This Week’s Democratic Campaigns and GOP Agitprop

Joe Biden will Not Run for President

Swipe Right for Hillary

Bernie Sanders Explains Social Security

O’Malley on the Need for New Leadership


Clinton vs. Sanders vs. O’Malley On Fixing Banking
How do we fix Wall Street, a.k.a. “the banks”? How do the candidates compare? … The first place to look, of course, is CAF’s Candidate Scorecard … Clinton’s 63 percent rating is primarily based on not having a position on a financial transaction tax … as well as opposing reinstating some form of a Glass-Steagall Act and a lack of specific proposals related to the categories “Break Up Big Banks” and “Affordable Banking.” Meanwhile, Sanders rates 100 percent … O’Malley is stressing his positions on and independence from Wall Street [and] also has a 100 percent…

Blue States Make Voting Easier as Red States Add Restrictions
“In Illinois, a new provision allows voters to register electronically when they visit various state agencies. And in Delaware, some residents with criminal records will regain the right to vote … In Republican-controlled states, the story is different. North Carolina has instituted a new voter ID requirement. North Dakota has narrowed the forms of identification voters can present … Ohio’s GOP-controlled legislature has instituted … shorter early voting hours.” Meanwhile, here at home in Nevada, folks who wish to participate in the Democratic County Caucuses will enjoy the ability to “same-day” register to participate, while Republican caucus goers will need to have registered at least 10 days prior to the caucus date AND will be required to present a government issued photo ID card … no indication as to which will be allowed and which will not (e.g., will VA photo IDs be accepted?).

Ex-Gov turned Democrat Charlie Crist announced a run for U.S. House
On Tuesday, ex-Gov. Charlie Crist announced that he would run for the St. Petersburg FL-13 seat. Crist said all the way back in July that he’d run for this seat if he lived in it after redistricting, so this announcement was no surprise. However, Republican Rep. David Jolly, who is leaving this district behind to run for the Senate, unexpectedly crashed what would have otherwise been a routine campaign kickoff. Jolly told reporters that he cares too much about the seat “to lay down and let this huckster walk into office.” Republicans utterly hate Crist, who left the party in 2010, so this kind of stunt certainly won’t hurt Jolly’s chances in the GOP primary.  If Crist wins, he’ll be one of only a few ex-governors to be elected to the House. The University of Minnesota’s Smart Politics blog finds that in the last half-century, only four other ex-governors have done this, and none of them had run a state anywhere near as large as Florida.

Meanwhile in the House of Representatives, the Freedom Caucus is vowing not to play nice —all this at a crucial time when some pretty critical votes will need to be taken:

  • A vote to raise the debt limit to avoid a default on our nation’s debt. House RW budget hawks are looking again at hijacking any efforts to raise the debt limit to pay for expenses they already authorized.  Expect new attacks on medicaid, medicare, social security and planned parenthood. And then there’s Teddy Cruz, urging GOP members to take an absolute hard line against any efforts to pass a “clean” bill to raise the limit to pay for the spending they already authorized.
  • A vote will be needed to pass a fiscal budget, not yet another let’s kick the can down the road continuing resolution to extend the current (previous) budget that was passed,  and
  • A vote will be needed regarding the Iran Deal, which the US and other foreign nations have already begun to implement regardless of any approval/disapproval from our disfunctional Congress.

November should prove quite interesting. But, if all of that that is not enough agitprop for your tastes, Speaker Boehner is proposing that it’s possible that they could actually “repeal Obamacare” by the end of the year. What is he smoking, drinking or otherwise ingesting?  Apparently he thinks President Obama is just gonna roll over and sign onto their repeal efforts taking away any and all opportunities for millions of Americans to be able to purchase health care insurance.  Somebody needs to throw some ice water in his face and yell “Wake Up Bozo!”

  • Rep. Paul Ryan announces speaker bid, with conditions. NYT: “…Ryan called for … an end to the antics of ‘bomb throwers and hand wringers,’ according to members in the room … He suggested that he wanted an answer by Friday. Mr. Ryan made it clear that he would not accede to preconditions set by ‘one group,’ a clear reference to the members of the hard-line Freedom Caucus…”
  • Freedom Caucus resists. Politico: “They were dismissive of his Ryan’s request that they relinquish a procedural tactic they used to threaten to strip outgoing Speaker John Boehner of his title – one of the most potent weapons in the group’s arsenal.”
  • Paul Ryan’s Conditions for House Speaker Bid Meet Early Resistance, Bloomberg: “How does giving Paul Ryan more power solve the problem of John Boehner having had too much power?” Rep. Tim Huelskamp tells Bloomberg.

 

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GOP Budget Slashes Tax Rates for the 1 Percent, Safety Net for Everyone Else

Proposal, columnist writes, ‘is based on an economic philosophy that has failed the country and its people savagely in the past and inevitably will do so again.’

by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

U.S. Congressman Tom Price, House Budget Committee chairman and lead author of the House budget blueprint, speaking at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/cc)

U.S. Congressman Tom Price, House Budget Committee chairman and lead author of the House budget blueprint, speaking at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/cc)

Revealing their commitment to ravaging critical safety net programs while accommodating corporations and the ultra-wealthy, the Republican-controlled House unveiled on Tuesday a budget proposal (pdf) that would undermine both Social Security and Medicare, repeal the Affordable Care Act, and prioritize tax cuts for the one percent—all while boosting defense spending.

The U.S. Senate, also majority Republican, is expected to introduce similar legislation on Wednesday.

According to news reports, the initial proposals, authored by House Budget Committee chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) and Senate Budget Committee chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), seek to balance the federal budget over 10 years, without raising taxes. To achieve those goals, the plans are expected to include $5 trillion in cuts to domestic programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Pell grants, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, over the course of the next decade.

It would provide $90 billion in additional war funding—much more than the $51 billion proposed by President Barack Obama—while pushing cuts to renewable energy incentives and climate change programs and repealing parts of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

And, as Sahil Kapur writes for Talking Points Memo, “the budget sets the stage for a showdown next year on Social Security.”

The New York Times notes that the proposal “leans heavily on the policy prescriptions that Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin outlined when he was budget chairman”—prescriptions that were blasted at the time as “a path to more adversity.”

According to Politico:

Price, like previous Budget Committee chairmen in both parties, is using his proposal to push an aggressive policy agenda that is far broader than a simple focus on spending and deficits. Like the Ryan budgets of previous years, Price sees government as the cause of economic problems in the country and seeks to rein in federal spending — and power — by shifting programs back to state control or eliminating them outright.

For instance, the Budget Committee notes that there are 92 different anti-poverty programs, 17 food aid programs and 22 housing assistance programs. Similar overlaps have been found in federal job-training progams, it says. Price recommends eliminating or reducing many of these programs. The maximum award under Pell grants would be frozen for a decade, helping slow the huge increases in college costs. Regulations required under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial services reform law are also being targeted as needlessly burdensome on the financial services industry and slowing economic growth.

The austere budget plan drew immediate criticism from many corners.

“There should be no compromise from the Democratic minority on any of this,” political analyst Charles Pierce wrote at Esquire. “It should be rejected, root and branch, because it is based on an economic philosophy, and an overall view of the relationship between people and their government, that has failed the country and its people savagely in the past and inevitably will do so again.”

In his breakdown of intra-party budget battles, Dave Johnson of the Campaign for America’s Future noted that despite any splits over specifics, the governing majority has one common desire.

“All of these Republican factions want the government cut back,” Johnson wrote. “None of them care about investing in infrastructure, investing in science, investing in education, expanding health care and safety-net programs for people who need it, or otherwise helping the public.”

Carmel Martin, executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress joined in calling on Congress to reject the proposal.

“Republicans are talking big with respect to tackling income inequality and wage stagnation, but the House budget proposal does not match their rhetoric,” she said. “Rather than creating jobs with investments in infrastructure and education or strengthening health care and nutrition programs to give families a foothold to climb into the middle class, the House majority has once again prioritized big tax cuts for wealthy individuals and corporations.”

In USA Today on Monday, journalist Nicole Gaudiano reported that Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who may run for president in 2016, plans to fight the GOP budget plan tooth and nail.

Sanders, she wrote, said he wants to take next year’s budget resolution in a “radically different” direction from the one preferred by House and Senate Republicans, declaring: “I’m going to work as hard as I can with other progressive members of the Senate to do everything we can to make sure this budget is not balanced on the backs of working families and low-income Americans.”


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Some are Red, Some are Blue — But ALL are Green

Ever wonder who’s being bought out by who when you’re looking at legislators?  Well, wonder no more.  Nicholas Rubin, 16 year old kid developed an app for that!  It’s available at ALLAREGREEN.com for download.  Once installed in the browser of your choice, hover your mouse over name and popup will open. It contains total contributions, small donations of ≤ $200, and industry breakdown from the last full election cycle. For small donations, highlights percentages as follows: ≤5%5-10%≥10% and provides rank #__ for the top 50 members of Congress.  You can also click on the name in the popup to get the latest 2014 contribution data on opensecrets.org. Click on  or  to see which campaign finance reform bills each member of Congress supports on reform.to.  Click on the small donor percentage for a ranked list of all members of Congress.

Pelosi“Exactly one hundred years ago, in Harper’s Weekly, Louis Brandeis made the frequently quoted statement that “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” Brandeis’s preceding sentence in the article may be less well known, but it is equally important: “Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases.” I created Greenhouse to shine light on a social and industrial disease of today: the undue influence of money in our Congress. This influence is everywhere, even if it is hidden. I aim to expose and publicize that disease through technology that puts important data where it is most useful, on websites where people read about the actions, or inaction, of members of Congress every day.

BoehnerIt is my hope that providing increased transparency around the amount and source of funding of our elected representatives may play a small role in educating citizens and promoting change. If you use the extension when reading about a Congressional vote on energy policy, for example, maybe you’ll discover that a sponsor of a bill has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the oil and gas industry. Or maybe you’ll learn that the top donors to a member of Congress who opposes tort reform are lawyers and law firms. I use the totals from the last full election cycle (generally 2011-12 for Representatives and 2007-12 for Senators) because it is the most complete. I also provide access to the most up-to-date 2014 data on OpenSecrets.org by clicking on the name of the member of Congress in the popup. Data in the popup will be updated later in this election cycle as 2014 contributions are more complete. Special thanks to OpenSecrets.org for providing access to the data.

The motto of Greenhouse is: “Some are red. Some are blue. All are green.” What it signifies is that the influence of money on our government isn’t a partisan issue. Whether Democrat or Republican, we should all want a political system that is independent of the influence of big money and not dependent on endless cycles of fundraising from special interests. The United States of America was founded to serve individuals, not big interests or big industries. Yet every year we seem to move further and further away from our Founders’ vision.

I plan to continue to refine this resource and expand it into other areas. If you have any feedback or ideas, please send them to me using the form below. I look forward to hearing from you. And feel free to spread the word using the Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus icons above!

Even though I am only 16 years old, not quite old enough to vote, I am old enough to know that our political system desperately needs fixing. I hope that this tool is one step in that direction.”

Thanks ….

The President’s Housing Plan–What You Need to Know

The White House

President Obama took Wednesday morning to answer your questions on housing during an online interview, and it’s worth a watch. It’s part of his push for a more secure foundation for middle-class home ownership.

We want to make sure you’ve got the facts about President Obama’s plan, and the resources that are already available for homeowners.

Here’s what you need to know: The President’s plan involves simple, commonsense steps that folks on both sides of the aisle agree on. That means making it easier for families to refinance, reforming the system so families aren’t on the hook for the bad behavior of certain mortgage lenders, and helping folks who aren’t homeowners yet get affordable housing that’s right for them.

Click here to find out more about President Obama’s plan.

And while  we need to do more, there are some resources we’ve already helped make available:

  • MakingHomeAffordable.gov is there to help get you mortgage relief and avoid foreclosure. If you or someone you know needs assistance, they can help you find programs that can help — both online and through a free, 24/7 support line that can connect you with housing experts.

Take a minute to share this information with your family and friends, so that people who might not know about these resources can start getting help if they need it.

Too Big to Jail?

— an Op-Ed by Senator Bernie Sanders

We are supposed to be a country of laws. The laws should apply to Wall Street as well as everybody else. So I was stunned when our country’s top law enforcement official recently suggested it might be difficult to prosecute financial institutions that commit crimes because it may destabilize the financial system of our country and the world.

“I am concerned,” Attorney General Eric Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee, “that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if we do prosecute — if we do bring a criminal charge — it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy.”

The attorney general was talking about some of the same financial institutions that received billions, and in some cases trillions, of dollars in taxpayer bailouts after their greed, recklessness and illegal behavior plunged the country into a terrible recession. Over my opposition, Congress approved a $700 billion taxpayer bailout of financial institutions that were on the brink of collapse which some in Congress considered “too big to fail.”

In addition, the Federal Reserve provided over $16 trillion in total financial assistance to these same institutions during the financial crisis (which only became public after an amendment I inserted into the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act requiring the Fed to disclose this information).

The attorney general’s view seems to be that if you are just a regular person and you commit a crime, you go to jail. But if you are the head of a Wall Street company, your power is so great that a prosecution could have destabilizing consequences with national or even worldwide implications.

In other words, we have a situation now where Wall Street banks are not only too big to fail, they are too big to jail. That view is unacceptable.

The attorney general’s troubling acknowledgement has revived interest in an idea that is drawing more and more support. It is time to break up too big to fail financial institutions.

The 10 largest banks in the United States are bigger today than they were before a taxpayer bailout following the 2008 financial crisis.

U.S. banks have become so big that the six largest financial institutions in this country (J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley) today have assets of nearly $9.6 trillion, a figure equal to about two-thirds of the nation’s gross domestic product. These six financial institutions issue more than two-thirds of all credit cards, over half of all mortgages, control 95 percent of all derivatives held in financial institutions and hold more than 40 percent of all bank deposits in the United States.

I will soon introduce legislation that would give the Treasury secretary 90 days to compile a list of commercial banks, investment banks, hedge funds and insurance companies that the Treasury Department determines are too big to fail. The affected financial institutions would include “any entity that has grown so large that its failure would have a catastrophic effect on the stability of either the financial system or the United States economy without substantial government assistance.” Within one year after the legislation becomes law, the Treasury Department would be required to break up those banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions identified by the secretary.

Breaking up the too big to fail financial institutions is a notion that has drawn support from some leading figures in the financial community. Richard Fisher, president of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank, wrote this: “The safer the individual banks, the safer the financial system. The ultimate destination — an economy relatively free from financial crises — won’t be reached until we have the fortitude to break up the giant banks.” James Bullard, the head of the St. Louis Fed, also weighed in. “I do kind of agree that ‘too big to fail’ is ‘too big to exist.'” Thomas Hoenig, the former Kansas City Fed president, was an early supporter of the idea of breaking up big U.S. banks. “I think [too big to fail banks] should be broken up. And in doing so, I think you’ll make the financial system itself more stable. I think you will make it more competitive, and I think you will have long-run benefits over our current system, which leads to bailouts when crises occur.”

In my view, no single financial institution should be so large that its failure would cause catastrophic risk to millions of American jobs or to our nation’s economic well-being. No single financial institution should have holdings so extensive that its failure could send the world economy into crisis. And, perhaps most importantly, no institution in America should be above the law. We need to break up these institutions because of the tremendous damage they have done to our economy.

If an institution is too big to fail, it is too big to exist.