This Billionaire Governor Taxed the Rich and Raised the Minimum Wage. Now, His State’s Economy Is One of the Best in the Country

By Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News

Mark_Dayton_MinnesotaThe next time your right-wing family member or former high school classmate posts a status update or tweet about how taxing the rich or increasing workers’ wages kills jobs and makes businesses leave the state, I want you to send them this article.

When he took office in January of 2011, Minnesota governor Mark Dayton inherited a $6.2 billion budget deficit and a 7 percent unemployment rate from his predecessor, Tim Pawlenty, the soon-forgotten Republican candidate for the presidency who called himself Minnesota’s first true fiscally-conservative governor in modern history. Pawlenty prided himself on never raising state taxes – the most he ever did to generate new revenue was increase the tax on cigarettes by 75 cents a pack. Between 2003 and late 2010, when Pawlenty was at the head of Minnesota’s state government, he managed to add only 6,200 more jobs.

During his first four years in office, Gov. Dayton raised the state income tax from 7.85 to 9.85 percent on individuals earning over $150,000, and on couples earning over $250,000 when filing jointly – a tax increase of $2.1 billion. He’s also agreed to raise Minnesota’s minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2018, and passed a state law guaranteeing equal pay for women. Republicans like state representative Mark Uglem warned against Gov. Dayton’s tax increases, saying, “The job creators, the big corporations, the small corporations, they will leave. It’s all dollars and sense to them.” The conservative friend or family member you shared this article with would probably say the same if their governor tried something like this. But like Uglem, they would be proven wrong.

Between 2011 and 2015, Gov. Dayton added 172,000 new jobs to Minnesota’s economy – that’s 165,800 more jobs in Dayton’s first term than Pawlenty added in both of his terms combined. Even though Minnesota’s top income tax rate is the 4th-highest in the country, it has the 5th-lowest unemployment rate in the country at 3.6 percent. According to 2012-2013 U.S. census figures, Minnesotans had a median income that was $10,000 larger than the U.S. average, and their median income is still $8,000 more than the U.S. average today.

By late 2013, Minnesota’s private sector job growth exceeded pre-recession levels, and the state’s economy was the 5th fastest-growing in the United States. Forbes even ranked Minnesota the9th-best state for business (Scott Walker’s “Open For Business” Wisconsin came in at a distant #32 on the same list). Despite the fearmongering over businesses fleeing from Dayton’s tax cuts, 6,230 more Minnesotans filed in the top income tax bracket in 2013, just one year after Dayton’s tax increases went through. As of January 2015, Minnesota has a $1 billion budget surplus, and Gov. Dayton has pledged to reinvest more than one third of that money into public schools. And according to Gallup, Minnesota’s economic confidence is higher than any other state

Gov. Dayton didn’t accomplish all of these reforms by shrewdly manipulating people – this article describes Dayton’s astonishing lack of charisma and articulateness. He isn’t a class warrior driven by a desire to get back at the 1 percent – Dayton is a billionaire heir to the Target fortune. It wasn’t just a majority in the legislature that forced him to do it – Dayton had to work with a Republican-controlled legislature for his first two years in office. And unlike his Republican neighbor to the east, Gov. Dayton didn’t assert his will over an unwilling populace by creating obstacles between the people and the vote – Dayton actually created an online voter registration system, making it easier than ever for people to register to vote.

The reason Gov. Dayton was able to radically transform Minnesota’s economy into one of the best in the nation is simple arithmetic. Raising taxes on those who can afford to pay more will turn a deficit into a surplus. Raising the minimum wage will increase the median income. And in a state where education is a budget priority and economic growth is one of the highest in the nation, it only makes sense that more businesses would stay.

It’s official – trickle-down economics is bullshit. Minnesota has proven it once and for all. If you believe otherwise, you are wrong.


Carl Gibson, 27, is co-founder of US Uncut, a nonviolent grassroots movement that mobilized thousands to protest corporate tax dodging and budget cuts in the months leading up to Occupy Wall Street. Carl and other US Uncut activists are featured in the documentary We’re Not Broke, which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Carl is also the author of How to Oust a Congressman, an instructional manual on getting rid of corrupt members of Congress and state legislatures based on his experience in the 2012 elections in New Hampshire. He lives in Sacramento, California.

West Coast Port Slowdown Impacts Nevada County Businesses

west_coast_port_slowdownBy Don Pelton

When we arranged with the local tree experts and altogether good people at Trees Unlimited to fell about a half dozen large ponderosas on our property and have them trucked to a mill, we scheduled the work to be done on Friday the 13th, disregarding all the silly supersitions about that date.

It turned out to be an unlucky date for us, though.

They had to cancel the job due to a work slowdown at the container ports on the West Coast. The mills can’t ship any more lumber to these ports (for the Chinese market, among others), because of a labor-management dispute between the International Longshoremen’s Association and the ports’ management (the Pacific Maritime Association).

And we can’t have the trees just felled and remain on the ground until the dispute is resolved. That could be weeks, or even months. By that time, the trees would no longer be marketable.

The work slowdown affects many more industries besides our local tree people.

It’d be interesting to know the full impact of the slowdown on Nevada County’s economy. We know that it’s affecting a lot of tree work here in addition to our own.

In the meantime, there’s no doubt that the slowdown is affecting businesses in neighboring California counties:

World Ag Expo impacted by West Coast port slowdown”

On Friday, the California Assembly Republican Caucus issued a press release begging the union and the port management to quickly resolve their dispute, calling attention to the harm already being done to California’s agricultural economy:

“The ongoing West Coast port labor dispute is having a devastating impact on our economy. Farmers and ranchers in particular are having a tough time shipping perishable food to customers worldwide. It is unacceptable that California’s economy is essentially being held hostage to a labor dispute,” said Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen, of Modesto. “I am calling for action from President Obama and the federal government to intervene and secure a resolution so we can get our ports fully operating again.”

“Farmers, small business owners, retailers, truckers, consumers and nearly every Californian are being impacted by this ongoing dispute that has brought our ports to a virtual standstill,” said Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-Nicolaus). “I call upon both sides to come together to resolve this dispute without delay. President Obama and the federal government must also use every power at their discretion to bring the parties together to reach a settlement.”

“As we speak, precious fruits and vegetables are rotting in shipping containers that are bottlenecked at our West Coast ports,” said Assemblyman Devon Mathis (R-Porterville). “Our Central Valley has already been hit hard by the ongoing drought. The agricultural products our communities managed to produce despite the lack of water have been thrown to the wayside due to this disruptive labor dispute. We cannot allow these exports to sit for one day longer.”

The labor dispute at the West Coast ports has waged on for nine months. On Wednesday, it was announced that port operations will be suspended for four days as a result of the current labor dispute. According to one estimate, it could cost the country $2.1 billion per day if the ports shut down entirely for 10 days. Worse, congestion at West Coast ports could cost retailers as much as $7 billion this year alone.

According to the following business report, the President could force a cooling-off period under Taft-Hartley if the slowdown were to become a full-fledged strike or a complete lockout. In the meantime, the daily dollar cost of the slowdown is probably in the billions nationwide.

2/12/15 – Why the West Coast port slowdowns are cracks in the foundation of the U.S. economy

2/10/15 – West coast port dispute slows movement of bales 

2/9/15 – Port of Oakland updates operating status, waterfront labor talk

2/9/15 – West Coast port closure could cost $2.1 billion per day

2/9/15 – ILWU locked out on West Coast for 2 days

2/7/15 – Bitter shipping battle continues at Oakland port

2/6/15 – House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy wants federal mediation of port dispute

2/6/15 – Port trucking companies take stand against rising fees

2/4/15 – PMA President James C. McKenna issues a statement regarding the state of contract negotiations

2/3/15 – CRRC letter to Governor Brown requesting suspension of regulatory penalties

1/30/15 – Letter from members of Congress to the ILWU and PMA urging resolution

1/30/15 – WCRRC letter to regulatory agencies requesting suspension of penalties

 

“Thank You Mr Gray. You Were a Great Teacher”

By Don Pelton

I had a slightly melancholy experience this morning. I ran across a webpage describing all my old high school teachers and what became of them. I graduated in 1959. I was especially interested to know about the one teacher — an James_GrayEnglish teacher — whom I have spoken of ever since as among the three greatest teachers of my life. His name was James Gray.

The quality I most remember was his contagious love for his subject, a contagion which infected many of his students. Delight always seemed to be bubbling just beneath the surface with him, as if he had discovered the secret of the universe, and it was pretty damn funny, and he knew that you were just gonna have to find it out for yourself.

He liked to use us as experimental subjects. From time to time, he’d play different sorts of music — classical, pop, jazz — while we wrote essays in class. Then we’d read the essays and talk about how the music might have affected the quality of the writing.

I was happy to learn that, after his stint as a high school teacher, he went on to become a Senior Lecturer in Education at UC Berkeley, and also founded the National Writing Project, “an influential and highly regarded educational reform network.” His work lives on.

When I noticed that he died only a few years ago (at age 78) I realized that although I told scores of people over my lifetime that he was a great teacher, and why he was a great teacher, I never told him.

So, if any of the teachers you loved are still out there, tell them!

Here’s an excerpt from his memoir of his early years taking the writing workshop on the road:

Our first invitation was for a workshop at San Francisco’s Polytechnic High School. The principal invited me to bring some teachers who had participated in the first summer’s program to talk to the English department. I handpicked a strong group: Cap Lavin, BAWP’s codirector; Miles Myers, a highly regarded Oakland high school teacher; and Flossie Lewis, a teacher at San Francisco’s esteemed Lowell High School. Poly was not esteemed at the time. The papers regularly carried stories of faculty unrest and political and social tension on the campus. We weren’t really surprised to find graffiti-filled halls. One inscription shouted at us, “Black is Beautiful; Yellow is Mellow; White is Shit.” The teachers were waiting for us. I introduced my colleagues and began describing what the Bay Area Writing Project was all about. Suddenly, I was hit in the face by a paper wad thrown by some guy sitting in the second row. I ignored it and plowed ahead. Another paper wad. I was dumbfounded. Here we were, excited by this first invitation and the start, we hoped, of a long line of such invitations, and things were out of control. I reasoned that the situation could only get better, so I continued on. Another paper wad! Miles jumped out of his seat, went to the board, and began charting out some plan or model when someone else in the room shouted out: “Miles, go on back to Oakland where you belong!” Cap and Flossie were agitated. Cap, who suffered from angina, popped a nitroglycerin pill; Flossie was close to tears. Nothing made sense. The paper wad thrower shouted: “Gimmie some pencils! If you want to help us, give us some pencils; we can always use pencils.” The workshop was clearly over, and the four of us left the room.

We went across the street to a bar and tried to figure out what had happened. It should not have happened—not with the group I put together. All three of the teachers were well known and even revered in San Francisco. Cap was raised in San Francisco, where he had become a basketball legend. Miles was the senior vice president of the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) and the founder and editor of California Teacher, the CFT newspaper these teachers would have read in this strong union town. And Flossie Lewis was one of their own—one of the best-known, most-respected, and feistiest English teachers in town. It was beyond understanding why we’d been treated that way. The following week, one of the teachers called me. It seemed that the principal, a very unpopular actingprincipal who was at war with the faculty, had told teachers to show up for this workshop or else! The teachers showed up, not only to keep their files clean of reprimands, but also to get even by keeping this program from succeeding. They had nothing against us. They didn’t know me. They did know Cap and Miles and Flossie, and they liked all of them. But they hated that acting principal.

That afternoon, we learned something about how to conduct a Bay Area Writing Project workshop and how not to. We vowed never again to have anything to do with mandated programs. Our workshops for teachers would from then on always be voluntary. If teachers didn’t want to attend a Bay Area Writing Project workshop, they didn’t have to, and we would make this very clear to teachers and administrators.

A Man You’ve Never Heard of Saved Your Life

Reprinted from WashingtonsBlog (Posted on February 6, 2015

 Vasili Arkhipov
Covert mission: In a game of high stakes cat and mouse it wasn't long before the Russian's were spotted

On October 27, 1962, a man you’ve never heard of saved your life …

It was at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the U.S. and Soviet Union were on hair trigger alert for World War Three.

And an order to launch a nuclear missile against Americans was actually given by the commander and political officer of a Soviet nuclear submarine.

One man stopped global nuclear war.

Edward Wilson explains in the Guardian:

An American spy plane had been shot down over Cuba while another U2 had got lost and strayed into Soviet airspace. As these dramas ratcheted tensions beyond breaking point, an American destroyer, the USS Beale, began to drop depth charges on the B-59, a Soviet submarine armed with a nuclear weapon.

The captain of the B-59, Valentin Savitsky, had no way of knowing that the depth charges were non-lethal “practice” rounds intended as warning shots to force the B-59 to surface. The Beale was joined by other US destroyers who piled in to pummel the submerged B-59 with more explosives. The exhausted Savitsky assumed that his submarine was doomed and that world war three had broken out. He ordered the B-59’s ten kiloton nuclear torpedo to be prepared for firing. Its target was the USS Randolf, the giant aircraft carrier leading the task force.

If the B-59’s torpedo had vaporised the Randolf, the nuclear clouds would quickly have spread from sea to land. The first targets would have been Moscow, London, the airbases of East Anglia and troop concentrations in Germany. The next wave of bombs would have wiped out “economic targets”, a euphemism for civilian populations – more than half the UK population would have died. Meanwhile, the Pentagon’s SIOP, Single Integrated Operational Plan – a doomsday scenario that echoed Dr Strangelove‘s orgiastic Götterdämmerung – would have hurled 5,500 nuclear weapons against a thousand targets, including ones in non-belligerent states such as Albania and China.

***

The decision not to start world war three was not taken in the Kremlin or the White House, but in the sweltering control room of a submarine. The launch of the B-59’s nuclear torpedo required the consent of all three senior officers aboard. Arkhipov was alone in refusing permission. It is certain that Arkhipov’s reputation was a key factor in the control room debate. The previous year the young officer had exposed himself to severe radiation in order to save a submarine with an overheating reactor. That radiation dose eventually contributed to his death in 1998.

PBS’ The Man Who Saved the World adds details:

Just how close the world came to complete destruction during those dark October days has only recently come to light.

***

“I now believe that it could have meant the end of humanity.”

***

“I saw Defence Secretary McNamara, take Dean Rusk to the side and said, ‘The sun is setting, it could be the last sunset we will ever see.’ And that’s when I got scared.”

***

“There is a specific signal that we have, and that is 3 explosions, grenade explosions, which means you have to surface.

I don’t know what the Americans were doing, but it wasn’t three…”

The American signal to surface is different from the Russians …

***

[The commander and political officer of the Russian nuclear sub both command the launch of a nuclear weapon against the Americans. But Arkhipov said:]

“We don’t know that this is an attack – for all we know they are trying to surface us…”

The future of the world now rests on Vasili Arkhipov’s shoulders…

***

[Gary Slaughter, signalman aboard the American destroyer USS Cony:] “God only bless the man because err, what would have happened after that? We would have been a nuclear war with Soviet Russia, and there would maybe perhaps not be a world.”

The following is a 60-minute video of the PBS program, “Secrets of the Dead: The Man Who Saved the World.”

We only avoided a nuclear war because one man – Arkhipov – put down his foot and said no.

Postscript: We are also grateful to American military heroes – many of them anonymous – who have blown the whistle on things which could also have led to nuclear war.

Unfortunately, Michel Chossudovsky documents In Towards a World War III Scenario that the U.S. is currently so enamored with nuclear weapons that it has authorized low-level field commanders to use them in the heat of battle in their sole discretion … without any approval from civilian leaders.

Given that top Russians, Americans and Poles say that we’re once again drifting towards a nuclear confrontation with Russia, cool-headed, ethical commanders may be our best chance of preventing catastrophe.

Another Economic Crash is Coming

Economist Ross Ashcroft (in this 4-minute video) correctly points out that the most important warning sign of an impending crash is the level of private (household and business) debt as a percentage of GDP. In this view, he is in complete accord with Professor Steve Keen, one of the few economists to correctly predict the last big meltdown.

 

 

 

 

 

Is the “Sharing Economy” (Uber, Airbnb, etc) a Rip-Off?

By Robert Reich

Reprinted with permission of the author, from his blog at http://robertreich.org

How would you like to live in an economy where robots do everything that can be predictably programmed in advance, and almost all profits go to the robots’ owners?

Meanwhile, human beings do the work that’s unpredictable – odd jobs, on-call projects, fetching and fixing, driving and delivering, tiny tasks needed at any and all hours – and patch together barely enough to live on.

Brace yourself. This is the economy we’re now barreling toward.

They’re Uber drivers, Instacart shoppers, and Airbnb hosts. They include Taskrabbit jobbers, Upcounsel’s on-demand attorneys, and Healthtap’s on-line doctors.

They’re Mechanical Turks.

The euphemism is the “share” economy. A more accurate term would be the “share-the-scraps” economy.

New software technologies are allowing almost any job to be divided up into discrete tasks that can be parceled out to workers when they’re needed, with pay determined by demand for that particular job at that particular moment.

Customers and workers are matched online. Workers are rated on quality and reliability.

The big money goes to the corporations that own the software. The scraps go to the on-demand workers.

Consider Amazon’s “Mechanical Turk.” Amazon calls it “a marketplace for work that requires human intelligence.”

In reality, it’s an Internet job board offering minimal pay for mindlessly-boring bite-sized chores. Computers can’t do them because they require some minimal judgment, so human beings do them for peanuts — say, writing a product description, for $3; or choosing the best of several photographs, for 30 cents; or deciphering handwriting, for 50 cents.

Amazon takes a healthy cut of every transaction.

Aftershock

This is the logical culmination of a process that began thirty years ago when corporations began turning over full-time jobs to temporary workers, independent contractors, free-lancers, and consultants.

It was a way to shift risks and uncertainties onto the workers – work that might entail more hours than planned for, or was more stressful than expected.

And a way to circumvent labor laws that set minimal standards for wages, hours, and working conditions. And that enabled employees to join together to bargain for better pay and benefits.

The new on-demand work shifts risks entirely onto workers, and eliminates minimal standards completely.

In effect, on-demand work is a reversion to the piece work of the nineteenth century – when workers had no power and no legal rights, took all the risks, and worked all hours for almost nothing.

Uber drivers use their own cars, take out their own insurance, work as many hours as they want or can – and pay Uber a fat percent. Worker safety? Social Security? Uber says it’s not the employer so it’s not responsible.

Amazon’s Mechanical Turks work for pennies, literally. Minimum wage? Time-and-a half for overtime? Amazon says it just connects buyers and sellers so it’s not responsible.

Defenders of on-demand work emphasize its flexibility. Workers can put in whatever time they want, work around their schedules, fill in the downtime in their calendars.

“People are monetizing their own downtime,” Arun Sundararajan, a professor at New York University’s business school, told the New York Times.

But this argument confuses “downtime” with the time people normally reserve for the rest of their lives.

There are still only twenty-four hours in a day. When “downtime” is turned into work time, and that work time is unpredictable and low-paid, what happens to personal relationships? Family? One’s own health?

Other proponents of on-demand work point to studies, such as one recently commissioned by Uber, showing Uber’s on-demand workers to be “happy.”

But how many of them would be happier with a good-paying job offering regular hours?

An opportunity to make some extra bucks can seem mighty attractive in an economy whose median wage has been stagnant for thirty years and almost all of whose economic gains have been going to the top.

That doesn’t make the opportunity a great deal. It only shows how bad a deal most working people have otherwise been getting.

Defenders also point out that as on-demand work continues to grow, on-demand workers are joining together in guild-like groups to buy insurance and other benefits.

But, notably, they aren’t using their bargaining power to get a larger share of the income they pull in, or steadier hours. That would be a union – something that Uber, Amazon, and other on-demand companies don’t want.

Some economists laud on-demand work as a means of utilizing people more efficiently.

But the biggest economic challenge we face isn’t using people more efficiently. It’s allocating work and the gains from work more decently.

On this measure, the share-the-scraps economy is hurtling us backwards.


Robert Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written thirteen books, including the best sellers “Aftershock” and “The Work of Nations.” His latest, “Beyond Outrage,” is now out in paperback. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. His new film, “Inequality for All,” is now available on Netflix, iTunes, DVD, and On Demand.


See also “Does the ‘Sharing Economy’ Create Community, or Profit From the Lack of It?

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