Tuesday, July 26, 2011

U.S. Latinos: The future of union existence

Latinos disproportionately rely on the protections of unions for jobs with higher wages and better benefits. By Stella Manrique Rouse, University of Maryland

The collective bargaining power of public employee unions has been at the forefront of political debate over the past year. Elections in 2010 ushered in Republican governors and state legislative party leaders with the number one goal of reducing the size of government. To accomplish this drastic government downsizing, Republican controlled states began considering legislation to diminish public employees’ rights to collectively bargain and to force these workers to pay a larger portion of their healthcare and pension benefits.

Wisconsin has been in the spotlight of these new “reforms”. The showdown between Governor Scott Walker and the state’s public sector union members came to a head in February when despite the unions’ concessions to significant benefit give back demands, Walker insisted on taking away all of the unions’ bargaining power except their right to bargain on wages. Under the new law, unions would not only lose collective bargaining power, but would have to be reapproved annually by workers, and would have to collect dues themselves; union dues would no longer be deducted from workers’ paychecks. This has the potential to significantly cut union revenues by up to one-third. Unions saw this as a blatant attempt to bust union power. In spite of large protests and Democratic legislators’ efforts to prevent passage of the bill, ultimately Governor Walker signed the anti-union bill into law.

Notwithstanding the negative national publicity that Walker and the Wisconsin legislature received, many states have followed Wisconsin’s lead with similar legislation curtailing the power of public sector unions. States such as Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Arizona have passed or are considering similarly drastic measures. Other states such as Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma are contemplating somewhat less severe measures such as restricting the collection of union dues, limiting collective bargaining, or preventing unions from monopolizing the workforce.

Republicans argue that cutting back the power of unions is crucial to getting government costs under control and creating an environment that will attract businesses and create jobs. However, these measures do not come without huge cuts to benefits, and at the cost of jobs protected by unions. These costs do not affect citizens equally across the board. Latinos disproportionately rely on the protections of unions for jobs with higher wages and better benefits. Additionally, in the states where anti-union legislation is most prominently being considered, Latinos are a growing number of the population and they make up a significant part of the overall union and public sector union workforce.

The Benefits of Union Membership for Latinos
The major benefit of union membership is the ability to negotiate a contract with employers for fair wages and salary. Unionized Latinos earn approximately 51 percent more than their non-union counterparts (LCLAA 2011). For public sector employees, the wage and benefit advantages are often even greater because in many states, public sector unions hold a monopoly on these jobs. Public sector unions are particularly important for communities of color. Non-union, non-white public sector workers are vulnerable to falling farther below the median income compared to their white coworkers (Agbede 2011). This vulnerability stems from the fact that Latinos, along with other minority groups, fill jobs at the lower end of the wage scale. These jobs are the least likely to be protected by unions or are the first to be victimized by anti-union legislation. Therefore, Latinos as some of the last people to break into middle class status (with the help of union protected jobs), may be some of the first to depart. The figure below shows how the public sector has offered more opportunity for Latinos to achieve greater wage parity with white men compared to jobs in the private sector.

Latino Union Membership
While union membership is greater among non-Latinos than Latinos, a comparison of the numbers reveals that the difference between the two groups is not very significant. The figure below shows that union membership for non-Latinos in 2010 was 11.5%, compared to 10.2% for Latinos. Union membership is down for both groups since its height of 1995 (the highest for the fifteen year period under observation). The downturn, however, has not been linear. In fact Latinos have seen a more recent spike in union membership (2008) than non-Latinos (2000). Future trends are difficult to predict, but will likely be significantly influenced in the foreseeable future by the ant-union measures being carried out.

Latinos are an Increasing Part of States Being Threatened by Anti-Union Legislation

The graph below displays the growth in the Latino population as a percentage of growth in total population for 2000 to 2010 for each state that has passed or is considering passing anti-union legislation.

Traditionally, many of these states have not had large Latino populations, but as the graph shows, Latinos account for a large proportion of the population increases. Nebraska is a good example of a non-traditional Latino state, but one with an upward trend in Latino population. Latinos accounted for 70 percent of the growth in population in Nebraska from 2000 to 2010. In 2000, Latinos encompassed 5.5 percent of Nebraska’s population and today it is close to 8 percent. Similar increases can be seen in Michigan and Kansas. Other states that have passed or are considering anti-union legislation are more traditional Latino gateway destinations such as Arizona and Florida. Both of these states continue to see large increases in Latino population as a percentage of total population growth. It is also important to note that among all these states, there is a mixture of both traditional conservative states (e.g. Alabama and Oklahoma) and much more moderate states (e.g., Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Arizona, and Wisconsin). Republican Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin was elected with only a 52% majority in 2010.

The (Political) Road Ahead
Multi-generation Latinos have a lot at stake in the current battle to curtail the power of public sector unions. Latinos disproportionately represent low-wage jobs and have relied heavily on the efforts of unions to negotiate fair wages and benefits. If the power of unions is severely curtailed, many Latinos may be left without this protection. This vulnerability for Latinos is confounded by the fact that they are one of the least likely groups to obtain a higher education (U.S. Dept. of Education 2010). Unions play an even greater role in diminishing wage inequalities for workers without college degrees (Agbede 2011).

In the wake of the passage of anti-union legislation in Wisconsin and the protests that accompanied it, nineteen prominent national Latino organizations came out in opposition to attacks on public sector unions and their collective bargaining rights. These groups included League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL), National Institute for Latino Policy (NILP), Cuban American National Council (CNC), and Mexican American Political Association (MAPA). What role will these organizations play moving forward? Will these organizations help galvanize support among Latinos, not only in the states where unions are currently being threatened, but nationwide? What role will this issue play in the 2012 elections? Will Latinos be mobilized to vote on the issue of union protection? There is an opportunity for Latinos to significantly affect how this debate plays out. It is up to political and organizational leaders to see that the voices of those greatly affected by diminishing union power are not drowned out.

Stella Manrique Rouse
is an Assistant Professor of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland and a Ford Foundation Post Doctoral Fellow. She has a forthcoming article, “Networks in the Legislative Arena: How Group Dynamics Affect Cosponsorship” in Legislative Studies Quarterly. 

The Washington dance is phoney

545 vs. 300,000,000 People
By Charlie Reese, Final Column for the Orlando Sentinel

Publisher's Note:  This was Charlie Reese's last column for the Orlando Sentinel, which he asked us to share with our readers.

Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them.

Have you ever wondered, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, WHY do we have deficits?

Have you ever wondered, if all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, WHY do we have inflation and high taxes?

You and I don't propose a federal budget. The President does.

You and I don't have the Constitutional authority to vote on appropriations. The House of Representatives does.

You and I don't write the tax code, Congress does.

You and I don't set fiscal policy, Congress does.

You and I don't control monetary policy, the Federal Reserve Bank does.

One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one President, and nine Supreme Court justices equates to 545 human beings out of the 300 million are directly, legally, morally, and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.

I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Board because that problem was created by the Congress. In 1913, Congress delegated its Constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered, but private, central bank.

I excluded all the special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority. They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman, or a President to do one cotton-picking thing. I don't care if they offer a politician $1 million dollars in cash. The politician has the power to accept or reject it. No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislator's responsibility to determine how he votes.

Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. They cooperate in this common con regardless of party.

What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall. No normal human being would have the gall of a Speaker, who stood up and criticized the President for creating deficits. The President can only propose a budget. He cannot force the Congress to accept it.

The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, gives sole responsibility to the House of Representatives for originating and approving appropriations and taxes. Who is the speaker of the House? John Boehner. He is the leader of the majority party. He and fellow House members, not the President, can approve any budget they want. If the President vetoes it, they can pass it over his veto if they agree to.

It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 300 million cannot replace 545 people who stand convicted -- by present facts -- of incompetence and irresponsibility. I can't think of a single domestic problem that is not traceable directly to those 545 people. When you fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise the power of the federal government, then it must follow that what exists is what they want to exist.

If the tax code is unfair, it's because they want it unfair.

If the budget is in the red, it's because they want it in the red.

If the Army & Marines are in Iraq and Afghanistan it's because they want them in Iraq and Afghanistan ....

If they do not receive social security but are on an elite retirement plan not available to the people, it's because they want it that way.

There are no insoluble government problems.

Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to regulate and from whom they can take this power. Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exists disembodied mystical forces like "the economy," "inflation," or "politics" that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do.

Those 545 people, and they alone, are responsible.

They, and they alone, have the power.

They, and they alone, should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses.

Provided the voters have the gumption to manage their own employees...

We should vote all of them out of office and clean up their mess!

Charlie Reese is a former columnist of the Orlando Sentinel Newspaper.

What you do with this article now that you have read it... is up to you.
This might be funny if it weren't so true.
Be sure to read all the way to the end:

Tax his land,
Tax his bed,
Tax the table,
At which he's fed.

Tax his tractor,
Tax his mule,
Teach him taxes
Are the rule.

Tax his work,
Tax his pay,
He works for
peanuts anyway!

Tax his cow,
Tax his goat,
Tax his pants,
Tax his coat.

Tax his ties,
Tax his shirt,
Tax his work,
Tax his dirt.

Tax his tobacco,
Tax his drink,
Tax him if he
Tries to think.

Tax his cigars,
Tax his beers,
If he cries
Tax his tears.

Tax his car,
Tax his gas,
Find other ways
To tax his ass.

Tax all he has
Then let him know
That you won't be done
Till he has no dough.

When he screams and hollers;
Then tax him some more,
Tax him till
He's good and sore.

Then tax his coffin,
Tax his grave,
Tax the sod in
Which he's laid...

Put these words
Upon his tomb,
'Taxes drove me
to my doom...'

When he's gone,
Do not relax,
Its time to apply
The inheritance tax.

Accounts Receivable Tax
Building Permit Tax
CDL license Tax
Cigarette Tax
Corporate Income Tax
Dog License Tax
Excise Taxes
Federal Income Tax
Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
Fishing License Tax
Food License Tax
Fuel Permit Tax
Gasoline Tax (currently 44.75 cents per gallon)
Gross Receipts Tax
Hunting License Tax
Inheritance Tax
Inventory Tax
IRS Interest Charges IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)
Liquor Tax
Luxury Taxes
Marriage License Tax
Medicare Tax
Personal Property Tax
Property Tax
Real Estate Tax
Service Charge Tax
Social Security Tax
Road Usage Tax
Recreational Vehicle Tax
Sales Tax
School Tax
State Income Tax
State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
Telephone Federal Excise Tax
Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax
Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Taxes
Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax
Telephone Recurring and Nonrecurring Charges Tax
Telephone State and Local Tax
Telephone Usage Charge Tax
Utility Taxes
Vehicle License Registration Tax
Vehicle Sales Tax
Watercraft Registration Tax
Well Permit Tax
Workers Compensation Tax

Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago, & our nation was the most prosperous in the world.
We had absolutely no national debt, had the largest middle class in the world, and Mom stayed home to raise the kids.

What in the heck happened? Can you spell 'politicians?'

I hope this goes around THE USA at least 545 times!!! YOU can help it get there!!!


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Analysis: In Iowa, Hispanics upset with Obama

Three years later, conversations with Hispanics voters here reveal a deep disappointment with the president, especially on immigration.
By James B. Kelleher (Reuters)

WEST LIBERTY, IOWA  - Back in 2008, when Barack Obama was fighting for the Democratic presidential nomination, local Hispanics like Jose Zacarias were eager foot soldiers for him in this critical battleground state.

Encouraged by Obama's promise to pursue comprehensive immigration reform, Zacarias hosted parties to raise money for the candidate and helped register new voters in the Hispanic community.

When election day arrived, Zacarias and other Hispanics helped get out the Democratic vote.

Those efforts paid off, aiding Obama in winning Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses in January 2008 -- a victory that transformed his campaign -- and to go on to capture the state's seven electoral votes in the November 2008 general election that swept him into the White House.

But three years later, as Obama seeks re-election, conversations with Hispanics voters here reveal a deep disappointment with the president, especially on immigration.

As a result, the enthusiasm his candidacy generated in 2008 is now hard to find in this city, which became Iowa's first majority Hispanic town in 2010, according to the U.S. Census.

"The passion that was there is not there now," Zacarias, 56, said.

Hispanics here acknowledge the many challenges Obama faced in his first term, from the recession to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the takeover, in last fall's midterm elections, of the House of Representatives by Republicans opposed to nearly everything he campaigned for.


But the disenchantment is still there. "He's really let us down on immigration," said Francisco Martinez, a 40-year-old worker in the local turkey processing plant who will be eligible to vote for the first time in 2012.

"He's had to fix everything that (ex-president George W.) Bush broke. But immigration's one of the things that's broken and needs to be fixed. "

Obama's Hispanic problem extends beyond West Liberty, says Rene Rocha, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Iowa, and could suppress voter turnout in the community in 2012.

"It's safe to say that there's been a significant amount of disappointment with the Obama administration among Latino elites," Rocha said.

"And one of the big questions is the extent to which this disappointment will filter down to the popular level and ordinary Latino voters."

One of the ironies of Obama's first term -- a bitter irony for Hispanics here -- is that deportations of illegal immigrants have risen during his first term as the administration has adopted tougher border and workplace enforcement.

That increase, which comes even as Mexican migration to the United States has fallen, "has not gone unnoticed in the community," Rocha said.

But the biggest gripe Hispanics here have with Obama is that he has done nothing to address the problems faced by the estimated 12 million undocumented workers who are already in this country, working, paying taxes and raising taxes, but without any clear path to normalizing their status.

They saw the political capital Obama was willing to spend on behalf of the millions without health insurance and wonder why those immigrants didn't get the same attention.


"Our people are suffering," said Oscar Garcia, a 57-year-old former corrections officer in nearby Muscatine who now works with autistic children in West Liberty. "They need to become legal."

Obama, Garcia said, "has done nothing for immigrants. He hasn't kept his promises. When healthcare came along, he pushed it to the limit. He didn't care what the Republicans were saying. Why couldn't he do the same thing for immigration reform? Why didn't he push it the limit?"

If there's good news here for Obama, it's that Republicans are regarded with deep suspicion by most local Hispanics, not just on immigration issue but on workplace safety and business regulation.

But that only adds to the sense of frustration among Hispanics.

"There isn't any other real choice," said Ismael Sanchez, 69, who came of age in Arizona as Cesar Chavez's National Farm Workers Union was organizing during the 1960s and retired in West Liberty after working for many years in a Tysons packing plant in Columbus Junction.

"The Republicans leave a bitter taste in my mouth. They don't seem to be interested in our votes."

Zacarias, who came to West Liberty in the early 1980s speaking no English to work in the turkey plant and now is a citizen and a middle manager at a plant in Iowa City, agrees.

"The Republicans would be happy to get rid of the unions and undo labor laws and the EPA -- you name it -- and take things back to the old-fashioned game of letting industries regulate themselves," he said.

"If we let these guys running the packing plant police themselves we'll be in big trouble."

(Reporting by James B. Kelleher' Editing by Jerry Norton)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Getting a Pink Slip: Lessons from an experienced Latino

Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez
A pink slip feels like a death warrant.
By Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez , www.LatinoLA.com

Edited by Susan Aceves

I have a deep and abiding concern for those who have been laid off or suspect that they may be laid off in the near future. Most of my sons have been cut loose and/or down-sized only to be resurrected many months later in another profession.

In my sordid work experience throughout the years I have been laid off, let go, re-assigned, promoted, demoted, fired, bum-rushed, asked to leave, asked to manage, often-times handed a ham sandwich and a road map, with a, "Don’t call us we'll call you" ... and they never did.

Many people think that it can’t happen to them because the boss likes them and the company needs them. It can and does happen - and now, often times, the boss gets shown the door as well. Be aware! The older you get, the more money you are paid and the stronger the scent of your blood in the water. The company sharks know this. If you were a shark, don’t hate the player, hate the game. And there is consolation when the boss gets the same pink slip at the same time you do. Once you hit the parking lot, corporate etiquette would dictate that it is sporting to give him/her at least a three step lead before you start chasing them.

Getting laid off feels like your self worth has been killed. Your whole identity, lifestyle and ego are drastically changed within one day. Your source of security, purpose and income gets executed. You become needy and dependent - often times filled with guilt and rage. In America, it’s not who you are as much as what do you do.

I have some hard-lived advice for those who get the short end of the economic stick. The first thing you have to realize is that, most of the time, it’s not your fault. Don’t blame yourself. We are in a depression that Obama or your mama cannot fix. Deal with what is real and don’t look back. Laying people off is simply a financial decision and it has nothing to do with you as a person. Getting fired has everything to do with you as a person. That being said I’ve been fired more than an Iraqi assault rifle.

The other thing to realize is that those in the company who are not laid off have to do twice or three times the work at the same pay.

The last thing to actualize is that the company sucks anyway.

Most people are in denial and don’t anticipate job cut backs. They figure the company can work at a loss for a while and the boss doesn’t look worried. Be aware of this: the boss may not be worried because he or she may be stupid.

Always assume that you can be laid off any minute. And always have a "plan B" job to fall back on that can pay quick cash. It's also quite helpful to have a list of ridiculous things your spouse has purchased that can quickly be sold on Craigslist.

Immediately apply for unemployment, even if you expect to be called back.

Be aware of similar companies that can use your abilities, know who is hiring, and consider taking some classes learning another trade should your vocation go into a drought mode. Network on line 24/7. Besides, you have nothing else to do. Make getting a job, your job.

After college I went into Spanish language radio. Once I was blacklisted, I found myself unemployable. I finally took a job selling cars which led to learning the sales trade. Car dealerships have an intensive sales training system and I used my sales ability to land many types of jobs and feed my family until the economy got right again. (Don’t sell insurance. Your friends and family will never forgive you.)

There are a few stages one goes though once handed the pink slip. The first is denial. You are somehow convinced that it is a mistake and they will re-hire you the next day. The first day home is like a day home sick from school. You don’t know what to do with yourself and wait for the phone to ring, for a text, or for an e-mail that never comes. You call work to see who misses you or if anything has changed. Soon they make excuses not to take your call.

The second phase is you humble yourself and start asking your friends who's hiring, then check the various employment websites. Then you start going on some whack interviews. You soon find that there are lousy jobs out there with way too many over qualified candidates and they want to pay peanuts. Sometimes it is better to stay on unemployment rather than taking a minimum wage job.

The third phase is that you get used to being home, interview less frequently and, for many, give up. This is a mistake. Psychologists say that in order to be emotionally healthy, people need two things: security and significance. A job gives one significance. In my down times I have learned to forgo ego and have taken jobs that, before, I would consider beneath my stature. These have been some of the best and most rewarding times in my life. And the people around me were happy to know that I was no longer a legend in my own mind.The life experience of starting over vocationally and knowing that I had to scrape for my money has served to enhance the quality of my life immeasurably. It has given me a confidence I wouldn’t have received any other way.

I tell my sons that I believe that I could be dropped, flat broke, from a helicopter in Kentucky and have a job, an apartment, and a Cadillac within two weeks because now I know how to get money. Getting laid off at various stages in my life most certainly has showed me the way.

I hate to quote clichés, but this faith-based one is most appropriate: Tough times don’t last, but tough people do.

Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez is a Contributing Editor to Latino L.A. and Vida de Oro.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Latino Senator tells President, "We don't need new taxes, we need new taxpayers"

Joint Senate Floor remarks push focus on country, not Washington D.C. politics.

Congressional leaders are meeting today with President Barack Obama to discuss a potential $4-trillion package that could reduce the nation’s growing deficit.  Topics to be discussed include:  broad changes to social security; broad changes to Medicare; and an overhaul of the nation’s tax code.  An interesting topic that will not be discussed is the creation of jobs, a key component Freshman Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) believes should be a key topic.  The following is a press release issued by his office and below is the video of the entire presentation.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) to speak on the Senate floor about jobs and the debt.  In his remarks, Rubio stressed the importance of taking bad job-destroying ideas off the table in ongoing debt reduction negotiations.

Sen. Marco Rubio
SENATOR RUBIO: “Here's the bottom line: These tax increases they're talking about. These so-called revenue enhancers, they don't solve the problem. So what do we do then? Because clearly we have to do two things.

"One, we have to hold the line on spending, if you keep digging yourself in the hole, the hole is going to bury you, the other thing is how do you start generating revenue for government so you can start paying down this debt?  That’s what the debate should be about. 

“We already know these taxes don't work. Here is what I suggest works in a balanced approach, using the President's terminology. Let's stop talking about new taxes and start talking about creating new taxpayers, which basically means jobs. 

“Here in Washington, this debt is the number-one issue on everyone's mind, and rightfully so. It is a major issue. But everywhere else in the real world, the number one issue on everyone's minds is jobs. …

“We don't need new taxes. We need new taxpayers, people that are gainfully employed, making money and paying into the tax system. Then we need a government that has the discipline to take that additional revenue and use it to pay down the debt and never grow it again. That's what we should be focused on, and that's what we're not focused on. 

“You look at all these taxes being proposed, and here's what I say. I say we should analyze every single one of them through the lens of job creation, issue number one in America. I want to know which one of these taxes they're proposing will create jobs. I want to know how many jobs are going to be created by the plane tax. How many jobs are going to be created by the oil company tax I heard so much about. How many jobs are created by going after the millionaires and billionaires the president talks about? I want to know: How many jobs do they create?

“Because I'll tell you, and I'm going to turn it over to Senator Ayotte in a second. I'm interested in her perspective as a job creator, as the spouse of a job creator, as someone like me who came off the campaign trail.  I traveled the state of Florida for two years campaigning. I have never met a job creator who told me that they were waiting for the next tax increase before they started growing their business. I've never met a single job creator who's ever said to me I can't wait until government raises taxes again so I can go out and create a job.

...“The other great phrase here, you know, both Senator Ayotte and I have only been here a few months so I think we're still learning the language of Washington. I hope it never becomes part of my permanent vocabulary, but one of the things I've been hearing recently is this notion everything should be on the table, which is funny because everything is not on the table, according to the President and others. 

“For example, there is no serious discussion of a spending cap. I'd love to have a vote -- why don't we have a vote on the balanced budget amendment? Why is that not on the table? Why is a balanced budget amendment not on the table? Why aren’t we voting on that tomorrow? 

“Because a balanced budget amendment basically says you can't spend money you don't have which makes all the sense in the world to the rest of the people that live in the real world, but apparently that doesn't apply here and the result is these problems we face.

“But I actually think some things should be off the table. Let me tell you what should be off the table: bad ideas. If something is a bad idea, it shouldn't be on the table. And I think it is a bad idea to pass things to make it harder to hire people. 

“How much higher do they want unemployment to be? So here is what I think we have to ask ourselves. These tax increases that Senator Ayotte pointed out along with the regulations kill job creation in America. These tax increases don't do anything about the debt. They don't raise enough money to do anything significant about the debt. They don't create jobs. In fact, they kill them. So how could tax increases that they're outlining be part of a solution? Why is it being offered? 

“Ultimately these are smart people. They know the math. I think the answer lies in the politics of all of this. The politics of all of this is pretty clear. This appears to be an effort to save face. 

…“There's got to be spending reductions and it appears to me that the President and others in his party are positioning and are looking for a pound of flesh in return for these cuts so they can go to their political base and say, ‘Look what we’ve got, we got something out of this. We went after the people who made all this money, we went after the greedy millionaires and billionaires. We went after this oil companies, even though this has nothing to do with the debt.’  That’s the only explanation for why this is even on the table. 

“I think all bad ideas should be off the table. I think anything that kills jobs should be off the table. I think anything that hurts the ability of job creators to grow their business should be off the table. I think anything that helps increase the unemployment rate should be off the table. I think that's what should be off the table. I think anything that hurts our ability to grow our economy should be off the table. And I hope what should be on the table are things that force this government once and for all to put itself back on the path of sanity. 

“Sanity basically means that we stop having a government that spends money it does not have. And I'll turn it over to Senator Ayotte to close but I want thank you for the opportunity to do this because I thought it was important to bring these points to the floor here today.”

Click on the video below to watch the entire presentation:

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Biomedical Research and the Latino Community

The Latino community is both genetically and culturally diverse; and as gene-based medicine advances, Latinos will need to make sure that new medical technologies serve that diversity.
By Michael Rugnetta | Read this article en español, and see the full Science Progress report here
Latinos suffer from wide ranging health disparities in comparison to non-Hispanic whites. They are twice as likely, for example, as non-Hispanics of the same age, to have diabetes and to develop complications from diabetes such as heart disease, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney disease, amputations and nerve damage. While we know these disparities are caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors, we don’t know to what degree each are involved for many conditions disproportionately affecting Latinos. That’s where modern genomics comes into play.

With the Human Genome Project complete for over a decade, the benefits of genomic data are now trickling into the business and practice of medicine. The passage of the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act in 2008 and the Affordable Care Act in 2010 have set the rules of the road, and made the critical investments necessary to lay the ground work for new advances in American genomics research. In the coming years, as the price of whole-genome scans come down and the medical community enters a new era of personalized medicine, we will have a new set of tools with which to study the origin of diseases affecting specific populations.

Genetics can reveal useful information about an individual’s health status, but they can also reveal unexpected information about group identity. The Latino community is both genetically and culturally diverse; and as gene-based medicine advances, Latinos will need to make sure that new medical technologies serve that diversity.

I believe that to capture the necessary genetic diversity to study the drivers of health disparities, America’s research agenda must include a broad swath of the Latino population. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has so far committed $61 million to observe more than 16,000 Latinos over six years through the Hispanic Community Health Study, the nation’s largest longitudinal study of Latinos. Yet there is still so much more to be gained by incorporating the study of Latino populations into other research projects. But the research process does not end with research funding decisions. Clinical and biomedical research practices must also be more responsive to patients, who should be empowered to tell researchers and doctors what kinds of questions they want research to answer.

Every step of the biomedical research process — from genetic testing to clinical trials — can be made more inclusive, addressing the broad range of genetic and economic diversity in the U.S. The Latino community will need to work together with research institutions and private companies to overcome the barriers that exist with regards to inclusive biomedical research. These barriers range from economic inequalities and provider biases to lack of awareness, distrust, or cultural and linguistic differences.

Doctors can play a major role in making Latino patients more fully aware of clinical trials or genetic studies by communicating the possible risks and benefits. Doctors should also inform patients of the privacy protections afforded by laws like the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act in order to build trust and allay fears of discrimination in employment or insurance. This kind of communication will become a necessity in the future as medical research and clinical care become ever more closely intertwined.

The Department of Health and Human Services has already laid out recommendations for more inclusive research practices in a 2009 report. It recommends the building of a more diverse scientific and health care workforce; outreach to trusted community members who can promote the benefits of research; and the building of cultural awareness surrounding diet, work-life balance and access to resources. The report also elaborated on a research model known as “community-based participatory research,” which would involve the Latino community in the design and conduct of the research, creating a sense of community “ownership” over the results and a greater adherence to the outcomes.

These practices have the potential to create actionable, results-oriented research processes that incorporate the histories, lifestyles and values of Latino patients. The last thing we want is for the research establishment to become overly reliant on a single indicator, measurement or classification that does not account for the needs of individuals in the Latino community and other communities. Only by making sure that every community’s voice is heard, can we be sure that personalized genetic medicine will truly be personalized.

This op-ed is reposted from the Huffington Post. Michael Rugnetta is a former research assistant for Science Progress and author of the new report, “Addressing Race and Genetics: Health Disparities in the Era of Personalized Medicine” .

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Latino businesses would be hurt by California bill

Rather than protecting small businesses and neighborhoods, SB 469 could significantly harm them.
By Julian Canete

SACRAMENTO, CA -- At the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, we are proud to be the voice of small business in California. We represent more than 700,000 Hispanic business owners all across the state that employ countless Californians in good, quality jobs.

We know building a new store is more than just bricks and mortar; it's people and jobs. Every time a new store or a new shopping center is created, a ripple is created: people are hired to work the stores, sales are made, money is exchanged, the economy grows and tax revenue flows.

Building new stores is a win-win for everyone: for people looking for jobs and for state officials looking for new revenue.

That's why we're so disappointed in Senate Bill 469 by state Sen. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego. This bill, which requires municipalities to do economic impact reports before approving the construction or conversion of a "superstore", undoubtedly was written with good intentions but it will have negative consequences across the state. Rather than protecting small businesses and neighborhoods, it could significantly harm them.

The basic problem with this law is its unintended consequences. Rather than protecting small businesses, it would make it even more difficult for any business from constructing a building over a certain size. But attacking large retailers hurts everyone. Our market system works best when businesses compete for employees and customers.

But beyond that, this bill sends the wrong message at the wrong time. Right now in California, we are experiencing an unprecedented economic downturn. We are confronted with a high unemployment rate. And with so many people unemployed, it's no wonder our state is also facing a huge decline in revenue. We need legislation in Sacramento that will encourage economic development not harm it.

Since the construction of new businesses and new buildings is largely a local issue, why would we want to add yet another state mandate that adds another layer of bureaucracy to local governments? Why would we want to make it more difficult for them to bring new businesses into their communities?

And finally, this issue ultimately comes down to choice. Shouldn't consumers be able to decide where they want to shop? Aren't they capable of making good decisions? Unfortunately, this proposed legislation would limit their options.

At the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, we believe that the only way to fight our way out of this economic downturn is to do everything possible to create new jobs and new growth. We know that anytime a store is built anywhere in California, bringing with it hundreds of new jobs, we are that much closer to ending this recession.

We urge the legislators in Sacramento to work with businesses, not against them. We can have reasonable disagreements about tax policy or fiscal policy. But surely we can all agree that creating new jobs in California is a major priority.

That's our policy and we urge everyone in the legislature to join with us as we create a better economy and a brighter future for our state.

Julian Canete is president of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, based in Sacramento.