At The Nation, Robert Pollin and Jeffrey Thompson write The Betrayal of Public Workers:
The Great Recession did blow a massive hole in state and municipal government finances, with tax receipts—including income, sales and property taxes—dropping sharply along with household incomes, spending and real estate values. Meanwhile, demand for public services, such as Medicaid and heating oil assistance, has risen as people’s circumstances have worsened. But let’s remember that the recession was caused by Wall Street hyper-speculation, not the pay scales of elementary school teachers or public hospital nurses.
Nonetheless, a rising chorus of commentators charge that public sector workers are overpaid relative to employees in comparable positions in the private sector. The fact that this claim is demonstrably false appears not to matter. Instead, the attacks are escalating. The most recent proposal gaining traction is to write new laws that would allow states to declare bankruptcy. This would let them rip up contracts with current public sector employees and walk away from their pension fund obligations. Only by declaring bankruptcy, Republican luminaries Jeb Bush and Newt Gingrich argued in the Los Angeles Times, will states be able to “reform their bloated, broken and underfunded pension systems for current and future workers.”
But this charge is emanating not only from the Republican right; in a front-page story on January 20, the New York Times reported on a more general trend spreading across the country in which “policymakers are working behind the scenes to come up with a way to let states declare bankruptcy and get out from under crushing debts, including the pensions they have promised to retired public workers.”
Considered together, state and local governments are the single largest employer in the US economy. They are also the country’s most important providers of education, healthcare, public safety and other vital forms of social support. Meanwhile, the official unemployment rate is stuck at 9 percent—a more accurate figure is 16.1 percent—a full eighteen months after the recession was declared over. How have we reached the point where the dominant mantra is to dismantle rather than shore up state and local governments in their moment of crisis? ...
One charge against raising state taxes in a progressive way is that it will encourage the wealthy to pick up and leave the state. But research on this question shows that this has not happened. We can see why by considering, as a hypothetical example, the consequences of a 2 percent income tax increase on the wealthiest 5 percent of households in Massachusetts. This would mean that these households would now have $359,000 at their disposal after taxes rather than $370,000—hardly enough to affect spending patterns significantly for these households, much less induce them to relocate out of the state. At the same time, a tax increase such as this by itself will generate about $1.6 billion for the state to spend on education, healthcare and public safety.
But even with the ARRA stimulus funds and tax increases, states and municipalities have had to make sharp cuts in spending. More severe cuts will be coming this year, with the ARRA funds now gone. These include cuts that will reduce low-income children’s or families’ eligibility for health insurance; further cuts in medical, homecare and other services for low-income households, as well as in K–12 education and higher education; and layoffs and furloughs for employees. The proposed 2012 budgets include still deeper cuts in core areas of healthcare and education. In Arizona, the governor’s budget would cut healthcare for 280,000 poor people and reduce state support for public universities by nearly 20 percent. In California, Governor Brown is proposing to bring spending on the University of California down to 1999 levels, when the system had 31 percent fewer students than it does today.
At Daily Kos on this date in 2008:
Thirty years ago Congress enacted, and President Carter signed, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the outgrowth of the investigations of the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, mercifully much better known as the Church Committee. One of the many ironies of this 30th anniversary of FISA is that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence became a permanent fixture in the wake of these investigations, and it is, of course, the SSCI led by Democrat Jay Rockefeller that is doing its damnedest to help the Bush administration destroy that 30-year old law.
The current all-out assault by the Bush administration on FISA is wholly predictable, given the career-long obsession of one man--Dick Cheney--with restoring the power of the executive to its pre-Watergate, pre-Church Committee hey days. ... Cheney's career, even in those years when he served in Congress, have been bent toward one end:"In 34 years, I have repeatedly seen an erosion of the powers and the ability of the president of the United States to do his job," Cheney said on ABC in January 2002. "I feel an obligation...to pass on our offices in better shape than we found them to our successors."