Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Call for Common Sense

Below are some talking points on where to go from here on the bailout, "A Call for Common Sense" made by representatives from several different groups.


Every man, woman, and child in America is now being told to ante up $2000 – an estimated $700 billion in all – to bail out Wall Street’s recklessness, or the very people who created this crisis are telling us that they will bring down our entire economy.

The Treasury Department’s proposal that the Secretary be given essentially unlimited authority to spend $700 billion to bail out any financial institution across the world is irresponsible and unacceptable.

We urge the Congress to insist on some basic conditions for any bailout.

1. Public Oversight. This kind of power can never be centralized in a single individual – much less one who did not even stand for election. Any funds must be controlled by an independent entity, with consumers and workers given seats on its board. Congress should be empowered to name independent monitors and to approve all board members.

2. Protect the Taxpayer. The Treasury bill would have taxpayers buying paper that nobody else wants at prices far above its current value. If a firm wants to auction off its toxic paper to the US Government, taxpayers should get equity in that firm equal to any amount paid in excess of the paper’s value. This will deter profitable firms from using the government as a dumpster for their toxic paper. And it will insure that if the bailout works and the firms become profitable, taxpayers, not simply bankers, benefit from the upside.

3. Curb the casino. This crisis was caused because sensible regulations of the banking system that worked for dozens of years were dismantled or went unenforced. No bailout can go forward without requiring the necessary regulation to insure this does not happen again. Any institution, which receives assistance, should agree to come under a microscope going forward in terms of disclosure requirements, and it should have stringent capital requirement imposed upon it.

4. Invest in the real economy. Ending the bankers strike is not sufficient enough to avoid the recession into which we have been driven. Major public investment in new energy and conservation, rebuilding schools and infrastructure, extending unemployment and food stamps, helping states avoid crippling cuts in police and health services – is vital to get the real economy moving and put people back to work. No bailout should proceed without being linked to support for a major public investment plan to get the economy going.

5. Hold CEOs and Boards of Directors Accountable. Wall Street CEOs shouldn’t be pocketing millions while taxpayers are forced to bail them out. Any firm that applies for relief must agree to cancel all stock option programs and CEOs should have stringent limits placed on their compensation until the Company has repaid all taxpayer assistance.

6. Aid the victims, not just the predators. Both bankers and home owners made foolish bets that home prices would keep rising. Many homeowners, however, were misled by predatory lenders into taking mortgages that they didn’t understand and couldn’t afford. It would be simply obscene to help the predators and not those that they preyed upon. No bail out of the banks should take place without measures to help people in trouble stay in their homes. Explicit provisions should ensure use of the full array of financial and legal tools available to the government to stop foreclosures and restructure home mortgage loans for ordinary Americans, including amending the bankruptcy code to allow judges to modify mortgages. Where workouts are not feasible, people should be allowed to stay in their homes as renters.

John Sweeney, President, AFL-CIO
Andy Stern, President, Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
Gerald McEntee, President, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
Larry Cohen, President, Communications Workers of America (CWA)
Dennis Van Roekel, President, National Education Association (NEA)
Leo Gerard, President, United Steelworkers (USW)
Maude Hurd, National President, ACORN
Nan Aron, President, Alliance for Justice
Amy Issacs, National Director, Americans for Democratic Action
Bob Borosage, Co-Director, Campaign for America’s Future
Kevin Zeese, Executive Director, Campaign for Fresh Air & Clean Politics
John Podesta, President, Center for American Progress Action Fund
Deepak Bhargava, President, Center for Community Change
Deborah Weinstein, Executive Director, Coalition for Human Needs
Donald Mathis, President, Community Action Partnership
Jane Hamsher, firedoglake.com
James D. Weill, President, Food Research & Action Center (FRAC)
Brent Blackwelder, President, Friends of the Earth
John Cavanagh, Director, Institute for Policy Studies
Sarita Gupta, Executive Director, Jobs with Justice
Wade Henderson, President, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
Carissa Picard, Esq., President, Military Spouses for Change
Sally Greenberg, Executive Director, National Consumers League
Christine L. Owens, Executive Director, National Employment Law Project
Gary Bass, Executive Director, OMB Watch
Joanne Carter, Executive Director, RESULTS
William McNary, President, USAction
Paula Brantner, Executive Director, Workplace Fairness
Dan Cantor, Executive Director, Working Families Party
Mark Lotwis, Executive Director, 21st Centu

Friday, September 26, 2008

Stop the Bailout!

This week, Congress will finalize the largest government intervention in financial markets since the Great Depression. The Bush Administration is asking for $700 billion to bail out Wall Street by buying up the mountains of bad debt they accumulated during the housing bubble.

Plenty for Wall Street, Nothing for Main Street!

Outrageously, the Administration proposal includes nothing for struggling homeowners, no protections for taxpayers or sharing of future profits and no regulatory control over the institutions that created the mess. In short, they want to privatize the profits, and socialize the losses! And, what is perhaps the most galling display of greed and corruption, while the Republicans plan to stick each American taxpayer with a $2000 bill, the CEO's who crafted the schemes that led to this disaster get to keep their multi-million dollar salaries. These large banks and mortgage companies are benefiting from irresponsible lending at best (and predatory lending at worst), while the victims of their mistakes receive no help.

Click here to send a message to Congress.

Call your US Representative and Senators:  1-800-473-6711, toll-free, thanks to American Friends Service Committee*

In the Rochester area, you can contact Senator Clinton's local office at 585-263-6250 and Senator Schumer's local office at 585-263-5866. In the Buffalo area, you can contact Senator Clinton's local office at 716-845-9725 and Senator Schumer's local office at 716-846-4111.

Tell them:
*I urge you to reject a blank check bailout for Wall Street. I understand there is a real and costly crisis brought on by unregulated greed. Congress must fix the mess through a public ownership stake to reduce the loss to taxpayers, effective oversight, help for those hurt by the crisis (people losing homes, jobs, and income), and investments in economic recovery.

Talking Points:
*Be governed by an independent board with transparency and effective public and congressional oversight.
*Use the full array of financial and legal tools available to the government to stop foreclosures and restructure home mortgage loans for working families.
*Address the cause of the crisis on Main Street in addition to the symptoms on Wall Street.
*Congress should invest in health care, education and the financial security of average people.
*Work to address the disastrous weaknesses in our financial regulatory system and corporate governance system that allowed this disaster to happen.

Write a letter to the editor TODAY! You can find an editable sample letter right here, thanks to the organization RESULTS, and you can send it right from that link. If you'd like to send a hard copy the old fashioned way, again, check out the details on the action section of our website.

*This toll-free number is provided courtesy of the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization which works for economic justice and peace (www.afsc.org). AFSC welcomes groups to circulate and use the number in support of non-partisan work for policies that benefit the common good and without linking the alert to a website soliciting donations or actions which may be used to support partisan lobbying or work.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Home Again

Today, Christy and I were fortunate to speak with the seniors at my alma mater, Sacred Heart Academy. We went to let them know about Working Families Win and how to get involved, and more generally the importance of being involved with your community. We also had a chance to talk a little bit about some of our key issues here in Western New York - health care, energy, and trade. It was a great experience listening to the girls talk about which points really stick out for them, and what their generation is concerned with.

It was even more heartening to see how disappointed some of them were that they'll just miss the cut off for being able to vote this year. While we need all of the good, progressive voters we can get, the fact that many of them were so energized and engaged about the process was great. It's a good sign for our future that young people actually want to be a part of the process rather than becoming disengaged. We're really looking forward to working with SHA students and other high school volunteers from the area.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

GOOD Sheets on Health Care

Starbucks has recently begun to offer free factsheets in their coffee shops, sponsored by GOOD Magazine plus one advertiser per issue. They call them GOOD Sheets, and you can find them in any of the Starbucks locations peppered across the area.

This week's issue is called Bill of Health, about our health care system: how we stack up against other modern, industrialized nations; how the system got as bad as it is; and different plans for fixing it, including little notes on where Obama and McCain stand on the issue. If you don't manage to pick up a copy by tomorrow (each issue is on the shelf from Thursday to Wednesday), you can check out all the handy little graphs over at the GOOD blog by clicking the link or the image below.

Slacker Uprising

Starting today, residents of the US and Canada can download Michael Moore's new movie, Slacker Uprising for free. The film details Moore's road trip across the swing states during the 2004 election season (62 cities in 42 days) with the purpose of getting young people out to vote. Check out the trailer below.

You can watch the entire movie absolutely for free by signing up here. After you sign up, you'll receive an e-mail link that will allow you to view it one of the following five ways:
  1. blip.tv is providing streaming right from slackeruprising.com, free of commercials and advertising.
  2. Amazon Video on Demand is providing a higher resolution version of the above stream for people with lots of bandwidth.
  3. iTunes will make it easy for you to download "Slacker Uprising" on your iTunes, iPod, or Apple TV, and view it there or transmit it to your television. This way, the film can be portable as well as for home viewing. (This is not available yet, but will be soon!)
  4. Hypernia is providing bandwidth and servers to host MPEG4 and DivX versions of "Slacker Uprising" online, so you can burn a DVD or download the film to watch on your computer, XBOX, or PS3.
  5. Lycos is providing free streaming of the film and an on-demand version.
If you sign up and don't receive the link shortly afterward, be sure to check your spam mailboxes. I've heard reports that some mail systems have been filtering the e-mail there by mistake.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Continued Adventures of the Elusive Chris Lee

After a call and two visits to Chris Lee's office today, we finally came away with a press packet. It contained yet another palm card, a copy of an editorial from The Buffalo News that was published in May, and some information cobbled together from what was already presented on his website. We were unable to speak directly with Lee, and the campaign refused to fill out our candidate questionnaire, despite warnings that we would proceed without his input, printing "candidate did not respond" on our literature.

As one WFW supporter said in response to Friday's post, "How does he expect to get elected?" Now is the time for action! Write a letter to your local newspaper, and let people know that he's hiding from discussion of the issues. (You can find out guidelines for contacting The Buffalo News and the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle on the action section of our website.)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Mysterious Mr. Lee

This afternoon, representatives from Working Families Win went over to Chris Lee's headquarters to find out more information about where he stands on important issues like trade, health care, and jobs. So far, his campaign has refused several requests made by phone and e-mail, so we decided to go there in person.

The campaign staff refused to speak with us or answer our questions while we were there. Moreover, they had no policy papers to give us that outlined his plans on the issues. The only information we were able to take away from the office was a palm card containing very general claims about Chris having "real world experience" and wanting to "change business as usual attitudes."

We need your help! Take just a couple of minutes from your day to call Lee HQ and ask them to respond to our questions. Let them know how important it is for him to actually address the issues that matter most to working people in Western New York. You can reach Andrea Bozek from his campaign at the office at 716-632-2008 or by cell phone at 716-208-1870.


Hello, everyone! Stay tuned to our new Working Families Win blog for updates about local action.

E-mail Jennifer if you'd like to contribute an entry.