Economy

WI Firefighters Spark "Move Your Money" Moment

On the day that the bill passed the Wisconsin Assembly effectively ending 50 years of collective bargaining in Wisconsin and eviscerating the ability of public unions to raise money through dues, a new front opened in the battle for the future of Wisconsin families.

SHAMEBagpipes blaring, hundreds of firefighters walked across the street from the Wisconsin Capitol building, stood outside the Marshall and Ilsley Bank (M&I Bank) and played a few tunes -- loudly. Later, a group of firefighter and consumers stopped back in at the bank to make a few transactions. One by one they closed their accounts and withdrew their life savings, totaling approximately $190,000. See a video clip. After the last customer left, the bank quickly closed its doors, just in case the spontaneous "Move Your Money" moment caught fire.

Pro-Worker Ads Defend America's Middle Class

MADISON--New political ads by corporate and CEO-funded groups have been flooding Wisconsin repeating misinformation from the controversial Walker administration about the budget and labor rights.  The total sum spent is not yet known.  Labor rights groups have responded to the crisis with some ads to make sure the people know that Walker and his corporate allies are refusing to negotiate and are determined to destroy labor rights.  Here are some of these ads: 

ABC's "Made in America" Puts Blame on Consumers

DisneyChinaOn February 28, ABC World News with Diane Sawyer premiered a TV series called "Made in America" that ostensibly encourages viewers to buy American-made products to help spur U.S. job growth. In the first episode, a reporter tours the home of an average American family, discovering that most of the family's belongings were made in foreign countries. To illustrate how remiss the family has been in buying American, a moving crew takes everything out of the house that is made in a foreign country. The crew rips out the family's stove, carts off their furniture, beds and refrigerator, and takes virtually everything in the home away except a small vase with a flower in it. The family returns, shocked, to see their empty home. The series blames consumers for not purchasing American-made products, while failing to mention how major American corporations choose to manufacture their products overseas. Also unmentioned is the fact that ABC's parent company, Disney, manufactures toys, including Mickey Mouse memorabilia and other goods, in Chinese factories. The show obscures the fact that consumers don't choose where the products offered in their local stores are made, and doesn't discuss the limited American-made products offered at ubiquitous big-box appliance, electronics, furniture, drug and toy stores.

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Wisconsin Governor Defies Court Order to Open Capitol

Madison – In a dramatic turn of events at the Wisconsin State Capitol today, Governor Scott Walker defied a court order to open the Capitol for normal business operations. State legislator, Representative Marc Pocan, called the move "not only unprecedented, but contempt of court as well."

On Monday at 8:00 a.m., the Wisconsin Capitol building, which was the site of dozens of major protests in the last two weeks including one of over 100,00 on Sunday, was virtually locked down as the Governor moved to limit protester access in advance of his scheduled budget address on Tuesday.

Koch Brothers "Prank" No Laughing Matter

WalkerphoneEmbattled Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker came under fire today after news broke about statements he made in a 20-minute phone call from a Buffalo-area alternative news reporter, Ian Murphy of the Daily Beast, posing as David Koch, a billionaire whose corporate PAC directly supported Walker and who has given millions to groups that have run ads to aid Walker's rise to the state's highest office. (Listen to the call here.)

As the Center for Media and Democracy has reported, the Koch PAC not only spent $43,000 directly on Walker's race, but Koch personally donated $1 million to the Republican Governors Association which spent $5 million in the state. Besides the Governor, the Koch brothers have other "vested interests" in the state.

Prank Koch Call Prompts More Legal Questions

Madison -- The heat ratcheted up on Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker as more questions were raised about the 20-minute phone call from a Buffalo-area alternative news reporter posing as David Koch, a billionaire whose corporate PAC directly supported Walker and who has given millions to groups that have run ads to aid Walker's rise to the state's highest office. (Find a transcript of the call here).

The section of the tape that has come under the most scrutiny involved Walker's comments that he considered planting "troublemakers" into the crowd. People on the ground here in Madison were quite aware that the first five days of protests were packed with children. The Madison school district and many surrounding districts were closed. Thousands of elementary school children and their parents marched at the capitol in support of local teachers. On the first day and second days, thousands of high school students walked out on their classes and headed to the capitol. The atmosphere was festive and fun, popcorn stands on the corner and thousands of homemade signs.

Walker's M.O. and Past Privatization Disaster Revealed

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker did not campaign for office calling for the destruction of public unions, but a closer look at his past actions shows that he acted rashly toward union workers before, with disastrous and costly results.

In early 2010, when Walker was Milwaukee County Executive, he fired 26 union security guards who worked at the Milwaukee County Courthouse. They were public employees and were represented by a union, but he fired them anyway, in favor of hiring private security guards. The county board opposed Walker's security-outsourcing move, but he pressed ahead with it anyway, claiming the action was needed due to a budget crisis, to help ameliorate a potential 2010 year-end deficit of around $7 million. After firing the guards, Walker hired private security contractor Wackenhut G4S to provide security services at the Courthouse, as well as two other venues in the county, under a $1.1 million contract.

Astroturf for Hire

NPR's Planet Money recently reported on astroturf activities in the financial sector. "Forgery: The Latest Tactic To Sway Finance Rules" focuses on the behind the scenes fight over the implementation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill. The Dodd-Frank bill is now in the agency rulemaking stage and financial sector lobbyists have descended en masse on the pertinent federal agencies, lobbying in person and via comment letters to the Federal Register. Some firms seem to think their advocacy would be more effective if it came from grassroots groups and not corporations. As NPR reports: "In an effort to influence the new rules, somebody sent several forged letters to the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, a key government agency. The letters were sent as part of the public comment process for an arcane rule that could have big financial implications." The rule involved proposal to limit conflicts of interest at derivatives clearinghouses. The forged letters were supposedly from an exec at Heinz (the food company), a Burger King franchise owner, a local judge, a county sheriff and a dozen other concerned citizens. But in reality they were sent from a PR firm on contract with an unnamed client. The Wall Street Journal has named the PR firm as Dewey Square Group and its subcontractor, Goggans Inc. as culprits in the fiasco, but the firm's client is still unknown. The faux letters contain verbatim language railing against the "cartel-like control" of banks in the derivatives market, certainly a legitimate complaint. The fact that financial services firms -- perhaps those who want the opportunity to be part of the cartel -- had to hire PR companies to develop fake "grassroots" to counter the big banks underscores the continued absence of real, organized grassroots in the financial services debates. One notable exception is Americans for Financial Reform (AFR) a coalition of over 250 of labor, consumer, housing, and other public interest groups, that advocates for consumer protection and a more stable and secure financial system. Find out more at Ourfinancialsecurity.org.

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AIG: Corporate Welfare King Mouths Off

Most Americans know American International Group (AIG) as the global insurance behemoth that was so recklessly managed it had an outsized role in tanking the global economy.

Rather than feeling a bit humble for wreaking havoc on the lives of millions, AIG's new management is feeling rather cocky. Apparently AIG CEO Robert Benmosche has figured out the magic formula for selling insurance. Benmosche told Bloomberg News that he likes to do business in "red states" where the firm signs up more reliable customers than those in "more liberal" areas.

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