Friday, April 29, 2011

The new Penn State Drill Team?

Gov. Corbett has proposed a unique way
to restore the billions in education cuts he has proposed:

Let Pennsylvania's colleges and universities drill on campus (

Corbett has not taken Pennsylvania's problems very seriously, making outrageous budget proposals that will devastate our economy and wreak havoc on working class families. His laissez-faire environmental standards reveal his utter lack of concern for our future. But this is a new low.

Tell Corbett that he needs to restore funding to education, and apologize to the people of Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Berks Rally for Better Budget Choices

About 100 local residents gathered outside the Berks County Services Center in Reading on Wednesday to protest Gov. Corbett's budget proposal.

Corbett's priority: prison funding, not education

From the Patriot-News. Read the entire piece here

By Benjamin Jealous & J.W. Mondesire

During the last 30 years, our nation has become the world’s No. 1 jailer as our education pedigree has steadily declined. Correspondingly, we have seen a huge increase in prison spending, squeezing out funding for primary, secondary and higher education.

prison.jpgGov. Corbett's budget increases prison spending, while cutting education.

A recent report released by the NAACP called “Misplaced Priorities” revealed a disturbing link between high prison spending and low educational achievement in Philadelphia and other cities. The report’s support among liberal and prominent conservative leaders makes it even more surprising that Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget seems to have completely ignored its lessons.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Pro-Voucher Astroturfing: Campaigns Across Nation Coordinated by DeVos, Funded by a Few Mega-Donors

Part Two - Indiana

In addition to the millions spent in Pennsylvania, over 4.6 million dollars was raised by the Indiana affiliate of the Betsy DeVos-led pro-voucher organizations, all from 13 mega-donors, prior to the 2010 election. The Indiana PAC money also funded campaigns in Florida, Georgia, Wisconsin and other states.

The Indiana state senate passed a sweeping school voucher bill on Thursday, April 21, 2010, following an intensive crusade by the Betsy DeVos-led American Federation For Children and affiliated organizations. The blitz campaigns in Indiana and other states are similar to the one in Pennsylvania (described in detail in the previous report). A small core group of donors ideologically opposed to public education contribute millions of dollars to the pro-voucher movements in states across the nation. The massive funding and distribution of the funds around the nation is a classic case of astroturfing, creating the illusion that there is a spontaneous wave of grass roots and bipartisan support for vouchers.

Borrowing the definition from Sourcewatch, astroturf lobbying "refers to apparently grassroots-based citizen groups or coalitions that are primarily conceived, created and/or funded by corporations, industry trade associations, political interests or public relations firms."

The pro-voucher astroturf model is being repeated throughout the country:

-- DeVos-led organizations fund a local entity and political action committee (PAC) in the state.

--Funding comes from a few mega-donors who make contributions in one location. These funds are then moved to non-profits and PACs in other states, obscuring the identity of the small group of original donors. (This report focuses on the affiliated PAC in Indiana which had over $4.6 million in receipts from 13 donors prior to the 2010 election, and sent most of the funds to six other states.) The pro-voucher 501(C)(3) nonprofits across the nation, which do not directly fund candidates, are also largely funded by the DeVos-led entities.

--Contributions are made primarily to candidates in state and local campaigns, and for advertising, direct mail, and canvassing, helping to promote the illusion of a surge of grass roots support. Funding is spent to commission a poll prior to the legislative vote which shows majority support in the state for school vouchers.

--Funding and advertising support is provided to small group of Democrats who become the face of the movement, promoting the illusion that there is significant bipartisan support.

--Teachers who have spent years in the classroom, teachers' unions, and opponents of vouchers, are demonized as not caring about urban children and accused of obstructing the altruistic efforts of pro-voucher supporters. The radical privatization agenda of DeVos and wealthy backers is not revealed.

Read the rest of the article here:

Rachel Tabachnick is an independent researcher. She is a member of Keystone Progress.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Who's behind SB-1? Check out this new report

Take action to stop SB-1 here.

Who’s behind SB-1?

The bill has been promoted by Students First PAC, founded in March 2010, which contributed millions to campaigns and is spearheading the promotion of the bill. Students First PAC is an affiliate of one of the many pro-voucher entities founded by Betsy DeVos, whose Michigan family has been one of the top contributors to the Republican party.

This is a Koch-style sneak attack on America’s public schools. In state after state, DeVos and her organizations have spent millions of dollars to create the impression that there is a sudden surge of grass roots and bipartisan support for voucher schemes, and to market these schemes as the only hope for urban students.

The strategy and talking points are developed by a network of institutes, funded by Scaife Koch, DeVos, and other family foundations. These are the same right-wing think tanks that developed the talking points behind the war on public sector unions, and their leaders openly advocate the eradication of all forms of public education. The mega-donors who contributed to Anthony Williams gubernatorial campaign in the 2010 election though pro-voucher PACs, contribute to these right-wing think tanks and organizations and serve on their boards. A new report by Rachel Tabachnick, a presenter at the PA Progressive Summit 2011, pulls back the curtain on the anti-public education, anti-union activists behind SB-1 and school voucher programs in other states.

Read the whole article here.

This research report was written by Rachel Tabachnick. Rachel is a member and strong supporter of Keystone Progress.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

PayWatch shows that CEOs made an average of $11.4 million

As part of PayWatch, we are encouraging activists to tell their members of Congress not to weaken Wall Street reform (the Dodd-Frank bill). Click here to take action and spread the word.

We have a fun Facebook app as well, where you can compare salaries of nurses, secretaries and others with specific CEOs and share the results with your friends on Facebook. Click here to share on Facebook.

You also can display the PayWatch Facebook app on your website and connect to the PayWatch site from your website with a banner icon, all available here.

The new PayWatch site also enables you to:

· Read case studies of six CEOs and find out how many firefighters, nurses and other workers it takes to make the salary of one CEO.

· Check out case studies of CEOs at Occidental Petroleum, Reynolds American, Hewlett-Packard, PulteGroup, Rite Aid and Abercrombie & Fitch.

· Search the database by company name, industry, state or the 100 highest-paid CEOs.

PayWatch shows that CEOs made an average of $11.4 million in 2010—a 23 percent salary increase. Yet CEOs have done little to create badly needed jobs, instead sitting on a record $1.93 trillion in cash on their balance sheets. So while a secretary makes a median annual salary of $29,980, someone like Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf rakes in $18,973,722— more than 632 times the secretary’s salary.

Monday, April 18, 2011

On Tax Day, tell Congress to make corporations pay their fair share

On Tax Day, tell Congress to make Corporations pay their fair share
I’m tired of hearing Washington politicians talking about cuts to education and social programs as “shared sacrifice,” as if Wall St. CEOs are paying their fare share.

I’m sure you’ve read recent stories about GE paying no taxes in 2010. But this is no aberration. Exxon Mobil, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Boeing are among the corporations that paid no income taxes. 1 The truth is, even when they pay taxes, major corporations pay only a tiny fraction of the corporate tax rate. Chevron, for example, paid only a 1% tax rate on its U.S. profits.2

We can balance the budget with better choices. Let’s start here:

In Solidarity,
Michael Morrill
Keystone Progress

From our friends at

Rick Santorum Borrows Campaign Slogan From Pro-Union Poem Written By Gay Rights Advocate

Earlier today, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) announced that he will begin fundraising for a presidential run using the campaign slogan “Fighting to make America America again.” This eloquent turn of phrase, however, was not invented by Santorum. It is borrowed from the title of a pro-union, pro-racial justice, and pro-immigrant poem written by Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes — “Let America Be America Again”:

O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home–
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?

For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay–
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again
The land that never has been yet–
And yet must be–the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine–the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME–

While Hughes is best known for his poetic cries for racial and economic justice, he was also a staunch defender of gay rights. His poem “Cafe: 3 a.m.” criticizes a police raid on a gay establishment, attacking the injustice of arresting gay people because “God, Nature, or somebody made them that way.” Santorum, by contrast, is best known for spouting a frothy mixture of anti-gay rhetoric comparing same-sex couples with people who have sex with dogs.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Tell PA Republicans They'll be Held Responsible for Shutdown

The Tea Party Republicans in Congress are playing with people's lives by threatening a government shutdown. Real lives are at stake.

If the Tea Party Republicans have their way, they'll shut down the government in order to end life-saving services such as those provided by Planned Parenthood. We all know that Planned Parenthood provides sexual and reproductive health services, but they also provide vaccines, diabetes and cholesterol screening and numerous other general health services. These programs are under threat because of the Republican budget attacks on services for working families.

Will you join me in telling Pennsylvania Republicans the people will hold them accountable for shutting down the government?

Republican Members of Congress, such as Pennsylvania Representatives Joe Pitts, Lou Barletta and Jim Gerlach, and Senator Pat Toomey know this is not about the budget. It's about a radical social agenda the Tea Party wants to impose. We have to fight back -- against ideologically-driven budget cuts and against a government shutdown.

Our state can't afford a government shutdown. A shutdown will furlough tens of thousands of Pennsylvania workers. It will close parks, disrupt travel plans, and cripple tourism. It will delay environmental cleanups. It will stop new claims-processing for Social Security and Medicare. But none of this matters to the Tea Party Republicans.

We have to fight back against far-right radicals like Toomey, Barletta and Gerlach. Will you join me and sign this petition telling them to keep vital services available?

See, they want to close the government -- they want to eliminate vital services like Veterans Affairs, the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control. But the Tea Partiers don't care how it will affect real people. They care only about getting their ideological cuts.

Enough is enough. Shutting down the government for ideology is beyond the pale even for these folks. We can't sit back and watch America crumble.

Will you join the fight?

In Solidarity,

Michael Morrill
Keystone Progress

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Casey says "No budget, don't pay us"

Casey, Senators Again Call on Speaker Boehner to Immediately Hold a Vote on ‘No Budget, No Pay’ Bill

Sign the petition at

WASHINGTON, DC— U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) joined with 14 of their Senate colleagues today to send a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) urging him to immediately take up and pass stand-alone legislation that would prevent Members of Congress and the President of the United States from being paid during a shutdown of the federal government.

In the letter, the Senators point out that Speaker Boehner has repeatedly refused to take up S. 388, which was approved by the Senate unanimously a month ago. The Senators wrote, “It is essential that we work together to avoid a government shutdown, but if we cannot do our jobs and keep the government functioning, we should not get paid.”

The measure would fix a basic inequity that allows Members of Congress and the President to be paid during a government shutdown – while millions of other Federal employees are not – because lawmakers and the President are paid through mandatory spending rather than annual appropriations. The bill also would prevent Members of Congress and the President from being paid retroactively after a government shutdown. Prior to the 1995 government shutdown, Congressman Boehner expressed his support for an identical bill.

In addition to Senators Casey and Boxer, the letter was signed by Senators Begich (D-AK), Bennet (D-CO), Blumenthal (D-CT), Inouye (D-HI), Manchin (D-WV), McCaskill (D-MO), Menendez (D-NJ), Merkley (D-OR), Mikulski (D-MD), Shaheen (D-NH), Stabenow (D-MI), Tester (D-MT), Whitehouse (D-RI) and Wyden (D-OR).

In the House, Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) introduced a similar bill in February which is being held in committee until Speaker Boehner schedules a vote.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

2/3 of Proposed GOP Federal Budget Cuts Come from Low-Income Programs

There’s no doubt the Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is the golden boy of the radical right. Ryan’s the new chair of the House Budget Committee and has just unveiled his plan to fund the federal government until the end of the fiscal year. It may be the biggest piece of partisan hackery designed to protect corporate donors that we’ve ever seen.

First of all, what exactly is in Ryan’s budget? Everything but the kitchen sink. He wants to repeal the Dodd-Frank financial regulations, cut Pell grant increases, repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka health reform), privatizes Medicare, lock in the Bush tax cuts and lower corporate taxes. (Hat tip to Ezra Klein for the breakdown.)

There’s no shared sacrifice in this budget, no fairness. Two-thirds of the Ryan’s program cuts fall on lower income Americans:

Meanwhile, the top income and corporate tax brackets get MORE benefits on the backs of middle class taxpayers. When GE is recording $5.1 billion in profits just from the US government, Ryan’s budgets adds insult to injury.

Ryan touts his budget as cutting $4 trillion in spending. Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE) says Ryan’s budget gets serious about the deficit. But Ryan and the representatives who support him, like Lee Terry (R-NE2), aren’t the least bit serious about deficits. If they were, they wouldn’t fight so hard for handouts to millionaires and corporations who caused a big part of the financial mess in the first place.

Making corporations pay their fair share won’t tank the economy despite what the radical Republicans would like you to think. US corporations are enjoying record profits while most of us are struggling to pay our health insurance. If anything, this budget is a kickback to the big biz and insurance interests who have donated over $2.1 million to Ryan and his PAC.

This budget is flat out unjust. While we believe, like Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), that the time for stopgap measures is over, Ryan’s budget is the wrong answer. What we need from Washington is a budget compromise not this confrontational piece of partisan hackery meant to score political points with the fringe interest groups (we’re looking at you, Tea Party).

Because, if Washington can not come to some middle ground, here are just a few examples of how Nebraskans will be impacted (hat tip to Senator Nelson):

  • Military families will experience financial hardship. Our troops will fight but will not be paid during the shutdown. This could be particularly hard for the families back home of service members deployed overseas.
    • Today, more than 1,100 Nebraska National Guardsmen are deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. An additional 3,700 Nebraska guardsmen also face this uncertainty.
  • Farmers will lose operating loans during planting season. The USDA’s Farm Service Agency has 85 loans approved in Nebraska that cannot be funded because of the budget uncertainties. Nelson has heard from many Nebraska farmers concerned that the instability of the budget situation will impact their spring operating loans.

So what can you do? Call your federal elected officials and tell them to oppose the irresponsible Ryan budget. We know as progressives and moderates, it can sometimes seem fruitless to call Fortenberry, Terry and Smith. But these are our elected representatives, and they MUST know that Nebraskans do not support this budget.

Call Your House Representative:
Use the Health Care for America Now system

Friday, April 1, 2011

Alliance for American Manufacturing Statement on Jobs Report

17,000 manufacturing jobs were added in March. That’s down from 33,000 created in February.

At the March manufacturing job creation rate, it will take 24 years to restore manufacturing employment to 2000 levels. (See this link, and chart below).

Said Scott Paul, Executive Director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing:

“The good news is that manufacturing once again gained jobs. The bad news is that it isn’t enough. This modest growth in factory employment is completely inadequate. We’re still waiting for Congress to pass even a single measure that will substantially increase manufacturing jobs. With the economy at the top of mind for most voters, Washington is still barking up the wrong tree.”


Steven Capozzola

Media Director

Alliance for American Manufacturing

Cell: 202-550-4322