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Posts Tagged ‘2010 midterm elections’

“They Need to Do Their Job.”

Friday, July 1st, 2011

Obama Bitch-Slaps G.O.P. Deficit Hardliners, Hell-Bent Extremists

“Before we ask our seniors to pay more for health care, before we cut our children’s education, before we sacrifice our commitment to the research and innovation that will help create more jobs in the economy, I think it’s only fair to ask an oil company or a corporate jet owner that has done so well to give up a tax break that no other business enjoys. I don’t think that’s real radical. I think the majority of Americans agree with that.”

“I’ve said to some of the Republican leaders, you go talk to your constituents, the Republican constituents, and ask them are they willing to compromise their kids’ safety so that some corporate jet owner continues to get a tax break. And I’m pretty sure what the answer would be.”

*

Wednesday’s presidential press conference—the first since March—showed a combative President Obama chopping at the Republicans for a lack of fiscal seriousness and a slack work ethic. “They need to do their job” is right. And he’s doing his: defending social contract programs like Medicare and Social Security against the ideology-driven slasher nightmare of a “fiscally conservative” party that enabled a doubling of the deficit under George W. Bush (remember Dick Cheney’s “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter”?). From 2001 to 2009 the current G.O.P. leaders voted 19 times to increase the debt limit by $4 trillion. When Bush took office after Bill Clinton the budget was in the black and the Congressional Budget Office projected a $5.6 trillion surplus over 10 years. Then came the cuts.

Anyway, this Barack Obama is the man we campaigned for long ago, the fighter we feared had evaporated forever in a sweet dream of (illusory) bipartisanship. We just wish Barack had bared his knuckles like this last year when the “fiscal conservatives” were pushing like hell for the Bush tax cut extension, and had fought hard before that in the unnecessarily protracted struggle for the health care reform act, and before that for the helpful but insufficient Stimulus (ARRA) of 2009.

(Obama must have been doing something right to prompt Time writer and MSNBC political analyst Mark Halperin to remark Thursday on Morning Joe, with some prompting from Joe Scarborough, “I think he was kind of a dick yesterday.”)

Last year when Obama and congressional Democrats allowed themselves—and thus the nation—to be extorted into an extension of the Bush Tax Cuts for Millionaires, the president seemed not to grasp the terrible truth that the job-killing extremists controlling the G.O.P. are fully willing to drive the U.S. economy into severe crisis in order to inflict maximum damage on this president and his party.

The President now shows signs of understanding that the Republicans really are willing to destroy the United States’s credit and economic functionality in order to inflict pain severe enough to intensify voters’ rejection of the president and his party next November.

The same so-called conservatives who cracked the whip for extension of the Bush tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires—which will add some $700 billion more to the deficit over the next 10 years—now scream that the deficit is strangling America and killing jobs. (The chart at left illustrates the Bush tax cuts’ contribution to the deficit.) They nearly forced a government shut-down in April (how disappointed they were that the crisis was averted by Democrats’ concessions) and now are forcing another crisis. Many of them actually want a shutdown, as is happening at this moment in the stalemated state of Minnesota. (Minnesota-based G.O.P. candidates Pawlenty and Bachmann approve.)

If the U.S. were to crash through the debt ceiling after August 2, would John Boehner and Mitch McConnell’s publicly funded security detail be laid off?

Paul Krugman writes in today’s New York Times (“To the Limit”) that a failure by Congress to raise the debt ceiling is not at all unthinkable:

Failure to raise the debt limit—which would, among other things, disrupt payments on existing debt—could convince investors that the United States is no longer a serious, responsible country, with nasty consequences. Furthermore, nobody knows what a U.S. default would do to the world financial system, which is built on the presumption that U.S. government debt is the ultimate safe asset.

But wait, it gets worse:

Failure to raise the debt limit would also force the U.S. government to make drastic, immediate spending cuts, on a scale that would dwarf the austerity currently being imposed on Greece. . . . slashing spending at a time when the economy is deeply depressed would destroy hundreds of thousands and quite possibly millions of jobs.

Krugman adds, ominously:

G.O.P. leaders don’t actually care about the level of debt. Instead, they’re using the threat of a debt crisis to impose an ideological agenda. . . . what’s really going on is extortion pure and simple. As Mike Konczal of the Roosevelt Institute puts it, the G.O.P. has, in effect, come around with baseball bats and declared, “Nice economy you have here. A real shame if something happened to it.” . . . [Republicans] believe that they have the upper hand, because the public will blame the president for the economic crisis they’re threatening to create. In fact, it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that G.O.P. leaders actually want the economy to perform badly.”

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY)—a careful politician who is not prone to exaggeration—made the same point this week when he said Republicans’ “slash-and-burn approach” may be part of a plan “to slow down the recovery for political gain in 2012.” Schumer cited Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s surprisingly candid remark to a reporter before the 2010 midterm elections—“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” The senior New York senator asserted, “Republicans aren’t just opposing the president any more, they are opposing the economic recovery itself . . .”

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A Failure to Communicate—Not a Failure to Govern

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

[ cross-posted at Daily Kos ]

Not Good, But Could Have Been Worse

A party that governs well but communicates poorly was set back by a party that obstructs well but is more interested in holding power than in governing.

What could have been a hideous wipeout following a grotesque campaign season was instead a series of setbacks, strong disappointments, and some reliefs and bright spots. Among the setbacks we sadly count the Illinois and Pennsylvania senate races where the Democratic candidates came very close. Among the strong disappointments were the losses of progressives like Russ Feingold, Alan Grayson, and Tom Perriello. Ouch. But we were relieved by the victories of senate majority leader Harry Reid, California senator Barbara Boxer, and among the bright spots are the gubernatorial victories of Andrew Cuomo in New York and Jerry Brown in California.

But the Democratic party is in serious trouble in the midsection of the country, with painful losses from Pennsylvania west to Wisconsin . . . Obama already is not strong in the South (which sometimes includes Florida), and that’s not likely to change. (Also disappointing was Charlie Melancon’s loss to David Vitter in Louisiana; Vitter ran against Obama, disregarding Melancon.) Obama and the Democratic party must get something in gear—something like employment, jobs programs, and a focused communications department—to regain support among the Rust Belt and Midwestern voters.

How to Interpret the Election?

Of course Republicans are claiming a mandate, but that’s ridiculous (and not at all supported by this CBS exit poll). We think the election results are more a matter of a sick economy (see below), Democrats’ failure to clearly explain and promote their accomplishments, and massive GOP and conservative negative advertising + 24/7 Fox News propaganda (aka the Republican Noise Machine). While Republicans insist the election results are a “referendum on Obama’s agenda” and “the voice of the American people,” let’s not forget that the GOP Tea Party candidates’ ads and secret, shadow groups’ attacks on Democrats were funded by millions of dollars from Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Spending on congressional campaigns was expected to reach $4 billion. The GOP started campaigning around the inauguration; the Democrats, preoccupied with legislative accomplishments (see below), were late to the game. Further, remember that the so-called Tea Party, though it had grass-roots origins, has largely been co-opted and the Tea Party as it is now is not a people’s movement in the traditional sense: it is corporate-sponsored, establishment-driven. Ask Dick Armey and the billionaire Koch brothers. So much for “the voice of the American people.”

And “It’s the Economy, Stupid.” Comparisons with the 1994 midterms (after Clinton’s first 18 months) are common, but the economy is far worse now, with unemployment officially at 9.6 percent (it’s actually much higher). A closer comparison—which Republicans don’t mention—would be 1982, after Reagan’s first 18 months, when the unemployment rate was about 10 percent: Democrats gained 27 seats, cementing their majority. In 1994 unemployment was about 5.6 percent. It is now about 9.6 percent, with some 15 million people out of work, and that’s only counting the people who have not given up in despair and not counting the under-employed (those working part-time instead of full-time). Reporter Robert Scheer says some 50 million Americans have either lost their homes through foreclosures or their home values are underwater: the amounts owed on their mortgages exceed the property’s market value. (We recommend Sheer’s new book, The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street.)

Need we add that the Republicans have done nothing to help create jobs, but instead have blocked extensions of unemployment insurance, voted against tax breaks for small businesses—often voting against their own ideas—and massively resisted the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the Stimulus). They wanted to intensify the economic pain and thwart the president in order to regain power. This will be their strategy for the next two years as well. Gird your loins.

Much Accomplished, Much More to Be Done

This blog has complained possibly too much about what the president and the Democrats have not done. Perhaps most frustrating, though, is that the Democrats in Congress and the White House failed to communicate to the nation the astonishingly productive legislative record that they have accomplished over the past 21 months. With bill after bill, the Donkey kicked ass, but you’d never know it from them.

On Monday, Nov. 1, The Rachel Maddow Show produced a 15-minute segment highlighting the many accomplishments of the 111th Congress. The list is impressive—“the most legislatively productive 21 months in decades”—and we only wish the DNC had boasted far and wide about these bills. With more effective messaging (and a stronger focus on job creation, of course), the Dems could have countered the GOP distortions and rallied stronger base support and thus invigorated voter turnout.

Take a look at these achievements (and spread the good word):

  • Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to help victims of pay discrimination—especially women—challenge unequal pay. Signed by President Obama January 29, 2009.
  • Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 expanded health insurance coverage to more than 4 million children and pregnant women. Signed by President Obama February 4, 2009.
  • Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act (2009), giving about $6 billion over 5 years and increasing the number of full-time and part-time national service (AmeriCorps) volunteers from 75,000 to 250,000. Creates new programs focused on special areas like strengthening schools, improving health care for low-income communities, boosting energy efficiency and cleaning up parks, etc. Signed by President Obama April 21, 2009.
  • Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act (2009) sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), described by Money magazine as “ best friend a credit card user ever had.” Credit Card Bill of Rights signed by President Obama May 22, 2009.
  • College student loan reform, March 2010: as part of the health care reform legislation, a provision “that would cut funding to private student lenders and redirect billions of dollars in expected savings into grants to needy students” (W.Post).
  • Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act gave FDA power to regulate tobacco. Signed by President Obama June 22, 2009.
  • Hate Crimes Prevention Act (aka Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act), made it a federal crime to commit assault based on victim’s gender, sexual orientation, etc. Signed by President Obama Oct. 28, 2009.
  • Car Allowance Rebate System (aka “Cash for Clunkers”): Begun in June 2009, and by August the auto industry was reporting strong sales—only about a half year after GM and Chrysler were bailed out by Washington. Boosted sales of safer and more fuel-efficient cars, helping clear the air and stimulating the economy.
  • Veterans benefited from the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2010, and the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010. The American Legion said “in our view the real successes [of the 111th Congress] were the passage of bills that affected nearly every veteran in America.”

All this is even before the big-ticket items of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (aka The Stimulus), the monumental (and incremental) Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (health care reform: click here for healthcare.gov), and the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (2010), which included establishment of a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, presently being (unofficially) headed by Harvard law professor and consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren.

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Yes We’re Voting Tues. Nov. 2.
Not Voting = Not an Option.

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Dear readers: We promised recently we’d soon be getting off our donkey and rejoining the Organizing for America phone banks to help get out the vote for Tues. Nov. 2. Our cell phones are recharged and we’re back in action.

Here’s what you can do: Click the  Organizing for America web site (myBarackObama.com) and quickly find how you can make phone calls from home, or join a phone bank near you to call potential voters to urge them to come out on Tues. Nov. 2 (or vote early if their state allows) and vote Democratic. Folks, it’s kind of important. If you need information about voting, click RaiseYourVote.com. Forward this link.

“Enthusiasm gap”? Let’s not leave anything to chance.

Consider what can happen if you stay home: Christine “I’m not a witch” O’Donnell won her Delaware GOP primary by about 2,500 votes. Democrat Scott Murphy of New York’s 20th congressional district won the 2009 special election by 401 votes. And, on a slightly more consequential level, in 2000 George W. Bush won the state of Florida (or did he?) by 537 votes. Please don’t think your vote doesn’t count. (If you want to be scared into voting Democratic, read this Halloween-worthy column by Paul Krugman, “Divided We Fail.”)

Now, we completely understand reasons for not wanting to pull that Dem. lever. We have been among the complainers, the pajama-clad bloggers of the “professional Left” who have, according to Joe Biden, “whined” about the Democrats not accomplishing more (not pushing harder against the GOP wall of opposition). But the V.P. has a point when he says “don’t compare us to the Almighty; compare us to the alternative.” We really don’t want to go there, America. We really don’t want the Rand Paul Stomp, as shown in this commercial produced by the Kentucky Democratic Party:

Significant Accomplishments in 2 Years

Despite unyielding opposition and a blizzard of disinformation from the Republican Noise Machine, the Obama administration and the Democrat-led Congress have staved off a collapse of the American financial system; passed a strong stimulus bill that created or saved some 3+ million jobs; passed a health care reform bill that will expand coverage to 30+ million and save some $1 trillion over the next 10 years; signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act that tripled the size of AmeriCorps; pushed for a $50 billion National Infrastructure Bank; appointed an exemplary administrator of FEMA (this is important) and other exceptional cabinet secretaries, and much more.

Sick and tired of being sick and tired?

We have a civic duty to help limit the damage that can and will be inflicted by radical Tea Party Republicans who think women have no right to choose, unemployment insurance is unconstitutional, Social Security and Medicare should be abolished and/or privatized, and worse. There are 111 GOP incumbents who want to abolish the U.S. Department of Education. And the forecast is for many more Republicans in Congress? These are not the remedies our nation needs right now. Although some of the concerns originally driving early members may have been sincere, the Tea Party as it is now is not a grassroots movement: it is corporate-sponsored, establishment-driven. Ask Dick Armey and the billionaire Koch brothers.

Now is the time for all good citizens to save their country from its darker impulses.

And when this election is over, please remain active. (We made the same plea in 2008.) Keep phoning and writing and organizing to keep the pressure on the elected Democrats to do the progressive thing: Have the courage to wind down the wars, invest more in America, generate jobs here at home, increase spending on infrastructure and clean energy, increase spending on health care and education and housing, protect Social Security and Medicare, and reduce the Defense budget. Raise taxes on the wealthy and the superwealthy, back to the Clinton-era or even Reagan-era rates. (Many Dems are afraid to push for this; let ’em know it’s popular.) Whatever it is you want, keep up the pressure on your elected officials. You know the conservatives aren’t sitting back waiting for their agenda to be enacted. Liberals, progressives, Democrats need to learn a thing or two from them (methods, that is, not policy).

That link again is Organizing for America (an outgrowth of the Obama-Biden 2008 campaign, now affiliated with the Democratic party). Please join us, and urge all your friends, family, and neighbors to vote Democratic. Thank you.

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The Silence of the Dems

Friday, October 1st, 2010

Now, finally, the president’s out there on the stump doing what we wish he’d been doing for the past 16 months or so: drawing sharp, biting distinctions between Democrats and Republicans. Great timing, five weeks before election day. We pray it ain’t too late. It would have helped if the Senate Democrats had not timidly wimped away from forcing a vote on the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and pushed the Republicans to show how much they care for the middle class. Their timidity explains the enthusiasm gap (but that’s no excuse for not voting against Republicans on Nov. 2).

Why Is Barack Obama All Alone?

But where are his fellow Democrats, now and for the past year and a half? Is the president alone because he spent more time courting the party that wants him to fail than organizing and training surrogates in his own party to help frame the message and control the national debate? We think so. We recall wondering with distress during the stimulus struggle in February 2009, “Where are the f—ing Democrats?!”

All week we’ve been wondering Where are the f—ing Senate Democrats?! It’s as though the camera hogs have turned into groundhogs, frightened of their shadows, leaving Obama to do all the heavy lifting on the American Recovery and Investment Plan, better known as The Stimulus.

All the work of promoting and defending the stimulus and health care reform and Wall Street reform seems to have been left to the president to handle by himself. This is inexcusable. Even on Dem-friendly MSNBC much of the air time goes to covering conservatives’ antics and rantings instead of Democrats’ and progressives’ positive messaging. (There are a few exceptions, such as Barney Frank, Alan Grayson, Debbie Wasserman Shultz, Sherrod Brown, Howard Dean.)

Where Are the Donkeys That Kick Ass?

Democrats are said to be the majority party, yet they’re AWOL while Boehner and Cantor and other conservative big mouths have been shaking the leaves off the trees with their high-pitched elephant roars and hoof-poundings about out-of-control spending. Where are the donkeys that kick ass?

What drives us f—ing craaazy is that since Inauguration Day the Democrats have allowed the Republicans to control the national microphone as though the Dems are still scared shitless of the elephant’s hoof the way they were from 9/11/01 onward. As our friend Pat of Hurricane Radio says in a hot, lucid piece we wish we’d written, “You [Obama and the Dems] have to learn that there are political consequences for letting the other side control the debate.”

Get Out the Vote: No Staying Home on Nov. 2

Don’t get us wrong, we’re about to get our donkey back in gear by rejoining the Organizing for America phone banks to call the disillusioned pessimistics to please come back out and vote even if you don’t feel like it. Please, fellow Americans, check your local listings for OFA in your area and make phone calls as if your nation’s sanity depends on it—because it does. You can phone from home. Even if you’re mad at how things have gone down since January 20, 2009 (we are too), do not stay home on Election Day, but phone and e-mail friends and family to get out and vote for Democrats or at least against Republicans on Nov. 2.

Remember, voting for a candidate is only one step. Even after election day we have to keep after them. The White House and members of Congress—Democrats especially—have to be hit over the head repeatedly with bricks and frying pans before they’ll act on any issue not of immediate concern to their reelection or fund-raising. Sorry, but it’s the system we have. The conservatives never rest, and neither can progressives, liberals, protectors of the social safety net.

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We’re Not “Whining,” Mr. Biden,
But Democrats in Congress Are Cringing

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

“Campaigning for Democratic candidates in New Hampshire, Vice President Joe Biden said Monday the party’s base should ‘stop whining.’ . . . [Mr. Biden] said Democrats can win . . . if they draw clear distinctions between themselves and their Republican opponents, and he urged Democrats to ‘remind our base constituency to stop whining and get out there and look at the alternatives. This president has done an incredible job. He’s kept his promises.”

Given a chance to clarify his remarks on Lawrence O’Donnell’s The Last Word (MSNBC), the Vice President said:

“there’s some on the Democratic base, not the core of it, that are angry because we didn’t get every single thing they want. . . . But because there was no public option, some of them are so angry, they say, we’re not going to participate. They should stop that. . . . And so those who . . . didn’t get everything they wanted, it’s time to just buck up here, understand that we can make things better . . . but not yield the playing field . . .”

We agree entirely about drawing “clear distinctions” and not yielding the playing field. But we want Mr. Biden to understand a thing or two.

Following is a letter that we’ve faxed and are mailing to the Vice President’s office (White House fax # 202-456-2461; phone 202-456-1111). A version of this letter will go out this week to the Democratic National Committee and Democratic members of the House and Senate.

Don’t Insult the “Whining” Base While Democratic “Leadership” Cringes

Dear Vice President Biden:

With all due respect, sir, you’re not helping matters by telling the Democratic base to “stop whining.” The reason why our party faces potential losses in November is that Democratic candidates are afraid to fight (Creigh Deeds, Martha Coakley), as sickeningly exemplified by the cowardly choice to not even debate, much less vote on, the expiring Bush tax cuts for billionaires. If there’s an enthusiasm gap it’s because we’re not inspired by the so-called leadership.

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Democrats Entering Campaign Mode as if to Win?

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

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Launching Midterm Campaign, Obama Mocks Republican Recklessness

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

*

“We are united. We are strong. That’s why they call them unions.”

President Obama was in full campaign mode as he rallied a lively Labor Day crowd of some 5,000 supporters at Milwaukee’s LaborFest on Monday, Sept. 6. First he talked about what the administration and Democrats in Congress have achieved, then proposed “a new plan for rebuilding and modernizing America’s roads and rails and runways for the long term.” We’ll have more to say in the next day or so about his impressive pitch for a National Infrastructure Bank. Meanwhile, here’s what he had to say about the Republicans who think they deserve another turn at the wheel. (The quoted passage begins at about 45:30 in the video.)

“They drove our economy into a ditch. And we got in there and put on our boots and we pushed and we shoved. And we were sweating and these guys were standing, watching us and sipping on a Slurpee. [Laughter.] And they were pointing at us saying, how come you’re not pushing harder, how come you’re not pushing faster? And then when we finally got the car up—and it’s got a few dings and a few dents, it’s got some mud on it, we’re going to have to do some work on it—they point to everybody and say, look what these guys did to your car. [Laughter.] After we got it out of the ditch! And then they got the nerve to ask for the keys back! I don’t want to give them the keys back. They don’t know how to drive.”

And there’s more, much more.

You go, Barack. This is the kind of punch in the face of the Party of No we’ve been starving for for a year and a half.

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