Thursday, March 31, 2011

GOP Tax Cuts Are Not For Thee And Me

At what point in time are the American people going to take a look at our nation's history and realize that eliminating taxes for billionaires and multi-national corporate oligarchies combined with deregulation and non-enforcement of regulation as tools to stimulate the economy doesn't work? Not only does it NOT work, but it has the opposite desired economic effect?

Reference the chart from the Institute for Policy Studies, that demonstrates the distribution of wealth in America as of 2007. Over the last three decades, inequality has grown by almost all measures. Historically, while those at the top of the income distribution have enjoyed far higher average incomes than everybody else, the gap between the top and the bottom has grown enormously in recent years, driven both by slowdowns in income growth at the bottom and middle, and rapid acceleration of income growth at the top. (Interactive chart at When income grows, who gains?)

In recent decades, as Pres. Reagan's "trickle down" economic theory that cutting taxes for the rich, deregulating banks and deregulating Wall Street best stimulates growth has been implemented in state and federal governing policy, the bulk of income growth in America has gone to the top 10% of families.

We've all heard Gov. Perry and every Texas Republican claim that cutting government spending cutting taxes improves the business environment, which in turn creates jobs, improves the standard of living for the working people in Texas and generates enough more tax revenue to meet budget needs for things like public education. Texas Republicans have repeatedly said that continual cuts to government spending combined with business tax breaks result in more jobs being created, higher wages for the average worker, and an overall upturn in our economy. It's at the heart of trickle-down theory Pres. Reagan championed in the early 1980's.

Since taking office in 2001 Gov. Perry has signed every tax cutting Texas budget passed by Republican legislators, who have been in full control of Texas government since 2003, but those tax cuts have not been for thee and me.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

U.S. House Republicans Declare Government Coup d'état

The Tea Party Republicans in the House of Representatives -- according to their own declarations -- absolutely revere the United States Constitution. One of the bedrock separation of powers within the Constitution is that "every bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a law, be presented to the President of the United States...." Not withstanding that constitutional requirement, House Republican leaders have announced they'll be voting on a bill this Friday entitled the "Government Shutdown Prevention Act" that contains an attempt at a government coup d'état -- that the Republican controlled House of Representatives can declare something to be the "law of the land" without any input or action from either the Senate or President Obama.

From the Washington Post blog:

As negotiations on funding the federal government continue in fits and starts ahead of an April 8 deadline, House Republican leaders on Wednesday announced that they plan to pressure the Senate by voting Friday on a measure that they have termed the "Government Shutdown Prevention Act."

"What this bill says is it reiterates again the deadline, and that the Senate should act before the deadline, and that's what the American people are expecting," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Wednesday morning at a news conference with other House Republican leaders. "The bill then says if the Senate does not act, then H.R. 1 [the House-passed bill that cuts $61 billion] will be the law of the land. In addition to that, it says that if all else fails, and the Senate brings about a shutdown, then members should not get their pay."

Of coarse Senate Republicans are threatening to filibuster any budget legislation, thus stalling legislative business in that body. So, the Republican game is still to stop all legislative business unless they get everything they want without compromise and then blame Democrats for shutting down government, if they don't cave in to Republican demands.

Some of what Republicans want to pass in their uncompromised version of the budget include cutting federal money from going to Planned Parenthood, cutting the Environmental Protection Agency to end its monitoring air and water, and inspection of coal mines, cutting Social Security, Medicare and other social safety net programs, cutting unemployment benefits, cutting public education funding and more.

All those cuts on top of cutting taxes paid by billionaires, Wall Street, Oil Companies and multinational corporations who are reporting record profits. All that on top of tax payer give-aways to Wall Street, Oil Companies and multinational corporations like GE who reported worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, paid little tax on that income and claimed a tax benefit (tax payer give-away) of $3.2 billion.

GOP Deny The Average Recorded Temperature Of Earth Has Been Going Up For Years

When the nonpartisan National Academy of Sciences reviewed climate research data a year ago, it concluded: “A strong, credible body of scientific evidence shows that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems.”

Climate change is driven by "global warming," the average recorded temperature of the earth, which has been going up for years. This warming of the globe leads to climate change, which doesn't necessarily mean all areas will become warmer. Due to the highly variable and interdependent nature of the world's weather patterns, warming in some areas could lead to, for example, much colder winters in others.

The Los Angeles Times reports that a number of conservative scientists are bucking conventional wisdom "that liberals accept climate change and conservatives don't" by warning the public that climate change is real and seeking to debunk attacks from climate-change deniers.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Education Cuts And Recall In Wisconsin

The video is a one-minute spot created by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) and Democracy For America.

PCCC co-founder Stephanie Taylor said in a statement that the ad reflects a revolt against "Republican policies that give millions to big corporations in tax cuts while forcing middle-class families, schools, and communities to pay the price."

"As a Republican my entire life I am appalled at what Scott Walker and the Republicans did," says a corrections officer in the ad. "This hurts my family. It's about my kids in school." "Republicans have declared war on the middle class and with this recall campaign we are fighting back and we are going to win," says a woman at the end.

The ad is running in Wisconsin as part of an effort to recall state Republican lawmakers who voted to strip the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions and to make deep cuts to public education spending.

The War About the War on Higher Education

From Left of College Station: Texas Monthly executive editor Paul Burka recently wrote a piece about Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry’s war on higher education. As Burka sees it, and as I see it by the way, this is an ideological war driven by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, an Austin-based conservative think tank.

[Note: According to this ALEC watch report, the Texas Public Policy Foundation is affiliated with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which drafts model laws which are then introduced by Republicans in state legislatures—for example, laws eliminating collective bargaining with state employee unions. ALEC has been in operation since the seventies and claims its members introduce 1,000 pieces of legislation every year in all fifty states.]
In order to fight this war, Perry has stacked the Board of Regents of Texas A&M and the University of Texas with allies and campaign contributors that will align themselves with Perry’s agenda for higher education in Texas. What is Perry’s agenda?

American Thought Police

NYTimes OpEd by Paul Krugman: Recently William Cronon, a historian who teaches at the University of Wisconsin, decided to weigh in on his state’s political turmoil.

He started a blog, “Scholar as Citizen,” devoting his first post to the role of the shadowy American Legislative Exchange Council in pushing hard-line conservative legislation at the state level. Then he published an opinion piece in The Times, suggesting that Wisconsin’s Republican governor has turned his back on the state’s long tradition of “neighborliness, decency and mutual respect.”

So what was the G.O.P.’s response? The Republican Party of Wisconsin filed an open records request demanding access to any e-mails Cronon sent or received since Jan. 1 containing the search terms “Republican,” “collective bargaining,” “rally,” “union” or the names of eight Republicans targeted for recall by liberal activists. That seems to be legal under the state’s version of the federal Freedom of Information Act.


The Nation: Some commentators have suggested Cronon became a target because he wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times, suggesting that Wisconsin’s Republicans were reviving McCarthyism. But the demand for Cronon’s e-mail came a couple of days before his column appeared.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Plano ISD Preparing For $35-$65 Billion In Cuts

Gov. Rick Perry has laid the blame for the impending dismissals at the feet of local administrators and school boards.

"The lieutenant governor, the speaker, their colleagues aren't going to hire or fire one teacher, as best I can tell," Perry said at a news conference about state sovereignty on Wednesday March 9,2011. "That is a local decision that will be made at the local districts."

Perry urged districts to first cut non-teaching and administrative positions, which he said districts have added in dramatic amounts over the past decade. "Are the administrators and the school boards going to make a decision to reduce those, or are they going to make a decision to reduce the number of teachers in the classroom?" he said. "I certainly know where I would point."

Plano School Superintendent Doug Otto
on Scott Braddock's KRLD radio program
Plano ISD Superintendent Doug Otto replied to Gov. Perry's comments telling KRLD radio host Scott Braddock that the governor was "disingenuous" for saying that school districts have as many administrators as teachers. "That's idiocy" he said. Classroom costs make up the majority of the operating budget. Administrators, including the deputy superintendent, have already faced one round of layoffs this year.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Mobilizing The Jobless To Political Action

Frances Fox Piven is a distinguished professor of political science and sociology at The Graduate Center, City University of New York, a legendary progressive activist, writer and hate figure for Fox News host Glenn Beck.

Beck has relentlessly targeted Piven via his television and radio shows as a threat to the American way of life. Beck's heated language has provoked waves of death threats against both Piven and her academic colleagues at the City University of New York.

Piven recently appeared on the Eldridge & Co. TV program (video above left) to talk about the economic and social justice in the American democracy.

Piven has also written an article for The Nation titled, "Mobilizing the Jobless:"

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Conventional Wisdom v. The Facts On Voter Photo ID Law

Many freshmen Tea Party Republicans making law in Austin this spring owe their election wins last November to senior voters. Twenty percent of those who voted in the November 2, 2010 election were age 65 or older and they voted heavily for Republican candidates. Furthermore, white senior voters were among those who most wanted to send Republican legislators to Austin to enact a photo ID requirement law.

Conventional wisdom goes that voter photo ID legislation will benefit Republican candidates in future elections because poor voters and minority voters, who are most likely to support Democrats, are the voters who are least likely to have required photo identification.

The voter photo ID legislation about to become Texas law will be the most stringent version among all the states requiring dated and unexpired government issued photo ID to vote. The Texas law lists very few types of state government issued photo IDs that may be accepted by Election Judges. Student IDs and non-photo ID alternatives will not be accepted by Election Judges. The more stringent the legislation, the more anti Democratic candidate the bill becomes - That is the conventional wisdom of many Democrats and Republicans.

Well, except when it comes to senior Texans who vote Republican by a significant margin. Elderly voters are among those who likely lack properly dated and unexpired government issued photo identification. Many voters over age 70 no longer drive and so they are less likely to have a valid unexpired driver's license, the most common form of ID. Texas doesn't make it easy for the elderly to keep driving—the elderly must renew their licenses more frequently and take eye exams. Without a driver's license, many would not think to get another type of photo ID. So, not surprisingly, the original version of the Republican written voter photo ID bill exempted voters age 70 and over from the ID requirement. From a partisan perspective, it made sense to exempt the group without ID that votes for Republican candidates by significant margins.

Rep. Bonnen, a hard line conservative who voted against a similar version of the voter photo ID bill in 2009 because it wasn't restrictive enough, offered an amendment to drop the age 70 and over ID exemption. Many of Bonnen's Republican colleagues signed on to his amendment and because the bill's sponsor, Rep. Patricia Harless, R-Spring, didn't object, there was no vote. So, the version of the bill that passed in the House Wednesday night does not include an age 70 and over ID exemption.

The vote so many senior Republicans cast last November to send so many Republicans to Austin to cut corporate taxes, gut their Medicaid, gut public education for their grandchildren and enact a voter photo ID law may have been the last vote they cast in Texas, ever.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Opposition To Nuclear Power Rises Amid Japanese Crisis

Pew Research Center For The People & The Press: Not surprisingly, public support for the increased use of nuclear power has declined amid the ongoing nuclear emergency in Japan. Currently, 39% say they favor promoting the increased use of nuclear power while 52% are opposed. Last October, 47% favored promoting the increased use of nuclear power and the same percentage (47%) was opposed.

Opinion about expanding the use of nuclear power has fluctuated in recent years. However, the current measure matches a previous low in support for increased nuclear power recorded in September 2005 (39% favor, 53% oppose).

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted March 17-20 among 1,004 adults, finds little recent change in opinions about other energy policies -- with one notable exception. With the recent surge in gas prices, support for increased offshore oil and gas drilling continues to rebound.

Currently, 57% say they favor allowing more offshore oil and gas drilling in U.S. waters while 37% are opposed. Last June amid the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, there was more opposition (52%) than support (44%) for allowing more offshore drilling. Support for increased offshore energy drilling is approaching its pre-Gulf spill level; in February 2010, the public backed increased offshore drilling by about two-to-one (63% to 31%).

The survey shows that substantial majorities continue to support increased federal funding for research on wind, solar and hydrogen technology (74%), spending more on subway, rail and bus systems (61%), and providing tax incentives for the purchase of hybrid vehicles (58%). These measures are virtually unchanged from last October, though there is less support for alternative energy research and spending on mass transit than from 2005 to 2009.

Read more »

Wall Street Commodity Traders Are Behind Soaring Gas Prices

Unregulated Wall Street commodity traders [speculators] are behind the soaring gas prices.

Here is the straight scoop:

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Thank A Teacher For What They Make!

A Tea Party-infused GOP legislature in Austin is calling for $31 billion in cuts to state spending and they claim, as Gov. Perry has stated many times, that Republicans in the legislature are simply doing what the voters sent them there to do. Did the voters really send the GOP to Austin to decimate public education?

On Election Day November, 2, 2010 voters expressed support for GOP Tea Party pledges of yet more rounds of tax cuts and reduced government spending.

Most of the 37% of registered Texas voters who turned out to vote in 2010 expressed support for the GOP Tea Party philosophy that additional rounds of tax cuts and government spending cuts would help rather than hurt the economic environment for job creation in Texas.

Most 2010 voters accepted the GOP Tea Party argument that any tax supported government spending to provide for the common good of the people in areas like health care and public education are socialist big brother government plots of Democrats.

But, did most 2010 voters and the 63% of registered voters who decided not to vote understand that GOP Tea Party candidates want to eliminate government spending for what most believe are basic and critical government services? Did most of the 13,269,233 people registered to vote in Texas truly understand the GOP Tea Party agenda is to eliminate all taxes on business and the wealthy and then eliminate government spending on programs like the public education, public safety, health care for our children and our parents, road construction and maintenance and other such government services? Did the voters understand that the GOP Tea Party call even those most basic government services socialist programs that should be cut ever deeper until they are eliminated altogether?

Up until this month, most voters did not understand the magnitude or the ferocity of the attack the GOP Tea Party has mounted on basic government services, such as public education, that Texans depend on to support our democracy, provide the quality of life our families enjoy and build a better future for our children.

GOP Tea Party rhetoric has hit reality as the Texas House passes a 2011-13 budget that cuts almost $31 billion from spending levels authorized in the 2009-11 budget. "If you want to close this shortfall through cuts alone, you have to either (completely) cut payments to Medicaid providers, cut payments to school districts or lay-off a substantial number of state employees," said state Rep. Jim Pitts, the Republican chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. "You would have to do these things immediately."

It's Not About the Money!

"It's Not About the Money!" - It's time to make the point that the Republican agenda in Congress and many state legislatures, including the Texas legislature, has little or nothing to do with federal and state level budget deficits. Budget deficits that Republicans helped engineer by eliminating taxes for corporations and billionaires at both the federal and state levels. By eliminating taxes for corporations and billionaires Texas and many other states now face devastating cuts to their publicly funded K-12 and college education systems and other critical services like building and maintaining roads.

Much of the battle between Democrats and Republicans over government spending isn't about the deficit numbers, but about GOP efforts to grind various ideological axes, from defunding EPA and bank regulators and NPR, to crippling reproductive and contraceptive services, to repealing last year's health insurance reform legislation, to ending the rights of people to organize for job security, to privatizing every government service, including tax funded public education.

In effect, alarms about debts and deficits are being used as an excuse to eliminate taxes for business and the rich and to eliminate government services, like public education, that working families depend upon to build a better future for their children - regardless of budget deficits and surpluses.

Now on one level this isn't surprising, but these priorities need to be acknowledged and discussed openly and directly, and not in the disguise of making "painful but necessary cuts." The truth behind the Tea Party phase "We want to take our county back" is that most far-right Republicans would prefer to live in a country with:

  • little or no regulation of corporations (environmental or any other sort) or banks,
  • a fully regressive tax code where taxes on corporations and billionaires are eliminated while taxes on working families are greatly increased,
  • a privatized education system with no public schools supported by tax dollars,
  • workplaces that have no collective bargaining rights or even minimum wages,
  • a health care system in which private insurers are free to increase premiums and deny health care to anyone at will,
  • no social safety net provided through Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and
  • all forms of reproductive contraception made unavailable and illegal.

Republicans also prefer to get rid of legal protections against discrimination generally, and government, both federal and state, limited to the kind of functions typical of the eighteenth century - the century when the U.S. Constitution was adopted.

It's the right of Republicans to favor this kind of society, but given the abundant evidence that a large majority of Texans and Americans in every state would be very unhappy with it, it's the responsibility of non-Republicans and of the news media to make this agenda as clear as possible, and not just mindlessly accept that conservatives are only worried about the debt burden on future generations.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Internet and Campaign 2010

PewInternet: Fully 73% of adult internet users (representing 54% of all U.S. adults) went online to get news or information about the 2010 midterm elections, or to get involved in the campaign in one way or another. We refer to these individuals as "online political users" and our definition includes anyone who did at least one of the following activities in 2010:
  • Get political news online - 58% of online adults looked online for news about politics or the 2010 campaigns, and 32% of online adults got most of their 2010 campaign news from online sources.
  • Go online to take part in specific political activities, such as watch political videos, share election-related content or "fact check" political claims - 53% of adult internet users did at least one of the eleven online political activities we measured in 2010.
  • Use Twitter or social networking sites for political purposes - One in five online adults (22%) used Twitter or a social networking site for political purposes in 2010.1

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Increasing Calls For Bexar County Democratic Party Chair Ramos To Resign

After disparaging remarks were made by Dan Ramos, Chair of Bexar County Democratic Party, and posted on a San Antonio news blog, Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Ritchie asked for Ramos' resignation and released the following statement:

Budget Cuts Put School Sports On Chopping Block

NPR: School sports surely mean more in the United States than in any other country. For small-town America, sports teams even become a significant part of a community's identity.

And now that so many American school districts –– even whole states –– are facing reductions in school funding, more and more, it is athletics that are being cut back. Sometimes now, public school sports survive only by the grace of private donations, from parents and fans.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Rainy-Day Money Plus Cuts Cover $4.3 Billion 2009-11 Deficit

Many newspaper headlines this morning heralding "Deal breaks impasse on using state’s rainy-day money" and "Perry, legislators reach limited deal on dipping into rainy day fund" are a bit misleading -- and copy below the headlines does little to clarify. Here's the straight scoop...

Republican Claims About NPR Manufactured

The Republicans on the House Rules Committee will hold an emergency meeting Wednesday to consider legislation to permanently prohibit federal funding of National Public Radio (NPR) after conservative activist James O'Keefe released a video smearing the news organization.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Notes From The Campaign

by Lawrence J. Praeger

The elections are over and we have our new elected officials and judges. The Dallas Morning News while critiquing our Commissions, County Judge and other officials opine that partisanship is out of control.

As a citizen of Dallas for the last 25 years I have witnessed a lot of changes, read a lot of editorials, and follow the Dallas Morning News. I am past 50, a lawyer, former prosecutor and run my own law practice. I have a wife and two sons 12 and 15.

I was also a candidate for the 5th District Court of Appeals Place 12 in 2010. I had never before sought elective office. I decided to do this for many reasons. One of which was to show my boys that ours is a government of its citizens. That is the beauty of our republic. Another reason was that – without any false modesty – I thought I was more qualified than my opponent. He had recently been appointed to the office by Governor Perry. I had little money for a multi-county campaign but assumed that people and the media would support a judge based on experience, credentials and independence, not political party or ideology. With apologies to Lemony Snicket, thus began my series of unfortunate assumptions.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Paul Krugman: Leaving The Children Behind In Texas

NYTimes : Paul Krugman OpEd:

Will 2011 be the year of fiscal austerity? At the federal level, it’s still not clear: Republicans are demanding draconian spending cuts, but we don’t yet know how far they’re willing to go in a showdown with President Obama. At the state and local level, however, there’s no doubt about it: big spending cuts are coming.

And who will bear the brunt of these cuts? America’s children.

Now, politicians — and especially, in my experience, conservative politicians — always claim to be deeply concerned about the nation’s children. Back during the 2000 campaign, then-candidate George W. Bush, touting the “Texas miracle” of dramatically lower dropout rates, declared that he wanted to be the “education president.” Today, advocates of big spending cuts often claim that their greatest concern is the burden of debt our children will face.

In practice, however, when advocates of lower spending get a chance to put their ideas into practice, the burden always seems to fall disproportionately on those very children they claim to hold so dear.

Consider, as a case in point, what’s happening in Texas, which more and more seems to be where America’s political future happens first.

Texas likes to portray itself as a model of small government, and indeed it is. Taxes are low, at least if you’re in the upper part of the income distribution (taxes on the bottom 40 percent of the population are actually above the national average). Government spending is also low. And to be fair, low taxes may be one reason for the state’s rapid population growth, although low housing prices are surely much more important.

But here’s the thing: While low spending may sound good in the abstract, what it amounts to in practice is low spending on children, who account directly or indirectly for a large part of government outlays at the state and local level.

And in low-tax, low-spending Texas, the kids are not all right.

Read the full Paul Krugman OpEd @

Republicans Take From American Familes To Give To The Rich

With oil prices now more than $100 a barrel, gas prices pushing $4 a gallon and oil companies reporting tens of billions of dollars in profits every quarter, it seems like it's time for Congress to eliminate tax credits for the oil and gas industry.

The budget President Obama submitted to Congress last month proposed repealing oil and gas subsidies – subsidies that come in the form of tax credits, or in plain terms, taxpayers giving their money to oil, gas and coal companies. The White House estimates that repealing those fossil energy company tax credits would save $46 billion, but House Republicans strongly defend those taxpayer giveaways.

After extending the Bush tax cuts for billionaires in December, which worsens the budget deficit by $900 billion, the Republicans passed $60 billion in spending cuts for programs that range from disaster relief funding to helping young people find jobs. Here are a few of the programs House Republicans voted to slash.

Alliance For A Clean Texas (ACT) Lobby Day

by Bob Fusinato

For those interested in moving toward an environmentally responsible and sustainable resource economy here are some links to Alliance for a Clean (ACT) lobby day to be held in Austin on March 14th and 15th:

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Save Texas Schools Rally At The TX Capitol

Updated Sunday March 13, 2011 @ 1:51pm

The Save Texas Schools organization held a rally and march at the State Capitol on Saturday March 12, 2011. An estimated eleven thousand parents, teachers, students, community members, business owners, and faith organizations converged on the Capitol to voice their opposition to draconian education cuts planned by Gov. Perry and the Republican controlled legislature. Event organizers said they ran out of the 11,000 stickers they brought to hand out to the participants.

In addition to tapping the Rainy Day fund, rally-goers urged Gov. Rick Perry to sign the application for the $830 million currently tied up in a political fight in Congress from the federal Education Jobs fund. They also asked Texas lawmakers to fix the state’s public education funding mechanism.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Energizing Of Democratic Voters

From the Jobsanger Blog by Ted McLaughlin: It's no argument that the 2010 election was something of a disaster for the Democratic Party. They didn't just lose the House (and several seats in the Senate), they lost it big -- giving the Republicans a significant majority and the ability to kill anything the Democratic Senate or White House might propose. And that loss carried over into state elections, giving Republicans control of many state governments.
Why did this happen? Did Americans decide Republicans could do a better job? For one thing, a lot of voters stayed home. The 2008 election had a voter turnout close to 62%, while in 2010 the turnout fell to around 41%. But that is not unusual for an off-year election. The turnout was actually about what is normal for an off-year election. The difference is in who voted and who didn't. . .

. . . Nate Silver, author of and one of the most respected analyzers of polls in the country, believes the Republicans have energized Democratic voters. I agree with him. By trying to shove through unpopular programs to benefit their corporate and rich buddies, the Republicans are in the process of committing political suicide. They are reminding voters why they felt it necessary to vote Democratic in 2008 and encouraging them to do it again in 2012.

It looks like the voters may be energized to once again boot the Republicans out of office in 2012 -- not because of anything Democrats have accomplished, but to protect themselves from the Republican policies.

Read on at Jobsanger Blog . . .

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Democracy Now: Naomi Klein on Anti-Union Bills and Shock Doctrine American-Style

From Democracy Now -- Naomi Klein on Anti-Union Bills and Shock Doctrine American-Style: "This is a Frontal Assault on Democracy, a Corporate Coup D’Etat:"

As a wave of anti-union bills are introduced across the country following the wake of Wall Street financial crisis, many analysts are picking up on the theory that award-winning journalist and author Naomi Klein first argued in her 2007 bestselling book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

In the book, she reveals how those in power use times of crisis to push through undemocratic and extreme free market economic policies. “The Wisconsin protests are an incredible example of how to resist the shock doctrine,” Klein says.

We’re Having a Democratic Get-together!

Join us for a casual social with Democratic friends

Time & Date: Friday, March 11th, 6:30 pm

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Friday, March 4, 2011

Issue By Issue Americans Hold Progressive Values

A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, released yesterday, reveals that issue by issue America is a very progressive nation.

The survey — which was conducted Feb. 24-28 of 1,000 adults (200 reached by cell phone), and which has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.1 percentage points — asked 26 different questions about reducing the federal budget deficit.

Rachel Maddow talks about the NBC/WSJ Poll

We Are Wisconsin
The most popular: placing a surtax on federal income taxes for those who make more than $1 million per year (81 percent said that was acceptable), eliminating spending on earmarks (78 percent), eliminating funding for weapons systems the Defense Department says aren’t necessary (76 percent) and eliminating tax credits for the oil and gas industries (74 percent).

The least popular: cutting funding for Medicaid, the federal government health-care program for the poor (32 percent said that was acceptable); cutting funding for Medicare, the federal government health-care program for seniors (23 percent); cutting funding for K-12 education (22 percent); and cutting funding for Social Security (22 percent). In addition, 77 percent believe public employees should have the same collective-bargaining rights (when it comes to health care, pensions and other benefits) as union employees who work for private companies.

Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducted the survey with Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, says these results are a “cautionary sign” for a Republican Party pursuing deep budget cuts. He points out that the Americans who are most concerned about spending cuts are core Republicans and Tea Party supporters, not Democrats, Independents and swing voters. In the poll, eight in 10 respondents say they are concerned about the growing federal deficit and the national debt, but more than 60 percent — including key swing-voter groups — are concerned that major cuts from Congress could impact their lives and their families. What’s more, while Americans find some budget cuts acceptable, they are adamantly opposed to cuts in Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and K-12 education.

This poll again exposes the big lie that this country is too conservative for progressive legislation to be supported by average Americans. Democrats just have to learn how to properly frame the way they talk to the voters. Candidate Obama used a very progressive frame when he talked to the voters in 2008 and he won the presidency in an electoral landslide.

Also see:
Transcript from the Rachel Maddow video clip in this post.

If you were king for the day, if you got to make the decisions in this country and you wanted to bring down the deficit, would you raise taxes on people making more than $1 million a year? Would you let the Bush tax cuts expire for the richest people in the country? Would you get rid of the subsidies, the tax breaks for oil and gas companies?

Would you do all those things? Really? Are you that liberal? Are you that liberal that you would do all those things?

If you are that liberal that you would do all of those things, then you are an average American. The support for these policies—look at this—the support for these policies is the support you get for the contention that puppies are cute. Eighty-one percent of the country supports raising taxes on millionaires to close the deficit, 81 percent.

If you look at the policies that Americans say they support, then we are the “Soviet Republic of Americanistan.” We are a bunch of commies in this country.

If you don‘t, tell somebody whether a policy is a liberal idea or a conservative idea. If you don‘t say who is proposing or supporting the policy, if you don‘t say where the idea is coming from, big majorities of Americans support really, really liberal economic policies—more liberal policies that are being supported even with Democratic majorities in Washington.

These are from the new NBC News/”Wall Street Journal” Poll that just came out today. Same poll also asked nationwide whether or not people oppose or support what Governor Scott Walker is doing in Wisconsin. Seventy-seven percent of people -- 77 percent of people in the country say that unions should be able to hold onto what the Republicans in Wisconsin are trying to take away from them. Seventy-seven percent of Americans are for public sector collective bargaining rights.

The American people turns out are a bunch of commie, pinko libs.

We‘re hippies. Dogs on streams. Soak the rich. Kumbayah.

Here‘s the most amazing thing, though. The same group of people who says that this is what they believe in, in terms of policy, the same group of people who believes this, mostly call themselves conservatives. Thirty-six percent of people in this NBC News poll, in this poll with these numbers, identify themselves as conservatives. Only 24 percent identify as liberals.

We like to use this word conservative. You keep using this word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

How can you simultaneously be a country that believes in all of this stuff to this degree and be a country that calls itself conservative? You really can‘t be—not if the word conservative has any meaning. But the word conservative, the whole concept of conservatism has been treated to a really expensive rebranding campaign over the last generation or so, and that‘s what it‘s thought of.

People who don‘t believe in conservative ideas at all think that they do, because they like the idea of calling themselves conservative. In reality, in terms of real ideas, though, it‘s economic populism that‘s popular. Policies that benefit people who have to work for a living are popular in this country. Policies that single out and demonize and attack people who have to work for a living, those are not popular.

What‘s happening in Wisconsin right now, what Republicans are trying to do in Wisconsin, is really, really, really unpopular. Republicans appear to be shocked by that. After all, they picked this fight in Wisconsin because they thought they were going to win it and they thought they were going to nationalize it. They thought it was going to be part of their new post-Bush, post-McCain branding.

But they are at the point now of not just losing, but losing really dramatically, publicly, in a way that nobody will ever be proud of. They‘re now at a point of scraping the barrel of the barrel for the most desperate tactics they can think of to win.

Today, Scott Walker and the Republicans came up with some new ideas about how to ratchet up pressure on Wisconsin‘s Democrats who are preventing them from passing this union-stripping thing.

In addition to stuff like cutting Democrats‘ pay and cutting off Democrats staffers‘ access to the capitol building‘s machine, Republicans today move to zero out Democrats‘ office budget. They move to fine Democrats $100 every day. They moved to remove their parking privileges.

They‘re parking spaces? Seriously? Yes, their parking privileges.

That‘s the ground of which the Republicans are now trying to win this. That‘s the ground on which Republicans are left to fight this out in Wisconsin. That‘s what they have to stand on.

Republicans have gotten to the bottom of the barrel in terms of what they can do, and their support has just disintegrated.

As we talked about earlier this week, if the gubernatorial election were held in Wisconsin today, not only would Scott Walker lose according to one of the latest polls, but the state is evenly divided on whether or not they actually want to recall him out of office. Republican state senators who are supporting Scott Walker on this are now facing their own recall drives. The conservative-leaning “Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,” which endorsed Scott Walker for governor, today that paper came out against what Walker and the Republicans are doing with this union-stripping bill.

And listen to this—listen to this: this is a Republican state senator from Wisconsin on a Wisconsin radio station today. This—listen to what he had to say about what his own party is doing now. This is amazing.


STATE SEN. DALE SCHULTZ ®, WISCONSIN: All I know is we‘re not talking, we‘re wasting valuable time about collective bargaining, which I don‘t ever remember being a part of last election‘s discussion whatsoever. But, most of all, you know, to me this looks like the classic overreach.


MADDOW: The classic overreach—this Republican state senator calls what his own party is doing.

Nationally, the American people are against what Governor Walker and the Republicans are doing. Statewide in Wisconsin, the people also appear to be against it. Among even some elected Republicans in conservative-leaning media that previously supported this Walker guy in Wisconsin, they are against it now, too.

They are down to their most desperate measures. They‘re down to parking spaces. They say they won‘t negotiate. They are hemorrhaging support to the point they may get recalled from office.

But you know who does support Scott Walker and the Republicans trying to strip union rights and isn‘t afraid to say so? One of the Koch brothers a real one, not a fake one on a prank call.

The billionaire Koch brothers are not from Wisconsin, of course. They do own a large oil and chemical company, however. And Charles Koch wrote in “The Wall Street Journal” that he is on Scott Walker‘s side—both a bit of an anti-climax and a rally instructive thing for why this is a national story.

There are two sides in this fight. There is the side that believes in this, right? There‘s a side that believes in all these populist economic policies. That‘s one side. And then there‘s a few guys like David and Charles Koch and the multibillion dollar oil and chemical conglomerate they inherited from their dad.

It‘s kind of a numerical mismatch between these two sides. But it always is. It‘s the upper crust versus the middle class. It‘s the few people who own the company versus the number of people who work for the company. It‘s the people who write the paychecks versus those who cash the paychecks. It‘s the economic elite versus the average person.

And what the elite lack in terms of numbers of people, they makeup for in leverage in terms of the amount of money they can spend in order to advocate for their side. And that—that split between these two sides, aside from social issues and civil rights and issues of political style, that‘s split is the reason that there are two different political parties in the United States of America.

The Chamber of Commerce spent more money in last year‘s election than any other outside spending group. They put 93 percent of their Chamber of Commerce donations towards Republican candidates. There are two sides.

And because the Democratic side is inherently the one that has more people in it, and this is a democracy, and it‘s one person, one vote, the Republican side, in order to compete with that, has to use money to leverage as many votes as they can, because their side represents the interest of fewer people. That‘s where they found social issues and abortion and gay rights and religion and all of these other things to come in handy.

There‘s an economic split between the two parties, between Democrats and Republicans, but more people are on the Democratic side of that economic split, almost by definition. So, Republicans, by and large, have had to use non-economic issues to get people to vote with the economic elite and against their own economic interest.

The other way this works, though, is this—to the extent that Democrats embrace their role as standing for the average American, standing for the rights of people who work for a living, to the extent Democrats embrace that, people who work for a living and the institutions that represent them, that represent working people, and even poor people, they have over the years pushed the Democratic Party to endorse populist policies—to endorse stuff that helps regular working people. Stuff like minimum wage laws, stuff like expanded health coverage, stuff like workplace regulation, stuff like responsible tax laws that don‘t soak poor people to subsidize rich people. That‘s economic populism.

Endorsing those policies and pushing for those policies has the happy progressive side-effect of paying real political dividends for the Republican Party. Fighting for issues like that just happens to work for Democrats at the polls. There‘s nothing I have ever seen that gooses Democratic turnout, that helps Democratic chances all the way down the ticket than putting something like a minimum wage law on the ballot.

Economic populism is really popular. People really like these policies. Even people who call themselves conservatives like these policies.

We never talk about the differences between the parties like this anymore, but see, it seems so old school. It seems almost too big picture to acknowledge. But the reason there are two different major parties in America is because one of the parties, the Republican Party, represents the interest of a comparatively smaller number of people.

They decided to represent the interest of corporations. You can see it in how the elections are funded. They have decided to represent the interests of people like the Koch brothers that own the corporations. The Republican Party represents those economic elites.

And on the other side, the other party, the Democratic Party, represents a much greater number of people, the non-elites, everybody who has to work for a living. That‘s the reason there are two different parties. That‘s the reason the two different parties exist, even if it is unfashionable to say so and recognize that it is.

And to the extent that the Democratic Party embraces that split and supports policies that make it clear where they stand, that they stand for most working Americans, to the extent that Democrats do that, it helps the Democratic Party. And to the extent that the Democratic Party forgets that and gets away from it, and starts chasing corporate money as well at the expense of its base constituency, not only is there less reason for two different parties to exist in this country, but the Democratic Party is sowing the seeds of its own demise.

As the poli-sic 101 fortune cookie says, given the choice between a real Republican and a watered-down Republican, people generally take the real one. The reason Democrats are even tempted to try to be more like Republicans, to chase corporate interest, to give up on what makes them different from Republicans is because they tend to forget that economic populism is so popular. They forget numbers like this. They forget that this is what this country believes in.

And now, Scott Walker and the great Republican overreach of 2011 has served to remind them. It has reconnected the Democratic Party with its reason for existing.

Scott Walker is looking at being recalled as governor in Wisconsin. What‘s happening on the other side? Well, the progressive group Act Blue put out a call for people to support the Wisconsin Democratic senators who fled the state in order to stop Walker and Republicans from what they‘re doing. So far, with that call, which I bet you didn‘t even hear about, they‘ve raised more than $540,000 for state senators.

The AFL-CIO, the biggest federation of unions in the country, they are now reveling in their newfound support. The AFL-CIO president saying, quote, “We‘ve never seen the incredible solidarity that we are seeing now.”

The head of the United Mine Workers quoted by “The Associated Press,” saying, “People are looking at this and saying, this is a struggle I want to be part of, this is our moment.”

A group called the Progressive Change Campaign C put out the most pointed “stand with the people who work for a living” ad that we have seen in a very long time. They asked for support online to keep it running. Within eight hours, they tell us they raised $145,000.


EMILY PEASE-CLEM, TEACHER, MADISON, WI: Governor Walker and the Republicans just gave over $100 million in tax cuts to corporations, and now, they‘re asking teachers and nurses to pay for it, and attacking workers‘ rights to negotiate for benefits.

KRISTINE FANTETTI, SECRETARY, WHITEWATE, WI: I‘m just a secretary, and this bill that Walker‘s proposing is going to cost me over $3,000 a year.

KATHLEEN SLAMKA, ELECTRICIAN, OAK CREEK, WI: This is Republican class warfare, an attack on the middle class. This is a battle and we need to win.


MADDOW: In Washington, Democrats like Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan find themselves looking into CSPAN cameras and making this kind of case for what the Democratic Party stands for.


REP. TIM RYAN (D), OHIO: The issue that we are talking about in Ohio, in Wisconsin is an issue of respect for the average worker in the United States of America. The issue is: are we going to respect work in the United States of America? Are we going to respect the workers in the United States of America while all these fat cats have gotten off scot-free? And we turn around and tell the workers in Ohio and Wisconsin and Indiana and the Big Ten Conference, you got to take the hit. It‘s unfair and it‘s disrespectful and it is not an American value.



MADDOW: When is the last time you heard Democrats talking like that in Congress?

Democrats are placing themselves on the side of Americans who have to work for a living and against the corporate interest and the political party those corporate interests pay for who are trying to strip them of their rights. This is happening among Democrats at the state level, right? The Wisconsin 14, those Wisconsin state senators have been out of the state 14 days now. They show no signs of wavering.

In Indiana—Indiana—Indiana, land of Democrats like Evan Bayh—in Indiana, state Democrats there did what the Wisconsin Democrats did. In Indiana, they fled the state. Once they fled the state, Republicans caved, and then the Democrats decided to stay out of the state in opposition to privatizing the state school system, too.

Indiana that happened? The fighting progressive Democrats of Indiana?

Indiana. Indiana.

Indiana and Wisconsin Democrats have galvanized to take the kind of

stand and to show the kind of spine that the Democratic base has frankly

been weeping for my entire adult life. In the state, Democrats are remembering now that there‘s a reason there are two parties in this country

remembering why the Democratic Party is not the Republican Party, remembering that the Democratic Party stands for people who work for a living, stands for the kinds of economic populism that are wildly popular in the United States of America, even when people call themselves conservatives.

In the states, in the Midwest, in places like Wisconsin and Indiana and Ohio, the Democratic Party is rediscovering its soul, remembering why it exists. No national Democrats remember that, too.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Understand this: if American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively barring on when I‘m in the White House, I‘ll put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself. I‘ll walk on that picket line with you as president of the United States of America because workers deserve to know that somebody‘s standing in their corner.


MADDOW: That was candidate Barack Obama in 2007. There‘s no picket line in Wisconsin, but those rights are certainly being stripped.

What‘s happening in Wisconsin is galvanizing the Democratic Party in the States and reconnecting Democrats to what great majorities of Americans believe—economic populism, the interest of people who work for a living.

Republicans picked the wrong fight here. They are isolated and defensive and desperate on this. And even if they win—which I don‘t think they will—they will never be proud of how they won it. They will only be able to hope people forget how they won it.

This has become the Democrats‘ moment. When do we get to hear from our Democratic president on that?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Bill White Says, It’s Not Right To Blame The Recession For Education Cuts

Bill White has sent out an open letter to Texans commenting on the massive education cuts planned by Gov. Perry and the Republican controlled state legislature that Senate Finance Chair Steve Ogden -- a Republican who Rick Perry has described as the smartest budget man he knows -- has said will “decimate public education" in Texas:

Two years ago a blue ribbon panel with conservative business leaders appointed by Governor Perry reported that Texas “faces a downward spiral in both quality of life and economic competitiveness if it fails to educate more of its growing population.” The panel focused on the need to increase college attendance and to improve higher education.

Governor Perry’s budget proposes a 20% cut in state support for higher education. For the impact of the current proposed budget cuts on specific student aid programs and colleges throughout the state, click here.

Please circulate this information to other Texans, and let your elected officials know what you think about this. You can also join the discussion about these cuts on the Facebook page,

It is not right to blame the recession for these cuts. It is just common sense: the state's economy hasn't gone down by 20%!

These cuts reflect a lack of leadership and planning for the future.

The education of our workforce is the most important investment in Texas' future. My dad came off a subsistence farm with help from the GI Bill, and a scholarship I earned opened the door to a college my family couldn’t afford. But the current budget proposal cuts student assistance by 41%. Even support for community colleges won't be spared during a period when their enrollment is surging.

In the last decade eight countries have caught up with or tied the U.S. in the percentage of young workers with college degrees. Texas has been lagging behind other states.

If you love our state like I do, please share this information with other Texans.


Bill White

For weeks now, there has been a steady stream of news stories about school districts laying off, or planning to lay off, hundreds or thousands of teachers as Texas legislators more closer to slashing billions from the state education budget for the next two years. Many districts have already started to fire administrators and other non-teachers, but is clear that many teachers must be fired given the deep budget cuts. As Texas parents become increasingly worried about their children's education Republicans are tell them to "move along, nothing to see here..."
The Statesman: Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, a group that advocates for lower taxes and less government spending, has been making hundreds of thousands of [robo-]calls to voters around the state in an effort to push back against school districts that say the state’s budget shortfall will force them to lay off thousands of teachers.

Michael Sullivan, the president of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, said his group has called about 350,000 households around the state, with an emphasis on constituents of the lawmakers sitting on the budget-writing House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees.

“Right now, public education bureaucrats are threatening to scare parents and teachers by threatening the classroom,” Sullivan says on the call. “Superintendents and school board members say they’ll start making cuts by letting teachers go. That’s irresponsible. The classroom must be protected. … Tell your state legislators to stand firm on cutting the budget and tell them that cuts must be made outside the classroom.”

Sullivan has repeatedly proven himself to be an effective communicator with the conservative grass roots. Earlier this year, Texas Monthly named him one of the 25 most powerful people in Texas politics.

The argument from Sullivan and other conservatives is that cutting the budget won’t force schools to let teachers go, but rather that schools need to stop spending so much money on non-classroom expenses. An oft-cited number around the Capitol these days is that school districts employ as many non-teachers as teachers, but educators say most of those non-teachers are the people who, for instance, drive the buses, serve the food and clean the buildings.

Read the full story at The Statesman.

Why the Right Attacked Unions, ACORN and Planned Parenthood

The Nation: While it's obvious that the right wing is out to break the back of the progressive movement, it’s easy to miss the strategy that guides their selection of specific targets. Their attacks are all carefully aimed at the same critical juncture: institutions that work for people in their daily lives and in the political arena, those that connect people’s personal struggles across the country to the political struggle in Washington.
Planned Parenthood operates over 800 health clinics across the country. These clinics are often the only option for women who need vital services, including contraception, HIV testing or PAP smears to detect and prevent cancer and other life-threatening illness. Three million Americans go to Planned Parenthood every year, and one in five women in the United States will visit a Planned Parenthood clinic in their lifetime. The personal relationships developed at clinics inform Planned Parenthood’s critical and ongoing advocacy for federal support for reproductive health and freedom. As a trusted brand representing women in DC, Planned Parenthood Action Fund has successfully lobbied for greater access to healthcare, better educational resources for family planning and the preservation of a woman’s right to choose.

The nexus of service and advocacy is a powerful place to stand: simultaneously addressing direct needs and advocating for systemic redress of those needs is a winning equation for progressive power. Yet, we have precious few progressive organizations left in that spot at the national level, and the ones we have are under attack precisely because our opposition understands their power.

For the past two weeks, all eyes have been glued to Madison, Wisconsin. The collective and joyful resistance to Governor Scott Walker’s power-grabbing budget bill has inspired the demoralized progressive base and put the corporate-backed assault on working people front and center in the national conversation.

Once we recognize the critical role these progressive service organizations play in building progressive politics, the right’s broader strategy in Wisconsin and elsewhere becomes clear.

Read the full story at The Nation.

Politics Not Budget At Heart Of Republican Stategy

Progressive groups in Wisconsin are taking their case against Governor Scott Walker (R) to the people. Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) and Democracy for America (DFA) are sponsoring a new ad that features the voices of public workers who would be affected by Walker's plan to make unions pay more for benefits and strip them of collective bargaining rights. The ad directs viewers to go to where they can join an e-mail list and contribute money to the campaign.

The Republican Governors Association (RGA) has also announced an ad of their own supporting Walker. Greg Sargent at The Washington Post argues that the RGA "badly distorts" the history of the standoff in Wisconsin by not acknowledging that the unions have already agreed to pay more for their benefits.

"The unions have already agreed to the benefit concessions Walker has asked for, as long as he doesn't roll back their bargaining rights," said Sargent. "Walker has refused. The sticking point has nothing to do with benefits.
Video is from PCCC, uploaded to YouTube March 1, 2011.