Archive for category Bernie Sanders

More Awfulness From Congress

Hell no we won't go
Hell no, we won’t go!!

The must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) contains a 449-page package of public lands riders. As you might expect from this Congress, it’s a stinker full of corporate giveaways. It transfers 110,000 acres of our public lands into private ownership. Part of the Tonto National Forest in Arizona will be given to Rio Tinto for a copper mine, including sacred Apache lands. Coal reserves in the Bull Mountains of Montana will be given to Great Northern Properties, a Houston-based coal company. Sealaska Corporation gets 70,000 acres of the Tongass National Forest for clear-cutting timber that used to belong to all Americans.

There’s a stealth provision removing existing Wilderness Study Area (WSA) protections for two areas in eastern Montana, without any public input whatsoever.

The legislation also mandates automatic renewals of livestock grazing on our public lands, even where grazing operations are degrading wildlife habitat and fouling streams and rivers — without the evaluation under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that’s currently required. The so-called “Grazing Improvement Act” also automatically extends grazing permits on public lands from 10 to 20 years. The exemption of grazing permits from NEPA basically puts public land management agencies out of business with regard to ecosystem management. That is a heavy hit with far-reaching consequences.

Ten right-wing Tea-GOPers including Tom Coburn of Oklahoma had objected to including parks and wilderness bills in a defense bill. They were joined by Democratic Senators Jeff Merkeley (OR), Ron Wyden (OR), and Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) and Independent Bernie Sanders (VT). On December 11, the Senate voted 85-14 to break the filibuster.

As a “Christmas tree” bill enjoying widespread bipartisan support, the NDAA passed the House by a vote of 300-119 last Thursday and the Senate by 89-11 yesterday. The package of legislation is expected to be signed by the President soon.

On the plus side, the NDAA riders would add 250,000 acres to the National Wilderness Preservation System, establish or expand national parks, and designate more than 100 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers. But the losses far outweigh the wins.

More info:
Some Context on the Defense Bill Riders: Public Lands Losses Far Outweigh Any Wins
Top 5 Offensive Provisions of the Public Lands Rider
Defense bill with wilderness & parks plus land giveaways beats cloture 85-14. 3 Dems & Sanders no
Congress Protects New National Parks And Wilderness Areas For The First Time In 5 Years
Defense Bill Passes, Giving Sacred Native American Sites To Mining Company

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‘A Bad Bargain’

When you see the word “grand” in front of the word “bargain,” look out. They are trying to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. This is why President Obama is treating right-wingers to lunch and dinner, while ignoring progressives.

After first making nearly all the Bush-Obama Tax Cuts For The Rich permanent, key members of Congress and the White House now say there is a deficit problem that can only be solved by austerity budgets. Well, the last election wasn’t about dismantling our earned benefits programs and the social safety net that Americans have relied on since the New Deal. President Obama is proposing a BAD bargain.

Sign Senator Bernie Sanders’ petition today.

Send a Message to President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Reid and House Speaker Boehner: No Budget Deal on Backs of the Elderly, the Children, the Sick and the Poor.

At a time when the middle class is disappearing, poverty is increasing and the gap between the rich and everyone else is growing wider, we demand that the federal budget not be balanced on the backs of the most vulnerable people in our country.

A federal budget that reduces the deficit by cutting cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security and disabled veterans, raising the Medicare eligibility age and lowering tax rates for the most profitable corporations in this country is not a grand bargain. It is a bad bargain.

We oppose the chained-CPI, a new way to measure inflation and consumer prices designed to cut benefits for Social Security recipients, disabled veterans and their survivors.

We demand a budget that puts millions of Americans back to work in decent paying jobs.

We demand a budget that makes sure that the wealthiest Americans and most profitable corporations pay their fair share.

UPDATE: Rep. Ryan, announcing his budget plan today:

“This to us is something that we’re not going to give up on, because we’re not going to give up on destroying the health care system for the American people.”

Definition of a Bushism: when a right-winger accidentally tells us what he really wants to do.

UPDATE: Obama’s Poll Numbers Drop As He Tries To Push Cuts To Social Security And Medicare

UPDATE: Obama To GOP: I’m Serious About Cutting The Social Safety Net

UPDATE:
DC’s Worst-Kept Budget Secret: Lots Of Democrats Support Entitlement Cuts

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Solitary Man Ambushes “Gang of Six” and All Three Branches of Government

Well, OK! Ambushes usually involve hiding behind opaque objects with deadly weapons. Reasonable people don’t always need to go to that extreme.

Sometimes words can get a point across perfectly well:

Congratulations Sen. Coburn.

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Republicans Can’t Escape Blame For Bad Economy

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has proposed a plan to let Republicans vote unanimously against raising the limit on the National Debt without actually causing a sovereign default for the first time in the history of the United States. Maybe other politicians of both parties will go along with this plan, maybe not. But Senator McConnell is fantasizing when he says (emphasis added):

“[Obama] will say Republicans are making the economy worse,” Mr. McConnell said in an interview with the conservative radio host Laura Ingraham. “It is an argument that he could have a good chance of winning, and all of the sudden we have co-ownership of the economy. That is a very bad position going into the election.”

Following years of declining wages and rising poverty, the Republicans finally crashed the American economy in 2008, after the housing bubble burst and exposed the Bush administration’s so-called “Ownership Society” as a fraud. Everyone knows this. The GOP would like to blame President Obama, but that’s a counter-factual argument that only appeals to hard-core partisans.

A Quinnipiac poll released today: The country is in a recession, 71 percent of American voters say, but by 54 – 27 percent they blame former President George W. Bush more than President Obama. Other poll results indicate that people have been paying attention to the Republican brinksmanship over the debt limit, and President Obama’s very cynical response:

  • Voters will blame Republicans over Obama 48 – 34 percent if the debt limit is not raised;
  • Voters say 67 – 25 percent that an agreement to raise the debt ceiling should include tax hikes for the wealthy and corporations, not just spending cuts;
  • Voters say 45 – 37 percent that Obama’s proposals to raise revenues are “closing loopholes,” rather than “tax hikes”;
  • But voters say 57 – 30 percent that Obama’s proposals will impact the middle class, not just the wealthy.

There is no one representing the middle class in Washington right now, except maybe Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). You can’t revive our economy by cutting budgets, laying off public employees, and sabotaging Social Security and Medicare — but is anybody saying that?

UPDATE: David Dayen on FDL:

The “hybrid deal” between Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid… includes all of the political pitfalls of the McConnell deal with the cuts-only approach sought by House Republicans. It’s basically everything that was discussed before: $1.5 trillion in cuts, no net revenues, a convoluted voting process that forces all votes sustaining an increase in the debt limit to come from Democrats, and a Catfood Commission II to deal with taxes and entitlements at a later date.

Basically the Democratic argument for this is, hey, it’s better than default on the National Debt. As if that is the only alternative.

UPDATE: Romney: Jobless Americans Have To Bear Burden Of Budget Cuts Because Corporations Need A Tax Cut

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Senator Bernie Sanders: Shared Sacrifice

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) gave another great speech yesterday, on the subject of shared sacrifice. He held the senate floor for 90 minutes, talking directly to President Obama, pleading, cajoling, scolding–begging the president to take the lead on obvious things like lifting the poor and the downtrodden out of the depths, protecting them from any more grief, and demanding that the rich pay their fair share of U.S. taxes. He condemned the Republicans for hypocritically holding the debt limit hostage to force budget cuts on the middle class and people who have already lost their homes, jobs and life savings. Ordinary Americans have sacrificed enough already, it’s time for the rich to give something up!

“Instead of yielding to the incessant, extreme Republican demands, as the President did during last December’s tax cut agreement and this year’s spending negotiations, the President has got to get out of the beltway and rally the American people who already believe that deficit reduction must be about shared sacrifice.”

Go to Senator Sanders’ website and sign his letter to President Obama.

Mr. President, please listen to the overwhelming majority of the American people who believe that deficit reduction must be about shared sacrifice. The wealthiest Americans and the most profitable corporations in this country must pay their fair share. At least 50 percent of any deficit reduction package must come from revenue raised by ending tax breaks for the wealthy and eliminating tax loopholes that benefit large, profitable corporations and Wall Street financial institutions. A sensible deficit reduction package must also include significant cuts to unnecessary and wasteful Pentagon spending.

Please do not yield to outrageous Republican demands that would greatly increase suffering for the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society. Now is the time to stand with the tens of millions of Americans who are struggling to survive economically, not with the millionaires and billionaires who have never had it so good.

As of this morning, more than 41,000 people have signed the letter.

A word about the hypocrisy of Republicans. They raised the debt ceiling five times when Bush was in office, doubling the National Debt without ever questioning the need for deficit spending.

UPDATE:
Americans’ disposable income has actually declined this year after adjusting for inflation. How long can President Obama ignore the fact we’re in a depression? Without consumer spending, how can the economy recover? Tax cuts for the rich got us nowhere.

UPDATE: Economist Mark Zandi says that if Republican congressional leaders force the nation into default, the fragile recovery will be “blown out of the water.” The entire global economy is based on trust and confidence. Just by making threats, the Republicans are doing major damage.

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Bipartisanship And BATNA

Monopoly money
This is the best possible bipartisan agreement – is it better than nothing?

Those of us who observed politics during the Clinton administration know that you have to pay careful attention to the exact words Bill Clinton uses, and never assume that he has said something he didn’t actually say. Yesterday at the White House, this is what Clinton said about the McConnell-Obama tax cuts for the rich:

“[T]he agreement taken as a whole is, I believe, the best bipartisan agreement we can reach to help the largest number of Americans…”

He did not say McConnell-Obama is the best possible agreement, and he did not say it is the best policy for the country as a whole. He said it is “the best bipartisan agreement we can reach” (emphasis added). Bill Clinton knows as well as anyone that the Party of NO (aka the Republican Party) refuses to compromise on taxes, and any “bipartisan agreement” means agreeing to surrender to the GOP.

CNN’s Fareed Zakaria is the latest observer to confirm that the McConnell-Obama deal was “lopsided in that the Republicans got exactly what they wanted.”

What we need to do is look at this objectively. President Obama’s goal may be to achieve bipartisanship at any cost (in this case, nearly $900 billion of our money). That’s not the right approach. The President would be well-advised to do what’s best for America. Under the present circumstances, refusing to make a deal with the Republicans would be better than any possible agreement. The Bush tax cuts are set to expire automatically on December 31 if Congress does not act. These tax cuts are the major cause of the long-term budget deficit problem.

In negotiation theory, the “best alternative to a negotiated agreement” or BATNA is the course of action that will be taken if negotiations fail and an agreement cannot be reached. A successful negotiator constantly keeps the BATNA in mind, and is prepared to walk away if the deal that is offered is worse than no agreement at all.

It’s very unlikely that Senator Bernie Sanders has enough to support to win a cloture vote on Monday and kill the McConnell-Obama deal. However, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has the power to keep this bad deal from reaching the House floor before the end of the 111th Congress.

Remember, getting President Obama to openly betray the 63 million Americans who voted for him was just the first part of the Republican plan. Next year the GOP-controlled House can be expected to declare federal deficits as the nation’s number one problem. Ignoring the need for economic recovery, including aid to state governments, they will try to cut budgets for non-defense programs. They will renew the assault on Social Security.

I’ve been keeping an eye on the right-wing blogs and it really seems they are laying low and keeping quiet. The Tea Party Patriots are opposed to McConnell-Obama, but there hasn’t been much coming from anybody else. Wasn’t extending the Bush tax cuts a big issue for the right? Why are we hearing crickets now?

UPDATE: I found an interesting commentary on The Right Sphere, which seems to be taking a wait-and-see position (emphasis added):

Moving forward, the GOP needs to tackle the budget. Cuts need to be made everywhere. They need to propose cuts over and over again and force Democrats to defend every single program run by the Federal Government. …

The only way this tax deal works is if it is followed up by these spending cuts. The GOP needs to prove that they understand that spending is the problem, not revenue. They need to pound on this message constantly: “Taxes aren’t spending. Spending is spending.” Many are very skeptical if the GOP even believes this and if they can deliver this message with policy.

UPDATE: Robert Reich: Why Bill Clinton’s Favorable View of Obama’s Tax Deal Should Be Disregarded

UPDATE: Jeff Cohen: President NAFTA Backs President SHAFTA

UPDATE: Obama-GOP Tax Cut Bill Turning Into ‘Christmas Tree’ Tinseled With Gifts For Lobbyists, Lawmakers

UPDATE: Rocky Anderson and 56 leading progressives sign an open letter calling for a protest in front of the White House on December 16th.

The election of Obama has not galvanized protest movements. To the contrary, it has depressed and undermined them, with the White House playing an active role in the discouragement and suppression of dissent – with disastrous consequences. The almost complete absence of protest from the left has emboldened the most right-wing elements inside and outside of the Obama administration to pursue and act on an ever more extreme agenda.


UPDATE:
Poll: Obama losing base support – Romney would beat him now

UPDATE: McCain Flashback: ‘I Would Clearly Support Not Extending [Bush] Tax Cuts In Order To Help Address The Deficit’ (That was six years ago, bet he thought we forgot).

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‘A Very Long Speech’ Worth Listening To

I watch way too much TV as it is, so I usually don’t turn on C-SPAN 2 (live stream). Except today I spent an hour or so listening to Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) patiently explaining why the McConnell-Obama Tax Cuts For The Rich are a really bad idea. Trickle-down theory won’t do anything for an America that’s plagued by severe unemployment, increasing inequality, an aging infrastructure, and a failing educational system. On Facebook, Senator Sanders explained his plan for not-exactly-a-filibuster, with the help of fellow Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA).

You can call what I am doing today whatever you want, you it call it a filibuster, you can call it a very long speech. I’m not here to set any great records or to make a spectacle. I am simply here today to take as long as I can to explain to the American people the fact that we have got to do a lot better than this agreement provides.

At this writing, the “very long speech” has gone past 6 hours. Unless a lot of other senators listen to reason, and reject the McConnell-Obama deal, a real filibuster won’t survive a cloture vote on Monday.

More info:

VIDEO: Sens. Sanders, Brown, And Landrieu Conduct Mock Filibuster To Voice Criticism Of Tax Deal
Bernie Sanders: Waste of time or proving a point? (POLL)
Bernie Sanders’ Long Speech Raises Attention to Tax Cut Deal
Obama-Republican Deal Could Mean Tax Hike For One In Three Workers
Tax Cuts for the Rich Are Pure Insanity at This Point: Obama has to put an end to this madness

UPDATE: C-SPAN has a video of the entire 8 1/2 hour speech. I think it might have been the longest Senate speech since Strom Thurmond’s attack on the Civil Rights Act in 1957.

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