Friday, September 03, 2010

Clear Messages Might Do Democrats Some Good At Some Point


Why can't the Democrats make the case that it was conservative policies and conservative obstructionism and conservative nihilism and conservative corruption that have dumped us into an economy still teetering on the brink of Depression? Well, that's easy... conservatism (and corruptionism) are very much bipartisan. Rahm Emanuel, essentially the unelected co-president, is as hostile to progressive policies and a working family agenda as a Republican. There are certainly no Republicans working for the interests of ordinary working families, but the political party that can boast incumbents like Alan Grayson (FL), Donna Edwards (MD) and Raul Grijalva (AZ)-- and candidates like David Segal (RI), Billy Kennedy (NC), Joyce Elliott (AR) and Elaine Marshall (NC)-- is also burdened with incumbents like Blanche Lincoln (AR), Ben Nelson (NE) and Bobby Bright (AL)-- as well as candidates like Lori Edwards (FL), Mike Oliverio (WV) and Chad Causey (AL).

They're proud of being a Big Tent? Well, maybe if Obama was a better, more FDR-like politician, they could use that Big Tent thing in a way that doesn't have it collapsing in a heap on their heads. In any case, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka isn't wracked with internal conflicts, and made the case in the kind of clear, straightforward manner we all wish Obama could have done. You can watch all of what Trumka had to say on Keith Olbermann's show above, or read some of what he had to say below:
This is about jobs, and the Republicans have done nothing on jobs. They've only offered three things: They've offered to get rid of Social Security, raise the age of it, privatize it, cut benefits and give more tax cuts to the rich... Our members know that doesn't work... Let's look at what has been done. One, the President brought the economy back from the brink of disaster; we've reined in Wall Street; we've passed the healthcare bill, the basis for a good healthcare bill going forward; and this president has created more jobs in a recession than George Bush did in 8 years as president with an almost trillion dollar surplus.

But instead of clear, straightforward statements from Obama taking on reactionaries, he has to tread carefully, because the Big Tent includes Rahm Emanuel and whatever's left of his sleazy Wall Street cronies, and it includes reflexive and cowardly conservatives like Blanche Lincoln and Ben Nelson, and it includes all those Blue Dogs whose default position is to just wait and see what John Boehner does and follow suit. So instead of the powerful and compelling messaging of Richard Trumka and Congressional Progressive Caucus Chairman Raul Grijalva, we get a Democratic Party at war with itself, wrangling over issues as basic as Choice, tax cuts for millionaires, protecting Social Security and equality.

Conservatives inside the party have turned off the base, are in danger of electoral defeat-- new polls yesterday showed losses for less-than-worthless conservative corporate shills Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ), Harry Mitchell (AZ), Betsy Markey (CO) and John Salazar (CO)-- and are setting the agenda. Tom Perriello, neither fish nor foul-- a little progressive, a little reactionary and a lot confusing-- is losing so badly to GOP hack Rob Hurt that one has to wonder if it even pays to bother to waste money on his race. Maybe he should have thought about that when he decided to abandon women voters and go for the Stupak Amendment after vowing during his election that he never would.

This headline, or the fact that it could be written, is a disgrace: "House Democrats To Obama: No Cuts To Social Security." The 83-strong Congressional Progressive Caucus pledged in a letter to Obama to vote against any Catfood Commission attempts to open the door on the weakening of Social Security. Yes, to President Obama, not to President Bush, who tried and failed and for whom Obama is now stepping in, not unlike the way Nixon stepped in to open China for Big Business when Democrats couldn't pull it off.
Dear Mr. President,

We write today to express our strong support for Social Security and our view that it should be strengthened. We oppose any cuts to Social Security benefits, including raising the retirement age. We also oppose any effort to privatize Social Security, in whole or in part.

You have charged the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform with proposing recommendations that improve the long-term fiscal outlook and address the growth of entitlement spending. It is our view that Social Security--which is prohibited by law from adding to the national budget deficit--does not belong as part of those recommendations.

By 2023, Social Security will have built up a $4.3 trillion surplus, and, without any action, can pay at least 75 percent of all benefits thereafter. Because Social Security is funded separately from the general treasury and has no borrowing authority, it has not contributed to the federal deficit. Despite these facts, some Commission members have repeatedly alleged the need to cut Social Security for budgetary reasons.

For 75 years, Social Security has been a promise to the American people that if they work hard and pay their fair share, they will have a financially secure retirement. In communities across this country, Social Security benefits are often the only source of income helping families maintain a decent standard of living. Social Security's benefits are modest, averaging less than $13,000 a year, but they are vital to the vast majority of Americans who receive them.

Cutting Social Security benefits further than they are already being cut by raising the retirement age from 65 to 67 would create needless hardship for millions of vulnerable Americans. This is especially true in the face of an economic downturn that has wiped out trillions of dollars that Americans were relying on for their retirement security and the increased dismantlement of the private and public pension systems.

If any of the Commission's recommendations cut or diminish Social Security in any way, we will stand firmly against them. We urge you to join us in protecting and strengthening Social Security rather than letting it fall victim to a misguided attempt to reduce budget deficits on the backs of working families.

Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was a member of the CPC when he was in the House and unlike, say Sherrod Brown, he maintains his membership now that he's in the Senate. His idea about how to strengthen Social Security is precisely the one we've been talking about here at DWT, the sensible solution that doesn't seek to balance the budget on the backs of working families, the disabled, orphans, widows and senior citizens.
First, let’s be clear: Despite all the right-wing rhetoric, Social Security is not going bankrupt. That’s a lie!

The truth is that the Social Security Trust Fund has run surpluses for the last quarter century. Today’s $2.5 trillion cushion is projected to grow to $4 trillion in 2023. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, experts in this area, say Social Security will be able to pay every nickel owed to every eligible beneficiary until 2039.

Got that? In case you don’t, let me repeat it. The people who have studied this issue most thoroughly and have no political bias report that Social Security will be able to pay out all benefits to every eligible beneficiary for the next 29 years.

It is true that by 2039, if nothing is changed, Social Security will be able to pay out only about 80 percent of benefits. That is why it is important that Congress act soon to make sure Social Security is as strong in the future as it is today.

The hatred of Social Security from the right-wing, anti-government crowd is based on the fact that the government program has been enormously successful in accomplishing its mission. For 75 years, in good times and bad, Social Security has provided financial security for tens of millions of Americans.

Despite this outstanding record, Social Security has become a political football. For ideological reasons, some in Congress believe that government should not be in the business of providing benefits to seniors or the disabled. They want to privatize Social Security. Others say, incorrectly, that Social Security is going bankrupt, so benefits should be reduced and the retirement age set at 70. I strongly disagree with both assertions.

While the critics profess concern about Social Security’s financial future, their fuzzy math ignores the fact that this highly successful program has not added a dime to our deficit. From the day when the first check landed in the Ludlow, Vt., mailbox of retired legal secretary Ida May Fuller on Jan. 31, 1940, Social Security has more than paid for itself.

With regard to the future of Social Security, there are some really dangerous ideas out there-- and one proposal that makes a lot of sense.

One of the worst ideas is privatization. After the greed and recklessness of Wall Street caused markets to collapse in 2008, does anyone still seriously believe it would be a good idea to turn the retirement security of millions of Americans over to Wall Street CEOs whose dishonesty and irresponsibility have no end?

Their administrative fees alone would take a 15 percent bite out of workers’ retirement investments, not to mention the real threat of another stock market collapse. In sharp contrast, administrative costs for Social Security are less than 1 percent of the program’s budget.

Most importantly, despite economic conditions and the ups and downs of the stock market, Social Security has never failed to pay full benefits to every eligible beneficiary.

Another horrible idea is to move the retirement age up to 70. That would cheat today’s young workers out of about 15 percent of their retirement benefits over a lifetime. The proposal also ignores the reality that millions of workers in demanding professions simply cannot continue to work until they are 70. The upshot for them would be reduced lifetime benefits for retiring “early.” Lower-income workers, those less likely to have other savings, would be hurt the most.

In the midst of all of the destructive rhetoric and ideas out there, there is one proposal that is simple, sensible and would keep Social Security strong and solvent in a fair and just way.

Under the law today, the Social Security payroll tax is levied only on earnings up to $106,800 a year. That means millionaires and billionaires get off scot free on all of their income above that amount. In other words, an individual who earns $106,800 pays the same Social Security tax as a multimillionaire. That’s wrong.

Applying the Social Security payroll tax on those with the most income, say over $250,000 a year, would correct this inequity. According to CBO, applying the tax to all income would provide all the revenue that Social Security needs for the foreseeable future-- for our kids and grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Why can't we hear something like that from Obama? Maybe Ken and I see it so much like Sanders is because, like us, he went to James Madison High School, one of those non-elite public schools. Still, on the other hand, when it comes to more tax cuts for millionaires, Obama is siding with the CPC against conservatives who are always looking for curry favor with the paymasters who underwrite their careers. At least Republicans are consistent; they're against anything and everything that could possibly lighten the burden on ordinary working families. In the future, Democrats are going to have to be more careful about nominating people for president who look good symbolically but don't stand for much in the real world.

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At 10:41 AM, Blogger SPN Headlines said...

Keith Olbermann Blows Up On the Air - Literally - SHOCKING story at:

Peace! :-)


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