Monthly Archives: December 2010

Happy New Year 2011


Originally uploaded by Thirdlayer

Happy New Year to all of our readers and contributors! Looking forward to a great year in 2011!

Not a clue

It is not often that you get to meet a voter who knows exactly who God is, what God wants, and who God wants them to vote for, but I did meet such a person back in the summer while campaigning for Rick Boucher.

It was particularly disturbing because the person was a Christian. In the authoritative Christian text, Jesus said “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s,” clearly separating the secular from the sacred. In addition, he refused to be king of the world, and he threw the money-changers out of the house of worship. His message to the woman at the well separated worship from geography, tribal origin, and nationality. So to call any nation a Christian nation is contrary to the teaching of Jesus. History books published prior to the Great Revision (BGR) all show that in the United States it is also contrary to the ideas of the Founding Fathers. As to what God wants us to do, the Sermon on the Mount does not go into much legal detail the way Leviticus does, but it says pretty clearly that while God really doesn’t need anything that we can give, our fellow human beings are often hungry and ill and anxious, and if we take care of them, it is the same as if we are caring for God.

Anyway, this voter had come with a group to Acres of Democrats, an annual Democratic party fundraiser. Her group filled a table at the front of the room to the right of the speaker, and when Rick had finished his speech, they were strategically positioned to surround and pursue him, scripted and choreographed. To their dismay, Rick passed right through them, and several of the Democrats who saw the ambush stepped into his wake and stopped them. There were five or six of them, including two women who were apparently spokespersons, a videographer, and an outlier or two who were there to block.

Two Democrats were comforting the crying woman, listening to her repeat tearfully, “I just wanted him to answer me, just wanted him to come to our event that we invited him to.” She was visibly distraught, which is important when when there is a video. As we all began to realize what was going on, people turned away from the scene.

I stood for a minute or two listening to her performance, then I asked her some kind of question, which caused her to turn to me. The two people who had been listening to her seized the opportunity and left, having done their duty.

This voter was in tears, as proponents of the extreme right often are — agonizing about whether to vote for an incumbent with a proven record of service or for a newcomer campaigning on the “I am Christian” platform. The incumbent had supported gay rights and women’s rights, and so was accused of threatening the sanctity of marriage and killing babies. This was old rhetoric that I had already heard. But I was surprised to learn from this voter that Liberation Theology, which originated in the Black church, specifically in Reverend Wright’s church, was the most serious problem facing Americans, that it was the basis for the class warfare being waged by Democrats and Liberals, and that it was going to destroy the United States and Christianity. She knew nothing about Cap and Trade, about climate change, or about any issue. She was concerned about that one great evil, Liberation Theology. I myself had not even recognized this as an issue. She was concerned, even distressed, about Liberation Theology, but she still didn’t know anything about it. She could not name any of the tenets or principles, or name a theologian other than Wright. She did say that she had read all about it in Glenn Beck’s book, and she was an expert because she had been studying history for three years. Somewhere someone has a video. If you see it let me know.

This person’s vote counted as much as mine. She had no clue about the issues, but she was a protector of marriage against the threat of gays, protector of babies against murdering Moms, stalwart of the Christian faith without a clue what that is, advocate for millionaires that she didn’t know against people living in her own trailer park, on a mission from God and Beck, and pretending to be a Democrat in order to ambush a Congressman and pour out her self-righteous tears on camera.

Virginia Organizing Responds to the Governor’s Budget Amendments

Friday, December 17, 2010
Julie Blust

Richmond, VA- Virginia Organizing (previously known as the Virginia Organizing Project) responded to Governor Bob McDonnell’s presentation of his amendments to the 2010-12 biennium budget. Virginia Organizing commended the Governor for several of his budget proposals while expressing concerns about continued cuts to vital services without plans to raise revenue.

“Governor McDonnell’s plan to provide economic incentives for job creation is important given the impact of the recession upon Virginia’s workers; however, the draconian budget cuts we have faced in recent years suggest that we need to do much more for the citizens of Virginia,” said Sarah Williams, Bristol resident and member of the Virginia Organizing Budget and Revenue Committee. “The correct approach is to address current and future budget shortfalls through modest progressive income tax reform that increases revenue, promotes economic activity, and results in the lowest possible tax rates for the greatest number of Virginians.”

“In this economy, we all recognize the importance of job creation. We appreciate Governor McDonnell’s proposals to provide economic incentives for job creation. The problem is that Virginia has been making extreme and reckless budget cuts for a number of years, budget reductions that have had a negative impact on schools, human services and infrastructure. What company wants to relocate to a state that has more crowded classrooms, crumbling roads and too few fire fighters and police officers? It seems that we are not sending a consistent message to potential companies. We cannot expect others to invest in Virginia when we do not invest in ourselves,” said Jeffrey Hunt, Richmond resident and member of Virginia Organizing Budget and Revenue Committee.

“Until the McDonnell administration and the General Assembly decide to be more serious about increasing state revenue, Virginia will continue to plug holes until the dam breaks again. It takes real leadership to put a long-term solution ahead of short-term fixes. Unfortunately, we have not moved a single step closer to solving our long-term budget problems and needs,” added Hunt.

“Just in time for another snowstorm, I commend the Governor for recognizing the devastating impact these severe budget cuts have had on transportation. We believe that the Governor’s proposals to fund transportation infrastructure needs through bonds are appropriate and necessary,” said Tim McCarthy, Virginia Beach resident and member of the Virginia Organizing Budget and Revenue Committee. “I just wish that Governor McDonnell would place as much emphasis and commitment toward other vital services like health care, especially Medicaid, instead of primarily being concerned about this program’s increased projected costs. New revenue is needed to invest in Virginia’s children and families now,” added McCarthy.

Over the last year, Virginia Organizing has been working on their Balance Virginia campaign, a public education campaign of Virginia Organizing on budget and revenue issues. Virginia Organizing has been holding local workshops on budget and revenue issues throughout the state.

“We are tired of dealing with drastic local cuts to the public structure. The real long-term solution to our budget crisis lies in a balanced approach that includes revenue and fixes our broken, old, tax system. A cuts-only approach is reckless, and it is particularly reckless in recessionary times,” said Becky Thomas, Charlottesville resident and member of the Virginia Organizing Budget and Revenue Committee.

Virginia Organizing has two goals for Virginia’s tax system. The first is that our state government balance past budget cuts with new revenue. The second goal is to modernize the state’s “old and rusty” tax structure so that everyone pays their fair share.

A 2009 Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy report on the tax structures of all 50 states found that low- and middle-income families in Virginia pay a higher share of their income in state and local taxes than do the richest families. The Virginia Organizing Budget and Revenue Committee is concerned that low- and middle-income Virginians are paying a higher percentage of their income in state and local taxes than the wealthiest Virginians. The committee is concerned that the state has a nearly flat state income tax and that Virginia’s tax structure is “regressive and simply unfair.”

The vote on DADT

Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is the only Democrat who voted against repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” yesterday. The 57-40 vote had 39 Republicans and Joe Manchin against. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark. abstained. Susan Collins, R-Maine, was the only Republican who voted for repeal.

The repeal was part of the National Defense Authorization Act passed by the House of Representatives to provide funding for veterans, soldiers, and their families.

Now people can quit calling Democrats ineffective and focus on Manchin and Lincoln, and Susan Collins should get some thank-you cards.

It won’t trickle down

To most Americans, it seems senseless to borrow $700 billion to fund tax cuts for people who do not need the money while we are facing dire budget cuts at local, state, and national levels and still have many people out of work. There is bi-partisan support for extending the Bush tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans, but a question remains regarding the top 2%, those who make $250,000 a year or more.

During the George W. Bush administration “trickle down” economics held great appeal for Americans, and our leaders promised us prosperity if we let wealthy people hold on to more of their money by giving them huge tax cuts. Between 2001 and 2008 this theory was field tested on a grand scale.

The Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, the “Bush tax cuts,” permitted wealthy people to hold on to more of their money, with the expectation that their greater wealth would result in economic growth by trickling down to the rest of us. The cuts were to kick in slowly, coming to full effect over a period of nine years. Two years later, with jobs vanishing and unemployment rising, the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 removed waiting periods provided for in the 2001 law and accelerated tax cuts, again putting more money in the hands of wealthy Americans in expectation of jobs and economic recovery.

This field test of trickle-down economics failed miserably, with most of the misery falling on poor and middle income Americans. In the final three months of the Bush Administration, job losses numbered 700,000 to 800,000 a month. Soon after President Obama came into office and job loss began to slow, magazines and newspapers reported that companies had money to hire people but were holding on to the money and not hiring. The money they were holding was the money that should have been trickling down, now somehow stuck at the top. Asked why they were not hiring, CEO’s responded that they would not hire until they saw an increase in demand.

That CEO’s were waiting for demand to increase before investing proved that it is not money in the hands of wealthy people that drives growth, expansion, and recovery. It is demand that drives the market. A restaurant adds seats when the waiting line gets so long that people go to another restaurant. Demand for goods and services drives the market.

This question in the legislature now regarding the Bush tax cuts persists only because of greed. Experience has already answered it. Extending the tax cuts for the top 2% would redirect another chunk of money from the market into reserve accounts where CEO’s can hold it, waiting for demand to recover. It would also add to the deficit, which some legislators are actually proposing to reduce by cutting Social Security and Medicare as well as the usual victims like school funding. The Bush tax cuts did not spur recovery. They worsened the recession by taking money out of the market, reducing demand, and taking away jobs. These tax cuts should be allowed to expire as scheduled.

The tax cuts for the other 98% should be extended. These tax cuts will go to people who need the money and will spend it. Unemployment insurance payments should be extended also because every dime of that money will go right back into the market.

It is clear with the success of the stimulus money in preserving and creating jobs, and with the success of the General Motors bailout, that money put directly into jobs is restorative. The GM bailout preserved around 1.4 million jobs, and stimulus funding permitted teachers, firefighters, and other public servants to remain employed. Extending tax cuts for the 98% and shoring up unemployment benefits, along with keeping Social Security and Medicare on track, will perhaps give the boost to the market that our reluctant capitalists are waiting for. When they see the money being spent, perhaps that vision will shake loose some of their tax cut money that didn’t trickle down.

The proposed tax compromise

For those who are disappointed with the tax compromise, it is important to remember that people who voted for Republicans last month and Democrats who did not vote put President Obama in this position. He works with obstructionists because Americans voted for obstructionists whose only campaign promise was to “stop Obama.”

The reason that the GOP can commit to obstruction and vote against ideas that were their own inventions — the public option in health care and Cap and Trade are examples — is that they have given up thinking about governing or what is best for the United States. They do not care if our nation drowns in the deficit and our people descend into poverty if they can achieve their own stated highest priority, which is to defeat President Obama in 2012.

In negotiating to extend the tax cuts for millionaires, Republicans attacked the child tax credit, the tuition tax credit, tax cuts for low-income and middle-income people, and the earned income tax credit — all of which benefit working American families who struggle to make ends meet. They also threatened to block extension of unemployment benefits for millions of workers who lost jobs in the recession, people who would be without anything to live on, losing homes, and moving into poverty because the recovery hasn’t reached them yet. All of these needs were placed in the balance against the desire of the GOP to preserve the tax cuts for the wealthy. Their message was clear that if the corporate interests that fund the GOP do not get their share first, nobody gets anything. By this means they forced the compromise proposal.

The compromise proposal buys time for further negotiation, and another two years of deficit-building. In 2012 Republicans will still be shouting about out-of-control spending and the runaway deficit and recommending cuts to Medicare, Social Security, education, and every other program that benefits the 98% of us who don’t make $250,000.00 or more a year. The unfunded tax cuts for the wealthy are already around 40% of the deficit, and an unfunded extension will further weaken the U.S. economy internationally as well as here at home. If the tax cuts for the wealthy are extended and added once again to the deficit, we can only hope voters will remember this in 2012: Republicans made the unfunded tax cuts in the first place and ballooned the deficit, then held poor and middle-income families, children, students, and the unemployed hostage and disregarded another significant increase in the national deficit so that they could put money in their own pockets and those of their corporate sponsors.

Maybe it really is time to kick out the incumbents

When things don’t go well for some time, it is apparently reasonable to suggest that we need to kick out the incumbents, and I think it might be time to kick out the incumbents in religion. Christianity has been around for a long time and controlled kings and empires, and “peace on earth good will to men” has not happened. Christian Dominionists keep war against unbelievers on the front burner. Islam is a few years younger than Christianity, and they have that whole jihad terrorist fatwa thing going — a state of affairs that is not evidence of progress in meeting expectations for the good life. Judaism is over three thousand years old, and their God promised a lot more than has been delivered. Peace is even farther away from realization because each group has its own supremacists, which means we are all condemned to war until the last sect standing.

I am not suggesting that we kick out the incumbent God. God is either there and impervious to kicking out, or not there to kick out in the first place. But we do not hear directly from God, we hear from God’s managers, translators, handlers, and emissaries who tell us what God wants us to do. They have had thousands of years to get the message right, and somehow the whole group of prelates, bishops, imams, preachers, prophets, gurus, rabbis, evangelists, and even the Pope himself, have been ineffective. If we kicked them all out and replaced them with people who weren’t so much into the ideology, or the organization, or the profitability model, or whatever it is that has them stuck, maybe we would get a better result.