Progressive Summit Sells Out

Keystone Progress held its sixth annual Progressive Summit Friday and Saturday and this year they sold it out.  800 people gathered at the Harrisburg Hilton for two days of speakers, workshops and parties.   The highlight on Friday was a speech by Cecile Richards of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.  She brought down the house by reminding the audience that although the Koch Brothers want to spend close to a billion dollars in the 2016 elections progressives can counter that with millions of people.

Cecile Richards:

 photo DSCN4020_zpsuqdjhx7s.jpg

The Koch Brothers were also the object of a speech Saturday morning by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.  The Independent socialist empowered the full house in a talk about the dangers of income inequality, how we got into the mess and how the Koch Brothers want to make things far worse.  Jim Dean of Democracy For America, based in Vermont, introduced the Senator.

Cecile Richards with Kate Michelman:

 photo DSCN4027_zpsgaftx7kd.jpg

Michael Morrill, Executive Director of Keystone Progress, reminded the progressives that we have to be the conscience of the Commonwealth and hold our elected officials accountable for their corruption even when they are on our side (or so we thought).  That comment only got sparse applause but I salute Mike’s courage in saying it.  It was something, in light of the Rob McCord case, which needed to be said.

44 workshops filled much of Saturday and topics ranged the entire spectrum of progressive issues.  Sen. Daylin Leach hosted a party Friday evening and Manan Trivedi hosted a karaoke party into the wee hours.

Jim Dean’s introduction of Sen. Bernie Sanders:

Sen. Bernie Sanders:

News & Notes July 1, 2012

The blog became a victim of global warming when Friday night’s severe storm knocked us offline.  As bad as this storm was here it paled in comparison to what our southern neighbors felt.  Delaware, Maryland and Virginia were hit extremely hard.  Thirteen people lost their lives and millions their power.  How much extreme weather must we tolerate, how much property damage, lives and time lost before we address this most critical of issues?

I’m fed up with all this hate speech directed at teachers, police and firefighters.  When CEO’s earn 343 times as much as the average workers the outrage should be that these dedicated public servants aren’t paid enough.  America’s priorities are all screwed up.  People go hungry while we expend close to $1 trillion/year for defense.  This is inexcusable.

Gov. gasbag signed a budget late last night averting an embarrassing predicament:  total GOP control of state government but unable to pass a budget on time.  The compromise hurts the poor and children at the expense of corporations.  Shell gets billions while the elderly, poor and young get the shaft.

I love Sen. Bernie Sanders.  In this video he talks about the economy:

Former State Rep and Rendell Revenue Secretary Steve Stetler was the final defendant convicted in BonusGate.  As important as it was to ferret out corruption protecting boys from Jerry Sandusky should have been the higher priority.

Sen. John Pippy resigned his seat following passage of the budget last night.  In the race to succeed him one candidate has stepped down.

As part of the flurry of votes to end the state fiscal year Gov. Gasbag’s failed former Chief of Staff landed softly as the Senate approved his appointment to the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County.  In doing so other vacancies were also filled and the Senate somehow found money to pay for them.  There still isn’t any money for poor, disabled people, those with developmental disabilities or other needy Pennsylvanians but Corbett’s buddy gets paid.

In the wake of his decision upholding ObamaCare Chief Justice Roberts joked about his trip to Malta being an escape to an impregnable fortress.  The Tea Party types might be able to scale even those walls in their fury.  If they try we should go put vaseline all over them and watch the Tea bagger “patriots” slip into the sea.

Obama Determined to Cut Social Security

Despite campaign promises to preserve Social Security and ever refrain from cutting benefits Barack Obama seems bound and determined to do exactly that.  As part of negotiations over the debt ceiling Republicans led by Speaker John Boehner are insisting on trillions of dollars in cuts to entitlement programs such as Social Security.  This social extortion shouldn’t be tolerated and such baseless activity denounced and condemned.  Instead President Obama, the pragmatic deal maker, is willing to cut any deal possible so he can go to the people next year and claim he accomplished something.  Never mind his accomplishment would be hugely unpopular and something Republicans, with their unlimited corporate campaign coffers, would hang him with, he is blindly walking down a blind, dark alley in which he and the American people will get mugged once again by conservatives.

Cutting Social Security benefits in the name of deficit reduction is like cutting off your leg because of a tooth infection.  One has nothing to do with the other.  Social Security not only doesn’t contribute a dime tot he deficit it has a $2.6 trillion surplus.  Those funds are dedicated to providing future benefits for Baby Boomers now beginning to retire.  The system is fully funded through 2037 and even then, with no alterations, would pay 77% of current benefits.  Lifting the cap on income taxable for Social Security fully funds the program for the foreseeable future and even strengthen benefits.

As Americans have been screwed out of their pensions then robbed of their 401(k) investments by Wall Street dependence on Social Security is more important than ever.  We should increase benefits rather than decreasing them.  Following two years of no cost of living adjustments while health care, prescriptions and energy are rapidly escalating for seniors and the disabled, plans are to change the way COLA’s are calculated to severely cut future benefits.

I’ve been on Social Security Disabilty for roughly eighteen years.  At first my monthly benefit was $600 and over the years the COLA’s have brought it to about a grand.  Meanwhile the $20 it used to cost to fill my tank is $38, heating oil costs a thousand bucks per fill, food is way up and I can’t even afford a Medicare supplement plan any longer.  Rent is beyond any expectation since the average apartment is $750/month.  With the average Social Security check around $1,050 how does anyone afford food?  This is why we refer to the Simpson/Bowles Deficit Commission as the Cat Food Commission.  No one on Social Security is going to be eating anything but pet food in a few years.

If the chained COLA cuts go through the cost of living increases will cut $1,000/month from each check in twenty years.  Because women outlive men this will hurt them disproportionately.  Without COLA’s I’d be living in abject poverty because of the increases in costs of basic necessities.  Add to that the fact seniors and the disabled have high health care demands, costs which escalate far faster than even the current COLA’s calculate, the loss of traditional pensions and the raiding of 401(k)’s to survive during these recession riddled times and future seniors will all be living in abject poverty.  All this to “save” a deficit problem created by tax cuts for the rich, unfunded wars and the deregulation of the financial industry.

Shouldn’t the burden be falling upon those who have benefited from that government largesse instead?  The Bush tax cuts drilled a giant hole in the deficit.  Eliminating the cap on Social Security earnings so hedge fund managers earning a billion bucks a year (and paying a 15% tax rate) pay FICA on all of their earnings would solve all future funding issues.  Since Social Security contributes NOTHING to the deficit cuts to future benefits does NOTHING to solving the deficit.  This is merely an extortion plan to eliminate the safety net for needy Americans and provide yet another giant sellout for Wall Street at our expense.

The wars of choice in Iraq and Afghanistan have contributed mightily to the deficit along with a $700 billion per year Pentagon budget.  We can safely secure our nation and provide for our defense for $100 billion.  That leaves $600 billion a year towards deficit reduction.  Properly regulating Wall Street and restricting the gambling nature of out of control bankers betting against our economy and creating huge Ponzi schemes will save us from future calamities where we lose our homes and retirement accounts.  The loss of revenue from the economic collapse as people lost jobs created massive holes in the budget.  Cutting Social Security does nothing to correct any of the factors which contributed to the deficit.

Senators Bernie Sanders and Sheldon Whitehouse participated in a conference call this morning criticizing the President on the issue.  Asked if he would filibuster any bill in the Senate Sanders said he would do anything within his power to stop it from being passed.  He also said the damage politically to Barack Obama next year would be significant.  His only saving grace would be the sorry state of the Republican field.

How much money do you think Karl Rove and his Crossroads GPS super PAC would spend to portray Obama as the man who killed Social Security?  The GOP spent massive amounts criticizing Democrats in 2010 for cutting future benefits in Medicare and won control of the House with the message.  They’ll conveniently ignore the fact they insisted upon these cuts and held our economy hostage in order to force them.  Stupid Americans, brainwashed by incessant ads on TV, will willingly go to the polls and vote Republican then watch in horror as what is left is decimated.  Democracy is a wonderful thing:  you deserve what you get and you get what you deserve.