Maine Governor Paul LePage has ordered state workers to remove from the state labor department a 36-foot mural depicting the state’s labor history. Among other things the mural illustrates the 1937 shoe mill strike in Auburn and Lewiston. It also features the iconic “Rosie the Riveter,” who in real life worked at the Bath Iron Works. One panel shows my predecessor at the U.S. Department of Labor, Frances Perkins, who was buried in Newcastle, Maine.
The LePage Administration is also renaming conference rooms that had carried the names of historic leaders of American labor, as well as former Secretary Perkins.
The Governor’s spokesman explains that the mural and the conference-room names were “not in keeping with the department’s pro-business goals.”
Are we still in America?
Frances Perkins was the first woman cabinet member in American history. She was also one of the most accomplished cabinet members in history.
She and her boss, Franklin D. Roosevelt, came to office at a time when average working people needed help – and Perkins and Roosevelt were determined to give it to them. Together, they created Social Security, unemployment insurance, the right of workers to unionize, the minimum wage, and the forty-hour workweek.
Big business and Wall Street thought Perkins and Roosevelt were not in keeping with pro-business goals. So they and their Republican puppets in Congress and in the states retaliated with a political assault on the New Deal.
Roosevelt did not flinch. In a speech in October 1936 he condemned “business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.”
Big business and Wall Street, he said,
had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.
Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me – and I welcome their hatred.
Fast forward 75 years.
Big business and Wall Street have emerged from the Great Recession with their pockets bulging. Profits and bonuses are as high as they were before the downturn. And they’re spending like mad on lobbying and politics. After the Supreme Court’s disgraceful Citizens United decision, there are no limits.
Pro-business goals are breaking out all over. Governors across America are slashing corporate taxes as they slash state budgets. House and Senate Republicans are intent on deregulating, privatizing, and cutting spending and taxes so their corporate and Wall Street patrons will do even better.
But most Americans are still in desperate trouble. Few if any of the economic gains are trickling down.
That’s why the current Republican assault on workers – on their right to form unions, on unemployment insurance and Social Security, on public employees, and even (courtesy of Governor LePage) on our common memory – is so despicable.
And it’s why we need a President who will fight for workers and fight against this assault — just as Perkins and FDR did.
By the way, Maine’s Governor LePage may be curious to know that the building housing the U.S. Department of Labor in Washington is named the “Frances Perkins Building.” He can find her portrait hanging prominently inside. Also portraits and murals of great leaders of American labor.
A short walk across the mall will bring Governor LePage to an imposing memorial to Franklin D. Roosevelt, should the Governor wish to visit.
Governor, you might be able to erase some of Maine’s memory, but you’ll have a hard time erasing the nation’s memory – even if it’s not in keeping with your pro-business goals.
By: Robert Reich, Professor of Public Policy, University of California at Berkeley, March 23, 2011
Two weeks ago, Newt Gingrich said this is what he would do about Libya, if he were president: “Exercise a no-fly zone this evening”.
Yesterday, here’s what Newt said about Libya, where the United States is exercising a no-fly zone: “I would not have intervened”.
After a full day of people making fun of him, the former House speaker — who masquerades as an intellectual policy wonk but who is actually just a master self-promoter — explained himself in a lengthy Facebook post, Sarah Palin-style, that generally made no sense, Sarah Palin-style.
His position seems to be that he would not have intervened, but once the president said, “Gadhafi must go,” the United States had to intervene, to save face, and that’s when Newt would’ve exercised the no-fly zone, if he were president and had made that statement, which he wouldn’t have done.
Also, Gingrich says, now that we’ve done this we should also do it in the Sudan, Syria, Zimbabwe, Yemen and elsewhere, except we shouldn’t do it at all, anywhere.
We here at the War Room have just received, from the future, the next two weeks of Newt Gingrich’s public statements on Libya, and other assorted matters of national import.
“Meet the Press,” March 27
“What the president needs to do is have Congress vote on the use of ground troops in Libya, immediately.”
Neil Cavuto, March 29
“If I were president I’d unilaterally strike Iran right now instead of wasting our time and resources in Libya.”
Facebook, March 29
“My position on Libya has not changed: What the United States should’ve done is invade with a ground force, after receiving congressional authorization, but only if he hadn’t sought United Nations approval, which would’ve changed everything. Under the current circumstances, with the president already having totally blown it, our best option is a surprise airstrike on Iran.”
Human Events.com, March 31
“This is the single biggest foreign policy disaster I’ve seen since, literally, the Battle of Blandensburg, which I am writing a book about. We should pull out now and refocus on jobs, here at home.”
“Good Morning America,” April 1
“Look, if I was the commander in chief, I wouldn’t rest until we had Gadhafi’s head on a pike outside one of his gaudy palaces.”
Facebook, April 2
“Again, I’m distraught to see America so poorly led during this time of great international turmoil. My position is clear: The United States has a jobs crisis exacerbated by the failed policies of our current president, but after we committed ourselves to removing Gadhafi, we forced ourselves to take literally any action at our disposal to make that a reality, as long as we did it right, because if we aren’t doing it right, which we aren’t, but which I would, we should not do it.
“I also apologize to the hardworking staff at ‘Good Morning America’ for the incident with the chair, but I am growing tired of constantly answering such transparently biased questions about my very simple position on the conflict in Libya.”
“Face the Nation,” April 3
“I support gay marriage.”
“Fox and Friends,” April 6
“Gay people should be thrown in jail, forever, if they try to marry each other.”
Twitter, April 6
“deep respect 4 homosexual americans-vow to serve ALL americans if prez-inmate marriage will strengthen national respect 4 traditional family.”
By: Alex Pareene, Salon War Room, March 24, 2011
Is the health care reform law a good deal for Americans, or is it so badly flawed that Congress should repeal it? Now that the measure is one year old — President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to law on March 23, 2010 — I humbly suggest we attempt an unbiased assessment of what the law really means to us, and where we need to go from here.
To do that in a meaningful way, we must remind ourselves why reform was necessary in the first place. I believe the heated rhetoric we’ve been exposed to since the reform debate began has obscured the harsh realities of a health care system that failed to meet the needs of an ever-growing number of Americans.
Among them: seven-year-old Thomas Wilkes of Littleton, Colorado, who was born with severe hemophilia. You would never know it to meet Thomas because he looks and acts like any other little boy his age, but to stay alive, he needs expensive treatments that over time will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Thomas’s parents were terrified before the law was passed because the family’s health insurance policy had a $1 million lifetime cap. Thanks to a provision in the law that makes lifetime caps a thing of the past, they can sleep easier at night.
Another person who faced the real possibility of not being able to pay for needed medical care is Robin Beaton of Waxahachie, Texas. Her insurance company notified her the day before a scheduled mastectomy two years ago that it was canceling her coverage. Why? Because Robin had forgotten to note when she applied for insurance that she had previously been treated for acne.
So Beaton – who told her story to a congressional committee — was a victim not only of breast cancer but of “rescission,” a once-prevalent practice in the insurance industry. The congressional panel — the House Energy and Commerce Committee — discovered that just three insurers had rescinded the policies of 20,000 people over the course of a five-year period, confirming for lawmakers that the practice was widespread and growing. By rescinding those 20,000 policies, the three companies avoided paying for more than $300 million worth of medical care, much of it for critically ill people. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Beaton and the rest of us will no longer have to worry that our insurance policies will be canceled when we need them most because of innocent omissions on applications.
Reform Will End Common Insurance Company Abuses
That same congressional committee discovered during another investigation that the four largest U.S. insurance companies had refused to sell coverage to more than 600,000 people with pre-existing conditions over a three-year period. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, insurers can no longer deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. The law will apply to all of us by 2014.
In addition, young people who have not been able to find jobs that offer health care benefits can now stay on their parents’ policies until they are 26. Young adults, many of whom haven’t been able to find jobs, or who work for firms that don’t provide coverage, comprise the largest portion of the nearly 51 million Americans who are uninsured.
The new law also eliminates copayments for preventive services and requires insurers to establish appeals procedures for denied coverage or claims. And the law has additionally begun to close the infamous “doughnut hole” in the Medicare prescription drug program. Medicare beneficiaries are also now getting better coverage for preventive care. And small-business owners who provide benefits to their employees are being helped by tax credits available for the first time.
Another important provision of the new law requires insurers to spend most of what we pay them in premiums on medical care. In 1993, insurers on average were spending 95 percent of our premiums paying medical claims. That average has dropped steadily ever since. In many cases, especially in the individual and small-group markets, insurers have been spending as little as 50 percent on medical care. The law requires insurers to spend at least 80 percent (85 percent in the large-group market) on health care services or quality improvement activities. Those that don’t will have to pay rebates to their policyholders.
Coming Phases of Reform Will Help Control Costs
Other helpful parts of the law will be phased in. By 2014, for example, states will have to set up health insurance exchanges, which should help control costs. Between 2000 and 2010, American families saw annual premiums increase 114 percent on average from $6,438 to $13,770, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. While employers often still pay the lion’s share of health insurance premiums, workers are seeing their portion increase every year. During the last decade, worker contributions to health care premiums increased 147 percent. The exchanges, if implemented as Congress intended, should bring down the cost of premiums by fostering competition among insurers. The exchanges will also require insurers to provide data that will enable us to make apples-to-apples comparisons among various benefit plans.
Even after the law is fully implemented, there will be much to do. While an estimated 30 million Americans will be brought into coverage, more than 20 million others will still be uninsured. There’s also still work to be done on addressing the underlying costs of health care in the United States.
But the Affordable Care Act is a start. Let’s consider it just that — a start — and an important one on our shared journey toward a health care system that works better for all of us. If we stop to think for a moment about what needed to be fixed, about why the health care system in the world’s richest country was failing an ever-growing number of Americans, I believe we will want to continue the journey.
By: Wendel Potter, Op-Ed Columnist, Center for Media and Democracy, March 24, 2011