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Chris Prandoni

Flush With Union Cash, DC Mayoral Candidate Vincent Gray Looks to Roll Back DC School Reform


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Sunday, September 5th, 2010, 6:26 PM PERMALINK


The fight for the Democratic mayoral nominee in Washington DC encapsulates the national struggle for education reform. On one side you have Mayor Adrian Fenty and his appointed School Chancellor Michelle Rhee, true reforms who took on the teachers unions in hopes of improving DC’s schools.

On the other side you have Fenty’s primary opponent, Vincent Gray. Gray is your typical big city politician. He ran a dirty campaign that mischaracterized and demonized Fenty’s term, he’s owned by special interest groups (see teachers unions), and will only pay lip service to reform, something DC desperately needs.

For decades, Washington DC’s public schools were the laughingstock of the country, consistently ranking near the bottom in every education metric. Fed-up with the status quo, Fenty appointed Michelle Rhee as Chancellor of Washington’s schools giving her free rein to battle the self-serving teachers unions and implement reforms she deemed essential.  So, did it work? How does DC’s education system compare to other cities, now?

A new study by AEI’s Rick Hess
examines “which of thirty major U.S. cities have cultivated a healthy environment for school reform to flourish.” Hess found that DC’s education environment now ranks second in a study of major US cities, largely due to Mayor Fenty and Michelle Rhee’s reforms.

Reform is painful; Fenty bruised some egos in the process making a lot of powerful enemies. Hess writes, “Survey respondents report that Mayor Adrian Fenty is the only municipal leader willing to expend extensive political capital to advance education reform.”

Gray has capitalized on union antipathy towards Fenty and formed alliances with DC’s biggest labor unions, receiving endorsements from:

AFSCME, AFGE, AFL-CIO Washington Labor Council, Carpenter's Union, Fraternal Order of Police, Fraternal Order of Police-Department of Corrections, Fraternal Order of Police District of Columbia Lodge #1, Firefighters Local 36, Gertrude Stein Club, , National Association of Government Employees, National Association of Social Workers, Nurses Union, Teamsters Local Union 639, Teamsters Local 689.”

No wonder Fenty is trailing in the polls, all of DC’s power players have united against the mayor. Most depressing is that Michelle Rhee announced she would leave if Gray is elected; their views are incompatible--Rhee is focused on giving DC’s poorest students chance to succeed, Gray is concerned with protecting teachers unions.

Carried across the finish line by union money, Gray’s election could well nullify the education gains Fenty and Rhee made over the past three years--the last thing DC needs.

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Harry Reid Looks to Resurrect RES During Lame-Duck


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Thursday, September 2nd, 2010, 11:22 AM PERMALINK


Harry Reid (D-Nev.) made news Tuesday when he announced that he would try to pass an energy bill during the lame-duck session. This comes as a surprise to most as Reid pulled his energy bill right before recess began as he couldn’t muster up the requisite votes. Even more surprising is that Reid said a key component of his lame-duck bill would be a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), a contentions policy amongst Members.

RES requires that a percentage of a state’s energy production be derived from “clean” energy sources, generally understood as wind and solar. Government imposed RES are necessary because wind and solar are not economically viable, they need government subsidies and mandates to compete with cheaper forms of energy.

While some think this is a political move to drum up support from the environmental lobby--Mr. Reid is currently involved in a heated primary debate with Republican Sharron Angle—let’s take Reid at his word. What are the economic implications for a national RES?

Heritage Foundation scholars crunched the numbers and found that instituting a 35 percent RES by 2035 America would loose 1,000,000 jobs.

Don’t take their word for it; look at Europe. In Spain, government subsidies for the wind and solar industry prevent 2.2 jobs from being created in the private sector and have contributed to the country's high unemployment levels.

Domestically, the DeSoto Solar Center in Florida was supposed to be the “largest solar power plant in the United States,” according to President Obama. The Center received $150 million from the Recovery Act. After using 400 construction workers to build the site, the Solar Center now employs only two people. So while the transition to new energy sources creates jobs, many of them are temporary, a distinction many on the left fail to make.

With unemployment already hovering around 10 percent, the last thing we need is from soon-to-be jobless Senators is an unnecessary energy bill. Implementing an RES during the lame-duck is bad policy, undemocratic, and appallingly arrogant.

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Rally for Jobs Kicks Off Today in Texas


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Wednesday, September 1st, 2010, 11:18 AM PERMALINK


Since coming into office, the Obama Administration has taken an antagonistic stance against America’s oil and natural gas producers--energy sources that power our country-- barring exploration along most of our coastline and threatening to levy job-killing tax increases.

In an attempt to push back against this anti-growth agenda, the American Petroleum Institute has organized nationwide Rallies for Jobs throughout the month of September--the first of which are held today in Texas.

The message of these rallies is clear: higher taxes mean fewer jobs.

Responsible for more than 9.2 million well-paying jobs across the country, oil and natural gas production is one of America’s biggest industries. Furthermore, this industry is already taxed at an exorbitant rate: the effective tax rate for oil and natural gas companies in 2009 was 48 percent compared to 28 percent for the rest of Standard and Poor’s industries.

The taxes being floated by the Obama administration would undoubtedly result in job loss. With the unemployment rate already hovering around 10 percent, further taxing America’s energy producers would be imprudent and irresponsible.

If you cannot make it to the Texas rallies today, you can view them and forthcoming rallies at http://energynation.org/.

Below is a list of the subsequent rallies across the country, I hope you will be able to join the thousands of Americans uniting to rebuke the job-killing policies coming out of Washington.

Sept. 1    11 a.m.   George R. Brown Convention Center Houston, TX
Sept. 1    11 a.m. American Bank Center Convention Center Corpus Christ, TX
Sept. 1  11 a.m Port Arthur Civic Center  Port Arthur, TX
Sept. 7   12 noon  Canton Memorial Civic Center Canton, Ohio
Sept. 8 11 a.m. McGee Park    Farmington, NM
Sept. 8        11 a.m. Pipefitters Training Center              Mokena, IL (Joliet)
Sept. 10     11 a.m. Two Rivers Convention Centrer  Grand Junction, CO

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Spill Commission Should Lift Moratorium Which Has Cost Gulf Residents 12,000 Jobs and $2.1 Billion


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Thursday, August 26th, 2010, 4:54 PM PERMALINK


With the spill off the Gulf largely contained, the Administration has launched a commission to investigate the root cause of the tragedy. Now that the heated emotions surrounding the spill are beginning to subside, the presidential commission has an enormous opportunity to objectively access the failures that led up to the spill—and just as importantly—to chart a sustainable, cheap, and safe course for America’s energy production.

Given the Administration’s antagonistic track record with America’s oil and natural gas producers, many Republican Members looked at the commission with weary eyes.

Addressing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Senator Barrasso (R-Wyo) highlighted many of these concerns:

“The president said he wanted an objective look. Well the commission’s background and expertise doesn’t really include an oil or a drilling expert, so people in the Gulf, people across the country are wondering about the administration’s goals. Is it really about making offshore energy exploration safer, or is it shutting down our offshore and American oil and gas.”

Unfortunately, the Obama Administration’s actions, thus far, can only lead to Senator Barrasso’s conclusion: the commission is about shutting down offshore production, not making it safer.  

After imposing a moratorium on deep water production—despite the impeccable track record of nearly every energy explorer, except BP—the administration went even further and imposed a de facto moratorium on shallower waters. By revoking or halting the permitting process for shallow water production (including exploration in Alaska’s waters), the Administration successfully impeded all offshore oil and natural gas production. But at what cost?

A study by Joseph R. Mason of Louisiana State University found that the current 6 month moratorium will cost 12,000 American jobs and $2.1 billion lost economic activity:

The moratorium only exacerbates the woes those in the Gulf face. The commission would be wise to alleviate the government-induced economic problems and allow for continued, safe production.

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Unions plan on spending big this election cycle


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Thursday, August 26th, 2010, 1:26 PM PERMALINK


[PDF Document]

The AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) recently announced that they will spend a combined $88 million during this year’s election cycle. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) plans to spend about $50 million.

Organized labor’s enormous war chests are largely derived from member dues—money that is deducted from workers’ paychecks and sent directly to the “representing” union. While some states have enacted paycheck protection laws that allow a worker to decide whether or not his dues are used for political purposes, a majority of states give workers no choice in how their dues are spent.

The following figures illustrate labor’s donations during this year’s election cycle:

Nine out of the top ten PACs that contributed to Democratic candidates are run by labor unions

Labor Union Political Action Committee Amount Contributed
Intl Brotherhood of Electrical Workers $2,323,373   
Operating Engineers Union $1,879,300
American Fedn of St/Cnty/Munic Employees  $1,749,000  
Teamsters Union  $1,588,910 
Laborers Union $1,582,500      
Machinists/Aerospace Workers Union $1,527,500  
American Federation of Teachers $1,482,250  
Plumbers/Pipefitters Union $1,389,975   
International Assn of Fire Fighters $1,355,500    

 Four out of the top five organizations giving money to all 527s are labor unions

Organization Recipient
Service Employees International Union $10,764,321  
United Food & Commercial Workers Union  $3,562,014   
American Fedn of St/Cnty/Munic Employees   $2,382,873
Operating Engineers Union $2,196,245    


 

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Government Workers' Pensions are Underfunded by $3 Trillion


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Monday, August 23rd, 2010, 2:55 PM PERMALINK


[PDF File]

With state and local spending overruns having prompted officials to take a second look at current spending levels and future obligations, what has become apparent is that the current Ponzi-style, defined benefit pension system employed by many states poses the greatest threat to state austerity.

Looking to avoid politically difficult but necessary pension reform, states have been borrowing money, issuing bonds, estimating unreasonable returns, and cooking the books to hide their pension liabilities. Applying private-sector accounting practices to state pension funds reveals an enormous discrepancy between state’s publicized and actual liabilities.

Total underfunding of public employee pensions

Government workers receive generous pensions, driving up costs
A key factor in the underfunding of government employee pensions is the inflated benefits promised to individual workers. On average, government workers with defined benefit plans are owed $2.85 in retirement benefits per hour worked compared to a private sector worker with a defined benefit pension plan who receives $0.41 in pension benefits per hour worked.

Reform is difficult and easily demonized
The biggest opponents to pension reform are the current recipients of generous pension benefits, many of which are union members. Over 35 percent of government workers are represented by a union compared to 7 percent of private sector workers. Furthermore, pension benefits are guaranteed by law or state constitution giving current government unions and workers little incentive to renegotiate their contracts.

States should shift to defined-contribution retirement plans
The current public pension structure is unsustainable and unfair. Switching to defined contribution pension plans—as a majority of the private sector businesses and a number of states have already done—would preserve worker’s retirements and alleviate the government’s burden on taxpayers.

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ATR and a Broad Coalition of 27 Organizations Urge Congress to Oppose Oil and Gas Tax Hikes


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Monday, August 2nd, 2010, 10:09 AM PERMALINK


Click here to read the letter ATR sent to Congress.

Today, Americans for Tax Reform and a coalition of 27 national and state organizations sent a letter to Congress urging them to oppose all tax hikes on the oil and gas industry.  Currently, some elected officials are looking to repeal the tax exemptions that oil and gas companies, along with all domestic manufacturers, are entitled to.    “Oil companies are subject to many of the same tax laws as other domestic manufacturers, even though much of their operations occur overseas and incur foreign tax liabilities. In fact, the effective tax rate for oil and natural gas companies in 2009 was 48 percent compared to 28 percent for the rest of Standard and Poor’s industries, explaining why oil and gas companies paid a total of $13.3 billion in taxes last year.”

In this economic climate, Congress should be doing all it can to encourage investment and help create jobs in the U.S.  “Employed by every domestic manufacturer and producer in the United States, the domestic jobs manufacturing deduction (section 199 of the I.R.C.) is a tax break given to American companies to encourage growth and investment in the U.S. A repeal of this provision for oil companies discourages multinational entities from creating jobs here, as opposed to abroad.”

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ATR Will Keyvote Against H.R. 3534 (CLEAR Act) in Our Annual Congressional Scorecard


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Wednesday, July 28th, 2010, 5:12 PM PERMALINK


Click here for PDF version

Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) urges you to oppose H.R. 3534, the Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources Act of 2010 (CLEAR Act), as it further taxes America’s oil and gas producers, removes the liability cap for offshore operators, implements onerous, arbitrary regulations, and creates over $30 billion in mandatory spending for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Historic Preservation Fund.

Oil and Natural Gas Tax

While legislation reacting to the oil spill off the Gulf of Mexico is entirely appropriate, the CLEAR Act is an unconcealed attempt to punish oil and gas producers. Imposing a tax of $2 per barrel of oil and 20 cents per million BTU of natural gas, the CLEAR Act will raise energy prices for American families, impel layoffs, and threaten America’s production of oil and natural gas—resources which power our economy. The CLEAR Act elicits memories from 1993 when the White House urged Members to vote for a BTU tax only to have President Clinton distance himself from his proposal.

Removal of the Liability Cap

Further undermining America’s energy security, the CLEAR Act’s removal of a liability cap will drastically increase insurance premiums on Gulf oil and gas production, threatening the very existence of deepwater operations. Insurance premiums would rise so fast that small and medium refiners would be priced out of nearly all Gulf production. This proposal is a clear sop to trial lawyers as it allows them to sue companies for exaggerated amounts.

Regulatory Burden

Reforms are certainly needed to ensure that a spill of this magnitude never happens again, but new regulations must be targeted and precise. Unfortunately, the CLEAR Act’s regulations are not as investigators are yet to determine the exact cause of the oil spill. Instead of simply issuing more regulations, Congress should wait until the spill has been studied and enact thorough, preventative regulations.

Unnecessary Spending

Additionally, the $30 billion of mandatory spending for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Historic Preservation Fund is indicative of Congress’ spending problem. With government expenditures reaching a record 23 percent of GDP every year over the next decade, Congress should look to cut spending, not compound our mushrooming deficit.

For these and other reasons, ATR will be keyvoting against H.R 3534 (CLEAR Act) in our annual Congressional scorecard. 

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Organized Labor is the Antitesis of Worker Freedom


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Thursday, July 22nd, 2010, 5:30 PM PERMALINK


The following was published on DailyCaller on July 22, 2010

Public sector unions have a crucial interest in the expansion of government, spending, and by extension, interest in laws that inhibit the free movement of workers and capital. Organized labor has become the antithesis of worker freedom, throwing millions of dollars against candidates and ballot measures that foster choice and competition. More subliminally, public sector unions’ constant advocacy for bigger government crowds out the private sector and erodes states’ free market principles.

The Alliance for Worker Freedom (AWF) has released the Index of Worker Freedom: a National Report Card, a state-by-state comparative study that measures worker freedom through an analysis of policy implications as well as quantitative state data.

One of the key findings from this year’s Index was the negative correlation between a state’s union density and its level of worker freedom. States in the top quintile of worker freedom had levels of union density 41 percent lower than the national average and 55 percent lower than states in the bottom quintile.

This finding tells only part of the story. The composition of the labor movement has changed with more than 50 percent of all union members working for the government, many of them on the state level. This change in union demographics is an important lens by which to view state labor policy, especially in heavily unionized states. Only after a thorough understanding of public sector union’s influence and the policies for which they advocate does the Index’s negative correlation between a state’s union density and its level of worker freedom begin to make sense.

The largest public-sector unions are the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, and the Service Employees International Union. All together, these organizations have more than 7 million members and collect over $2 billion a year in member dues and fees.

With this enormous war chest, public-sector unions spent $165 million on campaigns and ballot measures in December of 2007 and 2008 drowning out pro-worker initiatives—like paycheck protection—and advocating for increased spending. This fact helps explain why of the fourteen states where over 50 percent of the public sector is unionized, only one ranked in the top 50 percent of this year’s Index. To make things worse, the policies that these public sector juggernauts push do more than help the public sector union: they actively harm local businesses and make the state less economically competitive.

Unions’ vested interest in opposing pro-worker laws manifests itself in one statistic: States that do not have collective bargaining laws have an average union membership rate of just 17 percent compared to the public sector unionization national average of 39 percent. While one’s right to association is at the core of individual freedom, unions benefit from policy that prohibits this choice, and small business owners, the true creators of jobs, get the short end of the stick.

While an understanding of these affronts on worker freedom initiatives is vital, they only tell part of the story. Public sector unions’ unfailing advocacy for more government spending, more programs, and higher taxes crowds out private sector opportunities. Showing a good return on political investment by unions, a study by Chris Edwards reveals that unionized public sector workers enjoy a 31-percent advantage in wages and a 68-percent advantage in benefits over non-unionized public sector workers. While this shows that unions have been successful, as unionized public sector employees get better and better contracts that far outpace private sector competition, the American taxpayer foots the bill, and the economies of the states that play host to these anticompetitive policies suffer.

Christopher Prandoni is the Executive Director of the Alliance for Worker Freedom, an affiliate of Americans for Tax Reform.
 

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AWF Releases Quantitative State-by-State Report Card Examining Key Labor Issues


Posted by Chris Prandoni on Thursday, July 22nd, 2010, 11:18 AM PERMALINK


[Click here for PDF version]

The Alliance for Worker Freedom (AWF) today released the Index of Worker Freedom: a National Report Card, a one-of-a-kind state-by-state comparative study that measures worker freedom through an analysis of policy implications as well as quantitative state data.

The Index found that workers and employers are fleeing states with low levels of worker freedom--generally heavily unionized states-- in favor of states with high levels of worker freedom. States ranked in the top quintile of worker freedom saw their population grow 50 percent faster than the national average and 150 percent faster than states in the bottom quintile between the 2008-2009 period.

“The positive correlation found between state population growth and worker freedom is proof that Americans are rejecting organized labor’s growth inhibiting policies; people are being drawn to states that foster choice and entrepreneurship,” said Christopher Prandoni, Executive Director of the Alliance for Worker Freedom.

Evaluated on a scale using fifteen key indicators, the Index’s average score was a C grade while the median score was a D. Thirteen states failed while Utah was the only state to earn an A, scoring a perfect fifteen. 

“The Index of Worker Freedom is great tool for citizens, policy makers, and scholars interested in examining and comparing state labor policy,”Prandoni added. “Compiling data and statistics from a variety of different sources, the Index provides a comprehensive but easily understandable ‘snapshot’ of worker freedom in any given state.”

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