Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

Breakfast, and a new Facebook page!

The Bristol Virginia Democratic Committee monthly breakfast is this Saturday, November 20, at Golden Corral at Exit 7 at 9:00 a.m. Please tell the cashier you are with the Democrats to receive the discounted price. Hope to see you there!

Also check in to our new page on Facebook, “like” us, share your comments, and keep up with committee activities.

About that U.S. – Mexico fence

(Previously published July 31, 2010, in The Bristol Democrat)
Contrary to the statement by the Arizona governor July 31, 2010, on CNN, the border of a nation is not like the wall of a house. The walls of a house keep out the rain and wind. Having a country without a fence around its border is relatively common. Even in the age of castles and moats, only small town centers had actual walls, and with few exceptions nobody built a wall as a national border. To see what it might be like, however, we can look back to the early 1960’s at a nation that built a wall.

That wall began as a barbed wire fence in 1953 and progressed from that time through a series of reinforcements. The final version used almost 50,000 slabs of concrete and cost around 16,000,000 DM, around $42,500,000.00 in 2009 U.S. dollars. It was 96 miles long, had 302 manned watchtowers with armed guards, and incorporated 65 miles of trenches to prevent vehicles from approaching. It necessitated the tearing up of roads and the evacuation of buildings near the wall that could be used for illegal crossings. Churches near the wall were abandoned, and land near the wall, stripped of trees and vegetation, was plowed to prevent people from approaching the wall undetected. These stripped acres were plowed continuously so that recent tracks would be visible. In some places the base of the wall was lined with iron “fakir beds” of spikes, so that if a person were able to reach the wall and leap for a handhold on the top of it, he was likely to fall back into the spikes. Part of the wall was topped by a rolling cylinder held in iron loops to make holding on impossible. Underwater barriers were constructed where the wall crossed the small river, and to prevent swimmers from going under the barriers, scuba gear was contraband. In the years between 1961 and 1989, 171 people were killed or died in attempts to cross the wall, and another 200 were shot and injured.

Due to the need to maintain both sides of the wall, it was actually built inside the border and not “on the border.” The few feet of protected area on the “other side” of the wall permitted work crews to continually patrol the outside of the wall and paint over the graffiti that constantly appeared on it, adding to the expense of maintenance. In one escape attempt, an 18-year-old was shot as he scrambled over the wall. He landed inside the maintenance strip, inside the national boundary protected by the wall. He bled to death with emergency crews looking on, forbidden to step across the border to assist him.

The builders of the wall defended its building this way in 1962, when the fence was being replaced by concrete:

The wall is the state frontier of the German Democratic Republic. The state frontier of a sovereign state must be respected. That is so the world over. He who does not treat it with respect can not complain if he comes to harm. (From a 1962 East German (GDR) brochure titled “What You Should Know About the Wall” and written in English for foreign distribution, now in the German Propaganda Archive of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan)

If you haven’t recognized the Berlin Wall from this description, then your knowledge of recent history is slim, and that is why you might favor a fence along the US-Mexico border. If you know about the Berlin Wall and you still favor the fence, consider the geography, from, well, yes, Wikipedia:

The nearly 2,000-mile (3,138 km or 1,950 miles) international border follows the middle of the Rio Grande — according to the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo between the two nations, “along the deepest channel” (also known as the thalweg) — from its mouth on the Gulf of Mexico a distance of 2,019 km (1,254 miles) to a point just upstream of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez. It then follows an alignment westward overland and marked by monuments a distance of 858 km (533 miles) to the Colorado River, during which it reaches its highest elevation at the intersection with the Continental Divide. Thence it follows the middle of that river northward a distance of 38 km (24 miles), and then it again follows an alignment westward overland and marked by monuments a distance of 226 km (141 miles) to the Pacific Ocean.

The region along the boundary is characterized by deserts, rugged mountains, abundant sunshine, and two major rivers — the Colorado and the Rio Grande (Río Bravo del Norte) — which provide life-giving waters to the largely arid but fertile lands along the rivers in both countries.

A barrier for the U.S.-Mexico border would be over 20 times as long as the Berlin Wall. And while the Berlin Wall cut across roads and farmland and through the heart of a large city, the barrier for the U.S.-Mexico border would be in a large river for many miles, bisect a few blended towns, and run through deserts, mountains, and canyons.

There will be those who will object that a fence is not a wall, that a fence is less expensive, and that there is no comparison. If you are thinking along this line, please read the whole article, quoted here:

A 2,000 mile state-of-the-art border fence has been estimated to cost between four and eight billion dollars. Costs for a wall that would run the entire length of the border might be as low as $851 million for a standard 10-foot prison chain link fence topped by razor wire. For another $362 million, the fence could be electrified. A larger 12-foot tall, two-foot-thick concrete wall painted on both sides would run about $2 billion. Initially it was estimated that the San Diego fence would cost $14 million — about $1 million a mile. The first 11 miles of the fence eventually cost $42 million — $3.8 million per mile, and the last 3.5 miles may cost even more since they cover more difficult terrain. An additional $35 million to complete the final 3.5 miles was approved in 2005 by the Department of Homeland Security — $10 million per mile. (From GlobalSecurity.org, “US-Mexico Border Fence / Great Wall of Mexico Secure Fence”)

The East German brochure from 1962 that defended the building of the wall also stated:

But please consider where the actual wall runs in Germany, the wall which must be pulled down in your and our interest. It is the wall which was erected because of the fateful Bonn NATO policy. On the stones of this wall stand atomic armament, entry into NATO, revanchist demands, anti-communist incitement, non recognition of the GDR, rejection of negotiations, the front-line city of West Berlin.

So, make your contribution to the pulling down of this wall by advocating a reasonable policy of military neutrality, peaceful co-existence, normal relations between the two German states, the conclusion of a peace treaty with Germany, a demilitarized Free City of West Berlin. That is the only way to improve the situation in Berlin, to safeguard peace, a way which can, one day also lead to the reunification of Germany.

So the Berlin Wall was a choice between building a wall and negotiating differences. Follow the link and read the brochure, and you will see that people leaving the Soviet sector for jobs in the American, French, and British sectors of Berlin was also a major problem. And, as the pamphlet points out, the actual wall that needed to come down was not a physical wall. It was a wall of differences between people and cultures, differences that might have been negotiated.

History shows us repeatedly that when walls are built, they have to be maintained, they have to be scaled, and finally they have to be torn down. We need a national foreign workers program that serves worker and employer interests and a clear path to citizenship for those who wish it. We can create a foreign workers program and a path to citizenship out of realistic assessment of needs and some reasonable conversation. It will take time, it will be expensive, and it will take a lot of work. But unlike a fence, we can have it ready to roll in a year, it will not bankrupt our economy, and we won’t have to tear it down later.

Find yourself in the tax cut plans

The difference between the Obama plan for tax cuts and the Republican plan is significant for individuals in Virginia. Both plans give tax cuts to everyone across the board at all income levels. Although both plans give everyone a cut, under the Republican plan 80% of people in Virginia would pay more in 2011 than they would under the Obama plan. Here are the differences, ranked by income groups of 20% of Virginians:

  • The lowest 20% with an average income of $11,990.00 a year would pay $117.00 more under the Republican plan.
  • The second 20% with an average income of $28,000.00 would pay $108.00 more under the Republican plan.
  • The third 20% with an average income of $48,000.00 would pay $41.00 more under the Republican plan.
  • The fourth 20% with on average income of $79,000.00 would pay $2.00 more under the Republican plan.

The top 20% of Virginians is here broken up into smaller segments:

  • The first 15% (75% of this group) with an average income of $139,818.00 would pay $14.00 less under the Republican plan.
  • The next 4% with an average income of $290,212.00 would pay $538.00 less under the Republican plan.
  • The top 1% with an average income of $1,313,424.00 would pay $44,000.00 less under the Republican plan.

Under the Obama plan, the largest single percentage segment of the tax cuts is 31% and goes to people in the lowest 75% of the top income group, those with an average income of $139,818.00. Under the Obama plan, these folks would on average receive a tax cut of $$3,795.00. Under the Republican plan, they would receive an average tax cut of $3,809.00, producing the difference shown above of $14.00 less under the Republican plan.

Under the Republican plan, the largest single percentage segment of the tax cuts is 30.5% and goes to the top 1% shown in the list above, with incomes over a million dollars a year. Under the Obama plan, these folks would on average receive a tax cut of $23,903.00. Under the Republican plan, they would receive an average tax cut of $68,811.00.

Under both plans the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor. Under the Obama plan, 61% of the tax cuts go to people in the top 20% of income leaving 39% to be shared by the bottom 80% of Virginians. Under the Republican plan, 70.6% of the tax cuts go to those same people, leaving 29.4% for the bottom 80%.

The Obama plan is the better one, because it has the largest percentages clustered in the middle income categories where it will help struggling small business owners and working people. These larger percentages include the 31% noted above to the lower segment of the top 20% and the second largest segment, 18.4%, going to the group with an average income of of $79,708.

These figures are from Citizens for Tax Justice . Additional information, including national and state-by-state figures, are available in .pdf format for download from this link.

Thank you to our veterans

Thank you to all of our veterans and their families for their service to the United States at home and abroad.

Breakfast date November 20th!

Our next Democratic Committee breakfast will be Saturday, November 20, at Golden Corral at Exit 7 at 9:00 a.m. Mark your calendars and invite a guest or two. Remember to tell the cashier that you are with the Democrats to get the group discount! We hope that more Democrats in the area will come out and get involved in activities, and we were encouraged by the number of folks we had at the regular meeting yesterday, in spite of the fact that several members had other obligations.

If you would like to be involved or just get to know other Democrats, come and share breakfast with us on the 20th of November and introduce yourself!

Honoring our American Veterans






Originally uploaded by Thirdlayer

In the first few scattered snowflakes of the season this morning people came to downtown Bristol VA/TN for the yearly Veterans Day parade. This photo is of the crowd gathering at the Veteran’s Memorial on Cumberland Street after the parade. Click on the photo to see more photographs of the parade.

Many thanks to our veterans, who were represented by groups and individuals from Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and National Guard as well as ROTC units from regional high schools. The Red Cross, which plays a critical role in keeping families of deployed service members connected, was also in the parade along with several bands and service organizations. Groups and individuals also represented wars and military operations, including World War II, the Korean Conflict, and Vietnam.

Rally to Restore Sanity




DSCN2571

Originally uploaded by Thirdlayer

Folks from Bristol who usually are working very hard for Democrats and sane politicians locally, regionally, state, and federal took a break this past weekend to attend the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in Washington, DC. In this photo are Carl, Richard, Catherine, Terry, Aviva, and Glen. Sarah is behind the camera, and Sherry and Barry are somewhere in the crowd.

We all had a great time, and after the event we agreed that we were more sane than before. It was great to see all of the signs and talk to folks from everywhere! We are hearing that we had 215,000 people in attendance, well above the expected (planned for) 60,000,

The show was great, and a lot of clips are available on YouTube, including the video of the final address by Jon Stewart.

Click the photograph to go to our album on Flickr, and to see more rally photos on Flickr.com, type “#sanityandorfear” in the search field at the top of the page.