Rep. John Dingell: Member of Congress for more than a quarter of its history.

September 9, 2014

Rep. John Dingell with President Kennedy, and seated next to President Obama for the signing of the ACA.

Rep. John Dingell with President Kennedy, and seated next to President Obama for the signing of the ACA.

It is Congressional primary day for five states in the US, and the final dash for votes in the mid-terms is hotting up against a backdrop of government shutdowns, threats to sue the President, refusals to work together, and a battle for the heart of the Republican Party. It is indeed an intriguing period of US Congressional history. There is however one story that threatens to go unnoticed this election season; the retirement of 58 year veteran of the House, Rep.John Dingell (D-Dearborn, MI).

Dingell is the longest uninterrupted serving member of the US Congress in its 225 year history, with a tenure spanning more than a quarter of its entire history. It is an incredible achievement and one in which the Congressman from Michigan has witnessed the shaping of the United States in ways in which no other Congressman can claim.

As a teenager in 1941, and a member of the United States House of Representatives Page programme, Dingell was on the floor of the House as President Roosevelt delivered his day of infamy speech following the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was later elected to Congress in 1956 – the year the World first heard the name ‘Elvis Presley’, and the Federal Highway Act had not yet been signed into being – and has consistently attained over 60% of the vote – with the exception of just two occasions. He was a member of Congress on that day in November when two bullets struck down the promise of President Kennedy. He was sworn into Congress 12 days after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, challenging the poisonous white supremacist attitudes of the 20th Century United States, and announced his retirement from Congress during the second term of the nation’s first African American President. He supported, witnessed and presided over the House that saw LBJ signing Medicare into law. His tenure saw the rise and fall of the Cold War era, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Watergate, the Reagan years, and both Iraq wars. In recent years, Dingell sat next to President Obama as the ‘Affordable Healthcare Act’ was signed into law in 2010, an achievement Dingell was proud to have been a part of, despite not meeting his desire to see universal healthcare in the United States; a cause he had championed by introducing a universal healthcare bill in each of his terms in Congress.

Son of a ‘New Deal’ Democratic Congressman, Dingell is known to be forceful and intimidating in the corridors of Congress. But he gets the job done. Perhaps Dingell’s greatest legislative achievements have been in promoting environmental protections and regulations, cleaning the air and the water and protecting species in the United States, whilst paradoxically commanding the scorn of environmentalists for his staunch support of the Detroit auto industry (including steerage of the 2009 bailouts). In 1972, Dingell authored the ‘Clean Water Act’ expanding greatly the regulatory framework of the 1948 ‘Federal Water Pollution Control Act’, keeping the waters of the United States clean for decades to come. He played important roles in the ‘National Energy Conservation Policy Act’ in 1978, the ‘Marine Mammal Protection Act’ and the ‘Pollution Prevention Act’ of 1990. He penned the ‘Endangered Species Act’, and he advocated and lobbied for the creation of the ‘Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge’; North America’s only international wildlife refuge. He also spent 14 years as Chair of the immensely powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, between 1981-1994, and again in 2007-2008. Without Dingell, the foundation of environmental protections in the United States might not exist. Indeed, for his work on environmental issues in the 109th Congress, The League of Conservation Voters gave Dingell a rating of 100%.

However, there remains a paradox. Dingell’s place as top-ranking Democrat on the Energy Committee took an odd turn in recent years, when Henry Waxman (D-Calif) challenged and beat Dingell for the chairmanship of the committee, through concerns that Dingell’s financial support from big auto industry – along with previous attempts to defend big auto industry in Detroit from certain sections of environmental legislation – may prove detrimental to Waxman’s desire to cap CO2 emissions. In 2007, Dingell managed to win several – albeit small – concessions for the auto-industry as Democrats worked to raise the fuel economy standard.

Alongside his defence and protection of the auto-industry, Dingell receives criticism from fellow progressive Democrats for his A+ rating from the NRA. It was Dingell who managed to gain an exemption for firearms from the 1972 ‘Consumer Product Safety Act’. A hugely damaging legacy for gun safety in the United States. Following the Columbine massacre the Senate voted to close a loophole that exempted unlicensed gun dealers from conducting any background checks at gun shows before selling a firearm. Dingell disapproved and offered an alternative that included changing the language for what is to be considered a ‘gun show’ to a very limited scope, and reducing the time taken to perform a background check from 72 hours, to 24 hours.

To some, he was a protector of big auto-industry whose ideas ran out long ago, a roadblock to meaningful emissions standards, a staunch advocate of gun ownership, and an advertisement for term limits, but to others he was the Congressional architect of landmark environmental protections that would last decades, a legacy that no other member of Congress comes close to matching. Whatever one may think of Rep. John Dingell, it is hard not to admire a man who has worked at the heart of, and contributed to the shaping of the United States, swimming the murky waters of Congress, and witnessing the transformation of America on so many levels, for close to seven decades. His is a story to be remembered during this election season.


The Imperial President? Not so much…

June 30, 2014

President Obama and Speaker Boehner shake hands at the State of the Union. Photo Credit: By Pete Souza (Executive Office of the President of the United States)

President Obama and Speaker Boehner shake hands at the State of the Union.
Photo Credit: By Pete Souza (Executive Office of the President of the United States)

If you were to add together the average executive orders of President Obama, President Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Monroe, Quincy Adams, Jackson, Van Buren, Harrison and Tyler (and the first few months of Polk’s Presidency); they’d still add up to less than President Reagan’s average. And so for a Republican Party with a Presidential hero sporting an executive order average of over 11 Presidents (including the current) combined, alongside its recent history of losing the Senate, losing the Presidency twice, losing the popular vote for the House, wildly abusing the filibuster, and generally considered responsible for the shutdown of the government, you might think the Speaker would be a little humble. You’d be wrong. Instead, he’s choosing to sue the President for use of executive powers.

In lieu of addressing wage disparity, or a jobs bill, or working to solve climate change issues, the Republican obsession with the President has become a pantomime. In his memorandum, Boehner’s case lacks substance, whilst also betraying the true purpose of the lawsuit. One of his points reads:

“There is no legislative remedy”

– What this means is, there is no legislative remedy – from a positive PR perspective – to force the President to give in to the demands of the minority Party, and so they’ll pass the buck to the judiciary, whilst throwing around terms like “Executive Monarchy” in the hope that the public will jump on board. There is of course already a legislative remedy to the overreaching of executive power, and that includes de-funding the executive branch and beginning impeachment proceedings against executive branch officials if they feel they have a strong case. They’re also aware that the judiciary has the power the strike down executive orders if they deem it to be unsupported by the Constitution. The Speaker therefore does not have a strong case, and so neither of the previously mentioned legislative remedies serves the GOP well from a PR standpoint, especially after the constant failure of House Republicans to defund the ACA, the obscene abuses of the filibuster, and the disaster of shutting down the government. They’re therefore ignoring the legislative remedies, as if they don’t exist. It is one big publicity stunt, and as with the shutdown, it will be scrutinised thoroughly and reflect terribly on the GOP.

Further, the ill-fated lawsuit that Boehner seeks to bring against the President, will be filed by the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group – a standing body of the House of Representatives – funded by every taxpayer in the US. If the lawsuit fails – which it will, because the President has not issued an unconstitutional executive order, nor overreached executive power – it will be the second time Boehner has used ‘BLAG’ and failed, costing the taxpayer in the process. It must strike most as incredible that a Speaker has been able to get away with wasting taxpayer’s money on constant symbolic attempts to defund the ACA (knowing they’d fail every time), defending anti-liberty discrimination based on sexuality (for which Boehner used BLAG), on shutting down the government, on a publicity stunt to sue the President, all whilst successfully achieving the title of the least productive Congress in history with disastrously low approval ratings.

The Speaker summarised the President’s use of executive orders as the work of “aggressive unilateralism”, and that the President is in fact an “Executive Monarchy”. Echoing Boehner’s summary, the beacon of wisdom Karl Rove – conveniently forgetting the time President Bush aggressively used signing statements to bypass laws and extend Presidential power – said:

““This is imperial power, this is George III.”

– I’m almost certain King George III did not face such a hostile Parliament, to the point where getting basic aides confirmed by the Senate becomes a long drawn out battle. The implication from Rove and the Speaker, is that the President is abusing the use of executive orders beyond anything that came before. The biggest threat to liberty since George III. So, how does that check out. How does the President’s yearly average of executive orders compare with past Republican Presidents? According to research by The American Presidency Project:

President Obama – Democrat – yearly average: 33.58
President Bush – Republican – yearly average: 36.38
President Bush Sr – Republican – yearly average: 41.50
President Reagan – Republican hero – yearly average: 47.63
President Ford – Republican – 68.92
President Nixon – Republican – 62.30
President Eisenhower – Republican – 60.50

– President Obama has a lower yearly average of issuing executive orders, than any previous Republican President since the 1950s. Compared to those Republican Presidents, he’s a beacon of restraint. Indeed, Obama is issuing executive orders at a rate of 0.09 a day, far below the Republican Presidential average of 0.22 a day (which is higher than the Democrat Presidential daily rate).

To find a lower yearly average on issuing executive orders than President Obama, we have to go back to Grover Cleveland’s first term as President, between 1885 and 1889. The highest in my life time, has been small government, Republican hero, President Reagan. In his first term, President Obama issued 147 executive orders. By contrast, President Reagan in his first term, issued 213 executive orders, and Reagan wasn’t faced with the one of the most hostile and obstructionist Congresses in decades.

If 33.58 magically turns President Obama into King George III, I can imagine 47.63 turns President Reagan into King Henry VIII.

Remember those figures as the Speaker wastes taxpayers money on a frivolous party political publicity stunt over the coming weeks.


Madam President: Hillary leading for 2016.

March 5, 2014

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: White House (Pete Souza) (White House) [Public domain].

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: White House (Pete Souza) (White House) [Public domain].

Prior to 2008, Virginia’s electoral college votes were solidly red. Republicans could count on votes from the state of Jefferson and Washington, as much as they could count on the votes of the deep south. Democrats had not taken the state in a Presidential election since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. That changed in 2008. A year in which both parties campaigned heavily, saw the once solidly red Virginia hand its votes to the Democrats by a margin of 6.3%, for the first time in 44 years.

By 2012, President Obama became the first Democratic President since Franklin Roosevelt, to carry Virginia in two consecutive elections. In fact, the margin of victory for the Democrats in 2012, was greater than the margin of victory for the President in the country overall. A year later, Virginia voted to elect Democrat McAuliffe to the Governorship ahead of Tea Party favourite, Ken Cuccinelli. Thanks to the far more progressive areas of Fairfax and Loudoun, and the toxic brand of the Tea Party movement; Virginia is becoming blue.

This is bad news for the GOP for 2016. The potential field for Republican candidates in 2016 is not particularly inspiring, and no single candidate stands out. A poll out of New England College found that despite having no intention to run, Mitt Romney is favourite among GOP voters for the nomination in 2006. Ted Cruz only manages 10% support, the scandal prone Chris Christie only managing 13%, Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio sharing 7% apiece.

Even more concerning for Republican strategists, is a latest poll of voters in Virginia, conducted by Roanoke College this week, showing that any of the leading candidates for the Republican nomination, would face a massive defeat, if the Democrat nomination was Hillary Clinton. If the 2016 Presidential race were between Clinton, and Christie, Clinton would come out victorious at 43% to Christie’s 41%. A race between Clinton and Paul Ryan, would give us Clinton on 53% to Ryan’s 37%. Others include; Clinton 51% to Jeb Bush 38%. Clinton 47% to Rand Paul’s 40%. Clinton on 47% with Ted Cruz on 37%.

In Ohio – an incredibly important battleground state – Clinton commands a firm lead in polls over all Republican candidates. A poll conducted by Quinnipiac University in Connecticut found that biggest challenge in Ohio to Clinton would be from Paul Ryan, who trails by a huge 9 points. Clinton leads by double figures over Bush, Rubio, Cruz, Ryan, and Kasich.

The bad news for Republicans doesn’t end there. Even in the solidly red state of Texas, the Republicans are struggling. In 2012, Romney won 57% of the vote to the President’s 41%. Even with Texas’ changing population, it is still cloaked in red. Yet, according to a poll by Public Policy Polling, of all potential Republican candidates, none manage to win over 50% of the vote if paired off against Hillary. Jeb Bush comes closest with 49% to Clinton’s 42%. Though it’s unlikely that Bush will run. Senator Cruz – the favoured Republican candidate in Texas by a clear margin – only manages 48% to Clinton’s 45%. So, if on the off chance Jeb Bush were to run and win the Republican nomination, he may take Texas, but he’d lose Ohio, and according to another poll, he’d lose Florida too.

The close polling between Republican candidates and Hillary Clinton in Texas, are echoed in Red States like Louisiana. Louisiana last went blue in 1996, voting to help secure a second term for President Clinton. Twenty years later, and another Clinton has the potential to turn Louisiana blue once more. Another poll by Public Policy Polling found that whilst the Republican contenders hold leads over Hillary, the margin is small enough to push Louisiana into the Democrat camp, with the right campaigning from the Clinton team in 2016. Jeb Bush again leads Hillary by the largest margin of 7 points, whilst Christie’s lead is down to just 1 point.

This is particularly problematic for Republicans for a number of reasons. Firstly, as noted above, there aren’t any stand out GOP candidates that one might consider as posing any sort of a threat to a Hillary campaign in 2016. Secondly, the majority of Republican voters are not on the Tea Party fringes, and moderate Republicans might well be tempted to vote Democrat or simply not vote at all; the former is certainly a possibility if the Clinton campaign presents a more moderately conservative message going into 2016. This is of particular worry for Republicans in swing states and states polling low margins between Hillary and Republican candidates. Of Florida, Virginia, and Ohio, the Republicans will need to take two of the three to stand any chance at the White House. As it stands, they may not take any. Thirdly, the majority of US citizens placed blame for the government shutdown on Congressional Republicans, leading to this Congress sporting an all time low approval rating. Congress began 2014 on just 13% approval rating. Republicans in Congress are not popular, this is damaging to any future President campaign, particularly if the prevailing candidate comes direct from an appalling incompetent Congress. And lastly, the Republicans are going to have to spend a large amount of money defending their lead in states that would normally be solidly Republican. They need to do this, whilst also spending vast sums of money to win swing states like Ohio and states recently lost to Democrats, like Virginia. This is one huge uphill battle for Republicans.

Indeed, the uphill battle is of their own making. The loss of Virginia represents the failing message of a Republican Party being dragged to the fringes of the right wing and failing to modernise. Inevitably, a shift to the fringes presents massive election issues for the GOP. In less than three years, they need to craft an entirely new, modern and inclusive message, an electable platform away from the fringes, improving their image especially with minority groups, and women voters. They also need one candidate to rally behind, and present that new message of inclusivity and modernity. A political party that only appears to represent white, middle aged, heterosexual, Christian, business men driven solely by imagined Benghazi conspiracies, is not an electable party.


Republican hero Ted Nugent in his own words.

February 22, 2014

“If he is good enough for Ted Nugent, he is good enough for me!”
– Sarah Palin’s reason for endorsing Greg Abbott’s gubernatorial campaign in Texas.

It’s been a terrible twelve or so months for the Republicans. An objective commentator might point out that the shift too far to the right, or to the left, will always spell trouble for a political party. Most voters are not looking to radically shift the direction of the country to either extreme, and so the more a party appears to offer such a shift, the more voters will turn away. Instead of addressing the issues that Republicans seem to have in connecting with anyone who isn’t a white, middle aged, Christian, heterosexual male, they instead have weirdly chosen to embrace that mentality of exclusivity. An extreme ideological mentality – moulded and set by overly paranoid conspiratorial ‘analysts’ like Limbaugh – that will without doubt see them fall further from electability and harm the party in the long run. Nowhere is this more pronounced than their odious courting and embracing of Ted Nugent by Republican Greg Abbott’s gubernatorial campaign in Texas.

So here is the GOP’s new hero, Ted Nugent, in his own words:

Ted Nugent in 1992 on anyone who wasn’t born in America:

“… Yeah they love me (in Japan) – they’re still assholes. These people they don’t know what life is. I don’t have a following, they need me; they don’t like me they need me … Foreigners are assholes; foreigners are scum; I don’t like ’em; I don’t want ’em in this country; I don’t want ’em selling me doughnuts; I don’t want ’em pumping my gas; I don’t want ’em downwind of my life-OK? So anyhow-and I’m dead serious …”

Ted Nugent on those fighting to break down barriers to gender equality:

“What’s a feminist anyways? A fat pig who doesn’t get it often enough?”

Ted Nugent on the murder of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin:

“Trayvon got justice.”

Ted Nugent’s letter to the girlfriend of a guy he’d met, who wouldn’t let him go hunting:

“I wrote her something and I said ‘Drop dead, bitch’… What good is she, trade her in, get a Dalmatian. Who needs the wench?”

Ted Nugent after explaining how he dodged the Vietnam draft:

“But if I would have gone over there, I’d have been killed, or I’d have killed all the Hippies in the foxholes. I would have killed everybody.”

– Instead, the ‘Patriot’ Ted Nugent worked up a plan to dodge the draft, whilst fellow Americans put their lives on the line.

Ted Nugent on rappers:

“MTV is a liberal lump of hippy snot. They are embarrassing. Those big uneducated greasy black mongrels on there, they call themselves rap artists.”

– Yes. The new hero of one of the two major political parties in the US, referred to people as “uneducated greasy black mongrels”.

Ted Nugent on what constitutes “real” Americans:

“You know what I’m on top of? I’m on top of a real America with working hard, playing hard, white motherfucking shit kickers, who are independent and get up in the morning.”

– In the same interview, and following this quote, when told that African Americans were just as hard working as white Americans, Nugent said:

“Show me one.”

Ted Nugent on President Obama:

“communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel.”

Ted Nugent and Confederacy nostalgia:

“I’m beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War.”

– The South. You know, the region fighting specifically to uphold the institution of slavery.

Ted Nugent on Hillary Clinton:

“You probably can’t use the term `toxic cunt’ in your magazine, but that’s what she is. Her very existence insults the spirit of individualism in this country. This bitch is nothing but a two-bit whore for Fidel Castro.”

Ted Nugent’s violent, misogynistic rant on what he’d like to do with his machine guns and women in politics:

“Hey, Hillary, you might want to ride one of these [machine gun] into the sunset, you worthless bitch. Since I’m in California, how about [Senator] Barbara Boxer [D-CA], she might want to suck on my machine gun. And [Senator] Dianne Feinstein [D-CA], ride one of these you worthless whore. Any questions? ”

Ted Nugent – having exhausted Confederate nostalgia, racism, and misogyny – now turns to repugnant homophobia:

“I got to tell you, guys that have sex with each others’ anals cavities – how can we offend guys that have anal sex?”

Ted Nugent solution to those people crossing the border from Mexico:

“In an unauthorized entry, armed, like they are right now, invading our country, I’d like to shoot them dead.”

Ted Nugent on Hillary Clinton:

“Our politicians check their scrotum in at the door. Even Hillary, but obviously she has spare scrotums.”

After Nugent’s most recent vile Benghazi tantrum, in which he referred to the President as a “chimpanzee” and “subhuman mongrel”, Texas Governor, Republican Rick Perry said that he didn’t take offence at the comment, and:

“That’s Ted Nugent. Anybody that’s offended sorry, but that’s just Ted.”

– A few hours later, it would appear that Perry had a change of heart, when he then told CNN:

“That is not appropriate language to use about the president of the United States.”

– A bit of an odd choice of words. I’d suggest it’s not appropriate language to use about anyone, not just the President. It’s horrendously racist terminology.

The cynic in me might argue that Perry issued this second comment on the controversy, because Nugent’s ‘chimpanzee’ and ‘mongrel’ analogy is incredibly damaging to the Republicans, and to the campaign of Texas Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott. It was perhaps Perry’s way of attempting to create distance between the Republican Party, and a horrifyingly racist, misogynist, homophobic, Confederacy sympathiser. Greg Abbott on the other hand, will be continuing to campaign alongside Nugent. It is frightening that in the US, in the 21st Century, Wendy Davis – a great advocate of women’s health rights – will almost certainly be defeated in Texas’s gubernatorial race, by a Republican candidate who has fully embraced a venomous human being like Ted Nugent.

The love affair between Ted Nugent and the GOP, reflects perfectly the hideous direction the Republican Party has taken in recent years. Indeed, Nugent is the personification of the Tea Party influence on the Republican Party; his violent, misogynistic, racist, homophobic rhetoric, subtly masked with conspiratorial (Benghazi) tones as its weak justification, is the very essence of the Tea Party. It is a brand new Republican Party falling over to the political extremes more and more by the day. It is therefore a Republican Party unlikely to win the White House again in a very, very long time.


Meet Joshua Black.

January 21, 2014

Time ago, calling for the murder of the democratically elected head of state was entirely the realm of those on the watch list of intelligence services. The extreme fringes that plagued Kennedy on his trip to Dallas. Apparently that time has passed, and now includes those running for State legislatures.

We are all fully aware that Republicans have been getting progressively violent and irrational with their rhetoric since the President was first elected. From subtle hints at secession, to happily and effortlessly shutting down the government and protesting the shutdown alongside people waving Confederate flags. But yesterday – Martin Luther King Day in the States – Republican candidate for Florida’s 68th district of Florida’s State House, Joshua Black took the violent rhetoric to its natural conclusion when he tweeted this:

joshuablack

– When questioned on Twitter about the implications of what he was actually suggestion, Black responded with a plain as day clarification:

joshuablack2

– Joshua Black – when he isn’t spending his time at church, as his website tells us – is calling for the hanging of the President of the United States. Let that sink in for a second. A candidate for public office in the US, and a member of one of the two major political parties, has just called for the execution via hanging of the President of the United States.

Once the shock of that utterly crazy situation sinks in, examining the rest of his I’m not sure what the reference to Benedict Arnold was. Arnold wasn’t executed after the revolutionary war, and after his defection to the British. Gout ended his life in England years later. So not only is Black calling for the execution of the President, he’s justifying it with completely invented history.

Of course, Black isn’t new to over-the-top statements:

joshuablack4
– This, he posted the same day as his desire to see the President of the United States hanged. In one day, a Republican candidate for office had compared Bill Clinton to Mussolini, and called for the execution of President Obama. But that’s not all:

joshuablack6
– That’s right. Joshua Black compared women who value the right to their own body, as Nazis. Joshua Black – a Republican candidate for public office – has just compared the systematic slaughter of 6,000,000 Jewish people, to a woman’s right to her own body. This is insulting on so many levels, it’s difficult to know where to start. And he’s not finished with the extreme statements yet:

joshuablack5
– Here, it seems that Joshua Black would also abolish the minimum wage, striking a major blow to the most vulnerable people in the country already struggling. But that’s not all!

joshuablack7
– Joshua Black openly insists that those of us who do not believe in a ‘creator’ have no place in public office. He is vehemently anti-secular, a religious supremacist who believes that he has an inherent right to decide who does and doesn’t qualify as ‘fit’ for public office. He therefore does not accept that atheists share the exact same citizenship and legal rights as himself. He echoes numerous state constitutions that seek to prohibit public office for those who do not affirm a belief in some sort of divine dictator. This horrendous tendency toward Theocratic rule and thus, anti-constitutional religious supremacy is prevalent on the Republican and Christian-right. It seeks to completely override the founding enlightenment principle of secular governance. And the picture that he posts to highlight this, is predictably from Freedomworks.

To summarise, Republican candidate for Florida’s 68th District in Florida’s State House, compared Bill Clinton to Mussolini, those who believe in a woman’s right to regulate her own body as Nazis, insists non-believers should not be allowed to run for public office, and called for the execution via hanging of the President of the United States.

If ever one candidate embodied everything that has gone horribly wrong with the Republicans in the 21st century… it’s Joshua Black.

Provocative and extreme anti-Obama statements, and comparisons to dictators of old, made by those like Joshua Black have been growing horrifically for the past several years. When given credit by candidates to public office, they add fuel to the fire of violent far-right sentiment that sweeps the US. It is viciously dangerous rhetoric. Joshua Black – considered and endorsed by the Republican Party – as a serious candidate for public office, is the natural product of the past five years of the Republican Party moving further to the right with increased vitriol and the fact that the Republican Party has not ended its association with Black speaks volumes about the sinister and dangerous direction that particular Party has taken.

With Florida’s 68th incumbent Dwight Dudley (D) narrowly winning the seat in 2012, it must be said that for the safety of the President, and many many other people, I would hope residents of Florida’s 68th do not elect extremists like Joshua Black to any position of public power.

——————————
If you appreciate my articles, and have a spare moment, feel free to nominate me for a Shorty Award. Simply click here and nominate! Thank you!
——————————


The United States House of Wall Street.

November 25, 2013

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: Andrés Nieto Porras.

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: Andrés Nieto Porras.

An interesting vote took place in the House of Representatives at the beginning of this month. A vote completely overshadowed by constant Republican tantrums over the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. A vote that has potentially serious consequences in the future.

The Wall Street Reform Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank) included Section 716, which ensured that banks insured Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, move their ‘swaps’ (a certain derivative) into non-bank arms of the business that aren’t insured by FDIC; not eligible for bail out funds. It ensured protection for the consumer’s savings, and ensured protection for the taxpayer, by enforcing banks to place their more risky derivative deals outside of the realm of Federal assistance.

At the end of October 2013, House Resolution 992 passed the House by 292 votes to 122. The Bill – H.R.992 – or The “Swaps Regulatory Improvement Act” – severely limits the reach of Section 716 of Dodd-Frank, ultimately striking down a key regulation that Dodd-Frank implemented back in 2010. The implication, simply put, is that incredibly risky Wall Street behaviour surrounding the dealing of derivatives could be backed by a taxpayer funded bailout – for exchanges that are not at all related to banking – if it all goes wrong again.

Despite the Treasury raising concerns about striking down such an important provision, the House – including many Democrats – voted to pass H.R.922. But why? What is the motivation? Well, one only has to look at the lobbying on this Bill to understand just how this may have come about.

Contributions to House members from interests groups who expressively support H.R.992 are rather eye watering. On the list of top contributions to House Members, Jim Himes (D-CT4) – a co-sponsor of the Bill – received $437,179 from special interests in favour. More than any other Democrat in the House. The second ranking figure in the Democrat House Leadership chain of command, Steny Hoyer (D-MD5) received $266,510 from Wall Street supporters of the Bill. The most expensive ‘Yes’ vote for Wall Street comes to us via Eric Cantor (R-VA7), who received $525,400. The main sponsor of the Bill Randy Hultgren (R-Ill) received more contributions from the Securities and Investment industry than any other industry, at $136,500.

In all, special interests supporting H.R.992 contributed 5.9 times more to House members than those groups that opposed it. Wall Street has been staggeringly influential in ensuring regulations from 2010 are struck down. Citigroup were among the contributors. Citigroup also wrote ‘recommendations’ that appeared to be reflected almost word for word in the final draft of H.R.992. The Citigroup recommendations reads:

(d) Only bona fide hedging and traditional bank activities permitted. The prohibition in subsection (a) shall apply to any covered depository institution unless the covered depository institution limits its swap or security based swap activities to:
(1) Hedging and other similar risk mitigating activities directly related to the covered depository institution’s activities.
(2) Acting as a swaps entity for swaps or security-based swaps that are structured finance swaps, unless–
(i) such structured finance swap is undertaken for hedging or risk management purposes; or
(ii) each asset-backed security underlying such structured finance is of a credit quality and of a type or category with respect to which the prudential regulators have jointly adopted rules authorizing swap or security-based swap activity by covered depository institutions.

– Unsurprisingly, given just how much money Wall Street has spent buying its Congressional support for the Bill, H.R.992 reads:

(A) Hedging and other similar risk mitigation activities.
Hedging and other similar risk mitigating activities directly related to the covered depository institution’s activities.
(B) Non-structured finance swap activities.–
Acting as a swaps entity for swaps or security-based swaps other than a structured finance swap.
(C) Certain structured finance swap activities.
Acting as a swaps entity for swaps or security-based swaps that are structured finance swaps, if–
(i) such structured finance swaps are undertaken for hedging or risk management purposes; or
(ii) each asset-backed security underlying such structured finance swaps is of a credit quality and of a type or category with respect to which the prudential regulators have jointly adopted rules authorizing swap or security-based swap activity by covered depository institutions.

– Practically word for word. In fact, according to the New York Times, 70 of the 85 lines in the Bill were penned by Citigroup. A Bill that deregulates the risky aspects of the financial industry – and spreads the risk of failure and the obscene costs of such, to the taxpayer if it all collapses again – was written by the financial industry. Welcome to the House of Wall Street.

The Bill passed the House, and was referred to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs at the end of October. It is unlikely to pass the Senate, though if somehow it does, it is unlikely to be signed by the President. The White House has already registered its opposition to the Bill, though stopping short of threatening a veto. It might be worth noting that Jack Lew – current Treasury Secretary – worked as Citigroup’s Chief Operating Officer between 2006 and 2008, overseeing the Alternative Investments unit that invested in a hedge fund that had bet on the housing market to collapse.

The US is still recovering from the destruction wrought by, among others; Citigroup. In 2013, Citigroup and Wall Street have successfully managed to lobby Congress into ensuring that incredibly risky derivatives deals – that helped to cause the problems in the first place – are now fully exposed to a risk of a future bailout. This, despite the Federal Reserve reporting in 2012 that Citigroup was one of four financial institutions to fail its ‘stress test’; a test of the institutions ability to withstand another crisis like that of 2008. Also in 2012, Citigroup had to settle an investor lawsuit for $25,000,000 for allegedly misleading investors over the nature of its mortgage-backed securities. Why on earth is this institution allowed anywhere near the strings of government, to shape policy that has such far reaching implications?

Under such circumstances, Citigroup’s lobbyists must be in for a huge Christmas bonus. They’ve certainly earned it.


The Throne of King Cantor: How House Republicans changed the rules.

October 11, 2013

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: Mjw23.

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: Mjw23.

It seems democracy isn’t an obstacle, the Constitution isn’t an obstacle, the judiciary isn’t an obstacle, and now House rules aren’t an obstacle to the Tea Party juggernaut steaming its way across the American political landscape, flattening everything its path.

As we’re all aware, the Bill for a Continuing Resolution complete with defunding Obamacare attached to it passed the House, and was subsequently rejected by the Senate, thus ending up back at the House on the evening of September 30th. At this point, under House procedures, any member of the House can bring forward a vote on the Senate’s amended Bill in order to end the impasse:

“When the stage of disagreement has been reached on a bill or resolution with House or Senate amendments, a motion to dispose of any amendment shall be privileged.”

– This exists to prevent the minority extorting the majority with threat of shutdown, for policy they weren’t able to achieve through regular democratic process.

But that rule was soon to change. Late on September 30th – with only two hours remaining until the government shut down began – an Amendment was quickly passed – H.J. Res. 59: Continuing Appropriations Resolution – by House Republicans, to the procedural rules of the House. The Amendment ensures:

“Section 2 of the rule provides that any motion pursuant to clause 4 of rule XXII relating to H.J. Res. 59 may be offered only by the majority Leader or his designee.”

– Meaning that the only person who can now bring a vote to the House floor on a clean resolution during an impasse in Congress, is Eric Cantor. Eric Cantor has assumed powers traditionally assigned to all members of the House. They have all lost a right that has guaranteed to them, and transferred to the Republican Minority Leader. This not only disenfranchises House Democrats, it does so for moderate House Republicans too. It is as if Tea Party House Republicans have voted to bestow ’emergency’ powers on the Majority leader, to ensure continued shutdown.

When pressed on this in the House by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD 8th District), the Speaker pro tempore didn’t seem to want to answer:

Van Hollen: “Mr. Speaker, under the regular order of the House, would any Member of the House, including myself, be able to call up a motion to immediately send the CR to fund the government to the President of the United States, to immediately call up and have a vote on that?”
Speaker: “The Chair will not respond to a hypothetical.”

Van Hollen: “Mr. Speaker, the rule that has now been placed over the House in substitute for the standing rules of the House gives only the majority leader or his designee the ability to move up and ask for a vote on the clean Senate bill that would go to the White House; is that correct?
Speaker: “The Chair will not respond to a political characterization and will state again: Under section 2 of House Resolution 368, that motion may be offered only by the majority leader or his designee.”

Van Hollen: “Mr. Speaker, it seems pretty clear that we have taken the normal rules of the House, Mr. Speaker, and substitute in its place a provision that says, ‘only the Republican leader can make a decision’…”
Speaker: “The gentleman has not stated a proper parliamentary inquiry.”

– Van Hollen is quite right, House Republicans have wilfully rigged House rules to prevent anyone from opening the government, other than the Majority Leader. House Republicans have vested more power over the running of the US Government in Eric Cantor, than the President, the public, the entire legislature, and the judiciary.

So, since 2010 Republicans have been beating the drum of shutdown to win major policy concessions that they were not able to win electorally. Since early 2013 at the very least, a memo circulates from Freedom Works, signed by major Tea Party donors that reads:

“Conservatives should not approve a CR unless it defunds Obamacare. This includes Obamacare’s unworkable exchanges, unsustainable Medicaid expansion, and attack on life and religious liberty.”

– And when that plot was doomed to fail due to the lack of moderate Republican support in the House for such a dangerous tactic, the extreme wing of the Republican Party resorted to changing the rules of the democracy that they live, in order to force a shutdown that would have been prevented under regular House rules.

It is quite horrifying the lengths the far right of the Republican Party are willing to go to circumvent the democratic process when it provides results that they don’t like. For Republicans, the American people, the ballot box, and the law of the land, are simply obstacles that the Elephant has every right to trample.


Obamacare: The new myths in town!

October 10, 2013

Understanding the Affordable Care Act

As it slowly becomes evident that death panels – with President Obama dressed as the grim reaper in a Che Guevara t-shirt – just aren’t going to happen; as it slowly becomes clear that there will be no ‘forced home inspections’; when all evidence points to full time work not at all destroyed in socialist flames by the Affordable Care Act… then it becomes predictable that new myths begin to take shape. New poorly constructed, desperate myths that nonetheless go unanswered attach themselves to the general ‘understanding’ of the Affordable Care Act, and so are given time to fester in the collective mind of the United States. There are two new myths in particular that are so easy to discredit, that this will likely be my shortest article in a very long time.

Healthcare.gov costs the taxpayer $634mn!!
One new myth that has sprung up and instantly perpetuated by Tea Party writers this week, is that Healthcare.gov has cost $634 million to build. $634,320,919 to be exact. In fact, it’s been reported by news agencies around the World. News Max reported it as fact. The Daily Mail here in the UK reported it, and the story also appears on the ironically named “Examiner”. If they’d have lived up to their name, they’d soon realise that the story is in fact, false.

According to usaspending, the figure of $634,320,919 to CGI, Inc, was paid over a period of five years – between 2008 and 2013 – for 114 different transactions. One of those contracts was Healthcare.gov worth $93.7 million when originally won. There is no mention on whether the cost was over or under budget on that one transaction. But the fact remains, Healthcare.gov did not cost $634,320,919.

The Tea Party website referenced above perhaps gives us a glimpse of just why they’re beginning to invent new rumours, backed by weak research, in order to undermine a law that – coupled with the shutdown and an ever decreasing Republican polling number (they are now polling 1% lower than the percentage of Americans who believe in Bigfoot) – could very well lead to a Democrat House elected in 2014. It is desperation:

“Unlike some Americans, I actually want the Obamacare exchanges to succeed. I’ve given the state-specific options a try (there are 15 of them, including Washington D.C.’s) and they seem to greatly simplify the process of buying healthcare. And the rates do appear to come in far lower than what many people without health insurance from an employer have had to bear until now. It’s not government-run healthcare. There are no death panels. And, from what I can tell, the world will not end if more people have health insurance – quite the opposite, in fact.
What I cannot stand is a nation that has vast technological resources in its citizenry spending $600 million of our collective money to slap together a product that, thus far, has only managed to waste people’s precious minutes.”

– Here, they admit that under the Affordable Care Act rates are far lower, it isn’t government-run, there are no death panels, and it is working to help people. All of a sudden, they’re fine with all of that, and they laugh the myths off as almost whimsical (despite spending three years insisting that those Obamacare myths would burn America to the ground), but now it’s the cost of the website that they’re truly opposed to, having spent….. no time whatsoever concerned about it until yesterday.

Less than 10 people have signed up for Obamacare!
Yesterday, Buck McKeon (R-CALIF) told CNN that he’d heard rumours (always good to be thorough in your research) that fewer than 10 people had signed up for Obamacare. He’d read it somewhere. And so on that basis, he thought he’d tell the entire Nation, regardless of how true that claim was. Predictably, much like the Healthcare.gov cost rumour, this one is also completely false.

As of Wednesday, Kentucky, Maryland and Washington State released data showing that over 16,000 had so far signed up. Connecticut has 1,426 applications, New York officials report 40,000 have signed up. 16,311 had completed applications, and another 27,305 have partially completed applications in McKeon’s own state of California.

In fact, Washington State, despite having a lot of glitches on roll out day for its Washington Health Plan Finder marketplace, the state had 9,452 sign up rather quickly, with a further 10,497 submitted applications but not yet enrolled. 20,000 in less than a week.

Now, maths has never been a particularly strong point of mine, but I am quite sure, after conducting lengthy sums, that we can conclude that more than 9 people have signed up on the healthcare exchanges so far. And they still have five months and three weeks to sign up. Republicans appears to be shocked that 30,000,000 didn’t all sign up on day one. It’s an odd planet they inhabit.

So you see, whenever a new Obamacare myth surfaces, instantly posted on ‘reputable’ media outlets, and is left unchallenged, it grows misplaced anger and fear which inevitably leads to genuine concern among certain sections of the US population who simply do not see any reason to doubt six or seven media outlets seemingly confirming what their Representatives are saying, and suddenly, Ted Cruz is elected and the government is shut down. It stems entirely, from misrepresentations and completely invented logic. The shutdown is therefore a product of misplaced fear, constructed by a constant stream of right winged opportunists. And with polls showing a Republican slide into oblivion, there is only one thing to say: Congratulations GOP… you built that.


The Tea Party: In the shadow on the Confederacy.

October 10, 2013

The Signing of the Constitution. By Thomas Rossiter.

The Signing of the Constitution. By Thomas Rossiter.

As the days turn into weeks, the US shutdown edges no closer to being resolved. Polls consistently show that the public believe the Republican Party shoulders most of the blame for the chaos and the threat of default. Moderate Republicans join the growing chorus of disapproval of the shutdown and takeover by a small fringe group of well funded Tea Party Senators and House members. But it isn’t just the public, Democrats, the President, the courts, and moderate Republicans who blame the Tea Party faction for the shutdown, the Tea Party doesn’t seem to have the Constitution on its side either.

The Constitution of the United States is a work of genius. Largely influenced by James Madison’s brilliance for applying enlightenment philosophy to practical politics, and moderating the thoughts of Jefferson (who wished for the Constitution and all laws to be replaced every ‘generation’; 35 years) and the ideas of Hamilton (who pushed for a President elected for life); the Constitution ensures the minority cannot and should not be allowed to dictate policy on threat of economic or political catastrophe. The delegates to the Constitutional convention knew that the Constitution must be adaptable to the progress of US society beyond their own lifetime, and so amendments were the answer. The Founding generation – though they knew the threat loomed heavily – could not have accounted for the Constitutional issues that would arise when a Civil War eventually proved the biggest threat to the Union. One of which, was the debt.

The Fourteenth Amendment is one of those Constitutional Amendments that isn’t ambiguous. There isn’t much room for discussion or debate over its legitimate meaning. Section 4:

“The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”

– The validity of public debt shall not be questioned. The Amendment was passed in 1868, as a result of political wrangling in a Congress worried that the public debt would be used as a weapon by southern States for reconstruction concessions in social and economic spheres of influence. The 14th Amendment put a stop to that threat. The South reacted bitterly to all of the 14th’s provisions (including section 4), refusing to ratify it. They wished to use the threat of the debt, to force the US government to bend to their will, despite losing an election, and a war. The South was eventually forced to sign up, with threat of exclusion from representation in the United States Congress, if they refused. The 14th Amendment was an attempt to prevent the minority – and those who lose elections – from seeking to rule on their own terms. And it worked, until today.

It would appear with the threat of default looming on the horizon, the Republican Party has decided that the wording of the 14th is not clear enough, choosing instead to openly and proudly use the public debt as a weapon to extract concessions that they didn’t manage to win through the electoral process. It took over 140 years, but we cannot be under any illusion; as they move further to the right, the Republicans have spent the past few years channelling the spirit of the Confederacy when it comes to voter suppression, when it comes to subtle hints at secession upon the election of a candidate they didn’t like, and now in seeking to use the debt ceiling as a way to defund and delay an established, Constitutional law.

On the validity of the 14th Amendment, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes wrote in 1935:

“While this provision was undoubtedly inspired by the desire to put beyond question the obligations of the government issued during the Civil War, its language indicates a broader connotation. Nor can we perceive any reason for not considering the expression ‘the validity of the public debt’ as embracing whatever concerns the integrity of the public obligations.”

– It is all embracing. It isn’t questionable. It should not be used as a tool for partisan point scoring.

Section 5 of the 14th Amendment tells us exactly which branch of government is in charge of ensuring the 14th Amendment is carried through:

“The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”

– It is Congress’s job to ensure that the validity of the public debt of the United States is not questioned. The historical context of the Amendment is such, that the Amendment was specifically designed to prevent the threat of default unless concessions are met. This isn’t new money the President is asking for, it is money already spent, debts already incurred. It is House Republicans refusing to pay the bills unless they get what they want. And whilst Speaker Boehner is right in that the debt ceiling has been used by both parties as a bargaining chip before, it has never been used to threaten closure of government and default on debts.

The President has no power to invoke the 14th Amendment to unilaterally incur and pay the US’s debts. The constitutional crisis caused by such a move by the President, may well prove to be more damaging than the threat of default itself. The President has been clear; the 14th Amendment does not allow him the power to raise the debt ceiling himself.

To this end, the Republicans know just how dangerous the course they have chosen is. This isn’t a negotiation. This is a threat of force. In 2011 Standard & Poor’s Credit Rating Agency issued the following statement:

“Since we revised the outlook on our ‘AAA’ long-term rating to negative from stable on April 18, 2011, the political debate about the U.S.’ fiscal stance and the related issue of the U.S. government debt ceiling has, in our view, only become more entangled. Despite months of negotiations, the two sides remain at odds on fundamental fiscal policy issues. Consequently, we believe there is an increasing risk of a substantial policy stalemate enduring beyond any near-term agreement to raise the debt ceiling. As a consequence, we now believe that we could lower our ratings on the U.S. within three months.”

– They are quite clear. The debt itself is not what will lead ratings agencies to lower the US’s Credit Rating. It is the politics of the debt ceiling and continued threat of political instability. This instability is driven by a small group of highly financed Republicans, distrusted and disliked not just by the American people and the Democrat Party, but also by their own colleagues. Whilst this is true, the instability is also the product of a lack of clarity on just which branch of government is responsible for ensuring payment of public debt, and if it is constitutional to use the payment of the public debt as political leverage. It is quite clear that the Republicans are using that lack of clarity for political posturing and to circumnavigate the democratic process that didn’t go the way they wanted. If this isn’t the use of force to extract concessions and hinder the stability of Constitutional, democratic government, the entire economy, and the will of the people in the United States, I don’t know what is. In theory, a law exists to deal with that threat:

18 USC Chapter 115 – TREASON, SEDITION, AND SUBVERSIVE ACTIVITIES:
“If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.”

– There are several reasons here why I would argue that the Republicans in Congress have already openly played loose with this law. Firstly, the use of the tactic of closing down the government, by attempting to hinder, and delay the execution of the Affordable Care Act – a law passed by Congress, signed by the President, and upheld by the Supreme Court. Secondly, by attempting to prevent, hinder, or delay the payment of debts that the 14th Amendment insists shall not be questioned, and shall be enforced by Congress. And thirdly, the word “conspire” is key, especially given the months of planning that this shutdown has seemingly involved. The legal framework of the United States has been completely disregarded by a very small fringe right-winged movement that cannot abide elections that they did not win, and constitutional laws that they do not like.

Whether or not the Republican Party has broken, or cleverly maneuvered its way around Federal laws, is up for debate. The period of reconstruction attempted to set straight the Southern treat of using the debt as a bargaining chip, with the 14th Amendment. Today that democratic idea is being challenged by the children of the Confederacy. Reason dictates that if a small band of fringe Congressional representatives are able to close down the government, threaten economic disaster, unless a concession is made to defund or delay a law that the American people largely voted on in 2012, that was passed by Congress, signed by the President, and upheld by the Judiciary – all three branches of government – then something is seriously wrong with a democratic framework that allows for such a vicious tactic.


The US Government Shutdown: A coup in all but name.

October 9, 2013

Closed Lincoln Memorial. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: By Emw (Own work).

Closed Lincoln Memorial.
Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: By Emw (Own work).


“I hope we shall crush… in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”
– Thomas Jefferson.

In an interview on ‘Face The Nation’ with Republican Senator for Texas John Cornyn, host Bob Schieffer asked:

“How is it that you wind up with a freshman Senator, who’s been in office less than a year, becomes the architect of this thing that has the two sides so gridlocked that nobody seems to know a way out of it? How did that happen?”

– Whilst it’s a fair question, it makes one critical mistake. Senator Cruz wasn’t the architect of the shutdown. Of course one freshman Senator doesn’t have the power or influence to shut down and gridlock the entire US government. But his wealthy contributors and backers certainly do.

When President Obama was reelected in 2012, democracy had spoken. A government of the people, for the people, and by the people had been chosen, with Obamacare a key policy in the minds of voters as they had their rightful say in voting booths across the country. Recently, Republican Senator John McCain accepted and reiterated this:

“We fought as hard as we could in a fair and honest manner and we lost. One of the reasons was because we were in the minority, and in democracies, almost always the majority governs and passes legislation.”

– But notoriously, democracy and people are never equipped to be able to compete with vast amounts of money from very wealthy backers. Knowing this, “Freedom Works”, a major donor to the ‘Freedom Works For America’ super pac and affiliated with the Koch empire produced a memo on a strategy to disregard the democratic process, and defund the Affordable Care Act by any means necessary. The memo read:


“Conservatives should not approve a CR unless it defunds Obamacare. This includes Obamacare’s unworkable exchanges, unsustainable Medicaid expansion, and attack on life and religious liberty.”

– The memo goes on to suggest strategy (identical to the tactics used during this shutdown):

“A mere “date-change CR” is unacceptable. Although the Obama administration and others will argue the CR is not the appropriate legislative vehicle to defund Obamacare, it is easily done through a series of appropriation riders. Because the CR represents one of the best vehicles possible to delay the implementation of Obamacare, it must not be used to bargain on the upcoming sequester.”

– This was shortly after President Obama’s re-election. The plan was always to use the threat of government shutdown, to defund a law that had just been ratified by the American people via an election, for the sake of the policy of one organisation rather than the votes of millions of American people. There was to be no backing down. The authority of the voting public and the Supreme Court of the United States were to be overridden. Democracy hadn’t worked for them, so they produced a solution to completely disregard the democratic process. For this sickening, entirely anti-democratic goal, they needed a candidate. Well, during the 2011 primary for the Texas Senate race, Freedom Works said:

“After evaluating the candidates in this race, we believe that Ted Cruz will best serve the interests of hardworking Texas taxpayers by advocating the principles of lower taxes, less government and more individual freedom”

– They chose a candidate likely to run at the White House in 2016. One of “Freedom Works For America’s” main financers is Crow Holdings, LLC. Crow Holdings has contributed $20,000 to Senator Cruz so far for 2014. This, on top of the $25,000 from Koch industries. One of the those who signed the Freedom Works memo above was Chris Chocola, President of “Club for Growth”. “Club for Growth” has contributed the most of all Cruz’s campaign contributors at a staggering $705,657. Another signee was David Bossie, President of Citizen’s United. Citizen’s United have so far contributed $15,000 to Cruz.

Of course, it helps that alongside campaign finance, those wealthy backers can afford to produce widespread and misleading ads in order to convince people to vote for their bought candidate. Generation Opportunity is a legally “nonpartisan” organisation funded by the Koch brothers, that produced the despicably misleading ‘creepy Uncle Sam’ anti-Obamacare ads in which Uncle Sam pops up between a woman’s legs during a gynecological exam. On a related side note… Ted Cruz voted no on reauthorising the Violence Against Women Act.

So if you were wondering what constituency Ted Cruz is in the Senate to represent…it isn’t a ‘grass roots movement’, it’s the extremely wealthy Freedom Works For America & associates. Big business bought their candidate at the primary stage of the Texas Senate race, a candidate willing to do the bidding of ‘Freedom Works For America’ and its associates; a candidate who would not worry about the Speaker of his own Party; a candidate willing to disregard the will of the American people, and represent good value for money by ensuring that he use the CR to infect the entire country with the policy of a very small fringe movement.

Polls across America show that the public blame the Republicans for the government shutdown, far more than they blame Senate Democrats & President Obama. And that reflects reality. It is difficult to blame any group other than the Republican Party, when even Republicans blame their own Party for the shutdown. Fox News analyst Dick Morris before the shutdown joyfully insisted:

“Now there’s gonna be, there’s going to be a government shutdown, just like in ’95 and ’96 but we’re going to win it this time!”

– The same Dick Morris that predicted a landslide Romney Presidential win in 2012 appears not to have noticed that the prediction he made, was so wildly off mark. On his website, he acknowledges that Speaker Boehner is the one who is responsible for the continued shutdown. Morris says:

“The dye is now cast. The battle lines are drawn. Boehner has refused to reopen the government or raise the debt limit without concessions from Obama. What began as a foolish government shutdown to try to end ObamaCare is now morphing into a serious, and likely successful, attempt to rein in the ObamaCare cost, cut government entitlements, and hold the line on taxes.
Finally, the Republicans in the House have gotten it right.
They deserve our full support.”

– Yes. The Republicans have chosen to disregard the legislative process, and the public’s rejection of their 2012 platform, by just choosing to pretend 2012 didn’t happen, and relying on candidates wholly owned by big business. Dick Morris fully acknowledges that there would be a forced GOP shutdown, and that Speaker Boehner is the one who could end it.

In 2010 – three years ago – Senator Mike Lee of Utah was asked if he would endorse a government shutdown over the debt limit. Lee replied:

“It’s an inconvenience, it would be frustrating to many, many people and it’s not a great thing, and yet at the same time, it’s not something that we can rule out, it may be absolutely necessary.”

– This is how very wealthy members of Tea Party sect of the Republican Party view a shut down. As simply an ‘inconvenience’ for those furloughed. Here, Lee accepts responsibility for the government shutdown that is happening right now, three years ago.

New York Republican Rep. Peter King has been a vocal opponent of his Republican colleagues shut down tactic. A day after a House Republican private strategy meeting, King appeared on MSNBCs Hardball and said:

“This was a fool’s errand that was started by Ted Cruz. But we can’t just blame him. We have to also blame his acolytes in the Republican Conference—30 or 40 of them who stood with him, who were willing to undo what John Boehner wanted to do, which was to pass the CR, move this along. They insisted on going this route of attempting to defund Obamacare and threatening to shut down the government if it wasn’t done, we got locked into this. Let me just say we are where we are, and I blame Ted Cruz and his supporters for doing that.”

– King’s point here has two important features. Firstly, Ted Cruz and a small group of Tea Partiers are entirely to blame for the government shutdown. Secondly, Speaker Boehner didn’t plan on taking this route. Which suggests, he is now just a puppet on a Tea Party string. The Republican Party is in the midst of a civil war.

King is adamant that there are a lot of moderate Republicans willing to vote on a clean CR, and who oppose the Cruz tactic bought by the Koch Empire. 21 House Republicans so far. But most aren’t willing to go public with how they disapprove of the Koch-led tactics to bring government to a close, for the simple reason that they will get primaried. They are willing to admit it too. Greg Walden (R-OR) said:

“We have to do this because of the Tea Party. If we don’t, these guys are going to get primaried and they are going to lose their primary.”

– And he’s right. It isn’t just the President, Democrats, and the American people in general under attack at the moment. It’s Republicans themselves. The ‘Freedom Works For America’ website openly targets Republicans who they do not consider Tea Party enough:

“The 2014 race for control of the Senate has already begun. Establishment Republicans are beginning to recruit moderate Big Government candidates in races across the country in a typical top-down approach. This approach has led to moderate losing candidates like Tommy Thompson (WI), Rick Berg (ND), and Danny Rehberg (MT) in 2012. We can’t let these opponents of fiscal conservatism win!”

Another Tea Party favourite, Texas Representative Louie Gohmert (who is no stranger to ridiculous remarks) said in 2010:

“Listen, if it takes a shutdown of government to stop the runaway spending, we owe that to our children and our grandchildren. I don’t have any grandchildren yet, but if we don’t stop the runaway spending – even if it means showing how serious we are –okay, government is going to have to shut down until you runaway-spending people get it under control. And if you can’t get it under control, then we just stop government until you realize, you know, yes we can.”

– Gohmert sees no alternative but to shut down the government unless Republicans get their way. He fully acknowledges that this is a viable Republican tactic.

They acknowledge the tactic in 2010, they acknowledge it again in 2013, they threaten Republican colleagues not tied to wealthy far-right backers and who privately (and some publicly) blame this small sect of Tea Party Republicans for the shutdown. There is no debate over who is to blame for government shutdown. A framework for shutdown was articulated by Republicans – sometimes excitedly – in 2010, and codified by a wealthy conservative fringe group and their associates in 2013. It is a coup in all but name.


The Boehner Predicament: Resignation or Resignation.

October 7, 2013

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: By Gage Skidmore (Flickr: John Boehner).

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: By Gage Skidmore (Flickr: John Boehner).


“This never had a chance to work, and people are still out of work, and the government is still shut down.”
– Rep Pete King (R-NY).

The Speaker of the House is in a dire political position. It is perhaps the most unstable that his unstable leadership tenure has been. There is no leadership control. It appears to have been conceded the far right of his Party who now apparently control the strategy of the GOP entirely. Unless Democrats suddenly cave to Tea Party demands – which they have no reason to, especially given that the majority of the public blame Republicans for the shutdown – then there is no victory for Speaker Boehner. There is only catastrophic failure for his legacy as Speaker of the House. One that has no real end game for him, but resignation.

In interviews this weekend, the Speaker attempted to shift the narrative from a shutdown over the Affordable Care Act, to a shutdown over the debt limit. It seems Boehner’s original plan had been to pass a clean CR, and to then use the debt limit as leverage for spending cuts. This plan was thrown into the flames not be the Speaker of the House, but by a junior Senator from Texas who had no end strategy, no plan to ensure coverage for the 870,000 uninsured children in his own State, but instead spent time reading Dr Seuss. The Speaker is completely at the mercy of the Cruz Republicans.

We know that John Boehner believes Republicans like Cruz are entirely to blame for the shutdown, because in March 2013 the Speaker said:

“Our goal here is to cut spending, not to shut down the government. I believe trying to put Obamacare on this vehicle risks shutting down the government.”

– Boehner publicly (and rightfully) announced that attaching the Affordable Care Act to an unrelated vehicle risks government shutdown. Six months later, he changed that position and decided that attaching rejected-at-the-election policy to an unrelated CR was perfectly reasonable, and in fact rejecting it would risk shutting down government. It is a complete u-turn. Speaker Boehner in March 2013 would agree that Speaker Boehner in October 2013 was responsible for shutting down government. Similarly, House Republicans in 2010 would agree, given that they signed a letter addressed to the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, which read:

“The CR should not be used as a vehicle to carry unrelated items in an attempt to circumvent the regular legislative process and avoid offsetting the costs of such legislation.”

– And so the Speaker had two choices. To either continue with the original plan, to be consistent with his own and House rhetoric over the past three years, which would entail refusing to attach an attempt to defund the Affordable Care Act to a CR, thus risking a showdown with Senator Cruz & Tea Partiers in the House. A strategy that might well have resulted in an attempt to oust Boehner as Speaker. There is no other reason why the Speaker will not allow a clean CR vote in the House, especially given that at least 21 House Republicans are willing to back it, and Republicans in marginal seats are naturally worried about their re-election prospects in 2014.

The Speaker has a real concern that his position may be weakened in his own Party (the country is not top of his considerations), given that attempts to oust him as Speaker at the beginning of this year came short by only five necessary votes. The attempted coup was led by the completely ungovernable Tea Party Republican Rep. Justin Amash from Michigan’s 3rd District, which includes Grand Rapids (one of the few cities in the US I’ve visited!). Amash was stripped of his role on the Budget Committee in late 2012 for what his own Republican colleagues say:

“their inability to work with other members”

– In response to his removal by Republicans who considered him unable to work or to compromise with other members of his own Party, Amash said that Republican leaders in the House:

“…are in a lot of trouble.
“They’re going to have to make amends, or there will be a new leadership team in place, it may not happen right away, but it will happen.”

– Making good on this threat, Amash then went on to hold one-on-one talks with fellow House Republicans to stage a coup against the Speaker in January this year. The coup only failed because they had no one in mind to replace the Speaker, choosing instead to vote for several different members, or just not voting at all. So Boehner knows his position is almost completely in the hands of a few fanatics who consider him a puppet rather than a leader. This is a new development, in that usually a fringe group of a Party need to remain on the leadership’s good side for such formidable influence, but as it stands now, apparently the opposite is true; the leadership is working to stay on the fringe groups good side, to hold onto power. Republican House strategy is no longer shaped by the Speaker, but by a Tea Party fringe. The consequences for the Party will be reflected in 2014.

Not only his position weak when it comes to his choice to continue down the Tea Party laid path, but if Boehner suddenly decided to allow a vote on a clean CR, and 21 of his own House Republicans – worried for reelection in 2014 – voted alongside House Democrats and ended the shutdown, it is a resounding confirmation that Republicans could have ended the shutdown days ago. It is also a victory handed to the President by House Republicans, who simultaneously disprove Boehner’s insistence that there aren’t enough votes in the House to pass a clean CR (On a side note, there weren’t enough votes in the House to repeal Obamacare 43 times… but it never seemed to stop them trying).

So Speaker Boehner has a choice; continue down the Tea Party route, thus putting jobs at risk, the economy at risk of default and recession, and ultimately ensuring that his own Party – currently sliding heavily in polls – is now a Party of a right wing fringe inevitably resulting in losing the House in 2014…at which point, he’d have to resign. Or, call a vote on a clean CR, watch as House Republicans join House Democrats to end the shutdown, accept that he could have done this days ago and saved a lot of panic, hand a major political victory and concession of political leverage to President Obama & the Democrats, and then resign for such a catastrophic failure of leadership and judgement.

There is nowhere for the Speaker to turn. He has to go.


21 House Republicans willing to vote for clean CR.

October 4, 2013

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: By Diliff (Uploaded by Diliff).

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: By Diliff (Uploaded by Diliff).

As the US Dollar continues to fall due to the continued shutdown of the US Government, Speaker Boehner has the power to put a stop to it all today if he chooses to abandon Tea Party demands, and sides with Republicans willing to accept defeat.

It now appears that the government would re-open if a vote was put to the House today to pass a clean funding bill without attaching legislative ransoms to the back of it. Along with House Democrats, a full 21 House Republicans are now willing to vote to re-open government, which is four more than necessary to end the shutdown. Speaker Boehner still refuses to let a vote come before the House.

Those 21 Republicans are:

Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.), Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ.), Rep. Peter King (R-NY.), Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.), Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ.), Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.), Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.), Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY.), Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.), Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.), Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Pa.), Rep. Jon Runyan (R-NJ), Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa), Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.).

Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa) released a statement on his website in which he attempts to deflect blame for the catastrophic mishandling of the situation by House Republicans, onto the Senate and the President for not caving to unjustifiable Republican demands:

“It is time for Congress to vote on a budget bill that gets the government back to work providing all of the services already paid for by the hard-working taxpayers in my District and across the country. If a bill comes to the floor to accomplish that goal, I will vote for it.

I have joined my colleagues in the House six times during the last two weeks to pass bills that keep the federal government open while defunding or delaying ObamaCare. Each attempt to eliminate funding for the law, repeal the $30 billion medical device tax driving jobs overseas or treat all Americans equally by giving them the same one-year reprieve from the law’s mandates that the President gave big businesses has been rejected by the President and Senate Democrat leaders. The President and Senate Democrat Leader Harry Reid seem perfectly content keeping the “Closed” sign on the Liberty Bell, Valley Forge National Park and Gettysburg National Battlefield. I am not, and I look forward to voting to put government back to work serving the taxpayers very soon.”

– Through all the weak, self serving justifications for House GOP actions over the past seven days in attempting to defund an established Constitutional law that they lost the 2012 Presidential Election on, and a Supreme Court Case on, and the popular vote for both the House on, Gerlach signaled his intent to end the government shutdown as soon as a vote is called.

Another House Republican who has wasted significant legislative time and money voting 42 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act is Mario Diaz-Balart. He appears to have been lied to in order to secure his support for a Federal shut down, and now he’s come to his senses:

“When they brought the idea of defunding Obamacare, House Republicans were told we could get Democratic votes. So I voted for it. But it didn’t happen. Then we tried again. And it didn’t work. The third time, it was like: Look, this isn’t working. Let’s try something else.”

– The implication being that a clean bill would have passed and government kept open, had leading Republicans not lied about the level of support they had for attaching a legislative proposal onto a budget. A further implication being that Diaz-Balart blames House Republicans for a shutdown that in his own words, isn’t working.

On the subject of being lied to in order to support a Federal shut down, Ted Cruz met with Republican Senators at a private lunch to discuss strategy yesterday. One Republican Senator told Politico:

“It’s pretty evident it’s never been about a strategy—it’s been about him. That’s unfortunate. I think he’s done our country a major disservice. I think he’s done Republicans a major disservice.”

– The rest of us knew this before the shutdown. Republicans are now coming to terms with just how badly this has turned out for them, and the dangers of letting a small group of extremists dictate Party tactics.

As early as the 28th September, Charlie Dent (R-Pa) said:

“I’m prepared to vote for a clean CR. I don’t want the government to shut down.”

– Again, the implication being that to vote for anything but a clean CR, would mean you are responsible for government shut down. Charlie Dent is subtly blaming the Republicans for a shut down. He joins House Republicans in 2010, who said:

“it is simply unacceptable to use a must-pass CR as a legislative vehicle ”

– So that’s 21 in 2013 prepared to pass a clean Continuing Resolution, as well as 2010 House Republicans.

Most surprisingly, Peter King (R.NY) told The National Review that two thirds of House Republicans would vote for a clear CR if the vote was allowed to take place:

“If it was on the floor, they would do it. Put it this way, two thirds want a clean CR.
Including some of the people who got elected as tea-party candidates from the South. You talk to them, they think this is crazy.”

– Another Republican Congressman implying that House Republicans are to blame for the shut down. They believe it is crazy to ransom the entire government, for the sake of a battle over an established law that they don’t like.

So with 21 House Republicans all willing to vote for a clean CR, with Democrats proposing a clear CR, and with the President happy to sign a clean CR, what’s stopping a vote in the House on a clean CR? It isn’t Harry Reid. It isn’t the President. It isn’t the 21 Republicans all wishing to reopen government. It’s a Tea Party led group ensuring that Speaker Boehner does not allow the Representatives of the people of the United States – within his own Party – to vote to keep Federal workers in their jobs. For every hour that inches closer to economic meltdown, Speaker Boehner becomes more and more culpable for this entire miserable episode.


House Republicans Demand Clean CR…. in 2010.

October 3, 2013

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: Kevin McCoy.

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: Kevin McCoy.

As House Republicans continue in 2013 to insist that it is perfectly justifiable to use the budget and government shutdown in an attempt to defund an established, constitutional law that they couldn’t achieve through the democratic process, it turns out House Republicans in 2010 thought very differently.

The 23 Republican members of the House Appropriations Committee in 2010 signed a letter addressed to Appropriations Chairman David Obey, that read:

“it is simply unacceptable to use a must-pass CR as a legislative vehicle ”

– House Republicans were unhappy at Democratic attempts to attach policy provisions to Continuing Resolution legislation. You know, like defunding a programme of some sort. Interestingly, this didn’t result in Democrats shutting down government.

Further into the letter, they reiterate just how wrong House Republicans in 2010 believed attaching unrelated items to the Continuing Resolution really is:

“The CR should not be used as a vehicle to carry unrelated items in an attempt to circumvent the regular legislative process and avoid offsetting the costs of such legislation.”

As if that wasn’t clear enough, they continue:

“Under this emerging scenario, we want to make our position abundantly clear: we will not support efforts to pass a CR that contains any unnecessary spending or legislative provisions unrelated to maintaining government operations.”

– That was the position of House Republicans in 2010. Just three years later, House Republicans in 2013 apparently completely disagree, having attached a ransom to the Continuing Resolution in order to ‘circumnavigate the regular legislative process’ after a loss in 2012 that they still haven’t come to terms with.

Among the signees of the call for a clean Continuing Resolution in 2010 (which can be seen here) was Jack Kingston (R-GA 1st). Kingston in 2010 believed that it was completely wrong to ‘carry unrelated items in an attempt to circumvent the regular legislative process’. Kingston in 2013 signed as a co-sponsor Tom Graves (R-GA 14th) plan to tie funding for the Affordable Care Act, to the CR. What a change of values! And in such a short space of time.

Another signee of the call for a clean Continuing Resolution, and the letter that makes ‘abundantly clear’ that he would not in any way negotiate on efforts to pass a CR that “contains any unnecessary spending or legislative provisions unrelated to maintaining government operations” was Ken Calvert (R-CA 42nd). So, given his indignation at the idea of attaching unnecessary partisan legislation to a CR, it is surprising that his website includes this quote:

“Like most Americans, I am frustrated that our federal government has been shut down. I have now voted for four different proposals to keep the government open.”

– All of those four proposals have included unnecessary partisan legislation designed to delay or defund the Affordable Care Act, or as Republicans in 2010 put it; attaching an unnecessary legislative provision. Ken Calvert in 2010 would be ashamed of Ken Calvert in 2013.

It is nice to know President Obama has the full support of House Republicans in 2010, when placing the blame entirely at the feet of House Republicans in 2013 for the current unnecessary shut down of Government.


The Republican Individual Mandate: A forgotten history.

October 2, 2013

The President signs the Affordable Care Act into law. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author:  Pete Souza.

The President signs the Affordable Care Act into law.
Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: Pete Souza.

A brief timeline of Republicans and the individual mandate:

1960s: President Kennedy subtly hints at universal healthcare for America. Republicans don’t know how to react.
1970s: Republican President Nixon offers market based solution and employer mandate.
1980s: Republican think tank comes up with individual mandate.
1990s: Democrats offer ‘HillaryCare’ a step on the path to universal healthcare.
1990s: Republicans respond by sponsoring market-based Acts with individual mandate attached.
1990s: Republicans propose individual mandate, to prevent government-run healthcare.
2000s: Republicans create individual mandate system in Massachusetts.
2010s: Democrats throw out universal healthcare goal, adopt Republican individual mandate idea.
2010s: Republicans forget that it was their idea for decades, and decide it’s actually Marxist.

Through all the misinformation and misleading arguments against the Affordable Care Act, one of the most prominent is the conservative assurance that the individual mandate represents ‘government compulsion’ and so is the death of liberty. With this in mind, it would then seem natural to believe that the Affordable Care Act was conceived in a room of shadowy Marxists, waving an American flag upon which the 50 stars of Old Glory replaced by a hammer and sickle, thinking up devious ways to enslave the American people to the will of the big bad government. And conservatives – in the most over-dramatic fashion possible, are sure of that synopsis:

obama1
– Despite ridiculous comparisons to Stalin, slavery, and Nazis, the history of the idea of an individual mandate is in fact a conservative conception.

Born close to the border between England and Wales, Stuart Butler emigrated to the US in 1975 and has slowly worked his way up the ranks of the conservative Think Tank ‘The Heritage Foundation’, and is currently the foundation’s Director of the Center for Policy Innovation. In 1981, Butler gave a speech on healthcare in the United States, in it he says:

“We would include a mandate in our proposal–not a mandate on employers, but a mandate on heads of households–to obtain at least a basic package of health insurance for themselves and their families. That would have to include, by federal law, a catastrophic provision in the form of a stop loss for a family’s total health outlays. It would have to include all members of the family, and it might also include certain very specific services, such as preventive care, well baby visits, and other items.”

– Here we have for the first time, an influential right winged think tank proposing ‘government compulsion’ within the healthcare market. This idea was pushed an alternative to universal healthcare, which of course was then described as ‘government compulsion’ whilst the individual mandate promoted as a reasonable market-driven solution. Republicans today complaining that the President is not compromising appear to not understand that Obamacare absolutely is the compromise.

Conservatives including the Heritage Foundation today claim they changed their position in the early 90s and were now against the mandate. This isn’t exactly the case. They were against inclusion of the mandate in a Democratic authored Bill, not because they suddenly disagreed with the principle of an individual mandate, but because of the projected cost of the Democrat plan. We know that Butler was not against the idea of an individual mandate in principle, because in 2003 he told Congress:

“The obligations on individuals does not have to be a “hard” mandate, in the sense that failure to obtain coverage would be illegal. It could be a “soft” mandate, meaning that failure to obtain coverage could result in the loss of tax benefits and other government entitlements.”

– Are Republicans in 2013 willing to suggest that the Director of the Center for Policy Innovation at a leading conservative think tank, is advocating ‘Marxist’ forced government interference, with his 25 year support for an individual mandate?

In 1991, Mark Pauly – the lead author of a Health Affairs paper – wrote a paper for President Bush insisting that an individual mandate to purchase private health insurance was an effective way to keep government from nationalising healthcare. The individual mandate, in other words, was an anti-socialist principle in 1991. Pauly says:

“I was involved in developing a plan for the George H.W. Bush administration. I wasn’t a member of the administration, but part of a team of academics who believe the administration needed good proposals to look at. We did it because we were concerned about the specter of single payer insurance, which isn’t market-oriented, and we didn’t think was a good idea. One feature was the individual mandate.”

– So, all through the ’80s, ’90s, and early 00’s, Republicans and conservatives were touting an individual mandate for purchasing private health insurance, as a conservative principle designed to derail nationalised healthcare.

In 2011 Tea Party favourite Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) referred to an individual mandate as:

“…the unconstitutional employee mandate.”

– Leaving aside the fact that the Supreme Court upheld the mandate, back in 1993 Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) was a co-sponsor of a Healthcare Bill introduced by Republicans, that included an individual mandate. He fully supported it, along with current Senators Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), and Richard Lugar (R-Ind). Senator Grassley is currently on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and supported Ted Cruz’s miserable attempts to defund The Affordable Care Act and its individual mandate, twenty years after he proposed and supported a similar Act. Senator Lugar (co-sponsor of the 1993 Act that included the individual mandate) is responsible for pushing Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller to question the constitutionality of the individual mandate. Both Senators support an individual mandate when Republicans propose it so much so that they co-sponsor it…. they’re then anti-individual mandate when Democrats compromise and propose it.

Instead of registering outrage at the ‘Marxist’ government compulsion involved in mandating individuals to purchase private health insurance (the strangest understanding of the concept of Marxism I’ve yet come across), Mitt Romney when governor of Massachusetts embraced it whole-heartedly. In 2006 the state of Massachusetts passed ‘An Act Providing Access to Affordable, Quality, Accountable Health Care’. Dubbed ‘Romneycare’, chapter 58 requires that all citizens of Massachusetts purchase health insurance coverage. Before signing the Act into law, Governor Romney vetoes eight provisions in the Act. Predictably, he vetoed providing dental help to the most vulnerable on Medicaid, and particularly heartlessly, he vetoed providing State funded care for legal immigrants with disabilities. What Romney didn’t veto, was the individual mandate. He seems to have been perfectly fine with that section. But don’t accept my word for it, here is what Romney himself had to say in 2006:

“With regards to the individual mandate, the individual responsibility program that I proposed, I was very pleased that the compromise between the two houses includes the personal responsibility mandate. That is essential for bringing the health care costs down for everyone and getting everyone the health insurance they need.”

And as a conservative idea, it seems to have worked. Conservatives should be proud. It’s a good idea. The Urban Institute released a report in 2010, that noted 98.1% of residents were insured, compared with 83% nationwide. 99.8% of children were now covered. 99.6% of seniors now covered. In 2011, the National Bureau of Economic research released a report noting that:

“…health care reform in Massachusetts led to better overall self-assessed health and improvements in several determinants of overall health, including physical health, mental health, functional limitations, joint disorders, body mass index, and moderate physical activity.”

– It works. Democrats adopted a Republican idea that works.

But it isn’t just the individual mandate that began life as a conservative idea. Let’s not forget that the employer mandate was first accepted by a Republican President. In 1974 President Nixon stood in front of Congress and offered his idea for comprehensive healthcare reform. He stated:

“Every employer would be required to offer all full-time employees the Comprehensive Health Insurance Plan.”

– Every employer. The Democrat President in 2012 has watered down this conservative proposal, and mandated that in 2015, only employers with over 50 employees provide health insurance for their workers, with the first 30 employees exempt. This is a major difference from what conservatives were offering with employer mandated health reform. Would Republicans be willing to accept that President Nixon was more ‘Marxist’ and anti-business, than President Obama? I suspect not.

It’s worth noting that Kennedy and the 1960s Democrats first argued the case for universal healthcare in the US. The UK had created the NHS after World War II during the wonderful Prime Ministerial reign of Clement Atlee. The NHS is a national treasure today. President Kennedy stood in front of an audience at Madison Square Garden and argued the case for a National Health Service in the US. Since then, Republicans have focused on reacting to Democrats on health care. First, they reacted by offering a market based solution that included an individual mandate to counter universal health care. For this, they also at times argued for an employer mandate. And now, the react by opposing Democrats, and previous generations of Republicans, but offer nothing new. The Republicans represent opposition to the President whatever he says or does, badly masked as a practical alternative.

It seems that for the majority of the past half a century, pre-Tea Party Republicans understood that healthcare is not a commodity like any other. That it isn’t based on choice in the first place. It is a necessity, and represents a product that can be the difference between life and death, and so it must be treated differently, focusing on the human aspect rather than the profit aspect first and foremost. Republicans in the past have understood that. Whilst universal healthcare is the ideal, it is still far away from being released in the US, and so until then Obamacare is a good, practical alternative that was first conceived by thinking Republicans, and that works well. We mustn’t be under the impression that Republicans oppose Democrats on health reform for any practical reason – after all they’ve offered no alternative – other than their traditional aimless opposition to Democrats on health reform, even if it was their own idea in the first place.


The Tea Party: A Disdain for Democracy.

October 1, 2013

“We’re very excited Rep. It’s exactly what we wanted, and we got it.”
– Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) on the prospect of government shut down.

Just stop for a brief moment and reflect on the democratic process we sometimes take for granted. Reflect on how one section of one party in one House of Congress has conceived that to be “American” in the 21st Century means to entirely ignore the fact that you lost the Presidency twice, you lost the Senate, you lost the popular vote for the House, you lost the Supreme Court ruling, and yet you’re still willing to threaten the stability of not just the US economy, but economies across the World, for the sake of an ideology that isn’t even remotely popular enough to win anything of significance through the proper democratic process. Reflect on how serious the situation is, that the President had to sign emergency legislation to fund the military. Reflect on how House Democrats and moderate House Republicans are willing to pass a a budget without a threatening attachment. Reflect on how that one section, of one party, in one House of Congress holds the lives of millions of uninsured people, including children, in the palm of its hand whilst it plays a relentless game of undermining the President for no other real purpose. Reflect on how their programme for change was rejected in the legislature, and executive elections, and judicial branch. Reflect on how instead of producing new ideas to present to the public having lost on their last platform, they arrogantly move to tell the American people; accept our previously rejected programme of change, or we will close down your government. But we’ll continue to take our salaries that you pay us, and when it all collapses, we’ll blame you for not giving into our unelectable demands & threats.

How on Earth is this an American, Constitutional, or Democratic system of values?

If you don’t like a law, that’s fine. You now have two steps.
Step 1. Come up with a new platform, new ideas, and win elections.
Step 2. Change the law.
But the rules of the democracy (or Republic; whatever euphemism they choose to attempt to justify this shutdown) under which you live imply that you cannot move to step 2, without passing step 1. To do so, is to show a thorough disregard and disdain for the consent of the governed, for the framework upon which your system of government was created, and a disrespect for the office you represent. To move to step 2, without achieving step 1, is as close to dictatorial as one gets within a democratic framework.

It seems more and more obvious that a one year delay is simply a stall for time, before the mid-terms. For the Affordable Care Act to come into force, and to work as it is supposed to work (which it will), to help millions of people including children access affordable care would be a nightmare situation for the far right of the Republican Party, because they’ve spent an extraordinary amount of time creating horror myths that simply wont come true, and they will have to answer for that. It is therefore essential for Republicans that the ACA not be allowed to work, even if it means closing down the government and threatening the economy over. And so human beings are treated as unimportant, disposable, and secondary to the political aims of one section of one party in one House of Congress who could not win by traditional democratic means. It is not just contempt for the most vulnerable; for children with pre-existing conditions; for women whom paid far more than men for the same coverage under the old system; It is a Confederate-esque contempt for the democratic framework that enables their existence in the first place and especially if that democratic framework provides results unfavourable them. It is that contempt that is absolutely impossible to justify.