Archive for July, 2013

Forum on Jobs & the Environment

Monday, July 1st, 2013

By Kristen Beifus and Tom Lux, Environment Committee Co-Chairs 

Our planet is suffering and so are we, as workers and members of the community. What can we do to ensure there are good family wage jobs that don’t endanger the environment and don’t speed up climate change? Many things need to be done to improve our communities that would provide family wage jobs and would not adversely effect on our environment. Developing our mass transit infrastructure, road and bridge repair, renovating and retrofitting publicly used buildings, building capacity for solar and wind power conversion, building a smart grid – all provide job creation opportunities.

PSARA does not believe that we need to make the choice between jobs and the environment. We can support living wage jobs while promoting a healthy environment and not contributing to climate change.

The science is clear – at the rate we are going, our children and grandchildren will be facing ecological disasters we can not even imagine.

The unemployment and underemployment numbers are also clear. Certain labor sectors in our communities are facing 25% unemployment. Not counted are those who are under-employed and struggling to provide basic needs for themselves and their families. We need to advocate for sustainable, living wage jobs and workers rights.

Do you agree? Come to the upcoming PSARA Forum – Jobs & the Environment NOT Jobs vs. the Environment, Tuesday, July 16th, 5:30pm-7:30pm, Central Area Senior Center, 500 30th Ave. S., Seattle. Be part of advocating for job creation in WA and for keeping our communities healthy now and into the future.

Mayoral Forum on July 19th

Monday, July 1st, 2013

The Seattle political campaign for Mayor is one of the most contentious and interesting in many years. There are policy differences among the candidates, genuine differences in priorities, and disagreements about effective leadership. Should the Mayor keep his job? If not, why not? If not the Mayor, then who?

When the Director of the Central Area Senior Center (CASC), Cynthia Andrews, suggested that PSARA and the CASC jointly sponsor a 2013 Mayoral forum, we quickly agreed to the idea. A consistent relationship has existed between the CASC and PSARA. Our Executive Board meets at the Center ten times a year. Will Parry served on the Board of the Center for several years and helped to raise the dollars necessary to assure the survival of the Center when they were facing difficult financial times.

But we have never jointly sponsored a program. We welcome this opportunity.

King County Council Chair, Larry Gossett will moderate the forum. The vast majority of mayoral candidates have agreed to participate. The Center and PSARA are working jointly on the questions that will be asked of the candidates.

On Friday, July 19th, the doors will open at 11:30 a.m. The Center will provide a soul food lunch at $3 for people 60 and over and $6 for people under 60. The forum starts at noon until 1:30 p.m.

The primary ballots are to be mailed on July 14th. Responses by the candidates to our questions will be fresh in our minds when we vote. We urge PSARA members to join us for PSARA’s first ever Mayoral forum!

Are You With America or the Cayman Islands?

Monday, July 1st, 2013

By Sen. Bernie Sanders 

When the greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior on Wall Street drove this country into the deepest recession since the 1930s, the largest financial institutions in the United States took every advantage of being American. They just loved their country – and the willingness of the American people to provide them with the largest bailout in world history. In 2008, Congress approved a $700 billion gift to Wall Street. Another $16 trillion in virtually zero interest loans and other financial assistance came from the Federal Reserve. America. What a great country.

But just two years later, as soon as these giant financial institutions started making record-breaking profits again, they suddenly lost their love for their native country. At a time when the nation was suffering from a huge deficit, largely created by the recession that Wall Street caused, the major financial institutions did everything they could to avoid paying American taxes by establishing shell corporations in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens.

In 2010, Bank of America set up more than 200 subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands (which has a corporate tax rate of 0.0 percent) to avoid paying U.S. taxes. It worked. Not only did Bank of America pay nothing in federal income taxes, but it received a rebate from the IRS worth $1.9 billion that year. They are not alone. In 2010, JP Morgan Chase operated 83 subsidiaries incorporated in offshore tax havens to avoid paying some $4.9 billion in U.S. taxes. That same year Goldman Sachs operated 39 subsidiaries in offshore tax havens to avoid an estimated $3.3 billion in U.S. taxes. Citigroup has paid no federal income taxes for the last four years after receiving a total of $2.5 trillion in financial assistance from the Federal Reserve during the financial crisis.

On and on it goes. Wall Street banks and large companies love America when they need corporate welfare. But when it comes to paying American taxes or American wages, they want nothing to do with this country. That has got to change.

Offshore tax abuse is not just limited to Wall Street. Each and every year corporations and the wealthy are avoiding more than $100 billion in U.S. taxes by sheltering their income offshore.

Pharmaceutical companies like Eli Lilly and Pfizer have fought to make it illegal for the American people to buy cheaper prescription drugs from Canada and Europe. But, during tax season, Eli Lilly and Pfizer shift drug patents and profits to the Netherlands and other offshore tax havens to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

Apple wants all of the advantages of being an American company, but it doesn’t want to pay American taxes or American wages. It creates the iPad, the iPhone, the iPod, and iTunes in the United States, but manufactures most of its products in China so it doesn’t have to pay American wages. Then it shifts most of its profits to Ireland, Luxembourg, the British Virgin Islands and other tax havens to avoid paying U.S. taxes. Without such maneuvers, Apple’s federal tax bill in the United States would have been $2.4 billion higher in 2011.

Offshore tax schemes have become so absurd that one five-story office building in the Cayman Islands is now the “home” to more than 18,000 corporations. 

This tax avoidance does not just reduce the revenue that we need to pay for education, healthcare, roads, and environmental protection, it is also costing us millions of American jobs. Today, companies are using these same tax schemes to lower their tax bills by shipping American jobs and factories abroad. These tax breaks have contributed to the loss of more than 5 million U.S. manufacturing jobs and the closure of more than 56,000 factories since 2000. That also has got to change.

At a time when we have a $16.5 trillion national debt; at a time when roughly one-quarter of the largest corporations in America are paying no federal income taxes; and at a time when corporate profits are at an all-time high; it is past time for Wall Street and corporate America to pay their fair share.

That’s what the Corporate Tax Dodging Prevention Act (S.250) that I have introduced with Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) is all about.

This legislation will stop profitable Wall Street banks and corporations from sheltering profits in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens to avoid paying U.S. taxes. It will also stop rewarding companies that ship jobs and factories overseas with tax breaks. The Joint Committee on Taxation has estimated in the past that the provisions in this bill will raise more than $590 billion in revenue over the next decade.

As Congress debates deficit reduction, it is clear that we must raise significant new revenue. At 15.8 percent of GDP, federal revenue is at almost the lowest point in 60 years. Our Republican colleagues want to balance the budget on the backs of the elderly, the sick, the children, the veterans and the most vulnerable by making massive cuts. At a time when the middle class already is disappearing, that is not only a grossly immoral position, it is bad economics.

We have a much better idea. Wall Street and the largest corporations in the country must begin to pay their fair share of taxes. They must not be able to continue hiding their profits offshore and shipping American jobs overseas to avoid taxes.

Here’s the simple truth. You can’t be an American company only when you want a massive bailout from the American people. You have also got to be an American company, and pay your fair share of taxes, as we struggle with the deficit and adequate funding for the needs of the American people. If Wall Street and corporate America don’t agree, the next time they need a bailout let them go to the Cayman Islands, let them go to Bermuda, let them go to the Bahamas and let them ask those countries for corporate welfare.

(Reprinted from Reader Supported News) 

Aganita Varkentine elected to PSARA Executive Board

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Aganita has been a long-time resident of Seattle, and currently lives in Burien. She is a Board member of PSOLOC (Puget Sound Old Lesbians Organizing for Change and Community). She was active in the civil rights movement in the 1960s and the anti-war movement in the 1960s and 1970s, and has been a member of SEIU 775.

Budget-Cutting is Killing Europe

Monday, July 1st, 2013

By Mike Andrew 

When Europe plunged into economic crisis more than four years ago, the IMF and the European Central Bank had one answer – austerity! Beginning with Greece, Eurozone members were ordered to cut social spending, lay off public sector workers, and privatize national assets.

While draconian budget cuts were supposed to be the road back to prosperity, economic reports for the first quarter of 2013 show that austerity measures are having exactly the opposite effect. In fact, budget-cutting is killing Europe.

“The misery continues,” Carsten Brzeski, senior economist at ING bank in Brussels, told Reuters. “Almost all major countries except Germany, are in recession, and so far nothing has helped stop this downward spiral.”

Consider the facts:

  • Nine of the 17 countries in the Eurozone are in recession: Spain, France, Italy, Finland, Netherlands, Portugal, Cyprus, Greece, and Slovenia.
  • On average, the regional GDP fell 0.2% in the first part of 2013 compared to the previous quarter, and 1% in the previous year.
  • The Eurozone has been in recession for six consecutive quarters, the longest recession since area data began to be recorded in 1995.

France’s GDP fell 0.2% in the first quarter of 2013, the second consecutive quarter of decline. In the previous year, French GDP fell 0.4%.

Italy, the third largest economy in the Eurozone, recorded its seventh consecutive quarter of decline, the longest since data started being recorded in 1970.

The poorest countries were, of course, the hardest hit.

Greece’s economy shrank by a catastrophic 5.6% in the first quarter of 2013. Spain’s declined by 0.5%, and Portugal’s by 0.3%.

Unemployment in Greece and Spain is now over 27%. By comparison, unemployment in the US in 1932 – the worst year of the Great Depression – was 23.6%. Cuts in unemployment benefits have left millions of workers destitute.

In both countries, almost two-thirds of workers under 25 are out of work, with no alternative but to emigrate to find a job.

Austerity advocates in the US – from Congress to the state legislature – might take notice.

TransPacific Partnership: Bad News for Working People

Monday, July 1st, 2013

By Kristen Beifus, Executice Director, Washington Fair Trade Coalition & PSARA Environment Committee Co-Chair

NHK Broadcasting, Japan’s equivalent of the BBC, contacted me last month, wanting a statement on the American public’s reaction to the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.

A super-sized NAFTA, the TransPacific Partnership is a free-trade agreement whereby countries give foreign corporations rights and privileges to encourage investment and global business. The TPP was a major issue during Japan’s recent national elections, when thousands took to the streets in protest. It was hard for the Japanese journalist to believe me when I explained that there is little awareness of the TPP here in the United States, because our media has hardly covered the subject.

The corporate powers granted in the TPP can override domestic laws on environmental health and safety, and labor and citizens’ rights. Not only that, but multinationals can claim that those domestic laws hamper free trade and sue member countries for millions of dollars. The TPP is in many ways an attempt to revive the stalled expansion of the World Trade Organization.

At present, the TPP talks include 12 Pacific Rim countries: Canada, the United States, Mexico, Peru, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and, most recently, Japan. Thailand and the Philippines have expressed interest, and other countries would be allowed to join the TPP at any time.

Although trade deals have potentially huge effects on the economy, environment, and food sovereignty of communities throughout these 12 countries, the TPP negotiations are being held in secret between unelected government officials and representatives from more than 600 of the world’s most powerful corporations. The United States has plenty of interests clamoring for the trade advantages of the TPP, while developing countries like Vietnam see the TPP as an opportunity for economic development.

But the AFL-CIO, one of the few non-corporate and nongovernmental entities that have access to the text of the agreements, does not support the TPP in its current form because of implications for labor and human rights.

The talks are scheduled to finish by October of this year. Meanwhile, negotiators are lobbying Congress to grant “Fast Track” authority for the TPP. That would mean Congress couldn’t revise the agreements and could only vote “yes” or “no” to the United States joining the TPP.

Leaked documents show how extensive the reach of the TPP would be. It is shaping up as a corporate takeover of public policy that would impact safe food, sustainable jobs, clean water and air, access to life-saving medicines, education, even our very democracy. After 20 years under NAFTA we know the likely impacts for people and the environment.

In March, Citizens Trade Campaign organized a letter to Congress signed by 400 U.S. organizations outlining expectations for public involvement and calling for an end to Fast Track. It was signed by, among others, the Sierra Club, Doctors Without Borders, Public Citizen, the National Family Farm Coalition, and state trade justice groups including the Washington Fair Trade Coalition.

Polls show the majority of Americans believe that offshoring jobs and NAFTA-style free trade deals have hurt the U.S. economy, so it’s likely that Americans would be opposed to the TPP too—if they knew more about it.

The next round of TPP talks will be held July 15-24th in Malaysia. There was a recent secret inter-sessional negotiation round of TPP’s Investor-State Chapter, June 14-16th in Vancouver, however ministers would not share with activists or the media where this round was held. During the round there were actions throughout the city calling for ‘Breaking the Silence on the TPP.’

TPPxBorder, a network of groups in the United States, Canada, and Mexico resisting the TPP, is also gearing up for another TPP Round somewhere in North America in September. Be on the lookout for the TPP to be coming to your town and get ready to take to the streets. For now visit TPPxBorder.org to find out how the TPP will impact you!

Deportations, Comprehensive Immigration Reform, and Social Security

Monday, July 1st, 2013

By Robby Stern 

Imagine a young child or a teen ager living in constant fear that their parents will be deported and sent to another country, permanently separated from their family. The Obama administration has deported over a million undocumented immigrants creating many fractured families.

The Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation being debated in the U.S. Senate as I write this column would help to alleviate some of the suffering now experienced by immigrant families. The deportations are a tragedy. Many of the people being deported would be able to remain in the country legally under the provisions of the legislation now before the Senate.

There is a “rolling fast” happening across the country which began on May 1 in Mountainview, CA. The message is “Not One More”. Day laborers, domestic workers and their allies have participated in the fast in Florida, New Jersey and Oregon. Participants are bearing moral witness to the impact of the deportations and the necessity of humane comprehensive immigration reform.

The fast arrives in Seattle on July 2nd. Coordinated by Casa Latina, different organizations are taking responsibility for providing members who will fast and programming for each of the days from July 2nd – July 6th. The theme of the fast and the activities associated with the fast are to send the message that deportations should be suspended while Congress debates the immigration reform proposals.

On July 5th and 6th, PSARA will participate with the other steering committee organizations of the Caring Across Generations campaign: PSARA, Casa Latina, SEIU Healthcare 775NW and Washington CAN. Each organization will provide volunteers who will fast from 9 a.m. on July 5th to 9 a.m. on July 6th.

Kristen Beifus and I have volunteered to fast on behalf of PSARA.

As a first generation American, my family experienced the struggles of immigrant families. My parents and older brother fled Germany in 1938 after my Dad was incarcerated in a slave labor camp for the crime of being a Jew. The lives of immigrant families can be very difficult and it is wrong to add to that burden the threat of family separation.

Any PSARA member who wishes can join us in this fast and day of activity. We will gather at 9 a.m. on Friday, July 5th, at the South Side Commons and have our last meal for the next 24 hours. Following the meal there will be a workshop on the need for immigration reform led by members of SEIU 775. At 4 p.m. at Casa Latina we will gather for a film about immigration and a discussion after the film. We will then adjourn to Temple Beth Am where Hilary Stern will deliver the sermon for the Friday night Sabbath service.

At 9 a.m., on Saturday, July 6th, the Caring Across Generations members will break their fast and all the members of the organizations that had participated during the entire week will gather for a final breakfast together and a sharing of stories.

Call the PSARA office if you would like to participate.

I realize that the newsletter may get to your homes after these activities. We are trying to get the newsletter to you early. An email will be sent to all members for whom we have email addresses inviting them to participate.

The fight for comprehensive immigration reform promises to continue for several months. We will continue to provide opportunities to help.

Social Security & Immigration Reform

A recent study by the Center for American Progress found that if undocumented immigrants acquire legal status and citizenship, they will end up contributing much more to the Social Security system than they will receive in benefits over the next three decades when the Social Security system is paying benefits to the baby boomer generation. The average age of undocumented immigrants is 36. Most will not be eligible for benefits until the baby boomer generation has, for the most part, passed through the system. The Social Security system will be financially stronger as a result of comprehensive immigration reform.

This study is consistent with the very recent Congressional Budget Office Report that found that the immigration reform bill now before the Senate would significantly reduce the federal deficit as a result of the tax revenue that would be generated by the newly legalized immigrants.

Letter from Congressman Reichart on Chained CPI

I wrote to Rep. Reichart on behalf of PSARA asking him to oppose the proposal for adopting the Chained CPI. Here are some excerpts from his response:

“…Treasury Secretary Jack Lew recently stated at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing the ‘the Chained CPI is a more accurate measure of inflation in that it does a better job of reflecting the substitution of goods in response to relative price changes.’ Additionally, Lew noted that the provision was included in the President’s recently released Fiscal Year 2014 budget.”

The President has given Rep. Reichart and others in the House Republican Caucus cover for voting in favor of the cut to Social Security benefits. The substitution theory that is the foundation of the Chained CPI, (i.e. if the price of oranges goes up, people buy more apples) does not apply to the cost of health care which is one of the biggest cost items for Social Security beneficiaries.

Pres. Obama has done a idsservice to the American people by including cuts to Social Security in his 2014 budget proposal.

Moving Forward on a Low Income Fare

Monday, July 1st, 2013

By Katie Wilson 

Here’s a huge thank you to the many PSARA members who provided petition signatures in support of a low income reduced fare! The Transit Riders Union(TRU) has collected over a thousand signatures and we’re still counting. An impressive number of the petition sheets are pages pulled out of The Retiree Advocate.

For the past six months I’ve been sitting on the King County Low Income Fare Options Advisory Committee. On July 1st we sent our final recommendations to the County Council. These recommendations include: that a low income fare program be created; that anyone with an income below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level be eligible; and that Metro should provide the lowest fare possible that will also allow the program to be sustainable. Our recommendations could have been stronger on some points, but overall they are a good and solid foundation – and now TRU and our allies have to pressure the County Council to act on them!

The greatest obstacle is funding: Metro faces the prospect of 17% service cuts next year unless new transit funding is approved. Where is the money for a low income fare program going to come from? We hope a dedicated funding source can be found. In the meantime, TRU will be campaigning to save our bus service!

With bus fares projected to go up again next year (that’s the fifth time since 2008!), we want to let the County Council know that public transit must be affordable for those of us with low incomes. We can’t wait long.

On Monday, July 22, Transit Riders Union members and allies will present our petition for a low income fare program to the County Council at their full council meeting, starting at 1:30 pm on the 10th floor of the King County Courthouse. PSARA members are invited to join us at this event! Please help us pack the council chambers. Let’s show our elected representatives that they have a strong public mandate to move forward and implement a low income fare.

Katie Wilson is the Chair of the Transit Riders Union & a PSARA member 

Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign

Monday, July 1st, 2013

By Howard Pellett, PSARA member 

Global climate change is the biggest threat to humanity that we face! No rational argument can be made against rising CO2 levels and the consequent global climate change. We are losing the battle to effect any change.

Bill McKibben formed 350.org in 2008 to try to stop global climate change at 350 ppm carbon level that scientists agreed would stabilize global climate. The level of CO2 is now 400 ppm and there is no end in sight.

Recently, McKibben lead a “Do the Math” tour. He pointed out that there are 2795 gigatons of fossil fuel reserves held by fossil fuel companies, five times the 565 gigatons of fossil fuel which scientists say can be burned to keep global temperature at 2 degrees Celsius as agreed by the world’s nations at the Copenhagen conference. The movie, “Do the Math” can be viewed at math.350.org.

Nevertheless, the multinational fossil fuel corporations plan is to keep drilling and keep digging the known reserves, 2795 gigatons, and promote burning all of those gigatons! Their plan will create the biggest calamity the world has ever known as temperatures increase 4-6 degrees Celsius. These corporations are willing to cause the resulting environmental tragedy because of the huge profits they reap from the sales of oil and gas.

We know what we must do. We can convert to renewable energy sources like wind, tidal and solar. We have the resources now to do this. What is holding us hostage is the political and economic power of the fossil fuel companies.

We can organize to stop the tragedy we are facing. Divestment is one positive thing we can do. The only language the fossil fuel companies understand is money. Divestment offers a means to organize against fossil fuel companies. Working with church members, university students and other institutions we can demand divestment from fossil fuel corporations.

Divestment was an important tool in the fight against apartheid in South Africa. PSARA can join with the City of Seattle, the United Church of Christ and 250 student movements across the nation in this effort. Check out gofossilfree.org for more information.

Medicare’s Birthday

Monday, July 1st, 2013

By Mike Warren 

Celebrate Medicare’s 48th birthday on July 27th. Meet at 2:30 P.M. at the Seattle Center, east of Key Arena at the southwest end of the fountain near the metal sculpture of the dolphins. We will walk through Downtown Seattle to Victor Steinbruek Park starting at 3:00 and ending at 5:00.

People will be gathering in downtown Seattle for the Seafair Torchlight Parade. We will hand out information on the importance of Medicare and the threats it faces. This is a celebration so there will be balloons and noisemakers as well as signs, music and theater. The event is sponsored by Washington Alliance for Retired Americans and Physicians for a National Health Program of Western Washington. All are welcome to join in the festivities.

Mike Warren is President of WA Alliance for Retired Americans & a PSARA Exec. Board member