Beginning as of noon on January 20, 2009, the GOP has been incessantly lecturing us on an alleged deficit crisis. We've heard all kinds of predictions of doom and gloom, and contentions that that the U.S. will inevitably suffer a Greek like economic collapse. As usual, reality greatly differs from the right wing's pronouncements and predictions. What has been really happening is that we're seeing the fastest deficit reduction in several generations. Just what is the extent of this dramatic deficit reduction? How does it compare to other recent Republican Presidents? What could reverse this amazing progress in our nation's fiscal fortunes?
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said that President Obama inherited an annual deficit of $1.3 trillion from the Bush Administration. Since Obama has taken office, the deficit has declined from the $1.3 trillion annual deficit he inherited from Bush in 2009 to $642 billion in 2013. (What this means is that Obama has kept his campaign promise to cut the deficit in half.) The budget deficit has declined from 10% of GDP when Obama took office, to 4% of GDP in 2013. That is the biggest decline in the deficit since the country demobilized in the late 1940s after World War II. The CBO is projecting that the deficit will further decline to 2% of GDP by 2015. Most economists say that a deficit amounting to 2% of GDP is sustainable.
Unfortunately, very few Americans are aware of this dramatic upturn in our nation's finances. According to a recent Bloomberg poll, a 62% majority believe the deficit is getting bigger, 28% believe the deficit is staying roughly the same, and only 6% believe the deficit is shrinking. In other words, over 90% of Americans don't believe the incontrovertible and entirely objective truth that the deficit is sinking like a stone. It's worth pondering why.
Public ignorance of President Obama's great success in reducing the deficit is understandable given the political conversation in both the so-called "liberal" mainstream media and the right wing media. Hardly a day goes by without somebody in the GOP alleging that the deficit is spiraling out of control and that we're going the way of Greece. The so-called "liberal" mainstream media has virtually ignored this success and seems to prefer to report on the latest allegations of faux scandals coming out of the GOP.
Many Americans would be surprised to know that President Obama's sterling record on the deficit compares very well to that of previous Republican Presidents. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration and the then Republican controlled Congress went on a tax cutting and spending orgy squandering a projected ten year surplus of $5.5 trillion in 2001 and turning it into the largest deficits in U.S. history. During the Bush Administration, the GOP put two wars, two tax cuts and the Medicare Part D program on the national credit card.
President Obama's record on the deficit is even superior to that of Ronald Reagan - whose Presidency is regarded as the gold standard by the GOP. "Ronaldus Magnus" inherited an annual deficit of 2.6% of GDP from President Carter and boosted the deficit to a peacetime record of 6% of GDP by 1983. In 1984 - the year the GOP told us it was "Morning in America" - the deficit was 4.8% of GDP. (Apparently, there were no sky is falling predictions from the GOP about the deficit in 1984.) By the time Reagan left office in 1989, the deficit was 2.8% of GDP.
The biggest obstacle to our nation's finances (and continued job growth) is the radicalized faction that currently controls today's Congressional Republicans. The Republicans are already talking darkly about refusing to raise the nation's debt ceiling when our nation runs out of borrowing authority in September. (Raising the debt ceiling is paying for spending we've already run up.) Failure to raise the debt ceiling would mark the U.S. as a dead beat nation, raise interest rates and cause a new recession. Obviously, such a self-inflicted wound would cause the deficit to increase.
As Democrats, the best way to preserve our nation's fiscal future and economy is to elect more Democrats to Congress. Unfortunately, today's Congressional Republicans are radical and they are ready to tank the nation's economy if President Obama and the Democrats in Congress don't capitulate to their regressive agenda of tax cuts for the wealthy financed by cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, student loans and education. We need to continue to get our message out and work hard to elect more Democrats in 2014. Our nation's future depends upon it.
The Nebraska Gubernatorial race just got a lot more interesting last week. The most significant development was that former three-term UNL Regent Chuck Hassebrook made a formal announcement of his candidacy. Hassebrook is a serious candidate with the background necessary to be a good candidate as well as a good governor. After his announcement, Hassebrook launched a vigorous campaign across the state meeting with voters and the media.
One of the reasons why Hassebrook is a strong candidate is because his agricultural roots run deep - he is a native of Platte Center, Nebraska where his family has been engaged in farming for more than one hundred years. Hassebrook's agricultural background has also extended to his work at the Center For Rural Affairs where he is currently the executive director. In all, Hassebrook has served on the staff at the Center for nearly 35 years. At the Center, Hassebrook has been instrumental in the passage of numerous state and federal policy reforms. Hassebrook was also elected to the UNL Board of Regents three times in a heavily Republican district and served for almost 18 years as a Regent, including two terms as chair.
At his formal announcement, Hassebrook outlined the themes of his campaign. Hassebrook said: "My faith tells me that we have a responsibility to help everyone across this state - everyone deserves an opportunity... We must invest in creating a future where every Nebraskan has the chance to participate in the state's prosperity and where every community has a chance to thrive, that is why I'm running for governor."
In an interview with the Lincoln Journal Star, Hassebrook spelled out his top priorities: educational opportunity and quality at all levels; providing community colleges with the resources to teach skills that meet workforce needs; development of wind energy in the state; and increased support for small business owners, especially in rural Nebraska. Hassebrook told the Lincoln Journal Star: "We need to create greater economic opportunity for people. Every person should have a chance for a better future. I believe it is really important to care about those who are struggling. That's what my life has been about."
Former Regent Hassebrook would be a formidable nominee due to his agricultural background and his demonstrated ability to win elections in Republican leaning areas. Hassebrook could combine his strength in the rural areas with votes from the Democratic leaning urban areas in Lincoln and Omaha. "The only way a Democrat can win statewide is do much better in the other 90 counties" beyond the urban concentration of voters in Lancaster, Douglas and Sarpy counties, he said. Hassebrook contended that he could do a lot better in the Third Congressional District and other rural areas while still holding on to the Democratic base in metropolitan areas.
It appears as though Hassebrook will be joined in the race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination by Omaha State Senator Steve Lathrop. Lathrop has won two elections in a Republican leaning district in Omaha and has an impressive record of accomplishment in the Unicameral. The Omaha Senator has begun a statewide listening tour and will soon formally announce his candidacy.
The entry of two top tier Democratic candidates into the gubernatorial race sends a strong signal that the eventual Democratic nominee has an excellent chance to win the general election. Our party's nominee has a genuine opportunity to regain the State House since many Nebraska voters have grown tired of long time, one party Republican rule. That one party rule has led to a culture of arrogance, entitlement and incompetence in the Heineman Administration. For example, tens of millions of dollars have been squandered at the Department of Health Human Services due to the incompetence of the Heineman Administration.
We here at the Nebraska Democratic Party are very excited to have a gubernatorial primary featuring two outstanding candidates. The Nebraska Democratic Party and its officers will be taking a neutral stance in the gubernatorial primary race. We will offer equal amounts of resources and support to both candidates. Once we have a gubernatorial nominee in May 2014, we will strongly support that nominee since both Hassebrook or Lathrop would make an excellent governor.
Over the last four years, the GOP has constantly postured as the party that supposedly respects and defends the Constitution. It's part of their P.R. strategy to attempt to marginalize President Obama and his policies. It's also a back handed way to question our patriotism. In my opinion, it's about time that we Democrats push back and expose the Republicans' genuine views on the Constitution. I would submit that once the American people become more familiar with the GOP's views on the Constitution, a majority of them will conclude that the Democratic Party is the one that genuinely believes in the Constitution.
The Republicans' position on the First Amendment is directly related to their core economic view that rich people don't have enough money. In states like Wisconsin and Ohio, Republican controlled legislatures have passed laws gutting public employee unions and limiting their ability to participate in the political process. The aim of these regressive laws isn't to save the taxpayers money - instead the true objective is to make it harder for unions to make political contributions and turn out voters. In contrast, the GOP supports the Supreme Court's activist decision in Citizens United that removed all limits on campaign spending by the wealthy and the corporations. What that should tell the American people is that the GOP believes that the First Amendment only protects the rights of the top 1% to participate in the political process.
The GOP's views on the Second Amendment are equally bizarre and out of the mainstream. Conservatives believe that there are no limits whatsoever to the Second Amendment's guarantee of the right to keep and bear arms. That misguided belief has caused the GOP to oppose an expanded system of background checks for gun purchases. Apparently, the GOP believes that criminals and mentally ill people have an unlimited right to purchase semi-automatic weapons.
What the GOP doesn't know (or won't tell you) is that in the majority opinion in the seminal Heller decision which found a new right to keep and bear arms pursuant to the Second Amendment, ultra-conservative Justice Antonin Scalia held that like all other rights, the Second Amendment right is not absolute. Scalia ruled that longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms are indeed constitutional. Apparently, the GOP is well to the right of one of the most conservative Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court.
The GOP is equally out of the mainstream in its views on the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments. These are the portions of the Bill of Rights that guarantee a fair trial for those who are charged with crimes. For example, beginning on January 20, 2009, the GOP adopted a new position when they began to demand military tribunals to try suspected terrorists. What they don't seem to realize is that the Clinton, Bush and Obama Administrations have successfully prosecuted some of the most notorious Al Qaeda terrorists in the civilian federal court system. Numerous terrorist who have been convicted in the federal courts are now doing hard time in super max prisons in the U.S.
Today's movement conservatives are equally contemptuous of the American people serving on juries in civil cases involving injury claims. The so-called tort "reform" laws supported by the GOP would gut the American people's right to a jury trial guaranteed by the Seventh Amendment. The enactment of caps on damages in medical malpractice cases in states like Texas have closed the courtroom door to senior citizens, stay at home mothers and children. These caps on damages have done almost nothing to reduce medical costs or malpractice premiums. All these tort "reform" laws have done is increase the bottom line of the already very profitable insurance industry.
The position of the GOP on the Eighth Amendment directly contradicts their so-called belief in "limited government." This is because the GOP believes that the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual
punishment doesn't bar the death penalty. What that means is that the GOP believes the government should possess the power to put people to death and will make correct decisions on this weighty issue. This is an especially odd position for the GOP because they believe government can't do anything right. (In contrast, the GOP doesn't trust the government to save lives by establishing a system guaranteeing health coverage to all Americans.)
The GOP's position on the Tenth Amendment is similarly grounded in an intellectually bankrupt theory. The Tenth Amendment provides that powers not granted to the federal government by the Constitution, nor prohibited to the States, are reserved to the States or the people. The radical right has long interpreted the Tenth Amendment as giving the states the power to nullify federal laws with which they disagree. However, this theory of nullification was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court as early as 1824. In addition, this interpretation of the Tenth Amendment was the core Constitutional belief of the Southern slaveholders in the run up to the American Civil War.
This tortured history of the Tenth Amendment hasn't deterred the radical right and they continue to adhere to these long discredited views. Earlier this year, gubernatorial hopeful and State Senator Charlie Janssen introduced a bill which would make any federal law passed which places new restrictions on firearm or magazine ownership unenforceable in Nebraska. Senator Janssen exposed his profound ignorance of Constitutional history when he said: "Some people will say there's a supremacy clause, the federal government reigns supreme. I would disagree with that."
The radical right's views on the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment are equally ignorant and discredited. In several of the Presidential battleground states, GOP controlled legislatures
passed voter identification or voter suppression bills that make it harder for minorities, senior citizens and young people to vote. These so-called "limited government" conservatives used the power of
big government to suppress the most sacred right of all - the right to vote.
Movement conservatives' views on the Commerce Clause are as reactionary as their views on the Tenth and the Fourteenth Amendment. The Commerce Clause isn't well known but it is one of the most important provisions in the Constitution because it gives the federal government the authority to regulate interstate commerce. Today's radical right supports a theory called the "Constitution in Exile." If a majority of the Supreme Court were to once again adopt this theory, the federal government would lack the power to enact most economic legislation.
It isn't well known but there was long history of "conservative" judicial activism on the U.S. Supreme Court during the Gilded Age. Between 1871 and 1936, a majority on the Supreme Court struck down
minimum wage laws, maximum hour laws, legislation banning child labor and civil rights laws. During Franklin Roosevelt's first term, most of his New Deal legislation was declared to be unconstitutional by a
majority of the Supreme Court. The justices who made these infamous rulings were of the belief that laissez-faire capitalism was enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.
Unfortunately, this outmoded theory of constitutional interpretation has made a strong comeback in today's radicalized Republican Party. As we all know, Obama Care was held to be constitutional in a 5-4 vote last year. What should give everyone pause is that the four dissenters - Alito, Kennedy, Scalia, and Thomas - demanded that the Supreme Court throw out the entirety of the health care reform law. To reach this conclusion, these four had to reject the Supreme Court's precedents on the Commerce Clause dating all the way back to 1937. The significance of this dissenting opinion tells us that there are now four justices on the Supreme Court who effectively want to overturn the Progressive reforms of 20th century and early 21st century. What this means for us is that it is vitally important that we Democrats continue to win Presidential elections in order to prevent the return of a radical majority to the U.S. Supreme Court.
It is obvious that the Republicans' views on the Constitution are dangerous, radical and well out of the mainstream of opinion in the U.S. Most Americans would be appalled to learn about what the GOP really believes about the Constitution. It is apparent that the GOP believes that the Constitution only protects the rights of the wealthy, corporations and gun owners. In contrast, we Democrats believe that the Constitution protects all Americans. I believe it is time that we push back against this attempt by the GOP to claim the Constitution for themselves and tell the American people that it is the Democratic Party believes in and respects the U.S. Constitution.
As the current session of the Legislature winds down, it is obvious that the Democratic Senators have been leading the way since it began. What we have seen in this session is the the Unicameral standing up to Governor Dave Heineman's regressive agenda and the Senators setting their own very independent path. Just what brought about this remarkable result in a Republican leaning state? How have Democratic Senators led the way? What does this portend for the future
This all began in the 2012 election cycle in which the Democrats picked up three legislative seats. Voters elected Kate Bolz, Rick Kolowski and Sue Crawford to the body. These pick ups made for a very interesting opening phase of the session. The Senators chose Democratic Senators to chair 8 out of the 14 committees, and selected Senator Heath Mello to chair the crucial Appropriations Committee.
Once the body was organized, the session started with Heineman making the abolition of state income and corporate taxes his top priority. Heineman would have replaced the lost revenue with the repeal of numerous sales tax exemptions that are on the books. This proposal would have increased taxes on 80% of Nebraskans to finance a big tax cut for the top 20% of income earners and the corporations.
Heineman's regressive tax scheme set off a firestorm of opposition because it would've eliminated sales tax exemptions on the following: prescription drugs, dorm rooms, purchases by exempt organizations including churches, aviation fuel, data centers, groomers, hospital rooms, medical equipment, agricultural machinery, agricultural chemicals, energy used in industry and seeds for commercial use. As Senator Steve Lathrop said: "We knew that (the governor's) list was coming. And now that it's here, we see that this plan is picking winners and losers. And the losers include the ag industry, manufacturing, students and the sick."
As it turned out, Heineman was forced to withdraw his regressive tax scheme early in the legislative session and had to settle for the establishment of a tax modernization commission to study Nebraska's tax system. Things could've turned out a lot differently but for the leadership shown by the likes of Senators Lathrop, Nordquist and Conrad. For example, Kansas recently passed a tax plan similar to the one proposed by Heineman and now the Kansas legislature is struggling to fill in a huge revenue gap created by tax cuts for the wealthy and the corporations.
Governor Heineman and his dwindling band of right wing supporters in the Unicameral suffered another stinging defeat when the Legislature voted to override his veto of a bill shoring up retirement plans for school employees, judges and State Patrol troopers. This was Heineman's first veto of the session and it stood for less than 24 hours.
In overriding Heineman's veto by a 32-1 margin, the legislative majority stood with Senator Nordquist, chairman of the Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee. Norquist said: "The governor's veto would've pushed the problem into the future. Skipping out on the bill is what got cities like Omaha in trouble," Nordquist said. "This is an obligation we have to meet."
Heineman's lame duck status was further confirmed by the passage by an overwhelming margin of the final $7.8 billion, two-year state budget package. The governor had originally pushed for inclusion of $2.2 million in the budget for the purchase of a state airplane contending it was necessary for him to continue visiting rural parts of the state. Instead, the Senators rejected Heineman's request, removed funds to buy the plane and instead set up an independent study of the best way to provide air transportation for Heineman and other state officials.
The state budget would provide for, among other things: more spending for University of Nebraska and state colleges so they can freeze tuition for two years; serve more people with intellectual disabilities who are on the state waiting list; increase payment rates for child welfare, child care and health care providers; and put more money into early childhood education.
Governor Heineman falsely maintained that the the budget didn't contain any tax cuts and alleged it was "unfortunate" that lawmakers didn't find a way to come up with tax cuts. What Heineman didn't tell us was that the budget also includes $230 million in continued funding for the Property Tax Credit Act, providing Nebraska taxpayers with significant local property tax relief. (I suppose Heineman was lamenting the lack of tax cuts for wealthy individuals and corporations.)
Mello called the final budget a "moderate, centrist approach" and said that the strong vote in support of the budget shows that lawmakers can work in a "bipartisan, consensus" fashion. Mello also said: "I believe our budget provides a good map for the state to follow." As it turned out, Heineman's line item vetoes only amounted to 1/10 of 1% of the entire budget.
Heineman and his band of right wing Senators were only able to avoid defeats on the Medicaid expansion and the repeal of the death penalty by resorting to the rare use of the filibuster. The right wing Senators' refusal to grant these bills an up or down vote indicates that there was more than majority support for them. (Remember back during the Bush Administration when the Republicans constantly demanded up or down votes for his priorities?)
Despite these victories (and near victories), the fight isn't over. In the 2014 cycle there will be 17 open legislative seats due to term limits. There will also be a competitive gubernatorial race. I fully expect our party to nominate an outstanding candidate for governor. What that means is that if we want to continue to be on the offensive and maintain our momentum, we must continue to work hard to elect our candidates. I'm confident about our future since the 2012 election cycle and the legislative session indicates that a majority of Nebraska voters support our vision.
At the present time, the GOP and the media are consumed by the controversy over the IRS's alleged targeting of conservative groups that applied for 501(c)(4) status in 2011-12. Already, there are shrill cries for impeachment from Republican members of Congress and comparisons of President Obama to Richard Nixon. Just what exactly happened at the IRS? Is there any evidence of White House involvement or wrongdoing? What does this tell us about the GOP?
This all started in 2010 in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United that basically eliminated all limits on corporate and union spending on elections. As a result, the IRS was flooded with thousands of applications from groups for 501(c)(4) status. If granted, this status would give groups tax exempt status and allow them to keep their donors secret. Due to budget cuts, the IRS was woefully understaffed and lacked adequate resources to handle all of these applications.
In order to more efficiently process these applications, the IRS created criteria to screen applicants. Unfortunately, lower and mid-level staffers singled out groups with words like "Tea Party" in their names and unfairly held up their applications. President Obama responded to these bureaucratic blunders by calling them "outrageous" and saying "there was no place for it." As a result, Obama fired Steven Miller, the acting commissioner of the IRS. (Interestingly enough, the IRS Commissioner when this alleged targeting of conservative groups occurred was a Bush Administration appointee.)
As it turned out, liberal groups' applications for 501(c)(4) status were also targeted. One of those groups, Emerge America, saw its tax-exempt status denied, forcing it to disclose its donors and pay some taxes. Progress Texas, another of the organizations, faced the same lines of questioning as the Tea Party groups from the same IRS office that issued letters to the Republican-friendly applicants.
What's been over looked in this whole controversy is that very few liberal organizations appear to have been approved either. As a matter of fact, the evidence does suggest that liberal groups were not approved in droves while conservative ones were subject to endless bureaucratic scrutiny. The Washington Post reported that there was not a single organization with "tea party" in the name approved in 2011. However, in 2012, 26 groups were approved. The Washington Post also found that there were 30 groups with "progressive" in their name were approved in 2012. When using this measure, Democratic aligned organizations did not appear to receive special treatment compared to conservative ones, judging only by the numbers of organizations that were approved.
As a result of this controversy, a new wave of investigations have been launched. Thus far, there is no evidence that anybody in the White House or the Obama campaign was involved in this alleged targeting of conservative groups. A report from ths IRS Inspector General said that incompetence, not malice, was behind the tax agency's scrutiny of conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status in the lead-up to the 2012 elections. This report explicitly stated that the IRS behavior was "not politically biased," but that it was due to lower-level staff who did not understand their jobs and sometimes acted insubordinately, and that it was not driven by the White House. This report further indicated that the scrutiny of these conservative groups was "not influenced by any individual or organization outside the IRS."
Last week's House hearings further confirmed the report of the non-partisan Inspector General's Office of the IRS. During four hours of contentious questioning by Republican House members, Former acting IRS Commission Steven Miller insisted that he never had contact with White House officials:
"Absolutely not," he said when asked by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.).
"How about President Obama's reelection campaign?," Nunes asked later.
"No," Miller replied.
Miller even challenged the notion that the groups were targeted because they were conservative. Instead, he said, they were listed because they were politically active. "We took a shortcut on some of it, but we collected, to be blunt, more than tea party cases," he said.
Despite the lack of evidence pointing to any involvement from the White House and the Obama re-election campaign, the Republicans and the right wing media began to hurl around reckless charges that Obama is like Nixon and are even calling for impeachment. For example, right wing firebrand Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) said that her constituents regularly tell her they want President Obama impeached: "I will tell you, as I have been home in my district, in the sixth district of Minnesota, there isn't a weekend that hasn't gone by that someone says to me, 'Michelle, what in the world are you all waiting for in Congress? Why aren't you impeaching the president?" Already, at least eight Republican members of Congress have demanded the impeachment of President Obama.
These increasing reckless charges and demands by Republican members of Congress and the right wing media have caused some senior Republicans figures to call for the GOP not to over reach and to slow down. For example, disgraced former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said that his GOP colleagues should worry "about the risk of appearing to be too eager as they dig into the scandals now dogging the Obama administration."
If the recent history of the Republican party is any indicator, there is no way the GOP can slow down and take a deep breath. The reality is that the modern GOP - driven by the ratings obsessed entertainers in the right wing media - can't help but over reach when investigating this pseudo-scandal. Voters outside of the hard core GOP base will continue to (correctly) perceive that the GOP isn't serious about solving problems like immigration, excessive gun violence, and unemployment. Instead, they will conclude that all the GOP cares about is destroying President Obama. This coming GOP over reach will create a great opportunity for the Democrats in the 2014 elections. If we work hard enough, we can make 2014 like 1998 - when the Democrats picked up seats in a mid-term election when the GOP was consumed with alleged scandals and wasn't doing the business of the American people.
Recently, the Republican Party and it's allies in the right wing media have have been shamelessly trying to exploit for narrow partisan political gain the tragic events that occurred at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on September 11, 2012. As we all know, Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other American foreign service officers died in this attack. This attempt by the GOP to score political points off the tragic deaths of four Americans began even as the ruins of the U.S. consulate were still aflame when Romney made the outrageous and blatantly false allegation that President Obama "sympathized with those who waged the attacks." Just what is the historical backdrop for this tragedy? Just what is this whole Benghazi episode all about? What is the Republican end game?
As we frequently do here at the Nebraska Democratic Party, we start out by taking a little trip down memory lane. The Republicans propaganda depends heavily upon their followers having bad memories and they would like you to believe that history begins when they take the podium.
The Republicans and Fox News would like you to forget that during the Bush Administration there were there were 13 attacks on U.S. embassies, resulting in the deaths of 53 Americans. These attacks occurred in India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Syria, Greece and Yemen. After these embassy attacks, we heard nothing from Republican members of Congress or the right wing media. Nobody criticized the Bush Administration about these attacks including the Congressional Democrats. Nearly every accusation being issued by the Republicans about Benghazi could've been raised during the Bush era but we heard nothing from them.
The right wing media would also like you to forget that the Republicans opposed the liberation of Libya and the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The Obama Administration made the decision to support the Libyan rebels when Gaddafi's forces were on the march and on the verge of capturing the then rebel capital of Benghazi. In a radio address, the former Libyan dictator told the residents of Benghazi: "It's over ... We are coming tonight. You will come out from inside. Prepare yourselves from tonight. We will find you in your closets." In the speech, the Libyan leader denounced the rebels and said: "We will show no mercy and no pity to them".
As a direct consequence of that threat from Gaddafi, President Obama made the courageous decision to commit U.S. forces to support the Libyan rebels and NATO in their effort to overthrow the bloodthirsty tyrant. The Republicans responded to Obama's leadership by opposing the liberation of Libya and accusing President Obama of "leading from behind." As it turned out, Libya was liberated at the cost of $1 billion and no American lives were lost.
The GOP's opposition to the liberation of Libya and overthrow of Gaddafi is significant because there would no democracy and no freely elected parliament in Libya if the GOP had gotten it's way in 2011. Instead, Gaddafi would've killed tens of thousands of innocent people in Benghazi and he would still be in power. A victorious Gaddafi would've supported anti-U.S. terrorist attacks all over the world if we had followed the GOP's advice.
Another area where the Congressional Republicans have exercised bad judgment was when they voted to cut funding for embassy security after they regained control of the House in the 2010 elections. Well before the attack in Benghazi, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized the Republican cuts to the State Department budget, warning they "will be detrimental to America's national security." The Republicans ignored Clinton's warning and cut $128 million off of the Administration's request for embassy security funding in 2011 and cut an additional $331 billion from the State Department's request in 2012. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) defended the cuts by saying that: "Look we have to make priorities and choices in this country...You have to prioritize things."
When it comes to the actual attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, the GOP has prioritized partisan politics at the expense of the truth. The GOP's allegations center around two claims. First, they are in a state of outrage over the Administration's initial talking points about how the attack happened. And secondly, the GOP is claiming that the Administration failed to take military action to rescue the four Americans after they were attacked in Benghazi.
For months, the Republicans have pretended that Obama never labeled Benghazi as an act of terror, omitting the fact that the day after the Benghazi attack, on September 12, 2012, President Obama spoke from the White House Rose Garden about Benghazi, saying, "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America." Obama referred to Benghazi twice more as an "act of terror" on September 13, 2012, two days after the attack.
The right wing's obsession with how the Administration described the attack also has focused on the talking points issued shortly after the attack that initially omitted Al Qaeda's role in the attack. At the time, these talking points represented the intelligence community's best estimate of how the attack occurred. In addition, any mention of Al Qaeda was omitted so as not to prejudice the investigation. As then CIA Director David Petraeus said in Congressional testimony last year: "The names of the groups involved in the attack were removed from the public explanation of the attack immediately after the assault to avoiding alerting the militants that American intelligence and law enforcement agencies were tracking them."
The GOP is equally obsessed with the Administration's alleged failure to take military action to rescue our diplomats. What they don't tell you is that a State Department accountability review board, led by former diplomat Thomas Pickering and Adm. Michael G. Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, concluded that there were no good military options that were available at the time. There was a four-man Special Operations Forces team in Tripoli but they were only armed with pistols. There were other U.S. military assets in Italy and Croatia but they would have only arrived in Benghazi long after the attack was over.
The radical right is exploiting the tragic deaths of four Americans for the most crass political and commercial reasons. Fox needs Benghazi because it's ratings fell to a 12 year low after the 2012 elections. The likes of Limbaugh and Hannity have also experienced similar ratings slumps. The right wing media needs to exploit this tragedy to become relevant (and profitable) again.
The GOP needs Benghazi because the economy is improving and the deficit is falling at the fastest rate since W.W.II. For the last four years, the GOP has predicted that the Obama Administration will ruin the country. Now that their predictions have turned out to be wildly off the mark, the GOP needs to change the subject and focus on imaginary scandals - like they did during the Clinton Presidency. Already, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) and Representative Jason Cheffetz (R-UT) are talking impeachment.
The re-election of President Obama has embittered the radical right and driven them further into a frenzy of hatred because the likes of Fox and Rasmussen had assured them that Romney would win easily. The radical right will never get over the fact that Romney allegedly blew a sure thing and that Obama was re-elected. These people are ruthless and will stop at nothing. I predict there will be a major effort by the GOP to impeach President Obama before his second term is over. The GOP is now a dangerous and radical faction. We Democrats must remain vigilant and resist this coup with all of our might.
Economy Continues To Grow Despite Partisan GOP Obstruction
Late last week, the Department of Labor announced that the economy created 165,000 new jobs in April. Moreover, the unemployment rate has reached a 4-year low of 7.5%. The last time there were this many people working in the private sector was in September 2008. The private sector has now added 6.78 million jobs since Feb. 2010.
What's more, the economy created more than 100,000 additional jobs in March and February than previously reported. The number of new jobs created in March was revised up to 138,000 from 88,000, while February's figure was revised up to 332,000 from 268,000. The number of jobs created in February was the highest since November 2005 for any month that did not include temporary Census bureau hiring.
As expected, the Republicans threw cold water on the good news and complained it wasn't good enough. House Speaker John Boehner said:
"There's some good news in today's report, but the president's policies still aren't providing the robust economic growth and job creation the American people desperately need." The Speaker contended that in order to "get things moving," we need to continue to cut spending and replace what he labeled the "president's sequester" with what he called "smarter cuts" that put us on a path to a balanced budget. Boehner failed to identify any specific "smarter cuts" that Republican support.
This good news brings to mind several important questions. How does this job growth compare to the last Republican President? Why isn't the economy creating more jobs? Will the Republican's economic prescriptions lead to a better economic performance?
Just about every Republican would like you to forget that Bush had the worst jobs creation record since Herbert Hoover. Only 3 million jobs were created during the Bush Presidency or around 31,000 jobs per month. Even if you give Bush every possible benefit of the doubt, the economy only created 86,000 jobs per month between 2002 and 2007.
(Looking at Bush's record this way would be like evaluating Bill Callahan's record without taking into account the 2004 and 2007seasons.)
Republicans will tell you that it is somehow unfair to examine Bush's economic record when evaluating the current state of the economy. We here at the Nebraska Democratic Party take the position that the comparison is a fair one since today's Republicans continue to back Bush's failed economic policies of tax cuts for the wealthy and the deregulation of big business. We here at the Nebraska Democratic Party will cease to talk about Bush's record once the Republicans stop promising to bring back his policies.
Going back and looking at Bush's record on jobs is also fair because Republicans continue to complain about Obama's record. Between 2002 and 2007, the Republicans used to talk about the "Bush boom" and called his economic record: "The best story never told." Fast forward to the present date and the Republicans are complaining about an economy that has been creating over six times as many jobs per month as were created during the Bush Administration. (The economy has been creating around 200,000 jobs per month during the last six months.)
Unfortunately, Republican economic policies continue to hold back the economy. Beginning this year, the Social Security payroll tax cut was repealed and the mindless sequester cuts have recently begun to kick in. Economists like Diane Swonk, chief economist for Mesirow Financial in Chicago, say the economy would be showing much more momentum but for the implementation of the Republicans' austerity policies. "What's the biggest drag on the economy? The government," Ms. Swonk said. "If the government simply did no harm, we could be at escape velocity." Without the impact of the sequester's spending cuts and higher taxes, Ms. Swonk estimates, annual economic growth would be close to 4 percent, above the 2.5 percent pace she is expecting in 2013.
All of these austerity policies that are slowing down the economy originated with the Republicans. The inception of the sequester occurred back in 2011 when the Republicans threatened to refuse to raise the debt ceiling and wreck the economy unless President Obama agreed to cut spending. President Obama was (justifiably) concerned that the GOP would carry out its deeply irresponsible threat and signed the sequester bill into law.
At the time the sequester bill passed in 2011, Speaker Boehner bragged that he got "98% of what he wanted." In addition to Boehner, prominent Republicans like McConnell and Ryan voted for the sequester.
Closer to home, Johanns, Fortenberry, Terry and Smith all voted for the sequester. In the Nebraska Congressional delegation, only Ben Nelson voted no.
Since the passage of the sequester in 2011, President Obama and the Democrats have proposed several responsible budget plans that would replace the sequester with a combination of higher taxes on the wealthy and less harmful spending cuts. In response, the Republicans have refused to compromise on taxes and have even declared the sequester a "victory" for the GOP.
Another Republican policy that has impeded the recovery has been the repeal of the Social Security payroll tax cut. Even though they never supported the Social Security payroll tax cut in the first place, the Republicans have falsely blamed for Obama for the repeal of it earlier this year. When the payroll tax cut was initially proposed by President Obama in 2011, the Republicans bitterly opposed it and Representative Paul Ryan went so far as to derisively label it a "sugar high." In addition, in 2011, Johanns, Terry, Fortenberry and Smith all voted against the payroll tax cut.
Ultimately, the Republicans relented and allowed this middle class tax cut to pass in the face of overwhelming public pressure.
The Republicans demanded the Social Security payroll tax cut be repealed as part of the 2012 fiscal cliff deal. The Republicans told President Obama they would allow all of the Bush era tax cuts for the middle class to expire and cause a double dip recession unless President Obama agreed to repeal the payroll tax cut.
It's pretty evident that this combination of middle class tax increases and sequester spending cuts are responsible for slowing down the economy and preventing a robust economic recovery. The Republicans would double down on those failed policies and demand even more spending cuts and austerity if they were in control. Earlier this year, just about every Republican - including every member of Nebraska's Congressional delegation - voted in favor of the regressive Ryan budget plan which would be make much deeper spending cuts than the sequester cuts.
Just imagine how much better the economy would be doing in the absence of GOP obstruction and austerity. Apparently, the Republican Party has concluded that economic growth is not in its political interests, so they're going to do everything they can to slow it down.
What we have to do as Democrats is recruit and strongly support Democratic candidates for Congress. That is the only way we're going to see improved economic growth and more jobs. Mark Sullivan has already announced he is running for the House in CD-03 and I've heard potentially strong candidates are looking to run for the House in CD-01 and CD-02. We need to get behind those candidates and educate the voters that the only way we will have a better economy is to elect more Democrats and end the job killing gridlock in Washington, D.C.
The marquee race in Nebraska in 2013 is the Omaha Mayor's race where incumbent Mayor Jim Suttle is running for re-election. Suttle is currently matched up against Republican City Council Woman Jean Stothert. Just what are Mayor Suttle's accomplishments during his four years as mayor? What does Ms. Stothert stand for?
Mayor Suttle inherited a city facing a severe financial crisis. Omaha had lost it's prized Triple A credit rating because the City had no plans to resolve the $600 million police and fire pension shortfall, as well as no plan to pay down the debt on the Century Link Center.
In the first days of his Administration, Mayor Suttle stepped up to the plate and began to make the tough choices necessary to restore Omaha's finances. Suttle proposed and convinced the City Council to pass a 2.5 percent dining tax on all restaurants within city limits. The Republicans immediately went into their tiresome full outrage mode and predicted that the new tax wouldn't raise any money and that many Omahans would go to out to eat in Council Bluffs. Stothert opposed Mayor Suttle's tough choices and proposed no alternatives of her own.
The Omaha Republicans were so angered by the new restaurant tax that they launched an effort to recall Mayor Suttle and filed a lawsuit to block the tax. As it turned out, the voters of Omaha wisely refused to recall Mayor Suttle and the Nebraska Supreme Court threw out the Republicans' court challenge.
This recent history indicates that it's pretty obvious that the extreme Republicans in Omaha were deeply embittered by Mayor Suttle's 2009 election victory and wanted him to fail. They did everything they could to destroy his Administration and never game him a chance. The Omaha Republicans treated Mayor Suttle as poorly as the Washington, D.C. Republicans have treated President Obama. It was party over City (and Country) for Stothert and Omaha's radical Republicans.
The Republicans' dire predictions about the restaurant tax turned out about as well as the failed recall effort and court challenge. Omaha originally projected that the tax would bring in about $15 million a year. In its first full year, the tax beat beat expectations by collecting $23.8 million for the City. The 2012 figures surpassed that total and the figure for 2013 is expected to grow to $25.6 million.
In addition to the restaurant tax, Suttle took on the spending side of the equation and addressed the pension shortfall that he inherited. Mayor Suttle ended the controversial practice of "spiking" where those close to retirement added substantial overtime hours into the calculations for the pensions. As a result of Mayor Suttle's leadership, city revenue to expenses are in balance and Omaha has regained it's coveted Triple A rating.
Mayor Suttle didn't only face a fiscal crisis and hyper-partisan opposition, he also encountered the epic flood of 2011. Thanks to his engineering background, Suttle was the right person at the right time. The Mayor took charge of the crisis and ordered immediate efforts to sandbag vulnerable locations along the riverfront and brought in additonal pumps to redirect flood waters.
As a result of those efforts, there was limited damage to properties along the Missouri River. Major businesses like Conagra didn't lose any work days, and the airport and other river front businesses remained open during the flood. In addition, major events at or near the Century Link Center and T.D. Ameritrade Stadium, including the College World Series, continued uninterrupted and as planned.
It should be obvious to any objective observer that Jim Suttle has been a very effective Mayor and has an impressive list of significant accomplishments. But what about Ms. Stothert? What does she stand for? What are her campaign promises?
Lest we forget, Stothert endorsed Governor Heineman's regressive tax shift, which would tax prescription drugs, medical care, churches, private schools, room and board at colleges, agriculture, and manufacturing, all to finance tax cuts for the wealthy and the corporations. All things considered, Heineman's risky tax scheme is a tax shift that would increase taxes on the bottom 80 percent of wage earners. The fact that Stohert endorsed Heineman's failed tax plan should tell you Stothert shares the values of the extreme Tea Party faction of the GOP.
Stothert has taken an equally irresponsible position on the restaurant and the wheel tax. She has pledged to repeal them but she hasn't told the voters how she would make up for the revenue shortfall this would create and balance Omaha's books. In addition to that, Stothert has also promised to increase spending on roads and hire more police.
As we can see, Suttle's Republican opponent is promising to increase spending and cut taxes at the same time. In a recent debate, Stothert was asked what specific cuts she would make and she came back with a vauge response that "we have to find efficiencies." In that same debate, Stothert was asked at least 10 times to outline any specific cuts she would make to offset tax cuts and couldn't name one.
What we have here in the Omaha Mayoral election is a matchup between a real leader who has made the tough choices and a challenger who has made a series of incredible and cynical promises about the budget that can never be kept. At the present time, thanks to Mayor Suttle's leadership, the City of Omaha is in an enviable position. Currently, Omaha's unemployment rate is 3.7% - less than half the national average. In 2012 alone, hundreds of new and existing businesses created more than 12,000 new jobs in Omaha. Moreover, Omaha was recently ranked as the number one city in the country for economic performance during the recent recession.
The choice is clear this spring. The voters can select a leader who is a doer or elect a talker who lacks the courage to offer up real solutions. Mayor Jim Suttle deserves to be re-elected because his leadership is working. As John Ewing said: "You don't fire the coach when he is winning the game." The election of Stothert would put all of this progress and these reforms in jeopardy. We Democrats need to work hard to re-elect Suttle and the other Democrats on the ballot. In the end, I predict a majority of Omaha voters will will see through Stothert's unrealistic promises and give Mayor Suttle a well deserved second term.
Vice President Biden is fond of saying: "This isn't your father's Republican Party." Biden's statement accurately reflects the fact that the modern Republican Party is much different than it was a generation ago and well regarded historical figures who were Republicans like Lincoln and Eisenhower wouldn't even recognize today's party. Even Republican icon Ronald Reagan would be drummed out of the Republican party today as a RINO since he supported several tax increases, negotiated with the enemy without pre-conditions and signed into law an immigration bill that had a pathway to citizenship for aspiring citizens.
The radicalism of today's GOP was on display just this past week on both the national and the state level. In the U.S. Senate, 90% of the Republican Senators refused to grant an up or down vote to a measure that would have improved the background check system for the purchase of guns. This legislation enjoyed bi partisan support and the support of the overwhelming majority of the American people. According to a recent Fox News poll, a large 85-percent majority of voters favored requiring checks on all gun buyers, including at gun shows and private sales. That includes most Democrats (90 percent), Republicans (83 percent) and independents (82 percent), as well as most of those living in a gun-owner household (81 percent).
Despite this overwhelming support from the American people, 42 out of 45 Republican Senators - including Mike Johanns and Deb Fischer - refused to grant the background checks bill an up or down vote. (Remember when Republicans constantly demanded up or down votes for George W. Bush's legislative priorities and nominees?) In rejecting this bill, these 42 Republican Senators gave in to the paranoia and just outright lies from the NRA.
The radical Republicans and the NRA advanced the false argument that an improved background check system would be a violation of the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. (Evidently, Johanns and Fischer must believe that the Constitution protects criminals and mentally ill people who buy AR-15s.) However, in the majority opinion in the seminal Heller decision which found a new right to keep and bear arms pursuant to the Second Amendment, ultra-conservative Justice Antonin Scalia held that like all other rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. Scalia ruled that longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms are indeed constitutional.
The NRA also falsely alleged that the background check bill would create a national gun registry even though the bill specifically said it would be illegal. As President Obama said: "This legislation, in fact, outlawed any registry. Plain and simple, right there in the text. But that didn't matter. And unfortunately, this pattern of spreading untruths about this legislation served a purpose, because those lies upset an intense minority of gun owners, and that in turn intimidated a lot of senators...So all in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington."
We had the misfortune to experience an equally shameful day in the Nebraska Legislature when a minority of extreme Republican Senators refused to grant an or down vote to the bill expanding the Medicaid program in the state. This bill has bi-partisan support and the proponents of the Medicaid expansion are confident they have the necessary 30 votes to override an expected veto from Governor Heinenman.
As I've discussed here earlier, the Medicaid expansion is a win-win proposition for Nebraska. According to the UNMC, this bill would both save lives and save money. The bill would insure 54,000 additional Nebraskans and would eliminate the annual "hidden tax" in the amount of approximately $1,100.00 that Nebraskans pay to cover the expenses for health care for the uninsured.
The Senators who opposed the Medicaid expansion claimed that the state couldn't afford to pay for it even though the federal government would pay 100% of the cost through 2016, and then 90% from 2020 on. Since Nebraska adopted the Medicaid program back in 1965, the federal government has paid around 57% of the state's Medicaid costs. Not once since the start of the Medicaid program has the federal government stepped away from its funding commitment.
What these right wing Senators fail to recognize is that this money will be spent regardless of whether or not Nebraska adopts the Medicaid expansion. If we reject the Medicaid expansion, that money will go to other states to finance the expansion of their Medicaid programs. In addition, uninsured people will still go to the doctor and the hospital emergency room. Those costs don't go away if we reject the Medicaid expansion. Instead, those costs will be shifted to people who already have insurance in the form of the "hidden tax" of higher premiums and health costs.
These same right wing Senators who say we can't afford the Medicaid expansion have never complained about the annual $40 million cost of the Nebraska Advantage Program. Two recent studies have indicated
that there is no evidence that this corporate welfare has created any jobs. Nonetheless, the right wing Senators in the Unicameral continue to appropriate money for this failed program.
This selective "fiscal conservatism" of the radical right exposes one of the core beliefs of many of those who call themselves conservatives. These so-called conservatives believe that government's role is to help the wealthy and the corporations but the middle class and the poor are on their own. Apparently, the radical right believes that the rich will work harder if we give them more, and the middle class and the poor will work harder if we give them less.
It's pretty obvious that today's Republican are extreme and out of the mainstream. They have no regard for public opinion and are only responsive to the wishes and needs of the wealthy and the radical interest groups that support them. The modern day Republican Party isn't conservative - they're radical. It's obvious that the GOP will blindly oppose any effort that will assist or otherwise improve the lives of the middle class and the least fortunate among us. Theodore Roosevelt's description of the conservative wing of the GOP a century ago is equally relevant today: "A blind and ignorant resistance to every effort for the reform of abuses and for the readjustment of society to modern industrial conditions represents not true conservatism, but an incitement to the wildest radicalism."
The GOP's resistance to majority rule tells us that they know their positions are unpopular and out of the mainstream. This creates a real opportunity for Democrats to win future battles on these issues. As we all know, demographic trends favor our party and put into question the ability of the GOP to be a national party. As Democrats, we can't give up on these fights. We need to continue to contact our
representatives and urge them to allow an up or down vote on common sense gun safety and the Medicaid expansion. If you are represented by one or more of these radical Republicans, you need to let them know that you are disappointed, and that if they don't act next time, you will remember come election time.
The city of Lincoln is currently on a roll thanks to the leadership of Mayor Chris Beutler and a Democratic majority on the City Council and has largely avoided the effects of the national recession. Construction cranes can be seen all over the city and unemployment is plunging.
This success has now been threatened by the Republicans and their extreme right wing allies in the city elections that will select three members of the City Council. Just what are the accomplishments of Mayor Beutler and the Democratic majority on the City Council? Who are the Democratic candidates? Just who is putting these accomplishments in jeopardy
The achievements of the Democrats in Lincoln are impressive and have improved the lives of Lincolnites:
- The lowest unemployment rate in the U.S. - Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Fourth best run city in the U.S. - 24/7 Wall Street
- Happiest city in America - Gallup
- Best city to find a job in 2012 - AOLjobs.com
- Healthiest city in America - Center For Disease Control
- Third best city to raise a baby - Parents Magazine
- Fifth best city for business and careers - Forbes Magazine
- Tenth best city to launch a business - Fortune Magazine
- Ninth most livable city in America - Forbes Magazine
Leirion Gaylor Baird worked equally hard and has put together a top drawer campaign. Gaylor Baird is eminently well qualified for the job since she has worked as a business analyst for Fortune 500 companies and as a city budget and policy analyst. She won't need any on the job training after she is elected.
The lone incumbent running for re-election is Gene Carroll. Councilman Carroll has been at the center of these successful reform efforts. Carroll made the tough decisions and fought to pass a budget in 2011 that protected funding for the things that make Lincoln great. His vote saved 90 parks, 7 pools, and 3 libraries from closing. His vote also saved police officers and firefighters from being cut.
Carroll's effectiveness on the City Council has alarmed the Republicans and their extreme allies in the Lincoln Independent Business Association ("LIBA".) LIBA used to be an organization that reflected the common sense views of Lincoln small business owners but this once responsible organization has been hijacked by Tea Party extremists who don't reflect the views and values of most Lincoln residents.
LIBA has formed up a Super PAC that has largely devoted itself to unfairly attacking Gene Carroll and is hoping that voters will forget about the accomplishments of Mayor Beutler and Gene Carroll. The propaganda of the extreme right depends upon the voters having bad memories. We here at the Nebraska Democratic Party will always work hard to refresh those memories.
The out of the mainstream views of LIBA are reflected by the Republicans running for City Council. The top vote getter in the primary - audiologist Roy Christensen - is on record in support of Governor Heineman's failed tax scheme that would've have financed a tax cut for the top 20% of Nebraska income earners by raising taxes on the other 80% of Nebraskans. Christensen even said that he would favor including hearing aids in the list of items subject to the sales tax. And that's not all. Christensen also forthrightly said that the City Council should cut spending for libraries and pools. (This is surprising since most Republicans try to hide their regressive views until after the election.)
The other two Republican City Council candidates also have views and career experiences that put them out of the mainstream in Lincoln. Mark Whitehead has contributed to the LIBA Super PAC that has largely devoted itself to denigrating Gene Carroll and the City's accomplishments. Moreover, Whitehead is the long time owner of Whitehead Oil Company - a company that plays an important role in setting the prices for gas in Lincoln. Over the years, the prices for gas in Lincoln have consistently been the highest in the state. Whitehead has yet to provide an explanation for those high gas prices that everybody in Lincoln has been paying for all of these years.
The third Republican running for City Council is Trent Fellers. His "claim to fame" - so to speak - was managing Jon Bruning's failed Senate campaign in 2011-12. The Bruning campaign largely failed because Bruning never provided an explanation to the voters how he became worth tens of millions of dollars on a government salary.
The stakes couldn't be higher in the Lincoln city elections. On May 7, the voters will decide whether we will continue to support the leadership that has made Lincoln the happiest city in America, or adopt the cynical and selfish vision of the most extreme elements in Lincoln. In the primary election, a mere 1,720 votes separated the top six candidates and the turnout was only 13%. Everybody expects a much higher turnout in the general election so this is a jump ball situation. We Democrats need to work hard to elect our candidates and continue to move Lincoln forward. This is no time for complacency - we can't takes these reforms and accomplishments for granted. Now let's get to work!