Thursday, April 28, 2011
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
At town hall events across the country, Americans are confronting members of Congress who voted for the House Republicans' radical budget, which effectively ends Medicare, slashes Medicaid, hacks away at domestic spending, and extends tax breaks for the wealthy. The entire House GOP caucus except for four lawmakers voted for Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) budget earlier this month, claiming a mandate from the November elections to drastically reduce domestic s pending. But Republicans went beyond any semblance of responsible budget tightening to a radical deconstruction of core pillars of the health, safety, and security of the country. Recent polls show Americans are firmly opposed to Ryan's budget proposal, with over 70 percent of Republicans opposing cuts to Medicare, while over 80 percent of Americans overall disapprove of cuts to the social safety net program. And Americans are clearly demonstrating their displeasure with their GOP lawmakers, who are in their home districts for this month on recess from Congress. Last week, as lawmakers began holding town hall sessions in their districts, a number of Washington commentators wondered, "If the Ryan budget is so unpopular, where are the town-hall meltdowns?" This week,&nb sp;in the Washington commentariat got their answer as town hall anger went from a few isolated incidents to a daily deluge of passion and temper from Americans frustrated with their out-of-touch representatives. The town halls, like the opposition to the GOP budget more generally, were slow to begin in part because Ryan was so quick to act. While President Obama and congressional Democrats allowed for over a year of debate, study, and discussion on their health care reform law, House Republicans unveiled and voted on their plan to radically transform Medicare in a matter of weeks, giving opponents almost no time to mobilize against it or educate Americans about its effects. Moreover, those opposed to Ryan's plan don't have the constant cheerleading of right-wing talk radio and Fox News, which directly helped organize and promote the 2009 town halls. Nonetheless, as part of what the Progress Report has dubbed a Main Street Movement of average Americans upset that conservatives want to cut social services and public investment for everyday people while lavishing tax breaks on the wealthy and corporations, Americans are standing up to their lawmakers on their own.
MEDICARE: Many of the town hall protests this month have targeted freshmen Republicans from swing districts who were voted into office in last November's GOP wave. While voters may have wanted to send a message to Washington by electing a Republican, they have been dismayed by how radically right-wing their new congressmen have turned out to be. One of the first documented town hall protests last week was at a stop of freshman Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA). During the campaign, Meehan assured his future constituents that he wouldn't vote for Ryan's "agenda," but once in office, he did just that. "Meehan was asked about entitlement reform and Medicare at nearly every town hall he went to" last week, with constituents' anger visible. By the weekend, freshmen Reps. Robert Dold (R-IL), Charlie Bass&nb sp;(R-NH), Sean Duffy (R-WI), and Lou Barletta (R-PA) had all faced constituent anger of their own over the GOP's Medicare privatization plan. At a town hall in Hillsborough, NH, the first six questions Bass faced from constituents were about his vote to privatize Medicare. One attendee pointed out that what the Republicans are doing is pursuing a "divide and conquer"strategy by eliminating Medicare for future generations while keeping it for current seniors. At a town hall in Shell Late, WI, Duffy got into a heated exchange with constituents when he insisted that Ryan's plan does not effectively replace Medicare with a voucher system, but attendees repeatedly corrected him. Later, Duffy got huffy; frustrated by his constituents' questions about his presentation, he told attendees, "When you have your town hall you can stand up and give your presentation." Yesterday, cons tituent anger reached a boiling point at a town hall in Orlando for freshman Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) when "bedlam" erupted as constituents angrily peppered him with questions about his vote for privatizing Medicare. Webster tried to avoid answering many of the questions, and eventually, conservative hecklers fired back at those trying to hold Webster accountable. Police officers flanked Webster and had to tell the crowd to quite down.
TAXES: The other main theme constituents have been pressing their lawmakers on this month is tax fairness. Ryan's budget would preserve the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent of Americans while cutting corporate tax rates -- a proposal even Ryan's own constituents are not happy about. During a town hall meeting in Milton, WI, last week, a constituent who described himself as a "lifelong conservative" asked Ryan about the effects of growing income inequality in our nation. The constituent noted that huge income disparities contributed to the Great Depression and the Great Recession, and thus wanted to know why the congressman was "fighting to not let the tax breaks for the wealthy expire." Ryan responded by saying, "we do tax the top," eliciting a a chorus of boos and grumbling from attendees. Yesterday, Ryan faced chants of "Ryan stop lying!" at a town hall in Kenosha, WI, which drew a capacity crowd inside and over a 100 protesters outside. "Do not renew the Bush tax credit for the wealthy," one man demanded. Meanwhile, at a town hall in Salem, NY, Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY) faced similar outbursts. In answering a question, Gibson said that Americans pay higher taxes because "here are people in the country that are not paying taxes because they're illegal [immigrants]." At this point, a town hall attendee cried out, " You mean like GE?! " forcing the congressman to say that he agreed that the company needs to pay its fair share. Audience members at Dold's town hall said they "don’t believe chopping 10 percentage points off the highest corporate tax rate will create jobs." At Duffy's town hall, one attendee said she agrees with Ryan's concerns about the deficit and "that’s why we have to raise taxes on the rich, and raise taxes on the corporations who have never been richer than they have now. And you guys just cut their taxes again." "Oh yeah!" another constituent responded.
'EVERY RIGHT TO SPEAK': During the 2009 town halls, which mostly targeted Democrats, Republican lawmakers repeatedly praised tea party activists for their disruptions at town halls, saying it was important to let them have their voices heard. But now that they're on the receiving end of constituents' anger, it's unclear how much Republicans will embrace this democratic process. Ryan abruptly left a town hall yesterday ahead of schedule, citing "security concerns" from hecklers. But Ryan went through with a tow n hall in 2009 despite credible threats against union members at the event. At a town hall in 2009, when a heckler disrupted Ryan and promoted boos from other audience members, Ryan told the crowd, " She has every right to talk , every right to speak." In an interview with Fox News at the time, Ryan said Obama's policies had driven people to the town halls, which he praised as a grass roots outpouring of "people up in arms" about bad policies. "[T]his is amazing," Ryan told a largely supportive town hall in Aug. 2009. Meanwhile, conservatives are trying to drown out progressives at today's town halls, with American Action Network -- a relatively new conservative front group founded by a group of Wall Street bankers -- loading up conservative activists& nbsp; with softball questions and talking points to bolster Republican lawmakers on the Ryan plan.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
TOP TALKER: HEDGE FUNDS SHORT OBAMA - WSJ's Brody Mullins, Susan Pulliam and Steve Eder on pg. A1: "Hedge-fund managers made a big bet on Barack Obama and other Democrats in 2008. Now, with the 2012 contest gearing up, some prominent fund managers have turned their backs on the party and are actively supporting Republicans. Daniel Loeb, founder of Third Point LLC, was one of the biggest Obama fund-raisers in 2008, rounding up $200,000 for him ... But since Mr. Obama's inauguration, Mr. Loeb has given $468,000 to Republican candidates and the GOP, and just $8,000 to Democrats. ... Mr. Loeb is part of a shift in political allegiance within the world of hedge funds that also includes such big names as Steven Cohen's SAC Capital Advisors and Kenneth Griffin's Citadel Investment Group." http://on.wsj.com/fbtaNp
Monday, April 25, 2011
From AmericaBlog News
I never thought much of Franklin Graham, Billy Graham's son. But President Obama just had to woo the guy, and look what it's gotten him. Franklin Graham is now a birther. But that's not all, he's questioning Obama's Christianity, on Easter no less. Like most Republican political operatives who falsely wrap themselves in the sheep's clothing of faith, Graham is no better than Fallwell or Robertson. Luckily his father doesn't have to see how far his son has fallen.Oh, and Mr. Graham, Happy Easter, you idiot.
Republicans continue to hold Americans hostage in ongoing negotiations over raising the debt ceiling and the 2012 budget.
Meanwhile there's an epidemic of home foreclosures. Unemployment is rampant. The cost of food, gas and health care is going up. Families across the country are falling into poverty, while many more are struggling just to get by.
And now the same Republicans who only months ago went to the mat to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy are saying we cannot afford our social safety net because "we're broke."
There is something deeply wrong with our priorities as a country if we're cutting back on services for children and the elderly, the sick and the destitute, and anything that helps the middle class stay afloat while simultaneously cutting taxes for the likes of Paris Hilton and the Koch brothers.
We cannot allow the budget to be balanced on the backs of the very people who've taken it on the chin during this economic crisis.
Progressives need to offer an alternative to the morally bankrupt and economically baseless dogma of "tax cuts for the rich, massive spending cuts for everyone else." And the alternative cannot be simply to propose slightly less brutal spending cuts. We need to put tax increases back on the table.
While some members of the Democratic leadership have fallen into this trap of accepting the rightwing framing of the debate, progressive champions Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Sen. Bernie Sanders are leading the fight for a real solution to our budget crisis.
They have each introduced a bill to raise the income tax rates on people who make more than one million dollars a year. And they need our help to start changing the narrative around the budget.
Increasing taxes on millionaires and billionaires won't be a silver bullet, but it would bring in tens of billions of dollars that would allow us to avoid some of the most brutal budget cuts we're now facing. And it would be a step toward making our tax system more fair.
The disparity between the rich and the poor is growing in a way that is deeply unhealthy to our society. The richest 1% of Americans are making 24% of the country's income, which is the highest share it has been since the 1930s. The 1930s were also the last time the richest 1% have so consistently paid such a low income tax rate.And as Michael Moore has pointed out, the top 400 Americans own more wealth than the bottom 50% of Americans put together.
This wide gulf between the haves and the have-nots not only affects our economy, it distorts our democracy. We have to take action before it's too late.
Now, more than ever, we need you to speak out.
Matt Lockshin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets
P.S. There is also a "big picture" reason to support these bills. Democrats are the party of FDR. With the introduction of the bills to tax millionaires and billionaires, we can push the Democratic leadership to start acting like it.
The government should be expanding services to the needy and investing more in infrastructure and education, not cutting back.
Our country isn't broke. And if we don't stand up to the Republican's intellectually dishonest claim that it is, our moral compass may become broken.
We cannot shred the social safety net when it's most needed. It's long past time to require the super wealthy to pay their fair share.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Monday, April 18, 2011
Attempt to Abolish Independent Party of Oregon Backfires
"dumb, partisan and unconstitutional" (The Oregonian)
spawned by the "Joe Stalin Graduate School of Political Maneuvering" (Albany Democrat-Herald),
"heavy-handed" (Medford Mail-Tribune).
The Oregonian's editorial earned a top, full-width headline. Today's Sunday Oregonian featured further criticism of the bill on the front page of the metro section.
More About the Hearing
"We are aware of no legal precedent in any jurisdiction in the United States that would allow a legislature to ban the use of a word in the name of a political party, and are highly skeptical that the Oregon Constitution, with its broad protections for free speech, would permit such an intrusion on the association and speech rights of a duly constituted political party. . . . This bill is cynical, political mischief of the worst, most juvenile kind -- worthy of being thrown on the legislative scrap heap, so this body can get down to the important business at hand."
Also submitting written testimony were former State Representative Tony Van Vliet and attorney Stephen Goldberg.
PLEASE FORWARD WIDELY!!!
If your group wants to co-sponsor this event please firstname.lastname@example.org
RALLY OUTSIDE CITY HALL DAY OF JTTF VOTE!!!
DATE: Thursday February 24th
CITY COUNCIL VOTE: 2pm(public testimony will be taken)
LOCATION: Outside City Hall Council Chambers 1221 SW 4th Ave, Portland, OR 97204
On February 24th the Portland City Council will be voting on whether or not the City of Portland should re-enter the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). We strongly oppose the JTTF because we value our civil rights. We need Portland Police officers to be held accountable to Oregon State Law. We don't want roving wiretaps, secret access and domestic spying on non-violent activists & community groups.
We said NO in 2005 and we say NO now.
CO-SPONSORS: Oregon Progressive Party, Oregon Jericho, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace, NW Student Coalition, Portland Central American Solidarity Committee, the Portland Coalition Opposing Political Repression, Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights, International Socialist Organization and you...
For more information visit:
StopFBI.net, Oregon Progressive Party <www.ProgParty.org>
Oregon ACLU <http://aclu-or.org/content/fbis-joint-terrorism-task-force-0>
CONTACT CITY COUNCIL and TELL THEM
WHY WE DON'T WANT the JTTF in PORTLAND
They are elected officials and if they vote for the JTTF then we won't vote for them!
Commissioner of Finance and Administration
Commissioner of Public Utilities, Position Number 1
Commissioner of Public Works, Position Number 2
Commissioner of Public Affairs, Position Number 3
Commissioner of Public Safety, Position Number 4
PROGRESSIVE NEWS - April 18, 2011
In this Issue:
Legislative Update: Popular Vote for President Would Help Vermont
Legislative Update: Complete Streets
From the Blog: Protecting Collective Bargaining
Save the Date! Next Progressive State Committee
We do not accept corporate donations, and so we need support from individuals like you.
Legislative Update: Popular Vote for President Would Help Vermont
This week the House sent Gov. Shumlin the so-called "National Popular Vote" bill. This bill has Vermont join other states across the country in allocating electoral votes a different way. Once enough states pass this bill we will have a popular vote for president. Every vote will be equal and the candidate with the most votes will be guaranteed to win.
The Founders gave states complete control over how their electoral votes work. Today Maine & Nebraska award votes based on the "Congressional District" system - win the most votes in a Congressional district and you get one elector, two more go to the winner of the statewide total. The remaining 48 states (including VT) use the "winner-take-all rule" where the candidate with the most votes gets all of a state's electoral votes.
The winner-take-all rule means that most states are ignored. Vermont is a reliably blue state, so Obama doesn't campaign here because he can't lose, and McCain ignores us because he doesn't care if he loses by 1% or 30%, either way he loses the whole prize. 35 states are in this ignored/safe/fly-over category because we are predictably red or blue. We aren't polled, candidates don't visit us (except to raise money), and they don't advertise or organize in our states.
Consider, during the Fall of 2008 presidential candidates visited New Hampshire twelve times and never once crossed the river to say hi to Vermonters.
That's because New Hampshire was one of fifteen battleground states. In the Fall of 2008, 2/3 of all the money the campaigns spent went to six states and 98% of the money went to fifteen states. This hurts Vermont and most of the country. A single candidate for VT State Senate likely spent more in Vermont than Obama/McCain combined.
Under a popular vote we aren't going to be the center of campaign attention. But we won't be locked out either. We will no longer have vans taking volunteers from Burlington to West Lebanon because people can canvass their neighbors right here at home. If every vote is equal then the contest becomes about margins everywhere. McCain may still lose Vermont but losing by 12% will be much better for him than an 18% defeat.
Under a popular vote Vermonters will have the chance of our opinions being important to candidates. Right now, if a candidate wants to know where voters stand on renewable energy, Vermont is excluded from the poll (as are voters in 34 other states). Under a popular vote our phones will ring. Our mailboxes will get attention. And most importantly, our opinions will be heard and we will know we were a part of making history by passing the National Popular Vote bill.
The bill requires states that possess a majority of the electoral college to sign up before the change takes effect, that is states holding 270 electoral votes. With Vermont coming on board the total signed up is 77 electors or 29% of the way to the goal. We are joining HI, WA, IL, NJ, MA, MD and DC. The effort is relatively new but already has support from over 2,000 of the 7,000 legislators across the country. We could well see this change in the next election or two. And when we do, Vermont will actually matter in a presidential election and presidential elections will adhere to the one person, one vote principle. How refreshing.
Legislative Update: Complete Streets
While the Senate examines the Transportation Bill H. 443, the House Transportation Committee has been hearing testimony on several other bills. Testimony on H. 198, the "Complete Streets" bill finished up on Wednesday. This bill asks that the state and local municipalities consider the needs of all users of the transportation system - bicyclists, public transit users, motorists, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities - in the planning and development of new transportation projects. Applying principles of Complete Streets could mean such simple solutions as providing for shorter crossing distances for pedestrians, signal count-downs, traffic calming, better bicycle lanes, and other measures to accommodate a variety of transportation options. The Vermont Attorney General, the Commissioner of Health, the Commissioner of the Department of Economic, Housing, and Community Development, and the President of the Vermont Public Health Association offered supportive testimony on the health benefits of this type of transportation planning. Several public works officials and a town planner weighed in with their concerns and basic support and the committee voted the bill out unanimously with one member absent. When the bill came to the floor on Friday April 15th it passed second reading on a voice vote. And the bill comes up for third reading on Tuesday, April 19th.
While this bill provides instances in which the state or municipality does not need to incorporate the needs of all users of the transportation system - (namely when use is prohibited by law, or the expense is not warranted due to probable use or need, or the incorporation of complete streets principles would be beyond the scope of a project) it does point in the direction of a multi-modal, comprehensive, and non-autocentric way of thinking about transportation. Applying complete streets principles in transportation planning can improve safety, promote health and fitness, contribute to vibrant and livable town and village centers, and address issues of congestion, pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. Some form of Complete Streets legislation has been planned or adopted in 244 jurisdictions across the country, including 20 states. The idea has gained momentum as communities recognize the benefits of 21st century transportation thinking.
From the Blog: Protecting Collective Bargaining
"Labor unions must mobilize together in their communities and demand "No Concessions; no more cuts to pay, pensions or health benefits" for all public workers because the fight to protect collective bargaining can only be won if public workers believe that collective bargaining will save their wages and benefits."
Save the Date!
The next Progressive State Committee meeting will be on Sunday May 15th in St. Albans. Martha Allen, NEA President, will speak about organized labor as the frontier of political change in Vermont. With the expected adjournment of the Legislature in the next few weeks, Progressive caucus members will also be on hand to discuss how working Vermonters fared under the golden dome this legislative session.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Saturday, April 16, 2011
When I was a little girl, I once asked my mother why she ate salads everyday instead of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with ice cream — which, I was sure, is what I would eat everyday if I were an independent adult.
Her response was my introduction into the world of dieting. It was, however, a little misleading. "Don’t worry about it," she said, after using the word "calories." "By the time you’re old enough to diet, scientists will have invented carrots that taste like chocolate. They'll have figured all that out by then."
At that point I think the conversation petered out (any nascent food-related anxieties assuaged), but looking back on it, I have some lingering questions.
Really Mom? Who is this anonymous "they"? And what specific actions are they going to take to ensure that Generation Y has no obligation to watch what they eat?
I didn't ask my mom about the wage gap that day, but I'm curious what she would have said. Back when she taught me about calories, I'm thinking 1991, women earned less than 70 cents to every dollar earned by men. Today, women who work full-time, year-round, earn only 77 cents to every dollar earned by their male peers. So in twenty years, we've managed to gain seven cents an hour. And yet, still, people seem to think the wage gap is simply going to magically disappear with time, along with other effects of sexism and discrimination, all on its own. Just like carrots that actually taste like carrots.
But we know better. Just last week, another study was released demonstrating the pernicious endurance of the wage gap. According to a researcher at the University of Washington, female professors earn an average of 6.9 percent less than their male peers, after accounting for career length, relative productivity and type of institution employed at. According to Inside Higher Ed, these findings are particularly relevant in the academy, where colleges often claim that the continuing gap is explained by the fact that so many current professors rose through the ranks during earlier periods of sexism, or that female professors chose to work in lower-paying fields. Apparently not.
Today is Equal Pay Day, and it represents an opportunity to examine the financial inequities that continue to burden women and their families. ThePaycheck Fairness Act, re-introduced in both Houses today, directly addresses the wage gap by toughening remedies available for sex-based pay discrimination, allowing women to receive compensatory and punitive damages for violations, and prohibiting unfair retaliation against employees who discuss pay and pay disparities on the job, among other things.
I honestly don't know where scientists currently stand on their progress towards vegetables that taste like dessert, but I do know where society stands on equal pay. We may not be there yet, but we've identified tools and actions that will advance the cause and increase equality between sexes. Let's not wait another twenty years to see if this one clears up on its own.