Countdown Clocks

Countdown Clocks

Posts tagged "Government"

NOTE: One of the seven cases mentioned in this Think Progress article, Bond v. United States, was decided today unanimously 9-0.

h/t: Ian Millhiser at Think Progress Health 

The rightwing group Alec is preparing to launch a new nationwide network that will seek to replicate its current influence within state legislatures in city councils and municipalities.

The American Legislative Exchange Council, founded in 1973, has become one of the most pervasive advocacy operations in the nation. It brings elected officials together with representatives of major corporations, giving those companies a direct channel into legislation in the form of Alec “model bills”.

Critics have decried the network as a “corporate bill mill” that has spread uniformly-drafted rightwing legislation from state to state. Alec has been seminal, for instance, in the replication of Florida’s controversial “stand-your-ground” gun law in more than 20 states.

Now the council is looking to take its blueprint for influence over statewide lawmaking and drill it down to the local level. It has already quietly set up, and is making plans for the public launch of, an offshoot called the American City County Exchange (ACCE) that will target policymakers from “villages, towns, cities and counties”.

The new organisation will offer corporate America a direct conduit into the policy making process of city councils and municipalities. Lobbyists acting on behalf of major businesses will be able to propose resolutions and argue for new profit-enhancing legislation in front of elected city officials, who will then return to their council chambers and seek to implement the proposals.

In its early publicity material, Alec says the new network will be “America’s only free market forum for village, town, city and county policymakers”. Jon Russell, ACCE’s director, declined to comment on the initiative.

Alec spokesman Wilhelm Meierling also declined to say how many corporate and city council members ACCE has attracted so far, or to say when the new initiative would be formally unveiled. But he confirmed that its structure would mirror that of Alec’s work in state legislatures by bringing together city, county and municipal elected officials with corporate lobbyists.

“As a group that focuses on limited government, free markets and federalism, we believe our message rings true at the municipal level just as it does in state legislatures,” he said.

In December, the Guardian revealed that Alec was facing funding problems as a result of fallout from its backing of “stand-your-ground” laws, in the wake of the shooting in Florida of the black teenager Trayvon Martin.

The Guardian also disclosed that Alec had initiated a “prodigal son project”, designed to woo back corporate donors that had broken off relations with the group amid the gun-law furore.

The extension of its techniques to city councils and municipalities across America offers Alec the chance to open up a potential source of funding that might help it solve its budgetary crisis. There are almost 500,000 local elected officials, many with considerable powers over schools and local services that could be attractive to big business.

Alec makes the appeal to corporations explicit in its funding material for the new ACCE exchange. It offers companies “founders committee” status in return for $25,000 a year and “council committee” membership for $10,000.

By joining ACCE’s council committee, corporate lobbyists can “participate in policy development and network with other entrepreneurs and municipal officials from around the country”. In committee meetings, lobbyists will be allowed to “present facts and opinions for discussion” and introduce resolutions for new policies that they want to see implemented in a city. At the end of such meetings, the elected officials present in the room will take a vote before returning to their respective council chambers armed with new legislative proposals.

Nick Surgey of the Center for Media and Democracy, which monitors Alec’s activities, said: “It just wouldn’t be possible for any corporation to effectively lobby the hundreds of thousands of local elected officials in the US, which until now has left our local mayors and school board members largely free from the grasps of coordinated lobbyists. Alec is now trying to change that.”

One of the main criticisms that have been levelled against Alec is that its influence distorts the democratic process by giving corporations a handle over lawmaking. Similar fears are now being expressed about the intentions of ACCE in American cities.

Natalia Rudiak, a Democratic city council member in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, said she was “offended” by the suggestion she needed an outside body such as ACCE, which is licensed in Arlington, Virginia, to tell her what her community needed.

“Local politics in America is the purest form of democracy,” she said. “There is no buffer between me and the public. So why would I want the involvement of a third party acting on behalf of a few corporate interests?”

Rudiak added that she found ACCE’s boast that it will be “America’s only free market forum” patronising.

“If by ‘free market’ they mean weighing supply against demand in the best interests of the people of Pittsburgh,” she said, “then we are debating those issues in the council chamber every single day.” 

h/t: Ed Pilkington at The Guardian

=

Congress’s top budget negotiators have reached an agreement that would fund the government for the next two years—this time without the partisan rancor and drama that have poisoned budget talks since 2011. 

The $85 billion deal negotiated by Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray sets overall discretionary spending levels at $1.012 trillion in 2014 and $1.014 trillion in 2015, undoing about $63 billion of the automatic cuts for the next two years. Without changing the law, sequestration’s cuts will continue to get deeper, lowering discretionary spending to $967 billion in 2014.

The Ryan-Murray agreement is a notable break from the fiscal brinksmanship that has sent Washington lurching from one budget crisis to the next, most recently shutting down the government for 16 days in October. “This deal does not solve all our problems. But I think it’s an important step to heal some of the wounds here in Congress,” said Murray on Tuesday.

The spending increases to undo sequestration will be offset by higher government fees, and federal and military pension cuts. The offsets are also big enough to reduce the deficit by an additional $20 to $23 billion. But about two-thirds of sequestration for 2014 and 2015 would stay in place. 

The agreement is likely to come to a vote in the House before the week’s end, as the chamber is scheduled to break for Christmas recess after Friday and won’t be back in session until 2014. Congress must pass a budget agreement before January 15 to avoid another government shutdown.

Unlike in previous fights, Congressional leaders managed to reach a preliminary agreement ahead of schedule, and House GOP leaders say they want to avoid repeating the mistakes of October’s shutdown. ”While modest in scale, this agreement represents a positive step forward by replacing one-time spending cuts with permanent reforms to mandatory spending programs that will produce real, lasting savings,” Speaker John Boehner said in a statement.

[…]

The agreement preserves the $2.1 trillion in deficit reduction mandated by the 2011 debt-ceiling deal and reduces the deficit by an additional $23 billion. But the spending hikes and revenue increases already irked some conservative members and groups. “Heritage Action cannot support a budget deal that would increase spending in the near-term for promises of woefully inadequate long-term reductions,” the group said earlier Tuesday.

Liberals, for their part, aren’t happy that the deal preserves so much of sequestration, whose automatic cuts will continue through 2021. The deal also doesn’t include an extension of federal unemployment benefits, which are scheduled to expire at the end of this month for 1.3 million long-term jobless. 

“This agreement doesn’t include everything I’d like - and I know many Republicans feel the same way,” said Obama in the statement. “That’s the nature of compromise. But it’s a good sign that Democrats and Republicans in Congress were able to come together and break the cycle of short-sighted, crisis-driven decision-making to get this done.” He called on members of Congress “to take the next step and actually pass a budget based on this agreement so I can sign it into law and our economy can continue growing and creating jobs without more Washington headwinds.”

h/t: MSNBC.com

One reasonable way of looking at democratic governance is that it carries out the collective will of a society, especially in areas where the private sector can’t do the job or needs regulation to prevent it from doing harm. Of course, there are always many variables and points of disagreement, from the need to protect individual rights to the wisdom of each decision.

But something extreme has surfaced in modern American politics: an ideological hatred of government. From the Tea Party to libertarianism, there is a “principled” rejection – at least rhetorically – of almost everything that government does (outside of national security), and those views are no longer simply fringe. By and large, they have been embraced by the national Republican Party.

There has also been an effort to anchor these angry anti-government positions in the traditions of U.S. history. The Tea Party consciously adopted imagery and symbols from the Revolutionary War era to create an illusion that this contempt of government fits with the First Principles. However, this right-wing revision of U.S. history is wildly askew if not upside-down. The framers of the U.S. Constitution, and even many of their “anti-federalist” critics, were not hostile to an American government. They understood the difference between an English monarchy that denied them representation in Parliament and their own Republic.

Indeed, the key framers – James Madison, George Washington and Alexander Hamilton – might be called pragmatic nationalists, eager to use the new Constitution, which centralized power at the national level, to build the young country and protect its fragile independence. While these framers later split over precise applications of the Constitution – Madison opposed Hamilton’s national bank, for instance – they accepted the need for a strong and effective federal government, unlike the weak, states’ rights-oriented Articles of Confederation.

More generally, the founders recognized the need for order if their experiment in self-governance was to work. Even some of the more radical founders, like Sam Adams, supported the suppression of domestic disorders, such as Shays’ Rebellion in Massachusetts and the Whiskey Rebellion in Pennsylvania. Adams’ and his cohorts’ logic was that an uprising against a distant monarch was one thing, but taking up arms against your own republican government was something else.

But the Tea Partiers are not entirely wrong when they insist that their hatred of “gubmint” has its roots in the founding era. There was an American tradition that involved resisting a strong and effective national government. It was not, however, anchored in the principles of “liberty,” but rather in the practice of slavery.

The rest of the Second Amendment – that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” – was meant by definitions of the day to ensure the right to “bear Arms” as part of a “well-regulated Militia.” Only in modern times has that meaning been distorted – by the American Right – to apply to individual Americans carrying whatever gun they might want.

But the double-talk about the Second Amendment didn’t begin in recent years. It was there from the beginning when the First Congress acted with no apparent sense of irony in using the wording, “a free State,” to actually mean “a slave State.” And, of course, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” didn’t apply to black people.

The Second Congress enacted the Militia Acts, which mandated that military-age “white” men must obtain muskets and other supplies to participate in bearing arms for their state militias. Thus, the South was guaranteed its militias for “domestic safety.”

Madison’s realignment with his Virginia neighbor, Jefferson, bitterly disappointed Washington and Hamilton. However, after Jefferson gained the presidency in 1801, he and Madison joined in one of the biggest federal power overreaches in U.S. history by negotiating the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France – despite the absence of any “enumerated power” in the Constitution that envisioned such an act by the central government. 

With the election of Abraham Lincoln from the anti-slavery Republican Party, Southern states saw the writing on the wall. Defense of their beloved institution of owning other human beings required extreme action, which manifested itself in the secession of 11 Southern states and the enactment of a Confederate constitution explicitly enshrining slavery.

The South’s defeat in the Civil War forced the Confederate states back into the Union and enabled the Northern states to finally bring an end to slavery. However, the South continued to resist the North’s attempts to reconstruct the region in a more race-neutral way. The South’s old aristocracy reasserted itself through Ku Klux Klan terror and via political organization within the Democratic Party, reestablishing white supremacy – and oppression of blacks – under the banner of “states’ rights.”

There were, of course, other American power centers opposed to the intrusion of the federal government on behalf of the broader public. For instance, the robber barons of the late 19th and early 20th centuries used their money and their political influence inside the Republican Party to assert laissez-faire economics, all the better to steal the country blind. That power center, however, was shaken by the Wall Street crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression. Recognizing the abject failure of the “free market” to serve the nation’s broader interests, the voters elected Franklin Roosevelt who dealt a New Deal that stimulated the economy, imposed securities regulations and took a variety of steps to lift citizens out of poverty.

In the post-World War II era with the United States asserting global leadership, the South’s practice of racial segregation became another eyesore that the federal government haltingly began to address under pressure from Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement. By the 1960s, the South had lost again, with federal laws prohibiting racial segregation.

The momentum from these two government initiatives – intervention to create a more just economy and racial integration – helped build the American middle class and finally fulfilled some of the grand principles of equality and justice espoused at the founding. However, the energy behind those reforms began to fade in the 1970s as right-wing resentment built.

Finally, in the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, the combined backlash against Roosevelt’s New Deal and King’s new day prevailed. Too many whites had forgotten the lessons of the Great Depression and had grown angry over what they viewed as “political correctness.”

Over the last several decades, the Right also built an imposing vertically integrated media machine that meshes the written word in newspapers, magazines and books with the spoken (or shouted) word on TV and talk radio. This giant echo chamber, resonating with sophisticated propaganda including revisionist (or neo-Confederate) history, has convinced millions of poorly informed Americans that the framers of the Constitution hated a strong central government and were all for “states’ rights” – when nearly the opposite was true as Madison, Washington and Hamilton rejected the Articles of Confederation and drafted the Constitution to enhance federal power.

Further, the Right’s hijacking of Revolutionary War symbols, like yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flags, confuses the Tea Party rank-and-file by equating the founding era’s resistance against an overseas monarchy to today’s hatred of an elected U.S. government.

Amid this muck of muddled history, the biggest secret withheld from the American people is that today’s Right is actually promoting a set of anti-government positions that originally arose to justify and protect the South’s institution of slavery. The calls of “liberty” then covered the cries of suffering from human bondage, just as today’s shouts of outrage reflect resentment over the first African-American president.

h/t: AlterNet

On Sunday, economist Paul Krugman hit back against GOP claims that public sector employment has increased under Obama, and that such jobs consist mainly of wasteful bureaucrats and somehow count less economically than private sector ones. Back in September it was tea party Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) toeing that line, and this morning it was former Republican gubernatorial candidate Carly Fiorina.

The exchange commenced immediately after Krugman made the point that, had government employment in the current recovery followed the same path it followed under previous recessions in the Bush and Reagan years, unemployment now would be slightly above 6 percent:

CARLY FIORINA: I think it’s important to remember, when we talk about the economy, that a private sector job and a public sector job are not the same things. They’re not equivalent. I’m not saying public sector jobs aren’t important. But a private sector job pays for itself. A private sector job creates other jobs. A public sector job is paid for by taxpayers. […]

PAUL KRUGMAN: But when we say public sector jobs, it is not a bureaucrat in Washington, D.C.

FIORINA: Oh, it is, actually.

KRUGMAN: When we talk about public sector jobs — when we look at the ones that have been lost in large numbers in this — it’s basically school teachers. Don’t think about bureaucrats. It’s school teachers. What we’ve laid off hundreds of thousands of school teachers.

And when we talk about the cuts in public spending that have happened, they are not, you know, some god awful who knows what. It’s actually public investment. It’s largely fixing potholes and repairing bridges.

So, you know, you have this image of these wasteful bureaucrats doing god knows what. What we’ve seen is an incredible drought of basic infrastructure, and laying off hundreds of thousands of school teachers.

FIORINA: It is a fact that virtually every department in every organization in Washington, D.C. has seen its budget increase for the last 40 years. That money is being paid to hire people. The number of people who are — of course there are some teachers…

KRUGMAN: The vast bulk of public sector employees are at the state and local level. They are largely school teachers plus police officers plus firefighters. And your notion that it’s all these bureaucrats — that’s a myth that’s used…

FIORINA: It’s not a myth, it’s a fact. It’s not a myth, it’s a fact. We don’t have enough private escort job creation.

It’s a myth. Public sector jobs at the federal level have actually remained pretty stable over the last forty years. They began and ended the period around approximately 2.8 million, with a bounce to about 3.1 million circa-1990. Public sector jobs at the state and local levels increased significantly over those forty years, peaking at a bit over 19 million total when President Obama entered office. (They’ve fallen since, accounting for the decline in overall public employment.) But nearly all of that growth was in teachers and support staff for the education system, who now total nearly 7 million of those state and local workers.

The other major categories of jobs in state and local public employment are, as Krugman noted, police, firefighters, health care workers, and maintenance workers and drivers for the country’s transportation infrastructure. And the overall population of the country has also been growing, so even though the raw number of state and local workers increased significantly, the ratio of those workers to the overall population did not — 59 per 1000 in 1980 versus 65 per 1000 today.

h/t: Jeff Spross at Think Progress Economy

NORFOLK, Va. -– Mitt Romney will announce Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as his running mate on Saturday, according to two sources with knowledge of the decision.

Ryan is a bold pick who will energize the Republican Party, but putting him on the ticket is fraught with risk and instantly puts Ryan’s budget plan front and center in the 2012 campaign.

Romney will announce his choice in Norfolk on Saturday morning at the beginning of a four-day bus tour through key battleground states, the campaign said Friday night. The Weekly Standard reported earlier Friday that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has been asked to be ready to make the case for Ryan beginning Saturday.

Romney’s alliance with the 42-year old Ryan has become the most dramatic development of the 2012 presidential campaign. Romney had been presumed for much of the last few months to be set on a safe pick, such as Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), or former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

But now, Romney, who is 23 years older than Ryan, will signal that he is willing to roll the dice. President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign and Democratic political groups have been eager for Romney to pick Ryan, the architect of plans to slash government spending and overhaul entitlement programs that Democrats believe are political losers.

Both liberals and conservatives will be thrilled with Romney’s choice.

Conservatives believe Ryan is one of the brightest, best young faces and minds who can cheerfully articulate a case for limited government while simultaneously arguing that a less expansive bureaucracy and a revamped entitlement system is the best way to preserve government aid and benefits for the poor, indigent and elderly.

H/T: Jon Ward at HuffPo

downlo:

The House Appropriations Committee today called for eliminating more than 30 education programs, including President Barack Obama’s “Race to the Top” initiative. The panel proposed slashing the Department of Labor’s budget by one-fifth, slicing funds for the National Labor Relations Board by 17 percent and barring funds to implement Obama’s health-care overhaul. It would also withhold funding for Planned Parenthood unless it says it will stop providing abortions.

The provisions are included in a $153.4 billion measure needed to fund the departments of Health and Human Services, Education and Labor for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. The Republicans’ plan would amount to $4 billion cut or about 2.5 percent less than this year

Plus, these very same clowns have recently tripled funds for legal fees to defend the Defense of Marriage Act.

PRIORITIES!

(via truth-has-a-liberal-bias)

cognitivedissonance:

One in three U.S. veterans of the post-9/11 military believes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not worth fighting, and a majority think that after 10 years of combat America should be focusing less on foreign affairs and more on its own problems, according to an opinion survey released Wednesday.

The findings highlight a dilemma for the Obama administration and Congress as they struggle to shrink the government’s huge budget deficits and reconsider defense priorities while trying to keep public support for remaining involved in Iraq and Afghanistan for the longer term.

Somehow, I don’t think the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is the morale issue… 

(via truth-has-a-liberal-bias)

shizumataka:

 

Americans, I have some bad news for you:

You have the worst quality of life in the developed world – by a wide margin.

If you had any idea of how people really lived in Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and many parts of Asia, you’d be rioting in the streets calling for a better life. In fact, the average Australian or Singaporean taxi driver has a much better standard of living than the typical American white-collar worker.

I know this because I am an American, and I escaped from the prison you call home.

I have lived all around the world, in wealthy countries and poor ones, and there is only one country I would never consider living in again: The United States of America. The mere thought of it fills me with dread.

Consider this: you are the only people in the developed world without a single-payer health system. Everyone in Western Europe, Japan, Canada, Australia, Singapore and New Zealand has a single-payer system. If they get sick, they can devote all their energies to getting well. If you get sick, you have to battle two things at once: your illness and the fear of financial ruin. Millions of Americans go bankrupt every year due to medical bills, and tens of thousands die each year because they have no insurance or insufficient insurance. And don’t believe for a second that rot about America having the world’s best medical care or the shortest waiting lists: I’ve been to hospitals in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Singapore, and Thailand, and every one was better than the “good” hospital I used to go to back home. The waits were shorter, the facilities more comfortable, and the doctors just as good.

This is ironic, because you need a good health system more than anyone else in the world. Why? Because your lifestyle is almost designed to make you sick.

Read the rest of the article » here

(via truth-has-a-liberal-bias)

carpediem419:

Obama donated all of his $1.4 million dollar prize money from the Nobel Peace Prize he was awarded this way: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/12/us/12nobel.html

Obama visited more countries and met with more world leaders than any president in his first six months in…