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What Does The GOP Stand For? Why Are More Republicans Not Pushing Back Against Their Current Direction

Republican Presidents

Only a fool would try to deprive
working men and working
women of their right
to join the union of their choice.
– President Dwight D. Eisenhower

In New Hampshire, about 40% of union members are members of the Republican Party.

 

If you’re part of that 40% — or even if you’re not — there’s an opinion piece in today’s New York Times that you really ought to read.  Here’s an excerpt:

This is not a situation that any freethinking Republican should accept. Skewing income toward the upper, upper class hurts our economy because the rich tend to sit on their money — unlike lower- and middle-income people, who spend a large share of their paychecks, and hence stimulate economic activity.

But more fundamentally, it cuts against everything our country and my party stand for. Government’s role should not be to rig the game in favor of “the haves” but to make sure “the have-nots” are given a fair shot.

 

Maybe if more “life-long Republicans” challenged the direction the GOP has been taking lately… if party leaders could be convinced to return to the party’s core principles… if rank-and-file Republicans stood up and said “our party should stand for more than just protecting the rich”…

…maybe then the folks down in DC could end their gridlock and actually solve our economic problems.

 

Read the New York Times piece by former FDIC Chair Sheila Bair here.

GOP House members still in a “fighting” mood?
Could be very costly.

Last person leaving, please dock the doors
Hoping 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 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?)
  • On March 27th, the “continuing resolution” that funds federal government will expire.   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!)

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”?

 

Why Are GOP Politicians Agreeing With Al Gore?

elephantCan someone explain this to me? Why are GOP politicians suddenly agreeing with Al Gore? 

Last August, Al Gore called for an end to the electoral college.  That’s our system of indirect elections for President.  When we go to the polls and vote, we vote for a group of electors, not the actual candidates. Members of the “electoral college” are chosen state-by-state, and the presidential candidate who wins the most electors wins the election.

In 2000, George W. Bush won the election by winning a majority of the electors, even though Al Gore had a half-million more popular votes.  In 2012, the Republican party saw the system as so important to their election strategy that their Party Platform included “Protecting the Electoral College” as item #6.

Except, whoops, the 2012 election didn’t exactly turn out the way the GOP expected it to.  (Remember Karl Rove’s election-night meltdown?)  President Obama won re-election by more than three million votes.  And so now some GOP politicians are following Al Gore’s lead and proposing reforms to the electoral college system.

Last week, the Los Angeles Times reported on GOP proposals to change the winner-take-all system “in half a dozen states, including Pennsylvania, Virginia and Michigan.  All were presidential battlegrounds that President Obama carried last fall. But their state governments remain under Republican control, and some GOP lawmakers are pushing changes that would make it harder for Democrats to prevail in future contests.”

Whoa, that was a quick turn-around.

voting“Make it harder for Democrats to prevail” seems to be the key phrase here.  Last summer, Bloomberg News warned that

“Across the country, the Republicans’ carefully orchestrated plan to make voting harder — let’s call it the Voter Suppression Project — may keep just enough young people and minorities from the polls that Republicans will soon be in charge of all three branches of the federal government.”

That didn’t quite happen, but not for lack of trying.  By election day 2012, we had seen

Read the NY Times editorial, tallying all the various ways Republican officials tried to affect the vote, here.

“Make it harder for Democrats to prevail.”  These days, it doesn’t seem to matter to the GOP what route they take to that goal.  Hire questionable consultants? Agree with Al Gore?  Maybe even technological dirty tricks, as alleged by the group Anonymous?

The GOP is trying to win elections by manipulating the election system, rather than by earning votes. And that speaks volumes about how little faith they have in their policies and politicians.

If the party doesn’t have faith it its policies and politicians, why should we?

Think you have union rights? What Happens if there’s no NLRB?

Got Union Rights?Earlier today, a federal appeals court ruled that President Obama improperly appointed three members of the National Labor Relations Board in January 2012.  The Court ruled that the Senate was “in session” rather than “in recess” when President Obama made the appointments, because the Senate held “pro forma sessions” – some lasting less than a minute – during their 20-day holiday break.

The Justice Department had reviewed the issue a year ago and determined that the recess appointments were constitutional.  Similar cases are pending elsewhere in the country — and other appeals courts could rule differently.

NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce announced today that the Board “will continue to perform our statutory duties and issue decisions” until the question is finally resolved, most likely by the Supreme Court.

That’s probably not the short-term outcome expected by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the 41 other GOP Senators who were part of today’s lawsuit.

Probably, those GOP Senators expected to simply put the NLRB out of business.  Here’s how:

  1. In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that the Board must have at least three members to act – voiding almost 600 decisions that had been issued by the NLRB during the 27 months it had only two members.
  2. The Senate GOP has used the filibuster to block President Obama’s nominations to the NLRB, both before and after that Supreme Court decision.
  3. If today’s appeals court ruling is upheld, then the NLRB will be left with only one Senate-confirmed member — and therefore without any authority to act.  (That would also overturn the hundreds of NLRB decisions made since last January.)

What does that mean to the country, if the NLRB has no authority to act?  Here’s how the Washington Post described this scenario, a year ago:

Workers illegally fired for union organizing won’t be reinstated with back pay. Employers will be able to get away with interfering with union elections. Perhaps most important, employers won’t have to recognize unions despite a majority vote by workers. Without the board to enforce labor law, most companies will not voluntarily deal with unions.

One more time: the NLRB can’t act unless it has at least three members.  The GOP Senators in today’s lawsuit are trying to invalidate three of the current four members, reducing Board to only one member.  And at last report, “GOP senators, including Graham and McConnell, had vowed to block confirmation of any new NLRB nominees.”

Think you’ve got union rights? 

Read more about the GOP’s assault on labor rights in The Hill here.

Less than a month to go! Republicans are chasing wild geese while the federal government heads toward default

Canadian GeeseThere’s less than one month to go until the federal government can’t fudge its debt limit anymore. Last week, the US Treasury announced it could run out of artificially-created “headroom” as soon as mid-February.

Ever since then, Republicans have been trying to turn the debt-limit headlines to their advantage. But if you look closely enough at these “wild goose chases”, they just show the growing distance between GOP rhetoric and the reality the rest of us are living in.

——————–

Their first idea? Wait things out. Then, once the Treasury runs out of headroom, just pick and choose which bills to pay. Or, in Republican-speak, “prioritize spending.” Their priorities, according to Reuters: pay the bondholders first; then pay Social Security and military salaries.

The first problem with this idea? The Treasury’s Inspector General has already told Congress that “prioritizing spending” is not – at this point in the crisis – actually possible.

Treasury noted that it makes more than 80 million payments per month, all of which have been authorized and appropriated by Congress… Treasury’s [accounting and computer] systems are designed to make each payment in the order it comes due.

In other words, the system simply isn’t set up to pay some bills and ignore others. How long would it take to completely restructure the federal government’s payment systems, in order to “prioritize” which bills get paid? Undoubtedly longer than the debt-limit “headroom” will last.

Second problem with this idea? How much money will it cost, to restructure the Treasury’s payment systems? Maybe some GOP campaign contributor would be the only IT vendor qualified to make those changes. But wouldn’t that money be better spent on other things?

Third problem with this idea? Stop and think about this, for a minute. Do we really want our country to stop paying its bills, even just some of its bills? Do we really want our country to fulfill its obligations to a select few, and ignore the rest? What would that say about America? (Maybe this is really the first problem with this idea. What are the Republicans thinking?)

——————–

So then, the Republicans went off to a retreat at the Kingsmill Resort in Virginia. (I’m guessing the GOP missed the irony in starting Martin Luther King Day weekend at a former slave plantation. Whatever happened to the Party of Abraham Lincoln?)

There, among three championship-caliber golf courses, GOP members announced their newest idea to deal with the debt limit crisis. The House GOP will concede to a three-month increase in the debt limit, but only if Congress passes a budget within those three months.

Peter PanOk, it’s starting to sound like Peter Pan’s “Neverland” here. Congress created the debt-limit crisis by approving spending but refusing to authorize the debt limit increase. Now the GOP wants to postpone that crisis by creating another crisis.

If nothing else, this really ought to draw attention to just how dysfunctional Congress has become in recent years. They’re answering one failure of Congress with another failure of Congress.

Yes, passing a budget is one of the Legislature’s most fundamental responsibilities. And yes, it has been years since Congress actually passed a federal budget. But isn’t it time to ask, why?

Think about the usual budget process (which is very similar to the way New Hampshire’s Legislature passes the state budget). Usually, the House passes a version of the budget. Then the Senate passes a version of the budget. Then a conference committee figures out a compromise between the two versions. Then the conference version goes back to the House and the Senate for an up-or-down vote.

Do you really think the House and Senate are going to be able to agree on a version of the budget in the next three months?  Congress has been at a stalemate for years.  The last Congress was the most unproductive Congress since they started keeping records.  [Want to know what they did manage to agree on? 17% of the bills that were actually passed involved naming post offices or other public buildings].

But now, after a few days’ “retreat” at a plantation-turned-resort, House GOP members think they’re going to be able to turn this situation to their advantage.

No word yet on whether this latest Republican goose-chase is going to amount to anything more than just weekend headlines.

——————–

Wondering what’s the latest on that “headroom”?

If you remember, our federal government hit the debt limit on December 31st, and the US Treasury started taking “extraordinary measures” to keep the country from defaulting on its obligations.

Smashed Piggy Bank RetirementLast week, the Treasury started starting paying government bills by using federal employee retirement funds to create “headroom” under the debt limit. The “G Fund” is a 401(k)-style retirement program with more than 3 million enrollees, including members of the military.

The law allowing retirement monies to be used to create “headroom” also promises to make members’ accounts “whole” after the crisis has passed. That’s what happened the last time there was a debt limit crisis, back in August 2011; and what happened after the debt-limit crises in 2006, 2004, 2003, and 2002. [Wait… am I just imagining there’s a correlation between debt-limit crises and the Bush-era tax cuts?]

But there’s no word on what happens if this particular debt-limit crisis isn’t solved.

And, no word on what happens if House Republicans decide they want to “reform” federal employees’ retirement benefits again.

———-

And yes, those unaffordable-but-Congressionally-mandated US Postal Service payments are part of the “extraordinary measures” the Treasury is now taking to keep our government from defaulting on our debt.

“The Postal Service would still have positive net revenue today except for … a requirement that Congress imposed on it in 2006. No other public or private business in America faces this onerous requirement.” Read the letter signed by 82 Members of Congress here.

——————–

One last word about Paul Ryan: he must truly be a special guy. Ordinarily, he would have been replaced as House Budget Committee Chairman this year because of GOP “term limits”. It looks like at least three other GOP Committee Chairs will lose their positions, but Speaker Boehner has already decided to give Chairman Ryan a waiver and allow him to stay on. Read more here.

Massachusetts AFL-CIO President’s Open Letter on GOP Chair Candidate Green’s Insults To Union Families

The attacks on union members continues every day.  Now the candidate for the Massachusetts Republican Party is on the radio talking about ‘Union Thugs’ and their involvement in the elections.  These outrageous statements did not go unnoticed.  Steve Toland, President of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO sent out this letter to all the media outlets in the region.

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE MEDIA REGARDING GOP CHAIR CANDIDATE GREEN’S INSULTS TO UNION FAMILIES

Rick Green, who is a candidate for Chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party, owes an apology to the 400,000 hardworking union members in Massachusetts. 

Mr. Green recently showed his disregard for working families on a local radio station by referring to union campaign volunteers as ‘union thugs’.  It is understandable that Mr. Green is upset with the outcome of the 2012 elections and the vital role that working people played in it.  However, instead of disparaging union members he should be applauding them for their participation in the democratic process.

Thousands of Massachusetts union members did what we would like all Americans do to.  They educated themselves on the issues, supported the candidates whose positions aligned with their own, organized themselves and did what working people do best – they worked their hearts out to secure a better future for themselves and their families.  They called their friends and co-workers, knocked on doors, showed support at rallies and events, drove voters to the polls and voted for the candidates of their choice.  Isn’t that what democracy is all about? 

Later in his interview Mr. Green lamented the Republican Party’s loss of support among union families and discusses strategies for bringing them to the GOP.  If I might offer some advice to him I would suggest the following:  Before the Republican Party can begin building support among working families and organizing a volunteer base they must offer a platform that is not hostile to those same families.  The current Republican message of lower wages, cutting vital safety nets for seniors, the disabled and unemployed, deregulation of financial institutions that prey on the rest of us, encouraging good paying jobs to be sent overseas, and other items that negatively impact average working families needs to change.  Working people have felt the impact of these failed policies and roundly rejected them in November – both at the ballot box and on the campaign trail.

Union Thug TeacherIf Mr. Green and the Massachusetts Republican Party want to court hardworking union families a good start would be to stop hurling insults at them, listen to their concerns and offer real solutions to address them.  The Republican Party and our public discourse would both benefit. 

Respectfully,

Steven A. Tolman

President, Massachusetts AFL-CIO

Yep, They’re Still Trying to Privatize the Post Office.

Photo Brian Kersey / Getty Images

Yesterday, a Washington, DC “think tank” — originally chartered by Congress — announced it would “conduct an independent study of how the quasi-government agency could cede much of its operation to private companies.”  Read the Washington Post article here.

Trouble is, this isn’t exactly an “independent” review.  The study is being “made possible by a contribution from Pitney Bowes”.

And it’s based on a “White Paper” authored by a group including: a Cato Institute economist; the Deputy Postmaster General under President George W. Bush; and a lobbyist for the Direct Marketing Association, who was hired “to head lobbying efforts aimed at reforming the U.S. Postal Service.”

Golly.  The suspense.  Wonder what this “non-profit think tank” is going to recommend doing to the Postal Service?  [Remember, the Republican Party Platform calls for “Restructuring the U.S. Postal Service for the Twenty-First Century.”]

Their report is due out in March.  Yes, right when the next Congress-created economic crisis is scheduled to hit.

Read more about Grover Norquist’s lobbying to dismantle the Post Office here.

Read about House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan — and his wife — here.

Read all NHLN coverage of the USPS here.

Only Two Months until the NEXT Congress-Created Crisis

Congress creates another crisisLate last night, one-third of House GOP members voted with the Democrats to pass legislation avoiding the “Fiscal Cliff”.  Congressman Bass voted in favor of the bill; Congressman Guinta voted against it.

Even though the Senate had passed the bill almost unanimously, until dinnertime, it looked like the bill would fail in the House.  What happened at dinnertime?  The House took up a brand-new bill bashing federal employees and attempting to rescind their 0.5% cost-of-living increase, which is scheduled to go into effect at the end of March.  [Federal employees have already supplied $108 billion in “budget savings” through a two-year pay freeze and increased retirement contributions.]

Sure, there were only a few hours left for Congressional action.  Sure, there was no chance whatsoever that a brand-new bill would become law.  The House still took 90 minutes to debate it and hold a roll call vote. [Both Guinta and Bass voted for the bill.  Please remember that, if either of them run again for Congress in 2014.]

And after that last symbolic attack on federal employees, GOP House leadership was finally able to get around to the business of avoiding the Fiscal Cliff.  Gotta wonder about their priorities.

When it finally passed at 11:00 last night, the Fiscal Cliff bill was a true compromise.  It included concessions that angered people on both sides.   (Read the bill here.)

But it also set up yet another Congress-created crisis, scheduled to hit in only two months.

  • The bill did not address the federal debt limit – and two months from now, the Treasury will have exhausted the debt limit “headroom” created by taking “extraordinary measures” with government and postal employee pension funds.
  • The bill did not resolve “sequestration” spending cuts – but rather postponed them for two months.

So, the nation is rolling straight from one Congress-created crisis into another Congress-created crisis.

Gotta wonder why Congress keeps creating crises.  (Journalist Naomi Klein has an interesting theory about how crises – real or perceived – are used to further corporate goals.  Read more here.)

——————–

One of many things the Fiscal Cliff bill didn’t address was restoring the state share of federal estate taxes.

In a “sponge tax” system dating back to 1924, estate tax revenues were historically shared between the states and the federal government.  Back in 2001, Congress federalized the states’ portion of these revenues to help pay for the “temporary” Bush tax cuts.

Restoring the “sponge tax” system could mean more than $3 billion in annual revenues for state governments.  New Hampshire could receive an estimated $27 million in annual revenues.  Read more here.

frigateThe estate tax has a long and patriotic history.  It was created to raise funds for the country’s first Navy, and was used to fund almost every war before Iraq.  Read more here.

But for the past few decades, “members of a handful of super-wealthy families have quietly helped finance and coordinate a massive campaign to repeal the estate tax.  …The families also have helped finance outside groups that have spent millions on fear-mongering ad campaigns intended to sway public opinion against the estate tax.”  Read more here.

Who knows?  Maybe restoring these state revenues will be a part of whatever bill resolves this next Congress-created crisis.

New Tumblr Page, ‘I Voted Republican’ Uses Images To Challenge Rhetoric

There is a new Tumblr page called ‘I voted Republican’, which is dedicated to challenging Republican rhetoric.

Here’s the description:

“I Voted Republican” …WHY???

Remember back in 2009, when Tea Party Republicans were carrying signs like “Keep Your [Expletive] Government Hands Off My Medicare!” ? 

Since that time, we’ve noticed a growing gap between actual reality and “Republican Reality”. A developing disconnect between the real world and those doctrines dearly held by GOP “True Believers”.

* We find it amazing that so many Americans still think the Republican Party is better for the economy. [After President Bush spent the federal surplus – and trillions more – on tax cuts for the wealthy?!?]

* People still think the Republican Party is better on individual rights. [Ok, we’ll admit Republicans are staunch defenders of the right to carry guns. But what about the right to privacy in the doctor’s office?]

* People believe the Republican Party is more values-based, more “Christian”. [But didn’t Jesus tell us to “feed the hungry” and “love your neighbor”?] 

For those unfamiliar with Tubmlr, it is a micro-blogging site where people post, mostly images. Like every other social media, people are what make the blog posts spread.

The best part about Tumblr is that everyone gets to join in the conversation. The I Voted Republican page allows everyone to submit their own image memes for consideration on the page. You do not even have to be a member of Tumblr to enjoy the fun.

Get your creative juices flowing and create your own memes. If you do not have a way to make your own memes already, you can use http://memegenerator.net/ to choose from thousands of standard images or upload your own. Add your own text and then submit it.

Use this link to be taken directly to the submit page for the I Voted Republican Tumblr page.

Share this post with your friends and encourage them to join in the fun. Challenge them to create their own meme and see who gets the most likes.

Be sure to like and share your favorite images too.

http://ivotedrepublican.tumblr.com/

 

 

Speaker Boehner’s ‘New Offer’ is ‘to make top 2% tax cuts permanent’?!?

Speaker Boehner

Was House Speaker Boehner joking?

The press is beginning to report the details of his latest “offer” in the fiscal cliff negotiations.

Guess what?

The GOP’s newest proposal is to make the Bush tax cuts for the top 2 percent of American… permanent.

Read about it here.

Guess the GOP still thinks they should be able to dictate the terms of the fiscal cliff “compromise”.  What a way to “fix” the crisis that Congress created.  Most of us are still hurting from one of the worst recessions in history; 12 million Americans are still unemployed.  Shouldn’t the GOP be concerned about something other than protecting the wealthy?

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