President Obama’s Impressive List of Accomplishments

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

 

Over the past three-and-a-half years, President Obama and Democrats have successfully enacted significant progressive legislation and executive policies that have, among other things, created 5.2 million private sector jobs over the past 31 months, kept our nation safe and taken out Bin Laden, made a fairer and more just society, advanced gender equality, and rescued the American auto industry.  At stake in November 2012 is whether these accomplishments will be repealed by the GOP, or whether we will be able to continue to focus on moving our country forward in 2013 and beyond.

Unfortunately, the message of the significant progress that has been achieved so far during the Obama Administration won’t get out unless we progressives talk to our neighbors and friends, write letters to our local newspapers, and use social media to help keep other voters well informed.  In order to help our readers do so, below are links to Winning Progressive’s coverage of just some of the Obama Administration’s progressive accomplishments.  Please share widely.

List of 2009-2010 Democratic Accomplishments

Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Rescuing the American Auto Industry

Closing the Medicare Doughnut Hole

The Successful 2009 Stimulus

Credit Card Industry Reform

Fighting For Small Businesses

Ending Combat Operations in Iraq

Ending Abusive Health Insurance Industry Practices

Expanding Health Insurance Coverage to 32 Million More Americans

Making College More Affordable

Reforming Wall Street

2011 Health Care Reform Benefits

Eliminating Co-Pays on Contraceptive Services as Preventive Care

Challenging the Defense of Marriage Act in Federal Court

Rejecting the Keystone XL Pipeline

Finalizing Air Pollution Rules That Will Save 13,000 Lives Per Year

Increasing Vehicle Fuel Efficiency to 35.5mpg By 2016 and 54.5 by 2025

Implementing a Sensible New Immigration Policy for “DREAMers”

Obama DOJ Wins Significant, Though Not Complete, Victory Over Arizona’s Anti-Immigrant Law

American High-Speed Rail Moving Forward

A Good Friend of Labor

Obama’s Record of Support for Israel

 

Why Mitt’s Mendacity Matters

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Over the course of this Presidential campaign, we’ve learned one thing about Mitt Romney – that he is willing to say virtually anything if he thinks it will get him a vote.  A case in point is last week’s Presidential debate in Denver, where Romney told at least 27 falsehoods in only 38 minutes of speaking, which is an average of one lie every 86 seconds.  Whether Romney was talking about his tax plans, Medicare, green energy development, Dodd Frank, etc., virtually every major utterance by Romney at the debate turned out to have little to no connection to the truth.  And Romney’s performance at the debate was typical for him, as throughout this campaign Romney has repeatedly launched attack after attack on President Obama that are well-known to be simply false.  Over at the Maddow Blog, Steven Benen has a 38-part series chronicling the numerous falsehoods that Romney tells every week. And, of course, Romney’s willingness to frequently create entirely new positions on issues has rightly earned him the nickname “Multiple Choice Mitt.”

Romney’s nearly pathological lying matters for at least two reasons.  First is that our democracy can only function if candidates and elected officials abide by some basic connection to reality.  Our system is designed as a representative democracy, in which our elected officials make the fundamental decisions regarding how our society is to be governed but must ultimately answer to the people who determine, through elections, whether such officials get elected or re-elected.  But the ability of the people to ensure that the system remains representative is short-circuited if our elected officials deliberately and consistently lie about what they are planning to do or are doing because the public cannot really know what they are voting for or against.  And if a campaign that is as detached from reality as Romney’s is able to succeed, it sets an extremely bad precedent for even greater levels of mendacity from future candidates.

The second reason that Romney’s willingness to lie with abandon matters is that a review of our nation’s history over the past fifty or so years shows that virtually every major policy disaster has been based on or grown out of blatant lying by a Presidential Administration.  The litany of such disasters are likely familiar to most readers, but bear repeating:

* Gulf of Tonkin – In August 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson, eager to escalate US involvement in the Vietnam War, fabricated the Gulf of Tonkin incident, in which North Vietnamese torpedo boats allegedly launched attacks on US ships engaging in routine patrols.  President Johnson’s August 4 speech about the “incident” led to incredulous media reporting and paved the way for the U.S. getting mired in the war.  The result was more than 58,000 U.S. soldiers killed and 150,000 wounded.

* Watergate – President Richard Nixon’s willingness to lie and cheat in order to advance his Presidency and win re-election ultimately led to “a massive campaign of political espionage, sabotage and other illegal activities against real or perceived opponents” that represented “a brazen and daring assault, led by Nixon himself, against the heart of American democracy: the Constitution, our system of free elections, the rule of law.”  The result was a Constitutional crisis in which President Nixon became the only President to resign in office and the jailing of 40 of the President’s aides and associates.

* Iran Contra – Having been stymied in his efforts to US taxpayer dollars going to fund the Contras insurgency against the leftist Sandinista government that had come to power in Nicaragua, the Reagan Administration decided to clandestinely sell arms to Iran in exchange for the release of a handful of American hostages, and then use the proceeds from those sales to fund weapons for the Contras.

* The Lewinsky Scandal – While of a far lower magnitude than the other lies on this list, President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky and subsequent blatantly false denial of that affair to the American people opened the door to Republicans almost creating a Constitutional crisis through the impeachment of the President for only the second time in U.S. history.

* The 2003 Invasion of Iraq – President George W. Bush’s Administration told a cavalcade of lies to create an excuse for invading Iraq.  The result was the death of more than 4,40o US soldiers, an estimated 1.4 million Iraqi civilians dead, and a direct financial cost of more than $800 billion with indirect costs (interest on debt, caring for veterans, etc.) bringing the cost to at least $3 trillion.

Romney’s willingness to say virtually anything in order to get elected does not bode well for what he and the people he would fill his Administration with would do if they were in the White House.  We’ve seen from Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Clinton, and George W. Bush that the Office of the Presidency creates the temptation to lie, often with disastrous effect.  Now imagine what would happen with someone such as Mitt Romney for whom lying appears to be second nature.

Some may respond that all politicians lie.  But there is a large difference between the occasional shading of the truth or misstatements that  most politicians engage in at some point, and the type of pervasive repetition of claims that directly contradict statements made only days or weeks before and/or that have been widely and consistently debunked.  And it is this latter type of persistent and blatant lying that Romney engages in, and that raises serious concerns about what sorts of scandals or foreign policy misadventures would occur in a Romney Administration.

The contrast with the Obama Administration here is especially instructive, as President Obama’s first term has been essentially scandal free.  The $250 billion or so in direct spending under the 2009 stimulus bill was distributed with virtually no corruption or fraud.  The handful of times that there have been credible allegations of corrupt behavior by an Administration official, that official has been compelled to resign quickly.  The small number of Obama Administration “scandals” that Republicans have managed to cook up – such as Solyndra – have turned out to be big nothingburgers.  And a review of President Obama’s speeches and the White House and campaign websites show that, for the most part, the Obama Administration tries to do what it says it is going to do.

There are numerous reasons to re-elect President Obama. One of the biggest is the issue of honesty.  The Obama Administration has an overall good record with regards to honesty.  Over this Presidential campaign, however, Mitt Romney has shown that he does not even seem to be acquainted with the concept of honesty.  History shows just how risky it is to gamble with putting someone as mendacious as Mitt Romney in the White House.

If you share our concerns with Mitt’s mendacity,  share the Obama campaign video below calling Romney out for his lies at the Denver debate.

Scott Brown and J.P. Morgan Chase

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

(By Mark Bridger, cross-posted at ThatMansScope)

J. P. Morgan Chase recently announced that its trading desk had lost at least $2 billion in market speculation; the SEC has opened an investigation of this debacle (see background article here). As the old-time senator Everett Dirksen of Illinois used to say (in another context): “A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon, you’re talking real money”.

 

This kind of risk-taking is one of the main reasons for the fiscal disaster and bailout of 2008, and might well have been prevented had the language of the Dodd-Frank bill contained the strong form of the so-called Volcker rule, which forbids banks from trading with their own assets. (Or, even better, had Republicans and Bill Clinton not trashed the Glass-Steagall Act in the 90s.) One of reasons that the Volcker rule was watered down in Dodd-Frank is that Senator Scott Brown (R. Mass.) made its removal part of the deal for his vote in favor of Dodd-Frank.

 

For more details on Scott Brown’s work on behalf of Wall Street and against the full Volcker rule, click here and here.

 

It isn’t that being in the pocket of Wall Street is unique to Republicans — many Democrats are unduly swayed by Wall Street campaign contributions and propaganda. For example, probably a majority of Senators and Representative believe the myth that the government is inefficient while entities in “the private sector” — especially large ones — are in trim, lean-and-mean fighting (and job-creating) shape due to the forces of competition. This has been proved false time and time again. For example, the Boston Globe has been running an illuminating series by reporter Brian McGrory on the excessive compensation of Liberty Mutual executives (click here for links to stories in the series). A good friend of mine used to be a V.P. at CitiBank and told me similar outrageous stories about waste at that bank (e.g. flying execs to Thailand for a “conference” that could have been held at a local hotel). Or, read some (better: all) of Michael Lewis’s The Big Short about the behavior of investment banks before and during the economic crises of 2008.

 

On the other hand, Medicare, while subject to some fraud and overpayment, is a far more efficient distributor of healthcare than any private company in the U.S.: Medicare expenses for the same outcomes are lower, and patient/government dollars buy more care through Medicare with less overhead than do dollars paid through private, for-profit plans.Also, Social Security is the best large-scale social program that any country has ever instituted. Not only that, but both of these federal programs, Medicare and S.S.,  treat the people they serve knowledgeably and respectfully (I am one of them, and so is my mother whose account I manage). Could you say that about your bank or insurance company … or dishwasher manufacturer?

 

One other thing about Scott Brown: Although he is not one of the total crazies, he is still a Republican. His presence in the Senate helps his party threaten filibusters, and he can dilute important regulatory legislation as he did with Dodd-Frank. Even though majority supposedly rules, the Republicans (and the Democrats in the past) have used the filibuster rule to ensure that many important pieces of legislation never come to a vote — which in many cases they would win — unless they command a 60% majority. This requirement not to be found in any part of our constitution. This lack of procedural democracy is further compounded by the fact that the votes in the Senate do not even come close to representing the population of this country. After all, in the Senate, Wyoming has as many votes as California or New York.

The Parties Are Not the Same, Part 2 – Business, Banking, and Risk

Monday, February 13th, 2012

(By NCrissie B)

Writing for the Southern Pines Pilot, Walter Bull warns of the danger that President Obama poses for risk-takers:

The United States of America has traditionally been a nation of individual freedom and risk activities. That sets this country apart from most other nations and served as the foundation of a great, growth-oriented economic system that accumulated vast capital wealth. Successful risk-taking has yielded much higher returns than safe investments. Today, risk-taking is under assault by Obama’s tax proposals.
[...]
Ordinary income is income received as payment for employee labor or, in some cases, as payment for services. Capital investment, on the other hand, is made with funds that are generally made available after income taxes are paid. Capital investments are “risk” investments and serve as a storehouse for savings. Investment vehicles permit appreciation without taxation until liquidation.
[...]
Why would any owner of capital pay for a growth strategy when the rewards have been cut by politicians? The sound bite is popular in some quarters, but it is a recipe for stagnation.

It’s a familiar Republican argument. The wealthy are wealthy, the wealthy insist, because they take the risks. Ordinary workers don’t. Well, okay, ordinary workers take the physical risks. Like burning to death if an oil rig explodes around you. But Bull is writing about the economy and investors take the financial risks….

The BP ‘shakedown’

To hear Republicans talk, you’d think President Obama went to Al Capone University, rather than Columbia and Harvard. Consider Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX):

It is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown, in this case, a $20 billion shakedown.

Congressman Barton was referring to the $20 billion escrow fund that BP set up in June of 2010, after the Deepwater Horizon explosion that April killed eleven workers and began dumping 53,000 barrels of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico. That $20 billion fund was, in Rep. Barton’s view, $19.925 billion more than BP should have to pay under the 1990 Oil Pollution Act. That law, passed after the Exxon Valdez disaster, capped oil companies’ economic liability for spills at $75 million plus cleanup costs. Writing for the American Thinker, Raymond Richman suggested the BP escrow fund was an impeachable offense:

The president has no legal authority to create the escrow fund and no authority to compel BP to contribute to the fund. Forcing BP to agree to the terms of the escrow is ultra vires (i.e., illegal), beyond the powers of his office. Rep. Barton (R-TX) accurately described the slush fund as a “shakedown” (i.e., blackmail), a felony. If so, Pres. Obama has committed an impeachable offense. Congress itself does not have the authority to create the escrow fund retroactively. Congress will have no voice at all except to vilify any Republican who raises questions about it. All the ACORN employees who lost their jobs when the banks stopped paying “blackmail” to ACORN may be getting better-paying new jobs processing claims.

Economic risk-takers?

Tin foil haberdashery aside, the real issue was who should bear the risk of catastrophic oil spills, as Rep. Jeff Landry (R-LA) made clear while questioning offshore drilling company president Hank Danos during a hearing last April:

“Mr. Danos, you do a lot of work for shallow-water drilling contractors. Could you tell me if they remove the liability cap on the (Outer Continental) Shelf, the impact for those oil and gas contractors?” asked Landry, noting that most of those shallow-water companies are relatively small.

“My understanding is that if the liability cap was removed, that there would be more wells shut in and shut down, and less production in the Gulf of Mexico,” Danos said.

“So it would destroy the shallow water drilling industry,” Landry said. “Is that what it would do?”

“It could,” Danos said.

In short, the economic risks of offshore drilling are too great for the economic risk-takers who invest in offshore drilling companies. That risk should fall on government, or directly on the individuals who might be harmed. For Republicans, government should operate like a bank for individuals … and an insurance company for oil companies. And for banks?

The Emasculation of Wall Street

That is the title of a fascinating article by Gabriel Sherman in last week’s New Yorker, taken from a quote by banking analyst Dick Bove:

The government has strangled the financial system. We’ve basically castrated these companies. They can’t borrow as much as they used to borrow.

As Sherman explains, Bove is referring to the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, a complex and much-maligned law that, surprisingly, is working better than expected:

Of course, described a little less colorfully, reducing the risk in the system at a cost of a certain amount of the banks’ profits was precisely what the government was striving for. All this has meant that Wall Street’s traders have found themselves on the wrong end of the market – a predicament that many of them have never seen before.
[...]
A few hours before Barack Obama delivered the State of the Union address, ­JP­Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon sat in a cream-colored chair in his 48th-floor office, talking about the changed reality on Wall Street. “Certain products are gone forever,” Dimon told me. “Fancy derivatives are mostly gone. Prop trading is gone. There’s less leverage everywhere. Mortgages are back to old-fashioned conservative mortgages – which is a good thing.”

Reducing risk may be a good thing for the economy, but it has been dismal for the banks. All across Wall Street, financial institutions are suffering their worst results in years. JPMorgan reported last month that fourth-quarter profits were down by $1.1 billion. Goldman Sachs reported profits fell by 56 percent, Bank of America saw its profits drop by 38 percent, and Morgan Stanley reported a 26 percent drop.

Between the Volker Rule that bars banks from proprietary trading, regulations that require clearer explanation of risks, and the loss of public confidence, a three-decade business model for banking has collapsed:

“We used to rely on the public making dumb investing decisions,” one well-known Manhattan hedge-fund manager told [Sherman]. “But with the advent of the public leaving the market, it’s just hedge funds trading against hedge funds. At the end of the day, it’s a zero-sum game.” Based on these numbers – too many funds with fewer dollars chasing too few trades – many have predicted a hedge-fund shakeout, and it seems to have started. Over 1,000 funds have closed in the past year and a half.

Reread that last paragraph again. Especially the first sentence. Then ask yourself why Republicans want to repeal Dodd-Frank.

Then ask yourself if both parties are the same.

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

Mr. Cordray Goes to Washington

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

President Obama started 2012 off well yesterday when he made a recess appointment of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”). And, despite ridiculous Republican threats to challenge the appointment, Mr. Cordray has immediately gotten to work.  Today, the CFPB announced the launch of its non-bank supervision program, through which it will carefully scrutinize the actions of mortgage companies, payday lenders, and private education lenders to ensure that they are complying with consumer protection laws.  A second phase of the non-bank supervision program is in the works, and will cover debt collectors, auto financing, consumer reporting, and money services businesses.  And Mr. Cordray has vowed not to let Republican squawking slow him down, and has outlined steps the CFPB is taking to crack down on illegal financial activity.

The CFPB and the appointment of Richard Cordray is a real progressive victory delivered by the Obama Administration.  Created by one of the core provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that the Democratic Congress passed in 2010, the CFPB is providing the American people with a long-needed federal regulatory watchdog over some of the sleaziest business sectors, including payday lenders, credit card companies, credit counseling entities, and subprime mortgage lenders.  For far too long, vast portions of the American middle class are being squeezed by unfettered financial service companies that have used all sorts of unscrupulous tactics to maximize profits.   The CFPB is charged with changing this dynamic by enforcing a wide array of consumer protections, including the credit card industry reforms signed by President Obama, and consolidating enforcement of consumer protections that are currently handled by seven different agencies.  The CFPB’s goal is to make the pricing and risks of financial products offered by these entities much clearer and fairer to the American public so that payday lenders, etc. are no longer able to prey on the most financially vulnerable among us.

And Mr. Cordray is a great choice for leading the CFPB, as he has a proven track record of fighting for working families.  For example, in his time as Ohio Attorney General, Cordray was at the forefront of efforts to hold Wall Street accountable for the economic debacle that they created. Faced with widespread foreclosures, declines in pensions, and increases in unemployment due to the casino-like atmosphere that overtook Wall Street, Cordray sought to recover funds from the Wall Street banksters whose fraudulent practices created those problems. And Cordray was successful, as the New York Times explains:

Mr. Cordray in two years in office has demonstrated a willingness to sue early and often, filing lawsuits against global financial houses, rating agencies, subprime lenders and foreclosure scammers. He has wrested about $2 billion so far, a string of gilded pelts: a $475 million Merrill Lynch settlement, $400 million from Marsh & McLennan and $725 million from the American International Group.
. . . .
His office has returned money to investors, pension funds, schools and cities. And he has directed millions to agencies fighting foreclosure.

Yesterday, President Obama and Mr. Cordray met with one of the families in Ohio that were helped by Cordray’s work – William and Enida Eason. As President Obama explained at his speech yesterday announcing Mr. Cordray’s appointment:

If you’re a senior, Richard is going to help make sure you don’t lose your home or your retirement because somebody saw you as an easier target.  And that’s what happened to the Easons.  Endia, who I think is here — Ms. Eason, are you here?  You’re somewhere here.  There’s — Ms. Eason is down there.  Ninety-one years old.   And as I mentioned, Ms. Eason’s husband, William, is a former Marine — also a former boxer.  So don’t mess with him.

And I just want to repeat, 10 years ago they were approached by a broker who offered them a loan to make needed repairs on their home; made everything sound easy.  The Easons agreed.  Broker ended up disappearing.  They get left with $80,000 in debt, almost lose their home.  They didn’t lose it because of the intervention of some terrific non-for-profits that Richard, when he was treasurer here in Ohio, helped to support.

Now, the Easons are good people.  They’re what America is all about.  They worked hard.  They served their country.  They saved their money.  They didn’t live high on the hog.  It’s a modest house.  They earned the right to retire with dignity and with respect, and they shouldn’t have to worry about being tricked by somebody who’s out to make a quick buck.  And they need somebody who is going to stand up for them, and millions of Americans need somebody who is going to look out for their interests.  And that person is Richard Cordray.

The recess appointment of Mr. Cordray was also encouraging for progressives because it is a great example of President Obama taking the fight to the GOP.  For the past year and a half, the GOP has managed to prevent the CFPB from doing its job by filibustering Obama’s nominees (first Elizabeth Warren and then Richard Cordray).  Yesterday’s recess appointment makes clear that enough is enough, and taunts the GOP to choose a high profile battle over recess appointments over an agency that has strong public support and on an issue of economic justice that the GOP is plainly on the wrong side of.  And, by waiting to make the appointment until yesterday, when the second session of the 112th Congress officially began, President Obama ensured that Cordray’s appointment would last until the end of 2013, rather than until the end of this year.

Finally, some progressives were disappointed last summer when President Obama decided to withdraw his nomination of Elizabeth Warren for the CFPB director post and to instead nominate Mr. Cordray.  But, as we noted at the time, this decision has given us progressives a two-fer – a great director of the CFPB and a great Senate candidate in Massachusetts to replace Republican Scott Brown.

We progressives should help support these great developments by:

- writing a letter to your local newspaper editor explaining why you support the CFPB and Mr. Cordray

- contacting your Senators and the White House in support of Mr. Cordray’s appointment

- supporting Ms. Warren’s Senate campaign, so that the CFPB and consumers will have a strong voice in the Senate starting in 2013.

.

Let’s Keep Our Eyes on the Prize, Folks

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Yesterday, President Obama nominated former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to be director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“Bureau”). Many on the left are upset with the President over this pick, arguing that he has sold progressives out by not nominating Elizabeth Warren. See, for example, the comments regarding the nomination at FireDogLake and AMERICAblog. While we are disappointed that Warren wasn’t nominated, the vitriol being directed towards President Obama on this issue is highly misguided and counter productive for at least three reasons.

First, as we discussed previously, Cordray is a very strong choice to lead the Bureau. As Warren herself said in a statement supporting Cordray’s nomination:

Rich will be a strong leader for this agency. He has a proven track record of fighting for families during his time as head of the CFPB enforcement division, as Attorney General of Ohio, and throughout his career. He was one of the first senior executives I recruited for the agency, and his hard work and deep commitment make it clear he can make many important contributions in leading it. Rich is smart, he is tough, and he will make a stellar Director. I am very pleased for him and very pleased for the CFPB.

Second, the decision was strategically smart because it allows Warren to run for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, where she has a good chance to unseat sitting Republican Senator Scott Brown. Go here to support the effort to draft Warren to run for Senate.

Third, and most importantly, the attacks on President Obama distract us from fighting the real enemies of financial reform and consumer protection – the Republicans and the Wall Street interests who are bankrolling them. As the New York Times has detailed, there are twelve separate bills pending in Congress seeking to weaken the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill that, among other things, created the Bureau, and banking and business interests have spent $50 million this year trying to undermine Dodd-Frank. As President Obama explained in announcing the nomination of Cordray:

There is an army of lobbyists and lawyers right now working to water down the protections and the reforms that we passed. They’ve already spent tens of millions of dollars this year to try to weaken the laws that are designed to protect consumers. And they’ve got allies in Congress who are trying to undo the progress that we’ve made. We’re not going to let that happen.

The fact is the financial crisis and the recession were not the result of normal economic cycles or just a run of bad luck. They were abuses and there was a lack of smart regulations. So we’re not just going to shrug our shoulders and hope it doesn’t happen again. We’re not going to go back to the status quo where consumers couldn’t count on getting protections that they deserved. We’re not going to go back to a time when our whole economy was vulnerable to a massive financial crisis. That’s why reform matters. That’s why this bureau matters. I will fight any efforts to repeal or undermine the important changes that we passed. And we are going to stand up this bureau and make sure it is doing the right thing for middle-class families all across the country.

As progressives, we should be focusing on defending Dodd-Frank and fighting back against the tens of millions of dollars in special interest money aimed at destroying consumer protections and financial reform, not attacking our President over his decision to select one qualified nominee over another.

If you’d like to help make sure we progressives keep our eyes on the prize of financial reform, please “Share” this post, contact your Senators in support of the nomination of Cordray, and write a letter to your local newspaper supporting financial reform against the onslaught of lobbyist money that is being used to attack reform.