Category Archives: Congress

Why Republican’s Stance On Birth Control Will Backfire

Congressional Republicans are pledging to fight the new requirement that health insurance plans cover birth control. I am going to make a prediction — their hardline stance on this issue will backfire . As it turns out birth control is wildly popular with both men and women and even among Catholics who tend to be the most vocal in their opposition. There is poll after poll showing strong support for contraception being available to all women.  

According to a Public Religion Research Institute survey released Tuesday, 58% of Catholics supported this new requirement, 58% of Americans agreed that “employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception and birth control at no cost.” There was only 40% of people polled that disagreed. 

Doctors For America conducted a study that showed 11.2 million women ages 15 to 44 use contraceptives. The study also showed that 58% of women use contraception for other conditions unrelated to pregnancy prevention including the treatment endometriosis, acne, regulation of menstrual cycles, and menstrual pain just to name a few.  

Regardless of these facts the Republicans are now condemning the new requirement that all women have access to contraception. They are trying to make the argument that it is a First Amendment issue and about religious freedom.  

Speaker Boehner called it an “unambiguous attack on religious freedom in our country” and vowed to repeal the regulation

Senate Minority Leader McConnell said “make no mistake: the Obama administration’s decision to force religious hospitals, charities, and schools to comply with a mandate that violates their religious views is abhorrent to the foundational principles of our nation.”  

Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire said “It violates our First Amendment to the constitution. This is not a women’s rights issue. This is a religious liberty issue.” 

Rick Santorum has even come out being completely against birth control. In a recent interview he said “many of the Christian faith have said, well, that’s okay, contraception is okay. It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” I am guessing he thinks sex is for procreating…that’s it. 

This doesn’t have anything to do with religious freedom. Republicans are hoping they have found a social issue that is going to energize their base. In every election they try to find some social issue to demonize and use against Democrats like gay marriage or abortion. Now it is contraception. However, they are going way to the right in their opposition, and unlike gay marriage or abortion, contraception is widely used and viewed positively by women and men across party lines. 

The public is becoming more socially liberal and stoking this culture wars will ultimately be a bad move for the party.

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Congressional Republicans and Democrats Guilty of Crony Capitalism

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke with committee chairman Spencer Bachus (R-AL) on Capitol Hill March 2, 2011. Bernanke reportedly defended the Federal Reserves monetary policy against criticism from Republicans.

Hypocrisy at its best. For us commoners, it is illegal to trade stocks and bonds if we have access to non-public information about a company. Remember Martha Stewart. She was sent to federal prison for this exact crime. But did you know it is not illegal for everyone. The members of the U.S. Congress are exempt from this law.  

Steve Kroft reports members of Congress and their aides have regular access to powerful political intelligence, and many have made well-timed stock market trades in the very industries they regulate. For now, the practice is perfectly legal, but some say it’s time for the law to change.  

Peter Schweizer’s new book, Throw Them All Out, delves into the details of how both parties are enriching themselves with inside information that the public is not privy to. Many members of Congress are shown to have made suspiciously timed trades including John Kerry, Dick Durbin, and Jim Moran. But it is a Republican from Alabama, Spencer Bachus, who tops them all.  

Henry Blodget of Daily Ticker recently reported on this.     

Rep. Bachus made more than 40 trades in his personal account in the summer and fall of 2008, in the early months of the financial crisis. 

The fact that Bachus personally traded while getting private government briefings is bad enough. The fact that he was the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee at the time is simply outrageous. 

In one case, the day after getting a private briefing on the collapsing economy and financial system from Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson, Rep. Bachus effectively shorted the market (by buying options that would rise if the market tanked.) 

A few days later, after the market tanked, Bachus sold his position and nearly doubled his money. 

If a corporate executive or Wall Street trader did this–cashed in personally after getting private, non-public information from his work–Rep. Bachus and every other member of Congress would be up in arms about corruption and insider trading. 

And they would be right. 

CBO Debunks GOP’s Economic Plan

GOP has been very persistent in their claims of the way to fix our economy is through austerity — spending cuts to programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Education, Infrastructure, etc. Democrats have countered their plan with a balanced approach of spending cuts but with a focus on spending that would not hurt the most vulnerable in our society and increased revenue through modest tax increases and eliminating tax loop holes and tax subsidies.  

Politico is reporting the Congressional Budge Office came out with a report on Tuesday that shows spending cuts alone will not fix our budget problems. 

Indeed as measured by CBO, 2011 was a year that saw spending trends break heavily in favor of deficit hawks. The combined federal outlays for Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security rose by a little more than 3 percent — less than half of what had been the five-year average. Military spending grew by 1.1 percent, and after a 7.2 percent increase in 2010, other government activities fell by a negative 2.2 percent.   

Yet even in this climate, the deficit in 2011 ended up well north of $1 trillion for the third year in a row, all underscoring the poor economy but also the need for more change on both sides of the ledger. Addressing this gap was the great hope attached to the House-Senate supercommittee created by the August debt-limit agreement, but two weeks before the Nov. 23 deadline, taxes remain such an ideological stumbling block that it puts the whole enterprise in serious jeopardy. 

GOP did come out with a proposal this past week for $300 billion in increased revenue, however, as I wrote earlier this week, it did not appear to be the compromise they wanted everyone to think it was. It was clearly an effort to try to shed that ‘do-nothing Congress’ image.  

On November 2nd Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell meet to talk about the Super Committee’s deficit plan. 

Geithner had come to the Capitol to meet with the Kentucky Republican prior to leaving for the G-20 summit in France, but McConnell steered the conversation back to the deficit-reduction talks and asked if the White House was hoping the supercommittee would fail. 

This has been a favorite theory of conservatives, who argue that failure serves President Barack Obama’s short-term interests by giving him another example of a “do-nothing” Congress. And it has especially rankled McConnell, who was pivotal to the August agreement and is invested in the 12-member panel.  

Geithner, who also was part of the August debt talks, pushed back, saying no, that Obama wanted a successful outcome and had submitted significant detail in September to help the panel meet its target. McConnell then criticized Democrats for being unrealistic in asking for $1.3 trillion as part of a larger $3 trillion deficit-reduction plan. The secretary answered by walking through the Republican counteroffer and showing that its claim of $640 billion in new government receipts was unrealistic itself, since so little of the total represented real tax revenue.  

McConnell was described as silent, and the meeting ended without any counterproposal to find middle ground.  

Just a few more tidbits of GOP’s proposal for the Super Committee’s deficit plan. They include drilling for oil and cutting the top tax rate to 28%. That’s right….MORE tax cuts for the wealthy.  

The former president of the Club for Growth, Toomey irritated Democrats by including ANWR drilling as one illustration of how government royalty revenue might be increased. And his approach to tax overhaul is to lock in such a low top tax rate in advance—28 percent—that tax experts say it would very difficult, if not impossible, to still have any room left for real deficit reduction.

Tax Subsidies — A Total of 56% Go To Just 4 Industries

Darrel Issa, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, along with his fellow Republicans have been pushing for an investigation into the now bankrupt Solyndra, a solar company that received approximately $500 million in subsidies from the Obama administration. They are saying this has resulted in huge losses for the tax payer. This may turn out not to be true.  

CNN Money reported that during the bankruptcy hearing it was revealed the company had $859 million in assets and $749 million in liabilities at the start of 2011, and as a result there are some in Washington that believe we can actually recoup a big chunk of its cash. 

“The federal government owns the assets of borrowers that default and can manage or sell them,” Mark Muro, policy director at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, wrote in an article earlier this week. “It’s conceivable that taxpayers will not lose any money.”  

I think we should be looking at the other industries receiving subsidies from our government. This is something Republicans really don’t want to do as they are some of their biggest contributors. They have been resistant since tax reform has become the main topic in our political debates on ending these subsidies as they consider these to be a form of tax hikes (thanks to the Grover Norquist tax pledge). In all fairness though, Democrats also receive contributions from the very same industries, but they have been very focal at ending these subsidies. 

Citizens for Tax Justice has analyzed corporate tax rates from 2008 to 2010. They have examined over half of the Fortune 500 companies and it should be to no ones surprise that the richest industries are the ones that get the biggest subsidies. They found that 56 percent of the total tax subsidies went to just four industries: Financial, utilities, tele-communications, and oil, gas & pipelines.   

So I ask you, who are the biggest crooks in this system.

Koch Brothers Stranglehold On Our Politics — Documentary On The #Kochs

If you need more reasons why Occupy Wall Street supporters have taken to the streets, this documentary is loaded with them.

This documentary goes into the long history of political influence and funding Koch Industries and the Koch brothers have had and the effect of their lobbying through ALEC and lobbying firms.  

Lee Fang, one of the people interviewed, is an investigative reporter with Think Progress. He has been investigating the “web of influence” of the Koch brothers on state and federal politicians. The film touches on the Koch role in everything from health care to energy policy. 

The video is about 24 minutes but is well worth a watch. Below the video, you will see that I have transcribed some of the significant findings that this documentary uncovered about the Koch brothers.   

  • Koch hold 2 meetings a year attended by people who fund the right-wing movement and right-wing politicians. Attendees of Koch meetings are sworn to secrecy.   
  • Koch and their partners spent $40 million in the 2010 elections. 
  • Koch brothers essentially oppose everything since the New Deal. 
  • The Koch’s expect to spend more than $200 million dollars to defect Obama next year.  
  • They have created a web of influence that stretches from State Houses all the way to the halls of Congress.  
  • Koch brothers gave birth to the Tea Party. American for Prosperity was founded and funded by Kochs. They were the first to organize Tea Party rallies. When the Tea Party movement began they consistently denied that they were a part of it but eventually it became impossible to deny because you could just connect all the dots.  
  • They organized the “Hands off my Healthcare” movement. 
  • AFP has 33 state chapters.  
  • ALEC is another group that brings corporate lobbyists and conservative legislators to draft model laws. The anti-union laws passed represent model legislation by ALEC the fact of which they try to keep under wraps.  
  • At the ALEC meetings they vote on drafted legislation that then are used in State House legislation and eventually get passed into law but the lawmakers do not let that fact be known. 
  • The voter ID legislation passed throughout the states this year were based on an ALEC written preapproved bill. The legislations passed are constructed to restrict voting in by minorities, students, and the elderly.  
  • The Koch brothers are using their money to buy State elections. It is actually a lot cheaper to buy State elections than it is for the U.S. Congress.  
  • Since 1998 Greenpeace has traced over $50 million that Koch has sent to various front groups and think tanks in D.C. and around the country who have run various elements of a campaign against global warming policy or against the science of global warming. 
  • The think tank The Cato Institute was founded by Koch Industries. Cato Institute receives about 40% of their funding from fossil fuel industries. 
  • The Koch’s have spent upwards of $50 million since 2006 on lobbyists. They are now the largest funder of campaigns within the oil and gas sector exceeding Exxon, Chevron.  
  • In 2010 the Koch’s contributed to 62 of the 87 new members of Congress.  
  • After the 2010 election, David Koch was one of the first people to visit the newly elected Speaker Boehner’s office.  
  • Koch brothers are suspected of being responsible for a large amount of the speculation in the oil and gas market, which is a leading reason for high gas/oil prices.

Republican Mitch McConnell calls Teachers and First Responders Jobs Bill ‘A Bailout’

In an interview Sunday with Candy Crowley on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) defended his opposition to President Obama’s now dead jobs bill, saying that the federal government should instead focus on decreasing regulations.  

Senate Republicans defeated the $35 billion package last week, which aimed to hire or retain teachers and emergency responders. This bill was paid for by raising a 0.5% tax on people who make OVER $1 million. Let me repeat that….a 0.5% tax hike on individuals who earn OVER $1 million. Their first million in income would be taxed at the same rate, however, beginning at $1 million plus, they would pay just 0.5% more in taxes. 

Can there be any question as to what the Republicans priorities are….who they are fighting for? 

McConnell told Ms. Crowley that saving emergency responders from unemployment shouldn’t be a federal responsibility because we can’t afford “to be bailing out states.” 

“I certainly do approve of firefighters and police,” said McConnell. “The question is whether the federal government ought to be raising taxes on 300,000 small businesses in order to send money down to bail out states for whom firefighters and police work. They are local and state employees.” 

It’s not just the fringe Tea Party Republicans but also the mainstream Republicans who are preaching to America about small government and we should rely on the private sector to create jobs, not government.  

While there are some Americans who like the idea of a smaller government, Republicans blatant willingness to fire even the most essential public servants for the sake of decreasing “the number of people who work for the government” reflects the true price of Republican ideology.  

Last summer the Democratic-controlled House took up a similar bill to prevent teacher layoffs, and then-Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) complained about “bailouts” for “liberal special interests.” Also, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) described the bill as a “government worker bailout.”  

In an interview with Voice Of Americas McConnell’s response to blocking the “Teachers and First Responders Jobs” bill was “Bailouts do not solve the problem. In fact, they perpetuate it.”

Grandma and Grandpa Bust a Rhyme to Protect Social Security

The GOP has gone on the record time and time again against about Social Security and its supposed under funding. The fact is that is not the case. Social Security is currently running a surplus of $2.6 trillion (assets grew from about $47 billion at the end of December 1986 to about $2,609 billion ($2.6 trillion) by the end of December 2010), and is funded through 2037 according to Wikipedia.   

Operations in quarter
ending December 31, 2010
[In billions] 

Income $202.9
Outgo 179.3
Difference 23.6

Operations in 2010  [In billions] 

Income $781.1
Outgo 712.5
Difference 68.6

By 2037, it is expected to be officially exhausted, so there is no doubt that some reforms need to take place and there are ramifications if no reforms are implemented: 

  • Payroll taxes will only cover 78% of the scheduled payout amounts after 2037. This declines to 75% by 2084. Without changes to the law, Social Security would have no legal authority to draw other government funds to cover the shortfall and payments would decline without a large tax/revenue increase or increase in eligibility age. 
  • Between 2015 and 2037, redemption of the trust fund balance to pay retirees will draw approximately $4 trillion in government funds from sources other than payroll taxes. This is a funding challenge for the government overall, not just Social Security.  

The funding could be fixed by getting rid of a cap that currently exists. Currently everyone paying into Social Security only pays taxes on the first $106,800 of their income and nothing on any income above that meaning that wealthier citizens pay no Social Security taxes on most of their income. Eliminating this cap would make the program solvent for a much longer time period. 

The Economic Opportunity Institute and Social Security Works has come up with an absolutely awesome way to promote eliminating this cap. They released a video this week that features two senior citizens rapping “Scrap the Cap,” and anyone who supports “Scrapping the Cap,” can take action on the web site related to the video

The video below is well worth watching….the couple is sooo cute, however, if you don’t have time, the lyrics are listed below the video, but trust me, watching the video, which is about 3 minutes, is well worth your time. 

Go grandma and grandpa!!! 

The real old school in the house 
Give it up for the geezers 

Had our golden years all planned out 
Small pension, golf cart and a Florida house 
But congress put a hit on Social Security 
Mugged us of our dignity despite our maturity 

Tax we paid with every check we earned 
Time to collect we the ones gettin burned 
There’s nothing we can do if we can’t get paid 
‘cept eat cat food, and drink haterade 

Listen up cuz while we drop some knowledge 
We raised our little boy, put him through college 
Only safety net is our next of kin 
Look out son, cause we’re movin in (what!?) 

We’re movin in (what!?) 
We’re movin in (what!?) 
Pull out the couch cause we’re movin in (what!?) 
No arguin (what!?) 
No arguin (what!?) 
Pull out the couch cause we’re movin in 

Name’s Spinal Twist, check my orthopedic kicks 
‘cause I stoop farther south than the St. Lunatics. 
I’m still getting play and it’s all thanks to Pfizer, 
Keepin me stiffer than my Yankees cap visor 

My station wagon windows are dark with tint 
I subscribe to vibe and I get the large print 
They call me Martini got substance abuse 
‘cause I’m always playin gin and sippin on juice 

Our son wants to know if we can pay the rent, 
But without benefits we ain’t got 50 cent, 
We don’t pack a nine, we’re just strapped for funds 
But we’re still game killers for our bachelor son 

Social Security payments are far from erratic 
“it’s broke and failin” don’t believe that static 
This crisis is a fiction there would be no debate 
If we all pitched in at the same tax rate 

There’s a cap on how much millionaires pay 
Even though we all work like every single day 
These are the facts but they’re provin’ thin 
So pull out the couch ‘cause we’re movin in 

We’re movin in (what!?) 
We’re movin in (what!?) 
Pull out the couch cause we’re movin in (what!?) 
No arguin (what!?) 
No arguin (what!?) 
Pull out the couch ‘cause we’re movin in 

Alright now younginz, you’re our last resort 
‘cause sooner or later, we’ll be needin support 
If you don’t want roommates just learn this rap 
It’s only one line, shout SCRAP THE CAP