Tag Archives: Dean Heller

Heller and the Keystone Amendments: Taxpayers on the Hook

Heller 3 Before the Keystone Pipeline bill made it to a vote in the U.S. Senate there were some amendments which shed light on the mindset of the proponents of the construction. Remember, this pipeline is for the transportation of foreign oil (Canadian) through (not to) the United States to foreign markets.  S.Amdt 155 came up for a vote, its sponsor Senator Corey Booker (D-NJ) spoke in favor saying,

“Mr. President, I want to say that amendment No. 155 is a  very important amendment. It is common sense. It is practical. The National Environmental Policy Act, NEPA as it is known, is one of the most emulated statutes in the world. It is something that many people see as valuable in other countries because NEPA, in fact, by many is referred to as the modern-day environmental Magna Carta. NEPA regulations require agencies to supplement already-issued environmental impact statements when significant new circumstances or information is found to exist relating to the environmental impact of a project. The pending Keystone bill, however–and quite surprisingly–would deem the final environmental impact statement issued last January to fully satisfy this NEPA requirement going ahead. This would remove the obligation from permitting agencies to supplement any environmental impact statements if significant new circumstances or information is discovered.”

Here’s a loophole through which one could drive an oil tanker.  In every other instance the regulatory agencies are required to consider new evidence and new circumstances when overseeing the environmental impact of any proposal – but not this one. Not Keystone Pipeline. No, once the “final” impact statement is filed – that’s it. No more adjustments. Even if the construction called for a route change which might put a local drinking water source in peril? Even if the construction caused peripheral damages, unforeseen in the initial plans….  Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) was one of the 56 members of the Senate to vote “No” on this amendment.  [rc 46]

S. Amdt 141 was simplicity itself, delay the effective date until the White House had determined that the construction of the Canadian pipeline would have no negative impacts.  Again, Senator Heller voted, “No.” [rc 47]

S. Amdt 178 was also fairly simple. “To ensure that products derived from tar sands are treated as crude oil for purposes of the Federal excise tax on petroleum.”  Here’s a lovely catch

Return, for a moment, back to 2010 when there was a pipeline spill in Michigan, some of which was from Canadian tar sands.  Enter the Tar Sands Tax Loophole:

Five months later, the Internal Revenue Service quietly ruled that a significant portion of the type of Canadian crude flowing through that Michigan pipeline was exempt from the per-barrel tax created for that spill-liability fund. The loophole for oil sands fuel, which also forms the bulk of the crude set to run on the Keystone XL pipeline, remains in effect today despite congressional proposals to close it. [EE]

Now it’s clear – Senator Heller voted against having TransCanadian pay taxes into the spill-liability fund to pay for clean up in the case of a pipeline break or failure.  A vote against this amendment was quite simply a vote in favor of having anyone – anywhere – pay to clean up the oil spill EXCEPT the pipeline company responsible for the problem. [rc 48]   Nothing sends such a Valentine to the Koch Brothers and the Canadian oil companies as this.  And then he voted in favor of the unamended bill. [rc 49]

In short, Senator Heller’s bought into the various and sundry convenient prevarications associated with the Keystone debate.

It will NOT be a long term “job creator,” because most of the jobs, about 3,500 will be short term construction.  The construction jobs would be beneficial, but only about 35-40 long term jobs would be created.  The pipeline does transverse a section of a major aquifer, and that’s reason enough in an agricultural region (read: breadbasket) to think very carefully about pipeline spills.   While it’s one thing to support a foreign pipeline transporting foreign oil to the world markets – it’s another to exempt the pipeline and oil producers from paying into the  Spill Liability Fund.

The Fund can provide up to $1 billion for any one oil pollution incident, including up to $500 million for the initiation of natural resource damage assessments and claims in connection with any single incident. The main uses of Fund expenditures are:  State access for removal actions; Payments to Federal, state, and Indian tribe trustees to carry out natural resource damage assessments and restorations; Payment of claims for uncompensated removal costs and damages; and Research and development and other specific appropriations.

Recall, the next time Senator Heller bemoans the “tax payer bailouts,” that he just voted to put the U.S. taxpayer on the hook for any clean up costs associated with the Keystone project.

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Filed under ecology, energy, energy policy, Heller

Heller: Environmental Equivocation and the Koch Brothers

Heller 3

Nevada Senator Dean Heller (R) was one of 98 members of the upper chamber to vote for an amendment to S. 1 (Keystone Pipeline bill) in which the Senate declared ‘global climate change is NOT a hoax.’ [rc 10] That’s good for starters.  However, Senator Heller didn’t get over the finish line. Along came vote number 12, which sought to clarify the nature of the global climate change:

S Amdt 58: (2) “The [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change], in addition to other institutions, such as the National Research Council and the United States (U.S.) Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), have concluded that it is extremely likely that global increases in atmospheric [greenhouse gas] concentrations and global temperatures are caused by human activities.”;…

If one of the significant causes of global climate change isn’t human activity, then what might Senator Heller be thinking?   Is the Senator one of the 18% of all Americans who believe the current situation is the result of natural environmental patterns? Is he one of the 70% of Tea Party Republicans who believes there’s no solid evidence for global climate change?  Or, is he part of the 30% of moderate Republicans who believe there’s no solid evidence for global climate change?   [Pew]

“Opinions of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents divide into four roughly equal size groups: 23% say there is solid evidence of global warming and it is mostly caused by human activity; 19% say warming exists but is due to natural patterns; 25% see no solid evidence and say it is just not happening; 20% say there is no solid evidence but not enough is known yet.” [Pew]

If Senator Heller’s vote on the “hoax issue” is sincere, then he’s probably not a member of the 19% “natural patterns” Republican brigade, nor would he be a member of the “just not happening” chorus. That leaves the 25% who quibble about “not enough is known yet” crowd.  He’s certainly not part of the 23% who say there is solid evidence, and the phenomena is caused by human activity.

Senator Heller will no doubt emphasize his vote on the Hoax Issue as evidence of his moderate views. However, that second vote narrows the box into which he’s placed himself, a box generally shared by those who hew towards the fossil fuel corporation’s line adopted by the less moderate strain of the GOP.

In order to adopt this weasel position between and among the Republican camps one has to ignore the science from NASA (Climate Change Evidence),

“On Earth, human activities are changing the natural greenhouse. Over the last century the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil has increased the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). This happens because the coal or oil burning process combines carbon with oxygen in the air to make CO2. To a lesser extent, the clearing of land for agriculture, industry, and other human activities have increased concentrations of greenhouse gases.” [NASA]

It would also be necessary to ignore the conclusions of the Union of Concerned Scientists:

“The atmospheric concentration of CO2 has increased from a pre-industrial era (AD 1000 – 1750) concentration of approximately 280 parts per million (ppm) to around 383 ppm, as measured at Mauna Loa, Hawaii in 2007.[2,9] The carbon in the atmospheric CO2 contains information about its source, so that scientists can tell that fossil fuel emissions comprise the largest source of the increase since the pre-industrial era.” [UCS]

For those inclined to get into the molecular weeds behind this conclusion, the UCS offers a more detailed discussion at the link given above.

Is he thinking the Union of Concerned Scientists might be “too liberal?” Then, he might want to have a look at the joint publication from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the British Royal Society.  It’s not like the price is too steep – he could buy a copy for $5.00.

The Big Publication in this field comes in the form of reports from the International Panel on Climate Change.  Their conclusion in 2014 couldn’t be more clear and  precise:

“Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems. {1}”

“Anthropogenic” is a fancy scientific way to say ‘US.”  Humans, human beings, persons, people…

Taking the argument one step further, even the Gas Giants are bending their positions on global climate change.  Consider the actions from Shell Oil which generated three prospects and settled on their ‘greenest one’ as company policy back in 2008:

“The greener Blueprints scenario, it said, would be better for both the company and for the world. Shell CEO Jeroen van der Veer publicly called for governments to impose a price on carbon emissions. He wasn’t alone: BP and Exxon, once famous for funding bogus “climate skeptic” research, joined Shell in offering to work with President Obama on a real climate policy, with Exxon executives noting that they’d favor a carbon tax over cap-and-trade.”  [Slate]

Before patting ExxonMobil on the back, that corporation seems to have been trying to play both sides of the road since 2008. The Koch Brothers and ExxonMobil were major funders of the “countermovement” on climate change, but more recent donations to the anti-science activities appear to be coming from such sources as the Donors Trust, and Donors Capital, organizations which are “dark money,” and do not publish the sources of their funding.

Since 2008, Koch Brothers and ExxonMobil have pulled back their funding for climate change denying publications, but the Koch Brothers have surfaced as one of the major contributors to the Donors Trust.

“Donors Trust is not the source of the money it hands out. Some 200 right-of-center funders who’ve given at least $10,000 fill the group’s coffers. Charities bankrolled by Charles and David Koch, the DeVoses, and the Bradleys, among other conservative benefactors, have given to Donors Trust. And other recipients of Donors Trust money include the Heritage Foundation, Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, the NRA’s Freedom Action Foundation, the Cato Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, the Federalist Society, and the Americans for Prosperity Foundation,chaired (PDF) by none other than David Koch.” [MJ]

Interesting, the ultra-conservative advocates of the exploiters and polluters who finance that “countermovement” on global climate change are the self-same fat cats who bankroll anti-government, anti-tax, anti-bank regulation, and anti-climate improvement actions.

If Senator Heller has ‘doubts’ about the significance of human activity as it relates to global climate change, from whence is he receiving those uncertainties?

It’s not from the International Panel on Climate Change, it’s not from the British Royal Society, it’s not from the National Academy of Sciences, or the Union of Concerned Scientists, and it’s not from NASA.  That leaves the Koch Brothers and the dark money in the Donors Trust and Donors Capital funds.

Receiving one’s marching orders from the Donors Trust (rather than IPCC or NASA) is no way to convince any thoughtful person that the position taken is “moderate” in any way. It’s far easier to come to the conclusion that Nevada’s junior Senator has adopted the Koch Brother’s radical reactionary brand of Republicanism.  As every grandmother ever said, “You are known by the company you keep.”

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Filed under ecology, energy, energy policy, Heller

Ira Hansen Becomes a National Embarrassment

Ira Hansen

Oh my, merely a few hours after his selection as the Speaker of the Nevada State Assembly Ira Hansen (R-NVA32) made national headlines – mostly for all those “interesting”  columns he wrote between 1994 and 2010. [Wonkette]  Mr. Hansen has gathered attention to himself from Think Progress, and The Huffington Post, and the Atlantic, and Talking Points Memo, and Media-ite.   Mr. Hansen, who won his Assembly seat with  71.96% of the vote in the 2014 election, [NVSoS] offered a formulaic apology:

“I am deeply sorry that comments I have made in the past have offended many Nevadans. It is unfortunate that these comments, made almost 20 years ago as a newspaper columnist and talk radio host, have been taken out of context and are being portrayed as intentionally hurtful and disrespectful. These comments were meant to be purposely provocative in various political, cultural and religious views. I have the utmost respect for all people without regard to race, gender, religious or political beliefs.” [RGJ]

This statement is almost pure Limbaugh.  “I’m sorry IF you were offended.” Of course people were offended – his comments were intrinsically, blatantly, offensive.

The comments were made long ago,”  And, what have you said or done since, say,  last Wednesday to demonstrate you’ve cleaned up your act since?

And, “they were taken out of context…” In what context would these have been appropriate comments in the 21st century – or the 19th for that matter? Doesn’t that “taken out of context” refrain ever get old and hirsute?

And, “the comments were purposefully provocative,” PLEASE! Of course, and Limbaugh was only kidding?  Just trying to get a rise out of your audience?  Those right wing hate speech, hate radio, pack of bigots, racists, and fringe wingers, who call in to shows that re-enforce their own bigotry, racism, and homophobia?

And, Mr. Hansen, if you’d had any respect for non-white people, members of the LBGT community, members of the Hispanic/Latino community, you’d not have made the comments in the first place.

And, he ends his non-apology apology on the common hackneyed note:

“I am committed to showing that actions are much louder than words and my office will always have an open door to all backgrounds and political viewpoints. This will not distract us from finding solutions to building a brighter and more prosperous Nevada.” [RGJ]

Right,  the door’s open.  We’re supposed to believe that the Tea Party Darling who bested a Party Regular (no raving moderate himself, Pat Hickey) for the Speakership doesn’t believe in the privatization of any public activity in which someone can make a buck, and maintains overtly racist, bigoted, beliefs, is going to lead us to the Promised Land of whatever…

However, this isn’t Grandpa’s Republican Party anymore.  This is the Party of Cliven Bundy, [Reuters] of Jim “I’d vote for slavery if my constituents wanted it” Wheeler, [LVSun] of Cresent “The BLM doesn’t have the right to enforce federal laws on federal land” Hardy. [LVRJ]  This is the Republican Party in Nevada which adopted a Tea Party Platform at its 2014 convention. [RenoNewsR

There’s one Nevada Republican who’s embarrassed – our Striving For A Centrist Image Senator Dean Heller:

“Assemblyman Hansen’s past comments and positions on race, religion, and gender that have recently been reported give me great concern. These comments were insensitive, wrong, and extremely offensive and insulting. Statements like these do not have a place in public discourse.” [EDFP]

Yes, Senator Heller is concerned – however, where was Senator Heller’s concern when his state party adopted the Tea Party platform, promoted the election of Wheeler, and the election of Hardy?  The “moderates” were noticeably silent before the 2014 elections, and before the selection of the Assembly Speaker – and now that the cat has slipped the bag they are “concerned,” nay “greatly concerned.”

In the immortal words of Meryl Streep’s character in the 1992 comedy “Death Becomes Her,” “Now a Warning?”

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Filed under Nevada politics, Politics

Corporate Interests, Consumer Safety?

banker 2 Columnist Steve Sebelius has an article posted which is high on DB’s Must Read List: “Heck opposes ‘junk lawsuits’ ? Since When?”  It’s hoped that after reading this you’ll come back for more information on the Republican assault on your rights in the Courthouse.  Medical malpractice litigation is only one of several categories in which the Republican Party is ready and ever-so-willing to restrict the rights of ordinary citizens to have their day in court.  Failing that, there’s always the option to force litigation on those least able to afford it.

Your Body vs. Health Insurance Corporations

It’s time to remember that one of the very few specific proposals incorporated into the GOP version of health care insurance reform was “litigation reform.”  One of the more recent comes from a Louisiana Congressman:

“Representative Steve Scalise, Republican of Louisiana, is one of several Republicans pushing for the proposed legislation, which would repeal the Affordable Care Act, place new restrictions on medical malpractice suits and provide more access to health savings accounts.”  [LFC]

The standard line from Republicans is that malpractice litigation creates “runaway health care spending increases” because medical professionals order unnecessary tests, and if damages are limited fewer people will have any incentive to file law suits.  However, we’ve known since 2009 that some physicians have ordered extra testing merely to increase their billings, [TNY] and after Texas legislature capped damages costs still hadn’t dropped in the area highlighted as the poster child for escalating health care costs (McAllen, TX). [Wire]  A Florida law restricting medical malpractice suits was declared unconstitutional – after the Florida Supreme Court found that only the health insurance corporations benefited from the restraints. [Wire] And what was achieved by restraining the ability of ordinary citizens damaged by medical malpractice?

Not much:

“Defensive medicine includes tests and procedures ordered by physicians principally to reduce perceived threats of medical malpractice liability. The practice is commonly assumed to increase health care costs. The results of studies of the costs of defensive medicine have been inconsistent. We found that estimated savings resulting from a 10 percent decline in medical malpractice premiums would be less than 1 percent of total medical care costs in every specialty. These savings are lower than most previous estimates, and they suggest that the presumed impact of tort reform on health care costs may be overstated.” [HA.org, National Cancer Inst] (emphasis added)

May be overstated?” They are being overstated. And, they are being overstated in the pursuit of policies which are blatantly aligned with the interests of the health insurance corporations.   Might any Nevadan oppose litigation seeking to hold accountable those responsible for the Hepatitis C outbreak from the Shadow Lane Clinic? [LVRJ/Sebelius]  Would Floridians oppose the efforts of the family of Michelle McCall to hold a medical facility accountable for her death – the result of a case of preeclampsia being handled about as poorly as might be imagined in a nightmare. [FSC 2014 pdf]

Who in Missouri would castigate the efforts of the Schneider family in the wake of a stroke suffered by Jeffrey Schneider, an IT specialists with the Federal Reserve, which caused damage to his speech, the right side of his body, and loss of short term memory – and which was preventable had the physician paid attention to his own notes going back to 1996. [STLpd] Also left un-noted in the hyperbole about Runaway Costs from Irresponsible Juries – the fact that medical malpractice suits are extremely difficult to win.

The physicians and medical facilities usually win in most cases. In one study of 10,000 malpractice cases between 2002 and 2005, just a bit over half (55%) ended up in an actual lawsuit. Of that 55% more than half were dismissed by the court. When all the winnowing was final, less than 5% of the cases ended up being decided by a trial verdict – and 80% of the verdicts were in favor of the physicians. [reuters]  For this, we are being asked by Representatives Heck, Scalise, and others, to voluntarily abrogate our rights as citizens to have our day in court.

Your Body vs. Gun Manufacturers and the NRA

On October 20, 2005 Congress passed a law protecting gun manufacturers and dealers from any liability.  The NRA was positively elated. [NYT]  The vote on S. 397 was 283-144 [roll call 534] The law is a gun manufacturer’s delight, it:

Prohibits a qualified civil liability action from being brought in any state or federal court against a manufacturer or seller of a firearm, ammunition, or a component of a firearm that has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce, or against a trade association of such manufacturers or sellers, for damages, punitive damages, injunctive or declaratory relief, abatement, restitution, fines, penalties, or other relief resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse of a firearm. Requires pending actions to be dismissed. [Thomas]

Did we notice the damage might have resulted from “the criminal or unlawful misuse of a firearm?”  P.L.109-92 protects gun manufacturers and dealers like no other sector of our economy.  Did the safety fail? You have no case. Did the gun malfunction because of a preventable engineering flaw causing an injury or loss of life? You have no case. Did the Saturday Night Special shatter when fired? You have no case.  If your complaint is with a firearms manufacturing corporation – you will not have your day in court.

There are also moves afoot to make being a consumer in this consumer economy a matter of a perverted form of survival of the fittest – or the wealthiest at least.  In this regard the advocates of corporate interests want to remove the very agencies which provide administrative options to litigation.  Instead of eliminating your day in court, the massive corporations would like very much to make you challenge them in court – if you dare.

Your Wallet vs. The Financial Institutions and Big Banks

Nothing so alarmed the bankers and other participants in the Great Mortgage Disaster of 2007-2008 as the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  In fact, a small community bank in (where else?) Texas along with two conservative groups,  were moved in 2012 to file a lawsuit saying the appointment of CFPB director Richard Cordray was unconstitutional and the agency was without “checks and balances.” The bankers also didn’t like the Financial Stability Oversight Council – the one that studies risk in the financial sector. [Reuters]  In September 2012 some Republican state attorneys general were planning “non-cooperation” with the CFPB, following along the talking points made in the litigation. [Bloomberg]  Nothing would please these folks more than the repeal of the Dodd-Frank Act, so that the wheels of the Wall Street Casino could be free to spin again.

And what subjects does the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau review? Student Loans, Manufactured Home financing,  Bank Overdraft and other fees… As of June 2014 the CFPB reviewed (pdf) complaints in a variety of financial transaction categories – 34% concerned mortgages, 20% concerned debt collection activities, 14% were about credit cards, 12% about banking accounts and services, 3% were about consumer loans, 3% about student loans, and payday loans 1%.  In other words, disputes about loans and other services common, ordinary, everyday, citizens of the U.S. might be involved in.  

The legal system usually demands that all administrative options be finished before litigation is initiated.  If there is no CFPB then there is one less way for disputes to be resolved at the administrative level – and the individual citizen (the one in the mobile home, in the student apartment, in the apartment house complex…) is left with no option except the expense of litigation.  If the big banks had their way – you’d get your day in court – at your expense, and there would be no agency tasked with protecting you before you faced the battalion of legal forces arrayed against you.

Your Life vs. Manufacturing Interests

Calls for the abolition of the Consumer Product Safety Commission are nothing new, they’ve been around since at least 1980. [Sanders]  The Libertarian Party is pleased to offer the following vision:

We oppose all so-called “consumer protection” legislation which infringes upon voluntary trade, and call for the abolition of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. We advocate the repeal of all laws banning or restricting the advertising of prices, products, or services. We specifically oppose laws requiring an individual to buy or use so-called “self-protection” equipment such as safety belts, air bags, or crash helmets.

Does someone “voluntarily” purchase a crib for an infant which has features potentially lethal for a baby?  Who “voluntarily” buys a four wheeler where the components of the front gear case can fail causing a loss of control and crash hazard?  Or a lawn mower in which the welding on the drive axle can fail, again causing a loss of control and crash hazard?  Would you “voluntarily” purchase a bicycle helmet which fails in cold temperatures?  Would you “voluntarily” buy a scarf which doesn’t meet federal flammability standards? Or a infant’s “hoodie” the drawstring of which creates a strangulation hazard? Or a riding lawn mower wherein the ignition fails to ground and tends to overheat and melt? [CPSC]

What is the response when the four-wheeler’s front gear case fails, the vehicle goes out of control, and the resulting crash causes injury or death? You should have had a degree in Mechanical Engineering before you purchased the rig?  Or, is it if enough people are injured or die in crashes consumers won’t purchase the vehicle? How many have to die?

Again, without the Consumer Products Safety Commission not only is the likelihood of death or injury made more commonplace, but there is no administrative remedy intermediate to litigation.  Worse still, the “pro-business” Republicans don’t even want the public to know which products have been the subjects of complaints.   When the CPSC allowed the publication of its consumer database, the Republicans went off the deep end.

They said: “…that the database “wastes taxpayer money, confuses and misleads consumers, raises prices, kills jobs, and damages the reputations of safe and responsible manufacturers.” Testifying last month before the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade, Wayne Morris, a vice president for the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, complained, “It is wrong for the federal government to allow companies and their brands to be unfairly characterized, even slandered.” The National Association of Manufacturers said the database’s “credibility” and “usefulness to consumers” is “severely damaged.” In response to such criticism (and possibly also in response to Koch Industries, which showered an improbable $79,500 on his campaign), Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas, a Tea Party freshman, sponsored an amendment zeroing out funding for the database that cleared the House, 234-187. The CPSC database, Pompeo said, “will drive jobs overseas.” [Slate]

There’s “voluntarism” for us – not only should manufacturers be able to slap together unsafe products and sell them to American consumers, but those potential consumers should be prevented from finding out that other consumers have had problems with the products.  We should remember that then Representative Dean Heller (R-NV) was one of the 234 House Republicans who voted in favor of Pompeo’s amendment cutting the funding for the CPSC database. [roll call 137]

The Ties That Bind

There is a common thread to all of this.  In the instances of medical malpractice and gun manufacturing and sales, it is assumed by the Republicans that the consumer – the average American – must be prevented from challenging the major corporations who provide the goods and services; or at least their dismal chances of successful litigation must be further curtailed.

In the examples of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Consumer Product Safety Commission the notion that some administrative option prior to expensive litigation must be removed for the sake of the manufacturers and dealers. Only those with the financial wherewithal to take on interminable legal battles should be able to challenge the desire of manufacturers to cut corners (“increase shareholder value”) and thereby produce and distribute potentially lethal products.

Nowhere in any portion of these Republican challenges to consumer safety and security will we find any true concern for the average American consumer, patient, or victim. Unfortunately, for the GOP it’s  all about the corporate Benjamins.

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Filed under civil liberties, conservatism, consumers, Gun Issues, Health Care, health insurance, Heck, Heller

Fourth Down: Senate GOP continues filibuster of Paycheck Fairness Act

September 15, 2014 … the fourth time the Republicans in the United States Senate have voted to continue their filibuster of S. 2199, the Paycheck Fairness Act.  The vote was 52 yes, 40 no, and 8 not voting.

Every one of the 40 “no” votes on the cloture motion were Republicans, including Senator Dean Heller (R-NV).  [rc 262]

“The legislation punishes employers for retaliating against workers who share wage information, puts the justification burden on employers as to why someone is paid less and allows workers to sue for punitive damages of wage discrimination.” [TheHill]

There’s a little trick in here.  On September 10, 2014 the Republicans voted to advance the bill to the Senate floor, agreeing to a cloture motion [260] in a 73-25 vote during which Senator Heller voted “yes.”  However, that was insufficient to prevent the Republicans from voting down a September 15th cloture motion on the same measure.  Watch out for mailings suggesting Republican Incumbent X voted “in favor” of the Equal Pay Act, especially if vote number 260 is referenced.

Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) complained the Democrats were taking up time with “political show votes.”  Additionally, the GOP objects to the bill as a “giveaway to trial lawyers,” a constant complaint whenever worker’s rights are under consideration, and would remove caps on punitive damages for businesses found in violation of the law.  [TheHill]  

Ladies are free to cite the EEOC regarding the number of filings alleging pay discrimination.  Such filings constituted 1.0% of all EEOC charges in FY 2010, 0.9% in FY 2011, 1.1% in FY 2012, and 1.1% in FY 2013.  This is hardly a situation in which anyone could reasonably contend there is a Giveaway to Trial lawyers involved.

Nor is this some form of Show Vote, unless, of course, we want to show precisely how adamant the GOP is in its opposition to requiring equal pay for equal work.

S. 2199 may also be considered a bill to protect middle class working families in which both spouses are employed.  For example, the median annual wage in Nevada for an accountant working in the financial services sector is $61,710.  Assume for the sake of this example that both spouses are accountants, doing the same work, during the same year.  If they both earn $61,710 then the family has annual resources of $123,420.  If she is only earning 75% of his salary, then she’s making $46,282, and that would add up to a total family income of $107,992.  In other words the family is missing out on  $15,428 annually.  That’s $15,428 not being spent on household goods, clothing, groceries, transportation, or being saved for health related issues, education, or retirement.  Not to put too fine a point to it, but the Republicans seem satisfied with a system in which family incomes are reduced by the differential between pay for men and women, without regard to the economic impact this has on aggregate demand for goods and services.

For a party claiming to be “pro-business” this is certainly not evidence of even a modicum of basic economic comprehension.  Senator Heller may offer excuses – like the phantom litigation specter – but his vote on September 15, 2014 is actually one which removes spending capacity from consumers, and that’s not “pro-business” in a consumer driven national economy.

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Filed under equal pay, family issues, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

Swiping Away Toward the Next Debacle?

banker 2 The Las Vegas Sun reports that residents of the Las Vegas metropolitan area have run up $3.88 billion – yes, that’s billion with a B – in credit card debt as of June 2014.  The residents are not alone. There’s more credit card indebtedness piling up in Texas.  The Dallas Morning News lists the increases in credit card debt for Houston is up 5.45%, for Dallas-Fort Worth up 4.70%, and just for good measure there are other increases around the country.  Orlando’s credit card debt is up 4.89%, Atlanta up 4.21%, Tampa-St. Petersburg up 3.75%.   There’s good and bad news here.

Remember the mantra in this blog? One man’s debt is another man’s asset?

Somewhere, somehow, in the maw of the Wall Street financial institutions, those accounts receivable are being sliced, and diced, and traded.  They are being securitized.  They are becoming Asset Based Securities.  Read bonds. They are being priced and sold.  And, of course, someone is making a tidy profit. Synchrony, the largest issuer of private label credit cards for large retailers in the United States,  recently earned a Morningstar rating of BBB for its new issue.  Profits are good news, if the products being transferred are valued properly.  If not, then we have the 2007-2008 Mortgage Meltdown Debacle Redux.

The replication of that debacle will be a bit more difficult if the Security and Exchange Commission succeeds in enforcing rules under the 2010 Dodd Frank Act. The rules now call for firms issuing the securities to file reports with the SEC on the underlying loan data, including credit scores and debt levels.  The SEC plans on providing potential investors with debt to income ratio information and metrics which would help with the assessment of loan/credit quality.  [WSJ]

We should possibly recall at this point that both the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute have called for the repeal of most, if not all, the provisions of the Dodd Frank Act.  The ultra-conservative think tanks have already declared the Act an imposition of unreasonable regulatory burdens on financial institutions.  [AEI]  It should also be remembered that Nevada Senator Dean Heller has called for the repeal of the Dodd Frank Act and its attendant regulations. [NVProg]

It’s also within recent memory that then-Representative Heller voted against the House version of the Dodd Frank bill on December 10 and  11, 2009 when Representatives Berkley and Titus voted in favor of it.  [govtrack]  Then on the final vote, December 11, 2009 Heller voted against the measure as one of 176 Republicans to do so. [govtrack]

When the conference report came back with the changes made to the bill from the Senate, once again Heller voted against it, on June 30, 2010. [govtrack] Heller also voted against H.R. 4173 (111th) on the conference report. [govtrack]  Four “nay” votes certainly should indicate that Heller was not in favor of financial regulatory reform.

Once in the Senate, Senator Heller teamed with Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) to fully repeal the Dodd Frank Act in 2011. [DB]  And, lest he be considered inconsistent —  Senator Heller has now signed on as a cosponsor of Senator Bob Corker’s (R-TN) bill (S. 1217) which would make the FMIC (Federal Mortgage Insurance Corp) an independent agency of the federal government – read: Out from under the provisions of Dodd Frank.

For the record, there are eight bills in the House and Senate which provide for the repeal or diminishment of the financial regulation reforms included in the Dodd Frank Act. [govtrack]  Among these bills are those  sponsored by (H.R. 5016) Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), (H.R. 4564) Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), (H.R. 4304) Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), (H.R> 3193) Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI), and in the Senate, S. 1861, sponsored by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX). [govtrack]

The efforts by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to implement and enforce financial regulatory reform measures remain under a steady assault of lobbying interests, banking associations, wealth managers, and their allies in the U.S. Congress.  Senator Heller is certainly among this legion.

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Filed under Economy, financial regulation, Heller, Nevada economy

A New Effort Demonstrates The Need For More

Domestic ViolenceIn the midst of all the current turmoil and related teeth gnashing ranting and railing associated therewith, it’s nice to find some heroes.  A UCC church in Las Vegas makes the news today with its plan to assist victims of domestic violence, regardless of their gender, race, or creed. [LVSun] Granted domestic violence is mostly associated with protecting women from abusive spouses, but that doesn’t mean it’s restricted to that category.  So, a large round of applause to the little church trying to make a difference in this problematic issue:

“A 2010 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that bisexual and lesbian women were more likely to experience domestic violence than heterosexual women, and bisexual men were more likely to experience sexual violence than heterosexual men and gay men, who have similar rates.” [LVSun]

All the better since the re-authorization of VAWA in 2013 which finally recognized there might be a problem for members of the LBGT community and for members of Native American tribes.  To their credit, both Nevada Senators Reid and Heller voted in favor of the measure [GovTrak].  The final vote in the House showed all four members of Congress from Nevada voting in favor of the bill. [GovTrak] The measure passed on a 286-138 vote, all the nays coming from the Republican side of the aisle.

As described in a Department of Justice release, the re-authorization of VAWA addressed a serious problem in this country, and the inclusion of provisions for Native Americans was long overdue:

“In 2010, U.S. residents age 12 or older experienced an estimated 20 million violent and property victimizations, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). (NCJ 235508) These criminal victimizations included an estimated 4.3 million violent crimes defined as rape, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault. Almost 126,000 of the 1.4 million serious violent crimes were rapes and assaults. While this number has decreased over the last few years it is still shows that too many women are endangered and suffering. […] American Indians are 2.5 times more likely to experience sexual assault crimes compared to all other races, and one in three Indian women reports having been raped during her lifetime.” [DoJ]

The Department of Justice was correct in reporting the disparity in the statistics regarding the physical abuse experienced by Native American women.  Some of the numbers are patently outrageous.

 In a 2008 CDC study, 39% of Native women surveyed identified as victims of intimate partner violence in their lifetime, a rate higher than any other race or ethnicity surveyed. This finding has been common over the years. A study from 1998 that utilized a large national probability sample (n=8000) found that American Indian/Alaskan Native American women were the most likely racial group to report a physical assault by an intimate partner. [FWV.org pdf]

And: ” According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs at least 70% of the violent victimizations experienced by American
Indians are committed by persons not of the same race— a substantially higher rate of interracial violence than experienced by white or black victims.” [FWV.org pdf]

One of the issues for Native American women in Nevada is distance. There are domestic shelters in all major Nevada towns and cities, but some of these are at no small  physical distance from reservations.  The rural fishbowl effect creates another dilemma.  If a shelter is located in the immediate vicinity everyone knows of it — just as they know about every other thing that happens. If the shelter is located far enough away to secure some anonymity the victim may not have the transportation options available to get there.

In the best of all worlds, we would consider ways to alleviate the need for shelters for victims of domestic violence, urban or rural.

While some of the lists vary, most sources focus on the following elements of spousal abuse behavior.   A 1998 study reported by the NCBI observed:

“The present study compared male spouse abusers, with and without alcohol problems, with age-matched, nonabusive males on measures of personality style, personality disorder, dysphoria, and a number of demographic measures. There were no differences among the groups in racial composition, religious preference, or religious devoutness. Male abusers were less likely to be employed, to be in intact relationships, and were less well educated. They were more likely to have witnessed abuse or experienced abuse as children, although that observation is more characteristic of abusers with alcohol problems. Measures of personality and psychopathology generally supported the hypothesis that abusive males would show greater elevations on test scales reflecting personality disorder and dysphoria and less conformity than nonbatterers. Alcohol abuse was related to greater batterer-nonbatterer differences.”

Translation: Batterers come in all races, creeds, and kinds. They are generally unhappy people, less likely to have steady employment, and more likely to be repeating abuse they witnessed as children.

The batterers tend to try to excuse their behavior — the drinks made me do it defense — and often try to deny that the behavior has any lasting effect on family or personal relationships.  Three other terms associated with battering are possessiveness, jealousy, and domination. [NCCAVA]  The use of violence is a learned behavior, a repetition of childhood scenes, or the continuation of behavior which is not confronted, curtailed, or contained.  Battering is also associated with overall low self esteem and poor communication or interpersonal skills. [NCCAVA]

If this sounds like a mental health issue … it’s because it is.  And, this is not territory in which the state of Nevada has exactly covered itself in glory.  FY 2010’s $184 million sounds like a large figure until it’s broken down per capita and the allocation was  41st in the nation with $68.32 allocated. [GovSL]  The national average per capita expenditure in 2009 was $122.90. [NAMI] The NAMI looked at state budget appropriations by state from FY 2009 to FY 2012 and reported Nevada’s proposed expenditures declined 28.1%, down from $175.5 million to $126.2 million. [NAMI] These reductions put Nevada back at the top of the list for budget cutting of mental health services, along with South Carolina and Alabama. [NAMI]

Unfortunately, in an Age of Austerity, in which public allocation of tax revenues are perceived as expenses rather than investments, there is less incentive to be “the best.” Doing just enough to get by appears preferable? If Nevada would like to be known as the state with the least need for domestic violence shelters — for anyone and everyone — then some soul searching is in order.

Have we equipped and staffed our public schools with the resources to identify, diagnose, and treat children who are in households experiencing domestic violence?  Have we required that private school counterparts do the same?

Have we allocated the necessary resources to help schools, local governments, tribes, and community organizations provide assistance to families in which domestic violence occurs?  Can we offer these entities coordinated programs to promote education, address bullying behaviors, decrease instances of domestic violence?

Have we done enough to provide jobs for those who find their economic circumstances so stressful that violent behavior comes from their lack of personal control as they cope, or not, with the frustration?

The victims of domestic violence, Native American, non-Native, members of the LBGT community, or straight, men and boys, and women and girls, shouldn’t have to wait until that mythical day upon which the magic of trickle down hoax economics kicks in and all will be right with the world.  These men, women, girls, boys, need assistance now — and not in some utopian ethereal world yet to come.

Our Thanks to the members of that Las Vegas UCC church for making life a little bit easier for more people to receive more support.

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Filed under Nevada politics, Politics