Monday, August 22, 2011

Why aren't tax breaks for working stiffs the same as tax breaks for millionaires?

President Obama has proposed to extend the payroll tax cut for low income Americans. Since the TEA Party acronym stands for “taxed enough already” you’d think that TEA Party Republicans would jump on that and agree with the President for a change. You’d think wrong.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) told the AP “It's always a net positive to let taxpayers keep more of what they earn, but not all tax relief is created equal for the purposes of helping to get the economy moving again.”

Rep. David Camp (R-Mich.), chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said he also opposed the 12-month tax cut because it would cost the government about $120 billion next year if it were renewed.

According to the Washington Post the Bush tax cuts amount to about $130 billion per year so I guess that means Republicans will now be against renewing those too. Why aren’t we hearing Lamar Smith and Quico Canseco coming out in favor of either continuing the payroll tax cuts or not renewing the Bush tax cuts? Is expecting logical consistency too much to ask?

It looks like Smith, Canseco and Hensarling never saw a millionaire tax break they didn’t like.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

What New Orleans should know about presidential candidate Rick Perry

As a New Orleans native transplanted to Texas a decade ago I thought your readers should know a little more about our Governor, Rick Perry, now that he’s announced his candidacy for President of the United States.

Perry talks about the Texas economic miracle and touts the states high level of job growth as proof that his business friendly policies are successful. While it’s true that Texas is creating jobs faster than most other states you should also know that the Texas also has the highest percentage of minimum and low wage jobs in the country.

Rick Perry boasts of low taxes and no state income tax but fails to mention that Texas also spends less per student on education than almost any other state and ranks near the bottom in high school graduation rates.

If it’s true that you can judge someone by the company they keep consider that when organizing his recent prayer rally, The Response, he partnered with such men as John C. Hagee who claims that the Catholic Church is "the Great Whore," an "apostate church" and a "false cult system." and Dr. John Benefiel who believes the Statue of Liberty is “a demonic idol”.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Quico Canseco wants seniors to pay more for medical care

Quico Canseco’s recent ad claims that President Obama is advocating changes to the Medicare drug plan that would cost seniors more. Well that’s calling the kettle black since it was Mr. Canseco who voted for the Ryan budget which would have killed Medicare as we know it entirely and cost seniors $6,000 a year more.

The Ryan budget would have replaced the entire Medicare program with a voucher that paid a fixed amount with no connection to the cost of insurance premiums. So while the amount the voucher was worth would increase as overall inflation increased it would not have kept up with medical insurance increases because those costs have increased at two to three times the rate of overall inflation. In no time at all seniors would be paying $6,000 a year more than they do now and it wouldn’t stop there.

So I ask you who’s really advocating for increasing the cost of medical insurance for seniors? Canseco, that’s who.

Thanks TEA Party Republicans

We all owe a debt of gratitude to TEA Party Republicans like Quico Canseco and Lamar Smith who trashed America’s historically sterling credit rating and caused a 630 point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Their sheer petulance over what is normally a simple housekeeping measure that has been passed dozens of times during both Democratic and Republican administrations, notably 19 times under Reagan alone, has added further drag on our already fragile economic recovery.

Taxpayers will foot the bill for higher interest rates on our national debt while simultaneously losing billions in the stock market which will undoubtedly lead to further job losses as Americans have less money to spend. All this is brought to us by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who promised to do everything in his power to make sure that President Obama doesn’t get re-elected.

So thank you Lamar Smith and Quico Canseco for showing America just how spiteful the TEA Party Republicans can be before the next election so we have our eyes wide open when next we vote.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Representing Americans United for Separation of Church and State in McAllen Texas

Thank you all for being here to represent the millions of Texans who have been excluded by Gov. Perry’s sectarian prayer event today.

Supporters of this un-American event often claim that it is atheists and Muslims who object to it but that’s really not so. There are many Christians here in this group today and one of the most vocal criticisms of Gov. Perry’s shindig is Rev. Barry Lynn, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and the Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. There are over two dozen members of the Houston Clergy Council who along with Rev. Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, Associate Professor of Practical Theology at Texas Christian University believe that Rick Perry is wrong too and no one would call any of them atheists.

Rev. Lynn sent a letter to Gov. Perry June 8th urging him to step back from his exclusionary event. Here’s a brief excerpt that I think summarizes it well:
"To be blunt, you have overstepped your constitutional bounds. I am a Christian minister and would like to remind you that it is not the job of government officials to call people to pray, recommend that they fast or prod them to take part in other religious activities. That job belongs to me and my fellow clergy. We are capable of doing it without government “help” or interference. We are offended when you attempt to usurp our role.

Furthermore, in a pluralistic nation where people hold many faiths (and none), it is certainly not the job of any government official to sponsor and promote a worship service that reflects a narrow segment of our religious community."

Not only is Gov. Perry violating the spirit if not the letter of the constitution in his sponsorship of this religiously exclusionary event he is coordinating with religious groups and figures with very controversial theological ideas. The rally isn’t just exclusively Christian in nature; it’s only for certain types of Christians.

The event’s most prominent sponsor, the American Family Association, is well known for slinging extreme anti-gay and anti-Muslim rhetoric. One of its bloggers, Bryan Fischer, says Adolf Hitler invented church-state separation and believes the United States should yield to biblical law. The AFA is also known for blaming gays and lesbians for the Holocaust and for Hurricane Katrina.

Then there is the International House of Prayer, a controversial congregation based in Grandview, Mo. The church’s founder, Mike Bickle, who claims that Oprah Winfrey is the "pastor of the Harlot Movement" a pre-cursor to the anti-christ.

And there’s Dr. John Benefiel of the Heartland Apostolic Prayer Network in Oklahoma City. Benefiel’s views are so outside the mainstream that he believes the Statue of Liberty is “a demonic idol”.

And let’s not forget Rev. John Hagee who claims the Catholic Church is "The Great Whore," an "apostate church," the "anti-Christ" and a "false cult system."

Most Americans do not accept these extreme views. It’s bad enough that Perry is using his government office to promote a prayer rally; it’s even worse that the one he is promoting excludes the majority of Americans.

As Kim Kamen, of the American Jewish Committee, told The Times, “There are many houses of worship here in Texas, not just Christian churches. As the leader of our state, we hope that he will bear that in mind.”

Americans United believes Perry’s sponsorship of a “Christians-only” event fails to honor our country’s religious diversity. Gov. Perry's actions are divisive, unwelcoming and constitutionally inappropriate.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Report on a conversation with White House staff on the "Debt Ceiling Deal"

I had an opportunity Monday afternoon to participate in a conference call with one of the White House staff in which the “Debt Ceiling Deal” was described in some detail. Here’s what we learned:

Most important the deal raises the debt ceiling far enough that we won’t have to revisit the issue until after January 1, 2013.

Budget cuts totaling $1 trillion of which $350 billion come from Defense and $650 billion from discretionary spending will be phased in over 10 years and are backend loaded so little happens now. There will be NO CUTS to Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, Pell Grants or other social programs that we have fought so hard to protect.

There will be a Super Committee of 12 made up of three members of each party from each house of Congress who will be charged with coming up with another $1.5 trillion in cuts to be spread over 10 years, there will be a firewall around social programs. Whatever plan 7 or more can agree on will be submitted to both houses of Congress for an up or down vote, no filibusters, no amendments. If both houses pass it then the President has an opportunity to sign it or veto it.

If the Super Committee fails to develop a plan that 7 or more members can agree upon or it fails to be passed by either house or it is vetoed by the President by January 1, 2013 then the hammer comes down and there will be $500 billion cut from Defense and $500 billion cut from discretionary spending and again there will be a firewall around social programs except that there will be a requirement to reduce Medicare fees to doctors by 2%.

I was immediately concerned because we all know that finding a doctor who takes Medicare is often difficult now and cutting fees further is certain to make that tougher. The response was that it isn’t necessary to pay less for a service, the Medicare folks could choose to offer incentives to be more efficient so that spending goes down because fewer unnecessary tests were done or some other cost saving measure could fulfill the requirement.

Another person on the call asked about whether the Defense spending cuts would come of out the VA budget or in other ways hurt veterans and the answer was that Defense cuts were focused on the Pentagon, referring to weapons and deployments etc.

There are a few points to remember when determining how you feel about the “Deal”. First, the reality is it should have been clean of all encumbrances but since the R’s decided to play chicken with our jobs and families we weren’t going to get that. Second, the “Deal” means we don’t have to revisit the issue going into the 2012 election so they can’t use the debt ceiling against again by holding it hostage in an election year. Finally, we got a minimum of $850 billion in Defense cuts over 10 years and didn’t kill any of our most precious social programs to do it. The TEA Party R’s wanted $1.2 trillion in cuts right away and they wanted to take them from Pell Grants, Medicare and Social Security but that isn’t going to happen.

I’m sure some will claim that we didn’t raise taxes on the rich but that’s going to happen anyway because the extended Bush tax cuts expire January 1, 2013. No we didn’t close corporate tax loopholes but remember that what should have happened was a clean bill, there wouldn’t have been any tax increases as part of that, there wouldn’t have been any closing of corporate tax loopholes either. Those things weren’t part of what we really wanted so there’s no reason to cry about not having them. The R's didn't get what they wanted and we didn't lose anything we worried about so in my book we won.

Now let’s go out and elect some Democrats so we can regain control of the House and return Barack Obama to the White House then we can toss this crap in the bonfire, fix the tax code and save our country from the bat shit crazies in the TEA Party and the Koch Bros.

Please pass this on.