Even with the good news that came last Tuesday, all too much evidence exists that the basic machinery of democracy in America is broken. Election Day is like Groundhog Day and the first stories of problems with voting machines, long lines, or voter intimidation hit the wires in the early A.M. Fortunately, with progressives in control in more states than ever before, we have an opportunity to get the machinery working, so that the engine of democracy starts humming again.
Someday soon, we will all be experts in Ohio election law. The
state's rules are under fire yet again. This time, a labor union and an
advocacy organization for the homeless have teamed up to file suit regarding the state's new ID rules, which the plaintiffs say are being enforced differently county by county.
A new report commissioned by Cuyahoga County in Ohio has found problems to be so widespread with voting technology and election training that there are fears that the problems will not be solved 2008, much less by this November election.
After years of stagnating wages for working Americans and inaction by
Congress, legislators and activists across the country are taking the
lead in securing higher minimum wages on a state by state basis. They
are achieving some outstanding results. Here's where the minimum wage
fight stands in a number of states:
With the 2006 elections quickly approaching, a small group of highly energized right-wing activists are working hard to export a failed policy from Colorado to other states around the nation. The idea is known variously as the Taxpayers' Bill of Rights (TABOR), the Stop OverSpending Amendment (SOS), or as Tax and Spending Control (TASC). Fundamentally, though, all of the amendments boil down to a single policy idea: arbitrarily capping increases in state spending based on only two factors -- population growth and the consumer price index.
What political observer is not interested in changes in Ohio's
political landscape? The state has a tendency to be decisive in
Presidential elections and is gripped by high-profile races for
Governor and Senator this year. So it is very interesting that
conservatives appear to be edging away from a radical Constitutional
spending cap modeled on Colorado's failed TABOR law.
The reality for working Americans is that wages have been largely stagnant for
over three decades. For many workers -- especially those without a
college degree -- pay has actually gotten worse, meaning that this
generation is the first one in American history which is not doing
signficantly better than the previous one. Part of the reason for
these stagnant wages is that inflation was allowed to erode the federal
minimum wage-- its inflation-adjusted value dropping from $9.12 per hour in 1968 down to just $5.15 per hour in 2005.
In a Nation article right after the 2004 election, scholar James Galbraith denounced the long lines in Ohio
that prevented so many people from voting. "It is an injustice, an
outrage and a scandal--a crime, really--that American citizens should
have to wait for hours in the November rain in order to exercise the
simple right to vote."
Some court decisions come to the right result for the wrong reasons. Today's Supreme Court decision in DaimlerChrysler v. Cuno is a perfect example. The case involved whether states could offer certain corporate subsidies to entice businesses to open plants. The corporate subsidies involved are terrible policy, but it's just as well that the Supreme Court, especially this increasingly rightwing one, isn't taking on the job of second-guessing economic decisions by state leaders.
The Cleveland Free Times takes a long, hard look at the American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC) operating methods in Ohio. As usual, it ain't pretty. The right-wing, corporate-funded network of state legislators is exposed quite thoroughly.