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Republicans: Against It Before They Were For It

7:19 am in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

First, Republicans opposed extending the payroll tax cut that put an extra $20 a week in the pockets of 160 million working Americans.

Next, they supported it. If the cost were offset the way they wanted. Even though Republicans previously had said that tax cuts never need be offset.

After that, they opposed a stopgap measure extending the break by two months. Even though the cost was offset.

Ultimately, they approved the 60-day extension.

Then, they opposed extending the tax cut another 10 months. Unless the cost were offset.

Finally, however, they supported that. Even though the cost was not, in fact, offset.

What’s that sound? It’s the frantic flailing of a grounded GOP fish: flip flop, flip flop, flip flop.

Republicans revel in casting themselves as the principled party. They claim they’re the moral majority. Their values, they contend, are unshakable. So their serial waffling on this issue is confusing. Against it; for it; against it; for it. Isn’t that what they ridiculed a Democratic Presidential candidate for?

There’s a simple explanation, however. Throughout this entire episode, Republicans never wavered or vacillated or faltered in any way in performing their most vital, their most basic function as a political party: pandering to the rich.

The thread running through this drama, from beginning to end, is Republican opposition to equitably taxing the rich. The GOP did whatever it took to prevent the nation’s millionaires and billionaires from parting with another cent. In the end, the party’s public image took a beating. But Congressional Republicans triumphed in shielding the nation’s richest from paying their fair share.

So focused are Republicans on providing welfare for the rich in the form of special tax breaks and perks that initially the party didn’t support extending the payroll tax cut for the middle class at all. Late last November, party leaders, including U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, announced they opposed a one-year expansion. Republicans said they’d allow a temporary tax cut for the middle class to expire, no problem, even though they’d previously contended they couldn’t end the supposedly temporary income tax cut Bush gave the rich because that would be a “tax increase,” and they could never support a tax increase. Not ever. Read the rest of this entry →

The Week of Walking Backwards

7:26 am in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

It's not only Michael Jackson that can dance backwards. (Photo: typoyock on flickr)

It's not only Michael Jackson that can dance backwards. (Photo: typoyock on flickr)


As the Occupy Wall Street movement spread across the nation last week, politicians in D.C. flipped the bird at protesters – including those camping in Washington’s McPherson Square.

Here’s how: While occupiers sought political focus on the unemployment, impoverishment and foreclosures suffered by the nation’s non-rich 99 percent, politicians considered three major pieces of legislation and passed only the one that will help the wealthiest 1 percent and hurt the remaining 99 percent.

Senate Republicans murdered-by-filibuster the American Jobs Act, which would surtax the 1 percent to provide jobs for the 99 percent. The Senate did pass the currency manipulation bill, but House GOP leaders refused to schedule a vote on the measure that would protect jobs for the 99 percent by punishing countries that undervalue their currencies to artificially lower prices on their exports.

By contrast, both houses of Congress adopted the so-called Free Trade Agreements with Panama, Colombia and Korea, which will, just like their predecessor NAFTA, destroy jobs held by the 99 percent.

It’s incredible. Inexplicable. Inexcusable. In a country where joblessness is a painful 9.1 percent. Where one in five children lives in poverty. Where foreclosures rose again last month. Where a whole movement is growing to protest the appeasement of the rich at the cost of the middle class. In that place, Congress chose to walk backwards. It didn’t take two steps forward – which it could have by passing the currency bill and jobs act. No. It just took a giant step backward by embracing job-killing trade agreements.

It all forces the 99 percent to demand even more loudly: Where’s the jobs? Read the rest of this entry →

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Oligarchy

8:00 am in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Ev’rywhere you go;
Take a look in Tiffany’s store, glistening once again
With Wall Street bonus trinkets all aglow.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Art flies from Christie’s.
But the amazing sight to see is the tax cut guarantee
For the most wealthy.

Hedge funders content, still paying 15 percent
Is the wish of Boehner and Mitch.
Help these hurt least by financial crises
Is the Chamber of Commerce pitch.
And the GOP and Tea Party can’t wait for Congress’ new session.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Ev’rywhere you go.
There’s treats in the tax break deal for all the very well-heeled:
Estate tax gifts for billionaires, you know?
It’s beginning to look like oligarchy
Secret campaign gifts
Give scions power in Congress halls to force jumps to all their calls,
Always good and swift.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
If you’re doing drugs.
Look at unemployed stats; foreclosures still roaring fast,
‘merican dreams and life savings both mugged.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas:
Food bank grocery lists.
The only break the unemployed see is 13-month’s reprieve
jobless benefits.

Aid and career counselors for jobless 99ers
Was the wish of Bernie and friends;
Help through COLAs for veterans and grandmas;
Was the hope of liberal House Dems;
Both crushed, progressives now all dread Congress’ new session.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Ev’rywhere you go.
There is a poisonous pill slipped into the tax cut deal:
Robbing Social Security, oh no!
It’s beginning to look like oligarchy.
Soon budget cuts will start
And the thing that will make them sting is the knowledge that you bring
Of the pain they’ll impart.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Everywhere you go.
Take a look in Congress Hall, middle class badly mauled,
By demands from Republicans, you know?
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas;
Debts are racking up;
To help jobless 15 million, the bill’s $900 billion
— With the wealthy’s cut.

A steady job with good pay, health benefits to stay
Is the wish of the middle class.
A good economy; hope, security
Are the goals of the working class.
But they know Congress handles their concerns very last.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Ev’rywhere you go;
No money for construction or local government bond funds.
The stimulus will be much too low, so
It’s beginning to look like oligarchy;
Shake hard workers down
And give to the wealthy few, untrue to the red, white and blue,
Their greed has no bounds.

***

It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas

1951 — Meredith Wilson

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Ev’rywhere you go
Take a look in the five-and-ten, glistening once again
With candy canes and silver lanes aglow.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Toys in ev’ry store
But the prettiest sight to see is the holly that will be
On your own front door.

A pair of hopalong boots and a pistol that shoots
Is the wish of Barney and Ben
Dolls that will talk and will go for a walk
Is the hope of Janice and Jen
And mom and dad can hardly wait for school to start again</em

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Ev’rywhere you go
There’s a tree in the Grand Hotel, one in the park as well
The sturdy kind that doesn’t mind the snow.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Soon the bells will start
And the thing that will make them ring is the carol that you sing
Right within your heart.

The Voters’ Message: Manufacturing a Solution

8:45 am in Business, Economy, Employment, Labor, Manufacturing by Leo W. Gerard

No doubt voters sent a message last Tuesday. Deciphering it correctly is crucial.

Republican cryptographers interpreted the election results that gave the GOP control of one house of Congress as a directive to demolish everything produced over the past two years – health care reform, Wall Street re-regulation and economic stimulus. In fact, like the Blues Brothers, they believe they’re on a mission from God. Unlike Jake and Ellwood who set out to save an institution, Republicans intend to crush the President, and if a crippled leader means the nation suffers, well, too bad.

Republicans got it wrong. The electorate wants construction, not destruction. Voters want cooperation, not gridlock.

President Obama properly decoded the message and reached across the aisle, inviting Republicans to a White House summit. At that meeting, he will attempt to collaborate with politicians bent on his annihilation, which is like trying to navigate a mine field. But in these negotiations, there is a safe zone. That is manufacturing. The electorate wants American manufacturing restored to greatness. Voters know industrial revitalization would create good, middle class jobs, strengthen national security and improve the economy.

Some Republicans already have shown a willingness to cooperate on this issue. Just before the midterm recess, 99 Republicans voted with Democrats to pass by 348 to 79 the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act, which would enable the Commerce Department to impose import tariffs to offset the detrimental effects of manipulated currencies. This is vital in places like Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania where manufacturing has been decimated by Chinese exports sold at artificially low prices. Products from several Asian countries are falsely cheap because the governments intervene in the market to suppress the value of their currencies against the dollar.

Voters know that punishing currency manipulators, dealing boldly with violations of international trade rules like forced technology transfer and copyright abuse, and ending tax incentives to outsource jobs would help reverse the decline of American manufacturing.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

GOP Wants a Country by Corporations for Corporations

10:54 am in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

Tea Party darling and Republican U.S. Senate nominee Rand Paul spoke last week like the political novice he is – revealing unfiltered GOP “truths.”

First he informed MSNBC talk show host Rachel Maddow that government should not be able to force businesses to serve black people. Corporate desire to discriminate should trump the civil rights of black people, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, and pants-wearing women, according to this Republican candidate, who has since rushed to assure everyone that he personally is not a bigot.

Rand Paul followed up the assertion of corporate-privilege-over-human-rights with two more Republican tenet revelations. First he called the Obama administration “un-American” for holding the corporation BP accountable for the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that killed 11 workers and devastated the ecology of the Gulf of Mexico. Then Rand Paul added that society should refrain from the “blame game” in the case of another corporation, Massey Energy, the owner of the West Virginia mine that blew up killing 29 workers. “We had a mining accident that was very tragic,” he said, “Then we come in, and it’s always someone’s fault. Maybe sometimes accidents happen.”

Read the rest of this entry →

Change To Believe In or Focus for Hate-Mongering?

1:27 pm in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

When President Barack Obama signed the historic health insurance reform bill, he said it was, “Change we can believe in.” He noted that his party has sought reform for more than half a century. The effort began long before President Harry Truman recommended to Congress on Nov. 19, 1945 a comprehensive health program, noting: “People with low or moderate incomes do not get the same medical attention as those with high incomes. The poor have more sickness, but they get less medical care.”

The legislation Obama signed will tax the wealthy – those earning more than a quarter million dollars a year – to help pay for extending insurance to millions of poor and working people and for guaranteeing insurance companies can’t deny access to those with pre-existing conditions or withdraw coverage from those who get sick.

Republicans have vowed to overturn or repeal this law that would aid tens of millions of Americans. House Republican leader John Boehner yelled, “hell no” repeatedly to the reform proposals and described them as “Armageddon.”

Every historic moment in this country – from the Revolution and the Civil War to the enactment of Social Security and Civil Rights legislation – compelled Americans to assess their values and choose sides. In the case of Civil Rights legislation, for example, some, including the late Republican senator from South Carolina, Strom Thurmond, stood with the Klu Klux Klan and other hate-mongers seeking to deny civil rights to black people. By contrast, others favored peaceful enactment and enforcement of what they perceived to be fair civil rights laws enabling black adults to vote and black children to receive the same quality education as white youngsters.

This is such a moment. Americans must decide what is just and decent in the richest Democracy in the world. They must choose whether to side with the rich and the hate mongers or to align themselves with working people and hope.

“The bill I’m signing will set in motion reforms that generations of Americans have fought for and marched for and hungered to see,” Obama said during the ceremony in the East Room of the White House. That makes it a landmark bill, but it’s also historic because this measure is the first government attempt in thirty years to halt rising income inequality, the New York Times reported a day after the signing.

The wealthy – those earning more than $250,000 a year – will pay for part of the reforms with tax increases. For example, those in the $1 million salary, perks and bonuses club will pay an additional $46,000 a year in 2013, according to the Tax Policy Center, a Washington research group. This million dollar club is the very group that has benefited most over the past eight years from the Bush tax cuts for the rich.

The richest one percent in this club now take in 23.5 percent of all income in this country – the largest percent since 1928, the year before the Great Stock Market Crash and the onset of the Great Depression. Then it was 23.9 percent. Income inequality has risen since the 1970s, when the fortunes of the nation’s rich began skyrocketing while middle class wages stagnated. Simultaneously, the rich got tax rate breaks much larger than those given the middle class and poor.

Beyond taxing the rich, the bill contributes to reducing income inequality in another way. New York Times reporter David Leonhardt described it:

“In the broadest sense, insurance is meant to spread the costs of an individual’s misfortune — illness, death, fire, flood — across society. Since the late 1970s, though, the share of Americans with health insurance has shrunk. As a result, the gap between the economic well-being of the sick and the healthy has been growing, at virtually every level of the income distribution.”

During his presidential campaign, Obama promised to reform health insurance, and signing this bill fulfilled that pledge. Here’s how: It ensures that children with pre-existing conditions get insurance, that adults with pre-existing conditions have access to insurance from a temporary high-risk pool, that senior citizens get help paying for prescriptions during the “donut hole” in their Medicare drug coverage, that every insured person gets free preventive care, that children up to age 26 can stay on their parents’ insurance plans, that no lifetime limit on benefits may be imposed by insurance companies.

It provides for approximately 24 million people who don’t have access to affordable coverage through their employers to get tax credits to buy insurance from new state-based exchanges. It enables everyone who earns less that 133 percent of the poverty level – approximately 16 million people – to get Medicaid. It gives small businesses tax credits of up to 35 percent of premiums to help make coverage affordable for their workers.

And, a benefit for everyone — even the rich — is that the bill will lower the national deficit by $100 billion in the next decade, a determination made by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.

Republicans are intent on preventing Americans from receiving these benefits. Republicans in Congress contend they’ll try to repeal the law. A dozen Republican state attorneys general filed suit seeking to overturn it.

Those opposing health insurance reform don’t mention the benefits. Instead, they call names, engage in vandalism and incite violence. Sarah Palin posted a map on her sarahpac website marked with 20 gun sight crosshairs on the congressional districts of Democrats who voted for health insurance reform. The Republican National Committee posted on its website a photo of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi surrounded by flames and urging her firing.

The FBI is investigating death threats made since the vote against Democrats and their families. A brick was thrown through the office window of a New York congresswoman who supported reform and bricks shattered glass doors at a New York Democratic committee office. An Arizona Democrat’s office was vandalized after the vote. Opponents of the bill spit on one Democratic congressman and shouted racial and homophobic slurs at others before the vote and afterward faxed to a black Congressman the image of a noose. Conservative commentators including Glenn Beck compared the reform measure to the devastation on 9/11.

Former Republican presidential candidate John McCain said that because the measure passed, “there will be no cooperation for the rest of the year” from the GOP. Republicans made good on that threat, using an obscure Senate rule to prevent hearings past 2 p.m., forcing cancellations.

Republicans in the Senate have announced they will do everything in their power to prevent passage of a package of amendments adopted by the House to improve the Health Insurance Bill. These amendments include elimination of perks given several states, including the so-called Corkhusker Kickback and the Gator-Aid, both of which Republicans have attacked for weeks. Still, Republicans say they’ll attempt to retain those deals in the final bill by blocking the amendments. Similarly, the package of amendments provides a method to close the donut hole in the Medicare prescription program, providing financial relief to millions of senior citizens. The Republican’s plan to prevent passage of the amendments would force senior citizens to pay nearly $4,000 extra each year for prescriptions.

With their anger and vitriol, Republicans and Tea Partiers are banking on Americans rejecting health insurance reform. But their plan is in peril. Americans appear to be embracing hope and change in health care.

Before the vote, polls showed a majority opposed the bill. Many argued that could be explained by the fact that a significant number of those counted as opponents simply wanted stronger reform, such as a public option. Poll results are different now. A Gallup Poll taken after the House vote found 50 percent enthusiastic or pleased, while only 42 percent were angry or disappointed. Similarly, in that poll, 49% thought the reform measure to be good for the country while 40% thought it was bad.

Hate and obstructionism are ugly. Americans prefer to see themselves and their country as hopeful, constructive and goodhearted.