The Democrat/Republican Divide On Social Security

The differences between Democratic presidential candidates and most Republican candidates on Social Security — and retirement security in general — could emerge as a “sleeper issue” in the 2016 campaign.

Friday’s post, Martin O’Malley Offers Strong Plan To Expand Retirement Security, looked at the retirement crisis facing aging Americans and Democratic presidential candidates Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders’ plans to boost retirement security. (Hillary Clinton has not released plan beyond saying she would be open to raising the income cap on Social Security taxes to help shore up the program’s finance.)

These candidates want to expand retirement security because Democrats generally have a “we are all in this together” and “it takes a village” approach to taking care of each other, which includes the elderly. Republicans have a very different “each of us on our own” approach to society. This applies to retirement security with Republicans largely believing that retirement income and even to a large extent healthcare should be more, or even entirely, up to the individual.

Most current Republican presidential candidates, with the notable exception of Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee, follow this “on your own” philosophy, offering plans to raise the retirement age, raise the early retirement age, means-test benefits, cut benefits, partially privatize it with some of the money going into Wall Street-managed personal accounts or just privatize the program entirely with all of it going into Wall Street-managed personal accounts. (Note that God/Mother Turtle likes to weigh in with coincident stock-market drops when Republicans start discussing putting Social Security into stock. The stock market dropped 1000 points last week, and has fallen more than 10% recently.)

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Where Are The Democratic Debates?

I was wondering when there will be Democratic Party Presidential debates. So I looked up how the debates worked in the 2008 cycle. 2007 corresponds to 2015 in this cycle.

The first debate was April 26, 2007, at South Carolina State University, Orangeburg, South Carolina. Present were Senator Joesph Biden, Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Christopher Dodd, John Edwards, Mike Gravel, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Senator Barack Obama, Governor William Richardson and the debate was moderated by Brian Williams.

Then, up to today’s (Aug. 5) date there was:

June 3, 2007 at Saint Anselm College, Goffstown, New Hampshire
June 28, 2007 at Howard University, Washington, D.C.
July 12, 2007 at NAACP convention, Detroit, Michigan
July 23, 2007 at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina
August 4, 2007 at the YearlyKos convention in Chicago, Illinois

There had already been 6 debates between the Democratic candidates by this point. In the rest of August alone there were 3 more, August 7, August 9 and August 19.

What about the rest of 2007?

September 9, September 12, September 20, September 26, October 30, November 15, December 4 and December 13.

So by comparison, how are we doing so far in the 2016 cycle? And why is that?

I Want To Support Clinton, Too, But…

Like everyone I am in contact with (everyone who knows who he is, anyway) Bernie Sanders has my heart. But I really want to support Hillary Clinton, too!

But this is getting ridiculous. TPP, Keystone…

Here is her statement on an issue I will not name, because it is her basic answer on every issue:

“On the XXXX itself, again, I think, we have to look to see what are the pluses and minuses that are embodied in a decision,” she said. “I’ve obviously looked at the arguments on both sides, and I think we’ll gather more information and that will perhaps give us a better path forward.”

Hillary’s strategy is to sit on her big lead, and not say anything that will hurt her with the big donors.

Senate Fast Track Vote Tuesday – Where Is Clinton?

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has scheduled the voting process for trade promotion authority, commonly known as “fast track,” to begin as early as Tuesday. If passed, fast track prohibits the Congress from amending trade agreements no matter what problems might show up, requires these agreements to be voted on within 90 days, limits the debate Congress is allowed and prohibits filibusters.

Passing fast track will essentially pre-approve the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “trade” agreement before the public gets a chance to know what is in it, as well as future trade deals regardless of who is president or what the rigged, corporate-dominated negotiating process produces.

With a vote coming as soon as Tuesday, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has not yet spoken out for or against fast track.

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As Fast Track/TPP Becomes New Third Rail, Where Is Clinton?

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — and the rigged “Fast Track” process designed to pass it before the public has a chance to react — has become a new “third rail” for progressives and the activist Democratic “base.” (This is also true on the right, by the way.)

This game-rigging is creating a race to the bottom for people and the planet. The thing is: more and more people are seeing it. And more and more people are asking Hillary Clinton to lead the fight against it.

A Rigged Game

People are fed up with the rigged “trade” game that pits American wages, environmental regulations, consumer protections and other benefits of democracy against exploitative, paid-off, non-democracies. “Free trade” has made democracy’s good wages and environmental and safety protections into a competitive disadvantage in world markets.

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Is The Democratic Party Relevant Anymore?

Many Democrats examining what happened in the 2014 midterms are asking “what did the voters want?” But the right question is why did only 36.4 percent of potential voters bother to register and vote? Obviously Democrats did not give those voters a good enough reason to take the trouble. Is the Democratic Party relevant anymore?

“New Coke” Democrats

In 1985 Coca-Cola was the market leader, but Pepsi was gaining market share. Coca-Cola’s executives panicked and reformulated its flavor to taste like the more-sugary Pepsi. But Pepsi drinkers already drank Pepsi and Coca-Cola drinkers were left with no brand that they liked. If this sounds like an analogy to the Democratic Party consultants who keep urging Democratic candidates and politicians to be more like Republicans, that’s because it is.

Democrats were considered the majority party from the time of Roosevelt’s New Deal until the 1980s. All they had to do to win was to get a high enough voter turnout. Democratic operations were more about Get Out The Vote (GOTV) than giving people reasons to vote for Democrats instead of Republicans. They just assumed most people agreed with them – because most people agreed with them. But that time has passed.

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With Election Over, First Order Of Business Is $450B In Corporate Tax Breaks

The election is over. Congress is back in Washington. The first order of business after the election is to give big tax breaks to the corporations – $450 billion worth. Fortunately, President Obama is trying to do something about this.

Tax Extenders

Every year Congress renews a package of “temporary” corporate tax breaks. The renewal process is called “tax extenders” because they extend the term of these temporary breaks. So now the Congress is working on this year’s extenders package, except this time it wants to just make many of them (the ones that mostly give handouts to giant corporations and campaign donors) permanent. The Washington Post calls this process “a periodic bonanza for lobbyists.”

A few of the special tax breaks in the extenders package are really good and serve an important purpose. For example, part of the package is tax credits that provide incentives to invest in renewable energy. But most others are just giveaways and handouts to the already-wealthy, like depreciation tax breaks for people who own racehorses. (Yes, really.) Even worse, some of these are loopholes that actually encourage corporations to shift U.S. profits offshore into tax havens. (Yes, really.)

The good breaks are used to grease the wheels to slip these special favors through – as in “if you want to get those wind tax credits you’re going to have to pass a tax break for Mitt Romney’s racehorses.”

The media is reporting that Congress is near a deal on these extenders. The deal kills several “good” tax breaks that help working people and the middle class, like an expanded child tax credit for the working poor and expanded earned-income credit. The deal phases out the wind power tax credit after 2017.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) pointed out that companies that renounce their U.S. citizenship would even get special breaks from this deal:

“The package would provide a permanent boon to large corporations, even those that renounce their U.S. citizenship and invert,” he said. “And adding insult to injury, the proposed deal chooses to leave behind working families and would make things harder for millions of Americans. …The overall package is simply unacceptable and adds more than $400 billion to the debt. We need to grow the middle class, not punish those working hard to get by while always giving preferences and priority treatment to big corporations who can hire high-priced, well-funded lobbyists.”

Not Paid For

These tax breaks are not “paid for” – they just add to the deficit. Remember how Congress rejected providing benefits for the long-term unemployed because they were not “paid for?” Congress won’t fix the country’s infrastructure because doing so is not “paid for.” Even disaster relief had to be “paid for!”

But none of these corporate tax breaks and loopholes being considered are “paid for” – but for some reason this isn’t a problem – this time. Because racehorses. Anyway, we’re only talking about $450 billion.

President Says He Will Veto

The President says he will veto this deal if it reaches his desk. Roll Call has the story, in, “Obama Would Veto Corporate Tax Cut Bill“:

President Barack Obama would veto an emerging $450 billion tax cut deal coming together in the Senate because it doesn’t do enough for the middle class, according to the White House.

“The President would veto the proposed deal because it would provide permanent tax breaks to help well-connected corporations while neglecting working families,” said Jen Friedman, deputy White House press secretary.

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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 and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

2014 Election Lesson: Politics Is About Delivering For Your Constituents

Politics is about delivering for your constituents. Underneath it all, this election was a statement by people against an economy that is not working for them.

We’ve heard the story but here it is again.

  • Most people say the country is still in a recession as far as their own life is concerned.
  • All the gains of the recovery went to the top 10 percent.
  • Middle-class incomes are down.
  • The new jobs in the economy pay less than the jobs people lost.
  • People are not able to find good jobs. Lots of people have given up looking for work.
  • Student debt is at crushing levels.
  • Etc. Etc. Etc.

The Republican strategy since 2009 was to obstruct any and all efforts to make things better for people, and then campaign on people’s dissatisfaction with things not being better for them. It worked. You can blame Republicans all you want, but the fact is they kept Democrats from delivering, and Democrats paid the price for not delivering. Democrats failed to deliver a better economy and a better life for most people, and voters held them accountable. Staying home and not voting is just as much a form of accountability as voting against Democrats.

However, the core of this is about more than just passing some bills, raising the minimum wage, providing some relief to the long-term unemployed. This is about the need for much bigger, transformational changes in the who-gets-what of our economy. The bigger picture is about deciding who is our economy for, anyway? Republicans say it is for the already-wealthy few. If Democrats are going to deliver for the people they are supposed to deliver for, they are going to have to face up to the core of the problem and do something about it. Until then … well, we saw what happens.

Harold Meyerson brilliantly lays it out in “The Democrats’ Catastrophe and the Need For a New Agenda” over at The American Prospect,

… [T]he Democrats’ failure isn’t just the result of Republican negativity. It’s also intellectual and ideological. What, besides raising the minimum wage, do the Democrats propose to do about the shift in income from wages to profits, from labor to capital, from the 99 percent to the 1 percent? How do they deliver for an embattled middle class in a globalized, de-unionized, far-from-full-employment economy, where workers have lost the power they once wielded to ensure a more equitable distribution of income and wealth? What Democrat, besides Elizabeth Warren, campaigned this year to diminish the sway of the banks? Who proposed policies that would give workers the power to win more stable employment and higher incomes, not just at the level of the minimum wage but across the economic spectrum?

The economy is not going to get better for most Americans until some fundamental changes are made. It’s a structural problem. The system is rigged for the benefit of a very few and their giant corporations. This is what has to be fixed before a better life can be delivered to most people.

It’s the economic paradigm, stupid.

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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 and/or for the Progress Breakfast.