NB Politicus

City Council Gives Nod To $10.10 An Hour A Year Early

Posted in economy, minimum wage, municipal budget by nbpoliticus on April 18, 2014

Council President Mike Trueworthy’s resolution on a $10.10 minimum wage for city employees not covered by labor agreements or other contracts won a 10-5 vote at the Common Council April 9th.

It came on the heels of President Obama’s visit to CCSU to rally support for federal legislation that languishes in the GOP controlled U.S. House of Representatives.  The point of Obama’s visit was that states and localities now need to lead and pressure Speaker Boehner & company to adjust the federal minimum which hasn’t changed in a long time.

Front Page from The Recorder, CCSU’s student
newspaperafter President Obama’s visit.

Thinking nationally and acting locally worked.  Nine Council Democrats were joined by Ward 4 Alderman Don Naples, an unaffiliated who ran with GOP Mayor Erin Stewart last year.

Ward Five Alderman Carlo Carlozzi, Jr. led the majority’s argument for the city to go to $10.10 in 2015-2016 after a council committee exempted independent contractors from the increase.  Carlozzi, pretty much a fiscal conservative with a record of voting against municipal budgets, made the “moral’ argument. Invoking the experiences of his labor Democratic parents Carlozzi noted that the compromise measure on $10.10 won a unanimous vote in committee and he was surprised to hear opposition on the Council floor. “Are we really telling people we can’t afford paying them 50 cents more an hour?” asked Carlozzi, noting that the state minimum goes to $9.60 the year after next and won’t reach  $10.10 until 2017.

City officials estimate the impact of $10.10 for eligible employees would be somewhere north of $80,000. But Carlozzi, who delivered a budget-cutting soliloquy on ways to avoid tax hikes at the start of the meeting,  insisted that even the most austere municipal budget should find room for half a buck an hour more for entry level wages in city jobs.  Approximately 160 employees, part and full time, would be covered by the new minimum.

“Democrat” Daniel Salerno, a member of the Council’s Republican caucus, and Minority Leader Jamie Giantonio, led the opposition to the measure on jurisdictional and fiscal grounds.  Salerno, being a good soldier for the Stewart Administration, argued minimum and living wages are not the concern of elected officials in local government.  Giantonio, noting the precarious financial condition of the budget, indicated that the city could use the money for other things instead of upping the minimum for a limited number of city employees a year ahead of the state mandated wage policy.

The GOP Aldermen, wanting to have it both ways, quickly endorsed “living wages” that exceed $10.10 in theory but fell back on familiar arguments used whenever proposals to have minimums catch up with the cost of living: it’ll kill jobs and drive costs up for consumers (taxpayers).

Alderman Salerno makes a good point: if Congress, specifically the GOP House was doing its job to adjust the $7.25 federal wage, neither city nor state would need to debate the issue.  The $10.10 an hour would already be in the calculations for the current budget let alone next year’s or the year after that.

The Common Council, however, did the right thing in passing more than a  feel good resolution backing state and federal action after the Obama visit.  The need for constrained spending and austerity in municipal budgets is undeniable. But paying an additional 50 cents per hour for the least paid among city workers is a step toward fairness and away from the excuses and myths that always come from opponents.  Excuses and myths are holding the minimum to $7.25 nationally but not in Connecticut nor New Britain.

Tim O’Brien: A Call To Renew Rev. King’s Work For Economic Justice

Posted in civil rights, economy by nbpoliticus on January 20, 2014

 By Tim O’Brien

This weekend, our nation, state and communities celebrate and remember the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his accomplishments. It is a time when I have always felt inspired by his work, as a leader, and by the movement that he embodies. No Martin Luther King Day passes without me feeling emboldened and empowered to carry forward work toward building a better future.

I believe that King is our nation’s most important hero. Our nation has many great figures, well deserving of our honor, who strove and struggled to build our nation, by, of and for the people. Our nation is built on great ideals – democracy, justice, liberty and a decent life for all. But those ideals have all too often not been met in practice. For African-Americans, the experience was, instead, not just inequality, but the terror of violence and daily humiliation.  The work of King, and the movement he led, was the struggle to breathe life into our country’s great ideals. His work was nothing short of making our nation, conceived in greatness, the great nation it was meant to be. He, and so many others, took on the face of grotesque oppression and successfully pushed it back.

King, himself, probably would bristle at the idea of himself being held up in this way. He was an organizer – yes, a community organizer. In that, he knew that, while sometimes a person can symbolize and personify a movement, the real truth is always that the movement is about us all, everyday people. It is people – all the people – who create change for the better, and it is the people – all the people – whose lives are made better from that work. On Martin Luther King Day, we honor King, himself, as well as the many people who struggled and sacrificed in the Civil Rights Movement and the movements for justice and equality before and since.

But King, himself, was extraordinary. He believed so purely in creating a better world. He believed deeply in the goodness of humanity and in our potential to set aside our differences for our common good. He would sacrifice of himself, over and over again, and, when he thought he had no energy left to give, would still muster a little more energy to give away to people thirsting for inspiration and hope.

Thankfully, we have, for the most part, put to rest the question of whether Martin Luther King should be honored as a national hero. Even those who, today, know that their own opinions differ from King’s values must at least give lip service to the rightness and greatness of his work. Of course, one of the side effects of that acceptance is that political figures who do not agree with King’s real values try to re-interpret his words to fit their own political agendas, such as saying that he would have opposed Affirmative Action, even when it is obvious that King would not have agreed with them. Other politicians try to appear to agree with King by lauding, post-fact, his leadership in winning reforms that are not controversial anymore, such such as doing away with overt “separate but equal” – even while those same politicians, to this day, perpetuate things, like voter suppression, that King would have told them are clearly wrongheaded. While it is easy to criticize defeated injustices, real courage is in challenging current injustices.

I think it is very important to point out, in this time of honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr., that this kind of benign-sounding lip service to the memory of King is intended to prevent a more complete recounting of King’s actual values and what he stood for from shining a not-so-flattering light on the agendas many politicians are currently pressing in the halls of government.

Part of the pure goodness of King as a leader was his compulsion to stand up for what was right, no matter what the cost to himself. That was true of his work for civil rights and, in the years leading up to his assassination, it was why he took positions against the Vietnam War, against exploitation of people in other countries and for economic justice for all Americans.

His assassination occurred during his work to organize the Poor People’s Campaign, which was meant to follow up on the important work for civil rights – even more directly challenging the systems of injustice in the country by advocating for economic justice. He asked, “What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn’t earn enough money to buy a hamburger and a cup of coffee?” 1  He spoke for economic justice as an essential part of the promise of our nation – “If a man doesn’t have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness. He merely exists.” 2 And this was not only to advance communities of color, noting that white Americans also faced economic oppression and were likewise in need of reforms.

King challenged our nation to adopt reforms to make the free market work for everyone, African-American, Latino, white – everyone. Needless to say, in doing that, he was upsetting some very, very powerfulful monied interests in our country. “We have so energetically mastered production that we now must give attention to distribution,” he wrote, and clearly laid out that this meant that, “We must create full employment or we must create incomes…” 3

The Poor People’s Campaign in 1968 was organized to demand adoption of an Economic and Social Bill of Rights to make the promise of our nation real for everyone. The Economic and Social Bill of Rights (in a draft written in February, 1968, before King’s assassination 4) was to proclaim:

  • “The Right of every employable citizen to a decent job.” It is worth pointing out how this called for “good jobs”, not just “dead end jobs,” and was clear that it should be the responsibility of the country to ensure that this happened. The draft Economic and Social Bill of Rights proposed an ambitious federal job-creation program to make this a reality.
  • “The right of every citizen to a minimum income.” A guaranteed standard of living for people, “too young, too old or too handicapped to work.”
  • “The right of a decent house and the free choice of neighborhood.” The draft Economic and Social Bill of Rights challenged that the more affluent were benefitted when, “Federally subsidized credit built suburbs and federally supported roads to access [them],” while other public spending displaced neighborhoods where whites and people of color of more modest means lived. It pointed out that, amidst a paucity of support for affordable housing, people of modest means were left to suffer in slum housing conditions. The proposed solution was the creation of many more units of decent, affordable housing.
  • “The right to an adequate education.” Noting gross inequities in educational attainment along racial lines and that “only out-and-out racists believe that this tragedy is a consequence of inherent deficiency on the part of the child…”, the draft Economic and Social Bill of Rights proposed, “a massive effort to upgrade the education available to” both children of color and white children and to fund higher education so that all Americans could afford to attend.
  • “The right to participate in the decision making process.” The draft Economic and Social Bill of Rights placed importance on participatory democracy, “political action and voting protection.”
  • “The right to the full benefit of modern science in health care.” Noting the inhuman differences in health and mortality based upon income, the draft Economic and Social Bill of Rights proposed extending Medicare to everyone in America.
  • This draft5 of the Economic and Social Bill of Rights was clear that greater economic equity should be considered as part of America’s great ideals and Constitutional promise: “Without these rights, neither the black and white poor, and even some who are not poor, can really possess the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. With these rights, the United States could, by the two hundredth anniversary of its Declaration of Independence, take giant steps toward redeeming the American dream.”

    The assassination of Martin Luther King took the great measure of the energy away from the Poor People’s Campaign. It still went on as planned that summer, but it ended, having not achieved the goals for which King and so many others strove. As we well know, the objectives of the campaign, expressed in the Economic and Social Bill of Rights, for the most part, have yet to be achieved. Far from it, these are all, very much, front burner issues in our current politics. In the areas where there have been advances, those advances are now under powerful attack. In other areas, especially in the area of jobs, not having in place now what King advocated then makes middle class and poor people worse off now than they would have been. And when elected officials, such as President Barack Obama and our own Governor Dannel Malloy, press for changes that advance King’s ideals, they must labor against difficult political headwinds.

    Given what Martin Luther King advocated for when he was with us, it is clear that, were he alive today, he would be pressing hard for significant change. It is no wonder than many politicians of today will spend their Martin Luther King Day glossing over the full depth of what King believed in. If they acknowledged his real policy objectives, they would have to admit that they disagree with what King would have wanted them to do.

    So let us make this Martin Luther King Day one of renewing our commitment to the movement and the great and important objectives for which King gave his life. Let us not allow people who oppose justice, equality and fairness for all to dissuade us from doing what is right through their various tactics of harsh mean-spiritedness and silver-tongued distraction. King taught us that people of ill intent would try to make it difficult for people who stand-up what is right.  He also taught us that, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” 6

    We can, in our nation, our state and our communities have a better, fairer, more just, more equitable future for ourselves and generations to come – one that we can all share. Now, more than ever, we must renew the work that our great national hero, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., championed.



    1 Joe Fassler, “‘All Labor Has Dignity’: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Fight for Economic Justice”, The Atlantic, February 22, 2011
    2 Mark Engler, “Dr. Martin Luther King’s Economics: Through Jobs, Freedom”, The Nation, January 15, 2010
    3 Mark Engler, “Dr. Martin Luther King’s Economics: Through Jobs, Freedom”, The Nation, January 15, 2010
    4 “Economic and Social Bill of Rights”, King Center online document repository
    5 After King’s assassination, the Committee of 100 created the version of the Economic and Social Bill of Rights that was advocated during the Campaign, which called for
    “a meaningful job at a living wage for every employable citizen.”, “a secure and adequate income for all who cannot find jobs or for whom employment is inappropriate”, “access to land as a means to income and livelihood”, “access to capital as a means of full participation in the economic life of America” and “the right of the people to ‘play a truly significant role’ in shaping government programs design and implementation”, Amy Nathan Wright,“Unfinished Business”, (2007) pages 195–197

    6 NPR Staff“King’s Son And Friend Talk New Memorial, Media”, NPR website

    [ Tim O’Brien is the former Mayor of New Britain and State Representative from the 24th District]

    DEMOS Report: A Higher Wage Is Possible

    Posted in economy, living wage, minimum wage by nbpoliticus on November 25, 2013

    From www.demos.org

    There is enormous public support for increasing the minimum wage in recognition of deep recessions and income equality. DEMOS’ new report shares how it can be done:

    November 19, 2013

    |

    American workers are working harder for less, with productivity rising but living standards stagnant or declining.1At the same time, stock market wealth and incomes for the highest-paid Americans have risen.2 Against this backdrop, the pay practices of the nation’s largest private employer have come under increased scrutiny. Walmart, with 1.3 million U.S. employees and $17 billion in annual profits, sets standards for all other retailers and across the supply chain of one of the nation’s fastest growing industries.3 Walmart’s practices impact the public sector and taxpayers as well when employees earn too little to meet their needs and require public assistance.4 Finally, Walmart is a leader in promoting an employment model in which workers earn too little to generate the consumer demand that supports hiring and would lead to economic recovery. In the last year, Walmart employees themselves have been increasingly vocal in protesting their low pay. Since the last holiday season, Walmart employees in stores throughout the country have repeatedly spoken out in pursuit of a modest wage goal: the equivalent of $25,000 a year in wages for a full-time employee.
    KEY POINTS

    • Walmart workers and a growing number of community supporters are taking a stand this holiday season, calling for wage increases and sufficient hours on the job to earn the modest income of $25,000 a year. This brief explores one way to pay for raises.
    • Walmart spent $7.6 billion last year to buy back shares of its own stock. The buybacks did nothing to boost Walmart’s productivity or bottom line. If these funds were redirected to Walmart’s low-wage workers, they would each see a raise of $5.83 an hour.
    • Curtailing share buybacks would not damage the company’s competitiveness or raise prices for consumers.
    • If Walmart redirected its current spending to invest in its workforce, the benefits would extend to all stake-holders in the company—customers, stockholders, taxpayers, employees and their families—and the economy as a whole.

    LINK TO FULL STORY AND REPORT

    A Higher Wage Is Possible

    "Free" Trade and Job Loss: The Beat Goes On

    Posted in economy, fair trade by nbpoliticus on March 7, 2012

    From other words: 

    William A. Collins
    My good job
    Has flown away;
    Lost it to N-
    A-F-T-A.
    After years of debate and delay, Congress finally passed those free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama.
    There go 159,000 more jobs that we’re likely to lose to Seoul after the Korean deal goes into effect on March 15, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). And 55,000 to Bogotá, after the Colombian pact becomes operative too.
    Our workers won’t get so many pink slips because of Panama, because that country doesn’t export much.
    But big agribusiness corporations hope, NAFTA-style, to flood Panama with a deluge of subsidized, duty-free grain. The USDA expects farm exports to soar by $2.3 billion, which may sound nice to us. But this flood of food could put Panamanian farmers out of business. And U.S. banks wanted to enhance Panama’s traditional role as the Western Hemisphere’s money-laundering citadel, so they pushed for the trade deal.
    (Public Citizen / Flickr)
    (Public Citizen / Flickr)
    Naturally, grain will flow unimpeded to Colombia and South Korea too, although Korean markets may prefer rice to our wheat or corn. But South Korea’s industrial moguls will get a special benefit. Of the manufactured goods they’ll now send duty-free to the United States, a portion can be made in North Korean sweatshops.
    Still, all this new outsourcing is peanuts compared to China’s admission to the World Trade Organization in 2001. That move cost the United States about 2.8 million jobs, EPI found. American manufacturers have been thrilled ever since to buy their component parts so cheaply. But ironically, those rock-bottom prices are derived not only from China’s serf-like wages, but also from our own federal deficit.
    America’s refusal to tax itself sufficiently means we have to borrow huge sums just to keep our government afloat. China loans our own money back to us, which sustains the high value of the dollar and the low value of the yuan. That helps assure that Chinese goods will remain cheaper than ours.
    Our pact with Jordan is perhaps the worst of the bunch. Jordanian garments flow in here freely to Walmart, Target, Macy’s, and other major vendors, but no Jordanians ever touch them. Instead, Asian entrepreneurs open factories there and import young Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan women to do the dirty work. You can imagine the conditions. Presumably Jordanian aristocrats get a cut somewhere along the line. Anyway, all this conniving was running smoothly and quietly until the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights revealed that plant managers were raping some of the workers. It created quite a scandal in Jordan, but not here.
    With cheap imports woven so tightly into U.S. manufacturing and retail, corporations have a lot at stake. Thus, their generous campaign contributions roll into the big political parties’ coffers during election years.
    What about American workers? Manufacturers don’t seem to need that many anymore. Not only have millions of jobs flown overseas, but millions more have been lost to technology. Meanwhile, legislative assaults spearheaded by Republicans and corporate lobbyists have slashed the numbers of workers who belong to unions.
    And the free-trade juggernaut rumbles relentlessly on under the mantra of “cheaper goods.” Cheaper they are, but with America’s stagnating median family income, tens of millions of us can’t afford goods at any price nowadays.
    After years of decline, the number of U.S. manufacturing jobs has begun to inch up. But we’d see up to2.25 million new jobs created within two years if Washington were to compel China and other Asian nations to stop manipulating their currencies, according to EPI economist Robert E. Scott.
    Germany has survived this plague pretty well with higher taxes, more education, selective tariffs, higher wages, long vacations, and less borrowing. Our attitude is different. Workers here are expendable. That’s why keep forging these suicidal trade deals.
    OtherWords columnist William A. Collins is a former state representative, and a former mayor of Norwalk, Connecticut. otherwords.org

    Otherwords is a project of the Economic Policy Institute

    What Would a 21st Century Rev. King Be Saying and Doing in 2012?

    Posted in civil rights, economy, labor by nbpoliticus on January 15, 2012

    Our national day to remember the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday is an opportunity to focus and ramp up the political debate in 2012 on “saving the middle class” and addressing “income inequality” that has been, from all reports, getting worse since the early 1970s.

    Over the last year “Tea Bag” politicians, lavishly funded by unlimited corporate money, have sought to make the income gap worse, launching an unprecedented assault on the public sector and collective bargaining.

    Tune in to any Republican Presidential debate for the latest ways and means to maximize income insecurity for working and middle income Americans. Or listen to the likes of Boehner and McConnell as they trash the very moderate moves of Obama to mitigate income inequality and preserve a social contract so vital to a free society.

    So what would a 21st Century Martin Luther King be saying about all of this?

    From his splendid words and many deeds we already can surmise that he would be leading a moral charge to “occupy” every city and town on behalf of the 99%; he would be working with others to close the gap in incomes and establish a level economic playing field.

    Most certainly, Rev. King would be lending his voice to an organized labor movement that over time has been shrinking in direct correlation to the falling incomes of most Americans.

    Proof of what he would be saying now comes with remembering what he was doing during his last hours on this earth.

    4 April 2007
    I remember exactly where I was on April 4, 1968, the day the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis. 
    That week day, like many others in my senior year at Lynn English High School, I drove to Bradlee’s Department store on the Lynnway in Lynn, Massachusetts to punch in for the evening shift, earning some money before entering Boston University and its College of Basic Studies in the fall of 1968.
    The news spread quickly that Thursday evening that King was dead. 
    It didn’t take long to realize that my shift as a retail clerk would be different from all the others. The store quickly emptied out. Not a customer in sight all night. No need for Mr. Silverman, the shaken and somber store manager, to send me out on outside carriage control. The bullets in Memphis were enough to bring a normal business day to a halt in Lynn and most of the nation. Just five short years before I had come home from junior high on a late summer day to watch King deliver his “I Have A Dream” speech – an event that would inspire so many to become active in politics and protest. 
    There are many good remembrances of what King said and stood for on his national holiday. But not so much is said on this anniversary of the day he died. It’s worth remembering on his January holiday, April 4th and throughout the year why King was in Memphis on a day I will never forget. 
    By 1968, Rev. King was widening the concerns of his movement. In his book Where Do We Go From Here? King opposed a Vietnam policy that had begun to break the nation further apart. The lunchroom sit-ins and battles over accommodations and voting rights were giving way to a broader agenda. He was planning a new march on Washington – “the Poor People’s Campaign” — when he decided to take up the cause of 1,300 black sanitation workers in Memphis, a city of southern segregation, where the white power structure opposed the right to unionize and the Mayor vowed never to bargain in good faith in a way that would give the sanitation workers their dignity. 
    The strike and a citywide economic boycott were a cause King knew he could not ignore.
    King’s prophetic “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top” speech on the eve of the assassination is his best known from Memphis. But two weeks earlier, on March 18th, King galvanized support for strikers by saying: “So often we overlook the worth and significance of those who are not in professional jobs, or those who are not in the so-called big jobs…..One day our society will come to respect the sanitation worker if it is to survive.” 
    Following King’s assassination, the Memphis power structure gave up its intransigence – recognizing the AFSCME union, awarding pay raises and instituting merit promotions. 
    King’s campaign for striking sanitation workers reaffirmed his greatness at the hour of his death and resonates today in the cause of social and economic justice. 
    That is worth remembering most from the day he died.

    Think Globally, Buy Locally: New Movement Says Buy From Local Merchants

    Posted in economy, small business by nbpoliticus on June 4, 2009


    What to do about our hard economic times is a part of the national conversation and plenty of federal action in the first five months of the Obama Administration. The media gas bags on cable news won’t let us forget it. We rightly expect the solutions to come from Washington (the stimulus) and a more rigorous policing of the charlatans of Wall Street. Madoff is in jail and Bush et al have been vanquished.

    But it may also be an ideal time for citizens and small businesses to take some of these matters into their own hands through what might be called micro-economic activism. The macro fixes in the global economy are going to take a while to trickle down, if they trickle down at all to places like New Britain, Connecticut.

    That’s what makes an upstart movement to encourage ordinary folks to shift a percentage of their spending away from franchises and chains into local and regional businesses one of the few good things to emerge from the baddest recession most of us have ever seen.

    Visitors to the “10 percent shift” website are asked to sign the following pledge:

    I live in New England and want to preserve our fine heritage, create healthy and sustainable communities, and build a strong New England economy.

    I pledge to do an inventory of my annual expenditures and to find ways to shift a minimum of 10% of my annual budget from non locally-owned businesses to locally owned and independent businesses (Local Independents) in the next 12 months.

    The “10 percent shifters” are a project of an organization called the New England Local Business Forum (NELBF). The group,with some strong adherents in working-class Somerville outside of Boston and Cambridge, says studies point to significant and positive impacts: “Over the past few years, a growing base of economic research has helped to quantify the Local Multiplier. When dollars are spent at Local Independents, up to three times as much money stays locally, and since Local Independents are much more likely to keep the money circulating in the local economy the economic impact multiplies dramatically. This economic growth resulting from the circulation of dollars within the local economy is the Local Multiplier at work.”

    In a place like New Britain that lost its retail downtown to the malling of America decades ago, this “10 percent shift” action may seem like tilting against windmills. Is there an independent drug, shoe or hardware store left? But even here we can make some choices that keep dollars in the local economy for that “multiplier effect”.

    I’ll take some of our local restaurants over a franchise any day. I can consciously choose the local optician over Lenscrafters. Maybe there is a regionally-owned gas station where all the dollars for fuel won’t be guzzled by ExxonMobil.

    Becoming a shifter may be worth a try here in hard hittin’ New Britain.

    Photo: Amato’s Store Hartford Courant

    Iraq Authorization and Wall Street Bailout Votes: Two Of A Kind

    Posted in economy, national politics by nbpoliticus on March 18, 2009

    The outrage now being expressed in Congress over the excessive bonuses paid to AIG executives — especially from Republicans — is an outrageous display of phony indignation.

    When the federal bailout legislation was making its way through Congress last September there was some concern expressed by Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats on reining in executive pay and bonuses. It was Republican insistence on “no strings attached” and Democratic complicity in laissez faire use of public dollars that have brought us to this point.

    Legitimate reservations that led Connecticut’s 2nd District Congressman, Joe Courtney, for example, to vote against the bill were set aside to allow the “rescue” to go forward. Courtney was the only member of the Connecticut delegation to vote no on a package that is coming back to bite us.

    Saving Wall Street and such conglomerates as AIG trumped writing any oversight protection that would have prohibited this latest display of corporate greed (or should we call it welfare?). A blank check was given to George Bush and Henry Paulson to keep rewarding those who conducted business in ways that have contributed to the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

    “And there’s no quid pro quo here — nothing that gives taxpayers a stake in the upside, nothing that ensures that the money is used to stabilize the system rather than reward the undeserving,” observed the NY Times’ Paul Krugman last September.

    The passage of the bailout is eerily similar to the 2002 Congressional authorization on the Iraq War that, in retrospect, ignored the War Powers Act and was adopted under false pretenses. How many times have we heard legislators from both parties say if “I knew then what I know now I would have voted differently.”

    We may be about to hear the same thing on the September bailout vote in Congress. The authorization of force in Iraq and the authorization of bailout money to financial giants showed a rush to judgment. Oversight by a lame duck and irresponsible White House and Congress was missing on both the Iraq vote and on a bailout that is creating anger and resentment across the country.

    Saving The Hometown Dailies

    Posted in community development, economy, journalism by nbpoliticus on November 27, 2008

    A plea by legislators for state assistance in saving the Herald of New Britain and The Bristol Press — the two dailies slated for closure by the parent Journal Register Company — is getting a mixed reaction among the commenters and bloggers who offered their opinions this week.

    That’s because many people thrive on complaining about their daily newspapers, and continue to do so despite the painful reductions and eliminations of local coverage by all three dailies serving Bristol and New Britain — the Press, the Herald and The Courant.

    When Henry Paulson of the Bush Administration is lurching from one financial services giant to another doling out bailouts for some but not others, it’s a reasonable question to ask why public investments and resources should be applied to flagging businesses at the local level.

    The lawmakers, however, are doing nothing more than watching out for the economic well being of their communities. If the Herald or the Press were machine shops making widgets for United Technologies, no one would raise a fuss about saving jobs and commerce. Intervention by the state Department of Economic Development (DECD) would be uniformly welcome. They have been around here much longer than the absentee ownership of the Journal Register Company.

    An exact assessment of the economic impact of The Herald and Press is probably not available beyond the payrolls and expenditures directly involved in putting out these papers.

    But town and regional newspapers — print and online — are much more than the sum of their parts. They have much more utility than 24-hour cable and mass media that offer up more “infotainment” than broadcast journalism

    Economically, small businesses build traffic and remind repeat customers of their goods and services in local mainstream media that has a targeted circulation area for maximum effect. The shutting down of the Herald and Press would likely reduce the local economy by millions of dollars and add to a ripple effect of business closures.

    Beyond the dollars and cents,local newspapers — despite the hits their newsrooms have taken over the last decade — keep the flow of information going about city and town governments, giving residents the knowledge needed to make informed judgments about actions and decisions that have a direct impact on their lives.

    There is something noble about the work of local journalists Steve Collins and Jackie Majerus over in Bristol. And in New Britain over the last year, Marc Levy and Rick Guinness of The Herald have been upholding the best traditions of the fourth estate by demanding public officials obey the FOI laws.

    It’s being argued that bloggers and internet outlets will now fill the void. The ease of blogging and exchanges of opinions online are addressing some gaps in the greatly diminished coverage of the dailies. It’s also true that there is infinitely more news and opinion available globally for any interested reader. The news and views (“news you can use”)we require, however, are local. Too often emerging town blogs and forums are a poor substitute for dispassionate coverage that people need to make informed judgments. Anonymous comments on blogs and news threads sound like the opinions of village idiots or persons with personal axes to grind, and nobody you would want as your neighbor.

    Where does this story go from here? The state lawmakers push with the DECD is worth trying as doubtful as investments, public or private, in newspapering may seem.

    The discussion of alternatives should continue. Local commerce needs a local medium. Community journalism that can sort out opinions and personal agendas from the facts and interpret decisions and events for readers is needed — a vacuum that a thousand bloggers cannot fill.

    Whatever emerges from talks to save the Herald and Bristol Press let us recall the old axiom: “There is nothing as powerful as the truth and nothing so hard to come by…” It will get harder without the Press and Herald and the now greatly-downsized Courant.

    Ending Wall Street Welfare: Economist Says Democrats Need Long Term Strategy

    Posted in economy, national politics by nbpoliticus on October 2, 2008

    Robert Kuttner, a widely published economist based at The American Prospect is providing some of the best commentary yet on the economic emergency precipitated by the excesses of the unregulated home mortgage and securities industries.

    “Democrats will shortly become stewards not just of a temporary bailout but of a long term recovery strategy,” writes Kuttner in a September 30th post “Learning from 1929”. “They might as well begin by pointing us on the right path. That includes direct refinancing for homeowners, direct government involvement in the management of failing financial institutions that are recapitalized by government money, through something like the Reconstruction Finance Corporations of the Roosevelt era; and a transfer tax on stock and bond transactions, both to raise needed revenue and to damp down the kind of speculation that led to the meltdown. Then Congress can begin the task of regulating the financial system properly. The basic concept is that any financial enterprise capable of taking down the system requires the tight government supervision that in the recent past has been limited to commercial banks.”

    Kuttner suggests that the congressional Democrats are a long way from finding an authentic Democratic response that can effectively deal with the laissez faire and failed policies of Republicanism. Regulating the financial system correctly, argues Kuttner, is “the Democratic ideology. But lately, that set of core convictions has gotten rusty. It needs to be reclaimed, and fast. Too many Democrats are still thinking small.”

    Not, it should be noted, is the thinking of U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney (D-2) who voted no on the amended Paulson proposal this week for all the right reasons. He was the only member of the Connecticut delegation to do so.

    Kuttner doesn’t stop at the Wall Street “rescue”. “Government will need to rely on substantial public spending to pull the wider economy out of the hole. Most of that can be raised by surtaxes on the wealthy and by transaction taxes on speculation, but it will also require a temporary increase in public deficits. Raise enough revenue to cover about $700 billion of financial recapitalization in year one, and in years two through eight use the proceeds for public works, infrastructure, good jobs, universal health coverage, expanded pre-kindergarten and child care.”

    Kuttner’s corrections, in other words, call for a New Deal in the 21st Century, not just to quell the high-finance meltdown on Wall Street, but to reduce the economic insecurity felt by a growing number of working and middle income households. Let’s hope that when the Congress votes again, more of Kuttner’s formula will be part of the rescue.

    Original post from http://newbritaindemocrat.blogspot.com