I regret to give you this legislative update

I wrote a post-Thanksgiving blog post about the Republican’s big “fuck you” to the disadvantaged in the United States, while insisting on less taxes for those who don’t need it and contemporaneously insisting–in a contradictory fashion–that now is the time to address the federal budget deficit. Today we have an update on how the then-pending legislation ended up faring:

  • Increased spending on health care for 9/11 first responders: today Senate Republicans blocked the vote to end debate and allow the Senate to vote on it. If that’s not anti-American, I’m not quite sure what is.
  • Child Nutrition Act: at the beginning of December the House passed the Senate version of the bill, that funded the $4.5 billion bill with a $2.2 billion cut in food stamps funding (a.k.a. robbing Peter to pay Paul–now inadequate nutrition will just be centered in the home rather than schools.)
  • Extension of unemployment benefits: blocked by Senate Republicans late last week….because it’s not “paid for.” Yet…
  • Republicans continued to insist on giving tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. In fact, they went a few steps further, first essentially blackmailing Congress by pledging to block every piece of legislation that came up–including issues of national security like the START Treaty–until they get their tax cuts, and second, going even further than that by agreeing to extend unemployment benefits so long as they get their tax cuts for the rich. Looks like the Republicans aren’t actually all that interested in cutting the deficit after all, then, since the $75 billion tax cuts for the rich add billions onto the deficit, are far less stimulative than the $56 billion UI bill (they actually cost more than they stimulate), and there’s no good reason to buy the Republicans’ claim that the rich will use the cuts to add job, since jobs aren’t created out of the goodness of people’s heart but are added when they are economically necessary to businesses.

The GOPs true colors are blazing bold and clear–are Americans’ eyes opened yet?

(Cross-posted to The Reaction)

Published in: on December 10, 2010 at 12:04 am  Leave a Comment  

Can we all just agree that McCain won’t ever support DADT’s repeal?

The DADT report is out, and as suspected, it shows a military that is rather unfazed by the idea of gays and lesbians in the army being allowed to be openly gay or lesbian. This report was the BIG CONDITION that John McCain had on repealing DADT. That is, of course, after his prior condition that military leaders support the repeal actually came to pass. Now that the military leaders and service members have demonstrated their support for the repeal, McCain should support it, right?

Of course not! Now he has new objections to why the demonstrated support isn’t enough to win his. He wants to have a study on the DADT study! It should be abundantly clear by now that the repeal of DADT will never win McCain’s support, no matter how many high ranking members and reports tell him we should–because members support it and because it’s just the goddam right thing to do. McCain is reneging on his earlier pledges to act because he doesn’t want it repealed and will keep coming up with excuses as to why he shouldn’t support DADT’s repeal. Even if it means disagreeing…with himself.

Last night’s Daily Show hits the nail on the head: (more…)

Published in: on December 9, 2010 at 11:59 pm  Comments (1)  

GOP screws 9/11 responders, unemployed, and poor: Happy holidays to the rich and corporate elite!

I’m really struggling to prevent my head from exploding over the very revealing juxtaposition of bills, policies, and positions swirling around the end of the 2010 legislative session.

The economy is still bad. There is only one job opening* for every 5 people looking for work, which means that even if all jobs were filled and none were lost, unemployment would only decrease by 20%.

After spending over a trillion on our wars in the Middle East, the GOP is suddenly concerned with deficits.

So what’s on the table right now?

Extending Unemployment Insurance: the clock is ticking on extending unemployment benefits; the bill must be passed next week or unemployed workers’ benefits will begin to stop. The unemployed are accused of being lazy even though there are objectively not enough jobs for everyone looking. In fact, there usually aren’t–100% employment is bad for capitalists because then the employees, not the owners, have the leverage. But typically there are 1-2 people looking for every job opening, not 5-6 as we’ve had in this recession, which makes the negative impact of unemployment on the rest of the economy that much greater. Unemployment benefits are needed not only to help the human beings in need, but to mitigate the negative economic impacts of mass unemployment.

Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010: the Child Nutrition Act gets reauthorized every 5 years. The Senate version passed in August, only after paying for the $4.5 billion program with program cuts, most of which ($2.2 billion) came from the food stamps program (SNAP). The House version did not include those cuts, and has been stalled for that reason. The cuts in SNAP essential shift the locus of inadequate nutrition from the lunchroom to the dining room. If the bill isn’t passed before the break, the process begins all over again.

The 9/11Illness Payout Bill: a bill providing funds to cover the medical costs for 9/11 first responders. the bill passed the House (even surviving a Republicans threat to add an amendment that would bar undocumented workers from receiving the benefits, as if their suffering from helping our fellow citizens wasn’t worth paying for), but the bill is now stuck in the Senate. I can’t believe this is even an issue, but the GOP has made it one: the bill will be paid for by closing corporate tax loopholes, and Republican senators are framing it as a tax increase.

So let’s sum this up:

  • We have Republicans who have spent over $1 trillion on wars this decade wanting to cut the deficit, but refuse to fund the health care of those who risked their life in the events that were the so-called reason d’entre for those wars. They also refuse to cut military spending.
  • Republicans also want to increase the deficit by giving tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, but refuse to allow more adequate child nutrition–that would lower health care costs and improve cognitive functioning of our poorest children, not to mention their basic quality of life–without robbing Peter to pay Paul.
  • Republicans want the wealthiest in the United States to get tax cuts, and are holding middle class tax cuts hostage to do so, while the unemployed, who by definition cannot become employed, are stripped of their poverty-level average UI benefit of $290/week ($15,000/year). Tax cuts for the rich are heralded by the GOP as a economy booster and job creator, even though unemployment benefits and the aforementioned food stamp program provide more economic stimulus than tax cuts of any sort. Businesses do not hire out of the goodness of their heart or because people need jobs. They hire when there is a need for more labor. Giving them a tax break doesn’t increase their need for more labor. Unemployment and food dollars being spent does. Those programs are not only right (or just), but they are effective.

What on earth is the logic here? The only one I can find is chilling: demanding to maintain military might by misunderstanding the source of terrorism and adherence to economic ideology despite the facts is worth more than helping those in need. Both GOP positions are self-serving. Especially at this holiday time of the year, this ought to be a stinging indictment of GOP policies and positions, if people would only see the forest, rather than the individual trees.

*The Cato Institute has criticized this number, saying that there are jobs available that aren’t advertised, and therefore that number is misleading. Even still, I highly doubt there are enough unadvertised jobs to even get close to filling the gap. further, these jobs are obtaining through personal networks, or what sociologists call social capital, something largely part of the privilege of one’s upbringing, as opposed to human capital, such as one’s education. This begs the questions, are these jobs really “available” to the millions of job seekers, or just those who are already well-connected?

(Cross-posted to The Reaction)

Published in: on November 28, 2010 at 5:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

Iowa voter’s fancy themselves above checks-and-balances

Iowa’s ousting of several state supreme court judges who ruled in favor of same-sex marriage is a scary day for those who believe an independent judiciary as essential to democracy.

And supporters of removing the judges for making legal decisions the some don’t like completely miss the whole point of having judges rule on constitutionality issues in the first place:

“I think it will send a message across the country that the power resides with the people,” Bob Vander Plaats, a Republican who led the campaign after losing the Republican nomination for governor, told a crowd of cheering supporters at an election night party peppered with red signs declaring “No Activist Judges.” “It’s we the people, not we the courts.”

One of the roles of judges is to protect the minority against the majority, who could strip them of their rights if it were put up to a vote.  In Iowa’s case, that’s essentially what happened.  Conservatives were able to remove judges, though a huge spending campaign funded largely by non-Iowans, who made a ruling based on the law that conservatives didn’t like. This is exactly why judges should not be chosen by election–because judges aren’t supposed to be beholden to the people, but to the law.

(Cross-posted to The Reaction)

Published in: on November 5, 2010 at 11:55 am  Comments (4)  

Do not all judges only have a perspective?

Just reading an article from a few days ago in The New York Times about Judge Sotomayor’s views about judging that while made in 2001, which are now relevant because of her potential as a Sumpreme Court nominee and also as a way to discuss (or perhaps malign) President Obama‘s desire for a justice with “empathy.”

Well, she really could have said it better than this:

‘Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences,’ she said, for jurists who are women and nonwhite, ‘our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging.’

This, unfortunately makes it sound as if experience and identity only come to bear for women or non-white judges.  What is more accurate is that identity and experiences of oppression and privilege will necessarily come to bear on any judicial decision-making.  It is not just the dispriviledged for whom their dispriviledge shapes their perspective; privilege itself also shapes one’s perspective. (more…)

Published in: on May 16, 2009 at 12:21 pm  Comments (1)  

Ethnocentrism on Meet the Press

Today’s Meet the Press featured David Gregory’s interview with President Karzai of Afghanistan. The last question posed to Karzai was regarding the legality of marital rape under Afghani law.

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It is important to watch the clip rather than read the transcript, because Gregory’s tone was nothing less than ethnocentric. Gregory clearly is questioning the democratic-ness of Afghanistan because of this law’s passing. He might as well have called Afghanistan a “so-called” democracy for having passed an anti-human rights law. Clearly, making marital rape legal is an egregious human rights violation. However, as so many Americans have been shocked! outraged! at this Afghani law as was Gregory, perhaps a history lesson is in order:

Marital rape was legal in the United States in all 50 states until 1976. Marital rape has only been illegal in all 50 states since 1993. And only 17 states make no legal distinction between marital and non-marital rape in terms of legal charges, sentencing and defensibility. And Raquel Kennedy Bergen writes in her paper, “Marital Rape: New Research and Directions”:

However, in 30 states, there are still some exemptions given to husbands from rape prosecution. In most of these 30 states, a husband is exempt when he does not have to use force because his wife is most vulnerable (e.g., she is mentally or physically impaired, unconscious, asleep, etc.) and is legally unable to consent (Bergen, 1996; Russell, 1990; NCMDR, 2005). Because of the marital contract, a wife’s consent is assumed.

This begs the question: Who are we to “primitivize” Afghanistan for legalizing a heinous act that in our own country was not fully illegal until 15 years ago? And if having no legal civil or human rights violations is the measure of whether or not one is a democracy, then for the majority of its history, the United States has not been a democracy, and perhaps still is not one.

(Cross-posted to The Reaction)

Published in: on May 10, 2009 at 1:56 pm  Comments (3)  

Thoughts on “This Week…” or, If You Say it Enough it Will Become True

A few thoughts on today’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos

1) Interview with Eric Cantor: Cantor repeats, as many Republicans have, that stimulating the economy via government spending is not what the American people want, that Americans think we are spending too much…yet polls continue to show that Americans put their support behind Obama’s ideas over the Republicans’ ideas 61% to 26% (see clip for cited polling data). Cantor seems to be hoping that if he says it enough, it will become true. (Also, his statement that the best that government spending can do is redistribute wealth and that “it can’t create jobs” is simply not true, and perhaps is in line with that axiom as well.) (more…)

Published in: on March 1, 2009 at 4:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

Amy Goodman interviews author Mark Schapiro

Today’s Democracy Now! features an interview with Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What’s at Stake for American Power author Mark Schapiro. The whole interview is well worth the listen/watch.

Two things from the interview stuck out at me.

1) The relationship between universal health care and aptness toward regulation of toxic chemicals/testing for toxicity. (more…)

Published in: on February 24, 2009 at 8:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Will economic conservatives learn any lessons from this crisis?

Merits and analysis of Obama’s housing plan aside, I’m particularly interested in this bit of Republican rhetoric I’m seeing.

From Politico.com:

The GOP, perhaps predictably, was less enthusiastic. House Republicans released statements, suggesting Obama’s plan rewarded irresponsible borrowers at the expense of the vast majority of homeowners who pay their monthly bills on time.


He objected most to the main theme of the foreclosure plan – using monetary incentives to spur lenders and borrowers to do the right thing.

“The biggest outrage is that the president’s plan actually will use taxpayer money to pay people to do what they are already supposed to do – pay their mortgage,” Shelby said. “It also uses taxpayer money to pay banks to do what they should already be doing – modifying mortgages.”

So the mass job layoffs aren’t their fault, but people who are struggling to pay their mortgages are “irresponsible” and aren’t “doing what they’re supposed to do” by paying their bills–in other words, their non-payment is “their fault”? I guess in their perspective, you ought to be able to pay your bills with or without a job!

The Republicans seem willing to say that the economic downturn (and thus layoffs, increased credit card rates, and lower lines of credit) is beyond people’s control, but the impact of the economic downturn (housing foreclosures) somehow isn’t.

Their rhetoric also removes any blame for the abusiveness of the mortgage industry on the industry and solely in the hands of “irresponsible” Americans.

I also find it interesting that they claim that this is what the mortgage industry should be doing anyway, yet they don’t want any regulation making them do it and in the absence of such regulation, don’t want the government to incentivize good behavior they “ought to” be doing anyway? If it’s less advantageous to them financially, why on earth would they do it? Since when did the financial industry grow a conscience?

These statements are fascinating to me as well, because I have been wondering myself if our current economic crisis might change the way we think about, talk about, and approach public policy regarding the unemployed and working poor. (more…)

Published in: on February 19, 2009 at 2:15 pm  Comments (1)  

Bipartisanship for bipartisanship’s sake makes for poor economic policy

Is anyone else sick of the bipartisanship overkill? Sure, bipartisanship is a nice idea. But the economy is falling apart–fast. The stimulus bill needs to actually stimulate; a half-assed job is not good enough. Including non-stimulating or less-stimulating items (i.e. a lot of tax cuts) . Wrong policy for the sake of bipartisanship is not going to fix our economy. And it puts the Republicans in the position to be able to blame the Democrats and Obama when/if it doesn’t work like it ought to–enabling them to claim that there is too much spending, when in reality, there are too much tax cuts and not enough spending.

You know what else I’m sick of? Is the Republicans saying (complaining and whining, really) that the bill isn’t bipartisan and that it doesn’t have enough of what they want (is this an attempt of tyranny of the minority?). Bullshit. There is a better than 60/40 spit between spending and tax cuts. Just because the bill is not being supported in a bipartisan fashion doesn’t mean the bill isn’t itself inclusive of both Democratic and Republican economic approaches. The Republicans are digging in their heels and claiming a lack of bipartisanship. No, it’s not really bipartisan–is anyone claiming it actually is?–because the Republicans refuse to vote for it despite efforts by the Democrats and the White House to include Republican one-solution-fits-all of tax cuts. As Rachel Maddow noted in her show yesterday, the compromise by the bipartisan group of Senate moderates has approximately the same ratio of spending: tax cuts and there are Senate Democrats: Republicans. It seems as though the Republicans will only call this bill bipartisan when tax cuts dominate and spending is minimal; in other words, when it becomes absolutely partisan in their favor. Seriously, they are whining that it’s not being done the way their ideology demands, despite the slew of economic experts who disagree, but why should they get their way when they’re wrong and they lost. (more…)

Published in: on February 7, 2009 at 4:29 pm  Leave a Comment