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Sat Apr 04, 2015 at 04:06 PM PDT

Dems Need Prez Race

by jcullen

From The Progressive Populist

Some progressive Democrats are starting to freak out that Hillary Clinton might have a clear route to the Democratic presidential nomination without a serious challenger.

Several groups have been urging Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to run for president, but Warren has made it clear that she is not interested. Warren apparently is not excited about the prospect of spending most of the next year trooping through Iowa and New Hampshire, even if we think her economic populist rhetoric would resonate well with Democrats and independents in those states.

The good news is that a few reputable Democrats, as well as an independent who is actually pretty close to a New Deal Democrat, are trying to make a race. Potential candidates include former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, former Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Progressive Dems should stop wishing for Warren and start supporting Sanders or O’Malley, who actually want to run for president and would provide a progressive alternative to Hillary.

Poll

Who would you like to support in next year's Democratic primary?

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Mon Mar 16, 2015 at 03:12 PM PDT

Treacherous Opposition

by jcullen

From The Progressive Populist

The letter written by freshman Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), which seeks to undermine President Obama during sensitive negotiations with Iranian officials over their nuclear program, is only the latest in a series of attempts to sabotage the Obama administration, even if it leads to war with Iran.

Lately, Republicans, without consulting the White House, invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress March 3 in what amounted to a faux State of the World address to undermine the sitting president.

Republicans followed up with the letter, which warned Iranian leaders that once Obama is out of office in 2017, “the next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”

Obama noted it was “somewhat ironic” to see Republicans “wanting to make common cause with the hardliners in Iran.”

Poll

How should President Obama respond to the letter from the 47 Republican senators

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Sun Mar 01, 2015 at 10:31 AM PST

Reaping the Whirlwind

by jcullen

From The Progressive Populist

President Obama has been opposed almost entirely down the line by Republicans ever since their leaders met at the high-dollar Caucus Room restaurant the night of Obama’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 2009, to plan their opposition. Over steaks and cocktails, they pledged to use every parliamentary trick to deny the new president any accomplishments.

Congressman Pete Sessions (D-Texas) even said the Taliban could be a model for the Republican insurgency that would obstruct Obama’s agenda.

It’s bad enough that Republicans tried to block Obama’s and the Dems’ efforts to revive the economy after the bottom dropped out during the last year of George W. Bush’s administration. Almost in lockstep, Republicans opposed the economic stimulus and the loans that helped General Motors and Chrysler survive in 2009. Then, in 2010 Republicans almost unanimously opposed the Affordable Care Act, despite it being based on the individual mandate to buy insurance that the Heritage Foundation originally proposed.

Unfortunately, Republican sabotage also extends to Obama’s attempts to bottle up the terrorists who were spawned by George W. Bush’s ill-considered invasion and occupation of Iraq. It used to be that politics ended at the water’s edge, but under Caucus Room rules, anything that makes Obama look bad is good for the GOP.

Poll

If Homeland Security is shut down, and a terrorist attack occurs on US soil, who will be responsible?

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Sun Feb 15, 2015 at 01:58 PM PST

Derail Trans-Pacific Pact

by jcullen

Democratic members of Congress need to stiffen their spines and, when it comes to vote on fast-tracking consideration of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, they must say no to President Obama. Principled conservative Republicans also ought to reject the threats to national sovereignty that the trade pact represents.

The TPP has been negotiated behind closed doors for more than six years, but Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has said he wants to reintroduce a bill granting Fast Track Authority in February to grease the skids for the trade deal.

Fast Track Trade Authority was created in 1974 by President Richard Nixon to minimize public debate and congressional oversight on trade deals. It has been used 16 times since then, often to enact controversial trade pacts, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and establishment of the World Trade Organization. Those deals made it easier to move manufacturing jobs out of the United States and they also lowered trade barriers to let foreign manufacturers export their goods into the United States, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch noted.

Fast Track allows the executive branch to unilaterally select partner countries for “trade” pacts, negotiate their contents and sign the agreements and then submit them to Congress, where both the House and Senate are required to vote the agreement up or down, without amendments, within 90 days.

Poll

What should the United States do about trade?

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Sun Feb 01, 2015 at 11:49 AM PST

Whose Good Old Days?

by jcullen

From The Progressive Populist

When Republicans — particularly teabaggers — say they want to go back to the good old days, you have to question what they mean. After all, the greatest period of prosperity in the United States was the approximately 30 years after World War II, when the federal government offered returning GIs low-cost mortgages to buy a home, low-interest loans to start a business and pay their way through college or trade school.

Union membership peaked at 34.8% of the nation’s wage and salary workforce in the mid-1950s and organized labor helped keep wages and benefits rising with productivity through the mid-1970s.

The economy boomed in part because tax rates remained at 91% for millionaires, encouraging corporate executives to plow their profits back into the company rather than inflate their own salary, most of which would end up in the US Treasury.

The postwar boom created the middle class that was the envy of the rest of the world but the plutocrats couldn’t abide workers getting a measure of security. “Economic royalists,” as Franklin Roosevelt called them, had never accepted the New Deal and after Roosevelt died in 1945 the plutocrats dreamed of rolling society back toward the Gilded Age at the turn of the century, when bosses could throw their weight around without pesky government regulations or income taxes and union organizers were hunted with dogs.

Poll

What is the biggest threat to the US middle class?

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Sun Jan 18, 2015 at 09:14 PM PST

Congress Heads for Trouble

by jcullen

From The Progressive Populist

In the first week of the 114th Congress, the new Republican overlords acted to undermine the Affordable Care Act; set up a Social Security funding crisis; require President Obama to accept the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline; enact new roadblocks to immigration reform; and undermine the Dodd-Frank financial reforms.

Republicans want to bull ahead with the Keystone pipeline regardless of the threat of potentially toxic leaks over the environmentally sensitive Ogallala Aquifer in the Midwest, in pursuit of 42,000 short-term jobs in building the pipeline and less than 50 long-term jobs to maintain it — all to carry Canadian oil to Texas to be refined for export overseas. Of course, the GOP also passed a bill to make it much more difficult to pass and enforce regulations to be enforced by federal and independent agencies.

The House got a quicker start at mischief than the Senate since House leaders don’t pretend to seek consensus. They adopted a rule to create a funding crisis for Social Security Disability Insurance by banning transfer of funds within the Social Security Trust. That wouldn’t be so bad if Congressional Republicans had any intention of fixing the shortfall that is expected in the Social Security Disability program next year, but they have no apparent intention to do so. If Congress does not fix the disability trust fund, it will result in a 20% benefit reduction for 11 million disabled Americans.

Poll

What are the chances the new Congress will do anything productive?

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Mon Dec 15, 2014 at 01:15 PM PST

Left Needs Sanders

by jcullen

From The Progressive Populist

As we start to consider prospects for the 2016 presidential race, progressive Democrats who are unsettled at the prospect of Hillary Clinton sweeping to the Democratic nomination should start looking for alternatives. And in our view the most promising alternative choice for progressive Democrats is Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, has run as an independent in Vermont, where he served eight terms as the state’s at-large congressman from 1991 to 2007. He co-founded the Congressional Progressive Caucus in 1991 and he was elected to the Senate in 2006 by a 2-to-1 margin. He has remained popular, winning a second term in 2012 with 71% of the vote. Caucusing with Democrats, he became chairman of the Senate’s Veterans Affairs Committee in 2013. Working with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Sanders steered to passage the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014, a bill intended to reform the US Department of Veterans Affairs in response to the VA scandal of 2014.

Even as an independent, Bernie Sanders is a better Democrat than most in the Senate caucus, as the agenda he puts forth in "12 Steps Forward for America" shows. He is not afraid to talk like a New Deal Democrat. Sanders supports expansion of Medicare to cover all Americans; and he would ensure the financial stability of the Social Security Trust Fund by eliminating the cap on taxable incomes so that millionaires pay their share. He has worked to protect the US Postal Service from Republican efforts to privatize the mail service. He supports a $1 trillion program to put millions of Americans back to work rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure. He has been active on climate change, sponsoring a bill that would have set up a cap-and-trade system to limit carbon emissions. He supports public disclosure, transparency of campaign finances and a constitutional amendment to reverse the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision that overturned state and federal restrictions on corporations getting involved in politics.

Poll

Should progressive populists get behind one candidate for 2016

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Sun Nov 23, 2014 at 02:21 PM PST

Whose Butt Gets Kicked?

by jcullen

When Republicans gained the Senate majority in the recent midterm elections to consolidate congressional leadership under the GOP, it became apparent that, come January, either President Barack Obama’s butt will get kicked, or new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s and House Speaker John Boehner’s butts will get kicked. President Obama has to decide whether he will be the kicker or the kickee.

It’s too late for Obama to summon his inner Franklin Roosevelt. Now he needs to summon his inner Harry Truman and give the Do-Nothing Republicans Hell — or at least follow the example of Bill Clinton, who lost his Democratic congressional majority in 1995 — two years into his term — and had to show the new GOP congressional leaders that his veto pen worked before they would sit down for serious negotiations. And even then it took two government shutdowns before the Republicans got serious.

Obama already has faced down the Republicans over a shutdown in October 2013 after Teabag Republicans, led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), resisted adoption of a continuing resolution for appropriations. The Senate takeover emboldened Teabagger extremists who think the 16-day government shutdown in 2013 didn’t go far enough in rolling back the Obama menace. And many of them figure that, since they won in the midterms, the shutdown worked!

Obama faced the first of his first challenges on Nov. 20 when he announced that he would implement some immigration reforms by executive order after a bipartisan Senate bill was bottled up in the House for the past year and a half. His next challenge is to try to get Congress to approve a continuing resolution on appropriations by Dec. 11 to keep the government running into the new year. Republicans warned that Obama's executive orde to defer deportation of four million undocumented immigrants with family ties to citizens or green-card holders will poison his relations with Republicans in Congress. As if there were any good faith among those Republicans, who plotted on the night Obama was inaugurated to obstruct him at every turn. One of the conspirators, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) even suggested the GOP follow the model of the Taliban in its legislative insurgency.

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How should President Obama deal with Republican Congressional leadership?

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Sun Nov 09, 2014 at 01:20 PM PST

Dems Need Populist Pitch

by jcullen

From The Progressive Populist

Give the Republicans credit: They did a much better job of focusing the rage of the American electorate than Democrats did. Republicans have succeeded in their strategy of blocking President Obama at every turn, and then blaming him for not accomplishing his goals.

The conspiracy started on the night of Obama’s inauguration, Jan. 20, 2009, when 15 GOP leaders met in the upscale Caucus Rooom in Washington, D.C., at the invitation of Republican strategist Frank Luntz. They agreed to obstruct the new President, regardless of the impact on the nation, in the hope that gridlock would tarnish Obama and sabotage his re-election.

Despite the precarious condition of the nation’s economy in the first two years, Republicans opposed Obama on the stimulus; they opposed him on rescuing General Motors and Chrysler; they opposed him on developing a national health reform bill, even though it was based on a Republican proposal; they opposed Obama on reforming Wall Street. And the obstruction worked! Even as the economy began to stabilize, Republicans complained that the economy wasn’t improving fast enough, despite their almost unanimous opposition to the measures designed to save jobs and stimulate business, and they won control of the House in 2010.

Since then the Republican House has blocked virtually every Obama initiative, but the economy has continued to improve from the stimulus that Democrats passed during the first two years of his term, and Obama managed to win re-election in 2012. His approval rating has dropped to the low-to-mid 40s in the process, about the same as the Democrats, who had 42.2% approval going into the midterm election, but Republicans have become even more unpopular, with a 36.2% favorable rating going into the election. That makes the Republican sales job in this election all the more remarkable.

Poll

How should President Obama deal with Republican Congress

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Sun Oct 26, 2014 at 09:04 AM PDT

Public Needs Facts, Nurses Need Union

by jcullen

From The Progressive Populist

Republicans and corporate media have sown fear with rampant misinformation on the Ebola threat. They blame federal authorities for failing to prepare local hospitals to deal with potential victims, but the debacle at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas points out the need for more oversight of healthcare providers as well as unions to protect doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers from administrators who are more concerned with bottom lines than quality control for patients and workers.

The biggest mistake the officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made in late September was in trusting Texas health authorities to deal with the Ebola victim, but Gov. Rick Perry has largely escaped criticism for the state’s failure of oversight.

Poll

Who do you trust for information on the Ebola threat?

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Sun Oct 12, 2014 at 05:29 PM PDT

Health Obstruction Breeds Contagion

by jcullen

From The Progressive Populist

The best thing Americans can do to eliminate the threat of the deadly Ebola virus in the United States would be to hasten the implementation of the Affordable Care Act so that every American with a fever and/or an upset stomach can see a doctor without fear of losing their job or emptying their savings.

Cable TV “news,” according to its business model, has whipped up hysteria over the Ebola threat in the US. Demagogues have demanded that the government stop all traffic with West Africa — which health professionals say is unnecessary and could even make the situation worse.

Thomas Freiden, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on CNN Oct. 6 that if those countries with outbreaks were to be isolated, “the ability to stop the outbreak there” would become “very problematic.” If airlines only fly medical supplies and health workers into West Africa, and can’t fly travelers back, those routes quickly become unprofitable, American citizens (including health workers) won’t be able to return to the US and governments in those countries will get less stable, Frieden said.

Poll

How would you grade the current level of Ebola hysteria?

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From The Progressive Populist

Ken Burns produced another excellent documentary series for PBS with his seven-part biography of the Roosevelt family which helped mold the government of the modern United States in the first half of the 20th century.

The series, "The Roosevelts: An Intimate History", was not without its flaws — the series focused more on the personal lives of Teddy, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt (as the title implies), rather than the political environment they were operating in. I would have liked to see more on Teddy Roosevelt’s trust-busting efforts — and perhaps a nod to the Populist movement’s promotion of that issue in the 1890s — and organized labor’s role in helping to elect Franklin D. Roosevelt and support his New Deal, particularly passage of the National Labor Relations Act, which helped labor finally organize industries and provide the foundation for the middle class. The series also gave short shrift to the Four Freedoms (freedom of speech and worship, freedom from want and fear) that FDR articulated in his 1941 as the foundation of our democracy, and the Economic Bill of Rights that FDR proposed in his 1944.

“These were social-democratic initiatives that, as polls showed, an overwhelming majority of Americans wanted to carry out at war’s end, but that were determinedly blocked by conservatives, southern reactionaries, and corporate bosses,” Harvey J. Kaye, professor of Democracy and Justice Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, wrote at TheDailyBeast.com (9/14).

“After nearly 40 years of concerted class war from above against the memory and legacy of the progressive Age of Roosevelt, we sorely need a history that would serve to remind us how, from the ’30s through the ’60s, Americans carried out an historic revolution that created the first-ever Middle Class nation and help us remember that we might do the same,” Kaye said.

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Which Roosevelt would you prefer Obama act out?

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