Daily Archives: March 25, 2011

Color Lines: Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s Financial Martial Law on Poor Cities

March 25, 2011- My friend Judith Browne-Dianis, who runs the Advancement Project, just turned me on to this evil mechanism that allows governors to take over local decision making. On the heels of Wisconsin’s move to strip public employees of collective bargaining rights, Michigan has taken things to the next level: stripping cities of self-governance.

Last week, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed the Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act. Now he can declare any city or district in financial emergency, appoint an emergency manager (at county, city, district or township level) and give that person the power to control budgets, sell off assets, bypass city councils and boards of education, take over school systems, de-certify public unions, and even to dissolve the city itself as an entity. This is corporate martial law—it won’t be the military taking over, but business interests that constitute an authoritarian regime.

Beaver County Times: 2 Pa. districts mull heavy teacher layoffs

March 26, 2011- Two Pennsylvania school districts could have to lay off hundreds of employees amid a budget crunch made more severe by cuts in education funding in the proposed state budget.

A layoff proposal released Thursday by the Bethlehem Area School District calls for the elimination of 168 employees to deal with a $11 million budget gap _ up about $5 million following proposed education funding cuts in Gov. Tom Corbett's 2011-12 budget.

"No district I know expected the depth of the state cuts," Superintendent Joseph Roy told a school board meeting.

Under the proposal, the district would eliminate 44 teachers, including 20 at Liberty and Freedom high schools; 11 special education teacher assistants and 12 coaches, The Express-Times of Easton reported.

The district may also allow high school students in good standing to take fewer classes and leave school early, Roy said. Roy's staff also recommended cutting full-day kindergarten, ending tutoring and putting off buying new buses.

Washington Post: Rick Scott’s extremely profitable policy proposal

March 25, 2011- Florida Gov. Rick Scott is one of the most entertainingly shameless figures in American political life. In the 1990s, Scott headed Columbia/HCA Healthcare, the largest for-profit hospital in America. While Scott was running Columbia/HCA Healthcare, it got involved in a bit — okay, a lot — of fraud. As Forbes reported, the company “increased Medicare billings by exaggerating the seriousness of the illnesses they were treating. It also granted doctors partnerships in company hospitals as a kickback for the doctors referring patients to HCA. In addition, it gave doctors ‘loans’ that were never expected to be paid back, free rent, free office furniture, and free drugs from hospital pharmacies.”

The scale of the fraud was so immense that Columbia/HCA Healthcare ended up paying more than $2 billion (PDF) back to the federal government in the single largest fraud case in history. (The previous record holder? Drexel Burnham.) Scott resigned shortly before the judgment came down.

The Nation: Remembering the Triangle Fire

March 16, 2011- On March 25, 1911, a fire that broke out in a bin holding scraps of fabric at the Triangle Waist Company, just down the block from New York City’s Washington Square Park, quickly spread, fed by cotton garments, tissue paper and wooden fixtures. Though the building that housed the clothing manufacturer was modern and advertised as fireproof, the cramped layout of the factory, a locked exit door, a flimsy fire escape that soon crumpled and inadequate fire department equipment brought a staggering loss of life. Within a half-hour, 146 workers had died, mostly young Jewish and Italian women, nearly half still in their teens. Two were only 14. More than a third of the victims jumped or fell from upper-story windows trying to escape the flames.

Solve Climate News: Developer Pulls Plug on Wisconsin Wind Farm Over Policy Uncertainty

Other wind energy firms are expected to follow in Invenergy's footsteps and move planned projects to states with more favorable wind policies

March 24, 2011- Wind energy developer Invenergy pulled the plug on a planned wind farm in Wisconsin last week, in the first of what may be a slew of such money-losing exits for the state.

The Chicago-based firm cited the state's "regulatory uncertainty" in its decision to cancel plans for the 150-megawatt Ledge Wind Energy Center in southern Brown County.

Invenergy said that the abrupt suspension of state wind siting rules and an "unstable climate" — namely Gov. Scott Walker's bill to establish the nation's most stringent wind standards — had forced the firm to think twice about building its 100-turbine project in Wisconsin.

Turbines at the firm's 129-megawatt Forward Wind Energy Center near Lake Michigan, which came online in 2008, will keep spinning.

Earth Techling: Large Wisconsin Wind Farm Killed By Politics

March 24, 2011- Invenergy had been planning to build a large capacity wind farm in Wisconsin, but now that is dead after the company pulled out of the development of the proposed Ledge Wind Energy project. The reason? The desire of the Wisconsin governor and state legislature members to suspend a rule around how wind farms are permitted.

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, according to Solve Climate News, had proposed suspending previously passed rules by the state Public Service Commission that would reportedly balance the needs of wind farm placement with that of property owners’ concerns over issues around items like property values and noise. Walker’s decision, much like when he objected to federal funding for high speed rail in his state, put him at odds with many in Wisconsin, though the GOP controlled state legislature was apparently quite happy to oblige him.

Salon: Wisconsin’s most dangerous professor

Why are Republicans desperate to see Bill Cronon's emails? Because ideas and history matter

March 25, 2011- I just bought two books by the University of Wisconsin historian William Cronon: "Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England" and "Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West."

A week ago, I had never heard of Cronon. This is embarrassing, since it doesn't take much digging around to discover that he is one of the most highly regarded historians in the United States (not to mention president-elect of the American Historical Association).

But that was before Cronon's fascinating opinion piece in Monday's New York Times detailing how Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's political agenda flies in the face of "civic traditions that for more than a century have been among the most celebrated achievements not just of their state, but of their own party as well." A devastating new broadside in the battle for Wisconsin, Cronon's Op-Ed deservedly went viral.

Talking Points Memo: Protesters Erupt As New Hampshire GOPers Move Anti-Union Bill That Goes Farther Than Walker’s

March 25, 2011- Late on Tuesday evening, Republicans on a House panel in New Hampshire voted to advance legislation that resembles Scott Walker's law in Wisconsin ending collective bargaining rights for public sector unions. It's actually farther reaching.

Under the terms of this plan, public sector workers in the state would become "at will" employees if and when their contracts expire.

That eliminates all the leverage state employees have in negotiation with their employers, and could ultimately end up busting the unions entirely.

A labor fight has been brewing in New Hampshire, where Republicans have huge House and Senate majorities, for weeks. But this was the first legislative step toward actually undermining unions — and the skewed 18-7 vote suggests it could ultimately land on the Democratic governor's desk, in some form.

The vote came down as protesters jeered and yelled at committee Republicans who had them evicted from the committee room. You can watch that scene unfold here.

Mother Jones: Who Screwed the Middle Class?

March 25, 2011- I've written several times before about Winner-Take-All Politics, in which Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson argue that middle-class wage stagnation and growing income inequality are due as much to political decisions over the past 30 years as they are to broad economic trends. I find their arguments persuasive, but there's no question that it's a tough case to make. After all, exactly which political decisions are we talking about? Can we point to specific pieces of legislation or specific agency decisions that have retarded wage growth? In fact, we can—things like tax policy, financial deregulation, the decline of antitrust enforcement, and anti-union rulings by the NLRB all played a role. By themselves, though, these just aren't enough to account for what's happened. So what's the smoking gun when it comes to the impact of politics on wage stagnation and growing income inequality?

I think Lane Kenworthy fingered the right culprit a few weeks ago: the abandonment in recent decades of full employment as even a rhetorical goal of American economic policy:

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