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Calling All Progressive Democrats: A Time To Fight

Should you find your enthusiasm for activist politics waning, Robert Reich has a Monday morning energizer in his latest blog entry “Don’t Be Silenced,” via RSN:

We’re on the cusp of the 2012 election. What will it be about? It seems reasonably certain President Obama will be confronted by a putative Republican candidate who:Believes corporations are people, wants to cut the top corporate rate to 25% (from the current 35%) and no longer require they pay tax on foreign income, who will eliminate capital gains and dividend taxes on anyone earning less than $250,000 a year, raise the retirement age for Social Security and turn Medicaid into block grants to states, seek a balanced-budged amendment to the Constitution, require any regulatory agency issuing a new regulation repeal another regulation of equal cost (regardless of the benefits), and seek repeal of Obama’s healthcare plan.

Or one who:

Believes the Federal Reserve is treasonous when it expands the money supply, doubts human beings evolved from more primitive forms of life, seeks to abolish the Internal Revenue Service and shift most public services to the states, thinks Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, while governor took a meat axe to public education and presided over an economy that generated large numbers of near-minimum-wage jobs, and who will shut down most federal regulatory agencies, cut corporate taxes, and seek repeal of Obama’s healthcare plan.

That’s the default scenario, the one which will become reality if Democratic apathy is allowed to fester. The rest of Reich’s column is more of a challenge to progressive/left Dems to fight for the causes that once made the Democratic Party a great champion of working people:

…Within these narrow confines progressive ideas won’t get an airing. Even though poverty and unemployment will almost surely stay sky-high, wages will stagnate or continue to fall, inequality will widen, and deficit hawks will create an indelible (and false) impression that the nation can’t afford to do much about any of it – proposals to reverse these trends are unlikely to be heard.Neither party’s presidential candidate will propose to tame CEO pay, create more tax brackets at the top and raise the highest marginal rates back to their levels in the 1950s and 1960s (that is, 70 to 90 percent), and match the capital-gains rate with ordinary income.

You won’t hear a call to strengthen labor unions and increase the bargaining power of ordinary workers.

Don’t expect an argument for resurrecting the Glass-Steagall Act, thereby separating commercial from investment banking and stopping Wall Street’s most lucrative and dangerous practices.

You won’t hear there’s no reason to cut Medicare and Medicaid – that a better means of taming health-care costs is to use these programs’ bargaining clout with drug companies and hospitals to obtain better deals and to shift from fee-for-services to fee for healthy outcomes…Nor will you hear why we must move toward Medicare for all.

Nor why the best approach to assuring Social Security’s long-term solvency is to lift the ceiling on income subject to Social Security payroll taxes.

Don’t expect any reference to the absurdity of spending more on the military than do all other countries put together, and the waste and futility of an unending and undeclared war against Islamic extremism – especially when we have so much to do at home…

Although proposals like these are more important and relevant than ever, they won’t be part of the upcoming presidential election.

The choice facing progressive Dems is between whining and hand-wringing about inadequate leadership of the Party on the one hand and doing something to change it on the other. Reich sounds the call to arms to put real progressive policies back on the agenda:

…I urge you to speak out about them – at town halls, candidate forums, and public events. Continue to mobilize and organize around them. Talk with your local media about them. Use social media to get the truth out.Don’t be silenced by Democrats who say by doing so we’ll jeopardize the President’s re-election. If anything we’ll be painting him as more of a centrist than Republicans want the public to believe. And we’ll be preserving the possibility (however faint) of a progressive agenda if he’s reelected.

Re-read that last graph. That alone is reason enough to push hard from the left inside the party — it actually strengthens Dem defenses against the GOP default scenario and it lays the foundation for a stronger progressive future for the Democratic Party, win or lose in 2012.

Still not juiced? Reich’s clincher:

Remember, too, the presidential race isn’t the only one occurring in 2012. More than a third of Senate seats and every House seat will be decided on, as well as numerous governorships and state races. Making a ruckus about these issues could push some candidates in this direction – particularly since, as polls show, much of the public agrees.Most importantly, by continuing to push and prod we give hope to countless Americans on the verge of giving up. We give back to them the courage of their own convictions, and thereby lay the groundwork for a future progressive agenda – to take back America from the privileged and powerful, and restore broad-based prosperity.

Grumble and gripe about inadequate leadership in your party, if you will. But do something this week to advance progressive policies and federal, state and local candidates who support them. Your actions add legitimacy to your critique.

 

By: J. P. Green, The Democratic Strategist, September 19, 2011

September 24, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Constitution, Corporations, Democracy, Democrats, Economy, Education, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Income Gap, Independents, Politics, President Obama, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty, Wall Street | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five Things All the GOP Candidates Agree On And They’re Terrifying

By the very nature of political journalism, the attention of those covering the 2012 Republican presidential nominating contest tends to be focused on areas of disagreement between the candidates, as well as on the policy positions and messages they are eager to use against Barack Obama. But there are a host of other issues where the Republican candidates are in too much agreement to create a lot of controversy during debates or gin up excitement in the popular media. Areas of agreement, after all, rarely provoke shock or drive readership. But the fact that the Republican Party has reached such a stable consensus on such a great number of far-right positions is in many ways a more shocking phenomenon than the rare topic on which they disagree. Here are just a few areas of consensus on which the rightward lurch of the GOP during the last few years has become remarkably apparent:

1. Hard money. With the exception of Ron Paul’s serial campaigns and a failed 1988 effort by Jack Kemp, it’s been a very long time since Republican presidential candidates flirted with the gold standard or even talked about currency polices. Recent assaults by 2012 candidates on Ben Bernanke and demands for audits of the Fed reflect a consensus in favor of deflationary monetary policies and elimination of any Fed mission other than preventing inflation. When combined with unconditional GOP hostility to stimulative fiscal policies—another new development—this position all but guarantees that a 2012 Republican victory will help usher in a longer and deeper recession than would otherwise be the case.

2. Anti-unionism. While national Republican candidates have always perceived the labor movement as a partisan enemy, they haven’t generally championed overtly anti-labor legislation. Last Thursday, however, they all backed legislation to strip the National Labor Relations Board of its power to prevent plant relocations designed to retaliate against legally protected union activities (power the NLRB is exercising in the famous Boeing case involving presidential primary hotspot South Carolina). Meanwhile, at least two major candidates, Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul, have endorsed a national right-to-work law, and Romney and Perry have also encouraged states like New Hampshire to adopt right-to-work laws.

3. Radical anti-environmentalism. Until quite recently, Republicans running for president paid lip service to environmental protection as a legitimate national priority, typically differentiating themselves from Democrats by favoring less regulatory enforcement approaches and more careful assessment of economic costs and market mechanisms. The new mood in the GOP is perhaps best exemplified by Herman Cain’s proposal at the most recent presidential debate that “victims” of the Environmental Protection Agency (apparently, energy industry or utility executives) should dominate a commission to review environmental regulations—an idea quickly endorsed by Rick Perry. In fact, this approach might represent the middle-of-the-road within the party, given the many calls by other Republicans (including presidential candidates Paul, Bachmann, and Gingrich) for the outright abolition of EPA.

4.Radical anti-abortion activism. Gone are the days when at least one major Republican candidate (e.g., Rudy Giuliani in 2008) could be counted on to appeal to pro-choice Republicans by expressing some reluctance to embrace an immediate abolition of abortion rights. Now the only real intramural controversy on abortion has mainly surrounded a sweeping pledge proffered to candidates by the Susan B. Anthony List—one that would bind their executive as well as judicial appointments, and require an effort to cut off federal funds to institutions only tangentially involved in abortions. Despite this fact, only Mitt Romney and Herman Cain have refused to sign. Both, however, have reiterated their support for the reversal of Roe v. Wade and a constitutional amendment to ban abortion forever (though Romney has said that’s not achievable at present).

5. No role for government in the economy. Most remarkably, the 2012 candidate field appears to agree that there is absolutely nothing the federal government can do to improve the economy—other than disabling itself as quickly as possible. Entirely missing are the kind of modest initiatives for job training, temporary income support, or fiscal relief for hard-pressed state and local governments that Republicans in the past have favored as a conservative alternative to big government counter-cyclical schemes. Also missing are any rhetorical gestures towards the public-sector role in fostering a good economic climate, whether through better schools, basic research, infrastructure projects, and other public investments (the very term has been demonized as synonymous with irresponsible spending).

Add all this up, and it’s apparent the Republican Party has become identified with a radically conservative world-view in which environmental regulations and collective bargaining by workers have strangled the economy; deregulation, federal spending cuts, and deflation of the currency are the only immediate remedies; and the path back to national righteousness will require restoration of the kinds of mores—including criminalization of abortion—that prevailed before things started going to hell in the 1960s. That Republicans hardly even argue about such things anymore makes the party’s transformation that much more striking—if less noticeable to the news media and the population at large.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, The New Republic, September 19, 2011

September 24, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Climate Change, Collective Bargaining, Congress, Conservatives, Economic Recovery, Economy, Education, Elections, Environment, Global Warming, GOP, Government, Ideology, Journalists, Media, Politics, Press, Pundits, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty, Unions | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Conservative Word Games Manipulate Immigration Debate

Gabriel Thompson’s “How the Right Made Racism Sound Fair–and Changed Immigration Politics” at Colorlines.com goes long and deep into the psychology of conservative lingo and terminology used by the MSM in the immigration debate. A teaser:

…Colorlines.com reviewed the archives of the nation’s largest-circulation newspapers to compare how often their articles describe people as “illegal” or “alien” versus describing them as “undocumented” or “unauthorized.” We found a striking and growing imbalance, particularly at key moments in the immigration reform debate. In 2006 and 2007, for example, years in which Congress engaged a pitched battle over immigration reform, the New York Times published 1,483 articles in which people were labeled as “illegal” or “alien;” just 171 articles used the adjectives “undocumented” or “unauthorized.”That imbalance isn’t coincidental. In the wake of 9/11, as immigration politics have grown more heated and media organizations have worked to codify language they deem neutral, pollsters in both parties have pushed their leaders toward a punitive framework for discussing immigration. Conservatives have done this unabashedly to rally their base; Democrats have shifted rhetoric with the hopes that it will make their reform proposals more palatable to centrists. But to date, the result has only been to move the political center ever rightward–and to turn the conversation about immigrants violently ugly.

Thompson, author of “Working in the Shadows: A Year of Doing the Jobs (Most) Americans Won’t Do,” has written an excellent analysis which merits a close read — especially by Dem candidates and staffers who are involved in immigration politics.

 

By: The Democratic Strategist Staff, September 21, 2011

September 24, 2011 Posted by | Bigotry, Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Education, Elections, Equal Rights, GOP, Human Rights, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Teaparty, Voters | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obama Isn’t Trying To Start ‘Class Warfare’ — He Wants To End The Republican War On The Middle Class

History will record that on September 19, 2011, the Republicans made a huge political miscalculation — a miscalculation that could potentially doom their chances for victory next year.

If I were a Republican, the last thing I’d want to talk about is “class warfare.”

For 30 years — whenever they have been in power — Republicans and their Wall Street/CEO allies have conducted a sustained, effective war on the American middle class.

Much of the success of their war has resulted from their insistence that it didn’t exist.  They have talked instead about how the economy needs to reward all those “job creators” whose beneficence will rain down economic prosperity on the rest of us.

They fund right-wing organizations that divert our attention by whipping up worry that gay marriage will somehow undermine heterosexual relationships.  They start wars that help pad the bottom lines of defense contractors but do nothing to make us safer.

And all the while they quietly rig the economic game so that all of the growth in the Gross Domestic Product goes into the hands of the top two percent of the population — while they cut our pay, destroy our unions and do their level best to cut our Social Security and Medicare.

There has been a “class war” all right — a war on the middle class.  And the middle class has been on the losing end.

Today the truly rich control a higher percent of our wealth and income than at any other time in generations.  Income inequality is higher than at any time since 1928 — right before the Great Depression.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, “the richest five percent of households obtained roughly 82 percent of all the nation’s gains in wealth between 1983 and 2009. The bottom 60 percent of households actually had less wealth in 2009 than in 1983… ”

Today, 400 families control more wealth than 150 million Americans — almost half of our population.

American workers have become more and more productive — but they haven’t shared in the income generated by that increased productivity, so now they can’t afford to buy the products and services they produce.

The success of the Wall Street/CEO/Republican war on the middle class rests, in part, in the old frog in boiling water story.  If you put a frog in a pot of boiling water, they say, the frog will jump right out.  But if you put a frog in a pot and gradually turn up the heat until it boils you end up with a cooked frog.

Republican policies have gradually shifted wealth, income and power from the middle class — and those who aspire to be middle class — into their own hands and for obvious reasons they haven’t wanted to focus too much attention on “class warfare.”

So now if the Republicans want to talk about “class warfare” — in the words of George Bush — “bring ’em on.”

In fact, President Obama isn’t proposing to start a “class war” — he wants to end the war on the middle class.

Among other things, he has proposed that America live by the “Buffett Rule” — by Warren Buffett’s suggestion that he and his fellow billionaires should have to pay effective tax rates at least as high as their own secretary’s.

Obama pointed out yesterday that requiring hedge fund managers to pay effective tax rates as high as plumbers and teachers was not “class warfare.” The choice is clear: either you increase taxes on the wealthy — or dramatically cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits. It is, as the President said, “simple math.”

Whereas Republican proposals to rein in the deficit by cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits are intended to continue this war on the middle class, the President’s plan — in stark contrast — addresses the three factors that actually caused the deficit in the first place.

From 1993 until 2000, Bill Clinton had successfully pushed back much of the Republican anti-middle class agenda.  When he left office, America had a prosperous, growing economy, increasing middle class incomes, and budget surpluses as far as the eye could see.

Bush changed all that. The anti-middle class warriors were back in power, and they took the offensive.  They passed massive new tax breaks for the rich, and set out to break unions.

Three Bush/Republican policies led directly to today’s deficit:

• Giant tax cuts for the wealthy;
• Two unpaid-for wars that will ultimately cost trillions;
• Trickle-down economic policies that did not create one net private sector job and ultimately caused the financial collapse that led to the Great Recession.

The Obama deficit proposal reduces the deficit by directly addressing these three factors — that actually caused the deficit — rather than demanding that the budget be balanced by taking even more out of the pockets of ordinary Americans.

A trillion dollars — 1.2 trillion with interest — is cut by ending the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those who argue that you shouldn’t count these reductions toward deficit reduction, because Obama already planned to end these wars, are ignoring the fact that they were a big reason why we have a deficit in the first place.

Second, Obama’s proposal eliminates the Bush tax cuts for the rich — and demands that millionaires, billionaires, oil companies, and CEO’s who fly around in corporate jets, pay their fair share.

Finally, the Obama plan includes a robust jobs package to jumpstart the economy and put America back to work.  The Republicans have no jobs plan at all — none whatsoever.  In fact, their plan is to simply let the Wall Street bankers and CEO’s continue to siphon as much as possible from the pockets of ordinary Americans.

The combination of Obama’s jobs and budget plans have set the stage for a clear, sharp battle for the soul of America. They have posed a stark contrast that is not framed as a battle over conflicting policies and programs — but as a struggle between right and wrong.

That battle will continue throughout this fall — and into next year’s elections.

These proposals, coupled with the President’s urgent, passionate advocacy, have transformed the political landscape.

The major iconic fights that will dominate American politics over the next 14 months will be the President’s jobs proposal, his call on millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share, and the Democratic defense of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Democrats and Progressives have the high political ground on every one of these defining issues — and I don’t just mean slightly higher political ground — I mean political ground like Mount Everest.

By huge margins, Americans prefer to raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires rather than cut Social Security and Medicare.  The choice is not even close — in most polls something like 8 to 1.

And who can possibly question that the number one priority of voters everywhere in America is jobs?

The Republican policies that led to the Great Recession did more damage than anyone knew.  Many Republicans actually thought they would benefit politically by the long, slow economic slog that ensued in its aftermath. After all, no sitting President had won re-election in a century when the economy was not good or materially improving — except one.

Harry Truman won re-election in the midst of a bad economy in 1948 by running against the “Do-nothing Republican Congress.”

President Obama’s jobs and budget proposals have set the stage for just that kind of battle.

His proposals have simultaneously energized the progressive base and appealed to middle class swing voters — especially seniors — who agree entirely that the government should keep its hands off the Social Security and Medicare benefits they have earned, and turn instead to taxes on millionaires and billionaires to close the budget deficit that the Republican “class warfare” policies have created.

And it won’t hurt that these proposals have prompted the Republicans to turn the spotlight on the subject of “class warfare” itself.  They should be careful what they wish for.

 

By: Robert Creamer, Strategist and Author, Published in HuffPost, September 20, 2011

September 24, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Corporations, Deficits, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, Federal Budget, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Medicare, Politics, President Obama, Republicans, Right Wing, Social Security, Teaparty, Wall Street, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

With HPV Vaccine Rumors, Michele Bachmann Is The New Joe McCarthy

Joe McCarthy knew how to rile up the base. He knew his political hot buttons. He knew how to stoke fear and create a movement. He knew how to build a following by ratcheting up the rhetoric, the facts be damned.

Sadly, Rep. Michele Bachmann has followed in his mold: questioning the  patriotism of members of Congress, fanning the flames of hatred of gays  and lesbians and, now, attacking the vaccine to prevent cervical cancer.

This  HPV political maneuver may be her last. This should be her “have you no  sense of decency” moment, just as the Army-McCarthy hearing was in the  1950s.

Somehow, the anti-vaccine movement has gained steam in the United  States. Rumors that traditional vaccines caused autism began to spread.  They were disproved but not before many parents declined to vaccinate  their children.

A Science Times article in the New York Times (“Remark on  Vaccine Could Ripple for Years”) points to a three to four year drop in  vaccination rates after such publicity. Diseases such as measles and  whooping cough, supposedly under control, have seen outbreaks. According  to the Times, “measles cases in the United States reached a 15-year high last spring. ”

The  HPV virus is, unfortunately, far too common. More than 25 percent of  women 14 to 49 have been infected, 44 percent in the 20 to 24 age range.  Not only can HPV cause cervical cancer but it can cause other cancers  as well.

Last year only 32 percent of teenage girls had been given the vaccine.

If Michele Bachmann’s scare tactics prove true to form, there will be  a drop in the number of girls and women protected. By putting out false  information, by repeating the statement of someone at the debate that  the vaccine caused mental retardation, she set back the effort to save  women’s lives. Hardly a pro-life position.

In fact, the vaccine can prevent unnecessary surgery for several  hundred thousand women a year and even allow women to successfully carry  a pregnancy to term.

Over 35 million doses have been distributed without any serious side  effects. Thank goodness doctors and clinics and reputable research  organizations moved quickly to take on Michele Bachmann.

But,  make no mistake, she even stayed on the issue in Thursday’s debate. This  woman won’t quit, no matter the facts or the implications of her  actions.

She sees a political opening and she takes it, she sees a chance to  rile the base and she seizes it, she sees a good sound bite and off she  goes.

If, in fact, the experts are correct and this will set back  vaccinations for years, Bachmann will need to do more than apologize for  her McCarthy-like tactics. As he ruined innocent lives, she may  responsible for doing the same. She will have to look herself in the  mirror and know that her actions led to more women losing their lives.

By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, September 23, 2011

September 24, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, GOP, Health Care, Ideologues, Ideology, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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