Vote Against Obama in Iowa

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is a crime against our constitution. It allows for the indefinite detention of US citizens by the military inside the US - without a trial. It's one of the worst laws ever passed in the US and it passed with nary a peep of opposition. I'm positive that a huge percentage of the population is not even aware of it, partly because the establishment media didn't even bother covering it.

 

But it appeared for a while that the one guy fighting against it was President Obama. I was incredibly encouraged by that. I shouldn't have been. It turned out at the end that he was threatening to veto the bill because he wanted it to have even more executive power, not less. This president has been a disaster for civil liberties. Every time I think about the fact that he used to be a constitutional law professor, I don't know whether to laugh or to cry. Indefinite detentions, summary executions of US citizens abroad without a trial, warrantless wiretapping and much, much more. All of the things we were outraged Bush did - and then some. Honestly, it makes me feel a little sick that I voted for him. At least, I could say that I fought tooth and nail against Bush.

And civil liberties abuses are the tip of the iceberg in disappointment with this president. Then there is the comedy of financial reform which doesn't reform a damn thing. There are the zero prosecutions of the top bankers who destroyed our economy through their fraud, took our money and now spit in our face with it. There is the extension of the Bush tax cuts. There is the cave in on nearly every negotiation (the payroll tax cut being the exception that proves the rule (by the way, he "won" on more tax cuts, a profoundly Republican idea)). His crowning achievement of healthcare reform was a proposal originally written by the Heritage Foundation. There isn't a Republican idea that President Obama didn't want to cuddle with and adopt as his own.

Now, the argument goes that he might be bad, but the Republicans are worse. Of course. Right now, Newt Gingrich is on the campaign trail arguing that Mitt Romney isn't kind enough to the rich. I'm not kidding. He is trying to make hay out of the fact that Romney takes capital taxes down to zero percent for only people making below $200,000. Newt thinks that's discrimination against the rich and he would take it down to zero for everybody. Then he would make your kids clean the rich kids' toilets in school.

I follow politics for a living; I'm not unaware of how hideous the Republican choices are. But that doesn't mean that we should pretend that President Obama has been brilliant because we're scared of the big, bad Republicans. That would be fundamentally dishonest.

And to be honest, I'm really disappointed that he does not have a primary opponent. This country is dying for someone who is going to take on the establishment. Who is that going to be on our side - Barack Obama? On that, I know whether to laugh or cry. Every time I think about the idea that President Obama might be against the establishment, I laugh and laugh and laugh. There is never been a guy who was this enamored with the establishment. If he had wrestling nickname it would be The Establishment.

The guy who appointed Tim Geithner, Ben Bernanke, Larry Summers, Rahm Emanuel and Bill Daley (and a list of hundreds of others, including two new Fed appointments, one of which is a Republican who worked for the Carlyle Group) is not a guy who is interested in changing the system at all. Change was a cutesy slogan he used to trick us into thinking he was on our side.

I would have loved a progressive alternative, but apparently we are not going to get one (except for Rocky Anderson running on the Justice Party ticket). Primaries are the perfect place to send a message without taking away votes in the general election. But it didn't happen because the Democratic establishment says we must fall in line because we wouldn't want to hurt the agenda of the president. The agenda of the president sucks and is deeply Republican. I'd love to at least get him to reconsider that agenda for a second.

But there is one thing we can do right now that doesn't really hurt the chances of the president getting re-elected and doesn't help Republicans one bit. It is an idea that Occupy Iowa came up with. In the Iowa caucuses you can vote for "uncommitted." In fact, since the 1970's "uncommitted" has won twice on the Democratic side and it beat Bob Dole in 1980. Of course, the Republican Party has shut down this option on their side. They say you can vote that way in the GOP field but they will not register those votes or send those delegates. Of course, they're the GOP; they have no interest in your dissent.

But if all of those people were to go and participate on the Democratic side they might have an effect. If "uncommitted" beat President Obama on the Democratic side in Iowa that would make some news. That might even get the attention of The Establishment. So far, he has only responded to right-wing pressure. He is the consummate politician, so if there was actually a little bit of pressure on his left he might have to respond to it, especially during an election season. Wouldn't it be amazing if President Obama acted like a progressive on some issue because he was worried about the voters?

By the way, this strategy also has the benefit of being accurate. I am "uncommitted" toward Obama. I'm uncommitted from supporting a guy that has walked all over our civil liberties, that thinks tax cuts are the only answer, that gave all of the money to the bankers and asked for nothing in return, that thinks the right-wing establishment has all of the answers. Uncommitted is the kindest word I have.

If you live in Iowa, please send a message to the President for the rest of us. We voted for change last time, apparently you didn't hear us. If you don't hear us soon, you might be the one that gets changed.

The Young Turks on Current

 

Can We Give “Job-Killing Regulations” a Rest?

Politicians love to go for the easy applause line and lately, in Washington, that has meant decrying “job-killing regulations.”

Republican candidates for president have all gone for this crowd-pleaser.

  • Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has promised to “tear down the vast edifice of regulations the Obama administration has imposed on the economy.”
  • Texas Governor Rick Perry claims he would halt all regulations and impose a sunset so that they would automatically expire.
  • Herman Cain claims that eliminating regulations would provide “an immediate boost for our weakened economy.”

Even President Obama has at times appeared to buy-in to this notion, ordering every agency to review its existing regulations to eliminate burdens on business, even though such analysis would have been completed when the regulation was first written.

It may be a crowd-pleaser, but it turns out that it simply isn’t true that regulations kill jobs. The Washington Post talked with some of the country’s top economists and experts on the relationship between job creation and regulations. The conclusion?

“Overall impact on employment is minimal.”

The truth is that regulations can impact jobs but don’t have much effect when it comes to employment. That means that a particular regulation might reduce jobs in one industry but create them in another. For example, a clean air regulation might reduce jobs at a dirty coal-fired power plant and create new jobs at a clean-burning natural gas plant. But, looking at the big picture, employers report that only 0.3% of layoffs are due to “government regulations/intervention.” That’s small potatoes compared with the 25% of jobs lost due to reduced demand for products and services in our weak economy.

While they may not have a big impact on jobs, regulations do have a big impact in a lot of other areas, namely in protecting workers, the public and the environment. So, let’s put “job-killing regulations” to rest. If our politicians are looking for new descriptions, how about “life-saving, people-protecting, society-benefiting regulations”? It’s not so catchy, but it has the benefit of being true.

How Obama Can Keep Latino Voters: Focus on Health and the Environment

President Obama spent most of the week in California, the state known as the electoral ATM. It was a smart way to close out the third quarter of the fund raising cycle. But even as the checks roll in, campaign watchers are assessing which candidates have energized which segments of the electoral map.

Judging from current numbers, Obama is developing a bit of a Latino problem.

A recent Gallup poll found that his approval ratings have fallen to 48 percent among Latino voters—the lowest since he became president. In 2008, Obama carried 57 percent of the Latino vote. Today, 48 percent say they would give him a second term. In New Mexico, his numbers 69 percent in 2008 to 58 percent right now.

There are several likely reasons for this drop. With the economy still faltering, unemployment rates among Latinos hover above 11 percent, two points higher than the rest of the nation. Meanwhile, Obama has yet to advance the comprehensive immigration reform he spoke about in the 2008 campaign.

This is not a voting block any candidate wants to trifle with. Roughly 22 million Hispanics are projected to be eligible to vote in 2012. Seventy-five percent of the Latino population is concentrated in eight states, where their numbers reach or exceed 1 million: California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Arizona, New Jersey, and Colorado.

Latino voters could decide several Congressional races in 2012, and maybe even the president if it gets close enough.

That’s why it is so critical for Obama to mobilize this base of support. Despite the dip in Obama’s approval ratings among Latinos, many will probably vote for Obama anyway. The question is: will they come out in big enough numbers to make a difference in battleground states.

If Obama really wants to reenergize these voters and get them to the polls, he needs to stand strong on something Latinos care deeply about: public health and the environment.

These are issues that cut close to home for many. Sixty-five percent of Latinos in the United States live in areas where the air is too polluted to meet federal public health standards. Fifteen percent live within 10 miles of a coal-fired power plant, one of the biggest sources of air pollution in the nation. Breathing air in these regions can lead to increased asthma attacks, bronchitis, cardiac disease, and cancer.

Most Latino voters view strong environmental safeguards and cleaner, more sustainable solutions as ways to protect their families. They will vote for leaders who fight for policies that bring safer air and cleaner water.

A poll of Latino voters across five western states found that 83 percent reject the false choice between protecting land, air, and water and having a good economy. The National Latino Coalition on Climate Change found that a majority of Latino respondents equated switching to clean energy with building a good economy.

Obama can win impassioned Latino support if he makes environment and public health a more central part of his platform. Many Latino leaders were deeply distressed when Obama abandoned stronger smog standards earlier this month. If he sides with polluters one too many times, he will fail to mobilize these critical voters.

But if he allows the EPA to continue releasing strong public health standards and if he keeps threatening to veto the dirty bills coming out of Congress, he can find common cause with the fastest growing population in the country.

How Obama Can Keep Latino Voters: Focus on Health and the Environment

President Obama spent most of the week in California, the state known as the electoral ATM. It was a smart way to close out the third quarter of the fund raising cycle. But even as the checks roll in, campaign watchers are assessing which candidates have energized which segments of the electoral map.

Judging from current numbers, Obama is developing a bit of a Latino problem.

A recent Gallup poll found that his approval ratings have fallen to 48 percent among Latino voters—the lowest since he became president. In 2008, Obama carried 57 percent of the Latino vote. Today, 48 percent say they would give him a second term. In New Mexico, his numbers 69 percent in 2008 to 58 percent right now.

There are several likely reasons for this drop. With the economy still faltering, unemployment rates among Latinos hover above 11 percent, two points higher than the rest of the nation. Meanwhile, Obama has yet to advance the comprehensive immigration reform he spoke about in the 2008 campaign.

This is not a voting block any candidate wants to trifle with. Roughly 22 million Hispanics are projected to be eligible to vote in 2012. Seventy-five percent of the Latino population is concentrated in eight states, where their numbers reach or exceed 1 million: California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Arizona, New Jersey, and Colorado.

Latino voters could decide several Congressional races in 2012, and maybe even the president if it gets close enough.

That’s why it is so critical for Obama to mobilize this base of support. Despite the dip in Obama’s approval ratings among Latinos, many will probably vote for Obama anyway. The question is: will they come out in big enough numbers to make a difference in battleground states.

If Obama really wants to reenergize these voters and get them to the polls, he needs to stand strong on something Latinos care deeply about: public health and the environment.

These are issues that cut close to home for many. Sixty-five percent of Latinos in the United States live in areas where the air is too polluted to meet federal public health standards. Fifteen percent live within 10 miles of a coal-fired power plant, one of the biggest sources of air pollution in the nation. Breathing air in these regions can lead to increased asthma attacks, bronchitis, cardiac disease, and cancer.

Most Latino voters view strong environmental safeguards and cleaner, more sustainable solutions as ways to protect their families. They will vote for leaders who fight for policies that bring safer air and cleaner water.

A poll of Latino voters across five western states found that 83 percent reject the false choice between protecting land, air, and water and having a good economy. The National Latino Coalition on Climate Change found that a majority of Latino respondents equated switching to clean energy with building a good economy.

Obama can win impassioned Latino support if he makes environment and public health a more central part of his platform. Many Latino leaders were deeply distressed when Obama abandoned stronger smog standards earlier this month. If he sides with polluters one too many times, he will fail to mobilize these critical voters.

But if he allows the EPA to continue releasing strong public health standards and if he keeps threatening to veto the dirty bills coming out of Congress, he can find common cause with the fastest growing population in the country.

President Obama's Decision on Ozone: Bad Policy and Bad Politics

I’ll admit it. I was originally a Hillary Clinton supporter in 2008. I liked then-Senator Obama’s passion but I was comforted by Clinton’s experience in what I felt was a tumultuous time. After Obama became the victor from the primaries, I enthusiastically got on board.

Now, I feel like sucker.

Last Friday, President Obama forced the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set aside a measure to reduce smog. If you breathe, this should be a big deal for you. The new smog rule would have prevented up to 12,000 premature deaths, 5,300 heart attacks and tens of thousands of cases of asthma attacks and other serious respiratory illnesses each year.

This is a decision that was solely in the President’s court. He ignored the EPA and the recommendation of the agency’s outside science advisors to side with polluting industries.

Why is the President now siding with polluters? He has taken strong environmental stands in the past. We saw the President push what was effectively the largest clean energy legislation ever passed as part of the initial stimulus bill. We stood with him as he pushed the climate bill in that first year. More recently, we saw the White House put us a road to reducing carbon pollution by making our cars cleaner.

But a number of recent moves are going in the opposite direction. The White House gave tentative approval to offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean. The Administration continues to move forward on steps to approve the Keystone pipeline. And now it is backing away from smog rules.

Why? The White House claims clean air protections would be too expensive. But this is a farce. Letting the polluters off the hook won’t save lives, won’t create jobs and won’t fuel innovation. It will, however, endanger the health and lives of children and seniors.

In fact, as NRDC’s Frances Beinecke said late last week, “clean air investments yield enormous returns. The smog standards would generate $37 billion in value for a cost of about $20 billion by 2020. Taken together, Clean Air Act standards generated approximately $1.3 trillion in public health and environmental benefits in 2010 alone for a cost of $50 billion. That's a value worth more than 9 percent of GDP for a cost of only .4 percent of GDP. The ratio of benefits to costs is more than 26 to 1.”

Why the White House is running away from this story is beyond me. This shouldn’t be about the economy because these safeguards will create jobs. And this retreat certainly isn’t going to get him any votes. In a June poll of likely voters commissioned by the American Lung Association found that 75 percent supported the EPA's effort to set stronger smog standards and 66 percent believed that EPA scientists-- not Congress -- should establish clean air standards. Is he is hoping to attract a few votes from right? Unlikely if you consider that only 24 percent of moderate Republicans and 7 percent of conservative Republicans think he is doing a good job according to the the most recent Gallup polling.

Color me confused. The only thing that makes sense is that the White House made a political calculation that it couldn’t win the message war against the Tea Party. The Tea Party has made “regulation” a dirty word when in fact regulations help keep us safe.

Environmental and public health regulations are what keep that industrial mill from dumping its toxic chemicals in the lake you fish in each summer. Regulations have been cleaning our air for decades.Regulations on buildings ensure that your home and office be built to withstand foreseeable natural disasters. Long gone are the days when machinery regularly maimed employees thanks to labor regulations. And a lack of regulations can lead to disaster – just look at the Wall Street crash and the part that lax regulations played in that disaster. The word “regulation” is really a synonym for “public safeguard.” When did that become a bad thing?

President Obama should reconsider this misguided move and redouble his efforts to protect clean air. He is going to have many opportunities in the coming days to right this wrong. The House will be voting as early this month to try to overturn the clean air standards the White House has moved forward with. But if we don’t weigh in, the Tea Party will set the agenda of this White House.

Where is the hope and change that we were promised in 2008? I suspect that a lot of people who walked precincts and stood in long lines to cast a vote for the President Obama in the last Presidential election are asking themselves the same question.

 

 

 

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