Super Congress to solve the debt ceiling crisis? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

I stayed away from the news yesterday, to get some errands and chores done around the house. I had enough excitement from Friday to last me a while, what with the dueling press conferences by Boehner and Obama.

Insomnia is keeping me awake this morning, so I decide to check to see if there are any developments on the debt ceiling fight…………..and Houston, we have a problem. The leaders of Congress have gone off the deep end, and are proposing something so off the wall, I can hardly believe it. (I am having a hard time keeping my language clear of swear words, suffice it to say, that I am so mad I am spitting nails.)

The are proposing something called a Super Congress, made up of 12 elected leaders, 6 from each chamber – House and Senate – with half from each party.

This is out-and-out maneuvering around the people and I doubt we would ever have a chance to contribute to the debate, even less comment on the decisions of our elected officials.

From the Huffington Post, here is an excerpt (and you can read the full article here http://goo.gl/RTqTr):

“This “Super Congress,” composed of members of both chambers and both parties, isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Constitution, but would be granted extraordinary new powers. Under a plan put forth by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his counterpart Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), legislation to lift the debt ceiling would be accompanied by the creation of a 12-member panel made up of 12 lawmakers — six from each chamber and six from each party.

Legislation approved by the Super Congress — which some on Capitol Hill are calling the “super committee” — would then be fast-tracked through both chambers, where it couldn’t be amended by simple, regular lawmakers, who’d have the ability only to cast an up or down vote. With the weight of both leaderships behind it, a product originated by the Super Congress would have a strong chance of moving through the little Congress and quickly becoming law. A Super Congress would be less accountable than the system that exists today, and would find it easier to strip the public of popular benefits. Negotiators are currently considering cutting the mortgage deduction and tax credits for retirement savings, for instance, extremely popular policies that would be difficult to slice up using the traditional legislative process.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has made a Super Congress a central part of his last-minute proposal, multiple news reports and people familiar with his plan say. A picture of Boehner’s proposal began to come into focus Saturday evening”

Why on earth are they trying to change the Constitution? In order to avoid doing the job they were sent to Washington DC to do?

Time to write my Congressman, Senators, and everyone else association with this cowardly actions.

Friends, fasten your seat-belts-the ride is definately going to get bumpier!

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Paul Ryan’s Budget Bill will bankrupt our Nation – check out his Tax Reform proposal!

"'Revenue Reform' Train Stopped by 'Veste...

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The silliness continues, and I am surprised that the news media has not brought up the huge flaw in Paul Ryan‘s proposal for Tax Reform.  In his Roadmap to Prosperity , Paul Ryan is proposing the following:

  1. Keep the existing system and
  2. Add a second option of a simple choice of a Simplified Tax Calculation of 10% of Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) up to $50,000 and 25% of AGI over $50,000  for single tax payers and and 10% of income up to $100,000 of AGI and 25% of AGI over $100,000.

So,  if you had the choice between two systems, wouldn’t you choose the option that would allow you to pay the least amount of tax?  So Congressman Ryan shows his lack of expertise in proposing such a flawed system.  What on earth was he thinking?  Or not thinking?  Or was he out to bankrupt the United States?

This is not being talked about in the news and cannot help but wonder why this is the case.  Here is the actual text of his proposal:

      ” This  reform proposal responds in a fundamentally American way: it offers individuals a choice. Individuals can choose to pay their Federal taxes under the existing code, with all the familiar deductions and schedules; or they can move to a highly simplified income tax system. The simplified plan broadens the tax base by clearing out nearly all of the existing deductions and credits, compresses the tax schedule down to two  low rates, and retains a generous standard deduction and exemption level. The tax form for this system would fit on a postcard. The goal is a more simple, fair, and efficient tax code, the components of which are described below.”

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Republicans Favor Missouri Puppy Mills over Voters

Just watched Rachel Maddow‘s  show on MSNBC, and learned that a recent law approved by the Missouri voters has been essentially emasculated by the Republican majority in the Missouri state legislature.  The Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act (Proposition B) was an effort by Missouri voters to bring about more humane conditions for the animals owned and raised by Missouri dog breeders.

Forget about what the Missouri voters wanted, the Missouri Governor is trying to negotiate a compromise – which fails to go far enough to insure humane conditions for dogs sentenced to live out their miserable lives in Missouri puppy mills.  Here is a list of some of the provisions removed from SB 161, which is being called the “Missouri Solution”. calls for larger cages, which can still be stacked, access to an exercise area and an annual physical exam.  But missing from this bill is the following:

1.  Removes the limit of breeding dogs to 50

2.  Does not require breaks between breeding cycles, so a female dog could end up spending most of her life pregnant or nursing her litter of puppies.

Looks like Republicans have the same respect for dogs and puppies that they do for our seniors in this country.

For more information, check out:

1.  Missouri Wants to Keep Puppy Mills in Business, Despite Passing Prop B

2. Puppy Mill Dogs Are Losing Big in Missouri

3. New Bill Crushes Missouri’s Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act  

Help fight for more humane conditions for dogs in Missouri by sending a letter to Governor Jay Nixon in Missouri.

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Is Governor Walker’s New Plan Fair for all residents of Wisconsin?

February 28, 2011

Governor Walker’s plans will only benefit  businesses and corporations and will take advantage of the real heroes in our country – teachers, firefighters and the police.  No matter how many times that he repeats himself, the Budget Repair Bill is about Union Busting and I have the proof to support this allegation and will document in today’s post.

Why has the media missed this point?  I have the research to prove my assertion, THAT THIS IS ABOUT BUSTING THE UNIONS!

Currently, once a union is certified, it remains in place until a required percentage of employees call for a new election.  The new requirement would be an annual vote to re-certify the union representation with a minimum required vote by 51% of the employees.  If less than 51% of union members vote, then the union is automatically de-certified and there is a wait of 1 year wait before a new election. Here is the language from Governor Walker’s bill requires the From Wisconsin Assembly Bill 11, top of page 2:

Under SELRA and MERA, a collective bargaining unit elects a labor organization as its representative once a majority of the employees in that collective bargaining unit who are actually voting votes for that labor organization; that labor organization remains the representative unless a percentage of members of the collective bargaining unit supports a petition for a new election and subsequently votes to de-certify the representative. This bill requires an annual certification election of the labor organization that represents each collective bargaining unit containing general employees. If, at the election, less than 51 percent of the actual employees in the collective bargaining unit vote for a representative, then, at the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement, the current representative is decertified and the members of the collective bargaining unit are nonrepresented and may not be represented for one year. This bill requires an initial certification election for all represented state and municipal general employees in April 2011.

Changing to annual certification means more administrative work, and probably more expense.  Also, the rules on the length of the collective bargaining agreements are being reduced from 2 years to 1 year and the ability to extend those agreements is being eliminated.  Again, more work and maybe more expense, here is the applicable paragraph.

Currently, except for an initial collective bargaining agreement, the terms of collective bargaining agreements are generally two years for state and municipal employees, and current law does not prohibit collective bargaining agreements from being extended. This bill limits the term for general employees to one year and prohibits the extension of collective bargaining agreements.

Finally, the following provision is designed to strike at the balance sheet of every union, and is meant to decrease the funds they have available to lobby on behalf of their members.  Currently, union dues are collected by payroll withholding.  The following provision would outlaw that, and require that unions bill their members.  And they could not enforce the payment of dues.  Do you think this is fair?

Current law provides that state and municipal employees who are represented by a labor organization have the organization dues deducted from their salaries.  Except for salary deductions for public safety employees, this bill prohibits the salary  deductions for labor organization dues. This bill also allows a general employee to refrain from paying dues and remain a member of a collective bargaining unit.

Bob Shipman, posting on the blog, Look True North, confirms that the bill is intended to bust the unions.  The applicable paragraphs from his post of February 18, 2011 “What’s not to like” Details of Wisconsin AB11” are as follows:

Taxpayer-Friendly Overhaul of Government Union Structure
The meat of the Wisconsin bill is its bold attempt to bust the government worker unions.  Regardless of what you think of private sector unions, our unionized government workers are without question the most powerful political force in history – and they are ruining our economy state by state.  The Wisconsin bill overhauls the way government worker unions are certified in Wisconsin.  Instead of a one-time vote with only a majority of those voting needed to certify a labor organization, SS AB 11 requires annual union certification and requires a majority vote of all members of the union, not just those who show up to vote.  Contract periods are reduced from two years to one and contract extensions are prohibited.  Union dues can no longer be automatically deducted from paychecks and members who opt out of paying their dues to can stay a member of the collective bargaining unit.

Pay and benefit provisions that can be collectively bargained are limited in the bill:  “This bill limits the right to collectively bargain for all employees who are not public safety employees (general employees) to the subject of base wages. In addition, unless a referendum authorizes a greater increase, any general employee who is part of a collective bargaining unit is limited to bargaining over a percentage of total base wages increase that is no greater than the percentage change in the consumer price index.”

Bob Shipman is a Fellow with the Minnesota Free Market Institute.

Then, my last piece of proof that Governor Scott Walker want to BUST THE UNIONS, is the something that Governor Walker said during the prank call with the fake David Koch.  At 8 minutes and 25 seconds into the taped call, Governor Walker said:

“But in the end, this is about public sector unions…Hell, even FDR got it, …there’s no place….essentially you are having taxpayer’s money be used to pay to lobby for spending more of taxpayer’s money. Absolutely ridiculous.”

So the wages that are paid to public sector union employees, are still taxpayer’s money and he thinks it is ridiculous that the union dues are used to lobby against the GOP.  Need I say more?

Are these American Values?  Is this taking care of American workers and their families?  Shouldn’t radical changes like this be discussed by all parties?  Do you agree with the radical changes being implemented by the conservative right-wing segment of the Republican Party?

My answer to these questions?  NO!

What do you think?  Please vote on today’s poll.

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Filed under Attacks on Unions Collective Bargaining, Collective Bargaining, Democrats, GOP, Politics, Unions

Does Governor Scott Walker have a Smoking Gun buried in the Budget Bill?

Yesterday was an incredible day for news, and my head is still spinning. And some of the news content has given me a theory, which might explain Governor Scott Walker‘s stubbornness about refusing to  yield on the collective bargaining issue.  It is only a theory now, but if I am right – then Walker may have stepped on the proverbial bee hive.  The nuggets of information in the news content:

1. Huffington Post blogger – Zach Carter posted something interesting about the financial health of the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS)  and its ability to pay current and future retirement benefits.

2. Zach also referenced a report prepared by the The Pew Center on the States.

3.  The main point of the two articles, was that the Wisconsin Retirement System is very close to being 100% funded for current and future retirement benefits.

These  facts, caused me to ask “Does the Wisconsin retirement plan have excess assets that could be re-captured by the state government if they terminate the plan and replace it with a different type of retirement plan?

Time for a little history lesson. Back in the late 1980′s to early 1990′s, a lot of American companies were still providing retirement benefits for their employees with plans that provided annuity income when the employee retired. The IRS and Dept. of Labor considered this type of plan to be a safer and more valuable benefit than account balance plans. It reduced the risk to employees of fluctuations in the stock market, because retirees are guaranteed a monthly or annual income, and the retirement benefits are not affected by market losses or gains.

But, a  significant percentage of these plans were over funded back then, which made these plans targets for employers wanting to recoup the excess assets. And the recovered excess assets were significant – many times it was in the millions of dollars. The only way an employer could recover these assets was through terminating the plan, paying out the accrued benefits to the employers through lump sums distributions or purchasing deferred annuities. Once the plan had paid out the benefits accrued by employees – the remaining assets would revert to the employer (i.e. the plan sponsor) and would flow back to the corporate balance sheet. The excess assets could not go to the employees, it was prohibited because of the way these plans are legally structured.

Think Gordon Gekko and the first Wall Street movie. Most of the terminated plans were replaced with less expensive 401k plans, mostly funded through employee contributions. And the responsibility for managing the growth of the these funds were left to the employee.

I think we all know how that worked out, through the dot com bubble, 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis.

On to Page Three of Governor Walker’s Budget Bill, third paragraph from the top, there is very interesting language that leads to the very important question for Governor Walker. The paragraph mandates that a study of the existing Wisconsin Retirement System be performed and it must “specifically address establishing a defined contribution plan as an option for WRS participating employees” and the deadline for completing this study is June 30, 2012. I don’t think that Walker would be adding  retirement benefits for workers  - so I am wondering if the Republican Governors that are trying to get rid of collective bargaining of retirement benefits, so that they can terminate the existing plans and recover excess assets for their state balance sheets.

If Governor Walker’s bill passes, and collective bargaining of retirement benefits is eliminated, then next year Governor Walker can decide it is in Wisconsin’s best interests to get rid of the existing plan and replace it with something less valuable for the employees. And the employees would have no say and no one can keep Walker from raiding your  retirement savings.

Again, hard-working Americans are getting the short end of the stick. Do you think this is the American Way? We need to ask Governor Walker if he is planning to get rid of the existing Wisconsin Retirement  System and raid your retirement plan!

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Filed under Attacks on Unions Collective Bargaining, Collective Bargaining, Politics, Republicans, Unions

Governor Walker’s designs on the Union Employees Retirement Plans

Found a great document on the Wisconsin State Legislature Website.  It has been hard to obtain information on Governor Scott Walker‘s proposals, and requires a bit of research.  My first post on this issue was about my theory that Governor Walker planned to raid the retirement plans for the union employees.

On the Wisconsin State Legislature Website, I found the Fiscal Estimate for the Budget Repair Bill, also known As Wisconsin Bill AB 11.  Under this bill, the employees contribution to their Pension Plan are increased, to 50% of the actuarial contribution as approved by The Employee Trust Funds Board. Here is the exact language from the Governor Walker’s Bill:

Currently, employer and employee required contributions, and the earnings on these contributions, fund the cost of providing retirement annuities to all public employees who are covered under the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS).Employer required and employee required contribution rates are set on an annual basis. This bill provides that the employee required contribution rate for general participating employees and for elected and executive participating employees must equal one−half of all actuarially required contributions, as determined by the Employee Trust Funds Board. For protective occupation employees, the bill provides that the employee required contribution rate must equal the percentage of earnings paid by general participating employees.

So, the contribution cost is to be shared 50-50 between the employer and the employees.  The employee cost is supposed to be 5.0%.  The 8 page Fiscal Estimate Narrative states the following regarding the employer contribution to the Pension Plans:

The bill increases the employee’s share of costs for pension and health insurance benefits, brings the retirement benefit calculations for elected officials, executives and appointed employees in line with general employees and teachers.  It also limits collective bargaining for certain public employees to base wages, requires union certification annually, prohibits employer collection of union dues, limits contracts to one year periods,and eliminates collective bargaining for the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. The Bill repeals collective bargaining for University of Wisconsin System faculty & academic staff,  childcare and home health care workers.

The bill repeals the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Board and eliminates the estimated 2,600 FTE state positions in the clerical, blue collar, trades, security and public safety and technical collective bargaining units. Incumbents in those positions are transferred to the authority of University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinic. Estimates of state agency employee compensation savings for fiscal year 2010-11 are based on data from DOA central payroll and UW System payroll. Health insurance premiums are paid two months in advance for central payroll agencies and one month in advance for UW System payroll; the increase in employee contributions will be effective  one month after passage (two months for UW System payroll). The bill directs the Department of Administration to lapse $27,891.400 from GPR and PR appropriations to the general fund related to these savings. The bill also requires that $1,908,600 be lapsed from appropriations to the Courts, Legislature and Governor related to these savings. See attached technical memo for furtherinformation.Estimates of municipal, county and school district compensation savings are based on data from the Department of Employee Trust Funds (ETF) Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for 2009. The proposed 50% employee share of annual Wisconsin retirement system costs (estimated at 11.6% of payroll in calendar year 2011) was applied against covered payroll provided in the ETF 2009 CAFA. For Milwaukee County, savings from employee contributions are based on data from the Milwaukee County CAFR for 2009.For the City of Milwaukee, savings from employee contributions is based on the City of Milwaukee CAFR for 2009. Estimates for municipalities and counties were adjusted to exclude local law enforcement and fire personnel costs. Estimates for state government were adjusted to remove State Patrol troopers and inspectors (see attached technical memo for further information).The bill requires the group insurance board to implement measures, including health risk assessments,wellness programs and employee co-pays, to reduce state employee health insurance cost inflation by 5%,beginning in 2012. Reserves in the health insurance and pharmacy purchasing programs that are in excess of industry standards must be used to reduce premium costs during 2011.

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