Friday, April 15, 2011

Time For the People's Budget

Today was a lively day in the first real volley over the budget. While the Medicare/Medicaid killing Ryan budget passed the House, even without one Democratic vote, the Democrats pulled a nice piece of parliamentary trickery from their hats and nearly made the House Republican caucus implode, forcing them to disavow a budget that many of them had publicly said they supported.

From the Huffington Post:

House Democrats showed Friday that they, too, have it in them to pull the kinds of parliamentary tricks on the House floor that Republicans mastered when they were the minority.

During a series of votes on alternative budget proposals, Democrats made a play to sucker GOP lawmakers into passing a proposal from the conservative Republican Study Committee that calls for dramatic cuts that even some GOP Members would find too drastic. 

At one point during the vote, a majority of Republicans were on record in favor of the RSC budget. Democrats then began casting votes as “present,” rather than “no,” as they would be expected to do. Without the Democratic "no" votes, the amendment would be adopted and would supersede Budget ranking member Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) ballyhooed budget.

After time for the vote expired, Republicans held it open so that enough of them could switch their votes to prevent the RSC budget from passing.

In the end, only 119 of the 176 RSC Members voted for their own budget proposal, authored by Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.). Because so many Democrats voted "present," meanwhile, the final tally was 136-119 against – a bizarre total in a chamber with 435 members. Had nine Republicans not switched sides, the measure would've passed. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) switched her vote from "aye" to "no" at the last minute, as did Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Rules Committee.

A total of 172 Democrats ended up voting "present" instead of "no."

Amid the voting chaos, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) tweeted, “Dems voting present on RSC budget to highlight GOP divisions, plans to end Medicare - which bdgt does GOP support?”

So far, The People's Budget, introduced by the Progressive Caucus is still flying under the radar, and whether it will have the chance to come to the fore remains to be seen, but there has been some coverage of it in the Internet. Katrina vanden Heuvel at The Nation has highlighted the progressive budget in her blog:

An alternative approach that deserves more attention is the “People’s Budget” offered by the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC). It will be introduced in the House on Thursday and it is the strongest rebuke—in the form of an amendment—to the unconscionable “Ryan Budget” for FY 2012. It’s a budget that gives the people—according to poll after poll—exactly what they want (something which shouldn’t be a rarity in a healthy, vibrant democracy). 

The People’s Budget lays out what a robust progressive agenda looks like. It protects an already frayed social net and promotes a progressive tax policy that makes millionaires, billionaires, and big corporations pay their fair share. It doesn’t stop at cutting the low-hanging fruit at the Pentagon, instead it brings our troops home from two wars that cost trillions of dollars and do nothing to make the US safer, and resets and rethinks what real security means in the 21st century.

“The People’s Budget generates a government surplus by 2021 by closing tax loopholes, ending corporate giveaways to oil, gas and nuclear entities, bringing our troops home, and creating jobs that expand the American tax base,” said Representative Raúl Grijalva, co-chair of the CPC. “This is a sensible solution that listens to what the American people have said about where our budget priorities should be.”

So, while the political theatrics were amusing today, if Progressive support the People's Budget, we need to make our voices heard loud and clear.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Dog & Pony Show

Brought to you by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA).

It looks like things got a little heated between Mr. Issa and Rep. Dennis Kucinich during Issa'a dog and pony show, otherwise known as the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Kucinich, in the middle of questioning Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) on his union rights stripping, asked to submit a document into the record and things went down from there.

However, Kucinich's questioning of Walker was quite pointed and his statements are what needed to be said.

And we here at the Sanctuary have also concluded that Mr. Issa is something of a douche.

The Spirituality Of Activism

Following up on our previous post, we thought we'd post the second part of Democracy Now!'s interview with Thomas Frank, Rev. Jim Wallis and Grace Lee Boggs, the ninety-six year old legend who spoke about Detroit and the problem of facing the times in which we live as merely a financial problem, but also as a time of human evolution, in which we must decide how we are going to move forward as a culture, if we are going to live or just make a living, and how an empty lot can be a chance for cultural revolution.

It's quite inspiring.

The People's Budget Ignored

Democracy Now! highlighted the People's Budget put forward by the Progressive Caucus, the largest congressional caucus, a budget that has been completely ignored by Washington and the media, who are all busy fawning over Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and now President Obama, who yesterday threw a few bones to the liberal base in hopes, I'm sure, of snagging their votes for 2012. He certainly made a grand show of things, promising to protect Medicare and Medicaid and saying that he will refuse to extend the Bush tax cuts again.

Pardon us if we're a little skeptical. For two years, we've watched this president acquiesce to the right on just about everything, so we aren't getting too excited. Considering the popularity of the items in the People's Budget, it is hard to believe that it's not getting more attention. But as we all know, the corporate media has its own agenda and is probably not interested in furthering anything to with the people.

In Part I, they discuss the People's Budget with Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)

In Part II, they speak examine the President's budget and his Jekyll and Hyde act with author Thomas Frank, Rev. Jim Wallis and Grace Lee Boggs.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Refresher On the National Debt

Since the Republicans and the Tea Partiers are having a field day with the debt, we thought we'd post a little reminder on just where the bulk of that debt came from:

Jeffrey Sachs: Telling It Like It Is

We here at the Sanctuary try to tell it like it is, and we appreciate others who are willing to do the same. There is a fear on the part of Democrats to criticize President Obama on his policy decisions, despite the fact that he has continually turned on the base that got him elected. Glenn Greenwald at expounded on this last week, and we highly recommend you read his enlightening article.

On Democracy Now!, economist Jeffrey Sachs laid out the new proposed budget from the Republicans and as a follow up to our previous post, expounded on the Progressive Caucus's proposed budget. He had some harsh words for Democrats and for the President, but we couldn't find much to disagree with him on.

Progressive Caucus Releases Budget Proposal

The Congressional Progressive Caucus has released their 2012 budget proposal. In their cover letter to ranking member Chris Van Hollen, they called the Republican budget proposal "monumentally reckless," and aligned themselves with the working people of the U.S., calling it "The People's Budget." According to the release:
The CPC budget:
• Eliminates the deficits and creates a surplus
• Puts America back to work with a “Make it in America” jobs program
• Protects the social safety net
• Ends the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq
• Is FAIR (Fixing America’s Inequality Responsibly)

To summarize what our budget accomplishes:
• Primary budget balance by 2014.
• Budget surplus by 2021.
• Reduce public debt as a share of GDP to 64.4% by 2021, down 16.9 percentage points from
a baseline fully adjusted for both the doc fix and the AMT patch.
• Reduce deficits by $5.7 trillion over 2012-21
• Both outlays and revenue equal 22.3% of GDP by 2021.
 The policy breakdown is as follows:

Individual income tax policies
1. Extend marriage relief, credits, and incentives for children, families, and education, but
let the upper-income tax cuts expire and let tax brackets revert to Clinton-era rates
2. Index the AMT for inflation for a decade (AMT patch paid for)
3. Rescind the upper-income tax cuts in the tax deal
4. Schakowsky millionaire tax rates proposal (adding 45%, 46%, and 47% top rates)
5. Progressive estate tax (Sanders estate tax, repeal of Kyl-Lincoln)
6. Tax capital gains and qualified dividends as ordinary income

Corporate tax reform
1. Tax U.S. corporate foreign income as it is earned
2. Eliminate corporate welfare for oil, gas, and coal companies
3. Enact a financial crisis responsibility fee
4. Financial speculation tax (derivatives, foreign exchange)

Health care
1. Enact a public option
2. Negotiate Rx payments with pharmaceutical companies
3. CMS program integrity and other Medicare and Medicaid savings in the president’s
4. Prevent a cut in Medicare physician payments for a decade (maintain doc fix)

Social Security
1. Raise the taxable maximum on the employee side to 90% of earnings and eliminate the
taxable maximum on the employer side
2. Increase benefits based on higher contributions on the employee side

Defense savings
1. End overseas contingency operations emergency supplementals starting in 2013,
providing $170 billion in FY2012 funding for withdrawal
2. Reduce baseline Defense spending by reducing strategic capabilities, conventional
forces, procurement, and R&D programs

Job Creation
1. Invest $1.45 trillion in job creation, early childhood, K-12 and special education, quality
child care, energy and broadband infrastructure, housing, and R&D
2. Infrastructure bank
3. Surface transportation reauthorization bill
4. Finance surface transportation reauthorization
The Progressive Caucus is the largest Congressional caucus and is chaired by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Rep. Keith Ellsion (D-MN).

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday Schooled: Banksters Score One More

Once again, the enormous, bright pink elephant in the room is about to be ignored as the Fed prepares to "deal" with the banksters to allow said banksters to walk away from their responsibility of being complicit in the demolishing of the American and global economies.Via The New York Times:

Prepare for a disappointment. As early as this week, federal bank regulators and the nation’s big banks are expected to close a deal that is supposed to address and correct the scandalous abuses. If these agreements are anything like the draft agreement recently published by the American Banker — and we believe they will be — they will be a wrist slap, at best. At worst, they are an attempt to preclude other efforts to hold banks accountable. They are unlikely to ease the foreclosure crisis. 

All homeowners will suffer as a result. Some 6.7 million homes have already been lost in the housing bust, and another 3.3 million will be lost through 2012. The plunge in home equity — $5.6 trillion so far — hits everyone because foreclosures are a drag on all house prices. 

The deals grew out of last year’s investigation into robo-signing — when banks were found to have filed false documents in foreclosure cases. The report of the investigation has not been released, but we know that robo-signing was not an isolated problem. Many other abuses are well documented: late fees that are so high that borrowers can’t catch up on late payments; conflicts of interest that lead banks to favor foreclosures over loan modifications. 

The draft does not call for tough new rules to end those abuses. Or for ramped-up loan modifications. Or for penalties for past violations. Instead, it requires banks to improve the management of their foreclosure processes, including such reforms as “measures to ensure that staff are trained specifically” for their jobs. The banks will also have to adhere to a few new common-sense rules like halting foreclosures while borrowers seek loan modifications and establishing a phone number at which a person will take questions from delinquent borrowers. Some regulators have reportedly said that fines may be imposed later.
For those of you who thought there was justice in America: it's time to wake up, because no such thing exists any longer. This country reached its peak, and now it's on the decline, as wealthy and corporate interests rape and pillage it for all that's left. We're just American trash, people; hopped up on a celebrity culture and a train-wreck society that strives to keep us dumbed down and ignorant, not to mention silent.

Which brings us to our first Sunday Schooled segment: American Trash. Who do you think you are?

Trump Quadruples Down on Birther Crap

Here at the Sanctuary, Donald Trump makes our heads hurt. He's loud, he's bombastic, he's arrogant, and as Bill Cosby recently pointed out, he's "full of it." Appearing on Candy Crowley's State of the Union on CNN, the Donald quadrupled down on the birther crap he's been spewing for the last few weeks.

TRUMP: The grandparents put that [birth announcement] in [the newspaper] because obviously they want him to be a United States citizen because in those days, people were much more proud than they are today unfortunately for being a United States citizen.

So they wanted him to be a citizen of the United States, for that purpose, and also for hospitalization, for welfare, for this, for that, for all the other assets you get from being a United States citizen. So there are a lot of very smart people who say that is routinely done and that was done by his grandparents. [...]

CROWLEY: I will tell you we’ve checked with both these papers early on — not to the latest when you brought it back in the headlines — but the fact is that the hospitals reported this information to the papers, and the papers printed it.

TRUMP: Who knows? You’re talking fifty years ago.
Video from Think Progress:

Mike Pence's Freudian Slip

Appearing on Greta Van Susteren's On the Record, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) made a classic Freudian slip when Van Susteren asked if he was trying to checkmate the Democrats on the government shut-down over Planned Parenthood.

Looking a little flustered, Pence responded:

"I don't know if we're checkmating them. Look, we're trying to score a victory for the Republican people [...] for the American people, not for the Republican party."


Video from Think Progress: