Sunday, April 11, 2021
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Jeff Barnett


“Booze and food industries’ weapon of mass destruction” Attacks Minimum Wage Increase

In Tuesday night's State of the Union Address, President Obama called to raise the minimum wage. Less than 10 hours after the President's speech, a full page attack ad attack in The Wall Street Journal (page A14) appeared on the Nation's doorsteps and desks.

"In his State of the Union address President Obama endorsed a nearly 40 percent increase in the minimum wage."

The ad was paid for by The Employment Policies Institute ("one of several front groups created by Berman & Co., a Washington, DC public affairs firm owned by Rick Berman, who lobbies for the restaurant, hotel, alcoholic beverage and tobacco industries").  According to Wikipedia, EPI is led by Richard Berman, who was described by 60 Minutes as "the booze and food industries' weapon of mass destruction." Reportedly, Berman previously fronted for the tobacco and booze industries. His past targets include PETA and MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving). He has also "run numerous media campaigns on the issues of obesity, soda tax, smoking, cruelty to animals, mad cow disease, taxes, the national debt, drinking and driving, as well as the minimum wage."

The Journal charges somewhere between $150,000 and $250,000 for a black/white full-page ad. To build and contract the ad in a tight time line adds more costs.

This expensive overnight ad highlights the massive power of right-wing money in today's politics. EPI's real message goes far beyond the minimum wage. EPI's not-so-subtle message is that it has immediate stores of disposable dollars in the millions - and it can as easily target a Congressman or a Senator as target a President. Beware any politician in a swing state who challenges right-wing interests. EPI and its siblings will deliver immediate, professional and overwhelming confusion in state elections.

After the Citizens United case, we may think we saw the high point of money in the 2012 elections. Not so. A tsunami of special interest, right-wing money is heading our way.  

You Need a Raise

Compared with other developed nations, the United States has:

- Greater income inequality
- Less upward mobility

What should Americans do? What can we do?

Mark Shields of the PBS Newshour states this will be the #1 Democratic issue in 2016.

200 people attended a forum headlined by Hedrick Smith that focused on these questions. A video is at

- Short bios on the panelists start at 10:00.

- Hedrick Smith speaks at 16:40.

This video is filled with truthful, in-depth, policy analysis rather than the diet of sound bites, spin, messaging and propaganda we are generally fed.  

- Income inequality in America results primarily from conscious political decisions as opposed to the "inevitable" consequences of globalized technologies.

-Income inequality threatens our economic recovery and rends our social fabric.

Forum on Income Inequality

The National Affairs Committee of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee is hosting a forum on Income Inequality. "You Need a Raise!"

Get leading edge information on what Mark Shields calls the #1 Issue in the 2016 Presidential Elections.

Cosponsors include: Virginia AFL-CIO, Northern Virginia Labor Federation, Virginia Progressive Caucus, Fairfax County NAACP, Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans of Virginia, Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice in the National Capital Region and NOVA MovetoAmend

•Plus: Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax City, Fairfax County, Prince William County, 8th and 11th Congressional District Democratic Committees

This event is free of charge.

Hedrick Smith is the headliner.

17 October (5 days from now) in Ballston.

RSVP and more info:

Personal Liberty is Fundamental to What it Means to Be an American

Americans believe passionately in liberty. Personal freedom is fundamental to the entire American Experiment. After all, what freedoms do we have if not the inalienable right to decide personal choices personally? When a personal decision impacts no one but the individual citizen, no government, foreign or domestic, should ever interfere. If they try, they will have a fight on their hands. "Give me liberty or give me death" is our de facto national motto.

Liberty in America was/is/will always be at risk. It is in the nature of humankind to exert power over others. Today's tactical battlegrounds of liberty are reproduction and marriage, but the strategic stakes are much higher. Personal liberty is at risk. When Americans are forced by their government to cede personal decisions to sheriffs and judges, we cede personal liberty.

Religious zealots are hell-bent on undermining personal freedom in America. They want government to interfere in the personal decisions of Americans when it comes to reproduction and gay marriage. Without a shred of evidence that compelling societal impacts exist, zealots want government to impose their religious beliefs upon on all Americans.

Whether a woman chooses to abort a fetus is a decision between herself and her God. Her neighbors have no right to intrude on this personal decision. In fact, if an abortion results in one fewer unwanted child in the community, or in one fewer back-alley medical emergency, her neighbors should applaud her decision, not indict it.

When two people marry, they deepen their love. They give themselves an added bridge to survive tough times. Why would any American want to interfere in this most personal decision? What is the compelling social need to constrict a person's freedom to commit themselves to another person in marriage?

Anti-American zealots justify interference in personal liberty as defending marriage or defending life. As though marriage, which has endured for millennia, needs defense. As though uncontrolled hemorrhaging and unwanted and unloved children are not the inevitable consequences of their religious agenda.

Abortion and gay rights are not just social issues. They are fundamental tests of personal freedom in America.

Going Backward

Margi Vanderhye has a wonderful op-ed in our local paper. She captures the negative impact of radical Richmond Republicans. One paragraph strikes me with clarity and value:

Thanks to their votes, Virginians will find it harder to vote, but easier to buy guns. With calls for limited government, this legislature pushed for legislation so hostile and intrusive to women's privacy and health care that it made national headlines. Our state officials are pro-kids and family unless you are gay. They are pro-science but short change the K-12 education funding to train future scientists. Poverty is rising, so programs for poor families are being cut, putting the next generation's workforce at risk.

The Value of PLAs

Opponents of Dulles Rail are conveying a false message. They imply that everyone working on Dulles Rail must belong to a union. This is untrue. For Dulles Rail, no one will be required, directly or indirectly, to join a union.

A Project Labor Agreement will only require a firm schedule and no change orders.

Because overruns and change orders are part of every contractor's business model, contractors do not like Project Labor Agreements. This is why they are spreading misleading information. Because PLAs lock-in wages, schedules and costs, a PLA for Phase II of Dulles Rail will benefit every taxpayer in Fairfax and Loudoun counties.  

Conceived in the U.S.A.

Someone wake up The Boss. "Born in the U.S.A." is old news. "Conceived in the U.S.A." is the new reality. Courtesy of Virginia's right-wing zealots, personhood begins at conception. But if that's true, the rights of citizenship will begin at conception - and that opens a sea of troubles.

Millions of foreigners will sue for Obamacare based on mom's tryst in an airport Marriott. Disneyworld will have a new slogan: "Conceive in Orlando; get US citizenship for your future child!"

If conception equals personhood equals citizenship, every foreign woman entering and exiting the U.S.A. will need a pregnancy test. The tourist industry will scream, but so what?

On the plus side, millions of foreigners will owe U.S.A. taxes - based on conception within our borders.

We will also expand the number of males eligible for Selective Service.

So get ready to issue social security numbers at conception, open up Obamacare to foreigners conceived in the USA, and fund the immigration service for millions of pregnancy tests. If you love big government, you'll love personhood!

"Conceived in the U.S.A., I'm a cool rocking zygote in the U.S.A."

We Are Better Together

On Saturday, I confirmed with the 10th Congressional District Democratic Committee that I will not seek this year's nomination for the US Congress. Katherine and I are disappointed with the realities that drove our decision. To be honest with you, the decision NOT to run was the tougher call. It was actually tougher than committing to a 10-month campaign.

I will remain active in advancing Democratic values. Regrettably, our Middle Class values are under constant attack. Cynically exploiting this historic recession, Republican lies and corporate greed are destroying our Middle Class. It's time for the 99% to stand up. I am one of the 99%.

Too many Americans are working on thin ice. If you lose your job today, it may take years before you find another. In the meantime, you may lose your savings and your home; maybe your family. "Barren shelves in our Job Markets" is the #1 issue in this election - and will remain #1 in every election for decades.

Democrats and Republicans offer two completely different remedies. We propose two conflicting strategies to re-new and re-stock our job markets.

"On your own" is the Republican Party strategy. Once you boil down their goal of "less government and lower taxes," that is all that's left. Wealth will inevitably erode from the Middle Class. Those who want to join the Middle Class will get less help than they need. In other words, they are "on your own." Darwin might call it, "survival of the fittest."

Time for Democrats to Go on the Offensive

Democrats will be forced to "hold our noses" and support the Republican-dominated debt-ceiling bill. Democrats will act responsibly to raise the debt ceiling; the alternative is to risk the "full faith and credit of the United States." The Republican-imposed cost, however, is steep: gutting the social safety net during a deep recession - exactly when the safety net is needed most. Because of Republican irresponsibility, this is our only responsible option.

The real test will come after August 2nd. Will Democrats turn this vote into a deciding issue? Will Democrats hold Republicans accountable for this travesty? We failed to hold them accountable after the last two travesties (the government shut-down vote last Spring; and, the tax-cut extension bill last December). Hopefully, Democrats will stop playing defense and go on the offense.

Democrats believe:
• Social programs are positive for the Nation when kept within the constraints of a balanced federal budget.
• Federal taxes and regulations should encourage economic growth while matching revenue with spending.
• In a severe recession, government should intervene by increasing spending (to avert a spiral into depression).

Republicans believe:
• Real economic growth requires low taxes and reliance on markets to self-regulate.
• Taxing for social programs undermines economic growth.
• In a severe recession, government should cut taxes, spending and regulations even more (to help businesses recover).

Only one of these positions is right. It is time for Democrats to step up and clearly state what we believe is right. The alternative is to constantly play defense - which is a losing strategy.

Making a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow

Colbert nails it again. He skewers the hand-waving hypocrites who find tough decisions impossible to make but easy to criticize. His use of satire to tell this story with a straight face reminds me of "Dr. Strangelove."
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