Thursday, September 22, 2011

Better Know a Super Committee

Crossposted at MyDD.

Super committee member Xavier Becerra (D-CA) says everything should be on the table, and that there are "no sacred cows" as they scramble to cut $1.5 trillion from the deficit (jobs!).  No sacred cows except their campaign contributions and contact with lobbyists as they meet, that is.

Watchdogs have circled on that theme hoping to pressure members to voluntarily disclose campaign donations and contacts with lobbyists.  Politico:
[...] a coalition of government reform and transparency organizations are demanding that supercommittee members voluntarily disclose their committee-related contacts with lobbyists and publicly report any campaign donations within 48 hours of receiving them.

The groups note in the letter that most federally mandated lobbying and campaign finance disclosure reports covering October, November and December – when the supercommittee is slated to conduct the bulk of its work – won’t become public until mid-January.

“Failure to ensure transparency of these fundamental avenues of influence will reinforce the public’s mistrust of the process and risks delegitimizing the committee’s work,” the 14 groups wrote in a joint letter being sent this afternoon to the dozen supercommittee members. “Your critical work on this committee has begun, and yet the public remains in the dark about special interests’ attempts to influence your decision-making process, whether by meeting with you or donating to your campaigns.”
According to Politico only three committee members have agreed to halt fundraising while the committee meets, but so far none have agreed to voluntarily disclose important details about contacts.  Lobbyists see the opportunity here with the concentration of power and no mandate for disclosure until it's too late.  The Sunlight Foundation is hoping that changes with H.R.2860, the Deficit Committee Transparency Act.  Sunlight's Ellen Miller, via email:
Without transparency around this process, we don’t know who the committee members are listening to. But we can take a guess: Money speaks louder than words in Washington.

The committee members could easily take measures to increase transparency on their own: Disclosing their campaign contributions and meetings with lobbyists or powerful interests in real-time would be one way. But while the Committee has at least taken steps to have a few open meetings, it’s business as usual when it comes to campaign fundraising and secret meetings with powerful special interests.

This legislation can change that, but it needs your help. The bill has been introduced, but it needs cosponsors to gain momentum while it still counts -- the Super Committee has already started its work, and it has to make its recommendations by December, right around the corner.

Open the Super Congress. Ask your representatives to cosponsor the Super Congress transparency bill!
I sat in on a conference call with Sunlight policy wonks and staffers from  sponsor Rep. Loebsack's office last week that detailed the bill and the campaign.  Recording posted here.

Most of us are hoping this committee, like the Catfood Commission, just goes away.  But their recommendations in December might not.  Without this legislation, details on who influenced the committee won't drop until it's too late.  This may be an atypical disclosure ask, but this is an atypical committee about to make recommendations that could effect programs like Medicare and Social Security for the next generation.

Call your reps.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"Democrats' Nightmare Candidate"

AHAHAHAHAHAHA!

To: The SideTrack
To: Phillis Schlafly
Subject: Democrats' Nightmare Candidate

Dear Fellow Conservative,

I'm asking for your urgent help.

I've been fighting for our shared beliefs for well over 40 years. I understand the liberal mindset and what makes them tick. And I can tell you that the only thing that they dislike more than an outspoken conservative -- is an outspoken conservative woman.

Radical feminists and their allies in the "mainstream media" take absolute delight in trying to rip apart any woman who dares not walk in lock-step with their anti-family, secular-progressive agenda. Today I am writing to tell you about their nightmare candidate.

Cherilyn Eagar was there with me back in 1977 when she helped us stop the feminist-driven "Equal Rights Amendment." Today she is running for Congress in what is shaping up to be one of the most important races in the country. But for Cherilyn to be successful, she is going to need the support of conservatives just like you.

Like you and me, Cherilyn understands that our Constitution is under vicious attack. Once elected, I promise you that she will take the lead in repealing Obama's destructive agenda and stand firm against the radical agenda of the Far Left.

As a wife, a mother and grandmother, Cherilyn brings good hardworking "real world" experience to the table. And that's something that is sorely needed in Washington, DC these days. I hope you'll stand with me and follow this link to make the most generous donation you can.

Faithfully,
Phillis Schlafly

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Most Likely To...

Ars Technica:

For many in the US, expertise has taken on a negative cultural value; experts are part of an elite that thinks it knows better than the average citizen. (This is accurate, for what it's worth.)
The mentality behind the anti-intellectual, anti-expert phenomenon is human nature. And I don't mean to imply all experts are equal or even all worth listening to (Sarah Palin is probably an expert at something...maybe). But the current push back against expertise -- from climate science to economic analysis -- is coming from the same crowd who think Sen. Duh-Mint is a luminary hero for petulantly refusing to attend Obama's jobs speech, and herald Bachmann for saying she'll shut down the EPA.

There's no thought behind it, it's just frustrated people with little information seeing rebellion of any kind against the things that confuse them as a noble move.

In this state, they don't want education or even policy that makes sense, they want a characature (Lee, DeMint, Bachmann, Paul) to rally behind who will fight whatever they've decided is the cause of all of their problems.

Don't challenge them with your uppity thinkin' and 'splainin', just tell them how you're going to prank the high school principal and get all the math classes canceled.

And these people are the most likely to answer public opinion polls.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Jobs Speeches vs. Jobs Plans

Crossposted at MyDD.

I'm on board with those upset over the infuriating optics of the President asking for a speech, Republicans shouting we don't wanna, and the President backing downAgain.  First reaction, for some reason it riled me more than Democrats rolling over in the debt-ceiling debate.  Second, the win here was nil, save a few -- admittedly too rare -- headlines like "The President Actually Tells Republicans No."

Republicans don't want to detract from their debate.  Fine.  The President shouldn't want to detract from that debate either.  It's Rick Perry's big moment, and smart money says that's comedy gold.  No one outside the beltway is going to care about the reschedule, or who looks like the adult in the room by next week.

In fact the speech itself will be a minor blip on the radar compared to any jobs plan itself, if -- a big if -- the President gets real.  AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, via LA Times:
Who knows what's politically achievable until we try?" Trumka said. "The president should articulate a solution of the size and scale necessary to solve the problem. We have a jobs crisis. … If you do only what you think the other side and the 'tea party' will agree to, then they control the agenda." 
[...]
For those worried about the deficit, Trumka insists that job creation and deficit reduction go hand in hand.
"They complement one another," he said. "You want to get rid of the deficit? Put 25 million people back to work and you won't have a deficit problem."
Trumka gives the Times a detailed plan worth reading, but the point here is behind the details: Set the bar on a jobs plan as high as you can, and use that as a starting point.

Just like was said in the stimulus debates.  And the health care debates.  And the Bush Tax Cuts debates.  And the debt ceiling "debates."  And...

Republicans will oppose and roll out the hyperbole cannons, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann will say dumb things.   But economically this is a chance to set an agenda and begin addressing an actual problem.  Politically this is the Democrats' last chance before the 14 month circus is in full swing to reset the narrative ceded the teaGOP.

Voters have already reset, Republicans have shown their hand with Bush's Cantor's jobs plan deregulatory orgy which managed to be even more sucktastic than his last "jobs" plan.  It's not going to take a committee to find a more popular and effective first step:
Over much of the 20th century, America's strong infrastructure investment was a major factor attracting global corporations headquartered in other countries to invest and create jobs here. Rising U.S. standards of living were fueled by a strong infrastructure system that facilitated the growth of companies in America, both global and domestic alike: transportation systems to move people and products, electrical systems to power plants and offices, communications backbones to drive computers and creativity. By 2008, the U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies employed over 5.6 million Americans -- nearly 2 million in manufacturing -- and exported $232.4 billion in goods. That's 18.1% of America's total.
(h/t Think Progress)