Sunday, September 13, 2015

Acceptance Talk
Murphy Labor Award on September 3, 2015
John Moran

Once upon a time

Labor and the Democratic Party walked together in a grand journey for all Americans. When Woodrow Wilson pushed for the right to vote for women, he turned for help to labor. When FDR wanted support for the New Deal, he turned to the unions. When LBJ wanted civil rights legislation, he turned to Walter Reuther and other labor leaders.
Along the road we have posted landmarks for the good life: the forty hour work week, eight hour workday, overtime pay, workers compensation, unemployment insurance, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, family and medical leave, occupational safety, collective bargaining, the minimum wage and child labor laws.
In post World War II, it seemed that we were arriving at our destination of the American Promise: strong union membership, secure employment, a thirty year mortgage on a home to raise our children who would have lives better than ours.

Then side paths and road blocks separated us.

Many who achieved the American Promise went off on social and environmental paths, and those denied that promise charted independent courses.
But our real challenge has come from right wing roadblocks: Reagan firing the air traffic controllers, unionized industries moving to antiunion locations, the growth of nonunion service and tourism jobs, austerity and budget cutting, and the systematic hostility, not only to labor, but to all of us with denial of climate change, refusal to fund reproductive rights, thwarting voter registration, opposing campaign finance reform and doing everything possible to increase income and wealth inequality.

Time for us to regroup.

Perhaps we should be thankful to the right wing for spewing forth positions that unite all of us in opposition.
We will march for publicly financed universal healthcare, labor’s right to organize, the honoring of collectively bargain agreements, environmental protection, a woman’s right to equal pay and reproductive choices, a teacher’s right to strike, care for the ill and disabled, and livable wage jobs available to all Vermonters.
In solidarity, we will be the voices for economic, racial, gender, social and environmental justice.
My gratitude to the Democratic Party for this John Murphy Memorial Labor Award, and to all of you for letting me be part of this journey for all Vermonters to achieve the American Promise.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Common Benefit Budget

     “Putting together a budget is never an easy task,” according to the governor in a recent letter, as he likens the state to families deciding between “groceries and medicine,” so to “live within their means.”
  Vermont statutes state: The budget should “be instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people...and recognize every person's need for health, housing, dignified work, education, food, social security, and a healthy environment.”
  Continuing a seven year downward spiral, the budget bill reduces funding for home fuel assistance and weatherizing, mental health and substance abuse treatment, libraries, pre-K, community high school, Reach Up, VT Legal Aid, health care, public health, autism and geriatric programs, state employees, developmental disabilities, and adult day care. House Republicans go further, wanting to cut or get rid of property tax rebates; health insurance assistance; pharmacy payments for elders; labor negotiated health care plans; childcare subsidies; state college funding; substance abuse recovery centers; psychiatric and substance abuse designated agencies; and, grants to the Vermont Humanities Council, the Vermont Council on the Arts, the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, and the Vermont Women’s Commission. They would also privatize the state psychiatric hospital and the Vermont Veterans’ Home.
  The task before us, to live within our means, may be easier than the governor suggests. Numerous proposals, alone or combined, from the Public Assets Institute, state employees, the Workers’ Center and others offer structural fiscal changes to reverse seven years of negative budgeting, turn state deficits into surpluses and lighten the tax burden on working Vermont families.
  Raising the minimum wage to a livable level translates immediately to increased consumer spending (two-thirds of our domestic economy), enhanced income tax revenues and decreased public assistance spending.
     Expanding workforce training supports higher worker pay and expanded economic development, which increases state revenue and decreases expenditures.
     Eliminating tax credits to businesses that do not create substantial, good paying jobs, redirects state resources to more productive uses.
     Returning state spending to the benchmark of gross state product (sum of all the goods and services produced and sold in Vermont), which is dramatically increasing, more than offsets current and future budget deficits.
     Broadening the sales tax to include services lowers the rate on goods and enhances state revenues.
     Reconfiguring the progressive income tax brackets based on actual ability to contribute lowers taxes for middle and lower income Vermonters while adding to available state revenues.
     Publicly financing universal health care eliminates insurance companies and greatly reduces costs to the state and all Vermonters.
     Taxing capital gains at the same rate as labor income values the contribution of working Vermonters and moves in the direction of economic equality.
     Placing a cap on deductions a taxpayer can claim limits losses to state revenues.
     And, finally, instituting a wealth-based assessment with an increase in the inheritance tax returns capital to the common good and reduces inequality.
  Besides complying with law, the state budget is a moral document, defining who we are and how we provide for all of us. No Vermonter should have to choose between groceries and medicine.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Taking Care of Our Own

       A 90 year-old Florida man risks 60 days in jail and a $500 fine for feeding the homeless. “Drop that plate right now," the arresting police officer orders Arnold Abbott of Love Thy Neighbor as he hands food to a hungry person.
“Wherever this flag’s flown,” sings Bruce Springsteen, “we take care of our own.”
The purpose of government, whether state or national, is to protect and empower.
In Vermont, we protect and empower through our motto, freedom and unity.
        For freedom from insecurity, we protect with police and fire departments, environmental and fiscal regulations, and monetary safety nets. For freedom to prosper, we empower with infrastructure, economic and workforce development, and cultural activities. Through unity in our budget, we must determine the needs of all Vermonters, and then, equitably, raise necessary revenues.
Our budget is a moral document. It states who we are; instead of arresting a ninety-year-old for feeding the homeless, we take care of our own.