Nel's New Day

June 28, 2017

Congress Churns Forward

Congress is getting ready for another vacation, gone for all next week for a week, before returning for a few days and disappearing for over a month. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) has taken over for Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) as head of the House Oversight Committee and announced that he won’t bother with any investigation into the involvement of people such as Michael Flynn and Jared Kushner with Russia. Gowdy also ruled out looking into whether Trump White House adviser Jared Kushner’s security clearance should be revoked. This is the same man who spent millions of dollars and hundreds of hours examining Hillary Clinton’s email server and four deaths in Benghazi.

Chaffetz won’t be back to Washington after the break; he submitted his resignation in April. He did leave a legacy by calling on Congress to declare a monthly $2,500 housing stipend for each congressional member, equivalent to two annual minimum-wage salaries. Chaffetz is the same person who told people that they could pay for their health insurance if they didn’t buy an iPhone. People who asked why Chaffetz had quit a year and a half before the end of his two-year term now have their answer. He starts on Fox network Saturday—the day that he begins “retirement.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, John McCain (R-AZ), each met with Andriy Parubiy, founder of the neo-fascist Social-National Party of Ukraine that used Nazi ideology and Third Reich imagery. The SNPU banned non-Ukrainians and established a violently racist paramilitary group called the Patriot of Ukraine. Ryan called on “closer political, economic, and security relations between our legislatures,” and McCain said that he and Parubiy had a “good meeting.”

While the media concentrated on the egregious health care plan in the Senate and the Russian investigation into Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and his colleagues, the House passed a near-repeal of the Dodd-Frank Act. When the act was signed into law in 2010, it attempted to limit the riskiest types of securities to keep the United States out of another recession like the one a decade ago. Current Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin hates the Dodd-Frank Act because it keeps him from making more vast profits from disclosing on mortgages the way that he did before it went into effect.

Ironically the pro-Wall Street bill is called CHOICE Act. One part of it eliminates the Labor Department’s fiduciary rule, requiring brokers to act in the best interest of their clients when providing investment advice about retirement. The legislation would also stop the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. from overseeing plans for banks with more than $50 billion in holding assets if they need to declare bankruptcy. It would also greatly lower capital requirements, a method of making bank safer by keeping them from loading up on debt.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) calls it the “Wrong Choice Act” because the anti-family, anti-consumer provisions block regulators from carrying out their jobs and allows big banks to ignore oversight. CHOICE allows banks to return to gambling in the market with federally guaranteed deposits and resume unlimited unfair banking practices to deceive customers. CHOICE permits unregulated payday and car-title loan sharks. If the bill passes, the president can fire the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and curb its oversight powers. The bill allows legislators to defund CFPB, the first step in doing away from it.

CFPB returned $11.8 billion to more than 29 million consumers defrauded by big banks, shady for-profit colleges, and debt collectors. Despite the banks’ record profits last year, they want to eliminate the rules that reduce foreclosures and protect borrowers.

The Dodd-Frank Act creates rules, processes, and organizations in the connected financial world of banks, hedge funds, mortgage originators, insurance companies, debt collectors, and payday lenders. Stripping away the pieces of Dodd-Frank is like mining by removing a mountain. With any luck, the CHOICE Act may not move through the Senate because eight Democrats would have to support it.

Before the Senate tackles CHOICE, it has to deal with the highly unpopular health care bill. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has found $188 billion, and he’s madly talking with reluctant GOP senators to bribe them with backroom “side deals.” Conservatives no longer want to use money to reduce the deficit. If he gets any kind of consensus, then he has to rush the revised bill to the Congressional Budget Office for another scoring in order to vote in the last two weeks of July. The bill has to be passed in coordination with the House by September 30 in order to need only 50 votes, and the Senate is in recess for all of August.

Compromise will be difficult: the far right wants no coverage mandates to lower premiums, and the right (called moderates) want more generous tax credits for the working class and less punitive Medicaid cuts. At least nine senators have said that they couldn’t vote for the present bill, and they’re split between those from states that expanded Medicaid and those who fought it. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) wants permission for bare-bones plans that don’t offer much health care—back to life before the Affordable Care Act. McConnell continues to claim that Democrats won’t talk about the health care bill while Democrats are begging to be given a seat at the discussion table.

As could be expected, Democrats were upset about being left out of the process. In an odd twist, however, so were several Republicans. Those in the closed-door “listening sessions” reported that the leadership wouldn’t tell them what was and wasn’t on the table. They were just asked about what they could and couldn’t support. Some went so far as to say that the meetings were a box-checking exercise.  “I always believe legislation is best crafted through the normal order,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said. “I think it’s much better to have committee consideration of bills, public hearings and to have a full debate.” She was joined by a number of “moderate” GOP senators in calling on involvement of Democrats in the governing process.

The Senate has not had this type of closed-door partisan process to major legislation since before World War I, over a century ago. Don Ritchie, the historian emeritus of the Senate, said that Democratic leaders tried the same MO during the Great Depression, but senator revolted. A small revolt may be starting now as most GOP senators are non-committal about the bill. A  result of Senate support, people hate their version of Trumpcare even more than they hated the House bill. A USA Today poll reported 12 percent approval, and that newspaper is owned by Fox’s Rupert Murdoch. The House bill had gone as high as 20 percent approval.

The last time that members of Congress headed home for a recess, most of the Republicans refused to have town halls with their constituents. They will be increasingly reluctant this summer because the health care bills are causing far more anger than earlier—and the public was furious then. Some GOP legislators are using the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) as an excuse to avoid their voters. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) has an idea. During the last recess, he suggested that Democrats “adopt a district” as he did when he fielded questions in a town hall from constituents in a neighboring district after Rep. John Faso (R-NY) avoided any meetings. Rep. Reuben Gallego (D-AZ) “adopted” a neighboring district belonging to Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) when she wouldn’t host an event in her district. Maybe the idea will catch on this summer. Only two GOP senators—Jerry Moran (KS) and Bill Cassidy (LA) have scheduled town halls for the upcoming break.

A miracle did happen in the U.S. House during the past month! Republicans stood up for the environment! DDT’s budget eliminates more than 50 EPA programs, halves the scientific research, and decimates environmental enforcement and grants—in all, slashing $2.6 billion, 31 percent of the EPA’s budget. Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) wasn’t buying the agency’s secretary, Scott Pruitt, when he defended the cuts by saying they didn’t need the funding. Rep. David Joyce (R-OH) defended the Great Lakes, calling them “a national treasure” and asking if Pruitt thought that it’s “fair to expect states and local communities to shoulder the burden of caring for them.” Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) opposed the 30 percent cuts in the Superfund program, affecting over 100 hazardous waste sites in his state. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) objected to zeroing out several tribal environmental grants and programs. It’s a start!

May 5, 2017

DDT: Week Fifteen – Disasters Continue

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) now has his name on Trumpcare—although the bill is far from passing—but he told Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during a press conference that health care in Australia is better. For once, DDT is right: Australia’s universal health care system gives citizens free access to doctors and public hospitals paid for by the government, and it costs nine percent of the GDP compared to the 17 percent cost in the United States.

At least one GOP representative is in trouble with his local press about his yes vote for Trumpcare. A headline in the Buffalo News read, “Chris Collins admits he didn’t read health care bill.” Collins told CNN that he didn’t read the entire bill  and then the Buffalo News that he didn’t know that the bill took $3 billion from his state. Rep. Mark Sanford (R-NC) didn’t read it either, but he said he “turned through every page.” In 2010, he GOP signed “Pledge to America” that they will read bills and publish the text online at least three days before a vote so that “bills are debated and discussed in the public square.” With Trumpcare no reading, no posting, no three days.

More Disastrous Healthcare Information: Like a bad oil leak, the news from the bill keeps oozing out. Rape, domestic violence, sexual assault, Cesarean sections, and post-partum depression can all be classed as pre-existing conditions. Victims will have the choice of reporting any attacks against them or keeping their insurance. Medicaid, slowly eradicated by Trumpcare, covers half the babies born in the nation and 60 percent of people in nursing homes.

The lies keep coming. “We’re not taking a benefit away. Nobody on Medicaid is going to be taken away.” Falsehood by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). “Premiums will be coming down.” Falsehood repeated three times in two sentences by DDT. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/tweet-day-can-we-even-call-it-lying-anymore Kevin Drum wrote about DDT and GOP politicians saying whatever they want with no pretense of hinting at facts or searching for data. Trumpcare won’t benefit the rich, and Trumpcare won’t do away with protecting pre-existing conditions, and the lies keep rolling. Politicians’ lies are killing people to protect their ideologies.

The protests against Trumpcare started immediately, several of them in DDT’s home town of New York City where he returned for the first time since he was inaugurated. And where DDT blew off a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull who had flown 10,000 miles to meet with him. 

DDT’s New Vacation Spot: Unwelcome in New York and too hot in Florida this time of the year, DDT moved on to his estate in Bedminster (NJ) where he claims he’ll save the country money. His trip this weekend costs $840,000—enough to cover Medicaid for 4,000 people–in addition to the over $25 million that’s he’s spent at Mar-a-Lago. This website is keeping track of DDT’s vacation expenditures.

Easy Peace in Middle East: DDT declaimed that the Israel government and the Palestinian Authority “get along unbelievably well… They work together beautifully.” While DDT hosted Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas at the White House, DDT said there could be “no lasting peace” unless all Palestinian leaders spoke out against hate. Evidently Israelis can keep on expressing hatred. Last week, DDT said, “There is no reason there’s not peace between Israel and the Palestinians—none whatsoever…. It’s something, frankly, maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years.” Maybe like other things that he ended up finding “complicated.

No Comfort for Poor: On his photo-op “listening tour,” DDT’s HUD Secretary Ben Carson said that public housing is too good for poor people. He thinks that it should not provide a “comfortable setting” which makes people want to “stay here.”

No DDT Celebration for Latinos: Today is Cinco de Mayo and the first time in 16 years that the White House has not celebrated the day. Instead, a reception has been relegated to a building next door and hosted by VP Mike Pence.  

Swamp Spreading: http://www.politico.com/story/2017/05/03/trump-lobbying-ban-transition-237850  DDT ‘s bragged that he has a five-year rule that people leaving the government can’t sign up as lobbyists seems to be failing. Nine people leaving his transition team have signed up as well as two people who left his administration, one who he fired.

DDT Departures:  “You’re fired.” DDT’s latest  Apprentice moment was directed at Sebastian Gorka because he can’t pass the security clearance. He’s gone, but not forgotten, because the man with ties to neo-Nazis and former editor of ultra-conservative Breitbart.com says that he’ll stay  with DDT’s administration with the other “alpha males.” He’s the third DDT employer to leave the National Security Council. Former DDT nominee and bigot Mark Green has also taken his name out of contention for Army Secretary, whining about “false and misleading attacks.”

Tax Reform: Press Secretary Sean Spicer said last week that 401ks aren’t “intact” with the new DDT plan until DDT “clarified” what he said. But who know what’s true if DDT says something.

Win for Poor People: Five Supreme Court justices ruled that the Fair Housing Act allows the city of Miami to sue two banks, Bank of America and Wells Fargo, for riskier and more costly mortgages to minorities than white borrowers.

Protection for Immigration: New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner has called on ICE to stop arresting undocumented immigrants at the state courthouses because it undermines the justice system. He wants to add these places to a list of “sensitive locations”—including hospitals, schools, and houses of worships—where ICE supposedly cannot arrest people. Gov. Chris Christie is not happy with Rabner.

The Extinction of Diplomacy: DDT will cut 2,300 U.S. diplomats and civil servants—nine percent of the workforce. Secretary Rex Tillerson doesn’t want to make eye contact with anyone—and now there won’t be anyone there.

State Department Called Out on Ethics Violations: First the State Department advertised Mar-a-Lago and, having been forced to take its commercial down, now  promotes Ivanka Trump’s new book. Like the Mar-a-Lago ad, it was taken down after a talk about ethics violations. Lack of appointments has left the department without people who understand the constitution and the law.

Vetting Not a DDT Strength: DDT has hired Steven Munoz as assistant chief of visits, an important State Department position. The 28-year-old has a staff of ten and is responsible for organizing visits of foreign heads of state to the U.S. and arranging meetings with the president. When Munoz was a Citadel military college students several years ago, he was accused of multiple sexual assaults by several male classmates. A school investigation found that “certain assaults likely occurred,” but a local prosecutor refused to seek an indictment. The year after Munoz graduated in 2011, he was also under investigation when he worked for Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign and banned from the Citadel campus. Munoz may now attend public events at the school but has only limited interaction with students. After employment with a political consulting firm hired by DDT, Munoz worked for DDT’s inaugural committee and then moved to the State Department on January 25. Except for Munoz’ lawyer, no one—not the White House, State Department, Citadel, etc.—is making any comment. In President Obama’s administration, even a drunk driving case or registering as a lobbyist kept people from employment consideration. DDT is not commenting about its vetting process. [Photo from OccupyDemocrats]    also

Vetting Michael Flynn: DDT tried to blame President Obama for not vetting his fired National Security Advisor, but insiders said that DDT did vet Flynn—“very casually.” DDT also knew about Flynn’s nefarious connection with Turkey and hired him anyway. Rachel Maddow discussed how everyone—including DDT, Mike Pence, Jeff Sessions, and Sean Spicer—lied about Flynn’s criminal activities. Sally Yates may provide more information about the issue when she testifies before a Senate panel next week.

DDT Ad Campaign Pulled: Just 185 weeks before the next presidential election, DDT released his first TV ad and was forced to withdraw it for violations of military policy. The original video includes DDT shaking the hand of National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, in uniform, at Mar-a-Lago. DDT had planned to spend $1.5 million to air the ad. Once it was revised, CNN still refused to air it because of its graphic branding CNN, among other mainstream media organizations, as “fake news.”

So Sad: Emails recently obtained through the Freedom of Information show DDT’s involvement in searching for a tweet showing that his inauguration crowd was one-third the size as the audience for President Obama. Soon after the inauguration, National Park Service director, Michael T. Reynolds, was pressured to give DDT photos supporting his false claim that up to 1.5 million attended the event.

Budget Deal: The best news from last week may have been the bill that Congress sent to DDT to keep the government running until September 30. No wall. No new money for immigration deportation. No cuts to Planned Parenthood or “sanctuary cities.” Another $30 billion to non-defense programs over sequester level. None of DDT’s $18 billion non-defense cuts. A $2 billion funding increase for the National Institutes of Health. A $17 million increase in energy efficiency. Protection of 99 percent of the EPA budget with increase in clean energy and science funding plus no staff cuts. Health benefits for retired miners that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) with miner constituents has fought for years. A $2 billion in disaster funding for California, West Virginia, Louisiana, and North Carolina because of flooding. Increased funding for transit infrastructure. Wildfire funding for Western states of $407 million. Funding the Northeast Amtrak rail corridor, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Head Start, and an early education program for disadvantaged kids. A $295 million bailout to cover a Medicaid funding shortfall in Puerto Rico. Healthcare subsidies continue. Withdrawal of almost 180 “poison pill” riders. The “great negotiator” lost everything except $12.5 billion in military with an extra $2.5 billion if he ever figures out a strategy for defeating ISIS.

More tomorrow!

 

April 28, 2017

DDT: Week Fourteen, More Failures

The quarterly GDP report just came out, and the average 0.7 percent increase is bad news for news for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) who bragged that his leadership would move the gross domestic product skyhigh. Instead the GDP for his first quarter is the worst in three years. Why do people vote for Republicans? In a statement of how DDT is struggling, he said, “I thought it would be easier.” This is DDT’s classic statement as he reflects on his first 100 days. “I loved my previous life. I had so many things going.” Many other people wish he were back in his previous life too after his string of failures.

Alienation of South Korea: After picking a fight with North Korea, DDT attacked South Korea by threatening to terminate the U.S. trade agreement with South Korea because the five-year-old accord was “a horrible deal” that has left America “destroyed.” To make things worse, he told South Korea that they should pay the $1 billion for the U.S. missile-defense system, Terminal High-Altitude Air Defense (Thaad), to be installed in South Korea as protection against a North Korean attack.

Flynn’s Failure: When Michael Flynn, National Security Adviser for 24 days, started the chant of “Lock her up” about candidate Clinton last summer, he said that he’d be in prison if he did one-tenth of the things that she had done. Maybe he will be incarcerated. The investigation into Flynn has already shown that he likely took money from Russia without notification to the U.S. after the Pentagon warned him against doing it and that his work for Turkey has a Russian connection. Meanwhile, DDT is trying to cover for Flynn’s illegal activities by refusing to release any information about him. Now the Pentagon has joined the investigation into Flynn, and DDT’s AG Jess Sessions has recused himself from the whole problem. Maybe if FBI James Comey had been more worried about real treason and not Hillary Clinton’s emails?

The Wall: Press Secretary Sean Spicer is trying to cover for DDT’s backing off from his main promise by saying that it was a priority and not a demand, but DDT tweeted that the drug problem will never be solved without a wall. Yet 56 percent responses to a poll agree that DDT hasn’t accomplished much, and 47 percent of the blame goes to DDT. The GOP gets 25 percent blame and Democrats only seven percent. At the same time, the majority of people—a number that is growing—oppose building the wall, and an increasing number want money put into infrastructure instead. Texans oppose the wall as much as Mexico on the possibility of making Mexico so instable that it becomes another Venezuela as well as flooding and sewage in the Rio Grande River.

Tax Increases: DDT may have hoped that his shiny new tax plan would distract from his other problems, but it’s going downhill fast. Presenter and Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin knows that it gives cuts to the wealthy but can’t guarantee that “no one in the middle class is gonna pay more.” At least DDT will get a big cut with his own plan. A 65-year study by the Congressional Research Office found no correlation between cutting taxes and economic growth.

Latest Executive Order Overturned: Judge William Orrick, of the federal Northern District for California, has blocked DDT’s threat to cut off funds to sanctuary cities if they refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities. A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked an executive order by Donald Trump which threatened to cut off funds to sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities. The injunction retains the right to identify sanctuary cities and withhold certain grants but cannot alter the way federal funds are spent because that power lies within the congressional, not the presidential, branch of government. The Justice Department said that the order applies only to the failure in sharing citizenship information as required by law and three federal grants that require compliance as a pre-condition. Orrick said that this defense is worthless because law already permits it, leaving no purpose for the executive order. He also said that DDT’s rhetoric and surrogate statements, including those from the AG, contradicted the interpretation that the Justice Department tried to place on it. Orrick said:

“The President has called it ‘a weapon’ to use against jurisdictions that disagree with his preferred policies of immigration enforcement, and his press secretary has reiterated that the President intends to ensure that ‘counties and other institutions that remain sanctuary cites don’t get federal government funding in compliance with the executive order.'”

Press Secretary Sean Spicer had said that the administration stood behind its threats to eliminate law enforcement funding to those cities. The federal government is now trying to decide on a definition of “sanctuary” jurisdictions.

Massive Donor Errors for Inauguration: Inauguration Donor Fraud?: Follow the rubles. A crowdsourced data project at HuffPost found massive mistakes in DDT’s final campaign report with the was filled with mistakes—missing addresses, vacant lots used for addresses, anonymous or fake names, etc.—showing that even basic checks on accuracy were made.

Failure of Conservative Press Control: Unhappy with the sometimes factual reporting in the mainstream press, DDT has been wooing the far-right outlets and frequently failing. After they didn’t support his healthcare plan, he called them to the White House last Monday to tell them—gently, for him—to shape up. It wasn’t a success: they’re still complaining about the lack of attention that DDT has given them despite his favoritism. They’re also upset that they were told to leave their phones outside the room and not to report on what was said until 30 minutes into the meeting. The result was bad press from conservatives about DDT’s communications team. 

Empty Rooms: Cite Priebus: The Senate has confirmed 26 of DDT’s picks for his Cabinet and other top posts, but he’s nominated only 37 people for 530 other vacant senior-level jobs requiring Senate confirmation.

Disappearance of Zombie Healthcare Bill—Again: Once again, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) couldn’t get the votes for the revised healthcare bill. The ultra-conservatives loved it because it takes insurance from more people, but the more centrist GOP members balked. One embarrassment for the GOP is that the failed bill exempted members of Congress and their staff: they can keep all their benefits. Once this fact came to light, GOP representatives talked about changing their minds about piece of the bill.

No Budget: The House passed a one-week extension on passing the budget to keep the government functioning for another seven days. The reason may be to prevent a shutdown on DDT’s 100th day tomorrow. The GOP House follows the pattern of teenagers who do no school work and then ask for an extension. And the action saves DDT the embarrassment of a government shutdown on his 100th day.

The United States has become so racist—including some law enforcement officials—that Sanya Gragg has published a book on the “talk” with black children: what they should do to stay ALIVE. Momma, Did You Hear The News?, a picture book for small children, gives this directions if they are confronted by the police, even if they’re just innocently walking down the street.

  • A – Always use your manners
  • L – Listen and comply
  • I – In control of your emotions
  • V – Visible hands always
  • E – Explain everything

Something else that white children don’t have to face.

Much more about DDT’s last week, but tomorrow is his 100th day—and lots more for another post.

Meanwhile, cheers for recently retired GOP Judge GOP Judge Doug McCullough, who resigned from the North Carolina Appeals Court a month before his date of mandatory retirement to allow the Democrat governor to replace him. McCullough is disgusted with the legislature’s blatant attempt to strip the new governor of any appointment abilities, going so far as to pass a bill to reduce the court from 15 to 12 so that newly elected Roy Cooper cannot fill any vacancies. An attempt to override Cooper’s veto leaves the governor with a small window of opportunity. Cooper’s new appointment, Judge John Arrowood, is the first openly gay member of the North Carolina court of appeals. McCullough is a man with ethics.

March 17, 2017

DDT: Week Eight – Embarrassment

The Rachel Maddow Show dropped a shiny object drawing attention away from Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) disastrous Trumpcare plan earlier this week in a special on the two pages of 2005 income taxes that had mysteriously been left in the mailbox of David Cay Johnston. People poo-pooed that the information would appear this way, but he theorized that DDT might have been responsible for the release. The copies definitely state “Client Copy,” meaning that it could come from only Melania Trump or DDT. Within a day, many pundits are agreeing that DDT had cherry-picked this one year and that he had a prepared faux outraged response. Fake outrage?

This tax return shows that DDT paid $36.3 million in income tax on his $153 million income for that year, the vast majority of taxes coming from the tax code alternative minimum tax (AMT). That law dates back to 1969 because 155 people making more than $200,000 paid no income tax for the prior three years and requiring eligible taxpayers to calculate their taxes in two ways—regular income tax and taxes under AMT—and pay the higher amount. With the AMT, DDT owed the government 25 percent, or $31 million; without the AMT he would have paid $5 million of the $150 million, less than 3.5 percent which is less than the half of taxpayers who make under $33,000 are required to pay. DDT’s tax plan calls from complete elimination of the AMT which would reduce government revenue $412.8 billion in the first decade and another $700 billion in the next. More than 60 percent of people who make between $500,000 and $1 million pay the AMT, compared to the two percent who make under $200,000.

Muslim ban: The day before DDT’s new travel order (Muslim Ban 2.0) was scheduled to go into effect, three hearings in Hawaii, Maryland, and Washington state challenged its constitutionality. A Hawaii judge put a restraining order for the entire country on the order; DDT said that he couldn’t speak ill of the judge to avoid being criticized by the “fake news.” U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson said that parts of DDT’s new order violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause and referred to the “illogic of the Government’s contention” that it discriminates for only a “small fraction” of the 50 predominantly Islam nations. At a rally in Nashville (TN), DDT called his second order “a watered-down version of the first,” giving even more argument to overturning it—just like the comment from Stephen miller, senior White House advisor, that the second order would have the “same basic policy outcome.” A federal appeal would go to the 9th Circuit Court where DDT’s first order was rejected. A Maryland court largely agreed with Hawaii. The Third Circuit also prevented the deportation of an Afghan man granted a special visa for helping the U.S. in that country at great personal risk. Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee told DDT to ignore the court orders.

Sales Pitch for Dirtier American Cars: Following the pattern of hiring coal miners to attend DDT’s rallies during his campaign, employers paid autoworkers to attend DDT’s speech this week, some even bused to the event at which DDT announced the end of fuel efficiency standards. There is no evidence that his executive order will increase cars; in fact, it may make them less salable in other countries. Consumers will pay $98 billion more, even after higher vehicle cost, mostly from greater fuel use. DDT moved on to Andrew Jackson’s The Hermitage in Nashville (TN) where most of the media ignored the 15,000 people protesting him.

DDT Budget: His first budget proposal, called “skinny” because like DDT’s other proposals it is short on detail, does, however, prove past assumptions on DDT’s priorities—more military/business and less everything else. The GOP Congress didn’t like it, but they pointed out that it had little hope of survival with them. In addition to this information, the budget also cuts Amtrak, reduces funding for the IRS, closes small airports in Alabama and Mississippi, and cuts money for the Coast Guard, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), FEMA, etc.   [visual – Budget priorities]

DDT’s Wiretapping Claims: Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr and ranking Democrat Mark Warner issued a statement that they have no evidence supporting DDT’s wiretapping claims. Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that DDT is sticking by his claims, however, and extended the false accusation to Obama’s use of the British spy agency GCHQ to surveil DDT. GCHQ called Spicer’s allegations “nonsense and “utterly ridiculous,” and both Spicer and national security advisor H.R. McMaster had to officially apologize to Britain for Spicer’s comment. Even US AG Jeff Sessions, DDT’s lapdog, said that the former president didn’t wiretap Trump Tower. For “proof” supporting DDT’s claims about the wiretapping, Spicer read comments from Fox’s Bret Baier and Sean Hannity and other media that reported inquiries into DDT’s campaign aides and Russian officials. Asked about the wiretapping on Fox, DDT either lied to Tucker Carlson on Fox or leaked classified information when he said that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)’s servers were hacked under President Obama.

DDT’s Russian Connection: In a Fox network poll, 66 percent of people in the U.S. think that Congress should investigate Russian interference in the presidential election, the same number who want lawmakers to probe possible connections between the DDT campaign and the Kremlin. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes said he doesn’t see any connection between the two although he also thinks that there is no support for DDT’s claim about being wiretapped. Ranking Dem on the committee Rep. Adam Schiff, who has the same classified information about the campaign’s links to Russia, disagreed and suggested that they be “very precise” when discussing the issue. U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee plans to hold hearings about a link between DDT’s campaign and Russia on March 30.  

DDT’s Deportations: In a new poll, almost two-thirds of people in the U.S. prefer a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants instead of deportations. The U.S. Conference of Mayors lambasted DDT’s deportations, and mayors in cities across the nation have described the importance of immigrants to the improvement of their economy, labor force, and stability.

Health Care Plan: In trying to bring ultra-conservatives into the fold of voters, DDT agreed to give states the option of imposing working requirements for Medicaid recipients and block grant Medicaid instead of the cap system in the bill. DDT thinks that he’ll get the votes from the far-right; far-right members of the House aren’t so sure. Polls show that people are more supportive of “Obamacare” than Trumpcare.

More Mentally Ill People with Guns: http://www.self.com/story/trump-gun-access-mental-health-social-security  Earlier this month DDT signed a bill overturning a regulation requiring people who receive Social Security money for mental illnesses and those who have been deemed unable to handle their own financial affairs to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Now the House passed a bill to allow some veterans deemed “mentally incompetent” to own firearms. VA are prohibited from submitting records of veterans with several mental illnesses to the federal criminal background check system because to do so would cause them to be “stigmatized and isolated.” The future of this bill in the Senate is uncertain. The same bill also makes it easier to fire people from the VA.

DDT’s Current Campaign Rallies: Yes, DDT is in the midst of his campaign for 2020 allowing him to again sell his campaign merchandise. Once again, he’s trying to see how far he can go and keep his supporters. For example, he told them at a rally that he knows Trumpcare is worse for his supporters than for anyone else.

DDT’s style is to cause chaos. His only skills, other than making some people believe his lies, are suing people, putting his name on other people’s buildings, and collecting cash after declaring bankruptcy—not useful in running a government. He plans to give the Pentagon more authority on terror raids after the wide-publicized abysmal failure of the Yemen raid. That way he can continue to blame the generals for any problems while taking credit for successes. It’s time that the GOP leaders figured that out.

Today DDT met German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He refused her request for a handshake, called the U.S. “a company,” referred to a German press outlet as “fake news”(above), and repeated his lie about President Obama wiretapping his phones.  https://www.rawstory.com/2017/03/watch-angela-merkel-looks-in-horror-as-trump-accuses-german-reporter-of-being-fake-news/

And now DDT is gone to Mar-a-Lago for the sixth in seven weekends to lick his wounds and spend another $3.6 million of taxpayer money.

March 12, 2017

Fight Back against Fundamentalist Christian Control

Faith groups came out to protest Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) second attempt last week to ban Muslims from the United States. Throughout the first day of the order, a number of groups condemned DDT’s actions calling it an affront to religious freedom.

  • American Jewish World Service tweeted its solidarity with immigrants.
  • Auburn Seminary President Rev. Dr. Katharine R. Henderson decried “the false narrative that this country is at war with a religion” and the “dramatic spike in Islamophobia, including a rise in hate speech, vandalism, and fires at mosques across the nation.”
  • Amanda Tyler, the executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, expressed concern “that this administration is using religious identity as a proxy for ‘security threat’ and a reason for exclusion.”
  • Stosh Cotler, the CEO of the social justice advocacy group Bend the Arc Jewish Action, stated that DDT “is targeting Muslims, immigrants and refugees purely out of spite and fear, but national security experts agree that his action today will not keep us safer.”
  • Catholic Relief Services issued a lengthy statement condemning the ban that explained refugees already undergo “significant vetting” and stated that “now is not the time for the world’s leader in refugee resettlement to back down.”
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reiterated its previous concern “about the temporal and spiritual welfare of all of God’s children across the earth, with special concern for those who are fleeing physical violence, war, and religious persecution.”
  • Church World Service unveiled a new grassroots campaign in support of refugees in tandem with the National Council of Churches.
  • The Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach reminded people “that we are a nation of immigrants and refugees and we are called to stand in solidarity with them.”
  • The Conference of Major Superiors of Men stated, “It is completely unjust to punish an entire country due to the suspicion of a potential crime by an individual. We should be asking about the root causes of violent acts, such as U.S. militarization of conflicts, and giving our attention to addressing those concrete situations.”
  • Rev. Allison Liles, Episcopal Peace Fellowship, wrote that it “asks that God look with compassion on the whole human family, taking away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts, breaking down the walls that separate us and instead unite us in bonds of love.”
  • Rabbi Jack Moline, president of the Interfaith Alliance, stated that the ban is “bigoted and un-American … fueled by anti-Muslim bigotry and motivated by a desire to score political points—not keep Americans safe.” Moline continued, “Now we look to the courts, Congress and the American people to restore what makes American great — our freedom and diversity.”
  • Other groups making statements in opposition to DDT’s restrictive order included Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, National Council of Churches, National Council of Jewish Women, the Catholic social justice lobby NETWORK, Pax Christi USA, Presbyterian Church (USA), The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Unitarian Universalist Association, United Church of Christ, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, United Methodist Church, and PICO National Network which stated:

“This [ban] is less about keeping America safe and more likely a step toward the ethnic cleansing of America. Coupled with this nation’s track record of detention, deportation and mass incarceration, the travel ban is a path to reassert white supremacy and dominance in the U.S. It is evil, sinister and stands in stark contrast to a core tenet of faith which asserts that we are all children of God. Even with its revisions, President Trump’s ban on Muslim-majority countries continues a xenophobic false hierarchy of human value. It is not only anti-American, it is anti-Christian.”

White evangelicals, however, are pitying themselves. According to a survey, 57 percent of them believe that they face a great deal of discrimination in the United States while only 44 percent think that Muslims are confronted with the same level of discrimination in the nation. White evangelicals are the only major religious group to think that Christians suffer from heavy persecution.

An example of prejudice against Islamic comes from Oklahoma Rep. John Bennett, who refused to meet with his Muslim constituents on its annual Muslim Day at the Capitol unless they completed a questionnaire from the Islamophobic hate group called ACT for America. Three students from Tulsa’s Peace Academy, a private school, asked to speak to Bennett and were told to answer such questions as these:

“Sharia law says that it must rule over the kafirs, the non-Muslims. Do you agree with this?”

“The Koran, the sunna of Mohammed and Sharia Law of all schools say that the husband can beat his wife. Do you beat your wife?”

“Mohammed was a killer of pagans, Christians and Jews that did not agree with him. Do you agree with this example?”

In the United States, an average of almost 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner, equating to over 10 million women and men a year. Yet Bennett asks only Muslims if they “beat your wife.”

In his second Muslim ban, DDT demonstrated the same false belief in Islam violence as Bennett does. The executive order includes a provision requiring the Department of Homeland Security to collect and make public “information regarding the number and types of gender-based violence against women, including so-called ‘honor killings,’ in the United States by foreign nationals.” The United States has fewer than 30 so-called “honor killings” each year, but about 1,500 women are murdered from domestic violence in the same time. DDT’s budget eliminates the Department of Justice’s Violence Against Women grants of $480 that funded 25 programs last year to help victims of domestic violence. Both DDT and his white supremacist and chief strategist Steve Bannon have been seriously accused of domestic assault.

DDT’s provision follows his plan to use federal resource to increase racial panic when he also promised to create the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement office, or VOICE, during his speech to Congress last week. The program ignores the fact that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born people in the United States and that people in the United States are far far more likely to be killed by a right-wing extremist than a Muslim terrorist. Yet DDT’s federal counter-terrorism program will ignore all extremist groups not composed of Muslims, including violent white supremacists.

Facts have no value for DDT’s policies. As for the DHS report that “citizenship is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity,” a senior administration official said:

 “The president asked for an intelligence assessment. This is not the intelligence assessment the president asked for.”

The GOP has increasingly pushed religious freedom for the United States although almost everyone knows that the harder a person pushes for this “freedom,” the more that person means only fundamentalist Christianity. In an evangelical discussion last summer, one of them asked how the Baptists could defend Muslims when they kill and imprison Christians. Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore gave a sensible answer—that restrictions on Muslims could lead to restrictions on Christians. Moore said that people must freely choose their faith.

Pastor John Wofford answered:

“So what I am actually doing if I support and defend the rights of people to construct places of false worship, I am helping them go to hell. And I do not want to help people go to hell.”

That’s the direction of the United States if we don’t fight back.

September 10, 2016

Good News While Congress Stays in Gridlock

The Obama administration made two monumental decisions this week.

Contractors building a pipeline attacked protesters with mace and dogs as they blocked construction on federal land and asked the company to suspend nearby work, and a federal judge refused to block the $3.7 billion pipeline crossing four states. Two hundred Native American tribes were joined by activists and celebrities to oppose the pipeline. The U.S. Departments of Justice, Army, and Interior stopped the pipeline, however, and said that “this case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects

With their tribal land a half-mile from the proposed pipeline, the Standing Rock Sioux declared that the pipeline would desecrate sacred burial and prayer sites as well as leak oil into their water source of the Missouri and Cannon Ball rivers. The government will not authorize construction at Lake Oahe and asked the contractors to stop work on other land. The proposed 1,100-mile pipeline was to take crude oil from North Dakota, Montana, and Canada to the U.S. Gulf.

The company driving the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partner, originally promised that all the oil would stay in the United States and lessen the nation’s independence on foreign fossil fuel, but they have withdrawn this guarantee after their successful lobbying to remove the 40-year ban on crude oil exports. The company’s filing with the SEC notes that “export projects” will “balance this market [with general oversupply] by 2018.” It also lists the pipeline as a “leader in the export of hydrocarbons.” In a presentation, Energy Transfer Partners stated that it is “exceptionally well positioned to capitalize on U.S. energy exports.”

The second welcome federal decision last week is a proposed rule from the Department of Health and Human Services that would eliminate Title X funding to states cutting Planned Parenthood funding. PP uses about $70 million to serve over 1.1 million patients with incomes under $23,500 with contraceptives and screenings for cancer and STDs. Although none of the Title X funding can be used for abortions, 11 states have blocked PP funds. Congressional Republicans are also so intent on defunding PP that they won’t provide funding to protect people in the U.S. from the Zika virus.

PP is also attacking the Zika virus through the distribution of Zika prevention kits and education where the virus is shown to be spreading. Yet some high-risk states for the virus—Florida, Louisiana, and Texas—have blocked PP funds. In Florida alone, 84 pregnant women are currently infected with Zika. The most recent research shows that most of these women will give birth to infants with birth defects. About 84 pregnant women in Florida are currently infected with Zika, officials have said.

The 30-day public comment on this rule ends on October 7, 2016. Women who need the services of Planned Parenthood will appreciate all the support they can get. This is the link to the give a comment.  http://www.regulations.gov/document?D=HHS_FRDOC_0001-0645

Good things may happen in threes. This week, the House finally passed the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights after the Senate passed its version last May. The bill mandates that victims be informed of rape kits’ results and legal status as well as preventing victims from being charged for the processing the kits. The law applies only to federal cases, but it’s a start.

Otherwise, Congress has spent its first four days after a long session doing almost nothing. They did pass a bill allowing the families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia in U.S. courts, but it could lead to retaliation against U.S. citizens by other countries. At this time, victims can sue a country designated as a state sponsor of terrorism; this bill would allow citizens to sue countries without that designation. Although 15 of the 19 perpetrators of 9/11 tragedy came from Saudi Arabia, there is no proof that Saudi Arabia instigated the attack.

The problem about the bill comes from the concept of “sovereign immunity,” giving foreign governments immunity from prosecution in U.S. courts, according to the 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FISA).  As “state sponsors of terror,” Syria, Iran, and Sudan are the only exempt countries from FISA. Congress claims that the bill just passed would make only an exemption for this one lawsuit against Saudi Arabia, but legal experts have said that it would expand exemptions to any countries that commit the same terrorism defined in the legislation.

The bill may lead to other countries passing similar sovereign immunity exceptions, putting the U.S. at risk of being sued by their citizens. For example, Iraq could pass a law permitting its citizens the right to sue the U.S. government for damages during the Iraq War. If the U.S. lost its case in Iraqi courts, then the Iraqi government could seize U.S. assets in their country to pay the victims. Saudi Arabia has threatened that it would pull its assets out of the U.S. if the bill became law. The end result of this law might be to increase chaos in foreign policy process and undermines the ability of the president to craft a careful, cohesive foreign policy for all people in the nation.

The president has another nine days to make a decision on the bill.

As low as the bar has been put for Donald Trump, it’s even lower for Congress. Its only goal during September before they leave for another two months is “don’t close the government.” Even a stopgap funding bill has become difficult. The far-right Freedom Caucus wants one that goes into next year so that newly elected legislators can decide the budget. The others want one to end in December because they fear that next year will have fewer Republicans.

The first problem attacked on the first day of this session was the standoff in funds for combating the Zika virus. Republicans refuse to support the funding without eradicating all funds for Planned Parenthood. The Senate added more blackmail with demanding that environmental regulations on pesticides be loosened before granting Zika-related funds. The government has been taking anti-Zika funds from other areas, but all the funding is gone by the end of September.

A 52-46 procedural vote kept the Senate from moving forward to end debate on a conference report with the House about Zika funding, the third time that the proposal has failed because of targets against Planned Parenthood. The bill was attached to spending on military construction and veterans affairs, giving McConnell a chance to announce that Democrats opposed veterans. Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said:

“Republicans were more interested in attacking Planned Parenthood and flying the confederate flag. Can’t make that stuff up — that’s really the truth — than protecting women and babies from this awful virus.”

The White House asked for $1.9 billion, but the Senate offered only $350 million in new money and moved the rest of the proposed $1.1 billion from other health accounts, including the fund for fighting the Ebola virus.

While Congress dithered, “the number of Zika cases in the U.S. more than doubled to 2,700, and people infected with the virus turned up in every state,” an LA Times editorial. “A total of 17 babies have been born with Zika-related birth defects, and about 1,600 pregnant women are known to have been exposed. And those are just the cases we know about; some 80 percent of those infected with the disease have mild or no symptoms.”

Another “big” issue in the House is an argument about impeaching IRS Commissioner John Koskinen for something done before he got the job. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has caved into the Freedom Caucus’ demand to put the issue up for a vote despite claims from GOP leaders and House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) that Koskin is guilty of incompetence, not a crime. Only once—in 1876—has the House voted to impeach a Cabinet member and never to an executive branch official below the Cabinet rank. Any action from the House would require a two-thirds majority from the Senate for conviction, an unlikely possibility.  Opposed to the impeachment is a group of 123 tax-law professionals, the American College of Tax Counsel, and a group of former IRS commissioners.

As Democrats pointed out, the House is pursuing what they see as “baseless attacks” while ignoring “urgent issues”—“Zika virus, the Flint water crisis, the opioid crisis, and gun violence.” Ryan has his own priorities: his next one is probably to “punish” the Democrats who held a 25-hour sit-in because he wouldn’t bring any gun legislation to the floor. The man in control of whether any bill ever reaches a vote in Congress said about the sit-in, “That’s not the way that a democracy works.”

A year ago, the Freedom Caucus got rid of House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH); now they have their sights set on Paul Ryan when he comes up for speaker again in January. The 40-member group is even considering a departure from the 180-member House Republican Study Committee if the conservative group won’t let the far-right members of the House take over. A three-way split in the House could greatly benefit Democrats even if they don’t achieve a majority.

At least Congress will be gone in another three weeks. The question is whether the government will stay open after September 30.

January 16, 2014

U.S. Has Budget – Unemployed, Nothing

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I used to think that a three-month extension of any bill was ridiculously short, worthy of the “kick the can down the road” epithet. Earlier this week, the House passed a three-day continuing resolution to extend the budget so that the government doesn’t close—again–barely a “touch the can.”

Congress, however, somewhat redeemed itself by passing the real 1,582-page omnibus $1.1 trillion budget bill with a 359-67 vote in the House and a 72-26 vote in the Senate. Once President Obama signs the bill, the government can keep paying its bills until the end of September 2014—unless the GOP shuts down the government over raising the debt ceiling.

Some GOP Congressional members are preening at how they’re holding the line and controlling the Democrats by delaying new energy efficiency standards on light bulbs, limiting government travel and conferences, and prohibiting the IRS from targeting people based on their political beliefs. Someone failed to tell Republicans that the IRS cannot legally target people, and the GOP ignored the fact that progressive political organizations were also audited.

The eight-percent cut for the IRS during the past two years for the IRS may be an attempt to protect the wealthy from being audited. In reality, the cut reduces service to people who need it. Although questions for the IRS have dropped 86 percent within the past decade, the agency can answer only 61 percent of the calls looking for help. During the same time, the telephone wait time has gone from 2.6 minutes to 17.6 minutes. There’s much more work now, however; in ten years the number of returns has grown by 11 percent to 146 million.

The military gets more than half of the budget–$573 billion for defense spending and $525 billion for non-defense discretionary spending. At 48 percent of the world’s military spending, the U.S. military budget is equal to the next ten countries’ military budgets combined.

military_by_country_spending-by-country

defense spending ten countries

Some defense spending was allocated to curb sexual assault the military, Head Start education programs are restored, and $1.5 billion in aid goes to Egypt despite the global concern about the crackdown there on activists and journalists. The $600 million for disabled veterans mistakenly cut in the last spending bill was replaced. The U.S. Post Office will keep delivering mail on Saturday, unfortunately with no provision for dealing with the requirement that USPS fund the retirement account for at least 75 years, a major financial difficulty.

The plan developed by House Appropriations Chair Hal Rogers (R-KY) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) parallels in many ways George W. Bush’s 2007 budget—without allowance for inflation. For example, the National Institutes of Health is allocated just $.7 billion more than six years ago, shrinking its budget by almost $3.3 billion. Other science funding was also cut.

The bill makes the United States cheapskates in the world’s eyes: the $315 million pledged in 2010 to the International Monetary Fund is still not funded. That’s only two F-35s, the planes that the defense department is building despite that fact that they don’t work.

Kentucky is happy because the bill doesn’t fund the Army Corps of Engineers to change the regulatory definition of “fill material,” a change that the coal-mining industry opposed. Of course, a Kentucky representative heads the committee that prepares the bill.

Wall Street can breathe easier after the GOP cut back the funding by 30 percent for regulators important to the Dodd-Frank financial reforms. Of course, the GOP hit the Affordable Care Act, refusing any additional appropriations for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and taking $1 billion out of another fund so that the president cannot use it for the health care act.

Hidden in the 1,582 pages are some peculiar pieces. The ban on funding for ACORN is not the first time that Congress defunded ACORN since it disbanded four years ago. The bill also prevents any spending to hold Guantánamo Bay prisoners in the United States. The move of the Vatican Embassy has been halted, a move started by George W. Bush to a place closer than the current one and a move that would save the country $1 million.

More strange bits are sure to pop up in the media because Congressional members didn’t read the entire bill before passing it. The GOP will no longer have the right to ridicule Democrats for passing the Affordable Care Act without reading it.

The “Monsanto Protection Act,” slipped secretly into an earlier spending bill by former Monsanto lawyer Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), didn’t make the break this time. An outcry from the public stopped a repeat of the law that would kept Monsanto safe from any judicial action despite its wrongdoings.

Although Congress passed a budget, they failed to extend emergency unemployment benefits to 1.4 million people. It’s been almost three weeks since these benefits expired, and the GOP Senate “deal” to exchange the benefits for continuing the sequestration across-the-board spending cuts for an additional year—into 2024—fell through.

Republicans, however, are running scared because of negative reactions to the abrupt cutoff of unemployment benefits. For example, people in El Paso County (CO), where the conservative religious group Focus on the Family is located along with the military facilities Air Force Academy, NORAD, and Fort Carson. The area’s aerospace and defense industry was hit hard by the sequestration, and the Colorado county has the largest number in people in the state who lost their benefits three days after Christmas.

 Lita Ness, 58, lost her job as a civilian contractor at Peterson Air Force Base in August 2012 and just got her last unemployment check. Taking a break from a computer training class at Pikes Peak Workforce Center, Ness said: 

“I’m registered as a Republican, but if they continue to use this not extending our (aid) I’m probably changing to Democrat. People in our district who vote ‘No’ on this, I’m not going to support them.”

Ness’ representative is Republican Doug Lamborn, who said about unemployment benefits, “It’s $6 billion, doesn’t do anything to create jobs.” The man obviously has no understanding of economic theory.  Taking away these benefits is estimated to destroy 310,000 private sector jobs.

An examination of data from 20 states by Democratic staff on the House Ways and Means Committee shows that benefits-opponents Reps. John Fleming (R-LA) and Michele Bachmann (R-MN) represent districts with disproportionately high percentages of people needing these emergency benefits. Economists report that the longer-term unemployed are more likely to be older, a demographic important to GOP elections. The GOP should be scared. Depicting people from the middle-class background as lazy moves more voters away from the Republican party.

The Republicans are in a difficult position. Throwing people out of their homes and forcing them to go without food makes them look heartless. But the extremist right-wing people are out for blood in this year’s primaries. Heritage Action, for example, said it will include the vote on continuing unemployment benefits on its “legislative scorecard.”

As for the quid pro quo of replacing the $6.4 billion from other areas, the Emergency Unemployment Compensation system is a contingency measure, not an ongoing spending program. This is the first time that the measure hasn’t received support from both parties. The current version was signed into law by George W. Bush in July 2008. At that time, the unemployment rate was 5.6 per cent, compared to the current rate of 7 percent, and the average duration of unemployment was 17.1 weeks, compared to today’s duration of over 35 weeks. At no time in history has Congress stopped special extended benefits with the unemployment as high as it is right now.

The GOP’s elimination of these benefits flies against precedent and economic logic. Almost the entire $6.4 billion reverts to the economy, generating additional spending, hiring, and tax revenues. The program is only temporary; with a growing economy and downward trend in unemployment rates, the benefits can be postponed until the GOP drives the country into another recession.

The benefits keep people looking for work, because that’s a provision of receiving them. Without these benefits, people may simply drop out of the work force and require far more public assistance.

The United States has a budget for the next eight months, but the GOP has now lost the support of two more of their potential constituents—the Tea Party and the unemployed.

May 21, 2012

Republicans Set to Destroy Country

The Republicans have repeatedly stated that they have one purpose, to stop the reelection of President Barack Obama. From their actions they are so focused on this outcome that they are willing to destroy the country.

Last year, they nearly destroyed the economy with their manufactured crisis over raising the nation’s debt ceiling. The spending cuts from that compromise slowed the economy and lost people in this country hundreds of thousands of jobs—over one million in the government sector alone. The Economic Policy Institute, a top nonpartisan think tank, estimated after the deal settling the debt ceiling that it would cost the economy 1.8 million jobs by 2012.

Polls have showed that half of the people in the nation agree that Republicans are sabotaging the economy only to damage the president’s chances of reelection. Last fall three separate polls found that half the people agreed with this statement: “Republicans are intentionally stalling efforts to jumpstart the economy to insure that Barack Obama is not reelected.”

Perhaps that conclusion came from what Republicans have said. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) vowed, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Last week House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) continued the vendetta by claiming that Republicans will take the economy hostage again in order to get their way at the time of raising the nation’s borrowing limit.

Even the right-leaning Associated Press agreed about the Republicans’ attempt to sabotage the economy and that it seems to be working. An article published two days ago included this statement: “There’s evidence that unceasing partisan gridlock and the prospect of big tax increases and spending cuts in January are causing some companies to postpone expansions.”

At the same time that Boeher made his threats, The Washington Post published a list of military contractors, hospitals, and universities that are delaying hires and bracing for cuts because of the Republicans’ mean-spirited actions. As Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein wrote, “partisan gridlock” is code for Republican extremism and intransigence. “Republicans are the problem,” they added.

The budget according to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) was bad enough, but Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has come up with one that is far worse. According to Dana Milbank, “The tea party darling’s plan would, among other things, cut the average Social Security recipient’s benefits by nearly 40 percent, reduce defense spending by nearly $100 billion below a level the Pentagon calls ‘devastating,’ and end the current Medicare program in two years–even for current recipients, according to the Senate Budget Committee staff. It would eliminate the education, energy, housing and commerce departments, decimate homeland security, eviscerate programs for the poor, and give the wealthy a bonanza by reducing tax rates to 17 percent and eliminating taxes on capital gains and dividends.” And that’s the position of the Republican party.

Republicans have a two-pronged attack, however. If they don’t actually destroy something, they claim that Republican administrations are far better than those with a Democratic president. Take for example, the way that they have continually attacked the president on the unemployment rate despite the methods that Republicans have used to decrease employment.

A Bloomberg Government analysis shows that during the last half century job growth was twice as much with Democratic presidents than with Republican ones: non-government payrolls have grown by almost 42 million jobs under Democratic presidents as compared to the 24 million jobs for Republican presidents.

President Obama has continued the trend. Job loss during his first 3.5 years is far less than the same period of time during George W. Bush’s first term. From January 2001 through March 2004, the country lost more than 1.6 million jobs overall, and more than 2.4 million jobs in the private sector, meaning that Bush made up for part of the total job loss by adding 800,000 jobs to the government. Meanwhile, from January 2009 through March 2012, the country lost an estimated 740,000 jobs in total with about 161,000 jobs in the private sector. By last month there were more private sector jobs than when the president took office despite the horrible recession that he inherited as well as the gridlock from the obstructionist Congress.

And this plan to destroy the country is not a recent endeavor.  Robert Draper, contributing writer for The New York Times, gives some of the background in his new book Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives. According to the book, top Republicans met at the same time as President Obama’s inauguration to destroy the economy so that they could portray the president as a failure.

The four-hour private, invitation only, meeting was attended by Republican propaganda expert Frank Luntz and twelve leading congressmen: Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, Pete Sessions, Jeb Hensarling, Pete Hoekstra, Dan Lungren, Jim DeMint, Jon Kyl, Tom Coburn, John Ensign, and Bob Corker. Newt Gingrich also attended, the only attendee other than Luntz who was not a legislator.

Luntz is well known as a speaker at Republican meetings, teaching how to use terminology that helps turn public opinion to their advantage. Because of Luntz, Republicans always use the term “job creator” when they actually mean people who will fleece the bottom 99 percent by getting lower taxes for the wealthy. He moved the term “Orwellian” from its original meaning of totalitarian state to “speak with absolute clarity, to be succinct.” “Oil drilling,” no; “energy exploration,” yes. “Healthcare reform,” no; “government takeover,” yes. And that’s the Republican party approach.

Fortunately, more and more people in the United States, both Democrats and Republicans, are learning the that the current federal conservative approach is not ideological; it is evil. Conservatives continue to strip everyone in the country of their meager earnings to give to the wealthy while increasing the deficit so that they can destroy all parts of the government except the Department of Defense. And people notice.

“A system designed to govern through compromise stops working when an entire political party refuses to make concessions. Policymakers have honored certain norms for generations, but once those norms have been abandoned–filibustering every bill of any consequence, for example–institutions begin to break down.”—Rachel Maddow

May 10, 2012

House Republicans Waste Taxpayers’ Monday

The United States is poor, right? We want limited government instead of providing a safety net for the people who live in this nation, right? We’re badly in debt and need to cut back on the budget, right? That’s the view from the Republican side of Congress. So what are they doing?

This week the U.S. House of Representatives Defense Appropriations Subcommittee approved over $948 million in funding for Israel’s various anti-missile defense programs. That’s almost $1 billion. Over two-thirds of the money goes to the anti-missile initiative, Iron Dome, and the rest to the short-range David’s Sling ($149.7 million), and the current long-range Arrow anti-ballistic missile system and its successor the Arrow 3 ($119.3 million).  The $948 million is $169 million more than President Obama requested, an increase of almost 20 percent, and would bring military aid to Israel to over $4 billion.

Today 218 Republicans in the House voted to override steep cuts to the Pentagon’s budget mandated by last summer’s debt deal, adding $72 billion to the Pentagon budget and covering that funding with massive spending reductions to food stamps and other social programs. The Republicans say that these cuts would reduce the deficit by $243 billion which shows how badly the safety net will be damaged.

In addition, the House Armed Services Committee voted for a $642 billion defense bill that calls for construction of a missile defense site on the East Coast at a cost of $5 billion, restores aircraft and ships slated for early retirement, and ignores the Pentagon’s cost-saving request for another round of domestic base closings. The committee rejected the Pentagon’s call to mothball 18 Air Force Global Hawk drones, and it restored four Navy cruisers slated for early retirement in next year’s budget.

Republicans insisted that the East Coast site is necessary in case Iran or North Korea develops an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of attacking the East Coast. Since the mid-1980s, the Pentagon has spent nearly $150 billion on missile defense programs (some people say $274 billion) and envisions another $44 billion over the next five years. The problem with all their work is that they have consistently failed in successfully creating any way to shoot down ballistic missiles.

Scientists had endeavored to equip a 747 with a powerful laser system that could knock ballistic threats out of the sky, but the Missile Defense Agency officially announced last February that it would abandon the study, citing scientists’ failure in trials to ever shoot down a missile. During testing of the laser technology in 2010, scientists failed to demonstrate that the defense system was effective at knocking out ballistic technologies. The failed testing also cost the federal government more than $100,000 per hour.  Just last month, the nation’s test of a new ballistic technology failed and crashed in the Sea of South Korea. No matter—lawmakers want to keep going because the government has already spent its billions of dollars on the program.

Republicans refused to permit Democrats to submit their alternative plan as an amendment. That proposal would have cut $24 billion in farm subsidies, saved $5 billion by reforming the National Flood Insurance Program reform, and raised $84 billion by imposing a “Buffet Rule” tax on the wealthy and increasing taxes on the five biggest oil and gas companies. Notice that just the last recommendation would more than cover the $72 billion Republicans want for the Pentagon, despite the constant conservative cry that the “Buffet Rule” tax is useless because it doesn’t raise any money.

Even the Pentagon knows that the House Republicans are wrong. Hours after the Armed Services Committee added money for the East Coast missile defense site and aircraft that the Pentagon didn’t propose, Leon Panetta told Congress that their actions were jeopardizing national security. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also said that the committee’s addition of up to $5 billion for a new East Coast missile defense site is not needed.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the House budget would leave 1.8 million people without food stamps and take away money for vaccinations, prenatal care, and nursing homes for seniors. Hundreds of thousands of children would lose health insurance and school lunches.

President Obama’s budget plan includes job-creation initiatives for infrastructure, job-training, and innovation. The cost is offset by raising $1.5 trillion over 10 years from the wealthiest taxpayers and closing some corporate tax breaks, chiefly for oil and gas companies. He also proposed a higher tax on dividend income of the wealthiest taxpayers, which would raise about $206 billion over 10 years.

Last March, all except ten House Republicans passed a budget that cuts deeply into domestic spending, transforms the tax code (translate as more tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations), and transform (translates as beginning to eliminate) Medicare and Medicaid.

House Speaker John Boehner and presidential wannabe Mitt Romney continue to claim that they are interested only in the economy and jobs. Perhaps true because their approach destroys the economy and eliminates jobs. Add to that the concept of Congress trying to tell the military what to do, and this country could be in a world of hurt if the nation takes the wrong turn six months.

Oh yes, that jobs’ approach for the House? Last night, the House voted 245-171 to stop the Justice Department from using taxpayer funds to actively oppose the Defense of Marriage Act, preventing marriage equality, as part of Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations legislation. Of course, the House is spending its own money to fight court cases and protect DOMA. Sixteen Democrats voted with the GOP for the amendment, while seven Republicans opposed it. The conservatives are playing for the vote: although the Justice Department is no longer defending DOMA in court, the Obama administration is still enforcing it.

AGR Daily News Service

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