Wealthy Special Interests

Pension Cutters: Bipartisan Slogans, Right-Wing Money

By Gary Cohn

Last week San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed delivered his usual speech about the benefits of slashing the retirement benefits of his city’s public employees – and why he is now pushing for a statewide ballot measure that could dramatically change the lives of hundreds of thousands of Californians. Reed’s initiative – which he characterizes as a bipartisan effort and which hasn’t yet qualified for the 2014 ballot — would allow the state and local governments to reduce retirement benefits for current employees for the years of work they perform after the measure’s changes go into effect. What was not usual about Reed’s speech was its setting: The Roosevelt Hotel in New York City, 3,000 miles from California.

FPPC Levies Record Fines Against Dark Money Groups

By Steve Smith

California Labor Federation

Last Thursday California’s Fair Political Practices Commission sent a strong message to shadowy out-of-state special-interest groups and donors trying to influence our state’s elections by levying record fines for contributions to committees that supported Prop 32 and opposed Prop 30.

According to the Sacramento Bee:

In a campaign finance case watched around the country, California's political watchdog has levied a $1 million fine against two non-profit groups for inappropriately laundering money during last year's ballot initiative wars.

How Taxpayers Foot Walmart's Bills

Allison MannosBy Allison Mannos

Walmart's expansion strategy for Los Angeles and other urban areas has been to avoid public oversight by choosing real estate that doesn't require public review - and, where possible, to secure public subsidies, often with little public scrutiny.

Can Elites Convince Victims of Top-Down Policies to Blame Themselves?

Randy ShawBy Randy Shaw

In The Unwinding, New Yorker political writer George Packer argues that elite-driven economic policies have negatively "unwound" the lives of millions of Americans. This view is hardly uncommon, yet the June 9, 2013 Sunday New York Times Book Review found a reviewer - Republican and Times columnist David Brooks - to deny that the nation's elite have "failed." Brooks claims the elite "comes from the finest universities" and is the most "diverse" and "equal opportunity" elite in history - a defense of elite rule and polices that could come from a Jon Stewart parody.

The IRS's Real Scandal

By Robert Reich

"This systematic abuse cannot be fixed with just one resignation, or two," said David Camp, the Republican chairman of the House tax-writing committee, at an oversight hearing dealing with the IRS. "This is not a personnel problem. This is a problem of the IRS being too large, too intrusive, too abusive."

California Farmer Warns: "Don't Trust Oil Industry, State or Courts" to Protect Water

By Dan Aiello

Kern County almond farmer, Fred Starrh, is an unlikely darling of the anti-fracking movement in California.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is an environmentally risky oil production method of pumping under pressure large volumes of water, sand and chemicals underground to bubble to the surface heavy tar-like oil left in depleted oil wells and to reach deep deposits of oil and natural gas.

Fracking is the method oil companies seek to employ to proliferate drilling in California where the discovered Monterey Shale Deposit is estimated to contain as many as 15.4 billion barrels of crude 11,000 feet deep.

Statewide Tour to Close the "Walmart Loophole" Kicks Off in West Sacramento

By Steve Smith

Walmart shoppers probably didn't expect to be greeted Friday morning at 5 AM by a lively group of taxpayers protesting the "Walmart Loophole," which allows large companies like Walmart to avoid their responsibilities to pay their fair share for their workers' health care. But that's exactly what they encountered in West Sacramento.

About 30 demonstrators launched a statewide tour aimed at educating shoppers and the media about Walmart's practice of paying its workers so little that they are pushed into taxpayer-funded programs like Medi-Cal. The group also handed out information about AB 880 (Gomez), which would mandate that the state's largest and most profitable companies pay their fair share when their workers end up on taxpayer-funded Medi-Cal.

The Hollowing Out of Government

Robert ReichBy Robert Reich

The West Texas chemical and fertilizer plant where at least 15 were killed and more than 200 injured a few weeks ago hadn't been fully inspected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration since 1985. (A partial inspection in 2011 had resulted in $5,250 in fines.)

OSHA and its state partners have a total of 2,200 inspectors charged with ensuring the safety of more than 8 million workplaces employing 130 million workers. That comes to about one inspector for every 59,000 American workers.

There's no way it can do its job with so few resources, but OSHA has been systematically hollowed out for the years under Republican administrations and congresses that have despised the agency since its inception.

An Alternative to Austerity? Thousands Say "Tax Wall Street"

By Chuck Idelson
National Nurses United

They came, they danced, they marched, 2,000 people spirited and strong, Robin Hood's merry band of men and women, through the streets of Washington April 20.

Ending up astride a prominent government building, christened with a new name and a naming ceremony. No more U.S. Treasury, now, the banner declared, "The U.S. Treasury. A Citigroup Subsidiary. Jack Lew, Inc., CEO."

"We could end AIDS, reverse climate change, fund jobs and health care. Who do you work for Secretary Lew?" asked Jennifer Flynn, managing director of Health GAP (Global Action Project). "You work for the people, not Wall Street."

Proposed "Water Tunnels" a Death Sentence for the Bay Delta

By Bill Jennings

For over a quarter of a century I've labored in the trenches of the water rights and water quality processes trying to protect it. We have a broad suite of laws protecting the Bay Delta - among them: the state constitution; water code; public trust doctrine; state and federal endangered species, water quality and environmental review acts; fish and wildlife code; and the Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA) to mention a few. Yet the biological tapestry of this estuary is collapsing. And the agencies that have violated and failed to enforce these laws over three decades are now bringing you the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP).