Monday, April 9, 2018

Last Call For Not Awful Enough

Here in Kentucky, GOP Gov. Matt Bevin says he will now veto the Republican budget and tax reform bills in their entirety because they basically aren't cruel enough to Kentucky taxpayers and state employees.

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin said Monday he will veto the legislature’s proposed two-year state budget and a tax bill that generates hundreds of millions of dollars to help fund it.

“The whole thing is not as thoughtful or as comprehensive as it needs to be,” Bevin said of the tax plan during an almost 30 minute harangue about fiscal responsibility. “If we’re going to do tax reform — and we need to do tax reform — it needs to be comprehensive.”

The bill, which was introduced and passed on April 2 before it was available to the public, applies Kentucky’s 6 percent sales tax to 17 services, increases the cigarette tax by 50 cents per pack, and cuts the individual and corporate income tax to a flat 5 percent tax. It also cuts some typical tax deductions, including those for medical expenses, medical insurance, paid taxes and investment income.

Bevin received a letter last week from his state budget director, John Chilton, indicating that the money generated by the legislature’s revenue bill will be around $50 million lower than anticipated.

“There are many legislators who literally just don’t understand this. They don’t,” Bevin said. “They’re smart people, they’re intelligent people, they’re educated people on many fronts. They don’t understand finance, they don’t understand pensions. And yet they’re the ones who are going to have to make decisions.”

Much of the $486.9 million in revenue generated from the tax bill will be used to fund education as teachers across the state have held “sick-outs” and rallies that have closed down school districts. Bevin, who proposed a plan that would have cut state funding for school transportation and would have provided less money per-pupil than what the legislature passed, said he wasn’t concerned about how his vetoes would affect education.

It’s illegal for them to strike in this state,” Bevin said. “I would not advise that, I wouldn’t, I think that would be a mistake. The issue is not the teachers, the teachers want to teach their children. The KEA (Kentucky Education Association) has been a problem, it really has. They’ve been very loud after refusing to be a part of the solution, even though in reality their members are going to the beneficiary of us getting it right.”

"These K-12 education cuts aren't deep enough, and don't punish students and teachers enough, so I'm going to veto the whole thing!" is a hell of a position to take, but that's life in Bevinstan for you.

Republicans in the state legislature will have the opportunity to try to override Bevin's veto this weekend, so we'll see what happens in a few days, but I'm not sure if they have time to come up with another bill or not.  Remember Kentucky is a state with line-item veto and Bevin trashed the whole thing.

Remember too that Bevin vetoed the pension measure that would have allowed city and local governments to phase in pension costs, and that's only going to make the austerity bomb all the worse.

Ball's back in the KY Legislature's court now.

Labor Wages War On Trump

There are two big facts when it comes to raising the federal minimum wage: $7.25 an hour works for nobody in 2018, and $15 an hour doesn't work for everybody.  The goal is how to find a happy medium for workers in the Trump era, and increasingly that's looking more and more like sector-wide labor boards like they have in Europe, in particular, Germany.

The Center for American Progress (CAP), one of DC’s most influential liberal think tanks with deep ties to the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton campaign, has just proposed a big idea for raising Americans’ wages.

A new paper by CAP’s David Madland calls for the creation of national wage boards, tasked with setting minimum wage and benefit standards for specific industries. Fast food companies, say, would send representatives to meet with union officials and other worker representatives, and hammer out a deal that ensures workers get a fair shake. Same goes for nurses, or retail workers, or home health aides, or accountants.

“Bargaining panels would have 11 members—five representing employers, five representing workers and one representing the government,” Madland explains. “The government representative would be the U.S. secretary of labor or their delegate. Employers would choose employer representatives through the employers’ industry associations.” Employees would be represented by unions, or other worker representatives. The secretary of labor would create separate boards for different industries and occupations, and work with unions and other worker groups to enforce the wage rules once they’re adopted.

This may seem like an extreme idea, an unprecedented government and union intrusion into the free market. But it reflects a model already gaining steam in some liberal states (like New York and California), and which owes a lot to policies in Europe. It’s the latest sign that pro-labor voices in America are looking to counterparts in France, Germany, and elsewhere across the Atlantic for signs of how to revive the labor movement and get the working class’s wages rising again.

And while ideas like wage boards and giving workers spots on corporate boards may seem pie-in-the-sky today, they could easily become part of the next Democratic president’s agenda, or become law in left-leaning states even before 2020.

Labor unions in America today are in crisis. In the mid-1950s, a third of Americans belonged to a labor union. Now, only 10.7 percent do, including a minuscule 6.4 percent of private-sector workers. The decline of union membership explains as much as a third of the increase in inequality in the US, has caused voter turnout among low-income workers to crater, and has weakened labor’s ability to check corporate influence in Washington, DC, and state capitals.

The future for traditional unions looks so bleak that a growing number of labor scholars and activists are coming to the conclusion that the US model, which relies on individual workers in individual workplaces getting together and organizing on their own, is dead and can’t be revived. What’s needed, they argue, is a more national or industry-wide approach to supplement or replace the old model of individual workplace-level organizing.

In 2016, we had the most pro-labor president since the 1960s, the most pro-labor secretary of labor since [FDR’s Secretary] Frances Perkins, an economy with shrinking unemployment and rising wages — and yet we lost a quarter-million union members in the United States,” says David Rolf, president of SEIU 775, a local union representing home care workers in Washington and Montana. “We need to be trying everything.”

Yeah, it's an admission that the union shop model is broken and dead.  But it's not working, either. A ruling blowing a hole in public employee unions is due from the Supreme Court by the end of June. Something has to replace the existing model, or organized labor in America is done.

The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

Publicly, Republicans predict they will hold the House and Senate and that the "blue wave" is a mirage, that the rest of the nation's Democratic strongholds will fall to Trumpism and that all the polls are wrong, just like in 2016.

In reality, they're already fighting over Paul Ryan's political corpse.

Two top members of Paul Ryan’s leadership team, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Majority Whip Steve Scalise, have begun angling for his job in the event the speaker calls it quits after the election.

They’re closely monitoring the moves of the other and quietly courting Republicans who could help them clinch the top post, according to 20 GOP lawmakers and aides interviewed for this story.

Neither man is actively rounding up votes at this point, and both of them downplayed the possibility of a looming clash. Scalise said in an interview that he would not challenge McCarthy for speaker — “I’m not running against Kevin for anything,” he told POLITICO — while McCarthy said he’s focused solely on keeping the House in November and pursuing President Donald Trump’s agenda.

But Scalise also expressed interest in leading the conference someday — remarks that only intensified simmering speculation in GOP circles about his intentions. Adding to the intrigue, some of Scalise’s allies have urged him to be ready if McCarthy falls short for speaker, as he did in 2015. And some of McCarthy’s allies discount Scalise’s vows not to mount a direct challenge, noting Scalise’s willingness to attempt to leapfrog more senior Republicans in the past.

Everyone is talking about this,” said one veteran Republican House member who asked not to be named of the brewing rivalry. “We’re sizing them up, seeing who would be a better fit. It’s the prism that we look at them through now.”

As Ryan’s No. 2, McCarthy has the clearest path to the speakership, though it’s far from a lock. Distrust among the conference’s right flank contributed to his failed 2015 bid, when Ryan was recruited as a white knight. McCarthy did not lose interest, however, and he is trying to forge new alliances as well as patch up a once-rocky relationship with the House Freedom Caucus ahead of a potential second run.

The House is a lost cause, apparently.  The battle is on to save the Senate.

Republicans are increasingly worried they will lose control of the House in the midterm elections, furiously directing money and resources to hold and potentially boost their narrow majority in the Senate.

To many, the Senate is emerging as a critical barrier against Democrats demolishing President Trump’s agenda beginning in 2019. Worse yet, some in the GOP fear, Democrats could use complete control of Congress to co-opt the ideologically malleable president and advance their own priorities.

Democratic enthusiasm is surging in suburban districts that House Republicans are struggling to fortify, causing GOP officials, donors and strategists to fret. They have greater confidence in the more rural red states Trump won convincingly that make up the bulk of the Senate battlefield.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his allies are seeking to capitalize on concerns about the House. He is leading an effort to motivate conservative voters by reminding them that his side of the Capitol has the unilateral power to confirm federal judges and Trump administration nominees.

Trump is showing a keen interest in the Senate landscape, raising money for a highly touted challenger, helping clear the primary field for an endangered senator and playfully engaging in an intraparty contest.

One, the odds of the Republicans gaining Senate seats still remains much higher than the GOP keeping the House.  In the Senate, Dems have to defend 12 seats, 10 in Trump states, while the GOP has to defend just six seats with only one, Nevada, in a Clinton state.

The good news: a blue wave scenario means that Dems now can pick up the net two seats they need to take control, as Arizona, Nevada, and now Bob Corker's seat in Tennessee are absolutely 100% in play.  If Dems can hold the line and pick up two of those three, the Senate is theirs.  And down the line, Tex Cruz in Texas, Deb Fischer in Nebraska, and Thad Cochran's seat in Mississippi will have to be defended as well.

But the Dems still have a LOT of states to defend even with their advantage: Indiana, Missouri, WV, ND, Florida, Ohio, Montana, and yes, Minnesota's special election for Al Franken's old seat, now held by Tina Smith, and Tammy Baldwin's seat in Wisconsin aren't sure things anymore, even now.

The saving grace for the Dems is that after a year of Trump, college-educated white voters are abandoning the GOP in droves as Trump's policies are wrecking their 401(k)s.

Older, white, educated voters helped Donald Trump win the White House in 2016. Now, they are trending toward Democrats in such numbers that their ballots could tip the scales in tight congressional races from New Jersey to California, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll and a data analysis of competitive districts shows.

Nationwide, whites over the age of 60 with college degrees now favor Democrats over Republicans for Congress by a 2-point margin, according to Reuters/Ipsos opinion polling during the first three months of the year. During the same period in 2016, that same group favored Republicans for Congress by 10 percentage points.

The 12-point swing is one of the largest shifts in support toward Democrats that the Reuters/Ipsos poll has measured over the past two years. If that trend continues, Republicans will struggle to keep control of the House of Representatives, and possibly the Senate, in the November elections, potentially dooming President Donald Trump’s legislative agenda.

“The real core for the Republicans is white, older white, and if they’re losing ground there, they’re going to have a tsunami,” said Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist who closely tracks political races. “If that continues to November, they’re toast.”

It's going to be tough.  We'll see.
Related Posts with Thumbnails