Real Welfare Reform

Paul Ryan says “People want able bodied people who are on welfare to go to work, they want us to get people out of poverty, into the workforce,” Ryan said in a Fox News interview late Wednesday. “That’s good for them, that’s good for the economy, that’s good for the federal budget.”

I think we all agree that no one likes a free-loader, but Ryan doesn’t want to accept responsibility for helping create a situation where 1/3 of the SNAP households are working, yet are not making enough to survive. For a party that used to talk about personal responsibility and accountability,  there is a total lack of accountability by Paul Ryan, Dennis Ross, and the extreme right for creating the conditions that cause our “safety net” programs to cover the gap for when corporations refuse to pay a living wage.

The all-out war on unions, collective-bargaining, and workers’ rights that started in the Reagan administration has been ramped up in recent years by Paul Ryan, Dennis Ross, and other millionaire politicians who love to blame the working poor for their plight. We have seen Ryan, Ross, et al., push through bills to limit the ability of unions to organize and expand, limit the ability for workers to force change through class action law suits, and to force workers to accept mediation when grievances are filed.

Since the early 1980’s wage growth for the bottom 25% of workers has been negative, losing ground every year, it has been flat for the next 50% of workers, and over 10% annually for the top 25% of workers. For 75% of working Americans, we work harder each year, but see no improvement in our standard of living. Still, Ryan, Ross, and other Tea Party extremists refuse to

  • act on increasing the minimum wage,
  • chose to roll back regulations that would prevent companies from making employees “salaried” to prevent paying overtime,
  • gave employers the ability to forgo overtime earnings with supposed promised time off in the future,
  •  created a tax system that makes it more  profitable for companies to buy back stocks and give huge executive salaries instead of encouraging  companies to share their record profits with employees or funding employee benefits.

Even before the great TAX GIVEAWAY this fall, Ryan, Ross, and company attacked and blamed the poor, yet remain silent about the Corporate Welfare they dole out at a rate 10 times higher than what goes to “safety net” and social programs. Their tax scam increases the wealth of large corporations and the top few per cent of Americans but does nothing to encourage job growth, job creation, wage reform, expansion of employee benefits,  or anything else that will significantly help 75% of the American workers.

For those who wonder why the general public flocked to non-traditional candidates like Trump and Sanders, or why there is increased racism and attacks on immigrants, it is because for almost 40 years working Americans have seen the fruits of their labor get redistributed to the few, the privileged, and the greedy. Good, hard-working people are humbled and humiliated as they have to turn toward government programs to put food on their tables. We are frustrated with the status-quo but are manipulated into blaming each other instead of voting for people who will actually fight for change.

If we want able-bodied people to go to work, then we need to create an environment where the government invests in infrastructure and renewable technologies that pay high wages and increase employment opportunities. We need to pass laws that protect workers’ rights and  make sure that those who work hard can eat and provide for the necessities of life.  We need to put earnings into the hands of the people who work, spend, invest, and create demand for goods and services (which by the way will increase corporate earnings and increase tax revenues needed to pay down the US debt).

Ryan, Ross, and their anti-worker allies love headline statements that sound good on the surface but exasperate the problems in this country instead of addressing them.  If there are too many people receiving government assistance, Ryan, Ross, and the Republican Party need to own up to creating the problems and either address the issues that cause these problems or retire and let serious Americans make the American Dream attainable for those get up and go to work every day. 



10 Issues for 2018

When I first announced my candidacy for the US House of Representatives, I declared that I was not running against Dennis Ross but was running to represent the people of District 15. Real representation for my neighbors, all of my neighbors, both in District 15 and across this country must  be a priority as we move our government back to being an institution of, for, and by the people. But “real representation” is a fairly broad concept. So in a somewhat hierarchical order here is what I believe we must stand for and be willing to fight for in 2018 and beyond.

  1. We must eliminate dark money, huge corporate contributions, and gerrymandering from our political process. Until we do,  we will have a government that simply swings from favoring one group of contributors to another with no real, lasting representation for the people of our country.
  2. “If we do not quit bickering among ourselves and confront the real enemy, then it really won’t matter whose bones sit upon the iron throne.” The real enemy is the  unrelenting attack on our environment, our health, and our future. The cost of doing business must include making those responsible for poisoning our air, water, food, land, and climate also responsible for cleaning up their mess and restoring our most precious resources. If we continue to allow Koch Industries, Monsanto, and the ALEC aligned oil companies to buy our representatives while destroying our very means of survival, then soon no amount of corporate or personal profits will protect us for from a self-inflicted destruction of our very existence.
  3. Equality of opportunity, equality in our law, equality in our justice system, equality in our housing markets, equality in our job markets, equality in our health options, etc., must be guaranteed for every American. We cannot support, promote, or legislate hate and discrimination based upon race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, heritage, income bracket, or any other arbitrary factor. “All people are created equal” and must be treated equal under a system of laws that apply equally to every individual whether that person is a dishwasher, a homeless vet, or the President of the United States.
  4. Health care is not a privilege it is a human right. We give trillions away to the wealthiest individuals and most profitable companies in the world, but are told we cannot afford to make sure every American has access to basic health care. This is not a fiscal or political issue, this is a moral issue. Whether the answer is Medicare for All or a public health insurance option, we cannot continue to bankrupt millions and let hundreds of thousands die simply because our government insists that we redistribute hundreds of billions each year from working families to the inefficient and highly profitable insurance industry.
  5. Real reform for wages, worker’s rights, and middle class households. A living minimum wage that is tied to inflation (and a truly representative CPI). Incentives for corporations should be earned through increased worker benefits, employee ownership, higher contributions to retirement plans,  funded pensions, research and development, and expansion of future domestic hiring (as opposed to giving unprecedented corporate welfare for strictly political purposes).
  6. Affordable, quality education which includes increasing teacher pay so that we can hire and retain the best to teach our children, options in higher education to maximize learning and provide a higher return for investments of time and money, more options to allow students and parents to lower the costs of education, and a reform of student loan legislation that makes borrowing more affordable and that does not fiscally handicap students for decades after graduation.
  7.  Protect Social Security and Medicare. There are plenty of ways to keep both fully-funded without making draconian cuts to benefits that have been paid for through a lifetime of hard work.
  8. Strengthen consumer protection laws, including financial protections and the right to collectively seek legal justice.
  9. Protect the Freedom of Information, the freedom of the press to report verifiable and truthful news, and Net Neutrality, the open and free Internet.
  10. Tax capital and unearned income at the same rates that we tax labor.

If you agree and would like to contribute to getting real representation for the people of District 15, you can donate to Williams Works – Greg Williams for Congress here.

The GOP Tax Scam is a Tax on Working People and a Redistribution of Wealth to Corporations

While the top 25% of wage earners have enjoyed between a 10%-17% average wage growth each year, the middle 50% have struggles to see 4% growth and the lowest 25% have seen annual wage decreases between 0 -4%.

Our economy has been in a strong growth cycle ever since the Great Recession of 2007-2009. The Stock market has shown extremely good returns increasing 400% since March 2009. Corporate earnings are at an all-time high. Unemployment has steadily declined and our economy has been at “full-employment” since September 2015. Interest rates which had been at historical rates for several years, are starting to creep back up and the Fed is anticipating raising the Fed Funds rates three more times in 2018. Even consumer confidence has risen to its highest level since Bush took office in 2001. If not for the Bush tax cuts that were made permanent by a GOP Congress, we’d have ended the Obama years like we did  the Clinton years with a budget surplus and a real opportunity to start reducing our nation’s deficit. By every economic definition, our economy has been very strong since midway through the Obama presidency and continues its strong trajectory under Trump.

The DJIA has increased 400% since MArch of 2009 and the extraordinary bull market started in Obama's second month.
The DJIA has increased 400% since March of 2009 and the extraordinary bull market started in Obama’s second month.
Consumer Confidence has been rising since Obama's send year in office and is now the highest it's been since before George Bush entered office.
Consumer Confidence has been rising since Obama took office and is now the highest it’s been since before George Bush entered office.

That is what is extremely strange about the urgency and rationalization of the new tax bill. At best, this bill will expand our economic growth slightly while increasing our deficit significantly. At worst, it will likely cause inflation (as measured by the Consumer Price Index*) to increase and interest rates to rise. This will benefit those who have investments as higher prices and profits are usually factored by markets well in advance of those returns actually being realized in corporate reports. Unfortunately for workers, higher prices and more expensive credit will wipe out any modest tax savings since wages significantly lag behind inflation.

“To economists, full employment means that unemployment has fallen to the lowest possible level that won’t cause inflation. In the U.S., that was thought to be a jobless rate of about 5 percent ”

The Unemployment rate has been falling since the end of 2010 and reached "full employment" in September 2015.
The Unemployment rate has been falling since the end of 2010 and reached “full employment” in September 2015.

For most of us who work for a living, we keep hearing all the cheery, economic news and wonder, “If the economy is doing so great, why do I keep struggling to make ends meet?”

The economic growth we hear about has failed to “trickle down” to those of us who work for a living. Instead of raising wages, investing in research and manufacturing, or investing in employees, most corporations have taken their record profits and bought back shares (raising the per share value of their stock), raised dividends, and given 7 and 8 figure raises to their top executives. If you read the annual reports of profitable companies like Aetna or Bank of America, you’ll see that despite record profits these companies have investing billions less each year in employee costs and benefits for the past several years. They are not letting the economic benefits of an economic recovery trickle down, they are forcing it to pool and concentrate in fewer and fewer hands.

For the past 20 years, between 10%-17% of workers have had 0 wage growth each year.
For the past 20 years, between 10%-17% of workers have had 0 wage growth each year.

According to recent interviews and surveys, this is what an overwhelming majority of corporations plan to do with the windfall profits they will receive from the GOP tax scam. The $2 billion annual gift to Bank of America will not give us better service, lower fees, cheaper credit card rates, or more options. BOA will not hire more employees, give out larger raises, or make it easier for you to afford a home. The extra $2 billion a year BOA will now bet to keep will simply make those who happen to own BOA stock and their top executives wealthier. This is the fundamental flaw of the trickle down economic theory. Reagan, Bush, Trump and others who have promised us greater prosperity by making the wealthier even wealthier. This theory fails to factor in the never-ending greed that grows with excess.

The reason we do not have a balanced budget amendment is that the government needs flexibility to run deficits during times of war, economic downturns, and natural disasters. This is a good and necessary thing. However, for the past 40 years, our Congress has forgotten that the flip side of that is that during times of economic growth, we need to be using the excess revenue to pay back those debts, not using each previous year’s shortfall as an excuse to increase that shortfall the next year. The result of this fiscal irresponsibility from both sides of the aisle is that there is less money for education, health care, social security, and infrastructure. We each get less benefit for each dollar we pay in income taxes because our Congress has been busy giving it away to the wealthy and most profitable companies in the world and today just did it again.

In economic terms, anything that deteriorates the purchasing power of what you get in exchange for your goods and services is a tax. We think about income tax because we see it each week taken from our paychecks. Less funding for the US Government means less funding for the states and localities which means we will see increases in the taxes that we do not notice as often since they are not always itemized: fees on hotels and communications lines, gasoline taxes, sales taxes, property taxes… Since these taxes represent a larger portion of a person’s income the less a person makes, these taxes shift the tax burden from the wealthy (income taxes) to working families, the elderly, and the poor (upward wealth redistribution). By stimulating a robust economy at full employment, the inflation that will occur will decrease the purchasing power of working families, the elderly, and the poor which is a hidden tax and again a redistribution of wealth from those who do not have investment income to offset the loss in purchasing power. (more upward wealth redistribution) Finally, the cost of servicing another few trillion dollars in debt means more of our income taxes go to paying principle and interest and less coming back in the goods and services we want our government to provide (education, infrastructure, security, social security, and medical/health care) which by definition makes the deficit also a tax that effects people in inverse proportion to their wealth.

Just prior to the the election, the FED started to raise interest rates from their historic lows in order to slow growth and start combatting anticipated inflation. They have raised the rate three times this year and intend to raise it three times in 2018.
Just prior to the the election, the Fed started to raise interest rates from their historic lows in order to slow growth and start combatting anticipated inflation. They have raised the rate three times this year and intend to raise it three times in 2018.

Although I look forward to the $12.50/week that I will enjoy in tax savings for the next 3 years (and can partially fund my Lotto retirement plan since I cannot count on Social Security), the cost to me and most Americans will be far greater than what Dennis Ross and the GOP corporate puppets want to admit. Stimulating the economy at this time makes no economic sense and what little economic relief it brings to those of us who work for a living will lead to tougher times for the majority of Americans. Make no mistake, this tax scam is not good for America, it is not good for most Americans, and is nothing less than giving away our future for more corporate funding in the coming election.

Why did Dennis Ross vote to give your money to corporations? Follow the money.

Dennis Ross has been paid over $600,00 by the insurance industry and over $500,000 by the banking and finance industry.
Who owns Dennis Ross’ vote? Insurance companies, banks, and financial institutions.

Net Nuetrality

Support a Free and Open Internet

I have been online since 1986. That was the year the Freedom of Information Act and a company called Compuserve made online communication affordable and accessible to Americans and created the foundation for what the world know now knows as The Internet. As I worked to expand the family business into international markets, I experienced first hand how the Internet improved communications, made trade more affordable, and allowed innovative companies to leverage this power to build relationships and to bring products to market faster and more cheaply than ever before.

When I managed a web firm at the turn of the century, I helped over a hundred small businesses and non-profit organizations expand past their brick and mortar confines to grow and expand in ways that used to be impossible to imagine.  For 31 years, I have watched the free and open Internet grow from a small, niche curiosity to a major catalyst for growth and competition across the globe.  The free and open Internet has created thousands of new companies, millions of well-paying jobs, and today accounts for over 7% of our country’s total GNP.

Unfortunately, corporations that have profited from the technology subsidized by US taxpayers want more money and more control. Whether it is ISP’s attempting to block access to web sites that post negative comments about their services, or companies that blackmail content providers like Netflix by threatening to throttle  bandwidth speeds unless a high premium was paid, the internet as we know it is at risk of turning into a stagnant, . If Net Neutrality is a new topic to you, you might be surprised that many of us have been fighting for more than decade to protect your 1st Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of information.

For me, the impact of Congress on my daily life came when Dennis Ross co-sponsored SOPA, a hollywood-sponsored bill that would have given corporations unchecked censorship of the Internet. Not only was this an attempt to impede individuals’ First Amendment Rights, it was a direct assault on my job, economic growth in my community, and employment opportunities for my students. I looked into Ross’ campaign to discover a huge part of his first Congressional campaign funds came directly from the entertainment industry. It was then that I realized my representative in Congress would sell out me, my children, my students, and my entire community for a campaign contribution. (*Although Ross originally co-sponsored SOPA on 10/26/2011, after the bill stalled amid grassroots protests and public outcry, he eventually removed his name as a co-sponsor on 01/23/2012.)

Since that time, Ross has been influential in derailing efforts to protect Net Neutrality in the US House (2014, 2015) which led to Obama’s reclassification of the Internet as a public utility. Ross and fellow Tea Party Republicans have also passed a number of corporate friendly, anti-consumer bills which have weakened security requirements for ISP’s and authorized the collecting and selling of individuals’ personal browsing history and app usage.

In order to reclaim the Internet, its potential for increased innovation, and its economic potential, we need to:

  1. Support legislation prohibiting ISP’s from collecting or selling our online and app usage history;
  2. Support legislation that prohibits any ISP who charges for Internet connectivity or online data transfer, either independently or as part of a communications bundle (Cel, cable, or satellite), to discriminate between legal content providers or to charge surcharges to legal content providers for access to their networks and customers;
  3. Not support any further government subsidies of telecommunications providers until the $400 billion in unfinished telecommunications contracts have either been completed or the investment has been returned to the US taxpayers;
  4. Support legislation to allow local communities to purchase and maintain their own public networks;
  5. Vote for candidates  who are supportive of the expansion of First Amendment Rights, want to protect and promote economic growth, are staunch advocates for consumer rights, and will never sell out your interest in exchange for political favors and campaign contributions.