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Boxer Takes a Stand: Look out, Ukraine! Democracy is coming to the USA.

Nüz

Blue Is the New Orange

'I'm proud of Barbara," said U.S. Rep. SAM FARR (D-Carmel) of Sen. BARBARA BOXER's (D-Calif.) decision to join U.S. Rep. STEPHANIE TUBBS JONES (D-Ohio) in challenging the results of the Ohio election, making her the lone senator to take a stand.

Republicans, natch, tried to blame Boxer's so-called "rebellion" on sour grapes, MICHAEL MOORE and conspiracy theorists, while Rep. JOHN CONYERS--who joined FARR, the REV. JESSE JACKSON, DENNIS KUCINICH, BARBARA LEE, MAXINE WATERS, LYNN WOOLSEY and 24 other Democratic reps in voting to support the Boxer/Tubbs Jones objection--pointed out that Moore was the only person in the media to record the efforts of the congressional black caucus to get the Senate to recognize irregularities in the Florida 2000 election.

"This press closed it down," said Conyers of that otherwise unreported story. "And that's why the whole thing was to demonize Moore."

Expressing regret for failing to act after the contested 2000 presidential election (something she did at AL GORE's request), Boxer signed the objection, which led to a debate in both houses, and a promise from Boxer and Tubb-Jones to introduce legislation to address the need for change in the way elections are conducted in the United States.

As Farr put it when Nüz reached him by the phone, "If we don't clear up election irregularities, we taint the process."

And as Farr noted in a follow-up official statement, "It's hypocritical of the United States to demand that Ukraine hold another presidential election in the face of voting fraud while we turn a blind eye to problems in our own system. It's ridiculous for any supporter of our democratic process to call today's objection foolish or a waste of time. No American should be in doubt about whether or not their vote was accurately counted and it is right and proper for Congress to take the time to discuss this critical issue."

Ukraine, of course, is where opposition supports wore orange to object to election fraud. Can orange states be far behind?

Reform Is the New Fraud

While on the phone, Farr also addressed Bush's plan to reform SOCIAL SECURITY, a system Farr says is both "social and secure thanks to "the way it's currently invested, managed and applied."

"If nothing were to change, the system as it stands won't be in financial trouble for another 38 to 43 years," he said.

Compare this to the fact that Bush's plan will mean cuts of 10 percent in 2022, 25 percent in 2042 and 46 percent in 2075--whether you opt into his plan or not-- and you begin to get the true extent of Bush's proposed rip-off. And, apparently, that's only the half of it.

As Farr explained, "What the Republicans don't talk about is how Social Security is also a massive disability insurance, which you're entitled to draw upon if you get disabled."

Not only that, but under the current system, which is financed by treasury notes, there are no investment fees. That'll change under Bush's plan, leading Farr to conclude that the "GOP is pressuring the public to believe the system is 'broken' to "help Wall Street get their hands on these funds."

Acknowledging that the system will need some kind of fix in the future, Farr recommends "a third leg between pension plans and Social Security," namely, "a universal savings plan, in which the government, if it thinks investment risks are such a good idea, takes them on, rather than laying those risks on individuals."

Dating the push toward "privatization" back to RONALD REAGAN, Farr says conservative voices have been able to market the anti-government attitude that the way to fix things is by privatizing them. Hence terms like "vouchers for schools," "medical savings accounts" and "privatizing Social Security" have slipped into our vocabulary.

Pointing out that Bush likes to talk about "tax relief" and not "tax cuts," Farr says "relief" is a word people associate with ALKA SELTZER and pain. "So a relief-related image is already embedded in our minds. But when you really get down to it, what's happening is we're moving from the land of opportunity to a 'I've got mine and you've got to get yours' mentality."

Teachers Are the New Special Interests

Reached by cell as he was hydroplaning back from Sacramento during last Friday's PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, Assemblymember JOHN LAIRD noted that while there are differences in ideology between Bush and GOV. SCHWARZENEGGER, there are striking similarities in their ability "to message and move issues along." The son of two teachers, Laird was particularly troubled by Arnie's labeling of teachers as "special interests" in his STATE OF THE STATE address.

"Teachers are on the front lines, trying to solve a myriad of problems. To blame and label them as 'special interests' shouldn't be allowed to stand," says Laird, noting that Arnie tried the same tactic on another equally hardworking group, namely California's nurses.

Recalling how his parents "both gave of themselves way beyond a 40-hour week, often giving their own money and touching lives in a way that still keeps bring former students back," Laird described Arnie's proposal for the way teachers are paid as "very flawed."

"It rewards people who have jobs in districts with high achievement and discourages people from taking jobs in districts with the biggest challenges, when we should be rewarding those people prepared to take on the challenges," he said.

Remarking that Arnie "did not address the question of whether we're gonna bridge the gap between incoming revenues and expenditures," Laird also critiqued Arnie's proposal to "reform" state pensions, which would also affect, you guessed it, California's teachers.

"Teachers are underpaid and now they are trying to take away their pensions, too? How are you gonna recruit the next generation, when the teachers' pension was their trade-off for inadequate pay?" asked Laird, who believes the state pension plan is not out of control.

"Last year we negotiated savings of $800 million in pension costs. This is not the time to jump the entire system, but to seek bipartisan solutions," he said.

He's also concerned about Arnie's proposals to suspend Prop. 98 funds, which established a minimum funding level or guarantee for K-12 education and community colleges, when voters passed it in 1988.

"If we suspend these funds twice in a row, it will become what happens every year; it's precedent setting," said Laird.

The one time Laird saw everyone nodding and clapping, aside from when Arnie mentioned the 25 million-acre SIERRA NEVADA CONSERVANCY bill, which Laird happened to author, was when the governor mentioned the CALIFORNIA YOUTH AUTHORITY.

"There's bipartisan agreement that that needs to be fixed. And just because Arnie says he'll take issues to the ballot doesn't mean that they'll pass. Instead, you get a big brouhaha, another election, divisiveness, and millions of dollars spent."

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From the January 12-19, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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