Adam F. Hutton:

Apropos of nothing on this blog, I am now a part of Johnson County History. My love for Taco Via belongs to the ages now.

Originally posted on JoCoHistory Blog:

“Countdown to Taco Via:  In 7 days I will board a plane and travel 1,300 miles for Taco Via. If I could teleport, I would.”  Posted by Adam Hutton on the “I Love the Taco Via!!!” Facebook page, April 24, 2014.

Brooklyn, New York resident Adam Hutton grew up in Shawnee and returns home to Johnson County about once every 18 months.  Every time he visits, there is one mandatory stop on his itinerary; Taco Via.  On a recent trip, Hutton traveled directly from the Kansas City Airport to the landmark Mexican restaurant to feast on taco burgers and nachos.  For Hutton, eating at Taco Via is “an important, nostalgic tradition.”

Adam Hutton’s passion for Taco Via is not unique.  The Mexican eatery at 95th and Antioch in Overland Park enjoys a cult following that baffles longtime manager Tim Dengel.  “It’s nuts” says Dengel, who has run the store…

View original 264 more words

Adam F. Hutton:

Matt Phillips connects the dots nobody ever noticed before. Well done.

Originally posted on Quartz:

Shown in this scene from the 1984 movie "Ghostbusters" are Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, center, and Harold Ramis.  (AP Photo)

The private sector saves the day.

The death yesterday of Harold Ramis, the co-writer and co-star of Ghostbusters, has prompted encomiums for the iconic 1980s film.

Ghostbusters is a favorite of mine as well. But I just can’t believe how few people recognize the movie—which was released 30 years ago this June—for what it is: a Reaganite carnival of ideological triumph.

Ghostbusters isn’t about ghosts. (Well, it kind of is.) But it’s also about the power of the US private sector and the magic of market discipline to transform anyone—even effete, over-educated academics—into heroes. Just watch.

It’s hard to believe Ghostbusters was intended to be a pro-business, anti-government polemic. Dan Aykroyd co-wrote the film with Ramis, whose previous flicks—such as Animal House, Stripes, Caddyshack—are filled with liberal digs at establishment authority figures.

But the Ivan Reitman masterpiece was made in a certain time and place. And the movie…

View original 991 more words

Fast food workers and their supporters staged walkouts and rallies across the country to protest low wages in the multibillion-dollar industry on Thursday. Frontline workers from McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, KFC, Taco Bell and others walked off the job in more than 100 cities and rallies were staged in 100 more. Thursday’s protests — which came a day after President Barack Obama said income inequality would be the “defining challenge” of his second term — were the largest against the fast food industry since they began at 20 restaurants in New York City in November 2012.

“We are a better country than this,” Obama said Wednesday, calling on Congress to raise the minimum wage from $7.25. “The basic bargain at the heart of our economy has frayed.”

In New York’s Foley Square, near City Hall and across the street from a federal court house, hundreds of workers rallied in support of low-wage employees in the fast food industry. Those workers were joined by union members from the United Federation of Teachers, the Hotel Trades Council, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, Communication Workers of America and the Teamsters Airline Division

stop supersizing poverty

According to a study released this week by the Institute for Policy Studies:

  • During the past two years, the CEOs of the top six publicly held fast food chains pocketed more than $183 million in fully deductible “performance pay,” lowering their companies’ IRS bills by an estimated $64 million.
  • YUM! Brands enjoyed the biggest taxpayer subsidy for its CEO pay largesse. This firm, which owns Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut, paid CEO David Novak $94 million in fully deductible “performance pay” over the years 2011 and 2012. That works out to a $33 million taxpayer subsidy to YUM! – just for one executive’s pay.
  • McDonald’s received the second-largest government handout. As CEO in 2011 and the first half of 2012, James Skinner pocketed $31 million in exercised stock options and other fully deductible “performance pay.”
  • Incoming McDonald’s CEO Donald Thompson took in $10 million in performance pay in his first six months on the job. Skinner and Thompson’s combined performance pay translates into a $14 million taxpayer subsidy for McDonald’s.

“It’s very difficult to live off $8.07 an hour,” Simon Rojas, 23, who works at a McDonald’s in South Central Los Angeles told The New York Times noting that he is often assigned just 20 or 25 hours of work a week. “I have to live with my parents. I would like to be able to afford a car and an apartment.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“If you look back at America 30 years ago, most of your minimum wage workers were teenagers, or they were women who didn’t have to work but actually had some spare time,” Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton, told CBS Sunday Morning. “Today, your typical low-wage or even minimum-wage worker is an adult over 25 years old. Twenty-five percent of those low-wage workers have children.”

EPI-low-wage-workers-reality-8-28-2013-2-54-01

The Nation’s Allison Kilkenny, who has covered the fast food protests since workers began striking in New York City in November 2012, spoke to a worker in Milwaukee ahead of today’s strikes.

Mary Coleman, known to her co-workers as Ms. Mary, works at a Popeye’s in Milwaukee for $7.25 an hour. Coleman, 59, lives with her daughter, who has a heart condition, and her two grandchildren. She also relies on food stamps to make ends meet and says she would gladly trade in her Qwest card for higher wages. Thursday marks Mary’s fourth strike. Previously, she walked off the job on May 15, August 1 and August 29.

“I’m tired of working for $7.25,” Coleman says. “I can’t take care of my household, I can’t even take care of myself.”

tumblr_mrfjtlEMi31r3oz80o1_1280

According to a study released in October by researchers at the University of California Berkeley Labor Center and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign:

  • More than half (52 percent) of the families of front-line fast-food workers are enrolled in one or more public programs, compared to 25 percent of the workforce as a whole.
  • The cost of public assistance to families of workers in the fast-food industry is nearly $7 billion per year.
  • At an average of $3.9 billion per year, spending on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) accounts for more than half of these costs.
  • Due to low earnings, fast-food workers’ families also receive an annual average of $1.04 billion in food stamp benefits and $1.91 billion in Earned Income Tax Credit payments.
  • People working in fast-food jobs are more likely to live in or near poverty. One in five families with a member holding a fast-food job has an income below the poverty line, and 43 percent have an income two times the federal poverty level or less.
  • Even full-time hours are not enough to compensate for low wages. The families of more than half of the fast-food workers employed 40 or more hours per week are enrolled in public assistance programs.

WALMART

From California to New Jersey, more than 100 protesters were arrested at Black Friday demonstrations against retail giant Walmart this holiday weekend. The protests came just a week after two Ohio Walmarts made the news for having food drives for its employees who couldn’t afford a Thanksgiving dinner on the wages paid by the nation’s largest grocer.

Many observers noted that it was bad enough that the American taxpayer is forced to subsidize Walmart’s profits by paying for its employees to get food stamps, housing benefits and other government assistance: now the corporation is begging its customers to donate food to its low wage workers too?

On Friday protesters called on Walmart, which is poised to rake in $469 billion this year, to raise wages and provide more benefits to its 2.2 million employees. Thousands of demonstrators — which included Walmart workers, their supporters and union organizers — also called on the corporation to stop retaliating against workers who complained or protested. Last month the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found that the company had violated its workers’ rights for cracking down on employees who participated in Black Friday protests in 2012.

Even more demonstrators participated in this year’s protests, which also drew more media attention as a result of the food drives and the NLRB decision.

  • 13 protesters were arrested outside a Secaucus, NJ Walmart
  • 20 people were arrested in California’s Bay Area; 15 at a store in Roseville, 5 in San Leandro
  • 13 protesters were led away in handcuffs at a store in Balch Springs, Texas (outside Dallas)
  • 26 people were arrested for protesting outside a Walmart in St. Paul, Minn.
  • 15 protesters each were arrested in Sacramento, Calif. and Seattle, Wash.
  • 10 people were arrested near a Walmart in Ontario, Calif.
  • Arrests were also reported in Washington D.C. and Chicago
  • Union leaders who helped organize the protests told the Associated Press that 110 people were arrested at 1,500 protests nationwide
  • A Walmart spokesman told the AP only 20 of its stores were targeted for protests

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’m here to tell Wal-Mart corporation to stop bullying the associates, starting giving us a living wage so we can provide for our families,” said Daniel Coles, 50. “Also to stop them from telling people that we make 25k.”Coles told the Los Angeles Times he supports his 75-year-old mother and 54-year-old sister.”I am the only one who is working in my family. I’m the sole provider,” he said. “We [Walmart employees] struggle to make it. Struggle to pay the bills, pay my rent on time, put food on the table.”

Black Friday is a big stage, and we’re one of the biggest players in the retail industry,” David Tovar, a Walmart spokesman, wrote in a statement. “We’re not surprised that those trying to change our industry are using this platform to get their message out, and we respect their right to be heard.”

I think we got our message across, and people listened,” Isaiah Beaman, 21, told The Guardian. Beaman is a Walmart worker in Landover, Maryland, who travelled to Alexandria in Virginia to join about 200 protesters there. “All we want is for Walmart to give us a living wage and show us some respect – that’s not too much to ask from a multi-billion dollar company.”

Norma Torres, a Democratic state senator in California who took part in a rally outside a Walmart store in her district of Pomona, told The Guardian that the workers “refuse to live in fear and refuse to accept the scraps which they are being paid. They don’t want a hand-out, they want a decent wage for their hard work.”

We’re here to support Walmart workers, to help them get a living wage for their families, to be able to get days off on the holidays without being fired like everyone else has,” SEIU Local 668 Chairman William Wilson told The Patriot-News. “They were open at 6 p.m. last night when people should be eating their Thanksgiving dinner. Their CEO needs to have respect for the workers who make them millions of dollars.”

I make enough to support my daughter,” Walmart customer service manager Crystal Zerr told The San Gabriel Valley Tribune, “I have a roof over my head, food on the table and I still have enough left over at the end of the month for little extras.”

Those Walmart employees are courageous because they are taking a great risk and they are stepping up and bringing the truth about the plight of millions of workers to the American people,” Bob Herbert, distinguished fellow at Demos in New York told the International Business Times.

We are out in force today,” Dorothy Halverson, a Walmart worker based in Placerville, Calif., told Al Jazeera America. “Our voices are stronger than ever before. I am nervous, but I refuse to live in fear. And we refuse to continue trying to make it on Walmart’s low pay, manipulative scheduling and retaliation.”

A message needs to be sent to the company,” said Robin Edwards, a former Wal-Mart employee who spoke at a protest in suburban Detroit. “We’re standing with the Wal-Mart workers and support them — and we’re here to fight for a higher minimum wage.”

For our part, we want to be absolutely clear about our jobs, the pay and benefits we offer our associates, and the role retail jobs play in the U.S. economy,” David Tovar, a Walmart spokesman, wrote in a statement. “Walmart provides wages on the higher end of the retail average with full-time and part-time associates making, on average, close to $12.00 an hour. The majority of our workforce is full-time, and our average full-time hourly pay is $12.81 an hour. We are also proud of the benefits we offer our associates, including affordable health care, performance-based bonuses, education benefits, and access to a 401K.”

Tony Rohr.Pizza Hut.ThanksgivingAfter more than 10 years on the job, a manager at an Indiana Pizza Hut and working-class-hero Tony Rohr, lost his job for refusing to open his store on Thanksgiving. Rohr worked at a store owned by a franchisee, who rehired him after the corporation strongly encouraged them to do so.

I said, ‘Why can’t we be the company that stands up and says we care about our employees, and they can have the day off?’ Rohr told local CBS affiliate WSTB. Thanksgiving and Christmas are the only two days that they’re closed in the whole year, and they’re the only two days that those people are guaranteed to have off and spend it with their families.

The franchise owners didn’t like Rohr’s defiant tone. They told him he could either open the store or write his letter of resignation. He refused, instead writing a letter of protest explaining why he wouldn’t voluntarily resign or comply with an order to open his store on Thanksgiving.

I am not quitting. I do not resign, however I accept that the refusal to comply with this greedy, immoral request means the end of my tenure with this company. I hope you realize that it’s the people at the bottom of the totem pole that make your life possible.

The corporation distanced itself from the franchise owners after Rohr’s story went viral, saying the situation “could and should have been avoided,” adding “We fully respect an employee’s right to not work on a holiday.” Rohr’s story, was picked up by national news outlets after a local news station ran a piece featuring him, prompting Pizza Hut to issue this statement on Thanksgiving morning:

As follow up to the situation in Elkhart, IN, we feel strongly that the situation involving our independent franchisee and the local store manager could and should have been avoided. We fully respect an employee’s right to not work on a holiday, which is why the vast majority of Pizza Huts in America are closed on Thanksgiving. As a result, we strongly recommended that the local franchisee reinstate the store manager and they have agreed. We look forward to them welcoming Tony back to the team.

ronald mcdonald makes baby cryMcDonald’s – which rakes in billions of dollars in profits each year and notoriously pays its 700,000 workers poverty wages — is offering employees some advice for staying afloat, since the corporation can’t afford to raise their pay.

Before you watch the video below, see if you can guess which one of these callous suggestions the fast-food juggernaut did NOT offer its employees as helpful tips for surviving on minimum wage:

  • Are you stressed out from working two or three fast-food jobs and still not earning enough to feed, clothe and care for your family? Try taking two vacations each year. Taking time off work reduces stress and improves heart health.
  • Oh, wait… You can’t really afford to take time off work because you’re a wage slave. Have you tried singing? That can help take the edge off.
  • We know you can’t make ends meet. Hell, that’s our fault. But have you considered selling some of your possessions on Craigslist or eBay?
  • What’s that? You’ve already sold everything except the clothes on your back and the fillings in your teeth? I guess if you want those luxuries, there’s only one thing left to say: Quit complaining. Griping about your lot in life doesn’t improve anything, it only adds to your stress level.

Hey! You cheated. You already watched the video, so you know that these unbelievably out-of-touch suggestions all come straight from a McDonald’s Web site.

Aaron AlbrightAaron Albright, Communications Director for the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, has been tapped by the Obama administration as the new spokesman for HeatlhCare.gov.

Albright has a degree in journalism from The George Washington University.

The Indiana native also has questionable taste in film.

And cuisine.

HealthCare.gov gets new spokesman – POLITICO.com.

spn_exposed_mapThe Center for Media and Democracy did a press call this week about its investigation into The State Policy Network. “What we uncovered through our investigation is that SPN along with its affiliates amount to $83 million just flooding into the states to push and promote this agenda …,” CMD director Lisa Graves told reporters on a Wednesday call. “And that money is on the rise.”

Josh Eidelson at Salon gave a nice summary of the CMD report.

budget

In a bid to avoid a possible government shutdown, the U.S. Senate is expected to vote today on a budget bill that leaves funding in place for the nation’s new healthcare law.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted on a budget last week that stripped funding from the program, which establishes insurance exchanges that allow individuals to purchase group health plans without going through their employer or union. Those exchanges are set to open Tuesday, the first day of the 2014 Fiscal Year. Individuals will have until March of 2014, to get health insurance either on their own, through their employer or union, or from one of the marketplaces set up by the law — or pay a fine.

The Senate, which is dominated by Democrats, won’t pass a budget without it. And of course, President Barack Obama isn’t going to sign a bill that guts funding for his signature health care law, commonly referred to as “Obamacare.”

Congressional Republicans are bluffing. They’ve taken the economy hostage and they’re threatening to shoot it in the head unless Democrats agree to defund The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — the bulk of which is set to roll out Tuesday, at the start of the new fiscal year.

On the one hand, the Tea Party wing of the GOP wants us to believe that their opposition to “Obamacare” is so strong that they’re willing to pull the trigger — they’ll let the government shutdown for lack of a budget and they’ll wreck the economy further by not raising the debt ceiling, causing the government to default on debts Congress has already racked up. Never mind that neither one of those disastrous decisions would have the desired effect of putting a stop to the new healthcare law.

That’s their stated goal. And they know shutting down the government and defaulting on its debts won’t get them any closer to it.

This week, the futility of Tea Party resistance to Obamacare was symbolized by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) On Tuesday, Cruz took the floor for a sort of filibuster against the law.

He can’t technically claim that title for his opposition — even though it lasted more than 21-hours — because the law passed in 2010 before Cruz was even a Senator and his long-winded speech was ended at noon on Wednesday by Senate rules. But most importantly, Cruz’ diatribe on Duck Dynasty, Dr. Seuss and Darth Vader wasn’t really a filibuster because when it came down to it, he joined all 99 other Senators by voting to move ahead with debate on a bill that left funding for Obamacare intact.

Like all hostage takers, Cruz and his ilk are desperate and craven. Neither he nor his Tea Party bretheren were in Congress when the Affordable Care Act was passed, but that won’t keep them from trying to put the kibosh on it any way they can dream of.

Congress Dome

Members of Congress who would kill Obamacare won’t stop short of gumming up the budget process and causing a government shutdown if a bill doesn’t pass by Monday at midnight. And if that doesn’t do it, they’ll stand in the way of raising the debt ceiling, causing the government to stop paying its bills.

Or so they would have us believe. But like I said, they’re bluffing. And now the White House is calling that bluff. All along, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), has said nobody in his party wants the government to shut down. He’s not willing to to drive the country off the fiscal cliff, he says, but Boehner’s talk doesn’t match up with what members of his party in both houses of Congress are saying and doing. They’ll be in Washington all weekend “negotiating” a budget deal. But so far, President Obama has rejected all of their alternatives, insisting on a “clean budget bill” that leaves funding for Obamacare intact.

Boehner says the House won’t go for that. He floated the idea of a continuing resolution that would delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act and allow the government to continue operations. Obama rejected it. The President has also said that he won’t negotiate on raising the debt ceiling, which needs to be done by mid-October to ensure the government can continue to pay its bills.