duluth

Thursday, February 24 – noon – 1 p.m.

Duluth City Hall

COLORADO

Legislation to reverse former Democratic Governor Bill Ritter’s executive order allowing collective bargaining has been stopped so far.  Ultimately, however, the issue is expected to come down to how hard new Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper is willing to fight for public employees and their unions.

* Contact Colorado state legislators

* Contact Governor John Hickenlooper – (303) 866-2471

* Write a letter to your local newspaper editor – links available here

OTHER STATES

* Write a letter to your local newspaper editor -

Here are links for submitting letters to the editor for national papers, and to newspapers in Connecticut, DelawareIllinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

* Contact your state legislators and Governors

* Attend a rally:

Arkansas – Little Rock

Wednesday, February 23 – 11:30 a.m.

State Capitol Building – 425 W. Capitol Ave.

Connecticut – Hartford

Wednesday, February 23 – noon

West Steps of State Capitol Building – 210 Capitol Ave.

Georgia – Atlanta

Wednesday, February 23 – 4 p.m. – 7 p.m.

State Capitol Building – 206 Washington St.

New Jersey – Trenton

Friday, February 25 – noon – 3 p.m.

Statehouse – 125 W. State Street

Pennsylvania – Philadelphia

Thursday, February 24 – 11:30 a.m. -2:30 p.m.

Tom Paine Plaza – Across from City Hall

Pennsylvania – Scranton

Wednesday, February 23 · 12:00pm – 3:00pm

Lackawanna Court House – 200 Adams Ave.

Washington D.C.

Wednesday, February 23 – 12:30-1:30 p.m.

444 N. Capitol Street NW (between Louisiana and E Streets)

There will also be a feeder march starting in DuPont Circle at 11:30 a.m.