Nel's New Day

December 2, 2013

GOP Strategy: Block and Blank

Imagine your life if you were paid full time for working a little over one day a week. That’s life if you’re a member of Congress this next five weeks. The House is scheduled to “work” six days during that time, making a total of 113 work days in 2013. With their $174,000 salary, GOP House members made about $1,380 a day this year. In a little over ten days, members of the House make the same amount of money that a fulltime worker paid minimum wage makes in an entire year. At least the House members worked 19 days more than last year, but this year’s calendar is 13 days less than that scheduled next year.

Perhaps House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) can’t find anything for the GOP to do in the next five weeks. It appears that the House has stopped repealing the Affordable Care Act because they’re afraid to take insurance away from people. Right now conservative lawmakers seem happy to just tell lies about people who are losing their insurance and having to pay more for other plans. The Senate doesn’t seem to be working any harder than the House as GOP senators sulk about the change in the filibuster rules.

What else is left for federal lawmakers to do this year?

  • Relief from sequester caps
  • Budget plans to keep the United States from shutting down or defaulting on the debt
  • Funding authority, which expires January 15
  • Pentagon policy bill blocked because of dissension over ways to stop sexual-assault cases and increased sanctions against Iran after the White House reached a tentative nuclear pact with that nation
  • Unemployment benefits, funding to help workers displaced by global trade, and business-friendly tax break including research and development
  • Fees paid to Medicare providers to keep doctors and hospitals from dropping patients from the program
  • Confirmation of the new Federal Reserve chair, head of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, and three nominees to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia—not to mention all the other nominees waiting in the wings
  • The farm policy that also includes the funding level for food stamps
  • Immigration reform? Ha!

My favorite problem is the expiration of laws banning plastic guns on December 9. The 25-year-old law that stops weapons manufacturers from making guns undetectable by security systems expires without Congressional renewal. If Congress doesn’t act, anyone can easily take a gun anywhere, including onto airplanes, because plastic weapons can’t be detected.

Over 18 months ago, political scholars Thomas E. Mann and Norma J. Ornstein published an article in The Washington Post entitled “Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem.” One conservative and the other progressive, they agreed:

“The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

Searching for reasons behind the dysfunction, they listed “the mobilization of social conservatives after the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the anti-tax movement launched in 1978 by California’s Proposition 13, the rise of conservative talk radio after a congressional pay raise in 1989, and the emergence of Fox News and right-wing blogs.”

According to the couple, however, the two people behind the move to the far right are Newt Gingrich and Grover Norquist. From his entrance into Congress in 1979, Gingrich worked to persuade voters that this branch of government was “so corrupt that anyone would be better than the incumbents, especially those in the Democratic majority.” He spent 16 years bringing ethics charges against Democratic leaders and provoking them into overreactions that united GOP voters into opposing Democratic initiatives. Then he exploited scandals to raise public disgust with politicians and recruited conservatives to run against the government.

When Gingrich became speaker, the self-serving leader compromised with President Bill Clinton to build up the House’s reputation, but it was too late. The hatred toward Washington, similar to that from the Tea Party, drove out moderate GOP House members. Some of the radical conservatives moved into the Senate and similarly polarized its culture.

At the same time that Gingrich was poisoning the House, Norquist founded Americans for Tax Reform and passed out the Taxpayer Protection Pledge in 1986. Signers were bound to never vote for a tax increase, including closing tax loopholes. As of last year, 238 of the 242 House Republicans and 41 of the 47 GOP senators had given their souls to Norquist. Extremists liked the pledge so much that they created offshoots on issues such as climate change.

More recently, Ornstein wrote about the change in the Senate during the past decade. After 14 Senators, seven from each side of the aisle, compromised in confirming extremist judges Janice Rogers Brown and Priscilla Owen, Republican senators such as Lamar Alexander (TN) promised that they would never filibuster a judicial nominee.

Barack Obama’s move into the White House, however, turned “the filibuster into a routine weapon of mass obstruction.” No longer were filibusters based on qualifications. GOP senators abandoned their 2005-2006 commitments to not filibuster as  well as more recent ones in January 2013 to block everyone nominated for the bench.

In addition to filibusters, senators can block nominations for federal district court vacancies in their states, a practice known as “blue slips.” GOP senators, including Marco Rubio (FL) who actually recommended the nominee, are using this practice.

As the conservative Ornstein wrote:

“If the norms are blown up, which is what Senate Republicans under Mitch McConnell have done over the past five years—using the rules not to build bridges but to construct dams—it becomes almost inevitable that the rules will change to adapt.”

After the recent change in the filibuster rules, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) threatened more judges like Scalia and Alito, but these judges, as well as Thomas, came with the filibuster rules. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), with others, expressed concern that the Senate would get worse in effecting the legislative process. It can’t.

House Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will prevent any legislature not in his political interest and support any legislation that will benefit him. Even with the majority of Democrats in the Senate passing a bill, the House will most certainly block it. The immigration reform passed the Senate with supermajorities, and Boehner won’t touch it.

The Party of No recently revealed its plan for the coming year to finish up the 113th Congress as the worst in history. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) met with a group of House GOP members and handed out a blank piece of paper labeled Agenda 2014, proving that they had no “governing vision or even a legislative agenda.” As an aide described the GOP leadership: “We don’t know where we are headed, and we don’t know what we can sell to our members.”

That’s the strategy of the GOP: blank.

December 30, 2012

Buddhist Calls Norquist’s Pledge ‘Treasonous’

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 4:32 PM
Tags: , , , ,

It’s one day before the end of the year, and the GOP refuses to compromise on the tax cuts that take effect in a little over 24 hours. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said on Fox News that there would be no agreement without taking money away from the elderly and disabled by lowering Social Security.

Meanwhile Robert Thurman, noted Buddhist scholar, prolific author, respected academician, and one of Time’s most influential people of 1997, expressed his concern about Republicans refusal to raise any taxes because of their pledge to Grover Norquist. Thurman has made a video to explain how the pledge is seditious and treasonous. (Yes, Mr. Norquist, we understand that you claim the pledge is made to the constituents and not you, but there wouldn’t be a pledge without you.)

According to Thurman, those who have taken the anti-tax pledge, “have taken an oath to an outside organization which is not supported by the U.S. Constitution–which gives Congress the right to levy taxes, to do the work of the people through the government –but this is a non governmental organization, not elected by anybody and supported by big money people who are making money by not having to pay taxes.”

Thurman adds:

“And these people have signed a sworn oath that contradicts their oath of office. And therefore, in fact, they do have mental reservations, and they do have purpose of evasion and they are not sincerely taking their oath of office. And if they persist in that, and if they are held to that by this outside person who is not a member of the government, then they are, in fact, breaking their oath of office and they are not serving what they swore to serve the American people.”

Thurman also takes umbrage with Norquist’s rationale for the pledge: “I’m not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” By their loyalty to Norquist, the pledge-takers become anarchists, agreeing that government is useless and that they should “starve the beast.” The beast reference, as defined by fundamentalists, refers to Satan in the Book of Revelations, “a very negative way of depicting the U.S. government,” Thurman said.

People have an obligation to their constituents. If they cannot compromise to keep the government successful, they have a serious and actionable conflict of interest—grounds for impeachment. Thurman said that they are “unfit for office.”

He concludes, “…they must, as a single body, reject their oath to Grover Norquist, renounce that oath in order to retake their oath of office; sincerely, without mental reservation, and without purpose of evasion; which is what they must do to be reinstated in our good graces, the people of the United States, of whom they are the employee.”

On this, the last Sunday of the year, the self-identified Christians in Congress, should pay attention to a Buddhist. Thurman wants to save the country; the GOP wants to destroy the country in order to keep their jobs.

November 27, 2012

Congress Ignores Job, Economy Issues

Since Election Day, many of the nation’s populace have focused on what will happen to the bipartisan fiscal agreement from August 2011 that kept the United States from defaulting on the national debt which would have crashed the entire country. The conditions of this agreement were supposed to be changed a year ago, but the bitter partisan fighting stopped this from happening. With no compromise before the end of 2012, taxes revert to the time of Bill Clinton (when, by the way, we had a great economy), a situation that the media likes to call the “fiscal cliff.”

During a meeting with the president ten days after Election Day,  House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) informed President Obama that the fiscal cliff is “my leverage.” During this discussion Boehner threatened to not agree to the president’s proposal if the speaker’s demands weren’t meant.

Since the election, Republicans have admitted that they are willing to create new revenue, despite the anti-tax pledge that most of them signed with conservative activist Grover Norquist. In return, however, they want to hack at Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Once again, conservatives are using their typical tactic of fear and ploy of extortion.

In fact, there might not be a real crisis. CBO has adjusted its forecast with the result that the debt/GDP ratio now stabilizes after a few years. Social Security etc. are not part of businesses required to make a profit; reasonable management of health care costs will keep Medicare and Medicaid expenditures within control. Military spending should decrease as the country leaves its warmongering.

President Obama’s proposal regarding taxes is to keep the Bush cuts for everyone who makes under $250,000. Republicans like to refer to the people above this amount—only two percent of the population—as job creators. They aren’t. To see that there is no relationship between private-sector employment and tax cuts, just look at this employment since 2001. The only reason that employment gained during George W. Bush’s first term was the 800,000 increase in public sector.

Because Republicans like to control by fear, they don’t tell people that everyone in the country keeps the Bush tax cuts on the first $250,000 that they make, even the top two percent.

Republicans are truly caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place, and both of these are in their own political party. If they try to look at all reasonable and break their pledge for no new taxes, the Tea Party backs a candidate that might defeat long-time incumbents. This was the case with Dick Lugar in Illinois during the last primary. The situation is even more dire with the Democratic wins in the most recent election. The big question right now: do Republicans agree with providing revenue to the country, the way that 70 percent of the population wants, or do they please Tea Party members with the Norquist approach of no tax increases–ever.

Last week Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), up for reelection in two years, broke with Norquist, by saying that addressing the nation’s looming “fiscal cliff” takes precedence over honoring the anti-tax pledge. “I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge.”

Chambliss is also a supporter of the Bowles-Simpson plan to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits. In return for these drastic measures against the middle class, the plan raises some revenue by closing a few token tax loopholes and reducing the popular mortgage interest deduction. Like other Republicans, Chambliss could vote to close small loopholes in the tax code while raising the retirement age for Social Security, cap overall spending for Medicare, and dramatically lowering corporate tax rates.

Up for re-election in two years, Chambliss could attract moderates in a primary against a Tea Party candidate by supporting more revenue. It would also get him funding from lobbyists for his election campaign because they want to destroy the safety net and keep corporate taxes low.

On Sunday’s talk shows Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he could reject the pledge if Democrats would reform entitlements (aka roll back Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid), and Rep. Peter T. King (R-NY) said the pledge may be out of step in the present economy. Monday morning, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) told CBS’s Charlie Rose that he, too, was “not obligated on the pledge.”

While millions of words are being devoted these days to the fiscal cliff or hill or curb, McCain and others are leading the media into an obsessive reporting about Susan Rice’s lack of information about the Benghazi disaster. Rational people know that Rice reported what she was told on the Sunday after four men were killed at the embassy. Since then the Republicans, led by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and his sycophant Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), have pilloried Rice. Graham said she shouldn’t have said anything, knowing that this would have made the situation worse.

Sunday said that he wouldn’t not have necessarily block Rice for the position of Secretary of State and asked for a meeting with her. After today’s meeting with the three loudest critics—McCain, Ayotte, and Graham—all of them said that “they were more disturbed than before the meeting.”

What is the reason behind the opposition? Senators indicate that they prefer John Kerry to Rice as Secretary of State. The choice may have two primary reasons. First, Kerry is a white man, much preferred by Congressional Republicans. To see the Republicans’ lack of diversity, check out the new committee leaders in the House–19 white men.

Second, if Kerry were to be appointed to this position, Massachusetts would need a new senator. After his loss to Elizabeth Warren, the current Massachusetts senator, Scott Brown, is in a prime position to win the election, adding one more Republican to the 45 already in the U.S. Senate for the next two years.

Meanwhile Congress ignores the need to improve jobs and economy while Republicans continue to oppose any benefits for the 99 percent of the country’s population.

November 22, 2012

My Thanks for 2012

Thanksgiving is a time that I express gratitude for the people around me, family and friends, who enrich my life. One special joy is the couple who comes from the city to celebrate their anniversary with us. Because the country and our state don’t have marriage equality, they, like us, are not legally married, but we still have our traditions. This year, as several times in the past, another friend came with her pies, and a local friend dropped by after her dinner with other friends.

This year, however, my gratitude goes far beyond my immediate family. The recent election, in which the majority of people voted for the president, Senate members, and House members, has given hope for the betterment of the United States. Because of gerrymandering in the “red states,” the House still has a majority of Republicans, but I take comfort in knowing that more people in the country voted for progressives than regressives.

Thanks to this recent vote, the country will not rush off to start wars the way it might have if  Mitt Romney’s hawkish advisers got their way. The military will not be forced to take an extra $2 trillion that they believe they don’t need. Dick Cheney won’t be back.

For another four years the Supreme Court is safely split between conservatives and liberals with one moderate (in the past a conservative) making most of the decisions. The Affordable Care Act is now the law of the land, and abortion will stay legal although conservatives will do everything they can to prevent it. Women will be able to get free contraception for their personal family planning.

Money won’t be taken from the poor and middle class to go to the wealthy, and the safety net will remain for people who don’t have the advantages that the rest of us do. The Dream Act stays in place; young people who were brought here illegally as children will not be forced into deportation.

LGBT rights will move forward instead of backward, possibly even evolving into marriage equality. The Departments of Energy and Education and Housing and all the others that conservatives wanted to eliminate will remain.

Unions can keep struggling on, and religion won’t overtake the country in the next four years. During that time, the demonization of teachers and other government workers may be reversed.

The Tea Party is weaker than ever. Their determination to dig themselves deeper into their holes may result in a cave-in of hate. This year’s election proved that money does not buy everything. Eighty percent of super PAC money went to conservative candidates, but most of those supported by the conservative PACs lost. People like Joe Walsh and Allen West will not be on Capitol Hill in January.

I’m grateful that there is one house in the United States that Romney cannot buy.

Grover Norquist, who blackmailed almost all Republican Congresspeople into signing a pledge of no new taxes under any circumstances, is losing his clout. A dozen newly elected House Republicans refused to sign the anti-tax pledge during their campaigns, and another handful of returning Republicans have disavowed their allegiance to the written commitment. In addition Democrats picked up eight seats. Fewer than the 218 members needed for a majority vote are now Grover followers. The Senate has the same non-Grover majority with only 39 pledge signers. In the 112th Congress, the House had 238 Grover followers and the Senate had 41.

I am grateful for all the people willing to stand in line, sometimes up to eight hours and sometimes in freezing temperatures, who refuse to be told that they can’t vote. And I appreciate the people who found open polls despite the conservatives’ misinformation about where and when voters could cast their ballots.

Equal marriage rights made huge gains in the country during the past year with the first popular vote in favor of same-sex marriage in not just one but three states. The one-year study on the effects of gays and lesbians openly serving in the military was very positive, showing no difficulties. I give thanks to people willing to vote for LGBT people and issue, to recognize these as part of the community at large.

Voters alsorejected anti-woman candidates such as Todd Akins (“legitimate rape”) and Richard Mourdock (“gift of rape”) and racist candidates such as Scott Brown who tried to destroy his opponent, Elizabeth Warren, by painting her as a liar about her Native American heritage, meanwhile ridiculing it.

I am grateful to the man who was elected president and his courage in the face of racist lies and threats. In the end, he won—and decisively–over the man who sneered at 47 percent of the people in the United States–the poor and disadvantaged–not only before the election but also after it. Because of the 53 percent of the people in the country who voted for Barack Obama, we will not spend four years with a president who started as a bully in his prep school and continued the practice during much of his life.

This year, perhaps more than any other, the choice was truly one of vision. The country is at a turning point: it can go forward or self-destruct. Thanks to all the people who understood this and voted, we can now move forward.

Today is Thanksgiving Day 2012. Tomorrow, November 23, is Native American Heritage Day, designated by President Obama in 2009 “to honor the contributions, achievements, sacrifices, and cultural and historical legacy of the original inhabitants of what is now the United States and their descendants: the American Indian and Alaska Native people.” I am grateful to the indigenous peoples of the United States who helped the immigrants four centuries ago to survive. The Presidential Proclamation identifies the entire month of November as a time to celebrate and honor Native Americans while never forgetting that there are “parts of our shared history that have been marred by violence and tragic mistreatment” and that “for centuries, Native Americans faced cruelty, injustice, and broken promises.”

“Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried.” – Winston Churchill


June 24, 2012

Norquist Ties to Keep Pledgers in Line

For a brief time, the Congressional Republicans seemed to be regaining a piece of their sanity. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told ABC News that Republicans should eliminate loopholes in the tax code even if they aren’t replaced by additional tax cuts. “When you eliminate a deduction, it’s OK with me to use some of that money to get us out of debt. That’s where I disagree with the pledge,” he said. He went so far as to say that Republicans should be flexible. Maybe he had been listening to former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY), co-chair of President Obama’s Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform in 2010, who said, “You can’t cut spending your way out of this hole.”

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) argued so forcefully that Republicans must abandon that pledge if they are serious about tackling the spiraling national debt that he persuaded 34 Senate Republicans to cancel billions of dollars in annual tax credits for ethanol blenders. “Grover, you’re stupid, forget it, we’re going to vote the right way,” Coburn said.

Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR) proposed a 5-percent surtax on all income over $1 million annually. And there’s more.

“I’m not saying I’m even committed now to a tax increase, but I think anybody who doesn’t indicate their willingness to look at revenues–expiration of tax loopholes, tax credits, increase in contribution to Social Security, which is a tax, and otherwise–would be disingenuous and irresponsible.” – Rep. Tim Johnson (R-IL) who claimed he didn’t sign the pledge but actually did

“I have learned, never sign a damn pledge.” – Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN)

“Grover Norquist has no credibility, so I don’t respond to him. He doesn’t deserve being responded to.” – Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)

“Have we really reached the point where one person’s demand for ideological purity is paralyzing Congress to the point that even a discussion of tax reform is viewed as breaking a no-tax pledge?” – Rep. Frank Wolff (R-VA)

“I informed the organization I don’t consider [the earlier pledge] binding. I don’t care to be associated with it. It’s too constraining.” – Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE)

“The only pledge I take anymore is to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. That’s the pledge every member takes when he gets sworn in and that’s the pledge you ougtta be concerned about.” – Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) noting that he signed the pledge only once when he first ran for Congress in 1998

“Grover Norquist is not in my district. I represent the state of Wyoming and its people.” – Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)

“I’m no longer signing any pledges to anybody. I’m not going to sign it next year.” – Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI)

“My driver’s license expires, the milk in my refrigerator expires, the only thing that doesn’t expire is Grover Norquist’s pledge–and that’s nuts.” – Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-OH)

“I’m married to Camille Andrews, not Grover Norquist. I promised her to be faithful until death do us part, and I mean it. I did not promise him to oppose tax increases until death do us part.” – Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ)

“We shouldn’t be bound by something that could be interpreted different ways if what we’re trying to accomplish is broad-based tax reform.” – Sen. John Thune (R-SD)

All these rejections of Norquist’s pledge looked hopeful until he had a private audience with his minions last Wednesday. After visiting Graham, he said, “Graham will never vote for a tax increase.” About Coburn, Norquist said, “He had a moment of weakness where he thought you had to raise taxes to get spending restraint. He now knows that’s not true.” Norquist has lost Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), the only Democrat Senator to sign the pledge, but he probably doesn’t much care. Nelson is not running for re-election.

Norquist went to the Hill to “educate” Congressmen. “We believe that if you make the taxes simpler and can actually lower the taxes, the government takes in more money,” freshman Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) said after the meeting. I guess that’s “Grover-speak.”

Signing the Norquist pledge smacks of treason. All members of Congress sign an oath to protect the Constitution. Article I, Section 8 states:

“The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes”

The Norquist pledge states:

I, ____, pledge to the taxpayers of the (____ district of the) state of _____ and to the American people that I will: ONE, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rate for individuals and business; and TWO, oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.

Instead of providing for the “general welfare” as required by the Constitution, conservatives sign a pledge resulting in a policy of “sink or swim” for everyone in the country—except the wealthy. As any parent knows, two-year-olds say “No!” to everything no matter what it is. Multi-dimensional adults use a thoughtful approach.

Both taxes and government spending are the lowest they have been in 60 years. Yet Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are determined to raise taxes on the poor and middle class while drastically cutting taxes for the top 1% of income earners with each plan adding trillions to the nation’s debt. The Norquist Pledge of “No!” means protecting the corporate interest. That’s the summer’s fight—right after the Supreme Court ruling on health care.

Civil Rights Advocacy

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. -- Margaret Mead

AGR Daily 60 Second News

Transformational News; 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: