A few months before I left my job in the insurance industry in 2008, I was working on a "white paper" to try to persuade people -- especially lawmakers and candidates running for office that year -- that the problem of the uninsured in this country was not a big deal.
July 29 marked the one-year anniversary of Arizona's controversial immigration law, a year that has seen similar anti-immigrant bills emerge across the country. Thanks to the release of over 800 pieces of "model legislation" by the Center for Media and Democracy, we can now pinpoint the source of the outbreak to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a bill factory for legislation that benefits the bottom line of its corporate members. While it has been reported that more immigrants behind bars means more income for ALEC member Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), less discussed has been how immigrant detention benefits commercial bail-bond agencies, an industry represented in ALEC through the American Bail Coalition.
In another win for well-connected right-wing interests, Wisconsin Rep. Robin Vos (R-63) squeezed a last-minute provision into the budget on Friday, June 3 that moves Wisconsin towards re-introducing bail bondsmen (and bounty hunters) to the state, a corruptive practice that has been prohibited since 1979. Like much of the dairy state’s recent legislative activity, this latest effort is smudged with the fingerprints of the American Legislative Exchange Council and well-funded lobbying interests.
Hundreds of Wisconsinites lined Madison's Capitol Square Saturday to welcome bikers from all over the Midwest and to protest Governor Scott Walker's attack on Wisconsin unions. Just when Walker thought he had memorized all the chants and signs, Wisconsinites revved it up a notch.
Every kind of bike, from Harley-Davidsons to Huffys, descended onto the Square from Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd and South Hamilton Street. Eric Hartz, the organizer of the event, complemented the thunderous entrance with songs from the Raging Grannies, a social justice organization made up of older women. Other speakers included Sen. John Erpenbach, Sen. Mark Miller, Rep. Cory Mason, Rep. Peter Barca, Milwaukee Public School Teachers and the City of Middleton Fire Fighters.
One of the reasons I left my job as a PR executive for the health insurance industry was because I could not in good conscience be a pitchman for the sort of fabulously profitable benefit plan that often provides little more than the illusion of coverage.
As CMD has previously reported, Governor Walker's budget bill will have a negative impact on Wisconsin's populations of color, especially in regards to perpetuating Wisconsin's atrocious record of racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Walker's effort to prolong prison sentences will also result in increased costs not reflected in the budget, at the expense of spending on education and health.
The divide-and-conquer attack on working people by Wisconsin Republicans continues. After pitting private sector workers versus public employees, Walker and the GOP are now targeting Wisconsin's quickly-growing Latino and immigrant communities.
The latest census numbers show that Wisconsin's Latino community has grown by 74 percent in recent years, and GOP lawmakers have responded aggressively to this shift in Wisconsin's ethnic composition. Walker's budget eliminates laws that had treated immigrants humanely, and a GOP bill circulating through the legislature seeks to impose a draconian racial profiling bill modeled after Arizona's SB1070. What's more, the anti-immigrant sentiment may be fueling the out-of-state effort to recall Wisconsin's Democratic Senators.
It is both ironic and symbolic that Wisconsin's governor is the most visible one leading the way to dismantle workers' rights in the U.S. Wisconsin has been a pioneer in achieving workers's right in America, making Governor Scott Walker's efforts in this state particularly poignant.
In 1959, Wisconsin became the first state in the union to guarantee collective bargaining rights for public employees by enacting a law that protects municipal workers from being fired or otherwise discriminated against for engaging in union-related activities. That law was further strengthened in 1963 to give either the union or the employer the right to call in a "fact finder" to help resolve bargaining disputes. In 1965, Wisconsin's state employees won a limited right to bargain collectively, and those rights were further broadened over the next six years.
Wisconsin's embattled Governor Scott Walker took large donations from Koch Industries in the run-up to the 2010 election that swept him into office. OpenSecrets.org reports that Koch Industries donated a total of $43,000 in two separate contributions -- $15,000 on July 8, 2010 and another $28,000 on September 27, 2010 -- to the Friends of Scott Walker Political Action Committee (PAC), to help get Walker elected governor.
As Congressional Republicans seek ways to starve the new health care reform law of necessary funding -- and Democrats try to keep that from happening -- it's easy to lose sight of the reasons why reform was pursued in the first place.
For a reminder, lawmakers might want to spend a few hours in Nashville this weekend. I'm betting they would behave differently when they got back to Washington on Monday.
If they arrived in Nashville by Friday afternoon, those legislators would see an ever-growing line of cars and trucks outside a locked gate at McGavock High School. At midnight, the gate will be opened, enabling the occupants of those cars and trucks to camp out in the parking lot for hours, maybe even days. Many of these folks will have driven hundreds of miles to receive care from doctors and nurses and other caregivers volunteering their time to treat as many people as possible before they all pack up and go home Sunday evening.