Saturday, October 22, 2011

How Much Damage Can Bad Democrats Really Do? Take The Keystone XL Pipeline For Example


Not counting Lieberman-- and why should anyone?-- only two Democrats, Mark "Blanche Lincoln" Pryor (AR) and Ben Nelson (NE), joined the Senate Republicans to kill President Obama's proposal to save teacher and first responder jobs. A week earlier, another conservative Senate Democrat, Jon Tester (MT), voted against the whole package, along with Nelson. That was the week that the DSCC wrote Nelson a $600,000 check for a coordinated ad campaign for his reelection. Have you contributed any money to the DSCC? Some of it went to help reelect ole Ben, the Democrat who, year after year after year, votes most frequently with the GOP on the important issues of the day-- like Choice. He's vehemently opposed to women making decisions about their own health... just like Republicans are. According to the Progressive Punch crucial votes score, Nelson's lifetime voting record shows that he's been with the GOP just over 55% of the time. Even imagine your DSCC contributions were going for that?

The DCCC is even worse. They spend almost all of your contributions on bolstering Blue Dogs who are forever tugging the caucus rightward and then voting with the Cantor or Boehner. This year, for example, Oklahoma Blue Dog Dan Boren only managed to vote with the Democrats-- again just taking into account the crucial votes, not the naming of post offices-- a stunning 17.17%. He was the worst-- and, thankfully, he's finally retiring from Congress-- but Jason Altmire isn't planning on going anywhere but back to Congress and his score was 21.43% this year. Yes, that contemptible little Blue Dog that the DCCC has lavished millions of dollars on voted with Cantor and Boehner against progressive issues over 78% of the time. Joe Donnelly, an execrable Indiana Blue Dog-- and another recipient of truckloads of DCCC cash-- voted with the Republicans over 70% of the time this year. He's being rewards with a Senate nomination. Blue Dogs John Barrow (GA), Heath Shuler (NC), Henry Cuellar (TX), Jim Matheson (UT), Mike McIntyre (NC), Mike Ross (AR), Tim Holden (PA) have all voted more frequently with the GOP than with the Democrats this year.

Next week the DCCC has invited congressional candidates to come to Washington for a powwow. Introducing candidates to the Blue Dog caucus... the two dozen "Democrats" who consistently vote with the GOP and take massive legalistic bribes from the banksters and corporate criminals? That's supposed to be a good idea? A friend in DC, who is helping Blue America's Bad Dogs campaign this year, sent me this Wall Street Journal story today about how else Blue Dogs can screw up the Democratic Party-- and the country-- even without a recorded vote.
TransCanada Corporation today announced that a group of twenty-two Democratic members of the United States House of Representatives urged U.S. President Barack Obama in a letter to ensure that the Presidential Permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline project is issued because of the project's economic, energy and national security benefits.

The group, which includes the Honorable Gene Green (D - 29th Congressional District of Texas) who is the Ranking Member on the House Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy [and has gobbled up $444,563 in legalistic bribes from Big Oil and Gas] joins a growing list of landowners, state and federal officials, labor unions, military veterans, energy experts, economists, business leaders and other supporters urging favorable action on the Presidential Permit application for this project.

In their letter to President Obama, the House Democrats stated that:

"...Mr. President, America needs the Keystone XL Pipeline. It is in our national interest to have a Presidential Permit issued for Keystone XL as soon as possible. America truly cannot afford to say "no" to this privately funded, $20 billion, jobs-creating infrastructure project, which would bolster our economic, energy and national security. To that end, we respectfully urge you to ensure that the Presidential Permit is issued for Keystone XL."

In addressing the energy security benefits of the proposed project, the Democratic lawmakers noted in their letter to President Obama that Keystone XL "fits squarely within the parameters of the energy security speech you gave on March 30, 2011," which recognized that imported oil would remain an important part of America's energy portfolio until alternative energy strategies are fully in force and that America should look to neighbors like Canada for such oil. They added that the project would, "help strengthen our country's energy and national security by importing stable, secure oil from our friendly neighbor Canada and allowing our nation to decrease imports of higher priced "conflict oil" from regions such as the Middle East and Venezuela, which are not friendly to the United States and do not share our values."

These are the 22 House Democrats who signed the letter to Obama (along with how much they've taken from Big Oil):

Jason Altmire (Blue Dog-PA)- $45,750
Joe Baca (Blue Dog-CA)- $11,800
John Barrow (Blue Dog-GA)- $140,550
Dan Boren (Blue Dog-OK)- $696,940
Leonard Boswell (Blue Dog-IA)- $16,900
Robert Brady (D-PA)- $31,750
Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA)- $164,700
Mark Critz (proto-Blue Dog-PA)- $12,000
Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX)- $182,100
Charlie Gonzalez (D-TX)- $158,500
Al Green (D-TX)- $30,900
Gene Green (D-TX)- $444,563
Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX)- $104,584
Tim Holden (Blue Dog-PA)- $19,000
Shelia Jackson Lee (D-TX)- $199,225
Daniel Lipinski (proto-Blue Dog-IL)- $3,000
Jim Matheson (Blue Dog-UT)- $320,597
Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY)- $13,200
Bill Owens (proto-Blue Dog-NY)- $1,000
Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN)- $61,350
Mike Ross (Blue Dog-AR)- $327,300
Peter Visclovsky (D-IN)- $92,763

Friday I talked to a large group of representatives from Inside-the-Beltway Democratic organizations. Most of them seem to have heard of OccupyWallStreet and some of them had a clue about what it is. But some didn't. In Washington. Wow, I thought. Not many Establishment Democrats have come out in favor of the movement. Progressives in Congress-- like Raul Grijalva and Keith Ellison, co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus-- have come out strongly in favor of the movement and anyone embracing the progressive mantle tuned right in to the importance of OccupyWallStreet in the zeitgeist All the Blue America candidates are celebrating the movement. Yesterday the Speaker of Connecticut's House, Chris Donovan, who is running for Congress, told me "The Occupy Wall Street protests are a clear sign that Americans are angry about the lack of accountability for the Wall Street millionaires and billionaires that brought our economy to the brink of collapse. Now is the time to focus on bailing out Main Street by creating jobs, building bridges, roads, and rail, hiring teachers, nurses, and firefighters, and relieving the crushing burden of student loan debt. And we must reduce income inequality by instituting the Buffet Rule ensuring that billionaires do not pay a lower tax rate than their middle class employees. As we did in Connecticut, millionaires and billionaires should be asked to pay their fair share of an equitable economic recovery."

Clear across the country in Montana, state Rep Franke Wilmer, also a candidate for Congress, had a similar message:
"I'm running a grassroots campaign for Congress because our political system is broken and no longer works for the middle class. I'm running because we need people who don't let Wall Street trump Main Street. I'm running because we need people who understand that we're all in this together. The American Dream is real and personal to me because of my own life experience and I'm running for Congress to restore it.  

I will not support policies that give tax cuts to big corporations and jet-setting millionaires while we underfund public education; I will not support policies that let corporate executives line their pockets with unearned and undeserved bonuses while they cut jobs and employee benefits; I will not support policies that undermine the middle class by exporting their jobs overseas. Workers didn't fire themselves and our senior citizens did not cause this recession and it's wrong to send them the bill for it. I've been taking this message all over Montana before and during the Occupy movements-- the Occupy movements are grassroots and ground up expressions of the same frustrations and need for change."

But Establishment Beltway Democrats? These guys are still freaking out at the thought of a drum circle... or someone with long hair. Call them shills, reactionaries, call them corrupt, but DO NOT call them hippies. It's worth going back to a pre-OccupyWallStreet story in Vanity Fair by Joseph Stiglitz, the first Nobel Prize-winner to go down to Zuccotti Park to make common cause with the demonstrators.
Americans have been watching protests against oppressive regimes that concentrate massive wealth in the hands of an elite few. Yet in our own democracy, 1 percent of the people take nearly a quarter of the nation’s income-- an inequality even the wealthy will come to regret.

It's no use pretending that what has obviously happened has not in fact happened. The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent. Their lot in life has improved considerably. Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent. One response might be to celebrate the ingenuity and drive that brought good fortune to these people, and to contend that a rising tide lifts all boats. That response would be misguided. While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall. For men with only high-school degrees, the decline has been precipitous-- 12 percent in the last quarter-century alone. All the growth in recent decades-- and more-- has gone to those at the top. In terms of income equality, America lags behind any country in the old, ossified Europe that President George W. Bush used to deride. Among our closest counterparts are Russia with its oligarchs and Iran. While many of the old centers of inequality in Latin America, such as Brazil, have been striving in recent years, rather successfully, to improve the plight of the poor and reduce gaps in income, America has allowed inequality to grow.

Economists long ago tried to justify the vast inequalities that seemed so troubling in the mid-19th century-- inequalities that are but a pale shadow of what we are seeing in America today. The justification they came up with was called “marginal-productivity theory.” In a nutshell, this theory associated higher incomes with higher productivity and a greater contribution to society. It is a theory that has always been cherished by the rich. Evidence for its validity, however, remains thin. The corporate executives who helped bring on the recession of the past three years-- whose contribution to our society, and to their own companies, has been massively negative-- went on to receive large bonuses. In some cases, companies were so embarrassed about calling such rewards “performance bonuses” that they felt compelled to change the name to “retention bonuses” (even if the only thing being retained was bad performance). Those who have contributed great positive innovations to our society, from the pioneers of genetic understanding to the pioneers of the Information Age, have received a pittance compared with those responsible for the financial innovations that brought our global economy to the brink of ruin.

Some people look at income inequality and shrug their shoulders. So what if this person gains and that person loses? What matters, they argue, is not how the pie is divided but the size of the pie. That argument is fundamentally wrong. An economy in which most citizens are doing worse year after year-- an economy like America’s-- is not likely to do well over the long haul. There are several reasons for this.

First, growing inequality is the flip side of something else: shrinking opportunity. Whenever we diminish equality of opportunity, it means that we are not using some of our most valuable assets-- our people-- in the most productive way possible. Second, many of the distortions that lead to inequality-- such as those associated with monopoly power and preferential tax treatment for special interests-- undermine the efficiency of the economy. This new inequality goes on to create new distortions, undermining efficiency even further. To give just one example, far too many of our most talented young people, seeing the astronomical rewards, have gone into finance rather than into fields that would lead to a more productive and healthy economy.

Third, and perhaps most important, a modern economy requires “collective action”-- it needs government to invest in infrastructure, education, and technology. The United States and the world have benefited greatly from government-sponsored research that led to the Internet, to advances in public health, and so on. But America has long suffered from an under-investment in infrastructure (look at the condition of our highways and bridges, our railroads and airports), in basic research, and in education at all levels. Further cutbacks in these areas lie ahead.

None of this should come as a surprise-- it is simply what happens when a society’s wealth distribution becomes lopsided. The more divided a society becomes in terms of wealth, the more reluctant the wealthy become to spend money on common needs. The rich don’t need to rely on government for parks or education or medical care or personal security-- they can buy all these things for themselves. In the process, they become more distant from ordinary people, losing whatever empathy they may once have had. They also worry about strong government-- one that could use its powers to adjust the balance, take some of their wealth, and invest it for the common good. The top 1 percent may complain about the kind of government we have in America, but in truth they like it just fine: too gridlocked to re-distribute, too divided to do anything but lower taxes.

Who can we expect to protect us from the predatory forces behind these threats? Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt's party, right? New Deal Democrats. But not reactionaries. Not Republicans; not Blue Dogs; not ConservaDems. and not the DCCC or the DSCC. Be careful who you support.

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At 9:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Altmire has not received one dime from the DCCC in any of his three re-election campaigns. Zero, Zilch, Nada. He won without them. And, he's responsible for the Tea Party contingent in Congress being one person less than it would otherwise be.

At 10:51 AM, Blogger Reeceloui said...

They spend almost all of the contributions in strengthening the Blue Dogs who pull off the bench is always right, and then vote with the singer or Boehner.The division of social wealth becomes more and more reluctant to spend money on the rich common needs.

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