Tell Your Member of Congress To Vote For The ‘Better Off Budget’

Tell your member of Congress (MOC) to vote for the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) “Better Off Budget’ (BOB). Click to call.

This week the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the “Ryan”/Republican corporate/conservative budget and the CPC “Better Off Budget.” This is a chance to offer the country a real and visible contrast that clearly shows off the advantages of a progressive approach to our economy over a conservative/corporate approach to our economy.

Please call and write your member of Congress and ask him or her to vote for the “Better Off Budget” from the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

CLICK TO CALL

The “Ryan” Republican Corporate/Conservative Budget

Rep. Paul Ryan’s Republican corporate/conservative budget favors the interests of the wealthiest few Americans and their giant multinational corporations at the expense of American-based manufacturers and other companies, America’s middle class working people and the poor. It actually takes heath care and protections away from millions of people, transforms Medicare towards a complicated voucher system for the profit of insurance companies and drastically cuts the “safety net” that now enables millions of poor and unemployed Americans to get by, (even as Republicans obstruct increases in the minimum wage and extending unemployment benefits for millions.)

  • The Republican budget cuts taxes on the wealthy and corporations. (Millionaires get an average tax cut of $200,000)
  • The Republican budget cuts $5.1 trillion from things government does to make our lives better.
  • The Republican budget keeps and expands loopholes in corporate taxes that encourage companies to move jobs and factories out of the country.
  • The Republican budget repeals the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), leaving millions with no insurance or possibility of getting insurance.
  • The Republican budget cuts Pell Grants for attending college by more than $125 billion over the next decade.
  • The Republican budget makes deep cuts to Medicaid, converts the program to a block grant administered at the state level, and repeals the Medicaid expansion.
  • The Republican budget cuts Food Stamps (SNAP) by at least $135 billion and converts the program to a block grant.
  • The Republican budget cuts domestic programs substantially – nearing 20 percent in some cases – for total cuts of $791 billion over a decade.
  • The Republican budget increases military spending by $483 billion.

According to Joshua Smith at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) the Republican budget “would decrease GDP by 0.9 percent and decrease nonfarm payrolls by 1.1 million jobs in fiscal year 2015… The following fiscal year, when Ryan’s cuts to discretionary spending kick in … [it] would decrease GDP by 2.5 percent and cost 3.0 million jobs.”

The Congressional Progressive Caucus “Better Off Budget”

The CPC “Better Off Budget” translates progressive values into a national budget that puts people to work, invests in our infrastructure and economy to drive our future prosperity, assists and provides greater opportunity for the less fortunate, protects our environment, drives down future budget deficits and demonstrates how a progressive approach actually addresses and fixes a number of our pressing national problems.

Here are some of the things this budget would do for the country if passed:

  • The CPC “Better Off Budget” increases employment by 4.6 million jobs in 2015 – 9 million by 2017 – and boosts gross domestic product (GDP) by 3.8 percent.
  • The CPC “Better Off Budget” increases taxes on the wealthiest by restoring Clinton tax rates for households making over $250,000 and implements new brackets for those making over $1 million.
  • The CPC “Better Off Budget” cuts out corporate tax loopholes that encourage companies to move jobs out of the country.
  • The CPC “Better Off Budget” ends subsidies provided to oil, gas and coal companies.
  • The CPC “Better Off Budget” enacts a Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) on various financial market transactions to protect markets from excessive speculation and rigged high-speed trading.
  • The CPC “Better Off Budget” adds a public option and expanding payment reforms to Obamacare, and allows states to transition to single-payer health care systems.
  • The CPC “Better Off Budget” addresses the climate change crisis by enacting a price on carbon pollution while “holding low-income families harmless” – meaning paying back what they are taxed.
  • The CPC “Better Off Budget” restores food stamp – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – benefits and restores unemployment insurance.
  • The CPC “Better Off Budget” creates jobs in our building and construction industries with funds to repair and modernize roads, bridges, water and other infrastructure.
  • The CPC “Better Off Budget” includes a direct-hire Public Works and Education program that will hire physicians, students, construction and community workers, and an education program boost to hire more teachers and improve schools.
  • The CPC “Better Off Budget” enhances federal programs targeted at creating equity and improving outcomes for women, people of color, and their families.
  • The CPC “Better Off Budget” provides assistance to states to allow them to hire and rehire public employees such as police, firefighters and health care workers.
  • The CPC “Better Off Budget” invests in clean and renewable energy, which creates middle-class jobs, boosts the economy, and cuts pollution.

But wait, there’s more!

  • The CPC “Better Off Budget” implements comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship.
  • The CPC “Better Off Budget” funds public financing of campaigns to curb special interest influence in politics.
  • The CPC “Better Off Budget” endorses “Scrapping the Cap” – it would require high-income individuals to contribute payroll taxes at the same rate as people earning less than $100,000 a year – and expanding Social Security benefits separately from the federal budget process.

What The Public Wants

Here’s the thing: The CPC “Better Off Budget” respects what the American people want Washington to do. Take a look at the website Populist Majority to see what the polls show. It also fixes a number of America’s serious problems, like jobs and infrastructure, addresses climate change, and gets to work on helping people out of poverty. At the same time the public really does not like the things that are in this Republican budget.

If enough Democrats support the CPC “Better Off Budget,” the public will have the opportunity to see that we have real and different choices in the Fall elections.

Please call and write your member of Congress and ask him or her to vote for the “Better Off Budget” from the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

CLICK TO CALL

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary

Why Did We Invade Iraq?

With the Russian takeover of Crimea we are seeing just a bit of the damage done to the world by the invastion of Iraq. We used to be able to say, with some authority, “This is wrong, you shouldn’t do it.” But now everyone can say, “What are you talking about? You invaded Iraq based on a bunch of obvious lies.”

We the People have a right to know why this all happened, don’t we? We need a Truth Commission that investigates how the Bush administration led us to war, how the media was complicit, who made money from it, who tortured people, who allowed “contractors” to act with impunity, etc.

Also, there’s this: Why We Did It, a Rachel Maddow documentary:

No Fast Track To TPP: Fix NAFTA First

The big corporations and the Obama administration are trying to push through a giant new trade treaty that gives corporations even more power, and which will send even more jobs, factories, industries and money out of the country. This is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and they are pushing something called “fast track” in Congress to help push it through.

We have to stop this, and we should take the momentum we have generated in our push-back on this to demand Congress and President Obama instead fix NAFTA first. Then fix all of our trade relationships to help working people on all sides of our borders.

TPP, Fast Track And NAFTA

There has been a lot of news about the upcoming TPP trade agreement. The agreement is being negotiated in extreme secrecy in a corporate-dominated process that appears to be leading to an agreement that would give corporations even more power than they already have. Now there is a push to pass a process called fast track through Congress in order to enable the large corporations to strong-arm TPP into law mobilized organizations around the country to sound the alarm.

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National Media Blackout Of Saturday’s Huge Moral March In Raleigh

A crowd declared by organizers to exceed 80,000 showed up to march to protest Republican policies in Raleigh, N.C. Saturday. But you wouldn’t know it if you live outside the area.

Saturday’s big march, organized by the North Carolina NAACP along with more than 160 partner organizations, was called “the Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) People’s Coalition.” Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the N.C. NAACP and convener of HKonJ, said at the march,

“We are black, white, Latino, Native American. We are Democrat, Republican, independent. We are people of all faiths, and people not of faith but who believe in a moral universe. We are natives and immigrants, business leaders and workers and unemployed, doctors and the uninsured, gay and straight, students and parents and retirees. We stand here – a quilt of many colors, faiths, and creeds.”

Local News Reports

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New Budget CUTS Tax Collection

You’ve heard about that new budget Congress passed that cuts Food Stamps another $8 billion? Here’s another brilliant cut Democrats agreed to: cutting funding for tax collection.

Citizens for Tax Justice: The Dumbest Spending Cut in the New Budget Deal,

The newly passed $1.1 trillion bipartisan budget appropriations bill includes myriad spending cuts, but the $526 million cut to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has to be the most foolish. Under the new budget, the IRS’s 2014 budget will be $11.3 billion, which is $1.7 billion less than the administration requested and about $2.5 billion higher than the radical 25 percent cut proposed by some House Republicans earlier this year.

… The newly passed $1.1 trillion bipartisan budget appropriations bill includes myriad spending cuts, but the $526 million cut to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has to be the most foolish. Under the new budget, the IRS’s 2014 budget will be $11.3 billion, which is $1.7 billion less than the administration requested and about $2.5 billion higher than the radical 25 percent cut proposed by some House Republicans earlier this year.

Thaysay they are worried about “deficits?” Bullshit. That’s not what the austerity is about at all.

So Why DID We Invade Iraq?

So why DID we invade iraq, anyway?

We know for a fact it had nothing to do with “WMD.” We went through this huge sell-job, the “run-up.” The whole country was whipped into a terrified frenzy. Do you remember being told we would be attacked with smallpox, and all the news stories about what smallpox can do to a person, does Iraq have it, how will they spread it, etc?

For that matter, why did we get into the Vietnam war? No one ever answered that one, either.

If we had self-government maybe people could get our Congress to investigate these things…

Senate Democrats: Change Filibuster Rules, Make Them Talk

Republicans filibustered the extension of unemployment benefits on the Senate floor Tuesday. Why? Because they can get away with it. Look at how the press reported what happened.

If the public doesn’t know that filibusters are occurring, how can democracy hold Republicans accountable for doing it? Instead they hear from the corporate media that the bill is “stalled,” “the Senate failed” or “the Senate deadlocks” due to “finger-pointing” or “partisan squabbling.” What message does the public get from that? Probably that they shouldn’t bother to vote.

The New York Times: “Unemployment Extension Is Stalled, With 2 Proposals Defeated in the Senate“: “Unemployment benefits for 1.3 million of the long-term unemployed — and millions more in the future — were imperiled on Tuesday after Senate efforts to reach accord on legislation to revive them collapsed in partisan finger-pointing.”

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GOP Economic Sabotage Continues With Filibuster of Jobless Benefits

Republicans are engaged in yet more hostage-taking obstruction. (Whatever gave them the idea that hostage-taking can work?) They are engaged in a filibuster of the effort to extend unemployment insurance, using it as a hostage to try to get even more cuts to the things government does to make our lives better. Their “pay-for” demand is really a demand for Democrats to agree to even more economic sabotage.

Senate Republicans Monday continued to fight Democratic efforts to pass an extension of federal unemployment insurance benefits for people who have been out of work longer than 26 weeks. Traditionally our government has provided this assistance to unemployed workers at times of high unemployment. This is an “automatic stabilizer,” meaning that this assistance helps stop the downward spirals that occur when business hit recession. Unemployed workers aren’t forced to pull back from paying mortgages or rent, or buying food and other basic needs, which then causes even more unemployment.

Many feel this economic stabilization effect is the reason Republican oppose the extension. They suspect Republicans want the loss of this assistance to cause more layoffs, foreclosures and economic hardship. This way the economy looks worse as the 2014 elections approach, and voters will turn on what they perceive as the “party in charge” – namely the Democrats.

By requiring “pay-fors” – cuts somewhere else – in exchange for allowing this assistance to the unemployed, they are removing the economic boost that the program provides, causing damage to the economy. In other words: they are engaged in economic sabotage.

One such proposal from Republicans is to stop working people with disabilities from claiming both Social Security Disability Insurance and federal unemployment benefits. Cutting this really means preventing people with disabilities from taking the risk of going out and working to see if they can get off of disability. Michael Hiltzik writes about this at the Los Angeles Times in “An awful idea: Hammer the disabled to pay for unemployment benefits”:

It uniquely burdens the disabled among all workers, and it sets a terrible precedent of raiding Social Security to pay for other social programs.

… The idea that disabled persons are “double-dipping” by collecting wages or other compensation while also getting a disability check is enshrined in conservative attacks on disability. But it’s untrue. The Social Security disability program is designed as a bridge to full employment. Its benefits aren’t intended as a substitute for wages, but a supplement.

Michael Tomasky writes about the hostage-taking involved here in “The Fight Over Unemployment Benefits Underscores the Right’s Extremism” at The Daily Beast:

Republicans are insisting on cuts from elsewhere in the federal budget to pay for the benefits’ $6.4 billion cost. And Democrats are talking with them. But there’s no progress yet. In fact, it seems today that even the six Republicans who voted in the Senate last week to allow debate to proceed would not vote to extend the benefits just yet.

[. . .] if Democrats win, great. But it looks like they’ll only win by agreeing to the pay-for demand, which means that there’ll be new demands next time. There’s no end to how far right these people will go.

Richard Eskow (who really should have a column in the New York Times) writes about the economic sabotage of “pay for” in “No, Congress, You Shouldn’t “Pay For” Extending Unemployment Insurance”:

The simple truth is, Democrats are still being outmaneuvered by Republicans on economic policy. They’re letting the GOP call the shots, rhetorically, even though Republicans lost two out of three seats of federal government (the Senate and White House). They even lost the total popular vote for the House of Representatives.

… Here’s a better idea: Don’t try to pay for extended unemployment benefits. Don’t boast, as Reid did last week, that the extension is “entirely paid for.” Sure, Democrats will eventually need to make a deal – if they can – in order to extend unemployment insurance benefits. But why aren’t they first making the case against “paying for” those benefits on the Republicans’ terms?

Why aren’t Democrats instead speaking up against the “pay for” logic that gives a free pass to the wealthy and corporations – especially when the total cost is a blip, a rounding error, on a $1 trillion 2014 federal budget?

Economically, “pay for” is a Catch-22: It means every job-creating proposal must be offset with job-killing cuts elsewhere.

5 Reasons To Extend Unemployment Insurance

The AFL-CIO Now blog offers “5 Reasons Congress Must Extend Unemployment Insurance.” (Click through for details, charts and links.)

1. The long-term unemployment rate is higher than ever before.
2. The typical unemployed worker has been out of work longer than ever before.
3. More unemployed workers are running out of benefits than ever before.
4. The unemployment rate remains unacceptably high.
5. There are still three job seekers for every job opening.

Call To Action

The Coalition on Human Needs wants us to “tell your senators to renew federal unemployment insurance now, before the next recess, and don’t tie renewal to harmful amendments like denying the Child Tax Credit to low-income immigrant families or denying aid to unemployed workers with disabilities.”

If you haven’t called your senators yet (or even if you have!) please call 1-877-267-2485 (Toll Free). (Thanks to AFSCME for making this toll-free number available.)

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary

A Moral And Economic Imperative To Extend Unemployment Benefits

Federal unemployment assistance for 1.3 million people who have been unemployed longer than 26 weeks expired last Saturday, after Republicans blocked efforts to extend them. 3.6 million more people will lose these benefits over this year. Restoring these benefits is a moral, economic and political imperative.

On Monday the Senate will hold the first procedural vote on bringing back unemployment benefits for people who have been out of work longer than 26 weeks. The hope is to break a Republican filibuster so the extension can be passed and sent to the House (where Republicans will likely refuse to even allow it to come up for a vote).

Click here to Tell Congress to Extend Unemployment Benefits.

A Moral Imperative

When the financial crisis hit the country provided assistance to (“bailed out”) the largest banks. We have a moral imperative to also help our fellow citizens. A democracy provides assistance for people who need help. A fair and just society provides assistance for people who need help. A moral society provides assistance for people who need help.

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Who Will Fight To Help The Unemployed?

At the beginning of November, the poor went over the “Hunger Cliff” as Food Stamps were cut. Now long-term unemployment assistance will run out at the end of December. Regular people think the government has given up on them. They have been hit by one blow after another, with little or no help in sight. They see shutdowns and budget cuts at the very time the government needs to spend more to help Americans.

This is part of the Republican effort to turn Americans against government, because the public will blame Democrats. Democrats have to stop letting Republicans get away with it, and return to being seen as trying to help the unemployed and poor.

Long-Term Unemployment Assistance Running Out

In a few days, long-term unemployment benefits run out in spite of a “budget deal.” This cutoff of long-term aid means that in most states aid will end after a person is unemployed for 26 weeks, and in other states even less - some dramatically less. It occurs at a time when the average length of unemployment is 37 weeks, and there is still only one job for every three people still bothering to look for work.

1.3 million people will lose this assistance immediately, just after Christmas. By mid-2014 another 2 million will lose this aid as well.

“If my wife loses her benefit before she finds a job, we lose our house.” – Philadelphia resident.

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Sleight Of Hand On Retirement vs Military

In a Washington Post piece complaining that democracy is “pandering” to voters, Charles Lane writes it is wrong to talk about increasing Social Security because of the country’s “limited resources.” (Note, the country was running a huge budget surplus before Bush’s tax cuts for the rich and doubling the military budget.) He writes,

The issue, however, is how to spend the federal government’s limited resources. After national defense, the next two largest items in the fiscal 2013 federal budget were Social Security and Medicare, programs mostly for retirees.

Lane writes that “the rich can be tapped only so many times” so there is no point trying to increases taxes on the wealthy. Huh? The top tax rate was 90%, and then 70% before Reagan, and the corporate tax rate was 50%. We would at least return to this and see what happens.

But look at what is missing in the discussion. We spend more on military than all other countries combined. But cutting that down to a reasonable size isn’t even part of this discussion. Why not?