Dear Senator Merkley: anybody can write a bill

Anybody in Congress can write a bill.

That, in itself, isn’t much of an accomplishment. The real test is whether you can get your bill passed. Jeff Merkley, after 6 years in the Senate, doesn’t seem to understand that.

Senator Jeff Merkley

Senator Jeff Merkley

In an effort to portray himself as an accomplished legislator, Merkley has a TV ad out asserting, “….I wrote a bill to make China play fair on trade.” The problem is Merkley’s bills never passed.

When I served in Washington, D.C. as staff on a subcommittee of the House of Representatives, I worked with the Legislative Counsel’s office to draft dozens of bills at the request of the subcommittee chairman and ranking minority member. That’s the easy part. The tough part is getting something through the entire legislative process in the Senate and House and signed into law. That is the grueling work, depending on persistence, personal relationships, hard work and knowledge of the legislative process.

As a newspaper reporter after leaving Washington, I argued on numerous occasions against writing up lengthy stories on bills submitted by Oregon’s members of Congress just because they’d been put in the hopper. It’s a too common tactic by legislators to garner media coverage on a topic without actually having to do anything substantive.

The public is too often fooled by this tactic because they either don’t understand the legislative process or don’t assiduously follow the progress, or lack thereof, of proposed legislation.

Merkley’s clearly trying to pull a fast one. The ad should come down.

“Madame Secretary” and Washington: It’s all show business

“Washington is Hollywood for ugly people,” the saying goes.

The manifest connection between the two has been particularly pronounced in the promotion of CBS’ new television show, “Madame Secretary”.

Washington’s denizen’s feel a kinship with actors, who practice a craft of role-playing much like their own, and, being so self-absorbed, they like nothing better than stories about themselves.

Politico, an influential political journalism organization that normally focuses on the inside workings of politics, devoted almost 400 words yesterday to last night’s debut of “Madame Secretary”. The coverage included lengthy comments by actor Tim Daley, who plays the husband of actress, Tea Leoni, who plays the Secretary of the State. It also included a link to a 5-minute video “First Look” at the show and comments by Leoni on playing the Secretary of State character.

This was preceded by an almost 300 word item on Sept. 19, inviting Politico’s audience to a high-powered luncheon at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill with the stars and executive producers of “Madam Secretary.” There, Mike Allen, author of the Politico Playbook, and Maggie Haberman, a Politico reporter, would talk with Téa Leoni, Tim Daly, and Executive Producers Barbara Hall, Lori McCreary and Morgan Freeman.

From left at Washington event promoting CBS’s ‘Madam Secretary’: Politico’s Mike Allen; executive producers Lori McCreary and Morgan Freeman; stars Téa Leoni and Tim Daly; executive producer Barbara Hall; Politico’s Maggie Haberman. (Photo: Melissa Quinn/Daily Signal)

From left at Washington event promoting CBS’s ‘Madam Secretary’: Politico’s Mike Allen; executive producers Lori McCreary and Morgan Freeman; stars Téa Leoni and Tim Daly; executive producer Barbara Hall; Politico’s Maggie Haberman. (Photo: Melissa Quinn/Daily Signal)

Allen also noted that National -security influencers packed the theater at the U.S. Institute of Peace on Sept. 18 to see the premier episode, with an introduction by Freeman. Guests munched on crab cakes, sushi, grilled shrimp BLTs and crispy wonton cones – with Georgetown Cupcakes after the show.

Some of the government-media complex who attended the star-studded schmooze-fest included: CBS TV journalist, Bob Schieffer, (who also had a cameo in last night’s show); Huma Abedin, a long-time aide to Hillary Clinton married to the infamous former Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner; N.Y. Times columnist, Maureen Dowd; Nick Merrill, press aide to Hillary Clinton; and Jen Psaki, Deputy Communications Director and Deputy Assistant to President Obama.

I’m sure they all enjoyed themselves immensely, because for politicians, political junkies, the media and actors, it’s all theater, all razzle-dazzle, as Billy Flynn, the silver-tongued lawyer in “Chicago”, so aptly put it.

“It’s all a circus, kid,” Flynn said. “A three ring circus…the whole world – all showbusiness.”

Availability of affordable, quality child care can clear a path out of poverty

This week the U.S. Census Bureau released comprehensive reports on nationwide and state poverty in 2013. There are a lot of almost mind-numbing numbers in the reports, but behind those numbers are millions of Americans struggling with poverty that infects their lives 24 hours a day and shapes their future.

The Census Bureau reports reveal that the poverty rate for Oregon improved somewhat from 17.2 percent in 2012 to 16.7 percent in 2013, but remains stubbornly high. One way to reduce it further is to ensure that quality, affordable child care is available to low-income families.

Holding tight, a child grins as she enjoys being pushed on a swing by Jan McIntosh at Good Apple Child Care Preschool in Hillsboro. What a treat.

childcarefot

But for this child’s low-income parents, and many other low-income Washington County residents who want to work and want the best for their children, it can be tough to access affordable, quality child care.

But child care is essential to help low-income people climb out of poverty and children who don’t get a good start often enter kindergarten behind and stay behind throughout their schooling.

It’s in the community’s best interest to provide a strong foundation for all children to develop into well-educated adults ready to participate in the work force and keep our economy strong. It’s also in the community’s interest to facilitate work by adults because work builds self-esteem and creates self-sufficiency.

One Oregon program that helps make work possible is the Employment Related Day Care program run by the state’s Department of Human Services (DHS). It provides financial assistance to help eligible low-income working families pay for child care, enabling parents to stay employed and children to be well cared for in stable child care arrangements.

The program helps approximately 20,000 Oregon families every year pay for child care for about 35,000 children.

About half the children who attended Good Apple Child Care Preschool in Hillsboro this summer were being helped by the program.

The preschool’s owners, Jan and James McIntosh, operate out of their 1,200 square foot home with its half-acre backyard playground.

If a child wants to enjoy arts and crafts, hike through Jackson Bottom Wetlands, take a field trip to the Enchanted Forest, get introduced to reading and music, or dunk her feet in poster paint and make footprints on poster paper, Good Apple’s the place to be.

The 16 boisterous children there this summer ranged from 6 months to 9 years of age; that switches to children 6 months to 5 years of age when school starts. The children are overseen by between three to six staff members, depending on the activities under way.

The nonprofit Community Action organization, which works to eliminate conditions of poverty and create opportunities for people and communities to thrive, helped Good Apple succeed.

“We were hooked up early on with Jan Alvarez, a child care specialist at Community Action of Washington County, and she has been awesome,” said Jan McIntosh. “She’s encouraged us to take the steps to get our certification, get nationally accredited and then participate in Oregon’s Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS), which aims to raise the bar on quality child care and prepare children for kindergarten.”

Community Action also educates low-income working families about child care options, such as home-based programs and child care centers, and offers a broad range of face to face and online training classes in English and Spanish to child care operators and staff, such as first aid and CPR and child abuse and neglect training.

Karen Henkemeyer, who manages the child care program at Community Action, said some low-income families also find that providing child care can help lift them out of poverty while allowing them to stay close to their own children.

Child care providers throughout Washington County are striving to make a difference for low-income children and their parents. It’s critical that we support efforts to provide a full range of affordable, high quality child care if the county and all of its residents are to prosper.

For more information about child care-related programs in Washington County, call Community Action at 971-223-6100 or visit its website, caowash.org/ccrr.

A tip for Marriott: pay your housekeepers better

You know how hotels keep adding extra charges, like resort fees, housekeeping fees and energy surcharges? Marriott International, Inc. has come up with a new way to pick your pocket.

Apparently Marriott thinks its housekeepers deserve to make more. But it doesn’t want to pay them more. So it announced today that it is initiating a program under which some of its hotels will be placing envelopes in rooms, encouraging guests to leave tips.

Marriott will be the first partner in the program, called The Envelope Please, an initiative of A Woman’s Nation, founded by Maria Shriver.

Maria Shriver, Founder of A Woman's Nation, initiator of The Envelope Please

Maria Shriver, Founder of A Woman’s Nation, initiator of The Envelope Please

“The Envelope Please was born from having conversations with women I’ve met who have taken care of my room during hotel stays. Their stories of hard work and perseverance inspired and informed me,” Shriver said.

Starting this week, Marriott will place envelopes in more than 160,000 guest rooms at participating Marriott-managed hotels in the U.S. and Canada.

In a news release, Marriott noted that The American Hotel and Lodging Association, a trade association, suggests tipping housekeepers between $1 and $5 per night, and recommends tipping daily rather than at the end of a stay to ensure that the money goes to the person cleaning the room each day, who is paid by the hour.

housekeeper

Maids and housekeepers earned a median salary of $19,780, or approximately $9.51 per hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Hourly pay can vary depending on the location and quality of a hotel.

Marriott says on its job applications that: (1) A Marriott housekeeper generally starts out earning around minimum wage; (2) Pay rates for housekeepers may increase over time; and (3) On average, a Marriott housekeeper earns $10.00 per hour.

The likely result of this new tip policy will be increased income for some housekeepers, but don’t be too quick to praise Marriott for its public-spirited generosity, because the program won’t cast the hotel chain a dime. Instead, it will be one more hidden fee, although a voluntary one.

So here’s a tip for Marriott. If you really care about what your housekeepers are making, pay them more.

Goodell and NOW: punishment 1st, verdict later

‘Let the jury consider their verdict,’ the King said in Alice in Wonderland.
‘No, no!’ said the Queen. ‘Sentence first — verdict afterwards.’

The National Organization for Women has called on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to resign because of how he has dealt with Ray Rice’s assault on his then fiancée, now wife, Janay Rice.

The League initially suspended Rice for two games. It suspended him indefinitely when a video surfaced showing him hitting Janay and the Baltimore Ravens released him.

Terry O'Neill, President, NOW

Terry O’Neill, President, NOW

“The only workable solution is for Roger Goodell to resign and for his successor to appoint an independent investigator with full authority to gather factual data about domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking within the NFL community and to recommend real and lasting reforms,” Terry O’Neill, the group’s president, said

In other words, he should quit and then the NFL should investigate.

Typical of advocacy organizations seeking to take advantage of controversy, NOW’s website currently features a photo of Goodell and a call to make a donation.

Obama and Immigration: shoot me now or shoot me later

“Shoot me now or shoot me later,” Javert belted out in Les Miserables.

In the same vein, you know Obama’s going to do it. It’s just a matter of when.

President Obama is going to issue sweeping executive orders on immigration, but just not yet. Instead, he’s going to do it when he thinks there will be less political damage.

immigration1

immigration2

Earlier this year Obama said that inaction by Congress was going to force him to make major immigration changes by executive order before the end of summer.

But on Sept. 7, Obama said he’d wait until after the November elections to take action. On NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Obama said he would act before the end of the year. “…it’s going to be more sustainable and more effective if the public understands what the facts are on immigration…,” he said.
Pollster Pat Caddell took a more cynical perspective, asserting that Obama, by deciding to defer action until after the November elections, is really saying, ‘Hey, dummies after you’ve voted, then I’m going to drop this on you.”

Obama’s decision allows liberal Democrats running in liberal states or districts to publicly whine and complain about the delay while allowing Democrats in conservative states or districts to try to avoid the subject altogether.

Democratic Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina, for example, were all worried that executive actions by Obama would jeopardize their tight races in conservative-leaning states. Now they can rest easier.

But some Democrats and Republicans may find that delay is not without its costs.

As the New York Times reported, Angela M. Kelly, vice president for immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, said Latinos are going to expect Mr. Obama to take even more expansive executive action later this year, given the delay.

Ferguson: No reason for blacks to vote for Democrats

Building on the tragedy of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Democrats are trying to mobilize blacks to help them keep control of the Senate.

In black churches and on black talk radio, black civic leaders have begun invoking Michael Brown’s death in an effort get black voters to channel their anger by voting Democratic in the midterm elections, according to the New York Times.

But why would informed blacks vote for Democrats?

“The data is going to indicate sadly that when the Obama administration is over, black people will have lost ground in every single leading economic indicator category,” says Tavis Smiley, a PBS host and political commentator.

Tavis Smiley, PBS Commentator

Tavis Smiley, PBS Commentator

In January 2009, when President Obama took office, the national unemployment rate was 7.8 %. In contrast, the unemployment rate for blacks was 12.7% and the rate for black youth was 21.8 %.

In July 2014, the national unemployment rate was 6.2%; the unemployment rate for whites was 5.3 %. In contrast, the unemployment rate for blacks was 11.4% and the rate for black youth was 24.8 %.

In August 2014, the unemployment rate for blacks, 11.4 %, was almost double the 6.1 % rate for the overall population.

“The 2-to-1 employment disparity between African Americans and whites is not closing and appears to be a permanent part of the economy,” said Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, senior director of NAACP’s economic department.

The income gap between black and white households is also about the same now as it was when Obama took office.

Moreover, recent black college graduates ages 22 to 27 have an unemployment rate of 12.4 percent. That’s more than double the 5.6 percent unemployed among all college grads in that age range and almost a 300 percent increase from the 2007 level of 4.6 percent, before the Great Recession, according to the Center for Economic Policy and Research.

An estimated 10.6 percent of black women age 20 or older are unemployed, a figure unchanged from a year ago, according to the Labor Department.

With justification, all this is causing some blacks to question whether Obama and the Democrats deserve their almost automatic support.

Bruce Dixon, Black Agenda Report

Bruce Dixon,
Black Agenda Report

“When Barack Obama leaves the White House in January 2017, what will black America, his earliest and most consistent supporters, have to show for making his political career possible. We’ll have the T-shirts and buttons and posters, the souvenirs. That will be the good news. The bad news is what else we’ll have … and not,” said Bruce Dixon of the Black Agenda Report.

Obama won 96 percent of the black vote in 2008 and 93 percent in 2012.

There’s simply no reason for that level of support to continue.