Thursday, November 11, 2010

Unlike Bayh And Conrad, Not Every Democrat Thinks The Message From Last Tuesday Is To Surrender To The GOP & Dismantle Social Security


Republican reactionaries and Democratic conservatives should keep in mind what happened to her and her ilk when they pushed people too far

I'm pretty sure that the very first Senate candidate ever endorsed by Blue America was then-Congressman Ben Cardin in 2005 when he was running for the Maryland seat Paul Sarbanes was retiring from. Cardin struck me as a levelheaded and committed progressive and 738 Blue America supporters donated a modest $8,128 towards his 2006 election. At the time, I wrote:
If you read Ben Cardin's record as a congressman you'll understand how important it is to get a guy like this into the U.S. Senate. But it was really meeting Ben in person and seeing what he was like as a human being that inspired me to start an Act Blue page for him. The Republicans are targeting Maryland as a place where they can make an inroad. I think they're barking up the wrong tree. If Ben has the money to get his message out, he'll be sworn in as a U.S. Senator next January, where he'll be a voice of conscience in a time when Bush/DeLay/Frist/Abramoff ethics and Robertson/Falwell/Dobson/Phelps morals have replaced genuine American values.

And Cardin hasn't been a disappointment. In the current Congress, his ProgressivePunch score has been a robust 96.72, even more progressive than Bernie Sanders, Jeff Merkley or Barbara Boxer!

Yesterday Senator Cardin publicly ruminated about the meaning he was drawing about the message from last week's electoral drubbing his party took at the polls (though, basically, not in his state, where normal Democrats were all successful and -- at least federally-- the only casualty was an especially bad Blue Dog, Frank Kratovil, one of the extremely conservative members of that caucus who voted with the Republicans far more than with the Democrats on contentious, substantive issues). Cardin's conclusions are at odds with the conclusions of many conservatives in the media, in the Senate, in his own party.

"Now that we’ve had a little time to digest the results of Tuesday’s mid-term elections," he began, "its story is glaringly clear: American voters are angry and frustrated. Too many Americans are still out of work; too many American families are still losing their homes; and too many small businesses are struggling to survive in this tough economy. Voters are angry that we have not done more to help working families keep faith in the American Dream." Exactly right. Too many Democrats have strayed in the direction of Frank Kratovil and the Blue Dogs. The tragedy isn't that Kratovil and 29 other Blue Dogs were obliterated-- they earned that-- but that because they managed to muddy (and sully) the Democratic brand in the mind of so many voters, several Democrats who have been champions of working families-- Members like Carol Shea-Porter, Mary Jo Kilroy, John Hall, Phil Hare and, more than anyone, Alan Grayson-- were also swept away with the garbage like Bobby Bright, Travis Childers, Gene Taylor, Walt Minnick, Glenn Nye, etc.
The election is now over and we all have a responsibility to govern together. As a public servant in the Maryland General Assembly, U.S. House of Representatives, and now the U.S. Senate, I have experience crossing party lines in order to do what is right for Maryland and America.  At the same time, I will stand up for what I believe in and disagree when necessary.

Apparently Senators Conrad and Bayh, two far more conservative and corporately-inclined members of the Democratic caucus, didn't take away the same message as Senator Cardin. Bayh and Conrad see the drubbing the exact same way Republicans do-- as an opportunity to further concentrate the nation's wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer people. They both see an opportunity to begin the process of dismantling Social Security. This what happens when Big Business owns all of one party and a substantial piece-- the Bayh-Conrad piece-- of the other. Sam Stein tackled the thorny-- or electrifying-- question Tuesday evening at HuffPo:
In what may be the first major move of the forthcoming Social Security debate, the Peterson Foundation launched on Tuesday a $20 million TV ad campaign to promote the need for a major discussion on debt and deficit reduction.

...Perhaps the most frightening part of the unveiling, however, is that Peterson-- long a scourge of progressives for having earned hundreds of millions in the hedge fund business while preaching financial sacrifice for others-- has prominent Democrats backing his latest campaign. Appearing alongside him at the Newsuem on Tuesday morning was outgoing Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and Budget Committee Chair Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.).

"People on the left who don't want to touch entitlements, that is just unrealistic," said Conrad. "I would say to my friends on the left it is unrealistic, Medicare and Social Security are headed for insolvency. The idea that nothing has to be done is divorced from reality. On the right, those who say no new revenue, I believe, are also in denial."

"The election a week ago today would have been a lot more edifying if we had more commercials like that then the ones running out there in the various states," Bayh said of the ad campaign. "Very impressive."

If you're a corporate shill dedicated to destroying the middle class. Bayh is thankfully leaving the Senate in January, although I fear he (and his lobbyist wife) won't be disappearing from the political firmament. Conrad, a member of the Cat Food Commission, will still be around tugging the Democrats into more and more Republican Party directions, directions fatal for the Democratic Party, which needs to jettison these conservative ideas and take stock in what their big tent is supposed to actually represent. Along those lines one of the country's most respected economists, Dean Baker, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, sent Conrad a letter which he gave me permission to reprint:
November 9, 2010

The Honorable Kent Conrad
702 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Conrad:

You were quoted as saying at a press conference today:

“People on the left who don't want to touch entitlements, that is just unrealistic. … I would say to my friends on the left it is unrealistic, Medicare and Social Security are headed for insolvency. The idea that nothing has to be done is divorced from reality.”

This struck me as a very peculiar statement for two reasons. First, I literally cannot identify a single person on the left who working on Social Security who has not suggested many ways to close the projected long-term shortfall. The list of items they have put forward has included raising or eliminating the payroll cap, applying estate tax revenue to financing Social Security, and applying the revenue from a financial speculation tax to Social Security.

Many have also suggested phasing in modest increases in payroll taxes at a gradual pace, which would still allow after-tax wage growth to substantially outpace the rate of inflation. As I’m sure you know, polls have consistently shown that payroll tax increases are unpopular, but nonetheless preferred to benefit cuts.

I mention this list of ways to deal with the shortfall because it is simply not honest to claim that people on the left have not put forward suggestions for dealing with the shortfall. You may not
consider these suggestions to be good ones, but that doesn’t mean that they do not exist.

The second reason that your statement is peculiar is that it is quite literally wrong in the case of Social Security. None of us know the future, but if we rely on the Social Security trustees projections the program will be fully solvent until the year 2037. (The Congressional Budget Office projects that it will be fully solvent until 2039.) This means that we certainly can wait before taking any action on the program.

For example, if we waited until 2020, and then implemented a fix comparable in size to the Greenspan Commission’s proposals, then the program would be fully solvent through the rest of the century. In fact, this would be true even if we waited until 2030 to implement the fix.

In short, it is simply not true to claim that we cannot wait to address the program’s projected shortfall. There are reasons why you may think it is better to move quickly, but the reality is that the
projections show that we have the option to wait.

I would be happy to discuss this issue with you further if it would be helpful.


Dean Baker
Co-Director, Center for Economic and Policy Research

Meanwhile, over on the House side, the crap that's left of the Blue Dog Caucus, is running around chasing it's collective tail trying to wreak revenge on Pelosi for... not being Republican enough or something. According to Roll Call the reactionary corporate wing of the House Democratic caucus feels it can best serve its masters by some of these proposals its considering:

• Holding Blue Dog meetings at the same time as Democratic Caucus meetings, under the logic that if Pelosi isn’t going to listen to them, they don’t need to listen to her.

• Taking down a rule during the lame-duck session to express their displeasure with the Speaker and embarrass her on the floor.

• Pushing to make the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee an elected position to weaken the Democratic leader’s power.

• Getting members to sign letters expressing their displeasure at the Speaker and threatening not to run for re-election if she remains.

• Making a push to enforce term limits against Reps. George Miller (Calif.) and Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), Pelosi’s closest allies, in their roles as co-chairmen of the Steering and Policy Committee.

• Opening formal negotiations with Republicans on budget cuts or other issues and cutting Pelosi out of the talks.

Please keep in mind that this past cycle, Blue America TV and radio ads were responsible for ridding Congress of the single most reprehensible Blue Dog, Bobby Bright (AL). Our Blue Dog page is still open for business and we promise to work on getting rid of more Blue Dogs in the primary season next year. Please consider giving us a hand.

UPDATE: Finally A Democrat Who Isn't On The Board Of MorganStanley Praises The Cat Food Commission-- Conrad, Of Course

Though not for lack of trying, Erskine Bowles has never been elected to anything, not by real people. But the shameless corporate hack-- Obama's second worst pick for his Cat Food Commission-- was selected for a very lucrative position on the Board of Wall Street financial predators MorganStanley. That Board is his constituency and he is representing their interests with his viciously anti-family proposals. One of the most corporate-oriented Democrats on the commission other than Bowles, is North Dakota Senator Kent Conrad-- and he thinks Democrats should sacrifice their political careers on the alter of concentrating more of the nation's wealth in the hands of his campaign donors. This garbage will wind up on history's trash pile in two years, when his corporate donors abandon him for a teabagger and Democratic voters decide there's no reason to bother to go to the polls.

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At 8:43 AM, Blogger Bula said...

Hey Kent,

How about eliminating farm subsidies to strengthen social security?

Oh, that's right, North Dakota is full of millionaire farmers and almost no people.

At 10:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The election result can be attributed almost entirely to the misinformation given to the voters.

The universe doesn't operate on lies, unless we start to tell the truth immediately if not sooner it will be impossible for humanity to survive.

At 3:34 PM, Anonymous pursang said...

I believe I'm very lucky to have Ben Cardin as my Senator and John Sarbanes as my Rep. I just wish they would speak up more but I think with tenure they will become forces within the Democratic party.

Mikulski, don't much like her but I think that's personal more than anything. As a Coast Guard Coxswain I had to take her out to the command vessel for a big sailboat race, on a day the Chesapeake was very choppy. Well she didn't much like the rough ride and cussed me out the whole time. How she could think it was my fault was beyond me but I guess long time Senators think they can command people to calm the seas.

Hopefully people in Maryland saw what Republicans are really about this election. Once again Erlich brought out the dirty tricks and embarrassed himself to the state. How this little Nazi feels it's his divine right to be Governor is beyond me.

Anyway, here's hoping Democrats start acting like Democrats. The middle class need a lifepreserver and not an anchor, something you would figure Democrats would know by now.


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