2011 Federal Legislation

The Obama State Of The Union: A Progressive View

By Robert Borosage
Institute for America’s Future

Last night in his State of the Union, President Obama presented himself as the champion of the American dream, or in his words, “the American promise” – “that if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement.” And the instrument of recovering that dream was clearly the need for smart, activist government.

Obama described what he considered necessary to revive the promise – and evoked America’s wistful desire for national unity by opening and closing the address by evoking the nation’s pride in its military. The speech was designed to set up the coming presidential campaign, drawing clear contrasts with Republicans, but the tone was more assured than combative. Here’s my take on what was in – and not in – the speech.

I. The Populist Moment Embraced

2012 Calendar: Many Opportunities for Policymakers and Voters to Improve Our Health System

By Anthony Wright
Health Access

The new year of 2012 will be a major year for health care, as policymakers and voters are set to make key decisions on health policy throughout the year.

Policymakers and voters have the opportunity in 2012 to greatly improve the health care system that we all rely on. Californians will have an opportunity to demand a balanced solution to our budget crisis that brings in the revenues needed to sustain health, education, and other vital services. California will also continue to implement and improve upon the federal health law that has already provided new options and benefits to millions of Californians, and get ready for reform in 2014.

The Top 10 Best and Worst of U.S. Politics in 2011

By Randy Shaw
Beyond Chron

For progressives, the first eight months of 2011 were the worst of times. Not since the Reagan tax cuts and slashing of domestic programs in 2001 have progressives been so left out of the national debate, and the 2011 exclusion occurred with Barack Obama as President. Obama got the year off to a terrible start with his agreement to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy for two years in exchange for one year of extending unemployment benefits. His failure to include raising the debt ceiling as part of the deal then allowed Republicans to use that as a bargaining chip for slashing domestic programs even further in August. But Occupy Wall Street’s emergence in September raised progressive spirits, as has the unexpected rise of Newt Gingrich as the frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination. Here’s my list of the top ten best and worst political events that occurred across the nation in 2011.

The 10 Best

Separating Fact from Fiction: The Truth About the Right-Wing Attacks on the Postal Service

By Rebecca Greenberg Band
California Labor Federation

The US Postal Service is the second largest employer in the United States, after the Department of Defense, employing more than half a million workers in good union jobs. It’s also the second largest employer of military veterans; more than 22% of all postal employees have served in the U.S. armed forces. But if Republicans in Congress get their way and succeed in ending Saturday mail delivery, as many as 200,000 Post Office jobs would be lost. With Veterans Day coming up, it couldn’t be a more fitting time to draw attention to this deceptive effort by the right wing to strip thousands of our brave service men and women of their jobs, and leave our troops returning home from war with even fewer employment options.

We Can’t Afford to Give Away the Great Outdoors

By Pablo Rodriguez
Communities for a New California

According to a just released study by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, outdoors recreation and land conservation and preservation generates $1 trillion in economic activity and supports 9.4 million in jobs each year in the United States. 

Central Valley Congressman Kevin McCarthy (CA-22) is leading the charge to undermine 9.4 million jobs created by four decades of conservation efforts by lawmakers from both parties. Rep. McCarthy is the author of H.R. 1581, often referred to as the “Great Outdoors Giveaway” because it benefits a few special interests at the expense of our wild lands and our health.

Trade Deals Pass Congress - China Currency Bill More Important Than Ever

By Dave Johnson
Campaign for America's Future

Congress just passed three more NAFTA-like trade deals, so our country's trade deficit is going to get even worse. And pressure on working people to accept pay and benefit cuts and longer and harder working hours is going to get even worse. And the rewards to the top 1%, at the expense of the rest of us, are going to get even greater. But we can still win the fight over China's manipulation of its currency. If we win this it lessens te difference between prices of goods made there and goods made here and can bring some jobs, factories, countries, industries and wealth back to the 99% of our country that doesn't benefit from these trade deals.

Message Of Trade Deals -- Loud And Clear

Californians Fight Back on Job-Killing Free Trade Agreements

By Tim Robertson
California Fair Trade Coalition

Activists from around California are fighting back against three NAFTA-style Free Trade Agreements introduced in Congress on Monday. The deals, originally negotiated by President Bush in 2007, have drawn the ire of voters across party lines because they will cost U.S. jobs and challenge labor and environmental conditions in the U.S. and abroad.

Labor Occupies Wall Street, But Democrats Go in Reverse

By Randy Shaw
Beyond Chron

As the grassroots campaign against Wall Street grows, Democratic politicians are moving in the opposite direction. President Obama has secured the House Republican support necessary to pass three trade bills strongly opposed by organized labor and most Democrats. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who like Obama was elected with huge labor funding and ground support, took a particularly hard public line against the state’s second largest public employee union for voting down a concessionary contract; Cuomo seeks to avoid charges that he is “too beholden” to labor unions.

Bank of America - A Unique Display of Corporate Greed

By Mitch Seaman
California Labor Federation

Forbes magazine as gutsy consumer advocate? Well, not really, but even the favored rag of corporate shills everywhere seemed stunned by Bank of America’s $5 debit fee announcement on Friday, accusing the banking behemoth of committing a common mistake large corporations make: taking the customer for granted, holding the belief that whatever products or services they offer are unique and indispensible, so their customers will always be there.

While we agree that Bank of America’s incompetence runs rampant throughout the banking industry, by several measures of greed and arrogance, this troubled corporation stands alone. Allow us to present Bank of America with the following uniquely dubious titles:

Governor Brown: It's Up to You to Ban BPA in Baby Bottles

By Elisa Odabashian
Consumers Union

After five years and millions of dollars spent by the chemical industry to lobby against protecting California's children from baby bottles and sippy cups containing the dangerous chemical Bisphenol-A, known as BPA, the Toxin-Free Infants and Toddlers Act or AB 1319 has been sent to Governor Jerry Brown for a signature. We hope that he will sign this ban into law, as California lags behind ten other states, as well as Canada, China, and the European Union in banning BPA in baby bottles.