Democracy #Featured

Hey! New Jersey’s Electing A Governor! Pass It On

And you probably thought that Chris Christie had appointed himself governor-for-life. Of course, I wouldn’t put it past him, but his approval ratings are even lower than Trump’s, so he’ll need to leave next January. And with all the fun and excitement going on in DC these days, I can’t really blame you if you haven’t been paying attention to the upcoming election here in the Garden State. The primary is on June 6, though, so it’s time to wake up.

Remember that just last year at this time we were considering the idea that Governor Christie might be the Republican vice-presidential nominee or some other important appointment in case (never happen) Donald Trump got elected president (shudder). Now the governor is scuffling toward the exit with little more than a final-year push to address opioid addiction. You know, the kind of help that people desperately need but that won’t necessarily be covered in a Trumpcare health plan. It’s a remarkable fall for such a large personality and for someone who craves the attention, affirmation and fealty from those around him.

As usual, though, there is no shortage of contenders, And the Republicans and Democrats do differ sharply on the issues. Christie’s Lieutenant Governor, Kim Guagdano, has the unenviable task of hoisting the successor’s flag, all the while running away from Christie and towards Trump. Sort of. Guadagno can’t run as an outsider because she’s been an insider for 8 years, and over that time she really hasn’t made much of a public impact. On the Democratic side, the race will likely come down to one between Phil Murphy and John Wisniewski, although Jim Johnson was impressive in the debate earlier this month.

The big issues are property taxes, which continue to increase despite Christie’s cap on municipal spending, and the increasing difficulty of getting from one place to another in the state dues to a crisis in infrastructure. All of the candidates are suggesting that the school aid formula needs to be addressed, with the Republicans saying that public workers need to pay more for their health insurance benefits and that schools in the suburbs should get more state aid at the expense of urban districts. The Democrats, especially Murphy, are trying to protect benefits, and all of them support cleaner energy and higher taxes on high earners. The Democrats also favor legalizing marijuana and taxing it to get more money for the state.

The most immediate need, though is money to improve the state’s roads and rails because both systems are at their breaking points. Traffic in the Garden State has always been terrible, but road repairs are needed to keep what’s moving moving. The trains are going to be a nightmare this summer as Amtrak shuts down tracks in New York’s Penn Station after the derailments of the last few months. This will cost billions and will remind people that Christie vetoed the plan for a new tunnel to Manhattan early in his term because, as a potential national Republican candidate, he couldn’t be seen as raising taxes or spending on anything that’s necessary.

The train problem is also likely to make the car problem worse because people still need to get to work, so they’ll get into their cars if mass transit is spotty. And it will be. The other answer is to take the bus, but that would mean more buses, more gridlock and more traffic. It doesn’t look as though federal help will be arriving anytime soon as health care, taxes and defending oneself against legal attacks will be keeping Washington busy until at least the beginning of next year.

As for the schools and property taxes, the divide in New Jersey pretty much mirrors the divide in Washington. The Republicans want more money for school choice programs and Charter Schools, and they want public workers to pay more for their pensions and benefits because, well, they have better benefits than everyone else. Of course, the real benefit would be to get every worker the type of benefits that public workers have, rather than taking a livable retirement away from them. But you know Republicans; they think that unions are destructive and that management knows best.

Of course, Democrats were not much better, especially those who sided with Christie in the benefits reform bill of 2011 which resulted in a massive reduction in take-home pay for public workers who were already employed when the bill was passed. This is a main reason why middle class recovery has been slower in New Jersey than in other states. The Democratic candidates running now say they will protect worker’s benefits and improve the pension system, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

New Jersey should be a Democratic pickup come the fall, but I’ll also hedge that bet a little until I see who wins the primaries.

Get out and vote on June 6.

For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives or Twitter @rigrundfest

Politics

Millions Sign Petition to Elect Hillary Clinton President in December Meeting

An online petition is gaining signatures from all over the country. The petition is asking the Electoral College to vote for Hillary Clinton when the 270 voters meet in December to decide on the next president.

In fewer than 24 hours, an online petition asking the Electoral College to elect Hillary Clinton instead of Donald Trump for president of the United States has amassed over two million signatures.

“Mr. Trump is unfit to serve,” the petition argues. “His scapegoating of so many Americans, and his impulsivity, bullying, lying, admitted history of sexual assault, and utter lack of experience make him a danger to the Republic.”

“Secretary Clinton won the popular vote and should be president,” it continues. “The only reason Trump ‘won’ is because of the Electoral College. But the Electoral College can actually give the White House to either candidate. So why not use this most undemocratic of our institutions to ensure a democratic result?”

Donald Trump #Featured

Russia Said “There were Contacts” With Trump Campaign Before Election

Donald Trump said it multiple times during his campaign, “the election was rigged.” Well, considering that the FBI has blamed Russia for hacking the Democratic National Committee and exposing information favorable to Donald Trump, who’s to say Russia had nothing to do with the voting machines and the questionable results those machines returned on election day?

Well some big wigs in Russia is confirming that before the election on Tuesday, Russia had direct contact with the Trump campaign.

Per Bloomberg, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Thursday acknowledged that “there were contacts” with the Trump campaign during the 2016 election, and that Russian embassy staff met with members of Trump’s campaign.

Trump’s embrace of Putin during the campaign trail has been a major source of contention in American foreign policy circles, and intelligence experts even claimed that Trump ignored their briefings informing him that Russia was behind the hacks of the Democratic National Committee.

 

Domestic Policies #Express Yourself #Healthcare #Immigration Reform #News #Politics #Racism #vote

The Most Important Election of Them All

2016vote

Well, yes and no. Aren’t all presidential elections the most important election in history? It certainly feels that way, especially if you listen to the media buzz that emanates every four years. The future of the country is at stake. The direction of our foreign and domestic policies will be set by the voters in this election.

So it shall be in 2016, but this time there is some truth to the hype. We’ve just witnessed a few Supreme Court decisions that have profoundly changed the country’s political and social landscape. We are still suffering from the after-effects of the Great Recession. Race has roared back as a flashpoint issue. The world situation is critical (as it always seems to be). And by the end of this month, we’ll likely have over 20 people who’d like to run this government formally declare their intention to do so. Impressive. Or foolish.

Right now I would say that the edge in the race has to go to the Democrats, if for no other reason than they have a clear front-runner in Hillary Clinton and control of the electoral college map. The Republicans are far more split than the left and the remnants of the Tea Party are forcing some of the more moderate candidates to run farther to the right than they’d like. Of course, Bernie Sanders might have that impact on Clinton, forcing her to the left, but she has the advantage of being a known quantity for the past two decades. In addition, more of the Republican candidates are nationally known than are Martin O’Malley and Jim Webb, which means that it will be more difficult for their messages to find daylight.

The Republicans will have the burden to show that they can run the country more effectively than President Obama has during his term. The problem is that more Americans favor the Democratic position on most major issues. Most of the GOP candidates have come out against the court’s marriage equality ruling and want to enact religious freedom laws to protect those people who oppose that decision. These laws might be popular in certain states, but when Indiana tried to enact such a law in March, it met with intense opposition from the business community, the NCAA, and other groups who are committed to a diverse educational and workplace environment. Plus, moderates favor marriage equality, and the GOP will need those voters in key states if it wants to win next November. Rolling back the major civil rights issue of our day will likely be a self-inflicted wound from which the Republican Party will not likely recover.

The same is true, to a lesser extent, on the issues of health care and immigration. The American public is still split on whether the ACA is good policy, but most people want the law to be fixed, not repealed. That the Supreme Court saved the law will provide fundraising fodder for the right, but the GOP cannot afford to take health insurance away from those who already have it under the exchanges. They have floated a fix, but it would repeal the personal mandate, and that would cause havoc because those premiums are  keeping the law afloat. And the health care industry is changing so rapidly because of the law that companies and hospitals would probably oppose anything that cuts into their profits or practices. Remember that the ACA was based on conservative principles. The GOP should recognize that. If they can’t find a way to fix the law, they might find that public opinion turns more to the left, and towards a public health care system that’s the dream of most Democrats.

Donald Trump notwithstanding, the Republicans have a big problem when it comes to immigration. Any candidate that echoes Mitt Romney’s “self deportation” policy in 2016 will lose badly. Marco Rubio supports an immigration plan that is more progressive than the other candidates and he’s paying for it by losing support among conservatives. One of the candidates is going to have to convince the faithful that a new immigration law is in the best interests of the party and the country. That candidate will then have chance at winning the general election.

The Democrats have their own problems because they can’t run too far away from President Obama, but they can’t be too close either. Americans like the idea of more forceful environment action, but don’t like executive orders. They want higher wages and less income inequality, but don’t want higher taxes or government regulation of the economy. And I suspect that most people don’t want the government to punish banks, as Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have advocated.

The Republicans need to present a more positive message to the country about what they’re going to do if elected, not continue to be against everything that the Democrats are for. They have to realize, as the Democrats did in the 1980s, that their policies are not connecting with enough voters for them to win a national election. This election, though, like most, will be fought on economic and security grounds. Again, the GOP is on the defensive as they are seen as the protectors of the wealthy and against spending on infrastructure, public education, and health issues. An arch conservative, like an arch liberal, will not win in 2016. Pragmatism and a vision to move us forward will.

Because this is the most important election of them all.

For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives or Twitter @rigrundfest

Politics

It’s Official – Thad Cochran Wins in Mississippi

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The final results were turned over to the Secretary of State on Monday, and they showed Cochran winning the Republican primary by 7667 votes.

Meanwhile, his Teaparty challenger Chris McDaniel, is asking for a do over, claiming that some Mississippi residents voted illegally because they are registered Democrats. State rules do not prevent cross-party voting, but prohibits voting in both Democratic and Republican elections.

Cochran will face Democrat Travis Childers in the November midterm elections.

Politics

Mississippi Blacks are Looking for Payback in Cochran Win

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Thad Cochran

The Mississippi Republican was about to lose his seat to a Teapot favorite, so he did the unthinkable and pandered to the black community, normally a strong Democratic voting block, and got them to write his name down on the ballot. Now that he’s won, these Democrats are wondering what exactly will Thad Cochran do for the black community in Mississippi.

Various members of the Congressional Black Caucus that represents a large section of this voting block are already speaking up.

“Absolutely we have expectations,’’ Rep Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), said in an interview.

“My hat is off to Sen. Cochran for being as desperate as he was, to actually go out and up front got out and ask for those votes,” said Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.). ” Those votes were delivered and I’m hopeful he will be responsible and responsive to the voters that pushed him over the top.”

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) agreed that Cochran has an opportunity to support the black community.

“What I hope happens is that he comes to the realization that African Americans are the reason I have this final six years and therefore I’m going to try and be more responsible than I have been,” Cleaver said.

Their sentiment was echoed around the capitol and in Mississippi following Cochran’s win over tea party favorite Chris McDaniel, fueled by surge in black voters in the Mississippi Delta. Turnout increased overall in Mississippi for the runoff, but counties that are majority black like Jefferson County saw voters came to the polls in record numbers.

But how realistic is it, to expect a Republican to do the right thing? Should these Democrats think that in today’s partisan atmosphere, a Republican would even consider policies that benefit the voters who put him in office? Especially when those voters are Democrats… and black?

These Democrats may be in for a rude awakening. They should have found out what Cochran and his party stood for and the polices he’ll more likely support, before casting their vote.

But then again, the alternative was a Teapot.

Politics

Juan Williams – Republicans Fail on Message of Last Election

Juan Williams is an author and political analyst for Fox News Channel writes;

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Juan Williams

In Playboy magazine’s current issue, Sen. Bernie Sanders offers an “Emperor Has No Clothes” view of Washington’s current budget talks.

“Today one out of four major profitable corporations pays zero in federal income taxes,” said the independent from Vermont.

Later he added: “You would think that before you cut health care, education, nutrition or Social Security, you might want to take a hard look at that issue. I mean, am I missing something here?”
The good news as budget talks between Republicans and Democrats speed toward a Dec. 13 deadline is that both sides agree on the need to replace sequestration cuts with a more reasoned plan for deficit reduction.

The bad news is that Republicans refuse to put anything that looks like a tax increase in the deal even if it is in the form of closing tax loopholes for the richest corporations.

And Democrats are under pressure to offer cuts in entitlement spending — Social Security and Medicare are two ripe targets — without any new tax revenues in order to show a willingness to compromise and avoid one more fiscal cliff.

This is where Sanders offers his critique of both parties.

With an eye on Republicans, he notes that ExxonMobil made $19 billion in 2009 yet paid no federal income taxes, and got a $156 million tax refund from the government.

Sanders is also critical of President Obama.

“When you have a President of the United States who is talking about cuts in Social Security and veterans’ programs,” Sanders said, “who was willing earlier on to give continued tax breaks to billionaires and unwilling to go after huge corporate loopholes, people sit there and say, ‘Both parties are working for the big-money interests.’ ”

Sanders’s take on why both parties are afraid to take on big financial institutions, including those bailed out by taxpayers with government aid after the 2008 economic collapse, is that Washington politicians are afraid of the consequences of taking on Wall Street.

Next month marks one year since Obama easily won reelection, in the process becoming the first president to win more than 51 percent of the vote in two elections since President Eisenhower. The president won the 2012 election even as Wall Street’s gold poured into the campaign of the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney.

Romney criticized Obama as an opponent of big business who increased regulation on Wall Street. Romney famously identified 47 percent of Americans as people who are “dependent on government, who believe they are victims … and who pay no income taxes.”

Romney made Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), author of the House GOP budget, his vice presidential nominee. Ryan’s budget proposal called for big cuts to Medicare. His plan included making it a voucher program — a change that would, inevitably, limit its value as a guaranteed social safety net for the elderly. Ryan proposed cuts to other entitlement programs with no added taxes on corporations or the rich.

Romney and Ryan lost the election, but somehow Republicans and Democrats remain on track to cut government spending even at a time of high poverty rates and a fragile economic recovery that thirsts for a steady flow of government investment to inspire investor and consumer confidence.

Now Ryan’s strategy is to once again demand cuts in entitlement spending from the Democrats in a trade for eliminating rigid sequestration cuts that have thoughtlessly damaged spending on national security as well as Head Start programs, slowed federal criminal trials and hampered scientific research funded by the government. Sequestration cuts are on track to chop $100 billion annually from federal spending until 2021.

“It’s more appropriate to the moment we have, to focus on common ground,” Ryan said last week of the bipartisan interest in ending sequestration. “We’ve got automatic spending cuts coming. There are smarter ways of cutting spending — whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat.”

How could the GOP have missed the message of the last election? Somehow they are willing to bet one more time on cutting entitlements as the way to revive their political fortunes. They see the public responding positively to their work to reduce government spending.

“The survival of the automatic spending cuts gives Republicans the upper hand in confronting the White House and congressional Democrats on budget issues and new proposals by Mr. Obama that would involve new outlays, such as his plan for universal pre-K education,” Fred Barnes, my Fox News colleague, wrote last week in The Wall Street Journal. “For Republicans eager to corral federal spending — and that’s most of them — the sequester is a gift that keeps on giving.”

If the GOP thinks there is political leverage — the upper hand — to be found in going after seniors, people on food stamps and even defense spending with another round of across-the-board cuts, they might want to look at last year’s election results. And they should invite Sanders to give them his thoughts on big, profitable companies that pay no taxes.