Nick Paleologos: Filibuster the Filibuster

Last week, the US Senate voted 54-46 to strengthen gun safety laws in America. It failed.

That’s right. 54%–a solid majority of the US Senate–voted in favor of universal background checks, and the bill still lost. Because the filibuster rule requires a 60% vote for anything to pass.

Which made me think about Elizabeth Warren.

You will recall that Ms. Warren carried her reform message together with everybody’s highest hopes into the halls of congress. Shortly after her election–I received an email from her. This is what she said:

 
“You know what I want to do. You know what I care about. But here’s the honest truth: Any senator can make a phone call to register an objection to a bill, then business comes to a screeching halt. On the first day of the new session in January, the Senate will have a unique opportunity to change the filibuster rule with a simple majority vote. I’ve joined Senator Jeff Merkle and four other senators to fight for this reform on day one. No more bringing the work of this country to a dead stop.”
 

Nick paleologosThe only problem is that on the first day of the session she fought for nothing of the sort.

Neither did Jeff Merkle, nor any other senator—Democrat or Republican. And by fight, I mean rise to their feet on the floor of the Senate and use the filibuster to change the filibuster. Bring that shameful institution to a screeching halt on behalf of majority rule.

Stop everything. Force a national conversation on why—in the “world’s greatest deliberative body”–a simple majority isn’t enough.

Why–after 20 kids got their heads blown off—doesn’t 54% of Senators voting in favor of gun safety legislation advance that bill to the next step? I’d like Ms. Warren, and Mr. Reid, and the Democratic majority in the United States Senate to explain to the parents of those twenty dead six year olds, why protecting the filibuster is so much more important than protecting our children?

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Nick Paleologos: Filibuster the Filibuster

Nick Paleologos: The Case for Compassionate Capitalism

The notion that America is sharply divided between free market capitalists and big government socialists is complete baloney. This country is lousy with consensus around an economic value system, which is deeply embedded in the DNA of most Americans and based upon generations of experience with capitalism in this country.

For the first third of the 20th century, America was the Wild West. Low taxes. No regulation. No unions. Anything goes. We called it the Roaring ’20s. The rich got filthy rich. Everybody else just got filthy. The Roaring ’20s officially ended on October 29, 1929 when the entire American economy crashed, ushering in a decade of unrelenting misery and despair featuring 25 percent unemployment, widespread bank failures, bankruptcies, foreclosures and food lines. We called that the Great Depression. The closer we looked at capitalism, the more we found it wanting. So we did what Americans always do when we see a problem. We fixed it.

In this case, the fixer-in-chief was President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The damage done to the country during the Depression convinced him that unregulated capitalism always favors the rich at the expense of everyone else. So to save capitalism from itself, FDR introduced what turned out to be the crucial missing ingredient: compassion.

Nick paleologosRoosevelt understood that compassion did not grow naturally in the harsh climate of an unfettered free market. He knew instinctively that fairness — essential to any functioning democracy — was an alien concept to pure capitalism. So FDR gave us a new, improved version. Call it compassionate capitalism. No senior citizen ends up destitute (Social Security). Banks and Wall Street don’t get to gamble with peoples’ savings (FDIC and SEC). Anybody who serves their country goes to college (GI Bill). Everybody who wants to work gets a job that the country needs to have done (CCC and WPA).

Far from hobbling private sector growth, these programs actually fueled it. Tons of people got very rich. However, the immense wealth created in America during the post-Roosevelt years was much more evenly distributed — with the biggest chunk going to a rapidly expanding middle class. Compassionate capitalism worked for everyone without busting the federal budget.

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Nick Paleologos: The Case for Compassionate Capitalism

Nick Paleologos: The Gipper vs. The Doofus

Between 1979 and 2008 (basically the Reagan-Bush years), 36% of all gains in household income went to America’s richest 1%. As we moved through those three decades, this obscene disparity actually got worse. By the time George W. Bush was halfway through his second term, the richest 1% of Americans were sucking up a staggering 53% of all income gains in our country. Today, the richest one out of every 10,000 households in America grabs a larger share of our national income than at any other time since we started keeping records–in 1913!

As if that wasn’t bad enough, a self-promoting doofus named Grover Norquist has actually convinced enough craven politicians that the wealthiest one percent are also entitled to pay a much lower tax rate on their much higher income than the rest of America’s working stiffs. And the guy he keeps pointing to in order to justify this absolute insanity is Ronald Reagan.

OK, I didn’t vote for The Gipper. And it is true that Reagan believed in lower tax rates for everybody. But he also believed that taxes should be fair. And that whatever the top tax rate (in his time, 28%)–millionaires should pay it.

Since the end of the Reagan years, the top tax rate for bus drivers climbed to 35% while the top rate for millionaires dropped to 15%.

Reagan thought that was ridiculous—and said so at the time.

Last week–by a 3 million vote margin–America agreed with Reagan (and incidently, Obama). It’s time to get this deficit under control. And the first step is to tax wealth at the same rate as work. We will never start growing the middle class again in this country until the rich (and their political apologists) stop insisting that the highest earners should have the lowest tax rates.

Memo to what’s left of the Tea Party: Even Ronald Reagan thought that was stupid.

Nick Paleologos: The People Have Spoken

In their quest for the presidency, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney each spent a billion dollars. They debated each other three times in front of an average audience of 60 million Americans. In the process, they aired sharp differences on several major issues facing the country.

The people listened carefully.

On Tuesday November 6, 2012, Americans delivered their verdict.

They gave President Obama three million more popular votes–and 126 more electoral votes–than Governor Romney. By their votes, the American people settled the following questions:

1) National health care? YES(Obamacare is here to stay.)

2) Tax cuts for the rich? NO. (Ryan Budget rejected.)

3) Roe v. Wade? YES. (Rape is never “legitimate.”)

4) Citizens United? NO. (Most expensive election ever.)

5) Balanced approach to deficit reduction? YES(Grover Norquist sent packing.)

6) Privatize social security & medicare? NO. (Fix, don’t nix.)

7) More women in US Senate? YES. (Number climbs to 20–the highest ever.)

8) More Republicans in congress? NO. (GOP loses 2 seats in Senate, 5 in House.)

9) Bi-partisanship? YES. (Voters applaud Obama-Christie cooperation.)

10) Deregulation? NO(Voters to top 1%: Greed is NOT good.)

11) Equal pay for equal work? YES. (Voters punish GOP for “war on women.”)

12) Self-deportation? NO(Voters support sensible immigration reform instead.)

Significantly, the proportion of young people voting in 2012 was up from 2008—as was the proportion of African-Americans and Latinos.

President Barack Obama–by virtue of 2 consecutive majority victories in the popular vote–is now the most successful Democratic presidential candidate since Franklin Roosevelt.

For a rare look into the man’s soul, I offer you this:

The Experts Weigh In With Their Electoral College Predictions

(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

 

 

 

If you haven’t entered the First Quadrennial Recovering Politician Electoral College Contest, you’ve got until tomorrow, Tuesday at 6:00 AM EST.  Here are the details for your chance to win 2 FREE lower-arena tickets to the defending national champion University of Kentucky Wildcat basketball team’s official home opener at Lexington’s Rupp Arena, versus Lafayette University, on Friday, November 16 at 7:00 PM.  Remember, the first step is to become a member of the RP’s new Facebook page, Facebook.com/RecoveringPol, and provide your predictions in the post marked “Designated RP Electoral College Contest Post.”  The award will be presented to the individual who most accurately predicts the final Electoral College vote, with tiebreakers of predicting the Senate and Housr partisan compositions after the election.

The 2008 Electoral College Map

As a service to all of you procrastinators out there, our experts — contributing RPs and friends of RP — have weighed in on their predictions.  You can choose to go with one of their picks, or stick with your own and feel smarter than a recovering politician.

So here goes.  Feel free to comment below, but remember according to the rules, only comments at the Designated RP Electoral College Contest Post at the RP Facebook page will be qualified for the grand prize.

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The RP:  Obama 303, Romney 235.  (Obama wins WI, NV, IA, NH, CO, VA and OH; Romney squeaks out the narrowest victory in FL); Senate: 50 Dems, 48 GOP, 2 Indy; House: 239 GOP, 196 Dems

Contributing RP Rod Jetton:

President-  Romney 277 and Obama 261.  Romney takes the true toss ups of NH, CO, IA and WI, while holding the safer states of FL, NC and VA.  Obama keeps OH, MN, MI, NV and PA.  The auto bailout keeps Obama with Ohio, but Ryan and the debates help Romney hold WI which Ohio is not required on their path to victory.  PA will be close but O will hold on there.  R wins popular vote 52-48. With unemployment at 7.9% and even worse, gas prices up over $3.50, it is amazing that any incumbent could even keep it close.  When we add in how Obama seemed to have a bit of the Bush 42 attitude of not really wanting to mess with a re-election campaign plus the Libya debacle it is hard to see Obama winning.  Romney is a solid steady campaigner that nobody loves, but he has a good resume and seems to be up to the job of fixing the economy.

Senate-  D-52 and R-46. (I-2)  The Republicans will pick up a few seats but the weak candidates will keep them from taking the majority.  My state of Missouri is a good example of that.  McCaskill was in bad shape and should have been defeated in 2012 but with all Akin’s messaging problems she is poised to survive.

House – R-237 and D- 198.  There will not be a big change in the House and Romney’s debates and October surge will help Republicans down ticket in many of the battleground seats.

Jordan Stivers (Friend of RP): Obama 280, Romney 258; Senate:  R-47, D – 51, I-2; House:  R-237, D-198

Contributing RP John Y. Brown, III: Election Day will be followed by Wednesday….and, if all goes as planned, followed by Thursday. Short of cataclysmic fallout on Tuesday night, Thursday more than likely will be followed by Friday. And then we will probably see something resembling what we used to call “the weekend.”

Friend of RP Zac Byer (traveling with VP GOP nominee Paul Ryan): My head still says Romney tops out at 256, but after visiting 6 swing states in the last 56 hours, and my gut says otherwise: Romney: 277, Obama: 261; 51 D, 47 R, 2 I; 238 R, 197 D

Contributing RP Jeff Smith: Obama 277, Romney 261; Senate: R-48, D – 50+2I; House: R-240, D-195

Ron Granieri (Friend of RP):  Obama: 280, Romney: 258; Senate: 51-49 Dems (with independents); House: 245-190 Reps

Contributing RP Nick Paleologos: Obama 275. Romney 263.

Steven Schulman (Friend of RP): Whatever Nate Silver says.

Contributing RP Jimmy DahrougObama 275, Romney 263; Senate: Dems 51 GOP 47; 2 Indy;  House: GOP 241  Dems 194

David Snyder (Friend of RP): Obama wins 290-248.  Senate – 51 Democrats 47 Republicans, 2 Independents.  House – 234 Republicans, 201 Democrats

Contributing RP Greg Harris: Obama: 332, Romney: 206 (Polls indicate presidential race is neck and neck among “likely” voters. Obama’s lead is greater among “registered” voters. These votes, under-represented in polling, will redound to Obama’s advantage in states like FL and CO.); Senate: R-44, D – 54, I – 2; House: R-232, D-203

Robert Kahne (Friend of RP): Obama: 332, Romney: 206. Senate: D:53 (inc 2 IND) R: 47. House: D: 205, Rep: 230

Contributing RP Jason Grill: Obama gets 294 and Romney 244; Senate – 52 D 46 R  2 I; House – 234 R 201 D.  

And watch this for more of Jason’s analysis:

Nick Paleologos: A Closing Argument for Obama — Tough Choices? Gimme a Break!

Everybody says the country is polarized. Really? It seems that everybody pretty much agrees on the following:

DEFENSE SPENDING:

1)   Our troops should be the best trained and best equipped in the world.

2)   The various branches of our military should not be competing against each other for resources but preparing instead to fight increasingly sophisticated threats to our national security.

3)   Our allies should be paying their fair share of the cost of defending freedom around the world.

DOMESTIC SPENDING:

1)   Social Security is good. But Warren Buffet should have to pay the same percentage of his total income into Social Security as the rest of us. And if the retirement age also has to go up a year or two in order to make the system solvent over time, we’re fine with that.

2)   Medicare and Medicaid are also good. But each needs to be run better—and by that we mean cheaper. As far as national health care is concerned, let’s stop fooling around. Requiring businesses to pay for health care is ridiculous. It’s a huge drag on their ability to grow and to create new jobs. Basic health care (just like education) should be the birthright of every US citizen. Smart and healthy citizens make for a stronger and more competitive country. Fear of destitution from illness, on the other hand, makes us less entrepreneurial and less productive. The best thing we can do for this economy is to take the cost of health care off the backs of our job creators, and instead have everybody chip in.

3)   Education? Don’t get me started. Every kid in America—regardless of income—goes to school. And that’s a good thing. So why stop at high school? If you’re smart enough to cut it, the country needs you to go to college. Period. But let’s face it. Colleges have been jacking up tuitions on the back of government guaranteed student loans for way too long. No college—public or private—should be eligible for any taxpayer funds of any kind (direct or indirect) unless they can prove they have a needs blind admission policy. That is, the kids they accept are allowed to attend—even if their parents can’t afford the full freight. And when colleges complain, the answer is simple. You’re supposed to be smart. Figure it out!

PUBLIC TELEVISION:

1)   We get a much better bang for the buck from Big Bird, than from Big Oil.

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Nick Paleologos: A Closing Argument for Obama — Tough Choices? Gimme a Break!

Nick Paleologos: “The only thing we have to fear…”

We are very excited to introduce our newest contributing RP, Nick Paleologos. Nick was a Member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives for 16 years, and has since become a Tony and Emmy award winning theatre and film producer. We hope you enjoy his first piece, and many more in the weeks to come.

 

When I was a kid, I was blissfully unaware of the bone-crushing depression my dad lived through. He grew up on the hardscrabble streets of Lowell, Massachusetts—the son of Greek immigrant parents who were living in a cold-water flat known then (and now) as “The Acre.”

My dad (at far right in photo) was nine years old when Franklin Roosevelt beat Herbert Hoover for president in 1932. Hoover was a handsome guy who made a ton of money in the mining industry. By 1914, Hoover was so wealthy he was actually quoted as saying “If a man has not made a million dollars by the time he is forty, he is not worth much.”

The country clearly agreed. Between 1921 and 1929 (the first year of Hoover’s presidency) the top income tax rate for worthy millionaires like himself was slashed from 73% to 24%. Result? The Great Depression. By the time Roosevelt took over from Hoover, unemployment was at 25%, two million Americans were flat-out homeless, and all the banks in 32 of the 48 states (including the NY Federal Reserve) had slammed the doors shut on their depositors.

On Saturday afternoon March 4, 1933 Roosevelt gave his first inaugural address. Everybody in America (including my dad) was huddled around the radio waiting to hear what the new president had to say:

“This is the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly…This great Nation… will revive and will prosper. So…let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

You’re right. I am afraid.

“Values have shrunken to fantastic levels; our ability to pay has fallen; government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income; the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone. More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.”

How did this happen?

“Primarily this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind’s goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence…Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.”

What can we do?

“…there must be a strict supervision of all banking and credits and investments; there must be an end to speculation with other people’s money, and there must be provision for an adequate but sound currency. Through this program of action we address ourselves to putting our own national house in order and making income balance outgo.”

Does that mean we all might have to pay a little more?

“If I read the temper of our people correctly, we now realize—as we have never realized before—our interdependence on each other; that we can not merely take but we must give as well; that if we are to go forward, we must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline, because without such discipline no progress is made, no leadership becomes effective. We are, I know, ready and willing to submit our lives and property to such discipline, because it makes possible a leadership which aims at a larger good.”

That’s what Franklin Delano Roosevelt told my father and millions of others in 1933. Within a hundred days of that speech, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was formed. For the next decade, millions of unemployed young Americans found jobs in national forests and state parks all over America. My dad went to Vermont. It was dependable, physical labor from which the country greatly benefited. For his part, dad earned $30 a month, of which $25 was required to be sent back home to his family.

So when FDR sounded the call to arms in December of 1941, my father was only too happy to return the favor. He signed up to fight for his country in the Pacific. At the end of World War II, when dad stepped off his PT Boat—proud, penniless, and newly unemployed—the president wanted him to go to college. Even though dad could not afford to, FDR believed that going to college was so important for America’s future that he insisted upon the country paying for dad’s education.

Under the GI Bill, dad went to college and became a lawyer. In addition, eight million other veterans went to college, or to vocational training schools, or received low cost mortgages and loans to start businesses. And what a difference they made.

NBC’s Tom Brokaw dubbed them the “Greatest Generation.” But they were really Roosevelt’s Kids. Because the country FDR gave them was built upon his conviction that freedom from fear of destitution was crucial to unleashing America’s limitless potential–a belief that largely prevailed…until 1980.

That was the year that another affable, popular president was elected. In Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural address he took the country in a profoundly different direction.

“In this present crisis” Reagan famously declared, “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

In the three plus decades since that assertion (except for a brief interlude in the 90′s) America returned with a vengeance to the philosophy that characterized the Roaring Twenties: tax cuts for the wealthy, Wall Street run amok, and banks acting more like casinos than caretakers—with the same catastrophic result.

Baby boomers–who grew up in Roosevelt’s America where the cumulative income growth of the bottom 90% outpaced the top 1% by more than four to one—have only recently realized that during the past three decades in Reagan’s America (our working lifetime) the American economy has gone ass over tea kettle in the opposite direction. The top 1% outpaced the bottom 90% by a staggering 25 to 1.

In other words, during the Roosevelt decades (1945 to 1980) as the country got richer, the biggest winner was a rapidly growing middle class. During the Reagan decades (1980 till now) practically all of the wealth created in America ended up in the hands of the top 1%. But don’t take my word for it. Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman stated flatly, “There’s no measure I can think of by which the U.S. economy has done better since 1980 than it did over an equivalent time span before 1980.”

So when the Great Recession ravaged our country between 2008 and 2010 (according to the Federal Reserve) what little wealth left for the middle class during the Reagan decades (mostly home equity) was all but wiped out.

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Nick Paleologos: “The only thing we have to fear…”

Artur Davis: A Closing Argument for Mitt Romney

If it turns out the life of Barack Obama’s presidency is measured in months, left-leaning analysts will agonize over what went so wrong. Their explanations will range from confusion over how a stunningly gifted orator never mastered the greatest national pulpit, to consternation about the intransigence of Republicans and the eruption of the Tea Party, to sober hand-wringing about the intractable nature of 21st Century democracy.

But the mourning will not match the genuine misery and perplexity many Americans feel regarding the state of the nation. For all the explanations of how Obama has fallen short of his promise, the simplest one is in the discontent of those 23 million plus individuals who are under or unemployed, some for such long stretches that they have fallen through the cracks of the government’s official statistics. These men and women are the source of a national fury over why things are the way they are, and they and the Americans who know them have proved resistant to deflecting responsibility or changing the subject.

To be sure, as his defenders never cease to point out, Obama was greeted with the debris of a national calamity. The country seemed to be teetering on the edge of depression for stretches in late 2008 and early 2009, a casualty of a Washington environment that privileged and made unaccountable the giant government sponsored housing enterprises and a reckless Wall Street culture that took the risk out of lending for the mortgagor. But rather than tackle the crisis with single-mindedness, Obama veered off in too many scattered directions: a stimulus whose legacy is a slew of poor returns on investments in alternative energy and uncompleted construction projects, a partisan healthcare law that drained off a year of the administration’s efforts, a massive overhaul of the carbon producing economy that was too unwieldy for even many Democrats to embrace, a financial industry bill that has not stopped excessive leveraging in the capital markets. The portfolio is one that Obama and his allies have strained to explain, much less justify.

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Artur Davis: A Closing Argument for Mitt Romney