Where does your state legislator stand on women’s issues?

 Women's Lobby of Colorado Legislative Scorecard.  See how your legislators are rated.

It's a ten page document, and posting pdfs is a pain, so you can look it up yourself. But you may find some surprises.

My SD3 candidate, and current HD46 rep, Leroy Garcia, has 100%.

My Senator, George Rivera, has 64%, which was higher than I thought he would have.

My current HD47 rep, Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff, is rated 36%. I guess that's what happens when one's market brand is being "business friendly".

By the way, "women's issues" are not just reproductive rights issues – economy, healthcare, education, and opportunity are also women's issues. Sorry, Laura Carno, larger magazine size on full auto guns didn't make the list.

 

 

Koch-sponsored “GenOpp” wants you to know about Udall’s “War on Youth”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

You remember Creepy Uncle Sam, who symbolized all that was unknown and scary about the Affordable Care Act. Sam had a fun few weeks to try to frighten consumers out of signing up on the health exchanges. Uncle Sam was everywhere  – on your favorite cable news shows  and web pages. Then, as suddenly as he had popped in, he disappeared, after the ACA signup deadline was over.

Generation Opportunity, or GenOpp, the organization which sponsored the Uncle Sam ads, is still going strong, and working harder than ever to lure young people away from the Democratic fold. GenOpp's media arm is called FreetheFuture, and it is mostly funded by the Koch brothers, via GenOpp, through the Freedom Partners LLC, which has funneled five million dollars into it during 2013, according to an expose by Viveca Novak on OpenSecrets.org.

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Drill, baby, drill?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

On a recent Spring day Germany generated over 50 percent of its energy from solar:

Germany, with 1.4m PV systems, generated a peak of 23.1GW hours at lunchtime on Monday 9 June, equivalent to 50.6% of its total electricity need. According to government development agency Germany trade and invest (GTAI), solar power grew 34% in the first five months of 2014 compared to last year.

This is truly amazing and shows what can be done with some wise infrastructure investments and a willingness to tell your local Coal Barons to "suck it". Oh wait, that particular Koch – Colorado's own Bill - has seemingly moved on from coal, while Colorado has most decidedly not and still relies on coal for 66% of its energy

The recent fire and power outage at Colorado Springs' Drake Power Plant has given the city, and the state in my humble opinion, an opportunity to turn its eye towards the future.

But many local business leaders just can't see the obvious benefits of a solar-powered Springs:

The 12 options the City Council is considering for Drake include the costs of building a replacement power source, adding renewable energy, offering demand-side management incentives and adding to Front Range natural gas plant. The best financial option is to keep Drake open for 30 years, according to the consultant's report. Utilities would see a more than $200 million return on its investment.

When Drake is decommissioned, Utilities will need to build a replacement power source, which most likely would be a gas-fired plant. Coal-fired power is produced at roughly half the cost of gas-fired power, but is dirtier.

Utilities is spending about $121 million to install scrubber technology at Drake to meet environmental standards. In June, the Obama administration released a draft of The Clean Power Plan, which calls for reducing carbon dioxide emission at power plants by 30 percent by 2030.

More than 30 coal-fired plants have closed across the county in the wake of strict Environmental Protection Agency regulations, including emission control.

As an astute politician once said, "A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon, you're talking real money." That observation and its ramifications here are quite clear. But, besides coal, there is also Colorado's unnatural reliance on hydraulically fractured natural gas and its "clean" fuel — that comes at such a high environmental and human cost.

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Obama DEA behind the Times, ICE not sure of Law, siezes Hemp seeds bound for CO

Jeez, this is incredibly stupid and wasteful.

DENVER – Hundreds of pounds of industrial hemp seeds bound from Canada to Colorado have been seized by federal authorities in North Dakota, marking the latest bump along the road to legalization of marijuana's non-intoxicating cousin.

At the center of the dispute is hemp activist Tom McClain. Armed with a copy of last year's federal Farm Bill, which allowed states to permit hemp cultivation for research and development, he set off for MacGregor, Manitoba, and bought 350 pounds of seeds used to grow a strain known as X-59 or Hemp Nut.

Hemp is legal in Canada, and North Dakota is one of 15 states with laws that allow limited hemp production. However, under the Farm Bill, importing hemp seeds requires permission from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

McClain's seeds were confiscated Saturday at the border crossing in Hansboro, North Dakota, after he says he declared the seven bags in his trunk. McClain, however, has not been charged with a crime.

"They treated me very professionally," McClain said after he returned to Colorado – without the seeds. "They were just a little confused as to what to do. According to them, I couldn't bring them in."

The DEA is notoriously recalcitrant and behind the times when it comes to dealing with the reality of today's laws and public sentiments regarding that "evul weed".

The head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Michele Leonhart, is refusing to support a bill backed by the Obama administration that would lower the length of mandatory minimum sentences for federal drug crimes, putting her at odds with her boss Attorney General Eric Holder on one of the criminal justice reform initiatives he hopes to make a centerpiece of his legacy.

ICE seems frozen in the past, too:

Shawn Neudauer, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, confirmed the seizure.

The man who's trying to import these seeds for true industrial hemp use is trying to get the issue resolved. 

McClain and Jason Lauve of the Colorado-based activist group Hemp Cleans have appealed to congressional representatives in the state to resolve the seed flap in North Dakota.

A spokeswoman for Colorado's Agriculture Department, Christi Lightcap, said the agency hasn't been approached to intervene.

Colorado has accepted more than 40 hemp-cultivation applications. But the state has a "don't-ask-don't-tell" policy about the origin of the seeds used in the work.

Growers, meanwhile, have expressed frustration over the limited availability of seeds that are affordable and haven't been smuggled into the country.

The seeds confiscated in North Dakota were destined for experimental plots. Lauve said owners have only about two weeks to get the seeds planted so they can harvest the hemp before snow falls.

"We need to get that here as soon as possible," he said.

Jared Polis has been forward thinking on this issue, has prodded the feds to get their anti-marijuana act together and has given our Luddite DEA Chief whatfor. Maybe he can help.

And maybe someone can buy our Customs Service and DEA Apparatus a clue about hemp and legal marijuana and the facts regarding each.

The Colorado Keystone

Webster defines keystone as "the central principle or part of a policy, system, etc., on which all else depends".  Yesterday's announcement by our President set the stage for our nation to begin the process of addressing our carbon pollution, as ordered by the Supreme Court in 2007 – and now regulated by the EPA under their authority within the Clean Air Act, (also affirmed in that same 2007 Supreme Court decision).  Obama's announcement is, in effect, "America's Keystone";  it will be the foundation upon which we determine state and federal policy regarding energy for the coming decades.  It has taken over seven years to get from the historic 2007 court decision to the 2014 proposed rules – and it will be another 15 years, best-case scenario, before we would see full implementation of the regulations. 

The 'clutching of pearls' by the right-wing spin machine aside, meeting these new standards comes at a modest, if any, cost.  In fact, if one includes in the calculation the reduced health costs of the transition, the jobs created, and in the case of rural Colorado, nearly $6 billion in new tax base, only a Coprolite would conclude that the Colorado renewable standard, the second-most aggressive in the nation, was a bad idea.

Colorado has much to be proud of in our proactive approach by the Ritter Administration to begin the transition away from coal and tackling our state's emissions profile.  We often heard Bill talk in terms of 'being stubborn stewards" and "shared sacrifices".  Under his reign our state created the second-most aggressive renewable portfolio standard in the nation; we passed in excess of 50 legislative bills that dealt with new standards, energy efficiency and sustainability.  We became know world-wide as the birthplace of the New Energy Economy and environmental leadership.

Since 2011 we have watched Boulder take on Goliath and create the foundation for a 21st-century municipal electric.  Fort Collins has implemented feed-in-tariffs within the confines of their jurisdiction.  We're fast approaching $6 billion of investments in wind farms on Colorado's eastern plains – and plans of new solar farms in the Pueblo County and the San Luis Valley. Five Front Range communities have rejected untethered oil and gas developments within their city limits, the LaPlata Rural Electric Association board of directors now has a pro-renewable energy majority.  We've begin the process to aggressively regulate fugitive methane in Colorado's gas patch. Captured methane gas is powering parts of Aspen, and a new small hydroelectric plant will deliver local power to the Delta-Montrose Rural Electric Association membership. Our rural electrics must now meet 20% of their energy needs with green energy. Vestas is considering moving its North American headquarters to the Centennial state.

We've come a long way in the past decade since the passage of Amendment 37.  We've built a foundation – projects and policy – upon the knowledge that we have an infinite amount of sunshine, wind and biomass.  We understand we don't have to settle for sacrificing our state's environment to have a robust economy.  We understand the economic opportunities in transitioning to the New Energy Economy – and the perils of the false prophets promoting a business-as-usual case for energy development.  

As Bill Gates is credited as saying, "we over-estimate what they can accomplish in a year and under-estimate what we can accomplish in a decade".  While we have only begun this long, tenuous journey of change over the past decade, it would be hard not to argue that our leadership owes a debt of gratitude to the bi-partisanship co-chairs of the 2004 Amendment 37, Mark Udall and Lola Spradley – and it would be even harder to overstate the accomplishments we have put under our belt since that historic victory.

All of this, I would argue, is our "Colorado's Keystone".  Not a pipeline – but a foundation for a  21st-century energy policy that is consistent with our western values and our conservation ethic; a foundation by which we can lead by example and buoy our national efforts to be a global leader.

What's next? Will Colorado voters make Local Control the centerpiece of this fall's election?  Will it be a proxy vote for or against those who embrace the concept? Can we construct a Renewable Thermal Standard, creating opportunities for reductions in the built environment? Perhaps we can build a virtual power plant, fueled only by energy efficiency.  Will we tackle the necessary regulatory changes to bring about a more transparent and free energy market? It's hard to say, but if history is any guide – we can all be assured the next decade will be filled with grand accomplishments while we transition to an economy powered by our clean, abundant resources.

There is nothing but lack of political will that will keep the creativity and entrepreneurship of Coloradans from entering this exciting marketplace – and providing global leadership.  That's the real 'Keystone'

Colorado’s own Bill Koch of the Famous Kochs – new book shows a Helluva Guy in a Freak Family

(Lifestyles of the rich and creepy? – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Some of the World Famous, Colorado-centric, Billionaire Koch Brothers family history is about to come out. And their anti-social, radical, reactionary, and anti-government attitudes will make a lot more sense to a lot more people.

Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty aims to change that. Written by Mother Jones senior editor Daniel Schulman, the biography, set to be released Tuesday, draws on hundreds of interviews with Koch family and friends, as well as thousands of pages of legal documents. The Huffington Post received a copy of the book on Friday.

Father Fred Koch started Koch Industries and led the family with an iron first. Purely by coincidence, he also liked the reigning Fascists of the day:

At the center of the saga is patriarch Fred Koch, a staunch anti-communist who drilled his political ideology into his sons from a young age. In 1938, then sympathetic to the fascist regimes ruling Germany, Italy and Japan, Fred wrote that he hoped one day the United States would resemble these nations, which had "overcome" the vices of "idleness, feeding at the public trough, [and] dependence on government."

Elsewhere, Fred warned of a future "vicious race war" in which communists would pit black Americans against white. "The colored man looms large in the Communist plan to take over America," he wrote.

Wow, it couldn't be more clear where the Right-wing's hatred of Obama and its ridiculous fear of him being a "communist" or "socialist" or "Kenyan anti-colonialist" came from. It came from long-held views of the kind of Reactionary Republicans and Conservatives that are evident in the Koch brothers' family history.

Those views fill the void left by a lack of ideas on how to govern within today's modern conservative movement.

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Sad Walker Stapleton Wishes “State Treasurer” Title Made Him Financial Expert

Walker Stapleton hyper-inflation

Walker Stapleton prefers not to talk about his 2010 suggestion that Colorado invest more heavily in gold.

Do you have any idea what kind of requirements you must meet in order to become Colorado's State Treasurer?

Not much, actually. You must be at least 25 years of age; a Colorado resident for a minimum of 2 years; and a United States Citizen. That's it — that's all there is in the Colorado State Statutes. You don't need to have any sort of special training in finance. You don't even need to have a college degree in, well, anything. Primarily, you just need to have been alive for awhile and in Colorado recently.

Why do we bring this up? Because State Treasurer Walker Stapleton has been trying to get appointed to something called The Colorado Retirement Security Task Force, which is being set up by the legislature regarding…yes, retirement savings (bill sponsors Sen. Pat Steadman and Rep. John Bucker outlined their legislation in a recent Denver Post Op-Ed). Stapleton was apparently angry that he did not receive an invitation to the task force, and he and his supporters argued (and whined) that it was inconceivable someone could form a financial task force in Colorado and not include the expertise of the State Treasurer.

This was apparently a big deal for Stapleton supporters, with right-wing blogs devoting multiple posts to the topic this week. In one post this week from the blog Colorado Peak Politics, the author makes the case for including Stapleton on the Task Force while at the same time complaining that the whole idea is stupid anyway — basically repeating what teenagers across Colorado are saying this time of year when they don't get invited to Prom. Here's the "why Stapleton" argument:

Treasurer Walker Stapleton is the only statewide official who sits on the board of the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA), and his expertise would be invaluable to the task force.  So why block him from participating?

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700 Million Trillion Gajillion Jobs

100s of thousands

Many hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost…um, no.

Today's U.S. Senate vote on increasing the federal minimum wage brought out the best (or worst) arguments from opponents of the proposed legislation.

Many of those arguments, like the one you see at right, focused on the scare tactic of projecting massive job losses from a minimum wage increase. In this particular case, the Tweet at right says that "raising the minimum wage will cost Coloradans 100's of thousands of jobs."

Really? Hundreds of thousands?

Similar arguments have been made in Colorado regarding jobs and fracking.You can't restrict fracking!!! That will cost Colorado 500,000 jobs!!!

With all of these big numbers floating around, it made us wonder: Exactly how many jobs are there in Colorado? Is this kind of growth even remotely possible?

So, with those questions in mind, we took a little tour through the website of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, and more specifically, the section on labor statistics. What we found is pretty much along the lines of what we thought we'd find: It is ridiculous to claim that anything specific could increase or decrease the number of Colorado jobs by 100,000 or more. We even made a graphic about it. Want to see it? Here it goes:

Colorado job statistics

This here is what they call a ‘graphic’ or ‘chart.’

As you can see from the aforementioned graphical chart thing that we produced, Colorado added a total of about 49,800 jobs in the last 6 years combined. That's every industry we're talking about — including the oil and gas industry.

With total nonfarm jobs in Colorado somewhere around 2.4 million, it would take an effort of gargantuan proportion to add or subtract many hundreds of thousands of jobs. You could argue with a straight face that 300,000 jobs will be added/subtracted over the course of several decades, but that's not really the implication in these talking points, now is it?

There are many arguments to be made for and against any subject, but once you start throwing big numbers around as casually as you might close important roads just to be a dick*, then you're really drifting into the land of imaginary facts. You're making shit up, in other words. 

 

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Minimum Wage Increase Gives Udall Strong Contrast with Gardner

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

Sen. Mark Udall (left) has been an outspoken supporter of increasing the minimum wage. Cory Gardner (right), not so much.

Republican Senators today blocked an effort to move forward on legislation to increase the federal minimum wage, an issue that should nevertheless help Sen. Mark Udall draw a sharp contrast with Republican Rep. Cory Gardner in November. From NBC News:

A Democratic bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 was met with overwhelming Republican opposition in the Senate today, where it failed to garner the 60 votes needed to move past a key procedural hurdle.

The bill, which was introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), would have raised the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour over the next 30 months, after which automatic annual increases in the minimum wage would be executed to account for inflation. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee was the only Republican who voted in favor of letting a debate on the measure proceed; it failed by a margin of 54-42…

…The federal minimum wage has been increased 22 times since it was first implemented in 1938, most recently in 2007 when it was raised from $5.15 per hour to the current $7.25 per hour by Democrats who had just gained control of both chambers of Congress. The annual pay for a full-time minimum wage worker currently sits at $14,500, which is below the poverty line for a household of more than one person.

Public sentiment is on the side of an increase, with 63 percent of Americans saying they would support a minimum wage hike to $10.10 per hour in a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.

67 percent of Colorado voters support minimum wage increaseThe NBC/Wall Street Journal poll is not the only recent public survey to show strong support for raising the minimum wage, both nationally and here in Colorado. In fact, voters in our state support a federal minimum wage increase by an even greater margin; a Quinnipiac University poll from February 2014 shows that Colorado voters support a minimum increase by a 67-31 margin.

Colorado Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet both voted to move the minimum wage increase forward, and Udall was not happy with the outcome of today's vote (full press release after the jump):

"Colorado and other states have shown that raising the minimum wage is a common-sense way to help hardworking families and protect our special way of life. The obstruction of this reasonable proposal — that would have helped 269,000 Coloradans and enhanced our state’s economy — is extremely disappointing and it strengthens my conviction that we must do more to improve Americans' economic mobility," Udall said. "This issue is far too important to fall by the wayside due to a minority of senators who are blocking progress, and I will keep fighting to empower hardworking Coloradans to make a living wage and provide for their families."

Congressman Cory Gardner has been relatively quiet on the most recent effort to raise the minimum wage, but his long record of opposition should allow Udall to draw an important distinction on another issue overhelmingly popular with Colorado voters (see: Personhood, Same-Sex Marriage, etc., etc.). Gardner was a vocal critic of a 2006 ballot measure to increase Colorado's minimum wage (Amendment 42, which passed by a 53-47 margin); a few months later, he voted against a state legislative measure to finalize implementation of the voter-approved amendment (HB07-1001; 1/22/07). Gardner also sponsored a floor amendment to strip Consumer Price Index-adjusted increases in the minimum wage (HB07-1001; 1/19/07) — completely ignoring the will of Colorado voters.

This is yet another example of how difficult it will be for Gardner to run a statewide race after years of representing highly-Republican districts in the most partisan fashion possible. Gardner can say whatever he wants about opposing a minimum wage increase, but that won't change the fact that his position is on the wrong side of the vast majority of Colorado voters.

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100 Years Ago Today: Ludlow

ludlowmonumentPhoto courtesy United Mine Workers of America

100 years ago today, a gunfight broke out between members of the Colorado National Guard and striking coal miners employed by the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company near Trinidad, Colorado. During the fighting in and around a tent encampment of striking miners, eleven children and two women were killed when the tent above a pit they were taking shelter from the fighting in was set on fire. This event became known as the Ludlow Massacre, and shocked the nation into a greater awareness of the poor working conditions and exploitative "company town" economic predation faced by coal miners.

This event is being widely commemorated on its 100th anniversary today, and we'll update with coverage.

Ryan Budget Barely Passes; Colo. GOP Delegation All Vote Yes

UPDATE: Mike Coffman's Democratic opponent Andrew Romanoff responds:

The Ryan budget does not reflect the values most Americans share. It would force middle-class families to pay more in taxes, students to pay more for college, and seniors to pay more for health care. The House I led balanced the budget every year. But we didn’t do so on the back of the middle class. Some estimates suggest the Ryan plan would cost the country as many as three million jobs. Among the other casualties: 170,000 at-risk children, who would lose access to Head Start.

The winners? Those in the highest income bracket, pharmaceutical manufacturers and corporations that offshore their employees.

If you’re serious about growing the economy, you don’t eliminate job training. You eliminate tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas.

If you’re serious about balancing the budget, you allow Medicare to negotiate deeper discounts in prescription-drug prices – instead of sticking seniors with higher bills.

If you’re serious about strengthening the middle class, you vote against the Ryan budget. 

—–

Gardner Ryan Budget

Cory Gardner loves him some Paul Ryan

As the National Journal reports, the latest "Ryan Budget" has passed the House (barely). All of Colorado's Republican Members of Congress voted 'YES' on the budget — Reps. Cory Gardner, Mike Coffman, Scott Tipton, and Doug Lamborn.

The House on Thursday narrowly passed Rep. Paul Ryan's Republican budget carrying $5.1 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years without closing tax loopholes, as Ryan and other GOP leaders averted a potentially embarrassing defeat on the bill because of party defections.

The measure passed 219 to 205, with 12 Republicans joining all Democrats in voting no. A swing of just seven Republican votes would have defeated the measure…

…Even some Republicans acknowledge passage of the Ryan budget is more an aspirational declaration of their party's priorities and vision of government spending.

But the vote Thursday showed that it is not necessarily a reflection of all House Republicans' vision. Some conservative defections were anticipated.

Having already flip-flopped on major issues such as Personhood, we're a little surprised to see both Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman sticking with Rep. Paul Ryan on a vote that will almost certainly hurt them with General Election voters.

Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity (of Us Put-Upon Billionaires) hands out “Made in China” baseballs at Rockies game

The jokes just write themselves as the Super-Rich, Anti-government, Obama-hating Oligarchic Koch Brothers attempt another poorly planned and hastily produced smear job of Senator Mark Udall on Obamacare:

Charles Koch toes the rubber. Pitching from the stretch. Looks in for the signal. He wants the batter to chase his curveball, off the plate. Here comes the pitch

The prolific attack group AFP is keying off the Colorado Rockies home opener today by slamming Democratic Sen. Mark Udall over his support for Obamacare. Americans for Prosperity Colorado is handing out foam baseballs prior to the game that say "Tell Sen. Udall Obamacare is striking out."

Oh, but he left it up in the strike zone, right over the plate!

Said Chris Harris, Udall's spokesman: "It's never good to hand out stuff in American politics that says 'Made in China.' "

 

Baseball from Americans for Prosperity emblazoned with logo and slogan: Tell Sen. Udall Obamacare is striking out.

The Koch Brothers and their paid henchmen, and henchwomen, prove to be epically cynical once again. Aand they're hoping and praying Colorado's voters, and Rockies fans, are the same. (h/t DailyKos)

(If someone can find a pick of an offending baseball, please post.)

Marriage Equality: Dollars and Sense

gay-ca-wedding

FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports today:

Extending marriage to gay and lesbian couples in Colorado would generate $50 million in spending to the state economy and $3.7 million in state and local tax revenue, according to a study released Thursday.

The study from the Williams Institute, a national think tank at the UCLA School of Law, looked at 2010 U.S. Census data on the number of gay and lesbian couples living in Colorado and estimates that 50 percent – roughly 6,200 couples – would choose to marry in the first three years, a pattern that has been observed in Massachusetts and elsewhere.

As a result, the state’s wedding business would see an increase by $40 million, and an increase of roughly $10 million in tourism expenditures made by out-of-town guests over the same period.

Total state and local tax revenue would rise by $3.7 million, including an estimated $2.3 million in local sales taxes.

More in a press release from One Colorado:

“We’ve already known that marriage would give committed couples here in Colorado the opportunity to make a lifetime promise to each other and protect their families the same way everyone else does,” said Dave Montez, Executive Director of One Colorado, the state’s leading advocacy group for LGBT Coloradans and their families. “Now we know that marriage equality would also benefit our economy and contribute to the state’s bottom line.”

Anybody who's ever had to pay for their own or a child's wedding, or been privy to the accounting of costs for any decent ceremony, can tell you that more weddings directly translate into lots more money flowing into the hands of local business–and tax revenue from those businesses to the public sector. Major life developments like weddings remain one of the situations where Americans set aside frugality and really open their wallets, which is exactly the kind of exuberant consumption a healthy economy thrives on.

Sounds like a good old-fashioned capitalism success story to us.

DCCC Hits Coffman on New “Ryan Plan”

The Hill reports today:

House Democratic leaders bashing Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) latest budget bill have at least one good thing to say about the sweeping plan: It could help them at the polls in November.

Democrats have been focused on a populist economic agenda that includes an increase in the minimum wage, an extension of emergency jobless benefits and a broad expansion of health insurance coverage included in the Affordable Care Act. 

They're hoping the Ryan plan — which slashes spending on food stamps, low-income education initiatives and Medicaid, among a long list of domestic programs — plays right into their messaging strategy.

It's generally accepted today that the budget proposals put forth by Rep. Paul Ryan since 2010 have harmed Republicans politically, especially in 2012 when Ryan's spot on the Republican presidential ticket made him an icon of their policy goals. Democrats aggressively campaigned against Ryan's budget proposals, particularly where they affected popular programs like Medicare and Social Security. Fact-checkers stopped short of validating the frequent Democratic campaign charge that the Ryan Plan would "end Medicare," but it's a much more accurate statement to say Ryan's proposal would privatize Medicare–and no less damaging politically.

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Rivera / Crowder Town Hall Heats Up, Democracy Thrives

 

 



 

 


When Colorado Senators Larry Crowder (left) and George Rivera convened a town hall in Pueblo on Wednesday, March 19, they probably hadn't planned to be confronted, interrupted, and corrected by dozens of Pueblo citizens of various political stripes. But that's what happened.

Over the course of a two hour meeting, Rivera and Crowder discussed wage theft, the proposed SouthWest Chief Rail expansion to Pueblo, PERA, TABOR, minimum wage and the rights of workers to organize, with about fifty vocal and opinionated constituents.

Senator Rivera came out swinging as the hard-right conservative he is- he explained that he is a "right to work" guy, that he is "not a believer in… the whole concept of the minimum wage", that he would like to privatize PERA (change it from a defined benefit to a "defined contribution" model).

He does not support the  lawsuit challenging TABOR, and he would rather see people paying fuel taxes than using public transportation, a dig at the proposed SW Chief rail line, the signature issue of his opponent for SD3, Represenative Leroy Garcia.

On SB14-05,  the "wage theft" legislation passed out of Committee  and into Appropriations with no Republican support, neither Senator took a strong position.  Both Senators agreed that it is a shame to steal a day's pay for a day's work, expressed some caution about costs of the measure, and moved on.


Senator Crowder, the more experienced politician, took softer stances, or tried to avoid taking stances altogether. He did not agree with privatizing PERA. He also does not support the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of TABOR, does not support raising the minimum wage to $10.10, and seems to be somewhat ignorant of what would be required to dismantle TABOR.

On the minimum wage issue, Crowder advocates for raising the "median wage", a proposal which got quite a few baffled looks from the town hall attendees. Crowder stated  that only 2% of workers receive minimum wage, when, in actuality, 59% of workers, mostly women, are paid at the minimum level. 


When directly challenged by Yesenia Beascochea (left) of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition: "How are people supposed to buy groceries on $7 an hour?" Crowder waffled until he was rescued by George Rivera's daughter, (left center) who ranted for three minutes, questioning  why anyone should support poor folks on Medicaid.

So, Crowder never answered Beascochea's question.  Crowder is also the more moderate of the two southeastern Colorado Senators; Crowder was the only Republican to vote for Colorado's Medicaid expansion and Health Exchange. Lamar's Crowder is also a co-sponsor of the SW Chief rail expansion legislation, and did not agree with Rivera on the need to "privatize PERA".


Excerpts from the Town Hall discussion:

PERA

Rivera supports a “defined contribution” plan, not a “defined benefit” plan. Rationale: it will save money.

Carole Partin, a teacher, challenged him: Privatizing PERA will change it, and those are benefits that we worked for.  A defined contribution plan goes out to the hedge fund managers.

MINIMUM WAGE:

Barb Clementi, another teacher,  schooled the Senators on how we subsidize Walmart because of minimum wages. Rivera argued that low wages, low taxes are what brought businesses in.

Rivera argued that minimum wage legislation is a "slippery slope." He wondered, "Why would it stop at $10/hr, why not $25 hr?", and predicted that businesses would pass costs to the consumer, or close down. When confronted with examples of businesses such as Costco and others which pay $10.10 an hour, and are thriving, he changed the subject.

Question: What’s your opinion on raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour?

Rivera: "Well, I’m not a believer in the minimum wage. The whole concept of the minimum wage.  Because, OK, you raise it up to ten dollars and ten cents. What’s the business going to do? Are they gonna sit there, and say, OK, we’re gonna pay out that ten dollars and ten cents? And all of a sudden, we’re in the red, and whereas before we were paying seven dollars, seven-fifty, and isn’t that three dollars…more?. What are they gonna do? They’re gonna raise the cost of their goods to make up that three dollars and ten cents. So all of a sudden that ten dollars and ten cents…you’re right back where you were, a year or two later, you’re chasing your tail."

"Now let me give you another, for example….why stop at $10.10?  Why not go to twenty-five? Because twenty-five dollars an hour…Heck, we’ll all agree is good money, and everyone will be happy. No, that’s not gonna work, again, because they gotta raise the cost, raise the price of whatever goods they’re selling. They gotta make up for the cost of that pay raise, whatever it is."

Q: Do you think that Walmart’s going to go in the red by paying the minimum wage?

Crowder: Here I thought I had a chance. I can wait outside. (laughter)

"Here’s the thing about the minimum wage. 2% of the people rely on the minimum wage. (he’s 57% off, according to the Dept of Labor- 59% of American workers work for minimum wage)

What we ought to be talking about is the median wage. (Audience murmurs, puzzled) We’ve lost so much ground in the middle class. That’s what we ought to do. ….we need to work legislatively to stay out of the middle class’s way, so that they can continue…I think if we take care of the median wage, that the minimum wage will take care of itself. One of the things we can do is we can look at the employment percentage right now. "

It’s 9%. What we can do is get that employment percentage down here (gestures), and

Q: Yesenia Beascochea: Can I interrupt real quick, because I hear the both of you talking about the minimum wage.  Pay the people seven dollars an hour, minimum wage, and they have to buy the groceries, as the prices rise. The prices are rising. So how are you guys expecting…and I’m talking about poor people, that can’t afford to buy groceries at seven dollars an hour?

Crowder: (doesn’t answer her question) Would it benefit the working poor if a certain percent lost their jobs?

(Rivera's daughter complains for three minutes about how health care for the poor costs money to middle class people because: Obamacare).

TABOR:

I asked both Senators about their positions on TABOR.

Crowder: "My position on TABOR is simple. Voters voted it in. It’s up to the voters to vote it out. I do not agree with the lawsuit on TABOR that’s in the courts right now. I think what it does, it…undermines the voters…If people, truly, do not want TABOR, which I believe is….you hear both sides, you know? But I do believe that, to go through the court system, when the people of Colorado voted for it, undermines them.  So if someone wants to bring a petition, and convince the people of Colroado to get that back on the ballot,  then I would support that."

Barb Clementi (left): You recognize that it would take six or eight initiatives to actually do that?

Crowder: No, no, that can’t be true.

Barb Clementi: Yes, it would take many different initiatives to undo TABOR.

(Rivera interrupts)

Rivera:  "Well, I’ll be honest with you. If we have the low taxes that you’re talking about, ….you don’t think that TABOR had something to do with that? Look at all of the fees we pay…the fee you pay when you get your license plates. What do you think that is? That’s a tax by another name, that’s all that is."

UNIONS and ORGANIZING

Ron Greenwell, (left), chair of the Pueblo Democratic party, questioned Senator Rivera about how he felt about unions in general.

Greenwell: What do you know about the Colorado Peace Act? What do you feel about unions in general? And, would you support organized labor in the future?


Rivera: On the Colorado Peace Act, I'm not sure what you're referring to.

Greenwell: The Colorado Peace Act is legislation, that, when you're going in to organize, it's not a 50 plus 1, ….it's a 60 plus 40, something like that. And so, to make it fair for those who are organizing, they have to get 60% of the vote, rather than 50% plus 1.

RIGHT to WORK (for less): Rivera: Well, I believe in “right to work”. Let’s put it that way. …

(loud disagreement, chatter, laughter, comments from audience.

Rivera: …I don't think it's anti-union, whatever…I believe in right to work.

Rivera: I think if the government just keeps out of the way of people….(interruptions by several audience members) "Government is people! ”Government is in the business of helping the common people."


GOVERNMENT INTERFERENCE OK IF IT'S WOMEN'S BODIES?

Kiera Hatton-Sena countered with a pointed question: So,  the “government shouldn’t interfere” with my body?"

Neither of the Senators answered Hatton-Sena's question.

The town hall finished with Rivera proclaiming that he was happy that so many people had attended his town hall, although they were clearly not in agreement with him. Colorado Progressive Coalition had informed its members about the town hall. 

I personally found it disturbing, not that there was conflict and disagreement, but how uninformed both Senators were. Rivera did not know the provisions of the Colorado Peace Act, although he proclaims that he believes in "Right to Work". Crowder had no clue that 59% of the population, not 2%, receives minimum wage. Neither Senator knew how much work it would take to undo Tabor; when they advocated for voter initiatives, to "Let the Voters Decide," they were effectively advocating to let TABOR continue to wreak harm in Colorado indefinitely. Rivera was seemingly not aware that a "defined contribution plan" effectively privatizes people's retirement benefits.

Senators Rivera and Crowder are out of touch with the majority of their constituents who are in favor of raising the minimum wage. They don't "get" women's complaints about the hypocrisy of proclaiming that government should not interfere with people's lives, while the government aggressively interferes with women's reproductive choices over their own bodies. In pro-union Pueblo, in which most people have a family member who worked or works for a union, Rivera's hard anti-union stance will also not win friends and influence constituents.

This is what small-d democracy looks like, and it is indeed a positive thing. It remains to be seen if the Senators will follow up with conversations with, and allow themselves to be educated by their disaffected constituents, or merely heave sighs of relief: "That's over."


 

Video from 3/19 Pueblo town hall More videos at: http://www.youtube.com/user/socoteacher

 

All photos and videos of this event by the author.