Aug 24

Opinion piece by vonKaenel of News & Review: “We need to fight back”



 We need to fight back: Thoughts on Capital in the Twenty-First Century

The pendulum has swung toward income inequality, so what’s next?
This article was published on .

Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.

Read Paul Krugman’s New York Review of Books article about Capital in the Twenty-First Century at


Three little words: Follow the money. Many human activities—including politics, health care, business, law and economics—can only be understood if you follow the money. While people do not always act in their own self-interest, this is certainly a better predictor than their stated interests.

In a remarkable book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, French economist Thomas Piketty has followed the money over the last 400 years in both Europe and America. This book has not only received high praise from economists such as Nobel Prize winner and columnist Paul Krugman, but this tome has made The New York Times Best Sellers list.

When an economic textbook takes the spot normally reserved for a book by a movie star describing their tough childhood, we should take notice.

Piketty writes about the obvious but often ignored truth that in every financial transaction, there is a negotiated price. And this price reflects the parties’ relative power. As far back as the 18th century, during the period of Jane Austen, a certain amount of money went to the person doing the farming and a certain amount went to the person that owned the land. That percentage, to a very large extent, determined the quality of life for each.

Now, 400 years later, these same negotiated transactions are going on, except now it is bankers and business owners instead of landholders. And clearly, Americans as well as Europeans are returning to an era of extreme income inequality not experienced in the last 100 years.

Piketty explains that the period between 1914 and 1945, which included two world wars and a major depression, wiped out so much wealth that it changed the power of the wealthy, and they temporarily lost their ability to dominate negotiations. But since 1945, the pendulum has swung back in favor of the rich. The tax rate on the wealthy has been reduced, the financial sector has been deregulated, and the power of unions has been reduced. These changes have all increased wealth inequality.

For us, though, living in the last 100 years, it seemed natural to believe that with the expansion of the middle class, increased wage equality would follow. We believed that each new American generation would do better than the previous one. Piketty explains why this is not true.

He predicts that wage and income inequality will continue to grow, just as they did in the centuries before World War I, unless there is a strong political and social movement that overcomes the ability of the wealthy to use their stronger bargaining position to negotiate a larger and larger percentage of the pie.

When looking at issues such as the minimum wage, taxes on the wealthy, tax loopholes, overseas tax havens, banking regulations and political-campaign donation laws, it is important to think about who will benefit. Rest assured that those who expect to benefit are hiring their lobbyists, preparing their lawsuits, making their campaign donations and girding for battle.

We need to fight back.

Aug 04

Governor Signs Bill to Strengthen “Unsafe Handgun” Law

Governor Jerry Brown today signed AB 1964, legislation that will close a loophole that has allowed gun dealers to skirt California law and sell handguns without safety features. This legislation was a top priority of the California Chapters of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. The law will go into effect on January 1, 2015.

The new law will ensure that handguns purchased through a dealer in California meet all safety and firing tests as mandated by the state’s “Unsafe Handgun” law. The existing law requires handguns sold and manufactured in California be determined to be “safe” by the California Department of Justice. This includes having child safety features like loaded chamber indicators and magazine disconnects, meeting specified firing and drop safety tests, and containing microstamping technology that puts intentional marks on bullet casings to help solve gun crimes.

“Gun dealers in California have been skirting the law and selling handguns without child safety features, putting profits over the safety of Californians,” said Nick and Amanda Wilcox, legislation and policy chairs of the California Chapters of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “We applaud Governor Brown and the California legislature for taking action to make new handguns sold in the state safer.”

Since 2010, there has been an explosion of semi-automatic handguns being modified into single-shot handguns to get around California’s “Unsafe Handgun” law, thereby eroding the law’s intent. For example, in 2013, more than 18,000 of these altered weapons were purchased in the state, up from just 1,100 in 2009, according to the bill’s author, Assemblymember Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento).

“Safety should not be an option or an upgrade when it comes to firearms. The Unsafe Handgun Act was passed in 1999 to make sure all handguns were safety compliant. Today the governor restored the intent of the original law by making new handguns safer,” added Nick and Amanda Wilcox.

 AB 1964 was a Top Priority of California Brady Campaign

Aug 04

A Tribute to Pat Burke…by Leslye Janusz

A Tribute to Pat Burke, my dear friend, political colleague and all around Democratic Party stalwart in the Auburn Area Democratic Club, by Leslye Janusz

I first met Pat when I was heading up the Auburn Democratic phone bank for the 2008 election. It was a busy year, with Charlie Brown running for Congress and Barack Obama’s first campaign. We had an active phone bank going on out at the DeWitt center at what was then the Placer County Stationary Engineers Union office. I remember one evening, after seeing Pat there a few times, I had to leave early and asked her if she could stay and lock up for me. Well, as Pat usually did, she said “yes.” Even though she told me later, she didn’t know what the heck to do, but said “yes” anyway.

That was when I realized here is not only a dedicated Democrat but as I got to know her better, I realized she was someone I’d like to have as a good friend.

It was in 2009 that Pat joined AADC. It was at one of her first or second meetings, when I was President of the club and we were putting a slate of officers together for the next term that I asked Pat if she would run for Treasurer, since I knew she had some prior business experience. Again, Pat said, “yes.” She was elected, along with Trish Grenfell, Vice President, Theresa Cote, Secretary, the late Kathy Percy, Member at Large and myself as the Chair.

It didn’t take Pat too long to learn the arduous task of keeping the AADC books, with the help of Brian Washman, former AADC Chair and then Treasurer, Pat figured out how to prepare all the reports necessary for submission to both the State and Federal election boards. She kept excellent books, and I could always count on her to have everything balanced to the penny.

Pat not only took on the Treasurer’s job, which she held for at least 3 more years, but she helped out with every AADC annual fundraiser each year, keeping track of ticket sales, helping at the venue to sell tickets, and made arrangements with the venue for what was served and at what cost. In addition, she actively helped to solicit auction items, worked on the committee to put the items together and prepared the bid sheets, and brought them to the venue. She also tracked every incoming donation for the silent auction and money’s collected for the items purchased, for her quarterly reports.

In 2012, Pat participated as a member of the ad-hoc WAWA’s a group calling itself the Wise A__ Women Activists. We entertained the guests at the 2012 AADC fundraiser at Joe Caribe’s, with songs and dramatic parodies of local and national Republican candidates. She did an amazing job as Mrs. Romney in an interview by Gretchen Carlson, of FAUX News played by Theresa Cote. It was a memorable evening, that’s for sure.

Pat was one of the first to volunteer to help at the AADC booth at the Fairgrounds year after year. We bought a big tent, which she not only housed at her place, but repaired when it began to tear from years of use. She helped open and decorate the booth, and close it each night, accounting for any donations we received. She helped with the tear down too.

Pat was always an advocate for the AADC Scholarship program we used to have, making sure we set aside funds from our fundraiser to pay it forward to a young person going on to college. On several occasions she sat on the selection committee, and presented the scholarships to the selected candidates graduating from Chana/Maidu High School.

She was always one of the first to volunteer to help with phone bank efforts during the 2010 and 2012 elections, and helped in the 2012 office in Auburn, as well as the PCDP office in Penryn.

She agreed to be the AADC representative to the PCPD Central Committee and was inevitably prepared to give AADC members reports on their activities and encourage our members to participate in central committee activities and fundraisers.

Pat was so gracious in giving her time and talents, to AADC, usually with a big smile on her face. She would often come to the library early to help set up, bring extra snacks, and stay late to help clean up. There never seemed to be a time that Pat wasn’t doing something to further the goals of the club.

She and I have become very good friends, through our initial involvement in AADC, and while I’ll miss her so very much when she and Marty finally make the move to Oregon, I know she’ll always remain a dear friend and an active Democrat. She has already scoped out the Democratic Club in Oregon in the town near where she and Marty plan to relocate. I will always cherish the time we spent working and playing together. I wish her and Marty the very best of luck in the next journey of their lives.

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