Showing posts with label Barack Obama presidency. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Barack Obama presidency. Show all posts

Nov 8, 2012

Protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in Grand Bargain

FDR signs the Social Security Act in 1935
Time to get back to work, Mr. President. The forces of feudalism are forever busy.

Outside of the idiot caucus, and it pundits, no one wants the most successful social insurance programs in U.S. history diminished.

And no one, rational, wants the working class targeted in the coming the Grand Bargain.

Facing the elimination of public debt in 2001, the GOP under Bush-Cheney drove up the debt in the hopes that later structural deficits would force massive cuts to social insurance, education, stimulus spending and research.

Now is the time of reckoning of the lost decade.

Let's not reward what Bush-Cheney did.

In 2001, Fed Chair Alan Greenspan testified before the Senate Budget Committee on the potential dangers of having zero federal debt, a fiscal legacy that Bush, Cheney and his rightwing ideologues were desperate to avoid.


And avoid and reverse this no-debt legacy they did.

Greenspan’s was an ambiguous and wide-ranging testimony—recounted by former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neil in The Price of Loyalty—that included Greenspan’s “fear that large surpluses would create a drag on the economy,” among other expressed cautions and concerns about the then-proposed Bush tax cuts (O’Neil p. 63) for the super-rich, now set to expire.

But the damage was done and Greenspan gave political cover (then and in later statements) to the reckless Bush tax cuts.

Said Greenspan in his subsequent testimony before the House Committee on the Budget (March 2, 2001):

At zero debt, the continuing unified budget surpluses now projected under current law imply a major accumulation of private assets by the federal government. Such an accumulation would make the federal government a significant factor in our nation’s capital markets and would risk significant distortion in the allocation of capital to its most productive uses.
A significant distortion to productive uses of capital? You mean like AIG, Citibank and Goldman Sachs?

Greenspan has since more or less apologized for his role in the train-wreck of the Bush-Cheney years that the GOP wants brought back, in part because the GOP friends in the Tea Party cannot stand the site of a black president reelected by other 'mud people.'

If President Obama takes Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid off the table, the American people will be behind him, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson be damned.

- A version of this piece has previously appeared

Sep 4, 2012

Winning formula for Obama—People remain hallowed in democracy

Robert Bork rejected 58-42 in U.S. Senate after
citizens mobilized against Bork's authoritarian vision

Update: Katrina vanden Heuvel: "Unless the Supreme Court becomes a central issue in this election, progressives are at risk of losing everything they care about, fought for and won.

This is no exaggeration. Let’s not forget that Mitt Romney has resurrected Bork as his chief judicial adviser. This is a man who would overturn Roe v. Wade, who doesn’t think the equal protection clause applies to women, who consistently favors corporations over citizens, who opposes voting rights. He originally opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act! As Sen. Edward Kennedy said before the Senate rejected the nomination, in Bork’s America, “the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is — and is often the only — protector of the individual rights that are at the heart of our democracy.

With Mitt Romney in the White House, Bork would be in a position to reverse the progress the United States has made to expand its democracy."

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Defeating fascismI have my rights is winning message against Bork-Romney-Tea Party Rule of Corporate power over People 

The Robert Bork nomination for U.S. Supreme Court justice in 1987 was an epic battle that saw a united front of citizens triumph over a genuine fascist movement that is embodied in today's GOP-Tea Party presidential ticket.

Bork now serves as Mitt Romney's co-chair of the GOP ticket's Justice Advisory Committee as Ted Kennedy's early warnings about Bork and the New Right appear prophetic.

We have seen economic catastrophe, profiteering and obstruction of the recovery by the Tea Party-Republican movement.

Now, the Obama presidency is poised to articulate its vision of rights—to health care, to voting, to sell our labor, and the preservation of social insurance in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security that enjoy the wide support of the American people, but remain targeted by corporate interests and politicians such as Romney, Ryan and Walker.

"Without even being asked to do so, five Justices in 2010 overrode their colleagues in the Citizens United case and bestowed upon the CEOs the power to spend trillions of dollars from corporate treasuries promoting compliant politicians to the public in campaign season," notes Jamin Raskin.

Their hands out, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and Scott Walker reap the corporate payout—for everything from power over the people's right to vote to funding Walker's criminal defense fund.

Fighting for the rights of Americans to work, the right to health care, and the right to Social Security against the forces who would deny these rights will determine the winner of the 2012 race for the presidency.

Look for a rout, as the NYT's Nate Silver's analyses predict.

What manner of human being is so sacred as to be endowed with rights? Citizens of the United States of America.

Robert Bork disagrees, and was rejected for his vision of Americans without rights.

Defending this American status of expansive rights against economic royalists and their cronies is a winning electoral formula.

As Noam Chomsky writes this morning:


The most prominent news story of the day here is the U.S. election. An appropriate perspective was provided by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, who held that 'We may have democracy in this country, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.'

Apr 24, 2012

Army Eases Guidelines Screening for Alleged PTSD Fakers in Win Against Neocons

As the political fallout in this election year continues over
Allen Breed’s AP hit job published in 2010 asserting
that U.S. veterans and reformist DVA elements
effectively collude to commit widespread fraud,
we note that blaming veterans for illness and injury
has a long tradition.

- Something's wrong, something's not quite right -

"So the brave men and women who have served in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq are honest enough to put themselves in danger in the defense of the United States, yet their sworn personal hearing testimony concerning the stressors they experienced in Vietnam, Afghanistan, or Iraq is not. Something is seriously wrong here," writes the Paralyzed Veterans of America in their Service Officers Appeals Report (SOAR, 2004, Volume 8, Number 4).

Yes, there is something seriously wrong, but a group of reformers led by President Obama, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, Bob Walsh, Jim Davis, Anthony Hardie, and Gordon Duff and near-constant lobbying by an even smaller group of veterans' advocates (Paul Sullivan) are pushing back against the likes of AP journalist Allen Breed, Fox News, the American Enterprise Institute, and embedded, neocon bureaucrats in the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), and just about every Republican in congress who screams about the national debt after pursuing policies ensuring the debt skyrocked the last 10 years.
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By Katie Drummond in Wired


Media attacks veterans' claims
In a big reversal, the Army has issued a stern new set of guidelines to doctors tasked with diagnosing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among returning soldiers. Stop spending so much time trying to spot patients who are faking symptoms, the new guidelines instruct.Chances are, they’re actually ailing. The 17-page document has yet to be made public but was described in some detail by the Seattle Times. In it, the Army Surgeon General’s Office specifically points out — and discredits — a handful of screening tests for PTSD that are widely used to by military clinicians to diagnose a condition estimated to afflict at least 200,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
It's no coincidence that the man at the top, President Obama, on August 10, 2005 as a young senator blasted the Bush-Cheney-Rove administration in a letter to then VA Secretary Nicholson, writing "in order to truly create fairness in the claims system, the VA should concentrate its efforts on reviewing denials of PTSD claims. Without accessing why some PTSD claims are denied, it will be impossible to fully understand how the VA’s PTSD rating system can be improved." Our veterans aren’t lying about PTSD and as Chief Justice John Roberts asked, "In litigating with veterans, the government more often than not takes a position that is substantially unjustified?" ((Astrue v. Ratliff )(08-1322)) Yes, the government does take substantially unjustified positions against veterans with the media's help, and Obama's turning this around should happen faster and more comprehensively. In light of this reality, I can't wait for Mitt Romney to tell President Obama that we cannot afford more money for the Veterans Benefit Administration (VBA) and VA, and we are going to have to give these veterans voucher-care. (Michael Leon) To understand the change that is taking place in treating PTSD, see U.S. Army Clears War of Wrongdoing on the Army's 2010 ludicrous Health Promotion, Risk Reduction, and Suicide Prevention (HP/RR/SP) Report. "I had this conversation with a guy in the [Bush] White House, the liaison to the Department of Veterans Affairs. This was during the Bush Administration. He said, if we were to keep every promise that we made to the veterans, it would bankrupt us as a nation," said veterans' advocate, Steve Robinson, who has challenged the President and the Defense establishment face-to-face on their shameful neglect of the health problems, especially mental-health issues, faced by returning Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans.

But the results of what’s known as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Test are flawed, according to the report. PTSD sufferers often exhibit anxiety, insomnia, flashbacks and depression — all of which, some doctors believe, can be discounted under the test.

Under the Bush-Cheney-Rove administration, covert war
was declared on veterans' seeking disability benefits
The test devotes a large swath of questions to catching apparent exaggerations of symptom severity, seemingly inconsistent answers, or reported symptoms that don’t mesh with the typical signs associated with an illness. “The report rejects the view that a patient’s response to hundreds of written test questions can determine if a soldier is faking symptoms,” the Seattle Times summarized. Where PTSD is concerned, that’s especially true. The condition is accompanied by symptoms that can differ markedly between patients: Some are hyperactive, others are lethargic; some exhibit frenetic rage while others are simply sullen and depressed. “And,” the Times continued, “[the report] declares that poor test results ‘does not equate to malingering’.” Those tests were the standard of care at Madigan Army Medical Center — which is a big deal. Located in Takoma, Washington, Madigan isn’t just one of the military’s largest medical installations. It’s home to a forensic psychiatry team tasked with deciding whether soldiers diagnosed with PTSD were sick enough to qualify for medical retirement. In March, the Army launched an investigation of the Madigan team after Madigan’s screening procedures allegedly reversed 300 of the PTSD diagnoses among soldiers being evaluated. The reversals resulted in some soldiers being diagnosed with “personality disorders” and others left with no diagnosis at all. Madigan allegedly used the tests to save money by limiting the number of patients who’d qualify for retirement. “We have to ensure we are not just ‘rubber stamping’ a soldier with the diagnosis of PTSD,” reads a memo from an unnamed Madigan psychiatrist that leaked last month. “We have to be good stewards of the tax-payer dollars.” The Surgeon General’s attempts at strengthening its PTSD diagnostic tactics might come as a relief to veterans. But they might also be more than a little too late. Shortly after the scandal at Madigan emerged, subsequent reports of similar shoddy diagnostics at Walter Reed, Fort Carson and Fort Bragg trickled out as well. Including more allegations of soldiers being pinned as malingerers by military docs. “Leading off, trying to say it’s isolated, doesn’t really pass the common-sense test,” Patrick Bellon, executive director of Veteran’s for Common Sense, told Stars and Stripes earlier this month. “Clearly, something is not right.”

Apr 20, 2012

On Obama and the GOP Congress

"Obama wouldn't be a leader if he tried to negotiate with [Republicans] in good faith. He'd be a fool."
- Michael Tomasky

Feb 23, 2012

GOP Fake Outrage Is SOP

President Obama and the First Lady plot to enslave
white America and attack religious freedom
The GOP bubble is full of demons who emerge to wreak havok and threaten America with their evil might.

In 2008, one such monster was ACORN, committing a massive crime against our country's political health, we were told.

In October 2008 in the third presidential debate, John McCain said, ACORN was "on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy," repeating the GOP talking point.

That the GOP charge and political talking point lacked any factual basis was not the point; exclusionary voter ID legislation came to the rescue.

And President Obama, beneficiary of that great fraud that destroyed the fabric of democracy, was illegitimate.

Just knew there was something about that guy.

Worth noting is that McCain, the crusading reformist, dropped his heroic pursuit of the massive fraud conspiracy after he lost the 2008 election.

Religion

This season in the GOP bubble, President Obama is attacking religious freedom.

"I don't think we've seen in the history of this country the kind of attack on religious conscience, religious freedom, religious tolerance that we've seen under Barack Obama," said Mitt Romney in the Arizona debate last night, in an attempt to match Rick Santorum and virtually every GOP politician.

That the GOP charge and political talking point lacks any factual basis is not the point of course.

Rick Santorum - Image composed of gay porn
Stephen and Vanessa/Unicorn Booty






Sex

Now the GOP has gone off the deep end, repeating an inartful lie about an activity—sex and contraception—that most Americans enjoy, [and wish for the GOP to deescalate its interventions.]

The last time the GOP went this bat-crazy about sex was 1998, a crusade resulting in President Clinton's highest approval numbers and demands from the American people for the GOP to move on.

The Other Man
  • So, President Obama is blaæƏǒack
  • Spawned by a Muslim father [Franklin Graham told us again]
  • Has gay friends
  • Wants to weaken America generally, and the military specifically
  • Hates our allies; loves our enemies
  • Is in league with forces working to impose the caliphate upon Western civilization
The problem for the GOP is that most Americans like President Obama and are growing tired of the GOP fake outrage game that now just looks very sad.

Jan 24, 2012

President Obama Delivers State of the Union, Calls for Unity

Pres Obama delivers address at U.S. Capitol. Unknown to a global audience
moments before, a bold hostage rescue operation had played out half a world
away by Navy SEAL teams. Photo Bill O'Leary/Washington Post

Update: Special Operations Forces Rescue Hostages in Somalia -At start of the president’s address last night, TV cameras caught Obama shaking Leon Panetta’s hand, saying “Good job.” No one knew then what he was talking about.
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The domestic enemy is clear, and the enemy of the American people, including all 26-million American veterans, is the Republican Party.

Against this backdrop, President Obama vowed to move forward to the dismay of a rightwing party unprecedented in American history.

But President Obama called for unity and common purpose, as is embodied in the U.S. Military.


President Obama: Armed forces offer example of looking out for the person next to you,
or the mission fails. When you’re in the thick of the fight, you rise or fall as one unit,
serving one Nation, leaving no one behind


Obama bore little resemblance to the straw-man figure derided in Republican debates, delivering a sober, respectful call for national purpose during a crisis that we as a nation face together.


State of the Union Address - January 24, 2012
Remarks by the President in State of the Union Address


United States Capitol
Washington, D.C.

... Above all, our freedom endures because of the men and women in uniform who defend it. As they come home, we must serve them as well as they served us. That includes giving them the care and benefits they have earned - which is why we’ve increased annual VA spending every year I’ve been President. And it means enlisting our veterans in the work of rebuilding our Nation.

With the bipartisan support of this Congress, we are providing new tax credits to companies that hire vets. Michelle and Jill Biden have worked with American businesses to secure a pledge of 135,000 jobs for veterans and their families. And tonight, I’m proposing a Veterans Job Corps that will help our communities hire veterans as cops and firefighters, so that America is as strong as those who defend her.

Which brings me back to where I began. Those of us who’ve been sent here to serve can learn from the service of our troops. When you put on that uniform, it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white; Asian or Latino; conservative or liberal; rich or poor; gay or straight. When you’re marching into battle, you look out for the person next to you, or the mission fails. When you’re in the thick of the fight, you rise or fall as one unit, serving one Nation, leaving no one behind.
---

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow Americans:

Last month, I went to Andrews Air Force Base and welcomed home some of our last troops to serve in Iraq. Together, we offered a final, proud salute to the colors under which more than a million of our fellow citizens fought - and several thousand gave their lives.

We gather tonight knowing that this generation of heroes has made the United States safer and more respected around the world. For the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq. For the first time in two decades, Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this country. Most of al Qaeda’s top lieutenants have been defeated. The Taliban’s momentum has been broken, and some troops in Afghanistan have begun to come home.

These achievements are a testament to the courage, selflessness, and teamwork of America’s Armed Forces. At a time when too many of our institutions have let us down, they exceed all expectations. They’re not consumed with personal ambition. They don’t obsess over their differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together.

Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example. Think about the America within our reach: A country that leads the world in educating its people. An America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs. A future where we’re in control of our own energy, and our security and prosperity aren’t so tied to unstable parts of the world. An economy built to last, where hard work pays off, and responsibility is rewarded.

We can do this. I know we can, because we’ve done it before. At the end of World War II, when another generation of heroes returned home from combat, they built the strongest economy and middle class the world has ever known. My grandfather, a veteran of Patton’s Army, got the chance to go to college on the GI Bill. My grandmother, who worked on a bomber assembly line, was part of a workforce that turned out the best products on Earth.

The two of them shared the optimism of a Nation that had triumphed over a depression and fascism. They understood they were part of something larger; that they were contributing to a story of success that every American had a chance to share - the basic American promise that if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement.

The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive. No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important. We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by. Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. What’s at stake are not Democratic values or Republican values, but American values. We have to reclaim them.

Let’s remember how we got here. Long before the recession, jobs and manufacturing began leaving our shores. Technology made businesses more efficient, but also made some jobs obsolete. Folks at the top saw their incomes rise like never before, but most hardworking Americans struggled with costs that were growing, paychecks that weren’t, and personal debt that kept piling up.

In 2008, the house of cards collapsed. We learned that mortgages had been sold to people who couldn’t afford or understand them. Banks had made huge bets and bonuses with other people’s money. Regulators had looked the other way, or didn’t have the authority to stop the bad behavior.

It was wrong. It was irresponsible. And it plunged our economy into a crisis that put millions out of work, saddled us with more debt, and left innocent, hard-working Americans holding the bag. In the six months before I took office, we lost nearly four million jobs. And we lost another four million before our policies were in full effect.

Those are the facts. But so are these. In the last 22 months, businesses have created more than three million jobs. Last year, they created the most jobs since 2005. American manufacturers are hiring again, creating jobs for the first time since the late 1990s. Together, we’ve agreed to cut the deficit by more than $2 trillion. And we’ve put in place new rules to hold Wall Street accountable, so a crisis like that never happens again.

The state of our Union is getting stronger. And we’ve come too far to turn back now. As long as I’m President, I will work with anyone in this chamber to build on this momentum. But I intend to fight obstruction with action, and I will oppose any effort to return to the very same policies that brought on this economic crisis in the first place.

No, we will not go back to an economy weakened by outsourcing, bad debt, and phony financial profits. Tonight, I want to speak about how we move forward, and lay out a blueprint for an economy that’s built to last - an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values.

This blueprint begins with American manufacturing.

On the day I took office, our auto industry was on the verge of collapse. Some even said we should let it die. With a million jobs at stake, I refused to let that happen. In exchange for help, we demanded responsibility. We got workers and automakers to settle their differences. We got the industry to retool and restructure. Today, General Motors is back on top as the world’s number one automaker. Chrysler has grown faster in the U.S. than any major car company. Ford is investing billions in U.S. plants and factories. And together, the entire industry added nearly 160,000 jobs.

We bet on American workers. We bet on American ingenuity. And tonight, the American auto industry is back.

What’s happening in Detroit can happen in other industries. It can happen in Cleveland and Pittsburgh and Raleigh. We can’t bring back every job that’s left our shores. But right now, it’s getting more expensive to do business in places like China. Meanwhile, America is more productive. A few weeks ago, the CEO of Master Lock told me that it now makes business sense for him to bring jobs back home. Today, for the first time in fifteen years, Master Lock’s unionized plant in Milwaukee is running at full capacity.

So we have a huge opportunity, at this moment, to bring manufacturing back. But we have to seize it. Tonight, my message to business leaders is simple: Ask yourselves what you can do to bring jobs back to your country, and your country will do everything we can to help you succeed.

We should start with our tax code. Right now, companies get tax breaks for moving jobs and profits overseas. Meanwhile, companies that choose to stay in America get hit with one of the highest tax rates in the world. It makes no sense, and everyone knows it.



So let’s change it. First, if you’re a business that wants to outsource jobs, you shouldn’t get a tax deduction for doing it. That money should be used to cover moving expenses for companies like Master Lock that decide to bring jobs home.

Second, no American company should be able to avoid paying its fair share of taxes by moving jobs and profits overseas. From now on, every multinational company should have to pay a basic minimum tax. And every penny should go towards lowering taxes for companies that choose to stay here and hire here.

Third, if you’re an American manufacturer, you should get a bigger tax cut. If you’re a high-tech manufacturer, we should double the tax deduction you get for making products here. And if you want to relocate in a community that was hit hard when a factory left town, you should get help financing a new plant, equipment, or training for new workers.

My message is simple. It’s time to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas, and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in America. Send me these tax reforms, and I’ll sign them right away.

We’re also making it easier for American businesses to sell products all over the world. Two years ago, I set a goal of doubling U.S. exports over five years. With the bipartisan trade agreements I signed into law, we are on track to meet that goal - ahead of schedule. Soon, there will be millions of new customers for American goods in Panama, Colombia, and South Korea. Soon, there will be new cars on the streets of Seoul imported from Detroit, and Toledo, and Chicago.

I will go anywhere in the world to open new markets for American products. And I will not stand by when our competitors don’t play by the rules. We’ve brought trade cases against China at nearly twice the rate as the last administration - and it’s made a difference. Over a thousand Americans are working today because we stopped a surge in Chinese tires. But we need to do more. It’s not right when another country lets our movies, music, and software be pirated. It’s not fair when foreign manufacturers have a leg up on ours only because they’re heavily subsidized.

Tonight, I’m announcing the creation of a Trade Enforcement Unit that will be charged with investigating unfair trade practices in countries like China. There will be more inspections to prevent counterfeit or unsafe goods from crossing our borders. And this Congress should make sure that no foreign company has an advantage over American manufacturing when it comes to accessing finance or new markets like Russia. Our workers are the most productive on Earth, and if the playing field is level, I promise you - America will always win.

I also hear from many business leaders who want to hire in the United States but can’t find workers with the right skills. Growing industries in science and technology have twice as many openings as we have workers who can do the job. Think about that - openings at a time when millions of Americans are looking for work.

That’s inexcusable. And we know how to fix it.

Jackie Bray is a single mom from North Carolina who was laid off from her job as a mechanic. Then Siemens opened a gas turbine factory in Charlotte, and formed a partnership with Central Piedmont Community College. The company helped the college design courses in laser and robotics training. It paid Jackie’s tuition, then hired her to help operate their plant.

I want every American looking for work to have the same opportunity as Jackie did. Join me in a national commitment to train two million Americans with skills that will lead directly to a job. My Administration has already lined up more companies that want to help. Model partnerships between businesses like Siemens and community colleges in places like Charlotte, Orlando, and Louisville are up and running. Now you need to give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers - places that teach people skills that local businesses are looking for right now, from data management to high-tech manufacturing.

And I want to cut through the maze of confusing training programs, so that from now on, people like Jackie have one program, one website, and one place to go for all the information and help they need. It’s time to turn our unemployment system into a reemployment system that puts people to work.

These reforms will help people get jobs that are open today. But to prepare for the jobs of tomorrow, our commitment to skills and education has to start earlier.

For less than one percent of what our Nation spends on education each year, we’ve convinced nearly every State in the country to raise their standards for teaching and learning - the first time that’s happened in a generation.

But challenges remain. And we know how to solve them.

At a time when other countries are doubling down on education, tight budgets have forced States to lay off thousands of teachers. We know a good teacher can increase the lifetime income of a classroom by over $250,000. A great teacher can offer an escape from poverty to the child who dreams beyond his circumstance. Every person in this chamber can point to a teacher who changed the trajectory of their lives. Most teachers work tirelessly, with modest pay, sometimes digging into their own pocket for school supplies - just to make a difference.

Teachers matter. So instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo, let’s offer schools a deal. Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones. In return, grant schools flexibility: To teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.

We also know that when students aren’t allowed to walk away from their education, more of them walk the stage to get their diploma. So tonight, I call on every State to require that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn eighteen.

When kids do graduate, the most daunting challenge can be the cost of college. At a time when Americans owe more in tuition debt than credit card debt, this Congress needs to stop the interest rates on student loans from doubling in July. Extend the tuition tax credit we started that saves middle-class families thousands of dollars. And give more young people the chance to earn their way through college by doubling the number of work-study jobs in the next five years.

Of course, it’s not enough for us to increase student aid. We can’t just keep subsidizing skyrocketing tuition; we’ll run out of money. States also need to do their part, by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets. And colleges and universities have to do their part by working to keep costs down. Recently, I spoke with a group of college presidents who’ve done just that. Some schools re-design courses to help students finish more quickly. Some use better technology. The point is, it’s possible. So let me put colleges and universities on notice: If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down. Higher education can’t be a luxury - it’s an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.

Let’s also remember that hundreds of thousands of talented, hardworking students in this country face another challenge: The fact that they aren’t yet American citizens. Many were brought here as small children, are American through and through, yet they live every day with the threat of deportation. Others came more recently, to study business and science and engineering, but as soon as they get their degree, we send them home to invent new products and create new jobs somewhere else.

That doesn’t make sense.

I believe as strongly as ever that we should take on illegal immigration. That’s why my Administration has put more boots on the border than ever before. That’s why there are fewer illegal crossings than when I took office.

The opponents of action are out of excuses. We should be working on comprehensive immigration reform right now. But if election-year politics keeps Congress from acting on a comprehensive plan, let’s at least agree to stop expelling responsible young people who want to staff our labs, start new businesses, and defend this country. Send me a law that gives them the chance to earn their citizenship. I will sign it right away.

You see, an economy built to last is one where we encourage the talent and ingenuity of every person in this country. That means women should earn equal pay for equal work. It means we should support everyone who’s willing to work; and every risk-taker and entrepreneur who aspires to become the next Steve Jobs.

After all, innovation is what America has always been about. Most new jobs are created in start-ups and small businesses. So let’s pass an agenda that helps them succeed. Tear down regulations that prevent aspiring entrepreneurs from getting the financing to grow. Expand tax relief to small businesses that are raising wages and creating good jobs. Both parties agree on these ideas. So put them in a bill, and get it on my desk this year.

Innovation also demands basic research. Today, the discoveries taking place in our federally-financed labs and universities could lead to new treatments that kill cancer cells but leave healthy ones untouched. New lightweight vests for cops and soldiers that can stop any bullet. Don’t gut these investments in our budget. Don’t let other countries win the race for the future. Support the same kind of research and innovation that led to the computer chip and the Internet; to new American jobs and new American industries.

Nowhere is the promise of innovation greater than in American-made energy. Over the last three years, we’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight, I’m directing my Administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources. Right now, American oil production is the highest that it’s been in eight years. That’s right - eight years. Not only that - last year, we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past sixteen years.

But with only 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves, oil isn’t enough. This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy - a strategy that’s cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs.

We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly one hundred years, and my Administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy. Experts believe this will support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade. And I’m requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use. America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk.

The development of natural gas will create jobs and power trucks and factories that are cleaner and cheaper, proving that we don’t have to choose between our environment and our economy. And by the way, it was public research dollars, over the course of thirty years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock - reminding us that Government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground.

What’s true for natural gas is true for clean energy. In three years, our partnership with the private sector has already positioned America to be the world’s leading manufacturer of high-tech batteries. Because of federal investments, renewable energy use has nearly doubled. And thousands of Americans have jobs because of it.

When Bryan Ritterby was laid off from his job making furniture, he said he worried that at 55, no one would give him a second chance. But he found work at Energetx, a wind turbine manufacturer in Michigan. Before the recession, the factory only made luxury yachts. Today, it’s hiring workers like Bryan, who said, “I’m proud to be working in the industry of the future.”

Our experience with shale gas shows us that the payoffs on these public investments don’t always come right away. Some technologies don’t pan out; some companies fail. But I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy. I will not walk away from workers like Bryan. I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany because we refuse to make the same commitment here. We have subsidized oil companies for a century. That’s long enough. It’s time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s rarely been more profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry that’s never been more promising. Pass clean energy tax credits and create these jobs.

We can also spur energy innovation with new incentives. The differences in this chamber may be too deep right now to pass a comprehensive plan to fight climate change. But there’s no reason why Congress shouldn’t at least set a clean energy standard that creates a market for innovation. So far, you haven’t acted. Well tonight, I will. I’m directing my Administration to allow the development of clean energy on enough public land to power three million homes. And I’m proud to announce that the Department of Defense, the world’s largest consumer of energy, will make one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history - with the Navy purchasing enough capacity to power a quarter of a million homes a year.

Of course, the easiest way to save money is to waste less energy. So here’s another proposal: Help manufacturers eliminate energy waste in their factories and give businesses incentives to upgrade their buildings. Their energy bills will be $100 billion lower over the next decade, and America will have less pollution, more manufacturing, and more jobs for construction workers who need them. Send me a bill that creates these jobs.

Building this new energy future should be just one part of a broader agenda to repair America’s infrastructure. So much of America needs to be rebuilt. We’ve got crumbling roads and bridges. A power grid that wastes too much energy. An incomplete high-speed broadband network that prevents a small business owner in rural America from selling her products all over the world.

During the Great Depression, America built the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge. After World War II, we connected our States with a system of highways. Democratic and Republican administrations invested in great projects that benefited everybody, from the workers who built them to the businesses that still use them today.

In the next few weeks, I will sign an Executive Order clearing away the red tape that slows down too many construction projects. But you need to fund these projects. Take the money we’re no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home.

There’s never been a better time to build, especially since the construction industry was one of the hardest-hit when the housing bubble burst. Of course, construction workers weren’t the only ones hurt. So were millions of innocent Americans who’ve seen their home values decline. And while Government can’t fix the problem on its own, responsible homeowners shouldn’t have to sit and wait for the housing market to hit bottom to get some relief.

That’s why I’m sending this Congress a plan that gives every responsible homeowner the chance to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgage, by refinancing at historically low interest rates. No more red tape. No more runaround from the banks. A small fee on the largest financial institutions will ensure that it won’t add to the deficit, and will give banks that were rescued by taxpayers a chance to repay a deficit of trust.

Let’s never forget: Millions of Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a Government and a financial system that do the same. It’s time to apply the same rules from top to bottom: No bailouts, no handouts, and no copouts. An America built to last insists on responsibility from everybody.

We’ve all paid the price for lenders who sold mortgages to people who couldn’t afford them, and buyers who knew they couldn’t afford them. That’s why we need smart regulations to prevent irresponsible behavior. Rules to prevent financial fraud, or toxic dumping, or faulty medical devices, don’t destroy the free market. They make the free market work better.

There is no question that some regulations are outdated, unnecessary, or too costly. In fact, I’ve approved fewer regulations in the first three years of my presidency than my Republican predecessor did in his. I’ve ordered every federal agency to eliminate rules that don’t make sense. We’ve already announced over 500 reforms, and just a fraction of them will save business and citizens more than $10 billion over the next five years. We got rid of one rule from 40 years ago that could have forced some dairy farmers to spend $10,000 a year proving that they could contain a spill - because milk was somehow classified as an oil. With a rule like that, I guess it was worth crying over spilled milk.

I’m confident a farmer can contain a milk spill without a federal agency looking over his shoulder. But I will not back down from making sure an oil company can contain the kind of oil spill we saw in the Gulf two years ago. I will not back down from protecting our kids from mercury pollution, or making sure that our food is safe and our water is clean. I will not go back to the days when health insurance companies had unchecked power to cancel your policy, deny you coverage, or charge women differently from men.

And I will not go back to the days when Wall Street was allowed to play by its own set of rules. The new rules we passed restore what should be any financial system’s core purpose: Getting funding to entrepreneurs with the best ideas, and getting loans to responsible families who want to buy a home, start a business, or send a kid to college.

So if you’re a big bank or financial institution, you are no longer allowed to make risky bets with your customers’ deposits. You’re required to write out a “living will” that details exactly how you’ll pay the bills if you fail - because the rest of us aren’t bailing you out ever again. And if you’re a mortgage lender or a payday lender or a credit card company, the days of signing people up for products they can’t afford with confusing forms and deceptive practices are over. Today, American consumers finally have a watchdog in Richard Cordray with one job: To look out for them.

We will also establish a Financial Crimes Unit of highly trained investigators to crack down on large-scale fraud and protect people’s investments. Some financial firms violate major anti-fraud laws because there’s no real penalty for being a repeat offender. That’s bad for consumers, and it’s bad for the vast majority of bankers and financial service professionals who do the right thing. So pass legislation that makes the penalties for fraud count.

And tonight, I am asking my Attorney General to create a special unit of federal prosecutors and leading state attorneys general to expand our investigations into the abusive lending and packaging of risky mortgages that led to the housing crisis. This new unit will hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners, and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans.

A return to the American values of fair play and shared responsibility will help us protect our people and our economy. But it should also guide us as we look to pay down our debt and invest in our future.

Right now, our most immediate priority is stopping a tax hike on 160 million working Americans while the recovery is still fragile. People cannot afford losing $40 out of each paycheck this year. There are plenty of ways to get this done. So let’s agree right here, right now: No side issues. No drama. Pass the payroll tax cut without delay.

When it comes to the deficit, we’ve already agreed to more than $2 trillion in cuts and savings. But we need to do more, and that means making choices. Right now, we’re poised to spend nearly $1 trillion more on what was supposed to be a temporary tax break for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. Right now, because of loopholes and shelters in the tax code, a quarter of all millionaires pay lower tax rates than millions of middle-class households. Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary.

Do we want to keep these tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans? Or do we want to keep our investments in everything else - like education and medical research; a strong military and care for our veterans? Because if we’re serious about paying down our debt, we can’t do both.

The American people know what the right choice is. So do I. As I told the Speaker this summer, I’m prepared to make more reforms that rein in the long term costs of Medicare and Medicaid, and strengthen Social Security, so long as those programs remain a guarantee of security for seniors.

But in return, we need to change our tax code so that people like me, and an awful lot of Members of Congress, pay our fair share of taxes. Tax reform should follow the Buffett rule: If you make more than $1 million a year, you should not pay less than 30 percent in taxes. And my Republican friend Tom Coburn is right: Washington should stop subsidizing millionaires. In fact, if you’re earning a million dollars a year, you shouldn’t get special tax subsidies or deductions. On the other hand, if you make under $250,000 a year, like 98 percent of American families, your taxes shouldn’t go up. You’re the ones struggling with rising costs and stagnant wages. You’re the ones who need relief.

Now, you can call this class warfare all you want. But asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most Americans would call that common sense.

We don’t begrudge financial success in this country. We admire it. When Americans talk about folks like me paying my fair share of taxes, it’s not because they envy the rich. It’s because they understand that when I get tax breaks I don’t need and the country can’t afford, it either adds to the deficit, or somebody else has to make up the difference - like a senior on a fixed income; or a student trying to get through school; or a family trying to make ends meet. That’s not right. Americans know it’s not right. They know that this generation’s success is only possible because past generations felt a responsibility to each other, and to their country’s future, and they know our way of life will only endure if we feel that same sense of shared responsibility. That’s how we’ll reduce our deficit. That’s an America built to last.

I recognize that people watching tonight have differing views about taxes and debt; energy and health care. But no matter what party they belong to, I bet most Americans are thinking the same thing right now: Nothing will get done this year, or next year, or maybe even the year after that, because Washington is broken.

Can you blame them for feeling a little cynical?

The greatest blow to confidence in our economy last year didn’t come from events beyond our control. It came from a debate in Washington over whether the United States would pay its bills or not. Who benefited from that fiasco?

I’ve talked tonight about the deficit of trust between Main Street and Wall Street. But the divide between this city and the rest of the country is at least as bad - and it seems to get worse every year.

Some of this has to do with the corrosive influence of money in politics. So together, let’s take some steps to fix that. Send me a bill that bans insider trading by Members of Congress, and I will sign it tomorrow. Let’s limit any elected official from owning stocks in industries they impact. Let’s make sure people who bundle campaign contributions for Congress can’t lobby Congress, and vice versa - an idea that has bipartisan support, at least outside of Washington.

Some of what’s broken has to do with the way Congress does its business these days. A simple majority is no longer enough to get anything - even routine business - passed through the Senate. Neither party has been blameless in these tactics. Now both parties should put an end to it. For starters, I ask the Senate to pass a rule that all judicial and public service nominations receive a simple up or down vote within 90 days.

The executive branch also needs to change. Too often, it’s inefficient, outdated and remote. That’s why I’ve asked this Congress to grant me the authority to consolidate the federal bureaucracy so that our Government is leaner, quicker, and more responsive to the needs of the American people.

Finally, none of these reforms can happen unless we also lower the temperature in this town. We need to end the notion that the two parties must be locked in a perpetual campaign of mutual destruction; that politics is about clinging to rigid ideologies instead of building consensus around common sense ideas.

I’m a Democrat. But I believe what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed: That Government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more. That’s why my education reform offers more competition, and more control for schools and States. That’s why we’re getting rid of regulations that don’t work. That’s why our health care law relies on a reformed private market, not a Government program.

On the other hand, even my Republican friends who complain the most about Government spending have supported federally-financed roads, and clean energy projects, and federal offices for the folks back home.

The point is, we should all want a smarter, more effective Government. And while we may not be able to bridge our biggest philosophical differences this year, we can make real progress. With or without this Congress, I will keep taking actions that help the economy grow. But I can do a whole lot more with your help. Because when we act together, there is nothing the United States of America can’t achieve.

That is the lesson we’ve learned from our actions abroad over the last few years.

Ending the Iraq war has allowed us to strike decisive blows against our enemies. From Pakistan to Yemen, the al Qaeda operatives who remain are scrambling, knowing that they can’t escape the reach of the United States of America.

From this position of strength, we’ve begun to wind down the war in Afghanistan. Ten thousand of our troops have come home. Twenty-three thousand more will leave by the end of this summer. This transition to Afghan lead will continue, and we will build an enduring partnership with Afghanistan, so that it is never again a source of attacks against America.

As the tide of war recedes, a wave of change has washed across the Middle East and North Africa, from Tunis to Cairo; from Sana’a to Tripoli. A year ago, Qadhafi was one of the world’s longest-serving dictators - a murderer with American blood on his hands. Today, he is gone. And in Syria, I have no doubt that the Assad regime will soon discover that the forces of change can’t be reversed, and that human dignity can’t be denied.

How this incredible transformation will end remains uncertain. But we have a huge stake in the outcome. And while it is ultimately up to the people of the region to decide their fate, we will advocate for those values that have served our own country so well. We will stand against violence and intimidation. We will stand for the rights and dignity of all human beings - men and women; Christians, Muslims, and Jews. We will support policies that lead to strong and stable democracies and open markets, because tyranny is no match for liberty.

And we will safeguard America’s own security against those who threaten our citizens, our friends, and our interests. Look at Iran. Through the power of our diplomacy, a world that was once divided about how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program now stands as one. The regime is more isolated than ever before; its leaders are faced with crippling sanctions, and as long as they shirk their responsibilities, this pressure will not relent. Let there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal. But a peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible, and far better, and if Iran changes course and meets its obligations, it can rejoin the community of nations.

The renewal of American leadership can be felt across the globe. Our oldest alliances in Europe and Asia are stronger than ever. Our ties to the Americas are deeper. Our iron-clad commitment to Israel’s security has meant the closest military cooperation between our two countries in history. We’ve made it clear that America is a Pacific power, and a new beginning in Burma has lit a new hope. From the coalitions we’ve built to secure nuclear materials, to the missions we’ve led against hunger and disease; from the blows we’ve dealt to our enemies; to the enduring power of our moral example, America is back.

Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn’t know what they’re talking about. That’s not the message we get from leaders around the world, all of whom are eager to work with us. That’s not how people feel from Tokyo to Berlin; from Cape Town to Rio; where opinions of America are higher than they’ve been in years. Yes, the world is changing; no, we can’t control every event. But America remains the one indispensable nation in world affairs - and as long as I’m President, I intend to keep it that way.

That’s why, working with our military leaders, I have proposed a new defense strategy that ensures we maintain the finest military in the world, while saving nearly half a trillion dollars in our budget. To stay one step ahead of our adversaries, I have already sent this Congress legislation that will secure our country from the growing danger of cyber-threats.

Above all, our freedom endures because of the men and women in uniform who defend it. As they come home, we must serve them as well as they served us. That includes giving them the care and benefits they have earned - which is why we’ve increased annual VA spending every year I’ve been President. And it means enlisting our veterans in the work of rebuilding our Nation.

With the bipartisan support of this Congress, we are providing new tax credits to companies that hire vets. Michelle and Jill Biden have worked with American businesses to secure a pledge of 135,000 jobs for veterans and their families. And tonight, I’m proposing a Veterans Job Corps that will help our communities hire veterans as cops and firefighters, so that America is as strong as those who defend her.

Which brings me back to where I began. Those of us who’ve been sent here to serve can learn from the service of our troops. When you put on that uniform, it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white; Asian or Latino; conservative or liberal; rich or poor; gay or straight. When you’re marching into battle, you look out for the person next to you, or the mission fails. When you’re in the thick of the fight, you rise or fall as one unit, serving one Nation, leaving no one behind.

One of my proudest possessions is the flag that the SEAL Team took with them on the mission to get bin Laden. On it are each of their names. Some may be Democrats. Some may be Republicans. But that doesn’t matter. Just like it didn’t matter that day in the Situation Room, when I sat next to Bob Gates - a man who was George Bush’s defense secretary; and Hillary Clinton, a woman who ran against me for president.

All that mattered that day was the mission. No one thought about politics. No one thought about themselves. One of the young men involved in the raid later told me that he didn’t deserve credit for the mission. It only succeeded, he said, because every single member of that unit did their job - the pilot who landed the helicopter that spun out of control; the translator who kept others from entering the compound; the troops who separated the women and children from the fight; the SEALs who charged up the stairs. More than that, the mission only succeeded because every member of that unit trusted each other - because you can’t charge up those stairs, into darkness and danger, unless you know that there’s someone behind you, watching your back.

So it is with America. Each time I look at that flag, I’m reminded that our destiny is stitched together like those fifty stars and those thirteen stripes. No one built this country on their own. This Nation is great because we built it together. This Nation is great because we worked as a team. This Nation is great because we get each other’s backs. And if we hold fast to that truth, in this moment of trial, there is no challenge too great; no mission too hard. As long as we’re joined in common purpose, as long as we maintain our common resolve, our journey moves forward, our future is hopeful, and the state of our Union will always be strong.

Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.

Oct 2, 2011

Pres Obama blasts GOP candidates for refusing to defend booed, gay soldier

By John Aravosis

Fighting words from the President this week about the gay soldier who was booed by the GOP debate audience last week, and how none of the Republican candidates on stage said a word in the soldier's defense.

This is actually quite remarkable. This is the second (or possibly third) time the President has brought this issue up, VP Biden has brought it up at least twice, and Nancy Pelosi once during the Ellen show a few days ago. Actually, two things are remarkable - first, that the Democrats got their act together and coordinated a counter-attack against the GOP on an issue on which the Rs are vulnerable (seriously, that's great). Second, and just as important, is the fact that the President is really letting the Republicans have it over this issue. He's fighting back, hard, and quite sharply as well. It's the new "fighting Obama," and I like it.


And actually, there's a third remarkable thing here: that gay rights is being used as a wedge issue (and effectively) against the GOP presidential candidates. So much for all that talk about gay rights being the third rail of politics - it turns out it is; the GOP's third rail.

If you haven't already, please check out the video of the gay soldier being booed, then read and sign the open letter to the GOP presidential candidates from former members of the military who are demanding an apology

Sep 19, 2011

Calling All Progressive Dems: A Time to Fight

Robert M. La follette
By J. P. Green

Should you find your enthusiasm for activist politics waning, Robert Reich has a Monday morning energizer in his latest blog entry "Don't Be Silenced," via RSN:


We're on the cusp of the 2012 election. What will it be about? It seems reasonably certain President Obama will be confronted by a putative Republican candidate who:

Believes corporations are people, wants to cut the top corporate rate to 25% (from the current 35%) and no longer require they pay tax on foreign income, who will eliminate capital gains and dividend taxes on anyone earning less than $250,000 a year, raise the retirement age for Social Security and turn Medicaid into block grants to states, seek a balanced-budged amendment to the Constitution, require any regulatory agency issuing a new regulation repeal another regulation of equal cost (regardless of the benefits), and seek repeal of Obama's healthcare plan.

Or one who:

Believes the Federal Reserve is treasonous when it expands the money supply, doubts human beings evolved from more primitive forms of life, seeks to abolish the Internal Revenue Service and shift most public services to the states, thinks Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, while governor took a meat axe to public education and presided over an economy that generated large numbers of near-minimum-wage jobs, and who will shut down most federal regulatory agencies, cut corporate taxes, and seek repeal of Obama's healthcare plan.
That's the default scenario, the one which will become reality if Democratic apathy is allowed to fester. The rest of Reich's column is more of a challenge to progressive/left Dems to fight for the causes that once made the Democratic Party a great champion of working people:

...Within these narrow confines progressive ideas won't get an airing. Even though poverty and unemployment will almost surely stay sky-high, wages will stagnate or continue to fall, inequality will widen, and deficit hawks will create an indelible (and false) impression that the nation can't afford to do much about any of it - proposals to reverse these trends are unlikely to be heard.

Neither party's presidential candidate will propose to tame CEO pay, create more tax brackets at the top and raise the highest marginal rates back to their levels in the 1950s and 1960s (that is, 70 to 90 percent), and match the capital-gains rate with ordinary income.

You won't hear a call to strengthen labor unions and increase the bargaining power of ordinary workers.

Don't expect an argument for resurrecting the Glass-Steagall Act, thereby separating commercial from investment banking and stopping Wall Street's most lucrative and dangerous practices.

You won't hear there's no reason to cut Medicare and Medicaid - that a better means of taming health-care costs is to use these programs' bargaining clout with drug companies and hospitals to obtain better deals and to shift from fee-for-services to fee for healthy outcomes...Nor will you hear why we must move toward Medicare for all.

Nor why the best approach to assuring Social Security's long-term solvency is to lift the ceiling on income subject to Social Security payroll taxes.

Don't expect any reference to the absurdity of spending more on the military than do all other countries put together, and the waste and futility of an unending and undeclared war against Islamic extremism - especially when we have so much to do at home...

Although proposals like these are more important and relevant than ever, they won't be part of the upcoming presidential election.
The choice facing progressive Dems is between whining and hand-wringing about inadequate leadership of the Party on the one hand and doing something to change it on the other. Reich sounds the call to arms to put real progressive policies back on the agenda:

...I urge you to speak out about them - at town halls, candidate forums, and public events. Continue to mobilize and organize around them. Talk with your local media about them. Use social media to get the truth out.

Don't be silenced by Democrats who say by doing so we'll jeopardize the President's re-election. If anything we'll be painting him as more of a centrist than Republicans want the public to believe. And we'll be preserving the possibility (however faint) of a progressive agenda if he's reelected.
Re-read that last graf. That alone is reason enough to push hard from the left inside the party -- it actually strengthens Dem defenses against the GOP default scenario and it lays the foundation for a stronger progressive future for the Democratic Party, win or lose in 2012.

Still not juiced? Reich's clincher:

Remember, too, the presidential race isn't the only one occurring in 2012. More than a third of Senate seats and every House seat will be decided on, as well as numerous governorships and state races. Making a ruckus about these issues could push some candidates in this direction - particularly since, as polls show, much of the public agrees.

Most importantly, by continuing to push and prod we give hope to countless Americans on the verge of giving up. We give back to them the courage of their own convictions, and thereby lay the groundwork for a future progressive agenda - to take back America from the privileged and powerful, and restore broad-based prosperity.
Grumble and gripe about inadequate leadership in your party, if you will. But do something this week to advance progressive policies and federal, state and local candidates who support them. Your actions add legitimacy to your critique.

Sep 17, 2011

New Book Says Obama Played by Wall Street Quislings—His Econ Team

As news broke Saturday that President Obama will propose a new minimum tax rate for millionaires, those who have been banging their heads against the wall [like Paul Krugman and the progressive base of the Democratic Party] and asking for [it's been only two years gone by now] why their brilliant President Obama with his historical commitment to the working-class was acting like he was a secret neocon were effectively proven correct.

According to reports on Ron Suskinds's political blockbuster, Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President, Obama is no neocon but rather a neophyte who ran his economic policy team like Secretary Hillary Clinton ran her 2008 campaign for the Democratic nomination for the presidency—ineffectively like there was no one in charge except for the protectors of the huge-moneyed interests of Wall Street and assorted megalomaniacs.

Tim Geithner, Larry Summers and Rahm Emanuel among others were manufacturing the policy and political product that only looked like it was made by imbeciles or crazy Republicans.

From Frank Rich and Adam Moss in New York Magazine:

Adam Moss:
I kept flipping back and forth between fury at Obama and — I know I'm easy — sympathy. So much of the damage comes from the initial decision to hire these guys, a decision he had to make almost immediately after being elected. He was inexperienced, he needed help, they burned him, he let them — that's the story in brief. The number of stupefyingly momentous decisions he had to make in those first few months put me in a vicarious panic. There was no obvious path, the way I read it — though in your view, I suspect, the choices were clearer. Though we'll never know for sure what other solutions might have worked, the book is a litany of missed opportunities, particularly with respect to financial reform (one banker after another wonders incredulously — and anonymously — why Obama didn't pin them when they were down). Would some other president have had more success? ...
Frank Rich:
Suskind also nails, I think, Obama's intellectual blind spot. Indeed, Obama himself nails it, telling Suskind that he was too inclined to search for "the perfect technical answer" to the myriad of complex issues coming at him. What he'd end up with instead is, as Suskind astutely summarizes it, "clever" answers that were "respectfully acknowledging opponents' positions, even those with thin evidence behind them, that then get stitched together into some pragmatic conclusion — but hollow." That said, could someone else have done better? Not the out-of-it McCain, not Hillary (an equivocator in her own right and one who would have embraced the same Clinton administration alumni and Wall Street crowd that Obama did). I still believe Obama was our best hope, and I still hope, however quixotically and self-deludedly, that he might learn from his mistakes.
The White House is pushing back of course very hard; as political junkies actually look forward to watching the Sunday morning news shows for once.

Mike Allen in Politico writes:
The White House launched an aggressive response to a forthcoming book that chronicles internal dissent and second-guessing of President Barack Obama by his own staff and presents Obama as a conflicted, sometimes wavering leader.

Administration officials assert that “Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President” by Ron Suskind is infested with errors, both big (what they characterize as misquotations and distorted narratives) and small (several names, a birth date, a publication date, an employer, an unemployment rate, etc.) and gives a distorted and inaccurate picture of the White House under Obama.
The questions remain:
  • Why didn't Obama push this hard against Wall Street and the Republicans?
  • And whatever happened to that hardhitting, some-change-of direction that the American people actually took dead seriously in the middle of the global economic crisis and the discovery of the secret Republican hit squad on the American middle class?
It's a comedian, Bill Maher, who has his pulse on the Obama base.

"He's not your boyfriend," Maher said repeatedly on his show as his criticisms of Obama the last several months brought muted reactions from Maher's audience and often his progressive guests.

We're all still wondering: Is President Obama our friend?

Yes, the sense of betrayal can go viral.

Aug 3, 2011

Obama 2012 Slogan: Not as Bat-shite Crazy as GOP-Tea Party

"This campaign belongs to you," says Obama 2012 site
Update: Assuming Ben Smith's report has a basis in fact ... Chriist, our President has his head up his ass: White House blames liberal groups for deficit deal debacle at secret meeting

About as well as Obama-Biden can do for reelection without provoking ridicule.

Not as compelling as Hope and Change ... but a candidate must never fight the last war.

Even as Independent voters flee this presidency, Obama soldiers on towards the imaginary middle.

Recipe for disaster: Take the lies, delusion and incoherent rage of the Tea Party; mix with an inability to fashion a policy-making, political team and you have President Barack Obama, ready for reelection.

Jul 10, 2011

No Voter IDs Required for Recall Elections

The above headline is a fact.

Voters do not need a new Voter ID "until the Presidential Preference Primary in the Spring of 2012," as the Wisconsin Governmental Accountability Board clearly states.

Unfortunately, the Wisconsin State Journal editors appear committed to confusing the issue in its hard-copy edition of the Sunday paper.

It's top-of-the-fold Sunday piece includes a teaser with a sub-headline Voter ID Law, "find out what you'll need to bring to the polls."

Inside the State Journal on p. 11, the below-the-fold lede in the referenced piece reads: "Voters in Tuesday's primary election and next month's state Senate recalls won't have to show a picture ID."

Running this fact on page one as a method of informing readers is not so hard. One would think hyping this fact on would be instructive.

Timing of Challenges

As the right to vote in Wisconsin is well-protected in the Wisconsin Constitution and state statute, ...

[See] ... The Wisconsin Constitution vests and warrants the right [to vote] at the time of election. Every one having the constitutional qualifications then, may to go the polls, vested with this franchise, of which no statutory condition precedent can deprive him, because the [Wisconsin] constitution makes him, by force of his present qualifications, a qualified voter at such election" [Wis. Const, art III, section 1] Wood v. Baker, 38 Wis. 71: (August 1875)] Wisc. - Wisconsin Supreme Court
... it's likely that a challenge in state Court is forthcoming.

But timing is critical to achieve the objective of halting the GOP-desired disenfranchising of Democratically leaning voters.

So, a Wisconsin court judicial injunction against the voter suppression bill that would, one fears, be overturned by a corrupt Wisconsin Supreme Court has to be timed so that the ultimate result is adjudicated during or shortly before the presidential general November 2012 election.

Federal Challenges

As noted here in February:

A federal court challenge seems unlikely as one effect of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board (No 07-21) (2008) upholding an Indiana voter ID law is that "future challenges to voter laws must be filed with respect to the application of a specific law—after its controversial mandates are already applied in an election," as noted by the Brennan Center, a leading civil rights organization. [See also Justin Levitt's The Truth About Voter Fraud.]
On the other hand, a federal challenge could be filed after the Presidential Preference Primary in the Spring of 2012, with the result being that the suppression act is enjoined before the November general election.

But the voter suppression bill is crafted to meet the federal test of the burden imposed on eligible voters vis a vis the "integrity and reliability of the electoral process itself." [Harper’s standard. Anderson v. Celebrezze, 460 U. S. 780 , n. 9.]

The fact is that the GOP program to suppress and obstruct voters is not deemed relevant to corporate media coverage.

One would think that the integrity and reliability of the process facilitates and does not obstruct legal voting. That is an incorrect assessment.

Barry Sarlin (TPM) notes:
Former President Bill Clinton weighed in on Republican efforts in several states to pass new restrictions on voting, comparing the measures to the Jim Crow laws of the past.

'There has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and all the Jim Crow burdens on voting, the determined effort to limit the franchise that we see today,' Clinton said in a speech at a Campus Progress conference in Washington.
No such remarks from President Obama yet who apparently feels that fighting for the right to vote is a politically losing proposition, just not worth the trouble.

Wisconsin

Of course, it is possible that the tortured reasoning that would lead the Wisconsin Supreme Court to uphold the voter suppression bill is too much even for the state Republican justices.

Let's hope a judge hearing the state challenge notes, as did Judge Sumi in 2008 on the concerted GOP voter suppression effort, the Roth v. LaFarge School District Board of Canvassers (2004) [No.02-0542] case:

[T]he Supreme Court four years ago pretty cogently summarized what the law is. The court ... concluded in Roth v. LaFarge School District Board of Canvassers in 2004, this is Justice Crooks speaking for a unanimous court: It is evident, the court said, noting Wisconsin's proud history of protecting the right to vote, 'It is evident that this court has constantly placed a premium on giving effect to the will of the voter.' And not just the will of the voter with respect to whether there's a checkmark in the right place, whether, if we were in Florida, hanging chads, or any other formal problem, but the will of the voter in terms of the ability to go to the polls, vested with the franchise [to vote].
Fighting for "the will of the voter in terms of the ability to go to the polls, vested with the franchise," sounds like the American thing to do, certainly the Wisconsin thing to do.

Justice Crooks in Roth v. LaFarge School District Board of Canvassers (2004) [No.02-0542] writes:

¶ 44 Wisconsin's general principle of inclusion supports the conclusion of counting the vote in this case. As the majority correctly recognizes, this principle is supported by our precedent, 'Wisconsin courts have consistently noted that they do not want to deprive voters of the chance to have their votes counted.' Majority op., ¶¶ 19-25 (citing e.g., State ex. rel. Wood v. Baker, 38 Wis. 71 (1875), Ollmann v. Kowalewski, 238 Wis. 574, 300 N.W. 183 (1941), Hackbarth v. Erickson, 147 Wis.2d 467, 433 N.W.2d 266 (Ct.App.1988)).
Faced with an array of anti-democratic forces in the press and GOP, whether President Obama is worth the trouble of casting a vote for is a different, wide-open question; Obama cannot be depended on to act as if our vote counts.

Jul 7, 2011

Mr. President, Are you really this dumb?

By Michael Leon

Update: David Sirota says not 'dumb,' rather that "we are watching a sort of Orwellian dystopia. Indeed, it is a sight to behold: a regime that believes it can say one set of things over and over and over again, and then do exactly the opposite."

Firedoglake says, "We’ll fight this, because it’s the right thing to do. We will probably lose. But we will make it as painful as possible for any politician from any party to participate in this wholesale looting of the public sphere, this 'shock doctrine' for America. And maybe along the way we’ll get a vision of what comes next. Because what we believe in as Americans, and what we stand for, is not something the Democratic party represents any more."

We expect you to lay down the law: Cuts in Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid are OFF the table.

If the Times piece is correct in reporting ...
The president’s renewed efforts follow what knowledgeable officials said was an overture from Mr. Boehner, who met secretly with Mr. Obama last weekend, to consider as much as $1 trillion in unspecified new revenues as part of an overhaul of tax laws in exchange for an agreement that made substantial spending cuts, including in such social programs as Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security — programs that had been off the table.
... then for me it's: See ya, Mr. President, you are not with me and I am not with you.

Same as it ever was?

Well, a new report says: Obama Aide on Social Security Cut Story: Times Report 'Overshoots The Runway.' It better.

You do not deserve a second term, unless this is simply a ploy. To the extent you are serious, you are one foolish jellyfish.

Guess the acoustics of defending seniors against the GOP vultures didn't play well with you.

Ralph Nader, guess we need you again in Florida, Wisconsin and Ohio again.

Honestly, President Obama has given every reason in policy, rhetoric and spinelessness to regard him as the same craven, chicken-hawk coward that we so fervently hoped he would not be.

Same as it ever was?