Why Democrats Fail at Politicking

Right when we were all ready to be pleasantly surprised that the payroll tax cut extension would pass Congress without further shenanigans, came today’s ugly bombshell from the House Republican leadership. After Republicans had already managed to strip the “Millionaires’ surtax” from the version that just passed the Senate, Congressman John Boehner disingenuously invented outrage about the Democrats’ compromise to have the tax cut last only 2 months before requiring further Congressional action (something that Congressman Boehner didn’t seem to mind during the debt ceiling kerfuffle that he also invented). His goal is clearly to leverage further concessions from Democrats, just to allow them to pass this single modest tax cut, all the while protecting the richest and ensuring that the economy will not recover before the presidential election.

So, to put together this whole outrageous saga, Democrats gave away concession after concession for the privilege of giving Republicans a tax cut they themselves would have demanded only two years ago.

Republicans got what they wanted: no new taxes for the richest of the richest Americans at a time when nearly half of the country is living in poverty or with low income. And very little that will actually help the economy, which is apparently great for Republicans because it hurts the President’s re-election chances.

This latest outrage should remove all doubt: it is hardly the Democrats who are responsible for today’s unprecedented gridlock in Washington. It’s time to boot the obstructionist Tea Partiers.

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TAKE ACTION — Fix the Filibuster and End Corporate Abuse of Democracy

The filibuster is not in the US Constitution.  However, Senators have lately been abusing it in unprecedented amounts.  If you are frustrated with the logjam in the Senate, take action by urging your Senators to seek meaningful reform.  Also, visit Common Cause, which is working to fix the filibuster.

The nonpartisan Common Cause is also working to overturn the extremely harmfulCitizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court case that takes even more power from American citizens and gives it to corporations.  To take action, visit http://www.commoncause.org/site/pp.asp?c=dkLNK1MQIwG&b=5771765

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Constitutional Amendment Now!

We need a Constitutional amendment that very meaningfully restricts campaign contributions and lobbying.  The Citizens United Supreme Court opinion used a twisted interpretation of First Amendment “free speech” rights to allow corporations to spend enormous amounts of money for or against candidates right up to election day.  In a shockingly brazen example of judicial activism, the Supreme Court invalidated very important parts of the bipartisan McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law.

As Evelyn Messinger of PBS MediaShift writes,

…this will be the first general election since the so-called “Citizens United” Supreme Court decision, which tossed out the last vestiges of regulations limiting campaign financing. Among other effects, this will translate into a record numbers of attack ads next fall. Taken together, these two changes may profoundly affect our democracy…

Unless a Constitutional amendment is passed soon that limits corporate campaign money and lobbying power, individual Americans will become even more powerless in our democracy.  Unequal political power is the ultimate problem affecting our country, and all the other crises, from high joblessness, to CEOs bringing down their companies and escaping with no punishment, to high health-care costs, to crumbling infrastructure, to overwhelmed social safety nets, to a failing education system, stem from it.  If corporations have more power in our democracy than American citizens, then politicians do not have an incentive to solve our problems.

The current activist Supreme Court is completely out of touch with the real suffering that is happening here on the ground in America.  If they will strike down attempts to control corruption, like McCain-Feingold, then we must go around them and create our own Constitutional amendment.

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New Nicholas Kristof Column Gives Specific Demands for Occupy Wall Street

Nicholas Kristof’s new column in the New York Times has some great, specific ways to make Wall Street and the entire banking industry serve to better the economy, rather than to destabilize it:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/02/opinion/sunday/kristof-the-bankers-and-the-revolutionaries.html

The Occupy Wall Street movement that is currently gathering momentum in New York City needs to pay attention if it is going to be about anything more than just blowing off steam.

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Occupy Wall Street Protests an Enormous Opportunity

Reading about the Occupy Wall Street marches in New York (and around the world) has made me cautiously optimistic.  These are people marching against things that we are all upset about — the injustices that the political and economic establishment have been perpetrating on the vast majority of the rest of us.  Hopefully the protesters will translate their anger and frustration into demand for real changes like:

  • Demanding serious lobbying and campaign finance reform so that politicians don’t inevitably and automatically become slaves to a few big and rich interests and then promptly ignore the rest of us in order to get re-elected.  The Citizens United case will make things just get worse in the future.
  • Demanding stricter regulation of Wall Street, especially complicated instruments like credit default obligations (CDSs) that do not add to the overall economy and helped get us into this mess in the first place.
  • Demanding a fanatical focus on jobs by federal and state governments.  This means that the government will have to spend money.  That’s OK — improving our lives is the point of a government.  When the crisis finally ends, we’ll then have to get serious about paying off the debt.
  • Demanding that the government invest big in the safety net to take care of those of us who lose our jobs or assets as we head into a possible second-dip of the recession.  This includes job training, financial aid, healthcare subsidies, and more money for food stamps and mental and physical health programs, plus many more.
  • Demanding better funding for education and research because our education and scientific research competitiveness are slipping.  Also, these are absolutely vital for our long-term economic stability and strength.
  • Demanding an end to the filibuster to get rid of some of the outrageous logjam in Congress, so that maybe the people we elect can actually get something done instead of being held hostage by Senators defending corporate interests.

Wealth is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands while the rest of us, even the upper middle class, are having a hard time moving forward.  The Occupy Wall Street movement might be a response to the Tea Party’s confused, inflexible, and very harmful economic priorities.  Americans who are rightly frustrated with our worsening economic situation no longer have faith in the extreme and distractable Tea Party that held the government hostage during the debt negotiations.  People want something that actually answers their concerns.

The Tea Party was funded from the start by some of the same extremely wealthy people who have contributed to the injustices of unequal opportunity that we all now face (the Koch brothers are an obvious example).  Because it is funded and publicized by an ideologically extreme, super-wealthy elite, the Tea Party quickly took a turn toward ideological rigidity and wedge issues that benefit almost no one in these tough economic times: gun control, religious morality, and stoking racial fears.

But the worst of the Tea Party’s rigid ideology, in terms of its consequences for our economic prosperity, is the inflexible notion that the government should be drastically cut and that eradicating the debt is somehow a bigger priority in a deep recession than generating jobs.  When the majority of economists strongly oppose a movement’s main, inflexible economic goal, then you have to question whether to trust it.

Occupy Wall Street seems to be the only genuine movement for change now.  I wish them luck.

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Former Bush Administration Feuds Just Remind us of the Horrors of that Era

In the days after juicy details from ex-Vice President Dick Cheney’s new book hit the airwaves, Cheney and former Secretary of State Colin Powell have exchanged tired volleys of blame and self-defense.

Here’s an article.

Mr. Cheney’s complaints further expose the shocking amount of discord and infighting in the Bush Administration, and the punishments faced by more reasonable figures for crossing the rabid hardliners.  For all President Obama’s timidity, particularly in the face of economic hostage-taking by House Republicans, feuds like these among ex-Bush officials simply make the current president look more appealing.  Keep it up, Mr. Cheney, and we may re-elect President Obama in 2012.

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Growing Inequality in America

This is a set of graphs and diagrams from the magazine Mother Jones that show the alarming increase of inequality in America over the past few decades.  We should all be very worried about this.

http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/02/income-inequality-in-america-chart-graph

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