Archive for the ‘2010 Election’ Tag
Allow me to start off this post by rehashing a little thing called the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assmeble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
That bolded part right there is commonly referred to as the “Establishment Clause,” and is the basis for the concept of the separation of Church and State. That means that the U.S. Government—or any state or local government, for that matter—cannot declare an official national religion, nor can they discriminate against any religion or any individual or group because of their religious beliefs.
Pretty simple concept. It’s something that (I thought) we all learned in the first grade. I mean, one of the first things we are taught about Thanksgiving is that the Pilgrims embarked on their flight from the Old World to flee the religious persecution at the hands of the British monarchy (or at least that ‘s the way I remember it being taught). The Pilgrims had their own religious beliefs, and they wanted the freedom to practice their beliefs in peace and without being thrown into jail for being different.
It’s long been a source of pride; something that distinguishes the United States from most of the rest of the world. And the United States is the pioneer of religious tolerance and acceptance. Ok, so we may not have always been perfect in that regard. The Jews haven’t always exactly been welcomed by all in this country with open arms. Prior to the election of John F. Kennedy to the presidency, being Catholic was considered a hinderence to national office.
But our courts have always held that the right of individual expression, religious or otherwise, is absolute. Santeria may not exactly be an accepted “mainstream” religion, but people are free to practice Santeria as they so choose.
But now comes the Tea Party, whose leaders incredibly don’t seem to believe that there is any such concept of “separation of Church and State” in our Constitution at all. These are people who claim to be Constitutional experts, who want to “return our country back to the Constitutional concepts that the founders intended.” Except that they don’t even remotely understand even the most basic of concepts laid out in the Constitution of the United States of America.
Take Nevada Senate candidate, and Tea Party hero, Sharron Angle:
The Constitution “does not” guarantee the freedom of religion, does not provide for the separation of Church and State. Got it? So Sharron Angle knows what thousands of Constitutional scholars and every Supreme Court Justice in the history of this country apparently does not: That there is no establishment clause, and those “darn liberals” are just wrong, and that Christianity should be declared the official and only accepted religion in this country. None else need apply.
And then there’s the brilliance of Christine O’Donnell, the whackjob Delaware Senate candidate who………aw, hell, I’ll just let you see for yourself. Here’s Rachel Maddow brilliantly laying it out for us:
The best part of that whole piece is that SHE ACTUALLY THINKS SHE WON THAT ARGUMENT!!! The debate with Chris Coons was held at Widener University Law School in front of law students. You can hear the audience gasp and then laugh. Watch as Ms. O’Donnell smiles and laughs with the audience, thinking that they’re with her. She thinks she scored major points.
Newsflash, Christine: THEY’RE LAUGHING AT YOU, NOT WITH YOU!!!
This is the problem with the Tea Party. They claim to be Constitutional experts; that they LOVE the Constitution, and yet repeatedly demonstrate that they have little to no understanding of what is actually IN the Constitution and what it means.
They love the Constitution so much, they want to change it. Do away with the parts they simply don’t like. They want to get rid of the 14th Amendment, the 17th Amendment. They have a twisted view of the 10th Amendment. They believe that the Second Amendment means that everyone should be allowed to own a bazooka, or stockpile any amount of machine guns, and that they should be preparing for war against their own government (and sadly, I’m not exaggerating here).
These people are really dangerous. They clearly don’t understand the world in which we live, but they want to set policy on how we live and interact in that world. They’re anti-government conspiracy nuts who see the bogeyman around every corner. Their tin foil hats are picking up all kinds of signals the CIA, NSA, FBI, and lord knows what other government agencies are using to spy on each one of them individually. They’re terrified of Big Brother, yet what they want to do, in effect, is ensure that Big Brother, in many ways, has even MORE control over our lives.
They don’t understand that with individual freedom comes certain responsibility.
Be afraid, all right. Be afraid of what will happen if these wingnuts actually manage to win positions of authority in this country.
Strange are the times we live in. Never has this nation been in more desperate need of cooperation, but never before has this nation been so completely and totally divided (at least not in my lifetime). The November 2nd midterm elections are upon us, and they are sure to profoundly shape the immediate future of the United States, both politically and economically.
So what can we expect to see if the Republicans manage a coup?
Well, it won’t be good, that’s for sure. The simple answer is a return to the very same policies they had under the Bush administration. And that’s not conjecture. That’s exactly what they’ve stated. They want to return us to the same policies that got us into this mess in the first place.
But let’s talk specifics. We’ll start with taxes. Republicans are absolutely adamant about extending the Bush tax cuts for EVERYBODY, while the Obama administration and the Democrats want to extend tax breaks to those families making less than $250,000 per year, and individuals making less than $200,000 per year.
There are a couple of ways to look at it. Republicans say that tax cuts are the only way to revive a struggling economy. And that by extending tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans, it helps to spur job creation. Democrats say that it’s necessary to extend tax cuts for the middle class; that we need to put the money in the hands of people who need it most, who are most likely to spend it and put it back into the economy, which will help the economy grow.
There is no evidence to suggest that giving tax breaks, kickbacks, handouts, or whatever you want to call them, to the wealthy will do anything to spur economic growth. Quite the opposite. People who don’t need the money are more likely to put it into their pockets and hang on to it. There is no incentive for them to do anything with that money. There is no incentive for wealthy business owners to expand their businesses just for the sake of expanding their businesses. Tax breaks make the rich richer, and that’s about it.
Now, I’ll buy the argument that targeted tax breaks for small businesses will help spur job creation and economic development. For example, a tax break for those small businesses that hire a new employee, or some sort of temporary payroll tax holiday. Tax cuts in certain areas might make sense, and they might help growth. But that’s not what the Republicans are proposing. They want across the board tax cuts without any proof that it will help.
In fact, Republicans have offered no specifics on what they would do should they retake Congress. Lots of vague references, but nothing concrete. As if voters aren’t smart enough to know when they’re being snowed under.
The truth is that if the Republicans get their way, things will get worse. A whole lot worse. Repubs have vilified “out of control government spending,” telling us how we need to reduce the deficit and not grow the national debt. And they’re just the ones to do it, doggone it! The facts, however, tell us otherwise. The Republican plan to extend ALL of the Bush tax breaks, will ADD $4 trillion to the national debt over the next 10 years, and increase the budget deficit by $700 billion.
Oh, and by the way, lest we forget, it was a Republican administration, in concert with a Republican controlled House and a Republican controlled Senate that oversaw the explosion of the debt and deficit, that turned a budget surplus in to record budget deficits, and that saw government spending reach new heights. But let’s not let a little thing like the facts stand in our way.
This is not to say that Democrats have firm control of their policy message. Their unwillingness to directly challenge the Republican minority on their tax oath by putting off debate until after the midterm election is an astonishing display of cowardice, as they should use this opportunity to highlight the differences between themselves and their opponents. Dems are in the right, and have public opinion polling strongly in their favor, yet still refuse to publicly take up the fight.
Republicans recently released their “Pledge to America,” in which they said government had to cut expenditures; where they promised to cut federal spending next year by $100 billion. Again, they insist on cutting taxes for the richest two percent of Americans, yet have no plan to increase government revenues to address the debt and deficit. They also failed to point to a single program or area of the federal budget that they would target for such cuts.
An analysis by Bloomberg News found that cutting spending by the proposed 21% would take $400 million out of police department budgets; $6 billion from health research programs, including cancer research; $15 billion from education, including $5 billion from the Pell Grant programs that provide a financial lifeline to students who otherwise would not have access to a college education. Our already decimated education system would be put in a veritable death grip. Fire departments would also see huge cuts.
Military spending, however, according to the Republican “Pledge,” is off the table. No need to discuss it further, despite Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ insistence on the need to trim $100 billion from the Pentagon budget over the next five years. Republicans have scoffed, since trimming the defense budget would surely mean that their defense contractor friends would see some of their government contracts disappear. And after all, examining military operational efficiencies is strictly taboo to the Republican base.
Entitlement programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, account for 60% of the federal budget, but they refused to detail what, if anything, they would cut from those programs. Despite that, Republicans insist that they can close the budget gap by cutting those mysterious costs and cutting taxes at the same time. In short, it’s MAGIC! It’ll happen because they say it will, but their math just doesn’t add up.
Speaking of entitlements: What was once unmentionable, even for Republicans, is now their preferred M.O. Privatizing (or “personalizing,” as Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle puts it) Social Security is now squarely back on the table. The idea is to hand over all of our inputs into the Social Security system to Wall St. and let them invest it in the stock market. Oh, and there will be no additional accountability to Wall St. execs, allowing them to gamble some folks’ retirement lifelines like they did in the years leading up to the “Great Recession.” How many of our seniors would have had their entire life savings completely wiped out two years ago if George W. Bush had been successful in 2005?
Republicans vow to wipe out capital gains taxes (which currently stands at 15%). That would mean that some hedge fund managers and Wall St. execs would pay no taxes at all, despite the billions of dollars in profits they take. Even billionaire Warren Buffet says it’s wrong for him to be paying a lower tax rate than his secretary. Democrats, on the other hand, want to raise the capital gains rate to 20%, still lower than it was under Bill Clinton’s administration. Also consider the fact that hedge fund managers don’t actually produce anything tangible, so they don’t anything concrete to our economy. Giving them even more tax breaks won’t provide more jobs for more workers. And when hedge fund managers bet against the American economy, as many did leading up to the “Great Recession,” it even further damages our national well-being.
And those tepid Wall St. reforms put in place by Congress and signed into law by President Obama? Kiss those goodbye. Since the Glass-Steagall act was repealed in 1999, big banks have been free to invest their depositors’ money in any way they choose. Traditional banks have now become major investment houses instead of the safe, secure institutions we’ve counted on them to be. The complex and controversial derivatives market was completely unchecked. But thanks to the Democratic Congress and the Obama administration, big banks can no longer frivolously throw money at any project in search of astronomical profits for their executives with no accountability, and there is at least SOME transparency now in the derivatives market.
The Republican plan calls for less regulation on industry, particularly on Wall St. This flies in the face of conventional wisdom, since it was a dire lack of regulation that led to the near collapse of our financial system in the first place.
The Obama administration was also behind the biggest overhaul of the federal student loan program in history, to the benefit of every student who will need loans just to attend college. Instead of providing billions of dollars in kickbacks to banks to administer the loan programs, the government will now take on that responsibility, freeing up billions of dollars in funds that will now go directly to students in need rather than bank executives who have found new and creative ways to game the system and take money away from students and schools.
Under Republican rule, those student loan reforms will go away.
And let’s not get started on health care reform. The damage that would be done to the future of health care in this country would be simply devastating. Suffice it to say that Republican cries of “government health care” are disingenuous at best. While they bemoan “putting health care decisions in the hands of government bureaucrats,” what they actually want to do is return health care decisions to the insurance company bureaucrats that, due to their profit driven motives, have skyrocketed health care costs and made access to care a pipe dream for tens of millions of Americans, while simultaneously forcing employers to eliminate health care benefits or cut their workforce just to be able to keep their heads above water.
And for those who insist that the government is too incompetent to administer the program, under Republican governance, that theory becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. They want government programs to fail in order to prove how feeble government is, so they deliberately fail to provide the necessary resources that would ensure success. Just ask any senior dependent on Medicare how willing they would be to see that program go away.
Republicans have made no secret of their desire to return to the failed policies of the Bush II era that have brought about near disaster for the United States in the first place. They’ve promised a change; a change back to exactly the way things were between 2000 and 2008, except in many cases they’ll shift even more radically to the right of the political spectrum.
Despite claims to the contrary, “Trickle Down Economics” is a complete myth. Even the Oracle himself, Alan Greenspan, flatly denied Republican claims that cutting taxes actually increases federal tax receipts, that tax cuts pay for themselves. But if Republicans take over Congress, these are exactly the policies we’ll get. And we’ll long for the good ‘ole days of 2009 and 2010, when there was actually a glimmer of hope on the horizon.
A Republican victory on November 2nd is a victory for big business and special interests, and a major blow to average Americans, particularly middle class Americans. So do yourselves a favor and get out and vote and make sure we don’t cede our government to the corporate interests that run the Republican Party.
Regarding those “small business” claims by Republicans……you know, the ones where they say that by allowing the Bush tax cuts to lapse on the richest 2% of Americans, it will adversely affect small businesses? Well, the piece Keith Olbermann did on the Republicans’ definition of “small business” is truly “must see” TV. Here’s a hint: Price Waterhouse Coopers, the accounting giant, is a small business, according to Republicans. So is Koch Industries, the largest privately held oil company in the U. S., and Bechtel Corp., one of the largest engineering firms in the world.
Check it out below:
Last night California got its first—and only—scheduled chance to see its 2010 Senatorial candidates square off in a debate. Incumbent Barbara Boxer, seeking a fourth term as the Junior Senator from California, met her Republican opponent and harsh critic, millionaire Carly Fiorina at St. Mary’s College in Moraga. It was our first, and likely our last, opportunity to compare the two candidates’ positions on the issues that will matter most to Californians now, in these deeply turbulent economic times, and well into the future.
The race for the coveted Senate seat was hardly settled, but one thing was clear: There is precious little agreement between the two candidates. It was also clear that one candidate was polished and prepared to tackle the issues, while the other was long on rhetoric and short on solutions to our state’s and nation’s problems. The debate certainly demonstrated that the candidates have sharply divergent ideas on how to improve California’s plight.
Fiorina opened the debate by immediately blaming Boxer for our national debt and the state’s unemployment figures, which are disturbingly high. However, throughout the night, Fiorina failed to delineate just exactly what she would do, what she would support other than more tax cuts for the wealthy, that would improve the California economy and bring more jobs to the state. She vilified Boxer for not supporting tax cuts for small businesses, when in fact, as Boxer pointed out, that’s exactly what she supported, and what was included in the stimulus bill that she supported.
Fiorina, Boxer said, opposed the bills in the Senate that would provide tax breaks for small businesses. And she opposed the jobs bill that saved the jobs of the 16,500 teachers in California who, because of severe budget cuts, had received their “pink slips” in the mail. “She called the bill to save teachers’ jobs ‘disgraceful,’” criticized Boxer.
While Fiorina touted tax break after tax break after tax break, Boxer countered that she had stopped tax breaks for companies that shipped jobs overseas, and supported giving tax breaks to small businesses who hire new employees, specifically pointing to the HIRE (Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment) Act, which Fiornia opposed. The HIRE Act includes tax incentives and credits, social security exemptions, and other incentives to encourage businesses to hire more workers.
The most contentious issue of the night was Fiorina’s record while serving as the CEO of Hewlett Packard. Fiorina was angered that “a great American company like HP” was being dragged into this debate, and criticized Boxer for using it as a “political football.” The trouble is that Fiorina’s entire campaign platform and the credentials she brandishes as her qualifications for office are based solely on her record at HP. The fact that as CEO, Fiorina shipped 30,000 HP jobs overseas became one of the key points of the evening.
The debate format called for pre-recorded questions submitted from the general public to be used. One such questioner was a retired Hewlett Packard employee who worked at the company during Fiorina’s tenure. He questioned Fiorina on her record of sending jobs to China, and wanted to know what her plans were to bring jobs back to California.
Fiorina’s responded saying “Any job can go anywhere.” And she’s right. But that doesn’t mean that businesses should be so eager to send those jobs elsewhere.
California, Fiorina says, is seeing increased unemployment because we are “destroying jobs.” Her solutions included taking the example of China, Texas, and Brazil, who all offer business tax credits. She called for a two year payroll tax holiday for businesses who hire new employees.
She lamented that the United States currently ranks 17th in the world in innovation, and supports providing incentives for research and development. She did not, however, provide any details on what kinds of incentives she would like to see, other than tax cuts.
Boxer expressed her support for tax breaks for small businesses, but prefers a more targeted approach: The idea is to close tax loopholes and make sure that those incentives are indeed going to companies that are working to create jobs at home and are putting those tax breaks to use locally, and to provide tax relief for specific performance. The stimulus bills she supported in the Senate do just that, she says.
On the issue of gay marriage, it was pointed out that gay couples are denied 1000 federal rights that are afforded to traditional married couples. Fiorina was asked if gay couples should receive the same rights: “Marriage is between a man and a woman.”
Boxer: “The only way to get equal rights is through marriage equality.”
On Prop 8, Fiorina was critical of the recent court decision against it. “The voters were clear on Prop 8,” she said, lamenting that the decision of the voters was “overturned by a single judge.” Boxer asserted that the courts are often called upon to decide the constitutionality of voter enacted decisions, and this case is no different.
Immigration reform, said Boxer, is an economic issue, pointing to a USC study that determined that many of our economic woes are tied to our lack of a comprehensive immigration policy. Fiorina, said Boxer, calls comprehensive immigration reform “a distraction.” And while she opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants, Fiorina says she does support the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship to young people who attend college or serve in the military.
On abortion, Boxer may have struck the most lethal blow of the debate, pointing out that if Fiorina’s views prevailed, suddenly many women and doctors would be considered criminals. She also criticized the hypocrisy of the Republican stance, pointing to the mantra of keeping government out of our personal lives, yet their stand on abortion necessarily requires the restriction of personal choice.
The choice in November, in my mind, comes down to a rather simple choice: An anti-government candidate who supports fewer regulations for businesses and prefers that we do nothing to combat global warming (“California acting alone will have no effect”), whose platform is centered around big corporations and billionaires, or a candidate who seeks responsible business practices, seeks to promote California as a leader in clean energy technology, and whose platform is based more on people rather than corporate interests.
Watch the entire debate here.