November 30, 2009

The Hard Things We Elect Them To Solve

Let’s start off with some of the opening text from this article, written for The Campaign for America’s Future by Natasha Chart:

Sen. Claire McCaskill said last week that the Senate wasn’t going to tackle the Clean Energy Jobs and American Protection Act this year because it would be “really, really hard.” If the Senate doesn’t handle it this year, will they deal with it in an election year? I think everyone working in progressive politics has heard the ‘it’s an election year’ excuse for why something terribly important can’t be done.

While McCaskill’s comment in particular was frustrating, she has a lot of colleagues in the Senate who obviously feel the same way. So I’d like to talk about some of the hard things people who aren’t Senators are facing that the CEJAPA legislation could begin fixing.

Chart goes on to discuss a number of amazing points – all things that the Senate really needs to take up before they get bogged down in election-year politics in 2010 and wind up doing little, if nothing at all in order to try and save their skins for re-election. Whether it’s health care, climate change, jobs, or transportation, all the Republicans need to do in order to prove to the public that the Democrats haven’t brought the change they swept in promising is continue to be obstinate and block any progress they can, and all the Democrats in the Senate have to do to play into their hands is do nothing for fear or not being bipartisan. At the same time, if they’re too aggressive, they risk earning the same rep that Republicans earned when they tried to push through changes using dirty tricks. It’s a fine line, but I’d rather see them push the barriers of progress than do nothing at all.

Let’s take a look at some of those issues that need to be addressed, shall we?

Earlier this year, a report came out on how the bottom 15 percent of the work force was having its wages stolen to the tune of $2.9 billion per year in, if you can believe it, three US cities. Workers in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City are getting almost $3 billion dollars per year stolen from them by their employers. Workers can try to fight wage theft, but they can lose their jobs in the process, and face having to fight court battles against employers who lie and falsify records.

Speaking of climate, scientists’ concerns over the state of our planetary life support system are growing. While the scientific community was hopeful even three years ago that we could hold warming to 2 degrees Celsius, a global temperature increase that would already mean the loss of the Arctic sea ice and heat waves that might end corn production in the US Midwest, more of them are seeing signs that a business-as-usual approach will get us 6 degrees Celsius in global warming. If 6 degrees of warming happen, not only will many coastal cities go under water, but the North American and Eurasian temperate zones could become uninhabitable.

As some 350.org activists wrote, “There is no Planet B.”

The world can’t wait, and neither can Americans who need good jobs and fair pay. Our leaders need to step up and correct these problems responsibly, which they were hired to do by a public that is increasingly too sick, broke and tired to keep hounding them about it all the time.

The Senate needs to do its duty by the planet and their voters. They need to start cranking the gears down on emissions and get America back to work with all possible speed.

This is critical – the issues of climate change and jobs and unemployment are closely related – they can be fixed with some of the same forces, and those forces don’t involve leaving people to fend for themselves or shaming them into vanishing into the shadows away from the light of the public. Smarter energy solutions and green energy technologies could go a long way to putting the millions of Americans currently out of work back to work in high-paying, high-skill jobs that, as the President so often says, cannot be outsourced. It’s absolutely true – if only we have the political will to make it happen and private industry would get moving on it.

I’m doing Chart a horrible injustice here by snipping her post up to snag some of what I think are her most poignant paragraphs. You should very definitely head over and see her post in its original context. In the end though, her critical point is that the Democrats in the Senate can’t shy away from the issues in front of them because they’re “hard,” or because they require a great deal of political will. We elected them to do the hard things, work through the difficult problems, and help make America a better place. There’s a lot of work to do, I understand, and there are some seriously obstructionist Republicans on the other side, I understand that as well, but if anything that only adds to the urgency.

[ The Hard Things We Elect Them To Solve ]
Source: Campaign for America’s Future

November 23, 2009

What Ever Happened to the Good Times the Tax-Cutters Promised?

Ah, the tax cuts.

I remember back when the Republicans were in control of Congress they told us all that their sweeping tax cuts for the wealthy were going to yield unparalleled and sustainable growth and prosperity for America for years and years to come. They said we’d never regret it, and obstructionist Democrats who were concerned about that much money going to the wealthy and the economic and income divide that it would create would cause serious problems in a few short years simply hated freedom and America and small business owners and jobs and whatever else they could say progressives hated in order to get their agenda passed.

So they did get passed, and here we are. What have those tax cuts gotten us? The deepest recession since the Great Depression, and now, as a Democratic president is left to clean up the mess they left behind while they head home with their tails between their legs to mansions full of money they’ve pilfered from the American taxpayer, we’re left to wonder as some of them start piping up again that tax cuts are the answer what they could possibly be thinking.

It’s no secret that memories are short inside the Beltway – only as short as an election cycle in many cases, but this time we need to remember what happened shortly before the economic downturn – and when I say “shortly,” I mean in the years leading up, when we all thought everything was fine: the Bush-era tax cuts. But before then? Let’s look even farther back to another, similar push against taxes:

You don’t have to dig particularly deep, in the United States today, to find some striking similarities between today’s virulently anti-Obama “Tea Party” crowd and the media darlings who birthed the “Tax Revolt” phenomenon back in the late 1970s.

The Tax Revolters burst onto the national scene amid an inflation-battered economy. They blamed “big government” for what ailed America, and they offered a simple remedy: cut taxes. Lower taxes, they promised, would get average Americans back on track.

The Tea Party zealots have, like the Tax Revolters, also coalesced in tough economic times. They attack “big government,” too. They even make the same promises about taxes.

But the Tea Party types, so far at least, haven’t scored any early political success. The Tax Revolters did. In 1978, in a ballot-box stunner, they passed a statewide initiative in California known as Prop 13, an unprecedented cap on property taxes.

Within a few short years, almost half America’s states had followed suit with tax cuts and caps of their own. In 1980, at the national level, this Tax Revolt surge would carry Ronald Reagan into the White House. One year later, a pliant Congress would give President Reagan the biggest across-the-board federal tax cut in U.S. history.

Tax relief had become, in the wink of an eye, America’s most potent political creed. Tax cutting and capping would go on to dominate the nation’s political discourse for the next three decades, an entire generation.

And what do we have to show for all this cutting and capping? Last week, researchers offered up two new studies that offer up a useful assessment.

The first, funded by the Social Security Administration, looks at the wealth of American families. That wealth, the Tax Revolters assured us,would start amassing again once taxpayers yanked “big government” out of our pockets.

The second new study zeroes in on state and local taxes. After years of tax revolting, this Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy report asks, who exactly is paying taxes at the state and local level? Who has benefited the most, in tax terms, from the Tax Revolt the Tea Party zealots are now so fervently seeking to extend?

The answer: The rich have benefited the most. The Tax Revolt that began back in the late 1970s has, in state after state, let the affluent off the tax hook.

In fact, notes the new Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy analysis, “nearly every state and local tax system takes a much greater share of income from middle- and low-income families than from the wealthy.”

In the entire United States, the analysis adds, “only two states require their best-off citizens to pay as much of their incomes in taxes as their very poorest taxpayers must pay, and only one state taxes its wealthiest individuals at a higher effective rate than middle-income families have to pay.”

America’s most affluent 1 percent now pay, on average, just 6.4 percent of their incomes in state and local taxes. But they actually pay even less than that, since they can deduct their state and local taxes from their federal tax bill. The state and local tax burden on America’s rich, after taking this offset into account, drops to 5.2 percent.

Middle-income families — to be precise, those families who make up the middle fifth of America’s income distribution — pay, after the federal offset, 9.4 percent of their incomes in total state and local taxes.

America’s poorest families pay even more. Tax collectors take 10.9 percent of the incomes of households in the nation’s bottom 20 percent, more than double the share they take from the incomes of the nation’s top 1 percent.

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy paper, Who Pays? A Distributional Analysis of the Tax Systems in All 50 States, covers non-elderly households. Incredibly, the study details, some states “ask their poorest residents — those in the bottom 20 percent of the income scale — to pay up to six times as much of their income in taxes as they ask the wealthy to pay.”

That’s right folks – not only has the income gap widened immeasurably since the libertarian/conservative took the helm and demanded that no one should have to pay for anything and subsequently made it common in America for people to want everything from their government when it has to do with them and their lives but not want to pay for any of it. (I call this the libertarian syndrome – the people who actually believe “government will just screw up health care and waste our money,” and the people who want a fire truck to be at their house in seconds when they call 911 but complain about their local taxes.)

Look at those numbers a bit more closely: the middle-class and the poor pay WAY MORE in taxes than their wealthy counterparts do. That absolutely shatters this libertarian notion that somehow the government “punishes” you for making more money and being successful, and it destroys the conservative notion that taxation is somehow the “redistribution of wealth” from wealthiest to the poorest through social programs.

So this, this is why additional tax cuts are a horrible idea. The data is absolutely clear – the only thing left for the libertarians and the conservatives to do is question reality, spin the study, question who did it, or somehow dig up some old or skewed data to try and gloss over the facts at hand.

[ What Ever Happened to the Good Times the Tax-Cutters Promised? ]
Source: Campaign for America’s Future

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs — Finally

While I completely agree with the President, his economic advisory board, and the majority of economists in the country that our economy is getting stronger every day and crawling slowly but surely out of a pretty deep hole that could have been even deeper without the government’s intervention with the stimulus plan, I’m incredibly worried about the fact that job growth tends to trail behind economic growth by several months if not years – President Obama is aware of this too, and has lately been engaging Congressional Democrats and his Cabinet to start thinking of ways to jumpstart hiring in the private sector, whether it’s through government hiring or incentives to private businesses to pick up employees.

Now the Republicans are going to start saying “tax cuts! we need more tax cuts!” like they always do, but I’ll get to why that’s a horrible idea in another post (the next one, actually) – but it is a terrible idea. Now you can offer tax cuts to businesses that increase their employee rolls by a certain appreciable amount, I’d be okay with that, because it’s actually a performance-based and verifiable incentive for a business to hire people, and they’ll have to prove they did it to the government before getting the carrot. If you just slash corporate taxes across the board with the hopes that businesses will say thank you by hiring people, you’ll be sorely dissapointed.

I’m also a big fan of more government spending in startup industries that can lead to long-term, sustainable, highly trained and high paying jobs, like jobs in the green sector and in renewable energy technologies, maintenance, and development. I’m also a big fan of growth areas that could use more people, like technology. (which has shown itself to be influenced by but still strong in a down economy)

But Rob Borosage, writing for the Campaign for America’s Future, sees bigger things on the horizon:

With the Senate befuddled by the antics of Joe Lieberman and Max Baucus on health care and the White House Clintonistas lobbying President Obama to devote his January State of the Union address to deficit reduction, Pelosi ladled up a portion of common sense. Unemployment is over 10 percent and rising. It is time to focus on jobs. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid added his support. The President announced a job summit for December. Democrats finally got the subject right.

The need is clear. One in six workers is unemployed, has given up looking or is forced to work part-time. For young workers aged 16 to 24, unemployment is 19 percent. For young African Americans, unemployment is at 30 percent. And as Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke testified yesterday, we’re likely to see—at best—a slow recovery with no new job growth. That exacts a devastating toll in hopes crushed, families stressed, young people stalled, and poverty and hunger spreading.

And even if we avoid another downturn, the job picture will get worse. Crippling state deficits—over $260 billion over two years—will force layoffs that cost an estimated 900,000 jobs next year if nothing is done.

How do we produce jobs?

Republicans, of course, voted unanimously against Obama’s first recovery plan, and have gleefully trumpeted its failure ever since (although many don’t hesitate to take credit for local projects that are putting people to work).

What’s their plan? It can’t be found on the national party’s web page.

And then of course, the Republicans recycle their panacea for anything that ails you—more tax cuts. One of these, letting businesses write off losses against profits over an extended period of time, has just been signed into law. The other is Bush lite: small tax cuts for everyone but low-wage workers.

Now, despite all the posturing about Obama’s red ink, these Republican ideas will create larger deficits and more debt. Is this the best way to spend money we borrow?

Well, we tried the same thing under Bush at the beginning of the Great Recession and it didn’t work very well. The reason is pretty simple. Americans have lost some $13 trillion in assets from the housing crash and the stock market decline. They no longer can spend more than they earn, and use their homes as an ATM machine. So they are tightening their belts, paying down debts and rebuilding their savings. Provide them with small tax cuts and they will sensibly save most of the money—and not provide the demand need to get reluctant companies to rehire workers.

Okay, I couldn’t resist – I’m going to touch on this a little more in a subsequent post, like I said, but this is an excellent rationale of why the “tax cuts fix everything” psuedo-republican/totally-libertarian mantra doesn’t fix anything – as with most libertarian ideals, it causes more problems than it solves, and takes a chainsaw to a series of social problems that really need a scalpel to fix.

In any event, Borosage goes on to hit some of the Democratic ideas to fix the problem, and a number of them are remarkably good:

AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka released a program this week—joining with leaders of the NAACP, the National Council of La Raza, and the Center for Community Change and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights—that will frame the discussion.

Trumka’s agenda features five initiatives:

1. Extend the lifeline to jobless workers, continuing unemployment benefits, food assistance and health care subsidies.

2. Rebuild schools, roads and energy systems. This is the very area that got slashed in the first recovery plan by so called Republican moderates and Blue Dog Democrats. Repairs— to schools, sewers and bridges—can begin rapidly. More ambitious projects—fast trains and a modernized electric grid—take longer, but as Bernanke says, unemployment will be with us a long time.

3. Aid to state and local governments to maintain vital services. This is the least popular but most effective program. It forestalls deep layoffs in basic services, from teachers to police.

4. Direct public service jobs in communities. Congress could dramatically expand the Youth Corps, AmericaCorps and Vista to put young people to work. New initiatives—a Green Corps to rebuild parks, an Urban Corps to build low-cost housing—could be targeted for areas with the greatest job loss.

5. Use Wall Street bailout funds for Main Street. Use the billions still in the TARP to enable community banks to lend money to small and medium sized businesses. Even Republicans might sign onto increasing low-interest-rate loans to small businesses with expansion plans. This surely is a better idea than job tax credits to businesses, almost of all which will reward companies for jobs they would have created anyway.

Obama would be well advised to go even bigger. His most compelling argument has been the simple truth that we can’t go back to the old boom-and-bust economy and should not want to. We’ve got to build a new economy on a strong foundation of basic investment in education and training, in 21st-century infrastructure, in research and development—all of which have got the short end of the stick in the era of tax cut, squander and plunder conservatism. And we’ve got to insure that the US is a leader in the new green industrial revolution that will be the growth industry of the future.

Excellent ideas, and all of them ideas that don’t require a massive new stimulus package, and all of them are ideas that progressives and Democrats in Congress could easily sell to their consituents at home as bring able to provide jobs locally and for long periods of time. I would urge the President to take notice here, but something tells me he already has.

[ Jobs, Jobs, Jobs — Finally ]
Source: Campaign for America’s Future

Guess What? Americans Don’t Like Sarah Palin

I’m actually pretty tired of the hubub running about over Sarah Palin – like others have said, there’s a lot of focus on the messenger here that’s detracting from the lunacy of the message – we’re all so focused on beating up Sarah Palin for being a nutjob – and don’t get me wrong, she is – that we’re missing the idiocy of the message and the ideology that she represents in the far-right – an ideology that a dangerous number of gun-toting, moose-shooting, global-warming-denying, high-on-revolver-oil people actually represent. It’s terrifying, and we as a progressive community should be leveling our sights (lot of gun puns today, sorry) on the mindset and the masses behind her. The fringe right isn’t like a snake (as much as they might seem to be) – you can’t cut off their head and the rest simply dies.

But to that end, and to prove that point, it’s true that the rest of America simply doesn’t like Sarah Palin – and yet her book is a New York Times bestseller. It’s not that there’s anything good in there – there really isn’t – it’s that the combination of idiocy that she represents and the forces behind her are catapulting her to a kind of moronic success that we’d only seen in the George W Bush political years:

Really, Palin should be celebrating the America-hating, liberal media that keep that stupid thing in the news. Especially since Palin’s love is kind of unrequited. According to a Washington Post/ABC News poll, a majority of Americans don’t like her that much, and very few would vote for her if she absurdly ran for President.

The poll reveals that 52 percent see the former governor in unfavorable terms. Only 9 percent say they would definitely vote for her if she were a candidate for President in 2012. 53 percent said they would definitely not vote for her. According to the Washington-Post/ABC analysis of the poll, about half as many Americans said they would definitely not vote for John McCain in Spring 2006.

There’s a lesson in this for Palin and the GOP; that lesson is obviously that only 9 percent of Americans really love America.

Thus sayeth Tana Ganeva, AlterNet editor. It’s absolutely true, and while it’s a terrible opportunity to bring up Sarah Palin, it’s a great opportunity to sit with some of the more sensible minds in the progressive community and say “let’s stop attacking her, and let’s move on to what she stands for and the ignorance that is the bedrock of her and her followers’ ideologies.”

[ Guess What? Americans Don’t Like Sarah Palin ]
Source: AlterNet

November 16, 2009

Sarah Palin Rules the GOP — And She Will Destroy It

The problem with a figure as moronic, ignoble, illiterate, and self-entitled as Sarah Palin is that as much as you think that in any good meritocracy a person like her would simply fade into the background, ridiculed for their own ignorance and stupidity, they won’t. She’s the cockroach of American politics: she won’t die, and every time you turn the light on her she scurries off under the closest object where she won’t be held accountable for her actions in the dark.

So this week Palin is releasing her memoir – a tome that Rush Limbaugh says is the finest policy book he’s ever read, which I wouldn’t be too surprised to hear from a drug-addled sex offender and stalker – a memoir of what, I’m not sure though; she has no political career to speak of even including her incredibly unremarkable term as Alaska’s governor. Perhaps readers will delight in her horrible metaphors or stories of seeing Russia from her porch or mayhap be treated to explanations of what she really meant every time she opened her mouth in public – that should be enough to fill a couple of books.

But alas, she’s off and running again, speaking out loud and opening her mouth to which a avalanche of falsehoods have emerged:

Sarah Palin’s heavily publicized book tour begins in earnest this Monday, but weeks before, her ghostwritten memoir, Going Rogue: An American Life, had already vaulted into the number one position at Amazon. Warming up for a tour that will take her across Middle America in a bus, Palin tested her lines in a November 7th speech before a crowd of 5,000 anti-abortion activists in Wisconsin. She promptly cited an urban legend as a “disturbing trend,” claiming the Treasury Department had moved the phrase “In God We Trust” from presidential dollar coins. (The rumor most likely originated with a 2006 story on the far-right website WorldNetDaily.)

In fact, a suggested alteration in its position on the coin was shot down in 2007 after pressure from Democratic Senator Robert Byrd. Nonetheless, Palin did not hesitate to take up this “controversy,” however false, since it conveniently pits a tyrannical, God-destroying, secular big government against humble God-fearing folk. In doing so, of course, she presented herself as this nation’s leading defender of the faith.

What’s really funny is that Sarah Palin demonstrates more of the biblical characteristics of the anti-christ than the evangelicals would like to pin on any progressive leader, including President Obama. Regardless, all Palin has to do is utter a lie here or there, make up some offensive banter at one time or another, and the frothing-mouth conservative base who would rather pull out their torches and pitchforks and go set up a burning cross on someone’s lawn than pick up a newspaper or a book are ready and waiting at her side, ready to do her bidding.

This is the true danger she represents: not a shift in policy and American politics, not in a change that can sweep all Americans – she represents an emergent thuggish far-right, ready to bend not only their own party but anyone else to their will, to subjugate the rest of America to fit into their own narrowly conceived concepts of what they believe is right and wrong, what they believe is justice, and what they believe is freedom. There will be no room for alternate views or interpretations, and their hypocracies will rule.

Immature collections of cells will be guarded as precious life, but single-mothers with those children will be told there is no room for them at the inn, because no one wanted to pay taxes for a social safety net. Women will be told their place is in the kitchen and not in the workplace, and if they do choose to enter the workplace that 80-cents on the dollar should be enough for them and besides, don’t they have a man to support them anyway? Racism will be labeled freely as a figment of the imaginations of minorities, but if someone dares celebrate Black History month someone will, foolish and unaware of their own privilege, try to strike the cirriculum from the record because there’s no such “white history month.” This is the world that Palin and her vocal evangelical minority would see us live in.

And it’s up to all of us, not just progressives, but those who have any real view of freedom and equal justice in this country, to stand against them – they may be loud, but they have no true power other than the power the rest of us allow them to exert and bully us with.

[ Sarah Palin Rules the GOP — And She Will Destroy It ]
Source: AlterNet

The Ghost of Jesse Helms Haunts Health Care Debate

And here you thought we were rid of him with his passing. And no, you can chastise me for not speaking kindly of the dead all you like – the man was a monster in life, he deserves no more respect in death than his accomplishments earned him while he was alive.

But to the point, and to the point of the health care debate, Scott Galindez made an excellent point writing for TruthOut – that whenever Jesse Helms didn’t like a bill, he’d attach an abortion amendment to it in order to grind it to a halt. We’re seeing similar behavior in the Senate over health care now – where certain senators will only support it if one option or another is added or removed: striking at women’s rights and reproductive rights, for example, or eliminating a public option that will extend coverage to all Americans instead of demanding they have insurance but leaving them to the sharks of the insurance industry to get it.

While many Democrats were declaring victory last Saturday night with the passage of a health care reform bill, Republicans, too, had a victory of sorts. They may have successfully passed the “poison pill” that will kill health care reform down the road.

One of the culprits this time was Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Michigan). He co-sponsored an amendment to the health care bill with Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pennsylvania). The amendment would require women to buy separate “riders” to cover abortions, even if they otherwise paid for a full insurance plan. Even before the amendment was voted on, the Democratic leadership was signaling that there was no reason for alarm; if the amendment passes, it won’t survive conference with the Senate was the spin.

So, the amendment passed with the help of dozens of Democrats; later in the night, the full bill passed 220-215. After the euphoria settled, a stark realization set in for many supporters of health care reform. The margin of victory was not large enough to guarantee final passage if the bill comes back from conference without the abortion amendment. So, the question in the House is did the Democratic leadership make a huge blunder when they allowed the Stupak amendment a vote on the floor?

There wasn’t time to see what the real impact of the Stupak amendment will be. Groups like the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) are cranking up efforts against the amendment. Which raises another question: If the amendment remains in the bill, will Democrats be pressured by their base to oppose the conference report?

Either way, with or without the abortion amendment, the bill is in trouble. Jesse Helms would be proud of Stupak and Pitts.

While the abortion controversy could find its way down the hall to the Senate, at this time the biggest hurdle is opposition to a “public option.” The Senate will begin debating their version of health care reform next Tuesday, if they can muster 60 votes to authorize the start of debate. In the Senate, you need 60 votes to start debate, and 60 votes to end debate. If even one of the 60 members of the Democratic caucus defects, a Republican will have to join the Democrats to overcome the procedural hurdles.

“Traitor Joe” Lieberman has threatened that he will not vote to end debate if any form of the public option is in the bill. Lieberman has indicated he will vote to allow the debate to begin. His opposition to ending debate is what has the bill stalled in the Senate.

When Lieberman announced his plans to join a Republican filibuster, many responded by saying, “Let him do it; he will look like a fool.” I think people had images in their mind of Jimmy Stewart standing on the floor for hours bringing the Senate to a standstill. That is not how this filibuster would work. For, as long as 41 senators vote against ending debate, the bill cannot be brought up for a vote. The rest of the business of the Senate would continue; only health care would be delayed.

Classy Joe, really classy. It was only a matter of time before he showed his true colors, and this is part of the reason why I was worried about him in the first place – he is not a Democrat even though he claims to caucus with them – he is an independent in every sense of the word; not far right enough to be embraced by Republicans, but far right enough that if he were he’d be happy to join their camp. You can bet he’ll try to sabotage immigration reform, climate change action, and other progressive bills moving through the Senate, too – this is why you have to be careful when you say the Democrats have a filibuster-proof majority in Congress…all it takes is a voice from someone like Joe to make that not true and grind progress to a halt.

[ The Ghost of Jesse Helms Haunts Health Care Debate ]
Source: TruthOut

15 Awful Things Republicans Would Do If They Had the Chance

Remember just a year or so ago, when people were dancing in the streets because George W Bush wouldn’t be their president anymore? When people were so thrilled that the Republicans were out of office that they couldn’t help but celebrate the future?

Sure, some of that euphoria has worn off, and the honeymoon is definitely over with President Obama, but if you ask anyone if they’d rather go back to the civil-liberties-stealing, war-funding, fear-mongering, terrorists-blaming days of a government run and managed by the Republicans, most Americans would visibly shudder in fear. Why? Because even though things aren’t perfect today and there are serious hardships at hand, people still feel like today is a better day than yesterday.

But what if the Republicans were still in control? Let’s take a look at what kinds of “change” we probably would have to deal with if they were still in power. Here are some of my favorites from a roundup at Alternet:

3) Stubbornly deny the existence of ominous climate change while blithely pumping more pollutants into the environment from lucrative, dirty industries and practices. Although reputable scientists say 350 carbon parts per atmospheric million is the safe limit for sustained life on Earth, Republicans dismiss the frightening fact that we’re already at a carbon level of roughly 390 ppm.

4) Remove “restrictive” regulations on everything from investment banks and credit card companies to a broad array of “profit-eroding” consumer protections, leaving the American masses exposed to a host of resulting abuses and dangers.

5) Continue to criticize and insufficiently fund public education, advocating private schooling instead, thus entirely ignoring that progressive public systems are used in every country that has education outcomes superior to our own.

6) Outlaw abortion, under a fraudulently moral guise, compelling the US to bloodily join those benighted, backward nations where thousands of already-born, living, breathing, socially functioning females perish because of sexist denials of their basic reproductive rights.

7) Continue to recite a Pledge of Allegiance whose last six words are “with liberty and justice for all,” while remaining numbly oblivious to the harsh hypocrisy of preventing our homosexual citizens from marrying.

8 ) Speak often and loftily of freedom, but engage in secret wiretapping, repression of domestic dissent, neo-McCarthyite witch hunts, Red-baiting name calling, and a panoply of Patriot Act transgressions against the Constitution of the United States…all under the misused rubric of “national security.”

Those are some good ones, but here are some shiners:

14) Give full vent to the intensely bigoted hatred that has crazed extremists dreaming of literally tearing Barack Obama to pieces and gassing all liberals…if only they could.

15) Place the livelihoods and lives of over 300 million Americans in the hands of incompetent ideological “purists” such as Sarah Palin.

Yeah, that sums it up nicely.

[ 15 Awful Things Republicans Would Do If They Had the Chance ]
Source: Alternet

November 10, 2009

Boehner’s Lame Excuse About Why the GOP Health Care Bill Sucks So Badly

If you’ve been paying attention to some of the media undercurrents, you’ll have heard that the Republicans in the house, before the historic vote for health care for all Americans, released their sad, sorry attempt at an alternative bill just to say they had one.

Now we all know the Republicans at this stage are the party of bluster but no ideas, rage but no intentions, anger without direction, but the Republican bill was so horrible it shouldn’t even have been deemed “health care,” it was more like “insurance care.” It was terrible – it would do nothing to insure the uninsured, would do nothing to extend health care or coverage to anyone who currently doesn’t have it, wouldn’t eliminate the antitrust loophole that health insurers enjoy – in fact, the bill was pretty much tantamount to punishing Americans for getting sick by giving away tax breaks and benefits to insurance companies, protecting insurance companies from lawsuits when they illegally deny coverage to customers and patients, shield doctors who commit malpractice from patients who want to hold them accountable, and so on.

When House minority leader John Boehner was asked why his party’s bill was so absolutely terrible and devoid of substance, his response? Well, after waiting and finding out it was so poorly received by the media, he and the Republicans decided to claim “It was a leak! Unauthorized! It’s not done yet! We swear!”

…right. You release the bill, everyone mocks it, and that’s when you stand up and say “well it isn’t finished?” Sure thing. Over at Daily KOS, diarist mcjoan has it right:

Yesterday, hours after the House Republicans healthcare “reform” plan was released and universally mocked, Rep. Boehner cried foul, insisting that this unauthorized leak was of a draft bill that wasn’t finalized and hadn’t been seen by members.

Just a quick reminder of the reaction in the media to Boehner’s bill. Here’s what the original WSJ article reported:

A House Republican health-care bill wouldn’t seek to prevent health-insurance companies from denying sick people insurance, Minority Leader John Boehner said Monday.

And here’s Roll Call:

Under the GOP plan, insurance companies would still be allowed to exclude anyone with a pre-existing medical condition from coverage, there would be no national insurance exchange and businesses would not face any mandate to provide insurance nor individuals to buy it. Boehner also left out tax credits to help the poor and middle class buy insurance — a central pillar of most GOP reform proposals and a key feature of a four-page outline Republican leaders released in June.

But that bill, says Boehner and Pence, wasn’t the real bill, as reported by The Hill:

Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) was “hot” when news broke that a premature copy of his much-awaited healthcare bill had been published on the Internet, aides and GOP lawmakers told The Hill….

“It was a very unauthorized leak,” the member told The Hill, noting that the GOP aides were still in discussions with staffers at the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

On Tuesday afternoon, GOP Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) had to tell reporters that the document was not, in fact, the final text of their bill.

“The Republican alternative is still a work in progress, and we’re putting the finishing touches on our legislation as we speak,” Pence said hours after media outlets, including The Hill, posted copies of the document online.

As the article points out, this fury didn’t emerge until “hours after media outlets” posted the draft, and hours after it was universally derided as a massive gift to the insurance industry. It took them a full day to come up with the story that it was a leaked draft.

And then, of course, is the fact that the leaked draft [pdf] is pretty much identical to the final draft [pdf] filed late last night by Boehner. I’ve done a cursory side-by-side comparison and found no significant difference in the “substance” of the bill, except for in the Eschoo amendment on the pathway for biosimilars, which they originally had included word for word.

So much for the “it was just a draft” excuse.

Nice try guys – but…at the same time, really really sad.

[ Boehner’s Lame Excuse About Why the GOP Health Care Bill Sucks So Badly ]
Source: Daily KOS (courtesy of AlterNet)

November 9, 2009

Good News for the GOP? Not So Much.

William Rivers Pitt has some choice words for us following GOP election results from last week: don’t worry too much. There are some pretty big losses, especially in places like Virginia and Maine, but there were also victories also in Virginia, and in Washington state. But in the end? The majority of the public is still striding along with us, even if the far right is nipping at our heels:

It wasn’t just the TV talking heads spouting this line. “The Republican victories in the races for New Jersey and Virginia governors put the party in a stronger position to turn back the political wave President Obama unleashed last year,” reported The New York Times on Wednesday morning, “setting the stage for Republicans to raise money, recruit candidates and ride the excitement of an energized base as the party heads into next year’s midterm elections…. The results in the New Jersey and Virginia races underscored the difficulties Mr. Obama is having transforming his historic victory a year ago into either a sustained electoral advantage for Democrats or a commanding ideological position over conservatives in legislative battles.”

Not to break away from the pack here, but the situation deserves a little more in-depth analysis than what we’ve gotten so far, which has basically amounted to these news people playing umpire during a close play at the plate. Obama is out because they say so, even though it wasn’t the last out, there is plenty of game left to play and the blue team is still way ahead on runs. You can’t argue with the ump, though, so that out is officially A Big Deal.

Not so much.

Second of all, these were two statewide elections where Obama was not on the ballot, and there is no national significance whatsoever behind two states out of fifty voting for Republicans. Furthermore, Democrats cleaned up in local elections all across the country, especially in mayoral races, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of breathless reporting on this facet of yesterday’s vote coming from the news folks. The umpire made the call, and that’s how it goes. Or something.

Speaking of the national picture for the GOP, it is difficult to make a cogent argument that two statewide gubernatorial wins are enough to alter the country’s opinion of the party, especially since the country’s opinion of Republicans remains monumentally bleak. Just two weeks ago, a Washington Post/ABC News poll reported:

Less than one in five voters (19 percent) expressed confidence in Republicans’ ability to make the right decisions for America’s future while a whopping 79 percent lacked that confidence.

Among independent voters, who went heavily for Obama in 2008 and congressional Democrats in 2006, the numbers for Republicans on the confidence questions were even more worse. Just 17 percent of independents expressed confidence in Republicans’ ability to make the right decision while 83 percent said they did not have that confidence.

On the generic ballot question, 51 percent of the sample said they would cast a vote for a Democratic candidate in their congressional district next fall while just 39 percent said they would opt for a GOP candidate.

And, perhaps most troubling for GOP hopes is the fact that just 20 percent of the Post sample identified themselves as Republicans, the lowest that number has been in Post polling since 1983. (No, that is not a typo.)
Finally, the idea that yesterday’s elections bode well for the Republican Party might make for good television, but that doesn’t make it right. The race in New York’s 23rd District has far more national import than the other two, and the writing on the wall doesn’t make for good reading for the GOP going forward. The election went sideways several weeks ago when moderate Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava came under fire from the high priests of the far right because they deemed her not conservative enough. Ersatz luminaries like Limbaugh, Beck and Palin jumped on board the third-party candidacy of Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman, and the resulting bedlam eventually drove Scozzafava out of the race. Scozzafava stepped aside after endorsing the Democratic candidate, Bill Owens, who went on to win Tuesday’s election by a margin of 49-45.

This was a nifty win for the Democrats, because the seat was formerly held by Republican John McHugh, who vacated the seat after he was tapped by President Obama to serve as secretary of the Army. Beyond the pick-up, however, is the fact that the whole national Republican infrastructure has been shaken up thanks to this race. The hard-right GOP base revved itself up and successfully tore down an electable moderate member of their own party. If they get it into their heads to do this in other races come 2010, we could very easily watch the GOP eat itself next year, as its ground troops attack and soften up fellow Republicans, making them ripe pickings for Democratic opponents. The Democrats have been expecting to lose seats in 2010, something that nearly always happens during the first midterms of a new presidency, but open warfare within the GOP could very much mitigate the damage.

Speaking of the NY-23 race, memo to news reporters: the Democrat won. It isn’t a “sweep” when the other team wins a game. The news people should ask the sports reporters for a refresher course on athletic terminology. It’s probably a good idea to have your facts straight before your broadcasters open their mouths or your printing press puts ink to paper.

A wild idea, I know, but it might be for the best.

I can’t add much more to that.

[ Good News for the GOP? Not So Much. ]
Source: TruthOut

Election Message: The Progressive Base Needs A Jolt

Republicans are probably cheering about some of their wins right now (like in my poor neighbor state of Virginia – I’m so sad the Democratic base just couldn’t be arsed to turn out to keep a Republican out of the state house, but then again, I don’t think Mr. Deeds ran a very good, effective, or long campaign – too much infighting among the Democrats in that race got people tired of the campaign early, and Deeds didn’t have the personality or the platform or the money to really energize voters and seal the deal at the end…he just couldn’t explain to voters why they should vote for him) and I’ll admit, any win handed to the Republicans, especially in a time like now, is bad news not only for the progressive community but for the American people in general.

In a time where conservatives and the so-called “independents” are out to block any and all progress without bothering to provide alternatives, in a time where they’re looking to assassinate characters through hateful speech and angry gnashing of teeth only and then try to wage wars of personality and popularity instead of issues (because they don’t have much else), any win handed to them is a bad thing.

So how do we counter this upswell? It’s obvious that any time you have a party in power, the minority party is more energized to complain and come out and make their voices heard, but if we don’t want our core values and the progress America needs to make compromised, we need to do something. Bill Scher thinks the progressive base needs to remember who it is, and stand up for what’s right and keep pressing for progress:

It’s not unusual at all for elections in non-presidential years to attract lower voter turnout. And lower turnout elections reward motivated bases. Right now, conservatives are more motivated than liberals.

Of course, local matters loomed very large in the NJ and VA races.
Most incumbent executives — Republican and Democratic — are feeling heat because the recession depletes tax revenue, forcing governors and mayors to either raise taxes, cut services or both. This rarely breeds popularity, and doomed Gov. Corzine.

In Virginia, the Republican stressed job creation. The moderate Democrat struggled to deliver a consistent message on economic matters and tried to discredit his rival on social issues. In a recession, that didn’t fly. (Nor did it when conservatives forced out a Republican with a liberal record on social issues in the upstate New York congressional race.)

But the above numbers are so striking. It’s clear that the big turnout which sent Obama to the White House with a progressive mandate was not stirred yesterday.

While conservatives are amped up to defeat what they see as a socialist government takeover of everything, liberals are conflicted about the compromises being considered to get anything passed by a Senate supermajority and a ideologically diverse Democratic caucus.

As I noted yesterday, the latest CNN poll still shows America is a center-left nation, with 58% of the public seeing the President’s programs are either “just about right” ideologically or “not liberal enough.”
No one in Congress should view last night’s results are reason to delay and dilute health care and energy reform legislation any further. On the contrary, it is a clear signal that the progressive base needs a jolt. The antidote is swift, bold legislative action.

Agreed wholeheartedly – in a way, Scher points out that this isn’t even an upswell – it’s more a knee-jerk, and probably a small number of energized people that would have been roundly trounced if this were a major election year. We need to keep that in mind, and keep moving forward.

[ Election Message: The Progressive Base Needs A Jolt ]
Source: Campaign for America’s Future