President Obama Stands Up For Teachers, Firefighters and Police Officers

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

By Josh Marks

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman’s new book “End This Depression Now!” has made him a popular progressive. His Keynesian ideas are as refreshing as mountain air after years of conservative deficit hawks punishing the American people and holding back the economic recovery with draconian cuts to the public sector. But while it is empowering to hear Krugman talk about how to really create jobs and grow the economy through government spending, many of us have been waiting for President Obama to go on the offensive and back the radical right-wing Republicans into a corner.

If his recent weekly address is any indication, Obama is getting the message. He is starting to pound away at the obstructionist Republicans for blocking his jobs legislation that would put a million teachers, firefighters and police officers back to work; and would put countless construction workers back on the job rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure — roads, bridges, rail, runways, broadband, piping, etc…

It’s working. In response, Mitt Romney actually came out against federal aid to state and local governments so they can hire back teachers, firefighters and police officers. Romney says “it’s time for us to cut back on government” by laying off more firefighters, police officers and teachers. And this isn’t just election year talk to appeal to the radical right-wing Republican base. Romney has a proven record of cutting the public sector and destroying jobs while governor of Massachusetts. In fact, when he left office the Bay State was 47th out of 50 states in job growth.

Krugman and other progressives need to keep the pressure on the Obama campaign to stay on the offensive about how public sector cuts are hurting the economic recovery. In turn, Obama can be emboldened knowing the people are behind him to box the obstructionist, do-nothing House Republicans and Romney into a corner and put them on the defensive for rejecting the majority of the $447 billion American Jobs Act proposed last September that would have put millions of Americans back to work and put us on a path to a more robust recovery. Last September, the President gave a speech to a joint session of Congress in which he mentioned “jobs” 38 times and repeatedly implored Congress to pass the bill right away.

And what was in the American Jobs Act?

– $50 billion on infrastructure projects and establishment of National Infrastructure Bank

– $35 billion to prevent more teachers, firefighters and police officers from being laid off

– $30 billion to modernize public schools and community colleges

– $15 billion for construction workers to rehabilitate foreclosed homes and businesses

– Expanding access to high-speed wireless service to at least 98% of Americans

– Funding Pathways Back to Work program for low-income youth and adults

Obama is right to go after the Republicans for rejecting the American Jobs Act. Pounding away at the GOP’s obstruction of this job creation legislation and telling the American people how public sector cuts are hurting the overall economy is the right thing to do politically and the right thing to do for the country.

Here is Obama in his own words in his weekly address last Saturday. This is the kind of message not just progressives, but all Americans can and should get behind:

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been talking a lot about America’s economic future. I’ve told you how I believe we should go about creating strong, sustained growth; how we should pay down our long-term debt in a balanced way; and most of all, what we should do right now to create good, middle-class jobs, so people who work hard can get ahead.

This isn’t some abstract debate or trivial argument. I’ve said that this is the defining issue of our time, and I mean it. I’ve said that this is a make-or-break moment for the middle class, and I believe it. The decisions we make over the next few years will have an enormous impact on the country we live in, and the one we pass on to our children.

Right now, we’re still fighting our way back from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The economy is growing again, but it’s not growing fast enough. Our businesses have created 4.3 million new jobs over the last 27 months, but we’re not creating them fast enough. And we’re facing some pretty serious headwinds – from the effects of the recent spike in gas prices, to the financial crisis in Europe.

But here’s the thing. We have the answers to these problems. We have plenty of big ideas and technical solutions from both sides of the aisle. That’s not what’s holding us back. What’s holding us back is a stalemate in Washington.

Last September, I sent Congress a jobs bill full of the kinds of bipartisan ideas that could have put over a million Americans back to work and helped bolster our economy against outside shocks. I sent them a plan that would have reduced our deficit by $4 trillion in a balanced way that pays for the investments we need by cutting unnecessary spending and asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little bit more in taxes.

Since then, Congress has passed a few parts of that jobs bill, like a tax cut that’s allowing working Americans to keep more of your paycheck every week. But on most of the ideas that would create jobs and grow our economy, Republicans in Congress haven’t lifted a finger. They’d rather wait until after the election in November. Just this past week, one of them said, “Why not wait for the reinforcements?” That’s a quote. And you can bet plenty of his colleagues are thinking the same thing.

I think that’s wrong. This isn’t about who wins or loses in Washington. This is about your jobs, your paychecks, your children’s future. There’s no excuse for Congress to stand by and do nothing while so many families are struggling. None.

Right now, Congress should pass a bill to help states put thousands of teachers, firefighters and police officers back on the job. They should have passed a bill a long time ago to put thousands of construction workers back to work rebuilding our roads and bridges and runways. And instead of just talking about job creators, they should give small-business owners a tax break for hiring more workers and paying them higher wages.

Right now, Congress should give every responsible homeowner the opportunity to save an average of $3,000 a year by refinancing their mortgage. They should extend tax credits for clean energy manufacturers so we don’t walk away from 40,000 good jobs. And instead of giving tax breaks to companies who ship jobs overseas, Congress should take that money and use it to cover moving expenses for companies that are bringing jobs back to America. There’s no reason to wait.

Every problem we face is within our power to solve. What’s lacking is our politics. Remind your Members of Congress why you sent them to Washington in the first place. Tell them to stop worrying about the next election and start worrying about the next generation. I’m ready to work with anyone – Republican, Democrat, or Independent – who is serious about moving this country forward. And I hope Members of Congress will join me.

Thanks, and have a great weekend.

No, Starbucks Cannot Replace the Need For Progressive Government

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Over at the New York Times, Joe Nocera recently had a column entitled “We Can All Become Job Creators” in which he praised Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz for two recent proposals regarding jobs and politics:

When last we left the chairman and chief executive of Starbucks, in mid-August, he had written a widely publicized e-mail lamenting the poisonous state of our nation’s politics. That led him to his first big idea: a call for a boycott of political contributions until Democrats and Republicans began to act in a nonpartisan way for the good of the country.

The idea had undeniable appeal. But it was also — let’s face it — pretty quixotic, fun to dream about but impossible to turn into reality.

Here we are two months later, and Schultz is back with Big Idea No. 2. It is every bit as idealistic as his first big idea, but far more practical. Starbucks is going to create a mechanism that will allow us citizens to do what the government and the banks won’t: lend money to small businesses. This mechanism is scheduled to be rolled out on Nov. 1. This time, Schultz is not tilting at windmills.

. . . .

Here’s the idea they came up with: Americans themselves would start lending to small businesses, with Starbucks serving as the middleman. Starbucks would find financial institutions willing to loan to small businesses. Starbucks customers would be able to donate money to the effort when they bought their coffee. Those who gave $5 or more would get a red-white-and-blue wristband, which Schultz labeled “Indivisible.” “We are hoping it will bring back pride in the American dream,” he says. The tag line will read: “Americans Helping Americans.”

While I appreciate Mr. Schultz’s efforts to think big, his two proposals are both highly misguided efforts that ignore political realities by working from a flawed pox on both houses approach.  The proposal to withhold campaign contributions represents little more than unilateral disarmament, as we can guarantee you that the Koch Brothers and other conservative sugar daddies are not going to stop bankrolling the GOP.  All having public spirited people stop donating to political candidates will do is to reduce the chance that candidates who present the best chance of us making progress in reforming the political system have at getting elected.

And the proposal to have average Americans giving money to Starbucks (and, presumably, buying a $4 caramel macchiato at the same time!) so that Starbucks can then give it to an organization that will hand out small business loans is flawed in a number of respects.  First, it is a highly inefficient approach.  Second, it amounts to little more than a drop in the bucket in comparison to the level of small business loans and other investments needed to getting our economy moving again.  According to Mr. Nocera’s column, 10 million Starbucks customers would need to give $5 each in order to leverage $350 million in small business loans.

Perhaps most problematic, however, is that Mr. Schultz’s proposal  encourages the view that we cannot or should not look to government to get our economy moving.   For example, Mr. Nocera refers to the government as a “nonfactor,” saying:

Should the government finance a sustained infrastructure program to create jobs? Of course. Should it give tax breaks to companies that hire the unemployed? Yes again. But with an election coming up, nothing of the sort is likely.

. . .

With the government and banks unwilling or unable, it’s time we took matters into our own hands. At this point, who else can we count on?

But this assumption that the government is a “nonfactor” that cannot or will not help the economy ignores the reality that one party – the Democrats – supports infrastructure investment, small business loans, payroll tax breaks, unemployment compensation extensions, and other steps that would stimulate our economy and reduce unemployment. The other party – the Republicans – are filibustering such proposals (even ones they once supported) and have failed to offer any credible jobs plan of their own. And the reason the GOP is doing this is that their number one goal is to try to ensure the defeat of President Obama in 2012. In other words, it is not that our political system refuses to take action on the economy.  It is that one portion of that political system – the GOP – is engaged in a cynical obstructionist ploy that puts their ideological and political goals ahead of the well-being of the American people.

In the face of this clear distinction between the two parties, we need everyone who is concerned about the economy to focus on getting the proposals in the American Jobs Act passed, President Obama re-elected, and Elizabeth Warren and other progressive Democrats elected in the Senate and House. Unfortunately, Mr. Schultz’s proposals do nothing of the sort and treats the political system as a “nonfactor,” thereby ceding the political forum to the conservatives who are doing so much to hold our economy down.

Yes, serious reform is needed and the Democrats are far from perfect.  But step one in getting the policies and reforms that are needed is to vote out the opponents of reform – the GOP – and to get folks who we at least have a chance of pushing to give us real reform – the Dems – back in, not pretending like the political system is a “non-factor.”

Occupy Wall Street, and the Voting Booth

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Yesterday we discussed how, after being ignored and then ridiculed, the Occupy Wall Street movement is now being attacked by conservatives and their media enablers.   The reason for such attacks, of course, is that the right wing is worried because the OWS movement is growing and gaining traction.  The list of OWS events in cities throughout the US and other countries number well over 300 and there are now more than 1,400 OWS meetup groups registered.  Top Democratic officials are voicing support for the movement, and some, such as Rep. Betty Sutton from Ohio, are joining particular OWS events.

The question now is how does the OWS movement weather the attacks and achieve real change.  Winning Progressive offered some initial thoughts on this question last week, but we’d like to provide further suggestions to Democratic officials, the OWS movement, and all of us on how we can shift the focus of our political and economic system towards benefiting all of us, rather than just the wealthiest 1%.

Advice For Democratic Officials:

It has been heartening to see leading Democrats lending vocal support to the OWS movement over the past week.  The movement is tapping into some significant and justified anger about the economic and political conditions in the US.  It is politically smart for the Democrats to step up in favor of addressing the reasons for that anger, and we hope that the Democrats can also find ways to channel that anger towards productive policy changes.

We have two words of advice for the Democrats, however.  The first is to resist the temptation of jumping to criticize the small number of OWS protesters who may hold truly radical views or who engage in ill-considered behavior.  Any major movement is going to have its share of outliers, and it is quite predictable that the conservative media will soon start trying to play a gotcha game of trying to get Democrats to criticize the OWS movement as a whole based on the action of a few.  In fact, conservatives have already been trying to infiltrate OWS rallies and the crown prince of fabricated right wing sting operations, James O’Keefe, has been trolling around some of the events.  Their goal is to distract from the validity of the movement as a whole by trying to focus everyone’s attention on one or two outliers.  So Democrats, please don’t fall for this trick.  Instead, focus the discussion back on the justified anger about unemployment and the declining middle class that the OWS movement is raising.

Second, offer some strong policy proposals to go along with your vocal support for OWS.  As readers of this blog know, Winning Progressive thinks that President Obama and the Democrats made the right strategic choice overall during the first two years of the Obama Presidency by making the compromises needed to get health care, financial, credit card, and other reforms passed.  But with the GOP now controlling the House and ramping up their pathological obstructionism, the economy continuing to struggle, and the elections only a year away, the time for compromise is over.  Instead, now is the time to channel the anger and passion of the OWS movement and shift the political debate by offering the kind of bold proposals that are needed to fix the economy and that could be passed if the Democrats regain the House and hold the Presidency and Senate in 2012.  President Obama has recently started taking a harder stance towards the GOP and his push for the American Jobs Act is a good first step, but far more should be done to offer bold solutions for economic stimulus, ending the foreclosure crisis, and getting money out of politics.


Advice for OWS:

The OWS movement has done an amazing job so far in growing from a small group of protesters in lower Manhattan to a loosely coordinated protest throughout the country and world.  The key will be sustaining the movement.   Progressive change has always been a long and hard struggle (that is quite rewarding when you achieve a victory), and conservatives are counting on us disappearing after awhile so that they can go back to ignoring our concerns.  As such, it is critical that OWS not become just the latest fad, but instead that we all remain committed to sustaining the movement over the long haul.  That does not mean we have to hold rallies throughout the country every day for years or even months.  But it does mean building enough connections and structure to ensure that participants stay engaged and are ready to make their voices heard again whenever the need arises.

A second bit of advice is that OWS needs to be about changing our political system, not rejecting it out of hand.  The anger at our political system that is motivating much of the OWS movement is understandable and justified.  But unfortunately this has led at least some OWSers to take a pox on both houses approach to politics or to suggest, for example, that we should refuse to vote for anyone until they commit to accepting only campaign contributions of less than $100.  The problem with this approach is that the political system is, ultimately, where the significant economic and policy changes that are needed will have to come from, and so we need to occupy that system, not spurn it.  Part of the success of the tea party is that those folks vote no matter how angry they are.  We need to do the same thing and especially by getting involved in primary elections where we can support the most progressive candidate that has a legitimate chance of winning.  Because, as we saw on Twitter recently, if the 99% voted it wouldn’t matter how much the 1% spent trying to buy politicians.

Advice for All of Us:

A key to ensuring that OWS weathers the attacks that it is facing, that the movement is sustained, and that we get real change out of this is for all of us to get involved in supporting and echoing the message of having a political and economic system that benefits all of us, not just the wealthiest 1%.  Here are five ways you can do that:

* Find an Occupy Wall Street solidarity event to attend in your city

* Donate money or food delivery to support the protesters

* Post your story and/or share other people’s stories at the We Are the 99 Percent tumblr site

* Write a letter to your local newspaper editor in favor of the OWS movement

* Contact your elected officials and let them know that you support the OWS movement and that you want action on jobs, the foreclosure crisis, and getting money out of politics

Weekend Reading List

Saturday, October 8th, 2011

For this weekend’s reading list we have a blog post urging progressives to fight for President Obama, an overview of President Obama’s job creation record, a study debunking the conservative myth that regulatory uncertainty is destroying jobs, a report about the impacts of Alabama’s draconian anti-immigrant law, and an evaluation of how job creation would reduce the deficit.

If you have any feedback on these articles, or would like to recommend an article for next weekend’s reading list, please let us know at Winning Progressive’s Facebook page

You Asked For a Fight - a post from blogger BooMan reminding all of us progressives that now that President Obama has answered our call and is taking the fight to the GOP on the American Jobs Act, we need to have Obama’s back

What is Obama’s Actual Record on Creating Jobs? – A ProPublica overview of the jobs impacts of the stimulus bill, auto industry rescue, and other efforts at job creation that President Obama managed to get past Republican obstructionism

Regulatory Uncertainty: A Phony Explanation For Our Jobs Problem - a report from the Economic Policy Institute detailing how businesses investment is sluggish because of a lack of consumer demand, not taxes or regulations.  On this same topic, also see Bruce Bartlett’s column Misrepresentations, Regulations and Jobs.

After Ruling, Hispanics Flee an Alabama Town - a report on how Alabama’s draconian anti-immigrant law, which was recently upheld by a federal district court, is causing an exodus of Latinos from that state.  

Portion of Deficit Due to Cyclical Weakness – an estimate from the Congressional Budget Office that reduce unemployment to 5.2% (it is now at 9.1%) would lower the projected federal deficit for 2012 by one-third, from $973 billion to $630 billion.

A Guide To And For the Occupy Wall Street Movement

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Over the past couple of weeks, the Occupy Wall Street movement has gone from a relatively small group of protesters in Lower Manhattan who were ignored by the media to a rapidly growing movement throughout the country that the media has little choice but to cover.  The key moving forward will be to make sure this movement is sustained and continues to grow over the long haul, and to figure out how to translate the energy being created into an impetus for real policy change in America.  For an in-depth discussion of the strategies for achieving these goals, we highly recommend this essay from Rich Yeselson at Change to Win.  For a more direct action focus, Winning Progressive provides the following three recommendations:

1. Get Involved

We urge all of our readers to get involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement.   Winning Progressive has to admit that we were initially skeptical about Occupy Wall Street, but as John Cole over at Balloon Juice recently said, we were wrong:

This may still fizzle out without any real change, but right now, it seems to be building, and the reason it is is because a small group of people went out there and publicly voiced their displeasure with the shit I’ve been sitting on my fat ass writing dyspeptic posts about for the last year, but not really doing a god damned thing to enact change. Yeah, it was some jackasses with a drum circle, and no, they didn’t have a point by point plan or coherent media strategy like some anal retentive douchebags like me were demanding. But they went out there and did something, and it seems to be working. Let’s hope it keeps growing.

Here’s three ways to help keep the movement growing:

* Find an Occupy Wall Street solidarity event to attend in your city

* Donate money or food delivery to support the protesters

* Post your story and/or share other people’s stories at the We Are the 99 Percent tumblr site

2. Establish Some Focused Goals

The Occupy Wall Street movement is motivated by the critical rallying cry of having our political and financial systems focus on the well-being of the 99% of us, rather than only on the wealthiest 1%.  But in order for the protests to achieve societal change, we need to identify specific goals by which to measure progress.  Winning Progressive recommends three such policy goals that are directly related to the underlying effort to reorient our system to the needs of the 99%:

* Addressing the home foreclosure crisis through cramdown legislation

* Job creation through economic stimulus, including passing the American Jobs Act and establishing a WPA-style jobs program

* Getting money out of politics by amending the Constitution to reverse the Citizens United decision and supporting Clean Election Laws

3. Get Involved Politically

The Occupy Wall Street movement is motivated by a deep and well-deserved anger at our current political system.  But it is critical that we channel that anger towards changing the system, not just rejecting it.  The tea partiers have realized this and have successfully channeled their views (with the help of billionaires and a compliant media) into establishing real political strength in Washington and state governments by moving the GOP to the right.  In order for us to ensure that the Occupy Wall Street movement leads to progressive social change, we need to work to channel the passion and engagement into changing our political system by:

* Making sure that you and everyone else at each Occupy Wall Street gathering is registered to vote

* Contacting your federal and state elected officials to demand action on stopping home foreclosures, creating jobs, and getting money out of politics

* Volunteering for progressive candidates in primary elections – a key way conservatives have moved the GOP to the right is by using primary elections to support the more conservative candidates.  We need to do the same for the progressive side.  So, find a good progressive candidate in your area to support.  Three candidates that we recommend are Elizabeth Warren for US Senate in Massachusetts, Mazie Hirono for US Senate in Hawaii, and Ilya Sheyman for Congress in Illinois’ 10th District.

Occupy Wall Street has put the critical issue of benefiting society as a whole, rather than just the wealthiest 1%, onto the agenda.  Now it is up to us to get involved in order to keep it there and make sure that we achieve real social change.   Let’s get this done!

Take Action to Support American Jobs

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

(By Asimo727)

American workers need your support. Congress and the states are considering several bills and other initiatives that would help our economy and our workers. Here are just a few:

1. “Buy American” Bill: This would require government agencies to purchase goods and services from American companies.

2. American Jobs Act: Decreases taxes on working poor. Creates work through the improvement and upgrading of public infrastructure, and by allocating funds to hire or save local jobs for teachers, firefighters, and police. Fully funded by closing corporate loopholes.

3. Regional purchasing preference ordinances: Local governments and municipalities would have to give preference to small businesses regionally before they go out of area to pay for goods and services or public work projects. Keeps tax money local and supports your local economy/small businesses. If your local government is considering such a move, support it. If not, suggest it.

4. Fair Trade agreements: Level the playing field for American workers and stop the race to the bottom. End NAFTA/CAFTA.

5. Employee Free Choice Act, Second Bill of Rights: Improve workers’ ability to organize and collectively bargain, Increase penalties to corporations who suppress or deny workers rights. Implement a corporate death penalty for corporations whose actions kill workers and for corporations who bankrupt and or steal from citizens.

6. Close corporate tax loopholes: This can happen at both the state and federal levels.

7. Buy American whenever possible and from a union shop when available.

8. Civilian Conservation Corps: Creates jobs to rebuild our aging infrastructure.

Please call or write to your federal, state, and local leaders to support these bills.

(Crossposted from Blogistan Polytechnic Institute (BPICampus.com))