Help Speak Out California Build The Megaphone

Dear Friends;


If you love and believe in California as I do, and I know you do (!), then help us here at Speak Out California as we work to restore our state’s luster and justify its reputation as “the state that invents the future.”


We experienced it first in Sacramento and now in Washington, D.C.: majority rule has been replaced by minority control. With a 2/3 requirement in California to pass a state budget and 60 votes to pass legislation in the US Senate, the will of the people has given way to the will of a few. And these few are more often the extremists or those controlled by big corporate interests that don’t care about anything but their profits.


Why are we-the progressive majority of Californians-losing out to the radical fringe of right-wing extremists who are dictating the dismantling of our state’s infrastructure, education system, environmental and consumer protections and safety net for the less-fortunate among us?


The reasons are clear: The right-wing noise machine is drowning out the more reasonable, compassionate voices who seek meaningful change and a return to the values of hope, opportunity and fairness that made this state -and nation-great.


We need to get our megaphone turned on! Our voice that calls for real investment in our education system, protection of our natural resources, environment, healthcare for all Californians and protection against the corporate special interests whose uncontrolled greed and power has set our families, state and nation on the precipice of financial disaster.


We here at Speak Out California believe it is time to make our voice heard and to be able to rise above the hysterical din of hateful, selfish rhetoric and focus on what we want our future to look like. We have been a voice for change, explaining progressive values, telling Californians how a progressive approach will benefit them.  We are on the Internet, on the radio, in op-eds, and speaking to groups.  We want to maintain and expand our effort.   WILL YOU HELP?


With your contribution of $ 5, $10, $25 or even $100 per month, or a one-time contribution, we can continue to discuss the issues and frame the message from a progressive perspective and increase the size of our own megaphone.


The year ahead is full of big challenges and opportunities. There are over 80 ballot measures already in circulation for the 2010 elections.  Included among them are more challenges to a woman’s reproductive decision-making including one to define fertilized eggs as “persons”, one creating a special constitutional rule for speech based on “biblical authority” and one to eliminate all funding for public schools.  These are just a few of many dangerous and extremist initiatives circulating.


Speak Out California has big plans to combat those efforts. We’re planning to produce our highly acclaimed Progressive’s “One-Stop” Voter Guide. During prior elections, our highly respected guide was clicked over 1.7 million times by people like you and me looking for an honest, straight-forward and accurate progressive perspective on just what each of these ballot measures would do. No hype, no paid advertising, no propaganda, just a clear analysis so we, the people, can decide where we want the future to head and what we want our beloved California to be.


Can you help us?


Please click here and make your pledge now or send your check to Speak Out California, and send to PO Box 92010Santa Barbara, California 93190.


We need your help so we can help you see progressive democracy in action! Let’s reclaim our state and regain the megaphone to do it.  That’s why we’re here. That’s why we’re Speak Out California at


Please sign up and ask your friends to do so as well.

Thank you,

Hannah-Beth Jackson

USA Can’t Get Health Care, CA Can’t Get Budget — Same Reason

The country is trying to pass health care reform but a single Senator is able to block the popular “public option” and “Medicare buy-in” plans, because he says it is wrong to let the public have any choice besides for-profit companies.  Actually it is one Senator plus the entire Republican caucus – but we already understood that they do the bidding of the big corporations that fund them. The rule of the Senate allow minorities to thwart the will of the people and block bills.

An NBC/WSJ poll that came out yesterday showed that 45% of the public found it unacceptable that the public option was removed, and 42% acceptable, but 58% wanted the Medicare buy-in and only 32% didn’t.  But never mind, both of those are out because of one Senator (joining all the Republicans.)  This is a clear example of democracy thwarted.

In California we can’t pass a budget or tax corporations or the wealthy to pay for our schools, colleges and universities, reads, etc. for the very same reason.  Our legislature is structures to that a minority can thwart the will of the people.  It requires a 2/3 vote to pass a budget or raise revenue.  And we have a minority that is funded by the big corporations, with one corproate PAC funded by Wal-Mart, Blue Cross of Ohio (?), Reliant Energy and others putting almost $1 million of into just one race last year.

It is time to trust the people and change the system in Washington and the system in Sacramento. It is time for majority rule.


Businesses Need Customers Not Tax Cuts

A letter in today’s San Jose Mercury News expresses the misguided but oft-repeated Republican “spin” that tax cuts and deregulation “create jobs”.  As usual it bears little resemblance to the truth.


Create jobs by helping business
The two ways government can affect the job market are by spending on projects through borrowing or by reducing the tax burden on families and businesses. If it borrows, it causes another tax through inflation and interest expenses that will go on forever. If it reduces taxes and regulations, the loss in revenue will be far less than the amount the Democrats are planning to spend, and without any interest.
You create jobs by making it easier for businesses to hire people through reductions in taxes and regulations, such as a tax break for every person they hire and retain. You don’t make it harder for them by raising their expenses. Let’s do what worked in the past.

The writer is correct about the tax through interest expenses that is the result of borrowing, but incorrect about the effect of tax cuts.  In fact, it is tax cuts that have caused so much borrowing without helping the economy.  Here is what is wrong about the idea that tax cuts create jobs: 
  1. Businesses hire the employees they need to hire to meet demand. If demand is low no amount of tax cuts can induce a business to hire people. Why hire and pay people to have them just sit around?
  2. The way to get more customers into the businesses – i.e. to create demand – is to get more money circulating in the pockets of regular people. Cutting taxes for the already well-to-do doesn’t accomplish this.  The way to do this is with government policies that increase wages and reduce working hours, like how raising the minimum wage and mandating 40-hour weeks and weekends off helped create America’s middle class. Helping regular people is good for business. 
  3. The writer says we should do what has worked in the past. The fact is that the economy has always done better when the tax rates on the wealthy and corporations were highest. Just look it up. The reason for this is that our economic system when left to itself always becomes a low-age, everything-to-the-top system, because the wealthiest always game the system to get the most for themselves. The way to fix that is to apply regulations to prevent this, and high taxes at the top so the government can implement policies that raise the wages of the rest of the public. This is how we got out of the depression after the huge concentration of wealth that built up until 1929.
  4. Taxes are not an “expense.”  Businesses pay taxes on the profits (revenue minus expenses) — so the businesses that need help don’t need tax cuts, they need customers.  It doesn’t make sense to try to help businesses that are not doing well by giving even more money to their profitable competitors.  We should be using that money to instead help the businesses that need the help.  Helping the already well-to-do is bad for business.
There are no examples in history of deregulation and tax cuts creating a better economy, but plenty of these steps creating worse economies. And before you say it, Reagan’s tax cuts were followed immediately by huge tax increases, and still led to the tremendous borrowing and interest payments that the writer is worried about. And to make matters worse, Reagan’s deregulation almost led to economic collapse twice – first with the Savings and Loan crisis, and then with the recent financial crisis. 
To fix California’s economy we need to ask the wealthy and corporations to start contributing their share again, and use that money to educate our students, rebuild our infrastructure and bring back the kind of state that created and attracted the semiconductor and electronics and biochem and other industries. This all occurred when taxes were high, not low.
Tax cuts and deregulation hurt the economy.  The only economy that is ever helped by tax cuts is the economy of the Cayman Islands, where many of the rich store their hoards of cash. 

Will CA Dems Vote Next Year?

In last week’s post progressive voters on strike? Santa Barbara blogger Retired UC Santa Barbara Professor of sociology and
renowned social activist, Richard Flacks looks at recent polls showing Democratic voters to be unenthusiastic about voting while Republican voters are highly motivated.  Professor Flacks writes,

These numbers tell us that the Democrats are going to lose the elections in  2010, but the underlying data are even more disturbing. They show that the heart of  Obama;s support base is not planning to vote next year.

. . . The same sort of disillusionment pervades the ranks of liberal and
progressive activists. Each week we can add new instances of
administration betrayal of our hopes. The latest include the handling
of the Honduras coup (defying near unanimity in the rest of the
hemisphere),  and the continuation of Bush policies on  the land mine
treaty. The escalation of the war dwarfs all these other failures.

This is not President Obama’s fault, necessarily,

I’ve said in this space that it’s the structure of power in America
rather than Obama’s weakness of will that accounts for the growing
feeling that the chances for progressive reform are slipping away.

Professor Flacks’ post looks at a national poll, the “base” sense of betrayal is on national issues, and President Obama is not from California, but there is no reason to believe California Democrats are any more enthused.  More likely less so.  California Democrats who do pay attention see Democrats in Sacramento caving over and over again to the demands of an extremist Republican minority, while those not paying attention see generally that nothing good is happening and government is doing very little for them.

What might come along to raise democratic enthusiasm and encourage them to vote?  Jerry Brown running for Governor?  With the statements he’s been making, don’t bet that
Democrats are going to be enthusiastic about Jerry Brown as their
standard-bearer either.

Why America needs to go back to taxing the wealthy

(This article originally appeared in the San Jose Mercury News)

America has always been a place where a person could get rich, it used
to be that you got rich a bit more slowly, and everyone benefited in
the process. This is because we used to have very high tax rates at the

A person could do very well, but income that came in above a
certain level was highly taxed and used to pay for the teachers,
police, courts and roads that enabled businesses to thrive. Just how
high were taxes? During America’s “golden years” of 1951-1963, tax
rates were over 90 percent on income over $400,000. Then through the
1960s and 70s, they were 70 percent on income above $200,000.

had many beneficial results — especially for the people who paid higher
taxes. Back then, government could afford to invest in programs that
improved everyone’s standard of living, including health, knowledge and
technology, all without borrowing. History recalls these as the years
we created and grew our prosperous middle class, built our public
universities, conducted our economy-changing scientific research and
developed a culture of thriving entrepreneurial businesses.

when it took time to make a fortune, business people had to rely on the
health of the greater community to nurture their own enterprises. They
had to think and act long-term. They had to carefully build solid
businesses that satisfied their customers. They had to hold on to
workers because their experience was valuable.

Meanwhile, the roads and bridges used by their trucks
were kept in repair, our schools provided excellent education to their
potential employees, and our courts were well funded to properly
enforce contracts. Businesses and communities depended on each other to
do well.

But once top tax rates were lowered, vast personal
fortunes could be realized from a single quick deal. This created
incentives for people to engage in activities that we can now see
helped make our country a worse, and less prosperous, place.

became predatory, caring little for the community because executives
planned to get rich quick and leave soon. Short-term business models
that cut employees to the bone and took advantage of customers began to
make sense.

Because of reductions in tax revenue, we cut spending
on schools and infrastructure. Yet even with all these cuts, our
federal government had to borrow to make up a shortfall. Now we have a
massive debt that costs us hundreds of billions in interest each year.

businesses’ interdependence with the community went out the window, it
became more profitable to outsource or sell off our manufacturing
capacity. Then, as communities fell apart, those few who benefited from
such business practices could just fly away in their private jets. The
greater community was of no use to them except as a crop to be

We can see the effects of this quick-buck, short-term
thinking all around us today. Our roads and bridges and schools are
falling apart. The experiment in low taxes has nearly destroyed our
economy, too, and may yet if we don’t stop borrowing instead of asking
the wealthy to pitch in.

So it is time to change the formula. It
is time to make our businesses part of our communities again. The way
to do this is to continue to help people become wealthy — just a bit
more slowly, please, and bring us all along. Bring back the top tax
rates of our golden years so we can all enjoy the benefits of our
economy again.

Sen. Feinstein Demands Social Security Cuts

California Senator Dianne Feinstein has joined a group of Senators threatening to allow the nation to default on its debt unless a commission to “fast track” cuts to Social Security is created. 

Talking Points Memo describes what is going on,

Moderate and conservative Democrats want to empower an outside
entitlement commission to reshape major domestic spending programs like
Medicare and Social Security, and they’re threatening a truly nuclear
option to get their way. If Congress does not create this commission,
they say, they will vote against must-pass legislation to raise the
nation’s debt ceiling, which would trigger a default, and, perhaps,
economic calamity.

“I will not vote for raising the debt limit without a vehicle to
handle this,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) told McClatchy. “This is our

About this commission,

As proposed, it would hand a significant amount of Congressional
authority over entitlement programs to an outside body. That body would
make recommendations that Congress would have to vote on, up or
down–no filibusters.
That’s a bridge way too far for liberals, who see the commission as a backdoor approach to gutting Social Security.

Here’s the problem.  Many people believe that there is a problem with Social Security – that it is “going broke.”  But the fact is that Social Security has a huge reserve in the bank.  Social Security runs a huge surplus, and that surplus has been added to this reserve every year for decades.  Social Security will continue running a surplus until at least 2017, and can then draw on that trust fund to make up any shortfalls for at least the next 30-40 years.

Ah, but where is that trust fund?  According to a recent Washington Post story, 

The Treasury Department has for decades borrowed money from the Social
Security trust fund to finance government operations. If it is no
longer able to do so, it could be forced to borrow an additional $700
billion over the next decade from China, Japan and other investors. And
at some point, perhaps as early as 2017, according to the CBO, the
Treasury would have to start repaying the billions it has borrowed from
the trust fund over the past 25 years, driving the nation further into
debt or forcing Congress to raise taxes.

So there is the problem in a nutshell. They spent it. They spent it on tax cuts for the rich, and now that people are retiring and want that money, Senator Feinstein and the others don’t want to raise taxes on the rich to pay back what was borrowed from the nation’s retirement account.

This is the same as the situation in California. They cut taxes and made up the shortfall with various gimmicks, until the gimmicks ran out.  So now that the bill is due the protectors of the wealthiest talk about “spending” – which is government coming through for the people – as the area to cut, instead of turning to the people who received all the benefits of the earlier actions.

Senator Feinstein, keep your hands off of my — and everyone else’s — retirement account.  You borrowed that money, now pay it back.  Don’t think you can solve this problem by asking me to accept less than what I was promised because you handed that money out to the wealthy.  The people who got it should be the ones paying it back, not the people it was taken from.  You already took money from the taxpayers to bail out the wealthiest, don’t do it again.