Job Killers — Or Just More Fear?

The California Chamber of Commerce has released its annual list of what it calls “job-killer bills.”
Why is it that the Chamber’s job-killer bills hit-list seems to only target Democrats? Not a single targeted bill belongs to a Republican. “Bad bills”, like those designed to protect public health, climate concerns or consumer rights legislation, are all authored by Democrats. The chamber has always been a lobbying organization, but it has gotten so bad that the Chamber seems to have devolved into little more than just one more fear-mongering Republican Party front group.
The “job killers” on this list are any laws that protect consumers, reduce energy use, require worker protections or anything else that might hinder a very few corporate executives from reeling in another several-hundred-million dollars a year. The jobs that are “killed” are those of lobbyists for the energy industry.
The first group on the “job killer” list is bills that ask for any kind of energy or water conservation or environmental standards for new housing construction. For example, AB 1085. The bill describes itself as undating,

“building design and construction standards and energy conservation standards for new residential and nonresidential buildings to reduce wasteful, uneconomic, inefficient, or unnecessary consumption of energy.”

But the Chamber’s job-killer list says this

Substantially increases the cost of housing and development in California by implementing significant energy efficiency measures

Now, think about this — if it costs less to heat and cool your house, this saves you money. If you want to add energy-saving technology like solar electric or water-heating on your house this creates good jobs. Maybe Exxon won’t benefit as much from this as the new, upcoming solar industry, but heck, the solar companies aren’t coughing up the big bucks and providing the good jobs to the Chamber of Commerce’s lobbyists!
The next group of “job killers” is “workplace mandates” like paid sick leave for employees, disability pay for on-the-job injuries or providing California’s citizens with health insurance.
Ah yes, the money businesses pay out to provide sick leave and disability pay for those pesky employees “kills jobs.” They could hire so many more people if they didn’t have to actually pay them and keep them from getting injured! This is one of the oldest arguments in the books. Slaves are always cheaper. But why do we have an economy if not to provide US with good jobs and other benefits? Do we have an economy so a very few corporate CEOs get all the money and benefits, or do we have an economy so the people can also get good pay and benefits and safe working conditions? The evidence (this, for example) is clear that good wages and benefits do not hurt jobs or the economy.
Then there are “economic development barriers” like asking online retailers to collect the same sales taxes that you local business owner collects, asking the wealthy to help pay for our schools, raising fire standards in high-risk fire areas and protecting our environment. I guess the online retailers must be paying the Chamber more this year than the retailers who have to actually rent storefronts and pay wages in your town. I can’t think of any other reason why SOME retailers should collect sales taxes and others should be exempt. Doesn’t this change the playing field waaayyy in favor of online retailers and harm the prospects of businesses that actually set up in our local communities? God forbid we ask them to help pay for our schools and police and fire protection!
This “job killer: list is nothing more than the use of fear to scare us into allowing a few rich corporations to have their way. By saying that protecting workers or the environment might “cost jobs” they are trying to make us afraid to ask these big corporations to live up to their responsibilities to our communities. How long will we let these lobbyists make us afraid?

Stuck in Atlanta 24 Hours – Airline Says Too Bad For You

My flight from Washington DC to Atlanta landed late. The connection to San Francisco still wasn’t due to take off for a few minutes but the airline didn’t hold it.
So I go to the counter and ask what I can do? They only have one flight to San Francisco a day, and the next one is in 24 hours.
Can I get on another airline? Try Orbitz, she says.
Can you get me a room? She gives me an 800 number of a discount service.
Can I get some food? There are concession stands in the airport.
Too bad for you. We’ve already got your money and you’re on your own.
There is nothing I can do, they already have my money.
Welcome to the New America. Welcome to the You’re On Your Own (YOYO) society. Welcome to corporate domination. Did you know that it used to be illegal for airlines to treat their customers like this? But now it is expected.
We, the People used to be in charge. We set up the legal, financial and physical infrastructure that enables corporations to serve our interests. You know, that pesky “We, the People” thing. Why else would we have set up corporations except to serve us?
But now it is the other way around. Now the corporations are in charge of us. A select few grew fabulously wealthy from the system we set up to serve all the people, and have used that wealth to manipulate the system to bring all the benefits to themselves at the expense of the people.
When are we going to do something about it?
(Note – the airline employees were not nasty, considering who they have to work for and the policies they have to work under. They seemed resigned to having to tell people this stuff. That’s another part of this system — if you want to have enough money to feed your kids and pay the rent (but not get health care) you’re forced to serve the corporation, and be their agents in telling people “too bad.” There is a harm that comes to people from being compelled to treat others this way. And if you think you have too much integrity to do that, well we can find someone in India who is hungry enough.)

Yes, but how do they do it with a straight face?

The fact that the U.S. EPA refused to grant California a waiver so we can initiate our own air emissions standards is really no surprise to anyone who has watched this administration ignore science, our legal system, common sense and the Constitution. Whether waterboarding, abstinence only education, refusing to fund “No Child Left Behind”, illegally issuing wire taps without court order, or refusing to honor validly issued subpoena from Congress (to name only a very few of this administration’s scofflaw attitude), it is the audacity and mendacity that is so astonishing. It makes one wonder whether the right-wing extremist P.R. firms have a class in how to lie with a straight face, perhaps calling it something like “How stupid do we think the American people really are?”
The chutzpah is endless—with the President today in his own press conference exemplifying it with astonishing ease. But the lack of embarassment or apology is what really takes the cake. And when EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson claimed that the reason for the waiver denials is that and I quote here: “The Bush administration is moving forward with a clear national solution, not a confusing patchwork of state rules.” , that really takes the cake.
A clear national solution??? Nothing clear about said solution. Nothing national about it. And in fact, no solution identified either. Besides which, Bush doesn’t even believe in global warming. Is it a “national solution” of denial or just plain old deception that this administration is trying to foist on a not-so-unsuspecting public?

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Keeping Big Business happy at our children’s expense

I remember as a youngster believing that the President and the government would protect us from harmful things—like gas fumes at the pump and toys that broke off and could hurt babies and little children. Of course, I was quite young at the time, not even at double digits, the country was much more naive and Dwight Eisenhower was president. This was obviously a long time ago!
But I took the notion seriously that government had a moral and constitutional responsibility to protect the public and keep us from harms way—whether it be from enemies to our shores, criminals threatening our personal peace and safety or just known bad things being cast upon us by those who didn’t care about our well-being.
It turns out I, too, was very naive, and had a misplaced sense of what the government, at least in times of Ike,considered to be its responsibilities. But as our country has moved on, the role of government to protect us as consumers and as individuals has evolved. Particularly in the 1970’s, and somewhat ironically, under both Republican and Democratic presidents, the role of the EPA, the Consumer Protection Agency and other publicly concerned entities took a front-and-center position in helping protect our nation and our natural resources. After all, it was Richard Nixon who signed the Clean Water Act (although it was pushed heavily by the democratically controlled congress). To his credit, he also oversaw the first Environmental Protection Agency, committed to protecting our environmental health.
Fast-forward to today and we see a stark contrast between a national commitment to protect the public and an adminstration which has blatantly and shamelessly pronounced that the public health and consumer safety are of no concern to it. That seems to be the message of this week’s extraordinary conduct of one Nancy A. Nord, the acting chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

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The “Job Killer” Soundbite

During my tenure in the California legislature, I found it somewhat humorous that every bill calling for greater corporate accountability and responsibility to the health and well-being of the public or workers was called “a job killer”by the California Chamber of Commerce. This appellation was almost always not only overly simplistic, but wildly dishonest and inaccurate. When I brought a bill to require that we consider the health impacts on women and children of various chemicals and compounds when we establsih acceptable health standards, and not just consider the impacts on the average 6 foot 175 pound male, the bill was attacked as being a “job killer”.
The first time I heard this, I thought the accuser was just kidding. But then I realized that the allegation came from a package of “talking points” handed out by the California Chamber of Commerce as part of their propoganda campaign to defeat any measures that would otherwise regulate their big business bosses. How in the world could you otherwise justify defeating a measure designed to protect the health of our people, and especially our children?

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Beating back bad initiatives–one at a time

With three elections scheduled for 2008 in California, we’ve seen a tidal wave of initiative offerings announced and plunked into the expensive signature gathering process. Most of these measures come from cash-abundant corporations and their front groups trying to impose their will on the public. They include ideas designed to balloon corporate profits to the detriment of the environment, public health or individual rights (over-reaching eminent domain actions), advance the interests of the wealthy corporate accountability dodgers, repackage measures that have been tried and rejected in the past (such as anti-reproductive choice initiatives that incessantly appear), and programs that benefit special interest groups, but not the public. Many of them are funded by out-of-state groups or mega-millionaires who want to impose their personal philosophies on California, often as “test cases” for future efforts in the rest of the country. Or, in the case of the most recent initiative proposal by the Republican Party, to steal the next Presidential election by trying to divide up California’s electoral votes.
One such unwanted effort comes from the big-business front group called the Civil Justice Association of California or “CJAC“. Earlier this summer it announced it was proposing a ballot measure that would virtually eliminate class action lawsuits in California. The goal is to deny individuals harmed by the unlawful behavior of big corporations the right to come together to sue in order to end the behavior and be made whole from the wrongful conduct.
Obviously, big corporations, like Wal-Mart, want to be able to stiff their workers if they can get away with it, but under current law they can be brought into court and made to pay for the wages and benefits they promise their employees. (Wal-Mart is currently defending just such a case).Certainly not a radical notion, but in this pro-business, consumer and worker-be-damned atmosphere, it isn’t surprising that the corporate-controlled CJAC would try to thwart the little guy’s right to access the court system for protection and justice. What CJAC and its big bosses didn’t realize was that the surprise was going to be on them.

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The Big Corporate Bullies Are At It Again

The Big Corporate Bullies are at it again! Just when we thought they’d be embarassed and hiding from their latest shenanigans—pawning off bad medicine (think VIOXX) or seeing their Chinese competitors getting caught trying to sneak tainted pet food, toothpaste and fish into the U.S., they’re back themselves trying to slam the courthouse doors shut so they can’t be prosecuted for their own often dangerous antics.
What is it now? It’s a new initiative they’ve just filed with the California Attorney General’s office which will allow them to avoid accountability when they get caught doing things like discriminating against their employees on the basis of race, gender, age or disability. If this initiative makes it to the ballot and passes, they’ll be able to get away with refusing to pay their workers for their earned pay, be passing off known damaged and dangerous products, illegally pollute our air and water with inpugnity. The list goes on and on.
How are these profiteers planning their next attack on protecting the public? They’re staking out an initiative which will all but end class action lawsuits in the state of California by making them so hard and expensive for the little guy to bring to court, that they’ll all but vanish. Using Bush-like double-speak to hide their true identity, these greedy CEO’s and corporate polluters go by the totally misleading title of ” Civil Justice Association ” otherwise known as C-JAC. Like Bush’s cronies, they’re anything but seeking justice—it’s just more and more about their profits and the public be damned.

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Are You Contributing to Republicans When You Buy a Car?

What do you look for in a car? Safety? Fuel economy? Comfort? Affordability? How about whether you are inadvertently making a campaign contribution to the Republican party?
Auto dealers are among the most aggressive contributors to the Republican party and Republican candidates. Compared to other industries, they are among the most lopsided in their giving. During the 2000 election cycle, 96% of the auto industry’s soft money went to the GOP.
In addition, some of the largest auto dealers are among the Bush Pioneers, who raised many millions for Bush’s election and re-election campaigns. According to Automotive News, auto dealers played an active role in funneling a whopping $150 million to the Bush-Cheney campaign. Dealers also crowed about the pivotal role they played in the battleground state of Ohio.
How do auto dealers make so much money they can afford to write those big checks? To extract the last possible dime from even the most wary customers, auto dealers commonly engage in highly sophisticated scams like “loan packing,” auto salvage fraud, dealer “markups” of interest rates, “yo-yo” financing, high-pressure sales tactics, and other forms of predatory practices.
How can you avoid making a inadvertent contribution to the Bushites? Next time you buy a car, consider buying a used car from an individual. By eliminating the middle man (yes, the biggest auto dealers are almost exclusively white and male), you can save a bundle–and also avoid contributing to the auto dealers’ political agenda.
Nationally, auto dealers’ top legislative priority is elimination of the estate tax. They have also invested vast sums in opposing improved fuel economy standards. (Global warming? Forgetaboutiit. Gotta hype those Expeditions, Escalades, and Hummers.) They are hugely active in pushing to eliminate longstanding state and federal consumer protections. They have a long history of opposing safety advances including shoulder harnesses to protect kids in the back seat, air bags, safety glass, side impact protection, public information about crash tests, and disclosure of vehicles’ likelihood of flipping over in a crash. To top it all off, they are increasingly inserting mandatory arbitration clauses into their contracts–forcing you to give up your constitutional rights when you buy a car from them.
When you go somewhere other than a dealership to buy, you are not only saving money, and withholding funds from the GOP, you are also preserving your constitutional rights–and helping save the planet.
Just make sure you aren’t buying from a curbstoner—an unlicensed dealer. Google “curbstoner” to find out how to avoid them too.

Killer cars flooding into CA

As if life in California weren’t exciting enough, we are getting dumped on by unscrupulous insurers and auto dealers who profit from the illicit trafficking in total loss vehicles, including hurricane flood cars. Yup, that cute red number your teenager finds so alluring may be a killer car that swam with the fishes.
Remember the 500,000 flood cars that we all saw on TV, submerged up to their rooftops in the wake of hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma? Experts warned everyone to look out for them, since they are basically rotting from the inside out, and are totally unreliable.
According to the former president of the National Automobile Dealers Association, a lot of them were headed to auto auctions in–yes, you guessed it–California. The auctions advertise them on the internet and sell them to the highest bidders–typically, unscrupulous auto dealers who hose them down and spiff them up, to disguise the fact they are worthless, hazardous junkers. Then they sell them to unsuspecting used car buyers, usually for the going Blue Book price.
It’s illegal, of course, but enforcement to curb the frauds is extremely lax, and the profit margins are staggering. An unscrupulous dealer can nab a flood car at auction for $3,000, spend $1000 to power wash it and replace the upholstery, then turn around and sell it for $12,000. They don’t usually offer discounts, because that would arouse suspicion among potential buyers. It would also reduce their ill-gotten gains.
California, the nation’s largest auto market, is famous worldwide as a dumping ground for hazardous junkers. According to the DMV, a whopping 2.5 million vehicles that were totalled in crashes, floods, or other disasters are being driven on our roads. Look around you—even if you don’t own one, you may be killed or injured by one of the clunkers when the axle falls apart, the steering goes wacko, the brakes fail, or it stalls out in traffic.
Auto insurers and dealers have cleverly devised ways to profit from the frauds involving killer flood cars. When insurers total a car, it is rarely destroyed. Instead, they send totalled autos to auctions known as “salvage pools,.” which are basically an arm of the insurance industry. Insurers get a cut of the take at the auction. When the junkers are sold for fraudulent purposes, they command a higher price, enabling insurers to recoup more of their losses or even turn a profit.
Consumer groups and CA Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner backed legislation to prohibit the sales of totalled hurricane flood cars in CA. But insurers like State Farm, Geico, Farmers, Allstate, and auto dealers killed the bill. It was SB 498, authored by Senator Jenny Oropeza. No Republican senator would vote for it, since it was opposed by some of their biggest contributors. While most democratic senators supported it, a handful of so-called “moderate” democratic senators who usually side with business interests blocked its passage.
keep an eye out for toxic flood cars that are contaminated with bacteria, mold, and mildew, have air bags that may not inflate in a crash, and electronic systems that are madly corroding away. Even if you don’t buy one, you or your family could end up riding in one. If you happen across a flood car, get in touch with CARS. We’re working to protect American families from flood cars, including testifying before Congress , working to get laws passed to prohibit dumping flood cars back into the market in the first place, and doing interviews with national news media.
More info about why flood cars are so hazardous in posted on our website, at:
Rosemary Shahan
Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety

Auto Industry stalls Global Warming legislation

(Rosemary Shahan)
Caving in to aggressive lobbying by auto manufacturers and dealers who profit handsomely from the sales of muscle cars and enormous gas-guzzlers, California politicians refused to pass legislation that would have curbed greenhouse gas emissions and made fuel-efficient SUVs, pickups, minivans, and sedans more affordable. However, the author has vowed to continue the fight and revive the legislation next year.
The Clean Car Discount Act of 2007, AB 493, is championed by Assemblymember Ira Ruskin (D-Redwood City). It remains a top priority for environmental and consumer groups, as well as socially responsible businesses and faith-based organizations. Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety has been working actively to get the bill enacted.
Auto dealers made many legislators fearful of voting for the measure. Auto dealers are extremely active and well-connected politically. They spend heavily on political campaigns, and generally back conservative candidates. They take pride in punishing lawmakers who dare to stand up for consumers and the environment.
No Republicans were willing to vote for the bill, and a handful of anti-consumer Democratic lawmakers also voiced a reluctance to vote for it, despite polls showing strong public support for the measure.
“The Clean Car Discount program is designed to ensure choice by providing that some vehicles of every type will be unaffected or receive a rebate. Over 40 percent of the 1.7 million new vehicles purchased in California each year will be eligible for a rebate, and another 20 percent will not be affected at all. Given the breadth of choice, the Clean Car Discount program will help make cleaner vehicles more affordable for every California family,” said Ruskin in his explanation of the measure.
In their attempt to kill the bill, auto dealers stooped to misleading tactics. One auto dealer, Fritz Hitchcock, President of Puente Hills Toyota in City of Industry, claimed in a letter to lawmakers that AB 493 would “penalize” disabled Californians. But in fact the bill expressly exempts persons with disabilities from having to pay any additional charges, and would have made various models that can accommodate wheelchairs less expensive.
More information about AB 493 is posted on Assemblymember Ruskin’s website, at:
Auto interests also ran a deceptive ad in the Sacramento Bee the day before the vote. To get the scoop on the ad, check out the California Progress Report, at:
Posted in Consumer Protection, Environment