Archive for December 21st, 2011

Mark your calendars for the week of January 21, 2012!

In just one month—approximately two years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v Federal Election Commission opened the floodgates to unprecedented corporate influence over our democracy—the growing grassroots movement to take back the Constitution for We the People is going to make its presence very much known on the national stage. 

Like MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan, we’re “Mad as Hell” that corporations have shamelessly gotten the courts to grant them the rights of natural persons when it can buy them outsized influence and drown out the rest of our voices…while insisting they’re quite different from the rest of us when it suits their interests, like when they’re being sued for human rights violations.

Demonstrators at the U.S. Capitol on the one-year anniversary of the Citizens United ruling. Mark your calendars for bigger and stronger actions nationwide surrounding the two-year anniversary next month!

And we’re far from alone. In a recent Pew poll, 77 percent of Americans agree that too much power is in the hands of the wealthiest among us and large corporations.   As former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich aptly puts it, the defining issue of this populist moment is not the size of government, but who exactly it stands for.

That’s where this Citizens United anniversary comes in as a “movement moment.”  Citizens will be taking a variety of different approaches to mark this troubling anniversary, but they’ll be unified in rallying their communities behind the need for a constitutional amendment to rein in corporate influence over the political process.

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The EPA today issued new safeguards to reduce mercury and other toxic air pollutants from the smokestacks of the nation’s aging fleet of coal and oil-fired power plants. In addition to lowering mercury emissions, the new rule will reduce other fine particle heavy metals like arsenic, chromium, and lead, saving thousands of lives and billions of dollars each year.  EPA has estimated that the power plant air toxics rule will avoid between 6,800 and 17,000 premature deaths each year, and will result in annual savings of $48 to $140 billion.

Here’s our Texas office director’s take on it:

“For decades, the electric power industry has delayed cleanup and lobbied against public health rules designed to reduce pollution,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office. “They have decided that it was cheaper to invest in politicians than pollution controls and we see the result here in Texas. The technology and pollution control equipment necessary to reduce emissions of mercury and other dangerous air toxics are widely available and are working at some power plants across the country. There is no reason for Americans — and Texans in particular — to continue to live with risks to their health and to the environment.”

Newt Gingrich drew plenty of ire when he promoted child labor as a solution to the ‘lack of work ethic’ among America’s youth. Though it shouldn’t be too surprising as this is the same guy who believes we should put mirrors in space and colonize the moon. Gingrich may be leading in the polls for the GOP nomination but the specifics of his platform aren’t exactly mainstream. After all, what other politician would support such an anachronism as child labor?

The answer: 30 US Senators, including four Democrats. In a rare bipartisan move, this group of Senators sent a letter to the Department of Labor yesterday demanding the withdrawal of a proposed child labor regulation. The rule is meant to protect children ages 12 to 15 from performing hazardous farm jobs like demolishing barns, mixing pesticides, and climbing 20-foot ladders.

Because of a loophole in federal labor standards, child labor in agriculture is shockingly quite legal. Children as young as twelve can work on farms and are sometimes made to work unrestricted hours. Though the Department of Labor’s proposed rule wouldn’t ban child labor on farms, it would make the work a little safer. Right now, children working on farms die at a rate that is six times higher when compared with their peers who hold other jobs.

But these types of numbers don’t figure in to the push to withdraw the rule. Instead the Senators who sent the letter yesterday use the excuse that the regulation will prevent children from working on family farms and therefore undermine the rural way of life. Agribusiness lobbyists, coincidentally, have been saying the exact same thing. And an excuse is really all this is. The Senators acknowledge that there is an exemption for parent-owned farms in the law, but they say it doesn’t apply to farms that are legally corporations. Note: very few family farms are actually organized as corporations.

While the Senators want the regulation quashed entirely, if that doesn’t happen they say they’d be okay if the Department of Labor expanded the definition of “parent” to include corporations.

I guess if we already have corporate personhood, corporate parenthood is just a logical extension. We can’t wait to see them at the PTA.

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