Posts Tagged ‘Democrats’

Lend An Earmark To More Lies

January 10, 2011

“I don’t want to be a rich man in a poor country.”

– A German millionaire, upon being asked why he didn’t mind paying taxes

Tea party Republicans are calling for government spending cuts and banning earmarks from legislation.  This resulted in a ridiculous charade starring the usual suspects, including Texas’ own Senator John Cornyn.

While newly-elected tea partiers can attribute ignorance to “newbieness,” Cornyn cynically played along when he knows better.  He knows an earmark is simply a Representative or Senator’s designation of funding for a specific project within their jurisdiction. For example, in infrastructure bills they can designate an amount for building a certain project.

Some call it “pork” but others see it as “bringing home the bacon” to the people who elected them. Earmarks create jobs and economic prosperity in the home district in addition to addressing the targeted purpose.

Earmarks are not a significant portion of spending, amounting to less than 2-3%.  Furthermore, axing an earmark doesn’t necessarily mean the spending doesn’t happen. If you simply ban earmarks, who decides where the money gets spent? The Executive Branch, AKA the President. So, those who would lop off earmarks simply give up their legislative power.  Given Republican expressed irrational hatred of this administration, does doing that make sense?

The problems with earmarks are that it’s corruption for a legislator to secretly designate funds benefiting contributors or cronies and it is wasteful if they designate funds for useless projects. Sunshine disclosure of who requested each earmark is the simple cure.  Openness has already been implemented and the number of earmarks reduced significantly.  So this call to “ban ‘em” is a game of smoke and mirrors to make you think they’re really cutting spending when they are not.

This brings us to the ridiculous charade of Republican obstruction to the federal $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund FY 2011.  In December, Senate Republicans used their favorite blunt instrument to block passage of the bill in the Senate. Why? They said, “Too many earmarks.”  Who says? John Cornyn.

He sent a fundraising letter blasting Democrats for 6,600 earmarks in the bill totaling $8 billion (less than 1% of the total).  Where did those earmarks come from? A bunch came from Republicans, including $16 million from Cornyn himself!  And he’s been a top earmarker, inserting dozens totaling $228 million last year.

Surprise, surprise! A Fox News interviewer, Bill Hemmer, actually called Cornyn on his hypocrisy.  Whereupon Cornyn said he was not going to defend his earmarks – “I support those projects but I don’t support the bill.”  All this occurred after the bill had gone through many hearings and had been pared down to a total Republicans said they’d support.  Then, of course, they didn’t.

Without giving specifics, the obstructers claimed the bill didn’t fulfill the demands of the 2010 voters to cut spending.  That’s claiming a mandate they do not have. Even all Republican voters, who were only slightly over half the voters, didn’t demand a meat cleaver be taken to their government. The majority of voters, indeed most nonvoters as well, are demanding jobs and a recovery from the recession.  And simply put, we cannot do that by cutting government spending now.

So what’s going on here is entirely something else. Republicans are openly yearning for a government shutdown like they forced in 1995-96.  After trying to block everything the President and Democrats have done FOR YOU in the last two years, they are still trying to damage this President. They apparently think that, if they shut down government and keep it from doing the people’s business, you’re going to blame President Obama, not them, and vote him out of office in 2012.  Say what? The shutdowns of the 1990s were a political disaster for Republicans.

They’re saying they’ll refuse to extend the federal debt ceiling, which would have only one very, very bad result.  If the government fails to acknowledge its debts and its intent to repay them, it damages the “full faith and credit” of the United States of America with worldwide repercussions. We have never failed to extend the debt ceiling when needed and it surely is needed now to recover from a major recession!

As new Speaker of the House John Boehner was sworn in, Republicans continued the duplicity.  He said they would operate transparently and allow debate and amendments on legislation; then they immediately proposed repeal of health care reform without ANY hearings, debate or amendments.  They call health care reform “job-killing” when actually the opposite is true.  REPEAL of health care reform will kill jobs and increase health care costs, add $230 billion to the deficit, and most important, harm, even kill, human beings who are already benefiting from the reforms.

The bipartisan neutral Congressional Budget Office evaluates legislation for fiscal impact. House Republicans don’t like their findings, for example, that repeal of health care reform adds to the deficit.  So, they now are going to bypass CBO and allow the Republican head of the Budget Committee to distort and politicize “scoring the bills.”

The House also had a rule called “Pay-Go” which requires that any bill that adds to the deficit must have some mechanism of paying for itself by savings or revenue.  Republicans have now rejected that when it’s inconvenient for them, e.g., to give more tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires or to deregulate their corporate sponsors.

This is part of the mishmash of conservative propaganda that government spending is wasteful and doesn’t create jobs, cut it, taxes are too high, cut ’em, axe the government no matter what happens to the people it serves.  All they really intend, though, is to cut taxes; they don’t really intend to cut spending at all.  Since Ronald Reagan, EVERY Republican administration has cut taxes and still overspent, driving up the deficit and total debt.  They blamed it on the Democrats, yet Democrats balanced the budget, paid down the debt and told the truth to the American people.

These irresponsible Republicans must want to be “rich men in a poor country.”  Unless we stand up to them, they may get their wish.

Calling Them Out As We Should

December 17, 2010

What some call “common sense” is now nonsensical and speaks not for the common man.

When you hear in political discourse the same comments, the same exact phrases, repeated again and again, and they’re no better grounded in fact on the umpteenth time than when first heard, you know someone’s in the back room cranking them out for someone else to repeat.  That, in fact, is what’s happening, and for a reason.  There’s method to the madness in these lies.

Let’s sample a few of the prominent lines and address their veracity, or lack thereof.  For example, was health insurance reform “crammed down our throats?”  On the eve of President Obama’s election in 2008, in public opinion polls, health care reform ranked 3rd among the most important issues to deal with, superseded only by the collapsing economy and the Iraq War.  Americans wanted health reform at that time; 95% wanted access to care for everyone.   After it was adopted, polls indicate support for the effort is high and rising as people discover what the reforms include.

Was reform a “government takeover” of health care?  No, in fact, it gave private health insurers millions of new customers in return for ending their most egregious abuses.  They started raising premiums before the ink was dry and blamed it on reform.  In 2010, health insurance profits are up 41%!  They sure don’t want it repealed now and Republicans who got elected by calling for repeal are already walking back those plans.  Yet, while over 70% of the American public wanted a government-managed insurance option, the reforms did not include it. [After writing this, today I learned that Politifact has dubbed this the “Lie of the Year.”  They said, “Uttered by dozens of politicians and pundits, it played an important role in shaping public opinion about the health care plan and was a significant factor in the Democrats’ shellacking in the November elections… The phrase is simply not true.”]

Are Social Security, Medicare, and Unemployment Compensation simply “entitlements” and inducements to lazy living?  Actually, they’re all insurance programs that people pay into against the day they will need the benefits.  Is Social Security bankrupt?  Far from it with a $2.5 trillion surplus, and it is not part of the federal general budget deficit.  Does unemployment compensation encourage laziness?  The prerequisites for receiving it are documentation that you are looking for employment and that you lost your job through no fault of your own.  It temporarily provides, not a living wage, but a percentage of earnings when you worked. These are not incentives to kick back and forget about working.

Another myth:  Higher personal income taxes hurt the economy, always are too high and should be cut.  This isn’t even true in a thriving economy, but it sounds so delicious we gobble it up.  In a shaky economy, such as ours, it matters more whose taxes you’re talking about.  If it’s middle income tax payers, yes, taxes should be kept low to help them meet their needs and build demand in the economy.

However, if we’re talking about marginally higher incomes, the dollars earned beyond say $250,000, it is HIGHER, not lower, taxes that benefit the economy.  If those dollars come from a business, higher taxes are an incentive to leave those extra dollars invested in the business.  If those dollars come from speculation, higher taxes are a disincentive to speculation and savings.  And speculation, as we have seen, leads to bubbles that burst and hurt everyone, including the investor.  Excessive savings suck the very wind out of the real economies of agriculture, manufacturing and services.  Finally, higher taxes on marginal dollars allow greater public investment in building the real economy.  And, another myth is that the government doesn’t create jobs. It does.

Is there a moral equivalence between the capitalist backers of the tea party and Republicans vs the wealthy who support progressives and Democrats?  No, there is a very obvious factual difference between them.  The capitalists who fund today’s political right are clearly, openly engaged in electing those who support government policies that directly enrich them in return.  They have a direct financial interest in the public policies they seek.

Take the Koch brothers, for example.  They are today what Standard Oil was in an earlier era – oil refineries and pipelines, paper, lumber, a conglomerate of companies second only to Cargill in scope.  They funded libertarian, tea party and Republican officials to enrich them directly through public policies that lower taxes on higher incomes and corporations, maintain subsidies for oil and commodities, deregulate polluters and financials, privatize public services and ignore global climate change.

The political right elected a President to appoint Supreme Court Justices who granted corporations personhood free speech rights.  They’ve got their own TV network, Fox News, to spin misinformation 24/7.  They literally do have whole operations dedicated to distorting facts and disseminating misinformation.  That’s the method to the madness.

On the other hand, wealthy progressive and Democratic supporters are not in it for the dough personally.  George Soros hasn’t made a dime out of his support for progressive public policies around the world.  Lyndon Johnson made nothing from enactment of Medicare. Kerry and Kennedy have family wealth.  Clinton and Obama made their money from writing popular books.  In fact, these wealthy people stand to lose personal wealth by implementation of progressive public policy.

Is great wealth an indication that you work harder or are smarter or better than other people?  Not these days, friends.  Not on the scale we’re seeing of the capitalist take.  The people who earn their incomes are people like truck drivers, nurses, teachers, restaurant managers, carpenters, manufacturing workers, miners, fishermen, farmers, store operators and people who provide services that others need to enhance their lives. They’ve seen their incomes flatten or go down over the last decades, while the capitalists at the top, the hedge fund managers, bankers and CEOs of big corporations, have accumulated wealth many times beyond their need.  And it is not “their money;” they got it from all of us.

I’m not demonizing wealthy people or corporations. It is the behavior of some that brings their own shame, because the moral distinction lies in what people do with what they have.  However, we must call these political deceptions for what they are, greed.  And we must stand up to it, even if that requires rethinking our political alliances, because the Country belongs to the people, not the corporations.

The Depravity of Republican Senators

December 3, 2010

Here’s what the Senate Republicans sent to President Obama regarding tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans:   “…We write to inform you that we will not agree to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase that is currently awaiting all American taxpayers. . . .  While there are other items that might ultimately be worthy of the Senate’s attention, we cannot agree to prioritize any matters above the critical issues of funding the government and preventing a job-killing tax hike.”
At issue is a 3.9% tax cut ONLY on taxable income exceeding $250,000.  Those taking in above that would receive the tax cuts for their taxable income in the lower income brackets.  So under the Democratic proposal EVERYONE would get to keep SOME tax cut.  It is not a “job-killing tax hike” either, since it’s been in effect for 10 years and didn’t create any jobs.  Actually raising the tax rate on this income might encourage more job-creating investment.
This shows the depravity of Republican lawmakers.  They would hold out for that ADDITIONAL tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and hold every other action needed, whether tax related or not, hostage to getting that ADDITIONAL cut for the very wealthy.  They’re vowing to stop repeal of DADT (which close to 80% of Americans indicate they want), approval of the New START arms control treaty (a national security essential treaty created and championed by Republicans and Democrats alike), the DREAM Act (to allow a path to citizenship for young folk who serve in the military or get higher education), EVERYTHING unless they get that additional tax cut. They would even hold up payments of benefits under unemployment INSURANCE that people paid for and should receive – sending millions to the streets for Christmas.
These Republicans are cynical, crazy and ignorant racists who would sacrifice our entire country to their goal of politically damaging our President. I don’t think that, in the history of the US, there has ever been such a blatant attack on our whole nation by it’s own elected Senators.   Yesterday, in the House, the Democrats passed a tax cut affecting EVERYONE with Republicans voting against it because it did not keep the additional tax cuts of 3.9% on income above $250,000.  The Democrats are on YOUR side.  The bill will go on to the Senate where it surely will encounter Republican obstruction.  Furthermore there’s no indication that, even if the Republican Senators got their tax cut for the rich, they would vote for these other high-priority bills.  They work for their corporation and ultra-rich campaign contributors, not for us.  Keep this in mind come 2012.

Please, Young Folk, Do Vote

October 25, 2010

Please, young folk do vote!  This election is all about you and your future.  The divide between Democratic and Republican policies is a generational divide that has never been more stark. For example, Democrats accept the science of climate change and are creating a new industry of green jobs in which you can work while you save the planet. Heavily backed by the polluting industries, Republicans oppose control of energy usage and pollution and pretend global warming is not caused by human activity. They’re in denial about your future.

When Democrats reformed the student loan program to lower your costs, Republicans opposed it; they sought to preserve bankster profits instead. While falsely claiming that Social Security is bankrupt, Republicans seek to privatize your future SS plan, giving profits to Wall Street while lowering your benefits. Yet they have no plans to alter their own SS benefits.

Young women, against Republican opposition, Democrats enacted equal pay for equal work for you. They brought young people health insurance coverage the Republicans now want to repeal. The Texas Republican Governor cut funding for education that is critical for your future economic wellbeing; national Republicans would do away with federal education standards and funding. State and national Democrats are working to build educational opportunity and quality.

You are a diverse generation and increasingly tolerant of others whom Republicans would demonize and discriminate against by law.  Democrats support inclusive policies and preservation of civil rights.

In 2008, most of you voted FOR your own future; this election is just as important for securing that future. We’ve all seen what Republicans are against – everything, except tax cuts for the rich. The Republican Senate leader has said point-blank that his “most important job” is to defeat President Obama and the Democrats. They simply don’t care about us or even the country; it’s all about their power.  And unless we can keep Democratic control of the House and Senate, they will use their power to continue to obstruct progress, favor corporations and destroy the environment.

Democrats need your vote and ongoing support to keep working for you. It’s your future and your country; keep it with your vote.

Vote Like Your Life Depends On IT

October 25, 2010

Here comes the November 2 election, and those who genuinely care about our society and our future need to vote like our lives depend on it because, in fact, they do. The last election was about changing the guard; this one is about guarding the change.

At the federal, state and local level, Democrats have been standing up for us, visibly present in our community and helping us improve our lives individually and collectively and making government serve our needs. They’ve earned your support to continue working for you.

Remember when the Bush administration rammed through TARP, the Troubled Assets Relief Program or the “bank bailout?” my Democratic Congressman Ciro Rodriguez voted “No” for all the right reasons — lack of accountability, rewarding greed and mismanagement.  Then the Democratic administration took office and imposed accountability and efficiency. They recovered over 70% of the money and turned a bailout into a successful recovery program.

Democrats voted on our behalf to pass financial reform, which prevents taxpayer-funded bailouts and increases regulatory control over fraud, conflicts of interest and manipulation of the financial system. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was established to help millions of us who have suffered abuse at the hands of credit card companies, banks, mortgage companies and payday lenders.  Financial reform was essential because the excesses of the banks, mortgage lenders and Wall Street were the proximate cause of this great recession. Yet Republicans advocate the same old “free market” that didn’t work and rail against “big government” that would hold big business accountable and call for tax cuts for the wealthy.  It’s very clear whose interests they serve.

Democrats know how the economy works and have been applying effective measures to recover from recession.  What creates jobs is demand for goods and services, not tax cuts for the rich. And when consumer spending drops off, the government must — and sometimes is legally required — to step in with spending to restore the economy. That’s what the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act or “The Stimulus” was all about. It included tax cuts benefiting 98% of working Americans and grants to state and local entities for transportation, public safety, housing and community development, education and energy projects.  And, despite claims to the contrary, it IS working. Seventy percent of the $787 billion has been spent, deadlines for distributing the funds have been met with few complaints of fraud or abuse. Most importantly, it will save or create 3.5 million jobs by the end of the year, including critical jobs such as police, firefighters, teachers and emergency responders.  Getting back the millions of jobs we’ve lost is going to take more time, but the economy is recovering.

But hear this: Congressional Republicans have openly said that, if they regain control, they will de-fund the stimulus and thus kill the recovery.  What they deride as “excessive spending” is simply our tax dollars returning to us.  In my state of Texas projects have so far received $14 billion, second only to California among state recipients.  And my county alone has received $8.7 million. Yet Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry spouted threats of secession. Even with this boost to our economy, our state government is in the red around $20 billion as a result of his poor leadership.

Then there’s health insurance reform, which Republicans have openly said they intend to take from YOU and give back to the corporate profiteers in health insurance. This reform established that, in the United States as in every other advanced country, access to health care is a right, not a privilege. On September 23, a number of requirements that stop insurance company abuses went into effect. Republicans claim we didn’t want this reform, but the truth is that a clear majority demanded it and many are dissatisfied now only because they are unaware of benefits that have just started. Furthermore, of those dissatisfied with the reforms, by a 2 to 1 margin it is because they wanted more, not less, reform.

There’s a long list of other Democratic accomplishments — college student aid reform and expansion, children’s health insurance expansion, improved veterans’ services, enhanced border security through both federal programs and grants to border sheriffs. In fact and despite Republican opposition to everything, even things they previously suggested, this has been one of the most productive Congresses in history.  We wanted change, we voted for it, we got it — and now it’s imperative to protect it.

Time has long passed for Texas Republican Governor Perry to graze his corporate-funded pastures. Aside from the state’s $20 billion shortfall, there is also the problem of public education funding. When federal stimulus funds of $3.2 billion were designated for Texas education, Perry used it for other purposes in violation of the Texas Constitution. Then, as a condition for receiving $830 million more for education, Texas must guarantee no drop in education funding for 3 years. Amazingly, instead of using this money for Texas school kids, Texas Attorney General Abbott filed suit against the feds and Perry proposed a $260 million cut in education.  Meanwhile, Texas ranks 32nd among states in per-pupil spending and near the bottom on graduation rates and SAT scores.  Rick Perry doesn’t know or care that our future depends on Texas education. And Attorney General Abbott doesn’t know the law. It’s time to replace these incompetents with Democratic public servants of quality – Bill White for Governor and Barbara Ann Radnofsky for Attorney General.

Furthermore, Republicans advocate a Texas law like Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, and Abbott entered the federal lawsuit on the side of Arizona. This law is really about suppression of our Hispanic community as a whole, citizens and non-citizens alike. But our governor and attorney general are not interested in representing all the people of Texas; Democrats are.

The Republican Party has turned itself entirely over to the tea party ideology of divisiveness, prejudice and obstruction of progress. Their demagoguery, laced with lies about their opponents and misrepresentation of how government works, will motivate some to vote. Yet the public policies they advocate of low taxes, low services and deregulation would empower big corporations and the wealthy at the expense of small businesses and average Americans.

This is why it is imperative that the Aware Who Care vote like our lives depend on it. We have to keep saying “Yes, we can” or the Party of No certainly will take us back to the Dark Ages.

Moving the Progressive Agenda in the Democratic Party

December 20, 2009

If we’re disappointed in the direction of recent events, progressives should take heart and double down on efforts to bring about change by working within the Democratic Party.

First, consider that it was NOT ALL Democrats who have given in to corporate greed in both the health care and financial reforms.  In fact MOST have not and the platform for the Democratic Party called for universal health care.  And we are going to get SOME reforms that WILL help millions of people.  It’s NOT enough, but it’s NOT nothing.

Second, unlike the situation when Republicans were in the bare majority but had support of some key Democrats, today with Democrats having a nominal super majority, there are NO progressive Republicans assisting with their agenda.  About 40+ Democratic Senators and 200+ Democratic Congress Members are progressive.  Clearly the problem is that there are a sufficient number of corporatist Democrats who wield inordinate power.

Third, some members of Obama’s staff and cabinet are enthralled to the corporatists, but not all are; and he will move more progressive if we the people make him do so.

Fourth, this trend toward corporate control of the government has been going on for 30 years; we should not be so naïve to assume we can change the trend of the entire society in a few months or a year.

Finally,  because the mass media is corporate-owned, there is little support for facts and ideas that support progressive goals.  Today we have one major media outlet that is entirely devoted to the corporate agenda, Faux News.  This means we need to make changes in the media and maximize use of the internet for rational, fact-based, and effective political change.

Instead of throwing the entire Democratic Congress or Obama under the bus, we progressives should be:

  1. Boosting support for those Democrats and Independents like Bernie Sanders who stood with the people
  2. Identifying progressive Democrats to run against the corporatist Dems in the primaries and support those challengers
  3. Identifying progressive Democrats to run for the currently Republican seats of Congress and support them
  4. Maintaining the pressure on Obama to take progressive options and change his staff and cabinet to more progressives.  There’s a way of telling him what we want without demonizing him and tagging him with labels like “sellout.”  And
  5. Boosting progressive media of all kinds; maximize use of the internet.

To be sure, the corporatists really like to hear progressives attacking the Democrats or Obama and saying they’re not going to turn out and vote in 2010 or 2012, or advocating third parties, rallies in the street, “kill the bill,” etc.  The corporate banksters are well aware that the Republican Party has self-destructed.  Now they want to see the same happen to Democrats because the ONLY effective control on corporate power can be a government controlled by and beholding to the people.  They WANT to so fracture American society that the government can pose NO restraint upon them whatsoever.

I say resist the urge to fracture the Democratic Party and demonize Democrats.  Be smart.  Be effective.  Draw together progressives for effective action in the only political party that has a prayer of moving government in a more progressive direction. (It does take a major political party to get anything done.)  With Obama in the lead, Democrats already have budged the agenda a bit in these past 11 months; reinforcing that is our best hope of becoming the change we all seek.