I was already prepared to endorse Rob Simmons in the Republican primary for Governor, based not only on his record as a moderate, pro-choice Republican congressman, despite his unfortunate and discontinued dalliance with the Tea Partiers, but also on the total lack of qualifications of his opponents.
But now he has sealed the deal, advocating for an almost complete withdrawal of our troops from Afghanistan:
Again, my favorite – one Republican attacking another – as a liberal of all things. (Don’t you just love the reference to the “Democrat”convention? Why has it become de rigeur for Republican conservatives to treat the other party with such disrespect as to not even get its name right?)
Fonfara is an incumbent.
Canty is running against incumbent, David Baram
Dillion is an incumbent.
Holder Winfield is a one-term incumbent.
Lemar is running for an open seat, formerly held by Cam Staples who isn’t running for re-election.
“Connecticut voters are looking for candidates who understand the difficult times families are facing during this recession and will focus on the needs and concerns of hard working families,” said Jon Green, Executive Director of the Working Families Party.
“I’m running because I think voters in my district deserve someone to stand up for them, who will fight to lower energy costs, to restructure our tax system and make property taxes more affordable for middle class families, and to invest in green jobs and in our schools,” said Roland Lemar, candidate for State Representative in the 96th House District in New Haven. “I’m proud to earn the support of the Working Families Party, because I know they share my values and will stand with me on the side of hard working families trying to make it through this recession.”
The Working Families Party activists will knock on doors in priority districts to promote their endorsed candidates and mobilize voters. In low turn-out primaries, a concerted door to door field operation like the WFP’s can help get a candidate’s supporters to the polls.
“Having the support of the Working Families Party was valuable to my reelection two years ago, and I’m proud to have their support again,” said State Senator John Fonfara. “They always stand on the side of hard working families. When it comes to door knocking, I can’t think of anyone that works harder or does it better.”
The Working Families Party evaluates the records of all the candidates, and then endorses the candidates who best match the party’s stands on issues like creating good jobs, making healthcare more affordable and fair taxes for middle class families.
In 2008, over 80,000 voters cast their votes for Congress on the Working Families line — about 5% of the total vote statewide. Observers say that Working Families voters could make the difference in close races around the state this year.
The Working Families Party more often endorses Democrats but has endorsed moderate Republicans and independent candidates. In Hartford, Bridgeport and Windham, WFP has succeeded in electing its own members to municipal office
The Learning First Alliance supports the goal of rigorous and fair accountability systems for schools and districts. (The Learning First Alliance is a permanent partnership of 16 leading education associations with more than 10 million members dedicated to improving student learning in America’s public schools. Alliance members include: the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, American Association of School Administrators, American Association of School Personnel Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, American School Counselor Association, Association of School Business Officials International, Council of Chief State School Officers, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Association of State Boards of Education, National Education Association, National Middle School Association, National School Public Relations Association, National Staff Development Council, National PTA, National School Boards Association and Phi Delta Kappa International. The Alliance maintains www.publicschoolinsights.org, a website that features what’s working in public schools and districts across the country.) These accountability systems should accurately measure student and school performance and support continuous improvement of schools. Therefore, the Learning First Alliance recommends that the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act promote improved accountability systems that:
• Include measures of student growth.
• Require the use of multiple sources of evidence of student achievement (such as writing samples, portfolios and capstone projects) and school performance that more fully determine student and school progress than do standardized assessments alone.
• Reward progress and provide intensive support to struggling schools rather than automatically and systematically punishing shortcomings.
• Promote interventions that are based on the best available research or evidence, including locally designed interventions that are research based.
• Distinguish between school performance categories. The most comprehensive interventions should be directed to the schools most in need of improvement. More targeted interventions should be available for the lowest performing students or subgroups in a school or district. These interventions should be positive supports developed locally and based on the specific improvement needs and capacity of the school and community in question.
• Focus on building capacity for immediate and sustained improvement.
• Target interventions to the precise problems of a particular school, barring sanctions that apply all-or-nothing measures such as the arbitrary replacement or reassignment of staff and forced alternative governance, unless a review of specific improvement needs warrants such steps and local capacity supports them.
• Acknowledge shared accountability for student success. Teachers, administrators, other school and district staff, parents, policy makers, community members, lawmakers, states and the federal government all share responsibility for ensuring that all children have excellent, equitable educational opportunities.
New Regulations Bar Debt Settlement Companies From Collecting Fees Unless Consumers Get Relief
Under new regulations adopted by the Federal Trade Commission yesterday, for-profit debt settlement companies will no longer be allowed to collect fees for their services until they have settled some or all of a consumer’s debt. The new regulations will help curb deceptive and abusive practices in debt relief services sold through telemarketing, according to Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports.
“Most debt settlement companies charge big fees up front even though most consumers don’t get the help they expect,” said Lauren Bowne, Staff Attorney for Consumers Union’s Defend Your Dollars campaign (www.DefendYourDollars.org) “These new rules will help protect consumers who are already drowning in debt from being ripped off by debt settlement companies that fail to provide any relief. But more needs to be done to ensure that the amount of fees charged for debt settlement services are fair.”
Most debt settlement companies market their services through Internet, television, or radio advertising. The advertisements typically promise to substantially reduce debt and urge consumers to call a toll-free number to find out more. Once the consumer signs up, the debt settlement company takes its fees over the first half of the contract period. The FTC reports that nearly two-thirds of consumers who enroll in debt relief services, most of which pay an advance fee, end up dropping out of the programs within the first three years without getting the help they paid to receive.
Debt settlement companies usually advise consumers to stop paying their creditors and to instead set up a special account to build savings that will be used in the future to negotiate a settlement. As the consumer deposits savings into the account, the debt settlement company withdraws money to cover its fees even though it hasn’t reached a settlement with creditors. By stopping payments to creditors, the consumer ends up with a worse credit score, additional penalty fees and more interest charges.
While debt settlement companies claim they settle millions of dollars in debt for consumers, they have not revealed how much debt remains unsettled. The Better Business Bureau announced that it would stop calling debt settlement services “inherently problematic” if a company could show that it met several conditions, key among them that at least one half of its customers saved as much money as was paid in fees. The GAO reported in April 2010 that two debt settlement trade associations called that standard “unrealistic.”
The FTC’s new regulation banning advance fees will go into effect on October 27, 2010 and takes a key step forward by addressing the timing of the fees. Under the new rules, a debt settlement company will earn fees when it reaches a settlement on at least one of the consumer’s debts that the consumer agrees to in writing. Fees cannot be collected until the consumer has made at least one payment to the creditor as a result of the negotiated agreement.
Fees can be held in a dedicated account before that time but all unearned fees must be returned to the consumer if he or she decides that the debt settlement program is not working out or cancels the program. Debt settlement firms can only require a dedicated account under certain conditions, including that the account must be set up and maintained by the consumer at an insured financial institution. The consumer will be entitled to earn interest on the account and can withdraw the funds at any time without penalty.
Beginning on September 27, 2010, the FTC rule requires that debt settlement companies make certain pre-contract disclosures, including how long it will take to get results and how much it will cost. The new rules cover calls consumers make to debt settlement firms in response to advertising as well as telemarketing calls made by firms. However, the FTC’s new regulation does not apply to in-person sales or to Internet-only sales, so Congress or the states will have to act to apply the new rules to those debt settlement contracts.
“The FTC regulations will ensure that debt settlement companies will only get paid if they help consumers but it doesn’t stop them from charging outrageously high fees,” said Bowne. “Now it’s up to state lawmakers or Congress to cap debt settlement fees to a reasonable percentage of the actual savings for consumers.”
Two federal bills (S. 3264 and HR 5387) have been introduced in Congress to limit debt settlement fees to a one-time $50 fee and five percent of the savings from each final settlement.
Congressman Jim Himes’ most likely opponent, Dan Debicella, has starting spending some of the money he doesn’t have on TV ads.
I have been keeping an eye on Dan Debicella’s tendency to play loose with the facts for some time now. So when the ad opened with a flat-out made-up number, I was stunned. I shouldn’t have been, I know. If Dan Debicella met an honest statement at a cocktail party, they’d require an introduction. But still, to be so bold as to be so wrong right off the bat struck even me as absurd.
Dan opens his ad with a graphic superimposed over a shot of the Capitol, showing a headline “Stimulus Spending totals $877 billion” That is jaw-droppingly wrong. The total cost of the stimulus is $787 billion (note the transposed numbers). And, critically, that is the cost, which has two elements — spending and tax cuts. To break it down, the stimulus provides for about $275 billion in tax cuts and about $512 billion in spending. To say that “Stimulus spending totals $877 billion” is wrong. It inflates the actual spending approved by Congress by 71%.
Not only is he starting his advertising with an obvious, quantifiable lie, but in his campaign, Debicella routinely proposes “that we repeal the 80% of stimulus money that has yet to be distributed” and grant a $1500 tax credit instead. He then goes on to say how that will reduce the deficit by doing arithmetic that would cause Shelton’s CMT scores to drop if he tried to pass it off as legit on a fourth-grade test.
As a service to Mr. Debicella, I provide this link. It shows exactly how much has been spent already, how much has been approved (but not yet spent) and how much remains to be spent. It also shows the magnitude of the tax cuts already enjoyed by Americans and the value of tax cuts still to come. Dan can look across all agencies to see which have already spent most of their allocations, and which (like the Department of Homeland Security) will be using stimulus funds in the future. Because, if you want to repeal the “unspent” stimulus, you must realize that, as of July 9th, the amount of funding for remaining spending is $177 billion. By January, I imagine that number will be down to $51 billion or so (I applied the same monthly rate of spending since the stimulus was signed into law). Eighty percent of that is about $40 billion in unspent stimulus.
Debicella concedes that his tax cut proposal would cost $350 billion. So he wants to repeal $40 billion in spending and grant $350 billion in tax cuts, yet he claims it would reduce the deficit by $150 billion. Fuzzy math Dan. In order for a $350 billion tax cut to result in $150 billion in savings, you’d need to repeal $500 billion in unspent stimulus money. You can’t; he’s using the original $512 billion amount in his math. In other words, he’s lying about the savings in his big idea. Debicella’s plan would have to somehow unpave the roads, un-hire the cops, rip out the improvements to train stations, reconvert the fleet of DOT trucks to high-emissions, and make all those buildings energy inefficient again. You’d need to pretend the forensics crews never processed the thousands of DNA profiles that were backlogged, rip out the new sewer systems, and magically un-immunize all those kids.
Then you’d have to demand that all the contractors and employees return the money to the treasury. At that point, you’d be back to the original $512 billion in approved spending. Of course, if we follow Dan’s retroactive repeal plan, but repealed only 80% of it (as he is proposing) you’d only be repealing $410 billion. $410 – $350 does not equal $150 in deficit reduction as he claims. He’s just making the deficit reduction number up, even if we allow the for the impossible repeal of “unspent” stimulus. The real number that’s even possible to repeal (good luck getting that through the Senate and past a veto) will be somewhere between today’s $177 billion and my projection of $40 billion. Debicella’s proposal adds to the deficit substantially, no matter what. And if he repeals the remaining $49 billion in tax cuts, well, then I’m afraid my brain won’t survive the resulting influx of incoherence.
Debicella’s position on the stimulus is a joke. Just using basic arithmetic you can see there is no merit in his claims. The $877 billion number is pulled out of thin air, or intentionally transposes the numbers in the legislation ($787 b) to make it look bigger than it was. Or he is referring to China’s stimulus plan which was valued at $877 billion. I really hope that’s not the error. I really hope he’s merely lying, because confusing the USA with China is pretty scary for a major-party nominee. His proposal to repeal 80% of the unspent stimulus, offer up a tax credit, yet still reduce the deficit is also impossible. I-m-p-o-s-s-i-b-l-e. Legislatively, it’s impossible, of course, but even if you set that aside, he must be using the original allocation amount in his calculation. But that money has already been put to use all over our state and district. Just ask Governor Rell.
Since the stimulus was approved, Governor Rell has been issuing press release after press release after press release announcing how we are using stimulus funds for law enforcement, education, reducing energy costs and emissions, easing unemployment, and more. Again, as a service to Dan Debicella, I provide these links to a handful of the 100 or so announcements from his governor, Jodi Rell:
These are some of Rell’s words, taken from those press releases:
“Connecticut is taking full advantage of the stimulus to get our economy on the move”… “The federal stimulus act is giving us a chance to rebuild our economy and improve the quality of life in our state” … “The workers on these sites will pump money back into local economies” … “These funds address the critical special education needs in our schools and also will help put money back into local economies by hiring staff and purchasing new equipment” … “The DNA database remains one of the best items in our crime-fighting toolkit [and] the funding from the stimulus will help us keep it in top working order” … “Particularly important is that many of these innovative projects will help create green collar jobs and boost the local business community” … “These stimulus dollars will enable us to continue to dedicate key resources toward prosecuting these crimes to the fullest extent of the law” … “By lowering the costs of financing for these shovel-ready projects, we are providing a boost to the local and state economies and putting people to work when they need it most” … “All of these [sewer and water system] projects have significant public health benefits… Just as importantly, design and construction at each and every one of these sites are providing jobs”
– Jodi Rell in various press releases
Repeal? Debicella simply must know that repeal is impossible, and moreover, even if it was possible, there is about $50 billion left to repeal. He must know that the stimulus authorized $512 billion in spending, not nearly 900. He must know that it contains enormous tax cuts. He’s deceiving primary voters now, and will be launching the same deceptive campaign in the general if he prevails. It’s what he does.
The attempted impeachment came after several UA members accused Debicella of repeatedly lying to the body about several issues. “It was definitely more than one time,” UA member and College junior Lance Rogers said. “I don’t trust him now [but] I hope one day I can.” [Senior Dan] Schorr agreed, saying he does not trust Debicella either and does not know if the body as a whole could trust its chairperson. Debicella said last night that he “misled the body on certain occasions.”
“Denise Merrill is someone who wants to empower voters and improve participation in our democracy,” said Urania Petit, who was elected as Working Families Party Registrar of Voters in Hartford and is a member of the Working Families State Committee. “She has always shown concern for ordinary working class and middle class voters and that’s what we need in the Secretary of State’s office.”
“As Secretary of the State, one of my jobs will be to ensure that our state has a healthy, vibrant democracy.” said Denise Merrill. “Working Families is an important part of that democracy because they provide a choice and a voice to people who are frustrated with politics as usual,” she said. “I’m proud to have this endorsement.”
Merrill faces Gerry Garcia (my choice) in an August 10th Democratic Primary.
Joe Dinkin, Communications Director, CT Working Families, told me in an e-mail:
On the Secretary of the State race, we met with both candidates, and both made a pretty favorable impression. We liked both candidates. In the end, I think the distinction came down to the fact that Denise really has an extensive track record as an effective advocate and champion for the issues and values that we care about.
If Merrill wins the primary she will be listed on the ballot as both the Democratic party candidate, and the Working Families candidate. Votes cast on the Working Families ballot line are combined with Democratic votes for the cross-endorsed candidates.
The Working Families Party more often endorses Democrats but has endorsed moderate Republicans and independent candidates as well.
Working Families Party is a fast growing minor political party that fights for a fair economy and stands up for working and middle class families. Founded by a coalition of labor unions and neighborhood activists, the Working Families Party was formed to inject issues like healthcare, quality education, and livable wages into the public debate, and to hold politicians accountable on those issues.