Remember Government By Extortion?

America was on the verge of default.  The safest investment in the world:  United States Treasury Bonds, were about to fail because the Tea Party led Republican House of Representatives decided to play government by extortion.  The resulting crisis over raising the debt ceiling (which will play out again in January depending on the outcome of the election) resulted in a loss of consumer confidence which hurt the economy and the downgrading of the country’s credit rating.

This wasn’t the first instance of House extremists using extortion to hurt the economy.  Repeatedly since 2010 they held a gun to the President’s head (figuratively) and demanded deep cuts in government spending which wound up slowing down the recovery.  While 5.2 million private sector jobs have been created public sector employment has plummeted.

Guess who participated fully in that extortion?  Pennsylvania’s GOP Congressional delegation:

Jim Gerlach

Joe Pitts

Mike Fitzpatrick

Pat Meehan

Charlie Dent

Lou Barletta

Tom Marino

Tim Murphy

Mike Kelly

Todd Platts

Part of that agreement was the sequestration crisis scheduled to hit the economy early in 2012.  It would slash government spending, including defense, by large amounts.  Most agencies will see a 20% across the board cut meaning essential services will be lost.  Do you enjoy safe food, research into cancer and other life threatening diseases, breathable air, safe ground, pharmaceuticals which are safe to take etc?  Forget it.  These Tea bagger conservatives have put all of it at risk along with the safety net for the poor.  Their failed economic policies crashed the economy and drove many middle class Americans into poverty.  Now they want to take away your food stamps, housing assistance, heating assistance and Medicaid.

Are you really going to vote them back in?

PA-15 Congressional Debate Eaton and Daugherty

Jackson Eaton and Rick Daugherty held another debate last night, this time in Kutztown at the Kutztown Area Democratic Club.  Last Thursday they met in Annville at Lebanon Valley College.  This time the questions and answers were somewhat similar but there were some new ones.  Eaton keeps mentioning that he supports the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles Commission on deficit reduction.  That Commission issued no recommendations because they couldn’t muster enough votes supporting cutting Social Security cuts.  Embracing Simpson-Bowles means cutting Social Security.

Social Security did not cause or add tot he deficit and doesn’t need to be cut.  Daugherty advocates eliminating the wage cap which makes the program solvent for the entire future.  In fact it could increase benefits if that were done, something seniors really need.

Deficit reduction during lean economic times isn’t smart economics.  The lavish spending on tax cuts for the rich, borrowed money for wars of choice and deregulation of markets which crashed them is what created the deficits.  With the crash of markets in 2008 deficit spending is critical to recovering our economic mess.

Eaton, on the other hand, is 100% pro choice while Daugherty is not.  Rick describes himself as a Casey Democrat on women’s issues.  Sen. Casey, of course, is no friend to women’s reproductive rights.  Daugherty does support the Employee Free Choice Act.  I ran out of battery power towards the end but those questions were the same as last week.

Mike Morrill of Keystone Progress moderated the debate.

PA-15 Democratic Congressional Debate

Democratic Congressional candidates Rick Daugherty and Jackson Eaton debated last evening at Lebanon Valley College.  They are challenging incumbent Republican Charles Dent in the newly reconfigured District.  The 15th traditionally covered the Lehigh Valley and included two precincts in Berks County the last decade.  Now it reaches into Lebanon County which was in the 17th (Holden).  The CD was designed to be more Republican in order to protect Dent.

Rick Daugherty is a social worker for the Lehigh County Department of Aging and Chair of the Lehigh County Democratic Party (he has stepped down to run in this primary).  Eaton is an attorney who recently switched from being a Republican.  Neither candidate strike sme as a progressive after listening to last evening debate but I plan on interviewing each of them shortly and we’ll dig further into the issues.

One statement by Daugherty struck me when he said that 40% of federal spending is borrowed money.  That would mean that out of a trillion dollar budget we’d borrow $400 billion.  That isn’t true.  I don’t know if he misspoke or what.

News & Notes November 21, 2011

Today is my TBI anniversary.  I’d forgotten until I got a reminder from our TBI-Survivor group.  It’s been 27 years.  Either it’s a good sign that I don’t focus on it any more or it just shows my short term memory issues remain…

The PSU Board of Trustees announced today that former FBI flunky Louis Freeh will head its investigation.  Who opened that hole and allowed this snake to escape again?

In October and November 690,000 people have moved their money from big banks to local ones.  Estimates are that $185 billion in assets will leave the “too big to fail” banks which swindled and defrauded Americans into a global financial collapse.  This is called voting with your dollars.

Why is it that park rules can be enforced but not banking laws?

Congressman Charlie Dent (PA-15) has a chellnger from the Tea Party.  Interestingly Jackson Eaton switched parties to the Democrats to do so.  Think he’ll fool many Dems?  I bet he does, some of them are as stupid as the Tea baggers.  There won’t be enough to win a primary however.  

The AG candidates are lining up to use the Sandusky case as a campaign issue.  Until someone gets a rational person in the House Judiciary Committee who isn’t beholden to protecting the Catholic Church there won’t be any chance of legislative reforms however.  Patrick Murphy has a concrete set of reforms to implement:

Here are four things we can do to help make sure nothing like this ever happens again.

   Tighten the mandatory reporting requirements. Rep. Kevin Boyle introduced a bill that would do just that. If you are aware that a child is being abused, you should be legally obligated to report that immediately to law enforcement, not just your supervisor.

   Establish a secure, statewide criminal intelligence database for sex crimes against children. If law enforcement officials in one jurisdiction have intelligence about a suspected child sex offender then officers across the state should have immediate access to that information. A criminal intelligence database would give law enforcement that ability.

   Eliminate the statute of limitations on the sexual assault of children. It might be difficult to put cases together as time goes by, but things like shock, depression or repressed memories make it difficult for victims to come forward. That shouldn’t be a license for criminals to go free.

   Expand Child Advocacy Centers in Pennsylvania. Right now, we have 13 – we need more. These centers bring law enforcement and other stakeholders together so that victims only need to be interviewed once. That way they don’t have to relive the horror of what happened over and over again.

The awe and shock of the media brainwashing campaign stirring up war fever against Iran is the same used to invade Iraq.  Are Americans so stupid as to fall for the same trick twice?  You betcha.

The man in charge of coordinating the attacks on Occupy encampments is named Chuck Wexler at the Police Executive Research Forum.  Anonymous brought their website down and published all of his personal information.  You can email him at

I think I’m going to do an article about all the extreme nonsense the GOP presidential candidates are spouting but isn’t it nice to see they aren’t pretending to be “compassionate conservatives” any more?  No more nonsense about not wanting poor children condemned to being school janitors instead of students, an end to child labor laws, the minimum wage, overtime, environmental protections, the whole extent of government meant to protect us from predatory business practices and all that other nonsense?

And isn’t Rick Perry’s promise to do away with civilian control of the military just a wonderful idea?  Just what I always dreamt of:  generals in charge!

Rick Santorum says this:  “Now, unlike Islam where the higher law and civil law are the same, in our case, we have civil laws but our civil laws have to comport with the higher law.”  Of course the two are identical which means he supports Sharia law and wants to impose it here.

Sam Rohrer jumped into the field to challenge Bob Casey today.  This is the guy who proposed replacing school property taxes with an expanded sales tax on most everything.  Besides being extremely regressive his numbers didn’t add up.  Why elect someone to the Senate who can’t count?  After all we already have Pat Toomey who keeps saying his Super Committee was tasked with cutting $1.5 trillion (it was actually $1.2T).

UC Davis Chancellor Katehi walked to her car through a large group of silent protesters.  It was a powerful moment.  The cop who needlessly pepper sprayed all those students must be arrested on assault charges.  One count for every time he sprayed someone.

The NYPD, those unique American terrorists, announced the arrest of one yesterday.  Funny but the FBI didn’t take this guy seriously enough to get involved.  Of course I think the Fibbies don’t get involved unless they can entrap people into doing what they otherwise wouldn’t.  Still, I kept waiting for Bloomberg to announce the guy was targeting Zuccotti Park which is why he emptied it.  Lost opportunity there Mike, now you have no defense for all the upcoming civil rights lawsuits.

Here’s a reason to oppose the internet censorship bill in Congress:  it means any website owner can be held legally liable for anything someone else posts to their site.  That means blogs will no longer be able to have comments for example.  You wouldn’t be bale to upload anything to any website which isn’t yours.  No one can afford the legal liability otherwise.

DeSean Jackson’s new nickname should be Bonehead.

Mayor Pawlowski Slams Dent on Partisanship

On a conference call this afternoon about the American Jobs Act Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski said he’d work with the Lehigh Valley Congressional delegation to pass the bill.  I asked him how he’d get Charlie Dent, who has consistently voted against jobs legislation, to vote for the bill.  The Mayor said “this is insane” that Republicans are more concerned with damaging President Obama than helping the country and that Dent and others are playing politics with the economy.  He also said if we had more Mayors in Congress the nation would be better because there’s no Republican or Democratic way to pave roads or build sewer systems.

The call was conducted by the Department of Commerce and Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank also weighed in with her comments.

I asked if more funds should be devoted to infrastructure rather than small business incentives since people don’t have money to buy things so the demand isn’t there for businesses to expand their workforces.  I’m also concerned about the payroll tax cut that Blank promoted heavily.  Social Security needs more funds not less.  This constant cutting of Social Security and Medicare revenues will only be a pretext to cut or end those programs in the future.

Washington is manufacturing yet another crisis with these cuts.  A better solution to put money in the hands of consumers is the direct stimulus checks issued under President Bush.  That money went straight into the economy.

15th Congressional District Debate

Lafayette College was the setting last evening for a debate among three candidates in PA-15.  Incumbent Congressman Charles Dent sat between Tea Partier Jake Towne and Democrat John Callahan, Mayor of Bethlehem.  The event was sponsored by the League of Women Voters.  Callahan appeared stressed and tense all evening, leaning forward towards the microphone and looking uncomfortable.  Dent was relaxed, I’m not sure he ever appears stressed and Towne sat looking very cold all through the event.  All the questions were from the audience which gave Charlie Dent a pretty good reception when he entered the room after the others.  That told me it was largely a GOP crowd.   From the questions asked there were also a few tea baggers in attendance.

I’m not sure after listening to all three that any of them want to end this recession.  Callahan was vehemently against the TARP bailouts (as was Towne) and I’m not sure how he thinks that’s a good position.  TARP saved the country from a total and complete meltdown of our financial system.  Runs on banks were already underway and, indeed, since this recession began several hundred banks have failed even with TARP.  Add to that the collapse of Merrill Lynch, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and all the ingredients were present for a depression.  We all came very close to losing all of our savings yet Callahan is saying it was unnecessary.

I asked Justin Schall, his campaign manager, about it after the event.  He claims it isn’t an either/or issue, either vote for or against TARP but that “smart people in Washington” could have crafted a better bill.  In the time that would have taken it wouldn’t have been necessary as all the banks would have been closed.  Recall the initial bill as proposed by President Bush and Treasury Secretary Paulson was only a few paragraphs long and gave Treasury carte blanche to do whatever it deemed necessary.  A wary Congress balked and negotiations went forward for some time to enact a bill with safeguards.  Granted it didn’t limit CEO salaries and bonuses but at the time no one was thinking about executive compensation, only saving the system.  I think Callahan is going after Dent on this issue because he thinks it helps him.  Actually it hurts because he’s on the wrong side.  This was one vote of Charlie Dent’s which was correct, one of only a few.  There are many issues and votes on which to go after the incumbent but this isn’t one of them.

Another huge criticism of Mayor Callahan is his non answer to a question about Speaker Pelosi.  He was asked directly if he would vote fr her as Speaker and he dodged it by claiming he doesn’t know who Democrats will put up for Speaker.  Dent went after him for it and said he’d vote for either Eric Cantor, a nut case from Virginia, or Orangeman.  Why didn’t John Callahan make a strong argument for everything Nancy Pelosi has done as Speaker?  I sat there ashamed he was running as a Democrat because he was ashamed of Nancy Pelosi.  There’s nothing shameful about what this Congress has accomplished in the face of Republican obstructionism.

Charlie Dent spent the evening running from his record of voting for the Bush budgets which created the deficit.  How soon he has forgotten his own complicity in the fiscal disaster created by Republicans.  He voted for the deregulation policies which caused the recession but now he’s claiming to be a deficit hawk.  You can’t have it both wats Charlie.  He fully supports the tax cuts for the richest 1% of Americans and lied to the audience about how their expiration would hurt small businesses.  That lie has been debunked everywhere Mr. dent and you demean your audience by repeating it in public.  Either you don’t know of what you’re talking, you’re spouting GOP talking points, or you’re a liar.

He answered a question about cutting the federal budget by saying he voted against funding the F-22 engine development.  In the $700 billion Pentagon budget one line item is nothing.  You did nothing to trim that Budget Congressman, in fact you voted to double it under George W. Bush not even counting the cost of two wars which you also supported.  Saying he cut one measly item in the DOD budget is ridiculous and illustrates how ineffective he is.  The U.S. defense budget is more than the next 16 nations combined, we don’t need to spend almost a trillion dollars a year there.

Dent also voted against the stimulus bill and he and Towne spent all evening attacking a program which every economist says worked splendidly.  It could have been better if not for the tax cuts insisted upon by Republicans.  Instead of a quarter of that $767 billion going for job creating infrastructure improvements it went for tax breaks.  Tax cuts don’t create jobs.  The Congressman went after health insurance reform a very conservative program, and the stimulus bill which has pumped considerable money into his District.  I recall some of his staffers at events where ARRA funds were being distributed.  If he doesn’t want this money coming to develop clean energy systems or to fund new business development at a place like Ben Franklin Partners then he isn’t helping his District or his country.  ARRA has been very successful and Charlie Dent is benefiting from it even though he voted against the bill.  Does he really want an endless recession?  Did Charlie Dent prefer a depression?

In a question about Marcellus Shale drilling Dent said he is confident DEP will be able to manage and regulate the industry.  Is he living on some distant planet?  DEP’s budget is being slashed while drillers are sinking wells a mile a minute, while Pennsylvanians cannot drink their water but have found it to be a new source of fuel.  People are now living in homes which are worthless but Charlie Dent has full confidence in DEP.  Has Dent lost touch with reality?

Jake Towne is a typical Tea Party piece of work.  He spouts their rhetoric without knowing what he’s talking about on topics like economics.  Tea baggers don’t believe government has any role aside from civil defense.  They’ll scrap everything else and their economic points are scary.  Every time I see one of them saying families have to balance budgets so government should too, or that taxes are evil and infringements on liberty and so forth they illustrate their fundamental ignorances.  These Tea Party folks have no education in economics or they’d understand the difference between micro economics and macro.  A family unit is a good example of a micro economic model and government is macro.  The two are totally different and work totally differently.  One cannot impose micro economics on a macro scale which is what these morons are insisting upon doing.  Are they simply uneducated or are they pandering to stupid voters?  I report, you decide.

Towne constantly contradicts himself as when he claimed in one statement that government doesn’t create jobs then says government is the single largest job sector.  He insisted that the Social Security and Medicare trust funds are part of our national debt.  They are only to the point that they are forced, by law, to invest their surpluses in Treasury bonds.  These are the safest investments in the world which is why millions of people invest in them.  If that money isn’t real I wish Towne would explain that to the people who thought they put their money in a safe haven.  This is the same man who is criticizing TARP which saved trillions of dollars in savings from going up in smoke.  

Jake Towne’s real issue with money is money itself of course.  He indicated he is one of the gold standard extremists.  These folks want the country to return to gold as our medium of exchange, gold backing all of our currency.  That’s impossible because it limits wealth to a fixed amount of one commodity.  There can be no wealth expansion under that system and, indeed, it strangled the global economy.

Anything can be used as a unit of currency.  We accept our paper money as such and as long as everyone agrees piece of paper is worth ten dollars it is.  In history many things have been used as currency.  Items were bartered before money was devised and beads, wooden nickels, company scrip, all manner of things have acted as currency.  There is no need to use gold.  This philosophy only strangles working people and the poor, it is the device used by elitists to impoverish everyone else.  Jake Towne is a dangerous extremist who didn’t even follow state law in circulating petitions this year.

John Callahan claims to be a Democrat but talks like a Republican when he does take a definitive position on an issue.  Charlie Dent is a Republican who consistently votes against the financial interests of his people then lies about it in debates.  There isn’t much to choose from in this area this year once again.

Teabagger to Challenge Dent in GOP Primary

Palmer Township resident Mathew Benol will announce his candidacy for the 15th Congressional District this Saturday.  He is challenging incumbent Charlie Dent in the 15th Congressional District.  I sure hope this guy has good hair as that has become a prerequisite for this seat.

Benol is a Teabagger and is taking on Dent from his right wing.

Interview With John Callahan

Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan spoke about his accomplishments, running for Congress, abd the President’s minor faux pas.  While introducing the local dignitaries Obama introduced Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski as the candidate for Congress.  He realized his error when he got to John and made light of it as only Barack Obama can.  It’s nice having a President who can have fun with himself and it connects with the people.  The President had this crowd eating out of his hand.  You can see from the video the charisma and likability of Callahan.  John and I spoke about the event.

Callahan to Hit $250K Mark

Charlie Dent has a serious opponent next year and John Callahan is proving to be the candidate the Lehigh Valley has needed.  With the end of the reporting quarter nearing Mayor Callahan is approaching $250,000 raised.  Since he wasn’t a candidate until about midway through the quarter this is a significant amount of money.  Heck, for the 15th CD this is a significant amount for an entire election cycle.  Charlie Dertinger ran a very competitive campaign against Dent with only $68,000.  John Callahan has already dwarfed that sum and is on pace to mount the most serious challenge to any Republican incumbent in the state.

It didn’t help Charlie Dent that Commerce Secretary Gary Locke was in Bethlehem singing Callahan’s praises while granting Ben Franklin Technology Partners with $6 million from a program Dent voted against.

Dent, Gerlach Targeted For Opposing Stimulus Bill

The DCCC is targeting Congressmen Charlie Dent and Jim Gerlach for voting against President Obama’s economic stimulus bill.  Mike Castle of Delaware is also being subjected to robo calls informing his constituents he voted against the package.  The DCCC has also launched an interactive web page where people can go and click on their Congressional District and see how the stimulus bill will benefit their area.

For example you can click on these targeted Congressmen and see that Jim Gerlach’s vote went against 100 shovel ready projects in Berks County, $403 million for SEPTA projects and $5.6 million for BARTA.  Charlie Dent’s vote cast against the bill meant he opposed the repair of ten bridges in Bethlehem which will create 80 new jobs.

“These are serious times; hard working families are worried about keeping their jobs, health care and homes.  Americans want action on middle class tax cuts and economic recovery, not House Republicans’ ‘just say no’ approach,” said DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen. “House Republicans can’t have it both ways – they can’t claim to be in favor of tax cuts and then vote against the largest tax cut in American history.  Americans will hold House Republicans accountable for ‘just saying no’ to the largest tax cut in American history and saving and creating three to four million jobs.  We will hold accountable those Republicans who continue to vote in lockstep against President Obama’s economic recovery plan for the American people.”

Americans are overwhelmingly rejecting House Republicans’ “just say no” approach to the economy and middle class tax cuts.  It’s no wonder that, according to a new AP-GfK poll, an overwhelmingly majority of Americans disapprove of the way Republicans in Congress are handling the economy when NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions compares the Republicans’ tactics on the economic recovery bill to the tactics of the Taliban and Republican Whip Eric Cantor proudly boasts that Republicans are “just saying no” to President Obama’s economic recovery bill and the middle class tax cuts to 95 percent of Americans.

While House Republicans celebrate being the party of no economic recovery and no middle class tax cuts, more than 3.7 million Americans have lost their jobs, the stock market has plummeted wiping out nearly $7 trillion in stock market wealth and endangering thousands of investors’ nest eggs, and one in 10 homeowners was delinquent on mortgage payments or in foreclosure this fall.