For Eastern Kentucky’s Future

My daddy and brother were coal miners in Harlan County, where I’m from. I think about them every time I see these election ads on TV or in my mailbox talking about coal.

Most of these ads come from Mitch McConnell. Looking at them, you’d think that coal was jumping up out of the ground and putting food on every table in east Kentucky until Obama came along and spoiled the party.

That’s not how I remember it. Seems to me we’ve been losing coal jobs most years and under most presidents for a long time. Mitch went to Washington in 1984. Where was he when we lost more than 16,000 coal jobs under Ronald Reagan? We lost more under Bush I and Clinton. In fact, Kentucky’s lost about two-thirds of its coal jobs since Mitch McConnell has been in office.

That’s some record.

Every time I hear about mining jobs lost, my heart goes out to those miners and their families. My hope is that they find another way, maybe a safer way, to put food on the table. That’s because I got to listen to my daddy gasping for breath in his final days (his lungs had been ruined by coal dust). I got to watch my brother go downhill after he got seriously injured in a rockfall in a coal mine. He died at 41.

I’m not going to tell you who to vote for. But the truth is you can vote for Mitch, you can vote for Alison, you can vote for the Man in the Moon. It’s not going to change anything about coal. The best of that black rock is gone in east Kentucky and nobody in government can really save the jobs that are going with it. What they could do, though, is help people get ready for new ones.

When Mitch talks about coal, I feel like he’s really talking about the past. What he’s saying is that if we elect him again, he’ll protect us from the future.

But we don’t need people to protect us from the future – we need people to help lead us through it.

Alison Lundergan Grimes isn’t perfect, but she doesn’t need to be. She’s smart. She loves Kentucky – and she’s thinking about the future.

That’s why I’m voting for her.

Mitch McConnell: “We Have Very Enlightened Management In This Country” [#EnlightenMitch & The War On Workers]

Mitch McConnell has, from time to time, adopted the conspiracy theory that the IRS was “targeting” right wing political groups for their fundraising and expenditures and touted this as an example of Big Government out of control — because what the IRS was doing is actually fairly reasonable, and what McConnell et al. claim they were doing is actually exactly what Elaine Chao’s Labor Department was doing.

In the instance of the IRS, there’s been a flood of money pouring into outside pressure groups for political activities that they aren’t allowed to partake in — but that they’re partaking in nonetheless. This flood of dark money into independent c4s and 527s and whatnots is very possibly against the law… but the only way one could know if they are running afoul of the law (and you need only look at Wisconsin or at the people behind the Ron Paul bribery scandal in Iowa) is if someone were to look into it. On the other hand, during the early 2000s, Elaine Chao’s Labor Department set up an entire wing run by a political activist to target Labor Groups and document all their illegal activities. In the end, that initiative reported astonishing numbers of criminal acts — but half of the acts were actually duplicates and of the 500 or so remaining, most of those were self-reported by Unions and almost all of them involved wrong-doings by Union Officers, not union members.

But the point of that group was not to root out wrongdoing but rather a concerted effort by Elaine Chao’s Labor Department to undermine labor unions. This is a central mission of the Republican Party under George W. Bush, Mitch McConnell, Scott Walker and so forth and it is carried out on behalf of the corporate executives who believe that without unions they can pay workers less, treat employees worse and make more money for themselves.

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The Republican Party loves “Big Government” when that nefarious Big Brother force is used to deny the right to vote to poor and minority voters en masse under the guise of nonexistent “widespread” voter fraud, and in Elaine Chao’s Labor Department, the GOP loved “Big Government” because they could use government assets to achieve their own political aims.

In 2009, Mitch McConnell — who is funded by the anti-worker bosses of corporate America — explained to a Commerce Lexington crowd at Keeneland that union membership has declined because workers don’t want to join unions and because we have “very enlightened management in this country now.”

As ThinkProgress pointed out at the time, the “enlightened” management was actually responsible for the decrease in union membership because of draconian tactics they — and McConnell’s wife in George W. Bush’s Labor Department — were using to suppress and punish their workers and potential workers:

For starters, an AFL-CIO survey found that there are 60 million American workers who say that they would join a union if they could. The reason that they can’t is because employers threaten to close plants in 57 percent of union organizing drives and threaten to cut wages and benefits in 47 percent, while ultimately firing pro-union workers 34 percent of the time.

As Kate Bronfenbrenner, Director of Labor Education Research at the Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations pointed out, over the last 20 years “employer opposition [to unionization] has intensified…and the nature of campaigns has changed so that the focus is on more coercive and punitive tactics designed to intensely monitor and punish union activity.”

And in addition to anti-union campaigns, management in this country is engaged in a whole host of other labor violations. Yesterday, a new survey came out in which 68 percent of low-income workers reported being subject to a pay violation in the previous work week alone. This isn’t meant to paint the entire business community with a broad stroke — as there are surely plenty of companies that don’t engage in this sort of behavior — but the problem is far more widespread than McConnell and the rest of the Republican party are evidently willing to concede. And just like with health care reform, the GOP has already decided that it’s not interested in discussing a solution.

Of course, Mitch McConnell doesn’t know any of those facts because Mitch McConnell doesn’t talk to workers or actual everyday citizens. He prefers the company of his friends who calls the “very enlightened management.”

If he did let himself get “enlightened” by people who actually do the jobs instead of just listening to the “enlightened management” who live off them, Mitch McConnell might learn that the “enlightened management” is one reason why wages are down, retirement savings are down, and everything costs more… while corporate profits continue to soar. But that’d take a lot of listening.

Jensen vs. Barr, Round 2 — #KY6 Debate Tonight, 7PM at EKU

It was not a great week for Andy Barr.

  • His debate performance on KET consisted mostly of yelling disparate buzzwords with an overly emphatic use of incorrect facts strung together across disconnected talking points. (Ronnie Ellis had a good roundup.) 
  • A Cheves investigation found that while Barr’s recent ad claims the Freshman congressman’s been busy, not one of the bill’s he touts as an accomplishment has actually made it out of the GOP-controlled House. Essentially… Andy Barr is a Do Nothing Congressman who’s done nothing in the middle of a Do Nothing Congress which his own party controls.

The list could go on. There’s Andy Barr’s lingering Payday Lender imbroglio and Jensen’s new TV ad, and… well, it was not a great week for Andy Barr.

The experts still have this House race as an easy GOP win, but outside of internal polls, it hasn’t been polled recently and even those internal polls are now over a month old. Barr’s poll put him up big but didn’t mention undecideds, while Jensen’s had her within single digits with 17% undecided. Jensen’s been in an uphill battle from the beginning but she’s fought the whole way — increasing name recognition along the way — and there’s now a week left. With the Kentucky Senate race still locked in a dead heat, it’ll come down to undecideds deciding, GOTV efforts and turnout. Again, that’s why it’s inextricably linked to the Senate race. If Barr wins, if his base turns out in force, that’s good for McConnell and bad for Grimes. If Democrats in the 6th can motivate their voters in the Black community and the Hispanic community, if they can get women and young people who will normally vote in a Presidential election year to the polls for the midterm, then that’s good for Grimes.

If your ballot doesn’t look like this:

Sanctity

Then you’re doing it wrong.

Elisabeth Jensen and Andy Barr will debate again tonight at 7PM at EKU. The debate will be televised on WKYT’s CW affiliate and broadcast live on WEKU 88.9FM.

Between Andy Barr’s ridiculousness and Elisabeth Jensen’s tooth-and-nail vigor, it will be good TV. Here’s a taste of what you can expect, a far cry from the Senate debate as the two candidates are aggressively laying out starkly different platforms for the state.

In this you will see Jensen lay out facts about the state of the health care system in a strong defense of Gov. Beshear’s rollout of Kynect and the benefits of the Affordable Care Act. In response, Andy Barr claims that Kynect is just a website, like Kayak, and that it’s killing jobs (untrue) and torturing people (untrue). When KET’s Bill Goodman presses him to explain what would happen to the 500,000 people now insured under Kynect, Barr instead claims that it will destroy education and the state retirement fund. That’s an absurd suggestion from Barr given that it’s not true, it doesn’t answer the question, and that Barr’s ideological belief system is essentially opposed to the proper funding of public education to begin with — if the ACA were actually going to destroy public education, more Republicans would actually be for it. On top of all that, Barr is funded by the Blackstone Group which is one of the hedge funds that’s currently raiding the Kentucky retirement fund and sending the retirement fund into a death spiral.

Enjoy Andy’s manic delivery of here — and tonight at 7PM at EKU. His debating style is basically to throw cow turds into a fan and before anyone can see what sticks, he just shovels more into the fan.

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Jensen: ACA helps small businesses as well as the uninsured

1988 Mitch McConnell explains 2014 Mitch McConnell’s campaign strategy

You may have seen this clip already, in which Mitch McConnell explains that he “doesn’t mind” talking to actual voters but that he “doesn’t think it’s particularly enlightening.”

That clip comes from a much, much longer speech McConnell gave on the Senate floor in 1988 during a debate about reforming the campaign finance system — back when Mitch was in favor of limits on PACs and blocking wealthy individuals from buying office.

McConnell’s comments about talking to factory workers and voters on the courthouse steps come during a seven minute section in which Mitch McConnell laments the cost of TV advertising while advocating for government controls on the free market to set prices for that advertising so that politicians running for office could spend less money to bombard voters with idiotic, mind-numbing TV advertisements.

During that 7 minute stretch, McConnell also argues that if he gave a speech on the courthouse steps, no one would show up.

Given that Mitch McConnell, and his unregulated and anonymous dark money Super PAC supporters from outside the state, are spending tens of millions of dollars on TV advertising and given that Mitch McConnell is currently paying people to show up at his campaign stops to create the appearance of “enthusiasm,” it seemed like a nice time, here on this Friday afternoon, to share Mitch McConnell’s vision of the political future, circa 1988, and just how right he turned out to be.

The average voter with their petty everyday concerns about family, health, and retirement may not be particularly “enlightening” but Mitch McConnell sure is — take a listen:

His defense of “higher spending” and how that equals “support” is particularly enjoyable, at about 3:15.

At around 4:00, McConnell explains that no one wants to come out to see a politician make a speech… and given that throngs of people have been showing up to see McConnell’s opponent in this race twenty-six years later, it makes sense that Mitch McConnell would be paying people to show up and forcing them to listen to whatever enlightening things he has to say.

“Typical candidate would make a speech on the courthouse steps and nobody’d be there but his family.”

Unless you pay ’em!

But enough of all that. Turn on your teevee… you’re missing all the campaign commercials about the fictional war on coal and guns and the invasion of ebola-ridden illegals.

John Oliver & HBO’s ‘Last Week Tonight’ Record PSA for Andy Barr & the Voters of Kentucky’s 6th District

Andy Barr has taken at least $30,000 in campaign contributions from Predatory Payday Lenders. In the debate last night, Elisabeth Jensen attacked him for “going to bat” for an industry that preys on hard working Americans who struggle to make ends meet — while Andy Barr struggled to explain that his real goal is actually to protect the predatory lending habits of these Predatory Lenders.

As Andy Barr explained that the dictates of the free market should allow lenders to rip off struggling Kentucky families, Elisabeth Jensen at one point jumped in to ask, “Does that mean it’s okay to take advantage of people?”

Apparently, as far as Andy Barr is concerned that is a-okay. As the Herald Leader reported last week, Andy Barr is getting this money from the Predatory Payday Loan industry because he’s pushing legislation to protect them from any sort of regulation.

What Andy Barr is doing is despicable, and since he doesn’t appear to understand why, or care, here’s HBO’s John Oliver and ‘Last Week Tonight‘ to explain:

New Campaign Ad, Watch Elisabeth Jensen Rip Congressman Andy Barr Apart in a Hair Salon

In the wake of last night’s pretty fascinating debate between Andy Barr and Elisabeth Jensen, the Jensen campaign is out with a new ad. Watch it here:

That ad — called “Perks” — hits Andy Barr hard on his abuse of taxpayer funded perks in his first two years in office. There’s the hair salon, the first class travel he’s voted to protect, and there’s his really quite obscene abuse of taxpayer funded communications, the mailers and such that bombard your home and look like standard campaign spam but are actually government paid for propaganda.

For all his talk about how terrible the Big Bad Government is, it’s ironic that Andy Barr would spend more than 411 other members of Congress in sending out these taxpayer funded communications. Andy Barr’s taking government handouts and feeding at the trough. Here’s how Andy Barr stacks up against the rest of the Kentucky delegation in wasting your dollars:

BarrFranking2

That’s embarrassing for Andy.

Here’s more from the Jensen campaign:

Earlier this year, Barr responded to a Herald-Leader inquiry about how he has spent more tax dollars than 411 other members of Congress on these campaign style communications by claiming he was “helping seniors.” This remark came despite the fact that Barr has voted repeatedly for budgets ending Medicare’s guarantee for seniors.

In July, Jensen pledged to vote to refuse campaign contributions from bailed-out financial institutions; end taxpayer funded first-class travel; enroll in Kynect for her family’s healthcare; publicly disclose her congressional schedule, and refuse to send taxpayer funded campaign style mailers.  Barr has accepted tens of thousands from bailed out banks; voted against banning first-class travel at taxpayer expense; voted to protect taxpayer funded healthcare for members of Congress for life; refuses to make his schedule public; and has spent more than ten times as much on campaign-style mailers as any other Kentucky Representative.

“Hard working moms in Kentucky know that every penny saved counts – but Congressman Andy Barr is wasting our tax dollars to benefit himself,” Jensen said. “From protecting perks like taxpayer funded first class travel to spending exorbitant amounts on taxpayer funded campaign style mailers, Andy Barr has proven he’s looking out for himself and his lobbyist allies – not hardworking Kentucky families. This kind of self-interested behavior from Congressman Barr is exactly what we hate about the dysfunctional politics of Congress. Rejecting these five wasteful perks is a simple step we can take to cut Washington’s out-of-control spending, and I urge Congressman Barr to join me in taking this pledge.”