America just celebrated the season of giving with Hanukkah and Christmas presents, year-end charity donations and soup kitchen volunteering. It is a time when Americans demonstrate the generosity, caring and kindness that define them as a people.

Now, however, Americans may suffer the season of GOP taking. Republicans already insisted on taking away a key protection in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Now they’re intent on taking health insurance from millions of Americans who got it under the Affordable Care Act.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a manifestation of Americans’ concern for each other’s welfare. Americans felt it was intolerable for so many of their friends, neighbors and relatives to be uninsured in the richest country in the world, to be bankrupted by medical bills, to die for lack of medical care. So they found a way to do something about it. That is the ACA. Among other benefits, it extends Medicaid and provides subsidies enabling the working poor to afford insurance. But the GOP is all against it. Republicans tried to repeal the law, appealed to courts to overturn it and refused its expansion of Medicaid. As they become the majority party in both houses of Congress this month, Republicans will intensify their campaign to take health insurance from millions who got it through the ACA.

Just as the employer mandate requiring large businesses to offer health insurance finally goes into effect, Republicans will try to eliminate insurance for those newly-covered workers.

They’ve promised to vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act – again. None of their previous 50 votes to do that succeeded. Failure is likely again, too, since they won’t get 60 ayes in the Senate and President Obama won’t sign a repeal. So they’ve said they’ll next try killing the law piece by piece.

Unlike their congressional votes, Republicans have been tragically successful with lawsuits in denying Americans health insurance. The first of those suits that went to the U.S. Supreme Court didn’t kill the law outright but empowered Republican governors to prevent poor constituents from getting health insurance through the law’s Medicaid expansion. Millions are suffering as a result.

New statistics show that if the Supreme Court had not made expansion of Medicaid optional,   more than 3 million people would have gained health insurance in the 24 states where Republicans refused the program. These 3 million are working Americans struggling on the financial edge, people whose income is less than $16,105 a year.

A new Republican-pushed lawsuit could take insurance from 5 million more. These are residents of states that decided to use the federal health insurance exchange instead of creating marketplaces of their own. People who now buy insurance on an exchange, state or federal, may receive subsidies to help them afford it if their income is up to four times the federal poverty level.

In the lawsuit, King v. Burwell, Republicans argue that language in the Affordable Care Act means that only people who buy their insurance on a state-run exchange qualify for the subsidies. The GOP wants to discriminate against people who get their insurance through the federal marketplace. They want to deny the ACA’s financial help to the working poor in 36 states without their own exchanges.

New federal information shows that 87 percent of those who buy their insurance on the exchanges receive subsidies. And a review by the private consulting firm Avalere Health showed that, on average, the subsidies paid for three-quarters of the purchaser’s insurance premium.

If the Supreme Court hands Republicans a win in this case, millions will lose their insurance because they can no longer afford it. These are people who got insured with the help of the ACA, and who will lose it on the demand of the GOP.

In another lawsuit, 36 Republicans in Arizona are trying to take Medicaid away from poor residents who got coverage in the expansion pushed through by Gov. Jan Brewer – yes, a Republican. Like several other Republican governors who accepted the expansion, Brewer was swayed by doctors and hospitals that prefer to treat insured patients rather than deny care or provide it for free.

But the three dozen Arizona Republicans, represented by the conservative Goldwater Institute, contend the expansion is illegal because it will be partially paid for by a levy on hospitals. Last week, the state Supreme Court said the case could proceed. If the GOP wins, it will take insurance from a quarter million Arizonians.

Maine is just the opposite. There, low income people never benefitted from Medicaid expansion because Republican Gov. Paul LePage vetoed it. Five times.

The most recent Congressional session was the second least productive in the modern era—exceeding the previous poor record by one piece of legislation. Now, however, with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress, a new low is promised.

Instead of passing positive or helpful or useful legislation, the GOP has pledged to take from the American people. It vows to take away a basic necessity – health care, to ensure the uninsured suffer.

That’s a promise that Americans must ensure is broken. For their own health. For their neighbors’ well-being. And for preservation of Americans’ self-image as caring and kind people. 

Earlier this month, in the sparsely populated Kentucky county that’s home to Bowling Green, officials voted to convert the place into a right-to-work (for less) sinkhole.

The county officials did it at the bidding of big corporations. They certainly didn’t do it for their Warren County constituents because employees in right-to-work (for less) states get smaller paychecks than those in states that support the right to unionize. They did it at the demand of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Heritage Foundation, both of which are corporate owned and operated.

They did it despite the fact that there’s no evidence they have any legal authority to create an anti-union bastion on the county level, which means they’ve subjected the residents of Warren County to substantial costs for a legal battle that Warren is likely to lose.

Moving right-to-work (for less) from the state to the county level is the latest tactic in the relentless campaign by CEOs and corporations to reverse gains made by workers in the 1930s New Deal. With laws like the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), President Franklin D. Roosevelt and a Democratic Congress slightly moved toward workers the lopsided balance of power that heavily favors corporations. Over the next several decades, the middle class thrived and income inequality decreased substantially. Now, however, income inequality is back up to the point where it was in the robber baron days because CEOs and corporations have stuck their fat thumbs back on the scale.

The FLSA created the 40-hour work week by mandating time-and-a-half pay beginning at the 41st hour worked. Before the law, managers could force employees to labor 50, 60 even 70 hours a week at no extra pay. During the Great Depression, bosses could fire those who dared complain and easily replace them. Corporations had all the power. FLSA gave a little of that muscle to workers by enabling them to demand extra pay for extra work. As a bonus, FLSA encouraged businesses to hire rather than pay overtime, which increased employment.

The NLRA provided workers with a pathway to unionize. It established standards for employees to form a union at a workplace and for employers to recognize that union as the collective bargaining agent for the workers. Before the NLRA, Pinkertons, police and national guardsmen all too frequently killed striking workers. After the NLRA, unions multiplied, and collective bargaining achieved better wages, benefits and pensions for workers.

But from the day these laws passed, corporations and lackey groups like ALEC and the Heritage Foundation fought to reverse them. They wanted all power and wealth to remain with the one percent.

They invented right-to-work (for less) laws to do that. When a majority of workers at a factory vote to be represented by a union, federal law requires the union to work for all of them, to negotiate agreements that cover all of them, to file grievances for any worker wronged by management. That costs money. And that’s what union dues pay for.

What right-to-work (for less) laws say is that workers who receive these benefits don’t have to pay for them. Federal law requires unions to continue representing workers who are freeloaders. Unions may even have to pay to hire lawyers to represent freeloaders in grievances. That handicaps the union and strengthens the corporation.

And it’s a big part of the reason that employees in right-to-work (for less) states earn less. They lack bargaining power.

In the case of Kentucky, ALEC, the Heritage Foundation and other anti-worker groups resorted to seeking anti-worker legislation from counties when they failed in November to secure a Republican majority in the House of Representatives to provide it on the state level. They’re pushing this new scheme even though federal law gives right-to-work (for less)  legislative authority to states and territories, but not to counties

The anti-worker groups formed a new organization to help persuade counties to pass the laws. It’s called Protect My Check. Its purpose is to defend the compensation of CEOs. Right-to-work (for less) legislation means fewer dollars in workers’ paychecks and more in CEOs’, so clearly the role Protect My Check is to pad CEO pay.

Similarly, CEOs are grabbing for themselves the overtime pay that workers once received. Workers are laboring more and more hours, and fewer and fewer of them are getting paid overtime. That’s because the level at which federal law requires overtime pay hasn’t kept pace with inflation. It’s $23,660 a year. An employer who claims fry cooks are supervisors and sets salaries at one dollar more ­– $23,661 – doesn’t have to pay time and a half for 10, 20, even 30 hours worked above 40.

In 1975, Republican Gerald Ford raised the threshold significantly to account for inflation, making 65 percent of salaried workers eligible for overtime pay. Now, only 12 percent qualify. Studies by the Economic Policy Institute have shown that if the threshold had kept pace with inflation since then, it would be $50,440 a year – more than twice the current level.

In the meantime, corporate demands for overtime work have increased. A Gallup poll of workers in August found 60 percent laboring more than 45 hours a week. Sixteen percent said they worked more than 60 hours.

Last spring, President Obama proposed raising the wage under which corporations would have to pay overtime. Immediately, anti-worker groups protested. Daniel Mitchell, a senior fellow with the Cato Institute, said, for example, “If they push through something to make a certain class of workers more expensive, something will happen to adjust.” He suggested that would be pay cuts or layoffs.

A certain class of workers has grown extraordinarily more expensive. That is CEOs. The pay for the top 1 percent rose 31.4 percent in the three years from 2009 to 2012, according to research by Emmanuel Saez, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley. Income for the bottom 99 percent of workers was stagnant, rising only 0.4 percent.

Cato’s Mitchell is right. A certain class of workers is more expensive, and the thing that happened is that 99 percent of workers are suffering for it.

President Obama is trying to rebalance this gross inequality by raising the overtime threshold. But to more permanently tip the scales closer toward equality for workers, he should take measures to support workers’ right to form unions and collectively bargain for a fair share of the profits derived from the sweat of their brows.

Under billions of tons of imports, the American dream is suffocating.

The American people have lost faith. They know that bad trade has bled factories, middle class jobs and wage increases from the country.

A report issued last week by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) details how bad trade has cost Americans hope. And hope is the essence of the American dream, hope for a good, steady job with benefits and a pension, one that supports a family and a home, one that enables the kids to achieve even better lives. Bad trade has battered all of that. And more damage is threatened by pending trade deals and a so-called fast track process to approve them without in-depth deliberation.

The EPI report, China, Trade, Outsourcing and Jobs, details the devastation caused by just one trade arrangement, the deal to allow China to enter the World Trade Organization in 2001. After that, the United States’ trade deficit with China climbed dramatically.

As a result, EPI calculated that between 2001 and 2013, the United States lost 3.2 million jobs. Every state and every Congressional district except one lost jobs because of ever rising imports from China that were not matched by exports from the United States.

And most of the destroyed jobs – 2.4 million – were good, family-supporting manufacturing positions.

The workers jilted from those jobs suffered terribly. Those who could get new work earned less because pay for exporting industries and service employment is lower than that for jobs slashed by imports. EPI figures the net wage loss at $37 billion per year.

In addition, trade with low-wage countries like China suppressed pay in the United States by 5.5 percent – about $1,800 a year – for full-time workers without college degrees. The nation has 100 million such workers. That loss to them and the U.S. economy: $180 billion.

It’s gut wrenching. And Americans feel it. A New York Times poll released last week found the lowest level of faith in the American dream in two decades. Only 64 percent of those surveyed believed.

Despite low gas prices, declining unemployment, and falling foreclosures, Americans perceive a shrinking future.  That’s because virtually everyone knows someone who worked at a factory that closed.

Frank Walsh talked to the New York Times last week about what it’s like to lose a good job. He hasn’t worked as an electrician in four years. He’s run up $20,000 in credit card debt and withdrawn $15,000 from his retirement account. “I lost my sense of worth, you know what I mean?” Walsh told the New York Times.

He was among those polled by the Times, CBS News and Kaiser Family Foundation as they looked at the lives of the 30 million Americans aged 25 to 54 who are jobless. The share of unemployed men in this age group has more than tripled since the late 1960s.

The poll found the 10 million men in this group unhappy to be out of work and eager to find new jobs. Like Walsh, they struggle with loss of income and dignity.

Though skilled, Walsh couldn’t find new work that would enable him to earn what he did as a union electrician. Even for those willing to take minimum wage jobs, securing work isn’t easy, with 30 million unemployed people and 4.8 million job openings.

Eighty-five percent of the men in the survey did not have bachelor’s degrees. And for them, landing a family-supporting job is much harder than it once was. The Times explains why: “Foreign competition and technological advances have eliminated many of the jobs in which high school graduates like Mr. Walsh once could earn $40 an hour, or more.”

Foreign competition means trade.  And the problem for workers like Walsh is that there’s too much bad trade and very little done about it.

My union, the United Steelworkers, has fought bad trade vigorously, filing cases repeatedly with the U.S. Commerce Department seeking sanctions against foreign producers of steel, paper, tires and renewable energy technologies such as solar panels. To win these cases, though, the law says industry and workers must first suffer losses and unemployment. And wins too often are quickly followed by new losses.

Tires are a good example. The USW sought relief after imports of Chinese tires surged by 75 percent from 2004 to 2007. Four U.S. tire plants closed, destroying 5,100 jobs. Shortly after the USW petitioned for sanctions in 2009, three more factories shut down, killing an additional 3,000 jobs.

President Obama imposed three years of tariffs, and the U.S. tire industry rebounded, increasing production and employment. But as soon as the sanctions ended, Chinese tire imports surged again, and U.S. production and jobs declined again.

So the USW filed another trade case in June. A preliminary ruling by the Commerce Department determined sanctions were justified because China was providing improper subsidies to its tire makers.

And that’s the point. American workers aren’t whining. They can compete with anyone in the world on an even playing field. But when foreign countries provide illegal subsidies, manipulate their currency, and hand no-cost land, no-interest loans and tax breaks to producers, then it’s bad trade.

It’s trade that kills U.S. jobs and wrecks American lives. Producing in a country where exploitation of workers is permitted and environmental regulations are non-existent certainly lowers costs. But prohibited subsidies such as currency manipulation and tax forgiveness are much more significant. 

American workers need a new kind of trade agreement, one that protects U.S. industry and workers from bad trade practices before they close factories, destroy jobs and devastate communities.

And yet, the United States is negotiating massive trade agreements with European and Pacific Rim nations in secret, so there’s no way to know if they are any different from previous bad trade deals. In addition, some supporters are seeking fast track negotiating authority under which Congress would relinquish its right to make changes.

Congress must reject fast track and realize its duty to protect American industry and workers. It must end bad trade to revive the American dream.

Holiday bells are silent in the homes of America’s struggling working poor, even with gasoline

prices at their lowest levels in years.

These are people derided as moochers because their starvation wages force them to accept food

stamps to feed their children.

On the other side of town, inside gated communities where guards demand photo ID even from

Santa, CEOs’ Christmas plums are super-sugared with record-breaking corporate profits.

These are people somehow not derided as moochers, even though their million-dollar pay

packages are propped up by tax breaks.

The parable of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” springs to mind as Wall Street banks and

law firms hand out six- and seven-figure year end bonuses while Walmart and fast food workers

protest wages so low that their holiday meals are food pantry dregs. It is CEOs, not the working

poor, who deserve public scorn for their dependence on government handouts.

The Center for Effective Government and the Institute for Policy Studies issued a report last

month that details the mooching of the nation’s top corporations and CEOs. It’s called “Fleecing

Uncle Sam.” The findings are pretty galling.

Of American’s 100 top-paid CEOs, 29 worked schemes that enabled them to collect more in

compensation than their corporations paid in income taxes. The average pay for these 29: $32

million. For one year. And corporations mangle the tax code to deduct that too.

Though their corporations reported combined pre-tax profits of $24 billion, they wrangled $238

million in tax refunds out of the federal government. That’s refunds – the government gave

money to highly profitable corporations.

That’s an effective tax rate of negative 1 percent.

That means middle class taxpayers helped cover the cost of million-dollar pay packages for

CEOs. Middle class taxpayers, whose median family income is $51,324 and whose federal income taxes are withdrawn directly from their checks before they see a cent of pay, support

CEOs who pull down $32 million a year.

That qualifies CEOs as first-class fleecers!

Their corporations pay nothing for essential government services that middle class taxpayers

provide. That includes patent protection, the Commerce Department’s sanctions against foreign

trade rule violations, and federal court dispute resolution.

Some corporations haven’t developed schemes enabling them to tax the federal government.

Instead, they pay, but not at that 35 percent rate they’re always whining about. Between 2008

and 2012, the average large corporation, according to Fleecing Uncle Sam, paid just 19.4

percent.

Individuals earning $50,000 a year pay 25 percent. Clearly, corporations are not paying a fair

share at 19 percent.

There’s this wacky theory that if governments excuse corporations from paying their share, then

they’ll expand and create jobs. It’s wacky because it’s fiction. Highly profitable corporations

aren’t expanding and creating jobs; they’re buying back their own stock.

A study by University of Massachusetts professor William Lazonick, president of the AcademicIndustry

Research Network, showed that between 2003 and 2012, S&P 500 corporations used 54

percent of their earnings – $2.4 trillion – to buy their own stock.

This isn’t creating jobs. This isn’t investing in a corporation’s future. This is adding to CEO

wealth. It works like this: Stock buybacks push up stock prices. Forty-two percent of

compensation for S&P 500 CEOs comes from stock options. Thus, as Lazonick points out, stock

increases equal CEO pay raises.

Corporations don’t expand just because untaxed profits are sitting around anyway. They expand

to meet demand. And corporate practices have deflated demand.

Part of the problem is that CEOs and top executives are taking an increasing portion while doling

out less to workers. As the New York Times reported in January, wages have fallen to a record

low as a share of gross domestic product, dropping to 43.5 percent last year. It was 50 percent in

1975. The decline means less demand.

But there’s more. Just last week, the New York Times noted two other trends that contribute to

weak demand. One is wage theft. The U.S. Department of Labor found that more than 300,000

workers in New York and California are victims of minimum wage violations each month,

costing them between $20 million and $29 million each week. If corporations didn’t cheat them

out of those earnings, their spending would generate greater demand. The other trend is insecure income. Millions of Americans are unsure week to week how much

money will be coming into their households. This occurs for many reasons, but among the most

prominent is the refusal of employers to provide workers with steady weekly hours and practices

like sending workers home when retail or restaurant traffic is light. A survey by the Federal

Reserve suggests the problem of unreliable income may have worsened as Wall Street has

strengthened. Families that can’t pay their bills reduce demand.

Instead of giving workers raises and steady hours, corporations have rewarded only those at the

top. The Fleecing Uncle Sam study found that companies that paid their CEOs more than they

paid in federal income taxes gave those CEOs fat raises. The average pay of these CEOs rose

from $16.7 million in 2010 to $32 million in 2013.

They’ve got trillions for CEOs and stock buy-backs, but nothing for workers or the federal

government.

This isn’t an accident. It’s not some invisible hand of the market. It’s CEOs freeloading.

No ghosts are going to show up to convert these Scrooges into humans. Instead, the first step in

that process is recognizing that the moochers are the CEOs, not the hapless food stamp recipients

who desperately want steady, full-time, decently-paid work. The second step is to demand that

corporations pay their fair share of taxes and provide steady, full-time, decently-paid work.

Holiday bells are silent in the homes of America’s struggling working poor, even with gasoline

prices at their lowest levels in years.

These are people derided as moochers because their starvation wages force them to accept food

stamps to feed their children.

On the other side of town, inside gated communities where guards demand photo ID even from

Santa, CEOs’ Christmas plums are super-sugared with record-breaking corporate profits.

These are people somehow not derided as moochers, even though their million-dollar pay

packages are propped up by tax breaks.

The parable of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” springs to mind as Wall Street banks and

law firms hand out six- and seven-figure year end bonuses while Walmart and fast food workers

protest wages so low that their holiday meals are food pantry dregs. It is CEOs, not the working

poor, who deserve public scorn for their dependence on government handouts.

The Center for Effective Government and the Institute for Policy Studies issued a report last

month that details the mooching of the nation’s top corporations and CEOs. It’s called “Fleecing

Uncle Sam.” The findings are pretty galling.

Of American’s 100 top-paid CEOs, 29 worked schemes that enabled them to collect more in

compensation than their corporations paid in income taxes. The average pay for these 29: $32

million. For one year. And corporations mangle tax the code to deduct that too.

Though their corporations reported combined pre-tax profits of $24 billion, they wrangled $238

million in tax refunds out of the federal government. That’s refunds – the government gave

money to highly profitable corporations.

That’s an effective tax rate of negative 1 percent.

That means middle class taxpayers helped cover the cost of million-dollar pay packages for

CEOs. Middle class taxpayers, whose median family income is $51,324 and whose federal income taxes are withdrawn directly from their checks before they see a cent of pay, support

CEOs who pull down $32 million a year.

That qualifies CEOs as first-class fleecers!

Their corporations pay nothing for essential government services that middle class taxpayers

provide. That includes patent protection, the Commerce Department’s sanctions against foreign

trade rule violations, and federal court dispute resolution.

Some corporations haven’t developed schemes enabling them to tax the federal government.

Instead, they pay, but not at that 35 percent rate they’re always whining about. Between 2008

and 2012, the average large corporation, according to Fleecing Uncle Sam, paid just 19.4

percent.

Individuals earning $50,000 a year pay 25 percent. Clearly, corporations are not paying a fair

share at 19 percent.

There’s this wacky theory that if governments excuse corporations from paying their share, then

they’ll expand and create jobs. It’s wacky because it’s fiction. Highly profitable corporations

aren’t expanding and creating jobs; they’re buying back their own stock.

A study by University of Massachusetts professor William Lazonick, president of the AcademicIndustry

Research Network, showed that between 2003 and 2012, S&P 500 corporations used 54

percent of their earnings – $2.4 trillion – to buy their own stock.

This isn’t creating jobs. This isn’t investing in a corporation’s future. This is adding to CEO

wealth. It works like this: Stock buybacks push up stock prices. Forty-two percent of

compensation for S&P 500 CEOs comes from stock options. Thus, as Lazonick points out, stock

increases equal CEO pay raises.

Corporations don’t expand just because untaxed profits are sitting around anyway. They expand

to meet demand. And corporate practices have deflated demand.

Part of the problem is that CEOs and top executives are taking an increasing portion while doling

out less to workers. As the New York Times reported in January, wages have fallen to a record

low as a share of gross domestic product, dropping to 43.5 percent last year. It was 50 percent in

1975. The decline means less demand.

But there’s more. Just last week, the New York Times noted two other trends that contribute to

weak demand. One is wage theft. The U.S. Department of Labor found that more than 300,000

workers in New York and California are victims of minimum wage violations each month,

costing them between $20 million and $29 million each week. If corporations didn’t cheat them

out of those earnings, their spending would generate greater demand. The other trend is insecure income. Millions of Americans are unsure week to week how much

money will be coming into their households. This occurs for many reasons, but among the most

prominent is the refusal of employers to provide workers with steady weekly hours and practices

like sending workers home when retail or restaurant traffic is light. A survey by the Federal

Reserve suggests the problem of unreliable income may have worsened as Wall Street has

strengthened. Families that can’t pay their bills reduce demand.

Instead of giving workers raises and steady hours, corporations have rewarded only those at the

top. The Fleecing Uncle Sam study found that companies that paid their CEOs more than they

paid in federal income taxes gave those CEOs fat raises. The average pay of these CEOs rose

from $16.7 million in 2010 to $32 million in 2013.

They’ve got trillions for CEOs and stock buy-backs, but nothing for workers or the federal

government.

This isn’t an accident. It’s not some invisible hand of the market. It’s CEOs freeloading.

No ghosts are going to show up to convert these Scrooges into humans. Instead, the first step in

that process is recognizing that the moochers are the CEOs, not the hapless food stamp recipients

who desperately want steady, full-time, decently-paid work. The second step is to demand that

corporations pay their fair share of taxes and provide steady, full-time, decently-paid work.

At the first Thanksgiving 383 years ago, Native Americans and Pilgrim immigrants gathered with mutual respect to share a bountiful harvest they’d produced together.

This Thanksgiving, though, there’s no respect or sharing in the homes of GOP nativists.

Suffering amnesia about their personal histories, nativist Republicans want to expel the 11.7 million unauthorized immigrants, the people who harvest America’s Thanksgiving vegetables and care for America’s toddlers and grannies. The GOP has threatened to sue, shut down the government and impeach President Obama to punish him for issuing an executive order giving fewer than half of the nation’s undocumented workers a limited ability to remain in the United States.

Americans would prefer if Congress fixed this problem. But Congress hasn’t. In the year and a half since the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill, House leaders have refused to permit a vote on it. So now, President Obama, like all 10 presidents since 1956, Republican and Democrat,  has issued an executive order on immigration. The order says America will treat 5 million striving unauthorized immigrants with respect. 

Photo by Fibonacci Blue on Flickr.

Exactly one week before Thanksgiving, President Obama described his order to the American people. It broadens the “dreamer” program that provides temporary reprieves from deportation to unauthorized immigrants brought to the United States as children. It establishes temporary work authorization for undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States for at least five years and are parents of American citizens or servicemen. It directs the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to focus on deporting criminals and suspected terrorists and orders Homeland Security to help secure the border.

It disqualifies new undocumented immigrants. Anyone who has entered the United States recently or who enters now without authorization is excluded. The order is limited as well. It lasts only as long as Obama is president. The next executive could continue it. Or kill it.

If such a program had been in place 14 years ago, actress Diane Guerrero, who plays Maritza Ramos on the show Orange is the New Black, would have been spared separation from her parents and brother. Guerrero described her family’s deportation in an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times earlier this month. She was just 14 when she arrived home from school to find lights on, dinner started but her family missing.

Born in the United States, Guerrero was a citizen. Her parents and brother were not. Neighbors broke the news to her that the INS had seized her family and would deport them to civil war-torn Colombia. In the op-ed, Guerrero pleaded for relief for families like hers. President Obama provided it. Thank goodness.

Immigrants like Guerrero’s family don’t enter the United States to take. Like everyone who has has arrived on America’s shores since that first Thanksgiving, these new émigrés work to give their children a better life. Some young undocumented workers today labor to give their parents in Mexico remittances that enable them to survive after NAFTA destroyed their ability to eke out a living from subsistence farms. Americans respect those family values.

Unauthorized immigrants are lured into the United States by the promise of jobs, whether it’s making hotel beds, washing cars or picking produce. Employers want their labor. Farmers who rely on the backbreaking work of unauthorized immigrants found themselves with produce rotting in the fields after some states passed anti-immigration laws in recent years.

As Americans bow their heads before passing the turkey platter this week, they should know that President Obama’s executive order is a blessing to native born citizens as well as immigrants. A study by the Bipartisan Policy Center found that immigration reform is good for the economy, while inaction is destructive.

The task force that produced the study, co-chaired by former governors from both parties, said immigration reform would be a powerful instrument of economic revitalization: “The results make clear that reform has the potential to significantly increase the number of young, working-age people in the economy. This influx of labor would spur economic growth, reduce federal deficits, help the housing sector and mitigate the effects of an aging population. By contrast, preventing unauthorized immigration without providing replacement labor would cause severe damage to the economy.”

In addition, reform means immigrants no longer need fear deportation for reporting violations such as wage theft, perilous working conditions and workplace violence. This protects native-born workers because employers who become accustomed to impunity for illegal exploitation of immigrants quickly attempt to abuse all workers.

While unauthorized immigrants have long prayed for reform, 57 percent of native born Americans now believe those entreaties should be answered. The number is higher – 74 percent– if reform includes a path to citizenship, fines, back taxes and background checks.

But a president’s power is limited, and Obama stopped short extending citizenship. That’s the responsibility of Congress. President Obama asked lawmakers to act: “Scripture tells us, we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger. We were strangers once, too.”

At a press conference held last week by groups supporting President Obama’s executive action, Maria Teresa Kumar, president of Vote Latino, told the story of one of those strangers.

During the holidays four years ago, she recounted, a young man who had just finished boot camp and was on his way to deployment in Iraq called her for help. He’d just learned that his father had been detained by the INS. On Christmas Eve, the soldier lost his father to deportation, and his family lost a breadwinner.

That is not how Native Americans treated the strangers who arrived on the shores of Plymouth. Those Native Americans broke bread with the immigrants

At a chemical plant called Point Pleasant in a town named Apple Grove in a state John Denver labeled almost heaven, a man known as Freel Tackett helped negotiate three collective bargaining agreements that provided raises and decent benefits for workers and retirees.

Heaven ended in 2007 for Tackett and other retired Point Pleasant workers. That’s when the corporation that now owns the plant betrayed them by refusing to continue paying the full cost of retiree health benefits. These days, it’s almost hell for retirees. For seven years they’ve lived under a dark shadow, as if Point Pleasant’s most infamous denizen, the monster Mothman, immortalized in the book and movie The Mothman Prophesies, had returned.

The United Steelworkers (USW) union told the U.S. Supreme Court last week that these workers had labored a lifetime to earn retiree health benefits. The court should forbid the company from rescinding earned benefits, the USW argued. The corporation, M&G Polymers, asked the court to validate its reneging on its pledge to workers because, it contended, the collective bargaining agreement is insufficiently specific. M&G insisted that vagueness gives it carte blanche to shift costs to workers.

M&G Polymers is Point Pleasant's new Mothman

“I think a lot of corporations these days are doing the same thing,” Tackett said.  “I am just hoping the Supreme Court will prohibit it,” added Tackett, who is one of three named plaintiffs representing the class of 492 Point Pleasant plant retirees and spouses. Workers at the West Virginia plant are members of the USW.

Tackett talked about the appeal as he prepared to go to a funeral for a friend from his days in the plant. That man will never know the ultimate outcome of the case that the retirees won at both the trial and appeals levels. The man’s widow is struggling financially and told Tackett she thinks she will be forced to sell her home to cover the cost of her husband’s unpaid medical bills. Tackett urged her to try to hold out for the high court’s decision.

Tackett told her that if the justices rule for the retirees, then M&G Polymers will likely have to reimburse her the nearly $20,000 that her husband and other retirees paid to maintain their company health insurance until the trial court ordered M&G Polymers to resume paying the full premiums.

“We have several people who passed away,” as they awaited the outcome, Tackett said. “We have several people who passed away,” as they awaited the outcome, Tackett said. “We just don’t know how many of them died as a result of not going to the doctor when needed or not getting medication they needed" because they couldn't afford the insurance, he said.

Court records show that as of Dec. 14, 2011, only 96 of the retirees were still paying the costs imposed by M&G Polymers to cover themselves and their spouses. Some retirees quit the company plan because they found less expensive insurance elsewhere. Others, the court records show, went without coverage.

The fees M&G charged retirees rose dramatically each year. For those old enough to receive Medicare, the initial cost was $144.44 a month. But for younger retirees, it was $856.22 a month. By 2011, those charges rose to $452.01 a month for the Medicare eligible and $957.92 a month for the others.

“It is a huge amount of money when you are on a fixed income,” Tackett said, “I had to spend a big part of my pension on health insurance.”

Tackett started working at the plant when Goodyear owned it. He negotiated contracts and served for four years as president of the local union in the late 1970s and early 1980s, before Goodyear sold the plant to Shell in 1992. Shell sold it to M&G in 2000.

Throughout that time, Tackett said, he believed that language in the collective bargaining agreement guaranteed the company would pay the total cost of health benefits for workers who were eligible for full pensions when they retired. The lawsuit quotes the collective bargaining agreements as saying that workers earning a full pension “will receive a full Company contribution toward the cost of [health care] benefits.”

And the collective bargaining agreement says that if a retiree dies before his or her spouse, then the spouse remains entitled to health benefits until death or remarriage.

The agreement never says the retiree loses the benefit after so many years or must pay a portion of the costs. It also doesn’t say benefits earned by retirees over their work lives end with the expiration of any given collective bargaining agreement.

Even conservative Justice Antonin Scalia seemed to agree with the retirees on that point, saying during the arguments, “It is a reasonable assumption, call it a presumption if you like, that any promise to pay those benefits continues after the termination of the union contract.”

The fact that the collective bargaining agreement never specifically says the benefits must be paid in full by the company for the retiree’s lifetime is not unusual. A law firm with no financial interest in the outcome of the case reviewed collective bargaining agreements providing health insurance for retirees and reported to the Supreme Court that only 26 percent contained at least one clause suggesting that the benefit must be paid for life, while 14 percent contained ambiguous language and 16 percent were silent on the issue.

Previous owners of the plant never questioned the obligation and paid the benefits in full until the retiree and spouse died. In addition, M&G’s demands of Shell show that it knew the obligation was not limited.

When Goodyear sold the plant to Shell, it retained responsibility for the workers who retired during its ownership. Shell did not want to do that. So M&G hired actuaries to calculate the cost of the benefits that would be owed to the workers who retired in the eight years Shell owned the plant. That would include costs for Tackett who retired in 1996.

Shell allowed M&G to subtract that amount from the price of the Point Pleasant plant. As a result, Shell paid M&G the costs for those retirees. Now M&G is trying to get paid a second time by demanding those Point Pleasant retirees pay part of their premiums. 

Tackett, who lives in Bidwell, Ohio, started work at the plant in 1966. That, coincidentally, is the year that Mothman began terrifying local residents.

As Mothman did, M&G has stricken hundreds of families in this rural West Virginia region with fear. They’re scared they won’t be able to afford health insurance they believed they’d earned. A decision by the Supreme Court affirming the lower courts’ rulings would relieve retirees like 78-year-old Tackett and restore justice in Point Pleasant. 

It’s the redding of America. Republicans spilled Democratic candidate blood across the country last week.

Scarlet covers the map. Republicans took governorships in traditionally blue states. They won U.S. Senate seats in purple states. And they secured majorities in both houses of legislatures in 29 states of all hues, the highest number since 1920.

That means in January, GOP politicians will represent even greater numbers of Americans – Republicans, Democrats, independents, Greens, Libertarians. They don’t solely represent climate-science-denying, immigrant-hating, Ebola-scare-mongering tea partiers. They represent everyone residing in their districts. And those people must speak up about what they want because it’s sure as hell not what Republicans have promised to do.

Republicans could easily – though wrongly – perceive their big victory as a mandate. But exit polls show something quite different: Voters don’t like Republicans any better than Democrats. What they mainly think is that the economy stinks. And they want Washington to fix it. Though the recession is officially over and employment up, they’re not feeling it on Main Street. They held their noses at the ballot box and gave Republicans responsibility for doing something about it.

Voters told exit pollster after exit pollster the same thing: Though they pulled the lever for Republicans, they don’t like them. Fifty-four percent of voters told National Election Pool tabulators that they had “an unfavorable opinion” of Republicans. That’s the same percentage that had an unfavorable opinion of Democrats.

That’s no mandate. That’s a pox on both parties. 

What voters want is economic revival. Repeatedly, they named the economy and jobs as their priorities. In the National Election Pool survey, 78 percent of voters said they were worried about the economy over the next year.  In the Hart Research poll, 54 percent said their income was declining, and 68 percent said “raising wages and salaries is good because it improves people’s standard of living and boosts the economy.”

Though they picked the GOP, voters harbor no hope that Republicans will improve the nation’s financial standing. Sixty-two percent of those polled by Hart said they believed Republicans in Congress have no clear plan to strengthen the economy or create jobs.

And voters are right. Republicans aren’t talking about jobs. Instead, they want to cut taxes for corporations, slash federal programs for the poor and elderly and kill the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This would hobble the economy, not heal it.

If Republicans repealed the ACA, they’d be reaching into workers’ pockets and pulling out money. That’s because the 10 million who got insurance through the law would have to buy it on their own instead – if they could afford to do that, which, of course, they couldn’t do before the ACA. In addition, since the ACA, the price of health care has risen at historically low rates. Without the ACA, those charges would spike again, costing everyone with insurance more.  

It’s not what voters want. Fifty-nine percent told the Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies that their vote had nothing to do with the ACA, and half of voters said they wanted the law retained or fixed, but not repealed.

They’re not interested in cutting taxes for the rich and corporations either. Just the opposite. Two-thirds told Hart pollsters that they support increasing taxes on corporations and the wealthy to pay for job training, education and deficit reduction.

House Speaker John A. Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, isn’t listening. He said last week that lowering corporate tax rates and the federal debt were his top priorities.  Absolving corporations of their responsibility to pay for the public services that enable them to reap huge profits while simultaneously slashing public programs that provide equal opportunity for all citizens to succeed is austerity economics. It has failed miserably in Europe. Replicating it in the United States would impose the same economy-blighting results on Americans.

That’s not what voters want from a redder America. They want economic renewal.

Like Boehner in the House, reds in the Senate are setting off in the wrong direction. Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions is expected to take over the Senate budget committee and demand cuts to programs like Medicare and Social Security.

Gutting programs that this country has pledged to its elderly would defy the wishes of voters and damage the economy. Less money in the hands of senior citizens means less money spent, which, in turn, means less economic revving.

Voters strongly oppose any attempt to balance the budget on grandma’s arthritic back. In fact, 61 percent told the Hart pollsters said they want Social Security benefits increased. Also, 76 percent opposed raising the eligibility age for Medicare and cutting Medicaid.

The exit poll results should serve as a bright red light to Republicans. Stop. Quit pushing failed economic ideas that Americans despise.

For decades, both parties boosted the economy with infrastructure spending. The condition of the nation’s roads, bridges, railroads, pipelines, locks and dams all improved, as did employment, commerce and the nation’s finances. It worked.

But then Mitch McConnell, the minority leader of the Senate and presumptive majority leader beginning in January, vowed to make President Obama a one-term president by blocking all legislation, no matter how good it would be for America. He obstructed all infrastructure spending proposals.

The 72 percent of Americans who support investment in infrastructure need to call their red representatives. Tell them to invest in America. Do something that works. Something Americans want. And stop trying to take money out of workers’ wallets.

Tell them that if they insist on trying to mangle cherished programs like Social Security, then in the next election voters will wash that red right off of that map. 

It’s the redding of America. Republicans spilled Democratic candidate blood across the country last week.

Scarlet covers the map. Republicans took governorships in traditionally blue states. They won U.S. Senate seats in purple states. And they secured majorities in both houses of legislatures in 29 states of all hues, the highest number since 1920.

That means in January, GOP politicians will represent even greater numbers of Americans – Republicans, Democrats, independents, Greens, Libertarians. They don’t solely represent climate-science-denying, immigrant-hating, Ebola-scare-mongering tea partiers. They represent everyone residing in their districts. And those people must speak up about what they want because it’s sure as hell not what Republicans have promised to do.

Republicans could easily – though wrongly – perceive their big victory as a mandate. But exit polls show something quite different: Voters don’t like Republicans any better than Democrats. What they mainly think is that the economy stinks. And they want Washington to fix it. Though the recession is officially over and employment up, they’re not feeling it on Main Street. They held their noses at the ballot box and gave Republicans responsibility for doing something about it.

Voters told exit pollster after exit pollster the same thing: Though they pulled the lever for Republicans, they don’t like them. Fifty-four percent of voters told National Election Pool tabulators that they had “an unfavorable opinion” of Republicans. That’s the same percentage that had an unfavorable opinion of Democrats.

That’s no mandate. That’s a pox on both parties. 

What voters want is economic revival. Repeatedly, they named the economy and jobs as their priorities. In the National Election Pool survey, 78 percent of voters said they were worried about the economy over the next year.  In the Hart Research poll, 54 percent said their income was declining, and 68 percent said “raising wages and salaries is good because it improves people’s standard of living and boosts the economy.”

Though they picked the GOP, voters harbor no hope that Republicans will improve the nation’s financial standing. Sixty-two percent of those polled by Hart said they believed Republicans in Congress have no clear plan to strengthen the economy or create jobs.

And voters are right. Republicans aren’t talking about jobs. Instead, they want to cut taxes for corporations, slash federal programs for the poor and elderly and kill the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This would hobble the economy, not heal it.

If Republicans repealed the ACA, they’d be reaching into workers’ pockets and pulling out money. That’s because the 10 million who got insurance through the law would have to buy it on their own instead – if they could afford to do that, which, of course, they couldn’t do before the ACA. In addition, since the ACA, the price of health care has risen at historically low rates. Without the ACA, those charges would spike again, costing everyone with insurance more.  

It’s not what voters want. Fifty-nine percent told the Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies that their vote had nothing to do with the ACA, and half of voters said they wanted the law retained or fixed, but not repealed.

They’re not interested in cutting taxes for the rich and corporations either. Just the opposite. Two-thirds told Hart pollsters that they support increasing taxes on corporations and the wealthy to pay for job training, education and deficit reduction.

House Speaker John A. Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, isn’t listening. He said last week that lowering corporate tax rates and the federal debt were his top priorities.  Absolving corporations of their responsibility to pay for the public services that enable them to reap huge profits while simultaneously slashing public programs that provide equal opportunity for all citizens to succeed is austerity economics. It has failed miserably in Europe. Replicating it in the United States would impose the same economy-blighting results on Americans.

That’s not what voters want from a redder America. They want economic renewal.

Like Boehner in the House, reds in the Senate are setting off in the wrong direction. Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions is expected to take over the Senate budget committee and demand cuts to programs like Medicare and Social Security.

Gutting programs that this country has pledged to its elderly would defy the wishes of voters and damage the economy. Less money in the hands of senior citizens means less money spent, which, in turn, means less economic revving.

Voters strongly oppose any attempt to balance the budget on grandma’s arthritic back. In fact, 61 percent told the Hart pollsters said they want Social Security benefits increased. Also, 76 percent opposed raising the eligibility age for Medicare and cutting Medicaid.

The exit poll results should serve as a bright red light to Republicans. Stop. Quit pushing failed economic ideas that Americans despise.

For decades, both parties boosted the economy with infrastructure spending. The condition of the nation’s roads, bridges, railroads, pipelines, locks and dams all improved, as did employment, commerce and the nation’s finances. It worked.

But then Mitch McConnell, the minority leader of the Senate and presumptive majority leader beginning in January, vowed to make President Obama a one-term president by blocking all legislation, no matter how good it would be for America. He obstructed all infrastructure spending proposals.

The 72 percent of Americans who support investment in infrastructure need to call their red representatives. Tell them to invest in America. Do something that works. Something Americans want. And stop trying to take money out of workers’ wallets.

Tell them that if they insist on trying to mangle cherished programs like Social Security, then in the next election voters will wash that red right off of that map. 

It’s the redding of America. Republicans spilled Democratic candidate blood across the country last week.

Scarlet covers the map. Republicans took governorships in traditionally blue states. They won U.S. Senate seats in purple states. And they secured majorities in both houses of legislatures in 29 states of all hues, the highest number since 1920.

That means in January, GOP politicians will represent even greater numbers of Americans – Republicans, Democrats, independents, Greens, Libertarians. They don’t solely represent climate-science-denying, immigrant-hating, Ebola-scare-mongering tea partiers. They represent everyone residing in their districts. And those people must speak up about what they want because it’s sure as hell not what Republicans have promised to do.

Republicans could easily – though wrongly – perceive their big victory as a mandate. But exit polls show something quite different: Voters don’t like Republicans any better than Democrats. What they mainly think is that the economy stinks. And they want Washington to fix it. Though the recession is officially over and employment up, they’re not feeling it on Main Street. They held their noses at the ballot box and gave Republicans responsibility for doing something about it.

Voters told exit pollster after exit pollster the same thing: Though they pulled the lever for Republicans, they don’t like them. Fifty-four percent of voters told National Election Pool tabulators that they had “an unfavorable opinion” of Republicans. That’s the same percentage that had an unfavorable opinion of Democrats.

That’s no mandate. That’s a pox on both parties. 

What voters want is economic revival. Repeatedly, they named the economy and jobs as their priorities. In the National Election Pool survey, 78 percent of voters said they were worried about the economy over the next year.  In the Hart Research poll, 54 percent said their income was declining, and 68 percent said “raising wages and salaries is good because it improves people’s standard of living and boosts the economy.”

Though they picked the GOP, voters harbor no hope that Republicans will improve the nation’s financial standing. Sixty-two percent of those polled by Hart said they believed Republicans in Congress have no clear plan to strengthen the economy or create jobs.

And voters are right. Republicans aren’t talking about jobs. Instead, they want to cut taxes for corporations, slash federal programs for the poor and elderly and kill the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This would hobble the economy, not heal it.

If Republicans repealed the ACA, they’d be reaching into workers’ pockets and pulling out money. That’s because the 10 million who got insurance through the law would have to buy it on their own instead – if they could afford to do that, which, of course, they couldn’t do before the ACA. In addition, since the ACA, the price of health care has risen at historically low rates. Without the ACA, those charges would spike again, costing everyone with insurance more.  

It’s not what voters want. Fifty-nine percent told the Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies that their vote had nothing to do with the ACA, and half of voters said they wanted the law retained or fixed, but not repealed.

They’re not interested in cutting taxes for the rich and corporations either. Just the opposite. Two-thirds told Hart pollsters that they support increasing taxes on corporations and the wealthy to pay for job training, education and deficit reduction.

House Speaker John A. Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, isn’t listening. He said last week that lowering corporate tax rates and the federal debt were his top priorities.  Absolving corporations of their responsibility to pay for the public services that enable them to reap huge profits while simultaneously slashing public programs that provide equal opportunity for all citizens to succeed is austerity economics. It has failed miserably in Europe. Replicating it in the United States would impose the same economy-blighting results on Americans.

That’s not what voters want from a redder America. They want economic renewal.

Like Boehner in the House, reds in the Senate are setting off in the wrong direction. Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions is expected to take over the Senate budget committee and demand cuts to programs like Medicare and Social Security.

Gutting programs that this country has pledged to its elderly would defy the wishes of voters and damage the economy. Less money in the hands of senior citizens means less money spent, which, in turn, means less economic revving.

Voters strongly oppose any attempt to balance the budget on grandma’s arthritic back. In fact, 61 percent told the Hart pollsters said they want Social Security benefits increased. Also, 76 percent opposed raising the eligibility age for Medicare and cutting Medicaid.

The exit poll results should serve as a bright red light to Republicans. Stop. Quit pushing failed economic ideas that Americans despise.

For decades, both parties boosted the economy with infrastructure spending. The condition of the nation’s roads, bridges, railroads, pipelines, locks and dams all improved, as did employment, commerce and the nation’s finances. It worked.

But then Mitch McConnell, the minority leader of the Senate and presumptive majority leader beginning in January, vowed to make President Obama a one-term president by blocking all legislation, no matter how good it would be for America. He obstructed all infrastructure spending proposals.

The 72 percent of Americans who support investment in infrastructure need to call their red representatives. Tell them to invest in America. Do something that works. Something Americans want. And stop trying to take money out of workers’ wallets.

Tell them that if they insist on trying to mangle cherished programs like Social Security, then in the next election voters will wash that red right off of that map.