Cohen, Donald


Donald Cohen is director of the Cry Wolf Project that exposes conservative myths about jobs, the economy and government, and chairperson of In the Public Interest, a resource center on Privatization.

When Public and Private Meet, Extra Care Is Needed

By Donald Cohen

In the Public Interest

Across the nation, private companies are looking to take over public services. A legislative battle in Sacramento over a bill to privatize state trial courts epitomizes the promises and pitfalls of privatization.

Assembly Bill 566 (Wieckowski) would require that before contracting services out, courts must provide proof of cost savings, create employment standards, engage in a competitive bidding process, and undergo regular financial and performance audits bill sits on the governor's desk for signature or veto and the lobbying is intense.

Mitch McConnell And The Corporate War on Transparency

By Donald Cohen
Cry Wolf Project

Senator Mitch McConnell argued in 1987 that we should reject limits on corporate campaign contributions and instead, embrace public disclosure of campaign contributions important “so,” he said, “voters can judge for themselves what is appropriate.” He was right. Telling voters about the sources of political campaign contributions would help them understand about the influences on our elected representatives, and hopefully level the playing field between the powerful and the powerless in society.

But this week, McConnell is leading the fight against the DISCLOSE act that would plug legal loopholes that allow campaigns to keep their donors anonymous.

Minimum Wage Doomsayers Still Wrong After 74 Years

By Donald Cohen
The Cry Wolf Project

Few American institutions have been subjected to such a consistent stream of vitriol and assault as the minimum wage, which celebrates its 74th birthday this week. The first federal minimum wage was established when FDR signed the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) on June 25, 1938. The FLSA also established the eight-hour day, paid overtime and child labor protections into federal law. Since then, it has been amended nine times to expand coverage and to raise the wage to keep it in line with the nation’s economic growth.

Business leaders, industry associations, politicians and more recently think tanks have opposed the FLSA and every legislative amendment since. They said it would destroy American civilization, kill jobs and hurt black people. Business owners predicted they would be forced into bankruptcy.

Affordable Care Act: Freedom from Ignorance

By Donald Cohen
The Cry Wolf Project

The Supreme Court’s deliberation on the Affordable Care Act goes to the heart of differing visions of the American concept of “freedom” and “liberty.” It’s a debate worth having.

In court this week, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. described what real freedom looks like. “There will be millions of people with chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease,” he said, “and as a result of the health care that they will get, they will be unshackled from the disabilities that those diseases put on them and have the opportunity to enjoy the blessings of liberty.”

Verrilli’s argument evokes FDR’s famous “Four Freedoms Speech” that included freedom from “want” and “fear.”

Don’t Mess with Chevron

By Donald Cohen
The Frying Pan

El Segundo city manager Doug Willmore didn’t know who he was messing with.

In January, 2012 the L.A. Times reported that El Segundo, home to a huge Chevron refinery, was considering raising the oil giant’s taxes to help meet the demands of a growing town. Refineries around the state pay far higher taxes to their local governments than Chevron does – which is why Willmore figured the proposal made sense.

Chevron’s High Octane Hubris

By Donald Cohen
Cry Wolf Project

Sometimes a simple statement can provide a window onto a worldview; in this case, the arrogance of privilege.

The City of El Segundo, home to a huge Chevron refinery, is considering raising the oil giant’s taxes to help meet the demands of a growing town. Refineries around the state pay far higher taxes to their local governments than Chevron does. The proposal would bring Chevron in line with its competitors and in line with a common sense definition of fairness.

The GOP/Industry Assault on Public Health

By Donald Cohen
Cry Wolf Project

GOP members of the House and Senate have proposed a flurry of bills that would roll-back, and in some cases effectively repeal, some of the nation’s most important environmental, health and safety laws.

They are wrapping their proposals in anti-government rhetoric to avoid saying they want more polluted air, dangerous food or unsafe workplaces. But the proposed bills are, in fact, complex, bureaucratic and lobbyist-friendly schemes that mask an assault on public health and safety.

Business lobbies have been waging a decade’s long campaign to thwart popular protections like the Clean Air Act, food safety laws, and automobile safety standards. They’ve been able to add new obscure bureaucratic administrative processes to implement laws that most Americans don’t see nor understand. Lobbyists and lawyers have the advantage in this regulatory arena.

PG&E’s Success in Washington Led to Failure in San Bruno

By Donald Cohen
Cry Wolf Project

Federal investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the horrific gas pipeline explosion that killed 8 people in the Bay Area city of San Bruno was the result of a “litany of failures” by Pacific Gas and Electric.

Investigators charged PG&E with " poor record-keeping, inadequate inspection programs, and an integrity management program without integrity." According to internal PG&E documents and emails released in the investigation, PG&E had ample warning that the gas lines welds may have had dangerous flaws.

Hotel Housekeepers Reprise Farm Workers Struggle for Long-Handled Hoe

By Donald Cohen
Cry Wolf Project

Some hotel guests may be getting a better night sleep these days, but at the expense of the housekeepers who clean their rooms.  In what has been called an “amenities arms race,” many hotels now use luxury mattresses that weigh more than 100 pounds.  Multiply those 100 pounds by the 16 to 25 beds the typical housekeeper must make up daily. Add to that the  extra pillows to be fluffed,  thick duvets and decorative bed skirts  to be changed, without any reduction in the number of rooms each worker is required to clean.  It’s not hard to see  how this workload can lead to debilitating, often permanent, back, arm and shoulder, and rotator cuff injuries.

Ask the Right Questions Before Privatizing

By Donald Cohen
In The Public Interest

Elected officials need to do a better job of asking the right questions before they make a decision that we'll live with for decades.

Too often, a mayor, governor or other public official proposes to sell off a public facility, privatize a public good or contract out a vital service, but fails to answer basic questions that decision makers and voters need to decide whether it's a good idea.