Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bernie Sanders - Mr. President. Listen to the people

Dear Mr. President,
This is a pivotal moment in the history of our country. Decisions are being made about the national budget that will impact the lives of virtually every American for decades to come. As we address the issue of deficit reduction we must not ignore the painful economic reality of today - which is that the wealthiest people in our country and the largest corporations are doing phenomenally well while the middle class is collapsing and poverty is increasing.  In fact, the United States today has, by far, the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major country on earth.

Everyone understands that over the long-term we have got to reduce the deficit - a deficit that was caused mainly by Wall Street greed, tax breaks for the rich, two wars, and a prescription drug program written by the drug and insurance companies. It is absolutely imperative, however, that as we go forward with deficit reduction we completely reject the Republican approach that demands savage cuts in desperately-needed programs for working families, the elderly, the sick, our children and the poor, while not asking the wealthiest among us to contribute one penny.  

CSU, UC Tuition to rise

On Tuesday, the California State Legislature approved a state budget that contained at least $150 million in funding cuts to the California State University. The budget also allowed for additional triggered cuts if revenue to the state falls below projections. These budget reductions come on top of $500 million in cuts enacted in March.
The following statement can be attributed to California Faculty Association President Lillian Taiz, professor of history at CSU Los Angeles, on the approval of a majority-vote state budget.
“The devastating cuts contained in this budget are a direct result of the unwillingness of legislative Republicans to allow the people of California to vote on tax extensions. While these Republicans proudly proclaim that they held the line on taxes, they also opened the door for a middle class tax increase that targets working families throughout the state in the form of higher student fees for the CSU.
“As we have seen year after year, it’s the students and the working families – in Republican and Democratic districts alike – who will pay the price for these cuts. According to CSU officials, this fall students could be paying fees that are 23% higher than they were this year; an additional 12% increase means that student fees will have increased 283% since 2002.
“Legislative Republicans must realize that their obstructionist behavior undermines California’s long-term ability to weather this economic crisis and restore our state to prosperity.
“As the number of college-educated Californians drops because fewer people can afford to go to college, our state’s economic prospects decline as well.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Republicans won the California budget battle today.

The Republican minority won the California budget battle.
California is a Democratic controlled state; in the Senate there are 25 Democrats and 15 Republicans, in the Assembly there are 52 Democrats and 28 Republicans, the Governor and most state offices are Democrats.
In spite of these majorities, the Republicans won the budget battle of 2011.  They got a cut in the sales tax by 1 %, and a cut in the vehicle license fee.  The result will be further cuts in the Univ. of California, further cuts in the California State University system, and further cuts ( called deferrals) in the K-12 schools.  These cuts will lead to a increase in tuition at the CSU and the U.C. These are harsh, real cuts in the state budget. The current plan calls for cutting an additional $150 million each from the California State University and the University of California --  a total loss to each system of $650 million for the year
California is presently 47th. out of the 50 states in per pupil expenditures, we are among the very poor in funding our schools.  In prior years, as described by the California Budget project, “Lawmakers cut the overall annual funding level for K-12 public schools by $6.3 billion, from $50.3 billion in 2007-08 to $44.1 billion in 2009-10.3 Lawmakers cut schools’ general purpose dollars as well as funds earmarked for specific school programs, often referred to as categoricals.”

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Budget Deficit Hysteria

Budget Deficit Hysteria: A Right-Wing Ploy to Defund Vital Government Social Programs

The Boys Who Cried Debt: The Case Against Cuts
Joseph M. Schwartz
Republicans and conservative Democrats are whipping up public hysteria about the debt ceiling and the size of the federal deficit to justify cutting social programs that benefit the middle and working class. These scare tactics are hypocritical because conservatives militantly pushed for these same cuts when the federal budget was in surplus during the Clinton administration. The United States is not broke. The long-term deficit problem has not been caused by wasteful social spending, as the right contends, but by conservatives’ thirty-year project of starving federal, state and local governments of revenue via tax cuts for the affluent and for corporations. As conservative activist Grover Nordquist quipped during the Reagan era, the goal of the right is to reduce the size of government and drown it in the bathtub. Of course, the “deficit problem” can readily be fixed without cutting Social Security or Medicare if we enact government policies that force the rich and corporations to pay their fair share in taxes and that curtail wasteful “defense” spending.
The Republican leadership never tells the public that well over half of the deficit spending from 2008-11 has nothing to do with the Obama administration’s policies. Rather, it is due to the lost revenue from the Bush tax cuts and excessive military spending, including $170 billion per year in “off-budget” expenditures on the unnecessary wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Stimulus spending and the bailout of financial institutions make up another 30 percent of the deficit spending of that period, with tax revenue shortfalls due to the recession constituting the remaining 20 percent. Much of these funds will be recovered if and when economic growth resumes. In contrast, drastic cuts to spending on vital social services will only prolong the recession. 1
If Congress does not raise the debt ceiling in early August, the federal government will immediately be unable to pay 30 percent of its bills, including Social Security and Medicare payments. The United States Treasury has never defaulted on bond payments, and it probably won’t this summer. But even a brush with default could send the global economy into a tailspin that might make the Great Recession look trivial. But Republicans and conservative Democrats are willing to play with fire because they want to use the threat of default to justify cutting government spending on basic social services.
Government budgets are a statement of a society’s basic priorities and social values. We can readily afford our commitments to social insurance for the elderly and disabled and federal aid to children and the disadvantaged if we institute a fair and equitable tax structure. The Bush and Reagan tax cuts--which distributed 80 percent of their benefits to the top ten percent of income earners--each cost the federal coffers 2.1% of GDP in taxes per year, for a combined total of $600 billion a year in lost revenue. If we returned effective tax rates to the level of 1960, the federal government would take in $400-500 billion more dollars.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Economic crisis- build a united front

 The big lie must be exposed.  The lie the rightwing has been perpetrating for nearly a generation. The lie that now almost all politicians in  the state have swallowed.  The lie claims the power of tax cuts to unleash entrepreneurialism, create jobs, grow the economy and generally improve everything but sliced bread.
    What happened in the economic crisis?  How did we get into this financial meltdown at a cost of over $20 trillion that cost many people their savings, their jobs, and  their homes.   And, why are we still suffering?  The film Inside Job : How Wall Street Became a Criminal Enterprise and Took Over Government, does a good job of answering these important questions in a comprehensible manner. 
  Anti tax radicals, promoters of  the lie, resist reasonable budgets at the state, county and city levels. The anti tax radicals repeat and repeat their slogans. They post endless comments on news stories.  Republicans in the California legislature continue to push this lie in order to protect their economic patrons  and they base their opposition to passing  a state  budget on this myth.
City and country budgets have lost tax revenues as property taxes, sales taxes, and utility taxes have declined.   As hundreds of jobs are lost,  the budget cut approach is making the recession worse.

This week we marked the 10th anniversary of the Bush tax cuts. Watching the corporate news this week, you might have missed the analysis that proves the only economic indicator that grew with the $2.5 trillion Bush giveaway was the gap between the rich and poor.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Sen. Sanders Calls Out GOP and Dems on Corporate Tax Rates, Breaks for Wealthiest

Published on Thursday, June 2, 2011 by
Statement and Senate Floor Remarks by Sen. Bernie Sanders

WASHINGTON - Congress and the White House are now focused on how we deal with our huge deficit -- a crisis brought about over the last 10 years by two wars, tax breaks for the rich, the Wall Street bailout and a prescription drug program -- all unpaid for. The deficit also increased as a result of the declining tax revenues during a current recession, caused by the greed and illegal behavior of Wall Street.

The debate over deficit reduction comes at an unusual moment in American economic history. While the middle class is in rapid decline and poverty is increasing, the wealthiest people in our country and largest corporations are doing phenomenally well. Over the last several decades almost all new income created in this country has gone to the top 1 percent, who now earn more income than the bottom 50 percent. Further, the United States now has the most unequal distribution of wealth of any major country with the top 400 individuals owning more wealth than the bottom 150 million.

Given the reality of record-breaking corporate profits and the growing gap between the very rich and everyone else, it should be a surprise to no one that every recently published poll suggests that the overwhelming majority of the American people want the deficit to be addressed through shared sacrifice. They do not believe that the deficit should be reduced solely on the backs of working families, the elderly, children, the sick and the poor -- many of whom are already suffering as a result of the recession. Unfortunately, that is exactly what the Republicans have proposed.

The Republicans passed a budget in the House that is breathtaking in its degree of cruelty. It would end Medicare as we know it by giving senior citizens inadequate vouchers to buy health insurance from private companies. The result is that seniors would, on average, see their out-of-pocket expenses more than double -- increasing by over $6,000 a year. It would also cut, over 10 years, $770 billion from Medicaid, vastly increasing the number of uninsured Americans, and threatening the long-term care of the elderly who live in nursing homes.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

K.C. Star writer to Sacramento: Sprint Center cost nothing! Really!

Neil deMause

On Sunday, the Sacramento Bee ran a front-page (of the E section, anyway, whichever one that was) opinion piece by Barbara Shelly, a columnist for its fellow McClatchy-owner paper the Kansas City Star, on what Sacramento's Kings arena push can learn from Kansas City's own arena battles. And Shelly's conclusions went a little something like this:

Since opening in 2007, the Sprint Center has shattered the expectations of even the most ardent believers. Pollstar magazine rated it the fifth-busiest arena in the nation and 12th-busiest in the world in its latest rankings. It turns a profit for its operators and the city, even though a pro sports franchise has not yet materialized.

In a coup that silenced all but the most hard core of the naysayers, Kansas City built a $276 million arena without raising taxes for residents or assuming any risk for operating losses. Its story involves a great deal of luck, but it could point to a way forward for Sacramento and other cities.

Should Sacramento adopt a strategy similar to Kansas City to build an entertainment and sports arena?

The New Sprint Center in Kansas City.
Could it be a model for Sacramento?

By Barbara Shelly
Special to The Bee, Sunday, May. 22, 2011

In the beginning, there were believers and there were naysayers.

Believers envisioned a new arena that would awaken Kansas City's downtown, preserve its status as a college basketball hub, bring the best music and entertainment acts to town and maybe become home to an NBA or NHL franchise.

Naysayers, of which I was one, recoiled at the cost. Two hundred million dollars for an arena with no committed tenant, while the needs of city neighborhoods grew more acute by the day? It seemed preposterous.

Besides, Kansas City already had Kemper Arena, located in an industrial district a few miles from downtown. It wasn't the most glamorous venue, but it was serviceable, and the city was still paying off a debt for recent upgrades.

Sacramento Bee Editorial: Now comes the hard part on a new Sacramento arena

Friday, May 27, 2011

A highly anticipated study offers some assurance that a new arena in downtown Sacramento is doable.

But it leaves many, many unanswered questions – most significantly how to pay for it – and there's not a lot of time. Under the reprieve granted this month by the NBA, Sacramento has until March 1, 2012, to have funding secured. Otherwise, the league is almost certain to let the Kings leave town.

The analysis – done pro bono by local developer David Taylor and ICON Venue Group of Denver, and submitted Thursday to the City Council – says that the Sacramento market can support a new arena without a public subsidy to operate it; that a facility with luxury suites, premium seats and other required amenities can be built for less than $400 million; and that it can fit on city-owned land in the downtown railyard.

David Stern, "Fan Support for Kings Turned Tide"

by NBA Commissioner David Stern
Special to The Bee, May 15, 2011

The recent decision by the Kings to remain in Sacramento for at least one more season – but hopefully much longer – represents a turn of events for which many thank-yous are required: to Mayor Kevin Johnson, who refused to accept the inevitability of the Kings' departure and rallied regional leaders and state and federal government representatives – including U.S. Rep. Doris Matsui and state Sen. Darrell Steinberg; to the greater Sacramento business community; to longtime Kings supporters and new Kings supporters; and, most important, to Kings fans.

The outpouring of community support was a phenomenon unlike any that I have seen in my almost three decades as NBA commissioner. It has spurred me to send my colleagues to Sacramento to help the team respond to the enormous demand for sponsorships and tickets, and assist them with the permanent hiring required to replace employees who left because of the franchise's uncertain status.

Sacramento Mayor Johnson plans 60-member arena commission

Mayor Kevin Johnson and  Senate
President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg
By Ryan Lillis
Sacramento Bee, June 1, 2011

In his quest to convince residents from Lincoln to Galt that paying for a new sports arena in downtown Sacramento makes sense, Mayor Kevin Johnson is convening a task force larger than the state Senate.

Johnson announced Tuesday that he is forming a 60-member commission made up of elected leaders, and business and labor representatives from across the region to come up with a plan to finance a new arena. They will be charged with hammering out a proposal over the next 100 days.

It's not yet clear what portion of that funding might come from public sources. A proposal unveiled last week for erecting a $387 million sports and entertainment arena in the former Sacramento railyard site did not include a financing plan.

Sacramento's arena plan reviewed by City Council, public

Ryan Lillis
Sacramento Bee -- City Beat
May 26, 2011

With Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof and dozens of fans in attendance at City Hall, the Sacramento City Council is getting its first look at the detailed plans behind an arena proposed for the downtown railyard.
Those plans call for an arena somewhere in the mid-range of NBA facilities - not as large as some of the mega-arenas built in recent years, but much bigger than the Kings' current home, Power Balance Pavilion.

The plan does not present a funding mechanism for the project, whose cost is estimated at $387 million. Both the public and private sectors would have to make "significant contributions" to the development, the report states.

Arizona Turns the Tide: Voters Demand the Recall of Russell Pearce

Jeff Biggers | May 31, 2011

Published on The Nation (

In a celebratory display of unprecedented organization, a bipartisan group of activists poured into the Arizona secretary of state's office yesterday with more than 18,300 signatures to demand the recall of State Senate president Russell Pearce. The filing of the petitions marked the culmination of a campaign that has defied expectations, and a watershed moment for the beleaguered state. Once the state and Maricopa County recorders verify the legal requirement of 7,756 signatures from the traditionally conservative and Mormon-founded Mesa district, Pearce—who is considered by many as the de facto governor and motivating force behind the state's notorious blitz of extremist policies on education, health, guns and immigration—will become the first State Senate president in American history to be recalled.

Campaign supporters declared the historic moment to be a turning point in Arizona's extremist politics, which have dominated national headlines over the past two years. Coming only days after a Supreme Court decision upheld the first in a series of controversial immigration laws originating in Arizona, the recall campaign also takes on national implications. Pearce has influenced legislators and government officials in other states—Georgia, for example, recently adopted a punitive immigration law modeled on an Arizona measure—and he is affiliated with the powerful American Legislative Exchange Council, a shadowy group of legislators and corporate lobby interests.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, "Get Off the Warpath"

Rep. Raul Grijalva (Photo by: Stephen J
Boitano /NBC/NBC NewsWire via AP Images)
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Rep. Raul Grijalva says voters want jobs -- and out of Afghanistan

Much of the country is already in election-season mode, and it's time for Democrats to think about smart politics as well as smart policy. The enthusiasm gap that lost them the House in 2010 has to be addressed, and waiting much longer would be a disaster.

The White House knows this. It also knows what it has to do about it. Last year, when asked about a potential 2012 challenger to President Barack Obama from his base, Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg's answer came in two words: "Watch Afghanistan."

It's not news that the American public -- Democrats, Republicans, and everyone else -- has soured on the war. The national-security rationale has lost its resonance, and the economic and human costs in Afghanistan are crippling our ability to recover from a deep recession.

A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll asked people to weigh the costs and benefits of staying in Afghanistan. The poll revealed that 64 percent of those surveyed think the war is not worth fighting, up from 41 percent in 2007. This is the highest figure recorded since polls started asking the question.