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GOP House Members still fighting? Gonna be costly.

No, it’s not de ja vu. It’s just that… so much of it is still exactly on-point.  Wish it wasn’t, but it is. So, with very few updates, here’s a repeat of my post from February 6, 2013:


Last person leaving, please dock the doorsHoping for bipartisan cooperation, now that the election is over? Think again.

The weekend before the inauguration, Republicans gathered in Williamsburg to discuss strategies for “fighting” the President. Just a week later, former Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan was telling a gathering of conservatives that “Republicans control both the House and most of the statehouses. So we have to oppose the president and the Senate on some fronts—and engage them on others…”

Does that sound like cooperation to you?

Looks like it’s going to be an interesting next few months. Two dates to mark on your calendar:

On March 1st, the sequestration cuts are scheduled to go went into effect. Cutting government services through these automatic, across-the-board cuts is expected to send the economy back into recession. One example: according to a study commissioned by the airline industry, the FAA’s share of the sequestration cuts is about $1 billion a year. That cut would reduce the nation’s air traffic between 5% and 10%, and the country would lose between 66,000 and 132,000 jobs related to air transportation. The irony? The economic losses would cause tax revenues to drop by as much as $1 billion a year. (Hmmn… $1 billion in tax revenues lost because of a $1 billion spending cut. Not a whole lot of deficit-reduction going on, is there?)  After members of Congress were inconvenienced by airport delays, the FAA was granted special treatment under the sequestration act.  Recent estimates of the economic costs of sequestration include:  1.6 million jobs and 1.2% of GDP.

On March 27th  September 30th, the “continuing resolution” that funded federal government expired. That means a possible “government shutdown”. According to Politico, a majority of GOP House members “are prepared to shut down the government to make their point. House Speaker John Boehner ‘may need a shutdown just to get it out of their system,’ said a top GOP leadership adviser.”

What happens if the government shuts down? Federal employees who are deemed “essential” are still required to go to work – they just don’t get paid until after Congress approves a bill to pay them. The last time there was a significant government shutdown, almost a half-million federal employees were required to work without pay for three weeks.

The economic damage went far beyond the family finances of federal employees. The crisis also caused 11 states to suspend unemployment insurance, due to lack of federal funds. Veterans’ services were suddenly unavailable (including counseling, vocational rehabilitation, and pension and education payments). The crisis affected the oil industry, leaving more than 10,000 barrels a day untapped while companies waited for federal reviews. The tourism industry suffered millions of dollars in losses each day of the shutdown, because passports and visas were not processed. The housing industry suffered when $800 million worth of mortgage loans were delayed. The crisis halted cleanup of 609 toxic waste sites. It left hundreds of thousands of children in limbo, waiting for foster care or adoption.

And that was only a partial government shutdown. Most of the government still had funding, during that shutdown. (Just imagine what may happen on March 27th! now!)

There’s a moral here, folks. Government services are integral to our nation’s economy.

Is there any hope that Congress could learn that lesson, in the next month or so? Or is the GOP going to insist on doing economic damage, “just to get it out of their system”?

All Signs Point To A Government Shutdown

There is little doubt in my mind that a government shutdown is eminent.  This means anyone who gets a paycheck from the federal government will be either forced to work without pay or forced into furlough status (stay home and not get paid).

Including the military the government employs 4.4 million workers (OPM).  Every one of those people will not be getting paid for work on beginning on Tuesday.

Obviously not all jobs are able to just close up shop.  These are called essential employees.  They could be FBI investigators, Air Traffic Controllers from the Department of Transportation, Secret Service, US Marshalls, some of the people from the Social Security Administrations, and our US Military.   All of these people must go to work, do their normal jobs, but will not get paid for their time.

All of them except the military.   This is another reason that people are really thinking that the GOP is going to push us over the edge.  Late during the night on Friday night the US House passed the “Pay Our Military Act” by a unanimous 423-0.  There is no doubt that the military is special.  They are spread out around the world and they cannot just stay home if the government shuts down.  Not to mention that over 5000 military families receive SNAP (food stamps) from the government on top of their pay.  The SNAP program was recently gutted during the Farm Bill debate.

Many people agree we should be paying the military in the event of a shutdown but what about the other essential government employees.  Those employees who still have to go to work but will not get paid.   What about their families? Why is it ok to continue to pay the military personnel, but not the essential employees?  Better yet, pay everyone and don’t shut the government down.

“I think they’re showing their hand, and it’s unfortunate, because it’s not just our military personnel who will be hurt by the government shutdown,” said Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., at a news conference after the meeting’s conclusion. “The shameful part of it is that Republicans are essentially telegraphing that they intend to shut down the government, and the only folks they are going to worry about, with the government shutdown, are the military personnel.”

Once again the House passed another Continuing Resolution to keep the government funded, with a short list of demands.  Not only did they pass a delay (or repeal) of the Affordable Care Act (43rd time) they added in some other stuff they know they would have no other chance to get passed.

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter stated in a recent press release;

House Republicans have voted 43 times to obstruct a law that was passed by Congress, signed by the President, upheld by the Supreme Court, and reaffirmed by the 2012 election. It doesn’t matter what party or state you represent, holding vital government functions hostage in order to wage an ideological crusade is irresponsible and unacceptable.  These Tea Party tactics hurt our recovering economy and harm working families, seniors, and veterans.”

The GOP in the house who are debating how they are going to fund the government, are proposing that the ‘Medical Device Tax’ be removed.  You got it, they are saying,  ‘we cannot pay our bills so lets stop bringing in revenue as well.’

Of course that is not all.  The House GOP is also pushing their anti-women ideology in this Continuing Resolution.

Roll Call reports, “House leaders made the bill even more unpalatable to Senate Democrats by including a “conscience clause” allowing employers and insurers to opt out of providing coverage for contraception if they have moral or religious objections.”

Seriously I cannot make this stuff up.  The House is pushing to roll back women’s health in a government funding bill.  Talk about earmarks!

Both sides are saying they do not want a shutdown. NH Congresswoman Annie Kuster’s released this statement:

“By refusing to vote on the Senate-passed bill to keep the government open, House Republicans are choosing to shut down the government — plain and simple. This is not what responsible governing looks like. With a costly shutdown just two days away, we don’t have time for more pointless political theater. We need to pass a responsible bill that will keep our government running, our economy growing, and our families and businesses secure. My colleagues across the aisle need to stop putting ideology ahead of common sense and focus on having a rational debate about how to responsibly reduce the deficit, create jobs, and strengthen the middle class. The last thing our economy can afford right now is another manufactured crisis from Washington.”

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter also had a few other things to say about the Continuing resolution:

“Today, House Speaker John Boehner took one big step toward total surrender to the Tea Party and one giant leap toward shutting down the government.  It’s time for Speaker Boehner to reject the most extreme flank of the Republican Party and work across the aisle to keep the government running.”

“I am willing to work with anyone to improve the Affordable Care Act, but changes to the health care law should be debated through an open legislative process, not through a hostage-taking stunt.”

It is strange that the only option that the GOP is offering in reference to the ACA is a repeal/defunding.  Not one of them has offered any suggestions as to how to fix any of the problems they have found.  Not one of them has attempted to make changes to the law to improve it only destroy it.   Jon Favreau, former chief speechwriter for President Obama wrote this in the Daily Beast.

“If Republicans are so confident Obamacare will end badly, why not just shut up about it? It’s not like they have the votes to repeal the law—a math problem they still haven’t solved after 37 different tries. Their appeal to the Supreme Court ended in defeat at the hands of a conservative chief justice. And now the bulk of the plan will begin to take effect in just a few months.

At this point, why not sit back and wait for this crazy experiment to self-destruct? Why not let President Obama and the Democrats reckon with the millions of angry Americans who will undoubtedly hate their new insurance or their new insurance protections?

Because Republicans are terrified that Obamacare could actually work.”

Favreau is right.  If the program is so bad, then stop trying to block it.  The GOP should be encouraging its implementation, just to watch it self-destruct.

Only 24 hours till the potential government shutdown.  And only two weeks until we reach the ‘debt ceiling’.  That is going to be much worse and more dangerous than a government shutdown.

GOP to Voters: ‘We’re taking the ball and going home’

I'm taking my ball and going homeSay, what?!

The Associated Press is reporting that:

The Republican National Committee, responding to plans by two television networks for programs about Hillary Rodham Clinton, approved a resolution Friday to block CNN and NBC from hosting GOP presidential primary debates.

The unanimous vote affirmed RNC Chairman Reince Priebus’s threat against the networks if they went ahead with programs about Clinton, a possible Democratic presidential contender.

Let’s everybody stop, take a deep breath and count to 10 here.  It’s kind of embarrassing when one of our country’s two major political parties throws a temper tantrum:  “Do it MY WAY or I won’t play ball!”

It’s worth noting that this hoopla is about a television series that hasn’t even started filming yet.

And “Clinton herself has understandably not given her blessing to the show, which could easily end up focusing on things the former Secretary of State would rather not call attention to.”

And up until a few days ago, it looked like the series would be produced by Fox TV Studios (yes, Fox).

But RNC Chairman Reince Priebus didn’t want Clinton to have any additional airtime — positive or not.

So Fox pulled out of the project.  Then the RNC voted to block CNN and NBC.  And now it looks like the whole project is on hold.

The idea that one political party can dictate what gets aired on television should scare the heck out of all of us.  That’s not what America is about.  That’s not what democracy is about.

The ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas — that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market. (Oliver Wendell Holmes, 1919)

Think about the precedent that this is setting.  If the RNC has, in fact, succeeded in stopping this miniseries project, what’s next?  Will the GOP threaten to boycott any media outlet that runs stories about the taking-it-to-the-streets protests by fast food and retail workers?  Will the GOP threaten to boycott any media outlet that runs stories about how Obamacare is actually helping senior citizens?

Think about this, and then get really, really mad.  These days, most voters get their news from television.  What will happen to our democracy if one side succeeds in silencing the other?

On the playground, the threat to “take my ball and go home” only works if the other kids let the bully get his way.

Isn’t it a shame that NBC didn’t tell this particular “kid” to go ahead and go home?  It’s not like everybody in America wants to watch the Republicans in action, anyway.  During last year’s RNC Convention, the fourth episode of Honey Boo Boo topped the ratings.

State “Shared Taxes” Cuts have been Drowning Detroit: is Grover Norquist laughing yet?

norquist_drown_governmentThe Bankruptcy Court judge overseeing Detroit’s “restructuring” is moving really, really fast.

And – at least so far – he’s following the schedule proposed by “Emergency Manager” Kevyn Orr and the law firm Jones Day.

  • Read more about Kevyn Orr here.
  • Read more about Jones Day here.

This Friday, August 2nd, the judge is expected to rule on Orr’s motion that a hand-picked “Committee of Retirees” be allowed to make decisions on behalf of the more than 20,000 retired city employees.

How’s this shaping up?  It looks a lot like what just happened in Stockton, California – where a similar committee just accepted $5.1 million as full “payment” for future medical benefits estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

And now that steamroller is headed straight for all those people who spent their lives working for the citizens of Detroit.

One of the many, many things that are wrong with this situation is: how completely the mainstream media has swallowed the spin offered by Michigan’s Republican Governor, Rick Snyder.

First, blame the unions.  (The Wall Street Journal’s “How the Unions Killed Detroit” is here.)

Next, blame “60 years of decline” – particularly the decline of the [unionized] auto industry.  (Watch Gov. Snyder on NBC’s Meet the Press here.)

Then, inflate the numbers.  All of a sudden, they’re not talking about annual deficits – not even the total accumulated annual deficits – they’re talking about “total debt”.   That includes bonds for the Water and Sewer systems.  For renovations to the Convention Center.  For the city’s Building Authority, and its Downtown Development Authority.  Its Transportation and Parking Funds.

Yeah, when you add it all up, that looks like a lot of debt.  But municipalities traditionally borrow the costs of capital projects, usually for terms of 20 to 30 years.  Just like most middle class families don’t pay cash when they buy a house.

But that “$18 billion” total debt number sure makes it seem like Detroit can’t possibly avoid bankruptcy, and can’t afford to keep its promises to its workers.

Great spin.

But what do Detroit’s auditors say?  Quoting directly from the city’s 2012 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report:

The City has an accumulated unassigned deficit in the General Fund of $326.6 million as of June 30, 2012, which has resulted from operating deficits over the last several years.                                                                         

$326 million… $18 billion… Gotta admit: Rick Snyder sure knows how to spin things.

Let’s look at Detroit’s problem from another direction, for a minute.  Let’s consider – just for a minute – that maybe Detroit doesn’t have “a spending problem”, maybe it has a revenue problem.

The reality is, all around the country, municipalities depend on state revenue-sharing to make their budgets work.  Those of us who lived through New Hampshire’s Bill O’Brien years know this all too well.  State tax cuts and budget cuts “trickle down” and hit municipalities where it hurts.

For Detroit, state “shared taxes” used to provide 16% of city revenues.  That means one out of every six dollars that Detroit budgeted came from the State of Michigan.

Then GOP right-wingers declared war on our government.

Look at how different Detroit’s revenues would have been, if the amount of “shared taxes” had stayed the same as it was when George Bush became President:

Detroit Shared Taxes

Data from Detroit Combined Annual Financial Reports available at http://www.detroitmi.gov/Departments/Finance/tabid/86/Default.aspx

An interesting math exercise: if the state had continued to pay the same amount of “shared taxes” as it did in 2001, Detroit would have received $4.1 billion in additional revenue over the years.  (And maybe the city wouldn’t have had to borrow quite so much to finance capital projects…?)

Just in FY2012, Detroit would have received $470 million more in “shared taxes” revenue – if the State had still been sharing revenue like it did in 2001.

And that would have been more than enough to wipe out the $326 million in accumulated operating deficits that Detroit’s auditor cited in the 2012 CAFR.

So maybe Detroit’s financial problems weren’t caused by the unions – or “60 years of decline.”  Maybe it’s not a “spending problem” – maybe it’s a “revenue problem”.

Maybe the problem is that the extreme wing of the GOP declared war on government back in 2001… and they’re still planning to “drown it in the bathtub.”



America’s economy: socialized risks, privatized profits?!!?

Edgar Degas - The Orchestra at the Opera - Google Art Project 2Orchestrated?!!? Why would anybody think the public messaging was orchestrated?

Just because yesterday – Sunday – a group of hedge fund investors sued the US Treasury over dividends they want to get from mortgage-guarantee firms Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. (And of course, since it was Sunday, there were no Treasury representatives immediately available to respond to the lawsuit. Which means the public is hearing only the investors’ side of the story, in all those thousands of stories about the lawsuit now running nationwide.)

And in today’s Boston Globe, there is a column by former NH Senator John E. Sununu arguing that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should be “retooled” – before the companies have the opportunity to “pay back the funds taxpayers sank into them” at the beginning of the Great Recession. (In case you’ve forgotten, we the taxpayers spent about $188 billion to bailout the two mortgage giants.)

The plan Sununu is endorsing wouldn’t actually eliminate government guarantees for the “retooled” and “reformed” new “Federal Mortgage Insurance Corporation”. No, no… the corporation would still have taxpayers as a financial backstop. But somehow, through the magic of federal legislation, “private financiers should have incentives to manage risk more effectively than in the past.”

Sunday court filings? Monday newspaper columns? Why on earth would anybody think there might possibly be a deliberate messaging campaign here?

Here’s MY short version of what’s at stake:

In the past several months, hedge funds have been quietly buying up shares in Fannie and Freddie. Those shares used to be basically worthless…. but their value is rising even as I type this post.

And for the past couple of months, hedge fund lobbyists have been quietly meeting with Congressional leaders to push “reform” efforts similar to the plan Sununu endorsed in the Globe today. Under current law, “Treasury holds $188.5 billion in senior preferred shares in the two companies, representing the amount of aid they have drawn from taxpayers to stay afloat. [As of April,] The companies have sent back $65.2 billion in dividends, which count as a return on the government’s investment and not as a repayment. Treasury also holds warrants to purchase nearly 80 percent of the companies’ outstanding common stock. “ But now that Fannie and Freddie are turning a profit, hedge fund lobbyists want to return the companies to private ownership.

That’s what’s at stake: billions of dollars in profits.

In all the stories I’ve read today, nobody is suggesting the private sector should assume all the risk inherent in the mortgage market. No, it seems they’re happy to have the federal government – we, the taxpayers – as the ultimate guarantor. In other words, the risk is “socialized”.

They just want the profits to be privatized.

And the way they phrase it, it all sounds so reasonable… if you’re too hot and tired to think twice about it… or if you’re relaxed and in a good mood from a July 4th vacation. And besides, the story broke on Sunday, with nobody around to give the other side.

As a professional communicator, myself, I gotta admire their timing and technique.

But as a member of the 99%, I am appalled at their insistence that profits should belong to hedge fund investors, rather than to the taxpayers who will continue to bear the investment risk.


Read “How do we get an economy that works for the 99%?” here.

Quote of the week:

“We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” – Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis


Do Not Let The Senate Steal Your Voice In The Workplace

NLRB 1With all the trumped up scandals in Washington right now it is hard to keep track of what is going on.  The GOP are furious about Benghazi, even after Hillary Clinton stated she requested additional security funding.  Now there is an issue with the IRS.  Yes it is wrong to target political groups for extra scrutiny but none of the groups were actually hard either.  As the politicos in Washington battle over these issues some of the other important issues are going unnoticed.

Did you know that in less than two months the entire National Labor Relation Board could be effectively closed. The NLRB is where workers go to make their case when their rights have been violated by their employer. Without a functioning NLRB, workers would have no place to go to have their grievances heard and employers will continue to trample the rights of their employees.

Currently the NLRB has only three of its five members. Two seats are vacant. When Board Chairman Mark Pearce’s term expires in August, the Board will be down to two members, which is not enough to form the quorum the Board needs to make decisions.  The US Senate is set to take up the five new appointments by President Obama sometime this summer.  The Senate Republicans are well-known for being obstructionists who oppose anything that is being proposed by President Obama.  First we must overcome this obstruction before we can even begin to discuss filling the board with new members.

As previously stated the NLRB key in protecting the rights of working people. They ensure that workers have the right to free speech without fear of termination.  Time and time again the NLRB has ruled in favor of workers who are exercising their freedom of speech online.

Aside from all the advocacy groups pushing their agendas, social media is based on people talking about what is going on in their lives.  For some this is pictures of the fancy dinner they are eating or their daughters dance recital.  For others it is a chance for people to vent to the world about something that happened to them at work.  These rants about their employers have led to the termination of some employees.  This is why we need the NLRB.  The NLRB has ruled that employees were unjustly fired for speaking out against their employer, if they were speaking out in order to improve their situation at work.

The Communication Workers of America highlight three excellent examples of how the NLRB is protecting your voice in the workplace.

  • Social Media Policies: When T-Mobile USA revamped its social networking policy, it made anonymous comments on social media websites an offense that could result in termination. It was the company’s latest attempt to silence workers who had been articulating workplace issues and discussing joining the Communications Workers of America (CWA) on worker forums, Facebook and Twitter. CWA filed an unfair labor practice charge, asserting that this was a violation of employees’ “protected concerted activity” under the NLRA. But before the case went to trial, T-Mobile USA agreed to a settlement. The company was required to inform all of its employees that they may discuss work-related issues on Facebook and similar websites without fear of reprisal.More recently, because of another CWA charge, a NLRB judge ordered DISH Network to change its social media policy that prevented workers from making “disparaging or defamatory” comments about the company. The policy infringed on employees’ rights, as workers could “reasonably construe” this rule to mean they can’t criticize their employer’s labor practices.
  • Talking about your boss: At Bettie Page, a woman’s clothing store in San Francisco, a group of employees had lodged a number of complaints with the store owners about their manager’s unprofessional behavior. Frustrated with being ignored, employees finally took to Facebook. Holli Thomas posted, “needs a new job. I’m physically and mentally sickened.” Vanessa Morris responded that the manager is “as immature a person can be” and Brittany Johnson agreed that “bettie page would roll over in her grave.” Thomas, Morris and Johnson were fired on trumped up charges. But they filed a complaint, and a NLRB judge found that they lost their jobs as a direct result of their Facebook activity. Bettie Page had clearly violated the worker’s “protected concerted activity” rights under the NLRA, and the judge ordered that it reinstate the three clerks with compensation for any loss of earnings and benefits.
  • Discussing Work Conditions: At Hispanics United of Buffalo, a nonprofit social services provider in New York, Mariana Cole-Rivera started a Facebook thread, asking, “Lydia Cruz, a coworker feels that we don’t help our clients enough at HUB. I about had it! My fellow coworkers how do you feel?” Her colleagues immediately voiced their support, writing, “Try doing my job. I have five programs” and “What the hell, we don’t have a life as is.” Cole-Rivera and four caseworkers who responded to her lost their jobs. But the NLRB found that their posts were the type of “concerted activity” for “mutual aid” that is expressly protected by the NLRA, since it involved a conversation among coworkers about their terms and conditions of employment, including their job performance and staffing levels. The judge ordered that the fired workers be fully reinstated to their jobs with back pay.

These examples highlight the need for workers to have a place to go where their issues can be heard.  The NLRB is already overloaded due to the two vacant seats and this means that workers who are awaiting a hearing are waiting months to have their termination potentially overturned.  This puts an enormous financial strain on those people forced to wait for a hearing.  If the Senate does not take action before August the entire NLRB would effectively closed down, essentially silencing workers voices.

We need to protect our freedoms and our rights at work. To do this we need and NLRB that works.  We need the Senate to take quick action to approve the Presidential appointees.
In a related note, CWA President Larry Cohen went on the Ed Show explaining the importance of the National Labor Relations Board and what must be done to ensure that all 5 members are confirmed by the Senate.

37 Attempts At A Repeal Of The ACA And Still No Jobs Bill

The fiscally responsible Republican party is always looking for ways to reduce government waste.  They search for any ‘fraud, waste and abuse’ inside the federal government in an effort to reduce the budget.  Even after they make statements about how we need to become more focused on jobs in Washington, they once again vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  This makes attempt number 37 for those counting.

“This vote was a waste of New Hampshire taxpayers’ time and money,”  Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter said.

The act of voting on this repeal has already cost the taxpayers over 60 million dollars (37 votes times 1.75 million in cost per vote equal 64.75 million).  I wonder what 60 million dollars would do to help some of the programs the sequester is cutting.  In fact the money wasted on repealing the ACA is more than enough to cover the cuts made to the meals on wheels program (41 million).  I wonder if this $60 million would be enough to keep the 70,000 kids in the head start programs that they are being forced out of.

Wasting our time and money aside the ACA is a good start.  According to the White House, the ACA will help over 30 million Americans who do not already have healthcare.  Right now over 86 million Americans have added protections to their healthcare coverage thanks to the ACA.  They can no longer deny you for a pre-existing condition. They can no longer charge different amounts for women or men.  They have helped millions of seniors save an average of $600 a year by closing the prescription drug ‘donut hole’.  These are just of a few of the benefits we Americans are gaining thanks to the ACA.

Congresswoman Annie Kuster stated after the vote:

“I am extremely frustrated that House leadership is more interested in refighting old political battles than actually solving problems. Instead of wasting more time and money on another vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, both parties should be focused on growing the economy, helping create jobs and opportunity, and strengthening the middle class.

Congresswoman Shea-Porter chastised the House leadership in her statement.  “Instead of voting 37 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Republicans should listen to the American people who want Congress to help create jobs and end sequestration. Republican House Speaker John Boehner should stop political posturing and put a jobs bill on the floor.”

Congresswomen Kuster and Shea-Porter are exactly right. They have voted 37 times to repeal the ACA and wasted 15% of their time in Washington in a futile attempt to repeal the law.

Congresswoman Kuster continued, “voting to undo these vital reforms will do nothing to improve our health care system, and only serves to reinforce peoples’ worst assumptions about Congress’s willingness to put politics ahead of middle class families.”

I want to see Congress do something to help the working families in America by pushing for a comprehensive jobs bill, not another repeal attempt.  Almost all of the people in Washington ran on creating new jobs and yet there has not been one vote on a jobs bill.  And you wonder why the Congressional approval rating is so low.

Catholic Latino Should Be Natural Allies With The GOP? Yeah, Not So Much

Catholic church

The other day I was listening to “the Exchange” with Laura Knoy, and they were discussing the new GOP ‘Autopsy’ (read my full post on this show). One of the guests, Steve Duprey (RNC Executive Council), said something that really offended me.

Duprey was talking about how the GOP needs to do better to reach out to Latino voters.  He said that Latino voters should be natural allies with the GOP.

“…They tend to be Catholic. They tend to be faithful. They tend to have strong family units…”

This is not the first time I have heard this line.  It was very similar to the line that Senator Rand Paul proclaimed at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce a few weeks ago.

Being raised Catholic, I take great offense to this.  The idea that because I am Catholic, I should automatically have supported Mitt Romney and his policies in the last election?  This is the most ironic thing I have ever heard from the GOP.

Catholicism is based on the teaching of the Bible.  The Bible is full of stories of how Jesus cared for the poor, and urged his followers to do the same.  The Bible teaches us to be selfless, and to care for those who cannot care for themselves.  Does this sound like the message that the GOP is pushing right now?

The Catholic Church has always been there for the working and lower class: helping to feed the hungry, provide shelter to those who have none and teaching millions of Catholics to do the same in their lives.

The Catholic Church has always been supportive of those who work, and recognizes the need for labor unions.

In the first place, the worker must be paid a wage sufficient to support him and his family.  — Pope Pius XI, 1931

Yet the workers’ rights cannot be doomed to be the mere result of economic systems aimed at maximum profits. The thing that must shape the whole economy is respect for the workers’ rights within each country and all through the world’s economy. — Pope John Paul II, 1981

Pope after Pope has rejected the idea that companies should put profits over people. In fact, “the dignity of work and the rights of workers” is one of the Church’s fundamental teachings.

Contrast that with what Mitt Romney did as a vulture capitalist: selling companies and jobs overseas, and raking in millions of dollars at the same time.

Paul Ryan received the most flak as a Catholic.  There is an old saying, show me your budget and I will show you what you value.  This was exactly the case when you look at the budget pushed by the Romney/Ryan campaign.  The Ryan plan was torn apart by Catholics throughout the country.

This budget, frankly, acts like a schoolyard bully. It kicks those who are already down. It punches holes in vital social safety net programs, including food assistance for struggling families. It shoves aside the Medicare guarantee for seniors who deserve quality health care. It tramples Medicaid for low-income Americans by proposing inadequate state block grants at a time when most states are barely able to pay their bills.

For good reason, Ryan’s proposals have been strongly criticized by social justice leaders, evangelicals and many Catholics. Why? Because we know that budgets reflect stark moral choices about our priorities and values. (Public Theology)

The Ryan plan even pushed a group of Catholic nuns to travel around the country telling people that the Ryan plan was against what the Catholic Church preaches.  After a few stops, Sister Simone Campbell and her group were aptly named ‘the nuns on a bus’.

“Paul Ryan claims this budget reflects the principles of our shared faith,” Campbell said, as she took direct aim at Mitt Romney’s running mate, who has often cited his Catholic faith as the underpinning of his fiscal policies. “But the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that the Ryan budget failed a basic moral test, because it would harm families living in poverty,” she said. (On Faith, Washington Post)

Catholics throughout the country rejected the GOP budget and rejected Paul Ryan for his part in creating it.  And yet the RNC wonders why Catholic Latinos are not lining up to join the Grand Ole Party.


The GOP Tears Itself Up, Just Not As Much As I Do

The internet is filled with political bloggers. Some lean left, some lean right.  Right now many of these political bloggers are talking about the new GOP “Autopsy” or as the GOP calls it, the “Growth & Opportunity Plan.”   This new report is giving a very in-depth look at what the GOP needs to do if they want to take back the White House.

The national political commentators and comedians have all had their fun with this already, but now the plan is starting to reach the rest of us.  Recently on “the Exchange” with Laura Knoy, they talked about this 100-page plan with Steve Duprey (former NH GOP Chair, and current RNC Executive Committee member), Jennifer Horn (current NH GOP Chair) and Dean Spiliotis (Civic Scholar in the School of Arts and Sciences at Southern New Hampshire University and author of the popular website www.NHPoliticalCapital.com).

The meat of this 100-page report was boiled down to a few main pieces by Dean Spiliotis.

  • Demographics
  • Tone vs Substance
  • Taking control over the primary process

NH GOP Chair Horn was the first to say it, “this report confirmed what we already knew.”

Actually, it is what everyone outside of the GOP leadership has been saying since last summer, including me. The GOP does not care about minorities, women and middle class workers.  When you cut those groups out of the demographics, you are left with exactly what everyone has been saying:  the GOP is the party of stuffy out-of-touch white men.   Shockingly, this is exactly what the focus groups and polling showed.

Horn believes that it is because the Republican “message was not well articulated” and the message did not get through.  But how could it be possible that your message did not get through? The GOP and sympathetic PACs spent $844 million dollars on the Romney campaign.

Horn believes the problem was the message delivery; I believe it was the message content.  You cannot tell undocumented workers to ‘self deport’ and expect them to vote for you.  You cannot tell women that there is such a thing as ‘legitimate rape’ and expect to win their hearts over.

The GOP’s leadership is very confused about who they are talking to.  Steve Duprey seemed bewildered by the fact that Hispanic voters did not support Mitt Romney in 2012.  He said:

“They should be natural allies. They tend to be Catholic. They tend to be faithful. They tend to have strong family units. They are entrepreneurial and hard working.”

But Latinos care about other issues, too – including healthcare and gay marriage.  “More than half of all Hispanics think that gay people should be allowed to marry.” Opposing those two issues are two of the key planks in the GOP party platform.  It is no wonder the GOP did not gain much Latino support.

The GOP realized that the Obama campaign was making real connections with voters of all ethnicities on the streets.  The Obama campaign had thousands of people hitting the street every day to talk one-on-one with people.  Even Jennifer Horn admitted that making these personal connections was the real way to gain support and turn out voters.

This is also where Steve Duprey got in his jabs about the New Hampshire unions and their role in the election.  The fact is that many of the unions in New Hampshire are regionally organized.  For example, Ironworkers Local 7 is based in Boston, but they cover all of NH, MA, and ME.  This is also true of the Carpenters Union, IBEW, and many more.  Because of the size of New Hampshire and New England, members can live and work in different states.

In all honesty, after listening to these three go on for an hour, I felt nauseous. They kept saying it was the way their message was being delivered that was the problem.  Jennifer Horn even said “I don’t think the problem is the message.”  Wrong!  Republicans are not the same party they used to be in the days of Reagan or Eisenhower.  What happened to Republican support for unions? Did that go away after Reaganomics took over?

One last thing, the issue of Gay Marriage.  For many this was just another example of why the GOP was viewed as a elitist group of bigots.  They call for freedoms, except when gay people are asking for the same thing.  The RNC has adopted the Tea Party’s line that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. This alienated many people who support the LGBT community. The majority of Americans believe gays they should be able to marry like anyone else.

The most ironic part of the GOP’s marriage position is that William Weld – a Republican from Massachusetts – was the first Governor to move the country forward on gay rights.

“William Weld, governor of Massachusetts signs an executive order granting lesbian and gay state workers the same bereavement and family leave rights as heterosexual workers.”

Not all Republicans are bad, and not all Democrats are good.  We need balance.  At the same time, neither party will win elections if they spew hate at me, then want me to vote for them.


Thomas Perez: What are they so scared of?

Yep, they were ready.

Less than 50 minutes after President Obama nominated Thomas Perez to be our next Secretary of Labor, Rush Limbaugh was already attacking him.  (Rush didn’t even know what position Perez had been nominated to – but he was quite certain he could tell his listeners “exactly who this guy is”.)

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) was already vowing to use parliamentary rules to block Senate action on the nomination.  Senators Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) were right there, giving the press their talking points.  Even Investors’ Business Daily weighed in, with an editorial calling Perez “radical” and “a boatload of trouble.”

The GOP messaging campaign was primed and ready to go, well before the nomination was even made.  Listen to the words they use: “New Black Panthers”, “Hugo Chavez”, “illegal immigrants”, “hardcore Islamist groups”.  Political code words, galore.

Now look at the GOP talking points from an objective perspective.  Someone has sifted through this man’s entire career, looking for anything and everything they could exaggerate or stretch into an innuendo.  Things that happened at the Department of Justice, before Perez got there?  Quotes taken out of context?  Unsubstantiated accusations made by one political commentator, repeated as “fact” by others?

Gotta wonder what they’re so scared of.

Yep, looks like it’s going to be an ugly confirmation fight.  Need a primer to separate fact from fiction? Media Matters has a good one, here.

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