Feria de Salud Presentado por USC y White Memorial

October 11, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

El sábado, 13 de octubre, más de 80 agencias de salud y organizaciones comunitarias participarán en una feria de salud y bienestar.

La feria “Puente a la Salud” es presentado por USC y el Centro Medico White Memorial Medical Center. Habrá consultas médicas así como información para ayudar al público vivir una vida mas sana.

El evento cumplirá 10 años y esta parcialmente financiado por la subvención USC Neighborhood Outreach.

Los exámenes y consultas incluyen: análisis de la grasa del cuerpo; control del colesterol; salud dental; prevención y cuidado de diabetes; control de hipertensión; prevención de osteoporosis; vacunas contra la gripe gratuitas (para mayores de 9 años, en orden de llegada).

También habrá un puesto especial de “Pregúntele al doctor” e información sobre temas de salud, incluyendo el Alzheimer, artritis, asma, cáncer, salud mental, nutrición y condición física.

La feria será de 11 a.m. a 3 p.m. en el Parque Hollenbeck, ubicado en 415 S. Saint Louis Street, Los Ángeles, CA 90033.

October 4, 2012 Issue

October 4, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Embracing a Legacy: Eugene A. Obregon Saluted in East L.A.

October 4, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

More than 60 years after the death of Private First Class Marine Eugene A. Obregon, the fallen marine who received the Medal of Honor after sacrificing his life to save another during the Korean War, was remembered by his fellow Marines in his hometown of East Los Angeles, a community that is in some way just beginning to embrace his legacy.

Dan Zepeda, Jr. a Vietnam veteran and the Post Commandant for the Eugene A. Obregon Marine Corps League Detachment based in East Los Angeles, helped organize the ceremony that included speeches, color guard and a three-volley salute, a ceremonial tradition performed at funerals of fallen soldiers. He told EGP after the ceremony that Obregon’s Medal of Honor should hold special significance in the Hispanic community.

“If you look at the history of the Medal of Honor, the highest percentage for a race, has been presented to Hispanics, Latinos,” said Zepeda.

Obregon may have faced discrimination during his short life, but the Marine Corps motto, “Semper Fidelis,” Latin for always faithful, was instilled in every Marine during training, regardless of their color.

Major Dominique Neal, right, and Virginia LaCarra, left, attend a memorial for Medal of Honor recipient Eugene A. Obregon who died in 1950. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

“At a time when being a Hispanic was somewhat detrimental,” Zepeda said, “we trained with these white people side by side and then we went to war with them side by side, and side by side Eugene gave his life for a young white man, and race wasn’t the thing right then and there. It was a fellow marine that was in need of getting out of harms way and Eugene just went out there and did what he thought he had to do.”

Zepeda told EGP that Obregon’s story should be shared, especially during Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 and is meant to recognize the contributions made by Hispanics to the nation.

The timing of the commemoration was especially poignant, given the number of young men who continue to die in the war in Afghanistan. This week the Associated Press reported that the US military death toll in Afghanistan has reached 2,000, “a cold reminder of the human cost of an 11-year-old conflict that now garners little public interest at home as the United States prepares to withdraw most of its combat forces by the end of 2014.”

But there are any people in the community who are unaware of the sacrifices Hispanic men like Obregon have made for their country.

“Speaking to a few people at the park, they didn’t even know why Obregon Park was named after him, said Saul Audelo, a Vietnam veteran who is the Sergeant-at-Arms for the detachment. But, “we enlightened them.”

Zepeda says the community should never forget Obregon’s sacrifice, and should teach its children about his legacy. Young men like him should always be remembered, Zepeda said.

The ceremony, held 62 years after Obregon’s death, caused when the 19-year-old marine used his own body as a shield protecting a fellow marine from enemy fire, commemorated the Medal of Honor Obregon received, the highest military honor.

Major Dominique Neal, Commanding Officer of Recruiting Station Los Angeles served in Afghanistan and Iraq. He told the audience, mostly made of up of Marine Corps supporters, veterans and marines currently serving, what the Medal of Honor means.

“The medal of honor is an award of uncommon valor, when a person stands up against the potentially unbeatable foe with unwinnable odds … and inspires greatness,” Major Neil said. “This heroic act inspires us to live as good honest Americans and some of us, good honest marines.”

Jose Verduzco, a former marine who received a Purple Heart after being wounded in Vietnam in 1969 and whose son is also a marine, told EGP he was there to pay his respects to a fellow marine.

Major Dominique Neal, right, and Virginia LaCarra, left, attend a memorial for Medal of Honor recipient Eugene A. Obregon who died in 1950.

“I’ve met two living Medal of Honor winners and I’ve been around two Medal of Honor winners in Vietnam that earned it posthumously,” Verduzco said. “So it’s always a treasure to be around marines and specially to honor those that have paid the ultimate price.”

Verduzco’s uncle served in the same division as Obregon, and he told EGP that there are still many families in East Los Angeles who, like the Marine creed, faithfully honor their fellow marines.

“We weren’t told to be here we chose to be here,” Verduzco said. “We could be doing other things but we’re here, we know what honor and sacrifice is and we know what always faithful is.”

Major Neal told EGP that anytime there is an anniversary or memorial for the Medal of Honor, Marines like him take part.

“What he did shows the highest honor that any servicemember can ever do, which is sacrifice himself, put himself in mortal danger,” Neil told EGP. “[The memorial] is to ensure that these marines, their story, who they are as a person, who they are as Americans, continues to live on … as Americans, we have a responsibility and a duty to ensure of that they are always remembered and taken care of.”

During his speech, Neal directed himself to Virginia LaCarra, Obregon’s sister. “I can’t give you back your brother but what I can give you is a legacy that the Marine Corps will always live up to,” said Neal.

LaCarra told EGP that she feels her brother is still around when others recognize him.

“My brother is never forgotten, he is always in everybody’s mind,” LaCarra said. “I know he would feel very honored, just like we are.”

Zepeda started the detachment that bears Obregon’s name three years ago after receiving permission from LaCarra to use her brother’s name.

“One of the things I promised her was to always honor her brother’s name and keep it in the forefront,” Zepeda said. “One of the things I told her we would do was have some type of ceremony like this to commemorate his efforts, his actions and receiving the Medal of Honor, and we’ve been able to do that.”

Nick Rosa, the commandant and organizer of the event felt the turnout was better than expected.

“This is the best turnout we ever had,” he said. “This is the third year we have done it and we never had a turnout like this.”

Marines from the Pasadena reserve, members of the American Legion and community supporters through the Marine Detachment attended, according to Rosa, who added “a lot of people … don’t know what sacrifices are made for our freedom.”

Verduzco told EGP that despite the lack of support from the non-military community, he hopes people will eventually want to attend such ceremonies.

“This is what we fought for, whether they want to be here or not they have the choice. But once the word gets out they’ll say wow I could have been there.”

Albert F. Morales, a WW2 veteran who attended the ceremony and says he lives “right around the corner” from Obregon’s sister, still paid his respects to the fallen soldier despite never meeting him.

“I didn’t know him…I never met him but that don’t mean nothing…I’m in his same tracks,” said Morales.

For those who don’t attend memorials regularly, Major Neal hopes they express their appreciation in other ways.

“Take time to reflect on Veterans Day, on Memorial Day… instead of going out to a BBQ go to a national cemetery, a veteran cemetery, plant some flags, take some time and read the headstones,” Major Neal said. “We owe it to these individuals to be good Americans, to be good people and seize the opportunity to take advantage that our fellow servicemen allow us to have.”

Commerce Water Polo Sisters Sign to Overseas Teams

October 4, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

On a recent morning in Commerce, water polo playing sisters Priscilla and Sarah Orozco were perched on the bleachers above their neighborhood swimming pool, getting ready to say goodbye to their families.

Recruited straight out of UCLA, both sisters would soon be traveling thousands of miles away and across oceans to play on professional teams abroad. Priscilla is signed to a team in Spain, while Sarah has signed with an Australian team.

Priscilla Orozco, center, during a game with the Mexican team, which placed sixth in the Pan American Games, an Olympics qualifier.

In the U.S., competitive women’s water polo is strictly a college sport, and the sisters are doing what many American players with Olympic aspirations do when they can no longer play on college teams: they go abroad in order to stay in top competitive shape before the next Olympics. Even fellow Commerce water polo athlete, and now Olympic gold medalist, Brenda Villa, played on an Italian team when she was not competing with the U.S. team at the Olympics or other major competitions.

But before the Orozco sisters take off, there were lunch appointments with aunts and uncles to keep, and dinner invitations from church friends to attend to. For most of their lives they lived no more than five or ten miles away from their large, but close knit, network of immediate and extended family members.

“Our parents and our family know it’s for the best, but of course they’re going to be sad. It’s part of life. It’s bittersweet for them,” said Priscilla, who is older than Sarah by one year.

The sisters believe they have a shot at getting to the Olympics. They along with another Commerce native, Giselle Naranjo, distinguished themselves while playing in the highly competitive collegiate field, helping to take the UCLA team to a national title in 2009. Even before they graduated, talent scouts from overseas teams were recruiting them, and it doesn’t hurt that their coach at UCLA also led the U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal this year.

But to get there, Priscilla, who was considering a coaching job before the recruitment offers came in, says it is crucial that they continue to play competitively. “My fear is that if I were to stay here and not go abroad and play on a team, I would have to train on my own.”

For Sarah, who plays the attacker position and is known for her strength, the dream of the Olympics has always been there, just behind “God, my religion” and family. “I’ve had that passion since the beginning… it’s given me that extra push,” she says.

Priscilla plays a speed position and says water polo was not really her thing at first. “It was too physical for me. The coach yelled too much. I just wasn’t aggressive enough… but then, once I matured in the sport, and got a little older, and got a little more playing time, I started to appreciate it more,” she said.

Sarah Orozco, right, playing with the Mexican national team earlier this year as they attempted to qualify for the Olympics.

Priscilla grew up watching Villa ascend through the ranks of the women’s water polo world and laughs as she recalls how her idol made getting to the Olympics look so easy that, in her naiveté, she thought going to the Olympics would be no big deal. “I didn’t think it was that hard… there was somebody from my club and so it just gave me that much more confidence, and it still does,” she said.

It has helped that players like Villa, as well as Patty Cardenas who went to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, have given Commerce a reputation for producing good players. The door was open for the Orozcos to be recruited by top water polo colleges, and to play on the national youth team.

Mexico, in a bid to get its own team to the Olympics, even recruited Mexican-American players in Commerce, including the Orozcos to join them. They even based their training at the Commerce pool and hired Commerce’s long-time coach Gabriel Martinez. Though they placed sixth at the Pan American Games, an Olympics qualifier, and did not in the end get to compete in the Olympics, this was the best the Mexican team had ever done.

But perhaps the biggest influence on the sisters has been their parents. Though it will mean missing their daughters, they are the biggest supporters of them going abroad. Their father Sal says “first-hand” experience tells them this is what their daughters need to do. Their mother had an opportunity to travel to Japan to teach folkloric dance when she was fifteen, “but because of her young age and other family traditions, her parents never gave her permission to go on those kinds of trips,” he said. His wife did not want to “let history repeat itself.”

Priscilla and Sarah say that at every step, their parents have sought out opportunities for them, moving from El Monte to Commerce just so they could take advantage of the sports programs there, especially the Commerce Aquatorium (just recently renamed the Brenda Villa Aquatics Center following the U.S. women’s water polo team’s Olympic victory), that were free to residents. It was not easy at first. It took the Orozcos a couple years to snag a home in Commerce. During the last year, they lived in their grandmother’s home in East Los Angeles. “Her back alley is on the borderline between East L.A. and Commerce,” says Priscilla.

Their father would “rally up as many family members as he can” to see their high school and college games. Now they must settle for dispatches from Spain and Australia.

“We will especially miss not seeing them play since we would ‘move mountains’ and do whatever it took to see all of their games during the last 10 years,” said Sal, but he says it is worth it knowing “how important this journey is to them and to their careers in the sport and also the examples that they can be for so many other young female athletes.”

Republicans, Democrats Spend Little On Spanish-Language Ads

October 4, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

For months now, media outlets and pundits in both political parties have been closely analyzing every mention of immigration or reference to Latinos by either President Barack Obama or former Governor Mitt Romney for signs that the Latino vote is swaying in one or the other’ direction in the run up to November Presidential Election.

But while both parties talk up the importance of winning the Latino vote, what they are really talking about is getting just enough Latino votes to not lose the election.

That reality was made clearer this week in a newly released report that shows spending on Spanish-language advertising aimed at the 14 million Hispanics registered to vote, even in those “up for grab states” with the “most electorally-significant Hispanic populations,” is still just a small fraction of election advertising spending overall.

Spending has jumped in recent days, but of the nearly $359 million spent on election advertising between April 10, 2012 and Sept. 25, 2012, only 4.57 percent, or just over $16 million was spent on Spanish-language advertisements, according to data released by the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) as part of their “Speak Our Language Project.”

The numbers are based on comprehensive data on local television advertising in 10 states— Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Texas and Virginia — compiled by Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group Kanto Media’s CMAG.

In California, the state with the third highest percentage of registered Hispanic voters at 19% —New Mexico has 25% and Texas has 23% — only a little over 2% of all political ad dollars was spent on Spanish-language advertisements, according to the report. No political ad dollars were spent on Spanish-language ads in states like Virginia and Illinois.

“Historically, Spanish-language advertising has represented a relatively small share of our political dollars,” said CMAG President Ken Goldstein. “This year, there has been a great deal of speculation that we would see a significant jump in Spanish-language ad spending. That may yet happen, but so far this cycle it appears that ad spending is closer to historical norms than any sort of break out year.”

According to Javier Palomarez, President and CEO of the USHCC, while political advertising spending records are being “shattered,” neither political party is investing a comparable percentage on Spanish-language ads to reach Hispanic voters.

“Political commentators from both sides of the aisle have said repeatedly that 2012 is the ‘year of the Hispanic voter.’ Hispanic voters are poised to play a decisive role in some of the most hotly contested battleground states from Nevada to Florida,” said Palomarez. “…The difference between rhetoric and action is striking and, frankly, troubling,” he said announcing the report.

Democrats, however, are doing a better job then Republicans when it comes to the amount of money they spend on Spanish-Language ads. While Democrats spent $9,833,510, Republicans only spent $3,715,860. In California alone, Democrats spent $249,030 while Republicans only spent $12,740.

But given California’s large land mass and large Hispanic population, Democratic spending can hardly be seen as robust, even in comparison to the Republicans nearly non-existent investment in the pursuit of Hispanic votes.

“There is no ‘right’ level of Spanish-language advertising,” Palomarez said. “But certainly both major parties should be prioritizing Hispanic voters and dedicating real resources to reaching those voters.”

At the presidential level, the Obama campaign and its supporters have only spent nine percent of all ad dollars on Spanish-language media, while the Romney campaign and its supporters have spent four percent of their ad dollars, according to the data from the 10 states analyzed by CMAG.

The numbers are telling, particularly in states like New Mexico where 25 percent of all registered voters are Hispanic: Democrats only spent $139,210 while Republicans did not spend anything on Spanish-language ads in the state during the time period studied.

On Monday, an article by Jordan Fabian on the ABC News – Univision website notes, however, that spending on Spanish-language ads by Romney’s campaign has jumped dramatically in recent days: “Romney’s campaign ran 2,169 Spanish-language ads between mid-April and the end of August, but that number has skyrocketed to 2,855 ads on the air in the first 23 days of September, according to Kantar Media.”

“That’s a big shift,” given that in late August ads in Spanish supporting Obama were outpacing those for Romney by a 12-1 margin, writes Fabian. “So if ad spending is any indication, Romney is making a more concerted push for Latino voters in the final days of the campaign.”

In Nevada this week, as Obama and Romney readied for their first presidential debate, (held Wednesday after press time), both candidates reached out to Latino voters in hopes of gaining support. For Obama, the challenge is to re-energize Latinos who turned out in large numbers to vote for him in 2008, and to once again get them into the voting booth. Several polls have indicated that while Obama still holds the lead amongst Latino voters, their support in this election is not as enthusiastic and there is a danger that many of those voters could opt out of voting this time around.

Romney’s challenge is to not further alienate Latinos who have been critical of many of his positions on immigration, and to turn still undecided Latino voters away from Obama.

While a Latino Decisions – ImpreMedia poll released Monday shows Obama holding a 73-12 percent margin over Romney among Latino registered voters, in battleground states, that lead narrows to 61-33 percent for the president.

Both the GOP and the Democrats still have a long way to go if they hope to convince Latino registered voters that they really do matter beyond the usual campaign rhetoric.

“The truth is that advertising is the single most effective tool candidates and parties have to communicate their message to voters.” said Monica Lozano, CEO of ImpreMedia, owner of Spanish-language newspaper La Opinion. “So when those candidates and parties fail to advertise on Spanish-language media, it has the practical effect of cutting millions of Hispanics out of America’s political conversation.”

L.A. Council Close to Repeal of Ban on Marijuana Dispensaries

October 4, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles City Council tentatively voted Tuesday to repeal the ban it imposed on storefront medical marijuana dispensaries about 2 1/2 months ago.

The City Council in July approved an ordinance that banned all storefront medical marijuana dispensaries but allowed patients and licensed caregivers to grow their own cannabis. The so-called “gentle ban” ordinance also allowed three or fewer parties to collectively grow pot.

The Committee to Protect Patients and Neighborhoods – a coalition of medical marijuana advocates comprising Americans for Safe Access, the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770 – subsequently gathered the necessary 27,425 signatures needed to put a referendum of the law on a city election ballot.

Conceding that a referendum was sure to pass, the council voted 11-2 in favor of repealing the law instead of putting it to voters.
Because the vote was not unanimous, the repeal measure must to come back for a simple majority vote of the 15-member body next week. Council members Jose Huizar and Joe Buscaino favored letting voters decide whether to repeal the gentle ban.

The council’s vote came after an impassioned plea from Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who has been using marijuana as he battles cancer.

“On the 20th of July, I had an MRI that was very, very serious, and the bottom line on that was, they didn’t give me much time to live. And I said no, no, no, no. I’m not ready to go. I certainly want to live a long time,” Rosendahl said. “If I can’t get marijuana and it’s medically prescribed, what do I do? What do all the people who have health issues and have been relying on it?”

Rosendahl attacked President Barack Obama’s decision last year to start going after medical marijuana dispensaries. Federal authorities last week initiated the closure of 68 pot shops, including some in Eagle Rock, Boyle Heights and downtown.

“Frankly, Obama did a disservice when he turned around and said, ‘Oh, well, it’s OK.’ Then he brings in his attorneys and starts closing them. So he didn’t get his message straight with himself.”

Council members also approved a resolution sponsored by City Council President Herb Wesson that asks the Legislature to fix state law to give municipalities clear guidelines on how to regulate the distribution of medical marijuana.

The existing law “fails to respond to fundamental issues and … has been inappropriately used as a legal shield to stymie local governments from solving many resulting problems,” according to Wesson’s resolution.

Marijuana advocates hailed the expected repeal, saying it would allow safe access for critically ill cancer, AIDS and other sick patients.

“We think this is a very good first step in getting to a place where the city could appropriately regulate dispensaries and also provide safe access for patients,” said Rigoberto Valdez Jr., director of organizing for UFCW Local 770, which represents about 500 workers at 50 marijuana dispensaries.

However, council members were divided on what the repeal actually means for dispensaries and agreed more needs to be done.
Councilman Mitch Englander said the repeal effectively makes every dispensary in the city illegal. “As of today, there is nothing on the books that allows them,” he said.

Englander also introduced a motion that asks for a report from the LAPD and the Department of Building and Safety to report on how the departments will pursue enforcing “existing zoning regulations,” which Englander said do not allow for pot shops.

Councilman Paul Koretz, however, said very little will change if the ordinance is finally repealed. He urged swift passage of an ordinance he sponsored that would allow about 125 dispensaries that were open before Sept.14, 2007, when the city placed a moratorium on new dispensaries, to remain open under strict regulations governing location, hours of operation and security.

Confusion Abounds Over East LA Vets Post’s Tax Status

October 4, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

The Eugene A. Obregon American Legion Post 804, which houses numerous veterans’ organizations in unincorporated East Los Angeles, is working to get its tax-exempt status reinstated, though no one at the Post seems to know for sure, or wants to say, when they lost their non-profit status.

Several organizations meet at the post, including local branches of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), VFW Woman’s Auxiliary, Son’s of the Legion, American Legion, American Legion Lady’s Auxiliary, Airborne Association, Hispanic American Airborne Association and the Marine Corp Detachment League.

While each organization has it’s own agenda, typically, they all hold meetings, organize events to promote patriotism and observe veteran holidays. They also hold fundraisers and parties for soldiers going on deployment or coming back from a tour of duty.

Members of Post 804 are also involved in the “Cinco Puntos” traffic turnabout project and in the past have held fundraisers for veteran families in need of help with funeral costs.

Post 804, its walls lined with photos of veterans from past and present wars, serves as an informal gathering place where veterans can hang out, share stories and camaraderie, and maybe get a bite to eat or have a beer with friends. Located on Cesar E. Chavez Avenue, Post 804 has a bar, kitchen and rooms for meetings or other gatherings.

But the Post should also be paying California taxes and fees, according to state officials.

Questions about its non-profit status have been raised.

According to Roxane Márquez, press deputy for Supervisor Gloria Molina, the veteran’s organization lost it’s tax-exempt status after the California Secretary of State – Department of Corporations, an agency that issues and collects taxes, went after them for nonpayment of a minor fee that was supposed to be submitted with their annual Form 990, required for non-profit organizations.

Post Commander Nick Rosa told EGP that he and new post officers elected in May, have been trying to figure out what the problem is and to get it corrected, but they still do not have all the answers they need.

“We’ve been working on getting tax-exempt statues…” Rosa told EGP on Tuesday, adding, “We’re good guys, not bad guys.”

Rosa told EGP the Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) office in Arcadia brought the problem to their attention about a month ago as they were updating their records with the names of the group’s new officers.

However, adding to the confusion, the State of California Franchise Tax Board has American Legion Post 804’s tax-exempt status as inactive, and says it was suspended in 1979, according to Dan Tahara, a spokesman for the California Tax Franchise Board.

Brigadier General Ruth A. Wong, of the Los Angeles County Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, says it doesn’t seem the issue is a matter of not paying taxes.

“They just didn’t submit the annual tax form and my understanding is that the state is going after these agencies to collect the tax money,” she said. “Not that they are imposing taxes [on non-profits], they just want to collect the fees.”

The filing fee the post owes is about $15 plus a one-time $50 flat-fee penalty, she said.

Wong could not confirm whether the post lost their tax-exempt status 33 years ago.

The Internal Revenue Service will not confirm or deny specific taxpayer information, however, the Post was not on a list of organizations or individuals with tax-exempt statues, IRS spokesperson Anabel Marquez told EGP.

Emilio Olguin, the Post’s former bar manager, use to handle all the Post’s sales tax and liquor license issues. He told EGP that when he left in May, everything was in order. “I paid all of that, or else they fine the hell out of you…” said the 81-year-old veteran.

Rosa said the Post’s new bar manager, Art Rodriguez, is now handling the paperwork. Rosa anticipates he’ll submit the required documents and fees within the next week. Rodriguez told EGP he was not at liberty to talk about the matter.

Beside the tax-exempt issue, a source told EGP that the Post could have other bureaucratic matters to address, such as whether it should have a retail liquor license or a health permit for the facility.

Rosa said the Post has a liquor sales license for their members-only bar, but the ABC online license query system shows nothing for the address 4615 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue, information confirmed by Will Salao, ABC District Administrator for LA/Metro District.

And according to the Los Angeles Department of Public Health, Post 804 does not have a Public Health Permit and their kitchen has not been inspected, Allen Solomon, Public Health public information officer told EGP.

Solomon added, however, that the Post doesn’t need the license unless they are selling or serving food.

Sixteen American Legion Posts in LA County have letter grade Food Facility Ratings, including American Legion Post #272 located in nearby Montebello, the L.A. County Public Health website shows.

But Rosa says they don’t need one once since they do not operate a restaurant, though sometimes food is cooked in their kitchen for post members.

Proposition 38 Is Not the Right Answer for Education: Vote No

October 4, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Proposition 38 is an end run around the legislature to fund K-12 education, child care and pre-school programs with funds from an increase to taxes paid on personal incomes at almost all levels, even low-wage earners.

The tax would be applied on a sliding scale, with most of the money coming from the state’s top 5 percent of wage earners, those earning $200,000 a year or more, who will see their tax rate go from 1.8 percent to 2.2 percent. The allocation of revenues would be automatic, and a five-member board would oversee expenditures.

While Prop 38 on its face might sound good to many voters concerned about funding for education, and those who don’t trust state legislators to adequately fund education, but it is one of the measures on the November where good intentions will hurt wage earners who can least afford the hit to their pocketbooks.

True, we believe that education is a worthwhile investment, but this proposition, backed by the California PTA and civil rights attorney Molly Munger is not the way to do it. For those earning $14,633 to $34,692 it would severely limit their spending for other necessities, such as housing, food, transportation, medical care and clothing.

With the state facing a huge budget shortfall, now is not the time to further encumber potential revenue for a single purpose, no matter how worthy it may be. Creating another level of bureaucracy, such as the 5-member board to oversee spending of revenues that would be generated, is a bad idea,

We believe any good that would be realized from adoption of this income tax increase is sure to be offset by the harm it would do to lower- to middle-income families.

We urge a No vote on Proposition 38.

Avoid (Or Evade) the Law: Just Label ‘Em Independent Contractors

October 4, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

During the 1930s, California enacted laws protecting employees from corporate greed. Daily, on the congested Long Beach freeway, we pass processions of 18-wheel trucks delivering containers from the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports to a nearby warehouse in Wilmington or Carson, or to a railhead in East Los Angeles. In California, approximately 20,000 truck drivers, like ancient Chinese coolies, deliver shipping containers from the port.

Many of those drivers are immigrants who speak little English.

They toil 60 to 70 hours a week to provide food for their families, to join the middle class pursuing the American Dream. And most drive a truck owned by a corporate motor carrier or a subsidiary of the motor carrier. To obtain work delivering containers from the port, they had to sign a contract written in a lawyer’s language they might not speak or read, which labels them independent contractors, not employees.

By labeling drivers who deliver containers as independent contractors, corporate motor carriers avoid providing them with workers compensation insurance and all of the benefits provided to employees, such as minimum wage, breaks, unemployment compensation, state disability insurance and Social Security. Because the motor carrier does not identify the driver as an employee, it does not deduct taxes from his wages and does not provide him with a W2. As a result, port drivers are denied the benefits guaranteed to all employees since the Great Depression, and the state is losing millions, if not billions, in taxes.

Generally speaking, independent contractors – like doctors, lawyers, plumbers or building contractors – engage in a business or profession that utilizes a special skill to provide a service to someone who has a specific, short-term need that only someone with a special skill can satisfy. An independent contractor has his/her own distinct business under an owner’s control, and has the education, experience, or training that enable him/her to satisfy the given need.

Whether someone qualifies as an independent contractor or not depends on if he/she: is a distinct business or merely works under the control of another business; has a special skill required to provide the service; supplies the necessities to perform the service, like the tools and place to perform the service; provides service that is an investment other than the specific service; holds out to be a separate business; controls hours and place of work performance; profits or loses depending on his/her managerial skill; has a particular duration of a working relationship; and performs a service that is an integral part of the hirer’s business.

Most port drivers do not have or hold themselves out as a distinct business. They do not have a special skills, do not own the truck they drive and do not control the time and place of work. Their profit or loss depends on the number of hours they work, not on their managerial skill. They drive only for one motor carrier for years and perform an integral part of the motor carrier’s business.

Motor carriers are usually corporations that deliver containers from the port. They contract with the shipper or the owner of the load, companies like Wal-Mart, Sears, Target or Kawasaki, to deliver the containers. The port driver almost never talks with the owner or shipper of the load. The driver rarely knows what he or she is carrying because the containers are closed. For each delivery, the driver must report daily to the corporate motor carrier and proceed to the terminal the motor carrier instructs. At the terminal gate, the driver must wait hours until able to provide the name of the motor carrier and its operating authority. After the delivery, the driver must give the motor carrier a manifest showing how the driver spent the day. The motor carrier arranges where the load is picked up, where it is delivered, the cost and all billing and collection for the delivery. Almost never does a port driver speak with the owner or shipper of a load. He drives long hours, sometimes taking home less than the minimum wage. No matter how hard he tries to profit, he has no ability to do so because the motor carrier controls what he does and how much money he receives.

California is known for protecting workers and guaranteeing benefits like minimum wage, overtime pay, workers compensation and unemployment insurance. Port drivers are denied these benefits because lawyers have drafted contracts labeling them independent contractors rather than employees of the motor carrier.

While California has enacted laws to protect workers, to be effective, the laws must be enforced. While he was Attorney General, now-Governor Jerry Brown filed six lawsuits against trucking companies charging them with mislabeling port drivers as independent contractors. Given California’s fiscal crisis, the state lacks attorneys to pursue most of the charges. To protect workers as the Legislature intended when it passed the laws, California cannot accept the ongoing unequal treatment of those who deliver our goods.

California cannot abandon its effort to guarantee that workers are more than slaves working merely to enable their families to subsist. California must stand up to the crafty lawyers and stop motor carriers from denying workers’ benefits to port drivers who leave their homes every day to spend long days delivering containers for giant corporations. Are we no longer a land that cares about our people – a land seeking to eliminate poverty suffered by all who work hard every day? Or is our only concern making the greedy corporations richer?

Jourdane is a former Deputy Secretary of Legal Affairs in the Governor’s office, attorney with California Rural Legal Assistance, the Agricultural Labor Relations Board, the Department of Justice, Labor Commissioner; Superior Court judge; temporary juvenile court judge; and judicial council with the court of appeals. Jourdane has published several law review articles and two books: The Struggle for the Health & Legal Protection of Farm Workers: El Cortito and Waves of Recovery.

Who Spends Wisest?

October 4, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared at Forbes.com.

The financial and economic meltdown of 2008 was preceded by large increases in government spending and monetary inflation that artificially lowered interest rates. Those interventionist policies fueled massive capital malinvestment, including housing and credit bubbles, all of which culminated in the greatest economic bust in 80 years. Our rulers’ response has been—you guessed it—large increases in government spending and monetary inflation that artificially lowered interest rates. They think (with apologies to James Carville), “It’s the spending, stupid!” Or, is our problem actually stupid spending?

What gives? Why do so many economists and policy makers think that the solution to our economic woes is the very set of policies that brought on our problem in the first place? Too many believe that the economy is driven merely by aggregate monetary spending as if all such spending is economically equal. E.g., a billion dollars spent on college is the same as a billion dollars spent on cell-phone services, which is the same as a billion dollars spent on farm equipment, which is the same as an equivalent amount spent on government subsidies or on symphony concert tickets.

If total spending is not enough to buy all goods produced at prevailing prices, it is thought the government must step in to prevent recession and unemployment. Keynesians advocate increased government spending and inflationary credit expansion to make up for shortfalls in consumption and investment spending. Monetarists would rely on increases in the money supply to straightforwardly spur consumption and investment.

The trouble is that money per se is not wealth. It matters a great deal how and upon what the money is spent. More spending does not help if, for example, it results in socially destructive consumption and malinvestment. Just ask those in the housing industry.

Prosperity is constituted by consumer and producer goods that people actually desire for use in satisfying their ends. The fundamental economic problem is that all goods are scarce. We cannot satisfy all of our ends with our limited quantity of goods, so we must economize. Scarce land, labor, and capital goods must be used producing those specific goods that are most valued by members of society

Entrepreneurs discern wise investments from those that are unproductive with the help of economic calculation. They are able to use monetary prices to calculate profit and loss because, in a monetary exchange system, the prices of all goods are denominated in the same good—the monetary unit.

The beauty of the free-market price system is that all prices are the result of voluntary exchange and, hence, reflect the personal preferences of all members of society. If entrepreneurs reap profits, they do so for doing precisely what other people want. If, instead, they make goods for which people are unwilling to pay a price above costs, they reap losses, which serve as a great incentive not to squander scarce resources.

Trying to grow sustainable economic prosperity by resorting to government spending is doomed to failure because bureaucratic spending is not predicated on economic profit-and-loss calculation. During my years at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an oft-heard consolation was, “That’s okay. We don’t have to make a profit.” By their very nature, government spending decisions have no regard for profit and loss. For example, Ron Suskind, in his book “Confidence Men,” reveals that President Obama directed stimulus money into infrastructure instead of the health care industry not for economic reasons, but because he thought unemployed men perceived many jobs in health care as “women’s work.” Obama presumed government stimulus had value and decisions were made based on perceived political benefits. That such non-economic investment yields waste and destruction is one of the great lessons of the Soviet experiment

Monetary inflation is no better at fostering prosperity. When the Federal Reserve encourages monetary inflation via credit expansion, banks artificially lower interest rates. Entrepreneurs are encouraged to undertake many longer-term, more capital-intensive projects than they ought but which appear profitable. Land, labor, and capital goods are squandered in producing things, such as houses, that are valued less than those goods that would have been produced without the monetary manipulation.

Not all monetary spending is equal. Economic prosperity requires wise entrepreneurship. If spending is funded by voluntary saving and invested according to profit and loss considerations, it tends to be productive and hence, add to our prosperity. If spending, however, is funded by coercion and apart from economic calculation, scarce goods are wasted, and the result is relative impoverishment, prolonged recession, and unemployment.

Dr. Shawn Ritenour is a professor of economics at Grove City College, contributor to The Center for Vision & Values, and author of “Foundations of Economics: A Christian View.”

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