Today's Fair Shots - March 27th, 2017
1-A 'Bigly' Defeat: GOP Health Care Bill Blown to Oblivion
2-Taibbi: Trump Has Still Made Only About 30 of 1,000 Executive Appointments
3-Labor Secretary Nominee Supports Weaker Version of Overtime Rule
4-Corpus Christi Newspaper Discusses McGee Nomination to Pension Review Board
5-Tomorrow Is 106th Anniversary of Triangle Shirtwaist Fire
6-Statewide Bus Schedule for TSEU Lobby Day Is Posted
7-East Austin Community Marches to remember Cesar Chavez
1. Friday, the U.S. House leadership caved. President Trump surrendered. A solid majority of politicians who denounced the Affordable Care Act "because Barack Obama" ran off rather than dismiss the dismal legislation by voting it down.
Trump's main argument was a display of political incompetence for the ages that never rose above the depth of Twitter. Obamacare is a "disaster" and the alternative would be "so great," Trump marketed. But Trump must have known something, because he shunned "Trumpcare" for the proposal. In the end, all he could do was bloviate about "primarying" GOP naysayers and about Obamacare being ready to "explode."
House Speaker Paul Ryan, facing what may be the worst House Speaker beat-down in generations, resorted to protecting his members after insisting a vote would happen, The New York Times reports. Ryan lost all pretense to seriousness when he tried to sell the outrageous notion of allowing insurance companies to omit coverage for basic matters like emergency services, maternity care, pediatric services and prescription drugs. Had that become law, in some cases we could have called the health care system Nadacare.
Chalk up Friday's developments as a huge victory for the Resistance. This combustion was not spontaneous. Union members, retirees and allies across the nation deserve congratulations for speaking out and contributing to the preservation, at least for now, of ACA.
It's never over in Congress and maybe another vehicle will emerge that is even uglier. But Trump warned the GOP last night he was prepared to let the ACA stand and move onto other topics. Ryan seems headed in that direction, based on his quote in The New York Times. As Don Meredith used to sing, "The party's over...."
Yet in the gloaming of this episode, we should remember that ACA is not perfect. Someday, when Congress can again negotiate for the good of the nation, the law might benefit from amendments that aim to preserve and continue the expansion of health care.
For now, 24 million Americans -- the number estimated to lose health care had the proposal succeeded -- may breathe a sigh of relief. Even this President knows a loser when it parades in front of his face:
House Republican leaders, facing a revolt among conservatives and moderates in their ranks, pulled legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act from consideration on the House floor Friday afternoon in a spectacular defeat for President Trump on the first legislative showdown of his presidency.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan conceded, "We're going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future."
The defeat of the Republicans' three-month blitz to repeal President Barack Obama's signature domestic achievement exposed deep divisions in the Republican Party that the election of a Republican president could not mask. It also cast a shadow over the ambitious agenda that Mr. Trump and Republican leaders had promised to enact once their party assumed power on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
The drama of the day only underscored the futility of the leaders' efforts. Mr. Ryan had rushed to the White House shortly after noon to tell Mr. Trump he did not have the votes for a repeal bill that had been promised for seven years - since the day Mr. Obama signed his landmark health care act into law.
Read more: http://nyti.ms/2n2EWJn
2. The inimitable Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone eviscerates President Trump's first days, noting among other things that Trump has only made about 30 out of 1,000 appointments that other presidents have considered essential to running the White House.
Maybe it takes an alternative journalist to write about an alternate universe:
Since winning the election, Trump has declared interpersonal war on a breathtaking list of targets: the Australian prime minister, an acting attorney general, seven predominantly Muslim countries, a "so-called" federal judge, Sweden, "Fake Tears" Chuck Schumer, Saturday Night Live, the FBI, the "very un-American" leakers within the intelligence community, and the city of Paris (it's "no longer Paris"). He's side-eyed Mark Cuban, John McCain, millions of protesters, Lindsey Graham, Richard Blumenthal, Chris Cuomo, the University of California at Berkeley, ratings "disaster" Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nancy Pelosi, the "TRAITOR Chelsea Manning," Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, Barack Obama and the city of Chicago, among many, many others...
"At some point, he just stopped appointing people," says an incredulous Hauser, the capital watchdog, at the end of February. "He's only made 30 appointments. That means he's still got over 1,000 empty posts. Nearly 200 ambassador posts are in limbo. He named Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, but not a single judge beyond that - with over 100 empty federal seats to be filled. Nobody knows what the hell is going on."
Sources theorize that Trump's appointments slowed thanks to a combination of factors. Those include a fear of more DeVos-style blowback and an inability to find people capable of passing security clearances (at least six White House staffers reportedly had to be dismissed for this reason).
A darker explanation was offered by a ProPublica story revealing that Trump sent waves of nonpolitical appointees to the agencies in so-called beachhead teams, i.e., people sent in groups under temporary appointments of four to eight months.
These appointees did not have to be confirmed by Congress. Some are freaks and fringe weirdos on a level below even the goofballs in Trump's Cabinet. A fair number carry amorphous "special assistant" titles, making it difficult to know what their duties are.
More unnerving is the presence in the Cabinet-level agencies of a seemingly new position, "senior White House adviser."
Some Hill sources believe these new officials are reporting directly to Steve Bannon, who is fast achieving mythical status as the empire's supreme villain. On the surface, Bannon is just another vicious ex-hippie of the David Horowitz/Michael Savage school, a former Grateful Dead fan who overswung the other way to embrace a Nazistic "culture first" alt-right movement. Everyone from Time magazine (which called him "the great manipulator") to The New York Times (which called him a "de facto president") is rushing to make him into a superempowered henchman of the extreme right, a new Roy Cohn - fitting, since Cohn himself was one of Trump's first mentors. But whether he's Cohn or just a fourth-rate imitator with a fat neck is still unclear.
For the rest of this highly entertaining read: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/taibbi-on-trump-the-destroyer-w473144
3. The Texas AFL-CIO is still waiting on a ruling on whether we may intervene in a lawsuit over the overtime rule approved during the Obama administration.
Meanwhile, Huffington Post reports that Labor Secretary nominee Alex Acosta said during his confirmation hearing he does not support the rule and would instead seek a lower threshold for triggering overtime pay for salaried workers. The threshold stands at $23,660 a year, which was once a middle-class salary but is now close to poverty level for many Americans. Above that extraordinarily low threshold, employers may work supervisors and professionals as many hours each week as they desire without having to pay a nickel of overtime pay. The Obama-era rule would have raised the threshold to a much more middle-class $47,476, making more than 4 million Americans eligible for overtime pay.
The rule was scheduled to take effect last Dec. 1, but a federal judge put the raise on hold.
The AFL-CIO said Acosta's overall testimony raises serious questions about whether he would stand with workers:
When Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) asked Acosta about the rule, the former National Labor Relations Board member suggested Obama's reforms were too aggressive and too costly to employers.
"The overtime rule hasn't been updated since 2004," Acosta said, referencing the Bush changes. "We now see an update [Obama's] that is a very large revision. Something that needs to be considered is the impact it has on the economy." He added that he was concerned about the "stress" Obama's reform could place on nonprofits and employers in low-wage areas.
Acosta did say he was "sensitive" to the fact that the overtime reforms hadn't been updated in so long, suggesting he was open to a more modest change that would give at least some workers new protections. But he did not venture anywhere near the reforms laid out by Obama.
Pressed by Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) for a particular salary threshold, Acosta suggested the possibility of adjusting the 2004 level for inflation.
"If you were to apply a straight inflation adjustment, I believe the figure if it were updated would be somewhere around $33,000," he said.
If the Trump administration were to do that, millions fewer workers would get overtime protections than they would have under Obama's reforms.
Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-labor-nominee-acosta-overtime_us_58d28c18e4b0b22b0d18b895
4. The Corpus Christi Caller-Times posted a take on labor's opposition to the confirmation of Josh McGee as Chair of the State Pension Review Board.
As you will recall, McGee is an employee of a foundation that advocates dismantling public employee pensions as we know them to make way for 401(k)-style savings vehicles that transfer investment risk to teachers, police, firefighters and other public employees. We believe that to be an inherent conflict of interest.
Reporter John Moritz quoted Texas AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Rick Levy in noting that McGee was left off the list of nominees confirmed by the Texas Senate this week:
"There are very few ways 11 people standing alone can shape public policy in this state. But this is one of those ways," said Rick Levy, secretary-treasurer of the Texas AFL-CIO.
Levy was referring to the 11 Democrats in the 31-member chamber, who have enough clout under the Texas Constitution to reject the nomination of Josh McGee, who in his private life has suggested public pensions systems, over time, be reconfigured along the lines of 401-K plans that do not necessarily offer a hard-and-fast dollar amount that retirees can expect to receive.
For McGee's nomination to the lead the agency that oversees state and local public pension systems to be ratified, he needs a two-thirds vote in the Senate. That's 21 votes. He appears likely to have the backing of the 20 Republican members, but if the Democrats stick together, he would be one vote short.
When McGee was considered in the Senate Nominations Committee this month, he faced some pointed questions from the three Democrats on the seven-member panel.
"Some of your op-eds have led people to believe that you'd be more interested in seeing something of a privatization of pension plans," Sen. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, told McGee, explaining his and other Democrats' misgivings on the nomination because teachers and other public-sector workers could see their promised pensions radically overhauled.
McGee, a vice president with the conservative Laura and John Arnold Foundation in private life, didn't back away from the assertion that he might prefer privatization.
"Any type of plan can be designed well or designed poorly," he replied. "So you'll see as a thread through my work of trying to improve the design of plans to support all workers in reaching retirement security."
Read more: http://bit.ly/2nkWZgw
5. Saturday marked the 106th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, in which 146 garment factory workers, most of whom were teen girls, lost their lives.
Locked doors and a broken fire escape contributed to the death toll. Horrifically, some of the victims died jumping out windows of the building, either hitting the pavement directly or falling through firefighter nets. Some tried to navigate down the elevator shaft to escape the flames; the boys who ran the elevator had been able to flee.
Those details came from Frances Perkins. The legendary Labor Secretary under President Franklin Roosevelt, who became the architect of Social Security and other New Deal programs, witnessed the fire. From a lecture Perkins delivered at Cornell University (where her son was President) in 1964:
This made a terrible impression on the people of the State of New York. I can't begin to tell you how disturbed the people were everywhere. It was as though we had all done something wrong. It shouldn't have been. We were sorry. Mea culpa! Mea culpa! We didn't want it that way...
I remember that Al Smith, who was not a governor at that time but a member of the legislature, a majority leader in the assembly, found that many of these young people were residents of the same district he was a resident of and he did the most natural and humane thing. As he said: Why I did it just as I would if they had died of anything else, you know, you go to see the father and mother to try to help them. He went to the places where they lived; he went to the tenement they had occupied to see their father and mother and tell them how sorry he was or their husband, as the case might be, or their wife, to tell them of his sympathy and grief. It was a human, decent, natural thing to do and it was a sight he never forgot. It burned it into his mind. He also got to the morgue, I remember, at just the time when the survivors were being allowed to sort out the dead and see who was theirs and who could be recognized. He went along with a number of others to the morgue to support and help, you know, the old father or the sorrowing sister, do her terrible picking out.
New York enacted a raft of health and safety laws in the years after the tragedy, setting a model for the nation. Texas, which has suffered through several refinery explosions, still does not have a state Occupational Safety and Health Administration law.
6. Our Sisters and Brothers at the Texas State Employees Union posted a bus schedule for the union's Lobby Day at the Capitol, which takes place Wednesday, April 12.
You can plan to catch a cheap bus ride from within reasonable striking distance of any far-flung city in Texas. See the schedule: http://bit.ly/tseubusschedule
To buy a ticket and further plan for TSEU Lobby Day, go to this link: http://cwa-tseu.org/?page_id=6156
7. Viva Cesar Chavez! Austin Community marched on Saturday