Is it Time for Democrats to Fight Obama?

You want to hear something really depressing? If John McCain had won the presidency, there is almost no chance he could have gotten the Bush tax cuts extended for the rich. Think about it. How was a Republican president going to get an overwhelmingly Democratic Senate and House to pass those tax cuts that they hated under Bush?

No, only a Democratic president could get a Democratic Congress to agree to tax cuts for the rich. So, in this sense, progressives are worse off for having a Democratic president than a Republican one.

Then, at least we would have known who we were fighting. Remember, Bush could barely, barely get these same tax cuts passed when the Republicans controlled both the Senate and the House!

Funny how the rich and powerful win no matter who is in charge and what party they claim to be from. And think about how much the political spectrum has shifted to the right that Bush had to use reconciliation and then barely got the tax cut through a Republican Congress whereas now a Senate with basically 59 Democrats just passed the same tax cuts with ease. Washington has fallen off a right-wing cliff and the media hardly noticed.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said this about the estate tax provision:

"We had the president--George W. Bush--we couldn't get it done then and we're getting it done here."

Ouch. Their victory is so overwhelming that the Republicans are brazenly bragging about how they couldn't even get Bush to do what Obama has done for them.

Finally, you have to ask why Democrats who were willing to fight Bush are crumbling in front of Obama? He claims to be the leader of your party, but honestly who cares? If he is doing the exact opposite of what you claim to stand for, why does it matter what he calls himself?

Democrats would certainly have fought a surge in Afghanistan if Bush was in charge. They would be complaining about warrantless wiretapping if Bush continued that program instead of Obama. They would have hated the monopoly that drug companies got in the health care legislation (because they went nuts over it when Bush made the same deal). And they would have gone apoplectic over these huge tax cuts for the rich. But under Obama, the defense contractors, the rich and the powerful have gotten almost everything they wanted and nary a peep was heard from the Democrats in Congress.

Here is the new memo - fight him, he's not on your side.

When I asked Rep. Jim McDermott some of these questions last night, he seemed at a loss for what to do next. You can feel his frustration and confusion as to how we got here with a Democratic president. Here are some of his quotes:

"Well, I think a lot of us are, in the caucus, we're not quite sure why this is happening. It doesn't make political sense what he did, and it doesn't make economic sense."

"I think that we are in serious trouble because the president simply does not seem willing to go after some things that I think he's going to have to if he's going to get anything done for the people of this country. He simply has, in my view, given up the willingness to fight for economic justice in this country."

"I think it's going to take us a while to get over what's happened here, and I really think... it is very hard to think how you're going to deal with the next round here, because the president has now shown that he can be bullied, and I don't want my president to be bullied."

"And I think he... we would be all much better if we were able to say, you know, that we're not going to back down, and that there's no excuse for us giving up like this. I mean, that's the hard part for me, is that it's giving up without a fight."

"[W]hen you start giving in on the kinds of things he's giving in on, you really worry that there is no way back from that. And I'm, I mean, that's why I said it was... this was Gettysburg, because it really is... that was the turning point in the war. And it really is a question of how you continue to rally your troops if you keep giving in on things that people really care about."

Until you get to a point where you're not sure he has the same idea of what "people really care about." He might have a different idea, a Republican idea. Or at the very least, a Washington idea of what people care about - so-called centrist compromises that somehow always benefit the establishment.

To watch the interview click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2dida2x3Sw

 

 

Weekly Audit: Tax Cuts for the Rich Extended

By Lindsay Beyerstein,  Media Consortium Blogger

Congressional Republicans and the White House  struck an agreement in principle on Monday night to extend all the Bush tax cuts for 2 more years in exchange for extending unemployment benefits. The GOP agreed to the so-called “Lincoln-Kyl compromise” a partial 2-year extension of the Bush estate tax cuts on estates worth over $5 million. If the deal had not been struck, estate taxes on estates over $5 million would have gone back up from 0% to the pre-cut rate of 55%. Instead, the rate will be 35% for the next 2 years.

The GOP also agreed to a short-term “stimulative” 2 percentage-point cut off the 6.2% payroll tax we all pay on income up to $106,800. The good news is that a payroll tax holiday will provide the most noticeable tax relief to low- and middle-income Americans. The bad news is that payroll taxes fund Social Security, so cutting the tax means starving a program that most directly benefits average people. Social Security is not in crisis yet, but steps like these could push the program into worse financial straights where significant benefit cuts become inevitable. It’s almost as if the GOP, having failed to spark panic about an as-yet non-existent Social Security crisis, is determined to engineer one.

All these gimmes for the rich were the price of a partial extension of unemployment benefits. The stakes couldn’t have been higher. If Congress had failed to act, 2 million people stood to lose their benefits this month and another 7 million would have run out before the end of next year, reports Andy Kroll of Mother Jones.

Meanwhile, unemployment continues to rise. The economy only added 39,000 jobs in November when analysts were expecting about 150,000. “At the beginning, some people just thought it was a printing error,” said reporter Motoko Rich on the New York Times‘ weekly business podcast. The overall unemployment rate climbed to 9.8%.

At ColorLines, Kai Wright argues that the time has come for President Obama to seize the opportunity to debunk conservatives’ bad faith arguments for tax cuts above all else:

At the same time, the anti-government crowd’s political hand—if forced—has never been weaker. A depressingly large number of middle-class and working-class Americans now know all too well what economists have long understood: You get a great deal more economic bang out of keeping lots of people from becoming destitute than you do by helping a few people horde wealth. People remain enraged about the no-strings-attached bank bailout, for instance, because they intuitively understand its ramifications. Wall Street is now enjoying a narrow, taxpayer-financed recovery while unemployment, hunger and poverty all continue climbing through the former middle class.

Extending UI makes sense

Tim Fernholtz of TAPPED tackles some of the bad arguments against extending unemployment insurance. Economist Greg Mankiw claims that extending unemployment insurance is just a surreptitious ploy to redistribute income to the poor from the wealthy. Actually, as Fernholtz points out, the point of a UI safety net is to prevent people, 3 million of them in 2009, from becoming poor in the first place. Poverty is very expensive for society at large. If we can keep the unemployed in their homes, spending their benefits in their communities, we can keep the socially corrosive effects of poverty at bay until the economy improves. The social costs of child poverty alone have been estimated at $500 billion a year, Fernholtz notes. The deeper we allow people to sink into poverty, the more difficult it will be for the economy to rebound. On this view, UI is a shared investment in a well-ordered society, not just a lifeline for jobless families.

Why corporate tax cuts won’t create jobs

Jack Rasmus of Working In These Times explains why tax cuts will not create jobs. Simply put, banks and big companies are sitting on over a trillion dollars. Among the nation’s biggest banks, lending to small and medium size businesses, the engines of job creation, has dwindled over 2009 and 2010. America’s biggest companies are sitting on a hoard of $1.84 trillion dollars, which they are not investing in job-creating projects. The Deficit Commission recommended slashing corporate taxes, ostensibly to spur investment and job creation, which would ultimately generate taxable income to help balance the budget. As Rasmus points out, this wishful thinking is predicated upon the assumption that if only corporations had more money, they would invest it to create jobs. The fact that companies are already sitting on huge piles of cash suggests that shoveling more moolah on the pile won’t change the basic dynamic. Perhaps companies are waiting to invest because they know that consumers aren’t keen to buy goods and services when they are unemployed or fearing job loss.

Economic disobedience

At In These Times, Andrew Oxford interviews sociologist Lisa Dodson about her new book on getting by in the low-wage economy. Her research shows that as economic instability mounts, many Americans are quietly taking matters into their own hands:

To understand how fair-minded people survive in an unfair economy, Dodson interviewed hundreds of low-wage workers and their employers across the country, examining what she terms the “economic disobedience” now pervasive in the low-wage sector. From a supervisor padding paychecks to a grocer sending food home with his employees, these acts of disobedience form the subject of her latest book, The Moral Underground: How Ordinary Americans Subvert an Unfair Economy.

Winner-take all economy

In an interview with Democracy Now!, Yale political science profesor and  Jacob Hacker explains why the Deficit Commission has it all wrong when it comes to tax cuts vs. unemployment benefits.

Hacker studies inequality. He has written a book on how the richest Americans cornered an unprecedented share of the country’s wealth for themselves over the past three decades. The richest Americans have never been in a better position to help the country grapple with the deficit. Yet, as Hacker points out, the Deficit Commission wants to balance the budget on the backs of middle- and lower-income Americans by cutting spending on programs that disproportionately benefit working people and readjusting the tax code to make it even more favorable to the rich.

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.

 

 

Napolitano, Obama and the Congressional Budget favor the DREAM becoming a reality

From the Restore Fairness blog-

Almost a decade after it was first introduced, the DREAM Act, a bill that, if passed, would give young undocumented adults who came to the U.S. as children and have lived here for an extended period of time and fulfilled certain criteria, a chance towards citizenship, is in the running to be passed once again.

In an effort to bring the DREAM Act up for a vote before the Senate while the Democrats still have a majority, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid and Majority Whip Richard Durbin filed a new version of the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act late night on Tuesday, November 30th. This new version of the DREAM Act,  S.3992, contains revisions to some key points that immigration restrictionists have had issue with in the past, in the hope that the revised version will address these issues and win the support of moderate lawmakers from both parties. An article in the Politico outlines some of these changes-

The latest version…would bar illegal immigrants from receiving in-state college tuition; drops the age of eligibility to 29 from 34; would not grant permanent legal status to anyone for at least 10 years; would restrict eligibility for those who commit certain misdemeanor crimes; and would limit individuals from being able to sponsor family members for U.S. citizenship, among other changes.

While there has been a mixed response to this conservative version of the DREAM Act, it is clear that the major compromises it offers are designed to win the 60 votes necessary to get it passed when it comes up for a vote. According to Jenny Werwa, the outreach and communications manager with the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the passage of this particular iteration of the DREAM Act bill would be a political “win” for immigrants rights advocates-

If they’ve put together this to create a new version, they must think they are going to get votes out of it. So for me, I’m optimistic about that, in terms of politically pushing the ball forward.

Since the first signs began to emerge that Sen. Reid would make good on his election campaign promise to introduce the DREAM Act before the end of the lame-duck session of Congress, a wide variety of people have spoken out in the support of the DREAM Act.

The first major move of support came from the White House, when President Obama, who has always been a supporter of the DREAM Act but has never publicly committed his support, told Democrats that he wanted it approved before the end of the 111th session of Congress. Moreover, he put forth a commitment to work “hand in glove” to ensure that the bill is passed, including a promise to call Senators himself, urging them to vote to pass the bill. Following this important avowal of support, the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan has also been advocating for the passage of the DREAM Act in a number of public appearances. Speaking to the New York Times last Monday, Mr. Duncan said-

I think we are fundamentally wrong on this as a nation. (Undocumented students) have played by all the rules, gone to school, worked hard, full attendance. Then they graduate and the doors of opportunity basically slam shut.

Hundreds of educational institutions and educators from around the country think that the thousands of young adults who were brought here as children, and have been through the school system and want to make something of their lives should be given a chance. They too have extended their support of the DREAM Act.

An extremely important public statement in favor of the DREAM Act came from DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano who said that the implementation of the DREAM Act would actually help the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) enforce immigration law more effectively. Speaking on Thursday at a conference call with the White House, Napolitano urged Republican lawmakers to see the DREAM Act as a complement to enforcement rather than an “amnesty” bill for undocumented immigrants. Emphasizing the DREAM Act’s relationship to smart enforcement, she said-

From where I sit I think it’s important to point out that it fits into a larger strategy of immigration enforcement and complements the Department of Homeland Security plan to prioritize enforcement resources to remove dangerous criminal aliens from the country…The DREAM Act is one thing that Congress can do right now to help the Department of Homeland Security do its job of enforcing immigration laws in the way that makes the most sense for public safety for our national security.

In addition to the thousands of advocates and young people who have taken part in rallies, sit-ins, protests and hunger strikes in all corners of the country, hoping to urge Members of Congress to vote in support of the bill, inter-faiths religious leaders have also raised their voices in support of all the young people who stand to benefit from the DREAM. On Tuesday, leaders from the Jewish, Islamic and Christian faiths banded together for a coordinated day of action, calling on Congressional leaders to pass the DREAM Act.

An important point in favor of the DREAM Act came from the Congressional Budget Office who released the long-awaited cost estimate of S. 3992, the latest version of the DREAM Act. Their findings showed that putting thousands of well educated, young, undocumented immigrants on the path to legalization would reduce the deficit by $1.4 billion over ten years.

Despite the numerous factions and argument in support of the DREAM Act, and the fact that a recent poll conducted throughout the country by First Focus found that 70% of adults were in favor of passing the bill, a number of Republican lawmakers are reluctant to get behind it. Although the DREAM Act has always enjoyed an element of bipartisan support, even those Republicans who supported the DREAM Act in previous years, have now rescinded their support. Jon Kyl (Arizona), John Cornyn (Texas), Bob Bennett (Utah), Sam Brownback (Kansas), Susan Collins (Maine), Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas), and John McCain (Arizona) are some of the Republican Members of Congress who supported the DREAM Act in the past.

The DREAM Act might come up for a vote early next week, and with it, the lives and dreams of about 2.1 million young people in the United States could change for the better. Take action NOW by calling your Members of Congress and urging them to vote for the DREAM!

Learn. Share. Act. Go to restorefairness.org

 

 

 

The Pillsbury Newsboy and the NPR Nazis

Roger Ailes, the Pillsbury Newsboy, hates NPR. Thinks they’re a bunch of Nazis. That’s no surprise. Most Republicans hate them. This week they hate NPR because they fired that poor, beleaguered liberal Juan Williams for admitting he’s a pusillanimous ninny who pisses his Sansabelts at the mere sight of a Muslim, just like Ailes and his stable of the Biggest Gigantic Screeching Heads.

Conservatives like Roger like to whine that NPR is single-handedly crushing conservative discourse in this nation.  Apparently Roger has very low self-esteem evidenced by the fact that his conservative gab goobs crush all his liberal competitors, including NPR, in the ratings. I guess he’s not only irrationally afraid of Muslims, but liberals too.

Whadaya Know Fanatics at Risk
Now anyone, left or right, can make the legitimate case that NPR doesn’t deserve funding. It’s not exactly like they’re as influential as say, Newscorp. They serve a narrow audience of opera lovers and Whadya Know fanatics, so it’s a safe bet the nation won’t perish without them.

Yes, times are tight and the government could use the money, but in the time Congress takes to vote on this, they’ll have spent about 10 times NPR’s annual budget. But then, that’s the sort of spectacular financial acumen they used to drive us into the dumper to begin with.

You could legitimately argue that NPR and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting shouldn’t get government funds, but you could say the same thing about our other government corporationsAmtrak and the Postal Service. But if a politician is taking donations from the direct mail lobby, they should STFU. Ditto for all the Midwestern pols who cry like babies every time Amtrak cuts back. It’s ghastly that 12 of their constituents who board trains in their state each year will surely swoon without their subsidized rail service.

And, NPR may be a government corporation, but it’s still a corporation. It has a board of directors and everything,  just like Chevron (one of their sponsors). Whatever happened to deregulation and staying out of a corporation’s business? After all, part of the reason it isn’t self-sufficient is that Congress severely limits the ways it can collect money. Come to think of it, that may be answer to high oil prices…but there I go talking like a socialist again.

Look, this country is in deep trouble whether you think Obama is a Kenyan  Kommie intent on crashing the country like an Islamic hijacker or that Boehner and Mitch are trying lurch the country back to 1879 when men were men and women were women (who MitchBo and the Boys don’t think deserve equal pay for equal work).

Slapping the Faces of Creationists
I admit it, sometimes I listen to public radio or watch public TV. There’s some interesting stuff on there and the bulk of  it has no ideological bent at all – unless you count those documentaries about animal evolution as a slap to the face of Creationists everywhere.

Even so, I could go for defunding them even if the Dems won’t. It would only offset the deficit by the amount it took me to type this sentence, but I do get that it’s importantly symbolic. I can even sympathize that it’s wrong to use public monies for purely political purposes, but so are the bucketloads of cash Republicans piss away politically preening to the great unwashed.

But if you’re going to defund them, be honest. It’s not about the money. It’s not about the librul programming. It’s not about the threat All Things Considered poses to conservatism. It’s not even about Juan Williams. It’s about being pains in the ass for the sake of being pains in the ass.

So conservatives, if you’ll cop to that, I’ll gladly picket the local NPR outlet and demand they return last year’s pledge to me.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

Bush Tax Cuts

 

White House Gives In On Bush Tax Cuts

Whatever happened to audacity? Win or lose, stick to your guns and make the Republicans vote against middle class tax cuts. Make them vote to protect unaffordable cuts for the rich while they rail against government deficits.

Word is that the White House will agree to extend all cuts for a year or two. Do they think that Congress will then be more responsible?

As E.J. Dionne Jr. of the Washington Post put it "Any wholesale extension would be a shameful and abject capitulation that would just prove how easy it is to bully Democrats."

 And posted here a few days ago: "During the lame duck session, Democrats should not capitulate, nor even compromise. It certainly does no good to have a short extension of the Bush tax cuts; that just puts them in the hands of a more Republican Congress. Why not just let let all cuts expire as the law specifies and introduce in this session a slightly reduced tax reduction for the middle class?

Let the Republicans vote against that. With the richest 1% of Americans now taking home about 25% of all income (compared to 9% in 1976), let the Republicans justify more benefits for the rich."

homer  www.altara.blogspot.com

 

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