Filosofa Is Grrrrrrrrrrrrowling!

When I heard yesterday of so-called Democratic Senator Joe Manchin’s betrayal, I growled and damn near threw something (but, I’d just have to clean up the mess, so I held back).  Once again, Manchin seems to be the fly in the ointment, seems for all intents and purposes to be against the people of this nation, and in this case, against the entire human species!  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.  It has led me to the idea for tomorrow’s music ♫ post – anybody have any guesses? (Hint:  think O’Jays)  Anyway, Greg Sargent of The Washington Post has a good take on the topic of Manchin’s perfidy, so let’s hear what he has to say …


The hidden absurdities behind Joe Manchin’s ugly new reversal

By Greg Sargent

Columnist

July 15, 2022

This will surprise only people who haven’t paid even cursory attention to the last year of Democratic politics, but Sen. Joe Manchin III may have just killed any hopes for a resuscitated version of the Democratic agenda.

The West Virginia Democrat reportedly told party leaders late Thursday that he won’t support any new incentives to combat climate change or any new tax hikes on corporations or the wealthy. The Post reports that in private talks, Manchin appeared close to a deal, only to renege at the last minute.

Yet as ludicrous as this turnaround is on its face, there are still more hidden absurdities behind the situation that show what a farce it has truly become. They turn on the specifics of what Manchin appeared to reject, and his inflation-related excuse for doing so, which amount to a display of towering bad faith.

First, a caveat: After those stories broke, Manchin claimed on Friday that he’s still open to a deal and wants to see July’s inflation numbers before deciding. So perhaps he just doesn’t want to act quite yet. But given all we’ve seen, let’s inaugurate the Manchin Rule: Until the senator actually shows he’s operating in good faith, we’ll presume otherwise.

The deal would have raised around $1 trillion in revenue from rolling back some of the 2017 GOP tax cuts. Half of that revenue would have gone to deficit reduction, and the other half would have gone mostly to funding the transition to green energy.

Also in the mix were provisions empowering Medicare to negotiate down prescription drug prices, which would produce substantial savings. Those could be used to continue funding expanded Affordable Care Act subsidies, which are set to expire after originally passing in last year’s covid-19 rescue package.

But Manchin has rejected the tax hikes and the climate provisions. For now, he is open only to some kind of deal in which savings from the prescription drugs provisions fund expanded ACA subsidies.

By the way, the subsidies highlight another problem with Manchin’s position. Even if he does just want to delay another month, extending the subsidies this month is critical, because states will soon have to assume they’ll expire and send out notices of premium increases.

Regardless, how Manchin reached this point is hard to discern. As The Post reports, he has long supported tax reforms such as those being debated, yet he seemingly backed away from them, including a measure to close a loophole enjoyed by the very wealthy to sustain Medicare.

What’s more, Manchin is still reportedly telling people he wants to secure a few hundred billion dollars in deficit reduction. How he would do this without raising high-end taxes is unclear.

It gets worse. A Democrat briefed on the conversations says Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) sought to meet Manchin’s concerns about the climate provisions head-on.

This included reducing spending on green energy tax incentives to $375 billion, the Democrat says. It also included nixing incentives for electric vehicles, which Manchin had objected to as well.

And a Democratic aide tells me much of the legislative text on green tax incentives had been written, and haggling was down to minor points. Manchin’s turnaround floored those working on that text, given what had been happening only hours earlier.

A sympathetic reading of Manchin’s motives goes like this. As someone who represents a state that’s both deep red and relies on fossil fuels, he has understandably sought a balance. He’s open to the government facilitating innovation that aids the transition to green energy, but only if it does not inflict damage too quickly on the traditional energy sector or the people reliant on it.

But even so, the dropping of incentives for electric vehicles represents a big concession toward his values. After all, a transition away from gas-powered vehicles is an essential piece of cutting emissions at the pace necessary to minimize long-term risk.

Indeed, the package of climate incentives that still remains plainly falls within the parameters of the balanced approach he wants. That is, if Manchin — who has personally grown rich off the coal industry — means what he says.

Nor does Manchin’s own explanation make much sense. His spokesperson insists we must “adjust to the economic realities the country faces” and avoid “steps that add fuel to the inflation fire.”

But climate change is also a reality, and without something like this agenda, it may be impossible to come close to hitting climate targets scientists say are necessary to avoid disaster.

And how much would the package offered to Manchin actually increase inflation? Economist Dean Baker notes that half would go to deficit reduction, which Manchin wants, and the nixing of incentives for electrical vehicles removes another spending piece.

What’s more, Baker says, spending on ACA subsidies would be offset by less spending on prescription drugs. “It’s basically impossible to see how that would be inflationary,” Baker tells me.

Manchin is free to disagree with that, but he hasn’t offered a serious case that something like this package would disastrously fuel inflation. Nor has he meaningfully explained why whatever inflation it would allegedly produce is worse for the country than the climate future he’s consigning us to.

Instead, he’s betting the word “inflation” will simply turn off our critical faculties. We shouldn’t let that happen. The absurdities behind his position should be mercilessly exposed.

Taxing the Rich Dudes — Part II

A week or so ago I posted Robert Reich’s column on taxing the wealthy.  At the time, I thought the odds of any such legislation passing were slim-to-none, but today Mr. Reich is back with a bit more optimism, so … maybe, just maybe the time is coming when we will stop bowing at the feet of the wealthy and start expecting them to be held accountable for paying their fair share to keep this nation rolling.  Heck, if the wealthy paid their share, we could eliminate the federal debt within a year!


Why Biden’s plan to tax the super rich is moving from unlikely to likely

And why it’s really really important

Robert Reich, 5 April 2022

America is on the cusp of the largest inter-generational transfer of wealth in history. As wealthy boomers expire over the next three decades, an estimated $30 trillion will go to their children. Those children will be able to live off of the income these assets generate, and then leave the bulk of them – which in the intervening years will have grown far more valuable – to their own heirs, tax-free. After a few generations of this, almost all of the nation’s wealth will be in the hands of a few thousand family dynasties.

Unless Joe Biden’s new tax plan is enacted — the odds of which is moving from unlikely to likely. I’ll explain in a moment.

Dynastic wealth runs counter to the ideal of America as a meritocracy. It makes a mockery of the notions that people earn what they’re worth in the market, and that economic gains should go to those who deserve them. It puts economic power into the hands of a small number of people who have never worked but whose investment decisions have a significant effect on the nation’s future. And it is antithetical to democracy.

We are well on the way. Already six out of the ten wealthiest Americans alive are heirs to prominent fortunes. The Walmart heirs alone have more wealth than the bottom 42 percent of Americans combined. The richest 1 tenth of 1 percent of Americans already owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.

The last time America faced anything comparable occurred at the turn of the last century, in the first Gilded Age. Then, President Teddy Roosevelt warned that “a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power,” could destroy American democracy. Roosevelt’s answer was to tax wealth. The estate tax was enacted in 1916 and the capital gains tax in 1922.

Since then, both of Roosevelt’s taxes have been eroded by the moneyed interests. As the rich have accumulated more wealth, they have amassed more political power — which they’ve used to reduce their taxes. By now, the estate tax affects only a handful of super-wealthy families that are busily setting up “dynastic trusts” to circumvent what’s left of it. And the capital gains tax has been defanged by what’s known as the “stepped-up-basis-at-death” loophole. More on this in a moment.

Last week Joe Biden unveiled two tax proposals that would revive Teddy Roosevelt’s original vision, and could possibly slow or even reverse America’s march toward oligarchy: (1) a minimum income tax that Biden calls a billionaire tax but would in reality apply to households with a net worth of $100 million or more, and (2) a separate tax at death on gains from appreciated assets, even if the assets are not sold.

The odds are growing that at least one of these proposals will get through the Senate in April or May via “reconciliation” requiring only a bare majority (i.e., all fifty Democratic senators plus the vice president). I’m told Joe Manchin is mostly on board (which means the other Democratic holdout, Kyrsten Sinema, will sign on as well).

Let me go into a bit of detail on each:

(1) The minimum tax is a 20 percent levy on households with a net worth of more than $100 million, affecting the top 0.01 percent of earners. It would apply both to taxable earnings and to unrealized capital gains (the increased value of your assets), and would function as a kind of prepayment (analogous to withholding) of taxes that eventually would be owed upon the sale of appreciated assets or death.

For example, suppose someone named Mark Zuckerberg owns $100 billion of Facebook stock, for which he paid nothing when he founded the company, and has no other taxable income. For the first year under the Biden plan, he’d owe $20 billion in taxes even if he didn’t sell any Facebook shares. The next year, if his stock increased in value, he’d owe another prepayment equal to 20 percent of any increase in value beyond $100 billion. (There are other provisions to prevent the very wealthy from being taxed twice on the same income.)

The Treasury anticipates Biden’s new minimum tax would raise $360 billion in the first 10 years from America’s 20,000 richest households.  

(2) Biden’s second proposal would close the “stepped-up-basis-at death” loophole. Under today’s tax code, you pay capital gains taxes on the increased value of assets when you sell them. But if you pass your assets on to your heirs, they can sell them and not pay a penny of capital gains. In other words, you escape capital gains taxes by dying. They escape it by inheriting your wealth. (I remember years ago arguing that this loophole should be closed with then Treasury Secretary Lloyd Benson, who at one point pounded his fist on the table and exclaimed “death is an involuntary conversion!”)

That’s not all. Under current law, if heirs never sell these assets and they continue to gain value (as they almost certainly will), heirs can borrow against them to pay living expenses and then pass them on to their heirs, who won’t pay capital gains taxes either. Put this together with the unprecedented transfer of generational wealth about to occur, from rich boomer to their millennial children, and America’s oligarchy will become thoroughly entrenched in a small group of people who exercise all the power that comes with great wealth but have never worked a day in their lives.

Biden proposes simply to repeal the “stepped-up-basis-at-death” loophole. The value of assets would not be “stepped up” to their market value at the time of death. Their increased value would be subject to capital gains taxes as if they’d been sold before death.

Either of these tax reforms would be significant, and they fit nicely together. But if I were betting, I’d bet on the latter because Second President Manchin has sounded less enthusiastic about the first.

One thing we’ve all learned over the past fourteen months is not to rely on Manchin or on anything he says or commits to, so I’m not holding my breath. But if Manchin gives the green light, and Biden and the Democrats pull this off, it will be an historic rebirth of Teddy Roosevelt’s movement against dynastic wealth — perhaps Biden’s biggest single accomplishment. Taxing big wealth is necessary if we’re ever to get our democracy back and make our economy work for everyone rather than a privileged few.

Open Your Wallet, Rich Dude!!!

It’s no secret that I have very little use or respect for the ultra-wealthy.  Many rose to the top by climbing on the backs of the rest of us, while others were born with the proverbial ‘silver spoon’ in their mouth.  For the most part, those who have millions or billions in their investment portfolio look down on the rest of us and laugh, unwilling to share their wealth, uncaring whether we live or die.  For his 2023 budget, President Biden has included a serious tax on the ultra-wealthy and while I applaud it, I say it should be more, should cover every person who has more than six figures of net worth.  But who am I?  I’m not wealthy, never wanted to be.  To cut to the chase here … Robert Reich has written his thoughts on the proposal to raise taxes on the rich and he is far more knowledgeable than I, so I shall turn the floor over to him.


Really? A billionaire tax? Now? Are you kidding me?

Why it’s still a real possibility

Robert Reich

29 March 2022

President Biden’s budget, which came out yesterday, proposes a new minimum tax of 20 percent on households worth more than $100 million — which the White House says will reduce federal budget deficits by $1 trillion over a decade. The tax would apply only to the top 0.01 percent — the richest 1 percent of the richest 1 percent. Half of the expected $1 trillion in revenue would come from 704 households worth $1 billion or more.

If enacted, it would effectively prevent the wealthiest sliver of America from paying lower rates than middle-class families, while helping to generate revenues to fuel Biden’s domestic ambitions and keep the deficit in check relative to the U.S. economy.

Recall that America’s 704 billionaires have increased their wealth by $1.7 trillion since the start of the pandemic in February 2020, while most Americans have struggled to make ends meet. That means the billionaires could theoretically pay for everything Joe Biden and House Democrats have proposed — from childcare to climate measures — and still be as wealthy as they were at the start of the pandemic. Elon Musk’s pandemic gains, for example, could cover the cost of tuition for 5.5 million community college students and feed 29 million low-income public-school kids, while still leaving Musk richer than he was before Covid.

The dirty little secret is the ultra-rich don’t live off their paychecks. They live off their stock portfolios. Jeff Bezos’s salary from Amazon was $81,840 in 2020 yet he rakes in some $149,353 every minute from the soaring value of his Amazon stocks, which is how he affords five mansions, including one in Washington DC with 25 bathrooms. (Why would anyone want 25 bathrooms?)

So if you want to tax billionaires, you have to go after their wealth.

But does Biden’s plan have a snowball’s chance of getting this enacted in the hell called Washington? The problem is the old political chicken-and-egg: A big reason why the super-wealthy have done so well is they’ve bankrolled politicians who alter laws (such as tax laws) to give them even more wealth. They’ve bought armies of lobbyists to keep their taxes minuscule and create tax loopholes large enough to drive their Lamborghinis through.

ProPublica’s bombshell report last June showing America’s super-wealthy paying little or nothing in taxes revealed not only their humongous wealth but also how they’ve parlayed that wealth into political power to shrink their taxes. Jeff Bezos, the richest man in America, reportedly paid no federal income taxes in 2007 and 2011. Elon Musk, the second richest, paid none in 2018. Warren Buffett, often ranking number 3, paid a tax rate of 0.1 percent between 2014 and 2018.

All previous efforts to tax America’s super-rich have failed amid major political head winds. Republican senators obviously won’t bite the billionaire hands that feed them, and so – yet again – Biden needs every Democratic senator’s vote. But why would any sane person who has followed politics over the last year suppose that Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema will go along? Haven’t we been here before?

Yes, except that for months now Manchin has been on the receiving end of unremitting horse dung — not just from progressives but from establishment Democrats who accuse him of torpedoing any chance Biden and the Democrats have of retaining control over Congress after the midterms. Manchin has also been criticized by the mainstream press for taking big money from coal interests and then voting down climate measures (see yesterday’s New York Times front page feature story, here). In other words, Manchin badly needs some cred.

Manchin has also expressed concern about the size of the federal budget deficit. And in December, he told the White House he would support some version of a tax targeting billionaire wealth.

What really convinces me Biden’s billionaire tax stands a chance is that I doubt the White House would risk another big public loss to Manchin. After getting all hell beat out of them for building public expectations of passing Build Back Better, only to have Manchin kill it, Biden and his staff would not propose another big initiative unless Manchin had already given it the green light.

What about Sinema? She’ll go along with whatever Manchin ultimately votes for.

So a billionaire tax is by no means a dead. Even in this disappointing year, I’m staying hopeful.

I Just Don’t Get It 🤷

Perhaps I’m a bit simple-minded these days, but I’m really confused over something and I’m hoping someone can make sense of this for me.  The issue?  Why is it that the United States Congress can pass, relatively without argument, a bill that allocates $768 billion for a single year to the military, in large part to purchase more tanks, guns, and nuclear weapons … hardware made with the sole purpose of killing humans … but they cannot pass a bill that would help people who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table?

To be clear, here is a summary of the major points in the Build Back Better bill (aka BBB) that congressional Republicans are determined to send to its grave:

  • Universal preschool for children
  • Free community college
  • Lower prescription drug costs
  • Tax cuts for families with children and childcare support
  • 12 weeks of paid family leave
  • Housing investments
  • Tax cuts for electric vehicles and other climate incentives

The cost of the Build Back Better bill is $150 billion per year … just under 20% of the cost of the recently passed defense bill.  Build Back Better helps people … people who need the help whether due to the pandemic or other circumstances beyond their control, whereas the defense bill largely helps arms manufacturers.  The refusal of Republicans in Congress to even consider the BBB at this time is a huge hypocrisy and in my view is further proof, as if any were needed, that Republicans largely do not give a royal damn about the average person in this nation, including their own voters.  Their fortunes and therefore their votes are tied to the wealthy corporations and groups like the NRA, arms manufacturers, and fossil fuel industry and to hell with John Doe!

And on another, but related note, why in the Sam Hell are both of the voting rights bills stagnating somewhere in the Capitol, unlikely to see the light of day?  With nearly every state in the nation passing draconian laws that will make it harder for the average citizen to vote and damn near impossible for many who are not white middle-class males to vote, it is not rocket science to figure out that the federal government needs to step in and protect the most important right granted to We the People under the U.S. Constitution!

The two voting rights bills, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and the Freedom to Vote Act, are being held up by not only every Republican senator, but two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.  These 52 unconscionable people either do not understand the meaning of a democracy or else are determined to undermine the very foundation of our nation and turn it into a banana republic, an illegitimate dictatorship.

The Republicans in Congress are not in the least bit bothered by spending nearly a trillion dollars of OUR hard-earned tax dollars to build more killing machinery, yet they will not lift so much as a pen to protect our rights, our very lives.  I sincerely hope that the majority of Republican senators and representatives currently sitting in Congress are voted out of office next November for they do NOT represent the people of this country!

The Good, The Bad, The Hopeful

A few days ago, my dear friend Ellen sent me Maureen Dowd’s column from the New York Times.  She says so much that the topic of the column rather defies description, but her vision of where this nation is today is spot on.  She also gives us hope in a more positive, yet realistic assessment of President Biden’s policies and actions than we’re used to hearing these days.


Drowning Our Future in the Past

By Maureen Dowd

Opinion Columnist

It isn’t a pretty picture.

One coast is burning. The other is under water. In between, anti-abortion vigilantes may soon rampage across gunslinging territory.

What has happened to this country?

America is reeling backward, strangled by the past, nasty and uncaring, with everyone at one another’s throats.

Post-Trump, we let ourselves hope that the new president could heal and soothe, restore a sense of rationality, decency and sanity. But the light at the end of the tunnel turned out to be just a firefly.

We feel the return of dread: We’re rattled by the catastrophic exit from Afghanistan; the coming abortion war sparked by Texas; the Trumpian Supreme Court dragging us into the past; the confounding nature of this plague; the way Mother Nature is throttling us, leaving New Yorkers to drown in their basements. And now comes Donald Trump, tromping toward another presidential run.

It feels as if nothing can be overcome. Everything is being relitigated.

We’re choking on enlightened climate proposals but the disparity between the disasters we see, and what’s being done in Washington, makes it feel as though nothing is happening except climate change. We’re so far from getting a handle on the problem, the discussions around it seem almost theoretical.

Joe Manchin, tied to the energy industry, balks at climate change provisions in the reconciliation bill. He should be looking for ways to get West Virginia in touch with reality rather than living in the past.

“Manchin’s claim that climate pollution would be worsened by the elimination of fossil fuels — or by the resolution’s actual, more incremental climate provisions — is highly dubious, if not outright false,” The Intercept reported, noting that the truth is that Manchin’s personal wealth would “be impacted.” Since he joined the Senate, The Intercept said, he has grossed some $4.5 million from coal companies he founded.

With its new abortion law, sending women back to the back alley and encouraging Stasi-like participation from the citizenry, Texas now becomes the capital of American unreason. The law “essentially delegated enforcement of that prohibition to the populace at large,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts.

There were medieval fiefs more enlightened than the Lone Star G.O.P.

Between putting women in danger by pushing that law and putting children in danger by imposing his anti-mask mania on school districts that want to mask up, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas has become a scourge of the first rank.

A cynical slice of the Republican Party — and this includes Trump — privately denigrates anti-abortion activists as wackos, but publicly moves in lock-step with them in order to cling to that base and keep power.

But the anti-abortion forces were somehow clever enough to hijack the Supreme Court and Republicans will have to contend with the backlash when the court tosses Roe v. Wade aside.

As botched as the withdrawal from Afghanistan was, at least Joe Biden was trying to move into the future and do triage on one of America’s worst mistakes.

And unlike other presidents — J.F.K. with the Bay of Pigs, L.B.J. with the Vietnam War and Barack Obama with the Afghanistan surge — Biden did not allow himself to be suckered by the generals, the overweening Ivy Leaguers and the Blob, the expense account monsters who keep this town whirring and always have a seat at the table, no matter how wrong they were, and are.

The Afghanistan tragedy, as James Risen wrote in The Intercept, was just two decades of Americans lying to one another, and it “brought out in Americans the same imperial arrogance that doomed the U.S. involvement in Vietnam.”

Unlike his three predecessors, Biden risked Saudi ire by directing the Justice Department and other agencies on Friday to review and declassify documents related to the F.B.I.’s investigation into 9/11. Families of 9/11 victims had been pushing for the release of the secret files to learn more about the role the Saudis played in the attacks.

The enablers of our misbegotten occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq have been shrieking like banshees at Biden, trying to manacle him to their own past mistakes as he attempts to lift off.

With peerless chutzpah, Tony Blair called Biden’s decision to depart cynical and driven by an “imbecilic political slogan about ending ‘the forever wars.’”

But Biden knew enough not to spend more lives and treasure to prop up a kleptocracy. He oversaw some bad weeks in Afghanistan but George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld should be blamed for 20 bad years.

Remarkably, as Jon Allsop pointed out in The Columbia Journalism Review, the word “Bush” was not mentioned once on any of the Sunday news shows the weekend Kabul was falling.

“He looks like the Babe Ruth of presidents when you compare him to Trump,” Harry Reid, the former Democratic Senate majority leader, told The Washington Post’s Ben Terris, for a story this past week on Bush nostalgia.

With a memory like a goldfish, America circles its bowl, returning to where we have been, unable to move forward, condemned to repeat a past we should escape.

Accomplishments After 206 Days …

Today, I would like to thank Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson for reminding us of the positive things that have happened since January 20th.  Yes, we have much to worry about, such as the For the People Act, gerrymandering, voter suppression, the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, racism in both police and populace, the end of the eviction moratorium, but … to have been in office only 206 days, President Biden and the U.S. Congress have actually accomplished a lot!  There’s still a lot of work to be done, but let’s take heart in what has already been done.


Maybe it’s time for doubting Democrats to press pause on the angst

Opinion by 

Eugene Robinson

Columnist

Yesterday at 4:01 p.m. EDT

It’s time to entertain the possibility that President Biden, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi actually know what they’re doing and are really good at their jobs.

Their fellow Democrats seem to have doubts, because, well, Democrats always have doubts. Dwelling on worst-case scenarios is somehow wired into the party’s DNA. Every victory must have some downside; every step forward must lead toward some potential pitfall. If worrying had been an Olympic sport in Tokyo, Democrats would have swept gold, silver and bronze.

This angst is richly nourished by voluminous news media analysis and commentary adhering to the convention of anticipating what might go wrong. What if progressives in the House won’t swallow hard and vote for the “hard infrastructure” bill passed by the Senate? What if House moderates insist on a quick vote on the Senate measure and threaten to withhold their votes on the budget with its huge “human infrastructure” spending? What if an asteroid strikes before Biden can sign these transformational pieces of legislation into law?

Let me suggest that Democrats squelch their inner Eeyore for just a moment to appreciate, and celebrate, what their party has accomplished.

There was no way, said the conventional wisdom, that Schumer (D-N.Y.) was going to get Republicans to support any kind of meaningful infrastructure bill. There was no way the bipartisan gang of senators trying to craft a compromise measure would succeed. There was no way Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would allow anything on infrastructure to pass, thus giving Biden a win. There was no way more than a handful of Republican senators would defy all the threats streaming from Mar-a-Lago and collaborate with Democrats on anything.

Yet here we are. Nineteen Republicans — including McConnell — joined every Senate Democrat in approving $1 trillion worth of desperately needed infrastructure spending. Included are not just funds to fix roads and bridges, but also big money to provide broadband Internet to Americans who can’t afford it; upgrade the power grid in ways that facilitate the switch to renewable energy; and create a coast-to-coast network of electric-vehicle charging stations.

Okay, but there was no way (according to the conventionally wise) that the whole Senate Democratic caucus, from Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on the left to Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) on the right, would agree on a budget framework. Yet they did, and the massive $3.5 trillion resolution — which Democrats can pass through the reconciliation process, without GOP votes — addresses all the party’s major spending priorities, including the urgent need to address climate change.

Well, said worrywarts, there was absolutely, positively no way that the creaking, dysfunctional Senate could possibly do both those things — infrastructure and the budget — at the same time, as Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Democrats were demanding. Yet, again, that is precisely what Schumer accomplished. Done and done.

So now we’re hearing that the hard part actually lies ahead, because Pelosi will inevitably face an uprising by her progressives, her moderates or both. Indeed, this could happen. But I would submit that Pelosi’s record demonstrates she knows a lot more about how to get the House to do what she needs than any of the Cassandras predicting her certain failure.

I would also submit that Democrats in both chambers are acting quite pragmatically, regardless of what they might be saying. Sanders’s first hope was for $6 trillion; he settled for $3.5 trillion. Manchin now says even that smaller amount is too much — but he voted for it anyway. Progressives in the House are vocal in their demands — they pushed Biden into extending the eviction moratorium — but thus far, at least, they have given Pelosi their votes when it counted.

Democrats should realize that if you add in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which gives unprecedented support to low- and middle-income families with children, Biden is steering the most progressive sea change in U.S. governance in half a century. And he, Schumer and Pelosi are doing this with a 50-50 Senate and just a single-digit majority in the House. I, for one, am impressed.

All right, if you must worry about something, worry about voting rights. Schumer is now working with Manchin, Raphael G. Warnock (D-Ga.) and a few other senators to draw up a voting rights bill the whole Senate Democratic caucus will support. There may come a point when Manchin has to decide whether to let the Republican minority filibuster — and kill — a measure he himself wrote. He could make the wrong choice.

But for now, Democrats, give yourself at least a few days to admire all that is being accomplished. For a change, take yes for an answer.

Note to readers:  I was unable to respond to your comments yesterday, for I was very much under the weather.  After 12 hours of sleep, I’m about 50% better today, and I will try to get to all your comments, but if I am not able to, I apologize.

The Good, The Bad, And The … Funny!

I vaguely remember the days, back before the year 2016, when I went to bed at night feeling safe and secure.  I can almost remember the days when I didn’t automatically associate the word “Republican” with hatred, racism, greed, cruelty, cheating, lying, and obnoxious.  Ahhhhh … those were the good ol’ days!  Long story short, I have more snark built up since my last snippets post, so … let me share just a few with you!


Kiran Ahuja has a new job!

On Tuesday, the Senate voted on President Biden’s nominee for the Office of Personnel Management, Kiran Ahuja.  Ultimately Ms. Ahuja, a civil rights lawyer and veteran of the Obama administration, was confirmed, but only after Vice-President Kamala Harris cast the tie-breaking vote, because not one single Republican was willing to vote to confirm her.  Why?  Well, for one thing she is an Indian-born immigrant.  According to Josh Hawley – you remember him, the guy who did a fist pump in a show of solidarity with the terrorists who attacked the Capitol on January 6th

“I’m concerned that as the federal government’s H.R. director, Ms. Ahuja could use her platform to promote radical ideologies that seek to divide rather than unite the American people. She could bring critical race theory back into federal government training.”

GASP!!!  She could … require sensitivity training by those who make hiring decisions for the federal government!  Oh, wouldn’t it be awful to teach people that it is wrong to discriminate!  She could actually insist that hiring decisions be based on the skill level of the applicants rather than the colour of their skin!

Apparently, the congressional Republicans want an all-white cabinet, and the difficulty of Ms. Ahuja’s appointment was not the first sign of trouble.

Shortly after taking office, President Biden nominated Neera Tanden to lead the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).  Ms. Tanden is also Indian American, and this time, Biden pulled her nomination once Democratic Senator Joe Manchin (yes, he of filibuster and voter suppression fame) made it clear he would not vote to confirm her.  However last month, the President appointed her to be a senior White House advisor, a position for which no senate confirmation is necessary.  Take that, Republicans … and Republican wannabe Manchin!

And then, there was Deb Haaland, a Native American who was chosen to be Secretary of the Interior, a department that has a long history of being used as a tool of oppression against America’s Indigenous peoples.  Ms. Haaland was ultimately confirmed in March, but only after being grilled at length as Republicans tried to paint her as a radical.  Said Republican Senator Steve Daines from Montana …

“I’m deeply concerned with the congresswoman’s support on several radical issues that will hurt Montana, our way of life, our jobs and rural America.”

Um, Mr. Daines … the population of Montana is less than 1% of the population of this country … put that in your pipe and smoke it.

I am very thrilled that the Biden cabinet looks much different than that of the former guy, that there is diversity and qualified people with experience making the everyday decisions that affect our lives.  I sincerely hope that I never see the day when there is a Republican president and a Republican majority in the Senate again, for all this progress would likely be undone within a matter of a few weeks.


But there was a big, bright spot today!

Judge Peter A. Cahill sentenced former police officer Derek Chauvin to 22.5 years for the murder of George Floyd.  This sentence will not bring Mr. Floyd back to life, but … it is consequential, and I am very pleased.  This is very nearly the longest sentence any police officer has received in this country for unnecessary killing in the line of duty and it is long past due.  It is, to the best of my knowledge, the longest sentence given to an officer for the murder of an unarmed Black person.

Shortly after reading the sentence from the bench, Judge Cahill issued a 22-page memorandum about his decision, writing, “Part of the mission of the Minneapolis Police Department is to give citizens ‘voice and respect.’” But Mr. Chauvin, the judge wrote, had instead “treated Mr. Floyd without respect and denied him the dignity owed to all human beings and which he certainly would have extended to a friend or neighbor.”

The maximum sentence possible would have been 40 years, and the presumptive sentence would have been 12.5 years.  I think the main thing to take away from this sentencing is that it sends a strong message to police officers that the blanket concept of ‘qualified immunity’ isn’t going to protect you when you use excessive force, that times are changing and police, just like anybody else, can be held accountable for their actions.

In the end, Judge Cahill said two “aggravating factors” had affected his decision to sentence Mr. Chauvin to more than 22 years: Mr. Chauvin had acted with particular cruelty, the judge said, and had abused his authority as an officer of the law.  This needs to become the rule, not the exception!  Mr. Chauvin, who is currently 45 years of age, will likely be eligible for parole after serving 2/3 of his sentence, or in about 15 years.


For the People … yeah, right

I am still furious over the Senate Republicans’ unanimous vote to deny even debate on the For the People Act that would have ensured our rights to vote, despite nearly every state in the nation attempting to suppress that right.  But yesterday, there was a glimmer of hope.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Friday that the U.S. Justice Department is suing the state of Georgia over its new voting law, saying that the controversial measure is intended to restrict ballot access to Black voters.  In his news conference yesterday, AG Garland said …

“Our complaint alleges that recent changes to Georgia’s election laws were enacted with the purpose of denying or abridging the right of Black Georgians to vote on account of their race or color, in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.”

Thumbs up to the Attorney General!  👍 👍

The bill, SB202, has already passed the Georgia State Legislature and been signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp.  In effect, it makes sweeping changes to the state’s absentee voting rules, adds new voter identification mandates and nearly cuts in half the amount of time for voters to request a mail-in ballot.  It also outlaws passing out food or drinks to voters within 150 feet of a polling place or too close to voters waiting in line.

These voter suppression tactics, while aimed largely at Blacks, will also negatively impact Hispanics, working mothers, the elderly, college students, and the poor.  I sincerely hope that the Justice Departments case wins the day, thereby sending messages to other states, but my best guess is that more lawsuits will be required.

Y’know … We the People have a lot of rights per the U.S. Constitution, but I think perhaps there is none more important than our right to vote, to have a voice in our government.


Late night host/comedian Stephen Colbert talked a bit about the travesty of justice regarding the For the People Act, as well as a number of other issues I’ve written about recently, and his monologue actually brought a laugh gurgling up from my throat, so I hope you’ll check it out and maybe you’ll laugh too!

R.I.P. Bipartisanship

I think most people see bipartisanship as the ideal way to get things done in our lawmaking branch of government known as Congress.  We’d all like to think that both Democrats and Republicans are acting in the best interest of the people of this nation and that they are taking their oaths to the Constitution seriously.  After all, we elected them and we pay their salaries, benefits and perks from our hard-earned money!  I, for one, have long felt that moderation and bipartisanship, working across the aisle, meeting halfway in the spirit of compromise was the best way to ensure that we are all served well by our elected officials.  Today, however, I honestly believe that bipartisanship is a mirage, that true cooperation between the two parties is dead, a relic of the past.  Whether or not it will ever be resurrected remains to be seen at some point in the future, but today, there is not a single Republican in either chamber of Congress who even understands the meaning of the word “compromise”.

New York Times columnist Charles Blow recently published an OpEd that addresses this and his thoughts parallel my own.  Sadly, this is the state of affairs in the United States Congress today.


Stop Hoping the G.O.P. Will Play Ball

June 20, 2021

By Charles M. Blow

Opinion Columnist

I am truly baffled as to why Democrats continue to search for bipartisan support that has not only been illusory, but nonexistent — with the exception of a predictable few and only on a few issues with them.

Democrats: Republicans don’t want you to win. It’s that simple. They want no successes on your watch, and they certainly don’t want to participate in said victories.

And yet the reports keep pouring in of Democrats bending over backward and gutting their bills in a desperate effort to win Republican support.

It seems to me that this has all been a performance, a going through the motions, a checking of the boxes, so that Democrats could say that they tried, that they extended a hand but were rebuffed. Democrats always seem to want to win the moral advantage, to say that they played the game with honor.

But that is meaningless when Republicans no longer care about that form of morality, when they no longer want to play the game by the established rules at all. Democrats are playing an honor game; Republicans are playing an endgame.

Republicans are in win-at-all-costs mode. They don’t really care how they sound today or will be judged by history. The only thing that matters is winning and retaining power, defending the narrative of America that white people created and protecting the power and wealth they accrued because of it.

As The Washington Post reported Sunday, “the Equality Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the protected classes of the 1964 Civil Rights Act alongside race, color, religion and national origin,” has stalled because of “sharpening Republican rhetoric, one key Democrat’s insistence on bipartisanship, and the Senate’s 60-vote supermajority rule.”

Last week, Senator Joe Manchin offered some changes and reductions to the voter rights bill called the For the People Act, changes that he could support and that he hoped would win some Republican support. His compromised stance was quickly rebuffed by Republicans. Manchin had also offered alterations to the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which seeks to restore parts of the Voting Rights Act.

But, as Talking Points Memo wrote, Manchin’s changes would basically gut the bill. As T.P.M. put it, “One of those proposed changes would decrease the attorney general’s ability to deem a voting practice discriminatory without a judicial finding.”

Politico reported on Friday that the White House will lean more on the bully pulpit as its voting rights bills grind to a halt. This includes engaging the public more, partnering with corporations and leaning on the Justice Department to challenge some state laws.

Politico is also reporting that Democrats are preemptively scaling back gun control legislation — pre-emptively taking the compromise position — to avoid a Republican roadblock that will most likely still remain. According to Politico:

“Democrats are preparing to vote on a scaled-down guns bill — most likely a curtailed plan to boost background checks for firearm buyers. The goal is to unite the party and pick up a limited number of Republican votes, even as their effort appears headed towards the same doomed fate as previous proposals to curb gun violence.”

Rather than continuing to peddle a false optimism that bipartisanship on most major legislation is truly possible with this Republican Party, Democrats need to tell their voters some uncomfortable truths.

First, the obvious: Even though Democrats have control of the House and Senate, not everyone in this caucus is fully committed to a liberal policy agenda. That means that the moderates, like Manchin, are the de facto leaders of the Democratic majority. Nothing passes without their approval.

It is these very same moderates who stand in the way of eliminating the filibuster.

And it is precisely for those reasons that very little is likely to get passed through this Senate that liberals will find satisfying. Democrats must brace for massive disappointment.

Furthermore, we are barreling toward midterm elections in which Republicans are optimistic about winning back the House and possibly the Senate.

I say dispense with the phony, wish-driven narrative Democrats are selling. Go down screaming and fighting. Much of the Democratic agenda may be stalled, but never stop reminding voters why it is: not because Democrats haven’t compromised enough, but because they could never compromise enough.

The current status quo is an unwinnable negotiation, because it isn’t a negotiation. This is a war. And in it, all is fair. Republicans have embraced a liar and racist in Donald Trump because their voters embraced him. They have excused and multiplied, in fantastical ways, the insurrection at the Capitol. They are rushing to write voter restrictions that also give them more say over how results are verified.

In the face of all this, Democrats need to stop talking about reaching across the aisle, compromise and common ground.

They need to go on the record and speak plainly: The Republican Party has given up on the idea of a true and full democracy. They are attempting to tear it down and erect in its place a system that reduces voter rolls and skews the will of the American people.

For the Republican Party, the success of democracy — that growing numbers of people could participate — is its failure.

Why is the GOP Against The For the People Act?

There are two major issues happening in Congress that the Republicans are hellbent and determined to block. One is the formation of a January 6th commission to attempt to identify all those who contributed in one way or another to the attempted coup at the Capitol on that day. The other is the For The People Act, a bill currently being held up in the Senate that would protect our right to vote, to have a say in our government. I’ll let Jeff tell you more about that one … thanks, Jeff!

On The Fence Voters

It’s far past time we start to hold the GOP accountable, especially as it pertains to The For the People Act, already passed as H.R. 1in the House, and S. 1, its mostly similar companion legislation pending in the Senate. It’s a simple question that needs to be asked: Why on earth are you against this piece of legislation?

Because once you take a look at it, you can only wonder what it is that keeps our GOP friends in Congress from supporting the bill. Because, folks, this bill will transform our politics for generations to come if it were to become law. And for the better.

The opportunity to truly remake our democracy in the 21st century is within our grasp. Failure to capitalize is not an option. Yes, we can talk about Senator Joe Manchin, if you’d like, because who in the hell knows where…

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The Filibuster, Explained

Many … perhaps most … do not quite understand what is meant by ‘filibuster’. Our friend Jeff’s post will clarify what, exactly, the filibuster is, its origins, and how it has most often been used. Thanks, Jeff!

On The Fence Voters

There’s been much debate in recent years about the efficacy of the filibuster. The Republican Party has used the arcane process to block specific meaningful legislation that would have been beneficial to millions of Americans. To be clear, Democrats have also used the filibuster; blocking judges or presidential appointees, for example.

But it’s time to take a look at what the filibuster is, what are its origins, and what important legislation it has stopped from becoming law. A couple of things stand out. For one, there is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that mentions anything about the filibuster. It’s simply a Senate rule that’s been in place for nearly 200 years. Secondly, the process was born out of pure unadulterated racism — a mechanism that allowed the despicable practice of slavery to continue being used, mostly by wealthy white land owners in the South.

To take a deeper dive into…

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