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Assessing Obama's State of the Union Speech

(Photo by Robin Holland)

In this week's JOURNAL, Bill Moyers had a wide-ranging conversation with AFL-CIO leader Richard Trumka about the relevance and agenda of the labor movement, as well as how unions are evaluating President Obama's performance in office thus far.

Trumka had this to say about Obama's State of the Union speech on Wednesday night:

"I think the speech was interesting in a lot of ways. [Obama] knows that there's a lot of anger and frustration out there, and he was willing to look at people and say 'you're an obstructionist.' He looked right at the Republicans and said 'you can't say no to everything and call that leadership.' He looked at the Supreme Court and said 'you made a bad decision that's gonna hurt this country. Corporations already have too much power. You just handed 'em more.' So, I think he's starting to understand and feel the anger, and I think he's willing to work his way through. Now, the question becomes will he do it on a scale that's necessary or essential to solve the problem... it has to be large scale... Our job is to make sure that his understanding of the anger translates out into a jobs program of sufficient size to solve the problem."

Others expressed a less positive perspective on Obama's speech. The WALL STREET JOURNAL editorial board wrote:

"If President Obama took any lesson from his party's recent drubbing in Massachusetts, and its decline in the polls, it seems to be that he should keep doing what he's been doing, only with a little more humility, and a touch more bipartisanship... On health care, Mr. Obama offered a Willy Loman-esque soliloquy on his year-long effort, as if his bill's underlying virtues and his own hard work haven't been truly appreciated by the American public. He showed no particular willingness to compromise, save for a claim that he was open to other ideas... Many of the President's opponents will welcome this failure to change because they sense partisan opportunity. But our guess is most Americans will be disappointed because they sense a Presidency that began with such promise but now finds itself at a crossroads and doesn't really know what to do--except to stay on the same road that got it into trouble."

What do you think?

  • What was your take on President Obama's State of the Union speech? Did it change your opinion of his administration?

  • Were there issues that you wanted the President to cover that he did not address? Explain.

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    I think that we should pull back are troops from the war in Afganistan.

    Richard Trumka...
    I can remember when unions were a vital element of our society.
    Henry Ford knew that if he was going to be able to sell his automobiles to the working people he would have to pay them enough wages to be able to aford to buy an automobile.
    He resisted the unions because he was afraid the union leaders would take over the company.
    The unions started out as a strong voice for the workers but it did not take long before the union representatives were corrupted by the easy money from membership dues. After that the MAFIA got involved and payoffs by large corporations made the unions ineffective.
    After World War Two the unions went along with working women keeping their jobs rather than giving veterans their jobs back.
    Because unions were corrupted and no longer affective; members began to quit the unions and the unions instead of demanding better wages for the workers went along with fringe benefits that did not pay the bills.
    Now the work is going out of the country and the unions have no leverage.
    In a capitalist system; those without leverage do not survive.
    We need a government that supports the Demand Side of Economics.
    Hopefully, the unions will return to their roots and demand sufficient pay to support quality lifestyles. If the present trend continues we will all be minimum wage slaves.

    I sorry I didn't want to watch Obama's speech. I was inspired with getting him elected, I was an active member of the party, I had real hope for change, but now is seems like the same old same old. I see the democrats bowing to corporate pressure. They like talking the talk, I need them walk the walk. It's looks like it's not going to happen. Money is the root of the problem, so that means there is nothing I can do about that. Obama is even afraid to confront his own party. Speeches are nice but I need some firm leadership. Being the nice centrist is not going to work. The only thing I can see that can have any effect is a national peoples day off. The unemployed and underemployed, anybody effected but our current economy should take a day off. Lets go to our state capitals, or Washington so we can be seen and heard, email, make phone calls do something. I think April fools day would be appropriate. I am totally frustrated as are most of the people I know with this do nothing corrupt government. I would express my true frustration but it would violate the rules of this forum. Bill: the pot is boiling and the people are angry, believe me. Mister president we need action today, if you call us out we will come, please just not more speeches. H.Beasley

    The Free Choice Act is obviously unfair and counter to the principles of a democracy. How comfortable would we be publishing everyone’s votes for all elections? We have secret ballots so that people are not pressured and persecuted for their votes. That Bill Moyers said nothing to challenge this (and was similarly passive the last time he met with Rick Trumka), makes him pretty much a hack for the unions.

    There’s nothing wrong with Moyers being biased to the left and that he’s pro-union. But his actions here show that he’ll ignore any fact, no matter how obvious, that is in conflict with his goals. I’m with Moyers on single payer and corporate spending on elections. But I look to others for facts around these issues as I can’t trust Moyers to raise anything that’s counter to his end goal.

    Can't believe anyone's ego can be so big as to publish confessions & think he is too big to be proscecuted--don't close Gitmo yet!

    Posted by: Billy Bob

    Well, Billy Bob, YOU aren't being a good christian if you don't FORGIVE him! Get it?

    It's sociopathic - notice how UNFORGIVING they are to all the stupid people that they ripped off...? It was in the State of the Union late-night talk show as a JOKE...

    They got Supremes over-riding the JURY verdict...

    Our "government" has implemented anarchy...

    And they're going to continue to project their anarchy on to "the people" and accuse ANY SANE attempts to stop the anarchy

    as being the anarchy, itself!

    Simplified - they blow up your house, take a picture of you in that split second of horror realization where ANY face is contorted with a wide range of emotion and reaction and then they'll project that STAGED, entrapment image of YOU as proof that you are irrationally angry...

    Qui Tam the Federal Reserve Board for a conspiracy to bring down the infrastructure of the USA.


    They already had TWO YEARS to vacumn everything up...

    More misery for others = more money for ME ME ME

    works as a math formula to become rich and they WILL NOT stop using that math!

    Enronistas went from energy to real estate to health insurance - let's send the bastards back to can not turn the whole USA over to slum lords...

    Anna D. 2-1 1:35pm You hit that nail on the head!

    Per AOL, Paulson has a new book about the financial crisis where he says he wanted to ask congress for $500 Billion, but an underling suggested $700 Billion as the uproar would be no louder than for $500 Billion, & $1 Trillion was too big a number. so The Great Secretary of the Treasury
    Paulson upped his request by 40% without good financial based reasoning!

    Tarred & Feathering should be only the beginning!

    Am I overboard with this Financial Crisis Treason?

    Billy Bob Florida

    PS Can't believe anyone's ego can be so big as to publish confessions & think he is too big to be proscecuted--don't close Gitmo yet!


    To: demcon | February 2, 2010 2:39 AM

    Thanks for noticing. I doubt, however, that either Moyers or Trumka will.

    I also tried posting the same on the AFL-CIO blog, but so far, the Webmaster has censored my entire post. Since my essay does not violate any of the blog posting rules, one can only doubt the union leadership's commitment to democracy.

    To: demcon | February 2, 2010 2:39 AM

    Thanks for noticing. I doubt, however, that either Moyers or Trumka will.

    I also posted smae on the AFL-CIO blog site, but the Webmaster has so far censored the post. As my essay does not violate any of the blog posting rules, one can only doubt the union leadership's position on democracy.

    I agree 100% with Malcolm. The most obvious thing I noticed during the President's speech was the complete lackadaisical response from the Republican party that only further fueled my belief that they are so far removed from the real issues of the "middle class" that they can't possible relate to what's happening outside of their little Corporate fed worlds.
    I am by no means a Democratic supporter either. The complete and total inability from the current whimpy Democratic Senate also proves to me what a bunch of whipped sissies they actually are.
    It's about time we had someone with the cahonies to tell these big corporations to "stick it where the sun don't shine"!
    The current Republican engineered Supreme Court violated the very oath they all took when they sold the political rights of the people to any large corporation (foreign & domestic) who is willing to pay.
    And now we see further movement to the far right by the party declaring that they will not support anyone who is not a 100% party supporter. Call it whatever you like but to me that wreaks of Nazism. Conservatives I have no problem with, Neo-Conservatives???? They are Corporate henchmen who cross their fingers while taking an oath.
    And Democrats are a bunch of whiney little babies who are about as worthless as a bucket of beans without water.
    All in all, I too believe along with many others on here, that the time has come for another party to enter the arena because the two we have are completely drunken with power and useless to us the people.
    My vote from now on will go to only remove an incumbent if there is no 3rd party candidate but where there is a 3rd party candidate, you're GUARANTEED my vote! And if you don't work for the people (not Corporations), you too will be removed at a later date!

    ... I'd like to hear a response from Bill Moyers and Rick Thumka on the following essay.

    My takeaway from this interview with Trumka is that Trumka supports powerful, vested interests in this country, not labor. Here’s why.

    Trumka says, “Well, the class war's been on, except my class has been losing.” What does he mean? From 2005 to 2008, as the AFL-CIO’s chief Financial Officer, Trumka cajoled the union brass to increase his annual salary from $165,000 to $238,975…an increase of nearly 45% over four years. When he retires, he is ensured an AFL-CIO pension equal to 60% of his top pay. His pay as current AFL-CIO president is certainly much higher than $238,975. So does he mean to equate himself with the middle class, or is he claiming that the wealthy class to which he does belong is losing?

    Trumka provides a misleading look at Japan’s recession (now going on 20 years), claiming that its reluctance to spend its way out of the recession prevented an economic rebound. First, Japan’s real GDP did not begin stagnating until the beginning of the 1990s. Its growth turned negative in 1998. During that same approximate time, its unemployment rate nearly doubled. Between 1992 and 1995, Japan tried six, large spending programs and cut income tax rates. In 1998, Japan cut taxes again and unveiled two large stimulus plans with much money earmarked for public works. In 1999 and again in 2000, it launched two other large stimulus plans. Overall during the 1990s, Japan tried 10 fiscal stimulus packages totaling more than 100 trillion yen, and each failed to cure the recession. What the spending programs have done, however, is put Japan's government in poor fiscal shape.

    Moyers asked Trumka, “So, what are your economists, your experts, your scholars, your academicians telling you we should be spending for the jobs program…” It should be obvious by the above that Trumka does consult with or read the analyses of experts, scholars or academicians. Moreover Trumka’s response to this question begins with…extend unemployment benefits! Wow, what an excellent jobs program idea.

    After that, Trumka suggests that the Feds should direct revenues to the states and local governments for construction (infrastructure), education, police and fire. These moves would nicely support growth in union revenue for Mr. Trumka, but do little to build the industry / new economy he gives mouth to at the end of the interview. Lastly, he suggests that the Feds should recycle returned TARP funds to yet more banks…but this time to regional and community banks. What visionary thinking! Did he cover all his special interest groups, or what?

    In response to Moyers’ question about funding the above programs, Trumka valiantly suggests the “populist” idea of more heavily taxing the very wealthy. In case you were wondering how Trumka defines “very wealthy,” Moyers suggested that Trumka might refer to individuals earning at least $250,000 annually. Trumka’s response to this suggestion concerns a story that Nancy Pelosi had ventured that the earnings floor should be set at one million. Latter, Trumka accuses the Senate of coddling millionaires. What a conveniently high target to set. What about all the politicians coddling those earning in the six figures, Mr. Trumka?

    Trumka claims that residents of Massachusetts have universal health care. Wrong. They have state-mandated health insurance. Trumka also is wrong in claiming that most Americans want the kind of healthcare reform proposed by our Congress. The popular opposition is not focused on increased taxation, but on the noxiousness of the current bills that have been written by and for medical, insurance and pharmaceutical corporations. These bills do not represent healthcare reform and Trumka should drop the Orwellian nomenclature adopted by our politicians and the media.

    In response to Moyers’ question about why the nation hasn’t seen more public demonstrations from people who have lost their job, Trumka cowardly blames those at the bottom. Mr. Trumka, why is the union leadership not organizing more public demonstrations, civil disobedience, strikes, and issue-oriented education? Is it because the leadership is unwisely spending its energy on political lobbying and encouraging its members to vote Democratic?

    Then Moyers and Trumka discuss the current difficulties in getting Obama’s nominations to The National Labors Relations Board confirmed by the Senate. Trumka conveniently blames the Republicans. But the Republicans are expending more energy on this issue. According to a January 20, 2010 article in The Nation, sufficient counter pressure from either labor unions or their progressive allies is the problem. Where is the fight, Mr. Trumka?

    Trumka also claims that collective bargaining is the way to higher wages. Really? Is that how he grabbed a nearly 45% salary increase over four years?

    Moyers’ points out that neither the majority Democratic Congress nor Obama has delivered on any issue allegedly supported by union leadership. Trumka doeth protest that Obama has made labor-friendly appointments…but mentions only Hilda Solis. Is this supposed to justify support of the Democratic Party? PUHLEEZ.

    Trumka gives Obama’s performance as President an A-minus for doing nothing for labor. I rate Trumka’s performance an A-minus for the same reason. And in this PBS interview, despite his attempts at populist grandstanding, Trumka again reveals that he is only interested in protecting the current status quo, not the interests of labor.

    "I am going to form NIP = National Independent Party, and put out a manifesto in simple words saying what people want = change the way Washington works and we do not want money from companies, interest groups, lobbyists.Would it work Yes!!

    Uh, we are trying to get our money BACK from them.

    Our "government" gave the banksters at Gold Man Plunder and Sack


    and the "top performers" at the Sackers gave themselves bonuses in the EXACT amount of CURRENCY as was extracted from All


    the foreclosures in the USA.

    You're right about the "game" being over.

    JVHodgson 2-1-1:42am NIP may be a good idea, but, if you do not see PRE-Mass Obama (healthcare is all we heard)and POST-Mass Obama (now all we hear is jobs, jobs, jobs), as no better than the Party-of-NO, which said the economy should come before all resources are spent on healthcare, THEN why will either side or the Independants have a reason to believe you offer a difference?

    Each Party may have a good idea or two, but their methods are counter-productive, and both sides have a hand in the FINANCIAL CRISIS and are trying to ignore, delay, hoping Mainstreets memory will fade.

    May I suggest you consider for your mission statment the inclusion of ACCOUNTABILITY & RESPONSIBILIYT as primary.

    Good luck,
    Billy Bob Florida

    On balance the speech was masterpiece, and if people and politicians have any respect for POTUS it was not just Rhetoric.
    This word, rhetoric, is used a lot in Media and by pundits I was taught that this had a slightly demeaning inference of Ah "just meaningless words."
    Well he got one thing right for all politicians, it's jobs , jobs, jobs and the economy.
    The stony faced performance of Republicans ( and democrats in the past) is disrespectful and another reason why the Voters have had enough with Politicians. As one voter I can see good things in both sides positions on health care, and again he got that right in the speech.When Obama rhymed off tax cuts passed he could not even get a smile out of Republicans, give us all a break please!!
    He also said its time for Washington to do the will of the people as a whole and not the specific interests ( of special interests corporates and lobbyists) of one party or one ideology. In effect be part of the solution not the problem,by just saying no.
    I am so fed up with Republicans saying Yes health care is essential climate change must be addressed, etc etc and then saying do it 100% our way our ideology or we will stop anything you democrats propose.
    They also promote emotions like death panels and keep it up even when debunked, shout "You lie" to POTUS, disgraceful, and have the AUDACITY to maintain no need for financial regulation or have no responsibilty for any of the National debt.
    Something has to change or the people will deliver a message in 2010 and after neither party wants to see happen.
    I am going to form NIP = National Independent Party, and put out a manifesto in simple words saying what people want = change the way Washington works and we do not want money from companies, interest groups, lobbyists.Would it work Yes!!

    Aanon wrote, "Heck Mr. Moyers, I couldn't get to a demonstration. I lost my car, I have zero income even from unemployment because I was self-employed, I am scrambling for food, I am on my last family loans and will likely not be posting comments on a blog by next month, because, unless I get a job in the next few weeks, I am on the street.

    And heck no, I've never been in this position before, ever. I was in a solid middle class earning bracket. I had never been poor. I am terrified."

    You have perfectly described how efficiently the hedgehogs, the bansters, the MILLIONS of sniveling, sociopathic, "there-is-no-difference-between-virtual- reality-and-reality-to-me" CREATED POVERTY out of sane and sustainable wealth.

    How crazy is that?!

    Seriously, stop and REALLY think about how CRAZY this situation IS?

    Solidarity was a labor movement in Poland that took back reality from the delusionists and their "isms"....basically, the "black market" was how LIFE kept going and everyone finally said why keep pretending it's "communism"...?

    American Labor - OLYMPIC LABOR in historical perspective - can do the same.

    We were all robbed. We have the paperwork to PROVE what the enronistas (spunking hooligans, male and female) DID.

    OF COURSE enronistas, hedgehogs and bankstere don't know how to "create" jobs!!

    Their math formula for becoming THE Big Giant Head is"

    More misery for others =
    more money for ME ME ME.

    Okay, fine, if a couple million people in USA do not have the COURAGE to stop psychobabblizing themselves with the language that is used by the CRIMINALS...

    DO NOT make the mistake of tearing down the people who DO have the courage.

    No one I know is teaching their children to WORSHIP psychotics and sociopaths as their "leaders".

    It's about the's not about ME ME ME

    Mr. Moyers, you asked why we haven't seen more demonstrations by people who have lost work.

    Heck Mr. Moyers, I couldn't get to a demonstration. I lost my car, I have zero income even from unemployment because I was self-employed, I am scrambling for food, I am on my last family loans and will likely not be posting comments on a blog by next month, because, unless I get a job in the next few weeks, I am on the street.

    And heck no, I've never been in this position before, ever. I was in a solid middle class earning bracket. I had never been poor. I am terrified.

    It's not easy being a union activist or leader.

    Unions had more clout when they were permitted to strike.

    In these wacky times with a bad economy and run-away deficits, one has to ask themselves how strong is their company?

    Many who worked for General Motors were bought out right at the brink, and deposited the rotting carcass on the steps of U.S. taxpayer.

    We simply don't have strong corporations to play games with anymore.
    They have succumbed to globalization, downsizing and top heavy (mis)management.

    Tough road ahead for us workers.

    mr moyers, i wish the talking heads would show the courage of truth when they spin and dont say the president's inability to move forward is based on a first for a incoming president. Never in recent history has the opposing party collectively chosen to sit on their hands to ensure failure at all cost, even if it means trumping the rule of law and the good of country.

    President Professor lectured, attempted spinning 'his' side's reasons for falling short (Bush's fault), and attempted to sound like a Decider. He just sounds like a professor.

    Both sides misunderstand the depth, breath, and intensity of the anger of Mainstreet!

    Insurance competition across state lines, coverage of pre-exsisting health conditions, Tort reform...

    Why are Democrats and Republicans having so much trouble with this?
    They hope to keep Mainstreet's attention away from the Dereliction of Duty by Congress!

    What has happened to the Accountability of Wall Street & The FED, Treasury, SEC?
    COVERED UP! (by little committee meetings)

    Brooksley Born warned Congress 10 yrs ago about CDSs & Congress removed her from her chairmanship!
    REF, PBS, Michael Kirk

    Get with it Mainstreet!
    Call your Congressmen!!!

    Billy Bob Florida

    I wish that Moyers had asked Trumka why, since the voter has so little choice at the polls, he does not use his unions' influence to support third parties? Why does he adhere to the Democratic Party which since Truman has harmed organized labor?

    Creating 10 mil jobs seems like so much fantasy. I really have seen little talk about the millions of jobs sent overseas and the millions of visa workers employed. That's where the jobs went. What is needed are tariffs that equalize producing in places that do so on the backs of workers. Jobs will return. Secondly, quit permitting foreign nationals to dominate our grad schools and then stay and take jobs. How about subsidizing Americans in grad schools as foreign govs now do. Creating jobs is as much about not letting corps destroy them and creating new ones.

    A great contributor to the ailing U.S. economy is due to consumers overpaying for products, not per se the unions driving up the wages and improving the work place environment, the environmental regulations, or the government’s trade policies.

    Globalization? Aren't we a nation first and shouldn't we protect our national economy? Most Americans will have to take a gigantic step backwards so the world can be brought to an even playing field if we are only concerned about the global economy.

    A thought for the U.S. Consumer (a.k.a. the American worker):

    It's not necessarily where a product is made. It's what the consumer is paying for the product/service that has had a negative effect on the U.S. economy. The consumer needs to ask, "How much profit should a company make to bring a product to market?"

    The reason the manufacturing of products and services have moved overseas is that the corporate profit margin is greater. If consumers closed their wallets or were only willing to pay a max of a 12% market up, or there about, of the cost-to-market of an item, then logistically it would be better, or at least easier, for the product to be built in the United States even if it cost more to make it here due to the higher labor cost, environmental regulations, etc. For example, 12% of a $1.00 is 12 cents and 12% of $5.00 is 60 cents. If a company can bring a product to market for a $1.00, instead of $5.00 and sell it for $2.00 - a 100% mark up - it will. Who wouldn't? The consumer should only be willing to pay roughly $1.12 for such a product. The US worker, who is purchasing the product for $2.00, buys it because it cost less than a similar product made by a worker in the U.S.. It's a short term fix for the worker’s financial state. It would appear to be the wiser purchase. It would appear that one is saving money. Which brings up another question that should be asked before purchasing products or services, "What is the hidden cost?"

    A corporation sole legal responsibility is to make as much profit as it can. By outsourcing the work to developing nations with a less expensive labor force and lack of environmental regulations, the corporation better meets its legal responsibility only if consumers keep overpaying for the products and services. So in the long run, the hidden costs are the loss of existing jobs and lack of the creation of new jobs in the US, not to mention the environmental impact.

    To keep the USA economy strong, consumers need to be informed and responsible and only pay a price that reflects an appropriate profit margin - put the rest in a saving account instead of the corporate bonus checks. If we continue to overpay for everything, we are purchasing the death of America.

    As one economist stated, "the only way to truly save is not to spend."

    The president's speach doesn't matter to me, but his actions do.
    And because of them I didn't hear a word he said.


    I am a labor activist, I am a union steward and have been on our unit negotiating committee six times. I work at a large public employer in Minnesota.

    I have respected Rich Trumka in the past for his militant leadership, esp in the Pittson strike in 1989, which was a huge victory. He has been one of the more progressive voices within the Amerian labor movement.

    I can't say how disappoined I was and have been, with his recent leadership. Your interview really revealed how he has largely become an arm of the Democratic party, which is a dead end. His assesment of our prospects with the Democrats is incredibly rosy, which is totally unrealistic. Employee Free Choice Act passing ? I doubt it. With the Massachusetts loss, the Democrats are moving further to the right.

    We as a labor movement have so much work to do. We need to mobilize our ranks to fight for broad goals that have public support, move out ossified leadership, as well as take on the employers where our current members work. We need to work with the environmental movement more. We need to work on building an alternative progressive party, like they have in so many other rich countries.

    All of this is a tall order, and Trumka at this point has no plan of action to move on these issues.

    Scott wrote, in part, "For those who discredit unions on this post consider the following historical facts:
    1. It was individuals fighting in unions who won all of us the eight hour day.
    2. It was individuals fighting in unions that barred our children from working in sweat shops.
    3. It was individuals fighting in unions that fought for and won, against a very powerful capitalist adversary for wages, that more equitable and more accurately reflectd the value of labor's contribution to profits.
    4. If it wasn't for individuals fighting in unions the, middle class of the US would be a miniscule class of people instead of the teeming millions it is today."

    Scott, man, your 4 points are what is driving the Republicans insane with HATRED - they do NOT think that those 4 gains are a GOOD thing...Moyers almost jumped out of his seat with relief when Trumka confirmed it to him that people are so beat up that they are giving up!

    It's okay, peeps, don't worry - the 30 year old divide and conquer schtick of "liberal" vs. "conservative" has actually UNITED us all against such dementia-ridden "politics" - don't sub-divide the POWERFUL


    ALWAYS are there unintended consequences in a "war"...

    All I care about is the next generation - the 20 somethings...

    First things first - get a CURRENCY in place - when 1% of the population claims to OWN 90% of all the wealth in the USA

    (via enronista tactics AND "politics")

    there is no such thing as an ECONOMY in place...get it?

    Hans j Wagner opined, in part, "It appears to me that this distorted view of history deserves a correction. Have both you and Rick Trumka heard of "globalization" - in all of its natural and beneficial aspects? Are you at all cognizant that it was precisely during those times (and throughout the 80ies) that we (largely due to Union brow-beating and "management's" tolerance of these) have squandered the competitive advantages of the US?"

    This is so misleading, that I guess that's why no one is bothering to debate with you...

    NAFTA was a "bolshevik revolution" injected with steroids...

    More dysfunctional politics. We have no leadership in this country from any of the three houses of goverment. This portends awful thngs for the future

    I always enjoy and look forward to Bill Moyes Journal even though he never addresses the massive problems facing America, the control the priveleged have over the country.

    Democracy went out the window many years ago but 2000 must be one of the mile posts when the Supreme Court decided who will be President and not the People.

    Now that same body hammered another nail into the democracy coffin by announcing corporations are individuals with the same rights. Corporations should never be allowed to express a view about a person running for office simply because the views expressed are not of the corporation but of the principle investers in that business.

    The unions have a different position in that the members can get rid of the mamagement if they wish.

    Why should union membership be tied to a job? There are many people who share organized labors’ concerned, but don’t work in an environment where a tradition union is needed. Just as healthcare should not depend upon employment, perhaps some type of union membership should not as well.

    It was good to hear from Rich Trumka but it baffles me to no end why they continue to support the Democrats. There are other parties in this country who are committed to really fight for the majority of the population. For example, most other free republics have an average of 5 to 6 political parties with elected representatives in their respective "houses/parliments".
    For those who discredit unions on this post consider the following historical facts:
    1. It was individuals fighting in unions who won all of us the eight hour day.
    2. It was individuals fighting in unions that barred our children from working in sweat shops.
    3. It was individuals fighting in unions that fought for and won, against a very powerful capitalist adversary for wages, that more equitable and more accurately reflectd the value of labor's contribution to profits.
    4. If it wasn't for individuals fighting in unions the, middle class of the US would be a miniscule class of people instead of the teeming millions it is today.
    Our future depends on workers cooperating with each other (not competing with the "Joneses")for mutual benefit. There is far more strength in cooperating with one's fellows...if you doubt this...look in the mirror at the assemblage of 20 trillion plus cells working together - to each according to their need from each according to their ability. That's strength that is power - realize it!

    The dismantling of American industry started back in the 80's when leveraged buyouts and hostile takeovers were the rage. Wall street learned that companies were worth more dead than alive.

    As I posted in another of Moyer's blog topics. We had no national philosopher to advise the politicians if this was a good thing or not.

    Sure the financiers could make millions, but we had forgot that at the base of this transaction were the workers of America just trying to get by. And the million of dollars profits for one person had to be exchanged for the millions of dollars lost by the workers as they were downsized right out of existence.

    Q: What was your take on President Obama’s State of the Union speech? Did it change your opinion of his administration?

    A: The speech was very well constructed, carefully and sincerely delivered and all in all was a very nice defense/sales job. It did not make me more confident in this administration's leadership over the next year.

    Q: Were there issues that you wanted the President to cover that he did not address?

    A: Yes. Wars. I have written to Mr. Obama several times about the need for the US taxpayer to have a say in what our money is effecting in Israeli/Palestinian relations or lack thereof. This seminal topic was never addressed, and therefore it seems that no one heard what is a wide spread concern out here in the bush, where we the people pay the bills, with money and treasure, and in effect continue to foster this long standing cancer.
    To ignore what is perhaps the largest foreign aid appropriation, which goes on year after year, and which IMV is the basis for the birth and growth of anti-American sentiment and terror campaigns out of the Islamic world is a glaring omission, and is evidence of weakness in this administration. It is the elephant in the room!

    If President Obama has left this to the diplomats and the UN, it is to his leadership detriment. Former Senator from Maine, George Mitchell's last visit to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was barely over, Mitchell had just taken off in his plane when Netanyahu announced that Israel owns Jewish settlements in the West Bank (Palestinian land) IN PERPETUITY. Mitchell should have just sent an email and saved the gasoline it took to fly him to Israel. It is also tragic that the vibrant peace movement inside of Israel (Jewish Voice for Peace, J Street, and others) has no hearing in the US press. Obama might have spoken to the fact of these groups as evidence that freedom and justice are concepts which move people all over the world. Israel is supposed to be one of our democratic friends. In a democracy, how can the police, without consequence, put down public demonstrations for peace, and America makes no complaint? Where is the Obama administration's decency?

    Speaking of class wars...

    Yes, that is the first thing coming out of the mouths of the rich and powerful..."You can't tax us extra...that is class warfare!"

    As Trumka said, the war has been on for the working class for a long time by the wealthy and powerful.

    As the disparity between the rich and poor escalate, the poor will start class wars as they have done throughout history when he rich crowd out their very survival through greed.

    The poor have no other alternative-do they? The rich control the gov and only pass legislation to benefit the rich.

    I read some town in OH banned trash picking. If your caught digging through the trash you can be fined $500 or jailed for 30 days. People that trash pick generally are not rich. They do it trying to survive. Now the local gov has taken away the unemployed's last hopes for honest work of some sort. What is left for them to do to try and eat?

    Seems to be many such trends chipping away at our very survival before the SHTF comes knocking at our door. So even if none of our SHTF scenarios come to fruition, living life itself can be a survival feat nowadays. Just look at the Individual Mandate the gov has proposed to fine the poor for not being able to afford health insurance.

    I talked with a trash man the other day. I noticed he was working all alone and asked where his buddy was. He said his company keeps downsizing the crew. His trash crew used to consist of a driver and 2 men to load. Then it was cut back to a driver and a loader. Now he does it all - he drives, gets out and loads the trash then back in and drives on.

    I asked if the company was worried about burning him out in the icy winter and humid summers. He said there is a line of guys a mile long waiting to take his place when he can't do it any longer. I guess if the trash company could do it by robots they would cut him out as well.

    Another guy I talked with said his company converted a lot of the workforce to part time, so they did not have to offer benefits.

    A lady mental health therapist said her firm was trying to encourage the higher paid senior therapists to leave, so they could replace them with younger therapists that are paid much less and can be worked longer hours. And when that only went so far, they started to write people up to build a case to fire them. After only 2 years of this effort they have reduced their workforce from 126 to 52 employees!

    The other day I called up toll free directory to find an 800 number. In the old days a live person answered the phone. then they got rid of most of the people and a computer answered the phone. If the computer didn't work, you had the option to talk with a live operator. Now you just talk with the computer and if the computer fails, they just refer you to their website and have dumped all live help.

    I'm sure we have all talked with some workers in India trying to figure out some customer service problem we are having.

    And it is not just the low paying jobs heading to India. A radiologist told me that the trend is to send the Xrays to India now via facsimile for the Indian MD's to read. Just takes few seconds to export why not save hundreds of dollars so the healthcare industry can make more profits?

    Even the poor parking lot attendants are not secure to make min wage. The trend is computerized self serve and dump the gate attendant.

    I guess it all started back in the 70's, when China opened up and the turbo capitalist realized how much more money they could make by dumping the US workers and shipping production overseas.

    Maybe that was the deal Nixon made? You (China) stop trying to take over the world with communism and we will buy your crap so your people can eat? Others say it came about from the US's desire to export all its polluting industries overseas so the US wouldn't have to deal with all that mess.

    In any case, pretty soon we will all be eating chicken from China.

    (Actually you are probably eating Chinese chicken right now. The gov enacted a law that does not mandate country of origin data for ingredients that have been processes. Your fast food chicken parts can come from ANYPLACE!)

    Richard stated that "a 5.6 percent tax surcharge on any income over $1 million. Just money over $1 million." And that would have produced $400 billion".
    Can this be verified? It sounds like a stretch.

    And as a small business owner I shutter to think that a company with four or five employees could be forced to unionized if this law is passed. This will cause outsourcing, loss of jobs, and discriminatory hiring practices.

    Richard Trumka is a dinosaur of the labor movement. Like so many elected politicians, he is out of touch with what rationale citizens want. He and his union brass are more interested in protecting their political power than in working to agitate for real change.

    What are the changes that reasonable citizens want? They are not reflected in the rhetoric of current union or political leadership.

    Rationale citizens do not want more jobs, especially those that fuel the globalized military-industrial complex. Such citizens are sick of seeing more jobs in “Homeland Security,” surveillance, policing and militarization, and resource-depleting technologies. These are paths to suicide, homicide, and ecocide. We want far less globalization which only seeks to exploit. We are sick and tired of the increasing socialization of corporate losses and environmental degradation. We want far less privatization, reversal of personhood status for corporations, and many fewer monopolies and oligopolies.

    Rationale citizens want fewer tax dollars being funneled through Washington, and more going directly into our local communities. We want Social Security benefits comparable to other developed nations where worker retire not on 45% of income but on at least 65%. We want universal healthcare – not “health reform” legislation written by corporate lobbyists.

    Rational citizens want better access to our legal and political systems. We want less quantitative easing and less asset inflation. We want the option of living comfortably without having to be enslaved by debt. We want less economic inequality. We want more socially-beneficial jobs and stronger social safety nets that can support increasingly vibrant, economically-sufficient, local communities.

    Citizens who are capable of critical thinking are made nauseous by ever copious propaganda. We do not believe that any party or demagogue will “save us.” So we are also tired of unions exhorting us to support the Democrats. We are deaf to messages that our current political system deserves our support. Institutions that consistently reward bad actors do not deserve our support.

    We are exhausted by the assaults on the commonweal directed by political, union, and corporate elites. Richard Trumka does not represent a challenge to power. He is a fawning, pompous, insecure tool of the Kleptocracy. As an active union member and freethinker, I am embarrassed by the union leadership’s roles in supporting very sick economic and political systems.

    President Obama gave a strong speech and was determined and resolute. However, I was struck by two subjects that were not mentioned by Obama nor the Pundits I have heard.
    1. Apparently there are no poor people in the USA, only middle class. Obama's silence on the problems of the inner cities was striking. After all 10% Unemployment would be a Reduction for them.
    2. No mention of the Palestinians nor Israeli's during his stirring speech about America's Support of freedom and human rights.

    I'm glad to see that he has a plan to pay for this jobs bill, because the Phillips curve is obsolete. Indeed the opposite occurs: more deficit spending and money printing leads to economic contraction, because the inflation produced by it decreases the value of labor vis-a-vis assets and equities. That is why we are in the fix we are in today, and why doctors and hospitals can't be afforded. But I have nothing at all against the idea of increasing taxes, and or doing it progressively, as long as it is to balance a reasonable budget, or, as in this case, to fix a mistake. I am not all sure that the president gets this.

    As much as I frequently enjoy your often interesting and contrarian view and that of your guests, and as much as I disagree with the recent Supreme Court decision, I am extremly surprised at how overtly you "played up" to Rick Trumka. I believe this impacts your credibility, esp. when you do not question the numerous, factually incorrect statements he made ...

    Example: "The period between 1946 and 1973 were the 'good old days', when the unions proactively, selflessly, single-handedly and 'for the good of the people' created the middle class in America, when the income of 'the worker' grew faster than that 'of the rich' ..."

    It appears to me that this distorted view of history deserves a correction. Have both you and Rick Trumka heard of "globalization" - in all of its natural and beneficial aspects? Are you at all cognizant that it was precisely during those times (and throughout the 80ies) that we (largely due to Union brow-beating and "management's" tolerance of these) have squandered the competitive advantages of the US?

    Wby are you raising the issue of NAFTA in such an inviting fashion? Are you seriously questioning the substantial benefits it has brought to the US, Canada and Mexico? I seem to remember that you were an advocate?

    Why is it, that the entire conversation did not address the single key aspect of our challenges at all: The absolutely lousy state of the educational system in this country?

    Could it be that we hardly ever seen Unions strongly supporting the development of "independent minds", and the advancement of intellectual resources - after all, why would those people be interested in paying a fee for having some entity represent them?

    The President can do very little to change the direction of this country because the laws of this country have come into being to secure and protect entrenched privilege. The concentration of wealth, income and control over public policy accelerated under Ronald Reagan but did not begin there.

    Clearly, "the Democracy" that has always been the promise of this nation's founding is becoming a distant dream. We desperately need to restructure the system by which government raises and then spends revenue. Had an earlier generation of elected officials and citizens adopted the reforms advanced by Henry George in the 19th century, we would not be having these problems today. In lieu of the public collection of the rent of land (i.e., values we create together rather than individually), successive governments have come to tax every asset, every source of income and virtually every activity. To get to where Henry George argued we should be, we could start by making the income tax truly progressive by exempting all individual incomes up to, say, the national median. Then, make the tax rates as progressive as they were up until the so-called "Reagan revolution." That would be a good start at fairness. An 85% tax rate on income above, say, $20 million will have little effect on the financial well-being of those in that tax bracket. In most instances, this level of income is derived from passive and highly speculative investment rather than in the production of goods or delivery of services.

    A constitutional amendment to impose term limits on members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate also seems long overdue. Two six year terms in the Senate ought to be enough. Increase terms to four years in the House and allow them to stay a maximum of three consecutive terms.

    The list of what needs to be done and what the President could have conveyed in his State of the Union message is much longer than what I touch on above.

    I think the WSJ is interested in one thing above all else-making money and defending those that have it. They rarely disappoint on that, and it's a perspective that both informs and skews their view of the world.
    But as to SOTU, it was a great speech by a terrific speaker.
    Glad he mentioned nuclear power.Glad he mentioned Citizens United case.
    Major problem I have: you don't change the way Washington works by jawboning eloquence. What actions is he prepared to take to move legislation forward ? Try to change the supermajority and filibuster rules, or what ?
    Obama hasn't had a lot of time to learn how to wield power like an LBJ.It takes irrational commitment.

    “We do not quit,” was the statement that is a hallmark of President Obama’s first State of the Union address. I hope people were paying attention to the Republican side during the speech, because they were tipping their hand, sitting there like Supreme Court justices, a stone-faced wall, instead of joining with Democrats, standing and applauding on a lot of issues that are important to voters, showing that they, too, aren’t quitting, being obstructionists, being more concerned about defeating Democrats than the ills afflicting their constituents and the nation, of which they are proving to be big, green, mucus men and women, barraged and intransigent in the house of the People, perpetuating the suffering.

    The president, not quitting, was talking about resolve to face and conquer problems, differences, enemies, and international competition. But while he rightly chastised the Supreme Court’s ruling, which allows unlimited campaign contributions, and the bankers for sending armies of lobbyists to oppose needed bank-reform measures, he failed to put the needed emphasis on those latter items, because no matter what faces America from without, it will not be met with success while the core of America’s democracy is being relentlessly assaulted from within, by the entrenched election machine and its system of contributions and reinforced, paid influence.

    Senior legislators, charged with reforming bank and healthcare law to benefit the interests of the nation and the people, are the targets of campaign money, rained upon them by the industries the laws they form will affect, and they have undeniably been forming those laws or blocking them to serve the interests of those who got them elected, not those of the people who elected them or the nation. Campaign contributions invite corruption and the follow-up of intense lobbying, all of which also contribute to a host of related abuses, including earmarks. The money-for-influence system cannot be effectively regulated. To try and do so is like trying to quit smoking by slowly withdrawing, a method that almost always fails, compared to cold-turkey prohibition, which does work. This is why campaign reform to end all contributions and replace them with full, public funding is required. And it is the most important of all issues that face America, because the electoral system in America has devolved into an engine of corrupted influence that blocks and dilutes effective governance, and it will be the cause of the eventual destruction of America’s democracy.

    The wall separating the People from their government is already well under construction. It is a philosophy of the conservative-Republicans, and it is being funded by the influence of money, which is the tool of greed, and it has no place in a just government of the free.

    Mr. President, tear down that wall!

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