Archive for December, 2012
Solution To The “Fiscal Cliff”: If No Results, NO Salary And NO Benefits For All Members Of Congress!
It seems, as the author writes, that there will be no solution to the “Fiscal Cliff” crisis by the end of today, and that means massive tax increases for everyone; the end of unemployment compensation for two million people; and the possible doubling of milk and dairy prices. The likelihood of a recession returning, just as the economy was starting to improve, is a very real possibility!.
The answer SHOULD be that Congress must suffer too, if this is to happen! Their recklessness and irresponsibility is outrageous to the extreme, and no promise of improvement is likely anytime soon. They are undermining the respect for their institution, and turning the American people into a total disgust for their government’s inability to work for the public interest!
So there should be a public demand that ALL members of Congress forfeit their paychecks of about $175,000 per year per member, and ALL their medical benefits UNTIL they show responsibility and maturity to resolve this issue of the “Fiscal Cliff”! And there should be no back pay when the solution is finally reached!
Of course, in reality, no such situation can be forced, sadly, and of course, many members do not live on their salaries anyway, and are independently wealthy, but it is time through marches and demonstrations on Washington, DC, and across the country, that the people make it clear that they will not allow the anti government Tea Party Movement to “blackmail” the nation. It is time for Speaker John Boehner to assert his authority over the reckless members of his caucus, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to stop the maneuvering that prevents action in the Senate!
The Democrats are not totally innocent, either, by any means, but it is the GOP which has caused this crisis, since the Democrats and President Obama won the elections in November, and are entitled now to make policy for the nation, without anarchistic, terrorist like actions by the Tea Party Movement and its extreme right wing membership in Congress and across the country!
We can only hope for a miracle as we go into 2013!
Meanwhile, I wish all my readers a very Happy New Year, and hope for statesmanship and rationality in the New Year!
Tomorrow will, happily, be a day of celebration historically, and if one is not sure what this author is referring to, it will be answered tomorrow–a day in history that is one of the greatest moments in American history! See you in 2013!
The Senate is in a crisis situation, unable to accomplish much, due to the ridiculous filibuster issue, which has totally derailed action or voting on so many matters in the past few years.
The Republican minority has been able, just by threatening a filibuster, to block approval of judicial and executive nominations, and prevent serious discussion and voting on crucial matters. The filibuster, however, does not presently require that any Senator or Senators take the floor and talk for hours and hours, as Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina did in 1957, when he set a record of 25 hours for a personal filibuster, or having an 83 day group filibuster against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, before finally cloture was voted, and the filibuster was overcome.
So there have been proposals to modify the present requirement that 60 votes are needed to allow movement forward on any Senate issue.
Some want a simple 51 vote majority, similar to the 218 simple vote majority needed in the House of Representatives, while others want a 55 vote majority needed to move forward.
And others suggest something even less of a controversy: Bills for debate could not be filibustered, and filibusters could not be used to prevent formal negotiations with the House on Senate passed legislation, what is called the formation of a conference committee, which used to be common, and now is very rare.
Also, a Senator would have to be on the floor to mount a filibuster, or else, a vote on the bill would proceed. So the old filibuster rule, best represented by the Thurmond example, would require a commitment by one or a group of Senators to give the effort by personal sacrifices, speaking constantly on the floor of the Senate, to stop the bill from moving forward.
Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico have proposed these reasonable changes, and Joe Biden, as presiding officer, could move such changes forward, but there are seven Democrats, out of the 55 in the new Senate, who seem to be opposed.
These are Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer of California, Carl Levin of Michigan, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Max Baucus of Montana, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, and Mark Pryor of Arkansas. Notice that these Senators are all senior and older, longer serving members, with the shortest amount of service being Pryor, in the Senate since 2003.
This failure to understand how important reform is makes one watching this legislative mess feel very frustrated, and leaves one with the feeling that Senate reform will likely fail, and further undermine respect for our Congress and its ability to get things done!
As we enter the year 2013 in two days, the long term future of the Republican Party as a legitimate long term alternative to the Democratic Party is in dire threat of disappearing into the dustbin of history!
The Republican Party lost the Presidential and Congressional Elections of 2012 in a sound repudiation, with Barack Obama soundly defeating Mitt Romney. The US Senate, with 23 of 33 seats up for election being Democratic seats, and expected to lose some seats, ended up winning 25 of the seats, gaining three seats and only losing Nebraska to the Republicans. The US House of Representatives, while remaining in Republican hands, saw a gain of ten House seats by the Democrats. If it was not for gerrymandering by many Republican state legislatures, the Democrats would have gained control, as they won more total votes nationally in House races than the Republicans.
So the GOP really was walloped, and yet the party seems unable to accept what happened, and have allowed themselves to be hijacked by extremist groups, including the Tea Party Movement, Americans For Tax Reform, right wing talk show hosts on radio and Fox News Channel, the National Rifle Association,The Koch Brothers and other millionaires and billionaires, right wing preachers, and anti immigrant nativists and anti women’s rights elements, therefore resisting the need to move back from the extreme right to the moderate center, where the party had many victories over the years as a more mainstream conservative alternative to the Democratic Party.
It is now a moment of reckoning, as the Republican Party is about to implode, as public opinion polls make clear that the party will be blamed if America goes off the “fiscal cliff”, and taxes go up on everyone, and ruthless spending cuts, which hurt the most needy and disadvantaged in our society, occur!
There is a possibility that the Republican Party will go into the dustbin of history, if they do not reform in time for the midterm elections of 2014, which could, ironically, lead to the demise of the party on its 160th anniversary, having been founded as a reform oriented party in 1854, replacing the Whig Party!
John Boehner and Mitch McConnell have a major burden to deal with as the New Year begins, and their own personal futures, as well as that of their party, is meeting the challenge of becoming what they once were, a mainstream centrist party that can appeal to the changing demographics of America, or be replaced by a modern day Whig Party, with statesmen and leaders on the model of Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, and former Whigs who started the Republican Party, such as Abraham Lincoln!
With the new Senate coming in on January 3 for the 113th Congress, this author and blogger has decided to indicate who his “favorite” members, those he has real respect and admiration for, and expects great things from for the next two years. The following list is not ranked, but simply a list of the top ten by state alphabetically! At the end, though, the author will list the two Senators he most admires, who he sees as tied for BEST! So here goes!
Tom Harkin of Iowa
Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts
Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota
Al Franken of Minnesota
Sherrod Brown of Ohio
Jeff Merkley of Oregon
Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island
Bernie Sanders of Vermont
Tim Kaine of Virginia
Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin
Seven of the above are incumbents, while Warren, Kaine and Baldwin are newcomers to the US Senate. And seven are men, while three are women.
And my favorite Senators of this group would have to be a tie between:
Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, true heroes in my mind!
Notice that FIVE of these Senators come from the Midwest (both from Minnesota, and Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio).
Three come from New England–Massachusetts, Vermont and Rhode Island.
One comes from Virginia and one comes from Oregon.
And both favorites are New England neighbors.
This is the true progressive in action, with the Midwest, the area of progressivism in the past century, and New England as the areas of dominance, but with Oregon and Virginia adding admirable members to this select group!
The author invites commentary on this entry!
As the year 2012 comes to an end in the next few days, it is worth looking back to what progressive victories there have been in 2012.
The clear cut victory of Barack Obama is an event still reverberating in the emotions of this blogger, and the strong belief that the Obama coalition is solid, and will carry beyond him and affect politics over the next one to two generations! Any Democrat who is nominated for President in 2016 would be the favorite to win the White House, as the nation becomes more “blue” in states such as Arizona, Georgia and Texas.
The likelihood of the US Senate staying Democratic is also a conclusion from the events of 2012, as it was truly miraculous that every seat was retained, three gained, and only Nebraska lost to the Republicans in 2012. While 2014 again will see more Democratic seats (21) up than Republican seats (14), the odds of the Democrats losing a net total of six seats and losing control is extremely unlikely, and the possibility of gaining more seats is also very likely with the Republican party turning ever further to the Right politically, and further alienating the rapidly changing demographics of the country.
The biggest surprise of the year was the decision of Chief Justice John Roberts, a Bush II appointee, to back ObamaCare, guaranteeing its survival and success despite many barriers past, present and future. This was the most important decision of the Supreme Court in a long time, in the sense of its long range impact on the nation!
The great progress of gay rights and gay marriage was a wonderful event, with the likelihood of gay marriage being upheld by the Supreme Court, at least in some limited fashion, by June of next year.
The rise of the prominence and numbers of women in politics was exciting, and the true star of the year in that regard was Elizabeth Warren, the newly elected Senator from Massachusetts, who could become a Presidential possibility very quickly.
The massive contributions of Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton make them the two best decisions on personnel that President Obama made four years ago, and they have had an extremely positive effect on the historical record and reputation of Barack Obama.
The power of wealthy millionaires and billionaires to control the politics of America suffered a smashing defeat, an event thought unlikely after the Citizens United decision of the Supreme Court in 2010.
The reactionary and hateful agenda of the far Right, both politically and religiously, also suffered a great repudiation, and proved once again that optimism and progress win out over fear and regression, as long as the American people become engaged and involved in the agenda, and realize the threat to the great progress made in the past 80 years by the New Deal, Great Society, and the many political, social and economic reforms brought about by forward looking Democrats and Republicans in Congress, and by the leadership of Presidents of both parties who saw the need for more government intervention and regulation–including Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Notice that Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush are not included in this list, as they both set back the concept of fairness and equity that all of the other Presidents, including some Republicans, made part of their agenda, to the dismay of the right wing forces in America!
So 2012 has been a triumph in many ways for progressivism, liberalism, and the goals of the Left in American politics to make a society of justice, equity, and compassion!
The 104th Congress of 1995-1996 under Speaker Newt Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole had the worst performance of any Congress in fifty years, when it passed only 333 bills into law.
But now the 112th Congress has surpassed the 104th Congress in mediocrity, as under Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, ONLY 219 bills have been passed, and this coming after the 111th Congress (2009-2010) was the most productive since the 89th Congress (1965-1966) under President Lyndon B. Johnson!
The common thread of the 112th and the 104th Congresses is that in both cases, the House of Representatives was under Republican control, and with Republican control also in the US Senate for the 104th Congress. Split party control in the past two years between Democrats and Republicans turned out worse than the Republican control of both houses in 1995-1996!
Democratic Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts has announced his candidacy for the US Senate seat that will open up when John Kerry is confirmed as Secretary of State by the time of the inauguration of Barack Obama for his second term as President.
Markey has a distinguished record as one of the longest lasting members of the House of Representatives, having first been elected 36 years ago in 1976.
In a normal situation, Markey might have been able to run for the Senate years ago, but his misfortune was to come from Massachusetts, with two sterling Senators, Ted Kennedy, who served 47 years, the fourth longest service in Senate history, and John Kerry, who has served 28 years, and was the 2004 Democratic Presidential nominee against George W. Bush.
Markey has been a leader on climate change legislation, and now is speaking up vigorously for gun control legislation, and has always served his constituents with devotion, and has a reputation as a hard working liberal, who deserves this opportunity at age 66 to become a Senator. He could certainly serve a theoretical 14 years, two years of the Kerry term, and two more elections, and would then be retiring at the age 80, with the assurance that he would be a star figure in the Senate in the tradition of Kennedy and Kerry.
It is not that Massachusetts does not have other outstanding Congressmen, and others, who could fill the position, but Markey truly deserves the chance to be the nominee this coming summer, with a very good chance to defeat former Republican Senator Scott Brown, who would likely be his opponent. All good fortune to Ed Markey as he pursues the Senate seat!
Evaluating Woodrow Wilson A Century After His Election To The Presidency, And On His 156th Birthday Commemoration!
Woodrow Wilson, our 28th President, was born on this day in 1856, and was elected President in the four way race of 1912, running against Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Eugene Debs, arguably the most exciting Presidential election in American History.
The President with the least government experience, only two years as Governor of New Jersey; the only earned PH. D. to become President; the first President elected who grew up in the South (Virginia) since the Civil War; the President to face the greatest war crisis since Abraham Lincoln; the President who emphasized the importance of international affairs and the need for an international organization to promote peace; the President who was the culmination of the Progressive reform movements of the early 20th century; and the President who promoted successfully his domestic agenda, and then took on Theodore Roosevelt’s even more advanced progressive ideas and made them his own—this President has also been bitterly attacked by many for his shortcomings in many areas, and particularly has been viciously attacked by right wing conservatives, including Glenn Beck and George Will, who have torn his image to shreds.
Well, the question is whether the attacks on Wilson are fair and just, so that requires a careful examination of the positive and negative aspects of his Presidency.
Let’s start with the negative points that can be made about Wilson, and they are plenty!
1. Wilson was a white supremacist, despite his stellar education, and failed to treat people of African, Asian, and Latin American heritage in a dignified way, whether in the nation or with foreign nations overseas. His treatment of China, Japan, Mexico, Haiti and governments of other nations outside of Europe were treated in an insensitive and unacceptable manner, and he issued an executive order mandating segregation of the races in Washington, DC, and failed to recognize the contributions of soldiers of other than the Caucasian race during World War I. He legitimized and set back mistreatment of African Americans for another thirty years, until progress was made by President Harry Truman after World War II.
2. Wilson, inexplicably, opposed the woman suffrage movement, and had suffragettes arrested for disturbing the peace in their marches on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House. Theodore Roosevelt had proposed this constitutional change in his 1912 Progressive Party campaign, but Wilson never moved in that direction on his own. Despite his opposition, the 19th Amendment was added at the end of his term in 1920.
3. Wilson had a horrible record on civil liberties in wartime, promoting passage of the Espionage Act, Sedition Act, and numerous other laws violating freedom of speech and press. He displayed total intolerance toward critics, once America was at war, and is regarded as one of the absolutely worst Presidents on the subject of civil liberties overall for his eight years in office.
4. Wilson was intolerant of opposition in Congress, refusing to work with Republicans when events worked against him, and tended to see things in religious terms, with him having God behind him, and often invoking religion in his speeches and comments. So he was seen as manipulative and deceitful in his actions and words that took us to ultimate war in 1917, and refused to negotiate on the Versailles Treaty after the war.
5. Wilson had a supreme, and self righteous ego, and this made him blind to reality much of the time, as when he had a severe paralytic stroke, but refused, along with his second wife, to keep Vice President Thomas Marshall informed, or to consider resigning in 1919-1921 so that the nation would have a President capable of leading the nation in the difficult post war days, when Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer led the Red Scare or Palmer Raids, another massive violation of civil liberties, which helped to spur the creation of the Civil Liberties Union in 1920. The nation was basically leaderless for a period of 18 months, as Wilson slowly recovered and even thought of running for an unprecedented third term despite his poor health.
Now to the positive side of Woodrow Wilson!
1. Wilson was the most successful President in domestic policy achievements up to his time in office, and only surpassed later by Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s and Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1960s. He accomplished all of his original domestic agenda, including legislation that has stood the test of time, despite criticism by conservatives and Republicans over the years, including the Federal Reserve Act, the Federal Trade Commission Act, and the Clayton Anti Trust Act, as well as the first attempt at so called “free trade”, the lowering of tariff walls on foreign goods.
2. Wilson also accomplished the passage of laws originally promoted by Theodore Roosevelt in 1912, including the temporary end of child labor, protection for some workers on hours, workers compensation, and the protection of the merchant marine workers who are employed on ships offshore. Also, the first real attempt at agricultural aid to farmers to encourage expansion of acreage and the buying of new equipment, was also an idea promoted by TR. Basically, Wilson adopted much of the Populist Party and Progressive Party agenda of earlier times, and brought Progressive reform to its peak in the period before the conservative 1920s.
3. Wilson dealt with a war that was the most massive for America in 50 years, and was skilled enough to keep America out of war for two years and eight months after World War I began in Europe, but his role in the eventual entrance of America is still highly disputed even today, seen by some as dishonest and deceptive, but praised by many others as the best one could have expected.
4. Wilson had a vision of a peaceful post war world, and saw an international organization, the League of Nations, as the most important accomplishment of the Treaty of Versailles, and was stunned by the rejection of the US Senate to any international commitment, with America going into isolation. But his vision came to fruition a generation after his passing, with the establishment of the United Nations, but with many conservatives and Republicans bitterly opposed today in the US involvement in that international organization.
5. Wilson comes across, despite his many faults and shortcomings as worthy, in the minds of most experts, to be rated in the top ten of all Presidents–number 6 in the C Span 2000 poll and number 9 in the 2009 C Span Followup poll, and this despite bitter condemnation by so many right wing sources who only emphasize the evil side of Wilson, and give him no credit for his accomplishments. There is no question, however, that he had an important impact on the growth of Presidential power, the exact reason why the right wing hates his guts.
This blogger and author understands the mixed legacy of Woodrow Wilson, but still sees him as an influential President, who still impacts America a century after his first election to the Presidency!
So Happy Birthday, President Wilson, a man we will hear a lot about as we commemorate the major events of his administration over the next eight years from March 4, 1913, to March 4, 1921!
In the 113th Congress, due to meet on January 3, there will be a total of 34 people of Jewish heritage serving over the two years of that Congress.
There will be 12 Senators and 22 House members, with the only Republican being House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia.
The 12 Senators include newly appointed Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii, just appointed and sworn in yesterday for a two year term, before Schatz has to run for the remaining two years of the term of former Senator Daniel Inouye.
The other eleven Jewish Senators include:
Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein of California
Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut
Michael Bennet of Colorado
Ben Cardin of Maryland
Carl Levin of Michigan
Al Franken of Minnesota
Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey
Charles Schumer of New York
Ron Wyden of Oregon
Bernie Sanders of Vermont
Among the House members are:
Henry Waxman of California
Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Alan Grayson and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida
Jan Schakowsky of Illinois
Sander Levin of Michigan
Eliot Engel, Steve Israel, Nita Lowey and Jerrold Nadler of New York
Jewish members of the two houses of Congress come from:
The 113th Congress will have TWENTY women, the highest number in American history!
The 112th Congress had seventeen women, 12 Democrats and 5 Republicans.
The 113th Congress will have 16 Democrats and 4 Republicans, with Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, both Republicans, retiring!
Five new women will join the Senate—Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts,.Tammy Baldwin of WIsconsin, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, and Deb Fischer of Nebraska, with Fischer being the lone Republican. Fifteen women Senators will remain, including three Republicans—Susan Collins of Maine, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. The twelve returning Democratic women include: Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Diane Feinstein of California, Barbara Boxer of California, Parry Murray of Washington, and Maria Cantwell of Washington.
Also, three states have both Senators being women—New Hampshire, California, and Washington!
And to top it off, New Hampshire not only has two women Senators, but also both House members are women, and the new Governor is a woman, the first state to have an all female representation in Congress and the Governorship!
How far America has come as we enter the year 2013!