Nel's New Day

December 31, 2018

Shutdown, Cracks in Democracy on Last Day of 2018

Filed under: Elections — trp2011 @ 5:05 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

Day Ten of Government Shutdown: Not satisfied with taking paychecks from 800,000 federal workers, almost half of them required to keep working, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has signed an executive order to freeze pay for about two million public employees in the coming year. He canceled a scheduled 2.1 percent pay raise that would almost keep wages up with rising inflation. After signing $1.5 trillion in tax cuts for the wealthy and big business, DDT decided that he didn’t want a deficit. Many “furloughed” workers—including janitors, security guards, and cafeteria workers in federal buildings won’t be paid after they were told not to come to work because companies can’t bill the government for services that shut down. Congress could override DDT’s order with a two-thirds veto-proof vote in both chambers.

DDT’s threat to close down the southern border if he doesn’t get his wall soon could cost the U.S. commerce a billion dollars every day, a spike in car prices, and problems with factories. Another casualty would be foods that come to the U.S. from Mexico while the weather keeps agricultural production in the United States. Arizona, Michigan, Texas, and Utah—all DDT states—each sent over one-fourth of their exports to Mexico las year. Workers in both Mexico and U.S. comprise a majority of the almost one-million legal border crossings each day. A six-hour closure between San Diego and Tijuana last Thanksgiving cost the local economy $5.3 billion.

The longest government shutdown in history began in 1995 when House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) led the Republicans to cut Medicare. President Bill Clinton refused. After 21 days, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-KA) led his GOP members to pass the appropriations bills without Gingrich’s cuts to Medicare, and the House voted the same way. Todd Purdum writes that Gingrich later admitted that part of the reason he closed the government in November 1995 before the December 16 shutdown was that Clinton had pub in a rear cabin on Air Force One while returning from Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral in Jerusalem and made him exit by the rear stairs. Gingrich knew that Clinton wouldn’t sign a bill that increased Medicare premiums and cut environmental regulations. “It’s petty,” Gingrich said, “but I think it’s human.” Clinton’s stance on both shutdowns helped him win the 1996 election, but Gingrich got his revenge by working with Monica Lewinsky to force Clinton into an impeachment. The question is what consequences will come out of the current White House tantrum leading to the 2018-19 shutdown.

Lest anyone think that DDT is not “working” on the last day of 2018, he is still angrily tweeting. One claim calls out former chief of staff John Kelly in his statement that the “wall” doesn’t have to be concrete. He wrote, “An all concrete Wall was NEVER ABANDONED, as has been reported by the media.” Like a king, DDT is waiting at the White House for the Democrats, excoriated in his tweets, to come begging to give him funding for his wall. In one tweet, he blamed Democrats for the death of two Guatemalan children in ICE custody this month, writing that the wall would have stopped it. He also tweeted to Democrats that he was sitting in his office waiting for them to come and give him his wall although a reporter found no Marine posted outside the door of the office.

Republicans take pride in their cruelty toward people in the United States with the statement that “Elections have consequences.” When Democrats and progressive ballot measures succeeded in the midterms, however, the GOP in several states refused to take the consequences of the party’s failures. Instead, they spent the last few weeks of the term during the lame-duck session by destroying the will of the people through democracy.

Despite gerrymandering and voter suppression, Michigan and Wisconsin became the poster states with dozens of bills to overturn policies won by majority vote and restrict elected Democratic officials. Many of the new laws reversed increases in the minimum wage and expansion of voting rights.

Michigan passed over 400 bills in less than two months, many of them signed by outgoing GOP Rick Snyder. He did veto four bills that exceeded legislative powers. The legislature may have blocked the use of growing cannabis for personal use, changing the way to appoint the non-partisan commission, and requiring voters to register at a county clerk’s office rather than the polls which removes the approval for same-day voter registration by a majority of the state’s population. Earlier the legislature had blocked a ballot measure on raising the minimum wage and paying sick time by enacting the proposals and then immediately removing these provisions with a simple majority after the midterm election. The legislative action on sick leave exempts almost 40 percent of Michigan workers. To block future ballot measures, legislators made the process of collecting signatures far more difficult and costly. Other lame-duck laws give a $115 million corporate tax cut and mandates that doctors prescribe abortion pills in person.

Other Michigan laws restrict powers of incoming Democrats—Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, AG Dana Nessel, and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson—all of whom replaced Republicans. Limitations include the governor’s authority in blocking a pipeline across the Strait of Mackinac, the AG from withdrawing from a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act without legislative permission, and the secretary of state in increasing voter access.

More Michigan laws passed after the election of Democrats:

  • State agencies must prove “clear and convincing” need to impose strong state regulations than federal ones.
  • A $1.3 billion online sales tax revenue was diverted from schools to roads and other priorities.
  • A grading system of A through F is mandated for public schools.
  • Federal toxicity values instead of those established by states must be used for cleaning up hazardous substances.
  •  A measure requiring permits for degrading wetlands made key concessions to developers.
  • Municipalities not already imposing licensing requirements on specific occupations cannot pass ordinance to do so.
  • States agencies may not use drones to surveil facilities subject to licensing or other government requirements.
  • The hunting age for deer, bear, and elk on public lands was reduced to ten years old.

The busy Michigan legislators will probably be crushed by some of Gov. Rick Snyder’s vetoes. A major veto was on the bill that would have permitted legislators to interfere in court cases. In neighboring Wisconsin, losing Gov. Scott Walker signed every lame-duck bill given him, many of them ones that copied those in Michigan. Wisconsin must remain in lawsuits opposed to the ACA, and the new governor cannot dissolve Walker’s misnamed Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) which gives loans and incentives to businesses connected with Walker and other Republicans. The legislature now has oversight instead of the governor. Other laws require Medicaid recipients to have drug-testing requirements that have not worked in other states and limits early voting to two weeks. Permits granted to the hugely expensive project that acquired large subsidies from Wisconsin taxpayers, Foxconn, have been moved from the GOP AG to the GOP legislature.

Walker’s power grabs caused even his staunch GOP supporters to say that his actions will “destroy” his legacy, already one that destroys the formerly progressive state. Despite its promises, Republicans failed to protect affordable insurance on pre-existing conditions as the ruling from a judge in Texas endangers the future of this health care that people overwhelming desire.

In one day, Wisconsin’s GOP senators approved 82 Walker government appointees a month before he left office, including two members to the state’s public university board. One of the positions had been empty for over a year. Thirty of the appointments had no public hearing, and some had failed to file a statement of economic interest. Eight years ago, Walker urged outgoing Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle not to “finalize any permanent civil service personnel” during his last two months in office, writing about “common practice for political appointees to use this time to ‘bump down’ into permanent civil service positions.” He added:

“I believe these appointees should be required to go through the same application process as any other civil servants and my Administration will review any new permanent hires during the next two months so they can be considered for termination during the probationary period.”

Walker also recently gave the outgoing attorney general a seat on a court in Waukesha County ― a position that doesn’t require state Senate approval.

Residents in both Michigan and Wisconsin resent handouts to large corporations, especially Walker’s $4.5 billion in state and local subsidies to Foxconn. The state is not scheduled to break even on the deal until 2043. Snyder’s Michigan “mega-deals” with incentives over $50 million” drain education, healthcare, transportation, and parks. The deals claim to create jobs, but the 29 big deals that cost taxpayers $7.1 billion include General Motors, Ford Motor Co., and Chrysler. Incentives average $465,000 per job, and advantages may not appear for years.

Florida’s new GOP governor-elect Ron DeSantis plans to stall any enactment of the state’s successful ballot measure, passed by an almost 65-percent vote, to return voting rights to felons completing their sentences. Legislative language could also restrict the law’s intent. A lawsuit could run into problems because DeSantis will replace three liberal-leaning justices immediately after he is sworn in, leaving the court with a six-to-one conservative majority.

Pennsylvania tried to unseat a legally elected state legislator, Ohio introduced legislation to stop people from amending the state constitution because a popular vote restricted gerrymandering, Missouri tried to block a stop to election fraud by popular vote, Georgia purged voters from registration rolls with no excuse, and North Carolina can’t seat a U.S. representative because he bought absentee ballots that would then be used to pad his vote. The Republicans grow more and more desperate because they know they cannot win elections with illegal election fraud and drawing districts that always favor the GOP.

Happy New Year!

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