MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Harry Reid: Let the Minority Rule
As Michael Collins writes about the failed legislative proposal to broaden background checks on gun buyers, you can put the blame at the feet of Harry Reid and other Dems who refused to break the back of frivolous filibusters at the beginning of this congressional session:
As majority leader, Reid set the rules of the Senate prior to this term, as he did prior to the last term. He deliberately allowed the super majority requirement prior to any meaningful vote to stand and, as a result, preserved the threat of a filibuster. Harry Reid bears the responsibility for the lack of a vote and passage of this legislation. The 46 senators who voted with Reid against allowing a vote are almost all Republicans. They were joined by the normal cast of atavistic Democrats including Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana who also chairs the Senate Finance Committee.
(Reid's office indicated that he voted no for procedural reasons that would allow him to bring the legislation up again later, but as long as the filibuster threat exists on any law the GOP wants to sink it will not matter.) As Collins adds, "Two other parts of the gun control passage fell after the background check fiasco. Bans on assault weapons and high capacity magazines are finished."
Although the reporting on the amendment was confusing due to the threat of a filibuster issue, the gun state Idaho Statesman got it right:
Gun control advocates suffered a huge setback Wednesday as the Senate defeated a delicately crafted compromise strengthening background checks for gun buyers.
The 54-46 vote was six short of the 60 needed. While the vote can be reconsidered, the tally was a bitter reminder that even the most gentle of gun control measures faces a nearly impossible path winning congressional approval.
So because the Democrats were too wimpy to require a simple majority vote on most legislation, 60 is once again the new 50. Given that small Republican states have equal senate representation to big Democratic states, this makes passage of many bills that the majority of the US population supports often impossible to achieve. It's minority rule, and the Dems keep backing down on changing the filibuster rules.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
“She had a great sense of humor and freckles and red hair that brought her right to her Irish roots.”
She was “a dream daughter.”
I have a daughter, so maybe that’s why these words cut so deep.
This was a dad’s description of a young woman, Krystle Campbell, who was one of the three people killed in the Monday bombings at the Boston Marathon, with well over a hundred wounded, some critically. The bomb went off in the final stretch of the race — which had been dedicated to the victims of the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., four months earlier.
My God. Now another wound has opened in the social fabric. Another enormous question tears at our hearts. Once again we ask: Why?
Even if the police solve the riddle and catch the killers — and we learn the particulars of their agenda or their insanity — we will hardly be any closer to an answer. Beyond the question of why did they do it, a more insidious question lurks. Why does so little change in response to the violence that occurs both in shocking randomness in “safe” communities around the country and as an everyday fact of life in our poor and devastated neighborhoods?
As so many people have said in the last few days: Life is precious. No one ever qualifies that statement. Every life is a unique, invaluable, irreplaceable manifestation of human potential. Yet why is our awareness of this basic truth so fleeting? Why do we make grief hierarchical — some deaths matter more than others — and thereby diminish it immeasurably?
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
If bookies in Las Vegas, who set the odds on just about any and everything, had set odds on which Tea Party leader would be the first out of the gate with the most intemperate, uncontrolled and toxic take on the Boston Marathon bombing, Judson Phillips’ Tea Party Nation would certainly have been better than even money.
In an email to members -- and in an article posted on the Tea Party Nation website -- Phillips blamed President Obama for the Boston Marathon bombing maintaining that it occurred because “we have a government that is not committed to protecting America” since it isn’t willing to “destroy radical Islam.”
People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch reported that “Phillips said that ‘Radical Islam and perhaps even non-radical Islam’ is a danger to western civilization, arguing that Muslims believe that ‘non-Islamic nations may be conquered or otherwise taken over.’”
The Franklin, Tennessee-based Tea Party Nation, which was organized by Phillips, a Nashville attorney, and his wife Sherry, describes itself as a “user-driven group of like-minded people who desire our God given Individual Freedoms which were written out by the Founding Fathers. We believe in Limited Government, Free Speech, the 2nd Amendment, our Military, Secure Borders and our Country!”
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It began before the Bush tax cuts for the top 1%, but it has accelerated exponentially since then: the top 1% keep accumulating more capital. You could raise their taxes – let's pick a number out of a hat -- by 5% (remember taxes are graduated and only increase for amounts above certain thresholds) and tax their capital gains and they would likely still be accumulating money at a faster rate.
They've crossed the threshold.
We ran across a column Mark Shields wrote on February 22 of 2001 about Bush's tax cuts that catapulted the national debt (in conjunction with the administration's wars) to the stratosphere and found his comments prescient, to say the least:
Now that President Bush's tax bill has been sent to Congress, at least two conclusions can be fairly drawn: 1) Bush is desperately seeking to close the widening and socially dangerous gap between the Rich and the Super-rich; 2) Class warfare is now over – the richest won.
Now, we have inherited that legacy of a soaring debt under Bush that the super-wealthy were glad to ignore in return for lavish and gluttonous tax cuts. In part, the oligarchy that backed Bush – and of which his family has been a member of and upholder of enriching the already wealthy for decades – knew that the day would come when they could reduce Bush's debt on the backs of the working class.
That day has arrived and its slogan is "austerity." Except what is implicit in that one word is that austerity for the middle class and poor will reduce the debt, while the stock market soars to new heights and the US plutocrats not only aren't subject to "austerity"; instead, they accumulate even greater assets and a higher percentage of the nation's wealth.
As Shields concluded in his 2001 column:
Just maybe Bush will find time to explain to that single mom of who he speaks – the one who earns $22,000 a year and has two children – just why the U.S. government cannot assure that her kids will learn in a safe…?
Or why there are almost no jobs in her neighborhood except for drug dealing, which can only exist if higher-ups are paid off – and why do the young men have no future as capitalists except for advancing in the ultimate entrepreneurial enterprise of the gang corporation. Or why the cops, the judges, the prison guards, the for-profit prison companies and the whole neo-plantation prison-industrial complex makes money off of incarcerating and branding as ex-cons a significant percentage of poor – and mostly black and Latino – men who can't find work for "illicit" drug violations. Or why poverty doesn't just still exist in Appalachia; it has accelerated. Or why formerly union workers are now wearing Walmart smocks and relying on Medicaid for insurance.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
When Dante descended into the Inferno, guided by Virgil, he passed through Circles of Gluttony and Greed, and of Heresy and Fraud and Treachery.
The modern-day version is the corporate tax filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Navigation through the hellish form is fraught with anguish and pain and bewilderment, causing the visitor to beg for release from its devilish grasp, to shudder when recalling the sign at the entrance: "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here."
The Circle of Betrayal: Big Profits Overseas, Big Losses in the U.S.
Bank of America, Citigroup, and Pfizer can be found here. In the last two years each one of them made much of their revenue in the U.S., but they claimed billions of dollars in foreign profits and billions of dollars in U.S. losses.
ANN DAVIDOW FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The way it is talked and written about in conservative circles one would think the second amendment trumped all the others. Republican lawmaker Jason Chaffetz says “protecting the second amendment is paramount” when it comes to gun legislation.
One might think that protecting innocent lives and our borders should be the first concern of lawmakers. The Constitution gave Congress the responsibility of declaring war and safeguarding the nation’s interests at home and abroad. It is rarely required, however, to perform this sacred duty and when our country engages in unauthorized foreign conflicts they tend to be called something other than actual war - - our ‘police action’ In Korea comes to mind. Decisions about war and peace tend to be viewed through the prism of constitutional rectitude when they may in fact have more to do with political ambition.
Protectors of the second amendment tend not to reference the part about a “well-regulated militia” and make wild assertions about the need to protect hearth and home with huge magazine clips and multiple firearms. Outlandish hypotheticals are repeated endlessly and which willing gullible followers repeat and embellish at will. One of the least truthful but most often repeated bromides is the “it won’t work” excuse for not passing new legislation. If the NRA is convinced it is useless to try to interfere with a determined killer they shouldn’t waste so much time and energy trying to undermine the legislative process.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
BuzzFlash has posted many a commentary on ways to increase the solvency of Social Security without reducing often miserly monthly checks to the nation's elderly.
Unfortunately, the White House is taking the lead on playing the scrooge of austerity imposed on those who can least afford it, while the president plays golf and dines with the barons of Wall Street who could ensure the long-term financial security of the nation's retirement income program for the working class.
Yesterday, in a commentary, "Elizabeth Warren Shocked by Obama CPI Proposal to Squeeze Blood Out of the Middle Class When the Wealthy Can Sustain Social Security," we once again noted an alternative Social Security financial solidification plan as detailed by Thomas Edsall of the New York Times:
Earned income in excess of $113,700 is entirely exempt from the 6.2 percent payroll tax that funds Social Security benefits (employers pay a matching 6.2 percent). 5.2 percent of working Americans make more than $113,700 a year. Simply by eliminating the payroll tax earnings cap — and thus ending this regressive exemption for the top 5.2 percent of earners — would, according to the Congressional Budget Office, solve the financial crisis facing the Social Security system…. [Bold and italics inserted by BuzzFlash.]
But because the Obama White House has adopted the austerity meme of the Republicans, the option to the cat food chained CPI doesn't get discussed much. That is because Obama, as is often the case, is accepting the GOP and Wall Street "frame" of the deficit being reduced, in part, on the backs of the middle class and poor. As we've noted recently; the president may even believe the false meme.
That is why it is not surprising that a site, Remapping Debate, called Democratic Senate offices and received very little in the way of recognition of or support for having those Americans who earn more than $113,700 pay into Social Security for their income above that level. In an April 10 article, Remapping Debate disclosed:
(Photo: Rainforest Action Network)