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Wisconsin Republicans break rules, ram through bill stripping rights from workers

Wisconsin Conference Committee Passes New, Stripped-Down Anti-Union Bill | TPMDC
The special conference committee in Wisconsin -- convened in order to strip out the fiscal elements of Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill, in order to pass the anti-public employee union proposals and avoid the state SenateDemocratic boycott of the three-fifths budget quorum -- just met for roughly five minutes and passed the bill. Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D) attempted to make a motion to delay the meeting or make amendments -- and was not recognized for a motion by the chair, state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. Barca argued, over Fitzgerald's attempts to say there would be no motions, that the conference committee violated the state's open meetings law, which requires at least 24 hours notice before a government meeting, unless there is good cause to act more quickly.
More commentary from Talking Points Memo:
It's not just the budget bill needs a quorum -- the big issue is that *any* bill with fiscal implications is supposed to have a quorum in the Wisconsin state Senate. So there are two choices here: 1. Collective bargaining has fiscal implications, and so the bill will be blocked in the courts and ruled unconstitutional. 2. Collective bargaining DOES NOT have direct fiscal implications, and Gov. Walker has been lying this entire time by making the case that it's fiscally necessary. So either the state R's just passed an illegal bill, or Walker has been lying this entire time and really is just interested in union-busting.

March 07, 2011

Krugman: Education isn't the answer, Unions are

Degrees and Dollars - NYTimes.com
... More broadly, the idea that modern technology eliminates only menial jobs, that well-educated workers are clear winners, may dominate popular discussion, but it’s actually decades out of date. The fact is that since 1990 or so the U.S. job market has been characterized not by a general rise in the demand for skill, but by “hollowing out”: both high-wage and low-wage employment have grown rapidly, but medium-wage jobs — the kinds of jobs we count on to support a strong middle class — have lagged behind. And the hole in the middle has been getting wider: many of the high-wage occupations that grew rapidly in the 1990s have seen much slower growth recently, even as growth in low-wage employment has accelerated. Why is this happening? The belief that education is becoming ever more important rests on the plausible-sounding notion that advances in technology increase job opportunities for those who work with information — loosely speaking, that computers help those who work with their minds, while hurting those who work with their hands. Some years ago, however, the economists David Autor, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane argued that this was the wrong way to think about it. Computers, they pointed out, excel at routine tasks, “cognitive and manual tasks that can be accomplished by following explicit rules.” Therefore, any routine task — a category that includes many white-collar, nonmanual jobs — is in the firing line. Conversely, jobs that can’t be carried out by following explicit rules — a category that includes many kinds of manual labor, from truck drivers to janitors — will tend to grow even in the face of technological progress. . . .

Michael Moore speaks to the protesters in Wisconsin

March 06, 2011

Behind the foreclosure crisis, big banks' reign of error

Six months of mistakes--all in CitiBanks' favor--can happen to anyone. Dana Milbank - Behind the foreclosure crisis, big banks' reign of error
Turns out Citibank, which had been collecting hundreds of dollars a month from us to pay the insurer, hadn't made the payments. It was, I later learned, one of the usual tricks mortgage servicers use to squeeze more cash out of their customers. About a month later, I learned of another trick: Citibank informed us that it was increasing our monthly payment by nearly $300. Along the way, a simple refi became a months-long odyssey: rates misquoted, interest charged on a phantom account, legal documents issued in wrong names, a mortgage officer who disappeared for days at a time (first it was his birthday, then his laptop was in the shop), a bounced check from Citibank's own title company, and the freezing of our bank accounts. For me, this amounts to no more than the hassle of arguing with Citibank to fix its "mistakes." But consumer advocates tell me these are typical of the screw-ups by the big banks that service home mortgages. And these errors - accidental or otherwise - are driving large numbers of people into default and foreclosure when it otherwise would not have happened. It's a bad situation - and the new majority in the House is poised to make it even worse.