Commentary
Obama window

Pres. Obama and a staffer hail Rose Garden maintenance team to join them at today’s press event. Photo: www.whitehouse.gov

President proposes heath care expansion financed by rich liberals, people of color and immigrants
Conservative leaders skeptical that tax plan is sufficiently targeted

WASHINGTON - In an effort to break the logjam that has kept millions of Americans in numerous states from fully participating in all aspects of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama announced today that he would offer yet another olive branch to conservative critics of his signature health plan.

Under a new initiative the President referred to as the “Keeping Our Citizens Healthy by Selling-out Wholesale If Necessary” plan or “KOCHS WIN” for short, Medicaid expansion and other costs associated with the Affordable Care Act would be underwritten as of January, 2015 via a series of new taxes to be levied directly on three of Mr. Obama’s most loyal groups of supporters: liberal billionaires, people of color and immigrants. The President announced the new plan today at a White House ceremony in which he was joined by Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, George Soros and a several members of the Rose Garden maintenance team.

According to Mr. Obama, the KOCHS WIN plan was just his latest good-faith effort to do whatever it takes to find common ground with critics who have fought the Affordable Care Act and virtually every other initiative of his administration since it took office in 2009, even when the initiatives in question were originally the critics’ ideas.

“My administration has compromised so much on so many things at this point – Iraq, Guantanamo, taxes, trade, reproductive rights, immigration, gun control, just to name a few – that this one was really a no-brainer,“ said the President. Hearkening back to a theme that has arisen repeatedly over the last five and a half years, Mr. Obama declared that “there are very few principles of progressivism and good governance that we aren’t prepared to sacrifice in order to get a deal and maybe save some lives.”

New tax schemes

Under the plan, which Mr. Buffett claimed to have first suggested to the President during toasts at a White House state dinner for African leaders last month, each of the growing number of billionaires who have contributed to the President’s Organizing for Action advocacy group and its affiliated nonprofits, plus those who are registered as Democrats or who have significant holdings in the film industry, will pay a special one-time surtax of 3% of their net wealth.

“Heck, I told the President that Bill, George and I ought to probably just pay for the whole darned thing ourselves,” said Mr. Buffett. “But he said ‘no, if we’re going to have a shot at getting this through we can’t let ourselves be accused of engaging in class warfare.’ That’s when someone – I think it was Harry Reid – suggested a small tax on some other groups conservatives love to hate. ”

Those other groups, under the initial version of the KOCHS WIN plan, would be immigrants and lower-income minorities – both of which would be targeted for new federal excise taxes. Read More

News

The U.S. Senate on Thursday rejected (54 – 42) a proposed constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling. (The measure needed 60 votes to advance.)

S.J.RES.19 very simply would have granted Congress and the states the power to “regulate the raising and spending of money and in-kind equivalents in federal and state elections.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) argued the proposal would “restrict the most important speech the First Amendment protects, core political speech.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) called Thursday’s vote a defeat for democracy, adding that Americans must continue pushing at the grassroots level to overturn a decision which “creates an open door… to pour unlimited sums of money into the political process.”

North Carolina’s two U.S. Senators split on the constitutional amendment. Senator Richard Burr voted against the resolution, while Senator Kay Hagan voted for it.

Click below to hear Sen. Sanders during his recent appearance on NC Policy Watch’s News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon, in which he discusses the need to overturn Citizens United.

Click here for Thursday’s complete roll call vote.

For more on the influence of big money in our elections, be sure to check out this interactive graphic by the Center for Public Integrity.

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Commentary

construction workerCheck out the News and Observer’s extensively documented series, Contract to Cheat, on the obstacles faced by workers who are misclassified, and how they are being failed by the government agencies that are supposed to protect them.  The Justice Center released a report on wage theft, which includes misclassification, in 2013.

State leaders are, at last, vowing to do more.  They had an opportunity to do so in 2011 and 2013, with legislation introduced by Rep. Rick Glazier to increase penalties for employers and inform workers of their legal rights.  Rep. Larry Hall also introduced a bill in 2013 that would have created a fund to help workers whose employers fail to carry workers’ compensation insurance as required.

There is a whole host of things the General Assembly and state agencies could do that would go a long way toward fixing this problem, including:

  • Increase penalties for employers who misclassify their employees
  • Provide workers with information at the time of hire about how they are being classified, what that means, and their right to be correctly classified
  • Workers should be presumed to be employees. If a worker is to be treated as an independent contractor, the company who hires that worker should have to prove that the classification is correct.
  • The NC Department of Labor should go after employers who misclassify and should be allowed to issue stop work orders against those who don’t carry workers’ compensation coverage
  • North Carolina should have a fund to help workers whose employers fail to carry required workers’ compensation coverage
  • The Division of Employment Services, Department of Revenue, Industrial Commission, and Department of Labor should systematically share information about employers who misclassify workers.

For more information about the legal rights of misclassified workers, look at the Justice Center’s fact sheet.

Commentary

We’ll take good news where we can find it these days and this one from yesterday’s Raleigh News & Observer certainly seems worth celebrating.

Conservative anti-death penalty group active in NC

A North Carolina chapter of a national network of conservatives that wants to put the brakes on — if not outright abolish — the death penalty has become active this year.

A number of prominent Republicans have joined N.C. Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty: Les Merritt, the former state auditor; Ernie Pearson, a former assistant commerce secretary; David Robinson, once the Wake County GOP chairman; Marshall Hurley, former state Republican Party general counsel; Steve Monks, former Durham County GOP chairman; Mark Edwards, the Nash County GOP chairman; and Gerald Galloway, retired police chief in Southern Pines….

The conservative group takes its position based on their belief that the death penalty doesn’t jibe with the small-government philosophy. They also say mistaken convictions, the emotional impact on victims’ families and their pro-life stance are among the reasons people have become members.

Hyden worked for the National Rifle Association and ran a congressional campaign in western North Carolina. The other national coordinator is Heather Beaudoin, who worked for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Meanwhile, in case you had any doubts about how North Carolina was saved from executing an innocent man by dumb luck, read Fannie Flono’s column in this morning’s Charlotte Observer, “The death penalty, luck and innocence.” As Flono notes:

Read More

Commentary

As North Carolina endures the absurd, never-ending ad blitz of a U.S. Senate campaign, here are two quick, must reads that explain: 1) just how far out of hand the wholesale sell-off of our democracy to the top 1% has gotten and 2) what we ought to be doing about it.

Number One is a great, interactive post from the the Center for Public Integrity entitled “Who’s buying the Senate?”  If you follow the link, you can check out a partial list if who is paying (sort of anyway) for the remarkable flood of thousands of junk TV ads (there have already been nearly 50,000 of them on TV  in North Carolina (not including local cable and many other media).

Meanwhile, Number Two is this editorial from yesterday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch that tells you what we ought to be doing to rein in this situation and reclaim control of our democracy – namely, pass the “Democracy for All” amendment that would reestablish the constitutionality of limits on campaign finance.  The editorial is entitled “While America sleeps, plutocrats are stealing its government.” To quote:

Thanks to a series of wretched decisions by the Supreme Court, effective political speech now belongs only to those who can afford it. What’s more, donors can easily keep their names secret.

The court has ruled that money is a form of speech that cannot be abridged. But as Justice John Paul Stevens wrote so succinctly in 2000, upholding Missouri’s campaign finance limits, “Money is property; it is not speech….”

Given the sordid record of the Rehnquist and Roberts courts on campaign finance issues, Democratic Sens. Tom Udall of New Mexico and Michael Bennet of Colorado saw the obvious solution as amending the Constitution to make it clear that democracy is not plutocracy. But that requires the cooperation of the party that benefits from the status quo. When Mr. Udall needed a Republican co-author for an op-ed commentary about his amendment, he had to go Alan Simpson of Wyoming, who retired from the Senate in 1997.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other agents of the plutocrats are couching the vote on SJR 19 as a free-speech issue. Mr. McConnell appears to think that the public will be fooled, or that it doesn’t care. He went along with Majority Leader Harry Reid’s, D-Nev., plans to spend this week debating the amendment.

Don’t be fooled. This is not about free speech rights. It is about property rights, specifically whether those with the most property should have the biggest say in the way government is run. Without enough money to hire consultants and staff and to barrage voters with television ads, candidates for federal and statewide offices — and increasingly, local offices — have virtually no chance of being elected.

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.