Monday, November 19, 2012

Blue Dogs Now New Dems? (Back to PARTY Time!), How Fake Fiscal Cliff Arose, and GOP Refuses To Take Off Blinders

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If members of Congress (ex-Blue Dogs/New Dems and all Repubs) can depend on the bad memories of most Americans, then they will be able to sell balancing the tax-cuts-for-the-rich/multi-wars business-terrifying budget deficit on the backs of the lower classes.

And it's the "both sides do the same thing" argument all over again.

Yay them!

See how non-stop media repetition wins every time? (Thank you, Mr. Goebbels!)

And party time starts anew for the wealthy owners.

The Blue Dogs Are A Spent Force ... Until You See How They've Ditched The White Sheets And Hoods And Morphed Into The New Dems

Kind & Crowley - the bad news bears, if you're a working American
One of the reasons why is was so important that Nancy Pelosi decided to stay on as House Minority Leader was because what is building up behind her to take over the House Democratic Caucus. The threat of the Blue Dogs is dead - at least for now - but the Blue Dogs have morphed into the New Dems, a corporately-financed coalition of Big Business shills within the Democratic Party. Although almost all the detritus left over from the Blue Dogs has joined the New Dems, the New Dems aren't "as bad" as the Blue Dogs were. Well ... they're not as bad on social issues - Blue Dogs being generally homophobic, anti-Choice, anti-immigrant, etc. - but they are every bit as bad on economic and fiscal issues. These are the Democrats who want to make a deal with the GOP to allow a failed European Austerity Agenda take hold in America. Basically, they seek to balance the budget on the backs of working families.
"Former" New Dems Steve Israel (who is also a "former" Blue Dog) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz are pushing caucus members to elect New Dem chairman Joe Crowley, the most corrupt Democrat in Congress, to the position of House Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman over iconic progressive Barbara Lee. They are pushing the meme that the New Dems are the rising force inside the Party. In fact, they're doing more than pushing the meme. During the 2012 cycle, Israel, as Chairman, used the DCCC to recruit and support New Dems (and Blue Dogs - all of whom but Pete Gallego - failed dismally) and undermined progressives. There are 49 Democratic freshmen entering Congress in January. The DCCC actively backed (spent money on electing) 5 progressives who won - Lois Frankel (FL), Raul Ruiz (CA), Annie Kuster (NH), Carol Shea-Porter (NH) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) - and double the number of New Dems who won - Ami Bera (CA), Scott Peters (CA), Suzan DelBene (WA), Elizabeth Esty (CT), Bill Foster (IL), Joe Garcia (FL), Patrick Murphy (FL), Dan Maffei (NY), Sean Patrick Maloney (NY), and Brad Schneider (IL). Israel also wasted millions and millions of dollars trying to elect other New Dems and Blue Dogs who ultimately lost, while ignoring - and ever undercutting - progressives all across the country who ran.

Friday, The Hill reported that the conservative, corporate-oriented New Dems are planning "to fill the power vacuum created by the recent and rapid decline of the Blue Dog Coalition," without even mentioning that half the Blue Dogs who managed to survive are new Dems.

The group - whose members advocate a free-trade, business-friendly agenda that sometimes bucks the party - is hoping to emerge as a powerbroker in the 113th Congress.

Although the 15-year-old group of centrists has been frequently overshadowed by the conservative-leaning Blue Dogs and the liberals of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, New Democrats say their growing membership - combined with the looming debates over economic issues they see as their bread and butter - will give them greater sway in the fights that will almost certainly define the coming months on Capitol Hill.

"We've got a group of members that is well-represented from throughout the country who are willing to roll up our sleeves and work with anyone to try to find some common-sense and balanced and fair solutions to the fiscal hole that we're in right now," Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.), the newly-elected chairman of the coalition, said Thursday. "We hope in the days to come to play that constructive role."

Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.), a vice-chairwoman of the coalition, echoed that message this week, casting the New Democrats as an above-the-fray group that will ignore partisan politics in the name of getting things done.

...Working in their favor, the group has picked up more than a dozen new members since the Nov. 6 elections - a combination of newly elected-Democrats and incumbents who have joined this month - growing their ranks to at least 52 next year. (A few House races are still too close to call). Meanwhile, the Blue Dog Democrats - who boasted a membership of 54 in the 111th Congress - will see that number shrink to 14 in the 113th.

The New Democrats see new leverage in those shifting dynamics, and they're hoping to exert it in the upcoming budget battles.

"We must address our nation's debt and tackle long-term deficit reduction to put our nation on a path towards strengthened and sustainable growth," the group wrote Thursday to President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). "Our group will work with you to secure agreement on a plan of significance."

Members of the group say they can transcend the partisanship they blame for the political stalemate that defined the last two years on Capitol Hill.

"Boehner's got to deal with the Republicans, the president's got to deal with the Democrats," Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.). "The reality is there're groups within those [parties] that make it far more difficult, beyond their numbers, to reach a deal."

Still, New Democrats have struggled in efforts to sway the major policy debates of recent years. And with the Democrats still in the House minority, there's more pressure on all party members to rally behind their leadership - led by the liberal Pelosi - in opposition to the conservative Republicans under Boehner.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (Va.), another vice chairman of the New Democrats, acknowledged Friday that the coalition has been less influential than it's hoped in the past. But the high-stakes negotiations on the "fiscal cliff" and a deficit-reduction package, he was quick to add, provide the group with the "legislative opportunity" to be "serious players" in those coming fights.

"We're going to assert our values, our views, our take on something even if that might mean that it's somewhat at variance with, say, prevailing wisdom in our Caucus … or the White House," he said. "We can provide some political space for broadening our debate on economic issues in our Caucus."

Connolly was quick to point out that New Democrats are already pushing back against Pelosi's early and blanket opposition to entitlement benefit cuts as part of the budget negotiations. (The group says all options should be on the table in this early stage of the talks). He also claimed the group was influential in providing guidance to other Democrats surrounding Friday's passage of legislation expanding trade with Russia - a proposal the group supported.

"Fair enough that you're skeptical - I've heard it before," Connolly said of the group's influence. "But I think you're already seeing signs of a more assertive role."
And one of the first things the New Dems are attempting is to destroy Barbara Lee's candidacy in favor of Crowley. The vote is on Nov. 29. The other thing The Hill article managed to forget is a list of the Democrats who are in the New Dems:

Terri Sewell (AL)
Ron Barber (AZ)
Karen Bass (CA)
Lois Capps (CA)
Adam Schiff (Blue Dog-CA)
Loretta Sanchez (Blue Dog-CA)
Susan Davis (CA)
Jared Polis (CO)
Ed Perlmutter (CO)
Joe Courtney (CT)
Jim Himes (CT)
John Carney (DE)
John Barrow (Blue Dog-GA)
David Scott (Blue Dog-GA)
Colleen Hanabusa (HI)
Mike Quigley (IL)
Andre Carson (IN)
Cedric Richmind (LA)
Gary Peters (MI)
Rush Holt (NJ)
Carolyn McCarthy (NY)
Joe Crowley (NY)
Eliot Engel (NY)
Bill Owens (NY)
Brian Higgins (NY)
Mike McIntyre (Blue Dog-NC)
Kurt Schrader (Blue Dog-OR)
Allyson Schwartz (PA)
Jim Cooper (Blue Dog-TN)
Jim Moran (VA)
Gerry Connolly (VA)
Rick Larsen (WA)
Adam Smith (WA)
Ron Kind (WI)

And the newly-elected members:

Ami Bera (CA)
Scott Peters (CA)
Joaquin Castro (TX)
Suzan DelBene (WA)
John Delaney (MD)
Elizabeth Esty (CT)
Bill Foster (IL)
Joe Garcia (FL)
Patrick Murphy (FL), actually a Republican masquerading as a conservative Democrat
Denny Heck (WA)
Derek Kilmer (WA)
Dan Maffei (NY)
Sean Patrick Maloney (NY)
Brad Schneider (IL)
Juan Vargas (CA)

And how about a few more words on the fraudulent fiscal cliff (actually the upcoming austerity-for-the-poor fiscal cliff)?

From our friends at The Angry Bear

The GOP's Extortion Demands: Cut Social Security Or We'll Shoot The Country In The Foot

The GOP created the fiscal cliff beginning with the "temporary" tax cuts passed in 2001, 2003 and 2004 under the Bush administration, all as purportedly temporary provisions with sunset dates. They hoped that the passage of the tax cuts would, as generally happens when people have more of something they like, lead people to demand making all of the cuts permanent. The result would be a huge tax decrease for the wealthiest taxpayers, and a rather insignificant tax decrease for most Americans.

In many ways, their strategy worked. Most Americans forget that they didn't think they really had to have a cut in income taxes back in 2001, and they don't want to pay more taxes than they are paying now, even a little bit more. And the Great Recession means that for many Americans who are suffering deep financial injury still because of the housing and jobs crisis, every tax dollar saved is a step back to normalcy.

But the tax cuts pushed by the GOP joined together with the tremendous costs of the preemptive wars pushed by the GOP to create a veritable snowballing deficit.

Under Bush, we went from surplus in year one, to huge deficits the rest of the time (with much of the impact of the deficit hidden by the purportedly temporary nature of the provisions and the annual passage of an AMT patch that didn't have to be included in the calculation of the deficit until the particular patch was passed). Those two huge drivers of the deficit were treated by the GOP at the time as inconsequential, as GOP stars claimed that "deficits don't matter." See Dick Cheney to Congressional Republicans: don't stop spending, The Oregonian (July 18, 2012) (noting Cheney's current advice to keep spending on the military and retelling the story of Cheney's telling then Treasury secretary O'Neill that "Reagan proved that deficits don't matter").

Part of the right's goal, of course, was to use the increases in deficits that their tax cuts caused as a rationale for "starving the beast"--forcing the Democrats to accept cuts (they of course called them "reforms") to the parts of governnment that the right doesn't like. That meant reduction to the benefits from, and privatization of, Social Security and Medicare and reduction of government employee pensions and maybe, in a far right dream world, the elimination of any federal role in basic research funding, disaster emergency responses, and education. Meanwhile, the right would continue to push for increased spending on the parts of government it likes (military spending, for example--see Cheney's July 2012 admonition to the GOP to keep spending on the military, above) and continued favorable tax subsidies for the wealthy and big corporations (carried interest, domestic manufacturing deduction, etc.) even if that continued to add to the deficit and the debt.

The GOP's tune changed when the flagrant underregulation of the financialized economy (deregulation, of course, having been begun with Reagan and continued for decades now) resulted in the financial crisis that became the Great Recession and then a Democrat was elected president. GOP lawmakers suddenly thought deficits were bad (when they were created by Democratic presidents to respond to crisis). And debt--which had been spiralling upwards under the Bush regime with increases in debt ceiling hardly noticed--suddenly was a monster that must be contained. And all of this could be used by those on the radicalized right every time the debt ceiling had to be increased to extort from those not on the right the right's desired changes in social justice programs.

In other words, the radicalized GOP set the conditions in motion that allowed them to hold us hostage now, through their control of the House of Representatives, in an extortion campaign. In that campaign, they demand that they get the changes to Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid that they want (the so-called "reforms" to so-called "entitlement" programs that amount to the beginning of the unraveling of the New Deal that the right so detests) in exchange for their going along with increases to the debt ceiling that are necessary because of the irresponsible tax and spending policies that they pursued while in office or the measures that were necessary to shore up the financial system when it threatened collapse due to the deregulatory push that has gone on for forty years funded by and supported by the right (and some Dems in the middle as well).

So guess what. We shouldn't be surprised at all to hear today that U.S. House Speaker John Boehner says the GOP rightwingers will maybe agree to some "revenue" increases so long as they get their extortion payments--concessions from liberals that will ultimately lead to the reduction and/or privatization of Social Security and Medicare and other government programs. And of course this is double-speak anyway, since Boehner and his compatriots on the GOP right still ascribe to the frequently disproven market fundamentalism that believes that deregulation and "simplification" (meaning tax cuts) leads to economic growth that automatically results in revenue increases even without tax changes intended to raise more tax monies.

As Tiron and Rubin note in the Bloomberg piece reporting on Boehner's statements, his speech "sounded conciliatory and didn't alter the Republican position on tax policy" but "marked the start of political positioning and negotiations over what to do about the so-called fiscal cliff of $607 billion in combined tax increases and spending cuts." He isn't agreeing to tax increases: he just wants to be able to use the kind of manipulative tweaking of the data to get the desired result called "dynamic scoring" that the GOP right has been pushing for decades as a way to "prove" that their deficit-creating tax cuts really aren't costing anything! See Roxana Tiron and Richard Rubin, Boehner Would Accept New Revenue under 'Right Conditions', (Nov. 7, 2012)

Boehner called for concessions, stating "The president must be willing to reduce spending and shore up entitlement programs that are the primary drivers of our debt." Id.

Harry Reid (Senate majority leader) said "We're happy to deal with entitlements, but we're not messing with Social Security." It's hard to know for sure what that means--maybe they are willing to reduce Medicaid and Medicare benefits? Too bad he didn't say that we need to expand Obamacare to make it Medicare for all, so that we can get control of health care costs while providing much needed support particularly to the elderly at the end of life. But at least he did say something that should translate to "we are not going to change Social Security."

So the game is on. The GOP intends to continue pushing its same old medicine of tax cuts for the rich and entitlement cuts for the rest of us. I hope the Democrats have gained a little bit of backbone from the election so that they will push for wiser spending on public infrastructure and wiser tax policies in areas from estate and capital gains taxes to corporate subsidies.

Sore-Losing Doesn't Bode Well for Well-Considered Policy Choices on Taxes...

Romney and Ryan have apparently joined the GOP sore-losers ranks most ably demonstrated by John McCain's bitter post-presidential candidate spin. Romney betrayed the GOP's disregard for ordinary Americans in a post-election talk with some of his major donors.

Like his "47% comment" in which he disparaged those who don't have to pay income tax (but generally pay payroll and other taxes) by asserting that they aren't personally responsible and enjoying being dependents, Romney's comment about the reasons he lost essentially blames the voters for taking bribes from the sitting president. He suggested that Obama appealed to specific interest groups "the African American community, the Hispanic community and young people" with generous "gifts" like health-care reform, amnesty for children of illegal immigrants. See Maeve Reston, Romney attributes loss to 'gifts' Obama gave minorities, (Nov. 15, 2012).

Young voters, Romney said, were motivated by the administration's plan for partial forgiveness of college loan interest, the extension of health coverage for students up to age 26 on their parents' insurance plans and free contraception coverage under Obama's healthcare plan, which he credited with ushering greater numbers of college-age women into Obama's coalition.

The extended insurance coverage, in particular, was "a big gift to young people," he said, noting that they turned out as a "larger share in this election even than in 2008." Id.
Similar language was used to describe the reasons African Americans and Latinos voted in large numbers for Obama.

Such willingness to attribute defeat to political bribery goes a long way in demonstrating how out of touch the GOP is with what government should be doing. There is some obligation for politicians to serve the people -thinking in the long term and not just for the short term, but considering what kinds of programs merit consideration because of the good they do for individuals and in turn for society. Romney's deafness to this issue -and his view that taking care of the wealthy few is the only goal of tax policy (and probably spending policy as well) -justly helped in his defeat. It is terribly important that federal officials recognize the staggering inequality now existing and growing in this country and its impact on all of our lives and the sustainability of the economy as well as the future of our democratic institutions. Romney didn't get it. Obama got it imperfectly. Given a choice, a majority recognized the difference.

It is now time for the GOP to take off its blinders and get a better sense of how their economic policies and in particular their tax policies have been harmful to ordinary Americans and hence to the economy.

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