Thursday, January 28, 2010

Not Counting Congenital Obstructionists, Responses From Last Night's SOTU Were Mostly Pretty Good


Last night the America haters were in full public display

I guess they didn't poll corporate hack Sammy Alito but the CBS poll of SOTU viewers showed that 83% of Americans liked what Obama had to say. Only 17% stuck with that creepy-looking bunch of Republican sad sacks who sat on their hands when the President talked about helping middle class families send their children to college by cutting out the hefty cuts the banksters siphon off for themselves and their crooked political cronies or about clean energy and healthcare reform.

Most of the responses to Obama's SOTU that I saw from Democratic incumbents and challengers seemed to encapsulate relief that he sounded... defensible. The predictable, mean-spirited Republican attacks will appeal to their base and demonstrate to normal Americans that they're just unhinged and filled with hatred and bigotry and that they'd prefer to see Obama fail than America succeed. GOP mental midgets like Mike Pence, Paul Ryan, Patrick McHenry, a clearly senile John McCain, Aaron Schock, Darrell Issa, Jim DeMint, Howdy Doody and Paul Broun were out in force tearing down the president's attempt to reach out for the bipartisanship that their demented political party will never embrace short of total capitulation by the majority to the crazed minority. Even a relatively mainstream conservative like Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) was twittering away furiously:

Democrats tried to put on a happy face for a speech that many felt offered the GOP and their corporate backers far too much. Pennsylvania Congressman Joe Sestak was one of the first incumbents with a statement after the speech. He was as uniformly positive as the obstructionist Republicans were negative:
"I applaud the President tonight for recognizing that in 2008, Americans voted for change, not just of parties or policies, but for a fundamental change in politics and the way we do business in Washington. As he said in his speech, 'We face a deficit of trust-- deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years.' Too many in Washington have strayed from principled compromise to a compromise of principles. Too many have forgotten that it is jobs for American workers that matter, not our own. Americans should be frustrated. Now we need to prove that government can restore accountability and transparency and work for the working families by making job growth and long-term financial security our top priorities.

"To rein in deficit and debt spending while ensuring quality job creation with real income growth, we must pass a job creation plan that

• strengthens small business hiring,

• invests in new and emerging industries like alternative energy,

• closes tax loopholes that ship jobs overseas,

• implements job share programs,

• saves jobs by closing state budget deficits, and

• ensures consumer confidence by providing relief to job seekers.

"To restore faith in our public officials and institutions, Congress and the President should work together to implement a statutory "pay-as-you-go" (PAYGO) rule that requires an offset for all new government spending and expand PAYGO to cover all spending-both mandatory and discretionary-- and to end the earmark system by gradually replacing it with an objective, competitive grants process that removes political influence.

"President Obama delivered the right message with the right tone. Now results must happen to ensure accountability for what has been said."

Right after Sestak sent out his supportive statement, a whole slew of Democratic congressmembers did likewise. Many were filled with praise, although a few were slightly critical of some of the specifics. Brooklyn progressive Yvette Clarke started with a paean and concluded with this more thoughtful assessment:
“While we remain fiscally responsible, Congress must ensure that critical programs that serve our constituencies are not cut. A discretionary spending freeze can mean no additional money for HIV/AIDS research, education, social services, community development block grants, mortgage mitigation, community health centers, breast and prostate cancer screening, etc... These programs disproportionately impact people of color and the poor and many of them have been traditionally underfunded,” added Rep. Clarke. “To adequately reduce spending, Congress needs to look closely at our defense spending which includes the acquisition of some outdated weapons systems with little relevance to 21st century challenges.”

Upstate New York Congressman Eric Massa, got down into the nitty gritty, especially on trade policies that go to the heart of Obama's promise to increase exports. On the budget cuts he has a similar approach to Clarke's: "We need to cut spending across the board and a spending freeze may be one way to go about doing this, but I'd like to see the finer details of the President's plan first. The best way we can reduce our spending and return to fiscal responsibility is by ending our welfare payments to Afghanistan and its narco-government, which has already cost us billions of taxpayer dollars. If we are really going to implement a spending freeze across the board for all domestic programs, perhaps we should put the cost of both wars on budget and then cap unnecessary portions of non-emergency defense spending as well. The Pentagon's annual budget is too large to ignore in any meaningful discussion of budget reform and, as a member of the Armed Services Committee and Homeland Security Committee, I will be aggressively pursuing cuts in programs that don't work while strengthening those that do... The recession is not over and we need to consider several options to reduce our deficit while creating jobs."

The DCCC was immediately out fundraising for their pathetic anti-working family candidates, trying to piggy-back on Obama's message. The DCCC consistently spends most of the money it collects from unsuspecting Democrats on Blue Dogs and reactionaries who vote more frequently with Republicans than with Democrats in the House. For example, of the 17 freshmen and sophomore Democrats who votes against healthcare reform, every single one of them-- except Parker Griffith who has already officially become a Republican-- is on the DCCC emergency life-support list: Scott Murphy (Blue Dog-NY), Bobby Bright (Blue Dog-AL), Frank Kratovil (Blue Dog-MD), Walt Minnick (Blue Dog-ID), Eric Massa (D-NY, the only freshman to oppose the bill because it wasn't good enough for his constituents), John Adler (NJ), Glenn Nye (Blue Dog-VA), Travis Childers (Blue Dog-MS), John Boccieri (OH), Larry Kissell (NC), Jason Altmire (Blue Dog-PA), Harry Teague (NM), Betsy Markey (Blue Dog-CO), Suzanne Kosmas (FL), Heath Shuler (Blue Dog-NC), and Michael McMahon (NY). Maybe they need life-support because they're not doing what their constituents elected them to do-- like support health care reform.

Democratic non-incumbent candidates who are running this year were generally supportive of Obama's outreach last night. Bill Hedrick, who is favored to beat far right extremist and sexual predator Ken Calvert, said Obama "hit a home run on behalf of working families. He has rightly focused on proposals that will create jobs in the 44th Congressional District by promoting small business expansion, easing the credit crunch for borrowers, and strengthening our public schools.  The President's plan is fiscally responsible, and provides a solid foundation to re-build the 44th District's shattered economy.” Ann Mclane Kuster in New Hampshire had a similarly positive assessment of the speech: "After watching our President's State of the Union speech, I am motivated by his words of hope and inspiration and reminded why so many of us worked so hard to help elect him as our President. I agree that the American people are strong and resilient. I too am hopeful about a brighter future. We need Members of Congress to work together to help create jobs in businesses across our country. We need to provide tax relief and incentives to help families educate our children for the new economy. We need to reform health care and secure our communities for a better future for all Americans. I look forward to working with President Obama to turn our economy around so that every hard working NH family can achieve prosperity and live peacefully for many years to come."

Focusing on the positive is fine, but it won't make the problems disappear. Two progressive Democrats on opposite coasts in congressional races against reactionary Blue Dogs, Sheila Dow-Ford and Marcy Winograd, both, like Ann Kuster, worked to elect Obama and support much of his agenda. But both were critical of some of his approaches. I spoke with Sheila on the phone this morning about what made her decide to run against Tim Holden (and we'll take a look at that tomorrow). An admirer of President Obama's, she wasn't 100% sold on all his points last night:
The president is both an incrementalist and a pragmatist. Under times of great economic prosperity and national and international well-being, such characteristics serve our nation well. They have been and will continue to be sorely tested by the social, political and economic straits we endure today.

The president's spending freeze proposal, which exempts military spending but includes spending on many domestic issues, will no doubt require adjustment, in that the cost of remediating the domestic issues that currently plague our country-- jobs, healthcare, education, energy, infrastructure deferred maintenance, and so on, demand fixing in the immediate as opposed to long term.

We are faced with a classic textbook macro-economic guns/butter scenario. We have to reestablish the appropriate balance in America around our domestic and foreign agendas. While international strategic interests are of critical importance, as is a strong defense, it is only half of the equation. History shows us that mighty nations fall because of internal strife and neglect, rather than solely external forces.

Simply stated. any policy that contemplates investing more resources of every sort into Afghanistan, while ignoring the serious and significant domestic issues that demand immediate attention, will only serve to place our nation at greater risk, both from without and within.We must develop and articulate a clearer, more focused and more balanced approach to our international interests and national defense, while rebuilding our nation.

Timelines are important. Adherence to such timelines is critical.

Marcy posted an open letter to the president on her Facebook page:
Dear President Obama:

I agree we should give small businesses a break: tax credits for job creation. We need to put America back to work-- and giving businesses a break for job creation will help. Redistributing 30-billion of TARP repayments to small businesses makes sense.

What is less compelling is the call for a three-year spending freeze that fails to tackle our bloated military budget. Each new war only undermines our security by creating new enemies.

As for the bi-partisan commission to address long-term budget challenges, let's be careful not to touch Social Security or Medicare, our strongest safety nets, and to demand a full debate in Congress, (no all or nothing vote), to approve any commission's budget recommendations.

Energy-wise, please rethink your stated commitment to build more nuclear power plants, open new
offshore oil leases, and invest in "clean" (Is there such a thing?) coal. We do not need more radioactive nuclear waste, black scarred beaches, or mountain tops removed.

Thank you for speaking out against the recent Supreme Court decision that allows corporation to make unlimited independent campaign expenditures. The last thing we need is Congressman Goldman-Sachs from Wall Street or Congresswoman Health Net from The Claims Denied Department. 

Best of luck with the banks!

Marcy Winograd

Take a look at Rich Trumka's assessment right after the speech last night:

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At 5:01 PM, Anonymous robert dagg murphy said...

High unemployment is a sign of success. humans were not meant to be beasts of burden. We don't have to earn the right to live. It is prepaid by the Sun and our design science revolution which means we always do more with less. We were paying people to build f-22s which were totally not needed. If we pay people to do really stupid stuff we can pay them to stay home and raise their children which is really important stuff. 70% of all existing jobs could be eliminated. What people need is more purchasing power not more non wealth producing jobs, like insurance, wall street, military junk and other skimmers and polluters.

We keep hearing the same old crap from these political morons. The only real deficit is the intelligence deficit. Wake up everyone we have an abundant universe and what ever needs to done can be done. We are being held back by retarded thinking.

At 5:31 PM, Anonymous NH Working Person said...

Rep. John DeJoie (candidate NH-02) statement on SOTU.

Read Comment Here


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