Pledge To Vote, Not Withhold Vote

I have a post over at CAF, Republicans Sabotaging, Not Governing. This Is Who They Are Now., that is gaining traction at other places.

I want to emphasize the last paragraph:

“The answer is not to threaten to withhold your vote when you don’t get everything you want. The answer is for all of us – every single alienated, ignored, disillusioned citizen – to promise to always vote. Then the people you would actually want to vote for will have some assurance they can win, and take the risk of running, even if they can’t raise a poop-load of corporate cash.”

Don’t withhold your vote. Instead pledge to always vote. It’s collective power, and we can beat the corporations if we all pledge to always vote.

North Carolina State Senator Calls ‘Moral Monday’ Protesters ‘Moral Morons’

“The appeal for each Moral Monday has been the same: urging legislators to govern for the good of the whole, rather than for the wealthy.”
— Rev. William Barber.

Since April, North Carolina citizens have been gathering at the state capital in Raleigh for “Moral Monday” rallies and acts of civil disobedience to protest the the cruel things Republican legislators are doing to the people of the state. This week, despite tornado warnings, more than 1,400 protesters gathered for the sixth week’s protests, and more than 80 were arrested, including one reporter clearly wearing news credentials. A week ago Monday, 151 were arrested. Arrests for this and recent Moral Mondays now total 388.

This video is from the June 3 Moral Monday rally:

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Will Social Security Cuts Be The Democratic Party’s “New Coke?”

All the smartest people in the executive suites just knew that the taste of Coca-Cola needed “reform.” Rival Pepsi was advertising to the “New Generation” and Coke’s executives came to believe their product wasn’t what the “cool” people wanted to drink. Everyone they talked to at the executive-level strategery seminars, and all the other executive-level geniuses they spoke with daily agreed. They were the elites, and they all knew better than their old-fashioned, uncool customers what the company needed. So they all drank the Kool-Aid and came up with “New Coke.” We all know what happened next. (Hint: it was bad.)

It couldn’t have gone better for Pepsi if Pepsi had placed those executives there themselves.

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DC Should Talk About Fixing The TRADE Deficit

m4s0n501

The economy is not working for We, the People. But even with $4 trillion already cut from deficit projections, a deficit drop of about 50 percent as a share of gross domestic product, and Congressional Budget Office projections that the deficit is stable for the next 10 years Washington remains focused on even more economy-killing austerity. It’s talking only about what and how to cut instead of how to meet the needs of the people of the country and grow the economy.

This fight over spending cuts led to the “sequester,” which might take us back into recession. The fight will now roll into another manufactured crisis over the continuing resolution, with a government shutdown as the hostage, and of course this will be a further drag on the recovery.

Economics 101, Europe’s austerity experiment and the experience of history all tell us that cutting government is contractionary policy. Cutting government cuts economic growth and costs jobs, which leads to to lower tax revenue and higher government expenditures. Economics 101 and the experience of history also tell us that government investment in jobs, infrastructure, education, research and the rest grows the economy, which fixes deficits. Cutting deficits and debt is important but clearly should not be done when the economy is weak. This is the time to invest, and the investment returns will pay for the investment and more.

Again: There is no real discussion or debate about what we ought to be doing to make this economy work for working people. There is only discussion of what and how to cut. This is the wrong approach to our economic problems.

CAF is presenting job-creating and economy-growing ideas that ought to be debated so we can begin to turn this economy around and make it work for all of us instead of just a few of us. Jobs and growth fix deficits.

The Vast Trade Deficit Drains Our Economy And Jobs

Recently the 2012 U.S. international trade deficit in goods and services was announced. It fell slightly in 2012 (due in part to a decline in petroleum imports), to $540.4 billion from $560 billion in 2011. But 2012 saw a record trade deficit of $315 billion with China – approaching $1 billion a day. That is $540 billion a year drained from our economy, $315 billion of that just to China.

This vast trade deficit represents the loss of millions of jobs, tens of thousands of factories and entire industries. It hits at our ability to fix our economic problems. In particular, this problem affects our manufacturing companies, which provide solid, middle-class jobs and exports that strengthen the country.

Instead of the current focus on budget deficits, Washington should be talking about how to fix this vast trade deficit. Here are some of the things they should be talking about — and doing.

Fix Currency

Countries manipulate their currency rates because a “weak” currency means products made there are much more price-competitive. China’s currency is still estimated to be at least 20 percent below “market” rate, meaning goods made in China cost at least 20 percent less than goods made here, even before you factor in other things China does to give itself a trade advantage.

Confronting currency manipulation offers the biggest “bang for the buck,” requiring no tax dollars and reaping huge returns, shrinking the federal budget deficit by between $78.8 billion and $165.8 billion over three years.

Fixing this one problem could create between 2.2 million and 4.7 million jobs and increase GDP between 1.4 percent and 3.1 percent, helping manufacturers in particular, gaining between 620,000 and 1.3 million of those jobs. It would reduce the U.S. trade goods deficit by at least $190 billion and as much as $400 billion over three years.

Reform Trade Agreements

A $540 billion trade deficit doesn’t come from balanced trade; it is the result of one-sided trade agreements we have entered into. These trade agreements exposed America’s companies, workers, factories and tax base to direct competition with non-democracies, impoverished and exploited workers and countries that do not protect the environment. That could only go one way.

We have a democracy, in which people have a say. So they say they want good wages, safe workplaces and a clean environment. When we open that system up to direct, unregulated competition from places where people have no say and are told they can’t have those things, we put our democratic system at a competitive disadvantage in world markets. We make it a disadvantage to protect the environment, pay well, provide benefits, protect worker safety and the other things that we do and others do not do. Those become just “costs” to be eliminated.

Those trade agreements could have had different terms that lead to different results that lifted working people on both sides of the trade border instead of pushing terrible and increasing worldwide inequality. They could have lifted environmental protections on both sides of trade borders. They could have increased worker and consumer protections. They still can.

Our country’s trade agreements can still be reformed to do these things, rebalancing trade and lifting people and the environment. Future trade agreements should learn the lessons.

Bring Back The Bring Jobs Home Act

Last year Senate Republicans filibustered the Bring Jobs Home Act, but the bill had tremendous public support. It should be revived.

The Bring Jobs Home Act would have cut taxes for U.S. companies that move jobs and business operations to the United States, and ended tax loopholes that reward companies for shipping jobs overseas. The bill would have allowed companies to qualify for a tax credit equal to 20 percent of the cost associated with bringing jobs and business activity back to the United States. It would have closed a loophole allowing a company moving jobs overseas to deduct various relocation costs.

Additionally, any new bill should tax the overseas income of U.S. corporations the same way domestic income income is taxed, so there would be no tax advantage to them from shifting income and jobs overseas.

Strengthen Buy America In Federal And State Procurement

There is no reason our own government should be undermining American manufacturers. “Buy America” provisions should be a mandate on federal, state and local government purchases, consistent with our trade laws. To accomplish this, our bottom line should be:

  • All federal spending should have “buy America” provisions giving American workers and businesses the first shot at procurement contracts.
  • New federal loan guarantees for energy projects should require the utilization of domestic supply chains for construction.
  • Our military equipment, technology and supply purchases should have increased domestic content requirements.
  • Renewable and traditional energy projects should use American materials in construction. State-level spending should have similar requirements, as well as strategies for getting them in place.

Many state-level procurement laws are very weak. As a result, a lot of tax dollars go to purchase goods made overseas instead of goods made in the USA. States should also strengthen their procurement policies to promote buying American-made materials.

The Invest in American Jobs Act of 2013, announced Tuesday, is a good start and deserves support and discussion. The Act strengthens Buy America preferences, closes loopholes and improves transparency in the federal waiver process.

These are a few examples of the things that Washington should be talking about. These proposals solve real problems in practical ways that help the American people.

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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

Taxes Aren’t Theft, Tax Cuts For The Wealthy Are Theft

The Speaker of the House last week said that taxing people to pay for government is theft. Let’s look at just where actual theft is occurring.

Michael McAuliff and Sabrina Siddiqui covered the story at the Huffington Post, in John Boehner Compares Tax Proposals Of White House To Stealing,

We don’t have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem,” Boehner added. “How much more money do we want to steal from the American people to fund more government? I’m for no more.”

Yes, the old “taxes are theft” argument again. This is the line of reasoning that says government is bad, that decision-making by We, the People is bad, that people are “takers” and the wealthy are “producers” and “job creators,” and that the people are lazy and “don’t want to work” and if you let them assemble together and vote they become a mob that will steal everything from the rich who are rich by Divine Right, etc…

Keep in mind that in a democracy We, the People make decisions and government spending by definition is We, the People deciding to do things that make our lives better.

In honor of Speaker Boehner’s argument that taxes are theft, this is from August 2010: (even though the post will say June 12, 2012…)

Tax Cuts Are Theft

Conservatives like to say that taxes are theft. In fact it is tax cuts that are theft because they break a long-standing contract.

The American Social Contract: We, the People built our democracy and the empowerment and protections it bestows. We built the infrastructure, schools and all of the public structures, laws, courts, monetary system, etc. that enable enterprise to prosper. That prosperity is the bounty of our democracy and by contract it is supposed to be shared and reinvested. That is the contract. Our system enables some people to become wealthy but all of us are supposed to benefit from this system. Why else would We, the People have set up this system, if not for the benefit of We, the People?

The American Social Contract is supposed to work like this:

virtual_cycle

A beneficial cycle: We invest in infrastructure and public structures that create the conditions for enterprise to form and prosper. We prepare the ground for business to thrive. When enterprise prospers we share the bounty, with good wages and benefits for the people who work in the businesses and taxes that provide for the general welfare and for reinvestment in the infrastructure and public structures that keep the system going.

We fought hard to develop this system and it worked for us. We, the People fought and built our government to empower and protect us providing social services for the general welfare. We, through our government built up infrastructure and public structures like courts, laws, schools, roads, bridges. That investment creates the conditions that enable commerce to prosper – the bounty of democracy. In return we ask those who benefit most from the enterprise we enabled to share the return on our investment with all of us – through good wages, benefits and taxes.

But the “Reagan Revolution” broke the contract. Since Reagan the system is working like this:

virtual_cycle_diverted

Since the Reagan Revolution with its tax cuts for the rich, its anti-government policies, and its deregulation of the big corporations our democracy is increasingly defunded (and that was the plan), infrastructure is crumbling, our schools are falling behind, factories and supply chains are being dismantled, those still at work are working longer hours for fewer benefits and falling wages, our pensions are gone, wealth and income are increasing concentrating at the very top, our country is declining.

This is the Reagan Revolution home to roost: the social contract is broken. Instead of providing good wages and benefits and paying taxes to provide for the general welfare and reinvestment in infrastructure and public structures, the bounty of our democracy is being diverted to a wealthy few.

… read the rest of Tax Cuts Are Theft

Also see see Tax Cuts Are Theft: An Amplification by Sara Robinson.

And while you are at it here are some other posts in the Reagan Revolution Home To Roost series:

Reagan Revolution Home To Roost — In Charts
Reagan Revolution Home To Roost: America Drowning In Debt
Reagan Revolution Home To Roost: America Is Crumbling
Finance, Mine, Oil & Debt Disasters: THIS Is Deregulation

See the Reagan Revolution Home To Roost series.

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

Scalia should resign

Patrick O’Heffernan, Host, Fairness Radio

Yesterday’s testimony at the Supreme Court on the Voting Rights Act was historical for many reasons.  The 1965 VRA is the law that Congress passed in response to the 15th amendment, which was ratified 97 years earlier.  In other words it took Congress 97 years to develop the courage, information and creativity to craft a bill to protect the foundational right of our democracy.

It was also historic in than it comes at a time of increased attempts to suppress votes of minorities – not just blacks, but Hispanics, Asians and anyone else who is not white and Republican.  The motivation for this suppression is as much partisan as it is racist, but the outcome is the same…fewer voters of color and fewer faces in the Congress and state legislatures and city councils that look like America today.

But it was also historic for the words of Justice Scalia.  Scalia  told Donald Verrilli, the Administration lawyer defending the VRA, that Congress could not be trusted to amend the VRA because it  is a “racial entitlement” and Congress cannot get out of obsolete racial entitlements through the normal process, so it is up to the courts to eliminate them.

There was a gasp in the courtroom and in the lawyers lounge where attorneys were listening to the proceedings.  A Supreme Court Justice had called the 1965 VRA the “perpetuation of a racial entitlement.”

Justice Scalia, with all due respect, the Voting Rights Act is not a racial entitlement; it is the Constitutionally demanded shield protecting an American Constitutional right.  It is the Act of Congress called for in Section 2 of the Fifteenth Amendment to guarantee for all Americans the foundational right – not an entitlement, but a right – that underpins this and every other democracy around the world modeled on our Constitution.

Fifty people were beaten to near death on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965,  marching for their right to vote.  Twenty-five thousand people – including Dr. Martin Luther King – took up their fallen banners and completed the march with Federal troops guarding them.  Four people were bombed and died later on defending their right to vote after the march.  Others were shot or hanged or run over trying to register black people to vote.

President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law in memory of the blood shed by the people who were beaten and died on the Edmund Pettis bridge that day and afterwards defending the right to vote.  Voting is not an entitlement  to be given or withdrawn at the whim of whatever party is in power in Congress or a state legislature. It is the foundation of everything America stands for: equality, democracy, popular election of the government and its accountability to the people.  People died for it, for us, so that we can live in a democracy.

That includes you, Justice Scalia.  You took the same oath to uphold the Constitution, including the 15th Amendment, that President Johnson did.  Bloody Sunday is part of your national history.  Jimmie Lee, whose death at the hands of an Alabama state trooper led to Bloody Sunday,  died so that you could live in a true democracy and rise to its highest court.  The little children blown to bits in a southern church by people who didn’t think Negros should vote died for the democracy you live in today, for the Court that has room for your black and female and Hispanic colleagues.

The fact that you don’t know that;  the fact that you see voting as an entitlement, not a right – the most important right in the Constitution – disqualifies you from the bench. Your 1950’s conservative ideology has blinded you to the history and the basic premise of American democracy.  And your partisanship has led you to an insult to the memory of those who were beaten and fire-hosed and whipped and shot and killed to enshrine this right in the Constitution that you are supposed to know and understand and protect.

You should apologize to every American and especially to those whose deaths gave us the Voting Rights Act.  And then you should resign.

 

A Million On The Mall: Our President’s Progressive Pivot-Point?

Before the election reporters and pundits were saying that not so many people would turn out this time, that it would be close at best. But on election day it turned out that it wasn’t even close. The people did turn out, some waiting in lines four, five, six hours to vote, many using provisional ballots because their states were trying to stop them. We, the People had a clear choice in front of us and We, the People made a clear choice.

Then, immediately after the election the “Very Serious People” tried to force through continued tax breaks for the wealthy paid for by cuts in the things the American people do to make each other’s lives better. People got involved and organized and it didn’t work out quite the way the one-percenters and their Very Serious spokespeople wanted it to work out.

For President Obama’s second inaugural the reporters were saying that not so many people would show up on the Mall this time. (“Assignment editor” Drudge had that up so that’s what much of the career media were repeating.) But from the inauguration stage at the Capitol Barack Obama looked out and saw as many as a million people on the National Mall cheering him on. People did show up.

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Deficit Problem Solved – Why Are We STILL Talking Cuts Instead Of Jobs?

California’s deficits are gone, and Republicans are furious. The national deficit problem is largely solved, too, and Republicans just don’t know what to do! Of course what we need to do is invest in modernizing our infrastructure, which will put people back to work and we will end up with a … wait for it … modernized, energy-efficient, 21st century infrastructure that will boost our economy.

Learn From California

In California Republicans caused the deficit with tax cuts and restrictions on democracy that prevented citizens from fixing problems. They blocked every attempt to help the economy and the state budgets, demanding only cuts — and more tax cuts for billionaires and corporations. But California’s citizens finally got them out of the way, elected Jerry Brown (again), elected a supermajority of Democrats, passed tax increases, and the budget is balanced and will be in surplus soon. Republicans can’t stand it. They have no more excuse to scream “crisis!” and call for cuts in the things California’s citizens do for each other and the state’s economy. Now alifornia is moving forward, and even building a high-speed rail system.

If this sounds strangely familiar there’s a national lesson to learn here.

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Why DC Ignores Real Problems And What You Can Do About It

How many real and serious national problems can you list? And how many obvious solutions can you come up with literally off the top of your head? Now an experiment: list how many of them are being worked on by our DC elites or even discussed my our elite media? The answer is none. Why is this? And what can you do about it?

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What’s Wrong With Spending To Make Our Lives Better?

Not sure what is wrong with “spending.” It is the things we do as a democracy to make ALL of our lives better, instead of just a few people hoarding all the money. As a country we can certainly afford to spend on health care, retirement, things like that. We coughed up to bail out the banks on a moment’s notice, more than a trillion to invade Iraq. We doubled the defense dept budget under ‘W.’

Remember, when he took office Bush said that it was important that we stop paying off the debt. He said that the return to deficits was “incredibly positive news.” That is a quote.

Go see for yourself. Here is a news report, Aug 25, 2001: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/08/25/politics/25BUSH.html

President Bush said today that there was a benefit to the government’s fast-dwindling surplus, declaring that it will create ”a fiscal straitjacket for Congress.” He said that was ”incredibly positive news” because it would halt the growth of the federal government.

Sherrod Brown Reelected Voicing Middle-Class Populism And Class-War Campaigning

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown won reelection by “waging class warfare” using middle-class populism. Here is how.
Today the Campaign for America’s Future launches a new website – WageClassWar.org – to detail the new terrain of American politics. The site tells the story of key races, and compiles copies of ads, speech and debate excerpts, new stories that highlight critical moments.

Brown’s Fight

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, faced a tough battle for reelection. Huge amounts of Wall Street, multinational corporate, billionaire and undisclosed money (China?) — at least $35 million — poured in. Brown beat Ohio’s State Treasurer Josh Mandel and was reelected by more than 5% using a strong middle class populist argument. He called for curbing the excesses of Wall Street, and ending taxpayer-funded giveaways to huge corporations that send American jobs overseas. And Brown especially, especially championed American manufacturing over the interests of Wall Street and the giant multinational corporations.
Brown stood up for the class interests of Ohio’s blue-collar voters and won reelection. He took the side of the many against the side of the big-money few.
Earlier this year Brown was considered vulnerable because he had voted for the stimulus and Obamacare. But Brown supported the “auto bailout” and was a strong proponent of manufacturing, and of taking on China, especially over currency manipulation. Josh Mandel, Brown’s opponent, opposed the auto bailout.
On jobs, Brown stressed investing in maintaining and modernizing our infrastructure, developing a coherent national manufacturing strategy, and taking on China for manipulating its currency and other trade violations. Mandel stressed the Republican basics: tax cuts and cutting regulations — especially those limiting mercury and other air-pollution standards that affect coal-burning utilities. Also said we should “eliminate government bailouts of industries.”

“A Proud Labor-Populist”

Brown campaigned as, in EJ Dionne’s words, “A proud labor-populist,” (Note that the $20 million figure is from early October.)

A proud labor-populist, Brown seems to invite the hostility of wealthy conservatives and deep-pocketed interest groups. The amount they have spent to defeat him topped $20 million this week.
… Ryan, Brown said, has “dressed up trickle-down economics and wrapped it in an Ayn Rand novel.” The vice president, Brown added, should highlight the Republicans’ desire to privatize both Medicare and Social Security, reflected in Ryan’s own record and Republicans’ attempts to do so whenever they thought they had the votes. “It’s clear they want to go there,” Brown said.

In an Oct 24 email to supporters, Brown wrote about himself,

“I’m fighting to end “too big to fail” and put the reins on Wall Street banks. I want to end taxpayer-funded giveaways to huge corporations that ship American jobs overseas. I want to put an end to the torrent of special interest spending in our election process unleashed by Citizens United.
They’ve spent more than $21 million on attacks against me.”

Mandate

By campaigning with a middle-class populist class-warfare argument Brown has won a mandate to act in the interests of working people. And this is exactly what Brown is doing:
Fiscal Cliff, Taxes & Social Security: WFIN, Sherrod Brown Talks About Pressing Issues In Washington

Brown, siding with president Obama on tax increases for those making over $250,000 a year, should not be negotiable, nor should Social Security. Despite the market sell-off Brown said that the Dow is up nearly 100 percent since Obama took first took office.

Campaign Finance: Coshocton Tribune: Sherrod Brown calls for tougher finance rules,

It should come as no surprise that Sen. Sherrod Brown’s first post-election legislative push would be on campaign finance reform. After all, Brown won a second term in the U.S. Senate this past week despite a barrage of outside spending — about $40 million from conservative groups gunning for his ouster. …
He called for three steps:
• Passage of legislation called the Disclose Act, which would require independent groups to disclose the names of their high-dollar donors.
• Adoption of a measure giving shareholders the right to vote on a company’s political expenditures.
• An investigation by the IRS into whether some nonprofit groups are abusing their tax-exempt status by engaging in overt political activity.

Arguing For Working People And The Middle Class Works

Here is the point. The public understands that there is a war going on between the top few and the rest of us. The top few benefit from keeping unemployment high and wages low. They benefit from keeping We, the People from investing in a modern infrastructure and good schools & universities and good courts and the rest of the public structures that democracy builds, because it means they would have to pay taxes and follow the rules that benefit We, the People.
The top few can cough up a lot of money to run ads that tell people they shouldn’t support their own interests. And this can go a long way, so a lot of politicians go down the road of saying what the billionaires want to hear, and getting their campaigns funded, and getting themselves lucrative jobs after they leave office.
But when votes are on the line, when votes are the deciding factor, and when people understand where their interests really are — then a candidate needs to be on the side of We, the People.
If you are running for office take note: the big money bought a lot of campaign ads, but standing up for We, the People won the election. The public is behind this, and it works. Sherrod Brown’s reelection shows that it works.
Visit the Wage Class War website and see how candidates who supported the economic interests of the many over the few won their elections.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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