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The (In)Dignity of Labor: Top Senate Republican wants to abolish minimum wage!


“Goldman Sachs 2020 Slave Labor Camp International” by Lee Harvey

Considering the appalling number of Americans these days who are paid as little as their bosses can possibly get away with paying them, you would think that citing opposition to the notion that hard work should, you know, pay a living wage and provide for some level of human dignity in the world’s richest country, would be perceived as a toxic issue by the elders of the Republican Party. Something you wouldn’t want to touch with a ten foot pole…

But you would be wrong.

During a hearing on raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, Sen. Bernie Sanders got Lamar Alexander, the ranking Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee to admit that he wants to abolish the minimum wage.

It was remarkably easy—he wasn’t even trying—for Sanders to provoke a remarkable reaction to this statement:

“There are certain conservatives who do not believe in the concept of the minimum wage. The concept of the minimum wage. In other words, if the economy as such, and I offer you three dollars an hour.”

Alexander took the bait, interrupting Sanders (“Let me jump in. I do not believe in it” he says) and offering his two unsolicited cents:

Sanders: So you do not believe in the concept of the minimum wage?

Alexander: That’s correct.

Sanders: You would abolish the minimum wage?

Alexander: Correct.

Sanders: If someone had to work for two bucks an hour, they would work for two bucks an hour?

Senator Alexander is not a stupid man. He’s a graduate of Vanderbilt University and NYU’s law school. He’s been in government since the Nixon administration, he was the 45th Governor of Tennessee from 1979 to 1987 and he served as George H. W. Bush’s Secretary of Education. He’s run for president twice.

Alexander was not caught off guard and this was not exactly a trick question that Senator Sanders posed to him, either. He volunteered this information: Alexander really means this shit.

Oy vey. When will these Republicans ever learn?

The exchange between Sanders and Alexander starts (after Sanders lays the groundwork discussing the situation that fast food workers find themselves in making $7 bucks an hour) at the 5:48 mark. At the end of it, the asshole from the conservative Heritage Foundation asserts that the minimum wage hurts “the beneficiaries”!
 

 
Via Politics USA

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The REAL Hunger Games


Above, Hunger Games poster for the Roger Corman version

The REAL hunger games have begun in the Capitol: This week the House is voting on $36 billion in cuts to nutrition assistance, or SNAP, which would kick 2 million people off the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamps), reduce benefits for 44 million more, and drop 280,000 low-income kids from school lunch.

Visit Half in Ten to learn more—and how you can stop the Capitol from winning.

An Austerity Backlash: From Sen. Bernie Sanders’s website, May 7, 2012

France handed the presidency on Sunday to François Hollande, who declared that “austerity can no longer be inevitable.”  In Greece, Germany and Italy, parliamentary and local elections Sunday were seen as setbacks for austerity measures. Sen. Bernie Sanders saw a lesson for the United States in the European elections.

“In the United States and around the world, the middle class is in steep decline while the wealthy and large corporations are doing phenomenally well. The message sent by voters in France and other European countries, which I believe will be echoed here in the United States, is that the wealthy and large corporations are going to have to experience some austerity also and that that burden cannot solely fall on working families. 

In the United States, where corporate profits are soaring and the gap between the rich and everybody else is growing wider, we must end corporate tax loopholes and start making the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes. At the same time, we must protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Austerity, yes, but for millionaires and billionaires, not the working families of this country.”

 

 
Via Think Progress

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American Oligarchy: The Republicans cock-block ‘Buffet Rule’ vote


 
Arguing for more fairness in the nation’s tax code, Senate Democrats tried to bring legislation forward that would establish a 30% floor for households earning $1 million a year. Tried and failed. Predictably, the evil GOP strangled this baby in the crib so that their corporate masters won’t have to pay their fair share.

AND AMERICA WINS!

Via The New York Times:

Senate Republicans on Monday blocked a move to open debate on the so-called Buffett Rule, ensuring that a measure pressed for months by President Obama and Senate Democrats to ensure that the superrich pay a tax rate of at least 30 percent will not come to a decisive vote.

But the fierce debate preceding the 51-45 vote — the Democrats were nine votes short of the 60 they needed — set off a week of political wrangling over taxes that both parties insist they are already winning.

Senate Democrats intend to return repeatedly to the legislation, named after the billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who has complained that he pays a lower effective tax rate than his secretary. On Thursday, House Republicans will counter with a proposed tax cut for businesses that they say would spur job creation but would cost the Treasury almost exactly what the Democrats’ tax increase would raise.

Republicans say they like that contrast, and their language ahead of the vote on a motion just to take up the Buffett Rule was harsh and aimed squarely at Mr. Obama, who first proposed a 30-percent tax rate floor for anyone earning at least $1 million a year last September. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican minority leader, went to the Senate floor and all but called Mr. Obama a liar.

“By wasting so much time on this political gimmick that even Democrats admit won’t solve our larger problems, it’s shown the president is more interested in misleading people than he is in leading,” Mr. McConnell said of the Buffett Rule push.

Democrats said they saw that as a sign of weakness. Pointing to a Gallup poll from last week that indicated 60 percent of Americans supported the proposal, including 63 percent of political independents, Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, called the Republican response “proof positive” that “for first time in decades, maybe generations, they’re on the defensive on their signature issue,” taxes.

After he made that comment, a CNN poll was released putting support at 72 percent, including 53 percent of Republicans.

The Democrats have vowed to return to the Buffet Rule again and again. It’s an issue they should use to its full advantage, bludgeoning the Republicans senseless with it, by making it THE topic of the Spring and Summer months and lovingly placing it on their heads like a paper Burger King crown… or around their necks like a noose.

Why show these bastards any mercy when they’ve got their backs to a rather steep political cliff?

Just who does the GOP leadership thinks it’s fooling anymore? (Fox News viewers and Teabaggers aside, of course.) The Great Republican Crack-up of 2012 continues to pick up speed!

Below, Senator Bernie Sanders gives ‘em hell on the Senate floor yesterday:
 

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Strengthen Social Security: Poverty is a death sentence in America


 
Glad to see that Senator Bernie Sanders isn’t out on a limb by himself this time. The new legislation he’s introduced to shore up Social Security by making the wealthy pay their fair share has co-sponsors Dan Akaka (D-HI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Al Franken (D-MN) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). Surprise, surprise, Claire McCaskill (D-MO) is also on board. No surprise, of course, that no Senate Republicans have signed on in support. Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon’s 4th district, will be introducing the same bill in the House

Via Down With Tyranny:

The gist of Bernie’s legislation is to strengthen Social Security by applying the payroll tax that most Americans already pay to those with annual incomes above $250,000. Right now the payroll tax cuts off at $106,800. This simple, painless change by itself would keep Social Security solvent for another 75 years, about as long as Social Security has already existed. and although right-wing crackpots and extremists like Rick Perry may call it a Ponzi Scheme and predatory Wall Street shills like Mitt Romney may want to privatize it and turn it over to Wall Street, the vast majority of Americans see it as the most successful government program in our nation’s history and understand, despite Republican lies—that started 76 years ago—that it hasn’t contributed one dime to the federal deficit. It has a $2.5 trillion surplus, and it can pay out every nickel owed to every eligible American for at least the next 25 years, according to the Social Security Administration. Before Social Security came into being something like half the senior citizens in the country lived in poverty. Now they have a much better chance of ending their lives in dignity and without eating cat food. In fact, less than 10% of the elderly live in poverty and more than 53 million Americans receive retirement or disability benefits.

“Social Security is the most successful government program in our nation’s history. For 76 years, through good times and bad, Social Security has paid out every benefit owed to every eligible American,” Sanders said. “The most effective way to strengthen Social Security for the next 75 years is to eliminate the cap on the payroll tax on income above $250,000. Right now, someone who earns $106,800 pays the same amount of money into Social Security as a billionaire. That makes no sense. The Keeping Our Social Security Promises Act will ensure the long-term solvency of Social Security without cutting benefits or raising taxes on the middle class.”

 

 

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A Thousand Cuts: ‘There will not be a middle class in this country’


 
As frequent readers of this blog know, I consider Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont to be a great American and a personal hero. He’s one of the only honest politicians in Washington and a blunt-talking national treasure:

On June 18, 2011 artists Ligorano/Reese presented a temporary monument in the garden of Jim Kempner Fine Art in NYC called “Morning In America.” The installation was witnessed by hundreds and lasted a total of 8 hours throughout the hot day.

...A THOUSAND CUTS is a timelapse video of the event. The soundtrack was inspired by an excerpt from Senator Bernie Sanders 8-hour filibuster on the U.S. Senate floor against the extension of the Bush tax cuts and the effects on the middle class. It is orchestrated to music by composer/violinist Michael Galasso.

The entire text of Senator Sanders speech is available as a book, The Speech: A Historic Filibuster on Corporate Greed and the Decline of Our Middle Class, published by Nation Books.

 

 
Below, Bernie Sanders speaks about his career and the remarkable 8-hour speech he gave filibustering President Obama’s extension of the Bush tax cuts and the disappearance of America’s middle class.
 

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Sen. Bernie Sanders, socialist senator and American hero
12.07.2010
09:52 am

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Senator Bernie Sanders


 
Senator Bernie Sanders (VT), the only socialist (not a “top Democrat” as the clip indicates) member of the US Senate tells it like it is. A must see-clip. I agree with him 2000%. About time someone said this. What the fuck is wrong with this country?

“Millionaires and billionaires do not need huge tax deductions, that’s the simple truth. If we’re serious about creating jobs in this country, which should be our main priority, that’s one worst way to do it. Much better to take that money, invest in our roads, bridges, railroad systems, infrastructure—you create jobs doing that.”

“Our Republican friends have got to be held accountable. The issue is the insult, the outrage that they want tax breaks for billionaires but they can’t in their heart come up with extending unemployment compensation so millions of families in this country can have a modicum of security. I believe, politically, we can rally the American people around that cause.”

 
Let’s hope he’s right. And fuck Obama and the Democrats, this deal is LAME. And furthermore, while they held the MAJORITY, why didn’t they CEMENT unemployment benefits into law to continue indefinitely in states where the rate of unemployment is over a certain threshold? Instead we’re being offered two more years of the Bush tax cuts on millionaires and billionaires in exchange for 13 months?? Is Obama bending over backwards—or merely bending over—to assure the Teabaggers that he doesn’t hold an anti-American, “Kenyian” viewpoint (as retardedly espoused by Newt Gingrich)?

We’re truly getting to well past the point where other countries (you know, the ones with universal healthcare and paid maternity leave and stuff like that) are just going to feel sorry for how fucking stupid we Americans are.

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Obama’s economics team has got to go!

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I’m someone who, like many of you, I am sure, had high hopes for the Obama presidency. After two terms of Bush, it really felt like the country was turning the page. Inauguration Day felt like a wonderful exhalation of 8 years of just… pollution. I thought Obama would be the second coming of FDR, I really did, but almost a year later, has anything truly changed? Has anything gotten better for the common man? We all know that the Wall Street oligarchs are sitting prettier than ever, what about the rest of us?

Today’s Huffington Post had a nice bit of reporting from Ryan Grim about Ben Bernanke’s remarks to the Senate Banking Comittee today and as I read it, I was absolutely enraged. This asshole has got to go. If Obama is getting his advice from guys like Ben Bernanke (and Geithner and Rubin) we are fucking doomed!

Let this sink in:

Ben Bernanke has overseen the greatest expansion of the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet in its history, pouring trillions of dollars into Wall Street firms at roughly zero interest rates.

His generosity, however, has a limit.

In testimony before the Senate Banking Committee today, where he’s seeking re-appointment as the Fed’s chairman, Bernanke called for cutbacks in Medicare and Social Security even as unemployment rises and the middle class is endangered.

Citing legendary bank robber Willie Sutton, Bernanke said of the retirement and health care funds that are the legacy of the New Deal: “That’s where the money is.”

Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) sympathized with Bernanke, saying that, because of entitlement spending, “you’re going to be looking at a situation where the Congress will be unable to provide any kind of fiscal discipline because of the mandatory spending. That puts an enormous burden on your plate.”

“Well, Senator, I was about to address entitlements,” Bernanke replied. “I think you can’t tackle the problem in the medium term without doing something about getting entitlements under control and reducing the costs, particularly of health care.”

Bernanke reminded Congress that it has the power to repeal Social Security and Medicare.

“It’s only mandatory until Congress says it’s not mandatory. And we have no option but to address those costs at some point or else we will have an unsustainable situation,” said Bernanke.

But here are several other obvious options that could make the situation sustainable—including a transaction tax on Wall Street speculation or a slight tax hike on the wealthiest Americans.

Bernanke talks as if increasing taxes on the wealthy simply isn’t an option.

Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) followed Bennett and pointed out that “there’s only really two ways you can deflect this deficit, and that’s either by cutting expenditures or raising income taxes or other forms of taxes.”

Reed asked him if he could think of other ways, but Bernanke returned to entitlement money as the way to balance the budget.

“Willie Sutton robbed banks because that’s where the money is, as he put it,” Bernanke said. “The money in this case is in entitlements.”

When I read this I wanted to throw up. Apparently Sen. Bernie Sanders, one of the last honest men in government felt the same:

Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont who has placed a hold on Bernanke’s nomination, was apoplectic when HuffPost told him Bernanke was pushing for cuts in entitlement spending. “Bernanke wants to cut entitlement spending? Well, that confirms everything I’m saying,” Sanders fumed.

“The CEOs and top people on Wall Street make huge bonuses, and what? We’re going to cut back on Social Security and Medicare? That’s what we’re going to do?”

I think Sen. Sanders has the right idea, don’t you? Here’s what Progressive change said of Sanders (I wholeheartedly agree!)

Now, Bernie Sanders has taken the brave step of putting a “hold” on renominating Bush’s choice for another 4-year term at the helm of our economy.This is huge. Wall Street will not be happy, and they’ll go after Sanders with everything they’ve got. Most senators wouldn’t even consider going up against them like this. That’s why Bernie Sanders is a real progressive hero.

If you want to donate money to Bernie Sanders, click here.

And finally, here’s an information rich clip of Rolling Stone’s ace political editor Matt Taibbi’s take on Obama’s economic team. It’s a preview of Taibbi’s upcoming expose for the magazine titled “Obama’s Big Sellout”:

“[Bob] Rubin probably more than any other person was responsible for the financial crisis by deregulating the economy [while] in the White House. And he had a major role in helping destroy one of the world’s biggest company in Citigroup. He has one of the worst tack records you can find, but he was basically the guy who was the architect of the entire Obama policy. Obama put him in charge of everything. “

These guys are idiots. Hell, they’re practically traitorous! They’re traitorous idiots. They should be fired with extreme prejudice. And then tar and feathered.

You think I’m joking?

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