KY Senate Race 2020: Kentucky is already in good hands. Tuesday, Oct 20 2020 

By Zachary Baker-

In less than one month, a very critical election to determine the path of the country will take place. Several important races are happening, one of which is for Kentucky’s seat to the U.S Senate. The Republican incumbent, Mitch McConnell, is running against Democrat Amy McGrath and there are high stakes, which is why many Kentuckians are fighting hard for their candidate. 

Despite what others would say, there are benefits for keeping Mitch McConnell in the U.S. Senate and it is very important to acknowledge them. 

For starters, Mitch McConnell is one of the most powerful men in the U.S Senate.

McConnell is the Senate Majority Leader, a position that holds a significant amount of influence over the path that the country takes. As Kentucky doesn’t hold a lot of power, it is important for the state to find its heroes wherever it can—anyone that gives Kentucky an advantage is vital to protect. It would be foolish to ignore that influence and throw away a significant seat at the national level in exchange for a first term senator entering the national political game.

Caleb Childers, senior history and political science double major, plans to vote for McConnell.

“I’m voting for Senator McConnell because he’s the most powerful man in Washington, his experience and connections matter. His role in transforming the federal judiciary has earned him a spot as the most influential American politician, that’s not a president, since Henry Clay,” Childers said. “He’s shepherded millions of dollars into Kentucky that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. So, voting against Senator McConnell is like benching LeBron in the 4th quarter when it’s a tied game.”

That opinion is invaluable for also understanding that McConnell has done well for Kentucky during his time in office. There is a reason that McConnell has continued to hold his senate seat for decades, besting his opponent every time an election comes up.

McConnell expresses the values of many Kentuckians while also changing the national conversation to fit those values. 

On top of protecting values, McConnell has helped Kentucky receive better funding for Kentucky businesses and industries. He’s holding Kentucky up in a country that wouldn’t ordinarily look after a state like ours. 

McConnell’s power extends beyond the U.S Senate as well. His power reaches all the way to the executive branch.

McConnell is the man to please in the Senate but also the man guiding along the President of the United States. Regardless of anyone’s opinions of President Donald Trump, it is valuable that Kentucky has a seat so close to one of the most powerful men in the world. That seat is McConnell’s and it would be devastating to Kentucky’s interests to lose all that influence. 

While many people across the country are arguing against Mitch McConnell and telling Kentucky to choose their best option, it doesn’t seem like they actually care about Kentucky.

There are only a few times that people will mention Kentucky in a good light. The few times that people consider Kentucky is from the influence it has through McConnell. Yet they often still insult Kentuckians when doing so.

Only Kentuckians have the ability to decide what is best for Kentucky, so it isn’t hard for me to admit that Mitch McConnell brings opportunity with him. Mitch McConnell is leading in the polls and is likely to be reelected, so it is important for everyone to look at the benefits that he brings to Kentucky.

Graphic by Alexis Simon // The Louisville Cardinal

The post KY Senate Race 2020: Kentucky is already in good hands. appeared first on The Louisville Cardinal.

VIDEO: House Votes To Transmit Impeachment Articles To Senate Wednesday, Jan 15 2020 

The House of Representatives is taking the formal step of voting to transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate, which will hold a trial. After the vote, the articles are physically brought to the Senate. Watch the proceedings live:

Pelosi Names Impeachment Managers For Trump’s Senate Trial Wednesday, Jan 15 2020 

Updated at 10:30 a.m. ET

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi named seven Democratic members of Congress as the managers who will argue the case for President Trump’s impeachment before the Senate, beginning next week.

Pelosi appointed Reps. Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler, Zoe Lofgren, Val Demings, Hakeem Jeffries, Sylvia Garcia and Jason Crow as impeachment managers. Pelosi said Schiff will be the lead manager.

Pelosi said, “The emphasis is on litigators, the emphasis is on comfort level in the court room, the emphasis is making the strongest possible case to protect and defend our Constitution, to seek the truth for the American people.”

Later Wednesday, the House will hold its long-awaited vote to send to the Senate the two articles of impeachment against Trump that lawmakers approved last month, setting the stage for a Senate trial to begin next week.

“The American people deserve the truth, and the Constitution demands a trial,” Pelosi announced in a statement Tuesday. She added, “The president and the senators will be held accountable.”

Following the vote, the House will inform the Senate it is ready to transmit the articles across the Capitol. The Senate will respond that it is ready to receive them, and a formal procession and reception will take place. That could occur later Wednesday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the Senate trial is expected to begin next Tuesday; Chief Justice John Roberts could swear in 100 U.S. senators as jurors as early as this week.

The vote comes a month after the House approved two articles of impeachment against the president, charging him with abusing the powers of his office by attempting to pressure the government of Ukraine to investigate potential political opponent Joe Biden and his son’s activities there and with obstructing Congress by refusing to cooperate in its investigation. Trump denies any wrongdoing and has excoriated the process.

The congressional proceedings mark just the third time in U.S. history that a president will be tried and face potential removal from office by the Senate. Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were acquitted by the Senate after impeachment by the House.

The exact ground rules for Trump’s trial remain unclear. Democrats have demanded that the Senate call additional witnesses, potentially including former national security adviser John Bolton, who has said he is willing to testify if subpoenaed. But McConnell has resisted, saying Tuesday that the “more contentious issue” of calling witnesses will be addressed later.

The Senate majority leader has sought to adhere to the procedure established in the Clinton impeachment trial in 1998, which allowed for a vote to dismiss the charges, as well as a vote on hearing additional testimony once opening arguments were made.

Trump has sought to have the Senate dismiss the charges, arguing that he did nothing wrong, but McConnell said Tuesday, “There is little to no sentiment in the Republican conference for a motion to dismiss.” With Republicans holding a 53-47 majority in the Senate, and 67 votes necessary to convict Trump, it is likely the president will be acquitted.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

WATCH LIVE: House To Vote On Formalizing Impeachment Inquiry Thursday, Oct 31 2019 

The House of Representatives is set to debate and vote Thursday on a resolution formalizing its impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

House Democrats released a draft version of the resolution, which outlines the next steps of the inquiry, on Tuesday. The resolution authorizes the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee to conduct open hearings and allows the president and his attorneys to cross-examine witnesses.

Can’t see the video? Click here. Note: The House is debating and voting on matters other than the inquiry resolution.

The resolution also directs the House committees leading the inquiry to report their findings to the House Judiciary Committee, which will decide whether to recommend moving forward with articles of impeachment.

Witnesses continue to testify behind closed doors in the inquiry. On Wednesday, two State Department officials spoke with House investigators about their work on U.S.-Ukraine issues and the role of Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani in Ukraine policy.

Lawmakers also heard this week from Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified about repeatedly raising concerns to his superiors about Trump’s demands that Ukraine investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Vindman also told lawmakers that he feared Ukraine complying with the president’s demands would lead to the loss of bipartisan support and would “undermine U.S. national security.”

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Coal Miners To Hit Capitol Hill For Black Lung Funding  Monday, Jul 22 2019 

Dozens of Appalachian coal miners plan to visit Capitol Hill Tuesday to ask lawmakers to bolster funding for the black lung disability trust fund, which miners depend upon when no responsible company can be identified to pay for needed health care. 

The fund is already billions of dollars in debt, and that will likely grow as more miners develop the disease and coal companies pay less into the fund. Coal companies pay a tax to support the trust fund, which pays monthly income and health benefits for miners who were disabled by the preventable and deadly occupational disease. 

The tax rate was increased in 1981 to pay down the fund’s debts and in 2008 that tax rate was extended for another 10 years. But Congress allowed the tax rate to expire last year and companies now pay about half as much per ton of coal. 

Now the trust fund’s debt is expected to rise from $4 billion to $15 billion by 2050. 

Over 25,000 miners and their dependents rely on the fund for monthly income and health benefits. Demand is expected to grow as diagnoses of severe forms of the disease skyrocket, particularly among Appalachian miners. 

Barry Johnson is planning to make the trip to Washington. A fourth-generation coal miner, he  takes great pride in his decades of hard work underground. Johnson has a serious form of black lung disease called progressive massive fibrosis.

Sydney Boles | Ohio Valley ReSource

Disabled miner Barry Johnson wears an oxygen tube to assist breathing.

He carries a portable oxygen tank, though he tries to use it as little as possible so his lungs don’t get used to the help. “I have good days and bad days,” he said, gazing at the collection of hardhats on his mantelpiece. “Today is a bad day.” 

Johnson used to enjoy spending time in the woods hunting for ginseng. Now he struggles with daily tasks. “It doesn’t only take your health. It takes your identity.” 

Travelling isn’t easy for the disabled miner, but he says the long trip to Washington D.C. is worth it. Johnson worries that if Congress doesn’t act, the fund could no longer be able to make its payments, or would need to be bailed out by taxpayers. 

Industry Woes

Despite favorable policies from the Trump administration, the coal industry has continued to struggle amid high-profile bankruptcies and the closure of more coal-fired power plants. 

“This is an industry that is still working hard to stabilize after years of decline – now is clearly not the time to raise taxes on the coal industry,” said National Mining Association spokesperson Ashley Burke. “Doing so would further disadvantage coal against competing energy sources.”

Alexandra Kanik | Ohio Valley ReSource

Black lung activists say Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky could have preserved the trust fund tax rate before it expired last year. Indeed, he suggested to the Ohio Valley ReSource in October that he would do so. 

McConnell’s staff members say the issue is a concern for him.

“Even though the temporary tax increase expired last year, current benefits for our impacted miners and their families have remained at prior levels,” said McConnell spokesperson Stephanie Penn. “Senator McConnell and his staff have been working closely with interested parties regarding future funding for the program, and will continue to ensure these important benefits are maintained.”

McConnell’s office says he’s agreed to speak with the visiting miners. Miner Barry Johnson knows exactly what he wants to say.

“You have a duty and an obligation,” he said. “Do what’s right.” 

Potential Action

Brandon Crum, a Kentucky-based radiologist who first sounded the alarm about the epidemic, said last month that the past six months have been the worst of his career, as cases of severe black lung disease pile up. 

brandon-mackie-2Howard Berkes, NPR

Mackie Branham views a lung X-ray with Dr. James Brandon Crum, who was among the first physicians to note an uptick in black lung diagnoses.

An NPR and PBS Frontline investigation found that the surge in disease, which is significantly focused on central Appalachia, is largely the result of a failure by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration to regulate silica dust, which is prevalent in the rock surrounding Appalachian coal seams. 

Congress is paying attention. A House Education and Labor subcommittee in June considered whether MSHA had taken silica exposure risk seriously enough.

Living Wage: Ohio Valley Workers, Employers React As House Votes For $15 Minimum Wage  Saturday, Jul 20 2019 

The U.S. House of Representatives voted Thursday to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, more than double the current $7.25 rate, which has not changed in a decade. The bill is unlikely to clear the Republican-controlled Senate, where Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has said he will not take it up.

But the vote adds energy to election-season debate about a living wage, an issue that resonates with tens of thousands in the Ohio Valley, where low-wage jobs have been taking the place of higher-earning ones lost to declines in the mining and manufacturing sectors.

Courtesy House Education and Labor Committee

House Education and Labor Committee Chair Bobby Scott at the podium with Congressional Democrats and supporters of the wage increase.

In eastern Kentucky’s 5th Congressional District – among the poorest in the country – one analysis of the $15 an-hour wage shows that some 93,700 people, or 42 percent of the workers there, would see an increase in wages.

Eric McIntosh is one of them.

“I’m from eastern Kentucky, I am 24, and I work for a sandwich shop for minimum wage,” McIntosh said. He lives in Morehead, in an apartment above a consignment shop. McIntosh wants to see an increase in the minimum wage, so he can live a better life and pay to attend the trade school down the road. But for now, he worries about more day-to-day concerns.

“The anxiety of poverty, you’re nervous about every single check that you get, if that’s going to be enough, and that keeps you up at night and that just makes your work even worse,” he said.

At the current minimum wage, McIntosh could still wind up well below the federal poverty level for families, even working full time.

A recent report from the Congressional Budget Office shows increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour could lift about 1.3 million people out of poverty and boost the wages of 17 million workers. But the CBO also warns that such a wage hike could result in more than one million lost jobs nationwide and could diminish overall income for others.

Vicious Cycle

McIntosh described a cycle of low pay and job-related costs that keep him on a treadmill of earning just enough to keep his employment, but never enough to get ahead.

“Certain jobs require that you pay for your uniform,” he explained. But even maintaining the work uniform becomes another cost and another potential trap. “You can’t upkeep your uniform, you end up getting fired.”

He said many workers end up using high-interest, payday loan services to get by.

“But when all your money has to go to your bills, your back-pay because you had to take out a payday loan,” he said. “That’s going to all the credit at the payday loan.”

Becca Schimmel | Ohio Valley ReSource

Eric McIntosh works for minimum wage at a sandwich shop in Morehead, KY.

Even just getting to and from his job is hard. Transportation is a common problem for people working minimum wage in a rural area. A report from the American Public Transportation Association found that while rural population is declining, ridership in rural areas has been increasing.

McIntosh said he’s often had to rely on others for his transportation, and he has seen his co-workers lose jobs because they couldn’t afford a minor car repair.

“And if people have more spending money, we’re going to generate more jobs,” he said. “We’re going to buy more products. I guarantee you if I made $15 an hour, I would actually buy a car for once.”

He said he would also invest in his education and work skills.

“To get ahead in life, to be able to use these jobs as a kickoff point, you have to have some money left over to be able to reinvest in yourself,” he said.

Employer Concerns

Opponents of the minimum wage increase focus on the costs to employers and the potential for job cuts. The conservative Heritage Foundation argues that small businesses would not be able to increase revenue enough to cover the cost of higher wages, and employers would be forced to increase prices or cut costs by eliminating positions.

Fred Baumann is one of those small businessmen who would be affected. He’s the chairman of the board for Baumann Paper Co., a Lexington-based company now in its third generation of Baumann family management.

“My dad started the company in 1950,” he said. His daughter now runs the business, which distributes paper, plastic and other sanitary supplies. I met him at one of the many businesses his company supplies, a hotel and restaurant.

Baumann said the company already pays many employees in the $14 to $15 an hour range. But if the federal minimum wage increases they’ll feel the pressure to increase their workers’ pay.

“We’re paying what the market demands us to pay in order to get the competent workers and to retain them,” he said.

When we first spoke Baumann didn’t know what the federal minimum wage was. He said he was under the impression that it was around $10 an hour. It is $7.25 in Kentucky. (In West Virginia it is $8.75, and $8.55 in Ohio.) He worries that a much higher wage will make workers less motivated.

“People have to have a certain amount of initiative rather than stuff being handed to them,” he said. “My perspective is, if you automatically get 15 bucks an hour, then where’s the incentive?”

He said his company would have to look at whether they’d be better off investing in more automation.

 

The CBO report offered a range of possible outcomes regarding the potential for lost jobs, and noted that the predictions came with a high degree of uncertainty. The median forecast shows 1.3 million potential job losses. A worst-case scenario shows 3.7 million jobs could be lost.

The Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank, conducted a separate analysis that questioned those job loss figures.

EPI Economist Ben Zipperer said the challenges for businesses are not as large as the “scare stories” about raising the minimum wage might have some people think. He said some of the job loss from increasing the wage can be explained by lower turnover.

“So when you raise minimum wage you actually reduce worker turnover, and makes it easier for businesses to retain workers because they’re now paying higher wages,” he said.

The CBO report also showed that it’s possible there would be no change in unemployment due to a $15 an hour minimum wage, and Zipperer said that lines up with most of the research that’s been done on the minimum wage. He said if all businesses are forced to increase the pay for their workers, it might increase a company’s ability to compete.

“It’s a lot easier for a restaurant to raise its prices a little bit when all restaurants are having to do the same thing in order to accommodate a minimum wage increase,” he said.

The EPA analysis also shows that the Ohio Valley region would see some of the most pronounced wage increases in the country as a result of a $15 minimum wage by 2024.

For example, the EPI report predicts that in large portions of eastern Kentucky, southern West Virginia, and southeast Ohio, roughly 40 percent of workers would see some increase in wages.

EPI says some workers employed year-round in Kentucky could see an increase in their average annual income of about $4,000. In West Virginia and Ohio, workers might see about $3,000 more in average annual income.

Zipperer said that could help offset the region’s high inequality.

“When you raise minimum wages, reduce poverty, raise family income at the bottom you’re actually reducing income inequality,” he said.

Click for an interactive map from Economic Policy Institute, which advocates for a higher minimum wage.

Rising Inequality

In late 2017, the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights for the United Nations, Philip Alston, conducted a fact-finding tour of some places affected by extreme poverty. But those weren’t in some developing nation, they were in the United States, including a visit to communities in the Ohio Valley.

Alston’s report to the UN Human Rights Council found that of the 40 million poor Americans, more than five million live in “Third World conditions of absolute poverty.” It also showed that  Americans live shorter, sicker lives than do citizens of all other rich democracies, and that the U.S. has the greatest income inequality of all industrialized nations.

The report ties those conditions to stagnated wages that force many working people to seek government assistance for food. The share of households that have a wage-earner but also receive nutrition assistance rose from about 20 percent in 1989 to more than 30 per cent in 2015.

And the report found that the average annual wage of the bottom 50 percent of earners has been stagnant since 1980.

Eric McIntosh didn’t have those sorts of facts and figures to describe his life as a minimum wage worker. For him, it’s something he feels and lives every day.

“I wouldn’t know how to be able to explain it or show it to these people,” he said. “This is not a thing that I can reduce to words because it’s not something that I’ve had happen to me in words, I’ve had it happen to me in experience.

“I can’t make my empty stomach words for you.”