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Coronavirus Stimulus Bill Sabotaged by Republicans

Coronavirus Stimulus Bill Sabotaged by Republicans

Senate Republicans don’t care about people. They only care about big business, corporate donors, and their extremely wealthy friends. We knew that when a Republican controlled senate passed President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December 2017. It gave huge tax cuts to corporations and provided a big tax loophole for pass-through income. The bill was advertised as a move that would lower taxes for workers and help businesses expand by providing them with more cash. Most workers saw very small decreases in their taxes and some actually saw their taxes go up a little, but businesses were left with a lot more cash in pocket and they used it to buy back their own stock to line the pockets of their already obscenely rich corporate executives. They did not increase investment any more than they would have otherwise and they did not provide any substantial increases in wages or benefits for workers. Some cities and states saw increases in wages because they mandated higher minimum wages themselves. Republicans in congress refused to increase the minimum wage like they always do.

Trump’s tax-cut was an expensive failure.

So they were fine with their 1.5 Trillion Dollar tax cut for the rich, but they aren’t so fine with a new and much needed coronavirus stimulus bill that will cost somewhere between one to two trillion dollars if most of that money is funneled to the people who really need it – the unemployed workers.

The Democrats focused their efforts on people first, not profits first. They would direct the money to the millions of people in the service industry (restaurants, bars, hotels, ride-share drivers, salon workers, dental hygienists, etc.) who are all out of work. This is a huge sector of our economy. Workers need cash to buy food, pay rent and mortgages, and obtain healthcare – all urgent stuff. The stimulus bill should provide that urgent aid first. A one-time check in the $500 to $1,200 won’t provide the long-term aid they are going to need.

The spending should cover the cost of extending the unemployment insurance for at least a year or two. It should probably force large employers to provide sick pay for as long as is necessary for their workers to recover from COVID-19. The bill should prevent people from losing their jobs because of government-mandated work stoppages. It should make sure that everyone afflicted with the disease gets the healthcare they need regardless of whether or not they have insurance. To put it simply, the stimulus bill can’t be about “creating jobs” right now. It should be all about alleviating hardship and suffering caused by the outbreak, because it can’t help put people back to work until the pandemic is gone, and it looks like that isn’t going to happen for months.

The Republicans’ bill includes $5B for a corporate slush fund. It’s weak on worker retention and has loopholes. It’s treasury lending section is vague. It doesn’t provide provisions to protect people from evictions and foreclosures. It provides zero money for state and local governments. Is that because the states hardest hit are blue states? No additional spending on SNAP when the program will obviously be under extreme pressure. No direct payments for people who did not file tax returns in 2018 or 2019. It offers no help for the uninsured and no help for people with student loans.

What this all adds up to is, as James Martin wrote in The New York Times today, a Moral Evil. That’s suffering caused by the actions of individuals or, in this case, the inaction of individuals. And even worse; the deliberate redirection of resources that should be used to alleviate suffering of the most vulnerable people to the least vulnerable, most wealthy people in our country. That’s right. Who do you think will be the recipients of a slush fund?

Maybe enough Republicans in the Senate will read The Bible tonight and decide to do what Jesus would do (from the James Martin column):

Needless to say, when caring for someone with coronavirus, one should take the necessary precautions in order not to pass on the infection. But for Jesus, the sick or dying person was not the “other,” not one to be blamed, but our brother and sister. When Jesus saw a person in need, the Gospels tell us that his heart was “moved with pity.” He is a model for how we are to care during this crisis: with hearts moved by pity.

I’m not betting on it.

Voting in Republicans to control the Congress and more states is a truly dumb idea.

Voting in Republicans to control the Congress and more states is a truly dumb idea.

In the first two years of his presidency Barak Obama and a Democratic majority in Congress saved the United States auto industry from bankruptcy, enacted a stimulus package that effectively cushioned a collapsing economy and likely prevented another Great Depression, passed the Dodd Frank law to make it much less likely we will suffer another banking meltdown in the future and, last but not least, enacted the Affordable Care Act which is already driving down the rate of medically uninsured Americans and promises to reduce it still further in future years.

In 2010, however, a Republican takeover of the US House of Representatives effectively ended any possibility for further problem solving from the federal government as the GOP House majority, and a filibuster-happy GOP minority in the US Senate, blocked additional efforts to boost the economy and, indeed, sought to do further damage to it by slashing government spending at a time when the private sector was still contracting.

Despite the GOP’s destructive efforts, however, the US economy has improved significantly albeit much more slowly than would have been the case had we enacted another stimulus heavy with infrastructure spending, as Obama and Democrats wanted. In fact, congressional Republicans by their unprecedented obstructionism have behaved as though they wanted the economy to remain in the tank just to score political points.

And they appear to have succeeded. Polls show it is all but certain that the country will vote next Tuesday for full Republican control of the Congress, and an expansion of that party’s control of governorships and state legislatures. Even millennials seem to be deserting Democrats, and lukewarm support from women cannot balance strong support for the GOP among (white) men. In short things appear pretty bleak.

But it would be useful to know what policies embraced by Republicans have won the support of the electorate in this election cycle.

Is it the Republican desire to unravel environmental laws and rules such as those to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired plants or to drastically expand drilling for oil and gas on public lands and off-shore? Is it their enthusiasm for slashing food aid and other crucial support for America’s poorest citizens?

Or perhaps it is the GOP’s oft-stated intention to repeal the Affordable Care Act and strip 10 million Americans of their newly acquired health coverage that appeals to the electorate? But there again, maybe it’s the party’s economic agenda to cut taxes on corporations and the wealthy while blocking any move to increase the minimum wage that attracts voters?

Many believe the 2014 midterm elections don’t matter but I disagree and here’s just one example from The New Republic  to illustrate why.  To summarize, if the conservative and somewhat erratic GOP governor of Maine is defeated, 70,000 low-income residents of the state stand to gain health insurance through the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. If he‘s re-elected, they don’t. That’s pretty simple but the lives of real people who struggle every day will be affected.

In 2010 a wave of GOP state-level victories led directly, as in Maine, to a denial of health care coverage for millions of Americans. Let’s not make the same mistake in 2014.

All elections matter so get off your duff; make the right choice and VOTE on November 4th!

I Like my iPhone but…

I Like my iPhone but…

…I’m pissed off at Apple today.

NPR reports:

Tech giant Apple used a “complex web of offshore entities” to avoid paying billions of dollars in taxes in the U.S., a congressional investigation has found.

The subcommittee’s statement detailed some of Apple’s practices:

“[Apple Operations] was incorporated in Ireland in 1980, and is owned and controlled by the U.S. parent company, Apple Inc. Ireland asserts tax jurisdiction only over companies that are managed and controlled in Ireland, but the United States bases tax residency on where a company is incorporated. Exploiting the gap between the two nations’ tax laws, Apple Operations International has not filed an income tax return in either country, or any other country, for the past five years. From 2009 to 2012, it reported income totaling $30 billion.”

and…

“A second Irish subsidiary claiming not to be a tax resident anywhere is Apple Sales International which, from 2009 to 2012, had sales revenue totaling $74 billion. The company appears to have paid taxes on only a tiny fraction of that income, resulting, for example, in an effective 2011 tax rate of only five hundreds of one percent. The third Irish subsidiary is Apple Operations Europe. In addition to creating non-tax resident affiliates, Apple Inc. has utilized U.S. tax loopholes to avoid U.S. taxes on $44 billion in otherwise taxable offshore income over the past four years, or about $10 billion in tax avoidance per year.”

That’s just wrong. They make billions of dollars setting up shop in places around the world that provide them with infrastructures that allow them to market their highly profitable products around the globe, and provide them with highly educated engineers to design their products.

Apple can certainly afford to pay taxes from the enormous pile of cash it’s been hoarding.

Apple has enough cash on hand to buy every man, woman and child in the U.S., UK, and Germany a $300 iPod Touch, and have a little left over for a case or two. Apple has enough cash to buy every person on the planet a $20 lunch. And Apple has enough cash to pay off the national debts of New Zealand, Kenya, Nigeria, Jamaica, Cuba, Egypt, Vietnam, and Singapore.

They shouldn’t have to be coerced by a Senate subcommittee to pay taxes. They should want to pay taxes into the countries that allow them to make so goddamn much money.

The real reason why the Gun Bill was voted down in the Senate

The real reason why the Gun Bill was voted down in the Senate

“In the end it didn’t pass because we’re so politicized. There were some on my side who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it.” Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), co-sponsor of the Toomey-Manchin background check bill.

Shameful.
Pigheaded.
Intransigent.
Disgraceful.
Dishonorable.
Contemptuous.
Disdainful.

Republican Senate Filibusters are Destroying Democracy

Republican Senate Filibusters are Destroying Democracy

James Fallows has written about the anti-democratic nature of the filibuster a few times for the The Atlantic. In this one he cites a Politico story and explains how it fails to distinguish between breaking a filibuster and passing a bill:

I recognize that this theme now lacks novelty value. But here is why it matters to track an engineered usage-change as it is underway:

It takes 51 votes to “pass the Senate.”

It takes 60 votes to break a filibuster.

Through the past six-plus years, the GOP minority-power strategy in the Senate has deliberately aimed to make the filibuster, historically a rarity, seem routine and acceptable. Every news account that presents the super-majority 60-vote threshold as the “necessary bar” for Senate passage, and a majority of 55 votes as “certain defeat,” ratifies this strategy. Especially in an “informed” insider political-specialist publication.

Fallows go on to say that it doesn’t take a lot of extra print to distinguish between the votes necessary to break a filibuster and the votes necessary to pass a bill.

It’s not just the media that needs to make this distinction clear. Democrats need to use the words “Republican” and “filibuster” in the same sentence much more often than they do. President Obama and Senator Harry Reid and his fellow Democratic senators need to stop saying things like, “We aren’t able to get the votes necessary to move the bill forward” and start saying things like, “We have the 51 votes required to pass this bill, but once again the Republicans are threatening a filibuster in order to kill a bill that a majority of Americans support.”

If the Democrats change their language, the change to the way the media speaks about the votes will follow.

NRA and GOP demonstrate their paranoia on guns to the world.

NRA and GOP demonstrate their paranoia on guns to the world.

The United Nations General Assembly voted 154-3 with 20 abstentions for the first international treaty to regulate the global arms trade. The treaty is designed principally to curb the supply of arms to terrorists, rogue regimes and human rights abusers such as Assad in Syria, warlords such as the groups in Africa who kidnap young boys to become brutal soldiers, and organized crime.

The United States played a key role in shepherding the treaty through to a vote, yet will likely not ratify it, which requires a two-thirds majority in the US Senate, because of opposition from paranoid Republican lawmakers doing the bidding of the even more paranoid leadership of the NRA.

These paranoids, you see, continue to believe, against all the evidence and the credible assurances to the contrary contained in a definitive paper by the American Bar Association’s Center for Human Rights, that the treaty could be used to supersede their rights under the Second Amendment.

In opposing the treaty, the GOP and NRA zealots join such worthies as North Korea, Iran and Syria who all voted against it in the UN.

It should come as a shock that senior Republican senators would join the truly deranged people who lead the NRA to oppose a treaty whose only opponents in the UN were countries which have regimes we count among the craziest and/or most murderous in the world. It should, but of course it doesn’t.

Write your US Senators about keeping Mandatory Background Checks in the Gun Control Bill

Write your US Senators about keeping Mandatory Background Checks in the Gun Control Bill

I read an article in The Washington Post today that explains the differences in the gun bill yet to be resolved by the Chuck Schumer, representing the Democrats, and Tom Coburn, representing the Republicans. It all gets down to the issue of keeping records of background checks. Without a requirement to keep the background checks on file, how would we know that anyone actually complied with the law? How would law enforcement be able to track guns used in crimes?

Fear mongerers like Wayne LaPierre say that if people keep records, then the government will collect all the records and eventually send armed government agents to the homes of gun owners and confiscate all their guns. No rational person actually believes that – not in this gun-culture country.

To me the recordkeeping requirement is no different than the law that says when I go to a pharmacy to buy cold pills like Sudafed that contain ingredients criminals can extract to make meth, I have to show my ID, provide my address, and sign a purchase log at the pharmacy. The government doesn’t collect information about every transaction. If there is a crime and the police need to investigate the distribution of pills used to make meth, then they go to pharmacies and look at records. Same thing is true if I purchase a keg of beer. I have to provide the same information, but the police don’t bother with collecting the data from stores unless they bust a party where the beer in the keg I bought was served to minors. Then they want to know who bought the keg.

The Democrats believe that background checks must be done for all gun sales, and records of the checks and sales must be kept on file. Otherwise the law is absurd and useless.

So let your senators know that no matter what the NRA or Ted Nugent says, you think background checks must be required for all gun sales.

If you aren’t sure what to write on their contact pages, well here’s what I wrote, and you are free to use it and edit it to fit your own personal style.

Senator [insert name here],

I read today how Senator Schumer and Senator Coburn are at an impasse in moving a gun-control bill forward because many Republicans have the completely irrational idea that a law requiring the keeping of records of background checks for gun purchases would enable the government to collect all the data and send armed government agents to the homes of law-abiding citizens to confiscate their lawfully procured firearms. Really that’s what they think because that’s what Wayne LaPierre tells them to think. Well they are so wrong it’s not even worth discussing but, being a US Senator, I guess you have to. So please speak clearly, often, and loudly about how background checks would be used to keep firearms out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, and that law-abiding citizens are in no danger of having their guns confiscated by government agents no matter what Wayne LaPierre or Ted Nugent says.

It is of utmost importance that our country adopts reasonable, rational laws to try and prevent as many people who should not have firearms because of criminal records or known mental problems from obtaining them.

And yes I know that banning assault weapons again is just crazy, because everybody should be allowed to own whatever kind of gun they want. That’s the American way! Right? No it’s not. You know it and I know it, and we both know that a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammo clips that are designed to kill the most people in the most efficient way won’t get through the current congress.

So let’s start with background checks and let’s stand OUR ground.

Cheers,

[Your Name here]

Elizabeth Warren Rebuts Cries from the Right about Class Warfare

Elizabeth Warren Rebuts Cries from the Right about Class Warfare

I’ve always wondered why politicians on the Left always seem so tentative when they state their case for raising taxes on the wealthy.  After all, the Right – far from tentative with their charges of “Class Warfare”- will say anything in their campaign to shield the super rich from paying higher taxes.  

The Left has a new champion for their cause.  Elizabeth Warren, campaigning for a U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts, made the case for why millionaires and billionaires should be paying more income taxes.

Hey Democrats – Watch and Learn!

 

Transcript via Eschaton:

I hear all this, you know, “Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever.”—No!

There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody.

You built a factory out there—good for you! But I want to be clear.

You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for.

You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate.

You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.

You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.

Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea—God bless. Keep a big hunk of it.

But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

Patty Murray Defeats Dino Rossi in Nasty Washington State Senate Race

Patty Murray Defeats Dino Rossi in Nasty Washington State Senate Race

Thanks to a very huge turnout by King County voters, Senator Patty Murray has defeated Republican challenger Dino Rossi and will serve a fourth term in the U.S. Senate.

The Seattle Times reports:

Sen. Patty Murray has won a fourth term, riding a wave of strong Democratic support in King County to defeat Republican challenger Dino Rossi.

Rossi conceded at about 6 p.m., calling Murray to congratulate her, according to a statement released by his campaign.

As of Thursday evening, Murray was leading Rossi by more than 45,000 votes, taking 51 percent to Rossi’s 49 percent. That’s up from a 14,000-vote lead on Election Day.

According to a Seattle Times analysis, Rossi would need to get about 54 percent of the estimated 591,000 uncounted ballots statewide to overcome Murray’s lead.

But nearly 264,000 of those ballots are in King County. Murray’s already commanding lead there has only expanded since Election Day. She took 68 percent of the 69,000 King County ballots counted Thursday.

To overcome King County’s heavy support for Murray, Rossi would have to take about two-thirds of the remaining ballots in the rest of the state. So far he’s received 53.2 percent of those non-King County votes.

Senator Murray won in spite of the enormous amounts of money spent by anonymous donors to political organizations that bought a sickening amount of TV and radio ads that slandered her and disparaged her excellent record of supporting her constituents.

By how much did her political foes outspend her and how did they raise the money?

Read on

Murray’s Republican opponent, Dino Rossi, benefited from more spending by independent groups funded by anonymous donors than any congressional candidate nationwide except Republican Rep. Mark Steven Kirk, who defeated Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias for the U.S. Senate seat once held by President Obama.

Outside groups that can raise unlimited money but do not have to reveal their donors spent more than $3.7 million to oppose Murray, according to the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit government-transparency organization in Washington, D.C. Such groups spent $4.4 million against Giannoulias.

The true extent of the influence of such donors in this year’s elections won’t be known until Dec. 31, after final independent expenditure reports are filed with the Federal Election Commission.

The spending is part of a deluge of money from outside groups not tied to the Republican or Democratic parties. Both Rossi and Murray benefited from independent expenditures, in the form of advertising urging votes for or against one or the other.

Including political parties, outside groups spent nearly $11 million on Rossi’s behalf; for Murray, the spending was $8 million. Unlimited independent expenditures are permitted as long as they are not coordinated with the candidates or their campaigns.

Rossi, however, far outstripped Murray in spending by groups that don’t have to disclose their donors.

Rossi directly or indirectly benefited from $5.4 million in expenditures by such groups, according to an analysis of disclosure reports. That includes groups that spent money specifically to oppose Murray and those that funded electioneering activities that benefited Rossi.

Less than $1 million in outside expenditures on behalf of Murray came from groups that have not identified their financial backers.

Rossi’s chief benefactor was Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, a nonprofit tied to GOP strategist Karl Rove. A so-called 501(c)(4) group that does not have to name its donors, Crossroads GPS spent $3.6 million on anti-Murray ads.

First off, big fat kiss to the voters of Washington State who filtered out the noise and made the right choice by reelecting Patty Murray.

And secondly, take note that the only race in the country where very rich, ultra-conservative billionaire donors spent more was the one in Illinois where they had to defeat the Democratic candidate running for Barack Obama’s former seat, because it would be a symbolic victory for Republicans and it would give them bragging rights.

This is what was shat out of the ass of the Roberts court.  An enormous stinking pile of shit that goes by the name of Citizens United vs. FEC.  The result of that absurd decision is a tenfold increase in the most slanderous and fallacious types of political advertising.  We voters in Washington State and Illinois were buried in Roberts’ fecal waste for three months.

Is anybody but the billionaire donors out there who just bought themselves some more congressmen to do their bidding happy with the Supreme Court decision?  I don’t know anyone who is, not even my Republican friends.

It’s the law now, and the only way to get secret donors with very deep pockets out of the campaigning business is for both parties in congress to agree to change the law.  Well you know there will be no changes between now and 2012, (even less of a chance now that Russ Feingold was defeated by a teabagger) and you know that what we’re going to get during the next presidential election will be unbearable.

Start shopping for hip waders and a gas mask now.  You are going to need them in 2012.

Religious Fundamentalist Running for U.S. Senator of Washington State

Religious Fundamentalist Running for U.S. Senator of Washington State

From and advertisement in today’s printed edition of The Seattle Times:

My name is Abdul Maalik Hosseini, and I am running for US Senator representing Washington State. It’s not an accident that our nation is having so many problems at this time. Allah is trying to get our attention and if He doesn’t get it soon, our nation’s woes can get a lot worse. Allah has the answer for all our problems, but first He wants to correct our attitude, as a nation, toward Him. I believe the best way to do that is for us to understand our creator’s heart. Allah’s desire is to bless our nation to the point of making the rest of the world envious of the blessings He is bestowing on us. The catch is, we are tying his hands by our actions. When we allow sin to prevail over our nation, we open the door for evil to take hold. When we call what is evil, good, we cause Allah’s wrath to overshadow us. Our leaders and much of our nation are not seeing the connection between abortion, a homosexual agenda being pushed on us as an acceptable lifestyle, pornography that is invading our lives and the removal of prayer, the Quran and the teaching of Allah out of our schools systems. Allah is trying to get our attention through many of the problems we are having today in our healthcare, energy, economics, weather, debt and problems in our school systems. There is a disconnect through the human mind between these ideas but direct connection through The All Knowing One’s. Man’s plans will not fix our nation’s problems. Only Allah’s plans will. If I am elected for the U.S. Senate office, I will strive, with The Almighty’s help, to bring the changes that will bring Allah’s favor on our nation again. We need leaders that hear Allah’s voice and will follow His leadings.

What?  Really?  An Islamic fundamentalist is running for the U.S. Senate and wants us to vote for him because he will serve the citizens of Washington State through the will of Allah?

Not really…  I edited the text of the ad.  I replaced the name “Mike Latimer” with an Islamic name and replaced “God” with “Allah,” “Bible” with “Quran” and “His” or “He” or “Lord” with synonyms for Allah.  You can read the original text by visiting his website or this one.

The point is that the real Mike Latimer or the fictional Abdul Maalik Hosseini has no business being a member of the U.S. Senate.  Anyone who campaigns as a religious fundamentalist who wants to impose the will of his god on the rest of us should automatically be disqualified from the election.