November 22, 2010

GOP Rep Promises to Hold Middle Class Tax Cuts Hostage–Unless the Rich Get a Permanent Break

Seriously, read that headline and think hard about it – now you know who the GOP represents in Congress. Not the angry, disillusioned, ignorant Tea Partiers who voted them in, and not you or I or anyone else in the reality-based community: they represent the millionaires who line their pockets, wine and dine them on the backs of the American people, and who shovel money into their campaign funds in return for the earmarks and pet projects and contracts that the GOP says they’re so opposed to but will likely flinch over.

So this is what it’s come to – if you’ve ever wondered if there’s really a class war in America, this is it, and sadly, there are a number of wealthy Americans who see this for what it is and are begging Congress to raise their taxes.

But no – the GOP claims that they’re doing us all a favor by hand-feeding more caviar to the rich while the middle class can’t afford to stay in their homes and small businesses can’t afford to hire even if they want to, so this is the result:

The Republican rich-people bias isn’t exactly a shocker, but finally someone’s had the gall to spell it out. In a speech to the pro-business Tax Council, House Rep. David Camp said that the Dem’s middle-class tax extensions–permanent breaks for those earning $200,000 or less, with temporary extensions on the wealthy–would be blocked during the lame-duck session unless the rich get the same permanent extensions. Wait–he’s demanding the rich get equal treatment as the middle class?

Sad, isn’t it?

[ GOP Rep Promises to Hold Middle Class Tax Cuts Hostage–Unless the Rich Get a Permanent Break ]
Source: AlterNet

November 9, 2010

Letter to a Whiny Young Democrat

One of the best pieces of post-election coverage that I’ve seen came from the San Francisco Chronicle, and was titled Letter to a Whiny Young Democrat; which lambasted progressive slacktivists who, instead of making sure they turn out to the polls each and every election like they should if they want to see true progressive motion in our country, stayed at home grumbling because Barack Obama hasn’t made the sky rain money and candy bars just yet and everyone isn’t holding hands singing yet.

Because I simply can’t cut up the op-ed, here’s the whole thing with all credit to the Chronicle and the piece’s author, Mark Morford:

Oh, now you’ve done it.

See? You see what happens when you young liberal voters get so disgruntled and disillusioned that you drop all your party’s newborn, hard-won ideas about Hopeâ„¢ and Changeâ„¢, without any patience, without really giving them sufficient time to mature, without understanding that hugely foreign, anti-American concept known as “the long view”?

See what happens when you wallow in hollow disappointment, trudging all over your liberal arts campus and refusing to vote in a rather important mid-term election, all because your pet issues and nubile ego weren’t immediately serviced by a mesmerizing guy named Barack Obama just after he sucked you into his web of fuzzyhappy promises a mere two years ago, back when you were knee-high to a shiny liberal ideology?

Well, now you know. This is what happens: The U.S. House of Representatives, the most insufferable gaggle of political mongrels this side of, well, the rest of Congress, reverts to GOP control like a brain tumor reverts to a more aggressive form of cancer, and everything gets bleaker and sadder and, frankly, a whole lot nastier.

What happens is: Many kinds of fragmented, muddled, but still constructive Democratic progress might get stopped quite nearly dead, and even a few pieces of legislation we actually did gain get slapped around, threatened, stomped on the head like a scientist at a Rand Paul rally. Happy now?

Check it out, kiddo: This is not just any Republican party you allowed back into power; these mealy folks are not anything like the war-hungry, Bush-tainted army of flying monkeys and Dick Cheney moose knuckles you so wonderfully helped bury in the history books last election.

No, the GOP of 2010-2011 is even weirder, dumber, less interested in anything you even remotely care about; this GOP is infused like a sour cocktail with a bitter splash of the most cartoonish, climate change-denying Tea Party dingbats imaginable — most of whom think you’re an elitist, terrorist-loving, gay-supporting threat to “real” American values, btw — all led by a guy named Boehner who wears a bizarre, shellacked tan so fake and creepy it makes Nancy Pelosi looks like a supermodel.

And you made it all happen. Or rather, you failed to prevent it from happening, by not voting, by turning your collective back on Obama’s tough love, by getting all whiny and dejected like some sort of sullen teen vampire who can’t get laid.

Do you deny it? Did you see the polls and studies that said that most fresh-faced, Obama-swooning Dems like you are now refusing to support our beloved Nazi Muslim president because he didn’t wish-fulfill your every whim in a week? That he was, in fact, not quite the instant-gratification SuperJesus of your (or rather, our) dreams?

Of course you didn’t see any of that. Hell, I bet you’re not even reading this column right now. You’re probably back on Twitter, raging into the Void about, hell, who knows what? The Wolf Parade concert. Angry Birds. The People of Wal-Mart. Anything but politics, really.

But hey, whatevs, right? Screw it. Screw him. After all, the prez let you down. Conveniently “forgot” to include you in the dialogue, after a major election that you helped him win. Where were the outreach programs? The campus speaking tours? Weekly appearances on “The Daily Show”? Legal pot and gay marriage and discounts tickets to SXSW and Burning Man and Coachella? I want my goddamn political perks, and I want them now.

Hey, I understand. We’re an instant gratification culture, and you’re an ADHD generation. Who wants to hear that serious enviro legislation might take a decade or two to fully come to fruition? Who wants to hear about Obama passing rather amazing student loan reform? Or even financial reform? Or health care, the Iraq drawdown, saving a million jobs at GM, or all the rest of his rather astonishing achievements to date? Dude, so boring.

Of course, you’ve now learned the hard way that the hot flush of a major election is far more electrifying than the gray n’ meaty grind of actual governing. Obama flew into office on gossamer liberal wings, but the real halls of D.C. are a goddamn pigsblood slaughterhouse, brutal and depressing, full of gnarled legislative compromise. Screw that noise, you know?

And you know what? You’re right. Well, sort of. The Obama administration sure as hell could’ve done more to keep young activists inspired and involved. It’s an opportunity squandered, no question. Then again, dude was sorta busy unburying the entire nation, you know? And the twitchy Democratic party has never been known for its savvy cohesion. Maybe you can give him/them a break? Whoops, too late.

Look, I’m sorry. I know I’m being far too hard on you. Of course it’s not just you. It’s not completely your fault these dimwit Repubs were allowed to ooze back into a bit of power so soon. As many analysts have pointed out, this wasn’t a vote for the Republicans, but against the limp-wristed Dems who didn’t step up and lead with more authority and clarity of purpose. Truly, libs and independents of every age are frustrated Obama isn’t governing with the same kind of magical, balls-out visionary zeal that fueled his campaign.

And let’s not forget a shockingly unintelligent Tea Party movement that stands for exactly nothing and fears exactly everything, all ghost-funded by a couple of creepy libertarian oil billionaires — the leathery old Koch brothers — who eat their young for a snack. Who could’ve predicted that gnarled political contraption would hold water? But hey, when Americans are angry and nervous, they do stupid things. Like vote Republican. It happens. Just did.

But here’s your big takeaway, young Dem: It ain’t over yet. The 2012 election is just around the corner. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that two years whip by insanely quickly. Anything can happen, and usually does. You’ll have another chance. And probably another after that. Maybe more.

So here’s what you need to know, right now: Barack Obama is, and will continue to be, a bit of goddamn miracle. He’s simply as good as we’re going get for an articulate, thoughtful, integrity-rich Democratic prez in your lifetime. Period. To hamstring his administration out of spite and laziness is childish and sad. Check the accomplishments. Understand the process. Deal with the messiness.

It will never be perfect. It will never be giddy liberal nirvana, because it doesn’t work that way. Politics is corrosive and infuriating, de facto and by definition, even with someone as thoughtful as Obama in the Big Chair. Understand it. Deal with it. Get back in the game. If you don’t, we all lose.

Your choice, kiddo.

Absolutely fabulous, from top to bottom.

I know a lot of people take offense to being lambasted this way, and will inevitably claim that the tone of the article is too harsh and will drive people away from following politics and the political process, not wake them up to how important it is to participate. Frankly, I think we’re definitely at the point where we’ve been rewarded for participation in the process and now we need to be reminded that it is indeed a process – not an game of instant returns. It’s a process and we all need to keep participating, and we all need to keep fighting, or else what happened here will continue to happen.

[ Letter to a Whiny Young Democrat ]
Source: The San Francisco Chronicle

November 8, 2010

7 Reasons the GOP’s House Takeover was No “Wave”

All the credit goes to the folks at AlterNet for this one, but while many people are sitting back and wailing about the loss of the House to the Republicans as something catastrophic, the one thing you won’t hear anyone but the Republicans themselves saying is that they have some kind of mandate to reduce spending and create jobs – two things that are all but impossible to do since employing people involves spending money on those people. As usual, the instant the Republicans and their tea party friends win a few elections, they’re back to their Bush Era paradoxical talk and impossible promises – after all, those promises and paradoxes are what got them elected.

A lot of good Democrats lost in the House, but in some cases I don’t regret their losing – Blue Dog Democrats who caucused with the Dems but voted with the Repubs, or who held up critical legislation in order to push their own semi-centrist agenda won’t be missed. This is a rallying call for the Democrats who remain to trust in their progressive base and go on the attack, and make sure the American people know loud and clear who’s responsible when the improvements already in place either start to stall, or when one of those new Tea Party freaks does something stupid, says something racist/sexist/homophobic, and inevitably gets busted taking money from the private industries whose boots they lick.

Perhaps the only loss I’m really mourning is the Senate seat of Russ Feingold – the one Senator who voted against the Patriot Act, the one Senator who truly appreciated and respected the rights and civil liberties of the American people, voted out and replaced with a car salesman who bought his way into the Senate with a ridiculous amount of money. Just goes to show you where the Tea Party heads are at, doesn’t it?

So they’re in the House now with a ridiculously slim majority, no majority in the Senate, and an agenda that includes something like repealing Health Care reform, which I would almost be happy to see them try to do – they’re going to need a whole lot more votes to do that, and any effort they make to try and pull people in front of Congress to talk about the new health care laws, the more the American people will see what it does for them, so good luck with that.

Regardless, over at AlterNet, there’s an excellent list of 7 reasons why this was anything but a “wave,” and nothing compared to the 08 elections, and while it’s worrysome in many ways, it’s nothing that progressives can’t rally against – and we all should. Here are a couple of highlights:

We thought a little perspective was in order, so without further preamble, here are seven things progressives should keep in mind after Tuesday’s drubbing:

1. Midterm elections, unlike presidential races, are a collection of low-turnout, localized contests rather than a barometer of the nation’s ideological tilt.

The GOP’s gains in last night’s elections, as Rosenberg notes, “are part of the predictable rebalancing that occurs between presidential elections, rather than ideological shifts in the electorate.”

2. The electorate is hopping mad, but they still dislike Republicans. A month before an election that has swept some rather extreme GOPers into Congress, an Associated Press-GfK Poll found that “60 percent disapprove of the job congressional Democrats are doing — yet 68 percent frown on how Republicans are performing.”

A New York Times/CBS News poll last week found that while a majority of Americans voted GOP yesterday, the electorate “continues to have a more favorable opinion of the Democratic Party than of the Republican Party, with 46 percent favoring Democrats and 41 favoring Republicans.”

This will be the third consecutive year in which the party out of power wins. That’s not a measure of the country’s ideological leanings, it’s a sign that people are hurting and are mad as hell about it (in case one needed such a sign).

3. Blue Dogs took the brunt of it. The loss of Wisconsin’s liberal lion, Russ Feingold, is a blow to the progressive movement. Alan Grayson’s defeat in Florida hurts. Other good lawmakers were booted out of office last night as well. But in many cases, what we saw were conservatives with Ds next to their names replaced with conservatives with Rs.

I’ll leave the others – really good ones, I might add, to you to head over and check out.

[ It’s Not the End of the World — 7 Things Progressives Need to Keep in Mind About Last Night’s GOP ‘Wave’ ]
Source: AlterNet

October 25, 2010

Another Reminder to Get Out the Vote

Like the video description at YouTube says: Seriously. Vote. Or else everybody loses.

[ Everybody Loses ]
Source: YouTube

How’s This For “Follow the Money?”

(click to enlarge)

This is fabulous. The far right loves to play “follow the money,” as though somehow people who are truly interested in American progress and who are willing to help push forward with their wallets is a bad thing – so let’s give them a taste of their own medicine.

Click the above image to enlarge and see exactly where the Tea Party is getting all of its money. If you think it’s grassroots organizations that represent small-town America and reject big established government and incumbent politicians, you’d be as misinformed as the rest of the Tea Party thug’s gallery – these people have been swindled and have fallen for it hook line and sinker.

Their money is coming from a couple of really deep pockets who are intensely angry that President Obama won the election and the nation essentially rejected the policies of the Bush era and the so-called Neoconservatives wholesale. They’re looking for revenge, and they’ll take it at the expense of the American people and as many dollars as they can spend and raise in the process. Don’t be fooled.

[ Tea Party Inc.: The Big Money and Powerful Elites Behind the Right Wing’s Latest Uprising ]
Source: AlterNet

October 18, 2010

O’Donnell Debate: Comes Up Blank on Supreme Court Question

This woman is running for Congress.

Seriously. Don’t get me wrong – polls show she’s going to lose, barring any ridiculous right-wing surprises, but read this and remember that this woman wants to be a public servant. She wants to be a leader. From The Huffington Post:

NANCY KARIBJANIAN: What opinions, of late, that have come from our high court, do you most object to?

O’DONNELL: Oh, gosh. Um, give me a specific one. I’m sorry.

KARIBJANIAN: Actually, I can’t, because I need you to tell me which ones you object to.

O’DONNELL: Um, I’m very sorry, right off the top of my head, I know that there are a lot, but I’ll put it up on my website, I promise you.

After a little more needling and Wolf Blitzer trying to get her out of the topic (either because he’s a tool or because he thought the whole exchange was somewhat cringeworthy) she just gave up and went with some generic anti-civil-rights talking points that she and her Tea Party brethren already had cooked up for her and she had committed to memory.

The hilarious part of this – other than the obvious, that O’Donnell simply can’t name a single recent Supreme Court case – is that she decided, like any schoolyard bully or kid caught in class with an incorrect answer – to shift the blame to someone else. Instead of owning up to it, she just pointed the finger at her opponent and called him a “marxist.”

Stay classy, Christine.

[ O’Donnell Debate: Comes Up Blank on Supreme Court Question, Calls Opponent Marxist ]
Source: AlterNet

October 11, 2010

Forcing the Black Community to Confront Homophobia

When I was an undergrad, I went to see a speech by world reknown poet and author Nikki Giovanni. Her speech changed my life, and completely brought to the fore my own budding political and ideological beliefs. I sat in a room full of my peers – other African-American students at my University – while Giovanni challenged us to move on past our own homophobia, and to not let the racism and privilege that still sits near to the hearts of many of our white classmates deter us from greatness.

She pointed out that we should be less concerned with winning hearts and minds as we are concerned with ensuring equal treatment and equal access – essentially, the end of privilege. Racism is a cancer we may never be able to remove from the human psyche, but racist behavior and the curse of privilege is much easier to attack.

She noted that she hadn’t cared what was in the heart of someone who wasn’t sleeping in bed next to her for years – what was important was how people treated each other in the real world; the doors they opened and the doors they closed.

She also said she was tired of the homophobia in the Black community, and that if we kept this up we were destined to repeat the oppressions and mistakes of the same people who tormented us and marginalized us – she reminded us to be all-inclusive and to fight hatred wherever it rears its ugly head and in whatever form, even if it’s couched in religion and hurled at us from the pulpit of our churches.

She was absolutely right, and to this day I’m irritated at the homophobia in the Black community. Admittedly much of it is religiously driven and I’m not horribly religious, which puts me on the outside of a lot of it, but it still tears at me greatly.

Over at Alternet, Devona Walker is irritated at it as well, and wonders if the Eddie Long sex scandal will force us all to come face to face with its ugliness for what it is:

Atlanta megachurch Bishop Eddie Long faces four lawsuits from young men — either members of his congregation or employed by his church — who alleged that Long coerced them into sex. The news broke a few weeks ago and has caused a huge uproar within the black church community. But black lesbian, gay and transgendered folks as well as numerous civil rights leaders wonder if Long’s downfall could open the door for a long overdue conversation about homophobia in the black church. It also offers an opportunity for the black church to distinguish itself from the anti-gay rhetoric of white evangelicals and reclaim its historical place as being primarily about civil rights, as opposed to hate.

“We have a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy within the black community and the black church. As long as you don’t disclose your sexuality, you can be on the usher board, you can be in the pulpit, but don’t you dare talk about it,” said Darion Aaron, a black gay Christian, activist and author who lives in Atlanta. “And it’s killing us as a community, and it’s killing gay and lesbian members of the black church who have to go to church and listen to that mental abuse. We are more accepting of a rapist or a murderer than an unrepentant gay and lesbian.”

Aaron says the gay community in Atlanta has known for some time that Long was a hypocrite. He has personally seen the bishop on numerous occasions out at the mall with young, attractive men who were either gay or bisexual. The gay community in Atlanta is upset, he says, by the hypocrisy, but not surprised.

“When the news broke,” Aaron said. “It was like, ‘Oh, there it is.”

On the upside, Aaron says the accusations have touched off numerous conversations in Metro Atlanta about gay African Americans and their place in the black church. The black church has historically accepted gay folks as long as they kept silent about their sexuality. Many African American gays and lesbians have accepted these limited roles for the sake of having a place within the black community. You can walk into just about any black church in the country and find dozens of gay folks present. Gay men are leading the choir. They are ushering you to your seat. They are cooking the church’s Sunday dinner.

“Gay men and lesbians have always been present in the black church, actively engaged at that,” said Joshua Altson in a Sept. 23 Newsweek.com article. “The prevalence of gay men in black church choirs and bands, for example, is accepted but not widely discussed. The unspoken agreement is that gay men get to act as seraphim, so long as they are willing to shout in agreement as they are being flagellated from the pulpit. It’s an indignity some gay men subject themselves to each and every Sunday. Why should they have to live this way?”

Alston recalled how another black pastor in Atlanta, Dennis Meredith, had gone from espousing anti-gay views to “preaching acceptance” once his own son came out as gay. While some parishioners left, rather than hear a message of love and acceptance for gays, they were replaced by new congregants looking for a church that would accept and affirm them.

“Long’s predicament is bringing back to the surface the endless debate over whether or not homosexuality is fundamentally moral or acceptable, a debate that preachers like Long have prolonged with their bigoted teachings,” Alston wrote. “It’s about the black community on the whole and whether or not gay men and lesbians are going to be considered full citizens in it.”

Ray Taliaferro, of the San Francisco Bay area, is just one of many longtime civil rights activists who have used the Long scandal as an opportunity to blast black homophobia.

“It is inhumane to do what black people do when they approach the issue of homosexuality,” Taliaferro told the San Francisco Examiner. “Why is it that black people, my people, feel they got to get up in the pulpit and they have to condemn a very active segment of the population of our society who happen to be gay, who happen to be homosexual?”

Taliaferro is a former San Francisco NAACP president and has been a choir director for years at several churches in San Francisco.

I’ve wondered for a while – and said for a while publicly – that maybe it’s time for some of the old guard leadership of the Black community – those who so courageously led us through the Civil Rights Movement and the darkest days of the 50s, 60s, and 70s – now retire and appreciate how far we’ve come in that time, and let the young ones who are more familiar with and able to adapt to this new age take the lead now.

The world is different now, the threats to our freedom are different, and many disparate communities being attacked by privilege and hate need the bolster and support of other communities that have been through it and have learned that only be coming together can you face down hatred and injustice.

I can only hope – for the sake of our communities and for the sake of Black people as a unified force for social justice and equality everywhere – that we can get past this, and those of our community that are religious can begin to preach the gospel of acceptance and love instead of thumping the bible in darkness and out of hatred.

[ Will the Eddie Long Sex Scandal Force Black Churches to Confront Their Homophobia? ]
Source: AlterNet

The Conservative Assault on the Constitution

A brilliant op-ed article in the LA Times outlines how the conservative voices on the Supreme Court – all of whom are likely to stay as long as they can in order to make sure they’re never replaced with anyone less vitrolic than they are – are, when acting in the interest of conservatives in the United States are actually shredding the Constitution that they supposedly worship so deeply.

It’s amazing how quick conservatives are to bemoan President Obama and progressive politicians and activists for “trampling” on the constitution, holding up the banner of being its so-called defenders, but nothing could be further from the truth. They may be interested in defending some ideological perception of what America looked like and who benefitted from whom’s strife during the time of the framing of those ideals, but they — as we’ve seen a number of times — contradict themselves freely in order to maintain their own interests, and in the end are willing to eliminate the rights and freedoms that the Constitution mandates in order to ensure their own privilege and grip on political, economic, and social power.

Nowhere is this more evident than on today’s Supreme Court, where a term as ugly as “judicial activism,” a phrase I hate to no end, can actually be appropriately applied to some of the Court’s more recent widely Conservative and completely unconstitutional judgements.

During the first years of the Roberts court, it has consistently ruled in favor of corporate power, such as in holding that corporations have the 1st Amendment right to spend unlimited amounts in independent political campaigns. For the first time in American history, the high court has struck down laws regulating firearms as violations of the 2nd Amendment and held that the Constitution protects a right of individuals to possess guns. It has dramatically cut back on the rights of criminal defendants, especially as to the exclusion of evidence gained through illegal searches and seizures under the 4th Amendment and the protections of the 5th Amendment’s privilege against self-incrimination. It has greatly limited the ability of the government to formulate remedies for the segregation of public schools. It has significantly expanded the power of the government to regulate abortions.

As always, the composition of the court is a product of historical accident and presidential elections. From 1968 to 2009, there were only two Democratic appointees to the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer, in part because President Carter is one of the few presidents who did not get to fill a vacancy. Republican Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and both Bushes had a total of 12 vacancies to fill, and their picks included four staunch conservatives who are now on the court: Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.

On the issues that today define the ideological continuum, these four justices are as conservative as any in American history. Their views are best understood far more by reading the 2008 Republican Party platform than by studying the views of the Constitution’s framers.

How apalling is that? You can go back to the documents and writings and papers of the founding fathers of the American state, and find less in common with these justices – who claim to be strict and staunch interpreters of the Constitution as a document that is not up for interpretation and must be judged exactly as written – and find less in common with them as you’ll find in common with hooligans like Glenn Beck and Michelle Malkin. Why? Because it serves their interested – both the Justices who seek to steer the course of American social and political discourse, and their favored interests and friends off the bench as well. It’s terrifying, and unfortunately it’s likely to continue as long as the American people lack the patience and courage to elect and maintain progressives in the Legislative branch who can sponsor, author, and push legislation that will withstand challenge by that court.

[ Supreme Court’s Conservative Majority is Making its Mark ]
Source: The LA Times

September 27, 2010

The GOP’s Worthless “Pledge” to America

Ever since the media descended on that little hardware store that shall now live in infamy to listen to some of the Teapublican Party’s most worthless representatives unveil their so-called “pledge” to America, I’ve been itching to take it apart piece by piece. Thankfully, a number of other great writers have done so for me, and called out the pledge for what it is – at best a shell of empty promises the Republicans simply can’t keep, and at worst a malicious plan to cripple the American middle class, shovel tons of money into the hands of the Republicans’ best friends, and pull money back from the areas that the American government should be investing in most heavily right now, like education and job training.

But the Republicans, as always, see things differently – mostly through a lens of “I’ve got mine, you can go to hell,” which results in a legislative agenda that does nothing in the good times and actually reverses public progress and common good in the worst times; and that’s exactly what they plan to do.

Over at The Washington Monthly (and reposted at AlterNet) was a fantastic piece calling the pledge out as the sham that it was – snake-oil designed to make Tea Partiers and people who are disenchanted with the fact that this hole the Bush Administration and the Republicans in Congress during the Clinton Administration dug is deeper than they have patience for turn out to the polls:

Looking at the bigger picture, it’s tempting to think House Republicans deserve at least some credit for making the effort. After all, the GOP hasn’t even tried to craft a policy agenda in many years. The point of the “Pledge,” presumably, is to help demonstrate that congressional Republicans aren’t just the “party of no”; this is a new GOP prepared to reclaim the mantle of “party of ideas.”

But that’s precisely why the endeavor is such an embarrassing failure. The document combines old ideas, bad ideas, contradictory ideas, and discredited ideas. The Republican Party that lost control of Congress four years ago has had an abundance of time to craft a policy vision that offered credible, serious solutions. Instead, we’re confronted with a document that can best be described as tired nonsense.

That sounds about right, but there’s definitely more:

Ezra Klein’s take was entirely in line with my own.

[Y]ou’re left with a set of hard promises that will increase the deficit by trillions of dollars, take health-care insurance away from tens of millions of people, create a level of policy uncertainty businesses have never previously known, and suck demand out of an economy that’s already got too little of it.

You’re also left with a difficult question: What, exactly, does the Republican Party believe? The document speaks constantly and eloquently of the dangers of debt — but offers a raft of proposals that would sharply increase it. It says, in one paragraph, that the Republican Party will commit itself to “greater liberty” and then, in the next, that it will protect “traditional marriage.” It says that “small business must have certainty that the rules won’t change every few months” and then promises to change all the rules that the Obama administration has passed in recent months. It is a document with a clear theory of what has gone wrong — debt, policy uncertainty, and too much government — and a solid promise to make most of it worse.

If Republicans set out to prove that they’re wholly unprepared and incapable of governing effectively, they’ve succeeded beautifully. That may have been obvious when there was an actual GOP majority and they failed on a spectacular, generational scale, but any hopes that the party has since learned valuable lessons quickly fade with the release of the “Pledge to America.”

Indeed, the moral of the story this morning is very likely the fact that Republicans probably shouldn’t even try. Last year, the House GOP released an alternative budget, which was so tragically pathetic, it neglected to include any numbers. Several months later, the House GOP released an alternative health care reform plan, which made no effort to actually improve a dysfunctional system.

In fact, the Republicans’ “pledge” would rob the coffers of K-12 education by millions upon millions of dollars thanks to drastic cuts in public education, but it wouldn’t strike a dime from tax breaks for the wealthy, the Defense Department’s budget, or their own salaries. How’s that for fiscal responsibility?

[ GOP’s New ‘Pledge to America’: A Pathetic, Destructive Sham ]
Source: The Washington Monthly (courtesy of AlterNet)

But the beat goes on: over at the Campaign for America’s Future, RJ Eskow calls out the “pledge” for pretending it’s fiscally sound and that it’s aiming at bloated government spending when it’s really a ruse for deep cuts to public programs that are unpopular with Republicans and their Tea Party ilk: programs like health care, education, and social services. He writes:

Once you strip away the rhetoric, the answer is simple: Off the top, their plan is a trillion-dollar giveaway to the rich – at everybody else’s expense. Their “pledge” would slash needed spending, kill jobs and end any hope of growing the economy. It declares open season on the public’s health and safety with a deregulation agenda that would unleash BP, Goldman Sachs, and every other corporation whose risky behavior endangers us. It would lead to even more financial crashes and environmental disasters. Firefighters, cops,and teachers would be laid off in droves. The deficit would soar. We’d face a permanently stagnating economy. The middle class would wither away.

That’s the future they’re offering. It’s Bush on steroids, fattened up and ready to feast on … you. If you like today’s economy, you’ll love the one these guys are cooking up.

If this document wasn’t written by lobbyists then it was certainly submitted for their review and approval. And there’s a lot for them to love.

He doesn’t waste time diving right into some of the same laughable notions that came up in the Washington Monthly piece – things so laughable that they couldn’t possibly ever become public policy in America unless the American people like shooting themselves in the foot (although the rise of the Tea Party and the “ignorance is bliss” political movement gives me pause to wonder if they’re not the case):

Where would they cut, exactly? They don’t say. David Frum, a former speechwriter for George Bush, explains why: “Here is the GOP cruising to a handsome election victory. Did you seriously imagine that they would jeopardize the prospect of victory and chairmanships by issuing big, bold promises to do deadly unpopular things?”

Deadly unpopular things. At least Frum is honest enough to say out loud what other Republicans won’t: They’re going to subsidize their tax breaks for the wealthy by doing things the American people will hate. They won’t just cut the everyday functions of government that make our lives better. Returning government spending to “pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels” also means ending the repair work that’s currently being done to fix what their policies have broken. That includes getting people back to work, providing loans for small businesses, and cleaning up the Gulf of Mexico.

But even though they slither past the specifics, the GOP leaders left some broad hints about their defunding priorities. In a graph that lists government spending, for example, the categories aren’t listed by size, or alphabetically. The ones at the top are the targets, and which figure prominently? The Departments of Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Education, Justice … you see where this is going, don’t you? (Yes, the Justice Department’s on the list. Law enforcement isn’t always a convenient thing in their America.)

Their list of 2,050 different assistance programs singles out Federal funding to the states—states that are in desperate need of federal support to keep people working in the fiscal aftermath of GOP policies. They need Federal aid to avoid the kind of cuts they’ll be forced to make otherwise: laying off cops and teachers, slashing Medicaid, letting roads crumble, and shutting down emergency services, just to name a few.

Why not rename this pledge the “fire a cop, buy a banker his own private island plan”?

The Pledge also promises to give “small businesses” a tax deduction equal to “20 percent of their business income” – but, as Rachel Maddow and others have observed, their definition of “small business” includes giant corporations like Bechtel and PriceWaterhouseCoopers. That would mean another multibillion-dollar tax break for the wealthiest among us.

This “deficit-conscious” plan wants to expand the “military/industrial welfare state,” too. “We are a nation at war,” it says, calling to “fully fund” a missile defense system that’s already plagued with persistent test failures, laden with cost overruns, and which most experts don’t think is needed or can ever wok. What it can do, however, is transfer a lot of middle-class income to Boeing and Northrop Grumman. We’ve already spent more than $60 billion on the “Star Wars” missile program in the last eight years, in fact. Why, that’s nearly as much as the GOP intends to give to the top 25 billion-dollar-a-year hedge fund managers!

They dress their plan up with the usual mumbo-jumbo about government spending that’s “crowding out the private economy.” That may sound good, Tea Partiers, but think about: How does it do that, exactly? Every government employee buys things from private companies—from supermarkets, pharmacies, auto dealers, and yes, hardware stores. Makes no sense when you think about it.

And while their rhetoric’s pretty polished, they tried a little too hard to channel the Founding Fathers with lines like this one: “Whenever the agenda of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to institute a new governing agenda and set a different course.” (Note for whichever lobbyist wrote that: “Agenda” is a business word, not an inspirational one. It doesn’t fit. It’s like writing “When in the course of human events we are called upon to write a Mission Statement …”)

Here’s the bottom line: They’ll raid your money to make their rich patrons even richer. The middle class will continue to wither away, and those manage to hold on will be worse off than ever. More and more people will slip into permanent unemployment, poverty, and penurious old age. More roads will crumble. More aging pipelines will explode in towns like San Bruno, Calif. This “pledge” is the oldest kind of promise in the world: the promise than con men make to their victims.

Remember, the Republicans made a lot of promises the last time they took control of the Congress. They promised to create more jobs, and their policies led to record unemployment. They promised to limit their own terms, then settled in for a long comfy stay in Washington. They promised that businesses would regulate themselves, and both the Gulf Coast and the Main Street economy were ruined.

Seriously people, remember this when you head to the polls. There may be no way to heal this wound in time for the elections, but there’s definitely time to stop the bleeding so we can continue the work of repairing the damage that these same people – and then the people who inspired the worst of them that are rising to influence – have caused and are eagerly planning to cause.

[ GOP’s “Pledge” To Rob The Middle Class: No Jobs, No Health Care, No Security ]
Source: The Campaign for America’s Future

September 20, 2010

The Obama Achievements Center

I know I ranted about this at length in my post, That “Change” is Working Out Great for Me, Thanks for Asking! but I wanted to drive it home a little more because memories fade so quickly and people forget exactly how far America has come in the few short months since Obama took office, and how quickly this American ship has managed to right itself and set a course for prosperity. Are we there yet? No. Is Obama perfect? Not at all – but has he accomplished a lot? Is he trying? Is he a hell of a lot better than who we had before – both in the White House and his cronies in Congress? Absolutely on all counts.

That’s why I’m really thrilled to point out the existence of the Obama Achievements Center, a great resource for people who want quick ammo to rebut the claims of history-rewriting conservatives who think that Obama hasn’t done anything, or at least hasn’t done anything good, and are basking in this kind of false reality where America has become a worse place since he took office. Quite the contrary, to fact. Here’s what the site’s builders have to say:

This site is the preview version of our new Obama Achievements Center. It’s a work in progress and a labor of love — for our country.
We’re building a crowd-sourced compilation of the achievements of the Obama administration, with documentation for each achievement linked to it. It
In today’s frenzied media zones, far too much time has been spent putting the spotlight on complaints while significant achievements are either ignored, not reported, or minimized.

The Achievements

Determined to change the media narrative to finally include the good works of this administration, a group of Twitter users got together under Shoq’s leadership and compiled a list of the achievements and promises of the Obama administration, with documented links to every item. It will be updated on an ongoing basis, as this President accumulates more successes and lasting reforms.
Defining what an achievement is in any administration, is itself an interesting issue. We decided that we would define it broadly to include executive orders,important legislation, and significant initiatives or outcomes of any kind, both foreign and domestic. We worked hard to screen out minor or subjective items whenever we had agreement on them. As anyone can see from this very impressive list, they weren’t needed.

Isn’t it beautiful? This is worth a bookmark, people, and includes everything I mentioned in my last post and then some. Best of all, it’s organized by topic and category, so if you have a favorite cause of topic, you can zoom right to it.

[ The Obama Achievements Center ]