Progressive Breakfast for March 22

Morning Message

Betsy DeVos Wants to Cut Public Education to the Bone

It’s hard to imagine a worse secretary of education than Betsy DeVos, who routinely insults public school educators. But it shouldn’t be forgotten that DeVos and what she stands for are not a strange aberration, but rather representative of a powerful faction in American politics. If you don’t believe that, look at the document she attempted to defend before Congress this week – her 2019 budget. It is straight out of conservative doctrine for stripping government to the bone.

Congress Releases $1.3T Budget Bill

Here’s what Congress is stuffing into its $1.3 trillion spending bill. WaPo: “Congressional negotiators reached a tentative agreement Wednesday night on a $1.3 trillion federal spending bill, releasing it to the public just 52 hours before a government shutdown deadline. The draft bill runs 2,232 pages… The ‘omnibus’ appropriations bill doles out funding for the remainder of fiscal 2018 — that is, until Sept. 30 — to virtually every federal department and agency pursuant to the two-year budget agreement Congress reached in February…The bill provides $1.6 billion for barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, but with some serious strings attached… The barriers authorized to be built under the act must be ‘operationally effective designs’ already deployed as of last March, meaning none of President Trump’s big, beautiful wall prototypes can be built. Left out of the bill was a health-care measure sought by GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) that would have allowed states to establish high-risk pools to help cover costly insurance claims while restoring certain payments to insurers under the Affordable Care Act. Trump, who ended the ‘cost-sharing reduction’ payments in the fall, supported the Collins-Alexander language. But Democrats opposed it because they claimed it included language expanding the existing prohibition on federal funding for abortions.”

WI’s Walker Faces Suit For Blocking Elections

Scott Walker refusing to hold elections GOP might lose. TPM: “In late December, two Republican lawmakers stepped down from the Wisconsin legislature to join Gov. Scott Walker’s administration. Their seats, in Assembly District 42 and Senate District 1, have sat empty ever since — and are likely to stay that way until January of 2019. In a remarkable break from precedent, Walker announced at the time that he would not hold special elections in those districts, leaving 229,904 Wisconsinites without representation for almost a year. Walker’s office has said it’s not worth the cost or effort to hold the votes, since regular congressional races will take place in November. But Democrats and their allies say Walker is just scared to lose. ‘This is about them not wanting to be embarrassed by losing races in districts they have traditionally won,’ Wisconsin Democratic strategist Sachin Chheda told TPM. ‘Everybody knows it, and I think it’s embarrassing that they’d make a decision on that basis rather than the small ‘d’ democratic tenets of giving people the right to choose their own representative.'”

Mulvaney Deletes Data On Tip-Stealing By Employers

‘Energetically Corrupt’ Mulvaney gave green light to delete data on Trump’s tip-stealing rule. Common Dreams: “Further revealing how far the Trump administration is willing to go to ‘actively make workers’ lives worse,’ Bloomberg Law reported on Wednesday that White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney personally approved the Labor Department’s decision to delete an internal analysis showing that its proposed “tip-sharing rule” would allow companies to steal hundreds of millions of dollars from their employees per year. ‘This is a transparency concern, a legal concern, and I think it’s got to be a concern for the legitimacy and the integrity of the deregulatory agenda writ large,’ Amit Narang, a regulatory policy advocate at Public Citizen, argued in response to the revelation. ‘It’s pretty apparent that in this case and potentially others, the administration [is] willing to manipulate the cost-benefit numbers to make them look good for their attempts to roll back regulatory protections.’ By green-lighting the removal of crucial data from the department’s final rule—which worker advocacy groups have termed the ‘tip-stealing’ proposal—Mulvaney overrode the objections of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), which argued that the unfavorable findings must be included.”

WH Alters, Silences Climate Reports

Buried, altered, silenced: 4 ways government climate information has changed since Trump took office. The Conversation: “After Donald Trump won the presidential election, hundreds of volunteers around the U.S. came together to “rescue” federal data on climate change, thought to be at risk under the new administration. “Guerilla archivists,” including ourselves, gathered to archive federal websites and preserve scientific data. But what has happened since? Did the data vanish? As of one year later, there has been no great purge. Federal data sets related to environmental and climate science are still accessible in the same ways they were before Trump took office. However, in many other instances, federal agencies have tampered with information about climate change. Across agency websites, documents have disappeared, web pages have vanished and language has shifted in ways that appear to reflect the policies of the new administration.”

Campus Union Derails TN’s Statewide Privatization Bid

How a scrappy campus union saved TN from privatization. In These Times: “Tennessee’s billionaire Republican governor, Bill Haslam, had secretly convened a committee of highly paid government appointees and corporations, with the goal of concocting a state-wide privatization plan. The committee said it was using ‘vested outsourcing,’ a controversial process in which the corporations that want to bid for a public contract work with government leaders to draft it. The resulting $1.9 billion contract was the largest in Tennessee government history, and privatized the maintenance and management of up to 90 percent of state-run facilities, including state and university buildings. It was awarded to Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), a multinational with a history of bribery accusations. The contract specified that all state employees at outsourced facilities would have to reapply for their positions. JLL could impose any background checks or drug tests it chose. The company also had the discretion to transfer rehired employees to positions up to 50 miles away. Employees would also immediately see higher health insurance premiums… The union sounded the alarm about the privatization plan through rallies, press conferences, editorials and town halls. It fact-checked Haslam’s claims about the supposed benefits of privatization. It amplified explosive media reports about his financial ties to JLL and the ways he might personally benefit from the deal. While running for governor, Haslam had disclosed a “major investment” in JLL, of an unspecified amount. (After his election, his investments were placed in a blind trust, and Haslam claimed he did not know whether or not he would personally profit from the outsourcing contract.)”