What Will Tea Party Members Do When Their Politicians Betray Them?

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture I am a Fellow with CAF.
Tea Party members hate Wall Street bailouts, trade deals like NAFTA, job outsourcing, giant corporations buying laws, government spending, and elites telling the rest of us what to do. But there is no question that their candidates – many of them wealthy corporatists themselves – are funded by big corporations (even foreign oil companies) and Wall Street. So the question is, once in Congress will they vote with their base or their owners? And when they vote with the people who bought them, what will Tea Party members do about it?
Tea Party members want to be able to buy things that are “Made In America” in stores again. I have yet to meet a Tea Party supporter who doesn’t absolutely hate NAFTA, WTO and other one-sided “free trade” agreements. They say these treaties “violate our sovereignty.” But Tea Party candidates are funded by groups like the Chamber of Commerce and others who are the drivers of these “free trade” policies that close American factories and send jobs out of the country. This does not bode well for these candidates voting the way Tea Party members expect them to if they are elected.
Tea Party members are astonished when they learn that the government gives companies tax breaks that encourage companies to send jobs away. But just a month ago a bill to do something about this was filibustered in the Senate by a unanimous Republican caucus. One thing about Tea Party candidates – they’re also unanimously Republicans. Does anyone other than Tea Party members really think the Tea Part candidates are going to go against the now-unanimous Republican support for these outsourcing incentives if elected? Tea Party candidate Scott Brown didn’t after he was elected.
If there is one thing that unites all Tea Party members, it is hatred of the Bush Bank Bailouts (except they think these passed under Obama.) But this is an area where their leaders will almost certainly stand with the banks, because that’s where the money is — their campaign money to be precise. The other day I wrote about In Oregon one Wall Street hedge fund manager is spending up to $1 million (pocket change) on a front group to elect a Tea Party candidate and unseat a Congressman who sponsored a couple of Wall Street reform bills.
Government Spending
Will Tea Party politicians vote to balance the budget? Really? Their members certainly expect them to. But like so many misinformed Americans, Tea Party members think the government spends most of its money on welfare and foreign aid. This is why Tea Party candidates refuse to specify just what spending they will cut to balance the budget. (Also see here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, etc.)
So when they get into office will they really cut spending — where the spending really is? There are plenty of reasons to think they won’t. The first and foremost reason is they are funded by people like the Chamber of Commerce who really, really want that spending to keep flowing. This is why Republicans increased government spending and deficits so much the last time they were in charge. In fact, there are reasons to think they’ll incresase spending. For example, they hate health care reform, but if they really vote to repeal it they will increase the deficit, because the reform cuts the projected deficits by at least $138 billion.
But the bloated, huge, vast, overwhelming military budget might be worth a look. We spend more on military than every other country combined. (Total military-related spending actually pretty closely matched the deficit this year.) What do you think the odds are that the Tea Party politicians will cut the military budget?
Foreign Oil
Tea Party members understand that our addiction to foreign oil is harmful. We spend more than $300 billion a year on foreign oil — much of it sent to the Middle East (MUSLIMS!) — and need to find alternative sources of energy. But Koch Oil is the primary organizer, supporter, funder, and everything of the Tea Party, as well as much of the so-called “conservative movement.” But Koch Oil is mostly about oil, not representative government. This is why they directly fund or set up front groups to support climate denial or oppose transit projects, alternative energy, even energy conservation. So don’t expect Tea Party leaders to do anything — anything — that Koch Oil doesn’t want them to do.
What Happens When Tea Party Members Are Betrayed?
It’s pretty clear that the Tea Party members are being set up for a big disappointment. There is little chance that the politicians they are supporting are going to do what the members think they’re going to do once in office. The members might supply the votes, but the big corporations behind so many of the things that the Tea Party members hate are the ones supplying the money and organization. These politicians, once in office, will understand that the big money can go after them just as well is it went for them this time, if they don’t do what they’re told by their big corporate funders. But on the other hand, there will be lucrative lobbying jobs waiting for them if they play along. They are going to disappoint the Tea Party members, no question. What will Tea Party members do then?
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Who Would Be Against American Manufacturing?

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.
The definition of “anti-American” might be up for grabs after so many years of conservatives using the label like a club, but can we all agree that when other countries are working against the interests of America, that it is fair to call that “anti-American?” I discovered something truly anti-American when I caught a registered foreign agent posting a comment on my blog.
We are all used to hearing lobbyists argue against the broad public interest for their various clients. Often some big corporation is trying to get a rule changed to give them an advantage over their competitors or otherwise line their CEO’s pockets. Other times it is wealthy people trying to get tax breaks. All too often it is some representative of Wall Street trying to convince us that our wages are too high, we shouldn’t receive health or retirement benefits, taking on more debt is good or schemes that externalize costs onto the community while privatizing the profits…
For example, Wells Fargo, recipient of $25 billion of bailout funds from taxpayers, is cutting off credit and forcing a plant that is one more component of America’s manufacturing supply chain to close because the too-big-to-fail bank would make themselves a few dollars today, rather than allowing the company to sell or stay open and maintain America’s manufacturing infrastructure. It costs only $1.6 million to keep the plant open, but will cost the community $6.1 million in jobs, tax revenue etc. to close it. Wells Fargo doesn’t care, they aren’t losing the $6.1 million – they won’t even accept offers to buy the plant, because they get a little bit more from closing it. Never mind the harm done to American companies, workers and communities. This is not a “buggy whip” factory, it is an active business.
We are used to this kind of bad – really bad – antisocial, economically destructive behavior from self-interested American companies, organizations and people. And for some reason we seem to tolerate it because we are so inured to it. But is this kind of lobbying always just done for the usual terrible reasons — profits at the expense of the rest of us? Maybe not. Maybe sometimes it is from a source with a different kind of agenda that we just don’t expect.
Let me tell you a story:
Last week I wrote a post explaining the details of a trade decision that President Obama will soon make, “President Obama’s Upcoming “Section 421 Tire Case” Trade Enforcement Decision” and cross-posted it at my own blog, Seeing the Forest. Someone calling themselves “TheFacts” left a comment there. The comment begins, “This is absolute drivel. Let me count the ways” and ends by saying I am advancing “a union-driven agenda.”
Bloggers know that posts on current issues affecting big corporations are frequently swarmed with people presenting the corporate viewpoint. Sometimes when we trace them (when the source is not well-masked) we find these comments originate at corporate-funded firms paid to lobby on the issue. I traced the IP address of the person who posted this comment to the DC office of the international law firm White & Case, a large firm representing clients on international trade issues, among other things.
This got me thinking. The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) of 1938 requires those “acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities.”
I checked at the Department of Justice database, and White & Case is registered as a “foreign agent.”
White & Case is registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent because White & Case represents foreign interests. This registration is required so that Americans can make judgments based on the knowledge that they are hearing from sources that do not represent America’s interests and instead represent interests that might be opposed to America’s interests.
So what does it mean when someone from a firm that is registered with the Justice Department as representing foreign interests posts arguments anonymously at blogs like mine — arguing that we should allow American factories to close, and instead import goods from other countries? Was this done for a client? Was it an employee acting without authority?.
How were the readers of this anonymous post supposed to know that they were hearing from someone at a firm that is registered as a foreign agent? Was this anonymous posting part of an effort to subvert the intent of the Foreign Agents Registration Act? Is this part of a larger effort by this firm, and if so how much is being done in ways intended to get around the Foreign Agents Registration Act?
What this foreign-interest representative is advocating is that Americans close factories and borrow money to buy imports from countries that take over the business that we give up. We have to borrow the money because America has given up so much of its manufacturing capacity already – to companies in other countries – that we aren’t earning our own money anymore with which to buy imports. This is not only not in our country’s interests, it is often being advocated by the paid representatives of the countries that benefit from this at our expense! And, of course, the other countries involved aren’t giving up any of their manufacturing to us.
By the way, one of the arguments the foreign-agent commenter made was,

“According to Rutgers economist Thomas J. Prusa, the proposed tire tariffs would ripple through the U.S. economy. Prusa calculates that each job “saved” by the ITC’s tariffs would come at the cost of at least 12 jobs lost, and possibly more than 25.”

While checking out the aggressively hyperbolic statistic (already refuted by the ITC) that saving each job would cost 12 to 25 jobs I located the source in a Wall Street Journal piece, followed by this:

“Prusa’s research was commissioned by a group called the American Coalition for Free Trade in Tires.”

The American Coalition for Free Trade in Tires is a coalition of six tire importing companies – one is even named “Foreign Tire Sales Inc.” And by the way again we find the term “free trade” used as a club to try to shut down discussion of merits of closing factories and wiping out American jobs, industries and communities. “Free trade” is an ideological label for a theory that seems only to apply to the US, certainly not to the industry-subsidizing, tire-dumping China that the tire case is about. So the authority cited in the foreign agent’s comment, while not a foreign agent himself, was not as represented either. He may be a “Rutgers economist” but in this capacity he was commissioned by the American Coalition for Free Trade in Tires to say this. (Rutgers allows that? Ouch.) So much for the 12 or 25 jobs statistic – and for the aura of independence and credibility that comes from citing a “Rutgers economist.”
I will have more on the American Coalition for Free Trade in Tires in the next post.
So here is what it comes down to. It is one thing to hear from American interests who are trying to convince us to give up America’s manufacturing capacity, just so they can make a quick buck at everyone else’s expense. We’re used to that these days. But would you feel differently and consider the opinions in a different light if you knew that you were hearing from a Greek or Korean or Chinese manufacturer, trying to convince you that it is a good thing for America to give up our manufacturing capacity and let them do it, and let them make the money and have the jobs instead? Perhaps you would. If you knew.
NEXT: What about when you are hearing from lobbyists and organizations that are funded from other countries, but are not registering as “foreign agents?” Also I will tell you about the “revolving door” of American officials who leave the government and immediately go to work for interests who lobby the very offices where they worked, asking us to close factories, lay people off, etc.

A Warning About The Tea Parties

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
A number of people I have spoken with are planning to attend a “tea party” tomorrow, so I thought it might be a good idea to write about this. They are not what they claim to be. They are not “spontaneous” or “grassroots.” They are another corporate-funded campaign to trick people into supporting more cut taxes for the rich.
The idea is supposed to have started on February 19, when Rick Santelli of CNBC “spontaneously” complained about plans (click link for video) to help people avoid foreclosure, saying this is the government “subsidizing the loser’s mortgages.” Santelli called for organizing a “Chicago tea party” against helping people pay their mortgages. But investigators starting finding clues that the on-air rant was not spontaneous, and signs that the campaign was organized by the right-wing, corporate-funded Freedomworks . According to a March 2 New York Times story,

“Mr. Santelli’s televised commentary appeared spontaneous to viewers. However, the Internet domain name ChicagoTeaParty.com was registered in August 2008 — well before his commentary — but not used until afterwards.”

The events have been widely promoted by corporate-funded conservative PR professionals who specialize in “astroturf.” This is a term for the use of money to create an appearance of widespread “grassroots” support. Currently the corporate-funded conservative lobbying groups Freedomworks and Americans for Prosperity, are organizing the events and conservative media including talk radio and FOX News are widely promoting them. Support appears to be coming from Koch Industries, the largest privately-owned company in the country. According to the Think Progress blog post, Spontaneous Uprising? Corporate Lobbyists Helping To Orchestrate Radical Anti-Obama Tea Party Protests,

“This type of corporate ‘astroturfing‘ is nothing new to either organization. While working to promote Social Security privatization, Freedom Works was caught planting one of its operatives as a “single mom” to ask questions to President Bush in a town hall on the subject. Last year, the Wall Street Journal exposed Freedom Works for similarly building “amateur-looking” websites to promote the lobbying interests of Dick Armey …
Americans for Prosperity is run by Tim Phillips, [a] former partner in the lobbying firm Century Strategies. The group is funded by Koch family foundations — a family whose wealth is derived from the oil industry. Indeed Americans for Prosperity has coordinated pro-drilling ‘grassroots‘ events around the country.”

The “tea parties” are promoted as a “grassroots uprising” against “high taxes.” Tea stands for “Taxes Enough Already.” However, 95% of Americans will received a tax cut in the next year if the upcoming Obama budget passes. Only Americans with incomes above $250,000 will receive a small tax increase — and even then their taxes will be much lower than almost any time in the last 80 or so years. This increase on the top incomes will help pay for some of the Republican-caused economic damage as well as reduce the budget deficits that the country has faced ever since the same income group received tax cuts after George W. Bush was elected. (This is similar to the tax increase in first Clinton budget that led to the great economy of the 1990s and large budget surpluses.)
The other complaint from tea party organizers is that President Obama is “spending too much.” The increased spending in the stimulus package and upcoming budget funds education, unemployment checks, efforts to ward off foreclosures and other programs designed to help bring us out of the recession and provide jobs. These are programs that benefit regular people instead of big corporations and the rich.
So regular people who go to these corporate-organized tea parties are asking the government to undo their own tax cuts and reduce their own government services in order to keep taxes low for the very rich. I wonder if people have really thought this through?
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Job Killers — Or Just More Fear?

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
The California Chamber of Commerce has released its annual list of what it calls “job-killer bills.”
Why is it that the Chamber’s job-killer bills hit-list seems to only target Democrats? Not a single targeted bill belongs to a Republican. “Bad bills”, like those designed to protect public health, climate concerns or consumer rights legislation, are all authored by Democrats. The chamber has always been a lobbying organization, but it has gotten so bad that the Chamber seems to have devolved into little more than just one more fear-mongering Republican Party front group.
The “job killers” on this list are any laws that protect consumers, reduce energy use, require worker protections or anything else that might hinder a very few corporate executives from reeling in another several-hundred-million dollars a year. The jobs that are “killed” are those of lobbyists for the energy industry.
The first group on the “job killer” list is bills that ask for any kind of energy or water conservation or environmental standards for new housing construction. For example, AB 1085. The bill describes itself as undating,

“building design and construction standards and energy conservation standards for new residential and nonresidential buildings to reduce wasteful, uneconomic, inefficient, or unnecessary consumption of energy.”

But the Chamber’s job-killer list says this

Substantially increases the cost of housing and development in California by implementing significant energy efficiency measures

Now, think about this — if it costs less to heat and cool your house, this saves you money. If you want to add energy-saving technology like solar electric or water-heating on your house this creates good jobs. Maybe Exxon won’t benefit as much from this as the new, upcoming solar industry, but heck, the solar companies aren’t coughing up the big bucks and providing the good jobs to the Chamber of Commerce’s lobbyists!
The next group of “job killers” is “workplace mandates” like paid sick leave for employees, disability pay for on-the-job injuries or providing California’s citizens with health insurance.
Ah yes, the money businesses pay out to provide sick leave and disability pay for those pesky employees “kills jobs.” They could hire so many more people if they didn’t have to actually pay them and keep them from getting injured! This is one of the oldest arguments in the books. Slaves are always cheaper. But why do we have an economy if not to provide US with good jobs and other benefits? Do we have an economy so a very few corporate CEOs get all the money and benefits, or do we have an economy so the people can also get good pay and benefits and safe working conditions? The evidence (this, for example) is clear that good wages and benefits do not hurt jobs or the economy.
Then there are “economic development barriers” like asking online retailers to collect the same sales taxes that you local business owner collects, asking the wealthy to help pay for our schools, raising fire standards in high-risk fire areas and protecting our environment. I guess the online retailers must be paying the Chamber more this year than the retailers who have to actually rent storefronts and pay wages in your town. I can’t think of any other reason why SOME retailers should collect sales taxes and others should be exempt. Doesn’t this change the playing field waaayyy in favor of online retailers and harm the prospects of businesses that actually set up in our local communities? God forbid we ask them to help pay for our schools and police and fire protection!
This “job killer” list is nothing more than the use of fear to scare us into allowing a few rich corporations to have their way. By saying that protecting workers or the environment might “cost jobs” they are trying to make us afraid to ask these big corporations to live up to their responsibilities to our communities. How long will we let these lobbyists make us afraid?

And In The House – Earmarks and Corporate Jets Gone

House passes more ethics reform, budget rule

The new Democrat-led House of Representatives on Friday passed a second batch of ethics reforms in as many days and resurrected controls they said would help end deficit spending.
One day after taking over the House after Republicans’ 12-year rule, Democrats won rules changes they claimed would restore civility to the badly tarnished chamber and curb “earmarks” — special-interest money and tax breaks often secretly inserted into legislation.
The move won applause from some of the most conservative House Republicans, including Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona, who said Democrats “had more guts than we did to tackle earmark reform in a meaningful way. I compliment them for that.”
Earmarks have ranged from tax breaks for handfuls of individuals to big-ticket military contracts and lawmakers’ hometown projects.
Democrats also pushed through rules changes to tighten up the way floor votes are conducted. The goal was to stop a past Republican practice of holding “15-minute votes” open, sometimes for hours, so they could change the outcome.

But wait, there’s more!

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Corruption – A $6 Million Gift To Oil Company

In years past this alone would have been a major story and the corruption involved would not be tolerated. But this year it’s just one more thing – a relatively small thing. We all know what is behing it – payments from lobbyists. The people involved will be leaving the government soon to “work” at the oil companies for unusually high pay. Gov’t drops demand for Chevron royalty,

The department’s Minerals Management Service had maintained that Chevron owed an additional $6 million for gas it took under federal leases in the Gulf between 1996 and 2002 and sold to Dynegy Inc., a company Chevron partially owns.
Essentially, the government argued that Chevron undervalued the gas it sold to Dynegy. Chevron paid royalties based on a price that didn’t represent fair market value, the government auditors said.
But last summer, the government quietly rescinded its demand for the additional royalties. That decision was reported Tuesday by the New York Times, based on documents the newspaper obtained through a freedom of information request.

The story comes on the same day as a larger story about the Republican Congress getting rid of the only agency conducting ANY oversight of Iraq spending. This is just two stories about corruption today. There will be two more tomorrow and the day after…

Pelosi – “Drain The Swamp”

Pelosi says she would drain GOP ‘swamp’,

Day One: Put new rules in place to “break the link between lobbyists and legislation.”
Day Two: Enact all the recommendations made by the commission that investigated the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Time remaining until 100 hours: Raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour, maybe in one step. Cut the interest rate on student loans in half. Allow the government to negotiate directly with the pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices for Medicare patients.
Broaden the types of stem cell research allowed with federal funds — “I hope with a veto-proof majority,” she added in an Associated Press interview Thursday.
All the days after that: “Pay as you go,” meaning no increasing the deficit, whether the issue is middle class tax relief, health care or some other priority.