Monthly Archives: March 2014

John Hanger’s issues are still in play

by Nathaniel Smith, Politics: A View from West Chester, March 15, 2014

John Hanger has taken himself out of the gubernatorial race after filing more than twice the required number of signatures. He has been an exceptional candidate because he ran on a number of issues that he has injected permanently into the race.

His strong stand on important issues is why many of us worked hard on his behalf in Chester County and why, some time back, former governor Ed Rendell said: “He’s been the most substantive in responding to Gov. Corbett.”

It is all too easy for candidates to praise “a world-class education or our children” or “genuine environmental stewardship.” But Hanger has been the sort of candidate who gets to the details. To name a few:

We should hold charter schools to the same fiscal and educational accountability as traditional public schools and shut down cyber schools if they can’t use taxpayers’ money as students deserve.

His College Affordability Plan would offer community college students two years of deferred tuition, and state system students one year, to be repaid out of their future earnings.

The state must do as Hanger did as secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection: crack down on fracking, increase inspection staff, raise drilling fees, punish violations, and continue the moratorium on drilling in state forests and parks and in the Delaware River Basin. And, of course, we need the same level of taxation of natural gas extraction that every other drilling state has.

The state also needs to implement its own 2009 Pennsylvania Climate Action Plan,which Hanger worked on when in the Rendell administration.

Hanger also proposed a Citizens Gas Drilling Complaint Office to investigate complaints (which include depriving landowners of contracted payments) against the gas industry.

He endorsed universal single-payer health care. Obamacare moves us toward the ultimate goal: covering everyone, no more families thrown out of their homes because of medical bills, no more Americans dying for lack of treatment. The eventual fair and cost-efficient solution is Medicare for All.

Under the slogans of “Schools not Jails” and “Jobs not Jails,” Hanger would allow sick people the use of medical cannabis, reduce the penalties for marijuana possession to the equivalent of a traffic ticket, and move toward full legalization, thus gaining the state $500,000,000 a year in gained taxes and reduced enforcement costs and ending the current racially discriminatory “war” on marijuana users.

Those who prioritize these issues have lost a candidate, but not an advocate; and we will be scanning the remaining gubernatorial hopefuls, as well as those for lieutenant governor and other offices, to see how they would continue what John Hanger has started.

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Welcome to the PA People’s Campaign

Pennsylvania People’s Campaign, 3/28/14

John Hanger today announced the launch of a new advocacy organization, the Pennsylvania People’s Campaign, to press for the defeat of Governor Corbett and support the transformational public policies that Pennsylvania sorely needs.

“When I withdrew as a candidate I stated that I would continue to fight for the issues we raised in the campaign and that resonated with people across the state” said Hanger. “Through the Pennsylvania People’s Campaign, we will be able to support the transformational changes for which Pennsylvanians hunger.”

This transformational agenda will initially focus on policies to combat economic injustice, promote clean and sustainable energy, rebuild quality public education, bring forth a New Birth of Freedom that includes reform of Pennsylvania’s unjust and outmoded marijuana laws, and restore integrity in government.

Hanger said defeating Corbett is the first necessary step, but then the work continues. “We have four excellent Democratic candidates, one of whom will be the next Governor of Pennsylvania,” said Hanger. “We intend to be a source of support for the next Governor to transform Pennsylvania.”

The Pennsylvania People’s Campaign will combine communications, research and public mobilization to advocate for a progressive policy agenda. Platforms will include social media feeds on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, this blog page, as well as publication of white-papers, news releases and interviews. Mobilization initiatives will draw on the network of almost 10,000 supporters of the Hanger campaign for Governor.

Hanger will serve as Chairman of the Pennsylvania People’s Campaign, and will be a regular contributor to its communications output. Other senior members and supporters of the Hanger campaign for Governor will also contribute regularly.

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How Politicians Partner with Wall Street to Rip Off American Retirees

Lynne Stuart Parramore, Campaign for America’s Future, March 27, 2014

Wall Street loves to celebrate its knack for innovation, and it’s hard to disagree. The ingenuity financiers have mustered to scam Americans out of their retirements is truly a wonder to behold.

Working through well-funded media campaigns and strategic investments in politicians who carry out their plans, the Wizards of Wall Street have done a triple whammy on any hope we had for a decent retirement. They’ve attacked Social Security and pretended that it’s unaffordable and/or insolvent, they’ve worked to move us into fee-riddled private investment accounts, and they’ve looted our pensions.

They couldn’t have done it without friends like Gov. Chris Christie. Over in New Jersey, the big man is showing us how it’s done.

First, a little recap of how we’ve been screwed so far.

Private equity billionaire Pete Peterson is the Big Kahuna of Social Security-bashing, directing money toward media campaigns and enlisting folks like Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, co-chairs of Obama’s deficit commission, to convince us that we require cuts to the country’s most successful anti-poverty program under the threat that the deficit is growing —except, oops, now it’s actually shrinking!

Nonsense aside, Wall Street has gotten its way with Social Security before, such as the 1983 deal under Reagan, which, still unknown to many Americans, chopped the program and forced a higher retirement age onto young people who could not vote at the time, up two years, from 65 to 67. Ayn Rand acolyte Alan Greenspan, foe of Social Security and worshipper of Wall Street, was instrumental in getting that deal done.

Then there’s the 401(k), foisted on the American public 30 years ago as a rising tide of laissez-faire fanatics convinced policymakers to move us into do-it-yourself retirement plans. A study by the think-tank Demos revealed that the typical 401(k) steals an average of nearly $155,000 from a median-income, two-earner family over a lifetime of saving through hidden fees. The plans have also been shown to drive inequality and make ordinary people more vulnerable to economic shocks. Despite these dismal results, politicians across the country are pushing more Americans into 401(k)s. Republicans in Florida, Kansas, Illinois and elsewhere have been trying to move public workers into them, and Democrats with Wall Street ties have often joined in the effort: Former Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. senator from New Jersey Bill Bradley, who now advises an investment firm, was part of the (failed) effort to force Kansas state employees into 401(k)s, calling the effort to transfer investment risk onto workers “innovation.”…

continue reading and follow links at Campaign for America’s Future

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Russia between democracy and Putin

by Nathaniel Smith, March 21, 2014

As a chess player, I read with extra interest the article “What is Garry Kasparov’s Next Move? The great chess champion brings his knowledge to the games of Sochi, global politics and computer intelligence” by Ron Rosenbaum, Smithsonian Magazine, March 2014.

Kasparov, as you may recall, was world chess champion from 1985 to 2000, became active in Russian politics, and ran (till he was eliminated on a technicality) against Vladimir Putin in 2007.

The Smithsonian article summarize–probably reflecting Kasparov’s view–the transition from communism to democracy to oligarchy as follows:

After a coterie of Harvard-based economic advisers helped engineer the privatizing of Russian state assets in the 1990s to the profit of corrupt oligarchs, the consequent immiseration of the Russian people led to Putin’s rise to power. And that led to Putin’s ongoing attempt to recoup what had been lost—seeking to recapture the states that had separated themselves from the Soviet empire, and to crush democracy within Russia.

The dates are easy to remember: after the Soviet Union collapsed, Boris Yeltsin became the Russian leader in 1990 and Putin in 2000.

Yeltsin’s guiding principle was to turn a communist country into a capitalist one as fast as possible. As is usually the case with sudden social change imposed from above and outside (that’s for Yeltsin’s Western advisers), disaster ensued….

continue reading at Politics: A View from West Chester

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