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Social Security Investment Ads to Run in Allentown
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Social Security Investment Ads to Run in Allentown

BY Jeff Miller

A business-backed coalition promoting private investment accounts for Social Security will begin running TV ads this week in Allentown and 18 other markets with close congressional races. The Coalition for Moderinzation and Protection of America's Social Security, or COMPASS, is spending between $6 million and $8 million on the campaign, which will also include print ads and direct mail. Executive Director Derrick Max said the campaign is aimed at reassuring senior voters that retirement benefits won't be cut if younger workers are allowed to invest part of their Social Security taxes in accounts they own. The coalition includes the Business Roundtable, Citizens for a Sound Economy, the National Association of Manufacturers, the United Seniors Association, the Hispanic Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Although Mark McKinnon, who consulted on President Bush's 2000 campaign, created the ads, coalition leaders said they are not intended to help either party in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 5 election. "This is not a Democratic or Republican issue," said Sam Beard, the coalition's Democratic chairman who served on President Bush's Social Security commission. "It's really those who are for reform against those who are not." According to The Associated Press, the ads will run for two weeks in California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia. The coalition declined to provide a full list of specific markets. The ads state that after "years of debate, bipartisan principles have been agreed upon that will save the [Social Security] system." They include protecting current benefits for retirees, no tax increases and allowing younger workers "the option to invest a small portion of their Social Security money in accounts they own." Some Democrats do support the accounts. But most are opposed to them, including Ed O'Brien, who is running for the 15th District congressional seat. The district covers all of Lehigh and Northampton counties and part of Montgomery. O'Brien calls the proposal a "risky privatization scheme" that could cause retirees to lose their retirement savings in a stock market downturn. His opponent, Republican incumbent Pat Toomey, is a staunch supporter of investment accounts for Social Security. Toomey says the accounts will give younger workers a far better return than the government provides and will enable them to build savings they can pass on to their children. Social Security is running a surplus. But that will change dramatically as the baby boom generation begins to retire in large numbers, leaving fewer workers to support them in the pay-as-you-go system. Beard said the system faces a $20 trillion debt that, without private accounts, will need either a 50 percent increase in taxes or a 30 percent cut in benefits. Bush's commission recommended three plans to move toward investment accounts. But critics of the commission's work say the plans would reduce the overall retirement income for most workers and don't account for the transition costs of moving to private accounts. "We've always said the devil is in the details -- how you structure the benefits and how the accounts would work," said Lee Goldberg, spokesman for the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. Democrats have accused Republicans of avoiding the issue until after the election. But Jack Iannantuono, a Lehigh Valley COMPASS member who ran for U.S. Senate in 1998 on the Libertarian ticket, said neither party is taking seriously Social Security's long-term financial problems. "It could be that people just don't want to deal with difficult issues, and this is a difficult issue to understand, let alone solve," Iannantuono said.

10/03/2002
Sitting on the Dock of the Bay
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Press Release

Sitting on the Dock of the Bay

Today, international trade is at a standstill in 29 ports across the Western United States. Normally bustling docks are quiet, as cargo ships stack up offshore in the Pacific Ocean.

10/02/2002
Texas CSE Director Peggy Venable to Greet Sawgrass Convoy
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Press Release

Texas CSE Director Peggy Venable to Greet Sawgrass Convoy

In what promises to be its biggest rally yet, The Sawgrass Rebellion convoy rolls into the Fort Worth area for an October 12 stop at the Saginaw, TX, Train & Grain Festival. Texas CSE state director Peggy Venable and other CSE members will join the grassroots organization, Citizens Against Forced Annexation, in supporting the convoy as it crosses the country to educate citizens and show solidarity with property owners in the Everglades area of south Florida.

10/01/2002
What’s in a Name?
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Press Release

What’s in a Name?

If, as The Washington Post reports, Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill plans to send a tax reform proposal to President Bush before the end of the year, now is the time to set the record straight on what “tax reform” means and why it is necessary.

10/01/2002
Arrogance ... Thy Name is Torricelli
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Press Release

Arrogance ... Thy Name is Torricelli

This Week - The House will take up several measures this week. They begin with H.Res. 543 to express the sense of the House that Congress should complete action on making the marriage tax relief permanent. They will also take up the long awaited Department of Defense Authorization bill. Finally, since a new fiscal year began on Tuesday and the current, continuing resolution ends on Friday, they will also pass another CR - although the length of time has not been decided. The quicksand pit of the federal government, otherwise known as the U.S. Senate, will begin the week with the issue of homeland security again. However, since there is no end in sight to the debate, they will push it aside mid-week and take up the President’s resolution on Iraq. Arrogance… Thy Name is Torricelli Tales abound of Washington’s self-absorption, of our Prima Donna legislators and candidates who will sell themselves for a vote. But, even veteran politicos were surprised on Monday by the sudden and unusual decision of Senator Torricelli (D-NJ) not to seek re-election. The decision itself was remarkable. Known as The Torch, for his fiery and unyielding style, everyone expected him to have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, out of office. The speech, a self-indulgent rant of momentous proportion, represented the worst of Washington and was, in itself, a perfect example of Washington arrogance.

10/01/2002
Torch the Code
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Press Release

Torch the Code

I think it is wrong to kick a man when he’s down. But don’t think for one minute that Robert Torricelli is down. He may not be running for reelection anymore, but he has no plans to leave politics. Instead, politics will now just become more lucrative for him– most likely as a million-dollar-a-year lobbyist for special interests. That sum is on top of the $52,500 annual pension taxpayers will provide for the rest of his life for his honorable service to the country.

10/01/2002
Bureaucratic Insecurity vs. Homeland Security
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Press Release

Bureaucratic Insecurity vs. Homeland Security

With elections just around the corner, Washington is providing a prime example of how politics rather than policy drives legislation. Beleaguered efforts to create the new Homeland Security Department have bogged down in partisan disputes over labor relations in the federal government, with terrorism taking a back seat to old-fashioned special interest politics. President Bush has vowed to veto any bill that hamstrings the new agency. On the other hand, Senate Democrats, who face a tight race to maintain control of the Senate, are seeking opportunities to shore up union support in the Homeland Security bill.

10/01/2002
Boosting the Bench
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Boosting the Bench

BY Terry Carter

In a June 25 letter to business leaders, Andrew E. Dochrel, president of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, promised to take the "positive and informative" high road in the upcoming elections for the state supreme court. The letter was something of a mca culpa, though Doehrel did not blame himself and didn't exactly apologize for what happened in the 2000 election campaigns. He did point out that he had just fired the chamber's media consultant who had helped craft controversial ads targeting a sitting justice in 2000. But he continued to defend the need for the spots: "The criticism of the campaign's methods unfortunately overshadowed the campaign's important messages about the negative impact of an excessively activist supreme court on Ohio's economy." Indeed, some political analysts say the chamber's campaign backfired through its own nastiness, guaranteeing a loss for its choice. And during the two years since, as the vicious 2000 judicial election cycle around the country has been parsed and studied, criticism has continued to cascade over those television ads in particular. They targeted Justice Alice Resnick and featured Lady Justice peeking from her blindfold to watch piles of money from trial lawyers and unions tip her scales. A voiccover asked: "Alice Resnick. Is justice for sale?" Apparently the Ohio chamber thought so. It spent $ 4 million trying to replace her with someone it considered pro-business, with help from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Resnick had written a 1999 opinion that struck down the state's tort reform law. But wait--as TV ads sometimes blare--there's more. At the same time, the neighboring Michigan Chamber of Commerce ran radio and newspaper ads in Ohio urging businesses to relocate to Michigan because its supreme court and "fair laws" have created a "healthy economic environment." As this November's elections near, the question in several states that have become the proving grounds for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's new war on lawyers is: What's the chamber going to do this time? Will its chutzpah and cash be matched by trial lawyers or other public interest groups?

10/01/2002
Religious Right Groups Join Forces to Select Texas Textbooks
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Religious Right Groups Join Forces to Select Texas Textbooks

Americans United activists in Texas are battling a coalition of Religious Right groups that has formed to pore over potential social studies textbooks with the aim of forcing the state to reject those that don't promote right-wing views. Textbook battles have been a perennial feature of public education in Texas. In recent years, ultra-conservative critics have forced a number of changes in science books, watering down or removing entirely references to global warming, for example. This year, social studies textbooks are in the crosshairs. Led by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a right-wing, pro-voucher organization, a number of Religious Right pressure groups have banded together to examine the books under consideration. They have already criticized several for allegedly slighting Christianity or promoting socialism. Republicans dominate the Texas State Board of Education--10 out of its 15 members belong to the GOP, and the Religious Right is able to exert great pressure on the body. When pressuring the board does not work, Religious Right groups simply take their complaints directly to the textbook publishing companies. Texas purchases millions of dollars worth of textbooks every year, making the market too attractive for most publishers to pass up. Religious Right groups not only get a hearing from the publishers, their demands are often accepted. Because Texas buys so many textbooks, the changes Religious Right activists make in books inevitably affect children in other parts of the country. Rather than produce separate editions, many textbook publishers simply market the same texts to other states. In 1995, legislators in Texas sought to defuse the controversy by passing a law restricting the power of the State Board of Education to reject textbooks. The law states in part that books may be rejected only for containing factual errors. But the measure has failed to stop pressure from Religious Right groups, who now simply insist that passages not to their liking are equivalent to factual errors. Most recently, Religious Right groups took aim at a history book titled Out of Many: A History of the American People, published by Prentice Hall. The groups attacked the book mainly for passages that discussed prostitution in the Old West, Margaret Sanger's early birth control crusade and the struggle for gay rights. Out of Many is a highly regarded textbook that has won high praise. One reviewer, Henry E. Stamm of Dartmouth College wrote, "Students generally give grudging praise to the work; the special care taken with women, African Americans, and Native Americans seems especially effective. Students often report that they enjoyed the 'stories' that begin each chapter. In essence, many students get 'hooked' by the narrative, which is high acclaim indeed for a history survey text!" Texas law mandates that textbooks emphasize democracy, patriotism and the free-enterprise system, language that the Religious Right also exploits to reject any text that uses a "warts and all" approach to history. "I don't mean that we should sweep things under the rug, but that children should see the hope and the good things about America," Peggy Venable of the Texas Chapter of Citizens for a Sound Economy, one of the groups scrutinizing the textbooks, told The New York Times. But critics of the Religious Right say censorship is exactly what the groups want--or, in other cases, a rewriting of history. Some Religious Right organizations have complained, for example, that the history textbooks fail to discuss the idea that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, an assertion that mainstream historians say is at odds with the evidence. Advocates of church-state separation are fighting back. In August, Charlotte Coffelt, a member of Americans United's Board of Trustees and Houston resident, delivered testimony before the State Board of Education, refuting charges by the right-wing coalition. "As you know, some of our fellow citizens promote their belief that our nation's founders intended for the U.S.A. to be a 'Christian nation,'" Coffelt told the board. "Many of our nation's founders came to our shores to escape religious persecution within their native countries. But America has become the most religiously diverse nation in the world, with citizens professing at least 2,000 varieties of belief systems. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was created to protect religious diversity and tolerance among peoples." Continued Coffelt, "I challenge you to bring forth a few of Texas' constitutional authorities who can provide a true scholar's interpretation of the First Amendment and how important it is that it be accurately represented in school-children's textbooks."

10/01/2002
A Textbook Case: Preserve our future from the one-world alarmists
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Press Release

A Textbook Case: Preserve our future from the one-world alarmists

A recent Houston Chronicle opinion piece “Recapture Texas’ future from zealots, know-nothings” by Brian Leiter referred to individuals whose views he does not accept as zealots, know-nothings, extremists, ignoramuses, medieval, simple-minded, special interest, right wing, and other terms that are not appropriate for a productive discourse on public policy issues. It is disappointing to see that a professor of philosophy at an esteemed public university law school would stoop to such rhetoric. My fourteen year-old daughter knows better than to resort to name-calling to make her point.

09/28/2002

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