The great criticism of Mitt Romney, from both sides of the aisle, has always been that he doesn't stand for anything. He's a flip-flopper, they say, a lightweight, a cardboard opportunist who'll say anything to get elected.
The critics couldn't be more wrong. Mitt Romney is no tissue-paper man. He's closer to being a revolutionary, a backward-world version of Che or Trotsky, with tweezed nostrils instead of a beard, a half-Windsor instead of a leather jerkin. His legendary flip-flops aren't the lies of a bumbling opportunist – they're the confident prevarications of a man untroubled by misleading the nonbeliever in pursuit of a single, all-consuming goal. Romney has a vision, and he's trying for something big: We've just been too slow to sort out what it is, just as we've been slow to grasp the roots of the radical economic changes that have swept the country in the last generation.
The incredible untold story of the 2012 election so far is that Romney's run has been a shimmering pearl of perfect political hypocrisy, which he's somehow managed to keep hidden, even with thousands of cameras following his every move. And the drama of this rhetorical high-wire act was ratcheted up even further when Romney chose his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin – like himself, a self-righteously anal, thin-lipped, Whitest Kids U Know penny pincher who'd be honored to tell Oliver Twist there's no more soup left. By selecting Ryan, Romney, the hard-charging, chameleonic champion of a disgraced-yet-defiant Wall Street, officially succeeded in moving the battle lines in the 2012 presidential race.
Like John McCain four years before, Romney desperately needed a vice-presidential pick that would change the game. But where McCain bet on a combustive mix of clueless novelty and suburban sexual tension named Sarah Palin, Romney bet on an idea. He said as much when he unveiled his choice of Ryan, the author of a hair-raising budget-cutting plan best known for its willingness to slash the sacred cows of Medicare and Medicaid. "Paul Ryan has become an intellectual leader of the Republican Party," Romney told frenzied Republican supporters in Norfolk, Virginia, standing before the reliably jingoistic backdrop of a floating warship. "He understands the fiscal challenges facing America: our exploding deficits and crushing debt."
Debt, debt, debt. If the Republican Party had a James Carville, this is what he would have said to win Mitt over, in whatever late-night war room session led to the Ryan pick: "It's the debt, stupid." This is the way to defeat Barack Obama: to recast the race as a jeremiad against debt, something just about everybody who's ever gotten a bill in the mail hates on a primal level.
Last May, in a much-touted speech in Iowa, Romney used language that was literally inflammatory to describe America's federal borrowing. "A prairie fire of debt is sweeping across Iowa and our nation," he declared. "Every day we fail to act, that fire gets closer to the homes and children we love." Our collective debt is no ordinary problem: According to Mitt, it's going to burn our children alive.
And this is where we get to the hypocrisy at the heart of Mitt Romney. Everyone knows that he is fantastically rich, having scored great success, the legend goes, as a "turnaround specialist," a shrewd financial operator who revived moribund companies as a high-priced consultant for a storied Wall Street private equity firm. But what most voters don't know is the way Mitt Romney actually made his fortune: by borrowing vast sums of money that other people were forced to pay back. This is the plain, stark reality that has somehow eluded America's top political journalists for two consecutive presidential campaigns: Mitt Romney is one of the greatest and most irresponsible debt creators of all time. In the past few decades, in fact, Romney has piled more debt onto more unsuspecting companies, written more gigantic checks that other people have to cover, than perhaps all but a handful of people on planet Earth.
By making debt the centerpiece of his campaign, Romney was making a calculated bluff of historic dimensions – placing a massive all-in bet on the rank incompetence of the American press corps. The result has been a brilliant comedy: A man makes a $250 million fortune loading up companies with debt and then extracting million-dollar fees from those same companies, in exchange for the generous service of telling them who needs to be fired in order to finance the debt payments he saddled them with in the first place. That same man then runs for president riding an image of children roasting on flames of debt, choosing as his running mate perhaps the only politician in America more pompous and self-righteous on the subject of the evils of borrowed money than the candidate himself. If Romney pulls off this whopper, you'll have to tip your hat to him: No one in history has ever successfully run for president riding this big of a lie. It's almost enough to make you think he really is qualified for the White House.
The unlikeliness of Romney's gambit isn't simply a reflection of his own artlessly unapologetic mindset – it stands as an emblem for the resiliency of the entire sociopathic Wall Street set he represents. Four years ago, the Mitt Romneys of the world nearly destroyed the global economy with their greed, shortsightedness and – most notably – wildly irresponsible use of debt in pursuit of personal profit. The sight was so disgusting that people everywhere were ready to drop an H-bomb on Lower Manhattan and bayonet the survivors. But today that same insane greed ethos, that same belief in the lunatic pursuit of instant borrowed millions – it's dusted itself off, it's had a shave and a shoeshine, and it's back out there running for president.
Mitt Romney, it turns out, is the perfect frontman for Wall Street's greed revolution. He's not a two-bit, shifty-eyed huckster like Lloyd Blankfein. He's not a sighing, eye-rolling, arrogant jerkwad like Jamie Dimon. But Mitt believes the same things those guys believe: He's been right with them on the front lines of the financialization revolution, a decades-long campaign in which the old, simple, let's-make-stuff-and-sell-it manufacturing economy was replaced with a new, highly complex, let's-take-stuff-and-trash-it financial economy. Instead of cars and airplanes, we built swaps, CDOs and other toxic financial products. Instead of building new companies from the ground up, we took out massive bank loans and used them to acquire existing firms, liquidating every asset in sight and leaving the target companies holding the note. The new borrow-and-conquer economy was morally sanctified by an almost religious faith in the grossly euphemistic concept of "creative destruction," and amounted to a total abdication of collective responsibility by America's rich, whose new thing was making assloads of money in ever-shorter campaigns of economic conquest, sending the proceeds offshore, and shrugging as the great towns and factories their parents and grandparents built were shuttered and boarded up, crushed by a true prairie fire of debt.
Mitt Romney – a man whose own father built cars and nurtured communities, and was one of the old-school industrial anachronisms pushed aside by the new generation's wealth grab – has emerged now to sell this make-nothing, take-everything, screw-everyone ethos to the world. He's Gordon Gekko, but a new and improved version, with better PR – and a bigger goal. A takeover artist all his life, Romney is now trying to take over America itself. And if his own history is any guide, we'll all end up paying for the acquisition.
Willard "Mitt" Romney's background in many ways suggests a man who was born to be president – disgustingly rich from birth, raised in prep schools, no early exposure to minorities outside of maids, a powerful daddy to clean up his missteps, and timely exemptions from military service. In Romney's bio there are some eerie early-life similarities to other recent presidential figures. (Is America really ready for another Republican president who was a prep-school cheerleader?) And like other great presidential double-talkers such as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Romney has shown particular aptitude in the area of telling multiple factual versions of his own life story.
"I longed in many respects to actually be in Vietnam and be representing our country there," he claimed years after the war. To a different audience, he said, "I was not planning on signing up for the military. It was not my desire to go off and serve in Vietnam."
Like John F. Kennedy and George W. Bush, men whose way into power was smoothed by celebrity fathers but who rebelled against their parental legacy as mature politicians, Mitt Romney's career has been both a tribute to and a repudiation of his famous father. George Romney in the 1950s became CEO of American Motors Corp., made a modest fortune betting on energy efficiency in an age of gas guzzlers and ended up serving as governor of the state of Michigan only two generations removed from the Romney clan's tradition of polygamy. For Mitt, who grew up worshipping his tall, craggily handsome, politically moderate father, life was less rocky: Cranbrook prep school in suburban Detroit, followed by Stanford in the Sixties, a missionary term in which he spent two and a half years trying (as he said) to persuade the French to "give up your wine," and Harvard Business School in the Seventies. Then, faced with making a career choice, Mitt chose an odd one: Already married and a father of two, he left Harvard and eschewed both politics and the law to enter the at-the-time unsexy world of financial consulting.
"When you get out of a place like Harvard, you can do anything – at least in the old days you could," says a prominent corporate lawyer on Wall Street who is familiar with Romney's career. "But he comes out, he not only has a Harvard Business School degree, he's got a national pedigree with his name. He could have done anything – but what does he do? He says, 'I'm going to spend my life loading up distressed companies with debt.'?"
Romney started off at the Boston Consulting Group, where he showed an aptitude for crunching numbers and glad-handing clients. Then, in 1977, he joined a young entrepreneur named Bill Bain at a firm called Bain & Company, where he worked for six years before being handed the reins of a new firm-within-a-firm called Bain Capital.
In Romney's version of the tale, Bain Capital – which evolved into what is today known as a private equity firm – specialized in turning around moribund companies (Romney even wrote a book called Turnaround that complements his other nauseatingly self-complimentary book, No Apology) and helped create the Staples office-supply chain. On the campaign trail, Romney relentlessly trades on his own self-perpetuated reputation as a kind of altruistic rescuer of failing enterprises, never missing an opportunity to use the word "help" or "helped" in his description of what he and Bain did for companies. He might, for instance, describe himself as having been "deeply involved in helping other businesses" or say he "helped create tens of thousands of jobs."
The reality is that toward the middle of his career at Bain, Romney made a fateful strategic decision: He moved away from creating companies like Staples through venture capital schemes, and toward a business model that involved borrowing huge sums of money to take over existing firms, then extracting value from them by force. He decided, as he later put it, that "there's a lot greater risk in a startup than there is in acquiring an existing company." In the Eighties, when Romney made this move, this form of financial piracy became known as a leveraged buyout, and it achieved iconic status thanks to Gordon Gekko in Wall Street. Gekko's business strategy was essentially identical to the Romney–Bain model, only Gekko called himself a "liberator" of companies instead of a "helper."
Here's how Romney would go about "liberating" a company: A private equity firm like Bain typically seeks out floundering businesses with good cash flows. It then puts down a relatively small amount of its own money and runs to a big bank like Goldman Sachs or Citigroup for the rest of the financing. (Most leveraged buyouts are financed with 60 to 90 percent borrowed cash.) The takeover firm then uses that borrowed money to buy a controlling stake in the target company, either with or without its consent. When an LBO is done without the consent of the target, it's called a hostile takeover; such thrilling acts of corporate piracy were made legend in the Eighties, most notably the 1988 attack by notorious corporate raiders Kohlberg Kravis Roberts against RJR Nabisco, a deal memorialized in the book Barbarians at the Gate.
Romney and Bain avoided the hostile approach, preferring to secure the cooperation of their takeover targets by buying off a company's management with lucrative bonuses. Once management is on board, the rest is just math. So if the target company is worth $500 million, Bain might put down $20 million of its own cash, then borrow $350 million from an investment bank to take over a controlling stake.
But here's the catch. When Bain borrows all of that money from the bank, it's the target company that ends up on the hook for all of the debt.
Now your troubled firm – let's say you make tricycles in Alabama – has been taken over by a bunch of slick Wall Street dudes who kicked in as little as five percent as a down payment. So in addition to whatever problems you had before, Tricycle Inc. now owes Goldman or Citigroup $350 million. With all that new debt service to pay, the company's bottom line is suddenly untenable: You almost have to start firing people immediately just to get your costs down to a manageable level.
"That interest," says Lynn Turner, former chief accountant of the Securities and Exchange Commission, "just sucks the profit out of the company."
Fortunately, the geniuses at Bain who now run the place are there to help tell you whom to fire. And for the service it performs cutting your company's costs to help you pay off the massive debt that it, Bain, saddled your company with in the first place, Bain naturally charges a management fee, typically millions of dollars a year. So Tricycle Inc. now has two gigantic new burdens it never had before Bain Capital stepped into the picture: tens of millions in annual debt service, and millions more in "management fees." Since the initial acquisition of Tricycle Inc. was probably greased by promising the company's upper management lucrative bonuses, all that pain inevitably comes out of just one place: the benefits and payroll of the hourly workforce.
Once all that debt is added, one of two things can happen. The company can fire workers and slash benefits to pay off all its new obligations to Goldman Sachs and Bain, leaving it ripe to be resold by Bain at a huge profit. Or it can go bankrupt – this happens after about seven percent of all private equity buyouts – leaving behind one or more shuttered factory towns. Either way, Bain wins. By power-sucking cash value from even the most rapidly dying firms, private equity raiders like Bain almost always get their cash out before a target goes belly up.
This business model wasn't really "helping," of course – and it wasn't new. Fans of mob movies will recognize what's known as the "bust-out," in which a gangster takes over a restaurant or sporting goods store and then monetizes his investment by running up giant debts on the company's credit line. (Think Paulie buying all those cases of Cutty Sark in Goodfellas.) When the note comes due, the mobster simply torches the restaurant and collects the insurance money. Reduced to their most basic level, the leveraged buyouts engineered by Romney followed exactly the same business model. "It's the bust-out," one Wall Street trader says with a laugh. "That's all it is."
Private equity firms aren't necessarily evil by definition. There are many stories of successful turnarounds fueled by private equity, often involving multiple floundering businesses that are rolled into a single entity, eliminating duplicative overhead. Experian, the giant credit-rating tyrant, was acquired by Bain in the Nineties and went on to become an industry leader.
But there's a key difference between private equity firms and the businesses that were America's original industrial cornerstones, like the elder Romney's AMC. Everyone had a stake in the success of those old businesses, which spread prosperity by putting people to work. But even private equity's most enthusiastic adherents have difficulty explaining its benefit to society. Marc Wolpow, a former Bain colleague of Romney's, told reporters during Mitt's first Senate run that Romney erred in trying to sell his business as good for everyone. "I believed he was making a mistake by framing himself as a job creator," said Wolpow. "That was not his or Bain's or the industry's primary objective. The objective of the LBO business is maximizing returns for investors." When it comes to private equity, American workers – not to mention their families and communities – simply don't enter into the equation.
Take a typical Bain transaction involving an Indiana-based company called American Pad and Paper. Bain bought Ampad in 1992 for just $5 million, financing the rest of the deal with borrowed cash. Within three years, Ampad was paying $60 million in annual debt payments, plus an additional $7 million in management fees. A year later, Bain led Ampad to go public, cashed out about $50 million in stock for itself and its investors, charged the firm $2 million for arranging the IPO and pocketed another $5 million in "management" fees. Ampad wound up going bankrupt, and hundreds of workers lost their jobs, but Bain and Romney weren't crying: They'd made more than $100 million on a $5 million investment.
To recap: Romney, who has compared the devilish federal debt to a "nightmare" home mortgage that is "adjustable, no-money down and assigned to our children," took over Ampad with essentially no money down, saddled the firm with a nightmare debt and assigned the crushing interest payments not to Bain but to the children of Ampad's workers, who would be left holding the note long after Romney fled the scene. The mortgage analogy is so obvious, in fact, that even Romney himself has made it. He once described Bain's debt-fueled strategy as "using the equivalent of a mortgage to leverage up our investment."
Romney has always kept his distance from the real-life consequences of his profiteering. At one point during Bain's looting of Ampad, a worker named Randy Johnson sent a handwritten letter to Romney, asking him to intervene to save an Ampad factory in Marion, Indiana. In a sterling demonstration of manliness and willingness to face a difficult conversation, Romney, who had just lost his race for the Senate in Massachusetts, wrote Johnson that he was "sorry," but his lawyers had advised him not to get involved. (So much for the candidate who insists that his way is always to "fight to save every job.")
This is typical Romney, who consistently adopts a public posture of having been above the fray, with no blood on his hands from any of the deals he personally engineered. "I never actually ran one of our investments," he says in Turnaround. "That was left to management."
In reality, though, Romney was unquestionably the decider at Bain. "I insisted on having almost dictatorial powers," he bragged years after the Ampad deal. Over the years, colleagues would anonymously whisper stories about Mitt the Boss to the press, describing him as cunning, manipulative and a little bit nuts, with "an ability to identify people's insecurities and exploit them for his own benefit." One former Bain employee said that Romney would screw around with bonuses in small amounts, just to mess with people: He would give $3 million to one, $3.1 million to another and $2.9 million to a third, just to keep those below him on edge.
The private equity business in the early Nineties was dominated by a handful of takeover firms, from the spooky and politically connected Carlyle Group (a favorite subject of conspiracy-theory lit, with its connections to right-wingers like Donald Rumsfeld and George H.W. Bush) to the equally spooky Democrat-leaning assholes at the Blackstone Group. But even among such a colorful cast of characters, Bain had a reputation on Wall Street for secrecy and extreme weirdness – "the KGB of consulting." Its employees, known for their Mormonish uniform of white shirts and red power ties, were dubbed "Bainies" by other Wall Streeters, a rip on the fanatical "Moonies." The firm earned the name thanks to its idiotically adolescent Spy Kids culture, in which these glorified slumlords used code names, didn't carry business cards and even sang "company songs" to boost morale.
The seemingly religious flavor of Bain's culture smacks of the generally cultish ethos on Wall Street, in which all sorts of ethically questionable behaviors are justified as being necessary in service of the church of making money. Romney belongs to a true-believer subset within that cult, with a revolutionary's faith in the wisdom of the pure free market, in which destroying companies and sucking the value out of them for personal gain is part of the greater good, and governments should "stand aside and allow the creative destruction inherent in the free economy."
That cultlike zeal helps explains why Romney takes such a curiously unapologetic approach to his own flip-flopping. His infamous changes of stance are not little wispy ideological alterations of a few degrees here or there – they are perfect and absolute mathematical reversals, as in "I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country" and "I am firmly pro-life." Yet unlike other politicians, who at least recognize that saying completely contradictory things presents a political problem, Romney seems genuinely puzzled by the public's insistence that he be consistent. "I'm not going to apologize for having changed my mind," he likes to say. It's an attitude that recalls the standard defense offered by Wall Street in the wake of some of its most recent and notorious crimes: Goldman Sachs excused its lying to clients, for example, by insisting that its customers are "sophisticated investors" who should expect to be lied to. "Last time I checked," former Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack sneered after the same scandal, "we were in business to be profitable."
Within the cult of Wall Street that forged Mitt Romney, making money justifies any behavior, no matter how venal. The look on Romney's face when he refuses to apologize says it all: Hey, I'm trying to win an election. We're all grown-ups here. After the Ampad deal, Romney expressed contempt for critics who lived in "fantasy land." "This is the real world," he said, "and in the real world there is nothing wrong with companies trying to compete, trying to stay alive, trying to make money."
In the old days, making money required sharing the wealth: with assembly-line workers, with middle management, with schools and communities, with investors. Even the Gilded Age robber barons, despite their unapologetic efforts to keep workers from getting any rights at all, built America in spite of themselves, erecting railroads and oil wells and telegraph wires. And from the time the monopolists were reined in with antitrust laws through the days when men like Mitt Romney's dad exited center stage in our economy, the American social contract was pretty consistent: The rich got to stay rich, often filthy rich, but they paid taxes and a living wage and everyone else rose at least a little bit along with them.
But under Romney's business model, leveraging other people's debt means you can carve out big profits for yourself and leave everyone else holding the bag. Despite what Romney claims, the rate of return he provided for Bain's investors over the years wasn't all that great. Romney biographer and Wall Street Journal reporter Brett Arends, who analyzed Bain's performance between 1984 and 1998, concludes that the firm's returns were likely less than 30 percent per year, which happened to track more or less with the stock market's average during that time. "That's how much money you could have made by issuing company bonds and then spending the money picking stocks out of the paper at random," Arends observes. So for all the destruction Romney wreaked on Middle America in the name of "trying to make money," investors could have just plunked their money into traditional stocks and gotten pretty much the same returns.
The only ones who profited in a big way from all the job-killing debt that Romney leveraged were Mitt and his buddies at Bain, along with Wall Street firms like Goldman and Citigroup. Barry Ritholtz, author of Bailout Nation, says the criticisms of Bain about layoffs and meanness miss a more important point, which is that the firm's profit-producing record is absurdly mediocre, especially when set against all the trouble and pain its business model causes. "Bain's fundamental flaw, at least according to the math," Ritholtz writes, "is that they took lots of risk, use immense leverage and charged enormous fees, for performance that was more or less the same as [stock] indexing."
'I'm not a Romney guy, because I'm not a Bain guy," says Lenny Patnode, in an Irish pub in the factory town of Pittsfield, Massachusetts. "But I'm not an Obama guy, either. Just so you know."
I feel bad even asking Patnode about Romney. Big and burly, with white hair and the thick forearms of a man who's stocked a shelf or two in his lifetime, he seems to belong to an era before things like leveraged debt even existed. For 38 years, Patnode worked for a company called KB Toys in Pittsfield. He was the longest-serving employee in the company's history, opening some of the firm's first mall stores, making some of its canniest product buys ("Tamagotchi pets," he says, beaming, "and Tech-Decks, too"), traveling all over the world to help build an empire that at its peak included 1,300 stores. "There were times when I worked seven days a week, 16 hours a day," he says. "I opened three stores in two months once."
Then in 2000, right before Romney gave up his ownership stake in Bain Capital, the firm targeted KB Toys. The debacle that followed serves as a prime example of the conflict between the old model of American business, built from the ground up with sweat and industry know-how, and the new globalist model, the Romney model, which uses leverage as a weapon of high-speed conquest.
In a typical private-equity fragging, Bain put up a mere $18 million to acquire KB Toys and got big banks to finance the remaining $302 million it needed. Less than a year and a half after the purchase, Bain decided to give itself a gift known as a "dividend recapitalization." The firm induced KB Toys to redeem $121 million in stock and take out more than $66 million in bank loans – $83 million of which went directly into the pockets of Bain's owners and investors, including Romney. "The dividend recap is like borrowing someone else's credit card to take out a cash advance, and then leaving them to pay it off," says Heather Slavkin Corzo, who monitors private equity takeovers as the senior legal policy adviser for the AFL-CIO.
Bain ended up earning a return of at least 370 percent on the deal, while KB Toys fell into bankruptcy, saddled with millions in debt. KB's former parent company, Big Lots, alleged in bankruptcy court that Bain's "unjustified" return on the dividend recap was actually "900 percent in a mere 16 months." Patnode, by contrast, was fired in December 2008, after almost four decades on the job. Like other employees, he didn't get a single day's severance.
I ask Slavkin Corzo what Bain's justification was for the giant dividend recapitalization in the KB Toys acquisition. The question throws her, as though she's surprised anyone would ask for a reason a company like Bain would loot a firm like KB Toys. "It wasn't like, 'Yay, we did a good job, we get a dividend,'" she says with a laugh. "It was like, 'We can do this, so we will.'?"
At the time of the KB Toys deal, Romney was a Bain investor and owner, making him a mere beneficiary of the raping and pillaging, rather than its direct organizer. Moreover, KB's demise was hastened by a host of genuine market forces, including competition from video games and cellphones. But there's absolutely no way to look at what Bain did at KB and see anything but a cash grab – one that followed the business model laid out by Romney. Rather than cutting costs and tightening belts, Bain added $300 million in debt to the firm's bottom line while taking out more than $120 million in cash – an outright looting that creditors later described in a lawsuit as "breaking open the piggy bank." What's more, Bain smoothed the deal in typical fashion by giving huge bonuses to the company's top managers as the firm headed toward bankruptcy. CEO Michael Glazer got an incredible $18.4 million, while CFO Robert Feldman received $4.8 million and senior VP Thomas Alfonsi took home $3.3 million.
And what did Bain bring to the table in return for its massive, outsize payout? KB Toys had built a small empire by targeting middle-class buyers with value-priced products. It succeeded mainly because the firm's leaders had a great instinct for what they were making and selling. These were people who had been in the specialty toy business since 1922; collectively, they had millions of man-hours of knowledge about how the industry works and how toy customers behave. KB's president in the Eighties, the late Saul Rubenstein, used to carry around a giant computer printout of the company's inventory, and would fall asleep reading it on the weekends, the pages clasped to his chest. "He knew the name and number of all those toys," his widow, Shirley, says proudly. "He loved toys."
Bain's experience in the toy industry, by contrast, was precisely bupkus. They didn't know a damn thing about the business they had taken over – and they never cared to learn. The firm's entire contribution was $18 million in cash and a huge mound of borrowed money that gave it the power to pull the levers. "The people who came in after – they were never toy people," says Shirley Rubenstein. To make matters worse, former employees say, Bain deluged them with requests for paperwork and reports, forcing them to worry more about the whims of their new bosses than the demands of their customers. "We took our eye off the ball," Patnode says. "And if you take your eye off the ball, you strike out."
In the end, Bain never bothered to come up with a plan for how KB Toys could meet the 21st-century challenges of video games and cellphone gadgets that were the company's ostensible downfall. And that's where Romney's self-touted reputation as a turnaround specialist is a myth. In the Bain model, the actual turnaround isn't necessary. It's just a cover story. It's nice for the private equity firm if it happens, because it makes the acquired company more attractive for resale or an IPO. But it's mostly irrelevant to the success of the takeover model, where huge cash returns are extracted whether the captured firm thrives or not.
"The thing about it is, nobody gets hurt," says Patnode. "Except the people who worked here."
Romney was a prime mover in the radical social and political transformation that was cooked up by Wall Street beginning in the 1980s. In fact, you can trace the whole history of the modern age of financialization just by following the highly specific corner of the economic universe inhabited by the leveraged buyout business, where Mitt Romney thrived. If you look at the number of leveraged buyouts dating back two or three decades, you see a clear pattern: Takeovers rose sharply with each of Wall Street's great easy-money schemes, then plummeted just as sharply after each of those scams crashed and burned, leaving the rest of us with the bill.
In the Eighties, when Romney and Bain were cutting their teeth in the LBO business, the primary magic trick involved the junk bonds pioneered by convicted felon Mike Milken, which allowed firms like Bain to find easy financing for takeovers by using wildly overpriced distressed corporate bonds as collateral. Junk bonds gave the Gordon Gekkos of the world sudden primacy over old-school industrial titans like the Fords and the Rockefellers: For the first time, the ability to make deals became more valuable than the ability to make stuff, and the ability to instantly engineer billions in illusory financing trumped the comparatively slow process of making and selling products for gradual returns.
Romney was right in the middle of this radical change. In fact, according to The Boston Globe – whose in-depth reporting on Romney and Bain has spanned three decades – one of Romney's first LBO deals, and one of his most profitable, involved Mike Milken himself. Bain put down $10 million in cash, got $300 million in financing from Milken and bought a pair of department-store chains, Bealls Brothers and Palais Royal. In what should by now be a familiar outcome, the two chains – which Bain merged into a single outfit called Stage Stores – filed for bankruptcy protection in 2000 under the weight of more than $444 million in debt. As always, Bain took no responsibility for the company's demise. (If you search the public record, you will not find a single instance of Mitt Romney taking responsibility for a company's failure.) Instead, Bain blamed Stage's collapse on "operating problems" that took place three years after Bain cashed out, finishing with a $175 million return on its initial investment of $10 million.
But here's the interesting twist: Romney made the Bealls-Palais deal just as the federal government was launching charges of massive manipulation and insider trading against Milken and his firm, Drexel Burnham Lambert. After what must have been a lengthy and agonizing period of moral soul-searching, however, Romney decided not to kill the deal, despite its shady financing. "We did not say, 'Oh, my goodness, Drexel has been accused of something, not been found guilty,'?" Romney told reporters years after the deal. "Should we basically stop the transaction and blow the whole thing up?"
In an even more incredible disregard for basic morality, Romney forged ahead with the deal even though Milken's case was being heard by a federal district judge named Milton Pollack, whose wife, Moselle, happened to be the chairwoman of none other than Palais Royal. In short, one of Romney's first takeover deals was financed by dirty money – and one of the corporate chiefs about to receive a big payout from Bain was married to the judge hearing the case. Although the SEC took no formal action, it issued a sharp criticism, complaining that Romney was allowing Milken's money to have a possible influence over "the administration of justice."
After Milken and his junk bond scheme crashed in the late Eighties, Romney and other takeover artists moved on to Wall Street's next get-rich-quick scheme: the tech-Internet stock bubble. By 1997 and 1998, there were nearly $400 billion in leveraged buyouts a year, as easy money once again gave these financial piracy firms the ammunition they needed to raid companies like KB Toys. Firms like Bain even have a colorful pirate name for the pools of takeover money they raise in advance from pension funds, university endowments and other institutional investors. "They call it dry powder," says Slavkin Corzo, the union adviser.
After the Internet bubble burst and private equity started cashing in on Wall Street's mortgage scam, LBO deals ballooned to almost $900 billion in 2006. Once again, storied companies with long histories and deep regional ties were descended upon by Bain and other pirates, saddled with hundreds of millions in debt, forced to pay huge management fees and "dividend recapitalizations," and ridden into bankruptcy amid waves of layoffs. Established firms like Del Monte, Hertz and Dollar General were all taken over in a "prairie fire of debt" – one even more destructive than the government borrowing that Romney is flogging on the campaign trial. When Hertz was conquered in 2005 by a trio of private equity firms, including the Carlyle Group, the interest payments on its debt soared by a monstrous 80 percent, forcing the company to eliminate a third of its 32,000 jobs.
In 2010, a year after the last round of Hertz layoffs, Carlyle teamed up with Bain to take $500 million out of another takeover target: the parent company of Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin-Robbins. Dunkin' had to take out a $1.25 billion loan to pay a dividend to its new private equity owners. So think of this the next time you go to Dunkin' Donuts for a cup of coffee: A small cup of joe costs about $1.69 in most outlets, which means that for years to come, Dunkin' Donuts will have to sell about 2,011,834 small coffees every month – about $3.4 million – just to meet the interest payments on the loan it took out to pay Bain and Carlyle their little one-time dividend. And that doesn't include the principal on the loan, or the additional millions in debt that Dunkin' has to pay every year to get out from under the $2.4 billion in debt it's now saddled with after having the privilege of being taken over – with borrowed money – by the firm that Romney built.
If you haven't heard much about how takeover deals like Dunkin' and KB Toys work, that's because Mitt Romney and his private equity brethren don't want you to. The new owners of American industry are the polar opposites of the Milton Hersheys and Andrew Carnegies who built this country, commercial titans who longed to leave visible legacies of their accomplishments, erecting hospitals and schools and libraries, sometimes leaving behind thriving towns that bore their names.
The men of the private equity generation want no such thing. "We try to hide religiously," explained Steven Feinberg, the CEO of a takeover firm called Cerberus Capital Management that recently drove one of its targets into bankruptcy after saddling it with $2.3 billion in debt. "If anyone at Cerberus has his picture in the paper and a picture of his apartment, we will do more than fire that person," Feinberg told shareholders in 2007. "We will kill him. The jail sentence will be worth it."
Which brings us to another aspect of Romney's business career that has largely been hidden from voters: His personal fortune would not have been possible without the direct assistance of the U.S. government. The taxpayer-funded subsidies that Romney has received go well beyond the humdrum, backdoor, welfare-sucking that all supposedly self-made free marketeers inevitably indulge in. Not that Romney hasn't done just fine at milking the government when it suits his purposes, the most obvious instance being the incredible $1.5 billion in aid he siphoned out of the U.S. Treasury as head of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake – a sum greater than all federal spending for the previous seven U.S. Olympic games combined. Romney, the supposed fiscal conservative, blew through an average of $625,000 in taxpayer money per athlete – an astounding increase of 5,582 percent over the $11,000 average at the 1984 games in Los Angeles. In 1993, right as he was preparing to run for the Senate, Romney also engineered a government deal worth at least $10 million for Bain's consulting firm, when it was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. (See "The Federal Bailout That Saved Romney")
But the way Romney most directly owes his success to the government is through the structure of the tax code. The entire business of leveraged buyouts wouldn't be possible without a provision in the federal code that allows companies like Bain to deduct the interest on the debt they use to acquire and loot their targets. This is the same universally beloved tax deduction you can use to write off your mortgage interest payments, so tampering with it is considered political suicide – it's been called the "third rail of tax reform." So the Romney who routinely rails against the national debt as some kind of child-killing "mortgage" is the same man who spent decades exploiting a tax deduction specifically designed for mortgage holders in order to bilk every dollar he could out of U.S. businesses before burning them to the ground.
Because minus that tax break, Romney's debt-based takeovers would have been unsustainably expensive. Before Lynn Turner became chief accountant of the SEC, where he reviewed filings on takeover deals, he crunched the numbers on leveraged buyouts as an accountant at a Big Four auditing firm. "In the majority of these deals," Turner says, "the tax deduction has a big enough impact on the bottom line that the takeover wouldn't work without it."
Thanks to the tax deduction, in other words, the government actually incentivizes the kind of leverage-based takeovers that Romney built his fortune on. Romney the businessman built his career on two things that Romney the candidate decries: massive debt and dumb federal giveaways. "I don't know what Romney would be doing but for debt and its tax-advantaged position in the tax code," says a prominent Wall Street lawyer, "but he wouldn't be fabulously wealthy."
Adding to the hypocrisy, the money that Romney personally pocketed on Bain's takeover deals was usually taxed not as income, but either as capital gains or as "carried interest," both of which are capped at a maximum rate of 15 percent. In addition, reporters have uncovered plenty of evidence that Romney takes full advantage of offshore tax havens: He has an interest in at least 12 Bain funds, worth a total of $30 million, that are based in the Cayman Islands; he has reportedly used a squirrelly tax shelter known as a "blocker corporation" that cheats taxpayers out of some $100 million a year; and his wife, Ann, had a Swiss bank account worth $3 million. As a private equity pirate, Romney pays less than half the tax rate of most American executives – less, even, than teachers, firefighters, cops and nurses. Asked about the fact that he paid a tax rate of only 13.9 percent on income of $21.7 million in 2010, Romney responded testily that the massive windfall he enjoys from exploiting the tax code is "entirely legal and fair."
Essentially, Romney got rich in a business that couldn't exist without a perverse tax break, and he got to keep double his earnings because of another loophole – a pair of bureaucratic accidents that have not only teamed up to threaten us with a Mitt Romney presidency but that make future Romneys far more likely. "Those two tax rules distort the economics of private equity investments, making them much more lucrative than they should be," says Rebecca Wilkins, senior counsel at the Center for Tax Justice. "So we get more of that activity than the market would support on its own."
Listen to Mitt Romney speak, and see if you can notice what's missing. This is a man who grew up in Michigan, went to college in California, walked door to door through the streets of southern France as a missionary and was a governor of Massachusetts, the home of perhaps the most instantly recognizable, heavily accented English this side of Edinburgh. Yet not a trace of any of these places is detectable in Romney's diction. None of the people in any of those places bled in and left a mark on the man.
Romney is a man from nowhere. In his post-regional attitude, he shares something with his campaign opponent, Barack Obama, whose background is a similarly jumbled pastiche of regionally nonspecific non-identity. But in the way he bounced around the world as a half-orphaned child, Obama was more like an involuntary passenger in the demographic revolution reshaping the planet than one of its leaders.
Romney, on the other hand, is a perfect representative of one side of the ominous cultural divide that will define the next generation, not just here in America but all over the world. Forget about the Southern strategy, blue versus red, swing states and swing voters – all of those political clichés are quaint relics of a less threatening era that is now part of our past, or soon will be. The next conflict defining us all is much more unnerving.
That conflict will be between people who live somewhere, and people who live nowhere. It will be between people who consider themselves citizens of actual countries, to which they have patriotic allegiance, and people to whom nations are meaningless, who live in a stateless global archipelago of privilege – a collection of private schools, tax havens and gated residential communities with little or no connection to the outside world.
Mitt Romney isn't blue or red. He's an archipelago man. That's a big reason that voters have been slow to warm up to him. From LBJ to Bill Clinton to George W. Bush to Sarah Palin, Americans like their politicians to sound like they're from somewhere, to be human symbols of our love affair with small towns, the girl next door, the little pink houses of Mellencamp myth. Most of those mythical American towns grew up around factories – think chocolate bars from Hershey, baseball bats from Louisville, cereals from Battle Creek. Deep down, what scares voters in both parties the most is the thought that these unique and vital places are vanishing or eroding – overrun by immigrants or the forces of globalism or both, with giant Walmarts descending like spaceships to replace the corner grocer, the family barber and the local hardware store, and 1,000 cable channels replacing the school dance and the gossip at the local diner.
Obama ran on "change" in 2008, but Mitt Romney represents a far more real and seismic shift in the American landscape. Romney is the frontman and apostle of an economic revolution, in which transactions are manufactured instead of products, wealth is generated without accompanying prosperity, and Cayman Islands partnerships are lovingly erected and nurtured while American communities fall apart. The entire purpose of the business model that Romney helped pioneer is to move money into the archipelago from the places outside it, using massive amounts of taxpayer-subsidized debt to enrich a handful of billionaires. It's a vision of society that's crazy, vicious and almost unbelievably selfish, yet it's running for president, and it has a chance of winning. Perhaps that change is coming whether we like it or not. Perhaps Mitt Romney is the best man to manage the transition. But it seems a little early to vote for that kind of wholesale surrender.
This story is from the September 13, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone.
President Barack Obama has issued an official statement saying that he opposes the current form of HR1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (AKA the Farm Bill).
Specifically, he opposes the deep cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program(SNAP– food stamps) and the spending increases in the form...
Pamela Hannley Powers | Tucson Progressive 18 Jun 2013 Hits:270 ESJ Articles
In the wake of President Barack Obama’s announcement at the G8 Summit of the imminent launch of negotiations on the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA), the benefits of such a deal remain in question. Further complicating the pact are rifts between EU member states on its contents, recent U.S. revelations...
Public Citizen 18 Jun 2013 Hits:80 ESJ Articles
Millions of Americans are deep in medical debt. Unfortunately, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will throw a lifeline to very few. According to the Congressional Budget Office, even after health reform is fully implemented in 2014, 30 million to 36 million people will remain uninsured. And tens of millions who do...
David U. Himmelstein, M.D., and Steffie Woolhandler, M.D., M.P.H. | PNHP 18 Jun 2013 Hits:94 HCA Articles
Immigrants don’t just pick our fruit, deliver our take-out food and design our computers — they pay for our medical care.
As Congress debates immigration reform, some would have us believe that immigrants are draining the Treasury. But it turns out that closing the borders would deplete Medicare’s trust fund.
Steffie Woolhander and David U. Himmelstein | Roll Call 18 Jun 2013 Hits:77 HCA Articles
In America today, a whole job is increasingly hard to find.
Ever since the financial crash, a growing number of people have been forced to take part-time gigs when what they really want is something increasingly out of reach: solid, full-time employment. Between late 2007 and May 2013, the number of...
Lynn Stuart | AlterNet 18 Jun 2013 Hits:106 ESJ Articles
Researchers have long known that African-Americans are more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, even though studies have repeatedly shown that the two groups use the drug at similar rates.
New federal data, included in a study by the American Civil Liberties Union, now shows that the problem...
Editorial Board | The New York Times 17 Jun 2013 Hits:75 War on Drugs - Criminal Injustice
States may not require additional proof of citizenship on federal forms designed to streamline voter-registration procedures, the Supreme Court ruled Monday.
The court rejected a requirement passed by Arizona voters in 2004 that potential voters supply proof of eligibility beyond an applicant’s oath on the federal form that he or she...
Robert Barnes | The Washington Post 17 Jun 2013 Hits:89 CFTE Articles
Texas's solution to truancy appears to be making kids miss even more school as they sit in jail.
June 12, 2013: This story has been updated with Judge Clay Jenkins's comment and full statement, as well as the Mesquite school districtstatement on its website.
School tardiness and absences come at a high...
Joaquin Sapien | ProPublica 14 Jun 2013 Hits:101 School to Prison Pipeline
Could you live on a $4.50/day food stamp allotment?
Rep. Jim McGovern, who has been leading the charge to stop billions of dollars of cuts to the food stamp program (SNAP), will begin a food stamp challenge tomorrow, June 13, to draw attention to the plight of the poor and hungry...
Pamela Powers Hannley | Tucson Progressive 12 Jun 2013 Hits:336 ESJ Articles
Why would Members of Congress commit to spend only $4.50 a day on food and live on the budget of the average SNAP recipient? The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly called Food Stamps), is an essential lifeline that helps put food on the table for 47 million hungry Americans, and...
Rep. Barbara Lee | Huffington Post 12 Jun 2013 Hits:124 ESJ Articles
On Monday evening, the Senate voted to cut roughly $4 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known by its former name, food stamps. The 66-27 vote on the farm bill—a massive omnibus bill that funds federal agricultural and food policy through the Department of Agriculture—could pave...
Cole Stangler | In These Times 11 Jun 2013 Hits:155 ESJ Articles
WASHINGTON—Almost 20 years after the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that continues to gut the American manufacturing industry and export American jobs, negotiations on a new massive foreign trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement (FTA), continue in secret, with little to no-oversight from...
Rep. Mark Pocan, WI-02 11 Jun 2013 Hits:168 ESJ Articles
Representative Vern Buchanan (R-FL) has “de-friended” American women.
Imagine this scenario: your friend is using your computer to look at the Facebook profile of her new coworker. She forgets that she is on your account, and sends a friend request. Later, you have a notification that the coworker is now your...
Caitlin Highland, NWPC Political Planning Intern 11 Jun 2013 Hits:395 ERA Action Articles
After spending 25 years in the health care field, most of it related to making hospitals more efficient and effective, I have become skeptical of many of Washington’s reform efforts, especially by my party, the GOP.
One of the biggest problems with health care is escalating, uncontrolled expenditures, taking a larger...
Jack Bernard | Charlotte Observer 11 Jun 2013 Hits:156 HCA Articles
With Syrian government forces and their allies scoring a major victory over Western- and Gulf Arab-backed rebel forces this week, neo-conservatives and other anti-Damascus hawks are trying hard to turn up the pressure on President Barack Obama to sharply escalate U.S. support for the opposition.
But their appeals appear increasingly to...
Jim Lobe | Interpress Agency 11 Jun 2013 Hits:124 EWO Articles
What the civil war in Syria has exposed is that the massive political and social transformation, and real regime change under way is led by people themselves. US military involvement serves only to escalate the destruction.
Politically-driven demands for direct US intervention in Syria – more arms to the rebels, establishing...
Phyllis Bennis | Open Democracy 10 Jun 2013 Hits:258 EWO Articles
Donna Smith, Executive Director of Health Care for All Colorado, can be heard during an interview session where questions were asked by the moderator during the first half. And, then by the audience in the second half. Her visit to Fort Collins was sponsored by Health Care for All Colorado...
Ann Molinson | Healthcare For All Colorado 09 Jun 2013 Hits:147 HCA Articles
Philadelphia is so broke the city is closing 23 public schools, never mind that ithas thecash to build a $400 million prison.
Construction on the penitentiary said to be "the second-most expensive state project ever" began just days after the Pennsylvania School Reform Commission voted down a plan to close only...
Kristen Gwynne | AlterNet 07 Jun 2013 Hits:676 EMC Articles
Defending the House Farm Bill—which would cut $20.5 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as Food Stamps—Congressman Stephen Fincher (R-TN) invoked the Bible. Out of context. Arguing to slash SNAP, he piously intoned, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” The Tennessean, his...
Mike Hersh PDA Communications Coordinator 07 Jun 2013 Hits:366 ESJ Articles
Nearly five decades after Bloody Sunday in Selma, he’s in the fight of his life, as the Supreme Court threatens to overturn his signature achievement.
On March 7, 1965, John Lewis threw an apple, an orange, a toothbrush, some toothpaste and two books into his backpack, and prepared to lead a...
Ari Berman | The Nation 07 Jun 2013 Hits:146 VS-DRA Articles
“Wheel about and turn about and do just so. Every time I turn about I jump Jim Crow.” — chorus of an 1828 minstrel song
“We have not ended racial caste in America, we have merely redesigned it.” — Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow
Yeah, it’s called mass incarceration. Our...
Robert C. Koehler | Common Dreams 06 Jun 2013 Hits:285 EMC Articles
Bentonville, Arkansas—Competing chants pierced the air, and punctuated one another, as a Walmart pep rally and a union-backed protest took place some fifty feet apart this afternoon.
On a public sidewalk across from Walmart’s “home office” headquarters, international Walmart workers and fired warehouse workers joined striking employees in a demonstration calling...
Josh Eidelson | The Nation 06 Jun 2013 Hits:212 ESJ Articles
“The ‘universe’ of programs and processes in need of reform at the Pentagon is more than large enough to allow for compliance with so-called sequestration while maintaining the strongest and most capable military the world has ever known.” – R Street Institute and National Taxpayers Union, June 2013
We couldn’t agree...
Christine Anderson | POGO Blog 06 Jun 2013 Hits:225 EWO Articles
As Rethinking Schools began to explore the school-to-prison pipeline, we searched for a construct that would help us understand how the criminalization of youth fits into the larger social picture. At just that moment, we discovered The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander.
Alexander poses a...
Jody Sokolower, Rethinking Schools | Interview 04 Jun 2013 Hits:239 EMC Articles
As Congress mulls changing America’s border and naturalization rules, a study finds that immigrant workers are helping buttress Medicare’s finances, because they contribute tens of billions a year more than immigrant retirees use in medical services.
“Immigrants, particularly noncitizens, heavily subsidize Medicare,” the researchers wrote in the journal Health Affairs. “Policies that reduce...
Jordan Rau | Kaiser Health News 31 May 2013 Hits:134 HCA Articles
North Carolina could save as much as $18.7 billion next year on health-care costs if it changed the way it finances health care.
The catch? That change would require a switch to a single-payer system in which one entity collects all health-care fees and pay related costs, says Gerald Friedman, a...
Jennifer Thomas | Charolette Business Journal 31 May 2013 Hits:331 HCA Articles
Gov. Bob McDonnell announced Wednesday that he will automatically restore the voting rights of nonviolent felons who have completed their sentences on an individual basis by doing away with the "subjective" application process.
McDonnell streamlined the process of rights restoration when he took office in 2010, and has restored the rights...
Todd Allen Wilson | Newport News Daily Press 29 May 2013 Hits:201 Restoration of Voting Rights
Each day women across this country continue to battle issues of inequality. The sad fact is that women still make seventy-four cents on the dollar in comparison to us men. By remaining stagnant on this issue, by simply brushing it aside, keeping it in the back of our minds, we...
Shaun Broy 29 May 2013 Hits:305 ERA Action Articles
Earlier today, I posted a story about Republicans’ draconian and racist amendment to the Farm Bill that would deny food stamp benefits for ex-convicts– for the rest of their lives. (Obviously, a great way to pump up recidivism.)
But ex-cons are not the only people that Republicans want to starve. Overall,...
Pamela Powers Hannley | Tucson Progressive 29 May 2013 Hits:223 ESJ Articles
A press release from last week from the Americans Against Fracking:
Washington, D.C. – Today a coalition led by Americans Against Fracking, 350.org, Democracy for America and Washington, D.C. – Today a coalition led by Americans Against Fracking, 350.org, Democracy for America and Food & Water Watch, among others marched at the...
Bob Downing | Ohio.com 28 May 2013 Hits:220 SGW Articles
“One person incredibly committed to one issue, who won’t stop until change occurs.”
In 2012, three young women created a documentary about Alice Paul for a school project. Joyce Wang, Olivia Hu and Ingrid Ma decided to focus on women’s suffrage and the result is a fantastic ten-minute video chronicling Alice...
Kimberly Johnson | Liberals Unite 28 May 2013 Hits:156 History
From 1999-2010, the total U.S. prison population rose 18 percent, an increase largely reflected by the "drug war" and stringent sentencing guidelines, such as three strikes laws and mandatory minimum sentences.
However, total private prison populations exploded fivefold during this same time period, with federal private prison populations rising by 784...
David Harris-Gershun | AlterNet 28 May 2013 Hits:234 Privatization of Prisons
Since New York was dubbed the "Empire State," Native American territory has been ransacked by ecological exploitation.
Five years ago, Hickory Edwards was called to the water. A citizen of the Onondaga Nation, whose territory just south of Syracuse is the heart of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (also known as the Six...
Andrew Bard Epstein | AlterNet 28 May 2013 Hits:402 SGW Articles
The global day of protest against the giant corporation Monsanto was a major success, as two million people showed up in cities around the world.
The global day of protest against the giant corporation Monsanto was a major success. On Saturday, demonstrators took to the streets in more than 50 countries...
Alex Kane | AlterNet 28 May 2013 Hits:202 ECR Articles
A pair of Democratic congressmen is pushing an amendment that would place an affirmative right to vote in the U.S. Constitution. According to Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), who is sponsoring the legislation along with Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the amendment would protect voters from what he described as a “systematic”...
Hunter Walker | TPM 28 May 2013 Hits:293 CFTE Articles
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II is set to announce the findings of a committee he tasked with exploring how to make it easier for nonviolent felons to regain their voting rights, an issue Cuccinelli fought against as a state senator but has since come to support.
In March, Cuccinelli, the...
Errin Whack | The Washington Post 27 May 2013 Hits:189 EMC Articles
Florida leads the nation by a wide margin in the number of felons who have served their sentences but cannot vote.
One of only 11 states in the U.S. that does not automatically return civil rights to former inmates, Florida had not restored the rights of 1.3 million former inmates as...
John Lantigua | Palm Beach Post 24 May 2013 Hits:268 Restoration of Voting Rights
It’s the first time that any multilateral institution anywhere in the world has critically analyzed the war on drugs, and considered new approaches.
The Organization of American States (OAS) released an unprecedented report last Friday that presents the most high-level discussion of alternatives to drug prohibition in history.
This report is a big...
Daniel Robelo | AlterNet 24 May 2013 Hits:288 War on Drugs - Criminal Injustice
Tennessee congressman Stephen Fincher is very angry that the federal government is committed to preventing poor people from starving to death:
Stephen Fincher, a deranged Republican congressman from Tennessee, is very angry that the federal government is committed to preventing poor people from starving to death: Republican Congressman Stephen Fincher of...
Justin Doolittle |Alternet 22 May 2013 Hits:363 ESJ Articles
The latest in "healthy" foods that are not actually good for us is Greek yogurt. Over at Modern Farmer, Justin Elliott explains that every three to four ounces of milk produces only one ounce of the creamy snack, and what's left becomes acid whey, " a thin, runny waste product" too...
Kristen Gwynne | AlterNet 22 May 2013 Hits:471 ESJ Articles
As President Obama hosts a press conference at the National Defense University CODEPINK and other activists will vigiling outside. President Obama will be speaking at the National Defense University on the topic of two of the most egregious crimes committed by this administration: drone strikes and Guantanamo Bay. CODEPINK and...
Alli McCracken | CodePink 22 May 2013 Hits:189 EWO Articles
Will Governor Cuomo and NY legislature finally fix unfair laws, uphold justice and reflect the will of the people?
In January of this year, during his 2013 State of the State speech, Governor Andrew Cuomo made a bold call to stop discrimination in New York. “We are one New York, and...
22 May 2013 Hits:233 War on Drugs - Criminal Injustice
Tribal leaders trucked the battered old home to Washington to show the nation’s leaders what the housing crisis on reservations looks like in person.
Last month, a new building joined the Washington Monument and the Capitol building on the National Mall. The small, run-down shack had previously housed 13 people, and...
Mark Andrew Boyer | Yes Magazine 20 May 2013 Hits:227 ESJ Articles
Frustration with the failed execution of various weakly-constructed legal settlements stemming from widespread foreclosure fraud bubbled over today into a protest at Justice Department headquarters that culminated in homeowners being arrested.
Using tactics and rhetoric familiar from 2011’s Occupy Wall Street demonstration, a group of activists and foreclosed homeowners marched on...
Alan Pyke | ThinkProgress 20 May 2013 Hits:231 ESJ Articles
Dispensaries providing marijuana to doctor-approved patients operate in a number of states, but they are under assault by the federal government. SWAT-style raids by the DEA and finger-wagging press conferences by grim-faced federal prosecutors may garner greater attention, but the assault on medical marijuana providers extends to other branches of...
Clarence Walker | Drug War Chronicle 20 May 2013 Hits:322 War on Drugs - Criminal Injustice
"The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which other rights are protected," wrote Thomas Paine in 1795.
Yet contrary to popular belief, there is no affirmative right to vote in the U.S. Constitution. This gap in our founding document has provided an opening for the wave of...
Brendan Fisher | PR Watch 19 May 2013 Hits:1318 CFTE Articles
You can't hit 400 ppm CO2 and still think "all of the above" is a rationale energy strategy.
A lot has happened in the last week. The Earth hit the 400 parts per million CO2 threshold for the first time in human history. Scientists tell us this is bad news if...
Tara Lohan | AlterNet 18 May 2013 Hits:350 SGW Articles
In a David vs. Goliath scenario the Henry David T. puts itself between Energy Enterprise and New England's largest coal plant
Stearing a lobster boat called the Henry David T., two climate activists on Wednesday attempted to blockade a shipment of West Virginia coal from arriving at Brayton Point Power Station...
Jon Queally | Common Dreams 18 May 2013 Hits:243 SGW Articles
Listen "Live" on Monday, May 20th at 9pm EST
Freeda Cathcart is running for the 17th House of Delegates in southwest Virginia. The Virginia Senate has recently passed the ERA but the House of Delegates has refused to bring it to a vote. Freeda promoted the petition to the White House...
18 May 2013 Hits:284 ERA Action Articles
Brianna Pena, a 5-year-old, was told she could not return to her kindergarten classroom at her Bronx, NY, charter school until she was “psychiatrically cleared” to return by a medical professional. It was her first day at a new school. She didn’t know anyone and repeatedly cried, “Nobody cares about me!” School officials insist that...
David Rosen | AlterNet 18 May 2013 Hits:999 School to Prison Pipeline
While women and men around the world applaud Angelina Jolie for her bravery in writing such a public opinion piece in the New York Times today about her preemptive double mastectomy, some of us know that our breasts and our lives just are not worth as much as hers. ...
Donna Smith | Donna Sicko's Blog 17 May 2013 Hits:870 HCA Articles
The Obama administration has been procrastinating on its decision on the Keystone XL pipeline for years — and now comes word that it may kick the can even further down the road. From Reuters:
The Obama administration is unlikely to make a decision on the Canada-to-Nebraska Keystone XL pipeline until late...
Lisa Hymas | Grist.org 13 May 2013 Hits:205 SGW Articles
When I was a teenager, my mother posted this quote on her mirror: "having a child is like letting your heart walk around outside your body." Back then, the sentiment made me roll my eyes, but even then I knew I had an exceptional mother. She is fierce, yet gentle,...
Sheila Bedi | Truthout OpEd 13 May 2013 Hits:207 EMC Articles
U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) is an original cosponsor of a joint resolution, introduced by U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-M.D.) and Mark Kirk (R-I.L.), to remove the deadline for states to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).
When Congress passed the ERA in 1972, it provided that the amendment had to...
KRWG and Partners 12 May 2013 Hits:506 ERA Action Articles
A fundamental struggle for democracy is going on behind the scenes in statehouses around the country, as a handful of wealthy individuals and foundations pour money into efforts to privatize the public schools.
The implications are huge. But the school privatizers, and their lobbyists in the states, have so muddied the...
Ruth Coniff | The Progressive 12 May 2013 Hits:349 ECR Articles
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is the latest plan of conglomerates to strengthen their grip over the planet.
A corporate world order is emerging, and like any parasite, it is slowly killing off its host. Unfortunately, the "host" happens to be the planet, and all life upon and within it....
Andrew Gavin Marshall | AlterNet 12 May 2013 Hits:239 ESJ Articles
Letter signed by 150 prominent donors says project is the most important environmental decision of presidency
The biggest backers of the Democratic causes urged Barack Obama on Friday to take historic action on climate change by rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline.
In a letter seen by the Guardian, 150 high-profile figures, who...
Suzanne Goldenberg | The Guardian 10 May 2013 Hits:463 SGW Articles
Mr. President, as we prepare to celebrate Mother’s Day this Sunday, today I am introducing a joint resolution which would remove the deadline for the states' ratification of the equal rights amendment, ERA. I thank Senators Kirk, Mikulski, Murkowski, Harkin, Sanders, Levin, Menendez, Stabenow, Heinrich, Boxer, Gillibrand, Durbin, Lautenberg, Murphy,...
Sen Ben Cardin, Maryland 09 May 2013 Hits:773 ERA Action Articles
New York's draconian sentencing laws, which became the template for the country, have been reformed somewhat. But they still have a long way to go.
In 1973, two years after President Nixon declared a "war on drugs," New York Governor Rockefeller passed the toughest drug laws in the nation. The notorious...
Anthony Papa | AlterNet 08 May 2013 Hits:278 EMC Articles
More than a dozen people have gathered at the entrance to The Breakers hotel in Palm Beach this morning to protest the private prison management company Geo Group and what protesters characterize as the company’s lobbying activities to benefit its business.
The GEO Group, which is based in Boca Raton and...
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer 07 May 2013 Hits:351 EMC Articles
There's a massive new federal crackdown on legal marijuana sales.
In several West Coast cities, federal officials are initiating a new round of crackdowns against dispensaries that are seemingly complying with state medical marijuana law. In Seattle, 11 dispensaries received shutdown warnings. In San Francisco, almost half of the city’s small number of...
Nicole Flatow | ThinkProgress 06 May 2013 Hits:240 EMC Articles
At the April Conference Call for the End Corporate Rule Issue Team, PDA endorsed the American Anti-corruption Act. I hope you'll go to http://www.represent.us and become a co-sponsor of the Act, joining what will be one million citizens by the end of 2013. We already have more than 360,000 signatures....
Walter Ebmeyer 06 May 2013 Hits:316 ECR Articles
If you divided the entire country into people who know the ERA is in play and those who do not, it would be two very uneven groups. And within the group who knows it is and has always been in play you can find a tenacious sub-group who are half...
Zoe Ann Nicholson | Online with Zoe 05 May 2013 Hits:524 ERA Action Articles
When we talk about the criminalization of communities and people of color, especially African Americans and Latinos in America, we often talk about the criminal justice system in America that disproportionately targets those communities.Schools are often the major accomplices in making this system run with the school to prison pipeline. Nothing exemplifies this more...
Sesali Bowen | Feministing 03 May 2013 Hits:308 School to Prison Pipeline
A 19th century tool for instilling fear in the public to pay off debt
"In the 1990s, Jack [Dawley's] drug and alcohol addictions led to convictions for domestic violence and driving under the influence, resulting in nearly $1,500 in fines and costs in the Norwalk Municipal Court. Jack was also behind...
Bill Berkowitz | AlterNet 02 May 2013 Hits:403 EMC Articles
The US-EU free trade pact and the Trans-Pacific Partnership are about securing regulatory gains for major corporate interests.
In polite circles in the United States, support for free trade is a bit like proper bathing habits: It is taken for granted. Only the hopelessly crude and unwashed would not support free...
Dean Baker 02 May 2013 Hits:258 ESJ Articles
Just how real is the fracking "boom" when compared with other developments within the energy industry—specifically the exponential growth of renewable energy?
The practice of hydraulic horizontal fracturing or fracking to extract natural gas from the shale beds of the U.S. began, for all practical purposes, in 2007. Since that time, the...
Jay Warmke | EcoWatch 28 Apr 2013 Hits:552 SGW Articles
Wage theft is fast becoming a top trend of the 21st-century labor market.
Imagine you’ve just landed a job with a big-time retailer. Your task is to load and unload boxes from trucks and containers. It’s back-breaking work. You toil 12 to 16 hours a day, often without a lunch break....
Lynn Stuart Parramore | AlterNet 28 Apr 2013 Hits:918 ESJ Articles
Almost one hundred years after women won the right to vote, the 2012 election will go down in history as a groundbreaking, glass-ceiling-smashing milestone for women. Female voters made a big impact, especially in swing states like Virginia. Women threw their support behind candidates who support women. WOMEN MATTER. And...
J.C. Wilmore | The Richmonder 28 Apr 2013 Hits:373 History
Failed gun control legislation and a fertilizer plant explosion reveal how poisoned by big money our government is.
If you want to see why the public approval rating of Congress is down in the sub-arctic range — an icy 15 percent by last count — all you have to do is take...
Bill Moyers and Michael Winship | Bill Moyers.com 27 Apr 2013 Hits:480 ECR Articles
We now have 12 states whose legislatures have formally endorsed an amendment overturning Citizens United v. FEC (four of which have specifically endorsed ending corporate personhood): California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Vermont, and West Virginia.
People in cities, towns, and counties all across...
Sean Barnett | NOVA Move to Amend 26 Apr 2013 Hits:312 ECR Articles
Judge Shira Scheindlin says unnamed witnesses have committed perjury and orders officers to come back to court.
The federal judge presiding over the landmark case against the New York police department's controversial stop-and-frisk policy has complained that witnesses have perjured themselves during the hearings.
Judge Shira Scheindlin ordered two officers to come...
Ryan Devereaux | The Guardian 24 Apr 2013 Hits:283 EMC Articles
Members of the Florida state Legislature rarely agree on anything. It's unusual for a bill to get unanimous support from the body. But as it turns out, there is one thing that both Republicans and Democrats really love: wildflowers. Florida lawmakers in both houses of the Legislature voted a collective...
Stephanie Mencimer | Mother Jones 18 Jun 2013 Hits:114 Florida
U.S. Senator Tim Kaine today signed onto the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act – legislation that would end the ban on prescription drug price negotiations for the government’s largest health care program.
“Every corner pharmacy negotiates for prescription drug prices so it makes no sense that the federal government isn’t...
Valerie Garner | Roanoke Free Press 17 Jun 2013 Hits:163 Virginia
Protests are planned Monday at the offices of several Congressional leaders around the country by activists opposed to cuts in the food stamp program.
One of the events organized by Progressive Democrats of America will be at the Springfield office of Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal. Neal is a leading Democrat on...
Paul Tuthill | WAMC 17 Jun 2013 Hits:185 Massachusetts
(NaturalNews) When a group of uniformed men wearing guns sets up a road block then ask you to "volunteer" a DNA sample and blood sample, it stretches the definition of "volunteer." But that's what happened in Alabama yesterday as off-duty cops in two counties set up DNA collection roadblocks and...
Mike Adams | Natural News.com 12 Jun 2013 Hits:820 Alabama
Nothing makes me more angry than listening to the Very Serious People at CNN and MSNBC claim that single-payer health insurance (i.e. Medicare for all) is some sort of left-wing policy. It's not -- and that's why the rest of the developed world uses some variation of single-payer insurance to...
James 321 | Daily Kos 11 Jun 2013 Hits:470 Georgia
If convicted of hacking-related charges, Deric Lostutter could get more jail time than the rapists he went after.
In April, the FBI quietly raided the home of the hacker known as KYAnonymous in connection with his role in the Steubenville rape case. Today he spoke out for the first time about...
Josh Harkinson | Mother Jones 07 Jun 2013 Hits:329 Ohio
The Senate race in Georgia is shaping up to host the first test case for Democrats’ push to play in demographically diversifying states currently dominated by Republicans.
A surge in the black and Hispanic populations around Atlanta has altered the political outlook in Georgia’s statewide races for decades to come.
Kyle Trygstad | Roll Call 06 Jun 2013 Hits:145 Georgia
The Nuns on the Bus, led by Sr. Simone, is on a 6,500 mile journey through predominantly Republican states to encourage our Senate to pass immigration reform. Sr. Simone and others gave inspirational talks calling us to action and reminding us that Christian doctrine commands us to welcome strangers. She...
Edward Savela | PDA Alabama 05 Jun 2013 Hits:158 Alabama
The backroom negotiations behind the midwestern state’s new fracking regulations may be a taste of what’s to come in other places.
What happens in Illinois, doesn't stay in Illinois. That was the message last week of acclaimed scientist and author Sandra Steingraber, who joined the growing local uprising’s last...
Jeff Biggers | Yes Magazine 04 Jun 2013 Hits:244 Illinois
Food safety advocates hope Connecticut's move sparks nationwide momentum for labeling of genetically modified foods
In a landmark act, Connecticut has become the first state to require the labeling of genetically modified (gmo) foods.
The gmo labeling bill overwhelmingly passed in the House in a 134 - 3 vote on Monday.
Andrea Germanos | Common Dreams 04 Jun 2013 Hits:1054 Connecticut
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), the last World War II veteran in the Senate and the chamber’s oldest member, died Monday morning. He was 89. In a statement, Lautenberg’s office said he died at 4:02 a.m. “due to complications from viral pneumonia.” He is survived by his wife, Bonnie Englebardt Lautenberg,...
Aaron Blake | The Washington Post 03 Jun 2013 Hits:175 New Jersey
On the eve of the historic fracking bill vote in Illinois, a citizen uprising led by nationally acclaimed scientist Dr. Sandra Steingraber, health workers, community groups and threatened downstate residents held 11th hour meetings yesterday with aides from the offices of Gov. Pat Quinn and Attorney General Lisa Madigan and...
Jeff Biggers | Huffington Post 30 May 2013 Hits:235 Illinois
Fourteen-year-old Tremaine McMillian didn't threaten police. He didn't attack them. He wasn't armed. All the black teenager did was appear threatening by shooting Miami-Dade police officers a few "dehumanizing stares," and that was apparently enough for the officers to decide to slam him against the ground and put him in...
Kyle Munzenrieder | Miami NewTimes 30 May 2013 Hits:358 Florida
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli today released a report presenting legal alternatives to the current system of restoring the civil rights of nonviolent felons.
The report, compiled by a bipartisan commission of lawyers convened by the attorney general in March, suggests the General Assembly could establish and fund a "permanent function" under the governor's...
Jim Nolan | Richmond Times Dispatch 28 May 2013 Hits:1399 Virginia
PD Marin May Blogby Lee Lull
The Marin PDA chapter has been busy of late:
Letters to Representative Huffman each month:
1) Each month for the past 3 months, we have asked Representative Huffman to sign on to the Grayson/Takano letter, but to no avail. (We keep trying because this promise would greatly...
28 May 2013 Hits:142 Marin County PDA
Arizona's Republican Gov. Jan Brewer is stepping up her pressure on the GOP-led legislature to expand Medicaid by declaring a moratorium on legislating until they give in.
Brewer vetoed five unrelated bills on Thursday, according to the Arizona Republic, and threatened to keep blocking legislation until Republicans expand Medicaid to cover...
Sahil Kapur | TPM 25 May 2013 Hits:888 Arizona
Movement gathers around 'Moral Monday' protests aimed at fighting off GOP takeover
"We’re going to continue our acts of civil disobedience because the General Assembly has made a cruel attack on the most vulnerable people in this state,” declared Rev. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina chapter of...
25 May 2013 Hits:205 North Carolina
When surveying the current legislative session in Baton Rouge a number of questions leap to mind. One is: what's the point of this so-called conservative majority up there?
The session promised to begin with a bang. Lawmakers arrived poised to debate a huge deal: an overhaul of Louisiana's tax system that...
James Varney | Times Picayune 24 May 2013 Hits:212 Louisiana
What happens in Illinois, doesn't stay in Illinois -- especially when you're dealing with the national ramifications of a combined fracking and coal mining rush unparalleled in recent memory.
As a sit-in movement continues at the office of Gov. Pat Quinn in Springfield, Illinois, besieged southern Illinois residents who have been...
Jeff Biggers | Huffington Post 24 May 2013 Hits:241 Illinois
If a woman in Virginia has a miscarriage without a doctor present, they must report it within 24 hours to the police or risk going to jail for a full year. At least, that’s what would have happened if a bill introduced by Virginia state Sen. Mark Obenshain (R) had become...
Ian Millhiser | ThinkProgress 20 May 2013 Hits:417 Virginia
Update: Barbara Parramore was taken into police custody Monday evening.
Today I am participating in a non-violent and peaceful protest called Moral Mondays. I join ministers, students, teachers, and other concerned citizens at the state capitol in Raleigh because I am deeply concerned about the legislation of this session of the...
Barbara Parramore | AlterNet 20 May 2013 Hits:367 North Carolina
The Florida teenager who was arrested two weeks ago for causing a small explosion on the campus of her high school will not be charged with a crime. Kiera Wilmot, 16, was arrested by police in Bartow, Florida, after conducting an unauthorized science experiment which lightly damaged an eight ounce...
Ned Resnikoff | MSNBC.com 16 May 2013 Hits:437 Florida
As some of you might know already, Nuns on the Bus will be making a pass through the south in June. Below are the dates in our states:
6/3 - Orlando, FL, 3pm - Daniel Webster - lobby visit
6/4 - Tallahassee, FL, 10 am - Marco Rubio - lobby visit
Edward Savela 14 May 2013 Hits:232 Alabama
As the shutdown of LSU’s Earl K. Long Medical Center in northern Baton Rouge occurred and patients made the trip to private clinics, so too did U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy.
The Republican congressman from Baton Rouge was a longtime physician and liver specialist at the Earl K. Long facility when he...
Jordan Blum | The Advocate 13 May 2013 Hits:274 Louisiana
Neither soaking rain nor the lack of permit from the City of Atlanta prevented advocates for the legalization of cannabis--commonly known as marijuana--from speaking out at the Great Atlanta Pot Festival 2013.
Paul Cornwell, Atlanta Coalition for the Abolition of Marijuana Prohibition (CAMP), and the festival organizer, was turned down for...
Gloria Tatum | Atlanta Progressive News 12 May 2013 Hits:244 Georgia
Spokane City Councilman Jon Snyder and President of Aging and Long Term Care of Eastern Washington Nick Beamer announced that the Sequestration cuts passed by Congress are poised to have a negative effect for area seniors who depend on the services ALTCEW provides.
For the five-county area served by Aging and...
City of Spokane 10 May 2013 Hits:1371 Washington
One of the consequences of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s policy of shrinking state government is the impact of cuts on good programs. But crisis is the mother of inconsistency, and once again the anti-government administration has tried to offset budget cuts by raising fees for some state programs.
This time, it was...
The Advocate 06 May 2013 Hits:261 Louisiana
The Boston Marathon bombings happened more than 2,700 miles away, but for the men and women working on the third floor of a Metro Police building, that couldn’t have mattered less.
They were monitoring every emerging detail, every lead, every newscast with this in mind: Was it the start of something...
Jackie Valley | Las Vegas Sun 06 May 2013 Hits:234 Nevada
On Saturday, as Texas hosted the National Rifle Association’s annual convention, the Texas House passed 12 gun bills to make it even easier to obtain and possess firearms in the state. The onslaught of legislation contains provisions to allow college students to carry handguns in class and to block any...
Aviva Shen | ThinkProgress 06 May 2013 Hits:464 Texas
Clean energy opponents turned to dirty tactics this week at the North Carolina legislature to advance a bill repealing the state's groundbreaking renewable power program.
In a contested vote that led to an outcry from Democrats, the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday advanced a measure to roll back the 2007 state...
Sue Sturgis | Facing South 06 May 2013 Hits:229 North Carolina
Last week, an exchange between Jeff Flake, Janet Napolitano, and Chuck Schumer exemplified all that is wrong with the way in which immigration gets discussed within Washington and how far removed the beltway is from the daily reality and aspirations of people who are marching for immigrant rights this week.
Pablo Alvarado | Huffington Post 05 May 2013 Hits:381 Arizona
An arbitrator said that a picket line of retired longshore union workers that closed a key Port of Tacoma container terminal early Tuesday was not allowed under the provisions of the longshore contract, according to the group that was the subject of the protest.
The Washington United Terminal was reopened Tuesday...
John Gillie | The News Tribune 02 May 2013 Hits:385 Washington
Within hours of renowned climate scientists announcing a staggering milestone in carbon dioxide emissions, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn rolled out the booster wagons for Big Coal and celebrated his state's five-fold increase in record coal exports.
Gov. Quinn, once hailed by the Sierra Club as "the clear choice for Illinois voters...
Jeff Biggers | Huffington Post 02 May 2013 Hits:263 Illinois
Whether she runs for governor or not, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan would need nine lives to bring the state's notoriously broken regulatory system into compliance with the nation's most reckless coal industry.
With state coal production soaring against national trends, Illinois cemented its reputation as the worst rogue state for...
Jeff Biggers | AlterNet 02 May 2013 Hits:367 Illinois
In August 2011, Donald Perry -- a soup kitchen manager and homeless outreach worker -- picked up a homeless man and gave him a ride to a nearby town.
Along the way they were stopped by a state police officer. Shortly before Donald stopped the truck the homeless man fled...
Elaine Arsenault | Change.org 29 Apr 2013 Hits:1415 Massachusetts
MADISON – Concerned Wisconsinites packed halls in Milwaukee and Madison this week to testify against Governor Walker’s regressive 2013-15 biennial budget proposal. Over the course of three hours, residents spoke out during public hearings hosted by Democratic members of the state Joint Finance Committee in opposition to key elements of...
United Wisconsin | Press Release 27 Apr 2013 Hits:1492 Wisconsin
"We are over-tested, under-resourced and fed up!"
Hundreds of Chicago students are taking up the mantle in the fight against the role of standardized tests in public school closures as they walked out of a state exam Wednesday. Their message: "We are over-tested, under-resourced and fed up!"
Over 300 students from over...
Lauren McCauley | Common Dreams 27 Apr 2013 Hits:543 Illinois
This legislature has already attacked the poor by denying 500,000 people access to healthcare, by refusing billions of Federal dollars, and then denying benefits to an estimated 165,000 unemployed North Carolinians by refusing even more money. They raised taxes on 900,000 poor and working people and cut taxes on 23...
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber | North Carolina NAACP 26 Apr 2013 Hits:340 North Carolina
BALTIMORE–Local labor organizations are claiming victory this week after brokering a pair of agreements that will ensure the use of union labor in every aspect of a new $375 million downtown Baltimore casino project. Backed by special legislation from the Maryland state government, the proposed Horseshoe Casino is expected to create 1,200 permanent jobs.
UNITE HERE and several...
Bruce Vail | In These Times 25 Apr 2013 Hits:247 Maryland
Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) will challenge Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) in a Democratic primary, a source close to the congresswoman said Tuesday.
Schatz was recently appointed to replace Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), who died in December at age 88.
Inouye’s dying wish was for Hanabusa to take his place in the Senate,...
Cameron Joseph | The Hill 23 Apr 2013 Hits:270 Hawaii
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu on Tuesday found herself in line to possibly chair the powerful Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, if she wins reelection next year.
The dominoes are set to potentially fall in place for her after it was announced that U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., would retire and...
Advocate Washington Bureau 23 Apr 2013 Hits:309 Louisiana
While Senate leaders, including Arizona's John McCain and Jeff Flake, hammered out immigration reform details last month, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio reminded the nation how rogue law enforcement can still undercut legislative efforts for a pathway to citizenship.
In a demonstration of his notorious intimidation tactics, Arapio's deputies raided three...
Jeff Biggers | Huffington Post 23 Apr 2013 Hits:416 Arizona
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is retiring rather than seek re-election in 2014, according to two senior Democratic strategists familiar with his plans.
First elected in 1978, Baucus has been the top Democrat on the powerful committee since 2001. The likely Democratic candidate to succeed him would be former...
Paul Kane | Washington Post 23 Apr 2013 Hits:1390 Montana
Two top Democratic fundraisers in Florida have committed to providing the money and know-how to get the question of legalizing medical marijuana on the state ballot in 2014.
"I'm prepared to keep raising money and writing checks until I get the signatures to put it on the ballot," attorney John Morgan...
Barbara Liston | Reuter's 22 Apr 2013 Hits:383 Florida
Last week, Virginia’s Board of Health voted to finalize unnecessary regulations that will force many of the state’s abortion clinics to shut down. Those new restrictions — which are known as the Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, or TRAP laws — are already having their intended effect. Hillcrest Clinic, which...
Tara Culp-Ressler | ThinkProgress 22 Apr 2013 Hits:1923 Virginia
Republicans in Benton County, Arkansas are not happy that their state legislators have agreed to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. In this month’s newsletter, columnist Chris Nogy encouraged his fellow Republicans to utilize their 2nd Amendment rights to make sure that lawmakers — particularly Republicans who vote with Democrats — are held accountable:
Zack Ford | ThinkProgress 22 Apr 2013 Hits:350 Arkansas
On April 15, 2013, the Northeast Alabama Labor Council in Gadsden endorsed HR 676, national single payer health care legislation sponsored by Congressman John Conyers.
President Garry "Gabby" Frost brought the resolution before the council in response to an appeal from the All Unions Committee for Single Payer Health Care--HR 676...
Kay Tillow 22 Apr 2013 Hits:294 Alabama
The 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail" was observed with events throughout the city and extended to Washington D.C. where Rep. Terri Sewell marked today by reading an excerpt of the famous treatise.
Sewell, D-Birmingham, used her time on the House of Representatives floor to read a...
Jseoph D. Bryant | AL.com 21 Apr 2013 Hits:361 Alabama
“It was like a dream. From the Rules Committee committing to end the packing of endorsement caucuses by elected officials, to our anti-fracking resolution coming out of committee stronger than when it went in and then passing on the consent calendar, to the sold-out PDA luncheon and the overwhelming win...
Dr. Bill Honigman, PDA California State Co-Coordinator 16 Apr 2013 Hits:502 California
The governor's spokesman called the effort to promote an integrated prom in Wilcox County a 'silly publicity stunt.'
A group of teens backed by a liberal group in Georgia want to end the segregated prom that exists in Wilcox County. But the governor thinks that effort is “ a silly publicity...
Alex Kane | AlterNet 15 Apr 2013 Hits:489 Georgia
PDA is organized around several core issues. These issues include:
Each team hosts a monthly conference call. Calls feature legislators, staffers and other policy experts. On these calls we determine PDA legislation to support as well as actions and future events.