Monday, October 31, 2011

Who Is Mad Dog Wingnut Rick Santorum, The Google Candidate, Attacking Now? The Hermanator!


Oh, boy we even get dangerous sociopath Bryan Fischer's point of view! And this was even before Romney campaign operatives leaked to the press-- doing their best to make it appear that it came from Niggerhead-- that Herman Cain is a serial sex predator, preying on the women who depended on his good graces for their families' economic well-being!

Most observers don't think Cain's troubles are likely to do Santorum any good (though it isn't stopping the Santorumites from trying). He can't seem to crack into the top tier-- or even the second tier. His very extreme right Senate record, which accounts for his startling 59-41% loss to Bob Casey in 2006, is too easy to access for anyone to take his candidacy too seriously. That and his advocacy that condoms be outlawed. Santorum also fits into the category of Republican candidate, even more snuggly that most, that stands primarily for the high principle that "if Obama wants it, I don't." Today for example, as part of his "We Can't Wait" initiative, Obama took executive action to reduce prescription drug shortages and combat pharmaceutical price gouging.

President Obama today will sign an Executive Order directing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take action to help further prevent and reduce prescription drug shortages, protect consumers and prevent price gouging. The President’s order directs FDA to broaden reporting of potential shortages of certain prescription drugs and to further expedite regulatory reviews that can help prevent or respond to shortages. Under the President’s order, FDA will also work with to the Department of Justice, which will examine whether potential shortages have led to illegal price gouging or stockpiling of life-saving medications.
In addition to signing the Executive Order, the White House announced the President’s support for bipartisan legislation (H.R. 2245 and S. 296) that will build on today’s actions to strengthen the FDA’s ability to prevent prescription drug shortages.
A small number of drugs in the U.S. experience a shortage in any given year, but the number of reported prescription drug shortages in the United States nearly tripled between 2005 and 2010. While FDA successfully prevented 137 drug shortages between January 1, 2010 and September 26, 2011, prescription drug shortages continue to threaten the health and safety of the American people. 
These shortages could lead to price gouging, which has raised serious concerns. For example, the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reforms, when announcing his investigation into so-called gray markets, expressed concerns about a report that a leukemia drug whose typical contract price is about $12 per vial was being sold at $990 per vial-- 80 times higher. A Premier healthcare alliance report released in August estimated that the typical gray market vendor marks up prices by an averaged 650 percent. At the extreme, a drug used to treat high blood pressure that was normally priced at $25.90 was being sold at $1,200 due to a drug shortage. 
“The shortage of prescription drugs drives up costs, leaves consumers vulnerable to price gouging and threatens our health and safety,” said President Obama. “This is a problem we can’t wait to fix.  That’s why today, I am directing my administration to take steps to protect consumers from drug shortages, and I’m committed to working with Congress and industry to keep tackling this problem going forward.”
Early notification of potential drug shortages can help prevent a shortage from becoming a crisis by allowing hospitals, doctors and manufacturers to take action to ensure medications remain available. Currently, the FDA can only require drug manufacturers to disclose the discontinuation of a critical drug when the drug is available through a single manufacturer. The President’s Executive Order directs the FDA to take additional steps to require drug manufacturers to provide adequate advance notice of manufacturing discontinuances or other actions that could lead to critical shortages. These additional steps to increase early notification will help achieve some of the goals of bipartisan legislation supported by the President that would require all prescription drug shortages to be disclosed to the FDA in advance and give the FDA new authority to enforce these requirements.
The Executive Order also requires FDA to expand its current efforts to expedite review of new manufacturing sites, drug suppliers, and manufacturing changes to help prevent shortages. 
These actions are just some of the steps the Obama Administration is taking to ensure patients have access to the lifesaving medicines they need. Today, the Obama Administration also:
• Sent a letter to drug manufacturers reminding them of their responsibility to report the discontinuation of certain drugs to the FDA. The letter also encourages companies to voluntarily disclose to FDA potential prescription drug shortages in cases where disclosure is not currently required by law.
• Increased staffing resources for the FDA’s Drug Shortages Program to address the increased workload that will result from additional early notification of potential shortages by manufacturers.
• Released a report from the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) that assesses the underlying factors that lead to drug shortages, and an FDA report on their role in monitoring, preventing, and responding to these shortages.

Santorum, who's a big booster of repealing healthcare reform and of using Paul Ryan's proposal to terminate Medicare and Medicaid entirely and replace them with an inadequate voucher system, had a very different approach than Obama's out on the campaign trail in Iowa today. He explained how Ryan’s plan to privatize the Medicare program for future enrollees would “ration” care to seniors by capping the amount of money beneficiaries would have to spend on health care services: "There will be a rationing of care, there has to be," he insisted. "There is a rationing of every economic resource. There is not unlimited amounts of money to spend on anything…[Obama] has put a cap. Now, that’s one way of solving the problem. The other way of solving the problem is to put a cap in a different place and what Paul Ryan suggested and I believe in-- in fact advocated for in 2003 as part of Medicare… which is putting a cap on the amount of money we give you to buy your own insurance. So instead of capping the overall budget and making you wait, thinking you got a card, but the card isn’t going to be worth anything, because you got to wait for it, we’re going to put the cap on the other end-- on you."
Santorum attempted to establish equivalency between the Affordable Care Act’s Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB)-- a 15-member commission that would make recommendations to Congress about lowering Medicare reimbursements if costs increase beyond a certain point-- and Ryan’s plan to “limit the government’s exposure” by giving seniors pre-determined vouchers with which to purchase private coverage. But the differences couldn’t be greater: while health reform will begin to change not just how much providers are paid for their services, but how they’re paid for delivering them, the Ryan plan shifts simply some of the costs borne by the federal government to the individual without improving the system’s efficiency or removing its many redundancies. As a result, the federal “cap” that Ryan imposes will fail to keep up with skyrocketing health care spending and force seniors to pay more for the same package of benefits every year.

Labels: , , ,

HBO's "Enlightened" makes me cringe almost nonstop, but I'm still watching (or at least recording) it


by Ken

The first episode of the new Mike White-Laura Dern HBO series Enlightened left me with a sort of positive feeling, but I noticed that it took me awhile to make myself watch the DVR-stored second and third episodes, and finally managed it only toward the end of a "relapse" weekend when I didn't do much of anything except attack the DVR pile-up. And while I still have a certain respectfully positive-ish feeling about the show, I'm wondering how long I'll be willing to subject myself to a weekly 27 minutes of cringing.

Here's the blurb on the HBO website:
Enlightened is the new offbeat HBO series written by Mike White and starring Laura Dern as Amy, a self-destructive health and beauty executive who has a very public workplace meltdown. After three months of contemplation and meditation at a treatment center in Hawaii, Amy returns rested and ready to pick up the pieces of her old life and reshape the world she left behind. That includes delivering well-meaning, but generally unwanted advice to her mother Helen (Diane Ladd), with whom Amy is now living; her slacker ex-husband Levi (Luke Wilson) whose only solace comes from recreational drugs; and the crew of awkward co-workers Amy finds herself reassigned to. The series follows Amy as she navigates an unconventional path between who she is, who she wants to be . . . and what everyone is willing to tolerate from her.

What this blurb leaves out is painful extent of Amy's own maladjustment, and utter cluelessness about that maladjustment, even in the face of the unquestioned healing she managed at Open Sky, the treatment center in question. We get enough flashbacks to see just how whacked out she was when she flipped out all too publicly after being dumped by the (married) corporate superior with whom she had a long affair. And it's not hard to get behind the injustice of all the doodoo falling on the woman.

Amy in fact has all sorts of rightnesses on her side -- in her personal as well as professional relationships, and also in her vision of a better world, where people can be fulfilled in their jobs, and those jobs have the possibility of making the world a better place rather than an ever more stinking cesspool. But for me at least there's no escaping that bedrock cluelessness she has in all her relationships and goals. Well, "cluelessness" may be misleading if not actually wrong.

This is hard to explain. Amy does have a factual grasp that, and even why, her former coworkers in her corporation's Health and Beauty division, where she was a buyer, and clearly a person of considerable rank, with an assistant even -- an assistant she groomed and saw promoted, and who now occupies her old office. She has, again, a factual grasp that, and even why, her mother considers her a hopeless screw-up. But in all her interactions she seems to have no grasp of how she's actually perceived or received, and so far the near-invariable result is that she is always, always surprised -- no, astonished -- by the results, which nearly always range from bad to disastrous, which is one of the reasons I find myself cringing virtually from start to finish of every episode.

I mean, can a person really be so clueless as to imagine that her corporate superiors will welcome stacks of online research, clearly gathered on company time, showing what bad citizens the company is, and its possible corporate partners as well? Can she really be surprised that her substance-abusing ex-husband, about the only person she can turn to for companionship and, yes, sex, rejects and resents her diagnosis of his reality-denial problems? It doesn't matter how correct that diagnosis is. Even Amy's vision of Open Sky, the treatment center, as earthly paradise, takes a hit when we learn, in the third episode that despite her having paid half the tab, she still owes $25,000 for her "enlightenment."

Every bit as clueless is Amy's relationship with her mother. Helen has clearly worked out her own bargain-with-the-devil version of reality -- a version that by the way doesn't mesh well with having this persistently self-destructive daughter move back in with her, and it might be mentioned that Amy simply turned up in her mother's driveway, not only without asking but without warning. What reaction does Amy expect when she tells her mother that, in effect, the life Helen has arranged for herself is empty?

I suppose we should take note of the fact that Amy's mother is played by Laura Dern's real-life mother, Diane Ladd. I think this is just fine. Ladd is a sensational actress, and is doing sensational work on the show. While I wonder sometimes whether a different actress might have made Amy less offputting, I can't imagine anyone doing a better job with Helen, and I don't doubt that the real-life relationship adds to the reality for both actresses.

I suppose I shouldn't, by the way, have spoken of Amy's "former coworkers," as technically they're once again her coworkers. Although the corporation's HR department had no intention of allowing her to return to work there, her rather offhand mention of having consulted a lawyer eventually produces a "position" for her, but a ghastly one: doing data entry in a remote division sequestered in the basement (or sub-basement?), seemingly designed as a dumping ground for misfits the company is for whatever reasons obliged to employ -- a dispiriting band that to me suggests adult versions of young Brick Heck's maladjusted "social group" on The Middle, with a supervisor who's either a borderline or across-the-border sociopath.

While I'm venting, I would add that the spacey, fake-hopey music adds to my discomfort. And let me stress that making the viewer, or at least this viewer (I get the impression that other viewers have been simply enchanted by the show, which puzzles the heck out of me), this uncomfortable doesn't make it a bad show. Forcing people out of their complacency surely isn't necessarily a bad thing. But this isn't necessarily -- how shall I put this? -- something that viewers with free will will want to return to week after week. I guess I'm sticking with the show, more or less, because there's so little I can disagree with in its diagnosis of the World's Ills.

However, again at least for me, the effect of Amy's defiantly wrong-headed and surely doomed plan for surmounting those ills, is to suggest that resistance really is futile.

Enlightened airs Monday nights at 9:30pm -- and/or whenever HBO sticks it in the schedule.

Labels: ,

A Dozen GOP-Held House Seats The Republicans Could Lose-- IF The Democrats Offer Competitive Challenges And Not Me-Too Conservatives


Leave aside for a moment whether the conflicted, pusillanimous House Democrats deserve to be entrusted with the majority again. It would be hard impossible to argue that the Republicans deserve to keep it. But that isn't what this post is about. Turning out their respective parties' bases will determine who wins control of Congress next year-- just like it did last year, when disappointed Democrats and left-leaning independents stayed away from the midterm polls in droves-- allowing dozens of implausible teabaggers and extremists to slip into office. Last week PPP released a polling memo identifies a dozen Republicans-- a mix of freshmen and longtime incumbents-- who voters would like to bid farewell to. Here's the list:


Rich Crawford (R) 43%
Someone else 48%
GOP Congress favorability: 38 approve/49 disapprove

Last year Crawford beat slimy Blue Dog Chad Causey for the open seat 52-43%. Next year it looks like he'll have to face state Rep. Clark Hall, who ran for reelection last time unopposed.


Tim Griffin (R) 44%
Someone else 49%
GOP Congress favorability: 36 approve/53 disapprove

A Karl Rove butt-boy and one of the most heavily-funded of the ideological extremists the GOP managed to get into Congress, Griffin beat Joyce Elliott 58-38%. Right now former Lt. Governor Bill Halter is thinking about challenging him.


Dan Lungren (R) 43%
Someone else 54%
GOP Congress favorability: 36 approve/53 disapprove

Ami Bera, who held Lungren to a 50% win last year is running again now-- and the redrawn district is slightly more favorable to Democrats.


Jeff Denham (R) 38%
Someone else 49%
GOP Congress favorability: 43 approve/41 disapprove

Not only is Denham significantly less popular than the GOP in general, this year he has a formidable opponent in farm worker turned astronaut, Jose Hernandez-- and a much less Republican district than the 19th which he represents now.


Elton Gallegly (R) 42%
Someone else 48%
GOP Congress favorability: 40 approve/47 disapprove

No one is certain if Gallegly, who has tried to retire in the past, will even run again but Moorpark City Councilman David Pollock is likely to give him a lot more of a challenge than Tim Allison did last year in what turned into a 60-40% rout.


Mary Bono Mack (R) 43%
Someone else 55%
GOP Congress favorability: 34 approve/54 disapprove

The redrawn district is friendlier territory for Democrats and last year Steve Pougnet held Bono-Mack down to a 52% win. Dr. Raul Ruiz has a compelling life story and may finally be the Democrat to end the wishy-washy political career of Riverside County's absentee congresswoman.


Brian Bilbray (R) 42%
Someone else 51%
GOP Congress favorability: 39 approve/53 disapprove

Former state Rep. Lori Saldaña is running in a significantly bluer district than the one Bilbray held onto last year with 57% of the vote. Friends tell me she's a progressive.


Bob Dold (R) 42%
Someone else 50%
GOP Congress favorability: 39 approve/53 disapprove

Dold is in the most Democratic district held by a Republican. Obama won this one with 61% and next year it will be even bluer. Progressive activist Ilya Sheyman looks to be beating corporate shill Robert McKenzie in the Democratic primary race. You can contribute to Ilya's campaign here.


Judy Biggert (R) 41%
Someone else 52%
GOP Congress favorability: 44 approve/50 disapprove

There isn't really an incumbent in this new blue-leaning district, but Biggert will try to present herself as one. First she'll have to get by a gaggle of right-wing lunatics attacking her from the right-- Grundy County board member Chris Balkema, Aurora alderman Richard Irvin, and Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham. And then she'll either face ex-Congressman Bill Foster (a conservative), Juan Thomas, or James Hickey.


Tim Johnson (R) 33%
Someone else 53%
GOP Congress favorability: 30 approve/53 disapprove

Progressive David Gill will be challenging Johnson for the 4th time if he can beat corporate-friendly former state Rep. Jay Hoffman, a right-wing Democrat, in the primary.


Bobby Schilling (R) 39%
Someone else 49%
GOP Congress favorability: 32 approve/54 disapprove

At least 5 Democrats-- Cheri Bustos, state Sen. Dave Koehler, George Gaulrapp, Eric Reyes, and Greg Aguilar-- have lined up to take on the woefully weak Schilling, who won a more Republican-leaning district last year with 53%.


Sean Duffy (R) 43%
Someone else 51%
GOP Congress favorability: 39 approve/52 disapprove

Last year Duffy, who hasn't impressed his constituents, won the open seat with 52%. (Obama won the district with 56% two years before.) Next year Duffy will be facing former state Senator and ex-TV anchor man Pat Kreitlow.


What Does Paul Ryan Tell The Folks Back In ScottWalkerstan?


Last week, Paul Ryan, Wall Street's very own Wisconsin cat's paw, sent out a fundraising letter on behalf of the RNC but instead of the usual adolescent Ayn Rand gibberish he wows his speaking audiences with, he took on the mantle of the protecter of, of all things, the 99%:
America is at a tipping point. 14 million Americans are unemployed and 9.3 million are underemployed. Our debt has grown over $4 trillion in less than three years and will be above $16 trillion before the end of 2012. The safety net for the poor is coming apart at the seams and no one in Washington seems to care.

No one seems to care? So Paul Ryan, author of the GOP plan to end Medicare, a congressman who helped force through Bush's T.A.R.P. Wall Street bankster bailout while consistently voting to dismember Social Security... he cares?

Unfortunately for Ryan, major media these days does more fact checking than his carefullu woven web of lies can stand up to. Like this little whopper be squawked out Oct 27 on CNBC's Squawk Box: "You have 219 new regulations coming out, costing over $100 million each.” 
the source of the [219] figure-- Susan E. Dudley, director of the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center-- decided to do a deeper examination of the data. She found that the number of pending regulations that met the $100 million threshold in the database she examined was actually 158. There were also limitations in the database.

It is also worth noting that Bloomberg News this week reported that “Obama’s White House has approved fewer regulations than his predecessor George W. Bush at this same point in their tenures, and the estimated costs of those rules haven’t reached the annual peak set in fiscal 1992 under Bush’s father.”

Paul Ryan needs to get his talking points updated. He gets Three Pinocchios.

You can't blame anyone from watching Ryan from K Street and Wall Street perspectives. They are, after all, his world. However, DWT has a secret weapon in southeast Wisconsin, our man Dave, and we agreed that it was time to see what line of bullshit Ryan is feeding his constituents these days. So Dave decided to brave a very restricted town hall meeting.

Observations from a Ryan Town Hall meeting

-by Dave

I attended Ryan's Elkhorn, WI listening session Friday. Right after his big speech at the AEI. I hoped to get the chance to ask a question or two and get a feel for the level of support of attendees. Sadly, I was not called on to ask a question (no surprise, it appeared he only called on people he knew, or may have been screened). 

Let me paint a picture. White older to middle aged audience, no minority's to be seen. No young people (other than his pages). More people than I ever saw at one of his meetings in Elkhorn, standing room only (about 200). Mostly huge supporters, true believers. Plenty of security, the sheriff and a half dozen deputies and the local police. No signs were allowed in the room (dumb rule here; they would have been supporters signs). 

The last time I attended one of these it was after Ryan's solution to the Social Security and Medicare "crisis" was proposed. There were half as many people and a few of us carried signs demanding no cuts to these programs. The event went down about the same. Ryan opens with a power point presentation describing the imminent collapse of our country because of the uncontrolled costs of social programs. He goes on to explain the only problem is spending and we need to make drastic cuts to save the free society we live in. Lots of references to that. What kind of country do you want to live in? Europe? Because those people are not free. Government  takes all their money and makes all the decisions. No American dream there.

He has brainwashed these followers to believe that the freedom to be homeless is a good thing, the freedom to die from lack of health care is a good thing, and the ability to be screwed by mega corporation out of your money is also a good thing. American freedoms we should protect and treasure. 

These are not by and large wealthy people. I'm sure some of the farmers are and a few others too. But they have bought into the idea they are. To arrogant or ignorant to realize they are one major health problem or  job loss away from living in their cars. That kind of thing only happens to other people they don't care about; undocumented aliens, people of color (other than white), trailer park trash. Why help them? Oblivious to the fact bad luck is any equal opportunity destroyer of lives.

Back in the session a local banker Ryan knows asks about killing the Dodd Frank bill, says it is hurting small banks. Ryan agrees, say it needs to go because it picks winners and losers ( Huh? I thought he did that by bailing out the big banks.) Goes on later to say he is all in for drill baby, drill in response to another softball question. Then on to endorse the amazing new drilling technology that is safe and opening up vast new gas reserves in this country (fracking). 

Any question asked is replied to with a talking point. Regulation is killing this country, and all these government programs are taking away our freedom. Obama is a divider because he (accurately) describes repukes as anti environment and anti women and against everything-- which is just not true! We must repeal Obamacare (his words), because it forces private insurers to meet minimum requirements for coverage and mandates its purchase. Doesn't mention we will all still be buying insurance from private insurers, but won't be able to be screwed by them. Not one question about jobs. Crazy.

A postman came prepared and asked if Ryan would support a number of bills to bail out the post office by changing the 75 year pension funding requirement. Ryan says that this is commonly done???? And actuarialy sound. He will not discuss specific bills claiming ignorance and says he will know more once the bills are marked up. He goes on further to say he is confident Rep. Issa is going to put together a good piece of legislation. The topic is changed and the postman is left out to dry. No sounds of support from the crowd for him.

In fact a lot of silence. Passive silence. A lot like church services, with Ryan as the preacher. Until one gentleman asked why hasn't Obama been impeached yet. The crowd roars. Ryan politely says until Obama commits a high crime or misdemeanor they can't impeach him.

The meeting was wrapping up so I slipped out the back thinking our best chance of defeating him, Ron Zerban will never win over these (ignorant or nasty?) lemmings. His only hope is huge majorities in the hurting bigger cities and with young people.  The voter suppression laws passed in WI are going to be a problem for Ron. He will need to get out the vote and produce some hard hitting TV ads showing what a shameless corporate/wall street shill Ryan is. Take off the gloves and go medieval on his ass.

I don't think Ryan has anything to brag about in his record. The economy? Landmark pieces of legislation? His budget? Wanting to gut Social Security and Medicare? Bailing out the Wall street banks? Slashing spending and not willing to raise taxes on millionaires? I don't see any winners there. And he's been there long enough to be considered part of the problem with Congress.

He does have those Eddie Munster good looks though...


How did I forget to include the Stop Paul Ryan Act Blue page? Please help Rob Zerban put an end to Ryan's nefarious political career before Wall Street can install him as president.

Labels: ,

Why Is The DCCC So Infatuated With Blue Dogs?


The Dave Lutrin post Saturday morning provoked a lot of e-mail, though much of it, suspiciously, in defense of the tangentially maligned Majority Group. I suspect the e-mails were some kind of lame coordinated effort to... I'm not sure what. Persuade me that Blue Dogs are the bomb? I suspect they were penned by someone or a few someones who haven't spent much time reading DWT or following our sometimes successful efforts to defeat Blue Dogs. Some of the e-mails were apparently written by a member of former congressional staffer Rob Ellsworth's family. "You're an asshole," he reminded me. "You're not fit to kiss the hem of Rob's pants." I would have hoped for the hem of Rob's magisterial robs but I'm not certain what sort of outfits founders of conservative consulting firms wear to work. "You're a fucking pissant blogger, asshole, and probably live in your parents basement and never had a job in your life or worked as a waiter," was one of my favorite run-on sentences-- though there were so many. I admit I have worked as a waiter and I'm happy to say those years-- in Amsterdam-- helped make me the person I am today. You learn a lot about people waiting tables-- and about yourself. Just ask acclaimed author Barbara Ehrenreich or Montana state Rep. Franke Wilmer-- the progressive congressional candidate from Big Sky Country we've endorsed-- both of whom used what they gained from their years waiting on tables to make the world a better place.

I have to admit that when I wrote the original post I mixed up Rob Ellsworth with another conservative schmuck, Brad Ellsworth, an Indiana shithead who served two undistinguished terms as a dreadfully reactionary Indiana congressman before running for an open U.S. Senate seat and losing miserably to lazy, bumbling corporate hack and corrupt lobbyist Dan Coats with barely 40% of the vote. So who, exactly is the fabulous Rob Ellsworth the defense of whose honor launched so many angry e-mails in my direction? Well, even that came from an e-mail inspired by the original post. This one, though, was from a regular correspondent, Jack from Jersey. He politely pointed out my mistake and reminded me that although Brad Ellsworth was a congressional crony of The Majority Group's co-founder and fellow Blue Dog Walt Minnick, Rob was just a staffer. But what a staffer!

Now keep in mind that this is where the DCCC schlepped congressional recruits visiting DC last week. And what were they exposing them to? Well, the best thing anyone can say about Rob Ellsworth is that he has a 4-year old English bulldog named Reese. It's all downhill from there:
Rob Ellsworth has advised 3 Republican committee chairmen and 2 Democratic members of Congress in every capacity from intern to Chief of Staff. His extensive relationships in both political parties, experience during multiple crises in our country, and understanding of the cross-section between politics, policy and procedure make him a leading expert and trusted voice on Capitol Hill.

Most recently, Mr. Ellsworth served as the top aide to U.S. Rep. Walt Minnick (D-ID) becoming one of the youngest Chiefs of Staff in congressional history. He was the Congressman’s liaison to the White House, federal agencies, Idaho’s governor and Congressional delegation. Mr. Ellsworth also served as Rep. Minnick’s Legislative Director tasked with developing and implementing his policy agenda and providing final vote recommendations. Mr. Ellsworth oversaw Rep. Minnick’s priorities as a member of the House Financial Services Committee and played a key role in drafting various sections and amendments in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Ellsworth drafted changes to the OTC derivatives language, regulatory structure and oversight, credit risk retention for loan originators, mortgage reform, and a bipartisan 12-member amendment to the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency.

[Let me butt in here for a second to assure you that several Democratic members of the House Financial Servies Committee have told me, independently of each other, that having Minnick on the committee was tantamount to giving the banksters and the Republicans another vote-- and a voice inside the Democratic caucus, a voice he always used to water down every single proposal to protect consumers from Wall Street predators. I guess, at least in part, we owe that gallant work to Rob.]

Mr. Ellsworth previously served as Senior Legislative Assistant to the current Chairman of the Blue Dog Coalition, Congressman Heath Shuler (D-NC). He oversaw the Congressman’s legislative portfolio as a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure and Natural Resources committees in addition to financial services, energy, agriculture, immigration, ethics, tax, trade, and housing policy. He assisted the Congressman and his team in securing $24.3 million for 34 infrastructure projects in Western North Carolina and was critical in three of the Congressman’s legislative initiatives and multiple amendments reaching former President Bush’s desk. Additionally, he was the architect of a major immigration proposal that garnered national attention with grassroots and media organizations and support from over 200 Members of the House and a dozen Senators. He participated in immigration policy and port security discussions at the British Parliament and with U.S. Congressional and Administration officials while brokering compromise, mutually acceptable legislation.

Mr. Ellsworth also served as professional staff on the Committee on House Administration for Chairman Robert W. Ney (R-OH) [and apparently escaped without being charged with any crimes] and Chairman Vernon J. Ehlers (R-MI). He was appointed Project Manager for the 2006 New Member Orientation program and transition for the 52 Member freshman class of the 110th Congress. He also served in the Office of Member Services assisting all Congressmen and staff members with ethics, campaign finance, election and lobbying rules. Prior to his work on the Committee, Ellsworth began working in Congress for the current Speaker of the House, Congressman John Boehner (R-OH), when he was chairman of the Eduation and Workforce committee. Mr. Ellsworth assisted Congressman Boehner in his personal office and committee office, and also worked on his re-election campaign in Westchester, Ohio. Mr. Ellsworth has worked on a total of 14 political campaigns for city, county, state and federal candidates from both political parties.

And in case you're thinking, "This is a bipartisan outfit and Ellison is more the Republican and Minnick is the Democratic end..." Well... Minnick was elected to the House as a Democrat (for one miserable term), although he rarely voted as one. An extreme right Blue Dog, Minnick's heart was never in being a Democrat. He worked as an assistant in the Nixon White House and then in Nixon's War on Drugs. After he resigned from Nixon's administration late in 1973 as a result of the Saturday Night Massacre, he doggedly called himself an independent from then on. He was later recruited by DLC reactionary Bob Kerrey (NE)-- the Ben Nelson of his day-- to run against GOP closet case Larry Craig in 1996. Idaho's Democratic governor, Cecil Andrus, talked him out of running as an Independent and he ran as a Democrat instead, winning almost 40% of the vote. When he won his House seat in 2008, he beat the hated incumbent, Bill Sali 50.61- 49.39%. After 2 years of consistently voting with the Republicans the voters tossed him out (51-41%) and traded him in for out-and-out teabagger Raul Labrador-- at which point Minnick founded his own lobbying firm with Ellison, where he's getting plenty of love from the DCCC.

This is what the DCCC brought their recruits to meet, and not as an example of what to avoid. Have you ever donated to the DCCC? If so, go sit in the corner for thirty minutes and do 200 Pater Nosters and 200 Hail Marys. (Optional, if you really want to make up for your sins: here.)

Labels: , ,

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Win A Signed Van Halen Poster Right Now


As we mentioned this morning, Blue America would like everyone who can to chip in-- even if it's just a small amount-- to the congressional campaign of Chris Donovan. You should do it because he's been a kick ass Speaker of Connecticut's House, probably the most effective progressive leading any state legislature in America. But there's another reason too.

Chris rocks... literally. His band is called the Bad Reps. They never quite made it to the stature of Van Halen. I used to work at Van Halen's label, Warner Bros and while I was there I managed to get a Van Halen poster signed in magic marker by all 4 guys in the band. I'm happy to give that poster away to someone today. I'm going to write on a piece of paper all the names of the people who contribute to Chris Donovan's campaign here at the Blue America ActBlue page, put them in a hat and pick one randomly. That person gets the poster (5.5" x 8.5" from the Blaisdell Arena show in Honolulu on October 16, 1998). Pretty easy. And it doesn't matter if you contribute $1.00 or $1,000.00; everybody gets the same chance to win the poster, a kind of a thank you from DWT for caring about America. So... JUMP!

Labels: ,

Who's Better At Making Fun Of The Hermanator-- Colbert Or Kimmel? Neither Beats Reality


I figured when Herman Cain did that interview a few weeks ago with Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC and O'Donnell read the part from his autobiography where Herman talks about how his reaction to the Civil Rights movement was-- in his words-- to "move to the back of the bus," that would be the last we'd ever hear from The Hermanator. Was I wrong! Republicans love their little minstrel shows and Cain spiked in the polls and started regularly beating the inevitable Republican nominee in poll after poll.

Then today Politico broke the news that Cain was harrassing women when he was head of the restaurant association's trade group. The story's been bubbling for almost two weeks but until Sunday no one had enough to get it into print and Cain's camp has steadfastly refused comment. But "in a tense sidewalk encounter Sunday morning outside the Washington bureau of CBS News-- where the Republican contender had just completed an interview on Face the Nation-- Cain evaded a series of questions about sexual harassment allegations."

The women were paid off to keep quiet and moved on to other companies. The Romney camp denies having leaked the information and quietly points the finger at Rick Perry. His campaign denies everything, of course. And Team Hermanator is whining that this whole thing is an "unfair attack."

Cain said he has “had thousands of people working for me” at different businesses over the years and could not comment “until I see some facts or some concrete evidence.” His campaign staff was given the name of one woman who complained last week, and it was repeated to Cain on Sunday. He responded, “I am not going to comment on that.”

He was then asked, “Have you ever been accused, sir, in your life of harassment by a woman?”

He breathed audibly, glared at the reporter and stayed silent for several seconds. After the question was repeated three times, he responded by asking the reporter, “Have you ever been accused of sexual harassment?”

Cain was president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association from late 1996 to mid-1999. Politico learned of the allegations against him, and over the course of several weeks, has put together accounts of what happened by talking to a lengthy roster of former board members, current and past staff and others familiar with the workings of the trade group at the time Cain was there.

In one case, Politico has seen documentation describing the allegations and showing that the restaurant association formally resolved the matter. Both women received separation packages that were in the five-figure range.

On the details of Cain’s allegedly inappropriate behavior with the two women, Politico has a half-dozen sources shedding light on different aspects of the complaints.

The sources-- which include the recollections of close associates and other documentation-- describe episodes that left the women upset and offended. These incidents include conversations allegedly filled with innuendo or personal questions of a sexually suggestive nature, taking place at hotels during conferences, at other officially sanctioned restaurant association events and at the association’s offices. There were also descriptions of physical gestures that were not overtly sexual but that made women who experienced or witnessed them uncomfortable and that they regarded as improper in a professional relationship.

Peter Kilgore, who was the association’s general counsel in the 1990s, and remains in that position today, has declined to comment to Politico on whether any settlements existed, saying he cannot discuss personnel matters.

But one source closely familiar with Cain’s tenure in Washington confirmed that the claims related to allegations of sexual harassment-- behavior that disturbed members of the board who became aware of it, as well as the source, who otherwise liked Cain.

“I happen to know there were sealed settlements reached in the plural. I think that anybody who thinks this was a one-time, one-person transgression would be mistaken,” this source said.

I guess these aren't as funny as they were when I was getting reday to show them earlier today before the story broke. Sexual harassment is always so becoming on the pompous and pius.

UPDATE: Why This Is Good For The GOP

It bolsters the Republican Party's claim that they do have non-gay candidates. And, suddenly, no one is talking about what George Will said about Romney. What did he say? Glad you asked... you didn't read about "The Pretzel Candidate?"
A straddle is not a political philosophy; it is what you do when you do not have one. It is what Romney did when he said that using Troubled Assets Relief Program funds for the General Motors and Chrysler bailouts “was the wrong source for that funding.” Oh, so the source was the bailouts’ defect.

...Republicans may have found their Michael Dukakis, a technocratic Massachusetts governor who takes his bearings from “data” (although there is precious little to support Romney’s idea that in-state college tuition for children of illegal immigrants is a powerful magnet for such immigrants) and who believes elections should be about (in Dukakis’s words) “competence,” not “ideology.” But what would President Romney competently do when not pondering ethanol subsidies that he forthrightly says should stop sometime before “forever”? Has conservatism come so far, surmounting so many obstacles, to settle, at a moment of economic crisis, for this?

Well... there's always... Santorum.

Labels: , ,

Who Are The Koch Brothers? And Can We Stop Them From Buying Up The Rest Of The American Government?


The video above is compelling... and scary. In short, it points to a domestic fascist movement poised to take over the United States. What it doesn't say is that the Democratic Party is too compromised and too conflicted to stand up and fight effectively to protect the interests of the 99%. Some Democrats-- your Rahm Emanuels, Harold Fords, Max Baucuses, Ben Nelsons, Blue Dogs-- are allied with the Republicans against us. Others will fight along side us-- real progressives like Raul Grijalva, Keith Ellison, John Conyers, the Blue America candidates, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Jeff Merkely-- but most, from Obama to the garden variety careerists in the House and Senate will follow... whichever side looks like its winning.

Eugene Robinson highlighted a study this week that helps explain why an unfunded ragtag outfit like OccupyWallStreet is winning.
The hard-right conservatives who dominate the Republican Party claim to despise the redistribution of wealth, but secretly they love it-- as long as the process involves depriving the poor and middle class to benefit the rich, not the other way around.

That is precisely what has been happening, as a jaw-dropping new report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office demonstrates. Three decades of trickle-down economic theory, see-no-evil deregulation and tax-cutting fervor have led to massive redistribution. Another word for what’s been happening might be theft.

The gist of the CBO study, titled “Trends in the Distribution of Household Income Between 1979 and 2007,” is that while we’ve become wealthier overall, these new riches have largely bypassed many Americans and instead flowed mostly to the affluent. Perhaps my memory is faulty, but I don’t remember voting to turn the United States into a nation starkly divided between haves and have-nots. Yet that’s where we’ve been led.

...This is not what Republicans want you to think of when you hear the word redistribution. You’re supposed to imagine the evil masterminds as Bolsheviks, not bankers. You’re supposed to envision the lazy free-riders who benefit from redistribution as the “poor,” and the industrious job-creators who get robbed as the “wealthy”-- not the other way around.

If Americans were to realize they’ve been the victims of Republican-style redistribution-- stealing from the poor to give to the rich-- the whole political atmosphere might change. I believe that’s one reason why the Occupy Wall Street protests have struck such a nerve. The far-right and its media mouthpieces have worked themselves into a frenzy trying to disregard, dismiss or discredit the demonstrations. Thus far, fortunately, all this effort has been to no avail.

Funny the Democratic Party hasn't pushed that revelation. Or is it? As many as half the Democrats in the House and an even greater percentage in the Senate would be hung from the same lamp posts as the Republicans. Which explains why so many people were so happy on Friday when The Nation finally emancipated Gordon Lafer's much discussed article, Why Occupy Wall Street Has Left Washington Behind, from behind the subscription-only barrier. DWT regulars will want to read the whole piece (at the link). Here's something to wet your appetite:
Public discussion of the Wall Street protests has focused on the movement’s indictment of the economic elite, but Occupy Wall Street marks an equally profound critique of the country’s political system. As the weeks tick by, the protests at Zuccotti Park and across the nation are driving home this profound realization: this is a fight that can’t be won by voting. The crisis that most fundamentally shapes our lives cannot be solved through the legislative process. This is not because the agenda is unpopular-- 54 percent of Americans support OWS, with only 23 percent opposed-- but because the system is corrupted beyond repair. This slowly dawning realization is both invigorating-- an invitation to engage in the kind of bold, blue-sky strategic thinking that leftists have not entertained for decades-- and disturbing, a harbinger of just how nasty the future may get.

...The movement comes at a time of economic crisis and unparalleled cynicism about government, particularly in the wake of the Citizens United decision. Congress’s approval rating--13 percent [since Lafer wrote this now fallen to 9%]-- is the lowest ever recorded.

The protests are also in large part a response to the disappointments of the Obama administration. Indeed, almost every policy demand that OWS might possibly voice has already been proposed, debated and defeated-- at a time when Democrats controlled all branches of government. Members of Congress considered but declined to enact proposals to impose a tax on Wall Street transactions; to limit executive compensation; to fund a mass WPA-style jobs program; to allow bankruptcy judges to mark underwater mortgages to market; to make it easier for Americans to form unions and bargain for better wages; to eliminate tax benefits for companies that transfer our jobs overseas; and to forswear any more NAFTA-style trade treaties. The OWS refusal to articulate policy demands reflects the conviction that any remedies that fit the scale of the problem are impossible to pass-- not only in the current Congress but in any Congress we can realistically imagine... [I]f the Republicans are cheerleaders for the 1 percent, most Democrats are quiet collaborationists. I met some very dedicated and hard-working people in Congress. But ultimately the Democrats are too beholden to big money. In last year’s Congressional elections, more than two-thirds of all campaign contributions came from one-quarter of 1 percent of the population. Even Democratic candidates got ten times as much money from corporations as they did from labor unions. There is simply no chance that the little people will triumph over big business in this process.

...The OWS moment seems to reflect a recognition that we [are] being ruled by a system that, whatever its other virtues may be, is powerless to solve the most important problems plaguing the country.

Lafer writes that the OWS Movement "is Shays’ Rebellion without the guns." But it's the other side-- the side that will protect the interests of the 1% who have the guns... and the will to use them. Until Lafer and those who think like him-- a growing number of people on the Left-- are willing to give up their own lives for real, reform is still a better option, at least in my opinion, than revolution. That's why Blue America is buying radio and TV spots and billboards and urging people to contribute to righteous candidates for the House and Senate rather than stockpiling ammunition. But... watch the video again, if you dare.

Labels: , ,

Sunday Classics: Let's take care not to underappreciate Scott Joplin


Jazz great Mary Lou Williams (1910-1981) plays Scott Joplin's "Pine Apple Rag" as part of "An Evening with Scott Joplin at the Library and Museum of the Performing Arts, Lincoln Center, New York, Oct. 22, 1971. In the click-through we're also going to hear Mary Lou play Joplin's "Elite Syncopations." [audio link for "Pine Apple Rag"]

by Ken

As promised in Friday night's preview, it's all Joplin today. We're going to hear some of the ragtime genius's best-loved compositions in a variety of treatments, not so much showcasing my preferences (though they're apt to show through) as showing some of the music's range. As with much great music, the range of possibilities is built into the music, and part of its greatness, and it's a range that almost surely can't be encompassed in a single performance.

For reasons that I hope are obvious, we're going to highlight the use of several Joplin masterpieces in George Roy Hill's 1973 film The Sting, where Hill and his music man Marvin Hamlisch used them to convey such a dazzling period feel, even if, as we noted Friday, it's the wrong period. And in the click-through we're going to begin by hearing some of what Hill and Hamlisch do with "Pine Apple Rag."



Labels: ,

Chris Donovan Is Doing In Connecticut What We Need Congress To Do In Washington


As Congress (more on them below) remains stuck in neutral on a jobs bill to fix the one issue that is-- or at least should be-- on top of the priority list for Democrats, and anyone who cares what's happening to the 99% of Americans who aren't wealthy Wall Street fat cats, there's some more good news coming out of Connecticut.

Blue America-endorsed candidate for the open 5th CD seat-- Connecticut Speaker of the House, Chris Donovan-- has led the fight in the Connecticut General Assembly to pass two jobs measures to help the struggling Connecticut economy. The first, which passed almost unanimously, targets smart spending at programs designed to create jobs immediately: bridge repairs, green energy retrofits for home heating, workforce development, tax credits to encourage hiring of the unemployed, small business loans and angel investor seed money to help jump-start entrepreneurship, and a streamlining of the permit and regulation process to help speed projects like brownfield clean-up and development. (The one "NO" vote was a right-wing kook who's running for Congress against Democrat Joe Courtney and he wanted to make a point that he'll always vote with the 1% against the 99%. Every other Republican voted "YES.")

The second bill, which passed with largely Democratic support, will create roughly 7,500 jobs-- many of them immediate-start construction jobs-- with modest spending over 10 years to enable a research company to open at the site of the UCONN Health Center. The lab is part of the Connecticut Democrats' push for Bioscience Connecticut, an emerging research triangle anchored by Yale in New Haven, UCONN in Storrs, and the UCONN Health Center in greater Hartford that will be the base for the state emerging as a leader in the growth bioscience industry.

This story is a good insight on why we need CAN DO progressive fighters and leaders like Chris in Congress. Congress can't seem to pass an overwhelmingly popular jobs bill, but Chris is able to get two jobs bills through his legislature, despite not being able to print money and having to live within the confines of a hard budget, with Republican support. Chris:
“Connecticut families want jobs and a strong economy. We targeted small businesses and the unemployed. Because we worked together, people will go back to work. This bill gives them more than hope. It gives them a program that invests in their future. It fosters an environment that will create jobs, help small businesses grow, spur innovation, educate and train our workforce, and make Connecticut competitive again.”

His Republican opponents on the other hand, are anxious to get to Congress so they can join Boehner and Cantor in saying no to commonsense job bills that would help the 99% of us that aren't their insider corporate donors. Andrew Roraback, card-carrying member of the 1% fresh from saying that $800,000 will buy you "a pretty nice house" where he comes from and for voting against money to build a playground for disabled kids, voted against the laboratory project, despite it being in the congressional district he is running to represent. Not to be outdone, millionaire nursing home and golf course magnate Lisa Wilson-Foley sent out a press release attacking the jobs-creating project in her own district using phrases like "big-boy pants" and saying that politicians who disagree with her "belong in diapers." Yes, really. I wonder if she's met David Vitter.

Yesterday we talked to Members of Congress and to Democratic candidates who were angry about the sell-outs of the SuperCommittee who say they are willing to bargain away Medicare benefits. Chris was one of them. He told me that "Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are part of what makes this country great. In times of economic turmoil like what we are facing today we should be thinking of expanding these programs, not cutting them." We need Chris in Congress-- to fight for jobs, to fight for the rights and the dignity of the 99%, and to fight against boneheaded plans to give up on 80 years of support for overwhelmingly successful, and popular, New Deal programs like Social Security (and Medicare and Medicaid). We need good, progressive Democrats with the right values and the experience to fight for us, and to win. Please join us in supporting Chris today. In fact, anyone who does contribute to Chris' campaign at our ActBlue page today will get a chance to win a totally rare old Van Halen poster signed by each member of the band (complements of DWT). Even a one dollar contribution makes you eligible for the little thank you gift. You know Chris has a band too, right?

Labels: , ,

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Voting-- Better Than Shooting But...


Last week we ran John Thorpe's report on how the Republican Party stole the 2004 presidential election by hacking the Ohio vote. Lately we have been watching how profoundly anti-American fascist prototypes, the Koch brothers, have set about to use their billions-- including money supplied to them by Iran-- to undermine American democracy. (More on that tomorrow afternoon.) Lesson: democracy can be imperfect. The alternatives are always worse.

I was a longtime member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Nominating Committee. I was one of several members-- maybe a majority-- who felt that the voting was being hacked to further the sentimental (and commercial) goals of the guys who picked the committee members and who went in another room to count the ballots "during lunch break." They kicked me off the committee long ago but now I'm still one of the 600 people who gets a printed ballot of the 15 nominees (this year it's 15) so I can help select the final inductees. We pick 5 from the list of 15. This year's 15-- all of whom released their first record over 25 years ago-- are:

My guess is that Guns and Roses would certainly win if the voting was open to the general public and will probably be one of the winners anyway. And will certainly be one of the winners if the votes are counted the way the nominations-- or general election ballots in Ohio and Florida were-- used to be. It makes the Hall of Fame populist-looking. I admit I didn't vote for them-- although John Amato was on the phone yelling at me while I was filling out my ballot. (He's friends with a bunch of them and was even in a short-lived Guns and Roses spin-off band called Amato and Roses or Guns and Amato... I can't remember.) Unfortunately, the night before I had just watched the Matt Sorum Selling L.A. episode-- or at least as much of it as I could stand before switching to Cupcake Wars-- the night before. I hope you enjoyed the Donovan song above. I did vote for him. Who would have been your 5 choices?


As Condi Rice shows, it takes a Village all right, just not the kind Hillary Clinton had in mind


Early word has it that La Condi's book is even better than the G. W. Bush administration tell-little books by Chimpy himself, Donald Rumsfeld, "Big Dick" Cheney, and Hank Paulson. Wow!

by Ken

Oh, those Village people! The Village of D.C. is of course more a spiritual place than an actual geographical location, and as the item from Al Kamen's Washington Post "In the Loop" column yesterday called "Names were dropped" shows, the boundaries can stretch all the way to the West Coast.

Al refers us to the “'exclusive excerpt' last week in the Daily Beast" from "what we’ve been told -- our review copy must have gotten lost in the mail -- is an excellent memoir of [Condoleezza Rice's] time as national security adviser and secretary of state during the George W. Bush administration," noting that
my Post colleague Glenn Kessler colleague wrote Tuesday that “No Higher Honor” is “the first serious memoir of the Bush presidency” — thus cavalierly dismissing a quartet of tomes by Bush himself, Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and Hank Paulson. Indeed, the first three — haven’t read Paulson’s — were largely self-justifying ruminations of the authors’ excellent performance in office.

Rice’s, on the other hand, despite some flaws, is reported to be a much more candid assessment of her eight years at the very top of the foreign policy decision-making world during the Bush presidency. Serious policy wonks will find much to ponder.

Al reports on the excerpt's account of "the late dictator Moammar Gaddafi’s obsession with [Condi] and her 2008 meeting with him, which she labels 'historic.'" But he's most intrigued by
an odd digression in which she writes that she stopped in Portugal en route to Tripoli. The purpose of the stop, which goes unmentioned, was to try to get Portugal to agree to take some of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

Rice writes that she also asked the Portuguese foreign minister for advice on how to handle the wacky dictator.

Most curiously, she tells us she was “staying with my friends Ambassador Thomas Stephenson and his wife, Barbara.” (Stephenson was a venture capitalist and major Bush donor.) An oddly extraneous detail. Seems almost a private shout-out to some pals, or maybe a product placement in a movie. [That's Mrs. S in the picture. -- Ed.]

The Daily Beast, apparently without realizing it, gives a clue by quickly following the Gaddafi encounter excerpt with a brief bio of Rice, not in the book itself, that says she “is the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution” at Stanford University. That’s also the job she had before she became national security adviser.

Oh. That Thomas and Barbara Stephenson.

Just a small reminder of how these folks really do take care of one another.

Labels: , ,

A Guest Post From Carol Shea Porter (D-NH)


Carol is an old friend of Blue America and she-- along with Alan Grayson and Mary Jo Kilroy, one or two others-- was one of the few good Democrats who got swept away with all the treacherous Blue Dogs and ConservaDems last November in the teabagger sweep. Millions of disappointed Democrats stayed away from the polls for that one. Now looks what's happened! Luckily for New Hampshire, Carol is back in the race against corporate shill Frank Guinta. Please take a look at this post Carol did on the attempts Democrats made to save the economy in the face of obscene obstructionism by the GOP. If you like what you see and if you'd like to see Carol back in Congress, please consider making a contribution to her grassroots campaign here at our ActBlue page.

Yes, The Stimulus Did Work

by Carol Shea-Porter

In late 2008, the economy was in free fall. The daily headlines were downright frightening. Two were particularly ominous: “In String of Bad News, Omens of a Long Recession” and “Next Year Is Looking Even Worse.” In December, America lost more than 700,000 jobs, and economists worried about a global depression. They were predicting the longest and most severe recession since World War II. The New York Times noted the “demoralizing rat-a-tat of grim reports on jobs, sales and public confidence.” In the wake of that financial crisis, nearly 8 million Americans lost their jobs.

The severity of the economic crisis that President Obama inherited called for strong and prompt action to keep America from slipping into a depression. Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) on February 13, 2009. The goal was to jumpstart the economy by saving and/or creating jobs and by increasing economic growth. There was money to keep state and local governments afloat, money for infrastructure, a tax cut for 95% of American workers, and tax cuts for small businesses. The total cost of the package, called “The Stimulus,” was $787 billion. It’s been almost three years since the bill was passed, and the two political parties are still fighting about it. Recently, the nation heard a Republican presidential candidate dramatically insist that the Stimulus had not created a single job. The question is-- did the Stimulus work?

A study by two economists, Alan S. Blinder, a Princeton professor and former vice chairman of the Fed, and Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, who was presidential candidate Sen. John McCain's economic advisor, said that the government's various interventions averted a second Depression. In studying the effects of policy responses to the recession, they argue that without the government's various interventions, our gross domestic product would be 6.5% lower, we would have lost 8.5 million MORE jobs, and would be experiencing deflation instead of low inflation. They conclude that the interventions "reinforced each other," and that "While the effectiveness of any individual element certainly can be debated, there is little doubt that in total, the policy response was highly effective."

What did the stimulus actually do for NH? Who got the money? Why do Republican leaders say it failed even as they show up to celebrate the beginning or the end of successful projects? As mayor, one of our NH Congressmen pushed so hard for money that then-Attorney General Kelly Ayotte accused him of being a “grandstander.” The Stimulus has been used as a club to beat President Obama and Democrats so often that many believe that the money evaporated without helping anyone. That simply is not so.

The money was spent to help communities cope with recession. It helped pay for waste-water treatment facilities and clean water. It kept teachers working, helped Head Start, and kids with special needs. Stimulus money was used to provide meals for seniors in centers or at home. It helped homeless children, crime victims, people with brain injuries and many others. It helped New Hampshire build, repair, and renovate. Money went to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, creating good jobs and bolstering national security. The National Guard received funds, as did the NH Broadband Mapping Program. The Small Business Administration was able to expand small business lending.

Money was used for invention and innovation. The Green Launching Pad, initiated by Governor Lynch and the University of New Hampshire, was funded with stimulus funds. Governor Lynch said:
"The first round of the Green Launching Pad has been a tremendous success, benefiting not only those companies that participated, but working to strengthen our state's economy… I am focused on making sure that we are growing the jobs and companies of the future right here in New Hampshire and the Green Launching Pad is just one way we are doing that. The ideas and the products that have been nurtured by the Green Launching Pad are helping create good jobs..."

This plan wasn’t perfectly executed everywhere. But USA Today got it right on August 30, 2010 with the headline: “Economists agree: Stimulus created nearly 3 million jobs.” They continued, “Eighteen months later, the consensus among economists is that the stimulus worked in staving off a rerun of the 1930’s.”

I voted for that Stimulus because I wanted to do exactly that-- stave off a rerun of the 1930’s. It is time for the political opposition to correct the record and let people know their government did do something good with the people’s money.

Labels: , ,

Smelly Old SuperCommittee For Sale


Between reading Nancy Pelosi's disappointing and disheartening pledge of allegiance to the Austerity Class and the disgraceful, craven sell-out of the entire premise of the New Deal by the Beltway Democrats on the SuperCommittee, I was fit to be tied all day. And depressed. Then I started calling some of our Blue America candidates to ask them what they thought. What cheered me up and helped remind me about the difference between those who kiss up to the 1% in our party-- the Steny Hoyers and the Rahm Emanuels and the Blue Dogs, etc-- and the actual New Deal Democrats who are all about the 99% Movement. Ken Aden, who's running in a nearly impossible district in northwest Arkansas, was on his way home from the DCCC meetings in Washington this week. He called on his cell phone and told me that he had "met many people from across the economic spectrum this week in DC... and while some of them do have the average American at heart, when legislating a great many more have utterly and completely sold out to corporate interests. Now more than ever we as citizens must educate ourselves when it comes to the corporate prostitutes who claim to represent us and our families. We will be able to identify them by their works and voting record. Whether you have a D or R before your name... if you back attempts to cut Medicare and Social Security, you are nothing but a criminal." That cheered me up-- knowing there are candidates with fire in their belly on this and not going to let sleazy career politicians collecting cash from lobbyists get away with it. And Ken was hardly the only pissed off Democratic candidate. Norman Solomon is the progressive running for an open seat in Northern California. This is what he told me, coming back from the same DC meetings as Ken:
"Several months ago, our campaign took out a full-page newspaper ad in this district, throwing down a gauntlet with the headline: 'Cutting Social Security and Medicare Is Not Fiscal Responsibility. It's Betrayal.' I just returned home from Washington, where progressives are struggling to impede the momentum of slash-and-burn efforts against Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid on Capitol Hill. We should be outraged that most of the Super Committee is so eager to engage in Super Betrayal of our country's precious social compact."

I'm not sure if Darcy Burner has made a public announcement that she's running for a new Washington congressional seat that seems almost tailor made for her. But she is running and the new district is made up of the parts of the old district she won when she ran in 2008. She's been working in DC since then but I'm glad to see she hasn't lost any of her fire or her indignation towards those who would go to the capital and sell out their voters back home. "We should not be asking seniors to sacrifice the healthcare and Social Security benefits they spent their lives paying for just because bankers don't want to pay for the damage they've caused to our country's economy. We must end the wars and ask millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share." Same Darcy Burner we've always loved! 

Lee Rogers is a world-renowned California physician running against anti-family reactionary and corporate shill Buck McKeon. A very moderate guy, he doesn't seem very pleased with the Democrats on the SuperCommittee. "It's deplorable," he told me, "that the Democratic Super Committee deficit reduction plan proposes such drastic cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Basically, they put social programs for our seniors and the poor on the table when the Republicans are unwilling to compromise on defense spending and revenue increases. These are not the right priorities." State Senator Eric Griego (D-NM) is running for the open seat in Albuquerque. He's been on fire lately and this morning he told me this:
“It would be unconscionable for any members of the Super Committee to put Medicare and Social Security cuts on the table. Millions of seniors rely on these bedrock Democratic programs for their wellbeing. What the Super Committee should be cutting instead are the billions spent in tax loopholes for Wall Street and big corporations, and the Republican Congress’ continued focus on using taxpayer money to coddle millionaires and Big Oil instead of standing up for middle class families-- the 99%.”

And it's not just candidates who are angry; there are more than a few Members of Congress who are fuming over the SuperCommittee sell-out as well. Let me publish House Concurrent Resolution 72, written by John Conyers (D-MI), with dozens of co-sponsors:
Expressing the sense of Congress that any legislative language approved by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction should not reduce benefits for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid recipients.

Whereas S. 365, the `Budget Control Act of 2011', creates a Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction tasked with providing recommendations and legislative language that will significantly improve the short-term and long-term fiscal imbalance of the Federal Government;

Whereas large majorities of Americans want to address the deficit in a way that preserves Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security benefits;

Whereas the Medicare program reflects the Nation's commitment to the health and independence of older Americans and Americans with disabilities by providing health care coverage to 42 million people;

Whereas Medicare safeguards beneficiaries and their families from the ruinous costs of medical treatments and prevents individuals from spending unmanageable proportions of their incomes on medical care or being pushed into poverty by their medical bills;

Whereas Medicaid provides a safety net for both low-income and middle-class families who may have family members stricken with catastrophic illness or injury or face prolonged infirmity in old age;

Whereas cuts to Medicaid would severely impact low-income families and individuals with disabilities, and curtail access to critical services, including nursing home and community care services;

Whereas cuts to Medicaid would limit the program's ability to provide women without health care coverage with prenatal, maternity, and postnatal care and hamper the United States efforts to prevent infant and prenatal deaths;

Whereas Social Security provides essential financial support to almost 55 million people in the United States, including more than 35 million retired workers;

Whereas Social Security provides modest benefits averaging $14,000 per year for retired workers, based on contributions paid into Social Security over a worker's lifetime of employment;

Whereas Social Security can pay full benefits through 2035;

Whereas Social Security has no borrowing authority, currently has $2.7 trillion in accumulated assets, and, therefore, does not contribute to the Federal budget deficit; and

Whereas the citizens of the United States deserve thoughtful and fair Social Security reform to protect current and future benefits and to ensure ongoing retirement security for seniors, protections for persons who become disabled, and benefits for the young children and spouses of deceased and disabled workers: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That it is the sense of Congress that—
(1)  any deficit reduction plan put forward by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction should not balance the budget by eroding America's hard-earned retirement plan and social safety net;
(2)  Medicare's ability to deliver high quality health care in a cost-efficient manner should be strengthened and its benefits should be preserved for current and future retirees;
(3)  appropriate reform to strengthen Social Security's long-term outlook should ensure that Social Security remains a critical source of protection for the people of the United States and their families without further increasing the retirement age or otherwise decreasing benefits; and
(4)  Federal funding for the Medicaid program should be maintained so that senior citizens, poor and disabled children, and others with disabilities are able to gain and retain access to affordable health care.

There may well be more co-sponsors now but these are the folks who signed on to Congressman Conyers' resolution originally:

Joe Baca (D-CA)
Karen Bass (D-CA)
Robert Brady (D-PA)
Corrine Brown (D-FL)
G.K. Butterfield (D-NC)
Mike Capuano (D-MA)
André Carson (D-IN)
Judy Chu (D-CA)
David Cicilline (D-RI)
Hansen Clarke (D-MI)
Yvette Clarke (D-NY)
Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO)
Steve Cohen (D-TN)
Joe Courtney (D-CT)
Mark Critz (D-PA)
Elijah Cummings (D-MD)
Danny Davis (D-IL)
Pete Defazio (D-OR)
Rosa Delauro (D-CT)
Donna Edwards (D-MD)
Keith Ellison (D-MN)
Bob Filner (D-CA)
Barney Frank (D-MA)
Marcia Fudge (D-OH)
Chalie Gonzalez (D-TX)
Al Green (D-TX)
Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ)
Luis Gutierrez (D-IL)
Janice Hahn (D-CA)
Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI)
Maurice Hinchey (D-NY)
Mazie Hirono (D-HI)
Rush Holt (D-NJ)
Mike Honda (D-CA)
Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL)
Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX)
Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX)
Hank Johnson (D-GA)
Marcy Kaptur (D-OH)
Dale Kildee (D-MI)
Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)
Barbara Lee (D-CA)
John Lewis (D-GA)
Dave Loebsack (D-IA)
Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)
Ed Markey (D-MA)
Doris Matsui (D-CA)
Jim McDermott (D-WA)
Jim McGovern (D-MA)
Brad Miller (D-NC)
Gwen Moore (D-WI)
Jerry Nadler (D-NY)
Grace Napolitano (D-CA)
John Olver (D-MA)
Ed Pastor (D-AZ)
Donald Payne (D-NJ)
Chellie Pingree (D-ME)
Charlie Rangel (D-NY)
Silvestre Reyes (D-TX)
Laura Richardson (D-CA)
Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA)
Bobby Rush (D-IL)
Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
Bobby Scott (D-VA)
José Serrano (D-NY)
Louise Slaughter (D-NY)
Pete Stark (D-CA)
Bennie Thompson (D-MS)
John Tierney (D-MA)
Paul Tonko (D-NY)
Edolphus Towns (D-NY)
Niki Tsongas (D-MA)
Nydia Velazquez (D-NY)
Maxine Waters (D-CA)
Frederica Wilson (D-FL)
Lynn Woolsey (D-CA)

Conyers wasn't happy seeing Democrats on the SuperCommittee going over to the Dark Side. "We should not tackle our country’s fiscal problems by asking working and middle class Americans to sacrifice benefits earned over a lifetime of hard work. These benefits stand for the premise that if you work hard and play by the rules, you will be rewarded with a measure of economic security when retirement comes. We cannot back out on this commitment now, particularly during tough economic times."

John Waltz, running for the House seat in the Kalamazoo-based district currently held by Whirlpool heir and SuperCommittee member Fred Upton, is on the other side of Michigan from Conyers, but he was the first candidate Conyers endorsed this year. You can see why with this blast Waltz took at the same weak-knee-ed Democrats that drive Conyers and other progressives nuts:
"It seems like déjà vu all over again. When will the Democrats stop caving in to Republicans and fight against disastrous cuts to Medicare and Social Security? If Republicans want to draw a line in the sand with no tax increases then Democrats should do the same with these programs. We can easily cut the deficit not by raising taxes, but eliminating the loopholes that millionaires use to avoid paying their fair share. What about ending the wars and shrinking the military footprint we have around the globe? I know these proposals would cause some ire with Republicans, but isn't that a lot better than knowing you are being a sell out."
Raúl Grijalva, back home in Tucson consulting with his constituents this weekend, told me by phone that “The Supercommittee is playing by the rules that Republicans established. Democrats cannot play along. Let’s identify real savings and then present proposals that serve the American people. Let’s hold the line on Social Security and Medicare. Right now the American people need bold fighters, not cornered negotiators. Democrats can and should be those bold fighters.”
Democrats at the grassroots who have heard about this betrayal are flipping out. It was expected, of course, that all the Republicans and Max Baucus (D-MT) would do whatever they could to further the narrow interests of the 1%-- as they always do. But, when we're being sold down the river and stabbed in the back by the likes of Xavier Becerra (D-CA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), James Clyburn (D-SC), John Kerry (D-MA) and Patty Murray (D-WA), it makes you stop and wonder how much better a D-minus is than a flat-out F. As CredoAction reminded us:
The Republicans have a long-standing desire to dismantle Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. But according to recent news reports, a majority of Democrats on the Super Committee just proposed their own plan to reduce the deficit that included slashing Medicare benefits by $200 billion.

It's hard to image how the Democrats on the Super Committee could be any more out-of-touch or wrongheaded.

In the face of massive unemployment, rampant foreclosures, a sputtering economy and widespread anger that the country is systematically prioritizing the needs of the ultra-rich and wealthy corporations over the needs of the other 99% of us, the Democrats who support this plan think the best thing to do is make it harder and more expensive for seniors and the less fortunate to get medical care.

Just wondering, but would you pledge to actively work towards defeating any Democrat who sells out Medicare? I sure would-- and will.

UPDATE: More From New Deal Democrats

Mary Jo Kilroy (D-OH): "Once again, the budget burden is falling more on seniors and working people instead of millionaires and Wall Street. We need to protect Medicare and Social Security from bad cuts and demand that those wealthy Americans who benefited from the economy pay their fair share in taxes.

Rep Brad Miller (D-NC): “Some Democrats apparently think the New Deal was all a mistake, and we need to get back to our roots as the party of Grover Cleveland. I’m not one of them. Democrats need to claim our legacy as the party of Social Security and Medicare, and the party willing to take on concentrated economic power on behalf of working and middle-class families. Most Americans believe in equality of opportunity and a broadly shared prosperity, which should be core Democratic values. If we stand with them, they’ll stand with us.”

Dave Lutrin (D-FL): "It is time for Congress to stand up for all of the American people instead of a select few. It is time for Democrats to stand up to the neighborhood bullies. If the Democrats on the Super Committee cave to the Republicans, it will be like Marlon Brando's character, Terry Malloy, 'taking a dive' in On The Waterfront. Terry said 'I coulda been a champ, instead of a bum, which is what I am.' Terry regretted his decision, as I believe will any Democrat who takes the wrong side. The Dems were elected to be champions of the people, they cannot let the people down. No cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Raise revenue for the good of the country."

Ed Potosnak (D-NJ): "I'll fight against cuts to Medicare, Social Security and budget tricks that break our promises to Seniors. Earlier in this Congress we saw Paul Ryan’s plan to turn Medicare into an inadequate voucher program, now we face a bi-partisan SuperCommittee that is once again trying to balance the budget on the backs of Seniors. We need to change the people in Washington. I will fight against cuts to Medicare and Social Security every day I'm in office and so should the Democrats on the SuperCommittee."

Nick Ruiz (D-FL): "Voters, organizations and personalities that support Democrats who act to decimate the greatest New Deal traditions of social justice and economic fairness, or do nothing to stop it-- are as much to blame as the corrosive politicians themselves. Liberals must stop walking around blind without a cane and act now to reject politicians who have betrayed them. Voters must act now to produce politicians who will not dance with the devils of working class destruction."

Howard Dean: "If the so-called Super Committee votes to increase the age of Medicare eligibility from 65 to 67, it will completely erase all the gains we made in providing healthcare to every American under President Obama. Medicare is the only universal healthcare program that exists in the United States of America. No one who supports moving back the age of eligibility can possibly be considered an advocate for universal health insurance. In fact, if that happens, the legacy of the Democrats for the past four years will have been to do far more harm to the healthcare system than good... This is bad policy and we have to stop it. I will personally not support any candidate for any office that attempts to cut back Medicare in this way."

The 1% will spend like mad to empower a Congress filled their eager handmaidens like Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan and their supposedly reluctant handmaidens like Max Baucus and Chris Van Hollen. If candidates who are part of the 99% are going to overtake them, we need to elect people like John Waltz instead of Fred Upton and Eric Griego instead of Marty Chavez. If you can, please chip in here or here. Even $5 or $10 goes a long way towards saving the country from what the conservatives have in mind.

Labels: , ,