Friday, March 17, 2017

Can Progressives Get Beyond Dead On Arrival?


Budgets are about making choices and setting priorities. Thursday morning OMB Director Mick Mulvaney called Trump's first budget proposal "an America First budget." In reality, it's a Trump first budget that doesn't make America great but would make America second rate. Contrast this: the budgets for the National Endowment for the Arts and for the National Endowment for the Humanities was $148 million a year. The cost of security for Trump Tower is $183 million a year. By the end of this weekend, Trump will have spent $12 million of taxpayer money on the festivities at Mar A Lago. That's 2 million of the Meals on Wheels (at $6 each) that the "America First" budget eliminates. Yes, for every day that he spends at Mar A Lago, 166,000 seniors will go hungry. Some people might even wonder why doesn't he cut his trips and golfing excursions and just leave Meals on Wheels alone. And by the way, aside from eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, Trump and Bannon have also decided to jettison the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Legal Services Corporation, which finances legal aid groups. Priorities.

But those national endowments are just for a bunch coastal elites, you mutter? (Not you-- your brother-in-law who exists on disability and who lives on Staten Island.) Well, the Trumpanzee budget would defund a commission that invests in jobs in Appalachia where recovery is slow, screwing his electoral base. He won West Virginia, Kentucky and the Appalachian parts of Pennsylvania and Ohio massively-- and yet, sadly-- budget proposal kills the Appalachian Regional Commission (regional economic development) and the Chemical Safety Board which is investigating the devastating West Virginia chemical spill from 2014.

So that job-creating infrastructure explosion he campaigned on all last year? How does that jibe with his proposal to cut 13% from the Transportation Department? Yeah, yeah... I know. They have to pay for the billionaire tax cuts somehow-- not to mention the $1.5 billion dollar border wall boondoggle Mexico isn't paying for but that Trump included in his budget. And what did vulnerable Republican Senator Dean Heller of Nevada say about Trump's proposal to fund turning Yucca Mountain into a nuclear dumping ground? "As has been stated in the past, Yucca is dead and this reckless proposal will not revive it. Washington needs to understand what Nevada has been saying for years: we will not be the nation’s nuclear waste dump. This project was ill-conceived from the beginning and has already flushed billions of taxpayer dollars down the drain. Members of both parties keep trying to revive this dead project via the budget and appropriations process, but I will continue to fight those efforts."

Ruben Kihuen (D-NV) was just as alarmed as Heller about the inclusion of a nuclear waste dump in his backyard. "Yucca Mountain has been dead for years. Now, President Trump wants to run roughshod over the people of Nevada and throw away funding that could be better spent on infrastructure and creating jobs. Nevada is not a dumping ground for the rest of the country's nuclear waste and our rights shouldn't be trampled over just because President Trump wants to put an unsavory waste facility in our backyard. The Nevada delegation was united in sponsoring the Nuclear Waste Informed Consent Act earlier this year, demanding that states be consulted before nuclear waste repositories can be built by the federal government. I urge President Trump and Secretary Perry to reconsider their reckless and haphazard scheme to throw away federal tax dollars, especially without thinking about the safety and well-being of the people of Nevada."

At this point it looks like the only way Trump's ill-conceived dead-on-arrival budget will even get introduced is if Pelosi has a Democrat bring it up to force Republicans to go on the record voting against it (or, better yet, for it). For example, the EPA would be decimated. "The budget calls for the elimination of about 3,200 staff positions-- over 20 percent of the department. It would also eliminate all funding for enactment of the Clean Power Plan, the regulations designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. It would also discontinue funding for climate change research and international climate change programs."

Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) is the Vice Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee, and she was pissed off when she started reading through the proposal-- especially the way it "slashes $54 billion in investments important to working families, communities and public safety... The Trump budget proposal is a real punch in the gut to the American people. It makes abundantly clear that every critical domestic program important to working families is on the chopping block... Our nation’s budget represents our moral values and our commitment to the future of our country. The Trump budget is a clear betrayal of those values. No lawmaker, Democrat or Republican, can say they support their constituents and vote for this proposal."

Jerry Nadler (D-NY) tore the Trumpanzee budget apart from top to bottom. I found this part particularly important to pay attention to: "The Trump budget frivolously ramps-up military spending in a chauvinistic show of force that won’t make our country any safer and may well provoke friend and foe alike.  It makes devastatingly unrealistic cuts to the State Department, which would cripple our diplomatic efforts to prevent and solve conflicts peacefully thereby reducing the need for military force. Everyone should oppose this budget, which doesn’t even achieve Republicans’ long-stated goal of deficit reduction, but does threaten the lives of every single American. It's time to wake up to the malignant lies of the Trump Administration before he turns this country into an autocratic state that sacrifices the health, safety, and security of American families in favor of an agenda fueled by nationalist propaganda."

Friday we looked at polling from Arizona that showed how Flake could lose his Senate seat in 2018. All he'd have to do is start going along with some of these extremist positions Trump is staking out. One of the questions got right to the heart of it;
After hearing some key information about what AHCA would do, 57% of people would be less likely-- 47% much less likely-- to support Senator Flake or their Member of Congress if they supported this bill. 58% of Independents are less likely to vote for someone who [votes for] this bill.
But Flake is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Most Arizonans don't want anything to do with TrumpCare-- which is really just an extension of the Trump budget-- but Trump has been threatening to support one of the neo-fascist primary opponents challenging Flake, once considered the most conservative member of Congress from Arizona. One of the crackpots running against him is TRumpist Kelli Ward who is already shouting about how very enthusiastic she is about the DOA budget. She claims that the Trumpanzee budget "begins the process of draining the swamp by eliminating dozens of unconstitutional, duplicative and unnecessary federal programs that should be run by the states, if at all. I hope our five Republican House members stand united with the president in support of this plan. [It] eliminates wasteful spending and redirects dollars to the Constitutional functions of border security and national security. I know both Senators have had their differences with the president with Jeff Flake even admitting he voted for liberal independent Evan McMullin against President Trump. But I hope both will put politics aside and stand with the president as he makes the most significant reduction in federal spending in our lifetimes."

Theo Anderson, writing for In These Times did a deep dive into how the Heritage Foundation, closely allied with Pence, found the perfect tool for their 4 decades worth of extreme and whacky concepts about how to return about to the 1920s. Dozens of Heritage staff crackpots worked on the Trumpanzee transition team and are still laboring away in the bowels of the Regime to wreck America. "Trump’s election," he wrote, "is the culmination of a radical right-wing movement that began with the founding of Heritage in 1973. 'We are different from previous generations of conservatives,' Weyrich said in the early 1980s. 'We are radicals, working to overturn the present power structure of this country.'  Trump is that movement’s best hope yet for achieving its great dream of gutting government. Heritage isn’t an appendage of the Trump administration’s radicalism. It’s the heart of it. Trump is just a tool... Last year, Heritage published a blueprint for bringing the federal budget into balance that calls for reducing spending by $10.5 trillion and cutting taxes by $1.3 trillion over a decade. It aims a wrecking ball at virtually every law, program and institution that defends the environment or promotes green energy. It calls for opening up “all federal waters and all non-wilderness, non federal-monument lands to exploration and production” to fossil fuel, mining and other commercial interests. According to Greenpeace, Heritage received at least $780,000 from ExxonMobil between 1998 and 2012, and more than $5.7 million from foundations associated with fossil-fuel industrialists the Koch brothers between 1997 and 2014." Sound familiar? The psycho-killer who drafted the budget is Paul Winfree, former director of Heritage’s Institute for Economic Policy Studies, now the White House director of budget policy.
We can only guess at the havoc of the coming gouging of the federal budget, but several red states provide a clue to what “freedom” looks like in practice.

The Tea Party helped propel a Republican landslide in the 2010 midterm elections. It picked up 19 new statehouse chambers, giving it 55 overall and full control in 25 states. That takeover cleared the way for ALEC-- Heritage’s state-level sister organization-- to push through right-wing legislation.

States like Kansas and Wisconsin get most of the spotlight: Kansas because its governor, Sam Brownback, very proudly and aggressively made his state an experiment in “economic freedom,” and Wisconsin because the ALEC model cuts directly against its long tradition of progressivism. But Indiana, in its own quiet way, has been at the cutting edge of this rightward push under its last two governors—Mitch Daniels, who served from 2005 to 2013, and his successor, Mike Pence.

In 2011, through ALEC’s influence, Indiana became the first state to prohibit its cities and towns from raising their minimum wages. About 20 states have followed its lead. And in 2012, Indiana was at the leading edge of a new wave of union-busting “right-to-work” legislation. The laws allow workers to benefit from union representation without paying union dues.

Pence was likely thinking of these reforms, and of the cut in the state income tax he spearheaded, when he proclaimed in 2014 that Indiana was “blazing a trail for low taxes, balanced budgets and economic freedom in the Midwest.” In truth, Indiana was blazing a trail to the bottom. The state’s poverty rate rose by more than one third from 2007 to 2013, and the median household income declined nearly 11 percent. Indiana performed worse than any neighboring state on both counts.

One of Pence’s proudest achievements as Indiana governor was a budget surplus: Indiana closed the last fiscal year $2.24 billion in the black. That surplus came from Indiana’s failure to invest in public resources and institutions, which is to say, in the future. In the 2014-15 fiscal year, for example, its public health budget was just $12.40 per capita, or 46th in the nation-- down from $17.43 per capita, and a rank of 37th, two years earlier. In 2015, it ranked in the top 15 in rates of tobacco use, obesity, diabetes and physical inactivity among adults. In a January 2017 Gallup and Healthways report on U.S. wellbeing across the states, Indiana placed 47th, based on a range of indicators that included financial, community and physical well-being.

Indiana’s fall from bad to worse illustrates the cycle of dysfunction that takes hold in states that apply the Heritage- and ALEC-driven model of economic freedom. Public investment declines, even as government passes laws to curb unions and suppress wage growth. The low wages hollow out the tax base, which means there is less money for public investment, which worsens things like public health and education. Their sad condition is then used to justify applying “free-market” reforms to the public sector.

Under Pence, Indiana was, naturally, at the forefront of the push for public-school privatization. It has the most robust voucher program in the nation-- using taxpayer dollars to send students to private schools.

While Indiana’s right-to-work law passed before he took office, Pence did his part to advance ALEC’s wage-suppressing agenda. Pence consistently opposed any increase to the state’s $7.25 minimum wage. The Indiana Institute for Working Families calculated in 2015 that a hike to $10.10 would benefit about one-fourth of the state’s workforce. And in 2015, he pushed to repeal a law in effect since 1935 that mandated “prevailing wages” on construction projects, usually in line with union wages. In signing the repeal, Pence said that wages should be set by the marketplace.

The federal equivalent of that wage-protection law is the Davis-Bacon Act, which passed in 1931 and has long been in the crosshairs of conservatives, including Heritage.

The hollowing out of states like Indiana has been a major victory for the Right. As Heritage and its allies move to bring the same radical project to the federal level, the court of public opinion will be progressives’ most powerful tool.

“Freedom” may resonate with Americans as a slogan, but they hate the Right’s version of freedom in practice. When Trump tapped Pence as his running mate, he was among the most unpopular governors in the nation, with an in-state approval rating in the 40s. And when Trump threatened to repeal Obamacare, protests erupted. “They thought [repeal] was a slam dunk,” says Liz Ryan Murray, policy director for People’s Action, a progressive nonprofit. “They didn’t understand: People will fight for this. And I think the same thing will happen as the magnitude of these cuts becomes apparent.”

A vast amount needs to be done— by the grassroots, by the independent media, by the Democratic Party and by every other resource we can muster-- in the realm of simple storytelling and education. The federal budget is a convenient target for demagogues because most Americans have little to no idea how it’s actually spent. PBS and NPR, for example, are about 0.01 percent of the budget. In surveys, people estimate they’re about 5 percent.

Progressives might take a page from Citizen Action of Wisconsin (CAW), which released a progressive “alternative budget” in advance of Gov. Walker’s own proposed budget. The goal, says CAW executive director Robert Kraig, is to make the case for “big investments that would strengthen every community across Wisconsin and improve opportunity for everyone.”

“We’re experimenting with trying to change the debate,” Kraig says. “The research is really clear that the way progressives often talk about problems with government actually undermines people’s regard for government and makes them feel hopeless and disengaged. So there needs to be a healthy dose of aspiration: What could we achieve?”

However the budget fight plays out, the most critical insight from the past half century of U.S. politics may be that conservatives have both a story and a long-term vision that lets them take losses in stride, fortified with plenty of funding. The movement originated in the aftermath of what seemed like conservatism’s collapse through the 1950s and 1960s. Among Weyrich’s greatest gifts, said Ed Feulner, the former president of Heritage, was an “unerring eye for spotting the path to victory in the midst of seeming disaster.”

Heritage’s use of an ideological cipher like Trump to carry out an agenda that seemed hopelessly stuck just four years ago is the latest example of the movement’s resilience. If Trump is impeached and removed from office, they will be happy to have Pence.

If there is much to rage against in the Right’s agenda, there is also a perverse element of hope for progressives in the story of its 50-year ascent. The seeds of long-term success, it turns out, can take root and grow in the midst of seeming disaster.
Really? With people like Rahm Emanuel, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Chuck Schumer, Steny Hoyer, the New Dems and the Blue Dogs in control of the Democratic Party? I'm not as optimistic.

Next generation of crappy Democratic Party leadership in Congress

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At 6:16 AM, Anonymous Hone said...

Yes, Trump and the Reps will ruin us fast. They are still counting the ways they can wreck our government and our country and our the American people. We'll have to rise from the ashes, no mean feat.

At 6:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Hone. Heritage has had this blueprint to make poor people die and rich people obscenely rich for decades now.

May I remind everyone that obamneycare is a heritage product?

But I also remind you and everyone that the democraps have won 5 presidential admins since heritage was founded. With the exception of Carter, the democraPs we elected as counters to odious R admins have done nothing but continue the second of heritage's motives? And they did much to prime the pump for the first also. Clinton and Democraps passed the lege resulting in 2008. Obamanation and Ds refused to undo that lege AFTER 2008 and, notably, refused to help everyone except the billionaires to recover from it (the FED gets big kudos for their part in these). In fact, obamanation signed austerity lege and offered even more to the Rs after the democraps earned a loss of the house in 2010.

It is true that der fuhrer's "budget" is more draconian than any R before in its cruelty to the powerless, but it differs little in morality from the effective budgets puked up by his predecessor. War and other big donor classes got a lot of love from obamanation and Ds; relief for the powerless got dick.

One thing: obamanation's effective budgets were what actually passed piecemeal as his budgets were never passed as a whole (providing one method of opportunity for the Rs to shut down the gummint more than once). Der fuhrer's actual spending as passed in whatever form(s) are not yet known.

At 9:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe the "LOTEP's" (Lesser Of Two Evil Party) can save meals on wheels for seniors and then we can all cheer that we have a victory. A real party would introduce impeachment resolutions and explain why i.e. "On March 6, 1987 Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez, Democrat of Texas, introduced articles of impeachment against President Ronald Reagan regarding the Iran Contra affair, leading to the joint hearings that dominated the summer. A special prosecutor was appointed."

"On January 16, 1991, Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez introduced H. Res. 34, to impeach President George H. W. Bush for starting the Gulf War. The resolution was referred to the Judiciary Committee, where it died.[17] Gonzalez tried again with H. Res. 86 on February 21."

At 1:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gonzalez COULD introduce those articles because the Ds had the house and, thus, could dictate what bills would and would never reach the floor and/or be aired in committee. AND Pelosi wasn't the speaker so it didn't get spiked outright, like Kucinich's articles against cheney and the AG Gonzalez.

And the house democrats still had a modicum of principle even as recently as '91. By '96, it was all gone as bills like GLBA, CFMA, telecom dereg, NAFTA et al were overwhelmingly passed by house/senate Democraps... resulting in the 2008 bank fraud depression we should all remember so fondly.

Today, democraps are a small minority and are impotent to do squat... even if they got a wild hair and WANTED to... which they never will until the entire party goes kablooey and blows away in the breeze.

Interestingly, and also, Reagan perhaps genuinely couldn't remember shit during the I-C hearings and let GHWB kind of take it up the stovepipe over that treason. Yet, neither was convicted (GHWB also forgot the entire 6-month period in question; only lower functionaries like Ollie north "felt" anything from it) and GHWB went on to win an admin in '88. Voters were dumbfucktardier than even '80 in '88. Been getting even dumbfucktardier ever since.

At 2:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I LOVE the fact that Samantha Bee, Jimmy Dore, Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert, and John Oliver (in particular if not exclusively) have discovered that the Democrats aren't completely worthless. They make GREAT fodder for humor. They certainly aren't serving any other purpose which just might benefit the nation! At least laughing can reduce blood pressure and foster minor healing of unhealthy conditions.

At 7:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The democraps ARE totally worthless. The progressives are a tiny, irrelevant minority with zero power to affect anything at all. All they CAN do is talk. And that is never covered in the media. So... irrelevant and impotent.


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