Please Note: Democratic Candidates May Have Lost, But Progressive Issues Won

— by David Morris (reposted from CommonDreams)

Ballot initiatives more accurately take the ideological pulse of the people because debates over issues are not disrupted by the personality politics and subterfuge that dominate candidate races. (Photo: Susy Morris/flickr/cc)

On November 4th Democrats lost big when they ran a candidate but won big when they ran an issue.

In 42 states about 150 initiatives were on the ballot. The vast majority did not address issues dividing the two parties (e.g. raising the mandatory retirement age for judges, salary increases for state legislators, bond issues supporting a range of projects).  But scores of initiatives did involve hot button issues.  And on these American voters proved astonishingly liberal.

Quote01.fw_.pngVoters approved every initiative to legalize or significantly reduce the penalties for marijuana possession (Alaska, California, Oregon, Washington, Washington, D.C.)  It is true that a Florida measure to legalize medical marijuana lost but 57 percent voted in favor (60 percent was required).

Voters approved every initiative to raise the minimum wage (Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, South Dakota). Voters in San Francisco and Oakland approved initiatives to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2018.  The good citizens of Oakland and Massachusetts overwhelmingly approved more generous paid sick leave.

Both Colorado and North Dakota voters rejected measures that would have given the fertilized egg personhood under their criminal codes.

Washington state voters approved background checks for all gun sales and transfers, including private transactions.

By a wide margin Missourians rejected a constitutional amendment to require teachers to be evaluated based on test results and fired or demoted virtually at will.

By a 59-41 margin North Dakotans voted to keep their unique statute outlawing absentee owned pharmacies despite Walmart outspending independent pharmacist supporters at least ten to one.

The vote in Colorado offers a good example of the disparity between how Americans vote on candidates and how we vote on issues.  A few years ago the Colorado legislature stripped cities and counties of the right to build their own telecommunications networks but it allowed them to reclaim that authority if they put it to a vote of their citizens.  On Tuesday 8 cities and counties did just that. Residents in every community voted by a very wide margin to permit government owned networks even while they were voting by an equally wide margin for Republican candidates who vigorously oppose government ownership of anything.

Republicans did gain a number of important victories. Most of these dealt with taxes. For example, Georgia voters by a wide margin supported a constitutional amendment prohibiting the state legislature from raising the maximum state income tax rate. Massachusetts’ voters narrowly voted to overturn a law indexing the state gasoline tax to the consumer price increase.

What did Tuesday tell us?  When given the choice between a Republican and a Democrat candidate the majority of voters chose the Republican.  When given a choice between a Republican and a Democrat position on an issue they chose the Democrat.  I’ll leave it up to others to debate the reasons behind this apparent contradiction.  My own opinion is that ballot initiatives more accurately take the ideological pulse of the people because debates over issues must focus on issues, not personality, temperament or looks.  Those on both sides of the issue can exaggerate, distort and just plain lie but they must do so in reference to the question on the ballot.  No ballot initiative ever lost because one of its main backers attended a strip club 16 years earlier.

I am buoyed by the empirical evidence: Americans even in deeply red regions are liberal on many key issues. And I am saddened that these same voters have voted to enhance the power of a party at odds with the values these voters have expressed.  The challenge, and in an age where billions of dollars in negative sound-bites define a candidate it is a daunting one, is how to make the next election on issues, not personalities.

  This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

David Morris is Vice President and director of the New Rules Project at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which is based in Minneapolis and Washington, D.C. focusing on local economic and social development.
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Exploited by Your Tax Dollars

The federal government supports more U.S. low wage jobs than McDonald’s and Walmart put together.

By Martha Burk

Martha Burk

McDonald’s really stepped in it this summer when the fast food empire created a budget for its underpaid employees to help them make ends meet on the low wages they bring home after flipping burgers all week.

At first, the McBudget didn’t include any money for food or gasoline, then it fixed that by telling its full-time workers to get a second job. It allocated only $20 a month for health insurance — less than half of what it costs to carry McDonald’s most affordable coverage option.

The golden arches deservedly came under fire and faced widespread ridicule.

McD-Budget
from Practical Money Skills Site Budget Journal July 2013

This blunder underscored how huge corporations like Mickey D’s and Walmart are responsible for the majority of our nation’s low-wage jobs. McDonalds has been offering this sort of happy meal “financial literacy” program in concert with Visa Inc. and  Wealth Watchers International since 2008. But they’re not alone, there’s another player in this mix that’s responsible for creating more poverty-level jobs than these two companies combined. It’s good ol’ Uncle Sam.

That’s right. The federal government supports more U.S. low‑wage jobs than McDonald’s and Walmart put together, according to a recent report from Demos.

One reason why we don’t hear much about it is that these exploited workers don’t get a paycheck directly from the U.S. Treasury. They work for contractors — companies that are paid with your tax dollars to staff government facilities and do government-funded work around the country.

Contractors get big bucks to make goods, like military uniforms, and provide services. These companies do construction jobs, employ home health care workers, and are responsible for cleaning government buildings.

Though the contracts can total billions of dollars, frontline workers are paid at poverty levels. After decades on the job, these workers may never get a raise that brings their pay above our paltry minimum wage.

Guadalupe Rodriguez is an example. She has worked for almost 20 years for a janitorial company at Union Station, a federal property. She receives no benefits and has never made more than the minimum. Workers who are undocumented, and there are some, are paid in cash and cheated out of even that lowly sum.

These workers exploited by companies raking in your tax dollars number about two million. On top of that, there are at least one million underpaid farm workers taken advantage of by Big Ag companies subsidized with government handouts.

Well, some of these underpaid federal contract workers are mad as hell, and they’re not going to take it anymore. Rolling strikes in Washington have been held this summer at the Smithsonian Institution, Union Station, and the Ronald Reagan building. Led by the union-backed Good Jobs Nation, the strikes are sure to spread to other cities with large numbers of government-contracted workers.

The Demos report urges President Barack Obama to issue an executive order that would mandate higher wages and benefits as a condition of federal contracting, an already common practice at the municipal level.

Better yet, why not cut out the middlemen? Uncle Sam used to employ people directly, with decent wages and benefits. Now those jobs are outsourced to corporations making big profits on the backs of workers.

By allowing contractors to pay low wages and no benefits, the federal government is forcing us taxpayers to pick up the tab for the help these employees must have to make ends meet — services like Medicaid, food stamps, and subsidized child care.

There’s no sane reason why corporations should be allowed to benefit from billions of your tax dollars to line their already overflowing pockets, all the while keeping your neighbors in poverty.


Martha Burk is the director of the Corporate Accountability Project for the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO) and the author of the book Your Voice, Your Vote: The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Power, Politics, and the Change We Need. Follow Martha on twitter @MarthaBurk. Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)

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Where Do You Buy Your Prescription Drugs?

There’s a great post over an AlterNet today about the prices of Generic drugs that you really should take the time to read.

“According to a new Consumer Reports  investigative study published Thursday, there is rampant variation in the price of generic drugs as large U.S. pharmacy chains — including CVS, Rite Aid, and Target — marking up the prices of generic drug versions for common medications by as much as 18 times what wholesale chains like Costco charge. That price variance ends up costing Americans, who spend an average of $758 out-of-pocket on drugs every year, hundreds of dollars in unnecessary spending each month.”  Read the rest of this article …

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