Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Bernie Sanders’ record in Congress

June 27, 2015

If you’re going to judge what a politician stands for, you’d do better to look at their advisers and supporters than their campaign rhetoric, and you’d do even better still to look at their record.

The presidential candidate Bernie Sanders served in the House of Representatives from Vermont’s at-large district from 1991 to 2007 and in the U.S. Senate from 2007 to the present, so he has a long record to go by.

Sanders has been a political independent, not a Democrat, for most of his political life, and is the only member of Congress to call himself a socialist.  The 2016 Presidential campaign is the first campaign in which he has run as a Democrat to organize Congress.

BernieSanders1_1280His congressional record seems to me to be like a 1930s New Deal Democrat.  He is a staunch defender of the New Deal programs such as Social Security, a champion of labor unions and an opponent of Wall Street.

While his voting record is favorable to abortion rights, gay rights, affirmative action and civil rights for African-Americans, he does not have a high profile on these issues as he does on bread-and-butter economic issues.

Liberals might have trouble with the fact that he was first elected to Congress as an opponent of gun control and still has reservations about gun control.

∞∞∞

Here are some highlights of his legislative and voting record:

He founded the Congressional Progressive Caucus in 1991 and chaired it for eight years.

In 1999, he defied U.S. law on drug imports by organizing a trip to Canada with constituents to buy cancer medications at 10 percent of the U.S. cost

In 2005, he joined with Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, to repeal the section of the USA Patriot Act requiring librarians to give the government information on patrons’ book-borrowing.   It passed the House, but did not become law.

In 2010, he gave an eight-and-a-half hour speech against the Tax Relief, Unemployment and Job Creation Act of 2010, which extended the Bush era tax cuts.  The speech drew nationwide attention and was later published as a book.

In 2011, he successfully introduced legislation calling for an audit of the Federal Reserve System’s bank bailouts, which revealed that the Fed had granted $16 trillion dollars in assistance to troubled banks, some of their foreign banks.

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Bernie Sanders in his own words

June 25, 2015

Agenda for America: 12 Steps Forward.

  1. Rebuilding Our Crumbling Infrastructure
  2. Reversing Climate Change
  3. Creating Worker Co-ops
  4. Growing the Trade Union Movement
  5. Raising the Minimum Wage
  6. Pay Equity for Women Workers
  7. Trade Policies that Benefit American Workers
  8. Making College Affordable for All
  9. Taking on Wall Street
  10. Health Care as a Right for All
  11. Protecting the Most Vulnerable Americans
  12. Real Tax Reform

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Bernie Sanders might not get on the NY ballot

June 19, 2015

Update 6/23/2015.  This post turned out to be much ado about nothng.  The State Board of Elections ruled that Bernie Sanders’ party status will be no barrier to him appearing on the 2016 Democratic Presidential Election Ballot.

Bernie Sanders might not get on the ballot for the 2016 New York Democratic presidential primary.

berniesocialistThat’s because he’s not a Democrat.   He is a socialist who was elected Senator from Vermont as an independent.

Under New York law, you have to be a member of a political party in order to be a candidate in that party’s primary election, unless the governing committee of that party makes an exception.

The chair of the New York Democratic Party is former Gov. David Paterson and the executive committee chair is Sheila Comar.  The committee headquarters is in mid-town Manhattan, and the committee can be contacted by through its web site.

Sanders has said that he will support the nominee of the Democratic Party.  So unless the New York Democratic Committee opens the state primary, New Yorkers won’t get a chance to vote for him at all—unless he wins the nomination, of course.

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How to preserve the status quo

June 13, 2015

There’d still be a Soviet Union if they’d been smart enough to have two communist parties that agreed on everything except for abortion.

via Jon Schwarz on Twitter

Hat tip to The Intercept

At last the AFL-CIO plays hardball on TPP

June 11, 2015

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The AFL-CIO is withholding support from congressional representatives until it sees how they vote on the Trade Promotion Authority and Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.

The TPP is an anti-labor international agreement, and the TPA, also known as Fast Track, is a procedure for pushing it through with limited time for debate.

Good!  It’s about time that organized labor stop supporting politicians that don’t vote in the interests of working people—even if such politicians are supposedly a lesser evil.

LINKS

Democrats Frustrated by Unions’ Cash Freeze Over Fast Track by Emily Cahn and Emma Dumain for Roll Call.

AFL-CIO Says Labor Has Been Blocked from Trans Pacific Partnership Debate by Marc Daalder for In These Times.

Dems support politicians they don’t believe

June 10, 2015

One oddity of American political life is the voter who support Democratic candidates because he or she doesn’t believe their campaign rhetoric.

I encountered this in 1992 when I talked to a United Auto Workers leader who was working to elect Bill Clinton for President because he was convinced that Clinton didn’t mean what he said about the North American Free Trade Agreement.

True, the UAW guy said, Bill Clinton said he’s for NAFTA, but he also said he is for a lot of other things, such as treaty protection of labor and environmental rights, that would negate NAFTA.  So in effect, his reasoning went, Clinton is really against NAFTA.

But Clinton betrayed him.  He pushed NAFTA though, just as he said he would.  The part he wasn’t serious about was the protection of the labor and environmental rights.

I saw the same thing among supporters of President Obama.  Every time Obama would do something such as offering to cut Social Security and Medicare as part of a budget-balancing deal, they would say this is something he “had to” do.

Really?  “Had to”?  Did somebody like the Luca Brazzi character in The Godfather put a pistol to his head and make him an offer he couldn’t refuse?

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

Now we have the same thing with Hillary Clinton, but with a twist.  She is trying to steal Elizabeth Warren’s and Bernie Sanders’ thunder by talking about economic inequality, while signaling that she doesn’t really mean it to the Wall Street figures, who have made her rich by paying her six-figure fees to give speeches.

It will be interesting to see where Clinton comes down on the Trans Pacific Partnership.  She historically has supported trade agreements and in her 2014 book called the TPP the “gold standard” for such agreements.  Now she declines to take a clear stand.

A lot of the political commentary describes her “dilemma” over the TPP—the dilemma consisting of the politics of the TPP, not the merits of the agreement.

If she were to come out strongly against the TPP when her opposition might have some effect in defeating it, I would give her credit for a sincere change of heart.  I don’t expect this to happen, but I would be pleased to be proved wrong.  Otherwise I will view Clinton’s campaign rhetoric with the same skepticism that is being asked of her Wall Street supporters.

I don’t think this happens so much in the Republican Party because there is less of a disparity in the Republican Party between what’s said to the voters and to the financial backers.

LINKS

Hillary Clinton Traces Friendly Path, Troubling Party by Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman for the New York Times.

In Classic Clintonian Fashion, Dems Insult Their Own Voters by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.

Is Clinton Still Down With TPP? by Freedom Partners.

Is Bernie Sanders a sheepdog for Hillary?

June 9, 2015

InevitablySenator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is running for the Democratic nomination for President, supports a breakup of the too-big-to-fail banks, higher taxes on the ultra-rich, Medicare for all and repairing America’s decaying physical infrastructure.

He is opposed to the war on drugs, bank bailouts and the Trans Pacific Partnership.

He voted against the original USA Patriot Act, authorization to use military force against Iraq, confirmation of John Brannan as director of the Central Intelligence Against and immunity for telephone companies who conduct illegal surveillance for the government.

That sounds good to me, but I have been warned by Bruce A. Dixon on the Black Awareness Report not to be fooled.  Sanders’ function, he wrote, is to be a “sheepdog” to herd angry liberals and progressives back into the Democratic Party.

In almost every Presidential year, he noted, there is some Democratic candidate—Jesse Jackson, Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich—who gives voice to the discontent of working people, minorities and progressive intellectuals with the existing Democratic Party policies.

Afterwards, feeling they have had their say, they vote for the establishment Democratic candidate.  Ford thinks the same thing will happen in 2016.  After venting their feelings by voting for Sanders, Democrats will fall into line and support Hillary Clinton as the latest lesser evil.

There is something to this.  As Dixon correctly pointed out, you would think, to listen to Sanders, that all the USA’s problems stem from the Republican Party, Wall Street bankers, Fox News and the Koch brothers, and have nothing to do with Barack Obama, Bill or Hillary Clinton or the Democratic Party.

That is the price of party loyalty.  If you ask for a political party’s nomination, most members of that party would expect you to support that party’s ticket.   The same dynamic operates on the other with Rand Paul and the Republicans.

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How job choices correlate with political choices

June 3, 2015

20150602_jobsHat tip to zero hedge.

This chart was created by Verdant Labs.  If you click on that link, you can find the original chart, plus an additional interactive chart with information about more occupations.  For example, it shows that, in my own former job of journalist, there are 88 Democrats for every 12 Republicans.

This by the way does support the claim of conservatives that reporters tend to be liberals, but I’m not sure what, if anything, could be done to change this.  An affirmative action program for journalists who claim to be conservatives?  I don’t think that would work.

I often hear that Americans prefer political centrists, but Americans classified by occupation are strongly polarized.   Interestingly, though, if you go to the original Verdant Labs article, you will find that some of the top corporate and business positions are more evenly divided between the two parties than many of the middle-class and working-class jobs.

I can understand while environmental protection workers would tend to be Democrats while oil field workers would tend to be Republicans.  But some of the other political polarizations seem to based on people deciding to fit stereotypes than the actual positions of the two parties.

Politics and the 1 percent of the 1 percent

June 3, 2015

2015_0601ls3Hat tip to occasional links and commentary.

The top 1 percent of the top 1 percent of the U.S. population—fewer than 32,000 people—are increasingly the gatekeepers of American politics.  As elections grow more costly, super-rich campaign contributors grow more powerful.

Last year, according to a report by the Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Responsive Politics, this small group of people accounted for 29 percent of all campaign donations.

Within this group, there were 135 who gave $500,000 or more, 63 who gave $1 million or more, and three who gave $10 million or more.  The top giver was Tom F. Streyer, a liberal San Francisco hedge fund manager and environmentalist, who put more than $73 million into anti-Republican PACs.

While most individuals gave mainly to one political party or the other, the elite donors are fairly bipartisan as a group, as the chart above shows.

Wealthy lawyers, environmentalists and executives of non-profit institutions give mainly to Democrats, while oil and gas industry employees give mainly to Republicans.  Wall Street gave more than any other industry, with substantial amounts to both parties but more to the Republicans..

LINK

The Political One Percent of the One Percent in 2014: Mega Donors Fuel Rising Cost of Elections by the Center for Responsive Politics and the Sunlight Foundation.

Too many of two kinds of people

May 27, 2015

The world has too many rich people whose wealth is derived from political power, and too many politicians whose political power is derived from wealth.

The enigma of Barack Obama

May 21, 2015

HarpersWeb-June2015-Cover-302x410Anyone who voted twice for Obama and was baffled twice by what followed — there must be millions of us — will feel that this president deserves a kind of criticism he has seldom received.  Yet we are held back by an admonitory intuition.  His predecessor was worse, and his successor most likely will also be worse.

One of the least controversial things you can say about Barack Obama is that he campaigned better than he has governed.  The same might be said about Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, but with Obama the contrast is very marked.

Governing has no relish for him.  Yet he works hard at his public statements, and he wishes his words to have a large effect.  Even before he ascended to the presidency, Obama enjoyed the admiration of diverse audiences, especially within black communities and the media.  The presidency afforded the ideal platform for creating a permanent class of listeners.

via Harper’s Magazine..

I am more disappointed in Barack Obama than in anyone else I ever voted for.  His speeches are often eloquent and wise, but his actions have no seeming connection with his words.  He is conciliatory toward his American political enemies, and tough with his core supporters.

I read The Audacity of Hope in 2008 and was under no illusion that Obama was a progressive reformer.  In that book, he presented himself as one who understood both liberals and conservatives and, by showing his reasonableness, could reconcile the two.  This was either hypocrisy or naivete.

What hoped for was that Obama as President could restore the country to normal after the excesses of the George W. Bush administration—a country in which the President respected the Constitution, didn’t start wars and kept his distance from Wall Street.  But none of these things happened.

There are three possible explanations of this.  One is that the entrenched power of Wall Street and of the covert military-intelligence complex—the so-called deep states—are too powerful to overcome, and that Obama is the best we can hope for.  I hate to believe that because it means there is no hope for my country.

Another is that Barack Obama has certain character flaws that make him ineffective.  The third, which is what I tend to believe, is that Obama’s intentions are not what his liberal supporters think they are.  Although he ran on a platform of hope and change, he is a very effective defender of the status quo.

David Bromwich, writing in the June issue of Harpers magazine, examined the Obama record in terms of his character.   The article worth reading, but it is behind a pay wall, so you have to buy the magazine or go to a public library to read it.  I subscribe to the magazine, so I can provide the highlights.

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Canada’s Texas elects a leftist government

May 6, 2015

Alberta is to Canada as Texas is to the United States.

alberta_oil_sands_mapIt is the heart of Canada’s oil industry and the site of the tar sands industry which hopes to pump corrosive bitumen through the Keystone XL pipeline.  And it is the stronghold of the Conservative Party, Canada’s counterpart to Republicans here in the USA.

But yesterday Alberta’s voters gave a plurality of their votes and a majority in the provincial legislature to Canada’s leftist New Democratic Party.  The results are roughly equivalent to Bernie Sanders being elected governor of Texas and the Tea Party being swept out of office.

Not that the New Democrats are going to shut down the tar sands industry or anything like that.  Its platform is:

  • an increase in the corporate tax rate from 10 percent to 12 percent
  • a $15 an hour minimum wage;
  • a review of the royalties that petro-carbon producers pay (which have plummeted in recent years);
  • a ban on corporate donations for elections;
  • a phase out of coal power

Canada’s politics are more changeable than U.S. politics, and Canadians have a wider choice of political parties, so it’s hard for me as an outsider to gauge the significance of this.  That said, it seems to me that this could be the beginning of the end of Canada’s pendulum swing to the right.

I’d be particularly interested in comments from Canadians on this.

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Can we have a fair election?

May 6, 2015

In a capitalist democracy, there are two sources of power—money power and people power.

These days money power is flourishing—partly because of court decisions that say spending money is free speech under the First Amendment, and that corporations have First Amendment rights, but more simply because of the enormous concentration of wealth.

reagaon-couldnt-vote-todays-gop-vot3r-suppression5_n1At the same time, Republican state legislatures are rigging the election process through gerrymandering, and figuring out ways to disqualify voters, especially blacks, Hispanics and students, and make it more difficult to register to vote.

An analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice indicated that the reduction in the number of votes as a result of voter suppression laws in 2014 was greater than the margin of victory in the North Carolina and Virginia Senate races and in the Kansas and Florida Governorship races.

The Brennan Center can’t prove that the suppressed voters would have voted for the losing candidate, but that’s not the point.  Voting should be regarded as a basic American right.  If it isn’t, we Americans might as well go back to being ruled by hereditary monarchs and aristocrats.

Elizabeth Drew wrote that it is telling how few Republicans participated in the 50th anniversary of the Selma, Alabama, voting rights march.

Investigative reporter Brad Friedman reported electronic voting machines are an even more insidious threat to voting rights, because your vote can be canceled without your knowledge.   He told how easy it is to tamper with electronic voting machines without detection.  Internet voting is even worse.

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The top 0.01 percent and campaign spending

May 4, 2015
Share of campaign contributions by top 0.01% income bracket

Share of campaign contributions by the top 0.01% income bracket

I and others have written about how the problem in the USA is not in the concentration of wealth and income in the top 10 percent or top 1 percent, but in the top 0.01 percent—the 1 percent of the 1 percent.

Recently I came across a chart that shows how this tiny group of people, roughly 25,000 out of 150 million American voters, provide 40 percent of the financing of American elections.

I’d be very interested to see any research on the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent—the richest 25 or so Americans.

campaign financeYou can see their influence in the recent appearances of Republican presidential candidates before Charles and David Koch or Sheldon Adelson, like actors auditioning for a part.

This is not the only way that the ultra-rich influence government.  They also provide employment and income for politicians and administration officials after they leave office.  It is not surprising that the political system responds to the wishes of Americans in upper income brackets, but not to average Americans.

Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, who is running for the Democratic nomination, is trying to break free of this system.   He raised $1.5 million in the first 24 hours after announcing his candidacy, from about 35,000 donors giving an average of $43.54 each.  That’s more than any of the announced Republican candidates have raised so far.

This is a good start.   But it’s an uphill battle.

Hillary Clinton has announced she intends to raise a campaign war chest of from $1 billion to $2.5 billion.  To make up that amount from small donations, 10 million American voters would have to contribute $100 to $250 each, which would be difficult but not un-doable.

Fortunately it’s not necessary to match billionaires dollar-for-dollar, but only to raise enough money to get the populist message out.

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Election 2016: Hillary Clinton’s head start

April 20, 2015

This chart, despite its headline, is good news for Hillary Clinton.

silver-feature-hrcpop-new

True, she is a controversial character.  About 48 percent of those polled look on her favorably and 45 percent unfavorably.   But she has a better favorability rating than any of the plausible Republican candidates, especially Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz and Chris Christie.

She also is a superstar.  Almost as many people recognize her name as recognize the name of the sitting President of the United States.  No Republican candidate is anywhere near as well known as she is.

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