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Progressive Dems: Obama Should Push Economic Executive Actions After Midterm Losses

November 12th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in Budget Debates, PDA, pushing obama, safety net

By Dave Jamieson

Progressive America Rising via Huffington Post

WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2014 -  Republican leaders have warned President Barack Obama that pursuing more executive actions after last week’s midterm drubbing would be like playing with fire. But Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said on Monday that unilateral action by the president on economic issues is more necessary than ever.

"The president is in a pivotal position to go assertively with executive orders to create a political balance and an economic balance," Grijalva told reporters on a conference call. "I’m one member that urges them to use that as a balancing tool and a leadership tool in these next two years."

Grijalva and his fellow caucus co-chair, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), are putting their weight behind two proposals in particular: one executive order that would give federal contracting preference to firms that pay a living wage of $15 and provide basic benefits to workers, and another guaranteeing that contractors wouldn’t interfere with worker efforts to unionize. Branded as "More Than the Minimum," the proposals are being pushed by Good Jobs Nation, a labor group backed by the Change to Win union federation, and other progressive allies.

Ellison and Grijalva, along with Good Jobs Nation, already have a couple of executive-action victories under their belts. They successfully pressured the White House to institute two executive actions that were signed by the president earlier this year — one setting a minimum wage of $10.10 for federal contractors, and another that would effectively bar firms that have committed wage theft against their workers from receiving federal contracts.

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Importance of the War Powers Resolution

November 10th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in Long War, militarism, Obama

 

By Paul Ryder and Tom Hayden

[Research by Paul Ryder]

Nov. 10, 2014 – The nation needs a full public debate and a Congressional vote on whether to authorize the current American military interventions in Iraq and Syria and, if so, under what conditions. The past is prologue:

April 4, 1956: President Dwight Eisenhower’s news conference –

Q: Sarah McClendon, El Paso Times: Sir, would you order those Marines that were sent over to the Mediterranean and over in that area, would you order them to war, without asking the Congress first?

A: President Eisenhower: I get discouraged sometimes here. I have announced time and time and time again I will never be guilty of any kind of action that can be interpreted as war until the Congress, which has the Constitutional authority, says so.

Now, I have said this so often that it seems to me almost ridiculous to ask me the question. Look, how can a war be conducted? You’ve got to have troops, you have got to have draft laws, you have got to have money. How could you conduct a war without Congress? Their Constitutional power is to declare war, and I am going to observe it.

Now, there are times when troops, to defend themselves, may have to, you might say, undertake local warlike acts, but that is not the declaration of war, and that is not going to war, and I am not going to order any troops into anything that can be interpreted as war, until Congress directs it.[1]

One of the hard-earned lessons of the Vietnam War is that Congress must not cede to the White House its constitutional power to declare war.

This lesson became law in the form of the 1973 War Powers Resolution. With a new war starting in the Middle East, Congress must now invoke this law.

 

1. Why bring up Vietnam?

Since no two wars are the same, the new war is not the same as Vietnam. The similarities, however, are so haunting they are already being discussed across the board. Here is a selection of recent articles:

  • “Formula For Defeating ISIS Evokes Memories Of Vietnam Nightmare,” Donald Kirk, Forbes, September 13, 2014
  • “ISIS and Vietnam,” Thomas Friedman, New York Times, October 28, 2014
  • “Obama echoes LBJ on Vietnam,” Bruce Fein, Washington Times, September 21, 2014
  • “ISIS: Obama’s Vietnam?” David Seaton, Fire Dog Lake, October 12, 2014
  • “The Iraq/ISIS Debate: Beware the Ghosts of Saigon and Karbala,” The National Interest, July 10, 2014
  • “Ellsberg Sees Vietnam-Like Risks in ISIS War,” Barbara Koeppel, Consortium News, October 1, 2014
  • “McCain: ‘Incremental’ Strikes on ISIS Remind Me of Vietnam,” Brendan Bordelon, National Review, October 6, 2014
  • “Vietnam v. Iraq: Suicide attacks changed everything,” The Economist, September 11, 2014
  • “As U.S. Bombs Fall, British Hostage of ISIS Warns of Another Vietnam,” Rukmini Callimachi, New York Times, September 22, 2014
  • “Pentagon official: The Similarities Between Obama’s ISIS and Kennedy’s Vietnam Are Eerie,” Joseph Miller, Daily Caller, October 13, 2014

Like it or not, Vietnam is back. We all need to know what happened and what it means.

Today, Congress is hampered in this discussion by the loss of its institutional memory of Vietnam. No one currently in the U.S. Senate was in office in 1973 when the War Powers Resolution passed.[2] Only four current members of the U.S. House were then serving: John Dingell of Michigan, who retires in January 2015, John Conyers of Michigan, Charles Rangel of New York, and Don Young of Alaska.[3]

So, too, with the public: most Americans now living had not been born when the War Powers Resolution became 50 U.S. Code Chapter 33.[4]

2. The Constitution and the Vietnam War

In 1787, the Founders made the Constitution as clear as they could about the matter: “The Congress shall have power to . . . declare war.”[5]

Over the next 155 years, Congress passed eleven U.S. declarations of war authorizing five wars: the War of 1812, U.S.-Mexican War, Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II.[6] [7]

President Harry Truman used the resolutions of the new United Nations as the legal basis for the Korean War, but the modern pattern for riding roughshod over Congress was set by President Lyndon Johnson.

The 1964 Tonkin Gulf “Incident” had four now-familiar stages.

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Why the Democrats Lost

November 8th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in 2014 Election, Democrats

Progressive policies had success –?? too bad the party didn’t run on them

By Bhaskar Sunkara
Progressive America Rising via al-Jazeera

Nov. 4, 2014 – From the outside, it looks as though American voters are more confused than ever.

On election day, they showed their concern about growing economic inequity by voting for ballot measures that increased the minimum wage. They proved their progressive values by supporting marijuana legalization, gun control and reproductive rights. In the same go, they elected Republicans in Senate and House of Representatives races, guaranteeing a GOP majority in Congress for years to come.

The disconnect seems difficult to grasp, though much of it can be attributed to low turnout and the fragmented nature of American politics, where national topics are often of little importance in local races.

District gerrymandering also played a role; the Democrats had more votes than their total number of seats would indicate. Republicans directly instigated the redrawing of congressional lines in many states over the past few years. As journalist Lee Fang notes, Democratic candidates in Pennsylvania won 44 percent of the vote, but secured only 27 percent of the state’s congressional seats.

Even so, a substantial level of Republican support is undeniable. Barack Obama has presided over an economic recovery that exceeds that of most European countries, but that still feels sluggish to most Americans, whose real wages and living standards have been stagnant or in decline for a generation.

Change isn’t on the way either: The president has been unable to follow through on the policy priorities he does have, even when he had a more favorable Congress early in his administration. And Obama’s chief legislative victory — health care reform — is inadequate and built around concessions to the private health insurance industry.

Obama, of course, does face a determined and organized right-wing opposition. The Tea Party may no longer be capturing headlines, but the organization and zeal they’ve injected into the Republican Party is undeniable. Their base is a tradition one for the American Right: middle-class and wealthy white men. As a whole, 64 percent of white males voted for Republicans, the largest margins in years. And this time around they were also joined by more women. Democrats still won more votes from women, but it was just by a margin of 5 percent, down from 11 percent in 2012.
There are huge swathes of the country with broadly social-democratic politics who are effectively to the left of most mainstream Democrats and feel left out by the party’s outreach.

Demographic shifts are often touted as proof that the Democrats should be able to maintain control of the White House. It is true that Asians, Hispanics, and blacks voted in such astounding numbers for Obama that he was able to win comfortably with only 39 percent of the white vote. And with advantages among young people and continued inroads into the Sun Belt, trends still favor the Democrats. Republicans, on the other hand, have increasingly become a regional party wedded to the antiquated rhetoric of white identity politics.

But at the local level the Republican Party remains better able to mobilize and turn out its supporters in midterm elections. The formula could mean a rightward lurch at the national level, even if Hillary Clinton eases to victory in 2016.

The response of mainstream Democrats to the present situation essentially boils down to blaming young people and minority voters — who support them every four years in presidential elections but “don’t care enough” to show up in off years. They speak of a crisis of politics and voter apathy in sweeping terms, while barely mentioning their own shortcomings.

But there’s a good reason why people turn out and support measures such as minimum wage laws when they’re on the ballot: They’re not idiots. They understand the policies that will make their lives and the lives of other working people better and they know that it’s important to support them.

But Democrats didn’t offer enough such proposals. Instead, most Democrats were satisfied with reassuring voters that they weren’t Republicans. It’s hard to think of a candidate from the party who spoke broadly in moral and ethical terms, presented their vision of a good society and how we could reach it. This should come as no surprise; the Democrats are too tied to moneyed interests and too disconnected from labor and pressure from social movements to embrace progressive politics consistently or to be anything other than tepid centrists.

By contrast, the other side of the political spectrum, in the tea party-influenced Republican Party, shows the power of a consistent and ideological politics that motivates its base to get out and vote every November.

Don’t get me wrong: There isn’t a commanding progressive majority just waiting to see radical candidates on the ballot. But there are huge swathes of the country with broadly social-democratic politics who are effectively to the left of most mainstream Democrats and feel left out by the party’s outreach. Once organized and engaged, they can change American politics. But they’re going to need a more compelling reason than the tired biannual sell “Look at at us, we’re not Republicans.”

Bhaskar Sunkara is the founding editor of Jacobin.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera America’s editorial policy.

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Dollarocracy: Even the Establishment Is Worried

November 4th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in 2014 Election

Election 2014: A new level of collaboration between candidates and big-money allies

Thirty-six Senate races, $3.6 billion in total costs and one election: Here’s a look at 2014 midterm spending, by the numbers. (Julie Percha/The Washington Post)

By Matea Gold
Washingtom Post

Nov.3, 2014 – The 2014 midterm elections mark a new level of collaboration between candidates and independent groups, eroding the barrier that is supposed to separate those running for office from their big-money allies.

The vast sums of cash raised by independent groups have reordered the political landscape, compelling campaigns to find new ways to communicate their wants and needs without officially coordinating with outside players. Such direct coordination is prohibited under 40-year-old campaign finance rules.

This is not how the system used to work. Just a decade ago, candidates shied away from being too closely associated with “soft money,” for reasons of appearance and for fear of running afoul of election laws.

But the rapid spread of super PACs and politically active nonprofit groups that followed the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has dramatically altered the climate. Political operatives are also taking advantage of the hands-off approach of a divided Federal Election Commission, which has not reexamined coordination rules in the wake of the 2010 ruling.

“There is a lot of boldness,” said Larry Norton, a campaign finance lawyer at Venable who served for six years as the FEC’s general counsel. “It’s partly a function of very sketchy rules and regulations and little enforcement. People aren’t sure where the lines are.”

 

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Hard Challenges for Progressives

October 28th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in 2014 Election, rightwing

Lots of Americans don’t trust either party to do much of anything. They are voting for Republicans.

By Philip Bump

Progressive America Rising via The Fix

October 28, 2014 – Among the many reasons that Republicans will be happy next Wednesday is that the likely voter pool skews to the right. But buried in the new Washington Post/ABC News poll is another reason: Even people who don’t trust either party plan to give their trust to the GOP.

If you ask American adults which party they trust more to handle the country’s problems, Democrats do better by a two-point margin. (Which is within the margin of error.) Narrow that down to registered voters, and it’s even, 39 percent to 39 percent, with 3 percent saying "both" and 13 percent saying "neither." Narrow that down again to people likely to vote next Tuesday, and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus starts doing a little jig: 42 percent of likely voters trust the Republicans more, while 37 percent trust the Democrats.

Go another level deeper, and that jig turns into the Macarena, or whatever dance comes naturally to older dudes at wedding receptions. (Editor’s note: As an "older dude," I am a big fan of the Electric Slide.) Of the 13 percent of likely voters who don’t trust either political party, more than half plan to vote Republican.

Why the distrustful voters plan to vote Republican is open to interpretation, but it seems likely that it’s in part a protest vote. A quarter of independent voters see their vote as expressing opposition to Obama, far less than the half of Republicans, but far more than the 8 percent of Democrats.

Regardless, that question probably isn’t keeping Reince off of the dance floor.

Philip Bump writes about politics for The Fix. He previously wrote for The Wire, the news blog of The Atlantic magazine. He has contributed to The Daily Beast, The Atlantic, The Daily, and the Huffington Post. Philip is based in New York City.

Terror … and Racial Terror

October 26th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in Civil Rights, racism, rightwing

Photo by Stephen Melkisethian.

 

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.

Progressive America Rising

This article was originally published at ZNet.

With all of the discussion about ISIS/ISIL, Al Qaeda, etc., one would think that the only terror on this planet is that derived from relatively small numbers of criminal fascists roaming the planet who claim to be Muslims.  Yet that is not the only location of terror.  In West Africa, for instance, millions live in terror as the horrific virus, Ebola, spreads, killing more than 3,000 people.  Due in large part to the devastation wrought by neo-liberal policies on the health care systems of West African nations, Ebola has been spreading at an unanticipated rate.

There are other forms of terror, of course.  Environmental devastation and climate change, which capitalism seems unable to stop but has also played a major role in advancing, threatens billions.  Islands across this planet are threatened as water encroaches on coastal regions.  And one need not be a rocket scientist to know that it is the working classes, the farmers and many other impoverished segments of society that will suffer on a scale beyond anything that will afflict the rich and powerful.

There is, however, a form of terror at work within the USA that is not named but are every bit as deadly and destructive as anything that ISIL and Al Qaeda can produce.  This terror is racial terror, a reality that shapes the lives of millions of people of color.  It is racial terror that helps to explain the shortened life spans of African Americans; the prevalence of various illnesses, or at least the high rate of illnesses, such as diabetes and hypertension, among people of color; and the flinch which we of color all experience in the face of racially-inspired insults, humiliations and micro-aggressions.

It is difficult for most white people to appreciate the racial terror with which people of color live.  There are certain things that do not generally concern whites.  They do not, generally, have to worry about the race or ethnicity of the person with whom they are driving.  They rarely have to worry about being pulled over by the police when driving through a neighborhood that is not their own.

I frequently tell the story of attending the first Labor Notes conference in Detroit, Michigan in 1981.  At the end of the conference a blond, Scandinavian woman was looking for a ride back to the East Coast.  I had driven to Detroit from Boston with another African American man.  We were asked if we could take her back to the East Coast.  My friend and I looked at one another and, at about the same time, shook our heads “No.”  It was not personal; the idea of two African American men driving across several states with a very attractive, blond woman was something that set off all sorts of bells and whistles.  Yet, this is an experience that most whites would find difficult to fathom.  In my mind’s eye, and that of my friend, we could imagine being pulled over by the police or being pursued by white men who were not particularly excited about the imagery, let along reality of two black men driving cross country with a white woman.

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Rev. William Barber’s New Book Reminds Us Why We Must Vote

October 23rd, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in 2014 Election, racism, rightwing, safety net, Voting Rights

 

441_Forward_TogetherBy Terrance Heath

Progressive America Rising via Ourfuture.org

Oct 22, 2014 – With Election Day just two weeks away, the words of Paul Wellstone Citizen Leadership Award  recipient and Moral Mondays movement leader Rev. William Barber remind us, “If we ever needed to vote, we sure do need to vote now!” His new book reminds us of the moral power of progressive values when we march “forward together.”

Rev. Barber’s words come from his 2012 address to the NAACP, but as timely as ever with so much at stake in this election, as Denise Oliver Velez writes:

Election Day 2014 is on Tuesday, November 4, a little over two weeks away. This election will make a profound difference in the lives of many of our citizens. For some, it is a matter of life and death—given the refusal of some states to accept Medicaid expansion. We are all too aware of right-wing extremist efforts in many of those same states to suppress the vote, and to construct obstacles to voting.

One of the most powerful voices in the nation, fighting to mobilize a broad-based coalition of social activists to fight voter suppression, is that of the Rev. Dr. William Barber II. What is disconcerting is that with only a few exceptions, the major traditional media have managed to ignore his voice and the Moral Mondays movement he is leading—from his home base of North Carolina, to as far north as Wisconsin.

How did much of the press manage to ignore 80,000 people who marched in Raleigh, North Carolina, back in February?

While the traditional media is willing to pay homage to Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks in memorials and tributes, journalists are far too willing to pretend that the civil rights movement was buried with Dr. King. Contrary to those who speak as if the movement ended in 1968, it is alive and growing. Blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, women and men—straight and LGBT, religious and non-religious, young and old—have come together in a breathtaking and extraordinary fusion movement, Moral Mondays, spearheaded by the Rev. William Barber, head of the North Carolina NAACP. His book about that movement, Forward Together: A Moral Message for the Nation, is being released by Chalice Press November 1.

Just in time for the election, Rev. Barber’s new book from Chalice Press, Forward Together: A Moral Message for the Nation, recalls the beginnings of the historic Moral Mondays movement, puts progressive values in a moral context we can take with us into the voting booth.

Last summer, after seven years of grassroots organizing, “Moral Mondays” grabbed the nation’s attention as thousands protested North Carolina’s General Assembly in Raleigh in support of the poor, voting rights, health care, immigrant rights, and other issues. Over 13 consecutive weeks, the protests against legislative extremism resulted in the arrests of nearly 1,000 people, making it one of the largest acts of civil disobedience in U.S. history. As thousands more gathered in support each Monday, Barber, president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, became widely recognized as the leader of a new civil rights movement in the South. More than 100 “Moral Monday” connected events have since taken place, and the spirit of the movement has spread to Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, Wisconsin, and New York. This reflection on the movement’s beginnings introduces Barber, the sources of his courage from both a biblical imagination for justice and a deep connection to “fusion” civil rights history, and the inspiring story of the Southern freedom movement’s revival.

Barber invites readers into a big-tent, faith-based movement for justice that has room for black, white, and brown, gay and straight, rich and poor, old and young, Republicans and Democrats, people from all walks of life. Offering his unique analysis of what he has called the “Third Reconstruction,” Barber locates North Carolina’s struggle in the spiritual and political landscape of 21st-century America. With civil rights and social justice battles with a deep moral narrative, particularly in southern statehouses that then move to federal courts on appeal, what happens in North Carolina can shift the center of gravity in political discourse, debate, and decision—and thereby change the nation.

“Messages of moral dissent are designed not to just be spoken and heard but to shape the prophetic consciousness of a movement and of society,” says Barber. “The prophetic voice rises when government systems and sometimes even religious systems have abdicated their responsibility to the least of these. When the forces of extremism have become so overwhelming and have depressed the hope of the people, the prophetic voice and mission is to connect words and actions in ways that build restorative hope so that there can be a movement for restorative justice. So this book is an attempt to capture the practice of ‘preaching’ in the public square, which is where prophetic inquiry and critique must function.”

Check out Rev. Barber’s book when it drops on November 1st and take his message into the voting booth on November 4th!

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The 2014 elections and the ‘Second Great Disenfranchisement’

October 14th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in 2014 Election, elections, Voting Rights

By David Schultz

Progressive America Rising via Twin Cities Daily Planet

Oct. 12, 2014 – Elections are supposed to be the way people select their leaders. Increasingly that is no longer the case. The courts now occupy an enormous role in determining the outcome of elections–even before they start. That is clearly the case this year where too often the goal has become to rig elections by making it harder for some, especially people of color, the poor, and the young, to vote. This especially seems to be the strategy of Republicans who continue to push the Second Great Disenfranchisement in American history.

Consider what is happening across the country right now, with less than a month before the election and early voting already taking place in many states.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Ohio’s curtailment of early voting which was adopted by Republicans, after a federal district court and a court of appeals stayed the law. Republicans in Wisconsin pushed through a strict voter ID law and just in the last few days the Supreme Court has enjoined its enforcement for this election. Suits are challenging limits passed by Republicans in North Carolina limiting on same day voter registration and a ban on counting ballots from incorrect precincts. And in just the last few days a federal judge enjoined a voter ID law in Texas that would have disenfranchised over 600,000 voters, especially impacting African-Americans and Latinos. This law too was pushed by Republicans including the state’s governor Rick Perry.

In all of these cases it is Republicans pushing to shrink the electorate, to make it more difficult for people of color, the poor, and young to vote. If the First Great Disenfranchisement came after Reconstruction ended in the 1870s, we are now witnessing the Second Great Disenfranchisement. The former ushered in the era of Jim Crow, polls taxes, literacy tests, and grandfather clauses as tools to deny African-Americans the right to vote. Today claims of voter fraud and measures such as voter ID, long voting lines, eliminating early voting, and the gutting of the Voting Rights Act are the tools to accomplish the same.

Republicans generally are advocating limits on voting, depressing voter turnout even more during midterms elections when Democrat-leaning voters are less likely to show up. This seems to be part of a national strategy to rig elections in their favor. In some states, such as Wisconsin and North Carolina, these curtailments of voting rights could make a serous difference in who wins as governor or the US Senate, and ultimately which party might control the Senate.

But even beyond legal efforts to disenfranchise, another one is occurring. Nationally, perhaps only around 38-40% of those eligible to vote this year. Young people, people of color, and the poor are especially likely to stay home. Yes it may be true that neither of the major parties offers any alternative or real choice for these people, but still one should vote. Vote even if it means writing in a candidate of your choice. Show up, vote, and use it as a protest vote if needed. Get in the habit of showing up and demonstrating to the two parties that your voice matters and it should be considered.

A lot of blood and energy was spent in the passed to get the young, people of color, and the poor the right to vote. Don’t waste those past efforts. Remember, there are many people who don’t want you to vote and who did not want your ancestors to vote. Voter ID laws and other legal restrictions are bad but it is even worse if you decide not even to bother to show up.

Elizabeth Warren on Barack Obama

October 13th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in Democrats, safety net, Tax Policy, Wall Street

“They protected Wall Street. Not families who were losing their homes. Not people who lost their jobs. And it happened over and over and over”

  • EXCLUSIVE: Elizabeth Warren on Barack Obama: "They protected Wall Street. Not families who were losing their homes. Not people who lost their jobs. And it happened over and over and over"

"There has not been nearly enough change," she tells Salon, taking on Obama failures, lobbyists, tuition. So 2016?

By Thomas Frank

Progressive America Rising via Salon

Oct. 12, 2014 – Senator Elizabeth Warren scarcely requires an introduction. She is the single most exciting Democrat currently on the national stage.

Her differentness from the rest of the political profession is stark and obvious. It extends from her straightforward clarity on economic issues to the energetic way she talks. I met her several years ago when she was taking time out from her job teaching at Harvard to run the Congressional Oversight Panel, which was charged with supervising how the bank bailout money was spent. I discovered on that occasion not only that we agreed on many points of policy, but that she came originally from Oklahoma, the state immediately south of the one where I grew up, and also that high school debate had been as important for her as it had been for me.

In the years since then, Professor Warren helped to launch the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (which will probably be remembered as one of the few lasting achievements of the Obama Administration); she wrote a memoir, A Fighting Chance; and she was elected to the United States Senate from Massachusetts.

This interview was condensed and lightly edited.

I want to start by talking about a line that you’re famous for, from your speech at the Democratic National Convention two years ago: “The system is rigged.” You said exactly what was on millions of people’s minds. I wonder, now that you’re in D.C. and you’re in the Senate, and you have a chance to see things close up, do you still feel that way? And: Is there a way to fix the system without getting the Supreme Court to overturn Citizens United or some huge structural change like that? How can we fix it?

That’s the question that lies at the heart of whether our democracy will survive. The system is rigged. And now that I’ve been in Washington and seen it up close and personal, I just see new ways in which that happens. But we have to stop and back up, and you have to kind of get the right diagnosis of the problem, to see how it is that—it goes well beyond campaign contributions. That’s a huge part of it. But it’s more than that. It’s the armies of lobbyists and lawyers who are always at the table, who are always there to make sure that in every decision that gets made, their clients’ tender fannies are well protected. And when that happens — not just once, not just twice, but thousands of times a week — the system just gradually tilts further and further. There is no one at the table…I shouldn’t say there’s no one. I don’t want to overstate. You don’t have to go into hyperbole. But there are very few people at the decision-making table to argue for minimum-wage workers. Very few people.

They need to get a lobbyist. Why haven’t they got on that yet?

Yeah. Why aren’t they out there spending? In the context when people talk about “get a lobbyist,” the big financial institutions spent more than a million dollars a day for more than a year during the financial reform debates. And my understanding is, their spending has ratcheted up again. My insight about that, about exactly that point, [is] in the book [A Fighting Chance], in the second chapter, which is when my eyes first get opened to the political system. Here I am, I’m studying what’s happening to the American family, and just year by year by year, I’m watching America’s middle class get hammered. They just keep sliding further down. The data get worse every year that I keep pulling this data. Bankruptcy is the last hope to right their lives for those who have been hit by serious medical problems, job losses, a divorce, a death in the family — that accounts for about 90 percent of the people who file for bankruptcy. Those four causes, or those three if you combine divorce and death. So, how could America, how could Congress adopt a bankruptcy bill that lets credit card companies squeeze those families harder?

What year was that?

When they finally adopted it was 2005. But the point was, it started back in — actually it started in 1995, the effort [to change the bankruptcy laws]. And that’s when I got involved with the Bankruptcy Commission. When, first, [commission chairman] Mike Synar came to me, and then Mike Synar died. It was just awful. And Brady Williamson [the replacement chairman] came to me. But what I saw during that process is, this was not an independent panel that could kind of sit and think through the [problem]: “Let’s take a look at what the numbers show about what’s happening to the families. Let’s take some testimony, get some people in here who have been through bankruptcy, and some creditors who have lost money in bankruptcy, and let’s figure out some places where we could make some sensible recommendations to Congress.” That wasn’t what it turned out to be at all.

It turned out that it was all about paid lobbyists . . .

And what they wanted.

And what they wanted. I tried as hard as I could, and there were almost no bankrupt families who were ever even heard from. And you stop and think about it — why would that be so? Well, first of all, to show up to something like that, you’ve got to know about it and you’ve got to take a day off from work. Who’s going to do that? These are families who are under enormous stress and deeply humiliated about what had happened to them. They had to make a public declaration that they were losers in the great American economic game.

I know exactly the kind of people you’re talking about. I wanted to ask you, not specifically about people declaring bankruptcy, but about the broader working people of this country. You’re from Oklahoma. I’m from Kansas. You’ve seen what’s happened in those places. There are lots and lots of working people in those places and a lot of other places…

Hardworking people. People who work hard. That’s what you want to remember. Not just people who kind of occasionally show up.

Yeah. The blue collar backbone of this country. And in places like I’m describing, it gets worse every year—well, I shouldn’t say worse, because it’s their choice, but a lot of them choose Republicans. I was looking at Oklahoma, I don’t know if you’re aware of this, I’m pretty sure you are, 16 percent of the vote went for Eugene Debs in 1912 and today it’s going in the other direction as fast as it can. How is this ever going to change?

I have at least two thoughts around that and we should explore both of them. One of them is that we need to do a better job of talking about issues. And I know that sounds boring and dull as dishwater, but it’s true. The differences between voting for two candidates should be really clear to every voter and it should be clear in terms of, who votes to raise the minimum wage and who doesn’t. Who votes to lower the interest rate on student loans and who doesn’t. Who votes to make sure women can’t get fired for asking how much a guy is making for doing the same job, and who doesn’t. There are these core differences that are about equality and opportunity. It can’t be that we don’t make a clear distinction. If we fail to make that distinction, then shame on us. That is my bottom line on this.

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The South’s Victim Complex: How Right-Wing Paranoia is Driving New Wave of Radicals

October 7th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in Civil Rights, elections, GOP, racism, rightwing

The South's victim complex: How right-wing paranoia is driving new wave of radicals

(Credit: AP/Dave Martin)

New wingnut neo-Confederates may be laughed at as they enter Washington, D.C. But here’s why their anger is deadly serious

By Matthew Pulver

Progressive America Rising via Salon.com

Southern voters will go to the polls in November 150 years, almost to the day, after Gen. Sherman commenced his March to the Sea, breaking the back of the Confederacy and leaving a burnt scar across the South. The wound never fully healed. Humiliation and resentment would smolder for generations. A sense of persecution has always mingled with the rebellious independence and proud notions of the South’s latent power, the promise that it “will rise again!” Congressman Paul Broun Jr., whose Georgia district spans nearly half of Sherman’s calamitous path to Savannah, evoked the “Great War of Yankee Aggression” in a metaphor to decry the Affordable Care Act on the House floor in 2010. The war, in Broun’s formulation, was not a righteous rebellion so much as a foreign invasion whose force still acts upon the South and its ideological diaspora that increasingly forms the foundation of conservatism.

The persecution narrative deployed by Broun, so woven into Southern culture and politics, has gained national currency. Contemporary conservatism is a Southern politics. Ironically, the Southern persecution narrative, born of defeat, has spread nationwide to form the basis of Republican victories since Reagan and the conservative hegemony that moderated President Clinton, establishing through President George W. Bush nearly 40 years of rightward movement at the national level.

It is the South’s principal political export, now a necessary ideological substrate in Republican rhetoric. Lee Atwater, the Karl Rove of the Reagan era, explained the nationalization of Southern politics accomplished with the 1980 campaign and election of President Reagan: “The mainstream issues in [the Reagan] campaign had been, quote, ‘Southern’ issues since way back in the Sixties,” Atwater said in 1981. Likely the foremost representative of that Southern mood was Alabama’s George Wallace, who in his 1963 gubernatorial inaugural address, the infamous “Segregation Forever” speech, invoked Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis and raged that “government has become our god.” Just months later, that omnipotent force would defeat Wallace when President Kennedy federalized the Alabama National Guard and forced desegregation at the University of Alabama. Wallace, though, would be rewarded for his stand, and the governor carried five Deep South states in his 1968 presidential run.

A century after the Civil War and Reconstruction, the 1960s was a sort of second federal invasion, with the White House strong-arming Wallace, Supreme Court decisions finally implementing Brown’s desegregation order, and the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts radically reshaping Southern politics and culture. “The South went from being behind the times to being the mainstream,” Atwater said. It is helpful to consider the inverse: The mainstream GOP adopted the ’60s-era mood of the South. Atwater does not suggest that the South caught up with a modernized conservatism — i.e., that it ceased to be “behind the times” — but that the larger movement regressed, albeit with rhetorical coding to evade charges of old-school racism.

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