Monday, February 25, 2013

Mark Brewer for MVP of the Convention

Mark Brewer for MVP of the Convention

The delegates of the 2013 Spring Convention of the Michigan Democratic Party were VERY divided between the 18-year incumbent, Chairman Mark Brewer, and the challenger, Lon Johnson. I heard Mark Brewer speak several times in the caucuses and this Martin Luther King quote appears that have been his message to the convention:

There is no wrong time, to do the right thing.

Mark Brewer chose the time and then he did the right thing … he withdrew and asked the convention to do the right thing and support the new Party Chair, Lon Johnson.

I watched the delegates. Lon Johnson supporters cheered. But they were not just cheering for Lon Johnson’s victory. Their cheers were a heart-felt thanks to Mark Brewer. As Mark continued to speak, he received several more standing ovations and cheers from the entire delegations, including the many people who wore Lon Johnson colors.

In my opinion, Mark Brewer’s actions make him the Most Valuable Player of the Convention. There can be no doubt that he wanted to serve two more years and that he had strong support to do so but he put the interests of the Party ahead of his own desires; he did the right thing and there is no wrong time to do the right thing..

Mark Brewer continues to be both endeared to the Party membership and relevant to the Party’s future. Thank you Mark Brewer to the past, the present and the future.

High Expectations for Lon Johnson

The 2014 campaign season begins today! What does the Michigan Democratic Party expect of its new chair? We must win everywhere in the state of Michigan! The truth is that we will not win everywhere because we elected a new superstar to be state Chair; to win everywhere we have to be superstars everywhere and we have to find and recruit more superstars in every congressional district, county and voter precinct.

In short, I believe the reason that we elected new leadership is because we recognize that we need new follower-ship. It isn't just new (more) people that we need, but we need the people who have always been here to become new people.

One of my mottoes that you will see on the banner of this newsletter is, “Same old Democrats – Brand new activism!” That is what the Party members should expect of themselves as we begin the 2013-2014 election cycles. Not just a new Chair, but new membership, what Lon Johnson called the “politics of addition”.

The Progressive Caucus Will Be Relevant Again!

For the last two years I have wailed and wept over a Progressive Caucus that couldn't even bring its Facebook page up to date. This weekend we elected a new leadership team led by Chair Bob Alexander that is going to make our Caucus relevant in the 2013-2014 election cycle. In each congressional district, county and voter precinct we will find progressive Democrats that will be coordinators and co-coordinators for the grassroots effort that we need to beat the big-money machine of conservative politics.

Blue Tigers Rawr!

This periodic newsletter/blog is part of a much larger effort to report on and support progressive activities all over the state of Michigan. The Progressive Bloggers, also known as Blue Tiger Bloggers, adopted the 83-County Project. This project has been several years in the making by our Chair, Christine Barry.  

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Walberg Town Hall Report – Surreal!

Last night US Congressperson Tim Walberg (R-Tipton) met with Monroe County constituents in Temperance and I was in attendance. Most of us have watched clips of conservative politicians speaking to their audience and we shake our head in disbelief at what we hear them say. This Town Hall meeting was an amazing 60-minute clip that left me with a stiff neck form shaking my head “No” and a sore face from all the jaw-dropping I did.

Walberg says you are going to need your guns

Tim Walberg preached the good word of the 2nd Amendment to the delight of his supporters. Most of us believe that we have the 5th Amendment right to defend ourselves, our life, our liberty and our property, including self defense with a weapon. Walberg and his supporters believe that they have a so-called 2nd Amendment right to arm a private militia to overthrow the government.

The 2nd Amendment reads, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

A "well regulated militia"
A “well regulated militia” is the regular military as opposed to the volunteers. The difference between the two is that the regulars have an officer appointed by the Governor; they are provisioned (made regular) with uniforms, weapons and other supplies by the state government; and they are under the control of (regulated by) the state government.

The “people” referred to in the 2nd Amendment are not all of the people, but they are a specific subset of the people; they are the people who serve in the military unit of the state. The 2nd Amendment does not recognize any right of people outside of the regular military units to keep and bear weapons of any kind; weapons for self defense are properly a 5th Amendment issue.

My personal position is that I will defend your right to have a handgun, rifle, shotgun or any number of weapons suitable for self-defense, for hunting or sport shooting or even as a novelty for collection, but I will not defend anyone’s right to have weapons for the purpose of overthrowing the government that we have established by election.

That being said, some weapons should clearly be off limits, such as nuclear missiles, bazookas and fragmenting grenades. Where a person’s right to a weapon for self defense ends and the weapon is clearly for military purposes is a question worthy of debate.

Anyone who can’t have that discussion, either because they cannot tolerate any allowance for the ownership of weapons or because they cannot tolerate any restriction on the ownership of weapons, has earned my contempt.

Walberg thinks a low minimum wage is a good thing

Tim Walberg told us how important low minimum wages were to unskilled workers looking for entry level opportunities, especially young people just getting out of school. His audience loved it! But there are serious problems with this belief.

First, while a very high percentage of young workers without college degrees have minimum wage jobs, they are not the majority of the people holding these minimum wage jobs. Let me reword this, most of the people who have minimum wage jobs are not new entrants to the workforce who lack skills, education and job experience.

Second, he pointed out how grateful he was for his first job which was a minimum wage job. But in 1968 or slightly later when Walberg was looking for that first job as a teen or young adult, the minimum wage was $1.60 per hour; expressed as 2013 dollars that would be $10.58.

Supporters of a minimum wage increase are asking for $9 per hour adjusted over a period of several years which would be less than what Walberg and others his age earned at their first minimum wage job.

Finally, most minimum wage jobs are not entry level jobs. The people who take these jobs have little or not opportunity for upward mobility over time. 

Walberg acknowledged that young people entering the workforce were competing for jobs with people who are trying to live on two or more low wage jobs, were dependents of people with better income or people who might have retired by need a little more income to subsist.

What this means is that the profits of businesses that employ at minimum wage are being subsidized by primary wage earners or retirements.

Walberg excuses businesses that evade new taxes established by “Obamacare”

Walberg seemed to literally praise business owners who employed part-time, minimum wage, no-benefit people and had taken action to avoid having to help pay for the tax credits and Medicaid benefits that these underpaid employees depended on.

One employer was reducing all of their employee’s hours to less than 30 hours per week. Another employer was reorganizing as three companies all working from the same business address.

I am no expert on the tax issues, but it looks like they were trying to reclassify their business so that they would look too small to have to pay the tax. Technically, what they are doing is called tax avoidance, but I think it is damned close to being tax evasion.

In a recent interview for the Monroe News, Walberg referred to the Republican Party as one that stood for personal responsibility and high moral values. These business described by Walberg are neither! They do not pay their employees enough to live without government assistance and then they avoid paying the taxes to cover the cost of government assistance provided to their underpaid employees.

Walberg says that government is growing and that it spends too much

The brilliant satirist H. L. Mencken said, "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." The message that government is too big and spends too much and is growing, growing, growing, never gets old but it has just plain incorrect for many years now.

Non-defense spending as a percent of GDP is stable
The cost of healthcare is going up, but this is not because government is buying more healthcare, it is because healthcare companies including, insurance companies and payment processors and big new corporate healthcare networks are driving up the cost to create more profits for themselves.

The cost of maintaining a wartime military is high, especially the cost of outsourcing services to big corporation that are profiting from war in the Middle East.

The cost of borrowing money to run the government is going up, but only because one Congress after another has refused to be fiscally responsible and tax from wealth to pay for government instead of borrowing from wealth to pay for the same government.

Deficits would have been small without Bush Era tax cuts
Excluding healthcare, military, and debt related expenses due to tax breaks for the wealthy, the size and cost of government relative to the economy (population and GDP) has either been stable or shrinking.

Walberg supports the flat tax

The so-called flat tax never stops being attractive to ignorant people who lack math skills or just don’t care about the impact of the tax on the working poor. When one Walberg support volunteered that she supported the flat tax, Walberg was quick to agree.

First. The myth shared by conservatives is that the bottom 50% don’t pay any Federal Income Tax, but I went to the IRS web site and based on the latest data that was available I learned that every tax bracket in the bottom 50% except for the very lowest one (under $10,000) pad roughly 10%. This is actual payment of taxes versus actual earnings.

Second. People who don’t do math well can’t seem to grasp the difference between income and disposal income after cost of living. A single parent earning roughly $20,000 and support one child has no disposable income whatsoever; $2,000 in taxes would devastate them. A double-income, no children household with two professional incomes totally $500,000 would hardly miss $50,000 in taxes and in fact would be in a better position to pay $175,000 than the single-parent would be to pay even $175.

Walberg blames the President for Congress’s failure to budget

How is it even possible that Obama could be responsible for Congress’s unprecedented inability to budget? This is an explicit duty of Congress; not the President!

Walberg told his audience that very reasonable Republicans had offered the President budgets and that the President rejected them out of hand and refused to make any concessions. Democrats no better, but the Republicans in the audience were eating this up.

Here is how government works: Congress tells the President what government must do and how much it must spend to do it. Then, Congress tells the President how much he can collect in taxes and how much he can borrow. Then the President has to figure out how to pay for the government that Congress has told him to pay for with the money that Congress authorized him to spend.

I’m sure all of you got it; Congress is responsible for the budget, not the President. But Walberg’s audience is hopelessly stupid and they will never get it.

Walberg is still running against the President

I was amazed that Walberg was still wasting time on rhetoric about how they lost the election to Obama. Oddly it hasn’t occurred to him that the reason they lost the election was because more people wanted Obama to be president than didn’t. Instead he focused on how low voter turnout by Republicans cost them the election.

Let me just say this, the Republicans turned out in numbers. Republicans were not turned away at the polls and were not discouraged in any way from voting. The Republicans lost! They are in the minority! Republicans only dominate representative government because of very clever design of districts … gerrymandering.

Beyond that, it is time to quit running against Obama and start working with him. Well it would be for any rational human being, but that might be too much to expect from Walberg.

The trip home

We left after one hour. I have no idea how long the Town Hall went on, but we had as much as we could take. We spent most of the trip home taking turns shouting at the windshield. I spent the last part of the trip have a phone conversation with a fellow Democrat in the 7th Congressional District about what we need to do to make sure that Tim Walberg doesn’t get reelected in 2014.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Walberg Shares Views with Monroe Evening News

Now would be a good time to read the recent article in Monroe Evening News by Charles Slat.

  1. Walberg wants a moratorium on any new environment rules on power plants and industries. Like so many Republicans, he is willing to sell the safety of workers and residents and the welfare of future generations for a short-term boost in profitability.
  2. Walberg thinks we don’t really need to reform gun laws; we just need to step up enforcement of existing gun laws. He probably hasn’t noticed but our law enforcers are pretty aggressive in the enforcement of gun laws. He also probably missed the part where the nation’s enforcers of gun laws are asking for reforms.
  3. Walberg is in favor of “legal” immigration; he just wants to make sure that there is no “legal” pathway for most immigrants. He is also big on border enforcement, but probably failed to notice that no president has been more aggressive in border enforcement that President Obama.
  4. Walberg thinks that the foundational principle of the Republican Party is limited government and equal rights. He probably forgets that the origins of the GOP are in a call of government to invest in infrastructure for westward expansion of business interests. It’s pretty hard for low and middle income people to be equal with the high and very-high income people who fund the GOP.
    Don’t even get me started on his assertion that the GOP is the party of personal responsibility and high moral values!
  5. Walberg thinks that he will fit in well with Monroe’s “very strongly religious community”. Many, if not most, sincerely religious people do not share his religious views. He is an Evangelical Protestant. Less than 1% of the population, whether they are religious or not, shares his sectarian views. On the other hand, 16% of Michigan’s population regard themselves as non-religious. Does Walberg represent all of us or just the 1% who share his religious views?

What would we give to have a Republican congressional representative who simply brought a different perspective to government? Instead, we are stuck with someone who is so far to the right that if you look left you can see his elbow on the horizon.

Will Electoral College Reform Come to Michigan?

In 2012, Michigan voters cast the majority of their votes for Democrats to represent them in the State House and in Congress. But, due to 2010 redistricting Republicans won the majority of the seats in both the State House and in Congress. Now, some Republicans want to reform the Electoral College so that without winning a majority of the votes, they will be able to seat the majority of the Electors.

In 2011, State Representative Pete Lund (R-Shelby Twp) introduced House Bill 5184, a bill to amend election law so that electoral votes will be chosen from each congressional district instead of from the state at large.

Now some Republicans are threatening to bring the same bill forward in 2013-2014 session. With comfortable majorities in both the State House and State Senate and with the Governor, Republicans can pass this bill.

The bill states, “One presidential elector shall be chosen from each congressional district, and 2 presidential electors shall be chosen at large.” If this bill is reintroduced and passes, Republicans will win the majority of presidential electors even when their candidate receives a minority of the votes. Had this reform been implemented in the 2012 election, the Republican Mitt Romney would have secured a majority of Michigan’s electors with a minority of Michigan’s popular vote.

Progressive Democrats of Monroe is joining Working America in a non-partisan effort to inform voters about injustice already imposed upon Michiganders by the gerrymandered districts and the further injustice that would occur if this bill were to become law. Please let me know if you would like to be part of this effort.

Two Candidates for MDP State Chair

By now most of you are aware that we have two candidates for Chairperson of the Michigan Democratic Party. I think I learned more about each of them from a series of articles written by Chris Savage of Eclectablog. I highly recommend these articles to anyone who still feels that they do not know the candidates.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Republican War on Working Class People Continues!

Bills have been introduced in the State House and Senate that would eliminate the requirement of paying prevailing wages on state projects (see HB 4172’13 and SB 0158’13) by repealing Public Act 166 of 1965. These bills are tie barred with bills that eliminate any reference to the repealed law.

The bills are being sponsored and cosponsored by the usual cast of suspects. We can count on Democrats, including Rep. Bill LaVoy (D-Monroe), to oppose these bills. In a recent meeting with members of the Monroe/Lenawee AFL-CIO Central Labor Council, Rep Dale Zorn (R-Ida) indicated that he would oppose repealing prevailing wage laws.

A referendum was placed before the 2011-2012 Michigan GOP convention on the question of whether to support a resolution repealing Michigan Prevailing Wage Law. The referendum apparently had the support of Sen. Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) who was reported by Right Michigan as being “genuinely surprised that the support wasn’t unanimous.”

The systematic repeal of state laws that require contractors to pay prevailing wages on state projects is well documented to be something that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has developed model legislation for.

The Republican War on Democracy Continues!

Republicans in Lansing plan on reintroducing a bill to amend election law so that electoral votes will be chosen from each congressional district instead of from the state at large (see HB 5184’11).

Republicans have already rigged the election of State Representatives, State Senators and U.S. Congressional Representatives by gerrymandering districts.

I have received three calls in the last week from (734) 408-1739 in Dexter, MI asking me to call Sen. Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) and ask him to support legislation that would end Winner Take All in Michigan. The message suggests that Winner Take All robbed over 2 million people who voted for Mitt Romney of their representation in the Electoral College. The phone call was paid for by the National Tea Party Victory Fund.

Two Candidates for MDP State Chair

As we get closer to the MDP State Convention day, we need to be aware of who is seeking to be our Party’s next Chairperson. There are two candidates for the position: the incumbent Chair, Mark Brewer, and the challenger, Lon Johnson.

I’m fairly certain that I do NOT have a well-formed or qualified opinion on who would be the best person for the job. Our county Party Chairperson, Dan Minton, has joined at least 37 other county Party Chairs in endorsing Mark Brewer. The entire Michigan Congressional Democratic Delegation has endorsed Lon Johnson.

Labor is also split in its support with the Michigan Regional Association of Carpenters, the Michigan Education Association and others endorsing Brewer and the UAW, the Teamsters and others endorsing Johnson.

If I could borrow a couple of quotes form a Detroit Free Press article:

“Some people like Mark and many people don’t,” said Lansing political consultant Robert Kolt.
Johnson would be a “really dynamic presence, but I’m not sure we need a change,” said Lansing political consultant Joe DiSano. “And I haven’t seen anyone articulate a really good reason on why Mark has to go.”
Others say it’s time for a change …

Read the rest of the article, it does a fair job of introducing the candidates. Also, visit their web sites linked above. Then, let me know what you think.