Nel's New Day

September 13, 2017

DDT: Week Thirty-three – Natural Disasters Mixed with GOP Disappointment

Disaster—that is the word for 33rd week that Dictator Donald Trump spent as the White House resident. Houston suffered from Hurricane Harvey as Hurricane Irma, considered five times worse than Hurricane Andrew 25 years ago, ploughed through islands south of Florida and moved across the mainline to devastate large parts of southern states. Hackers into Equifax, one of the principal credit score providers in the nation, collected records, including Social Security numbers and birthdates allowing identity theft, from 143 million people. They also got credit card numbers from over 200,000 people and dispute documents with personal information for another 182,000 customers.

Between Harvey and Irma came the 8.1 earthquake on the southern coast of Mexico, the worst in 100 years, that killed at least 95 people. The death rate was much lower than the estimated 2,000 to 40,000 deaths with the 8.0 earthquake in Mexico because of better building codes and less populated areas for the earthquake’s site. A similar earthquake possible for southwestern California could kill thousands of people and be worsened if the proposed 2018 budget cuts funds for a seismic warning system as proposed. DDT ignored both the earthquake and the loss of at least three people after Hurricane Katia hit Mexico. Three weeks ago, DDT also refused to send any fire-fighting aid to Oregon although its 500,000 burning acres comprise one-third of the fires in the nation.

Congressional GOP members were devastated when (DDT) turned on them and made “Chuck and Nancy”—Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) (left) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), his new friends. DDT’s old friends “Paul” Ryan (R-WI), House Speaker, and “Mitch” McConnell (R-KY), Senate Majority Leader, got left in the dust at a meeting where DDT gave Democrats three-month extensions on the budget and the debt ceiling as well as the $15 billion disaster aid with no cuts in other areas. An hour earlier, Ryan had called the three-month debt-ceiling extension “ridiculous,” “disgraceful,” and “unworkable, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin also disliked the deal. The GOP will face another fight for the budget and debt ceiling before the December 8, 2017 deadline.

Pundits’ theories on why DDT agreed to the deal: he got bored, he thought conservatives wanted it, he thought it would clear the way for progress as in tax “cuts,” or he’s just hostile toward congressional GOP leadership. DDT’s support of North Dakota’s Democratic senators up for re-election this year at his rally last week supports the last idea. A question is how much longer the GOP will protect DDT.

DDT’s deal with Schumer and Pelosi moved so fast that he signed the bill into law within three days. Seventeen GOP senators and 90 GOP representative Republicans voted against it, including four House members from storm-ravaged Texas. Another 17 GOP representatives refused to vote. With GOP support, however, hurricane aid passed 88 days faster than it did for Superstorm Sandy.

Billionaire Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and White House budget director Mick Mulvaney were booed when they advocated for the bill; Mulvaney had led opposition to raising the debt ceiling when he was in the House. The booing continued after he wouldn’t promise Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) that DDT would not commit to reducing the debt ceiling in the December negotiations. Mnuchin left early after he said that people should support the bill for him personally and not for the policy. Ryan forgot he hated the bill and supported the legislation.

DDT rescinded DACA (the executive order allowing people illegally brought into the country involuntarily as children to get job permits) but made AG Jeff Sessions make the announcement. Sessions claimed that his job is to “enforce the law” and then defended DDT’s pardon of Arizona’s past sheriff, Joe Arpaio, who was found guilty of criminal contempt after he willfully violating a federal judge’s order to stop racial profiling. Unable to cope with his unpopularity after his anti-DACA ruling, DDT blamed Congress and said that he was just waiting for them to fix his own firing of 800,000 people so that they will take the hit from conservative voters.

Congress is willing to use millions of lives as extortion. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) wants to trade legal permanent dreamers’ residence for cutting immigration levels in half. Others want to trade the dreamers’ rights for DDT’s wall. Over 400 executives, many of them from the biggest companies such as AT&T and Microsoft, have signed a petition to protect the “dreamers.”  These CEOs know that purchases from Dreamers create more jobs and more profits for these companies that are the strongest base for GOP donations. Even members of DDT’s evangelical advisory board, who supported his racism, think that DDT’s DACA decision is wrong. Sixty-four percent of people in the U.S. back this program, including 41 percent of Republicans. And workers are needed to rebuild after massive losses from the nation’s disasters. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia are suing DDT for his DACA decision. An earlier lawsuit supporting DACA has a court hearing tomorrow. DDT has one fewer DACA recipient to throw out of the country: Alonso Guillen, 31, died rescuing people from Hurricane Harvey.

Special investigator Robert Mueller’s juggernaut about Russian involvement keeps moving forward as six current and former DDT aides, including Sean Spicer and Reince Priebus, may be interviewed. DDT tortured Spicer as much as, or more than, Saturday Night Live, as the press secretary was constantly forced to lie—beginning with the size of the inauguration crowd on DDT’s first day. The firing of former FBI director James Comey was a huge fiasco as Spicer passed along the party line of a DOJ recommendation for the act just before DDT told Lester Holt that he had long planned to fire Comey with “Russia” on his mind. DDT also tormented Priebus up to the time that he resigned. Both can use the Fifth Amendment not to testify, but there are always memos. Even the White House lawyer needs a lawyer.

DDT’s statement that he will give $1 million to relief aid for Hurricane Harvey as brought back the question of the donations to his inauguration fund that he said would be given to charities. The committee raised $107 million with no caps on individual contributions and selling “exclusive access” for over $1 million, but low attendance kept costs down. Charities were supposed to know who gets the money in April, but now Tom Barrack, head of the committee said that he will release details in November. Maybe the $1 million of DDT’s “personal money” will come from that source—or maybe it will go for Donald Trump, Jr.’s legal fees like DDT’s campaign funds. [$1 million sounds generous, but if DDT is worth $9 billion, it’s like a person with $1 million in net assets giving $90. Millionaires comprise less than ten percent of people in the U.S.]

Donald Jr. needs the legal assistance he’s getting from DDT’s campaign funds. This past week, he was interviewed by the Senate Judiciary Committee about his meeting over a year ago with Russians to “get dirt” on Hillary Clinton before the presidential election. He said that he was just checking into her “fitness” for the office. This was after a number of various excuses earlier.

Another DDT problem is the NAFTA negotiations. DDT has said that Canada and Mexico are being “difficult”; Canada is demanding that the U.S. eliminate anti-union “right-to-work” laws and pressuring both Mexico and the U.S. “to offer a year of paid family leave, as Canada does.” In the U.S., 29 states have passed laws eliminating rights of unions, and congressional Republicans have sponsored bills to make “right to work” in all states that will suppress wages, employment, and economic growth. DDT has already cut pay increases for federal employees, overturned overtime pay and worker safety rules, and put union-busters on the National Labor Relations Board which is supposed to protect workers. Trade agreements typically favor corporations over workers; Canada is trying to change that dynamic.

Pushed to the bottom of immediate concerns from the media is North Korea’s claim that it has a hydrogen bomb that can be loaded onto an intercontinental ballistic missile. Experts think that the bomb is actually a “boosted” atomic bomb with less power than a hydrogen bomb, but the U.S. is still goading North Korea with its summer “games.” The U.S. has joined Japan and South Korea in large-scale military drills with over 3,500 troops to simulate an invasion of North Korea and destroy the current regime. Last week’s North Korean missile tests were in response to South Korea’s three week-long military drills with over 75,000 combat troops accompanied by hundreds of tanks, armored vehicles, landing craft, heavy artillery, a full naval flotilla and flyovers by squadrons of state of the art fighters and strategic bombers.

DDT expects help from South Korea to protect the U.S. from North Korea after he lied about sending military resources to help them, ignored history by saying that they were part of China, told them that they had to pay for the U.S. missile-defense system, threatened to eliminate the trade agreement with South Korea, and failed to nominate an ambassador to South Korea.  After alienating Europe, DDT is also going to them for help. DDT’s following through on his threat to stop trade with countries doing business with North Korea would be “an economic tsunami beyond description,” according to NPR’s Ron Elving, and former George W. Bush staffer Taylor Griffin called the economic impact “apocalyptic.” The value of trade between China and the U.S. alone is $663 billion—and DDT’s purchases are part of that amount.

Chief of Staff John Kelly seems to be quieting DDT for the past weeks, but he got his cellphone back tonight when he railed against “Crooked Clinton” about her new book. We’ll wait to see if it’s the recurring trend.

 

Advertisements

September 5, 2017

Congress’ Twelve-day Agenda

Congress is back from vacation—pardon me, work in their home districts. Just 80 members of the House (49 Democrats and 31 Republicans), and 13 senators (eight Democrats and five Republicans), held town halls over the break, according to the group. Of the 175 members of Congress to hold an in-person town hall in 2017, 148 are Republican.

Back in Washington, Congress faces daunting tasks with deadlines with only twelves days in session. The increasing number of attack tweets from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) DDT makes congressional duties even worse.

Federal legislative responsibilities during September –

Pass a budget to avoid a government shutdown on October 1:

DDT insists on funding his “wall” and said that he’s willing to close down the government to get it. Democrats said they will block any money for the wall, and several Republicans agree. A  “kick the can” approach with a short-term, continuing resolution funding bill may postpone the fight for a few months, but it can have serious repercussions. DDT might increase domestic spending in exchange for a start to “double fence” construction. North Korea’s nuclear tests will make legislators want more military spending, and hawks hate short-term spending bills. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said he won’t support another stopgap bill, and he has nothing to lose. People won’t change their minds later in the year, and Democrats will be able to filibuster budget bills after October 1.

Raise the debt ceiling to keep paying the government’s bills before September 29:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that there is “zero chance” Congress won’t raise the debt ceiling, and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said there are lots of options. That was BH—Before Harvey. Conservatives may demand attachments of spending cuts, but Democrats will oppose these. Raising the U.S. debt limit means that the U.S. will continue to pay existing bills. Not increasing the ceiling can trigger the first-in-modern-U.S.-history default that threatens to turn the world economy on its head and destroys the world’s faith in the U.S. paying its bills, including its loans. Interest rates would go up without the increase, and stocks and bonds are already suffering from the possibility. Worst case: a serious recession. McConnell threatened to withhold an increase from President Obama in 2013 without spending cuts. Now he’s on the other side from his own party’s conservatives.

Provide assistance after Harvey:

With Harvey’s losses over $180 billion, costs for this aid will probably be tens of billions, but the source of this income is uncertain. Aid for victims of Sandy waited 91 days while congressional members squabbled about taking the money from other parts of the budget. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin wants aid for Hurricane Harvey survivors connected to the bill. DDT says that the Harvey bill should be independent, and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), conservative Freedom Caucus leader, doesn’t want the debt-ceiling bill attached to any other legislation—except for his restrictions on future spending. Some sources have said that the House strategy is to pass a “clean” bill to fund $7.85 billion for the first phase of Hurricane Harvey recovery during the coming week. GOP senators could attach the debt limit raise to the House bill before returning it. Meadows’ conservatives would then have to decide whether to vote against Texas’ emergency assistance.

GOP hypocrisy will affect the debate of the aid, especially the 22+ Republicans who voted against the Sandy bill. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is trying to cover his refusal to support Sandy aid by claiming that two-thirds of it wasn’t for Sandy. His falsehood came from the coverage for Sandy coverage all the way down the East Coast to Florida.

Reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program by the end of September:

Twelve days isn’t enough time to overhaul the National Flood Insurance Program, but the program badly needs help. People can purchase flood insurance only through the government, but it doesn’t cover the full extent of floods, encourages development in flood-prone areas, and is extremely under-funded. Storms in the past dozen years have left NFIP with a $25 billion debt to the government with $5.5 billion going to rebuilding 30,000 homes that have flooded up to five times. About 5 million properties nationwide have FEMA coverage with nearly 600,000 in Texas and 500,000 in Louisiana. Private insurance companies get commissions up to 30 percent to “service” the federal flood insurance. Needed are new maps that consider sea-level rise and storm intensity as well as better information about properties’ flooding histories. Harvey will send at least 100,000 more claims to NFIP. The program pays $400 million annually in interest to the government for debt largely incurred since Hurricane Katrina. This graph explains why FEMA is losing so much money on its flood insurance. https://www.fema.gov/loss-dollars-paid-calendar-year

Fix health care by September 27:

Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) are trying to stabilize insurance markets and pay for ObamaCare’s cost-sharing reductions before payments are due on September 27 and insurers must commit to next year’s plans on the exchanges. GOP leadership oppose what they call a bailout of insurance companies without any reforms. The House-passed repeal bill for the Affordable Care Act is still on its calendar without any action on it in the Senate. GOP Sens. Bill Cassidy (LA), Lindsey Graham (SC) and Dean Heller (NV) are pushing their plan, and DDT wants the ACA repealed before the vote could be filibustered, something requiring at least 50 GOP votes. Senate parliamentarian has set the deadline for the bill’s simple majority status at the end of September.

“Reform” taxes:

After 200+ days of failure, Republicans are looking for a success, and DDT wants his tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy done immediately. The “reconciliation” process for purely fiscal bills is good until the end of September. Mnuchin has promised details “this month,” but DDT said he expects the House to write the bill. Tax reform: GOP leaders were scheduled to meet with DDT this afternoon about cutting taxes, and DDT is scheduled to fly to North Dakota to present another vague speech selling his “reform” and put pressure on Democratic senators in red states. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) is up for re-election next year.

Confirm DDT’s nominations:

Conservatives are whining about Democrats demanding 30 hours of debate for every judicial nominee—something that Republicans did if they got around to considering any of President Obama’s nominees like his nominee for the Supreme Court.

Fix DACA:

Since DDT gave only six more months to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) that allows people brought into the country illegally as children to remain here legally, Congress can reinstate the program. Chances are highly unlikely that the GOP has enough “heart” and “compassion” to do anything for the 800,000 people losing their jobs in six months. DDT had suggested trading DACA for his “wall” and greater curbs on legal immigration, which Sen. Dick Durbin (IL), second highest Democrat, called a “nonstarter.” [Note: hours after Jeff Sessions made the announcement about rescinding DACA, the trump for DDT was so bad that he tweeted that if Congress doesn’t “legalize” DACA, he will “revisit” it.]

Pass the National Defense Authorization Act:

Senators tried to pass this bill before their vacation, but Rand Paul (R-KY) blocked it by requiring a vote on his amendments to sunset the 2001 and 2002 war authorizations allowing DDT to start wars without congressional approval. Defense is one of eight appropriations bills yet to be passed that also includes funds for NASA, NOAA, FAA’s space office, Homeland Security, Education, and Veterans Affairs.  The 2011 caps on defense and non-defense discretionary spending are still in effect; if they are violated, automatic across-the-board cuts go into effect like they did for FY2013. Congress voted to relax the next two budgets but not this year’s.

Make decisions about surveillance:

Section 702, amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allowing monitoring of foreign officials overseas, is due to expire at the end of December. Because it can accidentally collect communications of U.S. citizens, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) wants to know if his communications are being collected. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) wants to make warrantless surveillance permanent. Muddying the issue for Republicans is their concern that Section 702 allowed intelligence agencies to collect information about Russia’s connection with DDT and his family.

Reauthorize CHIP:

The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Medicaid supplement providing health insurance to nine million children, expires at the end of September with legislation to continue it. Legislators hope that they have flexibility if states don’t run out of money immediately, but inaction causes instability. Conservatives may hold this program hostage in an attempt to repeal the ACA medical device tax.

Reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration:

Neither House nor Senate FAA bills have gone to the floors, and they will need to be merged into one bill and passed again. The House bill privatizes the air navigation system to a non-profit corporation which DDT wants but may not pass muster in the Senate.

So Congress has 12 working days to keep the government from closing, avoid defaulting on the nation’s payments, solve health care, resolve the air traffic control dilemma, pay for Hurricane Harvey, and maybe cut taxes. And Hurricane Irma is headed toward Florida. Tick-tock.

August 26, 2017

DDT: Thirty-One – The King of Mean

Today, August 26, 2017, commemorates Women’s Equality Day, the anniversary of the 19th Amendment (1920) awarding the women the right to vote. As this analysis shows, last year’s proclamation from President Obama was about ways to make life better for women in the United States. This year’s statement from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) discussed women in relationship to men and focused on women in the economy. To keep the rights that the current administration is taking from women—and men—people need to evaluate candidates’ histories and political positions instead of believing the lies delivered on the campaign trail.   

The “Friday dump” refers to news released during the last day of the work week with the hopes that no one will notice. In yesterday’s case, the news was also consumed with the landfall of Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 disaster that displaced 16 million people—five percent of the nation’s population—with either the hurricane or ensuing tropical storm. Unfortunately for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), at least three big stories still made the headlines.

During his campaign, DDT said that he was far more protective of LGBT people than his opponent, Hillary Clinton. This past week, he signed an order to prevent transgender people from joining the military and to stop payment for sex reassignment surgeries for military members. Transgender service members are in limbo because Defense Secretary Jim Mattis can tell any transgender military members that they cannot stay in the service.

In a support of white supremacy,  DDT pardoned the Arizona county sheriff who violated a federal judge’s order ordering him to stop illegally detaining people solely based on Latino appearance. DDT’s endorsement of Joe Arpaio endorses the former sheriff’s discrimination and favors a political supporter who supporter DDT’s racist conspiracy theory that President Obama was not born in the United States. Martin Redish, a constitutional law expert, gave his perspective before the pardon was a fait accompli:

“Should the president indicate that he does not think Mr. Arpaio should be punished for [violating constitutional rights in defiance of a court order], he would signal that governmental agents who violate judicial injunctions are likely to be pardoned, even though their behavior violated constitutional rights, when their illegal actions are consistent with presidential policies….

“If the president signals to government agents that there exists the likelihood of a pardon when they violate a judicial injunction that blocks his policies, he can all too easily circumvent the only effective means of enforcing constitutional restrictions on his behavior. Indeed, the president could even secretly promise a pardon to agents if they undertake illegal activity he desires.”

Arizona’s GOP senior senator, John McCain, said DDT’s pardon “undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law” because Arpaio “was guilty of criminal contempt” and “has shown no remorse for his actions.” A more muted statement from Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) was still critical. The pardon meets none of DOJ’s guidelines: five years past prison release or conviction if no prison time, expression of remorse, and an application to the Office of Pardon Attorney. DDT’s pardon for Arpaio’s horrific actions demonstrates open white nationalist rule in the U.S.

Last spring, DDT asked AG Jeff Sessions to drop the case against Arpaio, but Sessions said he couldn’t interfere in the federal case. DDT then decided to pardon Arpaio if he were convicted.

Nazi sympathizer Sebastian Gorka has left the White House. He claims that he resigned, but a White House official indicated his departure was not voluntary. Gorka’s wife, Katharine, is still national security adviser and working to eliminate a $400,000 DHS grant to Life after Hate founded by former white supremacists who renounced racist ideology and help help others transition out of hate groups and re-assimilate into society. Gorka’s aim is to put all funding toward fighting “radical Islamic terrorism.” DHS also revoked funding from the Muslim Public Affairs Council, an American Muslim advocacy organization for an approved $393,800 grant to create community resource centers throughout the country. Like her husband, Katharine Gorka pushes conspiracy theories about the Muslim Brotherhood infiltrating the government and media.

Also gone from the White House is Andy Hemming, the director of rapid response. Hemming didn’t explain, but the WH said it was a “mutual decision.” He was responsible for circulating positive news articles about DDT, usually from the conservative media, to reporters. He’s the third member of the communications department, after Anthony Scaramucci and Michael Short, to leave within a month.

The last intelligence head to accuse Russia of meddling in the presidential election may lose control over cyber issues after DDT decided to separate the U.S. Cyber Command from the NSA. DDT is considered another general to lead the cyber agency National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers refused to deny DDT’s campaign collusion with Russia.

Navy Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin has already been fired “due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command” after four Navy accidents since last January, two of them with sailors missing or dead in two separate collisions. Addressing the ten missing sailors in the recent collision between a Navy destroyer and an oil tanker, DDT said, “That’s too bad.”  Sen. Adam Schiff’s (D-CA) said about DDT’s statement:

“There’s some attribute of his character that makes him seemingly incapable of introspection and a broad understanding of what the country really needs.”

In his continued pursuit of alienating congressional Republicans, DDT blamed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan for the “mess” surrounding the debt ceiling. Thursday’s tweets:

“I requested that Mitch M & Paul R tie the Debt Ceiling legislation into the popular V.A. Bill (which just passed) for easy approval. They…

“…didn’t do it so now we have a big deal with Dems holding them up (as usual) on Debt Ceiling approval. Could have been so easy-now a mess!”

DDT was referencing the veterans bill that he signed last Wednesday which shortens the appeals process time for disability claims. The absolute deadline to raise the debt ceiling is September 29; the Treasury department has been fudging bill payment for months. Congress will have 12 contentious days after they return in September to solve the debt ceiling and pass a budget as well as address the tax cuts for the wealthy that DDT wants. No one knows when DDT made the suggestion to connect the two. McConnell had said, “There is zero chance—no chance—we won’t raise the debt ceiling.” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin wants a “clean” vote, but conservatives want to include Democrat-opposed spending restrictions. The Senate bill needs support from at least eight Democrats.

Another DDT target last week was Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who said that DDT “has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.” During DDT’s campaign, Corker had been considered a possible running mate, and after the inauguration, DDT’s secretary of state.  Of the eight GOP senators running for re-election in 2018, DDT has already attacked three of them—Corker, Flake, and Nevada’s Dean Heller—as well as opposing law year’s presidential candidate Ted Cruz from Texas.

The National Institutes of Health has removed the word “change” after the word “climate,” per administrative orders. Perhaps it’s DDT’s method of turning around climate change.

The Interior Department has stopped a study about health risks from mountaintop-removal coal mining that West Virginia officials had requested. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has also recommended shrinking the boundaries of some public land national monuments in a secret report to DDT. Watch for court and congressional fights. Nobody is sure what is happening because the two-page summary provides no information and his statement is only that he’s recommending size reductions for an unspecified “handful” of national monuments. Industries are sure that they will be opened up to mining, drilling, and killing the life on them.

Ronald Reagan will be inducted into the Labor Department’s Labor Hall of Honor. Reagan may have been a union leader while in Hollywood, but he fired 11,000 striking air traffic controllers and decertified their union.

DDT may cause substandard care in nursing homes by blocking their residents from suing for injuries from bad care, abuse, or neglect. He can act on this by undoing the rule preventing nursing homes from requiring agreement to resolve disputes through arbitration instead of litigation.

Watch for another “Friday dump” this next week from DDT. The deadline to continue DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is September 5, and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is considering DACA’s elimination, thus destroying the lives of almost 800,000 people involuntarily brought into the country as children by removing their work permits. The campaigning DDT said:

“We are gonna deal with DACA with heart…I do have a big heart. We’re going to take care of everybody.”

The economy would lose $460.3 billion in GDP over ten years without the 685,000 DACA workers, and DDT’s rejection of them would annually cost states billions of dollars in GDP–$1.3 billion in Arizona and $1.5 billion Florida. DACA supporters include Rush Limbaugh, Pat Robertson, Newt Gingrich, and three-fourths of DDT supporters.

The U.S. is facing war around the planet—the Middle East, Venezuela, and North Korea for a few countries—plus Russian control of the U.S. election process, and DDT attacks transgender people and working Latinos.

August 2, 2017

Congress, DDT Leaving D.C. with Little to Show

The House left Washington, D.C. last week for an extended vacation, but not after they did a bit of harm. In an article for Nation, “Paul Ryan Hands Donald Trump a Blank Check for Endless War,” John Nichols refers to the House Speaker’s stripping an amendment from the defense budget that unanimously passed in committee. He did it after midnight and with no debate, floor vote, or consultation with anyone except the GOP House leadership. The U.S. Constitution does not give the president power to wage war, but Congress passed a 60-word bill allowing the president to send military forces against groups linked to the 9/11 attacks. DDT no longer restricts his hostile actions against countries throughout the world to fighting ISIS. The amendment would have required Congress to following the constitution by reverting to congressional approval for military action. It even has support from within the Pentagon. Even General Joseph Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wants the 2001 law revoked.

The title of the article, however, could have been far more general: it could have been just “Paul Ryan Hands Donald Trump.” Republicans in the House have been largely mum after DDT’s egregious actions and proposals. Even when DDT suggested that he could pardon his family, his associates, and himself, few GOP representatives objected. To accept pardons from the president, people had to admit that they committed the crimes for which they are pardoned. Thus DDT is considering the admission that he committed crimes, but little word from Republicans in the House.

When Democrats requested documents in the House Judiciary Committee about the firing of former FBI director James Comey, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) flipped the proposal into an amendment to ask the Justice Department for documents related to Comey’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email service. The witch hunt is back on to divert attention away from DDT’s Russia collusion. In the new administration, only GOP congressional members are permitted to asked for any documents; no Democrats need apply. The committee passed Gaetz’s amendment on a partisan vote of 16-13.

A failure in the House is the D.C. Circuit Court’s ruling that state attorneys general can defend subsidy payments to the insurance industry for certain health care consumers. The GOP House sued in 2014 to stop these payments because Congress had not approved a specific appropriation, and DDT threatens to block the funding because Trumpcare failed. The insurance industry warned that instability could cause a 20-percent increase in premiums for 2018.

The House did buck DDT’s wishes when it passed—by 419-3!—increased sanctions on Russia and decreased presidential authority to change these sanctions. The Senate had already passed the bill by 98-2. The bill also includes sanctions on Iran, North Korea, and Ukraine. Furious about the bill, DDT waited a week to sign the bill into law with no ceremony but declared has “clearly unconstitutional provisions.” This from the man who has violated the constitution in so many ways. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the bill will not “be helpful to our efforts.” Russian president Vladimir Putin is so angry that he reduced the U.S. diplomatic staff by 755 people, matching the number of diplomatic Russians in the U.S., and seized two properties used by U.S. diplomats.

Another irritant for DDT may be the Senate bill to protect special investigator, Robert Mueller. Any firing of a special counsel would demand judicial review if the bill passes by a veto-proof margin.

On the other side of Congress, senators have decided to go home tomorrow, or Friday at the latest, after Trumpcare went down in flames. (For a bit of satire regarding the upshot of the Senate Trumpcare vote, check out Andy Borowitz’s column about DDT supporters’ fury for still having healthcare.) In the midst of Trumpcare trauma, they planned to stay into their typical August recess until August 11th. The House is gone, however, and DDT plans to head out tomorrow if the flight restrictions around Bedminster (NJ) from August 3-20 are correct.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has already handed over another blank check from the Judiciary Committee to DDT by not requiring DDT associates—eldest son, Don Jr; son-in-law Jared Kushner; and former campaign manager Paul Manafort—to testify. They just “talked” and gave the committee some documents. One topic from the disappeared subpoenas was the once-secret meeting with a growing number of Russians when Jr, Kushner, and Manafort hoped to get dirt on Clinton. Grassley is also trying to prove that the former intelligence officer who prepared the dossier on Russian meddling really works for Russia, once again in a struggle to protect DDT.

The failure of Trumpcare in the Senate—thanks to “no” votes against it from GOP Sens. Susan Collins (ME), John McCain (AZ), and Lisa Murkowski (AK)—was followed by a failure for AG Jeff Sessions. The Appropriations Committee blocked the DOJ spending anything to undermine state medical marijuana laws. When Sessions isn’t trying to collect and keep money from innocent people picked up by the police, he has been salivating about destroying state laws regarding cannabis. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has proposed a bill to legalize cannabis because of its ability to solve the opioid abuse and relieve one racist approach toward imprisonment. GOP control of Congress will block Booker’s bill at this time, but approval of cannabis use is growing across the nation. Its use should be legal, according to 61 percent of people in the U.S., and 88 percent favor medical marijuana use. Another 71 percent oppose efforts to stop sales and use in states where it is legal, and 65 percent think that marijuana is less dangerous than most other drugs. In short, the vast majority of people disagree with Sessions.

The GOP senators have hit rock bottom after the failure of Trumpcare: they are offering to work with Democrats. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Senate Health Committee chair, will hold bipartisan hearings when Congress comes back in September to develop a short-term proposal to strengthen individual markets for the Affordable Care Act by mid-September. Female, Democrat Patty Murray (WA) will have a place at the negotiating table for the first time with Alexander’s decision. A bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, consisting of 43 senators from both parties, praised Alexander for his initiative. Insurers are required to sign contracts by the end of September to sell plans on the exchanges.

Christopher Wray—DDT’s pick for FBI director—has been confirmed, but five senators voted against him. Two of them are from Oregon, making me very proud. After the illegal closing of the George Washington Bridge, Wray defended New Jersey governor Chris Christie. Wray hid Christie’s cellphone, and Christie escaped a guilty verdict. Wray’s law firm represents Russia-owned energy companies, and Wray deleted his representation of an energy company executive in a criminal investigation by Russian authorities from his biography. His career has been spent in defending criminals, not pursuing them, i.e., a major Swiss bank accused of laundering money for terrorists. In the history of confirming FBI directors, only one other senator has ever voted against a director. Rand Paul (R-KY) voted against James Comey because of surveillance issues.

Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) should be praised for introducing the Dream Act of 2017 granting legal status and a path to citizenship for DREAMers. Eight out of ten voters, including more than 7 in 10 Republicans, believe DREAMers should be allowed to remain in the US legally. Ending DACA would result in a loss of $460.3 billion from the national GDP over the next 10 years, and remove an estimated 685,000 workers from the nation’s economy.

The question now is what will happen on October 1 if the House doesn’t get around to passing the budget and increasing the debt ceiling. The Senate and House have 12 joint working days before Sept. 29. A shutdown means a stock market crash, surging interest rates, disruption to the world’s financial system, and a recession. Twelve days.

 

October 30, 2015

Budget Bill, GOP Debate Dismay Republicans

This past week was filled with news, especially the GOP debate and the new Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan. A miracle also happened, but the media largely ignored this amazing event: Congress passed a bill that stops threats of government shutdown from the GOP refusing to both raise the debt ceiling and eliminate the sequester for the next 18 months. The GOP cannot use these threats before the general election a year from now. President Obama will finish his second term without the budget warfare, including an almost month-long government shutdown, that he’s endured for the past five years.

The budget agreement raises the government debt ceiling until March 2017 and sets the budget of the government through the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years. A collection of spending cuts and revenue increases provides $80 billion more for military and domestic programs, avoiding the sequester for another two years. The appropriations committees are just left to write legislation to reflect the spending by December 11.

The House passed the deal by a 266-167 vote; 79 Republicans joined 187 Democrats. Former House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) had hoped for this bill to pass before he left his position—and the House—but most people didn’t believe it was possible. Not everyone in the House wanted the bill: 167 Republicans voted against the bill. The so-called Hastert Rule, requiring that no bill would be put on the floor without the promise of enough Republican votes for passage, was totally ignored. The rule is named after the former Speaker who just pled guilty about lying to the government after they discovered he had been paying off a former student sexually abused by Hastert while he was a high school coach.

The budget accord raises spending caps on domestic and defense spending over the next two years and makes changes to the Social Security disability program while raising the debt limit until March 2017. There’s also a drawdown from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and savings reaped from a Justice Department fund for crime victims that involves assets seized from criminals.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the budget a “major victory” and removes “the stranglehold of sequestration … from our nation’s growth.” The other indicator that the bill is a positive move forward is that conservatives absolutely hate the agreement. Boehner almost lost the deal over the proposed cap for insurance in the federal crop insurance system but backed down in an agreement that the situation would be addressed later this year.

Social Security played a part in the bill that continued a two-percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors and other health care providers. Earlier this year, the Republicans tried to eliminate part of the Social Security disability program, but the current bill covers the shortfall in the disability trust fund with Social Security funds. At least one-third of Medicare recipients avoided a 52-percent premium hike.

The bill finally passed the Senate by 64-35 at 3:00 in the morning after long wrangling when 18 Republicans joined all Senate Democrats to support its final passage. The vote could have been earlier, but Rand Paul (KY), who came back from his presidential campaign trail for the vote, spoke against it for an hour. GOP presidential candidates Ted Cruz (TX) and Marco Rubio (FL) also voted against the bill; Lindsey Graham (SC) voted in favor of it.

The bill’s great advantage is that the congressional appropriations committees can stop arguing about short-term continuing resolutions to avert government shutdowns. Cruz can no longer threaten the nation with his favorite activity—stopping all government activity. Hedge funds and private equity firms are losers because the bill calls for heightened IRS scrutiny for them. The government receives $11 billion to audit large partnerships.

The bill also requires generic drug makers to pay an additional rebate under Medicaid if drug costs outpace inflation—a given. Non-generic drugs already have to pay that rebate. The GOP should be happy that it finally killed one small part of the Affordable Care Act that no one knew about—the mandate for large employers to automatically enroll new employees in health plans. That part hadn’t been enforced yet so people won’t notice.

Equally crushing for conservatives is that over half the Republicans joined Democrats to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, which conservatives called corporate cronyism. The backers used a little-used discharge petition which circumvents leadership opposition to bring the bill up for a floor vote. It is yet to be seen whether the Senate will pass a bill that got almost three-fourths of the House vote.

While the congressional Republicans were fighting about the budget, the GOP presidential candidates were honoring the liberal union position of striking to get better working conditions. They banded together to protest what they perceived as unfair media treatment at last Wednesday’s debate and erase the contract with NBC for the debate in Houston on February 16, 2016. RNC Chair Reince Priebus called the questions “petty and mean-spirited in tone, and designed to embarrass our candidates.” He added that the debate “was not an attempt to give the American people a greater understanding of our candidates’ policies and ideas.”

Conservatives are calling for “conservative media professionals” (an oxymoron) to moderate GOP debates because “liberal moderators” are in charge. This may be the first time that the Fox network has been called “liberal.” Their suggestion is to have Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Mark Levin as moderators because they “influence more Republican primary voters.” Diana Banister, Executive Director of Citizens for the Republic, described past debate questions as being “of zero relevance, yet designed to bring chaos and disorder to the Republican’s chance to win the race for the White House.” Others went farther to ask that Democrats have a debate moderated by “conservative opinion leaders.”

Thus far the group of protesting presidential candidates has at least ten of the remaining 16 wannabes although they are excluding RNC Chair Priebus.  Each one is voicing complaints and ways to make the debates more successful for them individually.

Jeb Bush and Rand Paul want equal speaking time, and Bobby Jindal, still at the kids’ table, wants to change the criteria for determining who qualifies for the prime-time debate. Polling better in Iowa than nationally, he wants early state polling instead of just national surveys. Others at the early debate at the bottom of polling want a random drawing instead of poll numbers to determine the main debate. Ben Carson is upset about what he called “gotcha” questions about his affiliation with the fraudulent supplement company Mannatech. He skipped over the fact that he lied about his relationship with the firm. Chris Christie accused a moderator of being rude, “even in New Jersey”; he’s the governor who bellowed “sit down and shut up” and calls people in the audience “idiot.”

Donald Trump had already convinced the networks that two hours was better than three hours, reducing fire from other candidates. The candidates also demanded opening and closing statements, something that the network said would take too much time for ten candidates but agreed to. Before the debate, candidates complained about the quality of their green rooms. The post-mortem of the GOP-failed 2012 campaign concluded that 20 debates were too many because they allowed candidates to show the weaknesses of their opponents.

Petty? Mean-spirited? Too long? Zero relevance? “Gotcha” questions? Designed to embarrass? All these terms describe the past month’s grueling 11-hour Benghazi hearing at the House of Representatives that Democratic presidential candidate faced with grace and patience. The GOP candidates could take a lesson from watching her.

October 9, 2013

Day Nine of the GOP Government Shutdown: Koch Brothers Getting Nervous

Eleven months ago, the wealthy Koch Brothers started orchestrating the current government shutdown; now they understand that they have unleashed a monster because many of the most vocal Tea Party members in Congress are ignorant. And stupid.

Last Saturday, the New York Times divulged the background for the plot to create the current developing disaster for the United States:

“Shortly after President Obama started his second term, a loose-knit coalition of conservative activists led by former Attorney General Edwin Meese III gathered in the capital to plot strategy. Their push to repeal Mr. Obama’s health care law was going nowhere, and they desperately needed a new plan.

“Out of that session, held one morning in a location the members insist on keeping secret, came a little-noticed ‘blueprint to defunding Obamacare,’ signed by Mr. Meese and leaders of more than three dozen conservative groups. It articulated a take-no-prisoners legislative strategy that had long percolated in conservative circles: that Republicans could derail the health care overhaul if conservative lawmakers were willing to push fellow Republicans — including their cautious leaders — into cutting off financing for the entire federal government. …

“To many Americans, the shutdown came out of nowhere. But interviews with a wide array of conservatives show that the confrontation that precipitated the crisis was the outgrowth of a long-running effort to undo the law, the Affordable Care Act, since its passage in 2010—waged by a galaxy of conservative groups with more money, organized tactics and interconnections than is commonly known. …

“A defunding ‘tool kit’ created in early September included talking points for the question, ‘What happens when you shut down the government and you are blamed for it?’ The suggested answer was the one House Republicans give today: ‘We are simply calling to fund the entire government except for the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare.’

“Groups like Tea Party Patriots, Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks are all immersed in the fight, as is Club for Growth, a business-backed nonprofit organization. Some, like Generation Opportunity and Young Americans for Liberty, both aimed at young adults, are upstarts. Heritage Action is new, too, founded in 2010 to advance the policy prescriptions of its sister group, the Heritage Foundation.

“The billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, have been deeply involved with financing the overall effort. A group linked to the Kochs, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, disbursed more than $200 million last year to nonprofit organizations involved in the fight. Included was $5 million to Generation Opportunity, which created a buzz last month with an Internet advertisement showing a menacing Uncle Sam figure popping up between a woman’s legs during a gynecological exam.”

The day after the NYT revealed the right-wing plans to shut down the government, House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) admitted that in July he had cut a deal with Democrats: if the Senate would accept his budget demands, the House would pass a clean Continuing Resolution to keep the government functioning. Then Boehner double-crossed the Democrats.

Up until now the right-wing and their funder, the Koch Brothers, have held the position that they need to get rid of democracy because it allows views that they don’t want, such as raising taxes on the wealthy to help other people in the country. The Koch Brothers have also supported the right-wing neo-Confederate ideology that states have the right to ignore federal mandates, especially those that help racial minorities and the poor.

“States’ rights” gained its popularity to first defend slavery and then maintain racial segregation after the Civil War.It continued in the second half of the 20th century with Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan getting Southern Democrats to turn Republican by fueling their white resentment against integration.

In the 21st century, voters are beginning to understand that survival of the middle class depends on investment in infrastructure, research, education, health care, and other domestic programs, using revenue from increased taxes on the rich. They also recognize that slowing and eventual reversal of global warming depends on reduction of carbon dioxide and other emissions while changing the U.S. energy system.

The Koch Brothers and other right-wing billionaires retaliated by paying millions to extremist far-right organizations, getting them to create strict voter ID laws and gerrymander congressional districts to keep control of state legislators and the U.S. House of Representatives. Throughout the nation, the right-wing follows William F. Buckley’s position from 1957: “The white community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically.”

The Koch Brothers saw the problem with their strategy because many of the GOP House members think that not raising the debt ceiling will not cause problems. Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) led the debt ceiling denier caucus when he claimed that reaching the debt limit will help the economy: “I think, personally, it would bring stability to the world markets.”

Other GOP Congressional members asserted that the government could pick and choose what bills to pay, like they do in their personal lives. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) said, “I would dispel the rumor that is going around that you hear on every newscast, that if we don’t raise the debt ceiling, we will default on our debt. We won’t. We’ll continue to pay our interest.”

If investors start pulling cash out of money market funds, which hold large amounts of short-term government debt, credit markets will freeze up, as in the 2009 collapse of Lehman Brothers, resulting in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Rep. Richard Burr (R-NC) claimed that “the only people buying our bonds right now is the Federal Reserve.” He ignored the nearly $6 trillion, almost half the public outstanding debt, that is owned by foreign governments, including $2.4 trillion by China and Japan alone. Both of those nations this week warned the United States against doing anything that would put these massive investments at risk.

At least two large banks have already stocked ATM machines with extra money out of concern for a run on the money. The price of insurance contracts on Treasury bonds, known as credit default swaps, more than doubled in the last two weeks. If nothing is done, the swaps will drastically increase, interest rates will send shockwaves through markets, and disaster will ensue except for those who invest in credit derivatives.

People who don’t get Social Security, Medicare, and other benefits may decide to revolt against government. The GOP needs to remember that one-third of the people in this country have over 300 million guns, thanks to the GOP laissez-faire attitude toward gun control and its promotion of a violent culture.

“A Federal debt default would rank as one of the more unprecedented economic and financial events in the country’s history,” Michael Cembalest, global head of investment strategy at J.P. Morgan Asset Management wrote in a note to clients. Debt limit denier Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) showed his ignorance in this statement: “They are trying to overstate their case to get their way. I think if the president were a true leader, he would take default off the table and he would say, ‘We’re not going to default.’”

In an attempt to pretend that they had nothing to do with the government shutdown, a top official from Koch Industries sent a letter today to senators stating that they have not “lobbied on legislative provisions defunding Obamacare.” Privately, Koch officials have expressed concern to lawmakers that the prospect of a government default over the Obamacare issue would be a “disaster” for the economy. Last month, Koch Industries paid $7.2 billion for a company that makes connectors for Apple iPhones and other consumer products–one of many markets that could be effected by spikes in credit resulting from a government default.

“We believe that Congress should–at a minimum–keep to sequester-level spending guidelines, and develop a plan for more significant and widespread spending reductions in the future,” the letter claimed.

The Koch Brothers’ influence is obvious. Soon after the letter was sent, Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham told reporters he wants to defund “Obamacare,” but he doesn’t want this to be tied to the debt ceiling because “failure to raise the debt ceiling would indeed disrupt the global economy.” Immediately after that, FreedomWorks CEO Matt Kibbe said that he, too, believes Congress needs to raise the debt ceiling.

The Democratic Party’s favorability rate has gone down slightly to 43 percent, but the GOP rating is now 28 percent, the lowest at any time since Gallup started measuring party favorability. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) tried to get a vote on a clean CR by using the declining popularity of Congress under Rule IX. “The government shutdown is a mark upon the dignity of the House, and the House should be willing to pass a clean continuing resolution to end it,” he said. To make his point, he explained that Congressional popularity was lower than witches, hemorrhoids, and dog poop. Speaker pro tempore Steve Womack (R-AR) cut off Grayson at dog poop.

In separate op-ed pieces today, Reps. Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Paul Ryan (R-WI) show the direction in which the GOP House may be heading. They will likely veer away from Obamacare toward “reform” of Social Security and Medicare (aka raising the age and reducing the benefits). The GOP House leadership is caught between pressures from the “take no prisoners” position of the Tea Party and the growing fear of the Koch Brothers. At the same time, President Obama may have learned his lesson from the past two negotiations when he rewarded the bad behavior of the GOP who continued to starve the U.S. economy.

Meanwhile Congressional members are still being paid. And fortunately for them, the House members’ gym stays open, providing the hostage-takers with swimming pool, basketball courts, paddleball courts, a sauna, a steam room, and flat screen TVs. Sadly, towel service is unavailable, but taxpayers are paying for daily cleaning and maintenance as well as heating the pools and keeping the lights on.

September 16, 2013

GOP Works to Create Next Fiscal Crisis

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 4:49 PM
Tags: , , ,

Five years ago today, the subprime crisis was peaking with a run on the money market funds—over $140 billion withdrawn compared to $7 billion the week before—leading to problems for the commercial paper market. Thus corporations could no longer get funding or had to pay higher interest rates. Results of the crash:

  • The economy lost $22 trillion, $69,478.88 per person.
  • Assets of the four biggest “too big to fail” banks in the U.S.—JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, and Wachovia/Wells Fargo—went from $6.5 trillion in 2008 to $7.8 trillion this year.
  • The 25 banks responsible for the bulk of risky subprime loans leading up to the crash are back in the mortgage business this year.
  • Regulating financial products and services is “important” or “very important” to 90 percent of the U.S. voters; that’s 10 percent higher than the 80 percent of the people who know that Earth orbits the sun.
  • Wall Street and other financial institutions have spent $487 million to roll back, water down, and weasel out of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act through the use of 2,429 registered financial industry lobbyists.
  • The industry gave $664 million to political candidates in 2011 and 2012.
  • Eugene Scalia, son of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, has filed seven lawsuits to hold up implementation of Dodd-Frank rules on legal technicalities.

Tomorrow, the House plans to start shutting down the government to cause another fiscal crisis.  In exactly two weeks, current funding for the government is set to expire. The House is so dysfunctional that it can’t even present a bill that all the GOP members can support. According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Treasury Department will be depleted between October 18 and November 5. With no Congressional action, the nation will not have money to meet financial obligations and be forced to default for the first time ever.

All Congress needs to do is to raise the statutory debt limit. That doesn’t mean spending more money because the money has already been spent. The GOP is fond of comparing government to business or family fiscal affairs. If they refuse to raise the debt limit, it will be as if a family or business voted to not pay any of their bills on items they have already purchased. Congress has already spent  trillions on wars and decreased income with tax cuts for the wealthy; now they need to agree to pay for previous debts.

For months, GOP legislators have bragged about holding the country hostage until the Democrats are willing to defund the Affordable Care Act and take health benefits from millions of people in the U.S. More recently the GOP upped the ante by its desire to take away Social Security and Medicare.

As Ezra Klein recently explained:

“Trading a government shutdown for a debt-ceiling breach is like trading the flu for septic shock. And Boehner knows it. Republicans will effectively be going to the White House and saying, ‘Delay the health-care law or we will single-handedly cause an unprecedented and unnecessary global financial crisis that everyone will clearly and correctly blame on us, destroying our party for years to come.’ … This is not a safe way to govern the country.”

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has an even nastier plan in store. He said he will avoid a government shutdown by asking for a “clean” short-term budget resolution, extending current spending levels so that a longer-term deal can be worked out. It’s the usual approach to avoiding decisions, but current spending levels are unnecessarily low because of the sequester. Boehner’s plan wants to not only lock in the painful cuts to domestic spending but also increase defense spending by $20 billion.

House Majority Eric Cantor (R-VA) described the deal this way:

“In signing a CR at sequester levels, the president would be endorsing a level of spending that wipes away all the increases he and congressional Democrats made while they were in charge and returns us to a pre-2008 level of discretionary spending.”

Leaders also devised a plan to convince conservative GOP House members that they can claim that they defunded Obamacare while not shutting down the government. Tea Party members call it “smoke and mirrors.” This is the way it works:

  • The GOP uses a legislative tool to pass the Continuing Resolution (CR)—with current sequestration levels—out of the House to the Senate with an attached bill that would defund Obamacare.
  • The Senate would then have to vote on the bill to defund Obamacare before they could vote on the CR.
  • The bill defunding Obamacare could fail in the Senate even if the CR passes.
  • The CR would then go directly to the president for his signature without defunding Obamacare.

Republicans has admitted that it they don’t stop Obamacare before millions of people find out its advantages on October 1, then their steadily-disappearing support will vanish. The anti-Obamacare crowd is already in trouble. A recent poll showed that 57 percent of people in the U.S. oppose defunding Obamacare. Only six percent of people think that Congress should delay and defund the law. A total of 64 percent of people think that Congress should make changes to improve the law, let the law take effect, or even expand the law. Only 30 percent support entirely repealing the law.

The House GOP caucus created a budget blueprint cutting $70 billion in nondefense discretionary accounts, a 15-percent cut from enacted 2013 levels. These cuts are so huge that the caucus was unable to figure out what specific program cuts they could support. For example, cuts in funding for transportation and housing programs were so deep that the leadership couldn’t find enough GOP support for the budget to pass. The bill had to be pulled from the floor because of lack of support. Even worse, the leadership had failed to write a bill showing funding for health and education programs at the levels of the proposed cuts. It’s obvious that their failure that the GOP cannot pass funding levels consistent with their own House budget resolution. Thus they propose just returning to the sequester levels.

The GOP ignores that Obamacare will lower the deficit, $109 over ten years according to a Congressional Budget Office report from July 2012. Savings will be $24 billion in FY 2014.  Undoing certain coverage provisions but maintaining the revenues and cuts in the law—a tactic Republicans have used in the past, most prominently in Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget—would decrease the deficit anywhere between $35 billion and almost $50 billion. Doing so, however, would maintain billions of dollars in cuts to the Medicare program and taxes on various sectors of the health care system, which Republicans say they oppose. It would also undermine the GOP’s criticism of Obama for not delaying the law for all Americans.

The House has only four days in which to make the decision. Members return tomorrow but then recess this Friday for the rest of September. Once the House passes the bill, it has to go to the Senate which takes more time. Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) pointed out that some GOP members oppose these cuts. Earlier this year House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) conceded that GOP leaders cannot find support for cuts among Republicans.

The last government shutdown was also GOP-led. For five days in November 1995 and 21 days from December 15, 1995 to January 6, 1996, the GOP tried to force the opposing party into voting for spending cuts. As a result, 800,000 federal workers were idled, and the ensuing distress with the GOP helped President Clinton’s re-election. He went from deep political trouble when the GOP took control of Congress at the beginning of 1995 to positive numbers in the polls after his willingness to compromise in the face of GOP confrontation. Under Gingrich’s leadership, the GOP kept the House and gained in the Senate but lost the presidency.

Republicans don’t believe in polls, as demonstrated by their ignoring the ones showing that President Obama would win re-election, but polls have bad news for them. A few months ago, only 40 percent of people would blame the GOP for a government shutdown; now the total is over half at 51 percent. Only one-third think that the president would be responsible. If the debt ceiling is not raised, 54 percent will blame the GOP, and only 25 percent would blame the president.

At least 43 conservative House members think that President Obama will “blink” in their childish game. Republicans from swing states, however, worry that a government shutdown on Oct. 1 would severely damage the party and cause a rally for the president. Others are worried about the reaction from Wall Street. The decision comes down to how dumb House leaders can be.

May 10, 2013

No Jobs from the GOP

Jobs, jobs, jobs. That was the campaign promise of the Tea Party infusion of 2010. Yet Congress has done nothing about increasing employment and erasing income inequality. In their new attempt to less offensive to everyone except white males, they have switched away from moral legislating into repetition of what has failed for the past four years or just plain inertia.

A debate among pundits is how many times the House has voted to repeal Obamacare, but it seems to be between 33 and 39 times. No matter how many, the House is about to add another one. Wednesday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) announced that there would be another vote of the full House next week because, as House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said, not everybody in the House has had a chance to vote against it.

The Supreme Court ruled that Obamacare is legal, and Boehner declared, “Obamacare is the law of the land.” The bill has no chance to moving forward after the House passes it. The country is still suffering from high unemployment, the middle class has become the poor, the infrastructure is in shambles, and Congress has passed no budget. But the freshmen class needs its rite of passage to deny people in the United States affordable access to quality health care. And the House is just sitting around for another 18 months hoping that the GOP will take over the Senate in the next election.

One of the parts of Obamacare that the GOP wants to block is a fair comparison and transparency of insurance costs. People on Social Security can easily compare costs of supplemental insurance. If you want the benefits given under “C,” for example, you can see what every insurance company charges for “C.” Yesterday in Oregon, the same thing started to happened for all individual consumers and small business owners. A chart of 2014 insurance premiums shows what each insurance company is charging for the same benefits. Two insurers who checked out the competition have already asked for “do-overs” to lower their rates.

According to Oregon Live, “here’s what competition looks like: one health insurer wants to charge $169 a month next year to cover a 40-year-old Portland-area non-smoker. Another wants $422 a month for the same standard plan.” And which insurance company do you think will get more money? The GOP is opposed to this in the same way that they oppose the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau doing the same thing for credit card agreements.

Yesterday, Republicans in the House did manage to approve the Full Faith and Credit Act (HR 807), better named “Pay China First,” that’s what the bill does. Looking forward to the need to raise the debt ceiling, the GOP decided to increase it only to pay off bondholders and pay Social Security. Anyone else, including the military, would get nothing. Although GOP claims that China holds only 8 percent of the U.S. debt, “Pay China First” is a catchy title. If the debt to the Social Security fund is included, China holds 22 percent of our debt.

Only 8 House Republicans voted against the FFC Act while every Democrat opposed it, resulting in a 221-207 vote. The House knows that the Senate won’t touch their bill, and the president certainly won’t sign it. And the country doesn’t need a debt ceiling hike until at least October. The fact that the GOP would start planning five months ahead is highly unusual for them. Perhaps they’re trying to avoid the bigotry and misogyny so obvious in their approaches to non-fiscal bills.

Another reason for these debt discussions might be to drive the stock market down to make the president look bad. The DOW has gone from under 8,000 to over 15,000 in the less than five years that Barack Obama has been president. The GOP can’t prove that the president is a failure as long as the stock market is so high. The GOP bill could also send a signal to foreign lenders that the nation might not be fiscally sound. The last time that the GOP played around with the debt ceiling, the country paid billions of dollars extra in additional interest; the same thing could happen this time. The GOP appears to be willing to destroy the country in order to get Republicans elected.

John Boehner explained why China would get the money before members of the military or doctors or small businesses or anyone else in the United States: “Those who have loaned us money, like in any proceeding, if you will, court proceeding, the bondholders usually get paid first. Same thing here.”

The GOP prefers to develop a plan in case of crisis instead of providing solutions to avoid the crisis. They also ignore the $407 billion that the federal government collected in April, the highest amount for any other month on record. This amount created a budget surplus of $113 billion and doesn’t reflect the $59 billion that mortgage giant Fannie Mae has promised to repay the government in June.

While the House GOP busies itself passing stupid bills, the Senate drags its heels in the budget field. Under duress, the Senate Democrats passed a budget for to please the Republicans. Because it differs from the House version (that’s an understatement!), the GOP is blocking efforts to form a conference committee to develop a compromise budget. After snarky nagging from Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sens. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), John Cornyn (R-TX), Dan Coats (R-IN), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and Roy Blunt (R-MO) to get a Senate budget passed, the budget business compromise came to a screeching halt.

The House GOP is matching the Senate conservatives with its own paralysis. Republicans had hoped that they could extort a budget deal before August recess, but the debt ceiling isn’t coming that early. Now they have to wait until the threat of a government shutdown on October 1. Without leverage, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) said last Tuesday that they have no reason to open format budget negotiations because Democrats have no reason to revise Medicare and the U.S. Tax Code. In plain words, right now the GOP doesn’t have what it needs to blackmail the Democrats. They’re admitting that they won’t work for a budget unless they can threaten to crash the economy.

Ryan said, “The debt limit is the backstop.” He wants only to rule by self-inflicted crisis. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the senior Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, said, “Sometimes we don’t want to act until a gun is at our heads.” He flagrantly and explicitly stated that all the GOP wants is the ability to blackmail the Democrats. He describes a party of thugs, a gang that will perform any act, legal or illegal, to get their own way even if it has no benefit for the people of the United States government.

The GOP complains incessantly about President Obama: he’s not trying to get things done, he’s not leading because nothing happens; he doesn’t really mean it when he reaches out across the aisle. But which party is not trying to get things done, not leading, and not reaching across the aisle? I rest my case.

January 24, 2013

Obama’s Spending Slowest for over a Half Century

The crisis of the debt ceiling has been postponed until May 19 as the GOP kicked the mythical can down the road through a vote in the House. The Senate has yet to vote on it, but it’s very probable that they will. Meanwhile, the GOP is screaming about how much Obama spends. This is how he compares with the two earlier presidents:

govt expenditures

Bloomberg News wrote, “Federal outlays over the past three years grew at their slowest pace since 1953-56, when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president.” The following chart shows this.

Eisenhower

The GOP keeps pushing the myth that government spending is out of control. Not so. Unfortunately, the lack of government spending is hurting the economy. Now is the time for the government to make investments because of the low interest rates. More investment means lower employment which means better economic recovery which ends up in people paying far more taxes.

Conservatives are wrong on two points: (1) government spending is down, not up, and (2) the GOP is fighting the recovery through making government spending go further down.

Our economic recovery and our deficit problem can’t be solved by taking money from the bottom 99 percent of the people in the country. The less money they have, the less they can spend. The less they spend, the less the economy will recover.

It can be solved by removing “entitlements” from corporations and the wealthy. Lower taxes doesn’t cause them to hire more people. Their history proves that. And they don’t spend the money that improves the economy: they drop it into offshore accounts where they can’t get taxed.

Your Congressional representative may not know this. It’s up to you to tell them.

Another death because of a “responsible, law-abiding gun owner”: Two weeks ago, 4-year-old Trinity Ross was shot in the head by a 6-year-old. Trinity’s stepmother was babysitting four children and had left the room. A loaded revolver was found in the pocket of a coat left by one of the children’s fathers. Trinity died a week later.

____________________________________________________________

This is my last blog for the next week. While I’m gone, check this out! It’s mesmerizing.

January 15, 2013

GOP Retreat Sets Year’s Agenda

This weekend the GOP members of the House will attend their annual retreat, this time at an upscale gated resort in Williamsburg (VA) to map out the coming year’s agenda.  Speakers are Erik Weihenmayer, the first blind man to climb Everest, and motivational speaker Andy Andrews.

They have even more intense issues than the loss of last fall’s election as the country worries about whether their party will destroy the economy during the coming month by taking the United States hostage in the debt ceiling decision.

Currently, GOP has taken the position, as voiced by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), that it’s “possible that we would shut the government to make sure President Obama understands we’re serious.” An alternative if they want to stall is the typical GOP “kick the can” option to raise the debt limit for just a few months. The last time they played this game, they lost the country its credit rating and cost the taypayers $18.9 billion over the next decade just in borrowing costs. This doesn’t consider the massive costs from the economy’s slowdown after Congress almost forced the United States to default 18 months ago.

The debt ceiling needs to be raised by February 15. President Obama has outlined some of the consequences If Congress doesn’t act by then:

“If congressional Republicans refuse to pay America’s bills on time, Social Security checks and veterans’ benefits will be delayed. We might not be able to pay our troops, or honor our contracts with small business owners. Food inspectors, air traffic controllers, specialists who track down loose nuclear material wouldn’t get their paychecks. Investors around the world will ask if the United States of America is, in fact, a safe bet. Markets could go haywire. Interest rates would spike for anybody who borrows money — every homeowner with a mortgage, every student with a college loan, every small business owner who wants to grow and hire.”

Although some people think that not raising the debt ceiling will save money, there is no relationship between this action and future expenditures. Raising the debt ceiling allows the president to pay the existing bills, spending already authorized by Congress. The 14th Amendment demands that these debts be paid: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”

After Congress gave massive tax cuts and put two wars on their charge account, the nation, according to the Constitution, must now pay the bills. As the president said, the American people cannot eat all they want at a restaurant and then leave without paying the check. “We are not a nation of deadbeats,” he said.

In the past, the GOP has listened to the words of their political consultant, pollster, and strategist Frank Luntz in developing their campaigns. He was linguist who told them to use such words as “job creators” instead of wealthy to communicate their need for tax cuts for the “wealthy.” The Republicans may not be as happy about his advice this year. He told Gretchen Carlson on Fox & Friends that voters “don’t care about what the size of government is” and described that message as a loser. “The American people … do care what kinds of services government gives and, quite frankly, how much government takes.”

If the GOP follows Luntz’s advice, you’ll no longer hear the words “tax reform.” Instead watch for terms  like “simpler, flatter and fairer.” He also wants to replace “capping” with “controlling” because “capping” implies that the measures will be temporary while “controlling” suggests a permanent end to spendthrift government. Another Luntz twist is to describe entitlement reforms as “saving and strengthening” entitlement programs rather than controlling or limiting the growth of those programs. The intent is to keep people from understanding that they are losing money.

If the GOP is to regain its power, it will have to change course, wrote Luntz, an approach that will make him unpopular with the more conservative members. Republicans have done almost nothing to combat the common belief that the party cares more about chief executives than struggling workers. Luntz wrote that conservatism cannot succeed without optimism: “Speak to voters’ aspirations, not just their pocketbooks, and emphasize how GOP solutions help the want-to-haves, not just the already-haves.” And when Republicans sneer at the people creating a “food stamp nation,” it makes voters think they are callous. Luntz wants to take back from the president his line about the American Dream: “If you work hard and play by the rules, you should be able to get ahead.”

Other Luntz recommendations are to listen, to be empathetic, reframe the question to fit Republicans, and humanize the issues. He is abandoning his “job creator” approach: “Instead of being the party of small businesses and job creators, House Republicans should become the party of hardworking taxpayers. … If the choice is between the party that fights for hardworking taxpayers and the party that fights for the middle class, Republicans win.”

Other Luntzisms:

Immigration: The consensus among Americans is for “tall fences and wide gates”–a greater effort to prevent illegal immigration while welcoming those who come here for the right reasons and in the right way.

Gun Control: The Second Amendment deserves defending, but do Republicans truly believe that anyone should be able to buy any gun, anywhere, at any time? If yes, they’re on the side of less than 10 percent of America. If not, they need to say so.

Except for the gun-control issue, none of Luntz’s suggestions make any change in policy; it’s just a shift in verbiage. DCCC spokesman Jesse Ferguson has outlined many of the GOP positions through a tongue-in-cheek suggested agenda for the GOP retreat.

Suggested House Republican Retreat Agenda Items

  • Have breakfast paid for by lobbyists
  • How to stop talking about “legitimate rape” and insulting women
  • Science 101
  • Creating tax breaks and tax shelters for millionaire campaign donors
  • Math course on counting to 218 votes
  • A primer on the stock market crash of 1929 and how you could be responsible for the next one.
  • Coup d’etat prevention and planning
  • Trust falls
  • Big-picture thinking
  • Practice interacting with women and minority voters
  • How to increase our approval ratings: What root canals, traffic jams, cockroaches and head lice are doing right
  • Remedial hurricane recovery
  • Your inner Tea Party and you
  • Have dinner paid for by lobbyists

The Democrats will meet next month for a retreat at the Lansdowne Resort in Virginia. The major difference is that lobbyists are paying for the GOP, and taxpayers are picking up the tab, perhaps $150,000, for the Dems. Politicians are beholden to those who pay for them. The GOP will owe the corporations who hire the lobbyists; I’d rather the Dems owe me.

 

Next Page »

AGR Daily 60 Second News Bites

Transformational News In 60 Seconds; What Works For Seven Future Generations Without Causing Harm?

JONATHAN TURLEY

Res ipsa loquitur ("The thing itself speaks")

Jennifer Hofmann

Inspiration for soul-divers, seekers, and activists.

Occupy Democrats

Progressive political commentary/book reviews for youth and adults

V e t P o l i t i c s

politics from a liberal veteran's perspective

Margaret and Helen

Best Friends for Sixty Years and Counting...

GLBT News

Official news outlet for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of ALA

The Extinction Protocol

Geologic and Earthchange News events

Central Oregon Coast NOW

The Central Oregon Coast Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW)

Social Justice For All

Working towards global equity and equality

Over the Rainbow Books

A Book List from Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

%d bloggers like this: