This piece has run as an op/ed in newspapers in my very red congressional district.
Here's what I bet that historians will say was the No. 1 political battle in the America of our times.
Not the national debt, or abortion, or Obamacare, or immigration, or gun rights.
Instead, historians will say the most important fight was over whether the government of the United States would be the democracy our founders gave us, or whether Big Money would succeed in changing us into a different kind of society altogether.
Most of us are aware that our politics are awash in money like never before. The cost of our campaigns - from state legislatures to the presidency - has vastly increased. This avalanche of money - especially since the Citizens United decision - comes mostly not from ordinary citizens but from billionaires and giant corporations.
As a result, more and more of the decisions made - in Congress, in the White House, at the Supreme Court - favor the rich and powerful at the expense of average Americans.
Right before our eyes, our government - which is supposed to be by and for the people - is being stolen from us.
We need to look at this battle in strategic terms, asking: How is Big Money going about its effort to take over?
It is clear, for example, that it serves the interests of the plutocrats to divide the people against each other.
Mr. Chairman, this year's Republican Budget Resolution is incredulously titled "A Balanced Budget for a Stronger America." But by every measure, the draconian cuts proposed in this budget would severely WEAKEN America's innovative advantage and competitiveness. It might as well be called "Let's Disinvest in America".
Consider the cuts to basic research, once a bedrock federal priority that has spurred new discoveries that are now vital in our daily lives and the economy. R&D is critical for my Northern Virginian district, where the technology community is driving innovation. But this Republican budget would slash R&D funding by 15% to its lowest levels since 2002. That is a retreat from America's role as the global innovation leader, and essentially cedes the playing field to our international competition.
Similarly, the Republican budget would disinvest in our classrooms. To achieve their ruse of balancing the budget over 10 years, Republicans would cut non-defense spending 24% below the already-reduced sequester levels. For K-12 education, that translates into an $89 billion cut over the next decade and would surely leave every child behind their international peers. It also would put higher education further out of reach for low- and middle-class families.
America did not ascend to its role as the world's leading economy by quashing the potential of future innovators and leaders.
Mr. Speaker, our Republican colleagues are once again showing they know the cost of everything and the value of very little. I often hear my colleagues lament that we should run government more like a business. Well, if that's the case, perhaps we should start by listening to the business community, which is advocating for us to invest more, not less, in R&D, in education, and in infrastructure for the future workforce and the building blocks of a competitive economy.
These are investments that yield tremendous returns for our families, for our children, for our future, and the Republican budget would eviscerate these pillars of America's exceptionalism.
This piece has been appearing this week in the newspapers of my very conservative congressional district (VA-06). It embodies the strategy I think we in Liberal America should be pursuing: See the evil. Call it out. Press the Battle.
A story from the Bible comes to mind: King David has taken for himself Bathsheba, wife of Uriah the Hittite. The prophet Nathan comes to him and tells a story of similar wrong-doing. Not recognizing himself in the story, King David becomes righteously outraged. At this point, Nathan springs the trap and declares: "Thou art the man!"
David accepts his own behavior, because it serves his own interests. When he sees it from the outside, he is so indignant that he says the sinner should die.
In the spirit of that biblical story, I would like to ask the conservatives reading this column what you would have thought, not long ago, if you had heard about political conduct like this:
1) An American president is elected after promising to solve a long-standing problem that costs thousands of American lives and a trillion dollars every year. His proposal is so moderate that its roots are actually in the other party. But that party does everything it can to prevent passage. Then it tries to overturn the law. When that fails, it tries sabotage.
All this - including voting more than 50 times to repeal a law, knowing it won't be repealed - is a spectacle unprecedented in American history.
2) This is part of a pattern in which this opposition party has made it a priority to prevent that president from accomplishing anything. It opposes even ideas that were once its own, even measures that are clearly supported by an overwhelming majority of the people.
Although the president proposes nothing outside the American mainstream - he is more moderate than a great many in his own party's base - the opposition paints him as an extremist.
No party in American history has ever before made the president's failure its top priority.
Wow, this looks like a fun time, huh? That is, if you like hanging out with crazy, right-wing extremists (Ken Cuccinelli, Ted Cruz, Pete Snyder) on St. Patrick's Day. In liberal Arlington, no less - irony alert? Oh yeah, almost forget, right wingnuts have no concept of "irony."
If there is any lingering doubt about whether Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is really a political hack in robes, and in no way a real judge, it looks likely such doubt will be dispelled in the coming months.
I say that because of what seems to be true about him and this case just argued before the Court to try once again to demolish Obamacare.
These two things are reported to be true:
1) Scalia is the author of a whole book on how statutes should be read. In it, he argues (according to several accounts I've read -- I haven't read the book itself) that a statute should be read in terms of the statute as a whole.
2) Apparently the signs are reasonably clear that Scalia is going to completely ignore the principles that he propounded in that book in order to strike against Obamacare. That means, he's ready to allow four ill-chosen words trump the clear intent of the other many hundreds of pages in the statute. Why let principles stand in the way of getting the political victory he desires for his side?
(Almost his whole record suggests that "his side" is the corporatist plutocracy that's already gone a long way toward seizing power from the people.)
Scalia, of course, has tortured the law before in order to serve the interests of the plutocracy.
He perverted the law in Bush v Gore. He did it in Citizens United and the McCutcheon case. And in a host of other cases: Scalia finds consistently in favor of the corporatist system, and against the power of government to be used to protect the less powerful.
With Obamacare, there are several reasons for a political hack of the right to want to destroy it.
One of President Obama's most powerful speeches? Listen for yourself and decide. Also, listen to John Lewis, not just President Obama's hero, but a hero for all of America!
It is a rare honor in this life to follow one of your heroes. And John Lewis is one of my heroes.
Now, I have to imagine that when a younger John Lewis woke up that morning fifty years ago and made his way to Brown Chapel, heroics were not on his mind. A day like this was not on his mind. Young folks with bedrolls and backpacks were milling about. Veterans of the movement trained newcomers in the tactics of non-violence; the right way to protect yourself when attacked. A doctor described what tear gas does to the body, while marchers scribbled down instructions for contacting their loved ones. The air was thick with doubt, anticipation, and fear. They comforted themselves with the final verse of the final hymn they sung:
No matter what may be the test, God will take care of you;
Lean, weary one, upon His breast, God will take care of you.
Then, his knapsack stocked with an apple, a toothbrush, a book on government - all you need for a night behind bars - John Lewis led them out of the church on a mission to change America.
President Bush and Mrs. Bush, Governor Bentley, Members of Congress, Mayor Evans, Reverend Strong, friends and fellow Americans:
There are places, and moments in America where this nation's destiny has been decided. Many are sites of war - Concord and Lexington, Appomattox and Gettysburg. Others are sites that symbolize the daring of America's character - Independence Hall and Seneca Falls, Kitty Hawk and Cape Canaveral.
Gotta love these "One Percent News" guys (Will Rice and Eric Byler), great satire. Of course, the people at CPAC they're interviewing don't understand it's satire, which makes it even funnier. I love the old guy talking about Ted Cruz being the "next Ronald Reagan," and also about how "we won't stand for" "the bastards" shoving Jeb Bush "down our throats."
So, Bob Goodlatte and his right-wingnut ilk hatehatehate (!!!!) "activist judges" when they enforce environmental laws, or let LGBT people have equal rights, or anyone else have equal rights, or interfere with their voter suppression schemes, or if they believe the lawsuit is for whatever reason "frivolous" or against THEIR (bizarre, warped) reading of the Constitution, or whatever. But Bob Goodlatte and his right-wingnut ilk lovelovelove (!!!!) it when judges strike down or weaken duly passed laws (e.g., the Affordable Care Act) or prevent the President from exercising his Executive Branch authorities as granted under the Constitution and the law. A bit of hypocrisy here? Nah, because they are right wingnuts, they just make up their own version of "truth" and "reality" as they go long.
First, let me just make it clear that I've been pro-Israel my entire life, in the sense that I support a strong, secure Jewish state, living in peace with its neighbors, and guaranteeing a place for Jews to live in safety. I'd add that I studied in Israel for a semester and have traveled all over the country, which is an amazing place, and one which I strongly encourage everyone to visit at some point in their lives! It's also an essential country, as the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps soberly, horribly reminds us.
If you are offended by Benjamin Netanyahu accepting John Boehner's invitation to address Congress, you are not anti-Israel and certainly not an anti-Semite. Many leaders in the Jewish community, including Abraham Foxman, head of the Anti Defamation League, and the Jewish Labor Committee are also opposed to it.
So are many Israelis who do not want partisan politics to drive a wedge between Israel's and America's historical friendship. Even those in Netanyahu's own party, who support his policies, think this is a mistake.
Indeed, it is a cynical ploy by both Boehner and Netanyahu and it is all about driving a political wedge to win an election.
By the way: It's not good for the Jews.
I totally agree. I also could go on about this subject for hours, but I'll spare you. :) But wait, you ask, why are you bringing this up on Blue Virginia, a blog focused on the State of Virginia, not the State of Israel? See the "flip" of this post for more on that.
From a bit earlier this evening at the Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) meeting, Rep. Don Beyer explains what it's been like to be in the minority in the House of Representatives his first four weeks in office. Beyer also discusses his priorities, including making progress on dealing with climate change, and on helping to recruit strong candidates for 2016 so Democrats can take back the House!
Over on the website www.opednews.com, I posted the piece I had here late last week-- about how the 2014 elections were disgraceful, and how part of the disgrace was the failure of the Democrats to make the central issue of the campaign the way the Republicans in the last Congress betrayed the nation.
To that piece, among the comments were a number that sang a song that I've become familiar with in my decade of dealing with that readership, which is a good deal further to the left than I and, it seems, less accepting of the shades-of-gray reality of America, and for that matter the reality of just about any other country.
The lyrics to that song they sang is that the Democrats and the Republicans are not different in any important way, and that the Democrats and Republicans are colluding to take the nation along its present path.
Today I answered them in this way:
There's a point I'd like to make, even though it is one that I've made here in conversation with the opednews readership probably a half dozen times over the last six years especially.
It is addressed to the "not a dime's worth of difference" and "their in cahoots" crowd.
The video below is of Sen. Kaine earlier today taking issue with the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission for not having any women on the commission. As Sen. Kaine puts it (and I fully agree): "Wow, I mean, really?...It just seems to obvious that if we are really trying to have a military that is open to women...I'm stunned."
Also check out this article, which discusses legislation Sen. Kaine and Sen. McCaskill introduced earlier today that requires "public-high-school health-education classes...to include lessons about preventing sexual assaults and relationship violence." Good stuff - now pass it Congress!
The Democrats' 2014 election debacle left no room for doubt: Something is seriously wrong with this Democratic Party. Consider this:
* In the 2013-4 Congress, Republicans violated fundamental norms of American democracy, deliberately choosing to keep government from addressing the nation's pressing problems, showing an utter lack of concern for serving the public good.
* After this travesty took place in plain sight for nearly two years, the American electorate rewarded the Republicans by handing them even more power.
*Democrats coasted into electoral disaster without even trying to focus attention on the Republicans' unprecedented abuse of the system our Founders gave us.
Sure, there's plenty of shame to go around- every major component of the American body politic is implicated here.
The Republicans' conduct has been awful, of course, but there's no point dwelling on what this party has become. It has been well over a decade since that Party abandoned the integrity and decency of Dwight Eisenhower, Barry Goldwater, and Ronald Reagan.
The Republicans disabled our government right out in the open: making this past Congress the least productive in history; passing bills that they knew had zero chance of being enacted; focusing on provocative but useless gestures such as voting more than 50 times to repeal the health care law; refusing to bring to the House floor an immigration bill that had passed the Senate by more than 2 to 1; never proposing serious solutions of their own.
But apparently voters needed help to see how seriously the conduct of the Republicans had violated this nation's basic democratic values. Where could they get that help?
Check it out! Also note that Obama's increased approval ratings have come about since: a) Teapublicans took control of the US Congress and yet again demonstrated what a bunch of inocompetent loons they are; and b) Obama started standing up for progressive values and the environment, rather than continuing down the Warner-esque "both sides"/"radical centrist" dead end that has served him, our party, and our country so poorly for so long. Keep it up!
From the White House, prior to President Obama's State of the Union Address tonight.
As Prepared for Delivery
"We are fifteen years into this new century. Fifteen years that dawned with terror touching our shores; that unfolded with a new generation fighting two long and costly wars; that saw a vicious recession spread across our nation and the world. It has been, and still is, a hard time for many.
But tonight, we turn the page."
"At this moment - with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production - we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth. It's now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next fifteen years, and for decades to come.
Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?"
"So the verdict is clear. Middle-class economics works. Expanding opportunity works. And these policies will continue to work, as long as politics don't get in the way."
Before we get to the subject noted in the headline, let's present the good news first from this morning's new Washington Post/ABC News poll: President Obama is now at an approval rating of 50%-44% among all U.S. adults, "the highest in a Post-ABC poll since the spring of 2013...nine points higher than in December and seven points higher than in October." Again, that's the good news, and it comes in spite of negative, biased reporting by our overwhelmingly corporate and right-wing media.
Now the bad news, for which I overwhelmingly blame the corporate/right-wing media's incessant - and blatantly, demonstrably, empirically false - narrative that it's actually "both sides," not just the Republicans and Tea Partiers, who are equally responsible for gridlock in Congress, problems in our country, you name it. Again, keep in mind that this is not just false, but wildly so. Now, here are the results that have me so appalled:
*"Overall, who do you trust to do a better job coping with the main problems the nation faces over the next few years (Obama) or (the Republicans in Congress)?" The contrast between where we found ourselves in 2009, when Republicans handed the baton to Democratic leadership, and now, five years later -- is stunning. And this massive improvement in our economy comes about in spite of Republican obstructionism, shutting down the government threatening to default on our country's national debt, declaring that their #1 priority was for President Obama to "fail," etc., etc. Yet in spite of all that evidence, the Post/ABC poll finds the country almost even split on who they trust to do a better job facing country between President Obama (40%) and Republicans (36%), with 17% saying "neither." Again, I blame the corporate media, and its 24/7 barrage of false equivalence, "both sides" reporting for most of that. I also blame Democratic politicians, Mark Warner being a prime example, for adopting this brain-dead, utterly false "framing" and perpetuating it.
*"Who do you think is mainly responsible for [government dysfunction] - (Obama and the Democrats in Congress), (the Republicans in Congress), or both sides equally?" Again, there's no question, factually speaking, who is at fault here: the Tea Party and the Republicans. They are the ones who have behaved in a wildly irresponsible, destructive manner since President Obama took office. They are the ones who shoved sequestration down our throats. They are the ones who shut down the government. They are the ones who threatened to default on our country's national debt. They are the ones who blocked investment in U.S. infrastructure, action on climate change and energy policy, action to help stem the scourge of gun violence, comprehensive immigration reform, action to address growing income inequality and wage stagnation, you name it. And despite all this, Democrats have made progress pulling us out of the Great Recession, which was handed over to President Obama by Bush, Cheney, etc. Yet somehow, Americans hold "both sides" equally responsible (61%) for making our government dysfunctional (note: an additional 18% bizarrely blame President Obama and Democrats in Congress, while 20% correctly blame Republicans in Congress).
*" Who do you think is taking a stronger leadership role in the government in Washington these days, (Obama) or (the Republicans in Congress)?" Ditto to my previous comments.
Bottom line: the American public's belief that "both sides" are responsible for whatever problems our country faces, for government "dysfunction," etc., is completely false. As Thomas Mann of the American Enterprise Institute and Norm Ornstein of the Brookings Institute wrote in 2012 (and the situation hasn't changed signficantly since then):
We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.
The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.
When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country's challenges.
Bingo. Yet the American public doesn't know this. Why not? Corporate media, j'accuse!
So, is Rep. Bob Goodlatte BADlatte in the running for worst Congressman in Virginia or in the entire country? At the national level, there's a great deal of competition, but BADlatte's blocking of comprehensive immigration reform, his generally far-right-wing record, and now his idiocy on the Voting Rights Act, certainly puts him in the running! Personally, I'm just trying to figure out who's more of a disgrace to Virginia: a) BADlatte; b) climate science denier Morgan Griffith; c) Bob McDonnell; d) Joe Morrissey; or e) Ayn Rand-worshipping Dave Brat. Thoughts?
January 13, 2015 (Washington, D.C.) - U.S. Representative Don Beyer, Northern Virginia Democrat, released the following statement in support of H.R. 37 ahead of today's vote in the House of Representatives:
"I am a committed supporter of financial reform and voted today for H.R. 37 because on balance, it contains positive economic reforms. Had I been a member of Congress when Dodd-Frank was proposed, I would have voted for it. I am not, however, averse to modifications to Dodd-Frank that are made in a good faith effort to improve the legislation.
"H.R. 37 is a package of 11 bills, eight of which were previously passed by the House with 400 or more votes or passed the Financial Services Committee with near-unanimity and seven of which have nothing to do with Dodd-Frank. Among the bill's positive provisions is a reform that will help the emerging growth companies -- which have been the engine of our 21st century economy -- access capital and continue to grow. I am listening closely to the criticism of the bill, and respect that perspective. However, I believe that the net impact of the legislation will be positive. For example, the core provision of the Volker Rule, the ban on proprietary trading, is not impacted at all by the bill.
"The bill also addresses regulatory requirements which are not necessary to protect American consumers or our broader financial system. Regulation is not important for its own sake, and must be the result of a thoughtful, evolving process. Unnecessary regulations are not only a burden to business; they hamper regulators who are required to use their limited resources enforcing nonessential rules.
"I believe our nation needs financial reforms. For example, I endorsed the financial transaction tax proposed Monday by Rep. Van Hollen. I will continue to look for such opportunities.
"I have appreciated hearing from my constituents regarding my vote on H.R. 37 and look forward to continuing to do so as the debate over financial sector regulation moves forward in the 114th Congress."
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