Armageddon Again

I think that this is a long and winding process. But I think at the end of the day, members are not going to want to be in their districts, senators are not going to want to be in their districts when their constituents find out on the 1st of January that their taxes have gone up by several thousand dollars. - Robert Gibbs/Press Secretary

Can someone help me out here; why is it that every time the wealthy in this country are facing any type of loss of income through taxes or corporate malfeasance the situation becomes the onset of Armageddon for the rest of us? Remember the beginning of this “recession” at the end of the Bush Administration that was brought on by the investment community and bankers gambling with our economy? We were on the brink of Armageddon and had to pony up 800 billion dollars to rescue our economy which was being held hostage by the same people who were handing out multi-million dollar bonuses right up until the day of the bail-out.

Now two years later we are faced with another Armageddon this time over tax-cuts for the wealthy. If we don’t extend all the tax-cuts we will have another “great recession”, the stock market will tank, and we will suffer double-digit unemployment. Really. That’s funny when Bill Clinton enacted them not only did our economy not go into free fall, but it actually laid the foundation for one our biggest economic expansions. I agree with Mr. Tom Buffenbarger, President of the Machinist Union when he said that when the Bush tax-cuts were enacted his members who make a decent living barely felt any change and so having them expire will have little effect. He went on to state that for his members it is about sacrifice for the good of the country and if paying a few hundred dollars a year to insure the long-term health of America they would consider it an honor. It would be an honor because they still have jobs.

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Gibbs is Wrong: It Isn't About the Professional Left

On Tuesday, Robert Gibbs made comments about the "professional left" being "crazy" for attacking Obama. Then he backpedaled away from those comments by saying, "I watch too much cable, I admit." If he was watching cable last week, this is what he might have seen:

Now, it looks like I'm attacking the president from the left since I say he should be more progressive. And I have written in the past about the value of doing just that. But the reality is that this isn't about left or right. That whole paradigm is wrong.

If I was more of a liberal, I might have been ecstatic about the 30 million new people that will have health insurance under Obama's reform. That's basically lower income people getting government subsidies.

If I was more of a liberal, I might be mad at Obama for dragging his heels on fixing Don't Ask, Don't Tell. But I know he's getting to that. As annoyingly political as his split the difference stances are on this issue and gay marriage (which he is comically opposed to), I can live with slow progress as long as we're on the right road.

If I was more of a liberal, I might be mad at the amount of stimulus spending. They think it's way too low. I'm a real deficit hawk, so I'm torn on that issue.

This isn't about whether Obama is liberal enough. It's about whether he's actually going to challenge the system or just be a clog in it. The system is fundamentally corrupt. Our politicians and their staffs are bought by the highest bidder. They then use the government to funnel taxpayer money to the people who bought them. Conservatives are just as angry about that as liberals are.

So, that's why so many of us are mad that the president didn't fight for the public option. It wasn't that the public option is some sort of liberal magic cure-all. It's that it would have provided real competition to the private insurance companies. Instead Obama not only left the system exactly as it was, but instituted a mandate that would funnel even more people into the arms of those same companies.

The public option was a bellwether. It signaled which direction he was going in - and that turned out to be in a corporatist direction that leaves the system wholly unchanged.

We got more of the same when the drug companies got the same deal as they did under Bush - the government cannot negotiate prices with them and we cannot import drugs from other countries (i.e., another unnatural monopoly imposed by the government).

We got more of the same when the big banks got out of financial reform relatively unscathed. They're still too big to fail. They're still doing risky bets with taxpayer backed money. They're still in charge.

The large defense contractors are also just as large as they were before. Actually, they're bigger because Obama not only escalated the war in Afghanistan, but increased the already record breaking Bush budgets at the Pentagon. And the game remained the same.

Do you see a pattern here? Corporate and special interest money always wins out. That's what we're worried about! That is what we're challenging Obama on - because that is not the change we voted for.

I guess the president and his staff think they're clever because they played the same old Washington game a little better. I guess they think they couldn't have done any better. I guess they think that this is the best they could do given the state of Washington. But that's the whole point. We didn't elect them to accept the Washington status quo as reality. We elected them to challenge and ultimately change that reality. And it seems like, on that count, they didn't even try. That's what we're so disappointed by.

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Gibbs is Wrong: It Isn't About the Professional Left

On Tuesday, Robert Gibbs made comments about the "professional left" being "crazy" for attacking Obama. Then he backpedaled away from those comments by saying, "I watch too much cable, I admit." If he was watching cable last week, this is what he might have seen:

Now, it looks like I'm attacking the president from the left since I say he should be more progressive. And I have written in the past about the value of doing just that. But the reality is that this isn't about left or right. That whole paradigm is wrong.

If I was more of a liberal, I might have been ecstatic about the 30 million new people that will have health insurance under Obama's reform. That's basically lower income people getting government subsidies.

If I was more of a liberal, I might be mad at Obama for dragging his heels on fixing Don't Ask, Don't Tell. But I know he's getting to that. As annoyingly political as his split the difference stances are on this issue and gay marriage (which he is comically opposed to), I can live with slow progress as long as we're on the right road.

If I was more of a liberal, I might be mad at the amount of stimulus spending. They think it's way too low. I'm a real deficit hawk, so I'm torn on that issue.

This isn't about whether Obama is liberal enough. It's about whether he's actually going to challenge the system or just be a clog in it. The system is fundamentally corrupt. Our politicians and their staffs are bought by the highest bidder. They then use the government to funnel taxpayer money to the people who bought them. Conservatives are just as angry about that as liberals are.

So, that's why so many of us are mad that the president didn't fight for the public option. It wasn't that the public option is some sort of liberal magic cure-all. It's that it would have provided real competition to the private insurance companies. Instead Obama not only left the system exactly as it was, but instituted a mandate that would funnel even more people into the arms of those same companies.

The public option was a bellwether. It signaled which direction he was going in - and that turned out to be in a corporatist direction that leaves the system wholly unchanged.

We got more of the same when the drug companies got the same deal as they did under Bush - the government cannot negotiate prices with them and we cannot import drugs from other countries (i.e., another unnatural monopoly imposed by the government).

We got more of the same when the big banks got out of financial reform relatively unscathed. They're still too big to fail. They're still doing risky bets with taxpayer backed money. They're still in charge.

The large defense contractors are also just as large as they were before. Actually, they're bigger because Obama not only escalated the war in Afghanistan, but increased the already record breaking Bush budgets at the Pentagon. And the game remained the same.

Do you see a pattern here? Corporate and special interest money always wins out. That's what we're worried about! That is what we're challenging Obama on - because that is not the change we voted for.

I guess the president and his staff think they're clever because they played the same old Washington game a little better. I guess they think they couldn't have done any better. I guess they think that this is the best they could do given the state of Washington. But that's the whole point. We didn't elect them to accept the Washington status quo as reality. We elected them to challenge and ultimately change that reality. And it seems like, on that count, they didn't even try. That's what we're so disappointed by.

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Coming up to March 21st, raids undermine White House talk of immigration reform

From the Restore Fairness blog.

With less than a week to go, advocates across the country are gearing up to “March for America,” the massive mobilization for immigration reform where 100,000 supporters are expected to descend on the nation’s capital on March 21st. In anticipation of the march, members of the National Day Labor Organizing Network (NDLON) have set off from different parts of the country to Washington D.C., with the aim of building support amongst local communities on the way and calling attention to the desperate need for reform of immigration laws that tear families apart and repress the immigrant community.

The Puente Movement, and their “Human Rights Caravan” of day laborers, advocates and community members left Phoenix on March 6th for a three-week, awareness-raising journey through Arizona that will culminate in Washington D.C. on March 21st. As part of their efforts, they have been organizing events in small towns and big cities to highlight the civil and human rights crisis in Arizona and other places where large communities are impacted by increased enforcement policies. On March 13th, the caravan was joined by Rep. Luis Gutierrez in Houston for a large rally that called for immigration reform. On the East Coast, several day laborers from New York and New Jersey began a 300-mile “Walk for Human Dignity” on Saturday, March 13th. Inspired by the courageous “Trail of Dreams” walkers, they will be stopping at various day labor corners, churches and worker centers on their way to Washington D.C.

So is all this buzz around the “march” reaching Washington D.C.? When President Obama announced three meetings on the issue of immigration reform last Thursday (March 11th), it seemed like the message that immigrant rights advocates across the country were sending out was finally hitting home. After the President had a “feisty” meeting with representatives from immigrant rights groups on Thursday morning, Sen. Schumer and Sen. Graham presented their legislative plans for the bill on comprehensive immigration reform in the Oval office. The Senators requested the President for his support in ensuring bipartisan support for the bill, and while the President committed his “unwavering support” to reforming immigration laws, he gave no concrete plan of action or time-line for moving forward. However, as summed up in a New York Times editorial about the meetings that President Obama had with immigrant rights advocates, with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and with Sen. Charles Schumer and Sen. Lindsey Graham, “What we’d rather know is when the bill is coming, what it will look like and what he is going to do to get it passed. Enough with the talk.”

In a statement released by the White House after the meetings-

Today I met with Senators Schumer and Graham and was pleased to learn of their progress in forging a proposal to fix our broken immigration system. I look forward to reviewing their promising framework, and every American should applaud their efforts to reach across party lines…I also heard from a diverse group of grassroots leaders from around the country about the growing coalition that is working to build momentum for this critical issue. I am optimistic that their efforts will contribute to a favorable climate for moving forward. I told both the Senators and the community leaders that my commitment to comprehensive immigration reform is unwavering, and that I will continue to be their partner in this important effort.

As indicated by White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, it seems that while immigration remains an important issue for President Obama, it is not a priority in this election year, thereby making the concrete action that the Obama administration had promised within the first year of office, seem like a distant dream. It is clear that the meetings were a result of the mounting pressure for action on immigration reform from the grassroots and community level. In spite of the build-up towards the nation-wide mobilization on March 21st, the outcome of the meetings, beyond a reiteration of the promise of support, remains unclear.

As if to highlight just how pressing the need for reform of the broken immigration system is, while Obama was meeting with advocates who were frustrated with increased enforcement and deportations under the Obama administration and anxious to enlist his support for moving reform forward, a series of raids in Maryland led to the arrest and detention of 29 workers. Not far from D.C. on Thursday morning, Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducted simultaneous raids in Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties at two restaurants, several residences and an office. On Friday, advocates from the immigrant rights organization Casa de Maryland were back outside the White House, but rather than meeting with the President, they had gathered to protest the raids and splitting of families as a result of enforcement policies. Gustavo Torres, Executive Director of Casa de Maryland denounced the raids-

Everyday, tens of thousands of hardworking immigrants in Maryland leave their families to go to work, and tonight twenty-nine of our brothers are detained as their families are left to grieve…This is not an acceptable way to treat members of our community who work hard every day to make Maryland strong for us all.

In the face of the push for the nation-wide push for reform, the efforts of mobilization towards the March for America, and the Presidential meetings, it is not difficult to wonder about the timing of the ICE raids in Maryland. Either way, the continuation of such unjust and inhumane enforcement policies is unacceptable. We can only hope that the final push for support over the next week bears fruit and the impact of the march in Washington D.C. is felt by everyone.

A New York Times op-ed states that the “March for America” could be the “game changer” in the equation, so come to Washington D.C. and make it count! Like we said before, this is your march, so see you at the National Mall in Washington D.C.!

Photo courtesy of flickr.com/photos/americasvoice

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Going Nuclear

The Obama Administration will make available $8.3 billion in loan guarantees to build two new nuclear energy power plants, the first in over 30 years. The loan guarantees are to assist the Southern Company to build two nuclear reactors in Burke county, Georgia, outside Augusta. The story in The Hill:

In an effort to embrace a keystone of Republican energy proposals, President Barack Obama announced Tuesday that his administration will make available $8.3 billion in loan guarantees for the construction of two new nuclear power plants.



The president acknowledged that his announcement puts him at odds with many environmentalists, but he called on Republicans to get on board with other carbon-cutting proposals that along with new nuclear plants will curb greenhouse emissions.



The president, in remarks in Lanham, Md., said that the two new plants — the first in the U.S. in almost 30 years — will create thousands of construction jobs and 800 permanent jobs. 




Obama said he raised the idea of tripling loan guarantees for the construction of nuclear plants with Republican congressional leaders last week, and he thinks "there is real common ground here."





"And my administration will be working to build on areas of agreement, so that we can pass a bipartisan energy and climate bill through the Senate," Obama said.





In defending himself against allies on the left who oppose the construction of new plants, Obama said that the U.S. "cannot continue to be mired in the same old debates between left and right; between environmentalists and entrepreneurs."



"Now, I know it has long been assumed that those who champion the environment are opposed to nuclear power," Obama said. "But the fact is, even though we have not broken ground on a new nuclear plant in nearly 30 years ... nuclear energy remains our largest source of fuel that produces no carbon emissions."

It's tiring to hear the President speak of doing things for the sake of bipartisanship. Sell nuclear energy on its merits but this nonsense that we have to do things in order to placate the implacable has to stop. There are very powerful, no pun intended, arguments for the necessity of nuclear energy.

Currently the 109 operating nuclear plants generate just 17 percent of US electrical power, down from 20 percent 15 years ago. Meanwhile coal now generates 50 percent of US electricity up from 38 percent in 1990. These percentages likely need to be reversed because climate has become a more urgent issue than the disposal of nuclear waste. Ultimately, we will have to invest more heavily in wind, solar, tide and other forms of alternative energy but these technologies are not scalable to the degree required in the timeframe required and we need to have a bridge platform in the interim. The argument for nuclear can be made and it does not require kowtowing to the GOP.

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