Time to Move On

The Garden State has become the latest state to legalize marriage equality, bringing the total number of U.S. states where equality is the law of the land up to 14, plus Washington D.C. While it is not surprising that the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex couples – given the recent court and legislative victories for equality – it is quite surprising that Governor Chris Christie has decided to drop his appeal of the court’s decision.

Had he gone through with his appeal, same-sex couples would still have been allowed to wed up until early next year, at which point they would possibly have their rights revoked. But, as one of Gov. Christie’s aids told the New York Times, the appeal was a “fool’s errand,” especially since the court’s decision was unanimous and included a justice he considered an ally. Even though he disagreed with the ruling, the governor realized that the tide of history and public opinion was against him. Continuing his irrelevant fight was pointless.

Kudos to the Christie Administration!

Nationally, conservatives could learn an important lesson from Christie’s decision to drop his appeal. Once a legal issue has been resolved either through a court decision or legislative action (or both), that’s the end of the story. It’s done. When one factors public opinion into the equation, it becomes even clearer; you may not like the outcome but it’s here to stay. Time to move on.

We recently went through an unnecessary, sixteen-day government shutdown and near-default on the nation’s credit because House Republicans refused to accept the fact that the Affordable Care Act (ACA or “Obamacare”) was law. The signature achievement of the president’s first term passed both houses of Congress in 2010 and was upheld by the Supreme Court last year, not to mention the fact that the president won a second term with both the popular vote and a large majority of the electoral college. Despite the technical glitches on the federal website (as a result of high traffic), “Obamacare” is not only working but it’s becoming popular.

Apparently, all of that didn’t matter. The GOP, hijacked by the fringe Tea Party, ignored the constitution and democracy itself by bringing the country to its knees because they didn’t like that the ACA was law. They repeatedly refused to meet with Democrats to iron out a budget deal (until the polls started to sour against them) and voted over 40 times to overturn the ACA. Speaker Boehner’s caucus waged a one-house war on the nation and paid the price with a shattered public image and probably the 2014 midterm election.

Christie’s acceptance of the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision should remind the far-right that it is pointless to drag out an issue that has already been resolved. Instead of acting like spoiled children – throwing national tantrums, putting hundreds of thousands of federal workers on furlough, dragging down the economy and international markets, trashing the nation’s international credibility – the GOP should take the advice it gave itself after the 2012 election and re-think its strategy. My advice – relegate the extremists back to the fringe and far away from party control. Grow up.

marriage equality - the law of the land in New Jersey

 

#GOPshutdown

The GOP Shutdown of 2013 is officially over. Sixteen days, $24 billion siphoned out of the economy, as well as a slow-down of the economic recovery, record low approval ratings for the Republican Party (lowest in modern history), and the looming threat of default on the national debt finally forced the hand of one of the most ineffective House Speakers in American history, John Boehner. He allowed a vote and got 87 Republicans to join the rest of us in reality to pass the Senate CR, a vote he could and should have held long before the shutdown lasted for over two weeks.

Yep, that’s right…after this fiasco and national embarrassment for Republicans, the majority of the Republican caucus (144) in the House voted to keep 800,000 people furloughed from their jobs, cancer treatments on hold, small businesses from getting vital government loans, women and children impoverished and billions of dollars bleeding out of the economy. That doesn’t even include their fetishistic willingness to breach the debt ceiling – which does not actually increase the deficit – and send the nation’s credibility global economy into free fall and most likely depression.

How has the GOP responded? Well, it’s complicated because the Republican Party is deeply fractured and in catastrophic disarray. Tea Party Republicans, all 144 of them in the House and 18 in the Senate, blamed the President for a shutdown that they literally campaigned on and fought hard to get and maintain. Nutcases like Representative Michele Bachmann have gone so far as to say that President Obama and the Democratically controlled Senate “wanted” the government shutdown. Don’t you see, America? We didn’t shut the government down as a result of our recklessness and extremism – it was all that Kenyan, Marxist’s fault!

As the President and many others have said, they put a gun to the head of country and even the global economy as leverage to defund the Affordable Care Act, a law that passed Congress in 2010, was upheld by the Supreme Court and helped re-elect President Obama in 2012. Here on planet Earth, the ACA is law, is gaining popularity and it isn’t going anywhere. But on unstable Planet Tea Party, elections don’t matter (as they’ve demonstrated by gerrymandering several House districts), health insurance regulations designed to make healthcare more accessible and affordable for several million Americans is just like Nazism and President Obama is just like Hitler…so therefore the government must shut down.

 

 

That’s not compromise. That’s extortion. You don’t get to shut down the federal government and send the global economy into depression just because you didn’t get your way in the presidential election or the ruling you wanted from the Supreme Court. You can’t set the country on fire like a band of raving pyromaniacs and prevent fire crews from extinguishing the flames, only to immediately claim you did not, in fact, set the fire.

Eighty-seven conservative Republican members of the House caucus denounced the extremism of the Tea Party and called on their delusional colleagues to see the light, end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling. Then they voted with their colleagues. Earlier this week when the Senate sent a CR to the House, Speaker Boehner refused to bring it to a vote. So much for bold leadership.

Based on Boehner’s laughably bad job as Speaker and the collective amnesia of Republicans in Washington, we can most likely expect this to repeat again early next year when funding the government and raising the debt ceiling are again issues that will probably bring the United States to its knees. Since 2011, governing via one self-imposed crisis to the next is how we do things. A fourth of the legislative branch thinks it is greater than all three branches combined. But, hey, It’s the American way, right?

 

House Speaker John Boehner - leader of the pack...

House Speaker John Boehner – leader of the pack…

Elizabeth Warren Calls Out the “Anarchists” in Congress

…so about that government shutdown…

Progressive hero and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren gave an epic speech on the Senate floor a few days ago in which she called out the far-right in the House for its extremism. House Republicans, hijacked by the fringe Tea Party, literally championed a government shutdown and many of them campaigned on it (“If we don’t get our way, we’ll shut it down!”). To them, Elizabeth Warren had this to say:

“You can do your best to make government look like it doesn’t work when you stop it from working. You can do your best to make government look paralyzed when you paralyze it. You can do your best to make government look incompetent through your incompetence and ineffective through your ineffectiveness. But sooner or later, the government will reopen because this is a democracy and this democracy has already rejected your views. We have already chosen to do these things together because we all know that we are stronger when we come together.

“When this government reopens, when our markets are safe again, when our scientists can return to their research, when our small businesses can borrow, when our veterans can be respected for their service, when our flu shots resume and our Head Start programs get back to teaching our kids, we will have rejected your views once again.

“We are not a country of anarchists. We are not a country of pessimists and ideologues whose motto is ‘I got mine. The rest of you are on your own.’ We are not a country that tolerates dangerous drugs, unsafe meat, dirty air, or toxic mortgages. We are not that nation. We have never been that nation and we will never be that nation”

 

 

Here’s a video of the awesome smack-down – it’s a must-watch:

 

Congress Sucks

Congress sucks. Literally. Progress, governance and any faith Americans put in their legislature has been steadily sucked out and replaced with deep cynicism and distrust…and for good reason.

The use of the filibuster – essentially debating a bill to death – has been used more over the past two years than in all previous Congresses (for those who don’t know, the present Congress is the 113th Congress). Even historically non-controversial bills like infrastructure funding have become bitterly partisan fights. The overall number of bills that have passed is historically low, making the 112th Congress the least productive in American history.

This lack of productivity has also translated into a historically low approval rating; the 112th Congress (2010-2012) had the lowest yearly average of all Congresses, finishing 2012 with a mere 15 percent, according to Gallup. In January of this year – at the start of the 113th Congress – congressional approval was even lower, at 14 percent.

Most of the problem lies in the House of Representatives, where far-right, tea party Republicans have waged war on their very duties to govern since taking office.

Back in 2010, the GOP took control of the House thanks to a poor economy and anti-government fervor fueled by the then-new Tea Party, a faux “grassroots” movement fostered by the billionaire Koch Brothers (“Koch Industries, Inc.”) and conservative media outlets like Fox News.

This brand of conservatism and the Conservative Movement at large see government itself as a problem to be fixed. Safety regulations? That’s repressive to the economy! Returning federal income tax rates to the historically low Clinton tax rates for the wealthy, where taxpayers in the top bracket paid 39.6? It’s a pinko-commie plot to destroy America, or something! Closing tax loopholes that allow large corporations to dodge paying taxes? That will hurt the “job creators!”

This attitude has wreaked havoc on the country. In 2011, America nearly defaulted on its debt after Republicans in the House refused to raise the debt ceiling until the last minute.

This close call shook the economy, which had been steadily improving, and resulted in a downgrade of the nation’s credit rating. The reason for this refusal to budge: Planned Parenthood was receiving federal funding (none of which went toward abortions, by the way).

Congress was barely able to raise the debt ceiling and agree on new tax rates for the wealthy last month. Thanks to pressure from members of their own party, Republicans in the House agreed to raise the debt ceiling…..but only for three months. The Clinton tax rates were restored….but only for those making over $400,000 annually.

The debt ceiling has been raised several dozen times since the 1930s and without controversy. It’s Congress’ way of saying, “We will pay off the debt we have racked up. No problem. On to the next proposed bill.”

During the presidency of George W. Bush, Congress racked up trillions of dollars of debt via large tax cuts and two wars – all unpaid for. When President Obama took office and the far right had a meltdown (“He’s a Kenyan, Marxist, possibly gay, foreign-looking dictator!”) government spending itself became unfathomable and unacceptable.

It should be noted that the private sector is doing well, having added nearly five million new jobs since early 2009. However, the public sector (teachers, police, firefighters, post office workers, etc.) has been devastated. Over 700,000 jobs have been drained from the public sector during the same period of time, a number that could mean the difference between a recovering economy and a healthy economy.

Even the United States Postal Service, set in place as a public good, has suffered from mismanagement and neglect. Later this year, the USPS will end a 150-year-old service and no longer deliver first-class mail on Saturdays. It will rely more on part-time workers rather than full-time employees and it will end overtime pay as a way to cut costs and survive thanks to an unresponsive Congress.

These cuts in public sector jobs are mostly due to an irresponsible Congress that has demanded the cuts above all else. You want to raise the debt ceiling and keep the government running? Cut government jobs and “spending” (public investments) and maybe we’ll talk. The fact that over $200 billion has been cut from the deficit since 2009 means nothing to the House. It isn’t enough for them.

The country cannot function under this extremism and refusal to govern. Americans of many different political persuasions are tired of the stubbornness and grow increasingly annoyed with members of Congress refusing to do their jobs. How can we trust politicians whose view of reality is so warped? Why did we just re-elect many of the same extreme congresspersons back in November?

We’ve been steadily recovering from the Great Recession and the world continues to change daily. We need a legislature that is serious about its responsibilities. We need sensible congressmen and congresswomen who understand the dynamics of compromise and governance. We need November 2014 to be here already.

House Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama

House Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama