Public Sector Millionaires Wage Class Warfare on Poor

For your Friday watching pleasure, watch a Democratic Congresswoman explain the rank hypocrisy of her Republican colleagues who lead lifestyles of the rich and famous on a sub-$200k salary thanks to lobbyists, etc. As these public sector millionaires (like Chris Collins) work to cut food stamps and do further harm to America’s working poor, including eliminating SNAP benefits for veterans. (Brian Higgins voted against it.)

In my district, California 14, we have about 4,000 families who are on food stamps, but some of my colleagues have thousands and thousands more,” said Speier. “Yet, they somehow feel like crusaders, like heroes when they vote to cut food stamps. Some of these same members travel to foreign countries under the guise of official business. They dine at lavish restaurants, eating steak, vodka and even caviar. They receive money to do this. That’s right, they don’t pay out of pocket for these meals.

Let me give you a few examples: One member was given $127.41 a day for food on his trip to Argentina. He probably had a fair amount of steak.

Another member was given $3,588 for food and lodging during a six-day trip to Russia. He probably drank a fair amount of vodka and probably even had some caviar. That particular member has 21,000 food stamp recipients in his district. One of those people who is on food stamps could live a year on what this congressman spent on food and lodging for six days.

Another 20 members made a trip to Dublin, Ireland. They got $166 a day for food.These members didn’t pay a dime. They received almost $200 for a single meal only for themselves. Yet, for them the idea of helping fellow Americans spend less than $5 a day makes their skin crawl. The families of veterans, of farmers, of the disabled, of the working poor are not visible to them, not even when they are their own constituents.

The Republican House of Representatives voted to literally take food away from working people. It now moves on to the Senate, where the bill will die a swift death. The balls on these guys.

Public Sector Millionaires Wage Class Warfare on Poor

For your Friday watching pleasure, watch a Democratic Congresswoman explain the rank hypocrisy of her Republican colleagues who lead lifestyles of the rich and famous on a sub-$200k salary thanks to lobbyists, etc. As these public sector millionaires (like Chris Collins) work to cut food stamps and do further harm to America’s working poor, including eliminating SNAP benefits for veterans. (Brian Higgins voted against it.)

In my district, California 14, we have about 4,000 families who are on food stamps, but some of my colleagues have thousands and thousands more,” said Speier. “Yet, they somehow feel like crusaders, like heroes when they vote to cut food stamps. Some of these same members travel to foreign countries under the guise of official business. They dine at lavish restaurants, eating steak, vodka and even caviar. They receive money to do this. That’s right, they don’t pay out of pocket for these meals.

Let me give you a few examples: One member was given $127.41 a day for food on his trip to Argentina. He probably had a fair amount of steak.

Another member was given $3,588 for food and lodging during a six-day trip to Russia. He probably drank a fair amount of vodka and probably even had some caviar. That particular member has 21,000 food stamp recipients in his district. One of those people who is on food stamps could live a year on what this congressman spent on food and lodging for six days.

Another 20 members made a trip to Dublin, Ireland. They got $166 a day for food.These members didn’t pay a dime. They received almost $200 for a single meal only for themselves. Yet, for them the idea of helping fellow Americans spend less than $5 a day makes their skin crawl. The families of veterans, of farmers, of the disabled, of the working poor are not visible to them, not even when they are their own constituents.

The Republican House of Representatives voted to literally take food away from working people. It now moves on to the Senate, where the bill will die a swift death. The balls on these guys. 

Trolling #POTUSBuffalo and What Government Is

 Some showed class. Some were absent. Others descended into a weird, anachronistic madness. It was a weird day. 

Let’s recall that the only times a member of the Bush Administration deigned to visit our fair city, it was Richard “Dick” Cheney coming in 2003 to collect big money from deep pockets – $1,000 per plate, and Bush in 2004 to a carefully selected crowd to defend the Patriot Act.  Cheney cost the city $10,000 in police overtime and avoided contact with non-wealthy non-Republicans at all cost. I don’t recall what, if anything, the Democrats did or said in reaction to those visits, but suffice it to say that Cheney wasn’t here for anything except raising money for re-election, and Bush only saw the Buffalonians he needed to see. 

Some Republicans showed class. 

 

There was the time the President forgot who the Mayor of Buffalo was.

(Byron Brown’s Democratic opponent capitalized on this moment:)

Then there was everything else.

Obama has come to town twice. Once in 2010, and this Thursday. He came to town specifically to announce a new initiative to guarantee that American kids who want a college education can get a quality one that is affordable. 

In 2010, he came to talk about manufacturing. Everyone was there – Congressman Chris Lee, County Executive Chris Collins included. 

In 2013, he came to talk about education. Chris Collins was nowhere to be seen. I’m told he wasn’t invited. In just one short year, the Collins district has gone from Kathy Hochul having the President’s ear and the district having clout, to an angry Obamaphobe congressman who votes to repeal Obamacare, because his singular issue is to deny families access to quality, affordable health insurance. The 27th Congressional District has a disgrace for a representative – a person who seeks to harm, not help, families. 

When I first started writing this post late Thursday, it was going to be a profanity-laden rant against the Erie County Republican Committee, which released what is probably the dumbest statement, ever. It compared President Obama to, of all people, Jimmy Carter – a punchline from 35 years ago. 

Erie County GOP Trolls

Erie County GOP Trolls

But I decided not to. I realized they were trolling us. To rant and curse would suggest that there was some legitimacy to anything the local Republican Party has to say about anything. There isn’t, so I haven’t. Simply put, anyone who would knowingly compare the economic crises (plural) of the Carter era to 2013 America is either a party hack or someone who wasn’t alive during the Carter era;  Erie County Republican chairman Nick Langworthy is both. 

Evoking Jimmy Carter is a sign of fundamental weakness; the Republicans had to skulk back 35 years to find a Democratic President who had a bad economic time of it. Were they out of Paula Jones jokes? In 2013, We don’t gave gas lines, OPEC isn’t bothering anyone, inflation isn’t 13%, unemployment isn’t in the double-digits, and we don’t have crazy high interest rates on borrowing. All of those things were true in the closing months of Carter’s presidency. Operation Neptune Spear succeeded while  Operation Eagle Claw failed. There is really no comparison to be had. 

Why the Carter troll? Because after him came Reagan, who is godlike among Republicans. They think that Reagan fixed the economy in perpetuity by ushering in supply-side, trickle-down economics.  Both parties had until recently clung to the trickle-down theory as gospel truth, yet in the last 30 years wages have stagnated, the middle class is bearing the brunt of payoffs to the very rich, and the lot of the average American family has been made worse so that people like the Kardashians and Kochs can pay lower taxes. 

Why the Carter troll? Because it’s stupid and they’ve got nothing. Bush’s recession was the worst since World War 2 in terms of overall economic shrinkage. The worst. So, the numbers now seem catastrophic as we try to undo the damage. Facts being facts, WNY didn’t do so well under Reagan, either. Or Bush 1. Or Bush 2. Or Clinton. Why the Carter troll? They point to figures showing that the number of people participating in the labor market has shrunk to 1980 levels. The problem is that no one really knows what’s behind that. The pinkos over at the Wall Street Journal suggest that the labor participation rate was shrinking even during low unemployment of the Bush 2 years, because of the commencement of baby boomer retirement (it tracks nicely with boomer engagement in the market). The cadres at JP Morgan confirm it

So the trolls at ECRC are blaming Obama for the retirement of aging baby boomers. 

But it also reconfirms just how patently anti-individual, anti-consumer, and anti-middle class the Republicans have become.

As the Republicans in Congress vote for the 30th+ time to repeal Obamacare, and as they release obnoxiously false and misleading, trolling press statements bringing up bogeymen from 35 years ago, realize these two fundamental truths: 

1. The Republican opposition to Obamacare is a reflection of their platform, which would deny average Americans the right and ability to obtain quality, affordable health insurance. A repeal of Obamacare brings back lifetime maximums, denials of coverage for pre-existing conditions, the wonder of medical bankruptcy, an inability for people not on Medicaid or Medicare to get affordable insurance unless provided through an employer. 

2. The President was in town to announce an initiative to provide average American kids access to quality, affordable higher education. Since when did the Republicans decide that this was not a civic or social goal?  

Why has the Republican Party declared war on providing average people with things to keep them alive or to educate their kids? I don’t get it. But they’re so dead-set on this that they will beclown themselves with 30 year-old Johnny Carson jokes.  

At one point, Langworthy’s statement read as follows, 

After ushering in an era of economic malaise not seen since Jimmy Carter, President Obama comes to one of the most unemployed cities in the nation to tout more college educations for our young people,” Langworthy said. “We need jobs now – we already have thousands of college graduates unemployed in Erie County.”

“The prescription for job creation has been proven and tested by time: government needs to get out of the way of business,” Langworthy said. “Instead the Administration is creating a raft of job-killing regulations and, with ObamaCare, transforming our nation into a part time workforce.”

Just once, I’d like to see a Republican take the side of the average person instead of big business. Just once, I’d like a Republican to say, “I think the health insurance system we have is too expensive and not geared towards patient needs. I don’t like Obamacare, but I agree that we need to find affordable ways to guarantee that no American is found wanting for medical care they need”. Just once, I’d like a Republican to say, “We need to grow the middle class, and restore the social mobility that has stagnated over the past generation. We need to encourage and help people to get an affordable college education”. These sorts of statements used to be uncontroversial.

“Talking about a college education for everyone in Buffalo is like offering a starving man tap shoes,” Langworthy said. “Thanks for stopping by Mr. President. Erie County needs jobs.”

Usually, when you present a wildly stupid simile like that, you tend to explain what you mean. What does Langworthy mean here? The President said that the unemployment rate for college graduates is 1/3 what it is for people without one. Is Langworthy saying here that Buffalo kids don’t need college? Is he saying that they are just a bunch of willing labor-meat, ready to operate machinery that long ago escaped to Mexico or China?  And what happened to entrepreneurship? Sure, we need jobs, but used to be a Republican would tell someone to go and make their own job. I guess not so much. Labor-meat. 

Given the extremely high rate of school failure in the city – led by a mayor who has Conservative Party backing, you’d think that the Republicans would follow all of this bluster up with a credible Republican candidate for Mayor.

Funny you should think that.

Buffalo has a credible, hard-working Republican candidate. Education is high on his agenda. Yet Langworthy isn’t just passively ignoring, but actively shunning Sergio Rodriguez. Education is the biggest issue of our time, especially in Buffalo; not except.

Sure, we also need strong training and apprenticeship in the trades, but the unions used to do that and we all know what Republicans think of those.

Improving our public schools and guaranteeing every kid access to higher education is a goal that no credible politician would reject, but the Erie County Republican Committee did just that. The statistics show that a college education leads to better jobs and job prospects. Langworthy ridicules this and mocks the notion of social mobility. It’s shameful. 

It’s downright un-American. 

As the President came to town, Langworthy added petulance to the mix: 

 

So, look up at the picture Derek Gee from the Buffalo News tweeted – it’s at the top of this post. People were clearly excited about a sitting President coming to town. Yet, while Langworthy was whining about the local media fawning all over the most powerful man in the world being in town, his colleague from the National Republican Campaign Committee wrote that the President wouldn’t get any “Buffalove”. Which is it? 

Buffalo showed Obama love and excitement. Buffalonians like the idea of making life easier for the middle class. We like the notion that people should have access to a quality and affordable college education, just like we think people should have access to quality, affordable health insurance. We’re that old-fashioned bit of flyover country that thinks people deserve a fair shot in exchange for hard work – whether it be through brains or brawn. The problems we face as a region are decades in the making, and most of them have bipartisan or nonpartisan causes. 

I haven’t been a Republican since 2003 – this sort of nonsense is why. If you’re an Erie County Republican, thank Ray Walter for being a respectful guy with class. If you’re an Erie County Republican, tell Nick Langworthy that he embarrassed you today. If you’re a resident of NY-27, now you know that you’re effectively unrepresented in Congress. 

The New Aristocracy (Let Them Drive Bentleys!)

Since the Reagan Administration, it has been an article of faith among the Republican Party faithful that the best way to grow and help the economy is to cut taxes on the wealthy, and to otherwise make rich people’s lives more comfortable. As a result, the wealthy will spend more money and the wealth will “trickle down” to the middle class and poor.

Yet history shows us that the idea that our economy cannot thrive when the rich are highly taxed is patently false – the postwar boom years of 1946 – 1963 featured the wealthiest Americans paying up to 91 – 92% of their income to the IRS. Until 1982, the last time the wealthiest Americans paid less than a 63% rate was in 1931, when it was 25%.  The masters of the universe, undertaxed and unfettered, love plunging the world into massive depression spirals; we learn little from history. 

Reaganomics was not the panacea it’s remembered as.  The Reagan Administration dropped the top marginal tax rate from 70% to 50% to 38.5%, but as a result income inequality has skyrocketed, and median household income has risen by a paltry 30%, while the richest Americans’ income has tripled or quadrupled in the same time frame. 

When your nation is built upon a mythology of equality not only at birth but in opportunity, this sort of thing – a system that is designed to comfort the comfortable and stymie regular people – tends to cause widespread anger and disgust.  We cut taxes on the people best able to afford them and propose the privatization, cuts, or elimination to social programs like Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and other portions of our hodgepodge of a safety net. 

When you complain about how the system is now bought and paid for by the superwealthy – how the very rich have bought a political party, (if not the entire government), aided and abetted by an almost complete absence of campaign finance limitations, right wing America dismisses you as a Soviet communist engaging in Marxist class warfare. 

But class warfare is patriotic; class warfare is the very cornerstone upon which this country was founded. Our late 18th century revolt against Great Britain was a bourgeois revolution, which overthrew an oppressive colonial aristocratic superpower and established a constitutional representative republic based not on birthright and divine providence, but on law. Gentleman farmers, educated professionals, merchants, and traders united to create the first nation forged out of the ideas of the Enlightenment

Yet now, we are told that helping the bourgeoisie is communism, while a new aristocracy is being created and we are repeatedly told that assisting the aristocracy will help the common man. The facts, however, don’t bear that out. Why that isn’t part of the political discussion has a lot to do with misinformation and propaganda. The New Aristocracy and their paid-for media and politicians have in the past two generations mastered how to frame the argument – help us, help yourselves! 

The perfect crystallization of this was revealed this weekend. Republican / New Aristocrat Presidential candidate Mitt Romney attended fundraisers this past weekend in the Hamptons – the uberglitzy, exclusive, and home of ridiculously conspicuous overconsumption – the east coast playground of the New Aristocracy. The Los Angeles and New York Times interviewed attendees, and these quotes ought to be that new class’ “Let them Eat Cake” moment. 

A New York City donor a few cars back, who also would not give her name, said Romney needed to do a better job connecting. “I don’t think the common person is getting it,” she said from the passenger seat of a Range Rover stamped with East Hampton beach permits. “Nobody understands why Obama is hurting them.

“We’ve got the message,” she added. “But my college kid, the baby sitters, the nails ladies — everybody who’s got the right to vote — they don’t understand what’s going on. I just think if you’re lower income — one, you’re not as educated, two, they don’t understand how it works, they don’t understand how the systems work, they don’t understand the impact.”

and 

A few cars back, Ted Conklin, the owner of the American Hotel in Sag Habor, N.Y., long a favorite of the well-off and well-known in the Hamptons, could barely contain his displeasure with Mr. Obama. “He is a socialist. His idea is find a problem that doesn’t exist and get government to intervene,” Mr. Conklin said from inside a gold-colored Mercedes as his wife, Carol Simmons, nodded in agreement.

Ms. Simmons paused to highlight what she said was her husband’s generous spirit: “Tell them who’s on your yacht this weekend! Tell him!”

Over Mr. Conklin’s objections, Ms. Simmons disclosed that a major executive from Miramax, the movie company, was on the 75-foot yacht, because, she said, there were no rooms left at the hotel.

Oh, the common person is “getting it”. 

I’d very much like it if these people paid a bit more in taxes if it means that regular people get improved access to health care, shoring up Social Security, strengthening of Medicaid and expansion of Medicare, and to help pay for our many overseas military adventures – disproportionately fought by the children of the bourgeoisie and proletariat – and ultimately to help reduce the deficit. 

Fiscal responsibility begins when you ease and help lives that are tough. There’s a class war being waged, and it’s being aggressively promoted by the modern, New World version of titular nobility.