Wednesday, December 29, 2021
Monday, December 20, 2021
Sunday, December 19, 2021
The Republican Party and Two Democrats put our economy at risk, including progress toward ending poverty for children.
The President of the United States, the U.S. House of Representatives and 49 members of the U.S. Senate are prepared to pass enormously consequential legislation which stands up to powerful special interests and finally deliver for the working families of our country. With almost every Democrat in the House and Senate on board, there is one member of the Democratic Caucus in the Senate who stands in the way.
Senator Joe Manchin.
In America today the very rich are becoming richer while millions of working families are struggling to put food on the table or pay their bills. We now have the absurd situation in which two multi-billionaires own more wealth than the bottom 40% of Americans, the top 1% owns more wealth than the bottom 92% and the gap between rich and poor is wider than at any time in the last 100 years.
The Build Back Better bill, supported by President Biden, the vast majority of Americans and almost every Democrat in Congress is an unprecedented effort to finally address the long-neglected crises facing working families and demand that the wealthiest people and largest corporations in the country start paying their fair share of taxes.
Here are just a few of the things we are trying to do:
We are going to take on the greed of the pharmaceutical industry and lower the cost of prescription drugs in America. Last year, while nearly one out of four Americans could not afford to fill the prescriptions their doctors wrote, six of the largest drug companies made tens of billions in profits.
We are going to expand Medicare to cover hearing aids, dental care and eyeglasses. Today, in the wealthiest nation on earth, millions of seniors cannot chew their food or see and hear their loved ones.
We are going to help seniors and people with disabilities get the home health care they need. Across the United States, and in places like West Virginia and Vermont in particular, seniors should be able to be around their loved ones as they age as opposed to being forced into expensive nursing homes.
We are going to expand the Child Tax Credit that has reduced childhood poverty by 50 percent in the United States.
We are going to end the dysfunction of a childcare system that forces working families to spend up to 1/3 of their limited income on childcare and keeps millions of women out of the workforce.
We are going to make sure pre-K for 3 and 4 year olds is universal and free, giving our young children the best chance at success regardless of where they are from or how much money their parents make.
And oh yes, there is the not-so-small matter of the existential threat of climate change. With the planet getting warmer and warmer, unprecedented drought, fires, flood, and extreme weather, we are going to finally begin the process of cutting carbon emissions and transforming our energy systems to save this planet for future generations.
This morning, Senator Manchin announced he would not support the Build Back Better Act.
And if that is the case, he should be prepared to vote NO before the working families of West Virginia and America and explain why.
We should give Joe Manchin the opportunity to explain to West Virginia and American people why he opposes taking on the greed of the drug companies and lowering the cost of prescription drugs.
We should give Joe Manchin the opportunity to explain to West Virginia seniors why he opposes helping them secure hearing aids, dental care and the eyeglasses they need.
We should give Joe Manchin the opportunity to explain to families why their loved ones should age in expensive nursing homes instead of around those who care about them most.
We should give Joe Manchin the opportunity to explain why only the children of the wealthy from certain zip codes should have the opportunity to attend pre-K.
And we should give Joe Manchin the opportunity to explain why he sides with those who profit from climate change and the destruction of the planet for future generations.
Now I know Joe Manchin continues to talk about his concerns over the national debt, but I find it amusing I didn’t hear his concerns after voting, just this week, for a military budget of $778 billion, four times greater than the Build Back Better Act over ten years and $25 billion more than the president suggested.
Forgive me thinking that maybe, just maybe, something else is at play here.
Joe Manchin should have the chance to explain what it is.
Please sign my petition calling on the Senate to vote on the Build Back Better Act as soon as we return from recess. If Joe Manchin wants to vote NO, then let him explain to the working families of West Virginia and America why.
Thank you for making your voice heard.
Friday, December 17, 2021
Rev. William Barber Condemns Manchin's 'Immoral, Unmerciful, Economically Insane' Obstruction
Manchin is "a plutocrat who only cares about what his corporate backers and profit-driven masters want," said the co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign.
Wednesday, December 15, 2021
Wednesday, December 8, 2021
Our program will include powerful testimonies from state leaders all across the country, songs of unity and social transformation from our theomusicologists, and live coverage of a mass nonviolent moral direct action to remind Congress that people and our democracy are dying and the stakes are high.
The Build Back Better plan is an important first step towards implementing the moral social policy we need in this country, and this is our last chance to make a push to Get it Done in 2021. Whether you take action online or in person, we need all hands on deck. See you there.
Tuesday, November 16, 2021
is a senior research fellow at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He has worked at the Economic Policy Institute and the Government Accountability Office, and has written for numerous progressive outlets.
Thursday, November 11, 2021
The phantom recall: Who’s behind the push for removing Sacramento Councilmember Katie Valenzuela from office?
It’s been 17 months since Katie Valenzuela shocked Sacramento’s political establishment by ousting an influential, well-financed incumbent on the City Council.
Evidently, some in Sacramento’s political establishment aren’t over it.
Despite having less than a year on the actual job, Valenzuela could soon be facing a recall effort. For now, the players behind this political phantom menace remain a mystery, though fans of the Central City representative worry that it’s a cynical attempt to ride a broader wave of recalls targeting progressives across California.
“Given what’s happening around the state, we’ve decided we need to take this seriously,” Valenzuela told SN&R. “There’s a lot we still don’t know, but it’s better to be ready.”
News that Valenzuela, who unseated District 4 Councilman Steve Hansen, might already have a shadow recall campaign working against her emerged only recently. It took many supporters off-guard, as Valenzuela has not had the same kind of political dust-ups and embarrassments that have plagued some leaders who have faced – or currently face – recall. There have been no headlines about Valenzuela caught ignoring the very COVID mitigation measures she urged other people to follow, unlike Gov. Gavin Newsom and at least nine other Democratic leaders from San Francisco to Santa Monica. She has also had any alleged racist tweets resurface after building her platform on social equity, like San Francisco School Board member Alison Collins, who is now facing recall.
So, if the kind of perceptions of hypocrisy fueling some California recalls aren’t inspiring the possible one against Valenzuela, what is? Based on the secretly operated push-poll that was aimed at her, the motivation might be the exact opposite – that she’s too genuine about her beliefs. The poll, which was conducted through phone calls and mailers, brought up local news stories and editorials about two staffers who Valenzuela hired for her City Hall team. One, long-time housing advocate Michelle Pariset, was criticized by management in 2019 for what she described as a personal conviction that she couldn’t legally withdraw Sacramento’s proposed charter amendment for strong rent control simply because the Council passed lesser policies,
Wednesday, November 10, 2021
According to Huff post, local Congressman Bera is part of the so called Moderate Caucus. this is the group opposing the Build Back Better bill and insisting upon passing the Infrastrurce bill. It would be more accurate to call it the Corporate Caucus.
Here is my e mail to him. I encourage all to contact his office this week.
I am greatly offended that you are listed as one of the Congresspeople holding back Build Back Better as reported in the Huff Post.
Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.), who is part of the more moderate New Democrat Coalition in the House, said he doesn’t think Democrats are messaging effectively around the “real problem” of inflation.
“I think that we’re bogged down in the process of trying to get really important legislation done,” Bera said. “I think we’ve got to acknowledge the people where they are right now and I don’t think we did a great job of that in Virginia,” Bera said, attributing Republican Glenn Youngkin’s win in the governor’s race to his acknowledgment of kitchen table issues like kids’ schooling and the rise in everyday expenses.”
So, the corporations got their bail out with the needed bi partisan Infrastructure bill. But, apparently you are not helping with Build Back Better. The people of the district need and expect your support. I am teaching an economics course and we are examining these bills. We need a big 6.1 Trillion Build back better. It is already too small. I will be bringing your position up for discussion tomorrow in my seminar. I strongly urge you to support the bill. The headlines about inflation are poorly informed. Major economists agree. We need a big bill. Please represent your voters….
From Bera's office.
If you have additional thoughts that you would like to share with me, please visit my contact page at www.bera.house.gov/contact. You're also always welcome to call my local office at (916) 635 0505 or my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 225 5716.
Saturday, November 6, 2021
'Foolishness': House Passes Infrastructure Bill But Postpones Build Back Better Act
"Passing the infrastructure bill without passing the Build Back Better Act first," said Rep. Ilhan Omar, "risks leaving behind child care, paid leave, healthcare, climate action, housing, education, and a roadmap to citizenship."
November 6, 2021
Wednesday, October 20, 2021
This 3-Minute Video Explains How Richie Neal Turned Paid Family Leave Into Insurance Giveaway
"Passing a poorly designed paid leave proposal is a dangerous political game for Democrats," warns policy analyst Matt Bruenig.
Monday, October 18, 2021
California, which has been plagued by some of its worst droughts and wildfires in recent years, just recorded its driest year in nearly a century, according to data that state water officials released earlier this month.
Friday, October 8, 2021
Tuesday, October 5, 2021
This is a transformative moment for our country, for the planet and for the future of American democracy.
Within the next several weeks we have the real possibility of creating unprecedented public policy which stands up for working families, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor — and defeats the greed of powerful special interests and the billionaire class.
In other words, we are at a moment when Congress can demonstrate to the American people that their government can work for ordinary people, and not just the 1% and wealthy campaign contributors.
Yes: We can cut childhood poverty in half by continuing the direct payments to working class parents that began with the American Rescue Plan.
Yes: We can revolutionize childcare, make pre-K universal and free and allow over a million women to re-enter the workforce.
Yes: We can substantially lower the cost of prescription drugs.
Yes: We can expand Medicare to cover dental care, hearing aids and eyeglasses.
Yes: We can make certain that we have doctors, nurses and dentists serving in medically underserved areas.
Yes: We can end the embarrassment of being the only major country on earth not to guarantee paid family and medical leave.
Yes: We can expand home health care so that the elderly and disabled are not forced into nursing homes.
Yes: We can build the millions of units of low-income and affordable housing that our country desperately needs.
Yes: We can guarantee that all of our young people have the opportunity to gain the job skills they need by attending community college tuition-free.
Yes. We can finally lead the world in combating the existential threat of climate change by transforming our energy system away from fossil fuel and into energy efficiency and sustainable energy.
Yes: At a time of massive income and wealth inequality we can pay for all of that by demanding that the wealthy and large corporations start paying their fair share of taxes.
And when we do all of these things, and more, we can create millions of good-paying jobs.
This is not some kind of pipe dream or utopian dreaming. These are exactly the provisions that are in the Reconciliation Bill which is now being worked on in the Senate — a bill which is being ruthlessly opposed by the entire ruling class of the country.
As we speak, thousands of well-paid lobbyists are swarming all over Capitol Hill representing their corporate bosses. The pharmaceutical industry is spending hundreds of millions to prevent us from lowering the outrageous cost of prescription drugs. The health care industry is spending huge amounts to prevent us from expanding Medicare. The fossil fuel industry is spending a fortune to prevent us from cutting back on carbon emissions. And, of course, the billionaire class will spend what it takes to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.
So today I'd like to ask you to do something important to ensure we match their efforts with our own. Because the only way real change ever happens in this country is when the American people come together and demand it.
That's why I'm asking:
Can you call your Senators and House member to tell them you support the $3.5 trillion Reconciliation Bill that will transform this country? Dial 202-224-3121 and the operator will connect you to the office you request.
Now is the time to think big and act decisively to address the long-neglected needs of the working class of this country as well as the existential threat of climate change.
Now is the time, finally, for Congress to have the courage to take on the big-money interests and wealthy campaign contributors who have so much power over the economic and political life of our country.
Thank you for calling your Senators and House member today to demand a Reconciliation Bill that addresses the many crises we face at this moment.
Saturday, October 2, 2021
Thursday, September 23, 2021
Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Thursday, September 16, 2021
September 13, 2021
New York Times
Consider the case of Hikmatullah Shadman, who was just a teenager when American Special Forces rolled into Kandahar on the heels of Sept. 11. They hired him as an interpreter, paying him up to $1,500 a month — 20 times the salary of a local police officer, according to a profile of him in The New Yorker. By his late 20s, he owned a trucking company that supplied U.S. military bases, earning him more than $160 million.
If a small fry like Shadman could get so rich off the war on terror, imagine how much Gul Agha Sherzai, a big-time warlord-turned-governor, has raked in since he helped the C.I.A. run the Taliban out of town. His large extended family supplied everything from gravel to furniture to the military base in Kandahar. His brother controlled the airport. Nobody knows how much he is worth, but it is clearly hundreds of millions — enough for him to talk about a $40,000 shopping spree in Germany as if he were spending pocket change.
Look under the hood of the “good war,” and this is what you see. Afghanistan was supposed to be an honorable war to neutralize terrorists and rescue girls from the Taliban. It was supposed to be a war that we woulda coulda shoulda won, had it not been for the distraction of Iraq and the hopeless corruption of the Afghan government. But let’s get real. Corruption wasn’t a design flaw in the war. It was a design feature. We didn’t topple the Taliban. We paid warlords bags of cash to do it.
As the nation-building project got underway, those warlords were transformed into governors, generals and members of Parliament, and the cash payments kept flowing.
“Westerners often scratched their heads at the persistent lack of capacity in Afghan governing institutions,” Sarah Chayes, a former special assistant to U.S. military leaders in Kandahar, wrote recently in Foreign Affairs. “But the sophisticated networks controlling those institutions never intended to govern. Their objective was self-enrichment. And at that task, they proved spectacularly successful.”
Instead of a nation, what we really built were more than 500 military bases — and the personal fortunes of the people who supplied them. That had always been the deal.
In April 2002, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dictated a top-secret memo ordering aides to come up with “a plan for how we are going to deal with each of these warlords — who is going to get money from whom, on what basis, in exchange for what, what is the quid pro quo, etc.,” according to The Washington Post.
The war proved enormously lucrative for many Americans and Europeans, too. One 2008 study estimated that some 40 percent of the money allocated to Afghanistan went back to donor countries in corporate profits and consultant salaries. Only about 12 percent of U.S. reconstruction assistance given to Afghanistan between 2002 and 2021 actually went to the Afghan government. Much of the rest went to companies like the Louis Berger Group, a New Jersey-based construction firm that got a $1.4 billion contract to build schools, clinics and roads. Even after it got caught bribing officials and systematically overbilling taxpayers, the contracts kept coming.
“It’s a bugbear of mine that Afghan corruption is so frequently cited as an explanation (as well as an excuse) for Western failure in Afghanistan,” Jonathan Goodhand, a professor in conflict and development studies at SOAS University of London, wrote me in an email. Americans “point the finger at Afghans, whilst ignoring their role in both fueling and benefiting from the patronage pump.”
Who won the war on terror? American defense contractors, many of which were politically connected companies that had donated to George W. Bush’s presidential campaign, according to the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit that has been tracking spending in a series of reports called the Windfalls of War. One firm hired to help advise Iraqi ministries had a single employee: the husband of a deputy assistant secretary of defense.
For Mr. Bush and his friends, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan achieved a great deal. He got a chance to play a tough guy on TV. He became a wartime president, which helped him win re-election. By the time people figured out that the war in Iraq had been waged on false pretenses and the war in Afghanistan had no honorable exit plan, it was too late.
What stands out about the war in Afghanistan is the way that it became the Afghan economy. At least Iraq had oil. In Afghanistan, the war dwarfed every other economic activity, apart from the opium trade.
Over two decades, the U.S. government spent $145 billion on reconstruction and aid and an additional $837 billion on war fighting, in a country where the G.D.P. hovered between $4 billion and $20 billion per year.
Economic growth has risen and fallen with the number of foreign troops in the country. It soared during President Barack Obama’s surge in 2009, only to plummet with the drawdown two years later.
Imagine what ordinary Afghans might have done if they had been able to use that money for long-term projects planned and executed at their own pace. But alas, policymakers in Washington rushed to push cash out the door, since money spent was one of the few metrics of success.
The money was meant to buy security, bridges and power plants to win hearts and minds. But the surreal amounts of cash poisoned the country instead, embittering those who didn’t have access to it and setting off rivalries among those who did.
“The money spent was far more than Afghanistan could absorb,” concluded the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction’s final report. “The basic assumption was that corruption was created by individual Afghans and that donor interventions were the solution. It would take years for the United States to realize that it was fueling corruption with its excessive spending and lack of oversight.”
The result was a fantasy economy that operated more like a casino or a Ponzi scheme than a country. Why build a factory or plant crops when you can get fabulously wealthy selling whatever the Americans want to buy? Why fight the Taliban when you could just pay them not to attack?
The money fueled the revolving door of war, enriching the very militants that it was meant to fight, whose attacks then justified new rounds of spending.
A forensic accountant who served on a military task force that analyzed $106 billion worth of Pentagon contracts estimated that 40 percent of the money ended up in the pockets of “insurgents, criminal syndicates or corrupt Afghan officials,” according to The Washington Post.
Social scientists have a name for countries that are so reliant on unearned income from outsiders: rentier states. It is usually used for oil-producing countries, but Afghanistan now stands out as an extreme example.
A report by Kate Clark of the Afghanistan Analysts Network outlined how Afghanistan’s rentier economy undermined efforts to build a democracy. Since money flowed from foreigners instead of taxes, leaders were responsive to donors rather than their own citizens.
I knew the war in Afghanistan had gone off the rails the day I had lunch in Kabul with a European consultant who got paid a lot of money to write reports about Afghan corruption. He’d just arrived, but he already had a lot of ideas about what needed to be done — including ridding the Afghan civil service of pay scales based on seniority. I suspect that he never could have gotten an idea like that passed in his own country. But in Kabul, he had a shot at getting his ideas adopted. To him, Afghanistan wasn’t a failure, but a place to shine.
None of this is to say that the Afghan people don’t deserve support, even now. They do. But far more can be achieved by spending far less in a more thoughtful way.
What does the Taliban takeover say about the war? It proves that you cannot buy an army. You can only rent one for a while. Once the money spigot turned off, how many stuck around to fight for our vision of Afghanistan? Not Gul Agha Sherzai, the warlord-turned-governor. He has reportedly pledged allegiance to the Taliban.
[Farah Stockman is a member of The New York Times editorial board, which she joined in 2020. For four years, she was a reporter for The Times, covering politics, social movements and race. She previously worked at The Boston Globe, where she won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2016. @fstockman]Afghanistan
Corruption lost the war in Afghanistan