Saturday, July 30, 2011

An Open Letter to Congressman Wally Herger

Wally Herger (R) has represented the second congressional district in California since 1986. 

Congressman Herger:

This has gone on long enough. Your ideology is not more important than the economy of this country. At age 51, I have been laid off my job and am facing unemployment for the first time in 30 years. I join the ranks of the 14 % unemployed in this county. We need jobs and health care, not more partisan bickering.

Raising the tax rate on the under-paying highest income earners does not raise unemployment. Please note the tax increases by both Regan and Clinton during recessions for historical reference. Can you show a time when lowering taxes on the rich actually lowered unemployment?

Trickle down economics is a myth. The wealthy will happily sit on ever bigger piles of money but will spend millions to fight a quarter increase in the minimum wage.

Yes, the top 5% pay 65% of the taxes, but they have accumulated 95% of this country's wealth. It seems they are under-paying by about 30%. Its time for those who have benefited the most to stop whining about doing their share. And it's time for Republican Congressional Representatives to remember they represent everyone in this district, not just the extreme right wing minority.

Be a grown up. Stop holding the economy of this country hostage to your political agenda. Compromise is how democracies work. Do your job or stop collecting your generous tax-payer funded paychecks and health insurance.

I urge Americans of all political opinions to contact their representatives and tell them compromise is essential to resolve to this critical national issue.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Obama 2012: Applying Herbicide to Your Grass Roots

As election 2012 approaches, President Obama's campaign is reaching out to those of us who worked so hard in 2008 to put him in the White House.  I received another such email today, requesting my continued help in his re-election.  This is a copy of my reply:

"Hello Sara,

I haven't decided if I am going to work for President Obama's re-election this year. I admire his inclination to find common ground but I have been disappointed in his commitment to stand up for causes which are important to Democrats.

His total lack of support for the unions has been an on-going frustration for many, especially after he promised to 'put on his comfortable shoes' and walk the picket lines if collective bargaining rights were under attack.

Aside from his virtual silence on the dismantling of unions by right wing governors in multiple states, the blatant assault on transportation workers via FAA funding is taking place directly under his administration right now.

I still plan to vote for President Obama. I truly admire him for all he has tried to do. But if he wants my help and the help of other union members in this election, he needs to do more than bash us to score political points with the 'moderates.'

President Obama: Stop accommodating the crazies on the right and remember who elected you. The Republicans have repeatedly demonstrated their utter contempt for you and everything you propose, even their own ideas!

Your lack of support for the most fundamental rights of unions to even exist speaks volumes about whose support you seek. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be the working people of this country. I will 'put on my comfortable shoes' and work for your re-election when when you do the same for the unions, whose efforts you court, but whose concerns you ignore.

Maybe you can find some 'fired-up' moderates to do the leg work for your re-election this year. I don't think strong Progressives or Union members who worked so hard last time are going to go the extra mile this time around.

The American people are waiting for you to stand up against the powerful corporate interests who have dominated the debate, and we will stand with you when you do. We continue to wait for that day."

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Inmates are Running the GOP Asylum

As the August 2 deadline approaches to raise the debt ceiling or face 'catastrophic' consequences, the Republicans in the House continue to hold firm on shielding their corporate sponsors from any pain in this time of 'shared sacrifice'.

They repeatedly back down from reasonable compromise due to hysterical screams for smaller government from the tea party and tied hands from Grover Norquist's 'No taxes' pledge. Add the fact that most Republicans expect President Obama to eventually cave to their demands for drastic cuts in spending with no increases in revenue, even the rare moderate Republican is towing the hard line.

Even widely acknowledged loopholes which would help lower the debt without impacting job growth are off the table with the statement that these should be fixed during a general reform of the tax code, but of course there is no time for an overhaul of the tax code before August 2.

President Obama has put everything on the table. All the sacred cows of the left: MediCare, MedicAid, Social Security are all suddenly topics for negotiation. The left is up in arms. It appears that once again, President Obama is prepared to give away the store with little to show for it. The Republicans have out flanked him again, they fear.

I join my fellow Progressives in their concern over this. I have been disappointed in our President's bargaining skills. He doesn't seem to understand that you don't come to the table having already given up half a loaf or you leave with a quarter loaf, or less.

For now, I am waiting to see what compromises the President is offering. For example, there are cuts in those programs that are dear to Democrats that could be done without impacting recipients. The often mentioned Bush MediCare giveaway to Pharmaceutical companies would be a great place to start. If the Veterans Administration can bargain for lower cost drugs, why can't MediCare?

Any cuts in actual services in these vital social safety nets are unacceptable, but changes are possible without harming those most vulnerable. Perhaps its time to consider means testing for MediCare cost sharing or Social Security eligibility. Do retired millionaires really need Social Security payments or help with their prescription drug costs?

Democrats continue to try to reason with an increasingly unreasonable GOP, who seem bent on taking this economy over a cliff to earn political points or play chicken with a White House perceived as weak. Americans are left wondering if the inmates are running the asylum among the Republican Party and if the President will again blink in the face of a right wing who seem happy to bring the whole economy down if it increases their chances of unseating a Democratic President.

I call on the President to hold firm. Demand revenue increases from the wealthy before agreeing to cuts in the Social Safety Net. Roll back the Bush tax cuts. Close the loop holes which allow only 38% of American corporations to pay income tax last year. I call on Progressive groups to continue to keep pressure on this President to stand strong and fight for what is best for the people of this country and the shrinking middle class.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Amazon Cuts California Affliates

California just passed a law requiring large online retailers to collect sales tax from sales within the State. These regulations effect those who make more than a half million in sales in California and whose 'affiliates' generate more than $10,000 of those sales. 'Affiliates' are web masters, mostly small, who serve ads for companies like Amazon on their websites. If a visitor clicks on one of those ads and a sale is generated, these companies pay a small commission to the web master.

The law could generate about 317 million in revenues for the cash strapped state.  At least seven other states are considering or currently taxing online purchases. Amazon.com is appealing a lawsuit in New York to prevent implementation of a similar law. Eventually, it will likely fall to the Supreme Court to decide.

Small online retailers would not be effected by the new law. However, Amazon generates about half the out-of-state sales from large retailers in California. They are refusing to collect state sales tax and have abruptly ended their partnerships with all California affiliates

Until yesterday, I was an Amazon affiliate. A few days ago I received an email from Amazon warning me that the law was being considered and if it passed, they would be forced to terminate our partnership. The next day, I received a letter notifying me of the passage of the law and termination of my account.

The public standoff between Amazon and the State of California is generating a lot of press and accounts are rife with declarations by California affiliates that they will leave the state and that the new law will hurt businesses.

This law will effect me directly through my loss of affiliation with Amazon, and also as a frequent online shopper, I will be paying sales tax more often. However, I am not angry with Governor Brown for taking this action and I understand the desperate need for increased revenue for the state. Former affiliates should blame Amazon for their loss of income as this decision was Amazon's alone.

Years of Republican domination of the governors office and state legislature have left California destitute. Their utter refusal to consider any type of revenue increases for decades has left the state schools, roads, cities and the poor to endure an endless stream of cuts in services and funding.

In a recent post, I described how I was recently laid off from my job. I have never faced unemployment, so the prospect is terrifying...I can easily talk myself into a panic if I'm not careful. The prospect of looking for work in a state with more than 12% unemployment is daunting. Especially since my work experience is largely in education and city government and I know chances are slim in the near term to find work in either of those fields.

Regardless of the right wing spin, I don't believe this will lead to a loss of jobs in California. In fact, it may increase employment due to the new equity in prices paid by shoppers at 'brick and mortar' stores and online retailers. Many box stores have complained that shoppers come to the store to examine the merchandise, then go home and buy it online, saving nearly 10% in sales tax costs. Hopefully this will level the playing field a bit for local businesses.

Also, consider this law was written to only effect the largest online retailers. Those companies who do a large volume of business in the state and who receive a large number of paying customers from California referrals.

Of course there are a few web masters who derive a nice income from referring customers to Amazon and they will suffer from Amazon's decision to terminate their partnership. However, there are many online retailers who offer affiliate programs and webmasters will be forced to investigate partnerships with those other companies or leave the state.

A few may leave but most will stay and continue to prosper in spite of Amazon's decision. The state will benefit from the increased revenue and local business will loose fewer sales to online retailers. I think it is a good decision and though I have lost my Amazon affiliation and will be paying a bit more for my online purchases, I am glad to do my part to help dig out of this giant hole we are all in. Now if we could just get the big corporations and the top 2% to pay their share maybe we could all get back to work.