Posts Tagged ‘Bernie Sanders’

Some Thoughts on an Election

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

Deepak Chopra ... with a message for post-election blues

Deepak Chopra … with a message for post-election blues

Some random thoughts upon awakening on Nov. 9, 2016. …

I know it happened, but it feels surreal. We just gave a petulant child control of the most powerful military machine ever assembled. Here’s the key to the nuclear weapons closet. Don’t use it. Not sure he has heard that last part. …

Remember when all those people thought it would be funny to vote for Sanjaya on “American Idol”? He couldn’t sing worth a lick, but he made it to the finals, all the way to number 7, thanks to Howard Stern and a joke website. Lotsa laughs. Sanjaya might have won if there weren’t some people with real talent on the show. … That’s it for now. This has to be a mental health day. …

OK, I’m back. It’s Thursday. Still surreal. Can’t think about it for too long. Deepak told me this morning – well, not me personally – that if I change, my world will change. Intellectually, I get it. My perception of reality depends on my intent and my awareness. if I want to remain sane and live with a modicum of serenity, I need to focus on things that I can do something about that will also provide some positive feelings  and shut out things that will do the opposite. Take care of my world. ……

I read that California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada voted to legalize recreational marijuana. That ought to boost the U.S. economy. Did you know California’s economy is the sixth largest in the world? Maybe it will put some DEA agents out of work, but that war on drugs hasn’t worked anyway. It could make that wall on the Mexican border unnecessary. …

wish I could say I’m sorry to see Hillary go, but I’m not. Worst campaigner ever.  She should’ve gone to Standing Rock. She should have fired Debbie Wasserman. If I  were a millennial, my intent and awareness would be totally focused on Elizabeth Warren in 2020. …

My friend, Ketchup Bob (he counts ketchup as a vegetable), told me over coffee Wednesday morning that at our age if we woke up in good health it was a good day, even if it was raining. That’s the kind of uplifting message he gives me: You’re old, but you’re here. Drink your coffee and be grateful. … Intent and awareness. …

I’m a few months older than Bernie Sanders, so I don’t think he’s got another run in him. But I think he’s going to be keeping tabs on a lot of people’s intent in the Senate for the next four years and that is a source of hope. Take your vitamins, Bernie. …

I’m not reading any political stuff on Facebook for a while because obviously nobody knows a damn thing. And it is not exactly a wellspring of sanity and serenity. …

Oh, I erroneously reported a couple of weeks ago that Soupy Sales had died. Well, he had, but he did so in 2009. Sorry about that. Sloppy reporting. Got it off Facebook. …

Moment of clarity: There’s no cure for stupidity. …

Starting to feel a little better.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Hillary, Beware the Cloak of Inevitability

Friday, June 12th, 2015

By Bob Gaydos

Hillary Clinton, why does she want to be president?

Hillary Clinton … why does she want to be president?

Having been dragged into the 2016 presidential debate a year early by the unexpected candidacy of George Pataki, I feel obliged to acknowledge the presidential ambitions of another “New Yorker,” Hillary Clinton.

Unlike Pataki, a Republican who carries the baggage of a man looking for a political party to support his aspirations, Clinton has long worn the cloak of inevitability as the Democrats’ likely candidate in 2016.

She may not want to get too comfortable with this bit of political apparel.

History suggests why. In 2008, the so-called conventional wisdom made Clinton a heavy favorite to capture her party’s nomination. All she had to do, it was suggested, was relax and let nature takes its course. After all, she had a well-respected Bill by her side in a reversal of roles, all the money they had amassed since he left the White House, a long list of wealthy Democratic donors and she had even won an election to become New York’s junior senator.

What more did she need?

As it turned out, a few things: 1.) a populist message with which voters could identify; 2.) a campaign persona that projected sincerity, clarity, energy and the possibility of real change; 3.) a little warmth; and 4.) a way to defeat Barack Obama, who, it turns out, had plenty of the first three.

In 2008, the inevitable was overcome by the unexpected.

Enter Bernie Sanders, 2015. The conventional wisdom — and even major news media, who should know better — are writing him off as an eccentric, under-funded, liberal — socialist even — senator from a small, New England state.

All of which is true, except for the eccentric part.

Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont, is running for the Democratic nomination for president. Unlike most of the Republican presidential candidates, he is no crackpot. He has a dedicated — and rapidly growing — constituency, fueled by the most synergistic form of communication yet created by man — social media.

In 2008, Barack Obama had it. In 2015, Bernie Sanders has it in spades. Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites offer a non-stop, 24/7 recitation of Sanders’ positions on issues that resonate with so-called average Americans:

Protect Social Security and Medicare. Don’t raise the retirement age. Raise the minimum wage. Decrease the wealth gap by taxing the rich more. Overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling that allows the super-rich to control elections. Fight global warming. Make college affordable, not a road to lifelong debt. Rebuild the nation’s infrastructure.

Furthermore, Sanders recently introduced legislation that strikes at the heart of Republicans’ so-called dedication to family values. His Guaranteed Paid Vacation Act would guarantee 10 paid days of vacation for employees who have worked for an employer for at least a year. Sanders is also co-sponsoring, with New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, The FAMILY Act, which allows 12 weeks of universal paid family and medical leave. This could be used to take care of a newborn, a seriously ill family member or to deal with serious medical conditions. Republicans are nowhere on this.

Sanders has also publicly criticized Clinton for not taking any position on President Obama’s TPP trade act, which Sanders has strongly opposed for its lack of transparency and a provision sidestepping congressional approval of new agreements.

This is not the agenda of a crackpot.

One of the knocks on Clinton has always been that she seems to feel entitled, that she should get people’s votes just because she is Hillary. That she should be New York’s senator just because. That she should be the first woman president of the United States just because.

Perhaps prompted by Sanders’ energetic campaign, which is drawing crowds and money to his cause, Clinton has called for universal voter registration — a knock at the numerous Republican efforts to limit voting rights in the name of fighting voter fraud, a phony issue. It’s a populist issue, but not one on the front burner.

Mostly, her campaign seems to be focusing on setting up a coast-to-coast organization to recruit workers and attract votes and money for the campaign against whoever the Republican candidate may be. That’s because the Clinton team doesn’t expect much of a challenge from Sanders or former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is also seeking the Democratic nomination.

O’Malley is also no dunderhead. He would shine among the GOP field of dreamers. Like Sanders, he has an air of believability. Sure, it takes a lot of ego to run for president, but beyond the ego — even the sense of entitlement — many voters like to feel the person who gets their vote really means what he or she says and will work like hell to make it happen.

Then-Sen. Obama projected that in 2008. Young voters, women and minorities especially rallied to his side. In 2012, he had a record that was strong enough to validate that commitment one more time.

So the question is, what would a second president Clinton stand for? Would Hillary be a second coming of Bill? In some ways, that might not be bad, given his management of the economy. But Hillary is no Bill, at least when it comes to campaigning. She can’t realistically change her personality, but she can articulate some views that demonstrate an awareness of the issues of concern to many Americans. Sanders has spoken on some, but women’s issues appear to be there for Clinton to claim. Also bias. Immigration. And she needs to challenge Sanders on the others if she disagrees with him.

Like any Democratic candidate, she enjoys the luxury of not having to appease the ignorati of the right, who distrust science, detest non-Christians, deny evolution and dismiss the poor. She is free to say what she really believes and, if it is in line with Democratic Party principles, she can do so without fear of losing primary votes. But she’ll need to take that comfortable cloak of entitlement off and show that she’s interested in more than wooing major campaign donors and renovating the family quarters in the White House.

Why does she want to be president?

Clinton has said, much to her regret, that she and Bill were broke when they left the White House. No one believed her, but, good for them, that’s apparently not a problem anymore. Her problem appears to be that every time she sets her sights on the Oval Office, some man gets in the way. First Bill, then Barack … now Bernie? B-ware, Hillary.

 

 

Living the Iron Lady’s Legacy

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

President Barack Obama slipped the controversial "chained CPI" formula for cutting Social Security cost-of-living increases into his 2014 budget, angering liberal Democrats in the Senate, the House, and progressive organizations.

By Emily Theroux

When Barack Obama introduced his 2014 budget today, one controversial item made it look more like the kind of austerity plan that might have been devised by formidable British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher than a fiscal proposal by a “stateside” Democratic president.

That’s because, for the first time, a Democratic president has dared to propose cutting increases in Social Security benefits — the linchpin of the American social safety net. His inclusion in the budget of “$230 billion in savings from using a chained measure of inflation for cost-of-living adjustments” broke a campaign promise not to cut benefits for current or near-term retirees. The move infuriated progressives, who delivered 2 million petition signatures to the White House yesterday, demanding that the item be expunged.

An Obama adviser termed the infamous “chained CPI” budget item a “goodwill gesture” to Republicans. The president himself, according to Politico, viewed it as serving “a tactical purpose” by proving he’s not afraid to “flout party orthodoxy.” Liberal organizations like MoveOn, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, the National Organization for Women, and the Campaign for America’s Future called it a betrayal.

I call using the left (by goading them into a heated public confrontation purely to score points with his opposition) unmitigated, full-throttle political posturing.

 

New formula would cost retirees $112 billion

Robert Reich

President George W. Bush, barnstorming the country to hawk his much-maligned Social Security privatization plan in 2005, got zero, zilch, nada for his trouble. No one was buying Dubya’s scheme to turn the popular entitlement program into a high-stakes casino.

Obama might have paid more heed to the lessons of recent history before attempting to foist chained CPI on the American electorate. This ill-advised modification of the formula for calculating the consumer price index — a “market basket” of goods and services on which annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) to Social Security are based — would result in what the AARP has understated as “not a small benefit change” for the oldest and most vulnerable retirees, as well as for military veterans.

As economist Robert Reich observed in a videotape last week introducing an anti-CCPI petition later submitted to the president:

“The idea is that when prices go up, most people substitute lower-cost items. So a true calculation of the cost of living should take account of this substitution effect. This makes no sense for seniors, because they spend 20 to 40 percent of their incomes on health care, and they can’t substitute lower-cost alternatives.”

AARP estimates that chained CPI will cost Social Security beneficiaries $112 billion and veterans $25 billion during the next decade. Because the formula compounds benefit reductions over time, it will result in an annual benefit that is “roughly $1,000 (in 2012 dollars) lower by the time a beneficiary reaches age 85,” according to AARP’s Josh Rosenblum. “Eventually, … beneficiaries would lose a month’s worth of benefits every year.”

For veterans, the cuts are even worse. “Permanently disabled veterans who started receiving disability benefits at age 30 would see their benefits cut by … $3,200 a year at age 65,” wrote AARP’s David Certner.

 

CCPI ‘an idea not befitting a Democratic president’

“Mr. President, the chained CPI is a cut to Social Security benefits that would hurt seniors. It’s an idea not befitting a Democratic president. If you want to reform Social Security, make the wealthy pay their fair share by lifting the cap on income subject to Social Security taxes.”

That was the message delivered by former Secretary of Labor Reich’s petition. On this side of the pond, liberal economists like Reich and  Paul Krugman agree with advocacy groups for retirees and veterans that CCPI is a raw deal for Social Security recipients.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher/Getty Images

Yet Thatcher, who died Monday at age 87, would no doubt have applauded Obama’s heartless formula. (Thatcher, Reich tweeted, “gave Ronald Reagan the courage of his misguided conviction.”) She didn’t cotton to coddling “the less fortunate,” whom she regarded, as many on the extreme right do, as moochers, malingerers, and reprobates. Baroness Thatcher would have been right at home with Mitt Romney’s opinion of the “47 percent” of Americans who, in his flawed estimation, “believe that government has a responsibility to care for them.”

Mme. Thatcher once opined:

“I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand, ‘I have a problem; it is the government’s job to cope with it,’ or ‘I have a problem; I will go and get a grant to cope with it’; ‘I am homeless, the government must house me!’ … They are casting their problems on society, and who is society? There is no such thing. There are individual men and women, and there are families.”

 

Even tax-averse millionaires hate chained CPI

Chained CPI has a single dubious claim to fame: virtually everyone loathes it, from wealthy investors to veterans, from aged “pensioners,” as the Baroness would have called them, to hordes of boomers on the brink of retirement.

Everyone, of course, except Thatcherites “dismissing Britons in need as parasites and wastrels” (in the words of progressive blogger Richard Eskow), like-minded congressional Republicans  — and, now, our own inconstant leader. The Barack Obama of hope and change has transformed himself into someone that his once-loyal liberal base no longer recognizes.

Our peerless 2008 presidential nominee, whom we hurried to endow with shimmering waves of potentiality and purpose, turned out to be a mirage. Like the Nobel committee did a year later, we pinned on Candidate Obama our most quixotic aspirations, as the seemingly interminable nightmare of the Bush/Cheney oligarchy neared its bitter denouement.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker/AP photo

But our champion inevitably let us down. President Obama didn’t prosecute the torture-mongers for war crimes or the Wall Street banksters for the financial crisis. He didn’t slip on that pair of comfortable shoes and march with union members protesting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s legislative assault on collective bargaining rights. He didn’t advocate single-payer health insurance, fight institutional racism, or battle poverty. He didn’t swoop in to advance gay civil rights or create a pathway to citizenship for immigrants. He didn’t close Guantanamo or reject indefinite detention of prisoners or halt drone warfare, but instead took their precepts to lengths no one could have envisioned.

Despite an impressive record of policy achievements, Barack Obama is not now, nor has he likely ever been, the transformative president he vowed he would become if we worked our collective asses off to put him in office. Home safe after his successful reelection; dissed and thwarted by GOP obstructionists so many times, you’d think he swear off any notion of a “grand bargain,” he’s still trying to burnish his bipartisan cred. The far right may brand him a socialist, but Obama governs, as many on the left complain, like a predictable, center-right Clintonian Democrat or a moderate Republican — not the progressive icon we so badly needed him to be.

 

Congressional firebrands take action

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders/AP photo

I’m not alone in uttering this heresy. The din of disillusionment has been almost deafening in the blogosphere and on Twitter for the past week. If Congress cuts Social Security by implementing this callous adjustment — a deliberate and unnecessary “sacrifice” that, as Reich points out, the Republicans haven’t even asked for —– Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, as well as members of progressive groups, have suggested there may be 2014 primary challenges to Democratic members of Congress who vote for it. As for the House, Representatives Alan Grayson and Mark Takano collected the signatures of 29 progressives who vowed to vote against any bill that includes Social Security benefit cuts.

Florida Rep. Alan Grayson

Did Obama at least mean well, before ascending to the tantalizing pinnacle of power? We’ll have to leave that question to history. No one can imagine, before the fact, what it’s going to be like up there, in that rarefied stratum that’s only been attained by 44 Americans in the brief span of almost 237 years.

In the words of the troubadour, it’s lonely at the top, and — as I’m sure the Iron Lady could have told us if her lips weren’t sealed against anyone’s ears but Saint Ronnie’s —– as magnetic as the polar north.

emily@zestoforange.com

A Question for Hayworth & Maloney

Friday, July 6th, 2012

By Michael Kaufman

Over the next few months voters in the 19th Congressional District will be bombarded by campaign materials and robot phone calls boosting two well-funded candidates, Republican incumbent Nan Hayworth and her Democratic challenger Sean Patrick Maloney. Maloney recently moved into the district from New York City to make the run and was endorsed by Bill Clinton, for whom he used to work as an aide.

In slickly produced campaign mailings Maloney trumpeted words of praise from The New York Times, implying to voters in last month’s Democratic primary election that he had been endorsed by that newspaper. In reality there was more criticism than praise within the quoted editorial, which ended with an endorsement of one of his opponents, Richard Becker, who had the backing of many local progressives—but was hopelessly outspent in this era of elections a la Citizens United.

In conceding defeat in the primary Becker said he was disappointed but he endorsed Maloney and stressed the importance of defeating Hayworth, whom he cast as supporting the “Tea Party agenda.” For her part, Hayworth has been trying to distance herself from the Tea Party extremists in Congress, with whom she was swept into office in 2010. To hear her and her supporters, such as Warwick Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton tell it, she is a true friend of local farmers who suffered severe damage from recent storms—despite her initial reaction that government assistance should be withheld until the money could be found by cutting the budget from another federal program.

She recently proposed relief for area commuters (but only if the funds come from the Affordable Care Act budget, also known as “Obamacare,” which she has pledged to repeal if re-elected).  But perhaps even more egregious is her stance on Social Security, in which she depicts herself as a fighter for seniors, even as she is committed to denying benefits to the next generation of seniors. Hayworth has been an unapologetic supporter of the budget proposed by Wisconsin Republican Congressman Paul Ryan, which would slash funding for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other government “safety net” programs—at  a time when they are needed most by millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet.  Or, as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders told his colleagues in a recent speech, “when the wealthy people in this country are becoming wealthier, the middle class is disappearing and poverty is increasing.” Now, he said, “when we talk about an oligarchic form of government, what we’re talking about is not just a handful of families owning entire nations. We’re also talking about the politics of the nation.”

Sanders could not have made it any clearer: “When you hear folks talking about Social Security reform, hold on to your wallets because they are talking about cuts in Social Security,” said the Vermont independent.  “Nothing more, nothing less.” The latest gambit, he said is a concept called chained consumer price index (CPI).

“The so-called chained CPI is the belief…that cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for Social Security are too high,” he explained. Seniors in his home state are incredulous when they hear this, he observed, which also may be said of seniors across the country, with the possible exception of Alan Simpson, millionaire Republican ex-Senator from Wyoming, who recently used terms like “greediest generation” and “geezers” to refer to Social Security recipients.

“Seniors back home start scratching their heads” when they hear about the chained CPI, said Sanders. “They say, ‘Wait, we just went through two years when my prescription drug costs went up, my health care costs went up and I got no COLA—and there are people in Washington, Republicans, some Democrats—they say my COLA was too high?’ What world are these people living in?”

In plain language Sanders told his colleagues that imposition of chained CPI “would mean that between the ages of 65 and 75, a senior would lose about $560 a year, and then when they turn 85 and they’re trying to get by off of $13,000 or $14,000 a year, they would lose about a thousand bucks a year. That’s what some of our colleagues want to do. Virtually all the Republicans want to do it. Some Democrats want to do it as well. As chairman of the defending Social Security caucus, I’m going to do everything that I can to prevent that.”

Seniors in the 19th district should know where the two candidates for Congress stand on this issue. Will Maloney if elected be aligned with Bernie Sanders and other progressives in the Senate and House who oppose all attempts to end Social Security as we know it, or will he be among the “some Democrats” who support drastic “reforms” such as chained CPI? And how will Hayworth answer when asked if she supports the imposition of chained CPI on the current generation of seniors? Their responses could influence the outcome of the election. The likely winner, however, will be the one who spends the most.

As  Sanders put it, “What the Supreme Court has said to the wealthiest people in this country is, okay, you own almost all the wealth of this nation — that’s great — now we’re going to give you an opportunity to own the political life of this nation. And if you’re getting bored by just owning coal companies and casinos and manufacturing plants, you now have the opportunity to own the United States government. So we have people like the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson. The Koch Brothers are worth $50 billion…and  they have said they’re prepared to put $400 million into this campaign to defeat Obama, to defeat candidates who are representing working families.

“You have the six largest financial institutions in this country that have assets equivalent to two-thirds of the GDP of America–over $9 trillion. These six financial institutions write half the mortgages, two-thirds of the credit cards in America. They have a huge impact on the economy. That’s not enough for these guys. The top one percent owns half of the wealth:  Not enough for these guys. Now they have the opportunity to buy the United States government. So that’s where we are.”

Sanders concluded with a plea that fell on many deaf ears in the Senate chambers but which surely resonate among many Americans: “What we have got to do is start listening to the needs of working families, the vast majority of our people, and not just the people who make campaign contributions. And I know that’s a very radical idea. But, you know, it might be a good idea to try a little bit to reaffirm the faith of the American people in their democratic form of government. Let them know just a little bit that maybe we are hearing their pain, their unemployment, their debt….the fact that they don’t have any health care; the fact they can’t afford to send their kids to college. Maybe, just maybe, we might want to listen to them before we go running out to another fund-raising event with millionaires and billionaires.”

Michael can be reached at michael@zestoforange.com.