Index
Wednesday
Dec172014

POLITICS (National): Think tank report, "big money campaign finance system," political inequality: "Why big spending on political campaigns makes racial inequality worse" ....  

* Washington Post (Wonkblog):  "Why big spending on political campaigns makes racial inequality worse" - From the WP:

Throughout U.S. history, minorities have had an unequal voice in politics — because they were denied the right to vote, or because when they could vote they had to pay poll taxes, or because, in the absence of poll taxes, even subtler obstacles, such as gerrymandering, emerged.

For the most part, we think that such barriers have been receding with time. But the left-leaning think tank Demos argues that another factor is further restraining the political power of minorities today: our system of big-money spending in elections. Why? Winning candidates today for all kinds of offices are largely backed by big sums from a small number of people. And because minorities are underrepresented in that high-spending group — and among the very high-income in general — their interests tend to be unrepresented as well by candidates overwhelmingly funded by wealthy white donors.

By this thinking, as the power of money in politics rises, unleashed by a series of court decisions, the power of groups that can't afford to influence elections with their pocket books will wane. As a result, writes Demos policy advocate Adam Lioz in a new report, "our big money campaign finance system entrenches political inequality for people of color." Put another way, it enhances the influence of people with money, who are disproportionately white:

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In effect, two things happen when the political system limits the power of people without much money..........................

Wednesday
Dec172014

POLITICS: Patt Morrison, interview with Rep. Henry Waxman: "Mr. Waxman leaves Washington" ....

* Los Angeles Times (Patt Morrison):  "Mr. Waxman leaves Washington" - From the LAT:

It was a Republican who once paid Democrat Henry Waxman the rough compliment of being "tougher than a boiled owl." Many of the big things Waxman helped to make into law in his four decades in Congress took bipartisan work, the kind that has all but disappeared in Washington: tobacco regulation, easier access to generic drugs, increased food labeling and safety, cleaner air and water, AIDS healthcare and Obamacare. But that's not why Waxman — a vastly influential legislator and among the last of Congress' 1974 "Watergate baby" generation — is retiring. He figures he has a lot of tread left on his tires, but he wants to drive down roads other than the ones leading to Capitol Hill.

What's at the heart of the public's low regard for Congress?

The public is justified in feeling contempt for Congress. We have had a Republican majority dominated by its extreme right wing that argues that even talking to Democrats is like complicity with the enemy. That mindset is antithetical to the idea that underlies representative democracy. You cannot get everything your own way. You always have to be willing to compromise.

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Why don't people connect the services they get with government. They say, for example, "Don't let the government get hold of my Medicare"?

A lot of people have heard the propaganda over and over again. They're basically against things that help low-income people, and a lot of low income people are minorities, African American and Hispanic.

You do sound frustrated.

I don't want to deny my frustration with Congress, but even when you're in the minority, you can still get legislation passed. You have to persevere.

Wednesday
Dec172014

POLITICS (National): Congress, end of session: "Senate abruptly wraps up, ending the least productive Congress in modern history" ....

* Washington Post:  "Senate abruptly wraps up, ending the least productive Congress in modern history" - From the WP:

The least-productive Congress in modern history drew to an abrupt close late Tuesday as the U.S. Senate extended dozens of expired tax breaks but failed to renew a federally backed terrorism insurance program supported by big businesses and major sports leagues.

Democrats controlling the Senate also secured agreements from Republicans to confirm at least six dozen of President Obama’s nominees to serve as federal judges, agency bosses and on myriad government boards, a last-minute coup for the White House since most of the picks faced tougher odds next year once Republicans take full control of Capitol Hill.

Word of a final agreement allowing senators to vote a final time and leave Washington for the holidays came shortly before 10 p.m., prompting senators to rush back into the U.S. Capitol for a final vote. “Thank God it’s over!” Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W. Va.) said as he exited the Senate chamber afterward. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), the second-ranking Republican, complained that Democrats had rushed too many nominees through in the closing days. “This is lamer than most lame-ducks,” he said.

But outgoing Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) disagreed: “We did okay this time. But, we’ve had better.” As for next year, Reid said he hopes “that we can have a little civility in the Senate.”

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Asked about the conclusion of the unproductive congressional session as he boarded an elevator, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) paraphrased the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein: “That which cannot be spoken must be passed over in silence.”

Wednesday
Dec172014

L.A. CITY HALL: Hotel workers, increased minimum wage, litigation, questions: "Emails show City Attorney Mike Feuer worked with hotel advocates on ordinance" ....

***Following up on most recent earlier item noted here (city of Los Angelels, hotel workers, increased minimum wage, legal challenge, lawsuit filed by industry groups)....

* Daily News:  "Emails show City Attorney Mike Feuer worked with hotel advocates on ordinance"

Sparking anger from business groups, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer’s Office worked with advocates for hotel workers to draft a law benefiting the workers, new emails show.

Two hotel groups suing the city over the law released emails from a public records request Tuesday showing a series of exchanges between lawyers in Feuer’s office and James Elmendorf, deputy director of Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, which advocates for the creation of middle-class jobs and pushed for the new hotel law.

The emails show how Elmendorf and Rich McCracken, an attorney for the union representing hotel workers, offered input on the ordinance’s language. Elmendorf was also given a draft of the ordinance before it was made publicly available, he confirmed Tuesday.

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The American Hotel & Lodging Association and the Asian American Hotel Owners Association filed a lawsuit in federal court Tuesday, arguing the law is inconsistent with federal labor law. Business groups, including the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and Valley Industry and Commerce Association, also oppose the law, arguing that hotels will be forced to lay off workers.

On Tuesday, Stuart Waldman, head of VICA, said he was bothered by the emails between Feuer’s office and proponents of the new law. “It shows that the people who were promoting this issue were working directly with the City Attorney’s Office to write this ordinance,” Waldman said.

The emails seemed certain to ratchet up tensions between business and labor groups at City Hall. . . . . . . . .

It’s not unusual for outside groups to work with City Council offices to draft legislation, but such moves can backfire. In 2012, neighborhood groups were outraged to learn a lobbyist for a billboard company helped write a proposed law regulating billboards...................

Wednesday
Dec172014

POLITICS (National): Pew Research Center report, wealth gap in U.S.: "Wealth gap in America rises to record levels, report says" ....

* Los Angeles Times:  "Wealth gap in America rises to record levels, report says" - From the LAT:

The wealth gap between middle- and upper-income households has widened to the highest level on record, says a new report. Using the latest Federal Reserve data, the Pew Research Center said Wednesday that the median wealth for high-income families was $639,400 last year — up 7% from three years earlier on an inflation-adjusted basis. For middle-income families, the median wealth — that is, assets minus debts — stood at $96,500 last year, unchanged from 2010.

The result is that the typical wealth of the nation's upper-income households last year was nearly seven times that of middle-class ones. By Pew's calculations, that is the biggest gap in the 30 years that the Fed has been collecting statistics from its Survey of Consumer Finances.

"The latest data reinforces the larger story of America's middle-class household wealth stagnation over the past three decades," Pew said. "The Great Recession destroyed a significant amount of middle-income and lower-income families' wealth, and the economic 'recovery' has yet to be felt for them."

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The Pew data shows that lower-, middle- and upper-income households all have yet to recover the wealth lost in the Great Recession. But higher-earning families had the smallest percentage loss of wealth from 2007 to 2010. And these same households, thanks in good part to their disproportionately large stock holdings, recovered a substantial part of the lost wealth since then, while lower-income families made no pickup at all.....................