The assault on our democracy is a bigger problem than the temporary closure of national parks.
America’s best idea is in trouble, and I don’t mean our national parks. Yes, our parks were closed, which was a crushing disappointment for millions of would-be visitors and an economic gut-punch for neighboring communities — to the tune of $76 million dollars a day.
But what’s really under attack is something even older than our national park system: our democracy.
How did we reach a point where one fraction of one party that controls one chamber of Congress would drive our government into the ground if it doesn’t get everything its members want? ‘This shutdown is like a firefighter standing on the hose to stop the rest of the company from putting out a blaze until he gets a million-dollar raise — all while the building burns.
We didn’t get here by accident. It’s the result of a systematic attack on basic democratic principles by a handful of people who have no interest in a functioning democracy. While there is no excuse, there is an explanation.
It starts with big money. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision opened the floodgates for a tidal wave of corrupting corporate money into our system. But where is the money coming from and where is it going?
Huge amounts are from polluter-backed groups, which spent more than $270 million on television ads in just two months of the 2012 election — and that explains why Congress has taken more than 300 votes attacking clean air and water. The same people who are poisoning our democracy are also determined to poison our environment. It’s no surprise that 80 percent of Americans agree that political money is preventing our most important challenges from being addressed.
At the same time, special interest groups are spending millions to keep anyone who disagrees with them away from the polls and out of office. No sooner did the Supreme Court gut a key part of the Voting Rights Act, that state houses with Republican majorities pushed through suppressive legislation to keep young people, seniors, students, and people of color away from the polls. It’s no coincidence that those are the same citizens who have voted against them.
These challenges have led the Sierra Club to team up with the NAACP, Communications Workers of America, and Greenpeace to form the Democracy Initiative. Our goal is to build a movement to halt the corrupting influence of corporate money in politics, prevent the manipulation and suppression of voters, and address other obstacles to significant reform.
Challenges to our democracy might get even worse. We’re fighting a frightening Supreme Court challenge to campaign finance limits that would allow individuals to write million dollar checks to buy influence, brought to the court by Shaun McCutcheon — a coal company CEO.
Only about 1,200 people came close to reaching the spending limits McCutcheon wants overturned — and a good number of them are oil, gas, and coal executives, from the sectors that directly contributed $40 million in 2012. Give them free rein to write whatever size of a check they want, and we’ll see that number skyrocket.
The faster that money pours in, the quicker the voices of ordinary Americans are drowned out. We can’t let that happen. And we won’t. They may have millions of dollars, but we have millions of people. And, thanks to efforts like the Democracy Initiative, we are organizing and coming together to make sure our voices are heard.
If we want to see more shutdowns and debt crises, then we should maintain the status quo. If we want more attacks on our air, water, and climate, then all we need to do is turn away in disgust at the political posturing. But if we want to restore a democracy that works for Americans and will preserve a healthy planet for future generations, it’s time to stand up and fight back.
Michael Brune is the executive director of the Sierra Club, the largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States. SierraClub.org. Image courtesy of Oil Change International. Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)
The Supreme Court’s Shelby ruling aids a Republican plan to win more elections without winning support from more voters.
The majority’s ruling in the Shelby County vs. Holder case gutted key Voting Rights Act provisions at a time when minority access to the polls faces new obstacles.
As Justice Ruth Ginsburg explained and proved in her dissent, the law is working well but remains necessary. She likened the ruling to “throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”
But not everyone is peeved. The decision cheered up any Republican leaders who remained sour that their hospitality to the far-right fringe came back to bite them last November.
In what’s turning into a tradition, tea-partying enthusiasts forced rabid Senate candidates onto the ballot in 2012. Some of them lost what might have been easy wins when they turned out to be too radical for the general public.
Then there’s the White House. Despite spending a record $1.2 billion to win the presidency, Mitt Romney and the GOP blew that race.
Yes, the GOP did hang onto its majority in the House of Representatives. But Republicans now only have a 33-seat edge on the competition in that chamber, down from the 49-seat margin they enjoyed before the 2012 elections.
Now, you might guess these great leaders would move swiftly to rebrand the GOP to appeal to more voters. Or distance their party from those vote-repelling tea partiers. Well, guess again. They’ve settled on a different strategy: cheating.
An earlier Supreme Court ruling helped make this new approach possible. Remember that Citizens United decision? It allowed corporations for the first time to buy directly into elections with unlimited contributions.
The Republicans found out in November, when Romney outspent Barack Obama by more than $100 million, that it will take more than gobs of corporate cash to win big.
But money is only one GOP angle. Another is fraud. No, no, not that Republicans will vote twice or anything so pedestrian.
Instead, they accuse poor people of voting fraudulently, and thereupon get legislatures to pass laws making voting a serious hassle if you’re not part of the in-group with a government-issued photo ID. Republican operatives are also fond of flyers and announcements that threaten insecure new citizens and poorly educated voters with arrest if their papers are not exactly in order.
Another voting deterrence tool is inconvenience. Other nations — and many states — have long worked to increase polling places, lengthen voting hours, stimulate mail balloting, and simplify procedures.
Contrarily, numerous Republican-controlled states are seeking to reverse all those trends. The GOP’s theory is simple enough: We know who poorer, less mobile people tend to vote for, and it isn’t us. Hey, let’s make it as hard for them to vote as we can.
Yet another tactic is gerrymandering. State legislatures normally draw boundaries not only for their own districts but for Congress as well. In some states, lawmakers exert this power mainly to protect their own personal seats.
Ginsburg calls these tactics “second-generation barriers to minority voting.” Thanks to that shiny new Supreme Court ruling, they’re now easier to pull off.
Now the Republican Party, wherever it’s in charge, is going further. It’s crowding Democratic voters, especially around urban centers, into a few contorted pockets. This practice spreads the Republican voters around, helping the GOP accumulate additional “safe” legislative and congressional seats.
The GOP’s creative redistricting explains why President Obama won Wisconsin by more than 200,000 votes while Democrats only carried three of the state’s eight congressional districts.
There’s more. Coming soon to a gerrymandered state near you: an attack on presidential elections.
Here’s how this trick works: Each state gets to determine how its own electoral votes will be allocated — either by a statewide “winner-take-all” system or by congressional district. Republican-gerrymandered states are moving quickly to distribute their electoral votes by congressional district.
Isn’t that convenient? Even if the Republican Party doesn’t need any more help from the Supreme Court, our democracy sure does.
Emily Schwartz Greco is the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit national editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies. OtherWords columnist William A. Collins is a former state representative and a former mayor of Norwalk, Connecticut. OtherWords.org Photo credit to Denver Post Blog
Veena Trehan, Op-Ed: Fifty years ago, Betty Friedan’s “Feminine Mystique” explained how wives were not fulfilled by homemaking and childbearing. Woman couldn’t get credit, were fired when their pregnancy showed and held mostly assistant or teaching positions in the 1960s. We’ve come a long way. Today, women comprise 58 percent of college students, 33 percent more college graduates than men, and a strong presence in most industries. Yet, they make up only 20 percent of Congress, 4 percent of Fortune 500 companies’ CEOs, and 15 percent of senior executives.
Anthony Gucciardi, News Report: In case you’re not familiar, the Monsanto Protection Act is the name given to what’s known as a legislative rider that was inserted into the Senate Continuing Resolution spending bill. Using the deceptive title of Farmer Assurance Provision, Sec. 735 of this bill actually grants Monsanto the immunity from federal courts pending the review of any GM crop that is thought to be dangerous. Under the section, courts would be helpless to stop Monsanto from continuing to plant GM crops that are thought even by the US government to be a danger to health or the environment.
William Astore, Op-Ed: Today’s unmanned aerial vehicles, most famously Predator and Reaper drones, have been celebrated as the culmination of the longtime dreams of airpower enthusiasts, offering the possibility of victory through quick, clean and selective destruction. Those drones, so the (very old) story goes, assure the U.S. military of command of the high ground and so provide the royal road to a speedy and decisive triumph over helpless enemies below. Fantasies about the certain success of air power in transforming, even ending, war as we know it arose with the plane itself.
Nina Rogozen, News Report: Millions of Americans lack adequate health care, using emergency rooms as a costly alternative or getting no care at all. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), often called “Obamacare,” opened the door for an affordable option. The December 31, 2012 deal between Congress and the administration that avoided the so-called “fiscal cliff” has, at least for the moment, closed that door for 26 states. The ACA funds private, nonprofit health insurers called Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans—CO-OPs. It originally set aside $3.4 billion for low-interest loans—seed money for at least one health cooperative in each state, plus Washington, D.C.
Amy Goodman, Video Interview: As Washington lawmakers pushes new austerity measures, economist Richard Wolff calls for a radical restructuring of the U.S. economic and financial systems. We talk about the $85 billion budget cuts as part of the sequester, banks too big to fail, Congress’ failure to learn the lessons of the 2008 economic collapse and his new book, “Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism.” Wolff also gives FOX news host Bill O’Reilly a lesson in economics 101.
Paul Buchheit, Op-Ed: The first step is to learn the facts, and then to get angry and to ask ourselves as progressives and caring human beings, what we can do about the relentless transfer of wealth to a small group of well-positioned Americans. End the capital gains giveaway, which benefits the wealthy almost exclusively. Institute a Financial Speculation Tax; both to raise needed funds from a currently untaxed subsidy on stock purchases and to reduce the risk of the irresponsible trading that nearly brought down the economy.
Ian Millhiser, News Report: Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear the first of two cases which could end discrimination against same-sex couples and ensure that all Americans can marry the person they love. Whatever happens in those two cases, one thing is all but certain: Justice Antonin Scalia will vote to maintain marriage discrimination and he will spend much of this week’s oral arguments making insulting comments about LGBT Americans. After the offensive things Scalia compared homosexuality to in his past opinions, Scalia concludes his Lawrence dissent with a plea that he is not in the least bit anti-gay. “Let me be clear,” Scalia writes, “that I have nothing against homosexuals.”
Yuriko Koike, Op-Ed: When the consequences of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq ten years ago are fully assessed, the importance of the subsequent rise of political Islam there—and throughout the wider Middle East—may well pale in comparison to that of a geostrategic shift that no one foresaw at the time. That shift, however, has now come into view. With America approaching energy self-sufficiency, a U.S. strategic disengagement from the region may become a reality. China’s dependence on Middle East energy imports means that it is almost certain to seek to fill any regional security vacuum.
Anthony Gucciardi, News Report: Thanks to corporate loopholes and profit-driven manufacturers, it’s harder than ever to really know what you are putting into your body — or perhaps even more importantly the mouths of your children. That said, it is possible to make sure you’re getting what is not just labeled organic and shipped from a contaminated facility in China, but actually high quality. The fact of the matter is that the decision to switch to organic food is one that signifies a serious change in lifestyle across the board, leading to a wealth of information and serious optimizations for your health.
News Report: One month after the largest climate rally in U.S. history urging President Obama to deny the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline’s northern segment, protesters in dozens of cities throughout the U.S. are confronting Keystone XL’s corporate backers directly. Thirty-seven have been arrested over the last 10 days for disrupting business as usual at TransCanada and their investors’ offices, with more actions planned over the next couple of days.
Robert J. Shiller, Op-Ed: With much of the global economy apparently trapped in a long and painful austerity-induced slump, it is time to admit that the trap is entirely of our own making. We have constructed it from unfortunate habits of thought about how to handle spiraling public debt. People developed these habits on the basis of the experiences of their families and friends: when in debt trouble, one must cut spending and pass through a period of austerity until the burden (debt relative to income) is reduced.
Igor Volsky, News Report: During a roundtable discussion on Friday, Fox News’ Lou Dobbs agreed with a network contributor who argued that Americans need to access military-style assault weapons to protect themselves from an Iranian invasion. “What scares the hell out of me we have a president, as we were discussing during break, that wants to take away our guns, but yet he wants to attack Iran and Syria. So if they come and attack us here, we don’t have the right to bear arms under this Obama administration,” Angela McGlowan, a former lobbyist for News Corp., said in the midst of a conversation about violence in Syria.
Jim Lobe, News Report: Defense establishments around the world increasingly see climate change as posing potentially serious threats to national and international security, according to a review of high-level statements by the world’s governments released here Thursday. The review, “The Global Security Defense Index on Climate Change: Preliminary Results,” found that nearly three out of four governments for which relevant information is available view the possible effects of climate change as a serious national security issue.
Michael Beckel, News Analysis: Natural gas executive James Willard Kinzer of Kentucky is one of more than 100 small business owners listed online as supporting Curtis Bostic, the former Charleston County council member who appears to have advanced to a runoff against former Gov. Mark Sanford following Tuesday’s 16-way GOP primary in South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District. But he’s much more than that. Not only did Kinzer donate the legal maximum to Bostic’s underdog campaign, he pumped $30,000 into a pro-Bostic super PAC called the “Coastal Conservative Fund.”
Amy Goodman, Video Feature: A shocking new report has been released by The Guardian newspaper and BBC Arabic detailing how the United States armed and trained Iraqi police commando units that ran torture centers and death squads. It’s a story that stretches from the U.S.-backed involvement in Latin America to the imprisoned Army whistleblower Bradley Manning. Amy Goodman is joined by Chief Reporter Maggie O’Kane
Dave Johnson, Op-Ed: The executives who run the giant multinationals want to be let off the hook for paying taxes on profits they make outside our borders. As an Apple executive said to The New York Times, giant multinationals “don’t have an obligation to solve America’s problems.” And to prove it, American corporations are holding $1.7 trillion in profits outside the country—just sitting there—rather than bringing that money home, paying the taxes due and then paying it out to shareholders or using it to “create jobs” with new factories, research facilities and equipment.
Bill Moyers, Video Interview: Sheila Bair, the longtime Republican who served as chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) during the fiscal meltdown five years ago, joins to talk about American banks’ continuing risky and manipulative practices, their seeming immunity from prosecution and growing anger from Congress and the public. Also, Richard Wolff, whose smart, blunt talk about the crisis of capitalism the first time around now answers questions sent in by viewers, diving further into economic inequality, the limitations of industry regulation and the widening gap between a booming stock market and a population that increasingly lives in poverty.
Carl Gibson, Op-Ed: Kentuckians live by the phrase, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.” It’s emblazoned on our flag, and shows two men, a frontiersman (Daniel Boone) and a statesman (Henry Clay) standing together. They may be standing on opposite sides of the seal, but their embrace symbolizes a spirit of cooperation and caring for your fellow man even though you may sometimes disagree with him. Yet, as Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell proudly announced that his chief goal as the top Republican member was not to create jobs or help schools or look out for struggling middle class, but to deny President Obama a second term.
Anthony Gucciardi, News Report: Whether or not the FDA chooses to approve genetically modified salmon for sale in the marketplace, supermarkets themselves have decided to take a stand in the form of a mass boycott. One that would serve to crush the profits of the unlabeled seafood abomination. In a move that signifies the growing opposition to genetically modified creations from a grassroots level all the way to corporate understanding of consumer demand, chains like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Aldi, and others are now all reporting that they will refuse the sale of AquaBounty Technology’s modified salmon.
William Boardman, News Report: The F-35 is a case study of government failure at all levels—civilian and military, federal, state, local, even airport authority. Not one critical government agency is meeting its obligation to protect the people it presumably represents. Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who wrote the F-35 critique above, is hardly unique as an illustration of how government fails, but he sees no alternative to failure. The F-35 is a nuclear-capable weapon of mass destruction that was supposed to be the “fighter of the future” when it was undertaken in 2001.
As election law changes threatened access to the ballot box this year, African-American turnout operations strengthened.
In 2008, for the first time in our history, African Americans voted at the same rate as white voters.
We spent the next four years hearing that that high turnout was a fluke. "Experts" told us we would lose our enthusiasm. We’d be daunted by new voting laws. We’d want to protest marriage equality. We’d think our votes don’t count.
Those "experts" were wrong. African Americans turned out to vote in record numbers on Election Day, many of us waiting in long lines and going through plenty of red tape to do so. One of these determined voters was a 100-year-old "Church Mother" in Elmhurst, New York who didn’t want any favors and stood in line and in solidarity with her fellow citizens.
This happened not just because our enthusiasm lasted, but because our organization strengthened.
African-American communities had strong voter turnout operations long before there was an African-American man on the presidential ballot, with many of them centered around the Black Church.
These turnout operations are there for a reason: Ever since the process toward full citizenship of African Americans began with the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, politicians and others have been trying to stop us from exercising the hard fought, hard won right to vote.
This year, the attacks on our voting system were intentionally suppressive. Elections officials in Ohio and Florida, for example, cut back on early voting hours, resulting in long lines at early voting locations and on Election Day — primarily in African American communities. Politicians from Pennsylvania to South Carolina tried to implement Voter ID laws, which disproportionately disenfranchise African Americans, other minorities, and the poor. Around the country, election law changes big and small threatened access to the ballot box.
In response to these attacks, African-American turnout operations developed and strengthened. I personally worked with 1,100 pastors in 22 states across denomination and faith traditions through our nonpartisan African American Ministers Leadership Council VESSELS program, to ensure that our congregations had both the skills and the will to vote.
We not only preached to our congregations about the importance of voting, we organized to make sure every person in our communities had the information and access they needed to vote. Reverend Tony Minor of Cleveland and Elder Lee Harris and Pastor R.L. Gundy of Jacksonville worked in diverse coalitions to organize early voting and an Election Day rides-to-the-polls hotline to help those in need get out to vote.
In Detroit, Bishops Allyson Abrams and Diana Williams recruited youth and young adults to share with people on the streets the importance of voting. Reverend Michael Couch of Philadelphia educated and motivated people who had served time for felonies and their families about getting their voting rights restored.
Reverend Barry Hargrove of Baltimore visited local barbershops on the weekends and registered voters while they got their hair cut. Reverend Charles Christian Adams in Detroit and Reverend Patrick Young in New York along with many others turned their fellowship halls into polling sites. Sister Jackie Dupont Walker in Los Angeles and Reverend Isaac McCullough in St. Louis used radio, email, and social media to spread the vote.
The civic engagement structure that African-American churches have built is here to stay. Next year, there will be municipal, state, and special elections, as well as ballot initiatives. It might be perceived as an "off year" for some, but for those of us who have been called to serve at such a time as this, it is "another year" to ask at every opportunity, "Are you registered, are you ready to vote?"
Pundits and politicians alike have tried to write off the African-American vote. But as every woman, man, youth, and elder of my community knows, we’ve come too far, seen too much, stood too long, felt "sick and tired of being sick and tired" too often, and fought too hard to turn back now.
Minister Leslie Watson Malachi is the director for African-American Religious Affairs at People For the American Way. www.pfaw.org. Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)
|Why Is the Obama FCC Plotting a Massive Giveaway to Rupert Murdoch?
Craig Aaron, Op-Ed: “We can still stop this terrible plan from moving forward. The other members of the FCC can dissent and send this thing back to the drawing board. The dozens of senators who voted against this very policy less than five years ago can speak up again. The Obama administration can think about cross-examining Rupert Murdoch instead of appeasing him. None of that will happen unless millions of people make some noise.”
|Hostess: Challenges Facing Unions When PE Doesn’t Deliver
Eileen Appelbaum, News Analysis: Looking at the Hostess situation a union could conclude that negotiations over further concessions by workers to keep the company functioning were fruitless. The union could continue to bargain to try to limit concessions and stand up against the greed and mismanagement of the company’s owners and managers. It could refuse to make further concessions to a company It thinks is asking too much. If its demands on behalf of its members were rejected, it might consider striking.
|Poor management, not union intransigence, killed Hostess
LA Times | Michael Hiltzik: Let’s get a few things clear. Hostess didn’t fail for any of the reasons you’ve been fed. It didn’t fail because Americans demanded more healthful food than its Twinkies and Ho-Hos snack cakes. It didn’t fail because its unions wanted it to die. It failed because the people that ran it had no idea what they were doing. Every other excuse is just an attempt by the guilty to blame someone else.
|Boeing Won’t Offer Pension Benefits to Same-Sex Couples Igor Volsky, News Report: Since Slog published its report, Boeing issued a statement promising to reassess the impact of Washington State’s marriage equality referendum on company policy. “Boeing is taking a closer look at how R-74 might impact company policies once it takes effect in December,” the statement said. “Nothing is ever final in negotiations until they’re over,” a company spokesperson told the Slog. “What we said today is that [these pension benefits] are not currently addressed in the contract.”|
|Fracking the Great Lakes
Lois Gibbs, News Analysis: “My sister and brother-in-law were active in advocating the cleanup of the lakes in the 1970’s. Our family vacationed on the lakes. It was exciting back then to hear that a serious effort from both sides of the boarder would advance to make the lakes swimmable, the fish safe enough to eat and so many other promises. Now more than 35 years later reports are praising the cleanup of historical chemical deposits while at the same time new chemicals are allowed to enter the lakes without protest.”
|Many Pro-GMO Corporate Biologists Own GMO Patents, in Bed with Monsanto
Anthony Gucciardi, News Report: “Very few scientists around the globe actually dare speak about these dangers due to the overwhelming political influence Monsanto and other biotech companies have over nations around the globe. We know thanks to 2007 WikiLeaks cables that not only are most if not all U.S. ambassadors on Monsanto payroll, but that prominent U.S. political figures have threatened nations who oppose Monsanto with ‘military-style trade wars’. A threat that has managed to strike fear into many nations who would not risk massive retaliation from the United States.”
|Solidarity for Tar Sands Blockade and Climate Justice Spreads Worldwide
Melanie Jae Martin, News Report: Hundreds marched to the U.S. embassy in Manilla last Wednesday to demand immediate climate action, while large numbers of peasants, organized by the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, demanded the protection of natural resources in Jamshoro. The Rwandan Climate Change Network helped spread climate awareness to Rwanda’s rural populations. Meanwhile, in Texas, over 100 people stopped construction of the Keystone XL pipeline on Monday, with four locking down and others setting up a new tree-sit blockade.
|The Age of Financial Repression
Edin Mujagic and Sylvester Eijffinger, Op-Ed: Meanwhile, Western central banks are using another kind of financial repression by maintaining negative real interest rates (yielding less than the rate of inflation), which enables them to service their debt for free. The European Central Bank’s policy rate stands at 0.75%, while the eurozone’s annual inflation rate is 2.5%. Likewise, the Bank of England keeps its policy rate at only 0.5%, despite an inflation rate that hovers above 2%. And, in the United States, where inflation exceeds 2%, the Federal Reserve’s benchmark federal funds rate remains at an historic low of 0-0.25%.
|Americans Want Leadership Now on Real Cliffs: Jobs and Human Survival
Truthout | Paul Street Op-Ed: "What Americans really want is the truth. They want leadership that says here’s what we need to do no matter how difficult it is, personal accountability on the part of Washington to get something done and then a level of transparency about what’s being done so that people can see progress along the way. That’s the way we do it in business. That’s the way we need to do it in Washington."
|How Renewable Energy Is Rescuing Schools from Budget Cuts
Yes! Magazine | Erin L McCoy, Report: When Richardsville opened its doors in fall 2010, it was the first “net zero” school in the nation, meaning that the school produces more energy on-site than it uses in a year. Actual innovations incorporated into it’s design make Richardsville better than net zero. It actually earns about $2,000 a month selling excess energy to the Tennessee Valley Authority.
|Why We Need Redistricting Reform
Brennan Center for Justice | Keesha Gaskins & Sundeep Iyer: On November 7, Americans woke up again to a Republican-controlled House of Representatives. And whether they like it or not, Americans should get used to this leadership. Republican control of the lower chamber could extend well past the 113th Congress, thanks in part to the once-a-decade process of redistricting. You see, when Republicans won big in the 2010 elections across the country — they had the power to redraw district lines to assure Republican victory after victory for the decade to come.
— By Sen. Bernie Sanders
Republican filibusters in the Senate on Monday and Tuesday blocked a bill to disclose which corporations are bankrolling which candidates and causes. Another Republic filibuster on Thursday blocked a bill to provide tax breaks for businesses that bring jobs back to the United States from low-wage countries like China. Years of inaction by Congress and the White House on climate change are said by scientists to have contributed to this summer’s severe drought. Federal disaster declarations were proclaimed Wednesday in parts of eight states. And Capitol Hill gridlock could have serious consequences on another front as Congress begins to come to grips with year-end deadlines looming on taxes and spending cuts. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday laid out his views on how to lower deficits without hurting working families in a major speech on The Truth About Deficits.
The Truth About Deficits
Unless Congress acts by the end of this year, $1.2 trillion in mandatory cuts – half from the military, half from domestic programs – will automatically kick in under what the Washington wonks call sequestration. Unless Congress acts by the end of this year, all of the Bush-era tax cuts will expire. Unless Congress acts by the end of the year, the Social Security payroll tax holiday will end. With all those balls up in the air, Congress is beginning to get serious about finding alternatives. In a major Senate speech on Wednesday, Sanders spelled out his priorities. He detailed how big budget surpluses built up by President Bill Clinton were turned into big deficits under President George W. Bush. He also talked about fair ways to deal with deficits without hurting the poor, the sick and the elderly. “I hope that the road we go down in terms of deficit reduction is one that is fair to working families and the middle class, and that means asking the wealthiest people and the largest corporations in this country to start paying their fair share of taxes.”
Senate Republicans on Thursday killed a measure that would encourage companies to bring overseas jobs back to the United States. Sanders said the legislation would have eliminated a tax deduction that companies can use when they move jobs overseas and would create a new tax break for companies that bring jobs back to America.
Campaign Spending Filibuster
Senate Republicans on both Monday and Tuesday blocked consideration of a bill to increase transparency in campaign spending by corporations and others. The bill would have required disclosure of anyone who donates $10,000 or more to independent groups. Sanders urged the Senate to pass the legislation that was a response to the disastrous 5-4 Supreme Court Citizens United decision, which lifted limits on campaign spending by corporations and wealthy individuals.
House leaders signaled they won’t take up a Senate-passed bill to reform the U.S. Postal Service. While press reports portray a Postal Service in dire financial straits, the fact is that revenue from selling stamps and other products exceeded the costs of delivering mail by $200 million during the first quarter of this year. Yes, the USPS needs to be modernized to meet changing needs in the era of e-mail. Sanders helped write a Senate bill that passed in April which would do that. It also would revise a law that makes the Postal Service sock billions of dollars away for future retiree health benefits in a fund that already is so flush it can provide benefits for decades to come.
In 1792, a law was passed allowing each of the states to conduct presidential elections at any point in the 34 days before the first Wednesday in December. This was the date when the meetings of the Electors of the U.S. president and vice-president, known as the Electoral Colleges, were held in each state. A date in November or early December was preferable because the harvest would have been finished, but the most severe winter storms would not have begun.
In 1845 the United States Congress chose a single date for all national elections in all states. The first Tuesday after the first Monday in November was chosen so that there would never be more than 34 days between Election Day and the first Wednesday in December. So, since 1845, we’ve voted on the first Tuesday in November. Why is that?
Election Day in the U.S. is the Tuesday following the first Monday in November. It can fall on or between November 2 and November 8. It is the day when popular ballots are held to select public officials. These include national, state and local government representatives at all levels up to the president. That could change if a new bill introduced in Congress actually get’s considered.
H.R. 4183: Weekend Voting Act: To change the date for regularly scheduled Federal elections and establish polling place hours. Introduced by: Rep. Steve Israel [D-NY2]
Democrats in Congress have been desperately trying to bring at least some transparency to this new avalanche of corporate spending we’ve been experiencing in our elections. They’ve been trying to pass legislation such that if corporations, millionaires and billionaires want to spend billions to cover up Mitt Romney’s lies — then at least, we the voters, should know where that money is coming from. In 2010 — Democrats in the House of Representatives passed the DISCLOSE Act, which would have done just that. Unfortunately — the DISCLOSE Act laws were filibustered that year by the Republican minority in the Senate.
So, Democrats in the Senate are now trying it again. On Tuesday, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and eight other Senate Democrats proposed a new, watered-down DISCLOSE Act, hoping that the latest, more corporate-friendly legislation may attract some Republicans supporters. But is this really the strategy Progressives should be using to get corporate money out of our politics. Or do we need to be bolder and push for a Constitutional Amendment that once and for all says corporations are not people, and money is property – not speech?
Mitt Romney is already selling tickets to his “Presidential Inaugural retreat.” In case you think I’m kidding, I’ve included the letter from Romney’s campaign to big donors.
Yesterday, at a private fundraising event, he said the Department of Housing and Urban Development “might not be around.” And the Department of Education would, at the least, be “a heck of a lot smaller” such that you could probably fit it inside a thimble. Cut education for children and put struggling veterans back on the streets? No wonder he’s not sharing the details with the American public. He claims to want to “lead” this nation … but he’s unwilling to share his super-secret plans for America … that is, unless you’re one of his high-dollar donors. The only thing he’s shared with the general public thus far is that he wants to repeal “Obamacare” and he endorses Rep. Paul Ryan’s Path to Poverty budget that would turn Medicare into a declining value voucher system, turn Medicaid into a block grant program, and pretty much gut that safety net that Romney’s “not worried about.”
As Democrats, we don’t believe in that kind of politics. We’re fighting to re-elect President Obama and Democrats up and down the ticket who will keep fighting for the middle class.
Given what Mr. Romney told his high-dollar donors in Florida this week, we can only imagine what Romney would tell his high-dollar donors at his “Presidential Inaugural retreat.” It might be considered wonderful news for them, but you could probably safely bet your last dollar it won’t be good news for the vast numbers of ordinary Americans. And if you’re a woman, well … the writing is already on the wall as to what the GOP thinks about us and the envy they’ve displayed in regulating our bodily functions. All one needs to do is look at the bills GOP-dominated legislatures are passing in Arizona (where women are now considered pregnant before they’re pregnant and where women of child-bearing age are subject to monthly sonograms to ensure that each and every fetus is brought to full term) and in Wisconsin (where they’ve now repealed equal pay for equal work law at the state level).
Help us make sure the GOP is denied the Presidency as well as majorities in either house of Congress by supporting President Obama and down-ticket Democrats. If you can’t afford to make a donation to the Obama Campaign, but you have some shoe-leather to walk door-to-door, or you’re willing to work a phone bank, we can use your help as the fall campaign unfolds. Check out our Contacts list and get in touch with a representative from your County.
—-ROMNEY FUNDRAISING EMAIL—–
From: Richard Stormont
Subject: Governor Romney for President
this is very important for the future of our country. Please read it to the end.
The campaign is now moving into its next phase with the formation of “Romney Victory.” This is a joint fundraising committee established between Romney for President, the RNC and a number of battleground fund states. Romney Victory will make it easy for a donor to make one contribution to fund various committees focused on the election. The legal maximum that an individual can donate to Romney Victory is $75,800. The campaign is asking people who are able to make a $50,000 contribution to do so today and become a “Founding Member” of Romney Victory. These donors will be invited to a special retreat with Governor Romney in late June in California and will have preferred status at the first Presidential Inaugural retreat as well as yet to be determined access at the Republican National Convention in Tampa in August.
As for our Georgia efforts, Governor Romney will be returning to Atlanta on June 11th to participate in two Romney Victory fundraising events.
The first event will be a reception which will be 1K per person/2K per couple to attend and 10K per couple to get a photo with Governor Romney. 10K represents a maxed out couple, giving $2500 each to both the primary and general election. Please keep in mind that while we are now accepting general election funds, we are still raising primary dollars. Contributions made to Romney Victory will first go toward the primary election account and then once an individual has reached their $2500 limit, the general election account. We are forming a host committee for this event, asking each host to raise 25K. There will be a private reception for the host committee with the Governor prior to the event.
The second event on the 11th will be a private dinner at a home in Buckhead that is being co-chaired by Tom Bell, Fred Cooper, Bernie Marcus and Jeffrey Sprecher. This dinner will be for “Founding Members” of Romney Victory who contribute 50K.
On April 27th, Spencer Zwick, Governor Romney’s national finance chairman, will be in Atlanta to participate in a lunch with the host committee and co-chairs for the June 11th events.
We have two months to make the June 11th events a success and I am confident that we can do it.
We know there have been a number of people who have been standing on the sidelines waiting for a nominee to be selected. It is now clear who the nominee will be and we will be making every effort to reach out to all those who have yet to give as well as those who previously supported another candidate. We now all need to unify in our efforts to retire President OBAMA in November.
Please let me know that you will be participating in this critical phase of the future of our country. I would like to request that you take a moment and reply back to me as soon as possible as to whether you would like to serve on the Host Committee for the June 11th reception and/or if you are interested in participating in the private dinner on June 11th?
The future of our country is at stake.