Posts Tagged Bush Tax Cuts

Government For The People Is Lost

At a time when Americans desperately needed government for the people and by the people, the 2011 Congress failed to deliver on any substantive legislation.  No tax reform, no jobs programs and no ethics.  Washington ended the year on legislation that typified the self-interests of the Republican Party.  Rather than government for We The People, Republicans worked feverishly to appease the lobbyists of We The Few.  The end of year disagreements even had Republicans fighting and sniping at each other to the media.  This is the chaos that Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader in the Senate Mitch McConnell are using to undermine President Obama.

The problem for Boehner and McConnell is that in further hurting their party’s image, the Republicans boosted the President’s approval rating.

The Republican Party looks to be crumbling at the seams.  When Americans go to the polls, please remember the 2011 Congress.  If there was ever a stronger case for a Democratic controlled House, Senate and Presidency, the Republicans and Grover Norquist have provided We The People with a clear-cut choice.  Will it be Government for We The People or will it be government for We The Few.

We The People should realize that the Republican Party only has the interests of We The Few in mind.  We The People must get engaged and stay that way through the 2012 elections. Do not rest until Democrats control the House, the Senate and the Presidency.  

If the 2011 Congress were analyzed like a Dow Jones equity, the chart would show a steady but rapid decline.  In the eyes of the public, there were no spikes upwards.  Congress had to work hard to achieve a 10% approval rating.  According to a Gallup Poll, only 32% of Americans thought Congressmen were ethical and honest.

The only thing Republicans were able to agree upon was their desire to unseat the President.  They showed a willingness to throw We The People under the bus in their quest.   Republicans presented obstacle after obstacle to damage the economy and make We The People suffer more so that a Republican would replace Obama in 2012.  Yet, every time a Republican debate took place, the President’s stock increased.  The Republican candidates for Presidency were as dysfunctional as the party itself.

Since taking office in 2009, the President has faced many challenges.  Unfortunately, he underestimated the severity of the economic times. Perhaps, he was not sure how to react to the crisis that swept the country.  When he had a majority in both Houses of Congress, he used his political capital to pass Obamacare, a top component on his platform.

His vision for medical insurance for the nation was a strong campaign promise.  The timing for this initiative was bad.  Rather than focus on employment programs that might have boosted and economy and improved the nation’s infrastructure, Obama turned to his health program.

No President in the last sixty years inherited such a mess.  George W. Bush and his Republican cronies left the country with two unfunded wars, a rapidly increasing budget deficit and a financial and housing crisis created by the lack of regulation, a Republican mandate.  Bush’s response to the global crisis was to pour taxpayer money into the banking sector.  He extended the Bush tax cuts at exactly the time these cuts should have been allowed to expire.  However, the Bush Tax Cuts favored We The Few, another Republican mainstay.

Republicans framed the Bush Tax Cuts as the savior of the middle class.  According to the Bush – Cheney team, the cuts were a good thing.  The beneficiaries of these relaxed taxes would enable We The Few to become aggressive “job creators.”

The jobs never came as millionaires and billionaires pocketed the money Bush, Boehner and McConnell said would be invested in American jobs.

After stabilizing the banking sector, credit markets remained entwined in a web of failing mortgages, high unemployment, diminishing GDP and a housing crisis that the country had never-before experienced.  Sadly, the Republicans and Bush perpetuated the housing crisis by nationalizing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the largest holders of bad debt mortgages in the nation.  This means that We The People are paying for the flawed lending practices that profited Wall Street. Adding the weight of these failing mortgages to the taxpayer’s damaged 401(k’s) and other retirement funds was simply too big a cargo.

Republican programs for We The Few destroyed middle America’s safety net, the equity in their homes.

Meanwhile, the very banks that perpetuated the housing crisis began to record huge profits.  Equally disturbing were the phenomenal size of bonuses these corporations paid to the very bankers who caused the recession.  In a dormant state of non-growth in GDP, financial institutions and local governments began to lay off millions of Americans.

Amazingly, not one of these corrupt bankers was imprisoned.  In fact, these bankers were living the high life as the middle class continued to pay the price for the lavish wages paid to unscrupulous people.  This was not capitalism.  This was malicious greed with volumes of moral hazard and amble doses of betrayal.

What began to evolve from this predicament was a caste system never-before experienced in the U.S.  The distance between We The People and We The Few has never been as wide as it is now.  Moreover, the widening trend continues.

To make sure this deep divide stayed that way, Grover Norquist pressed Republican politicians on all levels of government to abide by the Norquist pledge that there would be no tax increases in any new legislation.   Most of the Republicans that signed this pledge did not indicate their intent to do so prior to taking office.  This dilemma left constituencies questioning their choices.

In the 2010 elections, an activist group called the Tea Party ousted Democrats in the House giving Republicans a majority.  The Democrats retained a narrow majority in the Senate.  Without 60 votes, Democrats fell prey to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s call for filibuster.  In fact, the Senate was neutered.

The effect of the Tea Party and the pledge by The Speaker of the House and the Minority Speaker in the Senate to limit President Obama to one term at all costs created strategic gridlock meant to damage the President’s credibility.  Republicans used their newfound power to show their disdain for the middle class, the unemployed and the needy in 2010.

With 7 million unemployed Americans needing an extension of the unemployment benefits, Republicans vowed to allow the benefits to expire beginning in 2010.  However, if the President would extend the Bush Tax Cuts for We The Few, Republicans would extend the unemployment benefits for We The People.  This was a bitter pill for the President, but he swallowed and saved the benefits for middle America.  The Bush Tax Cuts are set to expire at the end of 2012.

From the passage of those two programs, Congress became irreparably broken.  Republicans viewed the President as soft.  They saw an opening and struck. Republicans realized that Obama was for We The People.  Republicans used the President’s commitment to We The People as his Achilles Heel.  Anytime they wanted legislation, Republicans would hold We The People  hostage.

The Republican willingness to hold We The Peope hostage has been the only consistent theme of this Congress.

Speaker of The House, John Boehner, welcomed a large freshman class in January 2011.  Boehner vowed great things in 2011.  What the seasoned Boehner did not understand was that the Tea Party did not like his politics or Bush or Obama. Under the guise of financial credibility, the Tea Party was poised to assault the middle class and prevent passage of any legislation about jobs.

We the People
Creative Commons License photo credit: Sam Gordon Photography

In April 2011, the Congress and the President locked horns over spending.  Republicans favored deep cuts to education, Medicare, Medicade and an overhaul of the Social Services benefit system.  Planned parenthood and the right to abortions also came into play.  This time, Republicans broadened their sights.  They used the leverage of a government shut-down to gain a $38 billion reduction in spending.

Voters watched these events unfold and became uncomfortable with the rhetoric and the dysfunction in Washington.

The bitter divide in Congress gained traction during the subsequent Debt Ceiling talks.  The President wanted a sweeping, balanced effort to dramatically trim the fat off the budget.  Republicans favored spending reductions without any tax increases.  This debate reached ugly in a heartbeat.  It was apparent that the far right-wing of the Republican caucus intimidated the less conservative Republicans.

The Tea Party had control of the party and Boehner was rendered useless. As 2011 winds down, Boehner will be remembered as the most ineffective leader of the most ineffective House in the history of the nation.  During the debt ceiling crisis, Boehner’s role as tightrope artist played out in full view of the public.

Political Cartoon From the Rapid City (SD) Journal:  Republican Greed
Creative Commons License photo credit: JoeInSouthernCA

During the crisis, Boehner met with President Obama and crafted a $4.2 trillion deficit reduction package.  The President and Boehner agreed to a package that the country needed to stave off a credit reduction.  However, when Boehner presented the plan to his caucus it was rejected.

In their deficit reduction package, there would be increased revenue generated by a small increase in taxes to millionaires and billionaires.  All the Republicans who signed the Norquist pledge were put on the spot to either pass legislation with some increased taxes that would benefit the country or honor their Norquist pledge.

Boehner failed to rally his caucus around this powerful deficit reduction initiative.  The country was poised to show the world that the USA stood ready to tackle its debt in a responsible manner.  When Boehner refused to accept calls from the President, it was clear that he had no control over House Republicans.

The net effect of this debt ceiling fight was that for the first time in the history of the Republic the USA lost its treasured AAA credit rating; an event Republicans considered minor. 

Congress pushed the American public to the limits when several high-profile Republicans indicated that they were willing to default on our national debt. The public’s ire over this irresponsible mindset began to surface.  Boehner became a tainted leader of a tainted majority.  Rumors of a change in leadership in the House started to circulate.  The Tea Party’s, Eric Cantor, was often mentioned as a replacement for Boehner.

Boehner’s embarrassing inability to get his caucus to accept his own spending plan, not only stunned Americans but triggered red flag warnings around the globe.  On paper, a 10-year $917 billion spending cut was passed. The parties agreed to another $1.2 trillion in cuts which would be decided by a Super Committee before the 1st of December.  In the event of an inability to agree on cuts, provisions were implemented to trim $1.2 trillion in spending cuts without further approval.  The majority of these fixed cuts were in defense.

Another effect of the failed debt ceiling package was that the country’s credit was lowered by Standard & Poor’s.

To the country, it was now perfectly clear that Washington was in chaos. A familiar pattern had evolved. All legislation was only dealt with in the final hours.  Every significant legislative initiative was flawed. Most were temporary band aids.  The citizenry was appalled by the continued cross-party assaults.

As Congress was coming apart at the seams, the President took to the road.  He took his We The People vision to communities across the country.  His message began to resonate.

During the Summer, Republicans opposed labor rights for a relatively small group of air service providers.  Opposition to labor rights was part of the Tea Party mantra.  In this argument, Congress caused a partial shutdown of Federal Aviation Services.

Newly elected Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, a Tea Party member was busy denying state employees their rights to collective bargaining. Walker is now facing a recall. In Wisconsin, Republicans can expect a big backlash from Walker’s actions.

Republicans refused to give the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) additional funds to assist communities suffering from flooding and damage from hurricanes.  When FEMA announced the agency had enough funding to get to the beginning of the new fiscal year, last-minute temporary funding was approved while politicians agreed to settle their differences in upcoming months.

Again, the pattern of last-minute negotiations and temporary band aids reared its ugly head. Americans were uncomfortable with this method of government. 

When the Congressional super-committee was unable to find common ground on a deficit reduction plan, the dysfunction in Congress caused unified disdain.  Again, there was a flurry of last-minute negotiations but this time there were no results.  Therefore, the already agreed-upon cuts including significant cuts to military spending were imposed.  This dysfunction spurred the Occupy Wall Street movement which spanned across the country.

Public opinion swooned further when 60 minutes released a report that members of Congress were reaping big profits by using insider-trading to fill their pockets.

To cap off the year, Republicans in Congress put tax increases for 160 million Americans on the table.  Republicans were also agreeable to terminating unemployment benefits to millions of other Americans.  This time Republicans in the Senate fought with Republicans in the House.

Smug Eric Cantor stood behind Boehner at every press opportunity.  His devilish grin angered struggling Americans who had expected the Senate’s extensions to be temporarily extended.  Boehner found himself squeezed by Cantor and his allies and the Senate Republicans and by the American public who helplessly watched this dysfunctional group play their hands.

John McCain, Mitch McConnell had no defense for the House Republicans.  Even Donald Trump disavowed the GOP.

As the congressional approval rating fell below 10 percent, the President’s approval rating climbed to 50%.  Rather than listen to Republican rhetoric, Americans supported their President.  Obama’s commitment to take his message to We The People was working.

The President has come across as a solid man with a vision that would balance the playing field between We The People and We The Few. This President has a balanced approach to government. Looking at the Republican candidates for the Presidency, Americans should be nervous.  If Republicans have the House, the Senate and the Presidency, We The People have no cause for hope.  We can expect another war, failed tax policies, damage to the environment, unregulated practices in the financial industry and continued high unemployment.

To restore dignity to We The People, a Democratically controlled House, Senate and Presidency are necessary.  When Americans go to the polls, they must remember the Payroll Tax Cut and Unemployment Insurance extensions.  Voters who remember the insanity caused by Boehner and Cantor and McConnell should act to eliminate the Tea Party, Norquist supporters in favor of a functional body that serves We The People.  Think about this.

A functional government for We The People is what We The Few fears more than anything else.

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House GOP No Substance, All Talk

House Majority Speaker John Boehner says Americans should not worry.  One arm of the most dysfunctional  Congresses in history is at work.  Really?  On What?
John Boehner
Creative Commons License photo credit: Gage Skidmore

Today, Republican House members tabled the Senate’s bi-partisan payroll tax cut extension and the unemployment benefits extension.  These bills were passed by the Senate in a decisive bi-partisan vote of 89 – 10.  For the 2011 Senate, the margin of approval for the bills was astounding.

Failure to extend the payroll tax cut will result in 160 million Americans paying between $1,000 and $2,500 more in 2012.  Millions more Americans will lose 40 weeks of unemployment benefits.  Passage of the Senate bill would have granted the continuation of these benefits.

Republicans fail to acknowledge that the payroll tax cut has successfully added jobs and increased take home pay while encouraging small businesses to hire.  The country is inching out of the recession.  Unemployment rates are decreasing.  Housing is getting a bounce.  The GDP is off the dime and growing more quickly than expected.

This fragile recovery serves We The People well, but is not to the Republican’s benefit.

The only consistent policies from Republicans is their commitment to replacing President Obama while protecting millionaires and billionaires. To advance these two goals, Republicans and Tea Party politicians have been willing to undermine the economy and intimidate the middle class and the poor; the most vulnerable Americans.    

The essential terms of the Senate bills included:

  1.      Two month extension of the payroll tax reduction.
  2.      Two month extension of long-term unemployment.
  3.      An agreement to discuss the Keystone XL Pipeline.

The Senate passed the extension plan and promptly left town assuming that the House would realize the strong Senate support for the bills and approve them.  This is where things get sticky.

Majority Leader Boehner and Tea Party big shot Eric Cantor refused to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.  Instead, House members opted to move to conference with the Senate in the hopes of carving out a one-year deal.  Of course, the Senate went home understanding that their bill had Boehner’s blessing.

New York first-term Congressman Michael Grimm was interviewed Tuesday morning.  During the interview, Grimm voiced the Republican spin on why the bill would not reach the floor.  The newest Republican spin is that the House rejects a two-month extension during which time final details of the bill would be negotiated.  The extension is called “kicking the can” down the road.

In a midday speech, Boehner called upon the Senate to reconvene and conference with House members to finalize a one-year bill.  Boehner’s premise that the bill that passed the House was more than an extension of the payroll tax cuts.

No matter what you hear, the elephant in the room is the Keystone XL pipeline. 

Republicans downplay the addition of this contingency to what should have been an up or down vote on the payroll tax cut and the extension of unemployment benefits.  As described by the State Department, the pipeline does not have EPA approval. The State Department’s report indicates that the pipeline will create between 3,500 – 4,000 jobs.

What the pipeline will do, is increase the international export business. It will also diminish the supply of the Canadian tar sand oil to farmers in the midwest.  The State Department estimates that the farm belt can expect to pay $0.20 per gallon more than they now pay.

Let’s be clear.  Most of the oil provided under the Keystone XL pipeline will be shipped abroad and not used to reduce American energy costs.  So, if the environment is to be endangered and there are very few jobs connected to the pipeline and if American fuel prices will increase, not decrease, why are Republicans pushing to accelerate the Keystone XL?

You know, don’t you?  Of course, the Republicans are pushing for passage of the Pipeline at an accelerated pace because big oil will reap big profits; not We The People. Once again, the Republicans have included a project, that will benefit We The Few, to a bill that puts money in the economy right now.  Can there be any doubt about the Republican agenda?  House Republicans are shown their immoral persona one more time.  They take huge amounts of money from big oil and they refuse tax breaks for working Americans.  Congress pads their pockets with insider trading and charge taxpayers for their time.  Seems like a good job, don’t you think? Of course, Congress passed legislation banning insider trading but it does not apply to Congress.

It is Republicans that have caused the country’s credit rating to fall.  It is Republicans that held American workers hostage by only agreeing to extend the unemployment benefits if the Bush Tax Cuts were extended in 2009.  The Tea Party has vowed to oppose all tax increases.  But, when an extension of the payroll tax cut was on the table, Republicans suddenly changed direction.  They opposed the Payroll Tax Cut for two reasons.

  1.      The payroll tax cut was working.
  2.      Extended unemployment benefits pump money into the economy.

Republicans added the pipeline to their bill knowing full well that the Senate would not approve.  The addition of this proposal has clouded the middle class benefits and small business hiring incentives.  House Republicans blocked submitting the bill for an up or down vote.  The reason is that Republicans do not want to be on the record for voting against the bill.

A week ago, Speaker Boehner worked with Senate leaders McConnell (R) and Reid (D).  Behind closed doors, Boehner agreed to the deal and represented to the Senate leaders that the bill would pass.

It was not that long ago that Boehner and the President ironed out details on a $4.2 spending reduction plan.  However, when Boehner took the plan to his caucus, he was forced to change directions.  The result was that no plan passed.  The end result was that the American credit rating fell.  This was the exact outcome that the Tea Party and the Republicans wanted.

Today, the big losers are millions of Americans.  There are no winners.  Voters must come to realize how dysfunctional the House is.  Boehner has no control.  He is weak and lacks credibility.  He has been the Majority Leader in an arm of Congress that has the lowest approval rating and worst legislation record in the history of the country.

House Whip Eric Cantor looks familiar doesn’t he?  He is that elementary school bully; the one that does things behind your back.  He is the epitome of the sleazy politician.  He stands behind Boehner with his chesire cat grin and nods his head because every time Boehner changes direction, Cantor takes one more step toward the Speaker’s gavel.  He wants Boehner’s job and there is no hiding it.

Eric Cantor is a dangerous man.  He hides under the cloak of fiscal responsibility in a party that launched two unfunded wars and passed the Bush Tax Cuts at a time when the government needed increased income.  These acts, Bush’s push to socialize and deregulate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pushed the economy and the world to the brink.  It is Republicans that caused the socialized relief of the banking sector.  It is We The People who bailed out the corrupt banking system.

When we look into the black hole that Republicans created, remember that when George Bush took office, he inherited a budget surplus.  He set out to fulfill the big spender Texan appetite and placed the country in an unsustainable position.

Every time poor John Boehner takes the podium, viewers suffer the same symptoms as they do when Rick Perry tries to respond to a question.  There is a difference.  Perry actually believes in his philosophy.  Boehner’s political beliefs seem to change after every meeting of his caucus.  It is a matter of time before he is replaced and/or has a public tearful breakdown.

NY senior Senator, Chuck Schumer, said that just last week, Boehner attended a meeting with Senate leaders Reid and McConell.  He left the meeting giving McConnell his proxy.  McConnell and Reid agreed to the revisions and the Senate passed the bill 89-10.  This margin rarely happens.

Adding insult to injury, Boehner now says he never liked the Senate bill.  Untrue! Perhaps he should stayed at the meeting and saved face.  Could he have had a golf date?  One look at Boehner tells you where he spends most of his day. The position of the House has now caused a rift between Senate Republicans and House Republicans.

In summary, the losers are the middle class, the elderly, the infirmed, the poor and John Boehner.  The Speaker’s integrity has suffered.  His credibility in his own party is shattered.  Meanwhile, Eric Cantor is several steps closer to the Speakership. If you want to untangle Congress, vote Boehner, Cantor and Tea Party candidates out…

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Kentucky’s Ben Chandler Draws Norquist and Tea Party Ire

The good news is that Congressman Ben Chandler has drawn the ire of radical Tea Party Activists and Grover Norquist’s Americans For Tax Reform.  Kentucky’s 6th district Representative was in the midst of a December fray regarding 3 pieces of legislation that Tea Party and Republican congressional members  pushed through the House.  These bills directly oppose the Administration’s efforts to protect We The People.

Chandler is the chair of the Blue Dog Coalition’s Task Force on Oversight and Regulatory Review.  This group is committed to reviewing approximately 8,000 pieces of legislation each year and ensuring that the intent of the legislation is consistent with the language of the bill.

Of Late, Congressman Chandler has drawn the ire of the Tea Party for opposing the Bush Tax Cuts. According to the Americans for Tax Reform, this is in violation of his Norquist pledge.  Chandler does not stand alone in revoking the pledge, called by Presidential hopeful John Hunstman a ridiculous pledge.  238 members of the House have signed the Norquist pledge.

To date, Chandler is the only Democrat to pull back from the pledge. He is joined by several courageous Republican members of congress that have reconsidered the economic impact of the Bush Tax Cuts, which extension Chandler supported in 2010 when Republicans held 7 million unemployed Americans hostage. The other Democrat to sign the pledge is Rep. Robert Andrews of New Jersey.  Recently, Andrews cooled the pledge and has indicated he is in Washington to do the People’s business, not follow Grover Norquist’s agenda.

Chandler advocates a balanced approach to reducing the deficit.  His position has incurred the wrath of the Tea Party and Norquist.  However, the number of Congressional members revoking their pledge is encouraging.  Of course, in 2012, the voters who do not ask whether a candidate intends to sign or has already signed Norquist’s pledge is proper due diligence.

The moral hazard of the Norquist pledge is far-reaching.  Responsible government means governing for We The People, not holding millions of Americans hostage while millionaires and billionaires enjoy a tax holiday.

Somehow, Republicans have attached the term “job creators” to We The Few.  In fact, loose regulation and unduly low taxes have pushed the country to the brink of bankruptcy. Additionally, the Republican mandate opposing more regulation is what allowed We The Few to increase their treasure chests at the expense of American and every other nation who held mortgage-backed securities.  Tea Partiers and Republicans want to re-visit those “Happy Days.”  They are also ready to take action against Iran before We The People have paid for the last two Republican induced wars.
The Message Is ... (Tea Party vs. Occupy Wall Street)
Creative Commons License photo credit: JoeInSouthernCA

Congressman Chandler gets it.  Although he supported the Tax Cut extension in 2010, he will not support the cuts in 2012.  Despite his initial error in signing the pledge, Chandler has proved to be a conscientious representative.  His voting record has been erratic.  He opposed Wall Street regulation, voted against the Health Care Reform and voted for the Stupak Amendment opposing Pro-choice.

The Tea Party’s December assault against Chandler was triggered by his positions on three important Republican bills.  The Congressman voted against two bills that did pass in the House and voted in favor of three bills that would contain the damage of another bill.

The Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act – HR 527 – passed the House on December 1st.  This bill addresses the impact that transparency and accountability have on small businesses.

Regulatory Accountability Act – HR 3010 – Passed the House on December 2nd. Requires a transparent and thorough examination of proposed regulatory reforms before they are enacted.

Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act 2011 (REINS) -HR 10 - Passed the House on December 7th. This wide-ranging legislation specifically identifies responsibilities of corporations with an economic impact of $100 million.

Chandler voted along party lines on REINS and on HR 3010.  He voted for HR 527, but also voted on three amendments that would diminish the effect of  HR 527.  19 Democrats supported HR 3010.  Twenty-eight Democrats voted for HR 527.

HR 3010 concentrates on 12 independent federal agencies as well as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  In efforts to weaken CFPB, Republicans have refused to accept President Obama’s nominee to head the new agency.  Among its necessary responsibilities, CFPB is charged to enforce Truth in Lending and Full Disclosure which would have prevented the housing crisis.  CFPB is We The People’s protection against unscrupulous credit card policies and bank overcharges.

All three bills are expected to fail in the Senate.  President Obama has already declared that he would veto all three bills.

Rep. Chandler finds himself in precarious position for the 2012 elections, when all incumbents will be subjected to close scrutiny.  Chandler barely survived a 2010 challenge from Republican Andy Barr.   The margin of victory was just 600 votes. With new redistricting, the 6th district will lean heavily Democratic.

Barr has already challenged Chandler’s voting record.  Citing the high unemployment and defending the Republican stance against regulation as a “job killer,” Barr will be a formidable opponent.

In defense, Chandler argues that his votes have reflected the wishes of his constituents.  However, Kentucky Democrats are not thrilled with his voting record and have raised concerns about his original support of the Norquist pledge. Chandler counters that his growing seniority offers him a chance to provide a bigger voice in the dysfunctional House.

In addition to the Blue Dog coalition, Rep. Chandler serves on the following caucuses:

  1. Healthy Forests Caucus
  2. Horse Caucus (Co-Chair)
  3. International Conservation Caucus(Co-Chair)
  4. Public Broadcasting Caucus (Co-Chair)
  5. Wildlife Refuge Caucus

Congressman Chandler serves on these important committee:

  1. Committee on Foreign Affairs
  2.  Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia
  3. Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
  4. Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence

The seats on these committees and subcommittees are treasured.  Democrats,  Kentucky and the nation can ill-afford to lose Chandler’s experience in Intelligence and Foreign Affairs.

Chandler has also received endorsements from several significant groups, including:

  1. The Veterans Vision Board endorses Chandler as a champion of Veteran’s rights.
  2. The Afghanistan and Iraq Veterans of America
  3. The 11 million member Trade Brigade of Citizens Trade Campaign.
  4. The Herald- Leader

Congressman Chandler’s voting record will come under fire from Andy Barr.  Kentuckians must appreciate that rather than vote along party lines, Chandler has had the courage to revoke the Norquist pledge which is the singular roadblock in reducing the country’s debt representing the safety and well-being of his constituents.  Ben Chandler needs your support.  The Tea Party activists have taken to the streets.  Democrats must respond in kind.

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Obama’s We The People vs. We The Few

In an interview with 60 Minutes, President Obama stated his “We The People” platform and described distinct differences with the Republican “We The Few” mandate.  President Barack Obama answered questions about the 2012 election from anchorman Steve Kroft.  The distinct differences between the President’s vision of the U.S. and the Republican vision will offer voters a stark contrast and a clear choice.

President Obama's love for children!
Creative Commons License photo credit: U.S. Embassy New Delhi

Whether his opponent is Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich or Newt-Romney, as Michelle Bachmann calls the GOP frontrunners, President Obama will be the most consistent voice in the presidential campaign.  While Americans show amazing tolerance with politicians whose self-interests precede the interests of their constituencies, the 2012 Presidential election will pit a man of integrity, balance and passion  against an opponent who is inconsistent and brings loads of dirty laundry.  The Republican Party is so out of touch that party members are pinning their hopes on a candidate who disgraced himself and Congress.

Newt Gingrich
Creative Commons License photo credit: Gage Skidmore

Gingrich has more dirty laundry than anyone on the stage.  During his reign in Washington, his conduct was so outrageous that Republicans serving at the time have voiced strong opposition to his candidacy. This guy is not trustworthy. Gingrich does not suffer fools or the public.  How this political beast looks the needy in the eyes is a mystery.

Think of a vote for Gingrich as a vote against child labor  laws.  What more do you need to know?  In the 60 Minutes interview, the President encouraged voters to carefully consider the platforms of the two parties.  A vote for Obama is a vote for a balanced approach to deficit reduction.  A vote for Obama is a vote for education.  A vote for The President is a vote for assistance to the needy.  A vote for Obama is vote for a successful foreign policy.  A vote for Obama is a vote against a military action we cannot afford.  A vote for Obama is a vote to get the country back to prosperity after eight years of Republican rule that shaped American society into a caste system that is perpetuated by every Congressional vote and every Republican initiative.

Although President Obama handled the interview with presidential elan, he expressed frustration with his inability to further his vision due to Republican obstacles. Programs like the Bush Tax Cuts or long-term unemployment benefits or a payroll tax cut are used  as bargaining chips.  Republicans forget that their policies created this black hole.  Now that they have pushed We The People into a bottomless pit of indignity, they have no difficulty asking us to pay for their failed programs and the large institutions that We the People bailed out.  Track record is a matter of convenience to Republicans.

You see, Republicans are only interested in We the Few. While We the People were bailing out unregulated institutions that gambled with client’s money, We the Few turned to We the People for help.  We the Few have been doing very well financially ever since We the People kicked in.

When asked about his job performance thus far, the President answered that there was much work left to do. Changing the influence peddling style of government to a democracy is serious work.  This work will not be concluded in one term or two terms.  In fact, the entire Washington persona must change and it will be years before the lobbyists stop greasing the pockets of their party favorites.

The President was clear that despite the high rate of unemployment, the economy is on the mend.  Interestingly, he pointed out that his biggest accomplishment may well have been avoiding another Great Depression.  After all, when he took office, the U.S. was in dire straits.

We should be clear that at the time of the Obama’s inauguration, the country was in two extended wars, the financial sector was melting down and the government’s revenue had been severely trimmed by the Bush tax cuts.  Eight years of Bush Republican policies pushed the country to  the verge of bankruptcy.  The very party that now opposes government spending and supports low taxes for millionaires and billionaires exhausted mammon without any plan to pay for the spending spree.  Worse yet, Republicans entered We the People into a war on the false promise that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.  Not very many of the We the Few families spent time on either front.

So much for Bush intelligence.  So much for Republican foreign policy.

President Obama protected We the People by disposing of Bin Laden and helping to rid the world of Moamar Khadafy.

President Bush and his Republican cronies took control of the troubled housing programs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  If you have the courage, take a look at the balance sheets of these organizations. Please hurry because they could fall any day.  Let us not forget that GOP standard-bearer Newt Gingrich has received millions of dollars in consulting fees with Fannie Mae.  If his consultancy helped Fannie Mae, perhaps the government should ask that its money be repaid.

Two components of the President’s platform were to bring the two wars to an end and to structure a national health insurance plan that would provide health benefits to millions of uninsured Americans.  Opponents of the President are quick to point out that he used his majority in the House and Senate to pass a program that is doomed to fail and will bankrupt the country. Critics also point to his inability to add jobs in those first two years.

In the 60 Minutes interview, the President suggests that his critics do not  understand the depth of the economic and military crisis. Despite the economic damage created by less regulation, the Republicans want to return less regulation.  We the Few and especially congressional inside traders have reaped significant profits in the wake of their unregulated catastrophic practices.

The two wars, the take over of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the lack of regulation in financial activities caused the Repulican made recession.  President Obama has been a consistent voice against the lack of regulation that allowed millions of homes to be sold to unqualified purchasers.  Under his watch, Truth-in-Lending has been clarified.  Full disclosure is now a requirement for mortgage loans.

Under Republicans, unregulated financial institutions encouraged extending loans to homeowners who could declare unverified income and obtain mortgages for more than 100 percent of the appraised value.  Lenders then took pools of mortgages that never should have been made and bundled them into a product called mortgage-backed securities.  As Wall Street soldthe securities, they made bets that they would fail.  We the People call that a scam.

Mortgage backed securities were then traded nationally and internationally.  Meanwhile, the mortgage originators knew they were selling toxic loans.  Of course, the business plan yielded huge bonuses to companies that knew the ceiling would fall. And, fall it did.

The ripples of the no-regulation Republican policy struck quickly and decisively.  World markets tumbled.  When the ceiling fell, businesses began to fail and employers immediately started trimming jobs to the tune of one million per month.  While unemployment remains at unacceptable levels, the fact of the matter is that President Obama put his finger in the dam.

The President told 60 Minutes, he was frustrated. Who wouldn’t be?  President Obama has proposed numerous programs to create jobs.  He has instituted a Consumer Protection Agency with teeth.  His actions saved the auto industry.  The President put a $4 trillion deficit reduction package on the table that Speaker Boehner could not sell to his party.  Boehner’s solution was to not return the President’s phone calls.  How’s that for responsible leadership?

How could Americans know that when the country needed real leadership, the most ineffective Congress in the history of the nation would tie the President’s hand? Imagine trying to wind down two wars, quell anxiety in Europe, hold the fragile economy together, launch job programs, manage the most successful foreign policy in three decades and keep the financial sector compliant with one hand tied behind your back.

To his credit, President Obama told 60 Minutes that he was not caught by surprise by the grave condition of the country at the start of his term. Obama has much work to do and more work than could be accomplished in one term.

Interviewer Steve Kroft pressed the President about the Republican frontrunners Gingrich and Romney.  Obama did not engage.  In the President’s mind, it is not the candidate that voters must consider.  We the People need to consider the very different platforms offered by any Republican candidate and the President’s own vision.

The interview was a stark contrast to the Republican debate on Saturday. Barack Obama is every bit the man who should be President.  His demeanor, his consistency and his patience are quite remarkable.  While politics may have dimmed his star, this man is a leader.  Unlike frontrunners Romney and Gingrich, President Obama has remained on message.

Republicans in Congress have put their political ideology ahead of We the People’s interests.  Instead, they have refused a balance approach to reducing the deficit. Recent Republican proposals include stipulations that the federal work force continue with frozen pay rates and that 10 percent of the workforce be trimmed.  Republicans want taxes lowered but are unable to support extension of the payroll tax cut that is a tremendous inducement for small businesses.  The President has asked that this be stand-alone legislation.  Republicans are unwilling to concede on passing the stand-alone tax reduction.

The time for We the People to set Congress and the Republicans straight is everyday until President Obama is reelected and We the People take charge of the House and the Senate.  When the time comes, We the People must vote and please vote with your heart.

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Obama Draws Line In Sand

On Tuesday, President Obama delivered his most powerful speech since taking office. The central theme was  that America succeeds when everyone “gets a fair share and pays their fair share.”  President Obama eloquently presented a passionate statement about the 2012 race for the White House and the malaise that Republicans have caused in the nation’s most ineffective Congress in history.

Barack Hussein Obama Vector Portrait
Creative Commons License photo credit: Vectorportal
The President described the rights of the middle class and the impoverished as the defining issue of his campaign to serve a second term.  The tone of the speech was forceful and served to differentiate the political philosophies of the Republican, Tea Party and Democratic principles.

The President drew upon the policy statements that have surfaced in the Republican debates. Obama vowed to continue with the regulatory initiatives that have cracked down on predatory lenders, Wall Street and other consumer credit markets.  Obama’s new truth in lending policies now calls for transparency and full disclosure, two principles that were compromised in the housing boom. The President was on the attack against programs that have helped create more financial disparity in American Society.

The President repeated his belief that most millionaires and billionaires were receptive to paying their fair share of taxes.  In a recent poll, 67 percent of Americans favor higher taxes on the wealthy.  President Obama continues to press the Republicans and especially the Tea Party on tax increases for the wealthy.  The Republicans have been slow to extend two important pieces of legislation.  Without extensions,  the long-term unemployment benefits and the current  payroll tax cut will soon expire. These bills have helped encourage jobs and have helped millions of unemployed workers survive.

Last time around, the Republicans used the fate of the unemployed to leverage a major concession from the White House.  7 million people would have had their benefits halted if the President did not agree to extend the Bush Tax Cuts.  Republicans hold these tax cuts as the means to increase jobs.  However, the tax cuts have now been in play for nearly ten years.  During that time, there is little evidence that the “job creators”or the benefactors of the Bush cuts have risen to meet the unemployment challenge.

Traditional Republicans and Tea Party Republicans advocate for the extension of Bush’s cuts.  In reality, the Bush Tax Cuts have served the wealthy well.  At the same time, the middle class struggles to stay above water.  One of the President’s major  concerns is the shape of our society.  With more than 40 million families and 21 million children living in poverty, American society has taken on the appearance of a caste system.

In seeking remedies to pay for their failed policies and two wars, the poor and the middle class are being asked to cut back on education, health and social services. The Republicans have not offered one jobs plan.  Republicans  are content to oppose every plan from the Democratic side. When the country most needs these programs, Republicans ask the middle class to sacrifice so that the wealthy can be more prosperous.

The gap from the real-time reality on Main Street and the prosperity on Wall Street is characterized by Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s response to the President’s speech. After agreeing to participate in a debate hosted by Donald Trump, Gingrich was asked by CNBC his opinion of Obama’s speech.  His response was that President Obama “is the finest food stamp president in American history.”  You really have to wonder on what planet Gingrich lives.

President Obama does not complain about where 8 years of GW Bush’s Republican policies took America.  Rather than admit their policies failed, they are attempting to destroy the messenger.  By ignoring the economic and employment crisis that Republicans initiated and enabled, the GOP Presidential candidates try to distance themselves.  The rest of us will be paying for the Republican’s  lavish spending for years to come.  Where were Republican politicians then? How nice it must be to have a short memory and be able to overlook the moral hazards of GW Bush.  Republicans launched two wars, one against a country that did not have weapons of mass destruction, and offered the public the Bush Tax cuts.  At that time, Republicans were not questioning how the wars and the tax cuts would be funded.

Adding insult to injury, the Republican defense of unregulated financial institutions caused the recession and tore through 401k’s and money market saving that impacted the middle class more than any other income level.  On Tuesday, the President passionately confirmed his commitment to further his new regulation policies.  Yet, by Wednesday morning, Republicans vowed that they would oppose every proposed leader for the leadership of Obama’s new consumer protection bureau would.

The President’s vision highlights the need for a stronger educational system. The US needs scientists and educated entrepreneurs. The opportunity to succeed ceases when the country’s educational facilities are understaffed and when academic excellence is compromised by funding cuts.

The President offers a solution the gridlock that has constipated Washington. To get out from under, voters must re-elect the president and try to overturn the majority in the House and add seats to their narrow majority in the Senate.  This is the formula that will unchain the middle class and the poor.  This is the formula that will clarify the country’s priorities.

President Obama called upon his base to get out the vote. The consequences of a lack of support will dramatically change the landscape of the country.  The 41 million middle class families that are trending toward poverty will have a hard landing.

The Republicans can paint the scene time and time again, but the end result is always the same. Most Republican congressional members have put their Grover Noquist pledge ahead of the best interests of their constituents.   Republicans will follow a path that is filled with self-interest.  If Republicans take the White House and gain control of the Senate and the House, the poor and the middle class will receive less help and drastic cuts to education and social programs.

The President has a vision for the future.  The President is committed to higher education.  The President is committed to an aggressive jobs bill.  He believes in the common good.  Reverse all these statements and you have the Republican candidate for President.

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Reid To Push Payroll Tax Cut

The Sunday morning talk shows were aglitter with Republicans Michelle Bachman and Ron Paul vying for humiliated Herman Cain’s supporters to jump aboard their campaigns.  In what has become an almost comical  sideshow the Republicans stand firmly divided about their presidential candidate.  The possibility of Ron Paul running independently must sound like a musical dream to Democrats.  If the stakes were not so high, the Republican performers could easily outdo their Saturday Night Live impersonators.

But, the stakes are high, very high.  The tragedy is that the world’s greatest democracy is behaving like a third world government or, worse yet, Greece.  The extension of the payroll tax cuts is just one more example of how divisive politics in Washington have become.  First the Senate rejected the Democratic proposal to extend the payroll tax cut and pay for it on a tax for millionaires.  Last Thursday, the Republican proposal to pay for the extension by freezing federal employee salaries and reducing the work force by 10% failed miserably.

The payroll tax cut is due to expire on December 21, 2011.  On Thursday, the Republican proposal sank when 29 Republicans jumped ship.  Undoubtedly, Republicans are in a quandary.  They have painted themselves into a corner on this one and cannot reconcile how the payroll cut could not receive support without costing thousands of federal employees their jobs.

This tax cut impacts the taxpayer’s take-home pay.  If the extension is not granted, everyday household income will decline about $1,500 in 2012.  Republicans are quick to say the payroll tax cut has not been effective.  Democrats rightly point to the explosive holiday shopping season and economist’s predictions that 4th quarter GDP will rise 3 percent.

The Republicans took another hit on Friday when the U.S. Labor Department published its Non-Farm Payroll report for November.  120,000 new private sector jobs were created.  Additionally, hefty adjustments to September and October payroll reports helped to drive the unemployment rate down to 8.6 percent.  In November another 315,000 persons stopped looking for work.  Republicans suggest that these are discouraged workers.  Maybe, maybe not.  At this time of year, there exist ways for workers to work “under the table.”

In any case, the facts are clear.  The unemployment rate is down and GDP is growing.  All this despite coordinated attacks by Republicans against the will of the people and contrary to the best interests of the people they are sworn to represent.  In reality, the Republicans are more concerned with  denying President Obama a second term than they are to legislate responsibly.

The Republicans emit so many objections that they now seem to be disputing the very tax cuts that they have supported in the past.  How extending the payroll tax cut violates the Republican mandate, Grover Norquist’s pledge, is  confusing, even to the pledge signers.   Voting against extending the payroll tax cut is contrary to the Norquist pledge.

The behavior is so out-of-character that even John Boehner slipped and stated that the payroll tax extension had merit.  He may live to eat those words when the likes of Eric Cantor and his Tea Partiers oppose the extension. With every Democratic proposal, the Republicans appear unorganized, out-of-sync and flailing for more negative input.  Thankfully, many conservatives are making it clear that their Tea Party has run its course.

The public view of Congress is that this is the least effective Congress in the history of the nation.  The national approval rating is dwindling to new lows and resides uncomfortably below 10 percent. Undeterred by the reality that only one in ten Americans think the Congress is functional, the Tea Party continues their barrage of assaults on well-intentioned members of Congress.   No wonder Boehner is confused.  He has never been subjected to such a self-imploding body of government.

Republicans hate that the country is recovering at a slow pace without any help from Congress.  Imagine where we would be with a functional Congress!

Let’s not forget the recent 60 minute documentary that confirmed that members of Congress were permitted to use insider training to bolster their income.  The revelation that 40 members of Congress have become millionaires while serving the people shocked most voters but might help explain the disconnect.  Most likely, the effects of the recession and the unregulated subprime mortgage crisis, served these insiders well.  No wonder the Republicans want less regulation and no tax increases for millionaires. Those initiatives are too close to home.

Republicans are so far removed from constructive governing that they have lost their way.  Instead, they have turned against the very people who elected them.  Congress works in an environment that is totally removed from Main Street.  Fortunately, it is in the best interests of Wall Street and the too large financials to extend the tax cut.  Perhaps Majority Leader Reid’s new proposal, which will be paid for, will get enough support from the other side of the aisle.   Then, we will have to go through the uncomfortable tragedy that is the Republican controlled House of Representatives.

This has the makings for another perfect storm.  One in which Boehner knows the right course but can not sell it to his Republican allies.

Bigger fights are in the immediate future.  Not only is the payroll tax cut about to expire but so are long-term unemployment benefits for million of Americans.  The last time around, Congress held the gun to Obama’s head. Republicans were set to deny 7 million unemployed workers their  benefits.  The President was held hostage.  He grudgingly agreed to extend the Bush Tax Cuts that helped the wealthy Republicans reap big rewards with inappropriate tax cuts while the country was engaged in two Republican wars.  This was Republican George Bush’s formula that  jumped started deficit spending.

The fact is that Congress will be gridlocked until the President is supported by a majority in both chambers.  While we cannot wait until the next election, we cannot compromise.  If Republicans cannot respond favorably to the payroll tax cut, unemployment extension and the Bush Tax Cuts, the President should allow them to expire.  That would create a $4 trillion windfall to help reduce the deficit and to fund worthwhile job initiatives.

If we cannot succeed with bi-partisan efforts, we must vote these dissenters out of office.

Republicans are uniform that the Bush Tax cuts help high income earners create jobs.  Really?  It is impossible to see job creation linked to the Republican tax cuts. It sure is easy to see that the middle class is dwindling and that the poverty that does not exist in Congress is running rampant in the home districts of these self-helped millionaires.  With 44 million American families and 21 million American children living in poverty and with another 45 million middle class families trending toward poverty, how can Republicans look themselves in the mirror?

If things do not change, we may well revisit the 60′s protest era.  Who amongst us believes Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich will help the middle class or the impoverished?  It will not happen.  When considering all the political possibilities, nothing could be more treacherous and fill the streets with violent protest than Newt or Mitt presiding over a country with a Republican House and a Republican Senate.  It does not get any more dangerous than that.

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