Eliminate Filibuster Now: A "First 100 Days" of Year 2, Avoid Supreme Court Fight, Win 2010 Elections.

Police Lt.: Well, Denham, the airplanes got him.
Denham: No, it wasn't the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast (King Kong, 1933)

The filibuster will be eliminated this year. One, and possibly two, Justices will retire at the end of the term in June. There is a 100% guarantee that Republicans will filibuster anyone President Obama appoints, claiming approval should await the outcome of the November elections. The President has shown a belief, unsupported by events, to try to be acceptable at least to some Republicans so they will vote for him, in this case, his nominee.

They won't.

So, we will get a lukewarm nominee, and no Supreme Court Justice. The Republicans know theatre very well--that situation will be perceived as the pathetic end of a dysfunctional government.

At that point, Democrats will truly be in a no-win position. If they eliminate the filibuster at that time, for that single purpose, Republicans will have a couple of months right before the election to denounce the 'trickery' to get 'activist' Justices seated. Nonetheless, they will have to eliminate the filibuster then because not to do so would alienate all their constituencies, and guarantee a shellacking in the 2010 elections.

More importantly, Democrats will be in a no-win position because the government will have been dysfunctional for another year and, despite it being Republicans' fault, the Democrats will be blamed because they are in control. And, they have 59 votes, more than Republicans ever had when they rammed through their agenda, and ran the country into the ground.

So, why not recognize the inevitable? Eliminate the filibuster right now. Then, the Republicans' pompous posturing will dissipate after a couple of months now, not near the election, and the Democrats will have a chance to do a "First Hundred Days" of year 2, to pass a robust agenda that will indeed have brought about change:

1) A jobs bill that actually creates jobs;
2) Approve all the President's appointments, together, one vote.
3) A financial reform bill that incorporates Elizabeth Warren's consumer protection agency and (my hope) reinstitution of Glass-Steagall.
4) Healthcare reform incorporating Joe Lieberman's former love, buy-in to medicare for those 55 and older; and a public option; and a combination of taxing high-end plans + a surtax on the wealthy (House + Senate version).
5) Student loan reform
6) Energy tax and rebate (Senator Cantwell's proposal).

While the Republicans bellyache about being steamrollered, Democrats can pass the agenda for which the nation voted in 2008, but soured because of the dithering and dealmaking the existence of the filibuster created. Without the filibuster, no one would have had to talk to Joe Lieberman or Blanche Lincoln or Ben Nelson. [And, since no one would have had to talk to them, I bet they would have been more supportive!].

Without a filibuster, when the summer arrives, and the 1-2 Justices announce their retirements, the President can nominate really good people to the bench. One might suspect that the caliber of those people would be significantly higher than whom he might choose in the vain attempt to get Republican support.

Today, the world is disintegrating. Republicans fear the President's success, both at home and abroad. So does al-Qaeda and Ahmadinejad. They are all reveling in his troubles, because his capacity to force change abroad is limited by his inability to do it at home.

I am late to the "end the filibuster" movement because I worry about what Bush et al. might have done if there were no filibuster then. Social security would have been privatized--and decimated by the financial collapse. Stem cell research would have been totally outlawed (passed twice by the House).

But, I am willing to take those future chances, because the country and the world cannot await an even greater than 60-vote majority that Lyndon Johnson had in the 1960s that will never happen. Eliminating the filibuster means we have to deliver for the American people, and maintain constant vigilance against another radical rightwing takeover.

Although the President is not himself a "boomer", those who control the Congress are. Many of them had their hopes and dreams for a better America, and a safer and more just world, dashed when Robert Kennedy was assassinated. It was then hijacked by George W Bush.

This is their last chance. It starts with eliminating the filibuster.

Now.

 

Weekly Audit: Just Who is Obama fighting for?

By Zach Carter, Media Consortium Blogger

Progressives have waited a year for President Barack Obama to roll up his sleeves and fight for serious financial reform. Last week, he finally jumped in the ring, telling weak-kneed Senators to stand up to Wall Street and endorsing a critical ban on risky securities trading.

But while it was good to see Obama start throwing financial punches against the banks, this week he also started throwing them at workers. His recent rhetoric on implementing a spending freeze to reduce the deficit is an economic catastrophe in the making. It indicates that Obama is willing to sacrifice jobs to try and win over Republicans.

A spending freeze would kill jobs

A three-year spending freeze is crazy talk. It’s a right-wing ideologue’s dream that accomplishes nothing and drives millions of people out of work. John McCain campaigned on it during his 2008 presidential run. Our long-term deficit problems are tied to the rising cost of health care. If you want to fix the deficit, fix health care. In the short-term, there is no deficit problem. In fact, the U.S. fiscal position looks very good compared to many European nations.

As Matthew Rothschild notes for The Progressive, a spending freeze would kill any legislation to create jobs. With unemployment at 10%, the economy desperately needs another round of government spending to put people back to work. While the abrupt policy reversal is clearly a political ploy, voters care much more about results than they care about ideology. If Obama actively sabotages the job market to win over conservative deficit-hawks, he’ll be putting his political future in serious jeopardy.

And yet, as Steve Benen notes for The Washington Monthly, Obama’s recent, ramped-up rhetoric against banks still marks a significant change in tone. For most of the year, Obama hasn’t been involved in the financial reform debate at all, letting Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner capitulate to Wall Street and the politicians it owns. Benen highlights the end of Obama’s speech announcing his new banking rules on Jan. 21. Obama says:

So if these folks want a fight, it’s a fight I’m ready to have. And my resolve is only strengthened when I see a return to old practices at some of the very firms fighting reform; and when I see soaring profits and obscene bonuses at some of the very firms claiming that they can’t lend more to small business, they can’t keep credit card rates low, they can’t pay a fee to refund taxpayers for the bailout without passing on the cost to shareholders or customers — that’s the claims they’re making. It’s exactly this kind of irresponsibility that makes clear reform is necessary.

Saving the CFPA

Katrina vanden Huevel lays out Obama’s new financial reform agenda in a column for The Nation, praising a new $117 billion tax on the nation’s largest banks, a plan to cap overall bank size, and a proposal to ban high-risk trading by economically essential commercial banks (more on that later).

But vanden Huevel also rightfully denounces recent indications that Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT) may cave to lobbyist pressure and drop the measure to create a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA) from the Senate’s financial reform bill.

The death of the CFPA would be a devastating blow to reform. Existing bank regulatory agencies see their primary job as protecting bank profits, meaning that any time the interests of the U.S. consumer conflict with those of bank balance sheets, the regulators have shafted consumers. Current federal banking regulators not only failed to enforce consumer protection laws, they went so far as to join the bank lobby in suing state regulators who were trying to protect households from predatory lending.

Fortunately, Obama isn’t taking Dodd’s bank lobby-induced cowardice sitting down. At Talking Points Memo, Rachel Slajda highlights a New York Times report that claims Obama met with Dodd and told him that the CFPA is a “non-negotiable.”

Commercial banks are important

There’s a lot to like in Obama’s plan to bar commercial banks from participating in risky securities trading. As I emphasize in a piece for AlterNet, commercial banks form the backbone of the U.S. economy. They’re the institutions that accept your paychecks as deposits and keep businesses moving with loans. They also form the core of the economy’s payments system. Without commercial banks, nobody can pay anybody else for goods and services—the economy literally shuts down.

Nevertheless, in the late 1990s, regulators and lawmakers tore down the walls between commercial banking and riskier, complex securities trading, allowing these critical economic utilities to gamble in the capital markets like high-flying hedge funds. That kind of behavior puts the entire economy in jeopardy, and Obama’s proposal to end such behavior is very urgently needed.

But, as vanden Huevel and I both note, Obama’s cap on bank size is a little too timid. Obama indicated that he wants to prevent big banks from getting bigger going forward. That misses the point.

Bustin’ up “too big to fail”

Financial giants like Citigroup and Bank of America are already much too big and pose an economic threat. That’s why we refer to them as “too big to fail,” and why the government had to devote over $17 trillion to saving them. Obama must cap bank size and break up our behemoth banks into companies that are small enough to fail without wreaking havoc on the economy. A good rule of thumb: 1% of gross domestic product.

Shouting down the bank lobbyists

In Mother Jones, David Corn emphasizes that Obama’s credentials as a serious reformer depend more on his policy maneuvering than on his rhetoric. While it has been extremely promising see Obama finally demanding something serious from the financial giants that taxpayers saved, he’ll have to shout down the bank lobbyists to secure meaningful economic—or political—gains. Corn writes:

If Obama aims to be widely regarded as a warrior for the middle class, he will have to take some mighty swings that cut through the clutter. Proclaiming ‘I am a fighter’ will not be enough. He will have to name his foes (financial institutions, insurance companies, Republicans, and perhaps recalcitrant Democrats) and truly exchange blows.

Obama’s stance on the CFPA alone should be enough to get the lobbyists into a lather, but he’ll have to keep up the fight on multiple fronts if he wants to protect our economy from the Wall Street recklessness that spurred millions of foreclosures and sent the unemployment rate soaring into double digits.

Last week, Obama finally told us he was willing to fight for economic change. Now it looks like he’s going to attack anyone who is looking for a job. Let’s hope he turns it around before it’s too late.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Audit for a complete list of articles on economic issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Mulch, The Pulse and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

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