Tag Archives: Obstructionists

Hero of the Week Award, November 22: Democrats in the U.S. Senate

22 Nov

GraphCongratulations to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D – NV) and the Democratic caucus in the U.S. Senate. After years of abuse and obstruction by the GOP, they finally said, “ENOUGH.” Unable to get a simple up-and-down vote on three recent nominees to the DC Circuit Court, Reid made it clear that the Republicans had violated both the spirit and letter of every agreement made in the past few years about Presidential nominees. Even some long-standing holdouts — like Sen. Feinstein and Boxer of California and Sen. Leahy of Vermont — realized that this level of obstruction must be stopped. It’s about time.

I think it might be helpful to have a  brief history lesson: In 1917 the Senate created a method for ending filibusters, the cloture vote. It originally required a 2/3 majority and was revised down to a 3/5 majority. Both filibusters and cloture votes were used sparingly. In 1975, the non-speaking filibuster arrived, creating the model we’ve seen grow over the past few years. Just saying one intended to block a vote counted as a requirement for cloture. Even then, however, use was relatively rare.

Since President Obama took office, the Republicans have done everything they can to obstruct him. Their extraordinary use of the virtual filibuster has served as a way to nullify his election and especially his re-election–it is difficult for me not to see a racist agenda here. They didn’t like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau but couldn’t repeal the law, so they filibustered the President’s nominees. (That resulted in the election of Sen. Warren of Massachusetts, so they shot themselves in the foot with that one!) They want to keep the federal courts as conservative as possible, so multiple judges have been blocked. One might ask, one should ask: this type of block voting says two things: one, the GOP is not interested in serving all citizens of the United States, and two, where is there room for independent thinking and creating partnerships?

The so-called Nuclear Option that changed the rules only required a majority vote and it succeeded. For the rest of this Congress, any Presidential nominee except for Supreme Court justices will only require a simple majority to be approved. That ends a major logjam and takes a critical piece of obstruction away from the GOP. Given how broken the filibuster is, something more might be needed, but this is an excellent start. I might suggest that something more to be removing John Boehner as the Speaker of the House.

Of course the GOP is screaming with rage, even though they could have stopped the rules change simply by sticking to the agreements they had made. It’s amusing to note that one of the biggest whiners, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R – KY), threatened the very same thing when Democrats invoked far fewer cloture votes on Pres. Bush’s nominees. Hypocrisy much?

This change is long overdue. Big thanks to the trio of senators who have pushed hard to help make the Senate work again, Tom Harkin (IA), Jeff Merkley (OR), and Tom Udall (NM).

A related honorable mention goes to the ever wonderful Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D – NY). She’s been pushing hard for reform in military justice protocols to help stem the tide of sexual abuse and assaults. When senior Democrats pushed to water down her bill, she stood firm and now has majority support for real reforms.  Gillibrand is one of the best civil servants the United States currently has.

Fiscal Cliff Notes: The Truth About Taxes

5 Dec
Warren Buffett: A Sensible BIllionaire

Warren Buffett: A Sensible BIllionaire

Almost as soon as the 2012 Presidential election was called for Barack Obama, the media and collective punditry turned their attention to another issue, the so-called “Fiscal Cliff.” (Sounds scary, doesn’t it? Picture Harry Reid and John Boehner driving a convertible armored car, Thelma and Louise style….) It’s important to dial back the drama and look at what’s really going on with the Federal budget. The current situation is called a cliff because of the steep reductions in the deficit that will be triggered if no other action is taken before December 31. Am I the only experiencing déjà vu here caused by obstructionist Republicans? Many automatic spending cuts will begin; various safety net and stimulus funds will diminish or end (such as unemployment benefits); tax rates for all Americans will go up.

Taxation is the issue which will matter the soonest and has become the sticking point in the current debate. The other issues ease in over the year with plenty of time for Congress to (re)consider them. Tax rates will go up on January paychecks.

President Obama campaigned — and WON — on a promise to keep taxes low for poor and middle class Americans and to restore slightly higher rates for the wealthiest 2% (albeit we still do not address those living in poverty the way we should, but I shall save that for another soap box opportunity). Under his plan, nearly $1 TRILLION in additional revenue would be realized by increasing the top rate by about 4% and the dividends rate by 5%. This will happen automatically when the Bush tax cuts end at the close of the year. Unfortunately, so will tax cuts for the other 98%, resulting in a relatively more painful income reduction for most families.

Sadly, because of the way the tax code is structured, the overall impact of the change is much worse the less you make. The New York Times has some wonderfully detailed charts that explain how this happens. It boils down to three things:

  • In general, higher earners rely less on wages and more on investments which are taxed at a lower level, so raising income taxes hits lower earners harder.
  • Payroll taxes are capped at about $100,000 of income, so earning more than that does not result in higher levels of these taxes, making the overall rate lower.
  • Corporate taxes, which are disproportionately borne by higher bracket payers (and then passed along to their customers…) are also historically low and are not even on the bargaining table.tax-rates

Teapublicans and Weeper In Chief Boehner whine that taxes are too high as it is and that raising them will hurt small businesses and job creation. The facts — and a little history — call them liars. Independent analysts note that less than 8% of small businesses would pay the higher tax rates. Even more significantly, a majority of small business owners in a recent poll expressed little concern over the tax rates. They are much more worried about changes in Medicare, which is a central element in the Republican plan.

The Times site mentioned above shows that taxes are lower than they’ve been in 30 years. In fact, as this handy chart demonstrates, Republican president Eisenhower left office with tax rates significantly higher and a booming economy. Tax reform is important, but it should heed the advice of Warren Buffett: a millionaire should pay a higher rate than should his or her (mostly his, by the way) employees.

Boehner can complain all he likes, but if he does nothing, everyone’s taxes will go up. The Senate passed a fair bill months ago that is languishing in the House. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, demonstrating true leadership again, is working on an administrative process to force it to a vote so that 98% of American’s can get the fairness they deserve. President Obama has made it clear that he’ll support the bill. Will the lame duck House allow petulance to trump action? It remains to be seen. One thing they should note: the majority of Americans will hold the GOP accountable if we start heading over the cliff.

Bigot of the Week Award: November 30, U.S. House Leadership

30 Nov

Bigots of the Week

Rumor has it that elephants never forget. It seems like the lumbering mastodon of the GOP never learns. In this month’s historic elections, American voters sent the most diverse group to Congress ever. Record numbers of women, African Americans, Latinos, LGB Americans, and other minorities are represented. So what did Speaker Boehner (R – is for Racist) do? He appointed all white men to be chairs of the House committees.

That’s right, there isn’t a minority heading even a small committee. You’d think an overgrown, tearful Oompaloompa like Boehner would be more sensitive, but apparently not.

Now, to be fair, there just aren’t that many minorities in the Republican House caucus, so the choices are limited (and usually creepy). After an election where the GOP got slapped down for its misogyny, racism, and homophobia, however, you’d think they would have made an effort. Maybe they could have borrowed one of Mitt Romney’s binders to find someone.

I can only think of one explanation. Since Romneybot 2012 cost the party the White House, maybe they are compensating by displaying their own white House. What do you think?

A dishonorable mention goes to Dr. Oz for thinking that it is acceptable to offer “reparative therapy” tips on his show.  Shame on you Dr. Oz!

Romney/Ryan: A Tale Of Taxes and Obstructionists…

17 Sep

This is a sad but accurate tale of of hypocrisy, homophobia, misogyny, class war, and racism.  Oh, where to start? Let us start with the lies and hypocrisy of taxes.  Romney still refuses to make public his tax returns (should raise a red flag there people) while demanding that his vice-presidential candidate make public his tax returns for the last ten years — this type of hypocrisy and lack of transparency are NOT presidential material.

The economy: I grow ever weary of the blatant lies spewed from the venomous mouths of Romney and Rand, oops, I meant Ryan, regarding the economy.  More hypocrisy.  Ryan and the ever tearful Boehner are the architects of the obstructionist movement, blocking every jobs bill proposed by President Obama. The GOP continue to engage in a class war by categorically refusing to raise taxes on the wealthiest of Americans, while proposing to cut social programs such as medicare. (Sorry Granny, but you got to work until you drop.)

Repealing Civil Rights: The Tea Party/Republicans have devolved so significantly that they are now running on a platform that vows to repeal people’s civil rights — how does this not sicken the American people? As though it was not bad enough that Republican males want to own all vaginas, now they are talking about “legitimate rape,” how does this not terrify all of us?  How is this less government control? How is it less government control and fiscally sound to repeal the civil rights of the LGBTQ community and spend taxpayer dollars on defending DOMA?  How is it smaller government to police women and demand control of women’s bodies?

I am genuinely asking here, what is it about the Romney/Ryan ticket that is appealing? Perhaps it has something to do with this rare moment of honest insight from Rick (the ‘P’ is silent) Santorum at the ironically named Values Voter Summit:

We will never have the elite, smart people on our side.

I am truly nonplused. Or is that repulsed?  When did Republicans start to take such pride in ignorance? I have been desperately trying to understand people voting for Romney, for there are a handful of people that I love dearly who are casting their ballots for this duo.  How do I not take it personally as a gay man that I have friends and family voting for bigots that are working to repeal my civil rights, who assert I am less than human?

The Laborer and the Economy…

3 Sep

The American Dream demands a fair chance for everyone

Labor Day was started in 1882 by labor unions, but it would be many more years before it would be recognized as a Federal Holiday. Oregon was the first state to recognize and honor Labor Day in 1887.  Finally in 1894, it became a national holiday on the first Monday in September under the Cleveland Administration.  Congress passed it unanimously, a very rare event indeed.

Reflecting back, the United States can proudly celebrate the influence of its labor unions and how they have helped to protect the too often marginalized and voiceless.  The Triangle Shirtwaist Company Fire proved there was still a great deal of work to be accomplished by the labor movement.  Labor Unions also worked to protect children and helped to establish an eight hour work day, fair wage laws, and breaks for safety and meals.

Sadly, America seems to be losing its appreciation of Labor Unions while privileging profit over people.  Thanks to President Clinton’s NAFTA and similar agreements as well as vulture capitalists like Mitt Romney, we find our country sending jobs to other countries where we exploit workers for pennies and then leave those countries to find even cheaper labor.

Even sadder is that when President Obama proposes work bills for the unemployed, all of the bills are met with categorical Republican Obstructionists. All this does is end up hurting the everyday worker in the Unites States.  I have to say it takes a great deal of chutzpah for people like Romney and Ryan to talk about solving issues of the economy when Ryan has been one of the architects of the Great Obstructionist Movement, privileging the rich while crushing and reducing the middle class.

On a personal note, it also saddens me that people like Romney and Ryan are working hard to allow companies like Chick-Fil-A to discriminate against the LGBTQ community and deny us employment for being gay.  At the Federal level, pointless votes are taken to repeal the Affordable Care Act, money is wasted defending the clearly unconstitutional DOMA, and the war on women has the House attacking birth control and Planned Parenthood. They bleat about jobs and the economy but do nothing, while at the state level the Scott Walkers are dismantling unions and isolating workers from the political process.

Labor Day isn’t just an excuse for a long weekend or a chance to grill an extra hot dog before autumn sets in. It’s a chance to reflect on the work that is done at all levels of our society and the value of all that labor. It’s a chance to celebrate the collaboration that makes work better and working conditions safer. In the words of the great Joe Hill (as sung by Billy Bragg, thanks to my husband for the choice of Bragg):

Now I long for the morning that they realise
Brutality and unjust laws can not defeat us
But who’ll defend the workers who cannot organise
When the bosses send their lackeys out to cheat us?

Money speaks for money, the Devil for his own
Who comes to speak for the skin and the bone
What a comfort to the widow, a light to the child

There is power in a Union.

Happy Labor Day to all of our brothers and sisters that have to work today and that have no pension, no health benefits, and are at the poverty line.

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