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Daley Weekly: The Debate That Wasn’t

“Yes, it’s me and I’m late again!”

I know, I know, late again. Lots of travel and meetings and I got behind. But I have finally made my way into the Athenian Grill over near the Seattle Center to have a post-Republican debate supper. A chance to write out a thought, perhaps of a confessorial nature.

The Daley Weekly will be moving to Seattle for a few months to help fill an administrative lacunae. The quality of the Weekly, already debilitated by the deepest personal insecurity, youthless indiscretion, and the unchallenged predations of age, inevitably will suffer. I will do my best, but I will not be in all the right D.C. meetings for a while, yet will continue to produce a column nonetheless.

Please whisper absolvo te.

Economics

Job numbers are out. Some 215,000 new jobs and an unemployment rate holding at 5.3 percent. Not much excitement over a basically flat economy. The need to pump a little infrastructure in here could not be more obvious.

The Debate

Well, what did you think of the Republican debate?

The commentators are all agog over the entertainment value of the two Republican debates, but I have to admit that I was bored. No new ideas, no big wins – even though there clearly were some big losses.

Take-aways?

This was supposed to be the Trump Debate. Because of Trump’s style, one candidate’s camp suggested that preparing for this was like getting ready for a car race when everyone knows that one of the drivers is drunk. Apparently they sobered Trump up for this. Donald Trump, proved himself a completely empty shirt – zero content, absolute zero.

Even his entertainment value was subdued as he apparently decided to compete for Mr. Congeniality. So if not Trump, who?

A few of the debaters clearly are heading to the showers.

Rand Paul looked like he would rather be in Mesoamerica doing cataract surgery. And, God knows, wouldn’t everyone be better off if he were?

Let’s offer Ben Carson a University President’s job or something – he seems like a nice person struggling not to be – we can help bring him back to the world of the living.

The Ted Cruz used car salesman imitation has grown a little thin, but he stuck right to it.

Jeb Bush clearly has decided to place himself on the bubble – seems to be struggling with inner conflicts between Augustinian and Liberation Theology.

Otherwise, hard to tell. Rubio went for Young Mr. Sincerity and did OK. The governors and former governors seemed to hold up the best.

The early runner up debate may have given Carly Fiorina a chance to move into the center stage.

Overall, I think the R’s are in deep trouble.

Infrastructure

Senate Majority Leader McConnell did not get his three-year Highway Trust Fund bill passed in time to stare down the House and force them to accede. In the end, they passed the normal, temporary phony money fix-me-later-fix – on into December.

Here’s the problem. The House Majority, and apparently some Democrats in the Senate, want to do a bigger six-year deal that raises infrastructure funding via some horrifying ideas about international tax reform. The corporate tax avoiders, who pay little or nothing for the benefits of government, may be about to have their way with us yet again.

We all need to use the August recess to contact our Senators and to tell them that letting corporations who have held profits overseas and untaxed, should not be honored for this avoidance by letting them bring those profits back for a dime on the dollar.

Everyone also needs to keep putting in a word for improvements to the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit.

Detention

We teased ourselves last week in order to frame a plea that the family detention centers for refugee mothers and children be closed. No sooner had we written about the failure of family detention than a federal judge in California issued an injunction directing the release of prisoners being held in these inhumane institutions.

Immigration

Just before Summer Break, the Senatorial trio of Vitter, McCain, and Flake marched out a bill designed to force cities to turn their police departments into border patrol agencies or lose federal money. Given cover by the Trump demagoguery and the murder committed by a hardened and often-deported undocumented felon, the House passed its version last week. Hard to tell whether or not either of these bills can get the 60 votes needed to proceed in the Senate, but the President has issued a veto warning.

To muddy things up a bit, California Senators Feinstein and Boxer announced the intention to craft a proposal that would require police departments to detain undocumented immigrants who are accused of crimes. Just what the details are remains unclear. Nevertheless, if they do this, it will break the solid front that the D’s need to protect against a veto override.

Medicare and Medicaid Turn 50

Just in time for the celebration comes the seminal analysis – Medicare has reduced hospitalization, death rates, and the cost of health care. The results are called “jaw dropping”. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and is based on an examination of the medical records of 68 million Americans over age 65. Why the right keeps attacking this program rather than propping it up or, rather, making it universally available, is a mystery that may never be solved.

As Alliance Executive Director LeeAnn Hall explains in her recent Huffington Post column, “Medicaid is much more than the country’s top health insurer. It’s also a key battleground for the future of our country.”

Infinite Gibberish

Bob Newhart once based a routine on the thesis that if we equip an infinite number of monkeys with an infinite number of typewriters, eventually they will write the great books. As I inspect the now sixteen Republican candidates, I have begun to suspect that this is a null hypothesis.

Newhart is checking the infinite monkey results: “twzzz.lkrrrnttttyyy.” No, nothing there. “abababhabqb.” Hmm? Hey Jim, I think we’ve got something here! “To be or not to be, that is thegamaiqillpicffffc.”

I recall this whenever I see Republicans campaigning for President by trying to tap into economic populism. They start with appropriately grandiloquent anger about the moral depravity of income inequality and indignation about what the hucksters did to the personal economies of a whole generation. But when it comes to solutions, it turns into gibberish.

Here’s Sen. Ted Cruz: “The rich and powerful, those who walk the corridors of power, are getting fat and happy under the Obama economic agenda. (Sic) The top 1 percent, the millionaires and billionaires who the president loves to demagogue, they earn a higher share of our national income than any time since 1928.”

OK Mr. Occupy! But the remedy? On Cruz’s website you will see that his agenda is to repeal Obamacare, make it easier for corporations to pollute, shut down the Federal Government, and destroy the Medicare prescription drug program. thegamaiqillpicffffc.

Rand Paul worries over income inequality and recommends a flat tax system and repeal of taxes on capital gains – ideas that dramatically increase inequality.

How about Rick Perry trying to channel Elizabeth Warren?

“The American people see a rigged game,” he declares. “where insiders get rich, and the middle class pays the tab. There is something wrong when the Dow is near record highs, and businesses on Main Street can’t even get a loan. Since when did capitalism involve the elimination of risk for the biggest banks while regulations strangle our community banks?”

To his credit, Perry almost endorsed laws to wall off banking from speculative investment, but not quite. He then immediately came out for a tax cut for corporations and refused to support the idea that the big banks should be broken into smaller pieces.

To regulate vigorously or not to regulate vigorously that is thegamaiqillpicffffc.

We need a strong, effective central government to keep the avaricious from totally ripping us off. But these crypto-populists are merely being demagogic about the problem while spouting gibberish about the solution.

The Economic Consequences of the Austerity

A frustrated John Maynard Keynes left the Paris Peace Talks that followed WWI and wrote a book called The Economic Consequences of the Peace. My only partially read version of this slim volume sits on the shelf between Hesse’s Siddhartha and the Italian version of Machiavelli’s The Prince which I continue to think I am going to translate into English, if only I can find the time.

Written in 1919, Keynes’ book shows how the punitive Versailles Treaty is about to ruin the European economy, which it did.

Maybe, as a sign of solidarity with the Greeks, we could get folks to go on Amazon and mail copies of this to Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor who led the Europeans to impose a punitive debt settlement on the Greeks – debt they will never be able to repay because they have deliberately been denied any resources to stimulate their economy.

Whenever your maternal uncle suggests over his gin that the only way out of the Greek crisis is for the Greeks to abandon the young and old to penury and to force their economy into prolonged depression, you might pull out Keynes and begin reading passages aloud.

The People v. Austerity

We have our own example of politicians blundering into the austerity disaster. In spite of ample evidence that austerity ideology does not work, they persist in inflicting this superstition on their citizens. An analysis titled States That Cut Taxes Do So At Their Peril shows how state economies fare when the plan for everything is to cut taxes.

Here’s the conclusion: “The states have no good reasons to believe that tax cuts will bring the desired manna. Yet they continue to erode their tax bases in the name of business growth during an era in which few states can afford to cut critical services ranging from education to infrastructure repair. Some ideas live on and on, no matter how much evidence accumulates against them. States that follow them do so at their own peril.”

TPP

Late reports suggest that the countries negotiating the Trans Pacific Partnership trade treaty have not yet agreed on a deal. Let’s hope that one of the things hanging this up is other countries objecting to the pharmaceutical policies being pushed by the U.S. negotiators on behalf of the drug industry.

Those who have the queasy feeling that my harping on the impact this Treaty could have on your drug budget, might want to check out the blog in the Huffington Post authored by AARP and an executive from the generics industry. It condemns the leaked provisions of the U. S. position limiting the availability of less expensive generic medicines. The treaty may force countries to permit patents to be extended for a dozen years on drugs that might otherwise go generic more quickly.

This is only the latest wrinkle in the PhRMA driven treaty process that might eliminate any chance we have of negotiating better drug prices here in the U. S.

Criminalization

Lots of talk in the blogs and pronouncements from the likes of Speaker John Boehner and President Obama suggest that there might be some progress ahead on the over-incarceration of people of color. You can get armed with some facts via the Alliance for a Just Society website. As this debate plays out it might be good for all of us to school ourselves with some timely information on this issue from the Brennan Center for Justice: Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities In Jails.

Now that you are well informed gentle advocate, here will be your mission – you must help our politicians understand that they cannot solve this problem without digging right into the issue of race. And they cannot solve this problem through the usual compromise with the right wing where there is always some vicious, racist price for progress.

Voting Rights 50 Years Later

When Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act in 1965, there were the optimistic few who envisioned the right to vote as a major step in the work to end racism. But decades later we still have states that are still debating whether to fly the flag of a war lost 150 years ago over their state capitol.

“I can’t help wondering how jurisdictions that still wrap themselves in the rebel flag can be counted on to safeguard fair voting rights,” says LeeAnn Hall in another fine article.

Planned Parenthood

The Senate defeated, on a procedural vote, the effort to un-fund Planned Parenthood. The impetus for this latest attack on PP comes after anti-choice guerrillas taped folks in clinics discussing what to do with aborted tissue. Pretty grisly, and apparently highly edited. Reminds me of the attack on ACORN.

The Muddle East

Well, we meddled our way into an interesting new dynamic in the land of perpetual conflict. We talked the Turks into the fray and they promptly attacked the Kurds. Three months ago we loved the Kurds – the most effective military force against ISIS. How this new Turkish strategy works has been explained to me only by those who seem desperately bewildered, as am I. How does attacking Kurds help destroy ISIS? I am sure there is some real politic calculation about needing the Turks more than the Kurds, but it is immoral, duplicitous, and a mistake. Crusader-conquering Saladin was a Kurd.

Schedule

The Congress has, mercifully, departed the Capital for the remainder of August. However, they are heading your way now and available for questioning concerning whatever might be on your mind.

Bill Daley, National Legislative Director
bill@allianceforajustsociety.org

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Bill Daley
http://allianceforajustsociety.nationbuilder.com/