Friday Talking Points -- Ticking Away...

[ Posted Friday, October 15th, 2021 – 17:21 UTC ]

Today's article title is from the song "Time," by Pink Floyd. Here's the whole first verse, for the proper context:

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
Fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your hometown
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way

This lyrical rock masterpiece sprang to mind this week as we watched the Democrats... um... not get much of anything done. It's as if they had all the time in the world -- which they most assuredly do not. Especially relevant is that line: "Kicking around on a piece of ground in your hometown," since Congress is once again on vacation all week long. Most people don't even get Columbus/Indigenous Peoples' Day off work, but for Congress it is yet another excuse to blow off an entire week. This isn't that long after they took a month and a half off, mind you. Outdoing the Senate (which just took this week off) was the House, which took an entire two weeks off -- for a minor federal holiday most people have to work on.

Ticking away... not just the moments or the hours or even days, but full weeks.

Here's what didn't get done this week:

  • Any progress at all on the budget reconciliation deal with Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Sinema even flew off to Paris for a fundraiser this week (more on this later in the program), showing her true priorities, once again.
  • The January 6th Select Committee hearing from any of the four top Trump aides it had demanded appear this week (via subpoena). Or holding Steve Bannon in contempt for refusing to show up -- something they now promise they'll vote on next week. Because there's no rush, right?
  • Any progress on voting rights, election reform, budget reconciliation, infrastructure, police reform, abortion rights, immigration reform, or any of the rest of the agenda both President Joe Biden and a whole lot of Democrats ran (and won) on, last year.
  • Confirmation of any of Biden's nominees to executive agencies -- hundreds of which are still waiting for Senate confirmation votes.
  • Raising the debt ceiling again to avoid America defaulting on its debt (which is going to happen right after Thanksgiving).

None of that moved forward. Because there was nobody in town to work on any of it. Instead, they frittered and wasted the entire week, waiting for someone or something to show them the way.


Let's review the reality of the calendar, shall we? The debt ceiling's deadline is December 3rd. Highway funding will run out at the end of October. This is the next real deadline for both the infrastructure bill and the as-yet-unwritten budget reconciliation bill. If the Republicans take back control of the House, the January 6th Select Committee will be immediately disbanded on the day the new speaker takes control, in January of 2023. We are already passing deadlines for reforming voting rights and the election process, as more and more states formalize their new redistricted maps and election laws for next year.

In other words, there really isn't a moment to waste -- much less whole weeks. And yet, here we are. With no apparent signs of urgency about any of this emanating from Joe Biden or the Democratic Party as a whole. They've gotten so bogged down in negotiating with two recalcitrant senators that everything has ground to a halt. To properly understand it requires mixing two lethargic metaphors: it's like watching frozen molasses try to flow through a glacier. That slow.

This is frustrating millions of Democrats outside Washington, by the way. And frustrated voters aren't exactly what you want heading into the midterm election season. What's really frustrating is that it shows no sign of changing any time soon. Manchin and Sinema have already shown they are willing to ignore deadlines in their refusal to cut a budget reconciliation deal, which means that -- at the very earliest -- something might happen either just before or just after Hallowe'en. Which is just pathetic.

The longer the crown jewel of Biden's entire domestic economic agenda is held hostage by these two, the more time the Republicans have to make stuff up about it to demonize it to the voters. Which, of course, they have been busily doing already. Democrats can't really make the case for the bill, because nobody really knows what is going to make the final cut. The media has been obsessed over the topline number, and refuses to even engage on what the bill contains, which doesn't exactly help Democrats get their message out.

Democrats seem to be on the brink of making the same (or a similar) mistake as they did on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. "Obamacare"). It took them so long to get their party holdouts to sign on to the bill so they could finalize what was in it that Republicans had an absolute field day making insane stuff up about it to frighten the public ("death panels" was just the worst of these). The more time frittered and wasted away, the worse this problem will get. Republicans are so confident of their ability to do so, they'll flat out admit it to the press:

Republicans, meanwhile, are watching the internal haggling among Democrats with glee, predicting it will become a major campaign issue next fall. And they have magnifying glasses on hand for any controversial policies that make it into the bill.

"We need to do a better job of explaining what's in the package, because we've been watching as spectators to see if they can make it across this high wire that they're walking on," said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a former chair of the Senate GOP campaign arm.

To Republicans, "what's in the package" means (of course) "stuff we made up to scare people that isn't actually real." Just like (to cite an example from this week) they all had a hissy fit over the problems at Southwest Airlines last weekend, declaring without a tiny shred of evidence that "pilots staged a sickout to protest the Biden vaccine mandate." The fact that this problem was not true and did not exist didn't deter them in the slightest.

The other notable delay this week was from the January 6th Select Committee, who were supposed to hear from four Trump toadies who had been subpoenaed earlier. One (Bannon) openly defied the subpoena, claiming a non-existent "executive privilege" (Donald Trump is no longer president, and Bannon at the time in question was not a federal employee). Two of them are apparently bargaining with the committee over the terms of their appearance, and one dodged the process server so long they gave him some extra time to comply. But the full committee won't be meeting until the House comes back into session next week, so referring Bannon to the Justice Department for obstruction of Congress charges will have to wait until Monday (at the earliest). This is in the face of all his minions copying Donald Trump, who is the absolute king of using the court system to run out the clock (he truly is a master of this dark art).

So yeah, it was kind of a frustrating week to watch. We're just hopeful that one of the last couplets of that Pink Floyd song doesn't become the epitaph of Biden's entire political agenda:

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines

OK, a few other footnotes from the week, and then we'll move right along to the awards. The weekly jobs report came out and for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, fewer than 300,000 jobless claims were filed last week. That is incredibly good news for the economy as the Delta variant finally fades.

Workers are flexing their organizational muscles in a way they haven't in decades, as they now are beginning to realize that they are now incredibly valuable to their employers. The workers at John Deere just went on strike, the workers at Kaiser Permanente hospitals may go on strike next week, and Hollywood may just grind to a halt at the same time as the support crews are also ready to walk out for better working conditions.

And we close with three amusing bits from the other side of the aisle.

The Republican committee responsible for getting more GOP senators elected put out a fundraising statement which offered donors the chance to add their names to a petition to "show support of 'Trump's Social Media site,' even though Trump has not rolled out a new social media site." Hey... details, details... the MAGA crowd certainly isn't going to insist on strict adherence to reality, that much seems certain.

Ted Cruz proved once again he is the master of self-ownership on social media. The GOP Twitter account put out a tweet stating:

Joe Biden has decided to go on vacation YET AGAIN.

He is running away from all the problems he has caused.

To which Cruz replied:

Cancun is lovely this time of year.

The internet, of course, had a field day with it.

And, finally, wouldn't it be nice if all these MAGA Republicans in Congress could actually learn how to use their spell-checkers? Marjorie "Three Names" Taylor Green cheerfully wished everyone a "Happy #ColombusDay!"

[Insert "woman faceplaming" emoji here....]


Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

Before we get to the main award, we do have one rather amusing Honorable Mention to hand out, to the New Jersey Democratic State Committee. To highlight the Republican candidate for governor's past support of a local ordinance which attempted to ban swearing, they cut an ad explaining how ridiculous such a law would be (in New Jersey, of all places!). The ad is absolutely hilarious and may go down in history as the "most profane political ad ever created." So check it out (don't worry, all the expletives are tastefully bleeped).

But we have to give President Joe Biden our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award, for becoming the first sitting president to ever issue a proclamation celebrating Indigenous Peoples' Day. Biden was balanced -- he also issued another proclamation for Columbus Day -- but even granting equal time to Native Americans was a big milestone. Here is just some of what the proclamation declared:

Since time immemorial, American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians have built vibrant and diverse cultures -- safeguarding land, language, spirit, knowledge, and tradition across the generations. On Indigenous Peoples' Day, our Nation celebrates the invaluable contributions and resilience of Indigenous peoples, recognizes their inherent sovereignty, and commits to honoring the Federal Government's trust and treaty obligations to Tribal Nations.

Our country was conceived on a promise of equality and opportunity for all people -- a promise that, despite the extraordinary progress we have made through the years, we have never fully lived up to. That is especially true when it comes to upholding the rights and dignity of the Indigenous people who were here long before colonization of the Americas began. For generations, Federal policies systematically sought to assimilate and displace Native people and eradicate Native cultures. Today, we recognize Indigenous peoples' resilience and strength as well as the immeasurable positive impact that they have made on every aspect of American society. We also recommit to supporting a new, brighter future of promise and equity for Tribal Nations -- a future grounded in Tribal sovereignty and respect for the human rights of Indigenous people in the Americas and around the world.

Biden isn't just talking the talk, either. He's also appointed the highest-ranking Native American ever in the federal government (Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland) and has instructed all of the executive branch to rethink how they interact with Tribal governments.

This is all a change long overdue. The history of the American government's interaction with Native Americans is just as dismal and as shameful as the history of slavery. And it's about time we had a president who not only fully admitted it but was actively working to change things for the better.

[Congratulate President Joe Biden on his official White House contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

OK, before we get to the main award, we do have two rather funny things to point out. We're giving both of them a (Dis-)Honorable Mention, but we have to admit both of these did make us laugh.

The first was James Carville's rather honest answer to being asked why he has sent 47 separate fundraising emails for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe since mid-July: "Because I'm an email-signing slut."

OK, we're certainly not going to argue with that one....

The second goes to Senator Chris Coons, who was caught in a slip of the tongue last week on Fox News Sunday. Here's his quote:

If we're going to solve problems facing the American people, we have to be able to work together. So, while I completely understand President Schumer's deep frustration, the timing may not have been the best.

Host Chris Wallace jumped on his remark and countered with an even-funnier take on his slipup:

You said President Schumer.... Maybe we should say President Manchin at this point?

But moving on from comedy, we have yet another Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award this week for one of our two usual suspects.

Senator Kyrsten Sinema, a few weeks back, skipped out of the midst of negotiations over the budget reconciliation bill so that she could raise a bunch of money from lobbyists who wanted to kill the bill. She topped that disgrace this week by flying not just out of Washington but over to Paris, France -- to hold yet another fundraiser.

And remember that protest video from a week ago? The one where the activists ambushed Sinema at a college where she was teaching a class? You'll never guess what subject Sinema feels qualified to teach:

All students hope to learn from the top experts in their field. Graduate students at Arizona State University have an unusual opportunity this fall to do just that, where Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., is teaching a course on getting rich people to give you money.

The course, titled "Developing Grants and Fundraising," is one of two classes Sinema is teaching this fall at Arizona State University's School of Social Work. The syllabus, which was obtained by The Intercept, says students will "learn diverse fundraising strategies" for nonprofits as well as "how to cultivate donors," including "large individual donors," by leveraging resources like "opportunistic fundraising," "finding supporters for major fundraising events" -- and, well, "asking for money."

The outline identifies "Key Course Concepts" such as "corporate giving," "political strategy," "influence," and "power" as well as more socially conscious terms like "discrimination," "oppression," and "privilege." One of the required books is "Fundraising for Social Change" -- ironic in light of Sinema's attempts to ensure things like corporate tax rates remain unchanged. A spokesperson for Sinema did not respond to a request for comment.

Fundraising is a subject the Arizona senator knows a thing or two about, having raised eye-popping sums of money from groups opposed to President Joe Biden's Build Back Better agenda. Sinema has racked up some $920,000 in campaign contributions from said groups, according to an analysis by Accountable.US, a watchdog group that monitors corporate lobbying.

Got that? Sinema gets paid by students to teach them how to get people to give her money. The irony is pretty obvious.

You know what we would dearly love to see? A movement among other Democrats in Congress. It has been rumored that Sinema isn't really all that interested in getting re-elected, that she's really just in the Senate so she can retire as quickly as possible and start raking in big bucks as a lobbyist. Which, with her, is certainly within the realm of the possible.

So what we think would be appropriate is for some prominent Democrat to start circulating a letter pledging to never meet with or talk to Kyrsten Sinema, should she ever become a lobbyist. This might just hit her where it seems to hurt her most -- in the pocketbook. Lobbying organizations might just be a little more reluctant to hire Sinema if they knew that the vast majority of Democrats in Congress would refuse to ever take a meeting or a phone call with her. It would lessen her market value as a lobbyist, plain and simple.

So perhaps that's what might just wake her up. It certainly doesn't seem to faze her that the things she is currently standing up for -- keeping prescription drug prices sky-high and refusing to consider raising corporate taxes -- are wildly unpopular with her own voters. A recent poll showed this beyond a shadow of a doubt: 71 percent of Arizonans favored raising taxes on those making more than $400,000 a year, 61 percent support taxing capital gains as wages, 62 percent support increasing the corporate tax rate all the way up to 28 percent, 66 percent favor taxing foreign corporate profits at the same rate, and setting a minimum corporate tax rate of 15 percent is supported by 69 percent of Arizona voters.

Sinema obviously doesn't care, because she's against all of that. Perhaps because she's got her eyes on the lobbying prize? So send her a message that she can lobby Republicans all she wants, but Democratic doors will be closed to her if she does.

[Contact Senator Kyrsten Sinema on her Senate contact page, to let her know what you think of her actions.]


Friday Talking Points

Volume 638 (10/15/21)

No real theme this week, just the usual mixed bag of talking points for all Democrats to use when discussing politics next week. As always, use responsibly!


   Thank you, Bernie

We've been following this one ever since 2015, and we are glad to say the mainstream media is finally waking up to how much Senator Bernie Sanders has managed to move the Overton Window within the Democratic Party over that time period. So when we saw this in the Washington Post, we had to just copy and paste it in here. Sooner or later, hopefully more of the punditry will realize the progressives are actually the mainstream -- not only of the Democratic Party, but of the entire population. Poll after poll after poll shows this to be true, but political journalists have ignored such evidence for years. The following is rather begrudging in tone and refuses to admit its own wrong assumptions (progressives didn't "become the mainstream of the party during the Biden presidency," this has actually been true for a while now; and Biden-the-centrist didn't suddenly wake up one morning and decide it was time to champion progressive ideas, he was forced into doing so by competing with Bernie Sanders for the 2020 nomination). But at least it's something:

The public hand-wringing by House liberals, at times, masks how much they have become the mainstream of the party during the Biden presidency. Despite frustrations over the current negotiations on infrastructure and larger social spending bill, they are no longer pushing policies from the wings hoping to get some of what they want into the Democratic agenda as was the case during the first years of the Obama administration when their top priorities -- like a public health care option as part of the Affordable Care Act -- seemed like pipe dreams.

As many of [the Congressional Progressive Caucus] members have recently pointed out -- Biden's agenda is their agenda. The party outliers now are the shrinking group of moderates whose votes are still key, but whose views represent a minority of the party.

"This is, oddly, the progressives who are holding up [Biden's] agenda and trying to make sure the president can fulfill that agenda," Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), a vote counter for the C.P.C., said last week. "The majority of the agenda that the president ran on that delivered us the House, the Senate and the White House is in the Build Back Better agenda. If we fail to deliver on that promise, we have failed the American people."


   Let's get the tradeoffs out in the open

If the political journalists don't directly ask them, then other Democrats should force the issue (as, indeed, they have been doing so far).

"What I want to know is which parts Joe Biden's economic agenda Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema can't support. Are they somehow opposed to giving 62 million seniors expanded Medicare benefits, so that Grandma can get new glasses or a new hearing aid or have her teeth fixed? Or are they opposed to strengthening Obamacare by expanding Medicaid to the 2.2 million people who happen to live in a red state which has refused the expansion so far? How about allowing Medicare to bargain for cheaper drug prices? That one polls astronomically high with the public, so I'd really like to hear Kyrsten Sinema publicly make the case for why she opposes it. Which parts of Biden's plan do these two senators oppose? Free community college tuition? Two free years of pre-K education? Child care subsidies so parents can work? It's time for them to put up or shut up. Why won't they admit to the public what 'principles' they are fighting for? Is it because what they are fighting for is so completely indefensible? Maybe some enterprising journalist will ask them these sorts of questions some time soon."


   Republican orthodoxy all wrong (of course)

Quite a few GOP economic theories are proving to be completely and utterly wrong.

"This year's Nobel Prize in economics went to three researchers who actually measured (as best they could) the validity of two major tenets of Republican economic faith: that allowing more immigrants in equates to a bad outcome for current workers, and that raising the minimum wage will mean a lot of lost jobs. The researchers found the opposite: more immigrants does not mean lower wages for other workers and minimum wage hikes do not lead to job losses or discourage hiring. Also debunked this week was the GOP insistence that a piddly extra couple hundred dollars a week in unemployment benefits is what is keeping workers home on their couches rather than looking for work. A number of Republican governors and statehouses cut off the extended benefits while other states continued them. So if the GOP theory was right, it would have meant a lot more job growth in the red states than in the blue, as workers were indeed forced to go back to work. But you know what the data showed? There was no difference at all between the red states and blue. Now, I'm not exactly holding my breath waiting for Republicans to admit their economic policy is based on falsehoods -- after all, most of them still believe in 'tax cuts always pay for themselves' and how trickle-down theory actually works for everyone. Both have been proven wrong every time they've been tried and yet Republicans still don't seem to have gotten the memo. All I know is: I'll listen to a Nobel-prize-winning economist before I'll listen to some conservative think tank hack."


   Speaking of defying GOP orthodoxy...

Their hypocrisy knows no bounds any more (not that it ever really did...).

"Governor Greg Abbott of Texas seems determined to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt the hypocrisy of Republican orthodoxy on both local governance and government interference in private businesses. It used to be an article of faith among Republicans that 'local government is best -- the closer to the people, the better,' and that 'government regulations on businesses should be kept to an absolute minimum.' I mean, these used to be bedrock Republican belief, folks! But now that cities led by Democrats are passing laws that Republican-led states don't like, the concept of local governance being the best has been tossed out the ideological window. Statewide law now bans localities from enacting things like mask requirements to combat a deadly worldwide pandemic. And Abbott just signed an order which attempts to penalize private businesses for deciding on their own whether to follow the vaccine mandates the Biden administration has set up. Businesses in Texas are now not supposed to decide for themselves what to do, because agreeing to the mandates is now banned. The entire anti-vaccination stance Republicans are increasingly taking is pure hypocrisy as well -- because none of them are taking the same stance for all the other vaccine mandates which exist for schoolchildren, for measles or the mumps or chickenpox. Because doing so would be incredibly stupid, of course."


   Another GOP group urges electing Democrats

Join the growing club....

"A Republican movement calling itself the Renew American Moment has announced that it will be supporting moderate Democrats in the midterms next year. Christine Todd Whitman co-wrote an editorial explaining why, which boils down to:"

[W]e agree on something more foundational -- democracy. We cannot tolerate the continued hijacking of a major U.S. political party by those who seek to tear down our Republic's guardrails or who are willing to put one man's interests ahead of the country. We cannot tolerate Republican leaders -- in 2022 or in the presidential election in 2024 -- refusing to accept the results of elections or undermining the certification of those results should they lose.

"They will be supporting moderate Democrats as well as brave and principled Republicans such as Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. Their stated goal is to deny control of either house of Congress to Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell. Democrats should welcome their help with open arms."


   Pledging allegiance to sedition and insurrection

This one is just flat-out disgusting. So point it out!

"A rally was held in Virginia this week in support of the Republican candidate for governor. Steve Bannon was the most prominent speaker. And they kicked off their fun by reading the Pledge of Allegiance to a flag which (they were told) had been carried on January 6th during the insurrectionist attack on the seat of American democracy, the United States Capitol. They essentially pledged allegiance to sedition. This is how low the Republican Party has now sunk. And for anyone who thinks this fever has somehow broken, keep in mind that people like Bannon and his ilk consider January 6th not to have been a 'failed attempt at an insurrection,' but rather practice for the next one. I call on all Republicans who are still actually loyal to the Republic to denounce anyone pledging allegiance to an insurrectionist flag."


   Don't vote! It's pointless! Trump says so!

Hoo boy. "There he goes again..."

"Donald Trump released the following statement this week: 'If we don't solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020 (which we have thoroughly and conclusively documented), Republicans will not be voting in '22 or '24.' That's right -- Trump is literally telling Republican voters to stay home unless both the midterm and presidential elections are solely about his Big Lie. Any Republican who doesn't make this their platform's only plank just isn't worth voting for according to Donald Trump himself. I would like to heartily second this, and urge Republican voters to stay home on Election Day just to show those libs who is boss! Just like Trump told you to do! We need to pick up a few more seats, just like we did in Georgia in the Senate -- the last time Trump urged his followers to stay home and not vote."

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground