Friday, October 29, 2010

Young People Need to Get Out and Vote


By Michael Wong and Twyla Haggerty

Candidate signs are affixed on every street corner. Ballot information fills our mailboxes daily. Phone calls crowd our voice mail. And of course ads, ads, and more ads every time we turn on our favorite television show.

While Arizona voters are inundated with campaign materials and pundit speculation, the Arizona Student Vote Coalition is one group that doesn’t worry about the polls or how young people vote – we just want them to vote.

The Arizona Student Vote Coalition, comprised of the Arizona Public Interest Research Group, the Arizona Students’ Association and the University Student Governments, has been working since 2004 to significantly boost youth voting.

Click here to read the full article.


By Sarah van Gelder

If you’re like me, this election doesn’t feel anything like 2008. The excitement and hope of that historic election have been replaced by worry and disappointment. The 2008 campaigns at least occasionally addressed our country's serious problems.

This year it's all noise, attacks, and accusations. Little actual policy makes it through. Meanwhile, billionaires, big oil, and Wall Street corporations unleashed by the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United are able to spend unlimited amounts of money to flood the airwaves with anonymous attack ads.

It’s a tough election season, and many Americans say they’ll be voting with their feet by staying home.

Click here to read the full article.


By Holly Sklar

Before Wall Street drove our economy off a cliff, bullish Citigroup strategists dubbed the United States a "plutonomy." They said, "There are rich consumers, few in number, but disproportionate in the gigantic slice of income and consumption they take. There are the rest, the 'non-rich,' the multitudinous many, but only accounting for surprisingly small bites of the national pie."

Inequality had increased so much since the 1980s, Citi strategists noted in 2005, that the richest 1 percent of households and the bottom 60 percent had "similar slices of the income pie!" Even better, they said, "the top 1 percent of households account for 40 percent of financial net worth, more than the bottom 95 percent of households put together." And the Bush "administration's attempts to change the estate tax code and make permanent dividend tax cuts, plays directly into the hands of the plutonomy."

In "Revisiting Plutonomy: The Rich Getting Richer," Citi strategists considered the risk of backlash. "Whilst the rich are getting a greater share of the wealth ... political enfranchisement remains as was - one person, one vote," they said. "At some point it is likely that labor will fight back against the rising profit share of the rich and there will be a political backlash against the rising wealth of the rich." This could be felt, for example, "through higher taxation (on the rich or indirectly though higher corporate taxes/regulation)."

Click here to read the full article.


By Jennifer Tlumak

You’ve clicked and scrolled and finally found that perfect something online. From books and clothes to furniture and appliances, pretty much whatever you want can be found from web retailers.

You virtually “check out” and notice the fine print at the bottom of your computer screen, which reads something like: “Colorado residents must pay 6.5 percent tax.” And you breathe a sigh of relief thinking, “Sure glad I live in Tennessee!”

Your Internet deal turns into a steal when you get away without paying a cent in sales tax. It seems like a win-win, but there’s a loser in this game, and ultimately, it’s you, me, and the state of Tennessee.


By Lilia Diaz

When hundreds of private investors came together at the 2010 Investor Summit on Climate Risk (INCR) in New York this past January, they weren’t there to debate the existence of global climate change or humans’ role in causing it.

They were there to talk about how to address the negative environmental impacts of the current climate crisis, while at the same time turning it into an opportunity for creating jobs and making money.

The private investors who belong to the INCR are increasingly embracing a reality that seems to elude Washington D.C. – investing in renewable and clean energy industries is the next crucial step towards digging ourselves out of this economic abyss and building a sustainable world economy.

Click here to read the full article.


By Howard H. Johnston

In 40 years of practicing law, I have never seen such a misleading ballot question or such an unfair proposal as Constitutional Amendment No. 1.

Amendment No. 1 represents an attempt to control the employer-employee relationship in a manner previously unknown in Georgia. It will legalize unfair employment contracts, saying, “If you leave this company for any reason, you cannot work in this town (or several counties or states) for a period of two years.”

If passed, this amendment will allow an employer to force an employee to sign a contract which would create a modern form of involuntary servitude.

Click here to read the full article.


By Lynn Evans

For anyone planning to vote in the November elections, “The Big Short” by Michael Lewis should be required reading.

Author of “The Blind Side,” on which the Oscar-winning film was based, Lewis went to Wall Street to try to understand the causes of the great Subprime Mortgage Meltdown of 2007-2008 and the resulting government bail-out that has so angered the American public.

As Lewis makes clear, there were few people who understood what was happening inside the world of mortgage investments, but they were not the people in charge of either the investments themselves or the government and ratings oversight agencies that were supposed to protect ordinary consumers.

Click here to read the full article.


By Wendy Patton

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 cut taxes for businesses and households, boosted safety net services for the eight million who lost their jobs, and jump-started job creation.

Midway through the three years of Recovery Act programming, a little more than half of the money has been awarded. Policy Matters Ohio took a look at how the state is faring in getting and spending the money in the categories of energy and the environment. So far, the news is good.

The Recovery Act allocated over $100 billion to jumpstart job creation in energy and the environment. Companies, schools, agencies, universities and individuals across Ohio jumped on the opportunity. A billion dollars have already been awarded here and Ohio ranks seventh in getting the money out on the streets, with more awards coming every week.

Click here to read the full article.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Stop the Foreclosure Express -- Now!

Todd Swanstrom

By Todd Swanstrom and Chris Krehmeyer

It has recently come to light that lawyers processing the paperwork for foreclosures have been signing 10,000 or more documents a month without even reviewing them for accuracy and proper documentation. They are called robo-signers. Facing the threat of lawsuits for wrongful foreclosure, a number of the largest banks and servicing companies have suspended foreclosures until these problems are resolved.

Chris Krehmeyer
Instead of slowing down, the foreclosure crisis is speeding up and Missouri’s economy is being dragged down. About 11 percent of first-lien mortgages in Missouri are either delinquent or in foreclosure and 15 percent of mortgages are “underwater,” meaning homeowners owe more on the mortgage than the property is worth.

Everybody pays for foreclosures, not just those who are kicked out of their homes. Research has demonstrated that each foreclosure drives down the market value of properties located within one-eighth of a mile of a foreclosure by about 1 percent. The Center for Responsible Lending estimates that by 2012 Missouri property values will have dropped by approximately $7.3 billion as a result of foreclosures.

Click here to read the full article


By Margarita Mercure Hibbs

Living in rural regions supports a lifestyle that many families, small businesses and retirees appreciate. However, securing access to affordable, quality health care -- especially during a recession -- can be a challenge. With roughly one-third of its 2 million residents living in rural areas, New Mexico has an especially severe challenge.

According to studies by the Rural Health Research & Policy Center, the Flex Monitoring Team, and Kaiser, there are 42 hospitals in New Mexico, only 29 of which are located in rural areas, and six of which are critical access hospitals.

What does this mean for rural New Mexicans? These numbers show that although they occupy the largest geographical territory in the state, folks in rural New Mexico only get about half the medical resources. These statistics are devastating to our state and are completely unsustainable.

Click here to read the full article.


By Beverly Caruso

There’s heated debate over whether to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for families with incomes over $250,000.We’re hearing the argument that letting the high-end tax cuts expire will hurt business. Yet I’ve seen first-hand how well-designed tax policy is critical for spurring innovation and business development. It plays a very different role than the anti-tax crowd leads us to believe.

CyberOptics, a leading high-tech company in the area of electronic inspection, was founded by my husband, Steve Case, in 1984, and now employs 180 people in Minnesota and around the globe. How this business came about tells a very different story about the role of our tax dollars – and the public investments they support - in job creation. This is an important story to tell if we want to recreate the fertile ground that allows new companies to start up and become successful, sustainable job creators.

Steve was a physicist and entrepreneur, whose education was financed totally by National Science Foundation grants and scholarships. Later, as a young professor he would again gain our government’s support through a Fulbright Scholarship. The scholarship led us to Germany where Steve deepened his scientific knowledge and met executives in Europe who would become major clients of his new business. Steve always said that fellowship year had a profound impact on his creativity, confidence, and skills. As a professor at the University of Minnesota, his partnership with a government contractor made it possible to conceive of and establish CyberOptics.

Click here to read the full article.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

To Grow Our Prosperity, Let my Tax Cut Expire


By Peter Heegaard

Congress should do the responsible thing and let tax cuts for high earners expire at the end of this year.

As someone who has benefited from these tax cuts, I believe we must restore balance to a federal tax system that has been tilted in favor of the wealthiest 5 percent for a generation.

I’ve had a lifelong interest in the vital role of social entrepreneurs, the local heroes who take risks to lead innovative nonprofit organizations to solve problems at the local level.

Click here to read the full article.


By Yifat Susskind

As individuals, Americans are generous, often donating in response to crises abroad even while struggling to make ends meet at home. We tend to assume that our government’s foreign aid is similarly altruistic. But is it?

October 16 is World Food Day, a good time to examine this assumption about U.S. food aid and begin to press for some much-needed improvements.

Meet Khalida Mahmoud, a 29-year-old woman whose farming family was driven into worsening poverty, after U.S. food aid poured into her home region of eastern Sudan. That’s not how food aid is supposed to work, but just look at the policy: your tax dollars are used to buy grain from U.S. factory farms, the same giant corporations that already receive $26 billion in tax subsidies. Then the grain is transported halfway around the world, using thousands of gallons of fossil fuel and releasing tons of harmful carbon emissions into the atmosphere. The transport typically takes months while hungry people grow more desperate.

Click here to read the full article.


By Susan Shaer

The partisan split in politics is getting old and stale. Real people want real solutions to real issues, and one of the gravest is within our grasp to solve. For decades, we have been under a nuclear cloud, but world and U.S. leaders have risen to the occasion to provide safeguards.

The United States and Russia maintain over 90 percent of the world’s nuclear arsenal of some 23,000 nuclear weapons. The original Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) between our two countries that has provided for inspections and monitoring of these weapons expired nearly a year ago. The Senate now must ratify the New START treaty by a 2/3 margin (67 votes) to preserve the security protections of on-the-ground intelligence we have relied upon.

You may well ask what is taking our Senators so long? Sometimes the only solutions can be provided by government at the highest levels. The old START treaty was backed by Ronald Reagan, Bush I, Clinton. and now President Obama backs New START. Kennedy and Nixon supported efforts to curb nuclear proliferation. Bush II relied on START verification issues for his treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation on Strategic Offensive Reductions (SORT), better known as the Moscow Treaty. The mandate for strategic arms reduction appears to be bi-partisan and firm.

Click here to read the full article.


By: Hugh Pringle

Nuclear arms control: What high school student cares, much less has anything to say about this global issue? Some policy issues feel as complicated as – well, rocket science. But that makes it even more important for us to understand them.

I started thinking about nuclear arms control while watching President Obama and Russian President Medvedev sign the New START treaty (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), agreeing to reduce, verify and inspect each other’s nuclear arsenals.

But wait, the Cold War is over, and last time I practiced my nuclear fallout escape plan was…well…never. I was sorely confused. I wondered how this was connected to the war on terrorism and our 21st century enemies. Curiosity took hold.

Click here to read the full article.


By: Michael Guzy

Things that seem too good to be true usually are. Nobody likes to give their money to the government. Appealing to that sentiment, Proposition A will be featured on the ballot this November, seeking to outlaw earnings taxes across Missouri. Presently, only St. Louis and Kansas City levy such a tax.

At first blush, the measure appears to be a reasonable effort to limit the reach of the tax man. Further analysis, however, reveals that this seemingly innocuous initiative would have dire consequences for all Missouri residents. To understand why, consider the case of St. Louis.

The earnings tax was instituted there in the 1954 to prevent property tax rates from spiraling out of control. Under the current arrangement, people who live or work in the city pay 1 percent of their income and employers pay a half percent of their payroll to fund public safety operations. The tax generates 39.2 percent of the city’s revenue.

Click here to read the full article.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Let My Tax Cuts Go


By Bryan Kirschner

When Congress debates whether to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy or let them expire at the end of the year, I hope our elected officials have the courage to let my tax cuts expire. Sure, I would pay less in taxes if Congress extended my tax cuts, but as a citizen and business executive, I think that would be shortsighted and irresponsible.

My family was not affluent. Growing up, I never worried about middle-class basics like a new pair of shoes every year for school or whether we'd have a roof over our heads next month. But luxuries I take for granted today — like taking vacations in Europe— were outlandish things people like us didn't do.

But my parents, neither of whom went to college, did make one thing clear from as early as I can remember. They were committed to giving their kids the chance to pursue as much education as they wanted at the best possible schools to which they aspired.

Click here to read the full article.

Kathleen Rogers

By Kathleen Rogers and Jigar Shah

Disasters from climate change are becoming more frequent and more severe
- consider this year alone, with the devastating flooding in Pakistan, the Russian heat wave, an incredible ice chunk calving off of Greenland
- and New York's hottest summer on record.
Jigar Shah

Governments are becoming exhausted dealing with these impacts and realizing that adapting to a changing climate will be difficult and expensive. There is no scientific debate that every major ecosystem in the world is declining. But we are not winning the policy debate, as we somehow have to convince people that these impacts affect them personally. It's now or never to win the climate war and we need a new approach.

We need to shift the debate away from a singular focus on carbon dioxide and back to something that affects us all personally. Issues like the rapid depletion of our natural assets, access to energy for the poor, increased jobs and economic development. We all want more comfortable homes, lower fuel bills, local jobs, fewer polluting coal plants, less reliance on foreign oil, cleaner air and a world to pass on to the next generation. These values will help us win the debate.

As the failure of the Copenhagen climate conference proved, policy is necessary but not sufficient. A new, complementary and different skill set is needed in addition to traditional methods - an investment in the tools to move capital not just lobby for votes.

Click here to read the full article.


Phil Gordon
By Phil Gordon, Daniel R. Ortega and Dr. Warren H. Stewart, Sr.

As Honorary Co-Chairs of Protect Arizona’s Freedom, we proudly support equal opportunity for all Arizonans. We oppose Proposition 107, an anti-equal opportunity ballot initiative which seeks to amend Arizona’s Constitution and is brought to us by California businessman and lobbyist Ward Connerly. Proposition 107 is bad for Arizona communities and it’s bad for Arizona’s economy.

Protect Arizona’s Freedom is a coalition of Arizona businesses, faith leaders, community organizations, students and education leaders formed to defeat this destructive and deceptively-written initiative when it was first brought to Arizona and four other states in 2008.

Warren Stewart
For many years Connerly has made millions of dollars running his initiative to amend the Constitutions of several states. In state after state, the Connerly campaign has faced allegations of shady and deceptive practices in forcing his initiative on state ballots. The same happened in Arizona in 2008 when a massive volunteer effort, involving thousands of Arizonans, uncovered fraudulent and illegal signature-gathering tactics. The initiative was ultimately removed from the Arizona ballot. It also failed to qualify for the ballot in Missouri and Oklahoma in 2008, and Colorado defeated the initiative that same year.
Daniel Ortega

In 2010 though, Connerly was successful in having the Arizona Legislature do for him what he couldn’t do for himself in 2008 – put an initiative on the ballot to amend Arizona’s Constitution and end equal opportunity programs in our state.

Click here to read the full article.


By Rick Poore

A good friend and fellow businessman once told me, “Give me more customers and I’ll be forced to buy equipment and hire people to meet demand. Give me a tax break without more customers and I’ll just go to Aruba.”

Ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest taxpayers is the right thing to do for small businesses. I’ll say that again: it’s the right move for small business. Let me explain.
I consider myself an example of an average small business owner in Nebraska. I have 30 employees. My business does $2 million plus in annual sales. My personal income as the owner is less than $85,000 a year.

It’s a comfortable living, but ending the Bush-era cuts on the top two brackets won’t come close to impacting me. And it won’t impact the other small business owners I know, either. The top brackets won’t kick in until your taxable income is over $200,000/year for individuals and $250,000/year for couples, and they’ll only apply to the portion of your income above those amounts, not below them. Less than 3 percent of taxpayers reporting any business income (not limited to small business income) earn enough to break into the top two brackets.

Click here to read the full article.


By: Jason Whitaker

Our heroic service members are in harm’s way each day they wear the uniform of the United States military. Around the globe, they defend our national security interests so that we can be safer here at home. America’s fighting men and women signed up for this because they care for our country and want to keep it stronger for future generations.

Yet in the face of this enormous sacrifice, our troops encounter perils beyond wildest imagination, threats that undoubtedly can and must be prevented. In order to make this happen, Senators must start leading and work to end our addiction to oil.

Our forces deployed the Middle East are all too familiar with IEDs – Improvised Explosive Devices – which have killed many military personnel and countless numbers of innocent civilians. My lieutenant was a victim of such an IED during one of our convoys in Afghanistan. His Humvee exploded just two vehicles in front of me. And the newest, and most deadly of these weapons are called EFPs, or Explosively Formed Projectiles. Able to penetrate our best armor, these roadside bombs are brutally effective.

Click here to read the full article.


By David Brodwin

This year, the United States Supreme Court reversed years of precedent limiting how corporations may spend money to influence elections. This decision will substantially increase the importance of corporate influence in politics—both in determining who gets elected and how they decide once they are in office.

As executives, owners, investors, and business professionals involved in sustainable and socially responsible business, we must ask ourselves: Are we helped by this greater freedom to spend our companies’ money to influence campaigns? Or has the Supreme Court handed out some poisoned candy? Is this new ability to buy political support good for business—or does it set us back in our efforts to do business responsibly and promote a vibrant, just, and sustainable economy?

Despite appearances, the gutting of campaign finance rules is more likely to hurt than to help. The main issue is not whether businesses can or cannot spend their money on elections. The main issue is which particular businesses and industries will dominate the spending, and whether the ideas they will promote are good for our businesses and good for the nation.

Click here to read the full article.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Toward Healing Vietnam


By Susan V. Berresford

The war in Vietnam ended more than 35 years ago, but Trinh Luc, age 18, is still feeling the effects of Agent Orange, a defoliant used by the U.S. military. Totally disabled since birth with mental deficiencies, violent tremors and muscle degeneration, he lives in rural Vietnam with his mother, 59, who was a volunteer cook with Vietnamese troops in the jungle mountains during the war and recalls being sprayed several times. Her skin is still blotched and bumpy with chloracne.

Agent Orange, it seems, is still causing fresh harm to innocent newborns and adults in Vietnam, not to mention its harm to war vets on both sides of the Pacific. The good news is that we can stop this nightmare, and at a reasonable cost.

Doing so would be in the best American tradition of humanitarian care, and would help address the remaining shadow on the relationship between our two countries. An action plan is now in hand that comes out of another valued tradition - a public-private partnership.

Click here to read the full article.


By Dan McGrath

Given the dire unemployment crisis, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that new Census Bureau data reveal that a record number of people struggled with poverty last year in the United States.

What may be more striking, however, is just how many of the poor were employed. Recently released state and local poverty data reveal that more than half of the Minnesotans who were below the poverty level were employed during 2009. More than 31,000 of our neighbors who worked full-time for the entire year were still officially poor. Too many jobs in our state pay workers poverty wages and are failing to provide a path to economic recovery for Main Street.

The ranks of the working poor are even larger when we look at the number of working Minnesotans who are working fulltime but are making less than twice the poverty line -- a measure many economists use because the official poverty line is based on an outdated 1960’s formula and considered woefully inadequate. Using this yardstick, a shocking one in 10 workers in our state who worked full-time for the entirety of 2009 was still in poverty.

Click here to read the full article.


By Hazel Gaines, MS, RN

Once again, Mississippi is the state with the highest rate of child deaths in the nation. The average rate for the country, according to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics available (2007), is 19 child deaths for every 100,000 children age birth to 14 years. The rate for Mississippi is almost twice that: 34 child deaths for every 100,000 children under age 15.

Mississippi’s Child Death Review Panel (CDRP) has been working since 2006 to bring down the number of preventable child deaths by determining why and how Mississippi children die. Operating under the auspices of the Mississippi State Department of Health, the CDRP works with over 20 state agencies, community organizations, and professional organizations to coordinate a review of unexpected child deaths from birth to age 18, including Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The CDRP issues a report for the previous year each December detailing the causes of the deaths of Mississippi children, and making recommendations for ways to decrease those deaths.

The latest CDRP Report details the causes of 278 deaths of the total 709 child deaths statewide in 2008. The 709 deaths in 2008 are a significant drop from the 745 child deaths reported for 2006 and the 765 deaths reported for 2007. Harrison and Rankin Counties had the highest number of child deaths at 17 and 13 respectively. Hinds County reported 11 child deaths, and Lincoln, Pearl River, Scott, Warren and Washington Counties each reported 8 deaths.

Click here to read the full article.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

U.S. Bail-Outs for Foreign Companies?


By Michael Mariotte

American taxpayers bailed out the banks. They bailed out auto manufacturers. But at least they were our banks and automakers. Now, taxpayers are once again being asked to lend a hand. This time it's to subsidize multi-billion-dollar foreign companies with names like Toshiba, Hitachi and Areva. If the going gets rough for them, taxpayers will be forced to dig into their pockets to bail them out, too.

America needs to invest in new forms of energy: to combat climate change and increase security by reducing our dependence on foreign suppliers. But that reality is being used by some on Capitol Hill to justify the expenditure of billions of dollars to construct new nuclear reactors – a high-cost, high-risk gamble.

Various proposals in both the House and Senate call for as much as $54 billion in taxpayer-supplied loan guarantees for new reactors. Another bill would put no ceiling on the amount of guarantees.

Click here to read the full article


By Lydia Pendley and Kathryn C. Sherlock

The working families of New Mexico and the nation are the backbone of our economic and cultural identity. Working families are so essential that our city, state and nation have created public policies and programs designed to help them to survive.

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) are just such tools. Both programs encourage low and middle-income people to work, even when their jobs pay too little to live on. These tax-credit programs also keep millions of children out of poverty each year, building a stronger future for our next generation.

The EITC for low-income working individuals and families is a refundable federal income tax credit. It has received bipartisan support since Congress passed it in 1975. The EITC is designed to "make work pay" by decreasing the impact of taxes that low-wage workers pay on their earnings by supplementing their wages. The intention is to move a family with a full-time minimum-wage worker above the poverty line. The EITC is the largest poverty-reduction program in the U.S., and, in 2009, it was expanded as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to provide more help to married couples and low-income families with three or more children. In 2009, the EITC lifted 6.6 million people out of poverty, half of them children.

Click here to read the full article


By Antonio Gonzalez and Kathleen Rogers

On September 17, 1787, a group of visionaries and leaders signed our Constitution. They were intent on creating a functioning government based on universal truths and extraordinary principles in an environment complicated by disparate regional economies and wildly divergent parochial interests. Back then, differing proposals for the shape of our government divided our country into two camps, but the necessity to address the need for a common defense and a cohesive economic policy made our Constitution a great pragmatic solution that brought together two polarized sides.

Within a few years of our Constitution’s signing, these political camps became political parties and they refined their differences as they mobilized. At times, violent partisanship became so common that outgoing president George Washington, in his farewell speech to the American public denounced the dangers of such divisions: “The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.”

Notwithstanding his warning, our country has been fortunate to have had leaders that have embraced bipartisanship to produce some remarkable achievements worthy of the U.S. Constitutional framers. President Truman and a bipartisan coalition led the U.S. to invest in the Marshall Plan, which has cemented stable relations with Japan and Europe for the last 60 years. Lyndon Baines Johnson steered Congress through polemic waters in order to pass the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, despite the hit that he would take from the Southern Democrats. The best examples of bipartisanship result when thought-leaders of different perspectives came together on common principles and developed pragmatic solutions free of partisan politics.

Click here to read the full article