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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 →

Hey, GOP: Give the 99 Percent Some Lovin’

8:06 am in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

MTV needs to stop giving that creepy vampire guy and moony human girl in the “Twilight” series the “best kiss” prize in its annual movie awards because it’s Republicans who truly earned the trophy for the big wet smooches they lay on the 1 percent.

Just think of the GOP lovin’ that went into the Bush tax breaks that gave millionaires more than $125,000 a year and the middle class less than $1,000. Or the arduous embrace signified by cutting the capital gains tax to a rate lower than that on middle class income.

The GOP is a faithful lover to the 1 percent, steady and true. Last week, Republicans found themselves confronted with a choice between raising taxes on the 99 percent or on the 1 percent, and the GOP spared the millionaires. The GOP’s fidelity to the 1 percent is so strong that Republicans wavered on their promises – never raise taxes – and principles – tax cuts don’t have to be offset. As a result, the 99 percent is beginning to feel more than a little spurned by the GOP.

Since the days of the Bush breaks in 2001 and 2003, Republicans consistently have said that tax reductions stimulate the economy and the lost revenue needn’t be offset. Jon Kyl, the No. 2 Senate Republican, asserted, for example: “You should never have to offset the cost of a deliberate decision to reduce tax rates on Americans.” The GOP didn’t pay for the Bush breaks, a decision that dramatically increased the deficit, which Republicans now say the 99 percent must pay by suffering slashed government services.

Similarly, Republicans have loyally upheld their solemn pledge to lobbyist Grover Norquist to never, ever raise taxes. Last year, for example, they GOP refused to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire, contending that would be a tax increase, not the end of rates intended to be temporary.

To recap: The GOP vowed never to raise taxes. The GOP defines an expiring temporary tax cut as a tax increase. And the GOP believes tax reductions don’t have to be offset.

To serve the 1 percent, however, Republicans discarded all of that supposedly sacrosanct philosophy during last week’s struggle over extending the temporary payroll tax cut. Congress voted last December to decrease for one year the payroll tax from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent, putting an extra $1,000 in the hands of 160 million workers during a recession to pay bills. Read the rest of this entry →

Rights Come with Responsibilities; the Right Shirks Theirs

8:49 am in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

Five years ago, a 47-year-old Missouri woman began a duplicitous on-line courtship through MySpace with a 13-year-old neighbor who once had been friends with the woman’s daughter.

The adult, Lori Drew, flirted with the 13-year-old, Megan Meier, through the guise of a fictitious, 16-year-old character named Josh Evans. Suddenly, “Josh” broke up with Miss Meier, writing to her, “the world would be a better place without you.” Just hours later, Miss Meier hung herself in her bedroom.

Words have consequences.

Drew wasn’t charged with the child’s death. In fact, a judge reversed her conviction on computer fraud charges, saying the law was intended to deal with hacking, not murder. But for most Americans, there is something deeply disturbing, something morally, if not criminally, wrong with deliberate torment, with predatory viciousness. Drew eluded accountability the same way conservatives are seeking to evade culpability after their irresponsible speech has provoked the delusional to violence.

It’s hard to draw a line directly from Drew’s cruel words to the noose around Miss Meier’s neck. Similarly, it’s difficult to directly link violent political rhetoric like Sarah Palin’s illustration showing gun sight cross hairs on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ Arizona district to the shattering of Giffords’ office door after her vote for health insurance reform last March or Jared L. Loughner’s shooting spree last weekend that left six dead and Giffords and 13 others wounded.

What is clear, however, is that vile and threatening communication that becomes so repetitive that it’s routine has the effect of sanctioning an atmosphere of violence. . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Jobless Organize to Remove Republican Royalists From Their Jobs

10:59 am in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

Glenn Beck made it official on Fox News last week: He’s seeking the office of 21st Century Marie Antoinette.

The queen of France, beheaded during the revolution, attained infamy for insensitivity toward hungry peasants. Glenn Beck, the Fox talk show host, achieved celebrity for his callousness toward unemployed Americans.

Beck leads a pack of royalist Republicans who have spent the summer mocking, vilifying and denigrating the nation’s 14.5 million unemployed workers. It is the moneyed class smacking down the working class in an attempt to disempower and disenfranchise them. Dispirited workers are less likely to vote – which could give Beck and his gang of royalist Republicans control of Congress.

The unemployed, like France’s 18th Century peasants, are fighting back, however. The Union of the Unemployed and Working America are organizing the jobless to vote this fall and to demand help from lawmakers. They’re not out to behead Beck and the royalist Republicans, just dethrone them.

Two and a half years after wanton recklessness by Wall Street banksters crashed the economy, the official unemployment rate remains stuck at 9.5 percent. It rises to 17 percent when statisticians add part-time workers seeking full-time jobs and the jobless who’ve abandoned the search out of hopelessness. With the help of a taxpayer bailout, Wall Street has recovered, and those banksters are taking home multi-million dollar bonuses again. But on Main Street, there still are five unemployed workers for every job vacancy, so no matter how hard the jobless try, there are no openings for 80 percent of them.

Routinely, crowds line up before dawn when job openings are announced. In June, in Longmont, Colo., hundreds queued up to vie for 100 low-paid clerk and stock jobs at a new SmartCo Foods. Hundreds of Louisville residents gathered in the dark on Aug. 9 at the Kentucky Exposition Center to apply for 450 state fair jobs paying $7.25 an hour and lasting a total of 20 days.

In addition to jobs, the people on Main Street are losing their homes and life savings at increasing rates. Bankruptcy filings nationwide reached the highest level in five years between April and June. Banks repossessed 92,858 homes in July, up 6 percent from July 2009. For too many, the situation is so desperate that they’re discussing plans for suicide on an on-line forum for the jobless.

Glenn Beck and the royalist Republicans don’t care about all that. Here’s Beck ranting about those who lose unemployment benefits at 99 weeks:

"Have you heard of the 99ers? These people, some of which I, frankly, I bet you would be ashamed to call them Americans, they think 99 weeks of unemployment benefists are not enough. . .Two years is plenty of time to have lived off your neighbors’ wallets."

Video of Beck slamming the "99ers" begins at 2 minutes and 33 seconds into this clip.

Beck went on to argue that the jobless who protested last week on Wall Street were not "regular people," like him and his friends:

“Are they just regular people? . . They are socialists and anti-capitalists.”

Then, incongruously, Beck condemned a protestor seeking jobs for all unemployed workers with a sign asserting, “A job is a right.”

“No, a job is not a right,” insisted Beck, making it clear that in his world, the unemployed are “un-American” for not landing jobs, but, simultaneously, it’s perfectly moral and fair that the American economy has failed to produce enough jobs for them to fill.

Beck is the TV mouthpiece for the royalist Republicans who champion this view: a job is not a right, and it’s not right to aid the jobless. Republicans, virtually as a block, oppose extending unemployment benefits for the jobless while they support extending tax breaks for the moneyed class – themselves. They opposed legislation to save the jobs of 319,000 public servants – the people who educate our children and protect our lives — teachers, police officers, firefighters. Democrats in Congress paid to preserve those jobs by eliminating $11 billion in tax loopholes for corporations that ship jobs overseas — a provision that ultimately could create jobs in the United States.

Like Beck, they’ve announced their loathing for the unemployed. Royalists Sharron Angle, Jon Kyl, Andre Bauer, Tom Corbett and Orrin Hatch have derided the unemployed as lazy, spoiled, stupid drug users.

The jobless, however, are mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore. They’re organizing. The Union of the Unemployed and Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, are mobilizing the jobless.

The Union of the Unemployed is launching a “Bite Back” campaign, targeting those in Congress who tried repeatedly to cut off unemployment insurance and other aid to the jobless. “They will never see us coming,” the first Bite Back ad says, “After all, the politicians whose policies destroyed our lives think we’re ‘lazy’ ‘drug users’ and ‘hobos.’ They are counting on us to be docile as lambs and so depressed we’ll stay in bed on election day.”

Working America, whose members are not in unions but align themselves with the political philosophy of the AFL-CIO, plans to organize hundreds of thousands of the jobless across the nation to vote in workers’ interests. Field organizers will ask the jobless to fill out “Help Wanted” petitions to send to their congressmen and senators asking exactly what they’ve done to create jobs and assist the unemployed.

The jobless removing the royalists from their jobs – nothing could be sweeter, unless this revolution also included dispatching Glenn Beck to his unemployment office.

Republicans Kiss the Rich; Diss the Jobless

8:58 am in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

A brutal competition pits worker against worker continually now in this country. Five unemployed people vie with each other for each available job. It’s like a cruel game of musical chairs, with five desperate competitors for one seat.

Workers who’ve lost cars to repossession and homes to foreclosure run around frantically trying to get that one job. When the music stops, four disheartened, still-unemployed people move to other viscous cycles of five struggling to win one available job.

Republicans watching this blame the 14.6 million unemployed Americans for the inadequate number of chairs. They’ve called the unemployed lazy and refused to extend unemployment compensation. Meanwhile, the GOP is demanding an extension of Bush’s tax cuts for the rich.

To the GOP, the rich are deserving. Republicans see the unemployed as leeches — not as victims of filthy-rich, banksters who destroyed the economy, not as the stalwart citizens whose tax money Bush used to bail out Wall Street. To Republicans, the unemployed – along with the un-rich – deserve only disrespect.

And they’ve been heaping it on.

Republican Sen. John Kyl of Arizona said during a debate on the Senate floor, for example. “In fact, if anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work.”

Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah demanded drug tests for those receiving unemployment benefits, "We should not be giving cash to people who basically are just going to blow it on drugs."

Republican Senatorial candidate Sharron Angle of Nevada said extending benefits to the unemployed, who she characterized as “spoiled,” would be “terrible.” She told a radio station: “You can make more money on unemployment than you can going down and getting one of those jobs that is an honest job, but it doesn’t pay as much. And so that’s what’s happened to us is that we have put in so much entitlement into our government that we really have spoiled our citizenry and said you don’t want the jobs that are available.”

Republican Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer of South Carolina said the unemployed, like stupid stray animals, should not be fed: “My grandmother was not a highly educated woman but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better.”

Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania denied U.S. Labor Department statistics, insisting there are plenty of jobs, but the unemployed are shiftless and prefer their paltry government benefits over jobs: "The jobs are there. But if we keep extending unemployment, people are just going to sit there.”

By contrast, Democrats, who view the highest unemployment rates in 28 years as an emergency, have repeatedly tried to get a compensation extension passed and will mount another attempt Tuesday.

Disdainful of the unemployed, Republicans have refused to vote to extend the lifeline unless Congress ends its historical practice of classifying unemployment compensation as emergency funding, which is added to the deficit. The GOP is demanding that the $35 billion cost of extending compensation be offset by cutting federal programs or by reducing the stimulus – the very program designed to create jobs for the unemployed. In the six weeks since extended unemployment compensation expired and Republicans have blocked renewal, weekly checks averaging $300 ended for 2 million Americans.

Republicans try to sound fiscally responsible as they explain their votes disregarding the plight of the unemployed. But Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl’s words wreck the GOP’s deliberate disinformation campaign. While insisting that unemployment compensation extension be offset, Kyl says that’s entirely unnecessary for extension of Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy. When Republicans give rich people tax breaks, the GOP thinks it’s fine for the $678 billion cost to be added to the deficit.

Minority whip Kyl’s stance is held by the majority in his party. Most Republicans agree Congress need not pay for tax cuts benefitting the wealthy. “That’s been the majority Republican view for some time,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “So I think whatSenator Kyl was expressing was the view of virtually every Republican on that subject.”

Today, American workers face the worst job market since the Great Depression, with unemployment stuck at 9.5 percent and the average spell of joblessness lasting 35 weeks.In May, there were 11.8 million more unemployed workers than there were job openings.

Democrats see the pain of losing a job, financial security and hope for the future. Republicans see something entirely different – lazy, drug-addicted moochers living off the rich who the GOP believes should continue to be taxed at rates lower than those paid by their secretaries.

Bunning Put a Face on Obstructionist, Mean-Spirited Republican Party

5:32 pm in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

Sen. Jim Bunning, the Kentucky Republican who single-handedly delayed unemployment benefits for 400,000 desperate Americans and forced an unnecessary furlough of another 2,000, should be a figure regarded with wonderment.

The awesome power he held in his hands! The utter disregard for vulnerable Americans he exhibited while wielding it!

Bunning is a Republican Superhero. He personifies the mean-spirited, hypocritical, wealthy-serving, obstructionist Republican Party. As a result, his fellow GOP senators championed him. South Carolina Republican Jim DeMint said, “He’s my hero this week.” Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions said, “I respect him for the courage he’s shown.” Bunning’s obstruction should be “honored” by the Senate, said Tennessee Republican Bob Corker. And Texas Republican John Cornyn said he admired Bunning’s obstructionist tactics.

Eighteen Republicans joined Bunning Tuesday evening in voting to oppose extending unemployment benefits for a month and providing highway funding to re-employ the furloughed 2,000.

Republicans clearly admire obstructionism that hurts average Americans. It didn’t matter that the legislation was going to pass eventually no matter what Bunning did. It didn’t matter that Bunning could have made his hypocritical point by delaying legislation that didn’t affect people’s everyday lives. What mattered to Bunning and his backers is that Republicans — the minority in the Senate — succeeded in holding up Americans.

Though Bunning blathered about blockading the bill to ensure it did not add to the federal deficit, no such high-minded intent existed. Bunning made that clear when he agreed to end his obstruction in exchange for a vote that he knew would fail on an amendment to fund the bill.

During the six-day ordeal, Bunning bemoaned his own losses – missing the opportunity to watch a televised college basketball game because he was forced to defend his obstructionist position on the Senate floor and losing his cool on national TV as lowly reporters attempted to follow him onto an elevator exclusively for use by high-fallutin’ Senators. And he treated others with disdain – flipping the finger at a TV news man and growling, “tough sh*t,” at two fellow senators, Democrats, of course, as they pleaded with him to release the unemployment money.

In 1998, Former President Bill Clinton described Bunning as “mean-spirited.” That’s appropriate not just for Bunning, but also for the party he represents.

This is the party that has obstructed health insurance reform for a year, preventing millions of uncovered Americans from finally securing insurance while at the same time the GOP’s impeding progress allowed greedy insurance companies to continue dropping sick policy holders. This is the party that supported former President George Bush’s unfunded stimulus bill but opposed the stimulus bill proposed by President Obama to help reverse the worsening economy and rising unemployment that he inherited from Bush. Unfunded legislation, including the Medicare prescription program, was fine by Republicans when Bush was in office. But suddenly it’s not while Obama is President.

Bunning claimed he engaged in his one-man ban on the unemployment benefit extension because Congress recently passed pay-as-you-go legislation requiring that each spending bill include a funding mechanism. Of course, what he failed to mention is that he and his Party of No voted against the pay-go legislation. This was a second no on pay-go for Bunning, who did it in 2005 as well.

Bunning and the Republicans say they are just worried sick about the national debt, but they reject all proposals to deal with it. Another example is the Deficit Commission. Bunning and his Party of No also opposed creating this commission to cut the national debt. This defines the word hypocrite.

While stopping funds for the unemployed and adding 2,000 more people to the unemployment rolls, Bunning handled another constituent group – the rich – with enormously more tender care. He and his fellow Republicans cut the taxes of millionaires while Bush was in office. And like the Bush Stimulus bill, the Republicans didn’t bother providing a way to fill the revenue hole they dug when they gave rich people the break.

Similarly, Bunning supported a farm bill that allows farmers earning up to $750,000 a year to collect government subsidies, but felt it was fine to cut off “government subsidies” to the unemployed.

Bunning got high-level Republican support for that position. The Senate Republican whip, Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona asserted that unemployment benefits dissuade furloughed workers from seeking jobs “because people are being paid even though they’re not working.” A total of two Republican senators, James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Susan Collins of Maine, publicly asked Bunning to release the unemployment checks. The others either supported his obstruction with their silence or, like Kyl, openly backed him.

Despite Kyl’s contempt for unemployed Americans who in this Great Recession are forced to compete with five others for every job opening, the real deadbeat is Bunning. In January 2009, Bunning missed more than a week at the start of Congress and refused to explain his absence. Later that year, Bunning was the only senator to miss the Christmas Eve vote on the health insurance reform bill. Bunning skipped nearly half of all Senate floor votes in December, a total of 21, one more than ailing, 92-year-old Sen. Robert Byrd missed. Bunning gets paid $170,000 by the government, and collects top-notch government health benefits, whether he shows up for work or not. But this Republican Superhero felt it was fine to cut off paltry checks and COBRA health insurance matches for the unemployed whose average benefits would add up to $15,236 a year.

In his years in the Senate, Bunning has repeatedly voted against the health insurance program for poor children called CHIP. He opposed funding for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education. He rejected additional funding for the Consumer Product Safety Commission as poisonous pet food and lead-painted toys from China flooded U.S. shores. He said no to foreclosure aid and assistance to those unable to afford winter heating bills.

Bunning embodies the Party of Obstruction. No unemployment benefits. No health insurance reform. Not even health insurance for impoverished children. No. No. No for working folks.

The GOP is, however, the Party of Obliging corporate and wealthy interests: Yes. Yes. Yes for the rich.