Posts Tagged ‘Congress’

My Top Ten Wish List for the U.S. in 2015

January 5, 2015

I wish that…

!.  The United States does not get into another war. 

2. The United  States Congress concentrates on working for what’s best for the country instead of what’s best for members of Congress.

3. The astronomical cost of healthcare stops rising.

4. The cost of education for physicians is greatly reduced, bringing the cost more in line with other countries, many of which provide free education for physicians.

5,  American universities put more emphasis on lowering the costs of education than adding administrators and new buildings.

6.  That we start valuing excellent educators more than football coaches.

7. American news media return to the days of responsible journalism, concentrating more on stories that affect people’s lives and less on sensationalism and that we produce more journalists like H. L. Mencken, Ida Tarbell,  David Halberstam, Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite,  Ben Bradlee, and Woodward and Bernstein. 

8.  That our economy continues to improve.

9 .  That we continue the trend toward producing more renewable energy.

10.  That more of us follow Martin Luther King, Jr.’s admonition that we judge people “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

What do you wish most for in 2015?  

 

 

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And You Can Quote Me When I Say…

March 6, 2013

For some reason I am having a hard time deciding what subject I should entertain for a new post.  I know there is plenty to talk about.  For instance, I could weigh in  on the sequester thing.

Well, all right, I  will.

I’m sure there is plenty of waste in federal spending.  Of course, just as one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, one politician’s waste is another one’s necessity.

Perhaps the greatest waste in Congress is Congress.

I guess another subject I could tackle would be Jon Stewart’s decision to take four months off to direct a movie about a journalist being imprisoned in Iran.  The Daily Show is something I enjoy daily and I’m sure will still enjoy it while he is gone.  John Oliver will probably do a fine job as fill-in host.  I’ve always wondered why they didn’t just substitute a host when Jon was on vacation, especially since he was   on vacation so often.

Then there’s the weather to talk about, and the networks have really been talking about it a lot.  So, it’s snowing in D.C., so it’s always snowing in D.C. where we get snow jobs year round.

You really want to get some idea of what’s going on in our nation’s capital? Go to C-SPAN.  There you get it unfiltered, instead of what some news editor decides you should get.   It’s sort of like reading the Bible yourself and not just getting it interpreted by some cleric. In both cases, some of it will astound you.

A New Year’s Eve Like no Other

December 31, 2012

It’s Monday, which means I should do a post because I said I would try to do one each Monday. I didn’t make it last Monday because frankly I didn’t feel like it. Bronchitis. I’m a little better now so I’ll see what I can do. .

This is truly an interesting New Year’s Eve.  I don’t recall one in which so much is at stake because of the deadline on ending of the Bush tax cuts and the beginning of across-the- board spending cuts. No doubt, just about everyone knows all this because it has been on all of the news channels endlessly.

Those who will be hurt the most by the looming tax hikes and spending cuts, are already those who are hurting the most, the vast majority of the American middle class which has seen its income stagnate for years. Those who are doing quite well will feel the tax bite and, some may even see their investments erode as government spending cuts wipe out some government contracts for goods and services, but the negative effect on them will probably be minor.. The military-industrial complex also will feel the pinch as the defense budget is cut. That is  certainly of concern to our area which depends heavily on defense department spending.

Still, if  you watch the Times Square News Year’s Eve celebration as the ball drops signifying the end of the 2012 and the beginning of 2013, you will see dancing in the streets, cheering, bands playing, singers singing, people kissing, and there will be a general feeling of well-being and happiness in the air. That American spirit, which continues in spite of all that is going on in Washington. is what offers hope, is what eventually gets us through tough times. It has before and it will again. Perhaps at election time it will even provide us with a new Congress, one that will regain the confidence of the American people..

Legal, Just, and Fair Aren’t Always the Same

July 30, 2012

“It’s perfectly legal” is a phrase that can be maddening.  You just got screwed by some organization and that’s their come back. And when you investigate, the odds are very high that they were right. That’s because too  often the laws aren’t written to protect you. They are written, in my view, too often to protect the people who spent the money via campaign contributions or in other ways to influence the people who write  the laws.

Once when I was in Washington covering representatives from the Columbus area, I was amazed at the throngs of men in black suits carrying briefcases walking up and down the corridors of the Capitol building.  Turns out they were lobbyists.  It also turns out  that they often either write or influence the writing of those laws that affect their vested interest. When I asked one congressman about that, he pointed out that there was no one better qualified to write the laws than the people who are engaged in the organization who know all about the subject.  That may be, but it boils down to “putting the rabbits in charge of the lettuce” as my friend retired South Carolina state legislator, appeals court judge, and college president Alex Sanders use to say.

What can be done about it?  For one thing, stop voting against your own self interest by putting the sold-out legislators in office.  How do you know that your man or woman is a political whore? Now, that’s not easy. It’s takes dedicated watchdog media types to find out. They appear to be in short supply.  Why?  Simple. Media corporations have to be willing to employ skilled watchdog reporters. Some few do. Why don’t others? What do you  think?

Sometimes political rivals will blow the whistle on a political hooker when it’s suits their purposes. But, you can’t count on that.

By all means, when you vote tomorrow, let me urge you to vote in favor of limiting lobbyists’ gifts to Georgia legislators to $100. We can thank state Sen. Josh McKoon for getting that on that on the Republican and Democratic primary ballots.  It won’t  become law but it will tell Georgia state legislators that’s what the people want.

The Politically Invisble Man

October 27, 2010

Frank Saunders, Democratic Party candidate for Georgia's 3rd U.S. Congressional District attended the Barnes rally at Columbus Tech

3rd District Congressman Lynn Westmoreland has opposition, which is probably news to most 3rd District voters.  There is a good chance that they don’t know that Frank Saunders, a special education teacher, wrestling coach, and assistant varsity football coach at Chattahoochee County High School, is the Democratic Party candidate opposing Westmoreland.

Without money and scant coverage by news media, a candidate is just about politically invisible.  Westmoreland, a Republican running in a Republican district, an incumbant with an impressive campaign war chest, and a lot of media coverage – not all of it positive, if you take his appearance on the Colbert Report  into consideration – has all of the advantages in the race.

Money has always played a key role in politics, however, the candidate with the most money does not always win.  Governor Perdue had less money than Roy Barnes and won. He had less money, but he had enough money to get his message across, and he had name recognition. Without enough money to compete, a candidate’s chances of winning are zilch.

Saunders has virtually no money. I say “virtually” because he has received a few small donations, not enough to advertise on TV. Even with the Internet in play, today’s stump remains TV.  TV makes a fortune on elections, but, in my view,  gives scant news coverage before the election.  Have you ever seen Frank Saunders on television?  

Want to know more about him? He does have a website.  You can click on this link to read more about him, things like who he is and why he is running. 

Now, with the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that corporations can contribute to candidates, money rules more than ever before, and record amounts are being spent on this Midterm election.

The Battle over the Defense Budget

May 24, 2010

Why in the world, when our country is suffering economic chaos with out-of-control deficit spending and whopping increases in the national debt, are we spending more on defense than all of the rest of the world’s nations combined?  We spend 5 times more than China, and ten times more than Russia. 

Robert Gates, U.S. Secretary of Defense

Well, we’ve been fighting two wars for more than 8 years. And even though the 2011 defense budget comes in at $549 billion, Congress is on the verge of adding another $159 billion for those wars.  You’d think $549 billion would be enough. And maybe it would if, for one thing,  Congress would stop funding things the defense department doesn’t really need, things that Defense Secretary Robert Gates is not even asking for.  However, those things are being asked for by defense contractors who pour a lot of money into campaign coffers. 

Rep. Alan Grayson, (D) Florida, Dist 8

Florida Rep. Alan Grayson has introduced a bill to kill the $159 billion request and use that money to end income taxes on the first $35 thousand for individuals and $70 thousand for couples, and use the rest, $15 billion, to reduce the deficit.  In a news release Friday he said, “What George Orwell wrote about in 1984 has come true. What Eisenhower warned us about concerning the ‘military-industrial complex’ has come true. War is a permanent feature of our societal landscape, so much so that no one notices it anymore.

“But we’re going to change this. Today, we’re introducing a bill called ‘The War Is Making You Poor Act’. The purpose of this bill is to connect the dots, and to show people in a real and concrete way the cost of these endless wars.”

Guess we all need to pay attention to what Congress does this week. If fact, we ought to pay attention to what it does every week.

Rep. Sanford Bishop Defends His Health Care Reform Vote to Muscogee Democrats

April 4, 2010

Rep. Sanford Bishop addressing Muscogee County Democrats

For 17 years, reelections haven’t been much of a problem for Rep. Sanford Bishop, up until now.  He keeps his 2nd Congressional District farmers content by looking out for their interests in Washington.  He said, “I’m the peanut Congressman.” He looks out for the district’s military facilities, not only working to get billions for Fort Benning, but has been a big supporter and gotten millions in funding for the National Infantry Museum.  Still, some believe he has an uphill struggle to stay in office because he had the courage to vote for President Obama’s health care reform bill. The Tea Party folks are  after him now.

Making no apologies for his vote, and even criticizing Governor Perdue for wanting to repeal the bill, saying he can’t understand why the governor doesn’t want health care for all Georgians,  he believes that when people really understand what the reform measure will accomplish they will be for it.  People come up to him after apperances at civic clubs and tell him that once he explained what the bill will do it makes sense to them. He said they have been bombarded with so much deliberate misinformation and downright lies that they really don’t know how beneficial the reform will be.  He is working to help folks understand it.  He said he counters Tea Party misinformation at town hall meetings by simply flashing the law itself on a screen and explaining how it differs from what critics claim.

He got a standing ovation.

Health Care Reform Petition Rally In Downtown Columbus

September 1, 2009

KEN KING PETITIONS 2

The only way to overcome hundreds of millions spent by lobbyists in Washington is a groundswell of public support or opposition to a measure.  Perhaps that’s why “Organize for America” is pushing hard to get grassroots support for President Obama’s health-care reform initiative. 

OAF SW GA Field Director Ken King waves petitions in front of Rep. Sanford Bishop's Columbus office

OAF SW GA Field Director Ken King waves petitions in front of Rep. Sanford Bishop's Columbus, GA office

Ken King, Southwestern Georgia Field Director of OFA waved a large stack of petitions to a rally in front of 2nd District Rep. Sanford Bishop’s Columbus office.    The petitions were delivered to Bishop’s Columbus office.  Bishop is one of those “Blue Dog” Democrats whose support President Obama needs.  “Blue Dog” Democrats are the more centrists or conservative party members.  Bishop’s 2nd Congressional District leans conservative.   

   KEN KING PETITIONS 3

Supporters of President Obama’s health care initiative showed up with signs.  It was all very civilized and polite. Maybe that’s because the opposition wasn’t there.   Maybe they didn’t know about it.  Columbus media did, though. They were there.

The petition calls for Congress to support the president’s “three bedrock requirements for real health-care reform.”

 They are:

– Reduce   health care costs.

– Guarantee Choice.  This includes the choice of a public insurance option.

– Ensure affordable care for all.”

Muscogee County democratic Party Vice Chair John Van Doorn

Muscogee County democratic Party Vice Chair John Van Doorn

John Van Doorn, vice chair of the Muscogee County Democratic Party,  told the crowd that the big challenge is overcoming lobbyists for health insurance companies, and “big medicine, and big pharmaceuticals.”   He said, “The voice of the people must be heard.” 

Of course, big medicine, big insurance, and big pharmaceuticals also know they can be trumped by the voters. That’s why they are spending millions to pay for advertising against health care reform.  Paul Krugman said in the New York Timesthat health insurance lobbyists are spening $1.4 million a day to influence House and Senate members.

I posed the question about confusion surrounding health care reform legislation.  President Obama is being criticized for not simply fighting for a plan. Former Republican Senator Bob Dole said the president must lead the fight for a plan,  a plan that he must endorse and simplify.  OFA’s Ken King told me that some Democrats thought President Obama should have gotten tougher in his election campaign, but it turns out that his approach worked.  He was elected. He said there are eleven bills on health care now in Congress, and that when one is finally decided on,  the debate can start. He said if Republicans want to face reelection with no health reform plan they support, they can do that. 

It appears to me that a simpler plan will have to presented if there is going to be health care reform. Also, I have to agree with Senator Dole and others who say the president simply has to lead.  Compromise just isn’t working.

 

Josh McKoon on Why We Should Support New Ethics Legislation

March 21, 2009

I don’t know when public confidence in state and federal representatives and senators has been lower than it is right now. Perhaps lawmakers can turn this around if they enact some tough ethics legilsation that effectively stops the buying of our  Congressional and state legislators.  Josh McKoon,  attorney,  former chair of the Muscogee County Republican Party and a member of Common Cause Columbus,  told me he is seeking support for a new, thougher ethics bill  pending in the Georgia legislature. SB 96 passed unanimously in the Georgia Senate and now is before the Georgia House. I asked him to tell me why he thinks we should support the measure.  He sent this explanation:

SB 96 is legislation that accomplishes several important goals.
 
First, it provides for training for registered lobbyists by the State Ethics Commission to insure full compliance with the new reporting requirements for provision of meals, etc. to legislators.
 
Second, it tightens up the definition of lobbyist to make sure it is inclusive only of those paid to lobby and does not require grassroots activists to register.  For example, under the current law you could argue that your piece and Bob Hydrick’s comments about the Billboard legislation amount to lobbying and that the “compensation” received is keeping highways free of clutter.  I agree it is absurd, but the way the law reads it could certainly be interpreted that way.  The new revised langauge will resolve that issue.
 
Third, it beefs up reporting requirements for lobbyists.  I don’t dispute the idea that anyone who wants to pay for lobbyists in Atlanta should be able to do that, but we need a more transparent accounting of what is being received by our elected representatives on their behalf.
 
Finally and most importantly in my view, it establishes ethics panels to review and dispose of ethics complaints against local elected officials.  This is an important check on the power of our elected representatives and protects against violations of the ethics law which the State Ethics Commission does not have jurisdiction over nor the manpower to handle.  These panels will fill a gap in current law where there is no remedy, short of filing a civil lawsuit in Superior Court, to handle matters where elected officials abrogate or ignore the law.  We have seen what happens when this is allowed to go on in Clayton County among other places. 
 
Critically, these panels will be composed of unpaid volunteers so there is no growth in the size of government.  Also the panels are empowered to fine frivolous complainers to the tune of $1,000.00 per complaint, to weed out those who would use this mechanism to harass elected officials that are not violating ethics laws.

If you agree with Josh, please contact your Georgia state representative and let him or her know.   At first blush,  the bill sounds good to me, but I am not sure it is strong enough to actually cut down on the influence of lobbyists for vested interests on our legislators.  At least  it’s a step in the right direction.

Inaction by Congress Puts the U.S. in Grave Economic Peril

September 30, 2008

  Only two members of the Georgia members of Congress voted for the bailout for investment banks. They were Rep. Sanford Bishop of Albany and Representative Jim Marshall of Macon, both moderate Democrats.

  Both of Georgia‘s Republican senators, Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, were not happy about the vote.

  According to Atlanta Business Chronicle, Chambliss said, “The House vote today puts everything in a state of uncertainty and complicates the issue of whether or not the Senate will vote on a financial rescue plan,”

  And Isakson said, “Our country is struggling. Doing nothing is unacceptable. I hope cooler heads will come to the table so we can move forward with a proposal that is in the best interests of the American people.”

  Though it is a hard pill to swallow, using $700 billion tax dollars to buy bad mortgages to bail out Wall Street investment banks, not to do something will be disastrous. Hardly anyone is using the word “crash” because it brings back the specter of the 1929 crash, but when the market plunges more than 700 points, the largest drop in history, the term does come to mind.

  Congress is to reconvene Thursday. Let’s hope the plan presented then will have enough protection in it for the American taxpayer, including homeowners with mortgages that it can get enough support to pass.  To let election year political considerations take priority over saving this country from financial disaster is about as low as a member of Congress can get.