By Doug Porter
As part of their ongoing drive to drive their party’s plummeting polling numbers off a cliff, Congressional Republicans have declared that now is the time to engineer a shutdown of the Federal government.
Two separate showdowns are slated for the coming weeks, following a revolt by Tea Party Representatives last week which left the “reasonable” voices in the GOP on the side on the road. Coming Friday will be a House vote for a continuing resolution for funding to allow government operations to proceed. Three weeks down the road a legislative showdown is expected over a bill allowing the debt ceiling to rise.
As things stand today both actions will likely result in GOP sponsored majority votes in the House, rejection by the Democratic-led Senate of odious portions of those legislative packages and a probable shutdown of the government.
According to a NBC/Wall Street Journal survey conducted earlier in September the Republican Party has reached new levels of unpopularity. Negative views of the GOP have reached 44 percent of those surveyed, an increase of 3% over August polling.
The Democrats have a brand advantage of 12 points (40% vs 28% on feeling positive).
Here’s the New York Times view on the approaching showdown:
Until now, the only House Republicans pushing for a government shutdown and debt crisis were a few dozen on the radical right, the ones Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, referred to as “the anarchists.” On Wednesday, however, the full Republican caucus, leadership and all, joined the anarchy movement, announcing plans to demand the defunding of health care reform as the price for keeping the government open past Sept. 30.
The decision means that a government shutdown next month is now much more likely. In the past, shutdown threats were averted because Republican leaders were willing to negotiate on spending issues, though the spending cuts that resulted were often harmful to important programs. But the health law is not negotiable for President Obama and the Democrats. By choosing this as their live-or-die issue, Republicans are driving straight toward the brink and removing the brake pedal.
What is worse, the House leadership also announced plans to make a series of demands of the White House in exchange for raising the debt ceiling in mid-October, threatening a government default if they don’t get their way. The demands, announced by the majority leader, Eric Cantor, are a goodie-bag of Republican priorities: approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline, delaying health reform by a year, and changing the tax code in ways that will undoubtedly benefit corporations and the wealthy.
As a warm up for this legislative lunacy, House Republicans are scheduled to vote today on a bill that will severely cut the Food Stamp program. If passed, the current bill would negatively impact 4 -6 million people, many of them children. Hundreds of thousands of children face losing free school meals.
Personally I object to Senator Reid’s and the Times’ (they used it in their headline) characterization of the Tea Party types. It gives anarchists a bad name.
Meanwhile, on Main Street…
The Census Bureau’s report, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2012, was released yesterday.
Nationally the poverty rate held steady at 15 percent in 2012. That’s 46.5 million people, more than a third of them children. Inflation-adjusted median family income slipped from $51,100 to $51,017.
The percentage of people without health insurance fell from 15.7 percent to 15.4 percent, to 48 million, with much of that improvement due to uninsured people becoming eligible for Medicare at age 65 and adult children up through age 25 taking advantage under Obamacare provisions to be included in their parents’ health coverage.
That’s the first time since 2007 that the situation in all those metrics didn’t worsen. Median household income has fallen 8.3% since the last recession became official in December 2007.
Locally the Center for Policy Initiatives is holding a press conference today to announce that things in San Diego don’t look so good. I’ll be talking about the details in tomorrows column, but suffice it to say economic inequality deepened in the region in 2012, and a growing number of people – including many who were employed – remain mired in poverty.
A Little Good News from Washington
Newly ensconced Labor Secretary Thomas Perez announced on Tuesday the Obama administration will extend the protection of U.S. minimum wage and overtime law to almost two million home health workers who assist the elderly and disabled.
It is “unfair” to lump these professionals into a category intended for “teenage babysitters,” Perez said on the call.
Workers who are employed directly by an individual or family to provide “fellowship and protection,” such as companionship in a home setting, are exempt from the rule. Workers employed by an individual or family to perform medical tasks will be covered.
ACLU Report Calls Out Secret Domestic Intelligence Agency
The American Civil Liberties Union has released a 63 page report on the activities of the Federal Bureau of Investigation asserting that the expansion of powers wielded by the agency since 2001 represent a threat to freedom.
From the Washington Post account:
The changes highlighted in the report include the FBI’s racial and ethnic mapping program, which allows the FBI to collect demographic information to map American communities by race and ethnicity; the use of secret National Security Letters, which asked for account information from telecommunications companies, financial institutions and credit agencies and required no judicial approval; warrantless wiretapping; and the recent revelations about the government’s use of Section 215 of the Patriot Act to track all U.S. telephone calls.
In its report, the ACLU asks Congress, the president and the attorney general to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the FBI’s policies and programs, and makes 15 recommendations for reform of the agency.
“The list of abuses is long and demonstrates that Congress must do a top-to-bottom review of FBI politics and practices to identify and curtail any activities that are unconstitutional or easily misused,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project. “The time for wholesale reform has come.”
Keystone Pipeline Protest Slated for Saturday
As part of a nationwide day of actions sponsored by 350.org, San Diegans will participate in a march and rally outside the Federal Building downtown calling upon President Obama to reject a permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would carry tar sands oil from Canada to Texas for refining and export.
Activists plan on carrying a 50-foot cardboard sign depicting the Keystone Pipeline around the Federal Building. Speakers following the march will include Lori Saldaña (former Assemblywoman and Chair of the San Diego Chapter of the Sierra Club), Rev. Dr. Beth Johnson (Minister of Palomar Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Vista), Matt Cappiello, a USCD medical student who was one of over 1,200 people arrested in Washington DC in 2011 while participating in civil disobedience against the keystone pipeline, and ten-year old activist Siena.
The march is slated to begin at 11am Saturday morning from the lawn on south side of Federal Building (West F & Front Sts.). Speakers will be heard in front of the building entrance (Front & West E Sts.)
Similar rallies are planned for roughly 200 cities around the country. Locally, the event is being organized by SanDiego350.org and is supported by Sierra Club San Diego, Greenpeace, Citizens Climate Lobby and others. For more information, go here.
Off to the Local Races…
I’ve been “unplugged” from events outside the CNN/USAToday/Faux news horizon over the past week as I vacationed in the great Midwestern region of the US. (It was a swell trip!)… For today I’m choosing to be a little light on my commentary regarding local political races.
Here are the greatest hits:
- District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis has a challenger for the coming election cycle and he’s picking up steam. Lawyer Bob Brewer picked up key endorsements from a coalition of unions representing law enforcement officers. CBS/8 News has the story here.
- Mayoral Candidate David Alvarez is on a hot streak. Yesterday he was endorsed by former Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña. Today Donna Frye is giving him a thumbs up. From the UT-San Diego story this morning:
Saldaña considered running herself but decided to step aside because she and Alvarez shared the same core values — concern for the environment, neighborhood amenities and working families. She also noted their age difference; she’s 54 and he’s 33.
“I think this is really David’s time,” she said. “He’s a young man, he’s really forward and future looking. I think young people have very different ideas about women as equals and working effectively.”
- It’s looking like several Mayoral Debates will be conducted under the auspices of Doug Manchester’s Mission Valley minions. The first will be taped Friday afternoon and rebroadcast on UT-TV that evening, so expect to see any gaffs committed by the UT’s anointed favorite Kevin Faulconer edited out for time considerations. A second tape-delayed event featuring only Alvarez, Fletcher and Faulconer will be broadcast on September 27th. It would appear that Bruce Coons and Mike Aguirre have both been excluded from participating.
- Mike Aguirre has released an Open Letter to Voters via his website, just in case you’re curious. Money quote:
The coming campaign will provide an opportunity to consider my record as your City Attorney. You will learn, perhaps for the first time, my administration saved the City over $250 million in court cases the city won. You will see how we helped to restore the City’s credit rating with the early settlement of the fraud case the United States Securities & Exchange Commission brought against the city. It will be made clear that we did restore the City Attorney’s office to be a representative of the people of San Diego, not just the lawyer for the council and mayor.
- San Diego’s City Beat is a virtual fountainhead of insight this week into Marco Gonzalez/Donna Frye/Cory Briggs involvement in calling out former Mayor Bob Filner’s transgressions. Do read all about it. Do read Donna Frye’s letter of resignation from last April. And understand that this is only one part of the sordid saga, one that existed in addition to City Attorney Jan Goldsmith’s nine month long effort, among other things.
- Meanwhile I’ll assume the effin brothers (Faulconer/Fletcher) are busy counting up their big bucks campaign donations. You can watch their piles of big money ($1000 plus donations) grow on a daily basis by clicking through to inewsource.org’s Follow the Money page. As of yesterday Faulconer was over $140,000 and Fletcher was just past $80,000.
Filner and the Banality of Systemic Evil
Finally (for today), a thought about context.
There has been a lot of (sometimes) self righteous criticism aimed at various players in the Bob Filner scandal, particularly at some of the women who (eventually) came forward and those who either did or didn’t speak out.
The Filner situation came to mind while reading an op-ed in the New York Times written by Northwestern University professor Peter Ludlow. His article focused on the morality of those involved in leaking state secrets. Try reading it and thinking about Ludlow’s points from the perspective of the local players in this story.
In “Eichmann in Jerusalem,” one of the most poignant and important works of 20th-century philosophy, Hannah Arendt made an observation about what she called “the banality of evil.” One interpretation of this holds that it was not an observation about what a regular guy Adolf Eichmann seemed to be, but rather a statement about what happens when people play their “proper” roles within a system, following prescribed conduct with respect to that system, while remaining blind to the moral consequences of what the system was doing — or at least compartmentalizing and ignoring those consequences.
A good illustration of this phenomenon appears in “Moral Mazes,” a book by the sociologist Robert Jackall that explored the ethics of decision making within several corporate bureaucracies. In it, Jackall made several observations that dovetailed with those of Arendt. The mid-level managers that he spoke with were not “evil” people in their everyday lives, but in the context of their jobs, they had a separate moral code altogether, what Jackall calls the “fundamental rules of corporate life”:
(1) You never go around your boss. (2) You tell your boss what he wants to hear, even when your boss claims that he wants dissenting views. (3) If your boss wants something dropped, you drop it. (4) You are sensitive to your boss’s wishes so that you anticipate what he wants; you don’t force him, in other words, to act as a boss. (5) Your job is not to report something that your boss does not want reported, but rather to cover it up. You do your job and you keep your mouth shut.
On This Day: 1959 – Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev was not allowed to visit Disneyland due to security reasons. Khrushchev reacted angrily. 1968 – Steppenwolf won its first gold record for “Born to be Wild.”1986 – U.S. health officials announced that AZT, though an experimental drug, would be made available to AIDS patients.
Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to “The Starting Line” and get an email every time a new article in this series is posted!
I read the Daily Fishwrap(s) so you don’t have to… Catch “the Starting Line” Monday thru Friday right here at San Diego Free Press (dot) org. Send your hate mail and ideas to DougPorter@