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Daley Weekly: Lame Duck Session More Reaction Than Action

Lame Duck
The Congress returned December 1 for two weeks. What are they doing with all this time?

The House is setting its collective hair on fire over the President’s Executive Order on Immigration. There are hearings in at least two committees to hammer away against the Obama “Kingship.”  There is a bill in the works to repeal all the President’s deferred prosecution, including for Dreamers. On Thursday the House voted to pass this legislation, known as the Yoho bill, by a vote of 219 to 197, an almost totally party line vote.

They may have reached a deal on appropriations that has them passing and omnibus appropriations bill to fund the government for a whole fiscal year.

Apparently the Republican Leadership may want to get this out of the way. The Homeland Security appropriations will run only until March in order to give the anti-immigrant bunch an opportunity to take another shot at the Administration. No government shutdown.

In case you were wondering, the term “lame duck” does not refer to the session but to the people conducting the session – elected officials whose terms are about to expire and who are not going to be back. Apparently the term originated in the 18th century as an allusion to stockbrokers who were unable to pay their debts.

Tax “Extenders”

After playing around with this for the better part of a year, the “extenders” apparently will pass in some form making a bunch of loopholes available for another year. House and Senate lists differ on which to include but they should close these differences quickly. This follows an attempt to pass a “compromise” that included not only an expanded list of “extenders,” but tried to make a number of them permanent. Progressive tax groups made their displeasure known and the President threatened a veto.

So it looks like they have settled on a short term fix. The Democrats in the Senate had apparently agreed to the now ignored “compromise.” If this is the Democrat’s strategy, be prepared for hard times ahead.

Police Body Cameras

The police officer who choked to death an unarmed black man on Staten Island was exonerated by a grand jury. The coroner had called it a homicide.

The President did take a stronger personal role in the matter of blacks and the cops by calling for cameras on police flack vests.

The problem is that the persistent poverty, discrimination, unemployment, poor health, bad schools, and hopelessness in people of color communities will not be solved by cameras on cops. It needs something like a domestic Marshall Plan and the politicians who have been in the ascendency are more interested in feeding cash to the corporations and the wealthy than they are in dealing with the quality of domestic society.

Economy

The U.S. economy added 321,000 jobs in November and there is evidence of regional improvements in consumer spending. The unemployment rate held at 5.8 percent. It remains to be seen whether or not the Democrats will be emboldened to resist another round of Congressional efforts to cut taxes, reduce critical spending, fight immigrants, and perpetuate inequality – the long list of discredited austerity programs that the Republican majority is sure to try to enact.

Medicaid

A committee appointed by Texas Governor Rick Perry has recommended that Texas join in the Medicaid Expansion. It looks like the state of Wyoming is coming to its senses, too, and is trying to figure out how to participate in expansion. Rumors abound that deals also are in the works in Montana and Idaho.

Pretty soon we will look at the map of non-expansion states and see the modern manifestation of a racist, slave-owning South.

Ebola

The mad scramble to contain Ebola may finally be showing some hopeful signs. There now are empty treatment beds in Liberia, which was hardest hit. Efforts to prevent its spread into Europe and the U.S. also appear to be holding. Sierra Leone has now become the new hot-bed of Ebola infection.

The appropriations bill now working its way through the U.S. Congress includes $5.3 billion to fight the Ebola epidemic.

Health Care Cost Slows

One of the big causes of the push for austerity economics has been the inexorable cost push in the health care sector of the economy. Austerity freaks should be cheering and dancing. In 2013 spending on health care grew at the lowest rate since 1960, the lowest on record.

You can read all about it in Health Affairs: http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/early/2014/11/25/hlthaff.2014.1107.full.pdf+html.

Tax Reform – the Myth

One of the things that the pundits suggest as a potential point of agreement between Obama and the coming Republican Congress is something they call “tax reform.” Here are two myths to watch out for:

Revenue Neutral. Even though it is patently obvious that the great give-away of tax loopholes to the rich and corporations has caused an enormous drain from the national treasury, the mantra is that reform should be “revenue neutral.”  That means that every cut that they make for the corporations needs to be balanced by some increase somewhere else.

In order to make it easier to do this, the House Republicans have tried to maximize the cuts being provided in the “extender” package they are pushing in the lame duck session. The more they permanently reduce taxes for the corporations on the extender bill, the less it costs them when they try to produce “revenue neutral” tax reform that cuts the rates for the corporations. Cut a bunch of rates now, without paying for them, and we will not have to account for them in the score for tax reform next year.

The other thing that they are proposing to use to find a “revenue neutral” plan is a little thing called “dynamic scoring.”   This is a purely ideological theory that says tax cuts actually produce tax revenue. Yep – cut those taxes and the economy will grow and more money will roll in and everything will be rosy. The trouble is that it doesn’t work and the experts at the Congressional Budget Office have refused to use it.

But next year the voodoo economics gang will be in charge and they are preparing to rattle a few beads over the national economy and, presto, we can cut the hell out of corporate taxes. Deficit hawks should be shuddering.

The U.S. Has the Highest Corporate Tax Rate in the World. This little myth is a media favorite. It says that, because the law sets a 35 percent top corporate tax rate, we have the highest corporate taxes. The problem here is that corporations simply do not pay this rate.

Here are some key findings from a study done by Citizens for Tax Justice:

  • “As a group, the 288 corporations examined paid an effective federal income tax rate of just 19.4 percent over the five-year period — far less than the statutory 35 percent tax rate.
  • Twenty-six of the corporations, including Boeing, General Electric, Priceline.com and Verizon, paid no federal income tax at all over the five-year period. A third of the corporations (93) paid an effective tax rate of less than ten percent over that period.
  • Of those corporations in our sample with significant offshore profits, two thirds paid higher corporate tax rates to foreign governments where they operate than they paid in the U.S. on their U.S. profits.
  • These findings refute the prevailing view inside the Washington, D.C. Beltway that America’s corporate income tax is more burdensome than the corporate income taxes levied by other countries, and that this purported (but false) excess burden somehow makes the U.S. “uncompetitive.”

Check it out: http://www.ctj.org/corporatetaxdodgers/sorrystateofcorptaxes.php.

Musical Chairs

In addition to having to get a new Attorney General confirmed by the Senate, Obama now has to get a new Defense Secretary. Every time the President needs something out of the Senate he is made more vulnerable to the extortionists. Obama apparently will nominate former Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter to Defense. John McCain likes him, so maybe everything will be O.K.

Schedule

The Congress is supposed to end its lame duck session next week and re-convene with its shiny new majorities on January 6.  

From Oregon to New York, Law Officers Just Say ‘No’ to ICE

New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. Photo by NYC Council/William Alatriste

New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. Photo by NYC Council/William Alatriste

Last week the New York City Council passed legislation, 41-6, stopping the New York Police Department and the New York City Department of Corrections from honoring detainer requests from ICE, unless they are backed by a federal warrant.

“Today is a historic day. After five years of work, New York City will put an end to the collaboration with ICE that damages immigrant families and hurts our communities,” said Javier Valdes, co-executive director of Make the Road New York told the Immigrant Defense Project.

After campaigning for the last five years, our affiliate Make the Road New York, has seen a great victory

Further, ICE has been evicted from maintaining operations at Rikers Island Correctional Facility, drawing a strict and clear boundary between ICE and local authorities.

While congress has failed at the federal level to enact comprehensive immigration reform, local jurisdictions from Oregon to New York have taken matters into their own hands to ensure the fair and equal treatment of all of their community members.

In April, a federal court ruling by Judge Janice Stewart in Oregon ruled that holding immigrants in jail extra time at the request of ICE is not required by law. Sheriff Daniel Staton of Multnomah County, along with sheriffs in Washington, and Clackamas counties quickly announced that they were opting out of ICE holds, and quickly informed leaders at our affiliate Center for Intercultural Organizing, of their decision.

Within a week, nine more counties in Oregon, then others around the country, joined them in making similar announcements.

And while it was the ruling of a federal judge that ultimately pushed city and county law enforcement to change their policies, it was the activists throughout the country who made the ground ready for the change. For years, organizers and brave community members have fought to show that ICE holds are not mandatory.

However, without federal reform, people are still being detained, families are still being torn apart, and children are going hungry when their providers are needlessly jailed.

The call to action still remains: Comprehensive immigration reform is needed, and it is needed now.

One of the Sorriest Episodes in Recent Memory

Screen shot 2014-08-04 at 6.27.42 PMIt is clear that there are those among us who are having trouble adjusting to the new reality of race in America. Their old world of white majority domination in political and economic life is slipping away.

The changes started back several decades ago when it became clear through the 1980 U.S. Census that a racial and ethnic transformation was occurring in the population.

I used to have a bit of fun back then going to Rotary Club meetings and talking about this transformation. I would suggest that those who get the yips about such things needed to recognize that there was a better than 50/50 chance that their grandchildren were going to have brown eyes.

Now the transformation that began back then is playing out and it is bringing out the worst in us. Read more

Daley Weekly: D.C. Summer Nastiness is in Full Bloom

billD.C.  Summer

The political season is in full flower in D.C. Lots of things are being proposed and voted on in both Houses of Congress that will not become law any time soon. There is no looming debt default or government shutdown, so everyone simply is taking a stick to everyone else. They will be doing this for a solid three weeks in July.

Immigration Confrontation

A huge confrontation is coming on immigration. Two months ago Speaker John Boehner seemed to be prepping his caucus to take a vote on some version of reform. The Administration seemed to be doing things to accommodate this possibility. Events: Eric Cantor’s loss, Obama’s falling approval ratings, international crises in Ukraine and the Middle East, economic stagnation, the children’s march into the arms of ICE.

Instead of pushing reform, some House Republicans are calling for a cessation of deferred prosecutions – deporting record numbers of people apparently is not enough. All of this comes on the backdrop of a wildly unpredictable election season. What happens if inaction in the House continues? Obama cannot but react, he is being invited into a confrontation.

Things got started in earnest last week when Speaker Boehner began readying a lawsuit over executive power. At week’s end, Obama bluntly told Boehner that if the Speaker did not like him using his legal authority, then the Congress could very well do something about immigration.  More will come soon as the debate widens over what to do with the refugee crisis on the Southern Border. Read more

New ‘Beyond Cellblocks’ Webinar: Ending Police-ICE Collaboration

US_Immigration_and_Customs_Enforcement_SWATThroughout the country, local police have been partnering with immigration services, resulting in unfair targeting and treatment of people of color. On Tuesday July 1, join us for an important video discussion about ending collaboration between local law enforcement agencies and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

In addition to educating participants on the police-ICE collaboration and its effects on our communities, we will be discussing strategies to end the collaboration, focusing on how we can build policies at a local level in order to help assemble what we hope to see happen at a national level.

We are excited to showcase three very accomplished and passionate speakers at this webinar: Nicole Brown, field director for the Center for Intercultural Organizing; Alisa Wellek, co-executive director for the Immigrant Defense Project; and Stephen Manning, a partner at Immigrant Law Group PC.

Date:  Tuesday July 1st  2014

Start Time:  11:00 AM PST/2:00 PM EST

To view the video presentation live and participate in the Q&A, register here. This webinar is part of the Beyond Cell Blocks & Border Stops series.

Rural and Small Towns Calling for Immigration Reform Now

GrowingOurFuture_Logo logo_Large GOODOver the course of our nation’s history, immigrants have traditionally moved to some of the U.S.’s largest cities consolidating the perception that immigration is an urban concern. But the truth is in the latter part of the twentieth century, immigrants have been moving to rural towns. And like waves of immigrants before them they are shaping and revitalizing communities they join.

“I’m probably the last guy you’d expect to see pushing for immigration reform. But the fact is, rural towns across America need immigration reform the most. Past generations of immigrants built rural America; new generations are revitalizing it,” said John Bechtel, mayor of Wilder, Idaho – population 1,533. Read more

“We Say They Can Stay,” Native American Leaders Protest Immigrant Detension

By Simmi Bagri
Alliance for a Just Society

ICE Protest-1cropThe annual Alliance for A Just Society’s Advanced Native Organizers Training, was sponsored by the Praxis Project and hosted at the  Alliance’s office in Seattle this month, drew leaders from tribes and organizations from around the country. They came from as far as Virginia, Alaska, South Dakota, and New Mexico, and as near as Oregon and the Yakima Valley.

They brought with them their history, their culture, and stories of the injustices being faced in their communities. They brought an array of unique perspectives on issues ranging from fighting for food sovereignty to challenging the destruction of native lands through construction of oil pipelines. Read more

No More Delays, Two Million is Too Many

Krista brighter 2 millionDelaying defense is one of the oldest tactics of war. It’s as much a psychological one as it is strategic. The goal is to wear down the opposition until they become weak, hungry or distracted. Our immigrant rights movement hasn’t been immune to it.

Now there is no longer time for delay: two million deportations is a clear message and a rallying cry that we cannot and will not be ignored.

The immigrant reform movement built great power during the electoral battle of 2012, vast armies of strong, fearless leaders were created as we went door-to-door registering people to vote. Read more

The Fight for Citizenship and the Right to a Future

The fight for fair and humane immigration reform is about respecting the dignity and humanity of all immigrants across the U.S. It is a fight for family unity. But this fight is also about the evolving definition of citizenship.

CitizenshipCitizenship is a guarantee against deportation; a protection against fear and reprisals. Any immigrant, regardless of status, can be deported – whether they are undocumented, a permanent resident with children who are U.S. citizens, or married to a U.S. citizen. Even a minor mistake on your application for citizenship can jeopardize your status in the country and launch you into deportation proceedings.

Providing a meaningful pathway to citizenship means guaranteeing a predictable route – and a future – for those who want to become citizens. To have citizenship in the U.S. means that you get to be a full human – with full rights. Being a citizen means that you can vote.

So let’s be blunt, voting is the real problem.
Read more

Driver’s Licenses for Immigrants Strengthens Families and the Economy

Across the nation, families, business owners, and police officers are calling on lawmakers to bring fairness to all in need of driver’s licenses – an item that many simply take for granted as an award for learning the rules of the road.

Drivers license copyBut for millions of undocumented residents throughout the U.S., the denial of this basic driving privilege has stifled their way of life.

Regardless of citizenship status, all can agree that daily activities require driving. Basic tasks like getting to and from medical care facilities, taking or picking up children from school, participating in family curricular activities, and traveling to and from work, unduly burdens the unlicensed. It also strains states’ limited financial resources.

Denying driver’s licenses to undocumented residents is a law that creates more harm than good and it needs to be changed.
Read more