It might surprise conservatives to learn that Democrats are better for the economy than Republicans, but that's what the Los Angeles Times' Michael Kinsley found 4/3/05 when he compared economic reports over the past 45 years that showed Dem presidents have consistently higher economic growth and lower unemployment than GOP presidents. Spending goes up faster under Republican presidents than under Democratic ones. And debt grows under Republicans because they do like to cut taxes.
Kevin Drum of WashingtonMonthly.com 5/9/05 found similar trends in a paper by Princeton's Larry Bartels that showed every income class did well since 1948 but the poorest did best under Democratic presidents. With a Democrat in the White House, the bottom 20% had average pretax income growth of 2.63% per year while the top 5% showed pretax income growth of 2.11% per year. Republicans were polar opposites, with overall performance worse than Democrats, but wildly tilted toward the well-off. For the R's, he bottom 20% saw pretax income growth of only 0.6% per year while the top 5% enjoyed pretax income growth of 2.09% per year. "In other words, Republican presidents produce poor economic performance because they're obsessed with helping the well off. Their focus is on the wealthiest 5%, and the numbers show it. At least 95% of the country does better under Democrats."
But Bartels also found that Republicans produce better overall economic performance during election years, "and they produce especially stupendous performance for the well off," Drum noted. "Democrats not only produce poor overall performance, they produce disastrous performance for the well off, who actually have negative income growth. In other words, voters aren't necessarily ignoring economic issues in favor of cultural issues. Rather, Republicans produce great economic growth for all income classes in election years, and that's all that voters remember." Drum's bottom line: "If you're well off, vote for Republicans. But if you make less than $150,000 a year, Republicans are your friends only one year in four."
In a followup 5/10/05 Drum noted, "Democratic presidents tend to promote policies that either keep income inequality in check or lower it a bit (Jimmy Carter is the exception), while Republican presidents pursue policies that make income inequality worse. ... Conservatives drive up income inequality because they focus primarily on the well off, which benefits only the well off. Liberals keep income inequality in check because they focus (or should focus) primarily on the working and middle classes, which benefits everyone. And that's the underlying reason that Democratic presidents are better for the economy than Republican presidents. If you keep the unemployment level low and middle class incomes growing, the rest of the economy will pretty much take care of itself."
BUSH PRESCRIBES FOOD STAMP CUTS: Last fall, there was a small furor after a constituent told then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle that the government was going to take away some of her food stamps if she opted into the new Medicare drug plan. The Bush administration assured Daschle that the concern was unfounded. Medicare chief Mark McClellan told Daschle: "New benefits ... cannot take away any existing federal benefits." Bush's USDA, which runs the food stamp program, followed up with a memorandum to its regional directors saying that it would ensure that "no food stamp applicant or participant who uses the drug discount card will lose food stamp benefits." But Tim Grieve of Salon.com noted that the assurances were untrue. The New York Times reported 5/8/05 that some seniors who take advantage of the prescription drug plan will see some of their savings offset by a cut in the food stamps they receive. The thinking is that if seniors are spending less on drugs, then they will have more to spend on food. A hypothetical Mrs. Smith might see her drug costs drop from $147 to $105 a month. But in recognition of this windfall, the government would take away $17 of her $27 a month in food stamps. The Bush administration says that Mrs. Smith still comes out ahead because "she still has $25 more cash in her pocket -- $42 medical savings, less the $17 decrease in food stamps."
BANKRUPTCY BILL, PART 2: If you thought Congress was through screwing average Americans with passage of the credit card industry-written bankruptcy bill in April, think again. David Sirota (davidsirota.com) notes that Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, is sponsoring the "Responsible Lending Act, which will cement into law the rights of predatory lenders who seize on financially vulnerable Americans who have less-than-perfect credit records. The bill lets lenders tack another 2 points in fees onto loans offered to people with bad credit. It allows lenders to charge penalties for paying off a high-interest loan early. It lets lenders hide exorbitant fees by rolling them into the loan. It limits borrowers' rights to seek recourse. And it pre-empts state laws that protect consumers.
COURT OKS COVERUPS: The federal appeals court for D.C. has given the government the right to cover up ineptitude and malfeasance -- and punish any government employee who tries to expose those government failures. Nathan Newman noted 5/7/05 that Sibel Edmonds, an FBI translator, was fired after she complained the agency produced slipshod translations of key terrorism intelligence before and after 911. The Justice Department's inspector general said in January that the FBI failed to investigate forcefully Edmonds's accusations of espionage and fired her in large part for raising them. Yet the appeals court on 5/5/05 allowed the government to waive the magic wand "state secrets" and bury the lawsuit. "The danger of the government covering up incompetence is far greater than the danger that national security will be compromised in such lawsuits," Newman wrote at nathannewman.org.
GOP JUDGE FILIBUSTERS DETAILED: When Republicans claim that the Democratic filibuster of some of George Bush's judicial nominees is unprecedented they are -- not to put too fine a point on it -- lying. Republicans filibustered the nomination of Abe Fortas to the Supreme Court in 1968. Sen. Chuck Hegel, R-Neb., noted on 5/8/05 that "[t]he Republicans' hands aren't clean on this. ... What we did with Bill Clinton's nominees &endash; about 62 of them -&endash; we just didn't give them votes in committee or we didn't bring them up."
Democrats have compiled a list of incumbent Republicans who participated in filibusters of Clinton judicial nominees, available at Rawstory.com. Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., who claimed in 2003 the Democrats "radically broke with tradition and precedent and launched the first-ever filibuster of a judicial nominee who had majority support," voted to support the filibuster of Clinton nominee Richard Paez to the 9th Circuit Court and, after debate was closed, voted to indefinitely postpone Paez's nomination. Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, filibustered 11 Clinton executive and two judicial nominees. Other GOP senators who voted to uphold filibusters include Allard, Brownback, Bunning, DeWine, Domenici, Enzi, Lugar, McCain, Santorum, Shelby, Specter, Warner.
Other Republicans blocked judicial nominees through other parliamentary tactics -- Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, blocked at least three judicial nominees -- or are listed as "never voted against cloture on a nomination," which in the case of an abstention, would uphold the filibuster.
SENATE SHIFTINGS: Rep. Bernie Sanders, a progressive independent from Vermont, is the odds-on favorite to pick up the seat US Sen. Jim Jeffords is giving up after Gov. Jim Douglas (R) announced he won't run for the Senate. But the GOP appears headed for a primary with corporate exec Richard Tarrant, who reportedly has made it known that he will spend $5 million to buy the seat, and archconservative Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie. National Democratic leaders are backing Sanders, who normally votes with Democrats in the House. A Burlinton TV station's poll 5/4-7 shows Sanders leading Tarrant (62% to 18%), Dubie (59% to 23%) and Maj. Gen. Martha Rainville (61% to 18%). DNC Chair Howard Dean apparently hopes to clear the way for Sanders, telling the Bennington Banner, "A victory for Bernie Sanders is a win for Democrats." (See davidsirota.com, politicalwire.com and bernie.org.)
Meanwhile, right-wing Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., is looking vulnerable to a challenge from state Treasurer Bobby Casey, who has opened up a 14-point lead in the race, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll.
In Rhode Island, Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R) had appeared to be vulnerable to a challenge from Rep. James Langevin (D) earlier this year as a Senate Democratic poll in January showed Langevin beating Chafee 52-32. But pro-choicers ruled out pro-life Langevin, leaving two other Democratic challengers: Secretary of State Matthew Brown and former Atty. Gen. Sheldon Whitehouse. A Providence TV station's poll 4/25-28/05 showed Chafee leading Brown 44-27 and Whitehouse 41-31.
N.C. CHURCH BANS DEMS: Nine members of the East Waynesville Baptist Church in North Carolina were asked to leave the church after they refused to support President Bush, WLOS-TV of Asheville, N.C., reported 5/6/05. Members said Rev. Chan Chandler told them that anyone who voted for Democrat John Kerry needed to resign or repent. Recently, at a church meeting, nine members were voted out, causing 40 others to leave the church in protest. Chandler told WLOS "the actions were not politically motivated."
GEORGIA BANS LIVING WAGE: Georgia's legislature last year passed a law prohibiting local governments -- such as Atlanta -- from requiring that taxpayer-funded contractor jobs pay a "living wage." Just to make itself clear, this spring the legislature passed and Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) just signed a law to prohibit those local governments from even giving preference to companies paying a living wage. "This wins Georgia the 2005 prize for the most anti-worker piece of legislation passed by a state government," Nathan Newman commented at nathannewman.org. But the Texas Legislature is still in session ...
PRIEST FORCED FROM 'AMERICA': Rev. Thomas J. Reese was forced out as editor of America magazine after years of pressure from the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the National Catholic Reporter reported 5/6/05. Reese's resignation after seven years as editor of the Jesuit journal caps five years of tensions and exchanges among the congregation, which was headed at the time by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, the Jesuits and Reese, according to sources close to the magazine. Among the choices the Vatican found objectionable were an essay exploring moral arguments for the approval of condoms in the context of HIV/AIDS; several critical analyses of the doctrinal congregation's September 2000 document "Dominus Iesus," on religious pluralism; an editorial criticizing what *America* called a lack of due process in the congregation's procedures for the investigation of theologians; an essay about homosexual priests; and a guest essay from US Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., challenging suggestions that the church should refuse communion to Catholic politicians who do not vote as a number of bishops believe they should vote. *NCR*, an independent Catholic weekly, noted that in every case, however, *America* published opposing points of view. *America* routinely published weighty pieces by prominent members of the Catholic hierarchy, including Ratzinger himself. Jesuit Fr. Drew Christiansen, who has served as associate editor, was named the new editor.
QAEDA CAPTURE OVERRATED: The White House exaggerated a bit when President Bush hailed the capture of a supposed al-Qaeda kingpin by Pakistani agents in early May as "a critical victory in the war on terror." European intel experts told the London *Times* Abu Faraj al-Libbi was not the terrorists' third in command, as claimed, but a middle-ranker derided by one source as "among the flotsam and jetsam" of the organization, the Times reported 5/8/05.
GOV'T TESTED DRUGS ON FOSTER KIDS: Researchers from the National Institutes of Health "tested AIDS drugs on hundreds of foster children often without providing them a basic protection afforded in federal law and required by some states," the Associated Press reported 5/4/05. The already vulnerable population of mostly poor or minority foster children was "exposed to the risks of medical research and drugs that were known to have serious side effects in adults and for which the safety for children was unknown." The studies are known to have spanned the country and the practice has been confirmed "in at least seven states &endash;- Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Colorado, and Texas -&endash; and involved more than four dozen different studies." A number of the studies resulted in the children "[suffering] side effects such as rashes, vomiting and sharp drops in infection-fighting blood cells." In a particular study, "researchers reported a 'disturbing' higher death rate among children who took higher doses of a drug. That study was unable to determine a safe and effective dosage."
UPHOLD BANK ACCOUNTABILITY: Three federal agencies have proposed more changes to the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) that would weaken the commitment of banks to helping lower-income communities, Amy Domini of Domini Social Investments reported 5/5/05. Under the new proposals, CRA exams would no longer look at how many branches a bank operates in underserved communities, and banks would no longer have to disclose data on how much credit they provide for community development, small farms and small businesses. See the National Community Reinvestment Coalition website at www.ncrc.org.
DEATH OF CORPORATE CRIMINAL: With Verizon taking over MCI, the telecommunications world has been cleansed of one of the worst union-busting companies in American history, Nathan Newman wrote at nathannewman.org 5/3/05. In the 1960s and 1970s, Newman wrote, MCI maneuvered through the regulatory agencies and courts to undermine phone regulations that benefited poor local phone residents. It also became one of the worst union busters in the industry, using lower wages and working conditions to offer lower rates than other carriers. "With its acquisition by WorldCom, MCI went on to become part of one of the largest corporate frauds in history. So this is a good day to celebrate."
CON TAKES ON PBS: Kenneth Tomlinson, close friend of White House strategist Karl Rove and an individual who has contributed thousands to fellow conservatives over the past decade, is starting to flex his muscles as chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting by "aggressively pressing public television to correct what he and other conservatives consider liberal bias," the Center for American Progress reported 5/2/05. Tomlinson hired an outside contractor -&endash; having neither consulted nor informed his board &endash;- to "keep track of the guests' political leanings on one program, *Now With Bill Moyers*." Although CPB was designed as an independent body, Tomlinson hired the director of the White House Office of Global Communications as a senior staff member. Then, while still under employment at the White House, the woman helped draft guidelines governing the work of two ombudsmen whom the corporation recently appointed to review the content of public radio and television broadcasts. The chief executive of the Public Broadcasting System and others in the public broadcasting community see Tomlinson's actions as a "threat to editorial independence," and one former member of the Board stated Tomlinson had "an increasingly and disturbingly aggressive desire to be more involved and to push programming in a more conservative direction." At a party last November, Tomlinson told fellow CPB and PBS officials that "they should make sure their programming better reflected the Republican mandate," but now dismisses the comment as a joke made in jest.
ARNOLD FLOPS: Eighteen months into his starring role as California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger is looking like Gray Davis-redux. His popularity has plummeted," the *New York Times* reported 5/2/05, and he has "retreated" on several signature proposals in recent weeks, including one to gut the state's public employees' pension system. Analysts attribute the public opinion shift to increased skepticism over Schwarzenegger's "reformist" tendencies -&endash; no surprise, considering the millions of dollars Arnold has accepted from powerful corporations despite his pledge to reject the "special interests who have a stranglehold on Sacramento." Arnold's skewed agenda has also led to "months of protests by nurses, teachers, police officers and other public employees," whom Schwarzenegger has said "don't like me in Sacramento because I kick their butt." On 4/29/05, critics seized on statements the governor made praising the so-called Minutemen volunteers in Arizona who patrol the Mexican border for undocumented immigrants. "President Bush has described the volunteers as vigilantes, but Mr. Schwarzenegger said he would welcome them in California," the *Times* reports.
TOYOTA BUILDS MORE IN USA: Toyota is finalizing a decision to build its seventh North American vehicle assembly plant in southern Ontario, Canada, and plans to start making fuel efficient hybrid vehicles in America, the Wall Street Journal reported 5/10/05. Toyota executives reportedly have expressed interest in a deal to share its hybrid drive technology with GM, its partner in the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. in Fremont, Calif. But a GM spokesman 5/8/05 denied the Detroit company was having discussions with Toyota about a technology-sharing deal, the *Journal* reported. GM is developing a hybrid drive system in a joint venture with DaimlerChrysler AG. GM and Ford Motor Co. are struggling to halt the erosion of their sales and market share in the US while Toyota sold 2.06 million cars and trucks in the US last year, up 10% from a year earlier. Standard & Poor's, the debt-rating company, downgraded GM's and Ford's debt to junk-bond status, citing falling sales of the sport-utility vehicles that have sustained profits at the two Detroit giants in recent years.
US GETS BILL FOR IRAQI CASUALTY: Belgian doctors have sent the US government a bill for $66,650 after treating an Iraq girl for leg wounds caused by a bomb during the US invasion, Reuters reported 4/28/05. Doctors brought 15-year-old Hiba Kassim to Belgium last year to try to save her left ankle, seriously injured by a cluster bomb that also killed her brother in Baghdad in 2003. After five operations and weeks of physiotherapy, Kassim is able to walk again, but with a slight limp. Bert De Belder of the humanitarian agency Medical Aid for Third World said he sent the bill to the US embassy because international law dictates that an occupying force was responsible for the well-being of the country's people. "I'm curious to know their reaction," De Belder told Reuters. "We're giving them 10 days to respond ... I don't think they will pay it."
CAFTA LOOMS FOR DEMS: Chris Bowers of MyDD.com noted that the North American Free Trade Agreement split the Democrats in the early years of the Clinton administration, passing the House and the Senate despite majorities of Democrats opposing the bill. In the House, 157 of the 259 Democrats (including Bernie Sanders), opposed the bill, while 102 supported it. In the Senate, 26 Democratic Senators supported the bill, while 29 opposed it and one did not vote.
"If there was ever a single bill that was bad for the Democratic Party, NAFTA was it. It passed with majority Democratic opposition even though Democrats controlled all branches of government, thus making the party look divided and without a clear message (which, at the time, clearly was true, and is an image we have been unable to shed for the past decade). NAFTA almost single-handedly created the Green Party in the United States, as it served as the anti-Democratic rallying cry for the anti-globalization left in the 1990's. NAFTA is certainly somewhat responsible for the decline of organized labor in the American workplace ... Thomas Frank has argued that NAFTA was a watershed point for Democrats and the conservative working class, as many were swept up in the backlash narrative as they no longer saw any reason to support the one party over the other on economic issues. And this isn't even to mention how bad the actual bill was.
"Now, the Central American Free Trade Agreement is on the horizon, and it clearly is time to see if Democrats learned from their mistakes. I have a hard time seeing how even Democratic free-traders could support this bill, since it quite clearly was written by the very corporations who stand to benefit most from it. Considering who wrote it, there is simply no conceivable way that this bill will contain an adequate level of labor and environmental regulations. This will result is such a severe de-regulation of international trade that surely even those Democrats who generally favor de-regulating trade will find this unable to pass the smell test.
"As much as any other bill in this session of Congress, CAFTA will test the Democratic Party like no other. Have we learned from our past mistakes, or will we be fooled again? This will reveal the soul of the party, and even if we deserve be become to be governing party again. The vote on this bill is going to be excruciatingly close . If we are going to truly tell the American people what we stand for and how we are different than Republicans, we have no choice but to present unified opposition to this bill."