One of the tired and false talking points we hear from the GOP is that somehow Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party are allied with Wall Street. The Republicans are pushing that phony talking point to deflect from their support for the policies that crashed the economy in 2008-09 and their unswerving support for Wall Street. When I ask a Republican on my facebook page what they believe Clinton and the Democrats will do for Wall Street if they should win the election, I can never get a straight answer out of them.
This phony right wing talking point probably originated in the 2008 election cycle when the financial services industry contributed $131 million to the Democrats and $101 million to the Republicans. That probably reflected more than anything the fact that Obama and the Democrats were going to win that election in light of the total failure of the Bush Presidency. As you will see, though, the 2008 election cycle was an outlier in that respect.
Even though Obama raised more money from Wall Street than McCain did, he promised the bankers nothing in return for their support. As a matter of fact in a 2007 speech at the NASDAQ, Obama criticized Wall Street's risky and unethical business practices as well as called for tighter regulation of the mortgage lending industry and the ratings agencies. In contrast, McCain said that banking deregulation was "helpful to the growth of our economy" even after the collapse of stock market in September 2008.
Once President Obama took office in 2009, he kept his promise to rein in Wall Street and to prevent another economic meltdown caused by the big banks' recklessness and greed. In 2010, the Dodd Frank Act passed the Congress with the support of Ben Nelson. This was the toughest and most far reaching Wall Street reform legislation since the 1930s. Johanns, Fortenberry, Smith and Terry all voted against the passage of President Obama's Wall Street reform law.
Contrary to what you hear on Fox News and AM radio, the Wall Street reform bill has actually proven to be an unsung success. Senator Elizabeth Warren - one of the architects of Dodd-Frank - recently said: "President Obama delivered. He signed into law the toughest Wall Street reforms and strongest consumer protections in generations. Trust me – I’m a pretty tough grader. These new rules are making our financial system more transparent, getting rid of a lot of fine print, and making sure that if a bank screws up, you have someone to call so you don’t get stuck with the bill."
The 2010 Wall Street reform law addresses the "too big to fail" problem by giving regulators the authority to subject the largest banks to extra regulation and to take control of the big banks if there is another financial crisis. This additional authority to actually seize control of the big banks makes another bailout very unlikely. The Dodd Frank law also requires Wall Street to keep more capital, thus reducing the prospect that excessive greed and speculation will lead to to bankruptcy.
This same banking act also created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The idea for the CFPB originated with Elizabeth Warren and it has already substantially reduced abusive lending practices by the financial services industry. As Nobel Prize Winning Economist Paul Krugman said: "Better consumer protection means fewer bad loans, and therefore a reduced risk of financial crisis." Moreover, the CFPB has cracked down on billions in excessive overdraft fees and has secured over $10 billion in relief for consumers since it's inception in 2011.
Wall Street's hostility to the Dodd-Frank Act is proof that it is working. Since the passage of this landmark law in 2010, Wall Street has donated substantially more money to Republican candidates for federal offices. This is because just about every Republican is on record as supporting the repeal of Dodd-Frank and the deregulation of the big banks. All four Republican members of Nebraska's Congressional delegation have voiced their support for deregulating Wall Street.
Beginning in the 2010 cycle, the big banks have gone all in on the Republican Party. In 2010, the financial services industry donated $71 million to the Republicans and $63 million to the Democrats. In 2012, Wall Street upped the ante substantially and gave $170 million to the GOP and $74 million to the Democrats. In the 2014 cycle, Wall Street gave $42 million to the GOP and $23 million to the Democrats. Campaign finance experts have noted that such a drastic switch of support is historically remarkable.
Wall Street's support for the GOP has continued into the 2016 cycle. As of late 2015, the various Republican Presidential candidates had raised $48 million from Wall Street and Clinton had raised a mere $6 million. The vast difference in donations can be chalked up to the fact that all of the GOP candidates for President wanted to repeal Dodd-Frank while Clinton wants to strengthen it.
The GOP has a long history of trying to tag Democrats with phony scandals in an attempt to win elections. The Republican Party has to push bogus scandals because they can't win an election if it is about their terrible governing record and extreme agenda. The only way the GOP can win a national election anymore is if they can convince a majority of the voters that the Democratic nominee is a crook.
The Republicans this year need to create a phony scandal narrative now more than ever since they have picked the most loathsome nominee for President in the history of the country. Donald Trump is a con man who has insulted just about every voter in the country other than conservative white people. He has called women "pigs" and "dogs." The orange hued mogul has labeled Hispanics "criminals" and "rapists." Trump's running mate - Mike Pence - is an extremist with a long history of supporting discriminatory measures against gays and women.
The Republicans invested a huge amount of time and money into an effort to turn the tragic attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi into a scandal. No less than eight Congressional committees controlled by the GOP investigated this tragedy and tried to shamelessly exploit the deaths of four American heroes for partisan advantage. The various Benghazi investigations lasted longer than the investigations of Pearl Harbor, Watergate, Iran-Contra, 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.
None of those eight investigations turned up any wrongdoing or cover up by President Obama and Secretary Clinton. All of the numerous right wing conspiracy theories about things like the non-existent stand down order were thoroughly debunked. Even the final and much ballyhooed (by the right) Gowdy investigation confirmed the findings of the previous seven investigations. The right wing was so disappointed by Gowdy that some of the radicals even alleged he was part of the alleged vast cover up conducted by the Obama Administration.
Perhaps the only real "accomplishment" of Gowdy's Benghazi committee was that they "discovered" that Hillary Clinton used a private email server while she served as Secretary of State. It wasn't really news to most Washingtonians who had served in the federal government in some capacity during Obama's first term since they had received numerous emails from Clinton's private server. Moreover, both Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice had used private email accounts to conduct official business when they served George W. Bush as Secretary of State.
As a consequence of that "discovery," the FBI investigated Clinton's use of a private email server. FBI head James Comey is a long time Republican. Comey served as an attorney on the Senate committee investigating Whitewater in the 1990s and was the number two official in the Bush 43 Department of Justice. Moreover, Comey had made contributions to McCain in 2008 and Romney in 2012.
Comey's decision not to charge Clinton over the private email server came as a great shock to most conservatives since the likes of Fox News and AM radio practically had Clinton in handcuffs and an orange jump suit for the last several months. Nevertheless, every legal expert outside of the right wing media had said for several months that Clinton was unlikely to be charged.
In announcing his decision not to charge Clinton, Comey said that: "Our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case. " In this press conference in which he announced that Clinton wouldn't be charged, Comey went on to criticize Clinton's email arrangement. In leveling that criticism, Comey broke Department of Justice rules about disclosing information about ongoing investigations. Matthew Miller, a former Justice Department spokesman under Eric Holder, called FBI Director Comey's press conference remarks about Clinton's email server: "absolutely outrageous" and an "abuse of power." Miller stated that: "(W)hen the department closes an investigation, it typically does so quietly, at most noting that it has investigated the matter fully and decided not to bring charges."
The Comey investigation also found no evidence that any of Clinton's emails, incoming or outgoing, were hacked. The FBI director speculated that this may have happened, but no evidence exists that proves that. The FBI also debunked the right wing conspiracy theory that Guccifer penetrated Clinton's server, stating that this was false. Guccifer himself has admitted this was a hoax all along.
The Republicans responded by calling Comey to Capitol Hill to testify about the investigation. Most of the hearing consisted of Republicans screaming at the FBI director and questioning his integrity. Nevertheless, some important facts came out that confirmed this was a phony scandal from the beginning.
Comey testified that out of over 30,000 emails, only three were marked confidential. As Kevin Drum wrote: "Comey testified that all three emails failed to include the normal headers for classified information. Any experienced person reading them would have noticed that and probably missed the fact that a single classification mark was embedded somewhere in the text. The State Department says two of the three emails were wrongly marked anyway - which Hillary Clinton and her staff probably knew."
Despite the fact this email controversy was greatly overblown by the GOP and the press, the Republicans aren't giving up on it. At least five more GOP controlled Congressional committees plan to conduct their own investigation of the Clinton private server. Moreover, the GOP has now alleged that Clinton committed perjury when she testified last year in front of Gowdy's committee. Once again, all of the legal experts outside of the right wing bubble are saying that Clinton is unlikely to be charged with perjury. Congressman Darrell Issa has even demanded a government shutdown over the Clinton email issue.
Now that Benghazi and the email matters turned out to be non-events, the radical right will now try to gin up a phony scandal over the Clinton Foundation. Needless to say, that will turn out to be another disappointment to the scandal mongers in the right wing media. The non-partisan fact checking site, Factcheck.org, has found the Clinton Foundation to be a model charity in which 89% of it's funding has gone to charity and good works.
I can tell you from twenty four years of experience, that the scandal allegations from the GOP will continue for nine more years - until the end of Clinton's second term. The GOP is making these bogus allegations because they want the voters to forget about Bush's awful record and President Obama's success in cleaning up his predecessor's mess. We've gone from losing 800,000 jobs per month to creating over 200,000 new jobs per month. Twenty million Americans have obtained health insurance and the uninsured rate has been reduced from 18% to 9%. The GOP doesn't want the voters to know about that.
As Democrats, we need to work hard for the election of Hillary Clinton and a Democratic Congress. A Democratic victory will allow us to build on President Obama's successes. A Republican victory would take us back to the dark days of 2008 when the stock market crashed and we had mass layoffs. We can't afford to go back. We need to win this election for the good of the country and the American people. Let's get it done!
In 2010, five Republican appointees on the U.S. Supreme
Court in the Citizens United decision opened the floodgates to secret,
corporate and special interest campaign contributions. These five
justices made the specious claim that money is speech. This finding can
be found nowhere in the written text of the Constitution. These five
unelected justices in Washington threw out decades of settled law on campaign
finance and imposed their own, new dysfunctional system by judicial fiat.
The five justices who constituted the majority in Citizens
United claim to be "originalists" who are channeling the Founding
Fathers. This claim is utterly nonsensical since the Founding Fathers
were opposed to the wealthy few dominating political and economic life in America.
That's why they decided to break with Great Britain in 1776. These
justices were simply using this bogus theory to advance their own political
The genesis of what will go down in history as one of the
Supreme Court's worst decisions was the appointment of John Roberts and
Samuel Alito in 2005. Those appointments changed the balance of power on the
Court and moved it much further to the right. The replacement of the centrist
Justice Sandra O'Connor by the staunchly conservative Samuel Alito has had
profound effects on the law.
A big shift to the right on the Court was neither expected
from nor promised by then D.C. Circuit Judge John Roberts in 2005. At his
confirmation hearings, Roberts promised to be a moderate and honor existing
precedent. As he told the Senators: “Judges are like umpires. Umpires don’t
make the rules; they apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical.
They make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is a limited role. Nobody
ever went to a ball game to see the umpire... I will remember that it’s my job
to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat.”
As it turned out, Roberts broke that promise and has since
made several decisions that have tilted the playing field heavily in favor of
the GOP and the wealthy. (The former five member conservative majority
authorized discriminatory voter suppression laws and gutted the Voting Rights
Act.) In this 2010 Citizens United decision, Roberts skillfully engineered a
5-4 straight party line majority that has made it possible for the wealthy to
donate unlimited funds to so-called Super PACs and keep those donations secret.
The rise of the secret, billionaire and corporate donor
allowed by Citizens United has had a significant impact on what the Congress
actually considers. Since the GOP took control of the Congress in the
2014 elections, there have been no votes on a minimum wage increase or any
middle class jobs bills. Instead, the Republicans - including all four
members of Nebraska's Republican Congressional delegation - have voted to
repeal the estate tax and for $300 billion in deficit financed corporate and
special interest tax cuts.
A 2014 study from Princeton University has evaluated the
impact of our new court imposed campaign finance system on the federal
government. This study concluded that the U.S. is no longer an actual
democracy. Instead, we are an oligarchy. According to this study:
"The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites
and organized groups representing business interests have substantial
independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups
and average citizens have little or no independent influence...When a majority
of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organised interests,
they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into
the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favour
policy change, they generally do not get it."
We have seen the impact of the Citizens United decision here
in Nebraska in both 2014 and 2016. In 2014, super PACs supporting Ben
Sasse ran a series of dishonest and secretly funded television
advertisements that poisoned the primary process and unfairly trashed Sid
Dinsdale and Shane Osborn. As Don Walton of the Journal Star aptly
stated: "It seems increasingly clear that the old problem of the
uninformed voter has transformed into the new problem of the misinformed voter,
who has been manipulated and misled by a deluge of half-truths and mis-truths
not only during this campaign, but has been subjected to a lot of that every
In the current election cycle, Governor Pete Ricketts and
shadowy groups financed by the Koch brothers probably spent hundreds of
thousands of dollars in the May primaries in an attempt to purge five incumbent
Senators who had thwarted his extreme agenda. Democratic incumbents Sue
Crawford and Rick Kolowski, as well as three moderate Republicans, were hit
with a blizzard of dishonest mailings, robo-calls and radio ads. Well
informed sources at the Unicameral told me that the voters in one of the
targeted districts were hit with 10 to 15 negative mailings dishonestly
attacking the incumbent Senator.
We Democrats have it in our power to make history and reverse
the Supreme Court's infamous 2010 campaign finance decision. As we all
know, conservative Justice Antonin Scala passed away earlier this year leaving
the Court with eight members. Since he passed away, the Supreme Court has
rejected right wing challenges to affirmative action, women's health care
choices and the rights of union members to participate in the political
The next President may appoint as many as four new Justices.
As Justice Ruth Bader Gingsburg recently said about a possible Trump
Presidency's impact on the high court: "I don't want to think about that
possibility, but if it should be, then everything is up for grabs... It's
likely that the next president, whoever she will be, will have a few
appointments to make."
What that means is that we Democrats have a huge opportunity
this fall. It is likely that the Democratic nominee will be elected
President. Moreover, the Democrats are favored to regain control of the
U.S. Senate. A Democratic victory this year would give us the opportunity
to reshape the future of the U.S. Supreme Court for decades. We could end
up with first Progressive majority on the Supreme Court since the early 1970s.
The stakes couldn't be higher this fall. We need to get it done. We
will get it done!
Since the Republicans instituted supply side or trickle down economics
during the Reagan Presidency, we've seen a recurring pattern where a Republican
President sends the economy into a recession and blows up the deficit.
Once a Democratic President is inaugurated, the Republicans do nothing
but obstruct, offer nothing and tell us it is time for a change. It is deeply
cynical, destructive and arrogant. The Republicans create the problem and
then they run against the solution.
We saw this pattern begin in 1993 when President Clinton inherited a
slow growth economy emerging from a recession and a then record budget deficit.
Presidents Reagan and Bush41 had quadrupled the national debt during
their twelve years in office. Once President Clinton took office, the
Republicans suddenly became "concerned" about the deficit and
demanded that Clinton reduce the deficits they ran up.
To clean up the mess he inherited, Clinton proposed to raise taxes on
the wealthy and cut spending. Not one Republican voted for the 1993
Clinton budget. Instead, every Republican predicted that Clinton's
economic program would cause a recession and increase the deficit. For
example, John Kasich (then a Republican congressman from Ohio, now that
state's governor) contended that: "I feel bad for the people who really
are the working people in this country, people in my family, who are going to
get the penalties from people who don't want to invest more, take any more
risks. They're going to lose their jobs, and that's the tragedy of this
program. We're going to come back here next year, there will be higher
deficits, there will be more spending, we'll continue to have a very slow
economy, people aren't going to go to work."
Just how did those Republican predictions of doom and gloom play out?
As we know, they were dead wrong. What followed the passage of the 1993
Clinton budget package was the greatest peacetime economic boom in U.S.
history. During the Clinton Presidency, 22 million new jobs were created,
unemployment declined from 7% to 4%, median family income rose, and poverty
declined to its lowest rate in 20 years. The Clinton budget also
converted what was then the largest budget deficit in American history to a
projected surplus of $5.6 trillion over the next ten years.
The 2000 election contest was about what to do with this record
surplus. Al Gore proposed that we use the surplus to pay off the national debt.
If we had followed Gore's plan, the national debt would have been paid
off by 2012. Moreover, the elimination of the national debt would have
allowed us to easily finance the retirement of the baby boom generation.
This was the much ridiculed "lock box" to protect Social
Security and Medicare.
The results of the 2000 election turned out to be disastrous (in part)
due to the Ralph Nader candidacy. Al Gore won the popular vote with 48.5%
to Bush's 48%. Nader ended up with 2.7% of the popular vote. If
Nader hadn't been on the ballot, Gore would have carried Florida and New
Hampshire - and won the electoral vote by a 298 to 240 margin. Even
though the two Progressive candidates won by a 51% to 48% margin, we ended up
with eight years of George W. Bush.
The 43rd President had different plans for Clinton's hard earned
surplus. Bush and the then GOP controlled Congress squandered the
surplus on two tax cuts for the wealthy and two wars. As John Kasich said
about the Republicans who controlled D.C. during the Bush
Administration: “They blew a $5 trillion surplus. The projected
annual surpluses were quickly spent, unfortunately by Republicans.”
When President Obama took office in January 2009, he inherited an
annual deficit of $1.3 trillion or 9.8% of GDP. Moreover, the economy had
collapsed and was shedding an alarming 800,000 jobs per month. Bush bequeathed
to Obama the most desperate situation any President had inherited from a
predecessor since Lincoln in 1861 and Franklin Roosevelt in 1933. As
noted historian Jean Edward Smith wrote: “Rarely in the history of the
U.S. has the nation been so ill-served as during the presidency of George W.
Our current President immediately got to work and passed the Recovery
Act by February 17, 2009. It is the consensus of economists that Recovery
Act ended the deepest economic downturn since the 1930s and began the current
recovery. President Obama and the Democratic led Congress followed up the
Recovery Act by passing the Ledbetter Act, the Affordable Care Act and the
Dodd-Frank Act. The first two years of the Obama Presidency was the most
productive legislative output since the LBJ Presidency between 1964-66.
Thanks to the leadership of President Obama and the Democrats in
Congress, the country has enjoyed 75 consecutive months of job growth.
The economy has created 14 million jobs since 2010 and the unemployment
rate has been reduced from 10% to 4.7%. It is the best record of job
creation since President Clinton's second term.
Contrary to what you may hear from the GOP and the right wing media,
these are good jobs. After accounting for inflation, middle
class incomes rose 3.9 percent in 2015 to $48,768 — the strongest annual
gain since 1998. According to Emmanuel Saez, an economics professor
at the University of California, Berkeley: "It is indeed the best growth
year for the bottom 90 percent and bottom 99 percent since the late
The country has experienced similar progress on the budget deficit.
Since President Obama has taken office, the deficit has been reduced from
9.8% of GDP to 2.5% of GDP. (As a point of comparison, the federal
deficit was 3% of GDP during the eighth year of the Reagan Presidency.)
This is the fastest rate of deficit reduction since the late 1940s.
I like to say this is the greatest story never told!
All of this hard won and significant progress would be put in serious
jeopardy by a Trump Presidency. According to the non-partisan Committee
For A Responsible Budget, Trump's tax cuts, military buildup and wars would add
$11.5 trillion to the national debt over the next ten years. According to
this report, Trump's policies would swiftly push the national debt to its
highest level in history.
Trump's economic agenda would be similarly destructive. The
orange hued mogul has promised a $9 trillion tax cut for the wealthy, the
deportation of 11 million aspiring Americans and a trade war with Mexico and
China. Trump's threat to slap huge tariffs on imports would increase
inflation and cause our trading partners to retaliate and set off a destructive
trade war. According to a recent report from Moody's, Trump's policies
would cause the economy to suffer a "lengthy recession" and the
economy would be "smaller at the end of his four-year term than when he
There does seem to be a pattern. Democratic presidents over the last
35 years have inherited a huge mess of problems from their GOP predecessors.
After that, Presidents Clinton and Obama cleaned up the Republicans' messes
and put us back on the right track. The issue this year is stark: Are
we going to hand over our country once again to the people and policies that
crashed our economy and blew up the deficit before and that will shred the
progress that we've made? I'm confident that once the voters get the
facts, the Democratic Party will have a good cycle this year. Let's get it
Tragedy struck in Orlando on June 12. A perpetrator inspired by ISIS used military style weapons to murder 49 people and wound 53 others at a nightclub. This kind of lone wolf terrorist attack is perhaps the greatest security threat currently posed to the U.S. A large scale, 9-11 type attack, is much less likely since President Obama has taken out Osama Bin Laden and over 30,000 other terrorists. The U.S. is uniquely vulnerable to this kind of lone wolf attack since our ridiculously lax gun laws allow terrorists to purchase military style attack weapons.
The response from Congressional Democrats to the shooting was swift and decisive. In the Senate, an amendment sponsored by Senator Diane Feinstein that would bar those on the terrorist watch list from purchasing guns and explosives was stopped by a Republican filibuster. Moroever, a GOP filibuster blocked an amendment from Senator Chris Murphy that would have expanded background checks for anyone trying to purchase a firearm at a gun show or online. Both Sasse and Fischer voted to deny an up or down vote on these measures aimed at keeping America safe.
Over on the House side, Speaker Paul Ryan refused to grant an up or down vote on a bill banning gun purchases by those on the terror watch list. In response, numerous Democratic members of the House staged a 25 hour sit in to protest this refusal. Instead of allowing a vote on keeping America safe, Ryan held a vote on a Wall Street sponsored measure that would make it easier for investment advisers to steer their customers into bad investments. After holding that vote for the big banks, Ryan adjourned the House early for yet another vacation. (The House only meets 110 days in calendar year 2016.)
In response to the GOP refusal to allow votes on gun safety legislation, Senator Chris Murphy responded as follows: “We’ve got to make this clear, constant case that Republicans have decided to sell weapons to ISIS. That’s what they’ve decided to do. ISIS has decided that the assault weapon is the new airplane, and Republicans, in refusing to close the terror gap, refusing to pass bans on assault weapons, are allowing these weapons to get in the hands of potential lone-wolf attackers. We’ve got to make this connection and make it in very stark terms.”
Murphy's remarks were echoed by Nebraska Democratic Party state chair elect Jane Kleeb: "In a move to protect the gun lobby, Senators Ben Sasse and Deb Fischer voted today to give guns to terrorists. Moms are mourning the loss of their sons and daughters while the Republicans in Congress ignore basic common sense. The majority of gun owners want universal background checks and for people on the “no fly list” to not have the ability to buy guns. Citizens have a choice this November and it’s critical we use our voices inside the voting booth to vote for Democrats who will tell the gun lobby their rule over our democracy is over.”
Nebraska's Republican House delegation has been equally irresponsible. Even though Representative Jeff Fortenberry once again tried to pose as a moderate, his record is as extreme as that of Fischer and Sasse. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Fortenberry has voted three times to reject legislation that would deny transfers of firearms to persons known or suspected to be engaged in conduct related to terrorism. Moreover, Fortenberry has voted to bar the Centers for Disease Control from funding any research on gun violence and make recommendations.
Congressman Adrian Smith was equally dismissive of efforts to protect Americans from terrorist inspired gun violence and ridiculed the House sit in. In a statement he issued in the wake of the Orlando tragedy, Smith put himself squarely on the side of protecting terrorists' ability to purchase the weapons of his or her choice.
The only member of Nebraska's Congressional delegation who was serious about national security was Representative Brad Ashford. While Ashford didn't join the sit in, he indicated that he supports legislation to prevent suspects on a terrorist no-fly list from purchasing firearms along with a bill requiring enhanced background checks. Ashford's office released a thoughtful statement about his position on the sit in: "He does not support shutting down Congress on any issue, and he is concerned that this tactic will be used in the future by the far-right to advance issues that we do not agree with."
The events of the last two weeks prove once again that the Republican Party can't be trusted to keep us safe. These irresponsible votes to arm terrorists with deadly assault weapons has followed in the wake of years of Republican fecklessness on national security. Beginning in the spring of 2001, then President Bush received (and ignored) several warnings that Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda were planning a series of spectacular attacks on America. Most memorably, on August 6, 2001, Bush received a memo from the CIA with the title: " “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” Just five weeks later, on 9/11, Al Qaeda accomplished that goal.
The failure to prevent 9/11, was followed up by the disastrous invasion of Iraq - a country that had nothing to do with the attacks on New York City and Washington. No weapons of mass destruction were ever found in that country. In addition, the war ground on for over eight years and according to Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, will eventually cost U.S. taxpayers $3 trillion.
The choice is clear this fall. We can either build on President Obama's record of achievement or go back to the disastrous policies that have made America less safe. The best way to reduce the incidence of gun violence and to keep America safe is to vote Democratic this fall. We need to work hard to elect Democrats up and down the ballot. I'm convinced that once the voters become more aware of our record and proposals, they will support our candidates. United we are strong. United we will win!
The political world has been rocked by Trump's racist comment that Judge Gonazlo Curiel's "Mexican heritage" constituted an "absolute conflict" for him to preside over the Trump University litigation. The presumptive nominee doubled down on those bigoted remarks when he expressed doubt that a Muslim judge could be neutral in a case involving him or one of his companies. These remarks followed on the heels of several other racist remarks that the orange hued mogul had made earlier in the election cycle.
Trump's remarks were followed by ritualistic condemnation from many prominent Republicans. Ben Sasse tweeted that: “Public Service Announcement: Saying someone can’t do a specific job because of his or her race is the literal definition of ‘racism.’ ” House Speaker Paul Ryan - the highest elected Republican official - stated: “Claiming a person can’t do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment. I think that should be absolutely disavowed. It’s absolutely unacceptable.” Nevertheless, with certain rare exceptions (including Sasse), most elected Republicans said they would continue to support Trump's candidacy.
Most elected Republicans have tolerated Trump's racism because the GOP has long stoked racial resentment and animus for political advantage. This all began in the late 1960s with Richard Nixon's infamous "Southern Strategy." Nixon made coded references to race with his calls for "law and order" during his 1968 Presidential campaign. In 1980, Ronald Reagan called for "states' rights" in a speech in Tuscumbia, Alabama - which was located about seven miles from Philadelphia, Mississippi where civil rights workers were killed in 1964.
Other Republican nominees followed suit. In 1988, George H.W. Bush was elected in part due to numerous references he and other Republicans made to the infamous Willie Horton case. Moreover, references to the Reverend Jeremiah Wright by Sarah Palin in 2008 clearly played upon racial fears and resentment. Subsequently, Donald Trump was one of the most prominent purveyors of the theory that President Obama was born in Kenya. Moreover, in 2012, the Romney campaign falsely alleged that the Obama Administration had rescinded the work requirements in the 1996 Welfare Reform Act.
What makes Trump so outrageous and controversial is that he doesn't rely upon the usual code words and winks and nods. He has taken off the mask and removed all of the usual artifice. Trump's campaign is the most openly racist Presidential campaign since George Wallace's 1968 independent bid. It is the openness of the bigotry that has so alarmed the GOP and outraged Trump's critics.
The Republican establishment and donor class is also tolerating Trump's racism because he has sold out and adopted it's agenda. As Paul Ryan said, he continues to support the presumptive nominee because he will enact the GOP's regressive and unpopular agenda.
It wasn't always this way. Earlier in the election cycle, Trump posed as a different kind of candidate who rejected long time conservative orthodoxy on many key issues. Trump said he wanted to increase taxes on the wealthy and even raise the minimum wage. Moreover, Trump also came out in opposition to cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
Recently, Trump has been singing a different tune on these issues. He has moved to the right and morphed into your standard, garden variety right wing Republican. This shift on the issues directly coincides with Trump breaking his pledge to self fund his campaign. Now Trump needs to raise a lot of money very quickly from the GOP establishment and donor class. That's why he put a long time Wall Street insider in charge of his fundraising operation.
After posing as the scourge of the big banks, Trump is now making nice with Wall Street. In a recent speech, Trump said he would gut nearly all of 2010 Dodd-Frank Act - which has successfully reined in Wall Street since the crash of 2008. "I would say it'll be close to a dismantling of Dodd-Frank. Dodd-Frank is a very negative force, which has developed a very bad name," the former television reality show host said.
The orange hued mogul has also changed his position on Social Security and Medicare in an effort to please the GOP donor class. Sam Clovis, one of Trump’s chief policy aides, recently attended a meeting organized by the pro-austerity billionaire Pete Peterson. Clovis told the assembled billionaires that a Trump Administration could support cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
Trump has undergone a similar evolution on the tax issue. After flirting with the idea of raising taxes on the wealthy, a Trump spokesman confirmed that he won't be altering his tax plan. According to two non-partisan think tanks, Trump's tax cut would add anywhere from $10 trillion to $12 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years. Moreover, for the top 1 percent of earners, the average reduction in their tax load would be approximately $275,000, while the top 0.1 percent would grab $1.3 million.
Trump's recent shift to the right on the minimum wage would also be a windfall for the super wealthy and big business. Earlier this year, Trump came out generally in favor of a higher minimum wage. After blowback from the GOP donor class, Trump came out against the very concept of a federal minimum wage. The orange hued mogul doesn't even want the federal government to set a floor for the minimum wage. Instead, Trump would leave that up to the states.
Trump's new reactionary position on the minimum wage would hurt working families since many states still maintain the $7.25 per hour minimum wage that was enacted by the Congress in 2007. Moreover, six red states have either no minimum wage at all or one as low as $5.15. If there was no federal minimum wage guarantee, we would see a race to the bottom among many of the red states to either reduce or eliminate the minimum wage entirely.
What we have here is a candidate who has evolved from being anti-GOP establishment to adopting their regressive economic agenda. That's why the GOP donor class still supports Trump despite his open racism. As GOP lobbyist Grover Norquist said in 2012: "We don't need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know what direction to go. We want the Ryan budget. Pick a Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen to become president of the United States."
In the unlikely event Trump is elected President, the Republican members of Nebraska's Congressional delegation will vote for this regressive agenda. As a matter of fact, Fischer, Sasse, Fortenberry and Smith are already on record in support of the Ryan budget. Ben Sasse may condemn Trump and not even vote for him this fall but if Trump wins the Presidency, Nebraska's junior Senator will loyally fall in line with the rest of his party and support Trump's legislative program.
When I say that Trump is unlikely to win the election, I mean it. Our nominee is well positioned to win this fall and our party should pick up seats in both Houses of Congress. Nevertheless, we can take nothing for granted. We must work hard to insure a victory for Progressive ideals this fall. We must also be united against the threat presented by Trump and his party. United we are strong. United we will win!
We here in Nebraska are lucky to have a non-partisan legislature. This unique system allows State Senators to work across party lines and ignore the parochial demands of partisan party bosses. Thanks to the vision and wisdom of George W. Norris, Nebraska enjoys a large budget surplus and a healthy economy. We have fared much better than many states that have become mired in partisan warfare.
Kansas is an object lesson in the dangers of a partisan legislature. During the 2012 election cycle, Sam Brownback and the Koch brothers campaigned to purge Democrats and moderate Republicans from the Kansas legislature. After the completion of this bitter purge, Brownback pushed through a series of large and irresponsible tax cuts for the wealthy. As a result, the Sunflower State now suffers from a record budget deficit as well as subpar economic growth and job creation.
North Carolina is another state that has suffered from the evils of excessive partisanship. The Republican controlled legislature in the Tar Heel state recently passed a law that requires a transgender person to use a public bathroom that matches his or her gender at birth. Since the passage of that reactionary legislation, businesses have begun to boycott North Carolina and the NCAA passed a binding resolution that all sites that want to host a NCAA sporting event must "provide an environment that is safe, healthy, and free of discrimination."
Washington D.C. is also plagued by extreme Republican partisanship. Since President Obama was inaugurated in 2009, the Congressional Republicans have done everything they can to undermine his Presidency and make him fail. The GOP members of Congress have hurt the American people by blocking job creation legislation and even sabotaged the economy with a default threat in 2011 and a government shutdown in 2013. The biggest threat to the economy right now are the radical Republicans who control the Congress.
Governor Pete Ricketts would like to bring the kind of job killing partisanship and gridlock that currently plagues Washington, D.C., Kansas and North Carolina to Nebraska. In the recently completed primary cycle, Ricketts, the Nebraska Republican Party and dark money groups aligned with the Koch brothers spent large sums of money in an effort to oust five State Senators. Those five Senators apparently had the temerity to oppose the rookie governor on a gas tax increase, the death penalty and drivers licenses for young immigrants. Senators Sue Crawford and Rick Kolowski were targeted in addition to three moderate Republicans.
These five incumbent Senators were bombarded with negative and dishonest mailers, robo-calls and radio advertisements. In these targeted races, the secret spending by these groups pushing the Ricketts agenda were in the vicinity of $50,000.00 - which was estimated to be double or even triple the amount spent by the five incumbent State Senators. This secret money was in addition to the $50,000.00 donated to the Nebraska GOP by Ricketts himself. Moreover, a well informed source at the Unicameral told me on background that the Nebraska GOP invested another $300,000 into these races.
On the heels of this onslaught, Ricketts at the Nebraska Republican Convention called out by name several GOP State Senators who had voted their conscience by opposing Ricketts' radical and partisan agenda. In addition to the votes on the gas tax increase, driver’s licenses for the Dreamers, and death penalty, Ricketts cited votes on the Medicaid expansion and Nebraska's split electoral vote law. Ricketts demanded that Republican voters elect so-called “platform Republicans" - who would prioritize the interests of the GOP party bosses over their constituents.
The blow back to Ricketts' unprecedented and naked partisan appeal was significant. A bi-partisan group of thirteen State Senators (including one independent) signed a joint letter stating: "Governor Ricketts believes political party trumps principle...Our nonpartisan, unicameral legislature has lasted for 80 years, and, barring the will of the people for a new legislative experiment, we will not surrender our nonpartisan and constitutional duties... We support the Nebraska Constitution and not any particular political party.” Subsequent to signing this letter, Senator Laura Ebke quit the Republican Party and switched her registration to the Libertarian Party.
We Nebraska Democrats (and our fellow Nebraskans) face an unprecedented challenge from an immensely wealthy governor who has and will continue to spend huge sums of money to push his radical agenda. What we have here is one man (and one family) who are using their vast fortune to push the state in a direction that a majority of Nebraskans simply don't approve. If Ricketts and the Koch brothers get their way, Nebraska will go the way of Washington, D.C., Kansas and North Carolina. We will end up with a broken economy like Kansas and a poisonous political climate like the one in Washington.
More than any election cycle, this one calls for unity among our fellow Democrats. On the national level, the U.S. can't afford a President Trump. If Trump is elected, he will most likely have a Republican Congress. A President Trump and a GOP controlled Congress would destroy the economy and blow up the deficit with a $10 trillion tax cut for the wealthy. In addition, Trump has promised to send U.S. ground troops to both Iraq and Syria.
Closer to home, a Unicameral controlled by Ricketts and his supporters would squander Nebraska's rainy day fund on tax cuts for the wealthy. This would damage Nebraska's economy and cause large cuts in education, roads and health care. A legislature controlled by "Ricketts' crickets" would pass hateful and regressive social legislation that would cause Nebraska to lose NCAA sponsored events and Omaha to lose the College World Series.
We Nebraska Democrats must be unified and work hard this fall. We have the better agenda and message. Once Nebraska voters become better acquainted with our candidates and message, we will win big this fall. The stakes are high. We can't and won't fail. Now let's get to work!
The right wing media routinely demonizes women, African-Americans, the LGBT community, Hispanics and anybody else who opposes the agenda of the radical right. This kind of trash and nonsense is spewed out every day on a 24 hour basis. That's why State Party chair Vince Powers calls AM radio: "Hate radio." All of this daily paranoia, hate, misogyny and race baiting has had a profound impact on millions of Republican voters.
As I discussed here in a recent piece, the right wing media destroyed the Republican Party and created the Trump candidacy. Like I said, Trump closely resembles the hosts that regularly appear on Fox News and AM radio. Trump's campaign has been marked by all of the outrageous and simply awful things he has said about millions of American who happen to disagree with him.
As part of the announcement of his candidacy, Trump falsely claimed that: "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're sending people that have lots of problems...they're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime. They're rapists." The reality television show entertainer also called Mexicans "killers" and contended that Mexico was sending us their criminals.
The presumptive GOP nominee's remarks about women have been equally offensive. Trump has called women slobs, pigs and dogs. Mr. Trump once told a female attorney who requested a recess from a deposition to pump breast milk: "You're disgusting." After taking some tough questions from Fox News entertainer Megyn Kelly at a debate, Trump said: "You could see blood coming out of her wherever." He even retweeted somebody who called Kelly a "bimbo."
Some Republicans are sincerely repulsed by Trump's vulgar remarks and un-Presidential behavior. That led some of the delegates at the recent Nebraska Republican Party convention to offer a resolution condemning "degrading remarks toward women, minorities and other people by Republican elected office holders or party officials, including candidates for president of the United States." Amazingly enough, this resolution was defeated by a wide margin even though it didn't mention the orange hued mogul by name and merely stated that the Nebraska Republican Party opposed the remarks themselves.
As State Party Chair Vince Powers said about the Nebraska GOP Convention: "It was the day that decency died in the Nebraska GOP - when they rejected a resolution that opposed degrading remarks towards women and minorities." In contrast, the Lancaster County Democratic Convention passed a resolution (by acclamation): "strongly opposing all degrading remarks toward women, minorities and other individuals by Democrats elected to office or party officials, including candidates for president of the United States."
The intolerance and extremism of the party of Pete Ricketts hasn't only manifested itself by it's refusal to pass a common sense resolution, the Nebraska GOP also supports the kind of bathroom law that was recently passed in North Carolina. The legislature in the Tar Heel state recently passed a law that requires a transgender person to use a public bathroom that matches his or her gender at birth.
Since the passage of that discriminatory law, the NCAA passed a binding resolution that all sites that want to host a NCAA sporting event must "provide an environment that is safe, healthy, and free of discrimination." Cities hosting NCAA events must prove they can guarantee the "dignity of everyone involved in the event."
This may become a big problem for Nebraska since Omaha has hosted the NCAA College World Series since 1950. In addition, both Omaha and Lincoln have hosted NCAA tournament basketball and volleyball games in the past and hope to do so in the future. All of that is now at risk due to the extremism and sheer ineptitude of Pete Ricketts and his GOP followers in the Unicameral.
Leading GOP State Senator Bill Kintner thumbed his nose at the NCAA and said: "There is no reason for Nebraska to consider the NCAA policy or the possibility of losing out on hosting events when legislating." Kintner went so far as to say: "The NCAA is a bunch of left-wing loonies."
Governor Pete Ricketts echoed Kinter's remarks - albeit in a much more diplomatic fashion. The rookie Governor recommended that local school boards reject the Obama Admnistration's guidelines about transgender bathroom use that were issued in response to the North Carolina legislation on that subject. Ricketts told the Omaha World Herald that the NCAA policy or the potential loss of NCAA events would not affect the positions he takes: "They need to make rules as they see fit, but it doesn't impact my thought processes on what we need to do here in Nebraska."
What this means is that Ricketts and Kintner's radical policies could cost Omaha the College World Series after it has based been based in that city for 66 years. (Ricketts' and Stothert's incompetence has already chased Conagra out of Omaha.) Moreover, the passage of a North Carolina style bathroom law could cause both Omaha and Lincoln to be passed over for other NCAA sporting events - even after the taxpayers of those cities have invested in the facilities and infrastructure necessary to host these coveted events. How can Ricketts be considered pro-business in light of this potential harm he may cause to Nebraska?
The radicalism and incompetence of Pete Ricketts and the Nebraska GOP could badly hurt the Nebraska economy if they get their way in the next legislative session. What's more, this kind of intolerance from the party of Ricketts is simply wrong. The Nebraska Republican Party is denying decent and humane treatment to many Nebraskans.
We here at the Nebraska Democratic Party are the party of inclusion and tolerance. We are accepting converts and the Nebraska GOP is purging heretics. If you are being demonized by the GOP, please join us. We could use your help in stopping Ricketts from using his vast personal wealth to take over the legislature and turn Nebraska into North Carolina or Kansas.
Dr. Dan Wik of Norfolk is our candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in Congressional District 1 and is challenging longtime incumbent Jeff Fortenberry for the seat. Wik entered the race because Fortenberry isn't the moderate he pretends to be and has cast many votes that are harmful to senior citizens, veterans and women. Even though Fortenberry tries to lead people to believe he is a mainstream conservative who reflects Nebraska values, his record shows that he frequently votes with the most extreme members of his party.
As Dan Wik told me: "Jeff Fortenberry is a rubberstamp Washington, D.C. insider. Fortenberry is doing nothing. Doctors must come up with solutions to be successful." I had the opportunity to inteview Dr. Wik. I have found him to be a very intelligent, energetic and bright gentleman. He will make an excellent nominee in the race against Fortenberry.
DPC: Please tell us a little about yourself and your family.
DW: I am a physician with a practice that covers six counties in Northeast Nebraska. I'm a pain management expert for my patients to better their lives. My wife Katie is a former Marine who was with the first group of women who served on an aircraft carrier. Katie is a small business owner who runs a Big Apple Bagel restaurant that employs eight people.
DPC: Why did you decide to run for Congress in CD01 against Fortenberry?
DW: Doctors have been advocates for people for a long time. For the last fifteen years, I have lobbied for the A.M.A. for patient rights. I want patients to get good care and access to that care. Mr. Fortenberry is a rubber stamp, Washington D.C. insider. In this election cycle, the voters are frustrated with representatives like Fortenberry because he is doing nothing. I will take action because physicians must come up with solutions to be successful. This will translate into advocacy for all residents of CD01.
DPC: The economy has shown significant progress and improvement since President Obama took office in 2009. We've gone from losing 800,000 jobs per month to creating over 200,000 job per month. It's the best economic performance since Bill Clinton's second term. What would you do to build on that progress?
DW: We must create a more business friendly environment for American companies to thrive in the U.S. We must simplify and reform the tax code. We should substitute the current 35% top corporate rate with a single rate of 18%. We should also eliminate all of the many loopholes in the corporate tax code. We should revise the individual code to create two rates of 18% and 11%. This will cause the economy to skyrocket and allow business to create more jobs.
We need to re-negotiate NAFTA and TPP and stop U.S. companies from shipping jobs overseas. I would support closing the loopholes in these treaties that destroy American jobs.
DPC: Obama Care has improved several significant aspects of our health care system. The uninsured rate has been reduced from 18% to an all time low of 9% and insurance companies can no longer discriminate against people who are sick or injured. What would you do to improve health care delivery in America?
DW: The problem with the health care system is that companies are for profit first and patients second. I support a universal Medicare system with defined benefits and defined costs. Everybody would pay into universal Medicare - both employees and employers. At the same time, everybody would have the option to buy a supplemental policy from a private health insurance company. I envision a health care system with a combination of universal Medicare and private insurance.
DPC: What is your path to victory?
DW: This is a strange election year where just about anything can happen. The voters are clearly frustrated. I believe that Democratic voters will turnout in record numbers to oppose Donald Trump. At the same time, many of those same Trump voters will vote against a rubber stamp, Washington insider like Fortenberry. These Trump voters will be invited to vote for a fiscal conservative rural Nebraska physician. They will vote for the man and not the brand. We need to win rural votes as well as urban votes. Rural voters will support a physician who is a fiscal conservative who advocates for people.
I believe that in these unsettled times, the voters of Congressional District 1 will be receptive to Wik's message and realize that it is time to turn out Mr. Fortenberry. The GOP led Congress is one of the worst Congresses in U.S. history and has failed the American people. Unfortunately, Fortenberry is part of the problem.
The voters of Nebraska CD01 are ready for a fresh start in Washington. It's time for the voters in CD01 to get behind Dan Wik in his effort to end the harmful gridlock and dysfunction in Washington, D.C., which has been created by the radical Republicans like Fortenberry. If you want different results out of Washington, you have to elect different people. Dan Wik can make Nebraska a better place.
We have recounted Pete Ricketts' struggles with the legislature on this blog over the past seventeen months. For the most part, Ricketts' agenda of large, budget busting tax cuts has been significantly pared down and the state has maintained a healthy rainy day fund. At the same time, a coalition of Democratic and moderate Republican State Senators have overridden Ricketts' vetoes on a series of high profile bills including the repeal of the death penalty, a gas tax increase, as well as drivers and professional licenses for young immigrants.
The Governor has responded to these embarrassing defeats by investing a significant sum of his own money into reversing the decisions of the legislature. Ricketts and his billionaire father have spent $300,000 in an effort to restore the failed death penalty program. Moreover, a well informed source at the Unicameral told me on background that Ricketts and the Nebraska GOP invested another $300,000 into five legislative primary races this spring in which they targeted two Democratic incumbents and three Republican incumbent Senators.
What we have here is one very wealthy family trying to subvert the will of the duly elected Unicameral by attempting to replace it with a more pliable legislative branch. This attempt by Ricketts and his wealthy family to buy a new set of Senators is disturbing on a number of levels. No one person or family should have this kind of power in one state. It is simply undemocratic and sets a disturbing precedent.
In spite of Ricketts' attempt to influence the outcome of elections with lavish spending out of his own pocket, Nebraska Democrats had a good showing on May 10. For the first time since term limits were imposed - in each Legislative District in which a Democrat ran for the unicameral - a Democrat advanced to the general election on November 8. Moreover, several Democrats had strong showings in districts in which Republicans have a significant edge in registered voters.
In LD27, Anna Wishart finished first in a three way race with an impressive 62% of the vote. Wishart's large margin of victory shows that hard work wins. Moreover, Sara Howard, Mike McDonnell, and Kate Bolz dominated in their districts - as expected. In Republican leaning Grand Island, Dan Quick finished first in a three man race.
Sue Crawford, Ardel Bengston, Lynne Walz, Carol Blood, Jim Gordon, Larry Scherer and Bill Armbrust all had good showings in tough districts and are all within striking distance of winning the general election - especially with Trump on the top of the ticket. We can also expect a higher Democratic voter turnout in November.
In two races, strong allies of Ricketts were eliminated or are on the brink of defeat. Pat Borchers finished third in west Omaha's LD37. In south Omaha's LD7, it appears as though Democrats Tony Vargas and John Synowiecki will advance to the general election. Ricketts appointee Nicole Fox is most likely on the brink of elimination after finishing third by a mere fourteen votes. The provisional ballots still have to be counted but those ballots should favor the Democratic candidates.
Even though we made a good showing in the primary election cycle, we can take nothing for granted this fall. I fully expect Ricketts and his billionaire allies to spend vast amounts of money in the general election to move the legislature to the right. The Governor wants to break the Democratic-moderate Republican coalition that has thwarted his ambitions.
What Rickett is trying to do is reminiscent of Kansas Governor Brownback's intervention in the Kansas legislative elections in the 2012 election cycle. Brownback and the Koch brothers poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into legislative races to replace Democrats and moderate Republicans with radical Tea Party Republicans who would enact his extreme agenda.
After Brownback's 2012 purge, the Kansas legislature enacted a series of huge tax cuts for the wealthy that blew up the Kansas budget and credit rating. Earlier this month, Moody's downgraded Kansas' credit rating from "stable" to "negative." Currently, the Sunflower State suffers from a $228 million budget deficit and the worst job growth in the region.
Ricketts wants to do to Nebraska what Brownback did to Kansas. I have it on background from a prominent Republican that the Governor is a "true believer conservative." What that means is that Ricketts actually believes in the long discredited notion that tax cuts for the wealthy pay for themselves and create jobs.
Nebraska still has a positive economic outlook and $687 million in our rainy day fund. However, there are some possible storm clouds on the horizon. The agricultural economy is slowing and the Department of Revenue released a report that indicates that the state is $71 million behind what was projected for the current fiscal year. Renee Fry of the OpenSky Policy Institute says that Nebraska's projected $234 million shortfall is likely to increase if tax receipts remain below what was expected.
This would be the worst possible time to embark upon some radical and risky tax scheme like the one that ruined Kansas. As Nebraska Democrats, we must have a successful election cycle. We need to preserve the good life in our great state. I'm confident that we will have a strong showing in November but we can't take anything for granted. Now let's get it done!