Wednesday Mashup (12/23/09)

December 23, 2009

  • 1) The following letter appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times yesterday…

    It hasn’t taken the local Republican smear campaign long to get into high gear. State Rep. Steve Santarsiero has not been in office a full year, but already they’re trying to tear him down. As usual, they have shown themselves to be unconstrained by the facts.

    The latest attack comes from Andy Raffle, the campaign manager of a Republican candidate running against Santarsiero. Raffle claimed, incorrectly, that Santarsiero only takes positions supported by the teachers and trade unions. Raffle is wrong.

    Steve Santarsiero supports an approach to teacher-school district contract impasses that would require each side to submit last best offers to a judge who would then choose one of them at the end of a short cooling off period. The judge’s decision would be binding. But the likelihood is that the judge would never need to decide, since the threat of an adverse decision would be a strong incentive for both sides to reach a fair agreement that would avoid any work stoppage and end the impasse.

    Raffle claims the teachers union supports this idea. It does not, nor do most school boards, which suggest to me that it just might be the fairest approach. Raffle also claims the idea is unconstitutional and would require a constitutional amendment. In my view, he’s wrong again.

    There’s nothing in the constitution that prevents the Legislature from giving the courts this power. To the contrary, the constitution explicitly grants the Legislature the power to determine the court’s jurisdiction. As far as other unions are concerned, Raffle ignores the fact that Santarsiero’s opposition to the proposed Frankford Hospital project does not please area trade unions. Those unions understandably want jobs, especially in these tough times. Santarsiero is sympathetic to those concerns but does not believe that the short term benefits of that work outweigh the long-term impact of a bad idea for our community.

    I believe that most people acknowledge what a good job Santarsiero is doing on behalf of the people of the Yardley-Newtown area. Whether it’s bringing reform to Harrisburg or helping people back home, in less than a year in office, Steve has already made a significant difference.
    No wonder Raffle and his cohorts feel that their only chance is to sling mud. So be it. In the end, the truth will win out.

    Joe Sundeen
    Lower Makefield, PA

    I’m not going to get into all of the wingnuttia in the comment thread to Sundeen’s letter (“in the pocket of the unions” this, “bought into the global warming myth” that, and as always…”ACORN!!”). If anyone chooses to read any of that mess themselves, feel free to do so (and to contact Steve, click here).

  • 2) And speaking of teachers (Steve’s former occupation), I happened to come across the following AEI nonsense here (and I have no clue who the author or Nick Schulz is, by the way)…

    Last week, Nick Schulz asked an interesting question about school districts’ responses to the recession—specifically whether any have decided to cut pay (due to deteriorating budgets) instead of furloughing or laying off staff.

    From what I’ve seen, the answer is not so much. A big part of the explanation is collective bargaining agreements. In order to cut pay, most districts would need to go back to the bargaining table and get their local unions to agree to pay concessions. That hasn’t happened to the extent I expected. One quite stark example comes from Connecticut. The Republican-American newspaper (of Waterbury), quoted the head of the state’s teacher union saying that teachers aren’t responsible for budget troubles, so they shouldn’t be expected to fix them.

    And of course, reading this, you would think that teachers as a whole have emerged pretty much unscathed during the recession due to those baaad collective bargaining agreements.

    The reality, however, is something wholly other; as noted here…

    Bankers, lawyers and journalists have taken pay cuts and gone without raises to stay employed in a tough economy. Now similar givebacks are spreading to education, an industry once deemed to be recession-proof.
    All 95 teachers and five administrators in the Tuckahoe school district in Westchester County agreed to give $1,000 each to next year’s school budget to keep the area’s tax increase below 3 percent. In the Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow district, 80 percent of the 500 school employees — including teachers, clerks, custodians and bus drivers — have pledged more than $150,000 from their own pockets to help close a $300,000 budget gap.

    And on Long Island, the 733 teachers in the William Floyd district in Mastic Beach decided to collectively give up $1 million in salary increases next year to help restore 19 teaching positions that were to be eliminated.

    New York State’s powerful teachers’ unions have rarely agreed to reopen contract negotiations in bad economic times, let alone make concessions. But as many school districts presented flat budgets to voters in recent weeks, teachers in at least a dozen suburban areas have opened the door to compromise to save jobs, preserve programs and smaller class sizes, and show support for the towns and villages where many of them have taught generations of families.

    And lest anyone think these troubles are confined to the Empire State, this tells us of teacher positions slashed in the South, this tells us that fewer Florida teachers are seeking board certification due to the economy, and this tells us of a dimming job outlook for teachers in Bozeman, Montana.

    There is good news here, though, in that there appears to be no collective bargaining agreement for right-wing pundits, so these generic AEI wingnuts will have to fend for themselves if either their funding and/or site hit count experiences a significant decline.

  • 3) And finally, concerning a wholly other matter, fellow blogger Antemedius tells us the following here (some appropriate commentary concerning recent “corpocrat” capitulation in Congress, particularly in the matter of health care reform)…

    My concern is with those who can’t keep beating their heads against a brick wall are dropping away in disgust, a disgust I share, by the way, and who would indeed be abandoning the field. My wife and I have filled out our passport applications. What’s needed is a plan for the decent activists who’ve plugged away for years, who’ve haven’t shared the joys of being a party insider.. We can’t just call for nose to the grindstone, stiff upper lip, take (another) one for the team. We need to give them something that they can do that is not contingent on the higher-ups leading it, funding it, legitimizing it.

    We need to give them a stick.

    Thus the Full Court Press.

    The plan:

    The basic concept is simple and flexible. The Committee for a Full Court Press (FCP) (I just made up the name) would agree on the following principles [slightly modified from an 8-principle list]:

  • WPA-style jobs program
  • Medicare for all the uninsured
  • Repeal Hyde Amendment and its ilk
  • U.S. out of Afghanistan
  • The 4 points are offered as a suggestion, and would be decided upon by those initially forming the FCP based upon activist feedback. But once approved, they would ultimately not be negotiable at the local level.

    The bottom line is to have at least one FCP candidate on the primary ballot in every district.

    The FCP activist would pay the required filing fee or gather required signatures or combination thereof to get on the primary ballot. While any FCP candidate could run a full-fledged campaign with the intent to win the seat, a minimal candidate could:

  • Ask the other candidates if they will actively support the FCP points and say so in writing.
  • If they sign, the FCP candidate could simply endorse that candidate, or the best of those candidates (if such is the case) and campaign actively for their endorsee or not as the FCP candidate sees fit.
  • If that candidate betrays the points, the FCP candidate would have the option of campaigning more aggressively.
  • If no other candidate supports the FCP points, the FCP candidate could, at a minimum, talk to the local press and/or appear at candidate nights if any group sponsors them.
  • Nothing in the plan precludes running a full-blast campaign to win. It’s just not contingent on that.

    Tactically, that’s it. That’s the plan. This requires some money and some effort, and ballot requirements vary from state to state, but is within practical range. The main requirement after getting on the primary ballot is a willingness to make some phone calls and show up. If the FCP candidate wanted to do more and could do more, that would be excellent. But not required.

    Such is the stuff of change for real – let’s all do what we can to make it happen.

  • Mad Max’s Health Care Hullabaloo

    December 23, 2009

    (Note: The post title does not pertain to that great blog in which Digby appears in any way…also, posting is questionable overall from now through the end of the year.)

    Yes, I know Baucus is thoroughly compromised by virtue of his ridiculous campaign finance donations from Big Insurance and the fact that legislation without the public option passed out of his committee, but you know what? Good for him for calling out the Repug BS here, including Roger Wicker (and the RNC)’s ever-more ridiculous talking point about “European style” insurance (which, when comparing how well it covers the majority of the people of its countries, actually looks pretty good by comparison).

    (And of course, Baucus, despite this moment of clarity, is still far too polite to call out Grassley for the stunts noted here.)

    Also, as big of a fiasco as this was, just watch and see what happens when legislation on the climate crisis starts picking up steam – ugh.

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