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Page   1 - Duke Energy Employee Advocate

Washington - Page 34

"When there are this many people, there's a special feeling. It's as if we really have the ability to
change the world." - Valerio Conti, 40, protesting in Rome against a war in Iraq – N. Y. Times

The Tax Cut Ate Granny’s Check

Newsweek – by Allan Sloan– February 20, 2003

The president may or may not win his bet on the economy. But his proposals, if adopted, would seriously weaken the safety net

Feb. 17 issue — If you’ve ever heard the riff about how to boil a frog, you’d understand what President Bush’s economic and tax proposals are all about. You don’t just toss the frog into a pot of boiling water, because even the foggiest frog would figure out that something was wrong and jump out. Instead, you start with room-temperature water and boil Froggie over a low flame, so the water warms slowly. By the time the frog realizes that he ought to get out of the pot, he’s cooked.

NOW TO THE president’s proposals. I’m not accusing George W. Bush of abusing amphibians. But whether by accident or design, he’s taking the frog-boiling approach to changing the tax system. He started out with eliminating the inheritance tax in his 2001 tax bill. Sure sounded reasonable. Ribbit. In December, with the economy in the tank, he proposed a “stimulus” package consisting mostly of eliminating income taxes on most corporate dividends. Who can object to paying fewer taxes and ending the supposed unfairness of “double taxation of dividends”? Ribbit, ribbit. Last week Bush proposed huge new tax-favored savings plans. They sound reasonable, too. Federal revenues would even rise in the short run because IRAs and such would no longer be tax-deductible. Investors would benefit in the long term by being able to compound their money and draw it out tax-free. Ribbit, ribbit, ribbit .

Each piece is presented as a reasonable, modest step, and is debated in isolation. But look at the president’s proposals taken together, and you see what’s going on. He’s trying to make income from investments tax-free, which would radically transform the cherished notion of a progressive system—that people who have done better, thanks to what this country has to offer, should pay taxes at a higher rate than the less fortunate. People get that nice glow contemplating how much this plan or that plan would save them, not realizing that the warmth they feel is the water temperature rising.

Had Bush run on a platform to eliminate all taxes on investment income and to make America safe for inherited wealth, we’d be discussing the budget proposals presented last week by President Gore. But by turning up the heat slowly, Bush has gotten the inheritance tax all but eliminated, and has a good chance to get Congress to enact the rest of his program. These cuts would greatly reduce federal tax revenues, but the faithful argue that the cuts will spur enough growth to offset the giveaways. There aren’t any reliable statistics on this; we’re supposed to take it on faith. Which is fine if you’re talking about religion, not so fine if you’re talking about seriously messing with an economy that has produced the most affluent society in history.

Feeling warm yet? Here’s where the water really gets hot. The president may or may not win his bet on the economy. But this much is certain: the president’s package would weaken political and financial support for Social Security. His no-tax saving and no-inheritance-tax plans would kick in fully about a decade from now. That’s around the time that the Social Security system is projected to start running cash deficits. With millions of Americans presumably enjoying the tax-free fruits of savings programs, the political support of Social Security would be undermined: I’ve got mine, Jack, too bad the government won’t give you yours. Financial support for Social Security would also be undermined, because the government just won’t have the money to bail out the beneficiaries. (President Bush proposes to “reform” Social Security by letting wage earners open private accounts with some of their Social Security tax payments. But those same payments now go to pay benefits to retirees. There’s no money in Bush’s budget to keep checks flowing to today’s beneficiaries if younger taxpayers get to put Social Security tax money into individual accounts.)

When crunch time comes—which it will, if the president’s plans are adopted in full—the only way out will be to sharply increase income taxes on salaries, or to adopt a totally new tax. The obvious one: a consumption tax, such as a national sales tax, which many other countries have. Why, a mere 1 percent tax on a $10 trillion economy would produce $100 billion a year, maybe more.

You can argue that moving from income taxes to consumption taxes is a good thing—but let’s debate it publicly. Let’s also debate how best to stimulate the economy, and whether it needs stimulus at all—or will recover on its own. Radical economic changes shouldn’t be imposed by stealth, no matter how convinced proponents are of the soundness of their thinking.

If frogs could talk, they would tell you that affable fellow putting them in that nice pot of cold water couldn’t possibly mean to cook them. Until, of course, they hear someone asking for melted butter, garlic and a fork.

Bush to Cut Pension Rights – by Marie Cocco – February 19, 2003

Bush to Baby Boomers: You're on your own.

(2/11/03) - The president did not say this, not in so many words. He said it in so many numbers. President George W. Bush's budget is a road map for a pension system with stripped-down security for future retirees.

The budget would speed the shift of pension responsibility from employers to employees. It sets up the likelihood that fewer small and medium-sized businesses would offer pensions at all. It anticipates replacing guaranteed Social Security benefits with a hybrid in which the luck of the stock-market draw would have more to do with the comfort of life in old age than a lifetime of honest, if modestly paid, work.

"What the Bush administration is proposing for the private retirement system is to basically destroy it," said Norman Stein, a tax specialist and visiting professor at the University of Maine School of Law. "He's certainly not interested in preserving and expanding what we have now."

The biggest wrecking ball? Bush's proposal for two new tax-free savings accounts, geared to families who can save as much as $45,000 a year. Creation of the accounts, in which all investment gains would be forever free of tax, would most likely cause many small and medium-sized business owners to drop pension-savings plans for employees, retirement experts say. If owners could tuck away that much money for themselves without the hassle of regulations and paperwork for employees, why would they take up the workers' burden? The savings plans are seen as such a pension threat that even some House Republicans, usually the president's handmaidens, are balking.

Of course, Bush has a plan on troublesome pension regulations, too. He would ease current rules on 401(k) plans that are meant to keep highly paid executives and managers from fattening their own tax-favored accounts without offering significant benefits to workers. The loosening would allow top executives to pump up their own savings without being bound as tightly by government requirements that they offer broad incentives to the rank-and-file.

As for those lucky enough to work for a company that still offers an old-fashioned pension - the kind that guarantees income every month, instead of a guaranteed chance to take a chance on Wall Street - Bush has more ideas. The administration wants to make it easier for companies to replace traditional pension plans, in which a worker earns greater future benefits in the last few years of work, with so-called cash-balance plans. These change the calculation to gear benefits to income earned over a worker's entire tenure.

The shift reduces employer costs. It does this by reducing benefits for workers - particularly those in their 40s and 50s who were promised traditional benefits but now are told to settle for less. Many have brought age-discrimination suits, but Bush has proposed rules to stymie them. His plan hit a temporary snag when key senators threatened to block Treasury Secretary John Snow's confirmation over the issue. Snow agreed to take a second look

"This is part of the companies' saying, 'we'll shift more risk and responsibility to the individual,'" said David Certner, director of federal affairs for the AARP. "You sort of have the companies and the government saying the same thing at the same time."

That is, you want to retire? Do-it-yourself.

The White House still says Bush wants to change Social Security from a guaranteed benefit to a system in which workers would put some of their payroll taxes into private accounts, on the assumption that this would both "save" Social Security and allow everyone to retire to Boca. Trouble is, he's spent the budget surplus that more honest proponents of Social Security privatization had assumed would finance the transition to a new system.

Bush's own Social Security commission, stacked with advocates of privatization, anticipated using the now-depleted budget surplus - plus a massive infusion of additional general budget revenues - to shore up Social Security, even after adding private accounts. They never did say where this money would come from. Neither has Bush.

There are seven years to go before the biggest generation ever to retire starts cleaning out its cubicles. Bush wants to take employers and government off the pension hook. Blessed with luck in his own life, the president's plan is to wish us the same.

Cheney Not Off the Hook Yet

Employee Advocate – - February 17, 2003

The Associated Press reports that The General Accounting Office is not going to appeal a court ruling allowing Vice President Dick Cheney to keep the “energy meetings” secret from the American public. These secret meetings were used to formulate the Bush energy plan. Cheney has steadfastly refused to disclose the campaign contributors – that is – business executives and lobbyist who were present or what was discussed.

After taking with members of the House and Senate, now Republican controlled, Comptroller General David Walker decided not to appeal the case. Walker said, ``We hope the GAO is never again put in the position of having to resort to the courts to obtain information that Congress needs to perform its constitutional duties.''

Perhaps the energy matter now seems trivial. G. W. Bush is willing to blow a country off the face of the earth without presenting any hard evidence as to why. He is willing to defy the United Nations and millions of protestors worldwide. Why should the administration not keep everything else hidden from the public?

A few details have slipped out along the way. Enron representatives (gave big bucks to Bush) met six times with Cheney or his aides.

Rep. Henry Waxman called the GAO decision ``a tremendous setback for open government. In the world's greatest democracy, we should lead by example and base public disclosure on what is the right thing to do rather than on what one believes one is compelled to do.''

Cheney may not be completely off the hook yet. Private groups have vowed to press for information with their own lawsuits.

Sharon Buccino, Natural Resources Defense Council attorney, said ``GAO has backed down from an important fight with the administration about the public's right to information about what its government is up to.''

Judicial Watch and The Sierra Club also have cases against the Cheney task force.

Larry Klayman of Judicial Watch spoke against “secrecy, closed-door meetings and cover-ups.''

Rep. John Dingell said “reasonable people cannot differ on the need for more sunshine on this administration's actions.”

Rep. Henry Waxman said “Everyone in our government, even the vice president, should be accountable to the American people.”

More on the secret energy meetings:

Padewer Gets Award Before the Ax

Market Manipulation Penalties

Dow Jones – February 17, 2003

(2/11/03) - WASHINGTON - President George W. Bush's nominee for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission suggested Tuesday that Congress consider outlawing power market manipulation.

FERC nominee Joseph Kelliher, currently senior policy advisor to Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, told a Senate panel that the Federal Power Act of 1935 doesn't explicitly outlaw market manipulation, although it does require the commission to ensure just and reasonable wholesale power prices.

"If the concern is market manipulation, I think there are ways to address that prospectively and some of them may require legislation," said Kelliher, a former Republican House staffer specializing in energy legislation.

Testifying before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the FERC nominee noted that charges brought against a former Enron Corp. trader in the wake of the Western power crisis were for wire fraud rather than manipulation. By contrast with energy law, securities and commodities law have specific prohibitions on manipulation, he said.

Kelliher said he has been arguing for five years for Congress to empower FERC to level higher monetary penalties against malfeasant energy companies than its current authority to penalize these companies $500 a day, an authority that dates back to 1935. "As markets become more competitive, it's clear that people have an incentive to violate the law if they're only subject to a $500-a-day penalty," he said.

Last year, energy bill negotiators proposed a ban on wash, or "round-trip," electricity trades, which involve simultaneous, offsetting transactions meant to distort real revenue, trading volumes or price levels. The proposal would have also significantly increased existing penalty authority to as high as $1 million a day.

Western lawmakers on the committee including Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., raised questions about FERC's commitment to policing wholesale power markets following the Western energy price spike of 2000-01.

Wyden also questioned the commission's proposal for a standard market design for wholesale power, which he described as "a one-size-fits-all" approach based on East Coast markets. "The people in my part of the country think this is poison," Wyden said.

Kelliher said he agrees with the goals of the proposed standard market design, including prevention of market manipulation and promotion of competition and investment in generation and transmission.

But he said it is essential that the ultimate design allow regional flexibility. He cited as an example of that sort of flexibility FERC's recent allowance for customers of Bonneville Power Administration, a nonprofit hydropower giant, to retain their contracts under the new RTO West regional transmission organization.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., ranking Democrat on the committee, said he didn't oppose Kelliher's nomination but wouldn't vote for him until the White House also nominates a Democrat to the commission. FERC currently has two Republicans, one Democrat and two empty seats. The Democratic commissioner's term expires in June.

Bingaman supports New Mexico utility regulator Suedeen Kelly as Democratic nominee to the commission. White House officials couldn't immediately be reached for comment on possible future nominations to FERC.

A spokeswoman for the energy committee said the panel would hold a business meeting this spring to vote on Kelliher's nomination.

Millions Protest Iraq War

Reuters – by Paul Majendie and Ellen Wulfhorst - February 16, 2003

LONDON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - More than six million demonstrators turned out across the world on Saturday in a wave of protest supporting international leaders in urging the United States not to rush into a war against Iraq.

From Canberra to Cape Town, from Karachi to Chicago, people from all walks of life took to the streets to pillory President Bush as a bloodthirsty warmonger in the biggest demonstration of 'people power' since the Vietnam War.

The largest outcry against war occurred in the European countries whose leaders have vocally supported Bush's position at the United Nations.

A million people marched the streets of Rome, 1.3 million paraded in Barcelona, two million in Madrid, and in New York, officials estimated the turnout there at 250,000.

At least half a million marched in London, creating a major headache for Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush's closest ally.

"I hope this demonstration will show Muslims it is our government that wants the war, not the British people," said protester Richard Shirres, rallying in London with his six-year-old son. London Mayor Ken Livingstone said the rally was the largest peace demonstration in British political history.

Bush and Blair suffered a setback on Friday to their efforts to win international backing for early military action to rid Iraq of suspected weapons of mass destruction in a dramatic showdown at the United Nations.

France, Russia, China, Germany and other nations said U.N. weapons inspections should continue in statements that seemed set to slow the introduction of a resolution the United States and Britain want to authorize the use of force.

French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin boasted of a triumph in France's efforts to brake Washington's push for war after the French foreign minister won applause for his call for at least another month of inspections.


"France is giving peace a chance. France is giving hope to the world and all over the world people are looking to France ...," Raffarin told parliament.

But French commentators said Baghdad had probably won only a brief reprieve.

Secretary of State Colin Powell told CNN that Washington was still thinking of giving Iraq just weeks to comply with U.N. disarmament demands.

Iraqi media said the reactions to the much-anticipated inspectors' report to the United Nations showed the United States and Britain were isolated and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz hailed the worldwide protests.

"They show the conscience of mankind against crime and against aggression," Aziz, Iraq's most prominent Christian, told Reuters television in Italy, where he prayed for peace.

President Saddam Hussein meanwhile told an envoy of Pope John Paul the United States wanted to attack Iraq because it was a Muslim country.

Cardinal Roger Etchegaray met the Iraqi leader for 90 minutes in Baghdad and delivered a letter from the Holy See focusing on finding a peaceful solution to the Iraqi crisis.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the United Nations might need to pass a new resolution on Iraq and warned Baghdad not to try to take advantage of apparent differences in the Security Council.

Annan said on Abu Dhabi television he did not believe that war was inevitable, but that arms inspections could not continue indefinitely without Baghdad's cooperation.

But Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that if it came to conflict, Washington would have at least as many allies as it did during the 1991 war to drive Iraqi troops from Kuwait.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder insisted there was still a chance to disarm Iraq without war. "Let us take that chance as true internationalists," he said during a visit to Finland.


Demonstrations in Iraq itself were relatively small, with several thousand protesting in Baghdad and other cities. But about half a million people marched in Germany, the biggest such rally since World War II.

One French woman said that Washington's appetite for war with Iraq was an overreaction to the Sept. 11 attacks.

"The Americans were stressed by September 11 and now they are going completely overboard," she said. She was among the 300,000 demonstrators who took to the streets.

In Spain, Oscar-nominated film director Pedro Almodovar whipped up the crowd of two million in Madrid with chants of "No to war!"

"We don't understand the concept of a preventive war. The only preventive war is called peace," Almodovar told those demonstrating on a cold but clear day.

In Havana, Cuba's communist government organized a rally of 5,000 workers and students to reject the war planned by its longtime ideological foe, the United States.

Saturday's protests kicked off in New Zealand and Australia, where tens of thousands of people poured on to the streets, and were expected to spread to more than 600 towns and cities stretching from Antarctica to Iceland.

In California, tens of thousands of protesters were expected to join marches and demonstrations in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, Sacramento and smaller cities.

In Chicago, about 3,000 people waved such signs as "No War for Oil" and "President Bush Will Your Daughters Enlist?."

In his weekly radio address, Bush sought to calm Americans rattled by a taped message believed to be from fugitive al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, blamed for the Sept. 11 attacks, urging Muslims to fight America.

"Many of these dangers are unfamiliar and unsettling. Yet the best way to fight these dangers is to anticipate them, and act against them with focus and determination," Bush said.

While Bush has considerable domestic support for a conflict, Blair faces a high level of hostility, especially if a war effort fails to secure U.N. endorsement. He tried to gain the moral advantage over the demonstrators in London, saying they would not number more than the people killed in wars started by Saddam.

Kuwait, invaded by Iraq in 1991, began sealing off its northern half to allow its military to step up training to defend against any attack from Baghdad.

The crisis over how to disarm Iraq caused one of the most damaging divisions in NATO's 54-year history after France, Germany and Belgium refused to allow the alliance to start defensive planning for Iraq's neighbor Turkey in case of war.

But diplomatic sources said Saturday a compromise was likely to be agreed next Monday or Tuesday.

Bush Nominates Tainted Insider

Public Citizen – – February 12, 2003

Joseph Kelliher Delivered Enron's "Dream List" While Shutting Out Consumers

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Public Citizen today criticized President Bush's choice of Joseph Kelliher for a seat on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and urged the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to reject or delay the appointment until a full investigation is complete. In a letter to members of the committee, Public Citizen noted that Kelliher's controversial role as a top adviser to the Cheney energy task force raises questions about whether he can protect consumers from Enron-style price-gouging and market manipulation. (To read the letter, go to:

"Joseph Kelliher is perhaps the worst nominee the president could choose for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission," said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. "As the right-hand man to the energy secretary, Kelliher abused his position to curry favor with energy companies in the crafting of Bush's energy plan and helped fulfill Enron's 'Dream List' when the company's lobbyist came calling. Now more than ever, FERC needs an independent-minded commissioner who will base decisions on the facts, not the desires of special-interest lobbyists."

Recently released documents reveal that Kelliher played a central role in soliciting advice from the energy industry for inclusion in Vice President Cheney's energy task force report. In many cases, energy company lobbyists offered detailed policy proposals that were passed on to the president by Kelliher and adopted not only into the energy plan but into law. None of the released documents included communications between Kelliher and consumer groups or public health organizations, which were essentially excluded from participation.

A lobbyist representing Enron wrote Kelliher about his client's "dream list." Many of Enron's recommendations, which including asking the administration to commit to market-based emissions trading, were adopted as part of the administration's National Energy Policy. In addition, lobbyists for the oil and gas industry drafted proposed executive orders that Kelliher passed on the White House. Two months later, the president issued executive orders nearly identical to those the lobbyists sent to Kelliher.

"The future of America's energy markets is at a crossroads," said Tyson Slocum, research director for Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. "By nominating a tainted industry insider, President Bush has made it clear that he is willing to abandon consumer protections in favor of promoting the Enron agenda."

War Protesters Arrested at Edwards' Office

Associated Press – by Williams L. Holmes – February 7, 2003

Phil Jones, a spokesman for the group, said the opponents of a possible war with Iraq have tried to meet with Edwards for nearly a year and had been rebuffed.

RALEIGH, N.C. - Eight war protesters were arrested Thursday at Sen. John Edwards' presidential campaign office after they refused to leave.

The protesters - including a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - were marched out of the office building in handcuffs while supporters applauded and shouted anti-war slogans.

"I'm sending a message to John Edwards, asking him to oppose this war," Patrick O'Neill shouted as police tucked him into a waiting cruiser.

"War is not the answer," said Jim Stockwell, whose 18-year-old son, Jake, was among those arrested.

Edwards, who was scheduled to appear Thursday on MSNBC's "Hardball" at N.C. Central University, was not in the office during the protest.

Jennifer Palmieri, a spokeswoman for his campaign, said the senator values the views of his constituents.

"The senator always appreciates hearing the views of North Carolinians," she said. "He understands that these citizens have serious and important concerns about the situation in Iraq."

About 25 people participated in the protest. Fifteen went into Edwards' office while a dozen more marched in front of the building. Those who refused to leave were placed in handcuffs and led away by police.

Eight were charged with second-degree trespassing and released from jail about 6:30 p.m. on written promises to appear in court.

Phil Jones, a spokesman for the group, said the opponents of a possible war with Iraq have tried to meet with Edwards for nearly a year and had been rebuffed. Edwards, a Democrat considering a run for the presidency, has voted to support military action against Iraq.

"We're running out of time," Jones said. "This war is right on us."

Catherine Lutz, a 51-year-old anthropology professor at UNC who voted for Edwards, said she opposed war against Iraq because that country has not directly attacked the United States.

She said she was disappointed with him.

"I'm disappointed in a lot of the political leaders right now who are not leading," she said.

The Coble and Myrick Show

Associated Press – by Paul Nowell – February 7, 2003

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - North Carolina congressman Howard Coble says he was only trying to make a point about segregation when he said he agreed with internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

But several of his colleagues and advocacy groups are criticizing the Republican's remarks, and the head of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights said Coble should apologize.

"For a public official to be speaking this way could send a signal to people about how they might be treated," commission chairwoman Mary Frances Berry said Thursday.

"What we need is stronger leadership from our national officials to set the tone for what is acceptable and what it unacceptable," she said. "That means all the way up to the president and the attorney general."

Coble made the remark on radio call-in program Tuesday after a caller suggested all Arabs in the United States should be put into prison camps. Coble said he didn't agree with the caller but did agree with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who established the internment camps.

"We were at war. They (Japanese (Americans)- were an endangered species," Coble said. "For many of these Japanese-Americans, it wasn't safe for them to be on the street."

Like most Arab-Americans today, Coble said, most Japanese-Americans during World War II were not America's enemies. Still, Coble said, Roosevelt had to consider the nation's security.

"Some probably were intent on doing harm to us," he said, "just as some of these Arab-Americans are probably intent on doing harm to us."

Several of Coble's colleagues, including Reps. Mike Honda, D-Calif., Robert T. Matsui, D-Calif., and David Wu, D-Ore., have issued statements expressing disappointment in his remarks.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle also condemned Coble in a statement Thursday.

"It's offensive and inexcusable that one of the darkest episodes in American history would be cited approvingly by a Republican member of Congress, particularly one whom the Leadership has appointed to head a sensitive homeland security panel," said Daschle, D-S.D.

Coble spokeswoman Missy Branson attempted to clarify his remarks.

"I think he was trying to make a comparison that 60 years ago we weren't a multicultural society," she said.

"We weren't as tolerant and understanding of other cultures as we are today. He was trying to make the point that the internments were as much for the Japanese-Americans own safety as for national security.

"He didn't mean it in any way discriminatory to Japanese-Americans at all. I think he's made that clear."

Honda, a Japanese-American who spent his early childhood with his family in an internment camp during World War II, said he was "disappointed" that Coble didn't understand the impact of what he said.

"With his leadership position in Congress, that kind of lack of understanding can lead people down the wrong path," Honda said Wednesday.

Both the Japanese American Citizens League and the Council on American-Islamic Relations have asked Coble to apologize.

And the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium on Thursday called on House Republican leaders to ask Coble to resign from the homeland security subcommittee.

Meanwhile, another North Carolina Republican is being criticized for comments she made last week to the conservative Heritage Foundation.

U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick was speaking on what she called Americans' lack of readiness to deal with future terrorist attacks, and about danger within the country.

"You know, and this can be misconstrued, but honest to goodness (husband) Ed and I for years, for 20 years, have been saying, `You know, look at who runs all the convenience stores across the country.' Every little town you go into, you know?"

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called the remarks disturbing.

"Now we've got people saying everybody who works at the 7-Eleven who has a swarthy complexion is a potential threat," he said.

Myrick said she wasn't pointing a finger at any foreigners or ethnic groups. She said she was referring to federal investigations into "the illegal trafficking of food stamps through convenience stores for the purpose of laundering money to countries known to harbor terrorists."

"My point is people (who) don't like us are all over the country, and we know that," she said.

"I've got Arab friends. This is not something in any way that's condemning people. The point is very simply that we have to be alert to the fact that terrorism can happen anywhere," she said.

Coble Comments, Myrick Opens Mouth

The Charlotte Observer – by Jim Morrill – February 6, 2003

Two N.C. members of Congress came under fire Wednesday for comments that Islamic groups and others found insulting.

In remarks about domestic security threats, Rep. Sue Myrick of Charlotte said, "Look at who runs all the convenience stores across the country."

And Rep. Howard Coble of Greensboro defended World War II internment camps, saying some Japanese Americans "probably were intent on doing harm to us, just as some of these Arab-Americans are probably intent on doing harm to us."

Both Republicans said their remarks were not intended to insult any ethnic or religious groups.

But Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, said such comments are part of what he calls "a very disturbing trend" of bigotry.

"Now we've got people saying everybody who works at the 7-11 who has a swarthy complexion, is a potential threat," he said.

The ensuing controversy underscores the sensitivity of such comments at a time when America faces threats from foreign terrorists and possible war against Islamic Iraq.

Myrick's comments came during a speech to the conservative Heritage Foundation last week about what she called Americans' lack of readiness to deal with future terrorist attacks. During a question and answer session, she spoke about the dangers she said exist within the country.

"You know, and this can be misconstrued, but honest to goodness (husband) Ed and I for years, for 20 years, have been saying, `You know, look at who runs all the convenience stores across the country.' Every little town you go into, you know?"

Coble's comments came Tuesday during an interview on a High Point radio station. The chairman of a House subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security disagreed with a caller who suggested rounding up Arab-Americans. But he defended President Franklin Roosevelt's wartime decision to put Japanese-Americans into internment camps.

"We were at war," he said. "They were an endangered species. For many of these Japanese-Americans, it wasn't safe for them to be on the street. ... Some probably were intent on doing harm to us, just as some of these Arab-Americans are probably intent on doing harm to us.''

In a letter to Coble, Dr. James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, demanded an apology to Japanese- and Arab-Americans.

"(You) indicated your belief that there is a body of Arab Americans in this country who are `intent on doing harm to us,' " he wrote. "That presumption is both false and hurtful. Arab Americans are loyal, patriotic, and dedicated to the safety of our nation. Many serve in the Administration, in Congress, and in our nations many law enforcement agencies."

Hooper of the Islamic council said, "Once you start on that downward spiral of hate, it's very difficult to stop it. You reach a critical mass where the mutual hatred and distrust is very difficult to correct. And we're starting to see that now in our society."

Jeff Lenard, a spokesman for the National Association of Convenience Stores, which represents 8,000 stores in the Carolinas, called Myrick's comments offensive.

"To single out an industry -- any industry -- as being less patriotic or more apt to favor non-American views, I think is very misinformed," he said.

Myrick said she wasn't pointing a finger at any foreigners or ethnic groups. She said she was referring to federal investigations into "the illegal trafficking of food stamps through convenience stores for the purpose of laundering money to countries known to harbor terrorists."

"My point is people (who) don't like us are all over the country, and we know that," she said. "And my concern is that we as a government aren't prepared. ... I've got Arab friends. This is not something in any way that's condemning people. ... The point is very simply that we have to be alert to the fact that ... terrorism can happen anywhere."

Coble, meanwhile, defended his comments while acknowledging that many Americans consider the wartime internment a bad mistake.

"Many folks may say that today," he said, "but I say again, given the time (Roosevelt) imposed the internment program.... part of that internment was for their own safety....Back then we were far less tolerant than we are today. And we were at war."

Asked if there are circumstances under which he foresees the internment of Arab-Americans or foreign born residents, he said, "None comes to mind right now ... I'm not inserting my oars into those hypothetical waters."

Bush Meddles with Overtime Pay

Employee Advocate – – February 3, 2003

In a little over two years, G. W. Bush has set labor gains back decades. Bush has no mandate to do anything. He did not even win the majority of the vote! He was effectively placed in office by the Supreme Court. Yet, he struts around issuing decrees as if he were actually an elected president – and elected with 100% of the vote.

G. W. Bush is a place holder, nothing more. If the Supreme Court had placed Al Gore in office, he would have been in much the same predicament. The American public was lukewarm on both candidates.

Bush has made statements concerning being emperor. He tends to act more like an emperor than a president. He feels justified in keeping White House activity a secret from the American public. So much so, that the White House has been sued for information about the “energy meetings.” Bush does not want to reveal who was at the meetings or what they said.

Bush feels that it is okay for him to wage war with or without congressional approval or United Nations approval. He feels that it is appropriate for him to block investigations that might be uncomfortable for him.

One of his first acts in office was to kill the ergonomics legislation, which labor had fought for. Perhaps he knows that this will be his only shot at being president, so he is giving everything to big corporations, while he can.

Bush has gutted much environmental legislation. Social Security and Medicare are also on shaky ground, as long as G. W. Bush is in office.

His administration has attempted to legalize age discrimination in cash balance pension conversions, through Treasury regulations.

His latest endeavor is an attempt to weaken federal overtime pay laws, according to the Associated Press.

Corporations were cheating employees out of so much overtime pay, that lawsuits were being filed. Bush’s puppet, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao said, "We're going to change that..." Yes, if violating the law is made leagal – presto – no more lawsuits.

It’s the same game as with pension law violations – just make the violations legal - no more lawsuits!

The Family Medical Leave Act is also being reviewed. By now, you should know what that means. Any benefits that workers have must be eradicated, to meet the Bush agenda.

Bush is a big fan of “tort reform.” This is Bush’s term for making it almost impossible to sue corporations for anything. Even for medical malpractice, Bush wants a cap put on any settlements.

That’s the situation: as long as Bush is in the White House, he feels that he should be able to do anything that he wants to do. He is trying to arrange things so that corporations can do anything that they want to do. He is even trying to deny Americans their right to due process.

It will be a long two years.

Over 200 Members of Congress

House Committee on Education and the Workforce – January 31, 2003

Over 200 Members of Congress To Urge President Bush to Protect Pensions

(1/30/03) - WASHINGTON – Reflecting a deep and growing concern about Americans’ retirement security, more than 200 bipartisan members of the House and Senate wrote to President Bush Thursday calling on him to withdraw proposed regulations that, if allowed to go into effect, would permit companies to cut long-time employees’ pensions by as much as 50 percent.

And several senators announced today that they will delay the confirmation of Treasury Secretary nominee John Snow until they win assurances that any new pension rules will protect the pension rights of older employees.

Under the pending rules, announced by the Treasury Department in December, companies that cut their employees’ pensions by hundreds of millions of dollars a year by converting their traditional defined benefit plans into controversial “cash balance” plans would be protected from age discrimination lawsuits. Lawmakers and other experts in the field say the company savings come directly out of the employees’ pockets.

“The President’s plan does nothing more than allow companies to steal the hard earned pension benefits of Americans employees,” said Representative George Miller (D-CA), the senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, who joined Representative Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to gather 217 signatures on the letter to Bush.

“Employees who have worked hard for their companies in exchange for promises of a pension should not have their pensions cut to pieces. There are many things the government needs to do to improve our pension laws and should have done already in the wake of numerous corporate scandals, but allowing companies to steal employees’ pension benefits is not one of them,” Miller said.

Sanders, who garnered over 300 votes against cash balance conversions on the House floor just last year, said, “The proposed cash balance pension regulations are a direct assault on the retirement security of millions of older workers in this country. Congress should not allow this anti-worker measure to go into effect. The proposed regulations give the green light to large, profitable corporations to conduct a multi-billion dollar raid on their employees’ pensions.”

Miller and Sanders, who appeared at a news conference with Harkin, Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and employees affected by cash balance conversions, said they and their colleagues are determined to stop the pending regulations before they are scheduled to take effect this spring.

Starting in the mid-1990s, companies sought big savings by converting their employees’ traditional defined benefit pension plans, where an employee’s pension is determined by his or her length of service and salary level, to cash balance plans, where companies apply a flat amount to a hypothetical cash retirement account on behalf of an employee. The independent General Accounting Office found that cash balance conversions hit older employees particularly hard, saying that the conversion without conversion protection results in 20-50 percent reduction in their pensions.

The IRS stopped giving formal government approval to cash balance conversions in 1999 after 800 age discrimination complaints were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by affected employees. Cash balance conversions also led to a loose but widespread network of largely non-union Internet activists to force companies to restore lost benefits. Employees at IBM and Verizon, for example, were able to regain some of their lost benefits as a result of their sustained activism.

“At a time when millions of employees are still reeling from significant losses to their 401(k) retirement plans because of corporate scandals and the ongoing weakness in the stock market, we believe these regulations represent another serious blow to the retirement security of hard working Americans who have played by the rules in their companies only to see the rules of the game for rank and file employees change midway through their careers,” the 217 lawmakers wrote to Bush.

“Re-opening the floodgates for cash balance conversions will destroy what is left of our private pension retirement system. This is a devastating step that your Administration need not and should not allow,” they wrote.

Without action by Congress to stop it, the new rules are scheduled to go into effect pending the outcome of a public comment period that ends in March and a public IRS hearing scheduled to take place in April. Despite the fact that the pending rules contravene federal pension age discrimination statutes, the Bush Administration does not believe that the new cash balance conversion rules require congressional approval.

Senators Harkin, Durbin and others will meet today with the Treasury Secretary nominee to discuss with him their reason for delaying his confirmation in the Senate.

Congressional Pension Letter to Bush

Snow Is Confirmed

Wall Street Journal – Greg Ip, S. Murray – January 31, 2003

Snow Is Confirmed in Senate After Brief Delay by Democrats

WASHINGTON -- The Senate easily confirmed railroad executive John Snow as President Bush's second Treasury secretary, after a brief delay by Democrats who sought Mr. Snow's views on pension protections.

Mr. Snow's arrival fills a void in Mr. Bush's economic team and gives the White House a needed spokesman to help sell Congress and the public on the president's new economic package, which goes to Capitol Hill on Monday with the administration's 2004 budget request.

Several lawmakers wanted to use Mr. Snow's confirmation as a way to get the administration to back off a proposed regulation that would protect companies from age discrimination suits when they seek to convert traditional defined benefit pension plans to "cash balance" plans.

But he was confirmed by voice vote after Mr. Snow agreed to take their concerns into account before Treasury puts the proposed rule into effect.

Defined benefit plans pay a fixed monthly amount based on an employee's final pay and years of service. Cash balance plans credit employees with a hypothetical payment based on a percentage of pay, say 3%, and distribute the money to the employee when he or she retires or leaves the company. Many older employees at companies that have converted to cash balance plans saw their benefits reduced as a result. A wave of age discrimination complaints prompted the Internal Revenue Service to stop approving such conversions in 1999.

Mr. Snow met for 40 minutes Thursday afternoon with Sens. Tom Harkin (D., Iowa) and Richard Durbin (D., Ill.) and assured them that, as a "private citizen," he believed older workers' pensions should be protected. According to participants, Mr. Snow told the senators that the final rule should meet a test of "fundamental fairness," and he explained how the transfer was handled at CSX Corp., where he served as chief executive. Mr. Snow recounted how CSX gave workers a choice of the two plans but didn't force anyone to switch.

According to a Treasury spokesman, Mr. Snow pledged to give the issue his attention, saying he would be "objective and fair" about the issue. But he didn't offer any commitments.

The proposed regulations, issued by the Treasury and IRS last month, would protect companies from age bias suits as long as the pay credits for older workers weren't smaller than those for younger workers. Treasury will hold a public hearing on the rules April 10.

Earlier Thursday, the Senate Finance Committee voted unanimously to confirm Mr. Snow, 63 years old.

Meanwhile, in written responses to members of the committee, Mr. Snow, who endorsed a strong dollar at a confirmation hearing Tuesday, suggested he might nonetheless put pressure on countries such as China to stop artificially holding down their currencies relative to the dollar. Manufacturers say that such policies have hurt their ability to compete and aggravated the U.S. trade deficit.

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