"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“All-Power-Or-No-Power Tea Party Stuff”: Purist Progressives Who Don’t Want Power Or Relevancy

I have already made what I consider a reasonable progressive case against a Clinton-Warren ticket, but there are some unreasonable progressive cases out there.

Even if Warren cut a deal to endorse Clinton and serve in her administration, it’s not clear whether all of her backers — or Sanders’ steadfast supporters — would automatically jump aboard the Hillary bandwagon.

“I find it highly improbable that a leading voice in the progressive movement, whether it be Elizabeth Warren or someone else, would want to be sitting in the vice president’s office or in the Cabinet,” said Jonathan Tasini, a New York-based Sanders supporter who isn’t ready to give up the fight for Bernie. “Would Warren or any true progressive be willing to make the obvious compromises that a moderate corporate Democrat Hillary would demand? I don’t think so.”

Politico might have mentioned that Jonathan Tasini ran in a Democratic primary against Clinton’s 2006 Senate reelection bid, but they didn’t. He got a whopping seventeen percent of New York state Democrats’ votes. Then he threatened to run against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in 2010 before deciding to wage a doomed House campaign against Charlie Rangel instead. I don’t begrudge the guy’s desire to challenge the Establishment in New York, but he’s lucky if he speaks for 17% of the people there.

Progressives like Tasini are so anti-establishmentarian, and so reflexively suspicious of power, that they don’t actually want any for themselves. Not really. If you want to argue that Warren is more valuable as a senator than she could be as a vice-president, or that Sanders could get more done as the Chairman of the Budget Committee than he could cooling his heels in the Naval Observatory, I think those are entirely defensible arguments. But this dismissal of the value of having progressive champions chosen to be first-in-line to the presidency is something to behold.

It wasn’t too long ago that there were no Progressive Caucus members in the Senate. The Iraq War and its aftermath has certainly changed that. Former House progressives Ed Markey, Sherrod Brown, Tammy Baldwin, Mazie Hirono and Bernie Sanders are all serving in the Senate today, along with folks like Brian Schatz, Martin Heinrich, Tom Udall, Al Franken, and Jeff Merkley who are pretty progressive in their own right. When Elizabeth Warren looks around, she doesn’t feel like she’s all alone.

But, still, nothing says you’ve arrived like getting put on a presidential ticket. That’s the opposite of the pariah status progressives have suffered under since the Reagan Revolution kicked into full swing. From a progressive point of view, Warren isn’t necessarily a better pick ideologically than any of the others on the above list, but she’s more famous and a more gifted politician (at this point) than the others. She’s also a proven success at the inside bureaucratic game, which she proved when getting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau set up in the face of withering opposition.

The idea that a “true” progressive wouldn’t sully themselves by association with a Clinton presidency is a rejection of the advances progressives have made, and it’s a recipe for continued marginalization and irrelevancy. What I object to is not the rational assessment that a particular progressive (whether Sanders, Warren or someone else) might be more influential in a role other than the vice-presidency. What I find galling is the idea that no good progressive should be willing to serve “in the vice president’s office or in the Cabinet” of a Clinton administration because it would involve making compromises.

As George W. Bush said, the president is the decider, and anyone who serves the president must accept that they sometimes have to salute decisions they didn’t recommend. This all-power-or-no-power no compromise attitude is Tea Party stuff.

It’s laughable.


By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 12, 2016

May 14, 2016 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, Progressives, Sanders Supporters | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Family Values Hypocrisy”: We Need To Think More About “Positive Liberty”, The Ability To Realize Certain Goals In Our Lives

Politicians talk about family values but do almost nothing to help families. They talk about parental responsibility but do almost nothing to help parents. They talk about self-sufficiency but do precious little to make self-sufficiency a reality for those who must struggle hardest to achieve it.

How often can we hear that government should be more responsive to the problems Americans face now? But the vogue for simply assuming that government cannot — or should not — do much of anything about those problems leads to paralysis. This, in turn, further increases disaffection from government.

For all these reasons, it was exciting last week to see Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut introduce the FAMILY Act, the acronym standing for their Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act. The bill would provide partial income for up to 12 weeks of leave for new parents and for other family demands, such as care for a sick family member, including a domestic partner.

How far behind the rest of the world is our country on this quintessential family values matter? The Post’s Amy Joyce cited a Harvard University study in 2004 noting that of 168 countries it examined, 163 had some form of paid maternity leave. We weren’t one of the 163. Joyce observed that “the U.S. is on par with places like Papua New Guinea and Swaziland when it comes to paid family leave.”

The usual knock on proposals of this sort is that they would put an excessive economic burden on employers — or cost the federal government money it doesn’t have. Gillibrand and DeLauro, both Democrats, solve this problem by establishing FAMILY as an insurance program. Premiums would range from about $72 to $227 a year, depending on a person’s income. The maximum benefit is capped at $4,000 a month. They expect the average monthly benefit to be less than half that.

There is nothing revolutionary about this proposal. It builds on the existing (and highly popular) Family and Medical Leave Act, which requires unpaid leave and was enacted two decades ago. It is modest in comparison with leave policies in other well-off countries.

Yet in light of Congress’s dismal record since the Republican takeover of the House in 2010, it would be revolutionary to see any law passed that empowered individuals and families to ease their everyday difficulties.

Our current discussion of what constitutes “freedom” is shaped far too much by a deeply flawed right-wing notion that every action by government is a threat to personal liberty and that the one and only priority of those who care about keeping people free is for government to do less than it does.

This perspective ignores the many ways over the course of our history in which government has expanded the autonomy of our citizens. Consider how much less freedom so many of us would have without civil rights or voting rights laws, without government student loans, without labor laws, without public schools and without Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. (And we don’t take seriously enough the implications of a most basic fact of our national story: that it took big government in Washington to outlaw slavery.)

Gillibrand’s role in championing this proposal also deserves attention. She is known nationally for her battle on behalf of victims of sexual assault in the military. But she has put forward five bills labeled as an “American Opportunity Agenda.” All of them involve ideas that have won broad support over many years. Besides pressing for paid family leave, she is calling for a minimum wage increase, affordable child care, universal pre-kindergarten programs and equal pay for equal work.

At a time when the political news is dominated by a debate between do-little conservatism and do-nothing conservatism — which is to say, between a right-tilting Republican establishment and the radical tea party — Gillibrand’s package includes building blocks for a broader counter-vision inspired by the idea of an Empowering Government.

Yes, we need to protect what the philosophers call “negative liberty.” There are, indeed, many things that government should never be able to do to us. But we need to think more about “positive liberty,” the ability to realize certain goals in our lives. Democratic government can create the framework in which we have more power to reach those ends.

And surely a country that honors the devotion of family members to each other should want to make it at least a little easier for them to do their jobs.


By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, December 15, 2013

December 16, 2013 Posted by | Family Values | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“This Isn’t Complicated”: Congress Must Fix The Bankrupt Student Loan Proposals

Interest rates on student loans will double on July 1 unless Congress acts. Since the phrase “congressional action” has become an oxymoron, this will quickly degenerate into an unnecessary crisis, requiring parents and students to threaten their legislators to get any relief.

Why is action even a question? There is a universal consensus — left, right and center — that it is vital to our nation to educate the next generation. If we want to compete as a high-wage, high-skill country, our children will need the best in college or advanced technical training. And all agree that gaining that higher education is a necessary, if not sufficient, requirement for entering the middle class.

So just as we pay for public education for kindergarten through 12th grade, we should ensure that advanced training or a public college education is available for all who earn it. None of this is even vaguely controversial.

Yet, despite this consensus, we are pricing college out of the reach of more and more families. State support for public universities has lagged. Increasingly, the costs have been privatized, with the bill sent to students and families.

With incomes stagnant for all but the wealthy few, the result, not surprisingly, has been an explosion of student debt. U.S. students and parents now owe an estimated $1.1 trillion in student loan debt, a sum greater than credit card or automobile debt. In 2005, average student loan debt was just over $17,000. By 2012, it was above $27,250, increasing more than 50 percent in just seven years.

With the debt burden rising and good jobs scarce, the result is calamity. Thirty-five percent of millennials — debtors under 30 — are seriously delinquent on their payments. In total, delinquent student debtors on the verge of default owe $113 billion, more than the total sums state governments spent on higher education in 2012.

The young people who do everything we ask of them — study, graduate, go on to higher education — end up deep in a hole. Burdened by debt, they have a hard time affording cars or apartments. Starting a family becomes difficult, a down payment on a home an impossible dream. This not only crushes the dreams of our best young people; it puts a real damper on the economy.

This isn’t complicated. Washington should be moving boldly to make advanced education affordable for all. The federal government should be increasing grants to states for public colleges, on the condition that the states increase their own contributions and act to curb college costs. The government should crack down on private colleges that ripoff students. And of course, college expenses should be subsidized so that successful young people don’t graduate into debtor’s prison.

But common sense is an endangered species inside Washington’s beltway. Interest rates on federally subsidized Stafford loans are about to double to 6.8 percent. Republicans have passed a “solution” that pegs loan rates to the rate of a 10-year Treasury note plus an arbitrary 2.5 percent. (Or plus 4.5 percent for parental PLUS loans). Loans fluctuate each year with interest rates, with a cap of 8.5 percent for student loans and a stunning 10.5 percent for parental loans. Kids will end up paying more, while the government will make billions on the deal for deficit reduction. But we should be subsidizing the next generation to get the education they need, not making money off of them.

President Obama’s plan isn’t much better. He sets the rate at the 10-year Treasury note rate plus .93 percent for subsidized Stafford loans (3.93 percent for parental loans) with no cap. He does call for limiting what students have to pay to 10 percent of their income, insuring that students aren’t condemned to bankruptcy. His plan is “budget neutral.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has offered a plan that makes a lot of sense. She suggests we offer students the same rate that the Federal Reserve charges to big banks (about .75 percent) for the next year, while Congress gets serious about a permanent fix. Senators Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) suggest that the Congress do the easy thing, simply extend the current rates for two years, paying for it with the closing of various loopholes.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), like Warren, also makes sense. She would allow students and graduates to refinance into fixed 4 percent loans.

Is it any wonder that Americans grow cynical? Multinational corporations and wealthy investors stash literally trillions abroad to avoid taxes. The big banks rake in trillions in subsidies and discounted loan rates to rescue them from their own excesses. But Congress finds it impossible to make it affordable for the next generation to get advanced education and training.

As always, common sense won’t come to Washington unless citizens mobilize to force it on Congress. With graduations marked by student demonstrations across the country and pickets outside of Sallie Mae, the giant student loan bank, that movement may have begun. Student loans may be to this generation what the draft was to the boomers – the government folly that afflicts them personally and rouses them to act.


By: Katrina vanden Heuvel, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, June 5, 2013

June 9, 2013 Posted by | Congress, Education | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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