Friday, June 30, 2017

GUEST POST >> Trump’s Plan for Consumers: Death by a Thousand Cuts

Are Consumers Being Trumped by Policy?

The following is a guest post authored by Lindsey Pasieka, a Consumer Rights Investigator with If you are interested in doing a guest post with Political Heat, please click the Contact link above. 

The metaphor is gruesome, I know. But today, so is the outlook for consumers in America. With the AHCA vote put on hold once again (because not everyone thinks it is okay to strip 22 million Americans of their healthcare) our nation sits on the fence between defending and decimating consumer protections.

Donald Trump, however, has already made his stance clear. He stands to the side with Big Business, Big Pharma and Big Losses for the public.

Already, President Trump has shown his disregard for the average American in his FY18 budget, which presents cuts to some of our most important health and safety agencies. For example, the FDA’s budget stands to be cut by $854 million, a deficit that would be covered by increased user fees placed on the shoulders of drug manufacturers.

Perhaps this is a burden easily taken on by Pfizer and similar household names. However, the hiked fees could trample smaller, innovative companies seeking to bring new solutions to the world of medications, stifling their product offerings and thereby preserving the profit margin of current industry moguls.

Trump has often talked about reducing regulations that he considers “overkill” in both drug and agriculture. What you might not know is that those reductions include a $228 million cut in farm programs that, in addition to maintaining a high standard for food quality, offer assistance to smaller farms and organic farmers making their way into the market. If that isn’t enough, reports that "Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in May rescinded rules in the School Lunch Program that required the use of whole grains and fat-free, white-only milk and a second round of sodium reductions."

In plain terms, the Trump administration is stamping out opportunities for eco-friendly, health-focused producers while blatantly allowing schools to provide less healthful options to our kids every day.

Of course, it’s not enough to put a pillow over the face of market innovators — the GOP has attacked consumers directly as well. With their oxymoronic Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act, the administration has made it much more difficult for consumers to seek justice when Big Business or Big Pharma missteps. To create a class, citizens must now prove they have the same “type and scope of injury.”

So if plaintiff #1 was exposed to talcum powder by her mother using baby powder on her as an infant, and plaintiff #2 used the powder to help reduce chafing while training for a 5K, and both have now been diagnosed with ovarian cancer caused by the talcum powder, they cannot band together to seek reparations. Even if both women had the same “type and scope of injury,” ovarian cancer can lie dormant for years. Since litigators have recently proposed changing the statutes of limitation for these cases from 10 to 3 years, these women would be unable to fight for justice if their diagnosis came too late.

As of today, Donald Trump’s administration isn’t quite sure where it lands on health care just yet. But they continue to be complacent in supporting Big Business and Big Pharma over the small businesses that truly make America great. They care more about profits in the food industry than promoting health standards, despite a raging obesity epidemic and the climate benefits of innovative, organic farming practices.

And when they’re done picking the bones of federal agencies, they have no problem targeting consumer rights directly. So death by a thousand cuts may sound ugly, messy, or painful. But there’s one thing the threat isn’t: fake.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Why you should ignore Scott Walker’s rosy economic outlook

Underemployment remains a problem in Wisconsin — and that’s why jobs numbers matter

Scott Walker is making much ado about the unemployment rate in Wisconsin. And at first glance, it does look pretty great. Here’s his latest radio address spot, courtesy of the Capital Times’s Jessie Opoien:
A 3.1 percent unemployment rate, again, sounds great. But there’s important things to remember here...first, that the unemployment numbers count people as employed even if they’re working part time.

There isn’t a reliable measure of part time workers that we can look at. So, it’s important to look at the underemployment rate also when we look at how much things have improved.

That rate, also known as the U-6 rate, is actually hovering around 7.7 to 8.0 percent, meaning that nearly 4 to 5 percent of the workforce that Walker is touting as employed isn’t getting as much work as they wish they could (full time). In total, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that nearly 100,000 individuals were involuntary part time workers in the state of Wisconsin.

This leads into the next point. In order to fix that problem of underemployment, there has to be new jobs created in the state, and frequently. This is true with any economy: a certain percentage of people, at any given time, want to be able to change career paths or just get a different job with a new employer. So, new jobs have to be created to keep up.

That’s not possible when new jobs aren’t being created. And with less than 12,000 jobs being created for all of 2016, it’s clear that Wisconsin isn’t keeping up with the demand for fluidity in the job marketplace.

It’s no wonder that millennials are seeking work elsewhere, as I pointed out earlier this month. Job opportunities are low, wages are dropping, and what job opportunities do exist are on many occasions part time jobs.

Scott Walker should be proud of the 3.1 percent unemployment rate. But that rate is hardly indicative of the overall economic picture. Voters should remind him of where the state really stands when 2018 rolls around.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Randy Bryce’s announcement ad is a powerful message — and Dems nationwide should echo it

Ironworker and activist hopes to win Paul Ryan’s seat

Ironworker and activist Randy Bryce has announced his intention to run for Congress. He faces a daunting task: running against the current Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

But if any candidate is going to be able to put up a fight worth writing home about, it’s Bryce. His no-nonsense style of wit, along with his lifelong connection to southeastern Wisconsin, will make him a formidable opponent for Ryan, who has held the district since 1999.

And Bryce, in announcing his bid for the seat, has come out swinging. He released his first campaign ad to great fanfare yesterday (just search “Bryce” on Twitter to see the people who have lauded this ad). One noteworthy message of praise simply states that Bryce was “genetically engineered from Bruce Springsteen songs.”

But you should really see the ad for yourself. And then you should share it with whoever you can, especially if they live in the First Congressional District of Wisconsin.
Bryce’s ad is a moving and powerful example of what the Democratic Party should be moving toward. If that message ran in every district across the country, there’d be a gain in seats for Democrats in Congress, no question about it.

I look forward to seeing who comes out ahead on the Democratic Party’s primary in Wisconsin’s First District. But Bryce’s ad has me pumped up about the possibilities.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Rename the City-County Building in Madison after Barack Obama

The building, which sits on MLK Blvd, would be incredibly symbolic of the 44th president’s importance

The City-County Building in downtown Madison should absolutely, without any reservation whatsoever, be named after the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama.

Local leaders from both the city of Madison and Dane County are hoping to do just that, reports.

Important names of presidents frequently adorn schools, buildings, and other monuments, and it makes perfect sense that the first African-American president should have his name on an official building in Madison — especially given its location. The City-County Building sits on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Madison.

It was King who spoke of “his dream” in 1963 in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. that justice would one day become “a reality for all of God's children.”

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal,’ King also said.

Contrast those words with Obama's 2004 keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention, and it makes perfect sense to name the building after him.
[T]he greatness of our nation [is] not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy; our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over two hundred years ago: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." 
For many people Obama is the embodiment of King's dream, though by no means is he the fulfillment of it. For too many, justice is not yet a reality; for too many, the color of their skin dictates how others judge them. The dream lives on, but we're closer to fulfilling it because of great Americans like President Obama.

We need to continue to rectify America’s racial prejudices, to call out when discrimination still rears its ugly head. And one way to do that is to place the names of important historical figures in the places we frequent, to adorn influential figures on the buildings we enter every day, who embody what we strive to become.

Naming the City-County Building after Barack Obama would be a great step forward. And it’s an idea I full-heartedly endorse.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Walker fails math, prefers disastrous Trumpcare to fixing Obamacare

In weekend tweet, Walker neglects (purposely?) how much worse GOP plan for healthcare would be

Scott Walker issued several tweets this weekend from his official governor’s account, one of which caught my eye for being extremely disingenuous.

Walker argued that keeping the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) in place would leave tens of millions uninsured over the next decade.
Walker’s words echo President Donald Trump’s statements that claim Obamacare is in a “death spiral.” That assessment, however, has been found false on many occasions. Obamacare isn’t failing — sure, it can use a tune-up, but it’s negative aspects don’t justify dismantling all the positives it has accomplished.

But Walker’s tweet goes even lower, trying to instill fear that the law is failing using numbers that are highly misleading. While it’s true that 28 million are projected to be uninsured by 2026, the Republicans’ alternative plan would almost DOUBLE that number.
Walker takes one-half of the debate and spins it to make a point about Obamacare’s shortfalls. But he neglects to mention his own party’s disastrous replacement plan. Fifty-one million uninsured Americans is a lot worse than 28 million uninsured. If the cost of doing nothing results in a better outcome, then we should truly consider doing nothing — rejecting Trumpcare and finding ways to repair Obamacare.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Conservative politics are forcing Millennials to leave the Badger state (and who can blame them?)

Younger workers see no motivation to stay in a state with bad economic conditions, conservative politics

A new study suggests that Millennials in Milwaukee are starting to leave the big city, and probably the state in general.

From WISN:
According to a new article on Time magazine's website, most urban centers saw an increase in millennials from 2010 to 2015 and 11 cities saw a decline. The Urban Land Institute said Milwaukee's urban millennial population saw a negative change of 1.8 percent.
Much of the blame for the loss of young talent rests with the fact that there aren’t enough jobs available to millennials, the article goes on to say.

In January of 2016, I wrote a post in response to a letter to the editor I had read in the Stevens Point Journal. The letter writer suggested that, “Millennials and younger voters are likely not in sync with Walker’s and Republicans’ policies,” and I further asserted that economic opportunities (or rather, the lack thereof) hindered the retention of millennials in the Badger state:
When the economic conditions of the state fail to provide a good life for people, it’s up to political leaders to try and change those conditions through various policies that shape the landscape overall. It’s impractical for politicians to create jobs on their own -- they can’t just legislate companies to hire -- but they can pass laws to make burdens on workers and small businesses less cumbersome.

Yet millennials are not seeing that from this governor or his legislative allies. Instead, Gov. Walker and Republicans are shifting whatever resources were available in the past toward help for a less deserving cause -- their political donor base.
We’re still seeing that today. In the 12 months after I wrote that post, jobs in Wisconsin grew by a measly 0.48 percent, or 11,590 jobs total for the year.

That’s not something that young workers likely feel confident about. Add to the jobs troubles the fact that millennials are generally more liberal than their adult counterparts, and you have a recipe for outward migration.

Millennials aren’t seeing community investments from Republican leaders in the state. Nor are they seeing any of the economic advantages that conservative “reforms” had promised them. No, millennials don’t want tax cuts for the wealthy and crumbling roads. They want a reason to stay — and in the past six years, they’ve rarely seen any motivation to do so.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Tolerating intolerable speech: change may be needed, but no need for legislative interference

UW should protect all speech, but proposed bill in the legislature isn’t necessary

Just a quick rant this afternoon...

The question of the so-called “free speech” bill making its way through the state legislature has me thinking a lot about the idea of what speech is tolerable or not.

I’m a firm believer in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. I even own a flag that was flown over the U.S. Capitol Building in 2010 to honor that amendment, which includes speech rights. I’m a huge proponent that any political thought or opinion should be defended — even if it’s deemed an intolerable idea by most.

So bigots do have a right to speak their mind, and they do have a right to demonstrate their ideas. But that doesn’t mean that others can’t argue against them.

Speech that some deem intolerable can be protested against, and this type of speech shouldn’t be regulated either, except to prevent violence and harm to others. If protests limit the ability of people to speak in a public setting, that is unfortunate, and there should be ways to redress that. But protest, too, is speech; and it must be recognized as such.

The University of Wisconsin System needs to find ways to allow conservatives — yes, even right-wing extremists — the ability to speak in public on their property. And they need to find ways to limit interferences to those speakers, to allow a free market of ideas to exist.

But they needn’t be required to do so through legislative action that seeks to quell other forms of free speech. Protesters have rights as well, and the right to protest any speaker that comes to UW should not be infringed either.

I’m confident that the UW System can find a balance on its own. Legislators in the state capitol should advise and comment on whatever approach the UW takes — but they needn’t do so by requiring restrictive laws that limit the rights of students, faculty, and other members of the public.