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 He’s run up $20,000 in credit card debt and withdrawn $15,000 from his retirement account.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. 

The rich always vote for themselves. They go for their self-interest, their tax breaks, their liability escapes (think Wall Street). Meanwhile, they’ve relentlessly instructed the non-rich that they too must vote for the rich.

They’ve promised for decades that if the 99 percent just comply with the wishes of the wealthy, bow down, kiss their feet, shine their shoes, then some paltry portion of the bucket-loads of dough that the rich are amassing will dribble down upon the 99 percent.

That trickle-down trick didn’t work for the vast majority of Americans. The rich got richer, all right. But the rest slid backwards. Now income inequality is worse than it was during the era of robber barons. It’s time to turn that around. Political leaders must focus on the needs of the 99 percent. For that to happen, the 99 percent must vote for themselves today. They must go for their self-interest, their wages, their health insurance, their Social Security. 

Vote for higher wages for the 99 percent.

Minimum wage workers in the United States are paid so little that taxpayers subsidize the likes of Walmart and Wendy’s through government programs such as food stamps and Medicaid. That doesn’t happen everywhere.

As the New York Times pointed out last week, McDonald’s, Burger King and Starbucks all pay their workers in Denmark at least $20 an hour and provide paid vacations and pensions. And the companies still make profits.

The one percenter CEOs of these companies, who demand millions in pay for themselves, have squashed efforts to raise the U.S minimum wage, a pittance stuck five years at $7.25. Instead of improving paychecks, McDonald’s told its workers to get second jobs, forego heat in their homes and find health insurance for $20 a month.

When the minimum wage rises, it bumps up pay for everyone else. The 99 percent benefit.  And the majority supports lifting the wage.

Voting for raises means voting for Democrats. President Obama has called for an increase, and U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez said the U.S. minimum wage is an international embarrassment.  “I mean, we suck. We really do,” he said.

Republicans have consistently blocked a raise. New Jersey’s GOP Gov. Chris Christie, the nation’s fourth highest paid governor at $175,000 a year, said last month that he is “tired of hearing about the minimum wage.”

Vote for health insurance for the 99 percent.

The majority of Americans believe that health insurance should be accessible to everyone. The Affordable Care Act moved the nation closer to that, enabling tens of millions to get covered.

It prevented insurers from dumping clients when they get sick and from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, like diabetes. It covered millions of young people to age 26 on their parents’ plans. It protected millions with an expansion of Medicaid.

National surveys have shown that low-income Americans are obtaining health insurance at a faster rate than the rich. There are two reasons for this. The rich already were covered. And the law was designed to help the working poor. This is creating fairness in access to medical care.  

Republicans hate the law. Two dozen GOP governors refused to expand Medicaid in their states, and those places now suffer from the highest rate of uninsured residents. Republicans are so intent on denying health care to the working poor that they rejected a program that would cost them nothing for three years.  

Now, Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader in the Senate, has again pledged to repeal the Affordable Care Act if the GOP takes control of his chamber. Republicans want to regress to higher inequality in health insurance coverage.

Vote to preserve and expand Social Security and Medicare.

These programs are not priorities of the rich. The wealthy are riding high on golden parachutes, gilded pensions, tax-sheltered off-shore accounts, and the built-in security of immense salaries. Social Security wouldn’t pay their country club fees.  

For the rest, however, Social Security and Medicare mean fear relief. They’re crucial to the 99 percent.

For years now, however, Republicans have tried to privatize, cut and destroy these programs.  U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee, repeatedly has issued a “roadmap” for an America in which the rich drive new Ferraris bought with tax breaks and the rest forfeit their wheels because of cuts to Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare.

The overwhelming majority of Americans oppose cuts. Among Democrats, there’s a movement to increase benefits by lifting the $117,000 cap, after which income no longer is taxed for Social Security. The cap means that the rich pay proportionately less into Social Security than the rest.

Vote for the overwhelming majority, the non-rich, to get their needs met.

The nation’s richest are more politically engaged and get easier access to high-level politicians than the 99 percent. That isn’t just obvious. It’s also according to surveys and interviews of one-percenters conducted by three university professors. They are Northwestern University’s Benjamin I. Page and Jason Seawright and Vanderbilt’s Larry M. Bartels. Their report is called Democracy and the Policy Preferences of Wealthy Americans.

The rich minority gets its way. Bartels and another researcher showed in earlier studies that federal government policy corresponds much more closely with the wishes of the rich than the needs of the rest.

Bartels, author of Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age, has noted that no other rich country came close to the United States in cutting the budget based on class preferences. It went this way: the workers lost programs; the wealthy kept perks.

This has got to change. And it could.  In states with low voter turnout inequality – that is balloting by the non-rich more closely matching participation rates by the wealthy – there are higher minimum wages, stricter anti-predatory lending laws and better health benefits for the working poor. In other words, when workers vote, they’re more likely to get what they want from politicians.

Vote for yourself today. 

Speaking just like an American Republican, the Communist Chinese-appointed leader of Hong Kong, Leung Chun-ying, said last week that if the state granted democratic rights to its poor and working class, they could dominate elections and choose leaders who would meet their needs.

If Hong Kong’s 99 percenters picked their leaders, Mr. Leung said, “Then you would end up with that kind of politics and policies.”  To ensure politics and policies favoring Hong Kong’s one percent, Mr. Leung insists that a committee appointed in Beijing approve all candidates to succeed him.  

Mr. Leung fears rule by the majority – just as U.S. Republicans do. It’s the reason the GOP has launched a massive voter suppression campaign across the country. Republicans believe in rule by and for the one percent. To accomplish that, they must do what Mr. Leung and the Chinese Communist party did: foil democracy. That’s the GOP goal when it subverts America’s precious one person-one vote equality. Every American who holds democracy dear must do whatever it takes to defy GOP attempts to deny them access to the ballot next week.  

Protesters demanding democracy in Hong Kong have thronged streets and faced down baton-wielding police for three weeks. Mr. Leung’s anti-democracy remarks further inflamed the demonstrators who live in a state with among the highest income inequality in the world. Mr. Leung said he could not allow the state’s majority – workers and the poor – to choose nominees because then those candidates would address the demands of the majority.

“If it’s entirely a numbers game and numeric representation,” Mr. Leung said, “then obviously you (candidates) would be talking to half of the people of Hong Kong who earn less than $1,800 a month.” 

That is exactly who Republicans don’t want to talk to – America’s middle class and working poor. The GOP presidential candidate, quarter-billionaire Mitt Romney, said that it was his “job not to worry about those people” who are elderly or too poor to pay federal income taxes. To make sure Republicans can focus on the rich and forget the rest, they’ve passed a multitude of laws to stop the working poor, seniors, people of color, women and students from voting. The intent is to prevent them from choosing who will run the government that, in a democracy, is supposed to represent them.

The Brennan Center for Justice calculated that if all the suppression laws passed by nearly two dozen states in the past five years took effect, 5 million citizens would confront new obstacles to exercising their right to vote. The laws would likely deny suffrage altogether to some citizens, such as those lacking birth certificates because they were born at home.

In addition to demanding specific ID, some states restricted early voting, ended same-day registration, purged voter rolls, and failed to process tens of thousands of registration forms collected by groups encouraging low-income and minority citizens to vote. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the NAACP and other voting rights groups challenged these schemes in court.

In recent weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court, dominated by Republicans, issued preliminary rulings approving voter suppression in three states for the Nov. 4 balloting.

In a fourth, Wisconsin, the court temporarily barred the voter ID mandate. The Supremes will hear the case later and may allow the state to demand specific identification. That would be ID requirements that Federal Judge Lynn Adelman determined could disenfranchise 300,000 Wisconsin voters, particularly poor and minority citizens, because they lack the requisite documents.

Judge Adelman, who ruled the law unconstitutional, concluded that in Wisconsin, there were no cases of the in-person voter fraud that Republicans claim the law is intended to prevent.

Texas was among the three states that Republicans on the Supreme Court granted permission to begin demanding specific voter identification. The court ignored the fact that Texas passed the law within hours after the Republican Supremes gutted the Voting Rights Act.

The court ignored the fact that the trial judge in that case, Nelva Gonzales Ramos, calculated that it could disenfranchise 600,000 voters, particularly black and Hispanic Texans. These are citizens who don’t have a gun permit or driver’s license allowed as voter identification by the law, but who do possess other ID, such as student cards, forbidden by the law.

The court ignored the fact that Judge Ramos found only two cases of in-person voter fraud out of 20 million ballots cast in Texas over 10 years.

Consider what red, white and blue-wearing, flag-waving, democracy-praising Republicans have said about their voter suppression campaigns.

Georgia state Rep. Fran Millar complained about a decision to allow Sunday voting in a location near a mall that, as he described it, “is dominated by African American shoppers and it is near several large African American mega churches such as New Birth Missionary Baptist.”

When accused of racism, he said, “I would prefer more educated voters than a greater increase in the number of voters.”

In other words, he only wants some people to vote, not all people.

That’s not democracy.

In Ohio, where Republicans tried to allow GOP-dominated counties to add hours for early voting but deny it in Democratic areas, Doug Priesse, the chairman of the Republican Party in Franklin County, where Columbus is located, said it was fine to make voting more difficult for black citizens:

“I guess I really feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban – read African-American – voter-turnout machine.”

That’s not democracy.

In Pennsylvania, the Republican House Majority Leader Mike Turzai shepherded voter ID through the legislature in 2012, then announced  to a GOP gathering: "Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania: done." In other words, the law would stop voting by the working poor, minorities, student and others who tend to vote for Democrats.

That’s not democracy.

The ACLU got an injunction to stop the Pennsylvania ID law. President Obama won the state. And the state Supreme Court later ruled the law unconstitutional.

The rich are represented in government, and as a result, highly profitable oil companies get tax breaks. Wall Street gets bailouts. And one percenters get tax deductions for yachts. By contrast, no one bailed out underwater homeowners. Twenty-four states refused to expand Medicaid to millions of working poor citizens. And the federal minimum wage hasn’t been raised in five years.

In a democracy, there’s nothing more important to securing representation in government than the vote.  Don’t let Republicans take it from you.

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Photo by Stephen Melkisethian on Flickr, taken Feb. 8 at Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C. during a Moral Monday Movement rally.