A reader of this blog made the following comment:
Democrat!!!! You gotta be JOKING! After OBAMA I will NEVER vote Democrat AGAIN!
This raises a very important problem Democrats will have to deal with in 2012 a lot more effectively than they did in 2010 — the protest vote and voter abstinence. The 2010 elections gave the House of Representatives and the majority of state legislatures and governorships to the Republicans, which has already proven to be materially disastrous to the majority of Americans. For their part, Republicans who were elected or reelected last November say, over and over again, that they were sent here by voters who wanted “change” from current policies, or who were unsatisfied with “politics in Washington,” or some similar thing. They say that they are merely carrying out the will of the voters when asked why they favor things like:
1. reducing the deficit during a recession, which means taking money out of the economy, which every sane economist will tell you is a terrible idea;
2. terminating the rights of public sector workers to bargain collectively on such issues as their pay, benefits, and conditions of employment;
3. cutting social programs, such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Unemployment Benefits, Food Stamps, nutrition assistance for poor children, programs that help people who are most affected by the recession;
4. making it harder for potential new voters to register to vote, and to vote once they’re registered;
5. restricting or effectively ending completely a woman’s right to make her own reproductive decisions;
6. drastically cutting money sent to the states, so that they can pay for their own necessary services. such as police and fire protection, teaching and keeping schools open,
7. keeping taxpayer-paid subsidies costing billions of dollars for the energy companies, particularly the oil companies, which are the most profitable entities that have ever existed in the history of the world;
8. lowering the tax rate on millionaires and billionaires to the levels they were under President Hoover, which did so much to ease the Great Depression and help unemployed workers find work.
Republicans will tell you that these are the sorts of things that voters specifically sent them to Washington or the State capitols to do. This is a Big Lie. None of these policies is favored by anywhere near a majority of Americans.
The Republicans concealed their views on these issues and did not campaign on them. What they campaigned on was creating jobs, cutting what they considered to be wasteful government spending, reducing the deficit (which is where it is now due mostly to expensive and unpaid for Republican policies enacted during the Bush Administration), and fixing the “mess” in Washington. Never mind that this so-called “mess” was a deliberate Republican creation, designed to make things worse so that Democratic incumbents would be blamed and turned out of office. The Republicans were largely successful. This is exactly what happened in 2010. When the Republicans got all this new political power, in Washington and in many of the state capitols, they revealed their true plans for American workers, the poor, the disabled, the elderly, and the middle class as a whole. What they have started to do is brutal and ugly. Dr. Jekyll suddenly turned into Mr. Hyde. Larry Talbot became the ravening Wolf Man. No way did the voters want what they are getting.
The Democrats and the Independents did have a part to play in this Republican takeover. Progressives (the Democratic base) were angered, and rightly so, when President Obama continuously sold us out to “compromise” with the Republicans. One does not compromise by accepting the opponent’s position as one’s starting point. On health care reform, for example, the President’s starting position was not single payer, as it should have been (and which he said it was when he was campaigning for President) but instead a much weaker imitation called the public option, which in the end the Democrats lacked the guts to push for.
President Obama has done this same thing over and over again. He now is in basic agreement with the House Republican budget which will allegedly cut $4 trillion from the economy over the next ten years and that 3/4 of that cut should come from cutting discretionary programs, and only 1/4 of it should come from tax increases on the wealthiest Americans. During the health care debate, when we progressives complained about this, the President referred to us as “sanctimonious” and as “purists.” Former Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel called us “f***ing morons” and “retards.” I do believe that President Obama has sold out whatever principles he may have had in the name of “bipartisan compromise.” This is an utterly useless exercise. You cannot compromise with rabid dogs, nor with teabaggers. Many progressives and young voters, two sources of Democratic Party strength, stayed away and did not vote.
The 111th Congress was a disgusting spectacle. They spent virtually the entire two year session wrangling and getting very little done. The House passed hundreds of bills, good ones, that died in the Senate. It was the stated policy of the Republicans to block what they could and slow everything else down, with the express purpose of denying President Obama and the Democrats any meaningful victories at all. What legislation that did get through this willful obstruction was so watered down and weakened that it was unlikely to do any real good. Independents in particular saw what Congress was doing and were horrified by it. They were the ones who started the meme that the whole institution of Congress was broken. Many independents did not vote. Again, the health care debate was emblematic of this, with all the Republican Big Lies about “death panels” and “government takeover of health care” and “adding a trillion dollars to the national debt” and the lack of effective refutation of these lies from President Obama.
A number of unhappy voters who felt that Democrats and Republicans were equally to blame for the mess in Washington and their failure to to anything substantive to get us out of the recession chose to vote for a third party candidate. But third-party candidates almost never win. The largest current third party, the Greens, have been at it for more than 40 years, and have never won a major office. A vote for a third party candidate is usually, at best, a wasted vote. But it does take a vote away from the major party candidate whose political views are closest to those of the third party. In 1912, the Progressive Party candidate, Theodore Roosevelt and the Republican candidate, William Howard Taft, split the Republican vote between them. Roosevelt actually beat Taft. But the Democrat, Woodrow Wilson handily won the election. Sometimes the consequences are much worse. In Florida, in 2000, Ralph Nader got 97,488 votes. George W. Bush and Al Gore were virtually tied at 2,912,790 for Bush and 2,912,253 for Gore, a difference of 537 votes. Nader undoubtedly pulled a lot more votes away from Gore than he did from Bush, so he cost Gore the State and, ultimately, the presidency. I blame Ralph Nader for George W. Bush’s disastrous presidency and most of the current national debt.
A combination of these factors gave the House of Representatives to the Republicans, a good many of them Teabaggers who don’t particularly believe in government to begin with. They nearly took the Senate as well. It is very important to remember that the House of Representatives is the origination point of all budget and taxation legislation. The Republicans now control this process. They can choose which programs or people will get more government funding or lower taxes, and which programs or people will be starved or taxed out of existence. The Senate has only a subsidiary role in this.
Republicans also took control of as Governors in 30 states. 17 of these Republican Governors were elected for the first time in 2010. Prior to November, 2010, there were 26 Democratic Governors, 23 Republican Governors, and 1 independent Governor. Now there are 30 Republican Governors and 20 Democratic Governors.
To make things easier for these Republican Governors, many state Legislatures were also given to the Republicans.
|Alabama – House and Senate||Colorado – House|
|Indiana – House||Iowa – House|
|Louisiana – House||Maine – House and Senate|
|Michigan – House||Minnesota – House and Senate|
|Montana – House||New Hampshire – House and Senate|
|New York – Senate||North Carolina – House and Senate|
|Ohio – House||Pennsylvania – House|
|Wisconsin – Assembly and Senate|
|Tied : Oregon House; Alaska Senate|
Overall, the breakdown of party control of the Legislatures in the 50 states is:
26 Republican-controlled Legislatures
15 Democratic-controlled Legislatures
8 Split Legislatures
1 Officially non-partisan (Nebraska)
These new Republican majorities are not dealing with increasing jobs or reducing their State’s deficits. They are instead up to the same old nonsense they have been trying to push through for years,
In several states, legislation is pending or has passed requiring Unemployment Insurance beneficiaries to get forced drug testing as a condition for receiving these benefits, which is a search without probable cause and therefore a violation of the Fourth Amendment. In addition, legislation has passed in Florida which would require all Florida public employees to get tested for drugs at least once per calendar quarter, also a search without probable cause.
Georgia and Alabama have followed Arizona’s lead in passing legislation requiring anyone stopped by the police for any reason to produce evidence of lawful presence in the United States if the police officer asks for it. The Alabama version even makes it illegal to give a suspected undocumented alien a ride in one’s car.
About eighteen states (the number keeps going up) have passed legislation which would restrict a woman’s right to an abortion, restrict what her doctor could say to her about it, and/or force her to undergo “counseling” by anti-choice activists. Ohio is working on a bill which would prohibit abortions for any reason after the fifth week of pregnancy. In Louisiana, a bill was introduced in the legislature that would redefine abortion as “feticide” and put people who committed this crime, both doctors and women who had abortions, in prison for 15 years. That one didn’t make it, but a few states are considering legislation which would put doctors who perform abortion into jail for years. Some of these states include language stating that status as a person with rights begins at the moment of conception, which would make birth control pills illegal, since they work by preventing the fertilized ovum from implanting into the woman’s uterus. Governor Pawlenty (R-MN), who is running for president, has announced that he favors criminalizing abortions with jail terms for doctors who perform them.
Several states have passed laws stripping public employees of their rights to collectively bargain with their state. Other states are still working on it.
And the best one of all – in Michigan, the Governor now has the right to declare that any city, any county, any school district, or any other political entity is suffering a financial crisis, and to appoint a “Emergency Financial Manager (EFM).” This EFM will then go into that city, county, school district, or political entity and basically serve as its dictator. He or she has the power to fire any government officials, including those elected by the people who live there, abrogate any contracts or agreements the city, etc., has made, or order that the city, etc., be dissolved altogether. The EFMs can be government employees or can be appointed from the private sector. At the present time, the State of Michigan is conducting an EFM training class which has 200 students in it, according to the Mayor of Lansing, the state capital.
On the Federal level, the House of Representatives has done little substantial except pass their version of the FY 2012 budget. This budget has two provisions which are widely unacceptable to most Americans, each one having about an 80% disapproval rate according to polls. Of the 239 Republican members of Congress, 235 voted for this budget.
The House budget would begin the process of changing Medicare from a single-payer health care system to a voucher system. Each beneficiary would receive a voucher worth about $15,000 with which he or she would use to go buy some sort of health insurance from a private company. The budget would also make deep cuts in Medicaid. In effect, the government would save money by making sick people pay more (a lot more; estimates are about $6,000 more) of their medical costs.
The House budget would also lower the top Federal income tax rate to 25%. Shown below are the current tax brackets above 25% which would be reduced to 25%.
|28% Bracket||$83,600 – $174,400||$139,350 – $212,300|
|33% Bracket||$174,400 – $379,150||$212,300 – $379,150|
This is exclusively a tax cut for the upper middle class and the rich. By the way, this does nothing to reduce the deficit. This tax cut would actually add more than a trillion dollars to the deficit over the next ten years all by itself.
Another part of the House budget would reduce spending of all Federal departments to 2008 levels. In 2008, the Social Security Administration had about 63,000 employees. They now have about 70,000 employees and are still barely able to keep up with their increased workloads generated by the aging baby-boomers. Some of those employees would have to be laid off. Experienced employees are being encouraged to retire early. There is already a hiring freeze in effect. If all this continues, which would be the result the Republicans are seeking, the time it takes to process work will increase drastically, and customer service, both by phone and in person will be seriously affected. This will give Republicans the opportunity to carp about how incompetent government is and how awful government workers are,
The Senate has the House bill now. In a typical move, Majority Leader Reid has appointed a “gang” of six Senators, three from each party, to come up with a Senate version of the bill. This negates the slight numeric advantage the Democrats have in the Senate, because it gives each party an equal voice and equal weight in considering this issue. According to The Hill newsletter, Senator Coburn (R-OK), one of the “Gang Of Six,” insists that cuts in Social Security be part of any plan to reduce the deficit. Remember Big Lie #1. Cutting Social Security does not help the deficit, because Social Security is entirely self financing. Apparently Coburn didn’t get his way, because he has left the Gang of Six. No loss.
By the way, a couple of weeks ago the Senate voted on the House bill as it was presented to them. Majority Leader Reid wanted to put the Republicans on record as supporting or opposing the Paul Ryan plan. Of 45 Senate Republicans, 40 voted for the bill.
What form any proposed cuts to Social Security might take hasn’t leaked out. I have read some rumors about raising the retirement age being one thing the “Gang Of Six” is considering, but these are just rumors — nothing definitive. Three Republican Senators have proposed legislation separate from the budget that would definitely cut Social Security. One of these Senators is Lindsay Graham (R-SC), who has been trying to cut Social Security for several years now. The other two are Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rand Paul (R-KY), both Teabagger freshmen elected in November, 2010.
Their proposal would do two things — raise the full retirement age to 70 years old by 2032 and apply a “means test” to Social Security.
Senator Graham said that the proposal uses the same formula Congress used to raise the retirement age from 65 to 67, so that people born in 1970 would become the first group to have a retirement age of 70. Unless he was misquoted, this is not possible. The increase in full retirement age from 65 to 67 was phased in starting with people born in 1938 and ending with people born in 1960. That’s 22 years. Please see the chart in
<a href=”https://socialsecuritypotluckdotcom.wordpress.com/2010/09/02/question-2-should-i-retire-now-or-wait-until-i-reach-full-retirement-age/>Question 2 – Should I Retire Now Or Wait Until I Reach Cull Retirement Age?</a> for the current formula Senator Graham is referring to.
Their proposal would also raise the early retirement age from 62 to 64 by 2032.
They are also proposing that seniors who make over $43,000 a year would have their monthly benefits reduced by $300 to $400 by 2032. News reports I have read do not provide any additional details about this, such as what sources of income are included or excluded, or whether two married seniors only get means tested if their combined income exceeds $86,000, or some lesser amount.
Welcome to the Republican version of what America should be. Most Americans find this version repugnant. As two other readers put it,
I have given up on the United States… I would rather die than continue to live in a country that has lost its soul. Nothing seems to matter anymore except corporations and greed.
I too am losing my faith in America as I do not trust politicians anymore. I don’t want to blame anyone but it is apparent that something fishy IS going on.
If 2012 is a repeat of 2010, we are all in big trouble. To quote Ronald Reagan’s second inaugural address, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”