Thursday, July 30, 2015

I was very disappointed to learn that Rep. John Katko voted away my rights to properly know what I am eating.

To the Editor: 

I was very disappointed to learn that Rep. John Katko voted away my rights to properly know what I am eating. 

On July 23, he voted for The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 that restricts state and local governments from controlling the use and labeling of genetically modified foods. In other words, your local community and state have no say on this matter. 

Because this act leaves consumers in the dark, opponents like myself refer to it as the Dark Act. 

Agribusiness and the pesticide industry are quick to point out that there are no scientific studies linking the consumption of genetically modified food with any illness. 

Undoubtedly, these special interests were keen to have the Dark Act pass because the vast majority of people won't buy GMO-labeled food. In fact, 93 percent of us are for the labeling of GMO foods, according to an ABC poll. 

Mr. Katko's office says that he supported the Dark Act because it would save consumers money. Really? At what cost, Mr. Katko? I would like to know how many pennies you saved for taking away my rights and keeping me in the dark about what I am eating.

Madis Senner

Syracuse, 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

GOP's favorability rating plummets in first half of 2015


Ever since the GOP took control of Congress, the party's favorability rating has nosedived, sliding nine points since the beginning of the year, according to Pew Research Center. Just 32 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Republicans, while 60 percent view them unfavorably. (Democrats presently have a 48-47 percent favorable to unfavorable rating.)
The Democratic Party has often held an edge over the GOP in favorability in recent years, but its advantage had narrowed following the Republicans’ midterm victory last fall. Today, the gap is as wide as it has been in more than two years.

Republicans, in particular, are now more critical of their own party than they were a few months ago. About two-thirds (68%) express a favorable opinion of their party, the lowest share in more than two years. Six months ago, 86% of Republicans viewed the GOP positively.

A majority of Americans view the GOP as "more extreme" than Democrats. Democrats also win the empathy/honesty contest by double digits.
By 53% to 31%, the Democratic Party is viewed as “more concerned with the needs of people like me.” And the Democrats hold a 16-point lead on governing in an honest and ethical way (45% to 29%).
This survey took place July 14-20. Just a guess that the Trump effect isn't even in full relief yet.  

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Jeb Bush, pandering to Kochs, calls for an end to Medicare

Jeb Bush, pandering to Kochs, calls for an end to Medicare
Here's your moderate, establishment Republican presidential candidate, Jeb! He's the one who wants to "phase out" Medicare. Here's exactly what he said Wednesday at a New Hampshire event sponsored by the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity:
The left needs to join the conversation, but they haven't. I mean, when [Rep. Paul Ryan] came up with one of his proposals as it relates to Medicare, the first thing I saw was a TV ad of a guy that looked just like Paul Ryan … that was pushing an elderly person off the cliff in a wheelchair. That’s their response.

And I think we need to be vigilant about this and persuade people that our, when your volunteers go door to door, and they talk to people, people understand this. They know, and I think a lot of people recognize that we need to make sure we fulfill the commitment to people that have already received the benefits, that are receiving the benefits. But that we need to figure out a way to phase out this program for others and move to a new system that allows them to have something—because they’re not going to have anything. [emphasis added]

Actually, that's Jeb! being honest about Republicans' goals and policies. Paul Ryan wouldn't admit that ending Medicare was what he has in mind with his voucher scheme, but that's the aim, and always has been. Jeb! just isn't astute enough politically to know that that's not the kind of thing that you're supposed to actually say out loud, even if it is what the Kochs want to hear.

He's also not politically astute enough to read the polls. Medicare is hugely popular with those "people" he's talking about that are hearing the Kochs' message on their doorsteps. Only about a quarter of people actually support Ryan's voucher system, the kind of change Jeb! says is necessary.

What's more, he's behind in his news. Thanks in large part to Obamacare, Medicare is on very solid footing. It's going to be around for a long time. A lot longer than Jeb, if he keeps up this kind of talk.

Watch the video of his remarks below the fold.


Obama points to accomplishments of Wall Street reform in weekly address

David Brock Calls On New York Times To Commission A Review Of Its Flawed Clinton Reporting

Media Matters for America Chairman David Brock issued a letter today calling on The New York Times to commission a review exploring "the process of reporting and editing at The New York Times that has allowed flawed, fact-free reporting on so-called scandals involving Hillary Clinton and report back to readers." Brock's letter was issued after the paper published another error-filled report on Clinton, this time about her use of personal email while at the State Department.

The full letter is below: 

July 24, 2015

Mr. Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Chairman & Publisher
The New York Times
620 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY, 10018

Dear Mr. Sulzberger:

As you well know, millions of readers look to your paper for its factual, impartial reporting. The New York Times' reputation as the country's newspaper of record is something we cherish -- as I am sure you do as well. I am writing to you today to express my continued concern about a string of reports from your publication that have been used to cast a shadow over Hillary Clinton under false pretenses. 

Let me begin by saying I acknowledge that all journalists make mistakes. Corrections get issued as a matter of course. However, an extraordinarily troubling pattern has emerged at The New York Times of flawed reporting focused on one presidential candidate in particular -- Hillary Clinton. This long pattern raises significant concerns of seemingly institutional anti-Clinton bias at the paper. Regretfully, several examples of what can be characterized at best as flawed reporting on Clinton come immediately to mind:

1)  An August 13, 2013, report that claimed to expose the "unease" over finances and management at the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation was an exercise in evidence-free speculation. To date, several errors in this story, which wrongly cast aspersions on foundation management (including the false suggestion that the foundation ran a deficit in a year it actually ran a surplus), have never been corrected.

2)  A March 2, 2015, report suggested former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "may have violated" federal law with respect to her use of private email while at the State Department. The relevant rules covering such behavior didn't apply to Hillary Clinton's tenure at the State Department. Even The Times' key source undercut the story's central claim, saying later that Clinton had not violated the law. The original botched Timesstory has yet to be corrected. The Times has quietly walked back the initial claims in subsequent reporting -- with even the paper's public editor admitting that the original story was "not without fault."

3)  In advance of serial misinformer Peter Schweizer releasing the decidedly anti-Hillary Clinton book Clinton Cash, The Times reported that "major news organizations including The Times, The Washington Post and Fox News have exclusive agreements with the author to pursue the story lines found in the book." To date, the exact terms of the arrangement between Schweizer and The Times remain secret -- though it was clearly the springboard for yet another faulty Times story. This is extremely troubling given that Media Matters detailed more than TWENTY errors, fabrications, and distortions in Clinton Cash.

Which brings us to today and the latest disgraceful and embarrassing misstep in The New York Times' reporting on Hillary Clinton. The New York Times dramatically changed a report that initially -- based on anonymous sources -- cast Clinton as the target of a requested criminal probe. After publication, The Times altered the report to remove the implication that Clinton was the target of the requested probe -- with no acknowledgement of a correction. A spokeswoman for The New York Times even told The Washington Post there was "no reason for a correction" -- an untenable position that was abandoned later this afternoon after the Justice Department and Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Select Committee on Benghazi, refuted reports of a "criminal investigation of Secretary Clinton's email usage." 

I trust you can see that The Times' reputation is at serious risk. Given the four clear examples cited here, it's time for The New York Times management to address the situation by commissioning a review that will explore the process of reporting and editing at The New York Times that has allowed flawed, fact-free reporting on so-called scandals involving Hillary Clinton and report back to readers. Perhaps lessons can be learned from the internal review commissioned by CBS News following a flawed 60 Minutes report regarding the attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi. Following that internal review, then-Chairman of CBS News and Executive Producer of 60 Minutes Jeff Fager admitted that "there is a lot to learn from this mistake for the entire organization."

I implore the paper to take any and all steps necessary so that these chronic lapses in accuracy and editorial judgement do not recur, and to ensure that the nation's paper of record can be depended on for coverage that is factual and impartial going forward. 

Sincerely,

David Brock
Chairman, Media Matters for America

Hillary Clinton Pushes Back On Report Of Email Investigation

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday said that there had been "a lot of inaccuracies" surrounding a New York Times report that the inspectors general at the State Department and the Intelligence Community  had asked the Justice Department to launch a criminal probe into whether emails with classified information had been mishandled in relation to the personal account she used while secretary of state.

Clinton pointed to comments by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the Select Committee on Benghazi, who said on Friday that the IG had personally told him he did not request a criminal probe. A Justice Department official said in a statement Friday morning that “the Department has received a referral related to the potential compromise of classified information. It is not a criminal referral.”

"Maybe the heat is getting to everybody," Clinton said. "We all have a responsibility to get this right. I have released 55,000 pages of emails, I have said repeatedly that I will answer questions before the House committee." 

The Times issued a correction on the story on Friday, saying that the article "using information from senior government officials, misstated the nature of the referral to the Justice Department regarding Hillary Clinton’s personal email account while she was secretary of state. The referral addressed the potential compromise of classified information in connection with that personal email account. It did not specifically request an investigation into Mrs. Clinton."

During a speech on details of her economic policy in New York on Friday, Clinton said that she was being transparent.

"We are all accountable to the American people to get the facts right," Clinton continued. " And I will do my part. But I am also going to stay focused on the issues. Particularly the big issues that really matter to American families."


  • Sam Levine Associate Politics Editor, The Huffington Post

Friday, July 24, 2015

Republican State Senator Tom Libous guilty of corruption charges

ALBANY—Roughly 20 hours after a jury found  , forcing him to vacate his seat immediately, Governor Andrew Cuomo floated a potential successor, Barbara Fiala.

“I believe I have to call a special election,” Cuomo said on public radio's “Capitol Pressroom” on WCNY. "I already am thinking of a candidate for that district. A Democrat, Barbara Fiala ... She knows Albany, she knows Broome County, she knows the district. She would be fantastic, I think, as a candidate.”

Fiala, who was recently named chair of the Women's Equality Party created by Cuomo last year, served as Broome County Executive and commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles before retiring last year.

“I would do whatever I could do to elect Barbara Fiala. She would be a great representative,” Cuomo continued. “She has 100 percent integrity and 100 percent performance. Those are the two ingredients. You want good honest people and you want people who get something accomplished.”

Read the full story at:http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/07/8572696/cuomo-backs-fiala-libous-seat

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Elizabeth Warren Nails GOP Financial Exec

WASHINGTON -- When a financial executive refuses to answer basic questions about personal finance, you know he's in trouble.

 Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Tuesday embarrassed Primerica President Peter Schneider, who Senate Republicans had invited to testify against a new regulation designed to protect retirement savings from dodgy investment managers. The Obama administration estimates that Americans lose $17 billion a year from investment professionals who manage retirement accounts by prioritizing their own financial interests over those of their clients. It has proposed a simple solution: making that illegal.

Congressional Republicans loathe the rule, but Warren's neat vivisection of Schneider underscores their difficulties in arguing against it. The GOP can usually rely on a nearly united financial industry front against Democratic regulatory proposals. This time, however, some big-name investment professionals actually support the rule, recognizing that it will purge the industry of bad actors and create business opportunities for those who don't rip off their own clients.

Schneider portrayed his company as a defender of the working class -- clients who make as little as $30,000 a year, from homes "all too often … headed by a single mother." 

"We all agree that we must act in a client's best interests," Schneider said, before arguing that the Obama rule requiring managers to do just that would ultimately force Primerica to abandon its single-mother clientele.

Warren presented Schneider with a Huffington Post article detailing lawsuits against the company filed by Florida workers. According to the complaints, Primerica encouraged workers nearing retirement to trade in their government-guaranteed pensions for much riskier assets -- a move that would jeopardize their savings while giving Primerica the opportunity to profit from managing their funds in the future. Had they stayed in their pensions, retirees would have simply received regular payments, leaving no fees for Primerica reps. 

The lawsuits describe exactly the kind of activity that the Obama rule is designed to prevent, and suggest that Primerica hasn't always acted in its clients' best interests. Primerica set aside $15.4 million in 2014 to settle lawsuits from 238 such workers.

 "Mr. Schneider, I just want to understand your company's advice in these cases," Warren began. "Do you believe that people like these firefighters from Florida who are near retirement and have secure pensions with guaranteed monthly payments should move their money into riskier assets with no guarantees, just before they retire?"

 Almost no one who understands personal finance would give such advice in good faith. And Schneider never really answered the question, after being pressed by Warren three separate times. He said that regulators had signed off on the activity, that "each situation is very different," and that it could make sense for someone on the verge of death.

 "I'm sorry, are you suggesting that these 238 people were weeks away from dying, and that's why they all got this advice?" Warren asked. 

Elizabeth Warren Embarrasses GOP Financial Exec
08:27




Monday, July 20, 2015

The Press' Latest Double Standard For Democrats Blog

Last week, the Associated Press helped dictate campaign coverage for a news cycle when it emphasized how its latest poll showed Hillary Clinton's favorable ratings falling.

"The survey offers a series of warning signs for the leading Democratic candidate," the AP warned, suggesting its survey results were "troubling" for the Democratic frontrunner. Despite the fact that the AP's own poll found that a vast majority of Democratic voters view Clinton favorably, the article included interviews with three Democratic voters, all of whom gave Clinton negative reviews.

The excited AP dispatch set off a new round of Clinton-in-trouble coverage by news organizations that reprinted the AP's survey results:

And at the Washington Post, Chris Cillizza pounced on the AP's polling data and announced it was all very bad news for Clinton.

But notice what information was buried in the 18th and final paragraph of the AP's report on Clinton's falling favorable ratings [emphasis added]:

Clinton's bad marks weren't unique: Nearly all of the Republican candidates surveyed in the poll shared her underwater approval ratings. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a leading GOP candidate, saw his unfavorable ratings rise to 44% from 36% in April.

Wait, what?

Bush's favorable ratings, which have been underwaterall year, lag behind Clinton's in the latest AP poll (31 percent Bush, 39 percent Clinton) and his unfavorable ratings are on the rise? Correct. But at the AP, there were no warnings about what those "troubling" numbers mean for Bush's campaign, and there were no AP interviews with Republican voters voicing their disappointment in the candidate.

For the AP, Jeb Bush and his soft poll numbers were clearly not the story. They barely even garnered a footnote.

Welcome to the often-baffling world of polling reportingfor the 2016 campaign, where perceived dips by Clinton are obsessed over by the press while Bush stumbles rarely draw interest.

The famous Republican scion from a family whose supporters have raised over $100 million in campaign funds trails a buffoonish celebrity in several recent polls? The press doesn't really think that's a big story for Bush's candidacy. Imagine if Clinton were suddenly overwhelmed by a political outsider on the Democratic side, the doom-and-gloom commentary would be all-consuming.

What is a big story, apparently, is the state of Clinton's favorable ratings.

There's no real mystery why the press downplays polling results that show Clinton with a commanding lead and hypes surveys that show that gap closing, or her popularity supposedly slumping. "Coronations are boring," noted Nate Silver, as he recently highlighteddeficiencies in the media's polling coverage. Journalists would "rather see a competitive Democratic primary, which means more to talk about and analyze."

The problem for the press is that, the AP survey notwithstanding, Clinton has enjoyed a nice run of polling results in recent days and weeks.

Currently, Clinton:  

  • Enjoys a 64-27 lead over Bush among Hispanic voters, and a 73-3 lead over Democratic primary opponent Bernie Sanders. (Univision)
  • Leads Sanders nationally among Democratic and Democratic-leaning independent voters, 59-14.  (USA Today).
  • Leads Republican contenders nationally by between 4 and 17 points. (USA Today)
  • Leads Republican contenders in Virginia by between 4 and 12 points. (Public Policy Polling)
  • Leads Republican contenders in Nevada by between 5 and 12 points. (Public Policy Polling)
  • Is ahead of Sanders by 44 points in Florida. (Gravis Marketing)
  • Has a 43-point lead in Iowa over Sanders. (KBUR-AM poll)

That last Iowa poll may be the most telling in terms of the very peculiar news coverage that Clinton polls produce, simply because there was essentially a news blackout surrounding the survey's results compared to polls that show a tightening race.

For instance in early July, a Quinnipiac University poll showed Clinton's Iowa lead shrinking to 19 points and the New York Times wrote up a separate news dispatch just about that poll. Just six days later, a We Ask America poll was released showing Clinton with a 40-plus point lead in Iowa. The New York Times reactionIt simply ignored it, as did virtually every news organization in America.

It didn't fit the script.

The last oddity: There's an entrenched pattern of media polls echoing Republican talking points about Clinton and her honesty.

Note this from Fox News:

But here's the possible trouble for Clinton in the general election: 70 percent of voters overall say that a candidate who is sometimes less than honest is a "deal breaker" for their vote -- and a 58-percent majority believes Clinton's natural instincts lean more toward "hiding the truth" than "telling the truth" (33 percent). 

What is odd is that Fox never asked voters about Bush's trustworthiness, or any other Republican candidate's trustworthiness. Fox only asked about Clinton.

The same was true of a poll released in June by CNN: "A growing number of people say she is not honest and trustworthy."  How did Clinton's "trust" score compare with Bush's? We don't know because CNN didn't ask if voters trust Bush.

And yes, the latest AP poll is guilty of the same imbalance --  it asks if Clinton is "honest," types up the results as bad news for the Democrat, but doesn't pose that query about Bush, or any of the Republican candidates.

Why the persistent double standard?

Saturday, July 18, 2015

From Their Lies To His Ears: The Right-Wing Media Myths Making Up Trump's Campaign Platform


It's been one month since the real estate mogul officially entered the Republican primary, after years of using regular Fox News appearances to promote previously-elusive presidential ambitions and push absurd conspiracies. In that time, Trump has already managed to prominently trumpet at least four right-wing media myths to explain his positions on the economy, immigration, gun safety, and the presidency, launching the long-debunked claims back into the spotlight.

Trump exaggerated the nation's unemployment rate by nearly 800 percent during a Fox News appearance on July 15, telling Sean Hannity that unemployed, impoverished Americans are "very important," and declaring: "Somebody actually last week said we have a 40 percentunemployment, so I've been saying 19 - 21 percent, but somebody actually came out last week and said we have a 40 percent, and they might very well be right."

Just a couple weeks ago, Rush Limbaugh repeatedly claimed that "the actual unemployment rate in the United States of America is not 5.5 percent ... It is 42.9 percent," citing a blog written by former Reagan official David Stockman.

According to the Bureau Of Labor Statistics, notably, June's unemployment rate stood at 5.3 percent.

Last week, Trump tripled the U.S.' undocumented immigrant population during a July 8 interview on CNN's The Lead, claiming, "We have 34 million [undocumented immigrants] in the country. I used to hear 11, now I hear it's 34 million." The real number of undocumented immigrants is nearly 20 million less -- experts confirm that the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. actually hovers around 11 million, according to a Washington Post analysis that compared Census, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and Pew Research Center data.  

Trump appears to have relied on a year-old, long-debunked report from conservative website Breitbart.com. In 2014, Breitbart.com misrepresented a contracting bid the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for card stock to print a maximum of 34 million green cards and work authorization cards over a five year period, spinning the listing to claim the Obama administration was preparing a massive "executive amnesty." Neither of these cards are specific to undocumented immigrants. And as The Hill explained at the time, not only is such a contracting bid "typical," these cards are for use by immigrants who have been legally granted permanent residency and "a single recipient could receive up to five work permits over the life of the contract." Because this is not, in fact, an estimate of the undocumented population, both the White House and USCIS called suggestions that it was a "precursor" to the president's executive action on immigration "crazy" and "too clever."

Discussing his views on gun safety regulations in a July 7 interview with Ammoland.com, Trump revived conservative media's false claim that former President Bill Clinton banned guns on military bases. He asserted that "President Clinton never should have passed a ban on soldiers being able to protect themselves on bases."

Trump's misinformation originated from conservative media's attempt to blame Clinton for the 2013 mass shooting at Washington D.C.'s Navy Yard facility, seizing on a March 1993 Army regulation they claimed banned the carrying of guns on military bases. In fact, the 1993 regulation came from a 1992 directive issued under former President George H.W. Bush -- which actually allows guns to be carried on military bases under a substantial number of circumstances. Military experts have said more permissive gun carrying rules are a bad idea.

Trump is even still pushing perhaps the most infamous conservative media myth of the Obama presidency -- birtherism. "I really don't know" where President Obama was born, Trump declared in a July 9 interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, an accusation that follows years of the candidate teaming up with Fox News to push the absurd conspiracy theories that Obama had not released a valid birth certificate and may have been hiding the fact that he was not born in America.

The pervasiveness of right-wing media talking points in Trump's positions is not surprising given that he's been a Fox News fixture for years. He reportedly met with Fox president Roger Ailes before announcing his presidential candidacy, and since then, the network has only increased his exposure. In Media Matters' most recent study of appearances by likely and declared Republican presidential candidates on the network, Trump topped the entire field in airtime. During the month of June, Trump appeared on Fox 10 times, racking up 1 hour and 48 minutes of airtime, 23 minutes more than his nearest competitor, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Since the beginning of May, Trump has the most airtime of any of the candidates.



Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL

Friday, July 17, 2015

Jeb Bush doesn't back more overtime pay for the longer hours people 'need to' work

Jeb Bush famously said that "people need to work longer hours and through their productivity gain more income for their families," but he doesn't support expanding overtime protections for people working long hours. In other words, working longer hours shouldn't necessarily gain you more income for your family.

President Obama's administration is preparing to make millions more people eligible for overtime pay by raising the salary threshold from $23,660 to $50,440 as the amount under which people get overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours a week. That means that people now earning between $23,660 and $50,440 who work more than 40 hours a week would either get more pay or more time away from work. But according to Bush, it's the "wrong approach," because:

The net effect of the overtime rule will be, if history’s any guide, there will be less overtime pay, there will be less wages earned. This will be another example of how people then have to figure out a new way to innovate to lessen the number of people working rather than increase it.
Don't you just love that "if history's any guide"? Jeb! throws it in there to sound wonky, but the reality is that the overtime threshold is down 57.5 percent from its peak in 1970. If you actually use history as a guide, you know that from the 1950s through the 1970s, the salary level under which workers were guaranteed overtime pay for overtime hours worked was substantially higher than it is now, and Obama is acting to bring it back in line with historical values. Additionally:
Some worry that raising the overtime salary threshold would dampen hiring by creating higher labor costs, but there are good reasons not to expect this outcome. Research suggests that employers have a rough idea of how much overtime they will need from a given hire and will, over time, at least partly adjust the base wage down accordingly. But more important, if employers want to avoid paying overtime, they have an easy way to do so: Hire new workers to do the extra work at the standard wage or increase the hours of those who are involuntarily working part-time. To the extent that the policy leads employers to curb overtime, this could create work hours for the underemployed workers who need them.
And since Jeb! claims that he was talking about underemployed workers when he said "people need to work longer hours," there's another reason he should be all for Obama's plan. It's almost like he's not being entirely honest with us about his concern for workers.

Jul 15, 2015 11:20am PDT by Laura Clawson

Thursday, July 16, 2015

You can add in the benefits, too, but stagnant wages are still stagnant for majority of Americans


You can add in the benefits, too, but stagnant wages are still stagnant for majority of Americans
The headline above is the sort that typically elicits responses of "sure, and water is wet" or "next you'll tell us the sun rises in the East." No dispute. But it's always good to have data confirming the details for the next time somebody tells you how great Americans have it.

In that light, Lawrence Mischel at the Economic Policy Institute points to a new report put together by Kristen Monaco and Brooks Pierce at the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Their bottom-line results in the figure above show the growth of both hourly compensation (all wages and benefits, but excluding payroll taxes) and wages (straight-time wages plus shift pay and other wage premiums) from 2007 to 2014 for all civilian workers. Their analysis confirms that there has been very broad-based stagnant pay whether one examines just wages or a more comprehensive compensation measure that also incorporates changes in health, pension, and other benefits. The bottom 80 percent of workers had stagnant or declining hourly compensation while the bottom 88 percent of workers had stagnant or declining wages. Monaco and Pierce’s research provides an additional rebuttal to Columbia University’s Glen Hubbard’s claim that there is no pay stagnation if one includes benefits along with wages, which I challenged in a recentanalysis. [...]

Among the bottom 40 percent of workers there was an even greater decline in compensation than there was in wages, indicating that including benefits as well as wages in an analysis results in a more adverse trends—the opposite of Hubbard’s claim.

The pain behind these statistics is immense.

Mischel's earlier analysis notes:

The issue of wage stagnation, however, should focus on what the vast majority of workers have been experiencing for most of the post-1979 period. Hourly wages, inflation-adjusted, grew only 0.2 percent annually from 1979 to 2014 and did not grow at all if we exclude the 1995-2000 period. What happens if we add in benefits growth and examine hourly compensation growth? Not much. The growth of the hourly compensation of private-sector production, non-supervisory workers was 0.2 percent annually over the 1979-2014 period and just 0.1 annually if we exclude the 1995-2000 period.
So what to do? EPI takes a social democratic tweaking approach with several valuable, pragmatic and mostly familiar proposals, which I've condensed below:

Raise the minimum wage; update overtime rules; strengthen collective bargaining rights; regularize undocumented workers; provide earned sick leave and paid family leave; end discriminatory practices that contribute to race and gender inequalities; support strong enforcement of labor standards; prioritize very low rates of unemployment when making monetary policy; enact targeted employment programs and undertake public investments in infrastructure to create jobs; reduce our trade deficit by stopping destructive currency manipulation and use the tax code to restrain top 1 percent incomes.

All worthwhile. What's missing from that list are deeper changes, for instance, encouragement and support for workers' cooperatives, creating and capitalizing state infrastructure banks, expanding Social Security, reforming pensions and extending health care to every single American.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

How Media Has Helped Advance Big Oil's Climate Deception Campaign

Oil rig

new report exposes the many ways that Big Oil has been working to deceive the public on climate change over the past several decades. The media has fallen for many of its tactics, effectively allowing the industry to change the debate on climate science and hide the industry backing behind its front groups and campaigns.

For nearly three decades, top executives at ExxonMobil have known that fossil fuel emissions harm the climate, according to a document uncovered by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). And since then, the UCS report shows, Exxon and other major oil companies have been working to "deceive the public" about the truth on climate change.

The UCS report -- titled "The Climate Deception Dossiers: Internal Fossil Fuel Industry Memos Reveal Decades of Corporate Disinformation" -- is based on a trove of internal company and trade association documents and identifies seven tactics that oil companies have used to sow misinformation and sway public opinion in its favor. Several of these tactics involve spreading "disinformation," and the media has taken the bait. Here's how:

Including False Balance In Climate Change Coverage

A key document uncovered by UCS is a 1998 memofrom the American Petroleum Institute (API) that includes a draft "Global Climate Science Communications Plan." The plan's stated goal is that a "majority of the American public, including industry leadership, recognizes that significant uncertainties exist in climate science, and therefore raises questions among those (e.g. Congress) who chart the future U.S. course on global climate change." API's plan says one of its hoped-for "victories" is for media coverage to "reflect balance on climate science." And indeed, false balanceis rampant in mainstream media coverage of climate science. For example, in 2014, every broadcast Sunday news show except CBS' Face the Nation aired segments that included false balance on climate science.

Sunday

Validating Contrarian Viewpoints

Another API "victory" was for media to recognize "the validity of viewpoints that challenge the current 'conventional wisdom'" on climate change. A 2013 studypublished in Public Understanding of Science found that conservative media frequently portray contrarians and deniers as objective experts on science. Mainstream media outlets often follow suit, such as when several major newspapers earlier this year described the fossil fuel-funded Heartland Institute as merely one of many climate "skeptics," which lent validity to the organization's criticism of Pope Francis' climate change encyclical.

Overly Emphasizing "Uncertainty" In Climate Science

UCS also discovered that API vowed to make the media "understand... uncertainties in climate science." Conservative media often push the false myth that climate science is "unsettled," and a heavy focus on "uncertainties" in climate science is an unfortunate trend in media stories: a 2013 study from Oxford University showed that nearly 80 percent of climate change stories surveyed were framed in the context of uncertainty. Meanwhile, the science behind human-caused climate change is in fact settled, with the same level of certainty as the science behind cigarettes' causing deadly disease.

Failing To Disclose Industry Funding Behind "Grassroots" Organizations

UCS' report also shows how the oil industry has created fake grassroots organizations to lobby on behalf of the fuel companies. Several Media Matters reports have detailed the media's failure to disclose the funding behind many pro-industry organizations and campaigns -- most notably, Americans for Prosperity, the "grassroots" front group created by the oil billionaire Koch brothers.

Allowing ALEC To Shill For Industry Unnoticed

Finally, UCS reveals the extensive role played by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which connects industry executives to state legislators and pushes legislation that furthers the oil industry's agenda. Again, many media outlets have failed to disclose the industry interests behind several ALEC campaigns, particularly its attempts to dismantle clean energy policies.

"Doubt is our product," a tobacco executive once said, kicking off a decades-long campaign to hide the deadly impacts of smoking from consumers. The fossil fuel industry's campaign to sow uncertainty and introduce doubt into climate change coverage shows how the industry is taking yet another page from Big Tobacco's playbook.


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