Ron Paul: "Obama is a Corporatist"

Unfortunately, I find it hard to disagree. Congressman Paul is correct in his assessment. The question I have, however, is whether Barack Obama is a corporatist by conviction or one of electoral necessity.

The story in Talking Points Memo:

Near the end of the third day of this year's Southern Republican Leadership Conference, it was time for Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) to take the stage. Paul, fresh off his victory in the CPAC straw poll, gave a characteristically fired-up speech that took on the views of the Republican party establishment.

"The question has been raised about whether or not our president is a socialist," Paul said. "I am sure there are some people here who believe it. But in the technical sense, in the economic definition of a what a socialist is, no, he's not a socialist." "He's a corporatist," Paul continued. "And unfortunately we have corporatists inside the Republican party and that means you take care of corporations and corporations take over and run the country."

Paul said examples of President Obama's "corporatism" were evident in the heath care reform bill he signed into law last month. He said the mandate in the bill put the power over health care in the hands of corporations rather than private citizens. But he said the bill wasn't the only place where corporatism is creeping into Washington.

"We see it in the financial institutions, we see it in the military-industrial complex," he said. "And now we see it in the medical-industrial complex."

In terms of the cure, I tend to doubt that I'll find much concurrence with the libertarian Ron Paul but in terms of the diagnosis, I'm hard press to disagree. We have become a country of corporations, for corporations and by corporations. Until we tackle the issue of corporate personhood, our democracy is very much in jeopardy and it's evermore the pity that the Democratic party is too often so beholden to corporatist interests.

To learn more about corporate personhood and the dangers that it poses to American democracy, please visit Reclaim Democracy.

Weekly Diaspora: Immigration Opponents Take a Turn for the Worse

By Erin Rosa, Media Consortium blogger

As grassroots support for the pro-immigration reform March for America grows, anti-immigration groups and their allies are trying to use racial tension to stop the momentum. Opposition groups like NumbersUSA and the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC announced plans this week to partner with Tea Party activists in response to the event, which is expected to draw as many as 100,000 people to the National Mall on March 21.

Their hope? To scare the public into opposing a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

NumbersUSA, a mainstream group that was instrumental in defeating reform in 2007, has discussed the idea of calling immigrant women from Mexico “the new welfare queens,” while others are spreading paranoia that immigrants are trying to “steal the next election.” The White House is holding a bipartisan meeting on immigration legislation this week and the possibility of reform is worrying opponents. They are now desperately attempting to block reform by appealing to frustration and fear.

Amplifying hate

Along with actions to flood Congress with phone calls and faxes, anti-immigration forces are also spreading misinformation and proposing ways to dehumanize immigrant communities. As Stephanie Mencimer notes in Mother Jones, operatives on the far right are pushing a conspiracy theory that the Obama administration is using immigration to steal the 2012 election.

The magazine reports that the WorldNet Daily, a publication which bills itself as “conservative news website,” has come up with an elaborate scheme in which a secret “illegal immigrant registration” will “open the floodgates to fraud.” That’s despite the fact that undocumented immigrants are legally barred from voting in the first place.

On top of that, in a conference call organized by anti-immigration group NumbersUSA, an organization that is routinely quoted by the mainstream media to oppose reform, participants suggested calling immigrant mothers with Mexican heritage “the new welfare queens.” As I report for Campus Progress, NumbersUSA, which worked to kill immigration reform in 2007, held the call this week to coordinate actions against the immigration march.

“I feel the new welfare queen in America today is women coming from Mexico with a bunch of babies,” said one caller.In response, NumbersUSA conference moderator Chad MacDonald said “Thank you very much. I appreciate that.”

Right after that, another caller suggested that anti-immigration activists not use the word “babies,” because it was “emotional.” Said the conference participant, “They aren’t babies. They’re dependents. … They have dependents. We have babies.” While NumbersUSA claims to be against “immigrant bashing,” they made no efforts to stop the hateful statements that their supporters spewed over the phone.

Smart politics

While incendiary rhetoric from immigration opponents is alarming, Kai Wright writes in The Nation that such radicalism could be a good impetus for Democrats to embrace immigration reform. “The great thing about racists is they’ll always take the bait,” claims Wright. “You won’t get far into an immigration-reform debate, for instance, before the GOP’s more zealous legislators start doing things like criminalizing priests and calling Miami a ‘third world country.’”

Politically, most Americans will probably be turned off by hateful and racist language used during the immigration debate, much like they were during the lead up to the confirmation of Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor. In the end, the disgust factor could end up helping Democrats—if they let it.

“Immigration reform is an issue where Democrats are served better politically by picking a fight with the GOP than running from one,” Wright explains. “The long-term politics are plain: Latino communities nationwide are young, growing and increasingly ready to show up at the polls. And the certain-to-be xenophobic reaction of the GOP’s loudest voices today will not only motive Latinos this November, it will alienate independent voters as well.”

Out of patience

This week, pro-reform grassroots groups held a press conference on Monday to denounce what they said was increased enforcement under the Obama administration, as the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency reported at least a 5% increase in deportations for 2009. New America Media reports that advocates at the press meeting pointed out that “livelihoods were lost, local economies affected, and families split apart.”

“These are the same enforcement practices that we marched against during the Bush administration,” said Angelica Salas, director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, who was quoted by New America Media. The outlet also notes that advocacy groups “contended that the immigration audits or ‘paper raids’ that have replaced workplace raids under Obama are just as damaging to immigrant communities and the businesses that depend on them.”

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse . This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.




Weekly Diaspora: Rallying the Grassroots

By Erin Rosa, Media Consortium blogger

Ed. Note: After a brief hiatus, the Diaspora is back! We’re very excited to have Erin Rosa on board for this project. Please stay tuned for the latest developments around immigration reform every Thursday morning.

Fed up with Congress and frustrated with President Barack Obama’s brief mention of immigration reform in the State of the Union address, immigrant rights supporters are now organizing around the clock to push legislators to move on reform in 2010. It will not be an easy feat.

Congress is already bogged down with health care reform and a lingering economic crisis. While Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) has proposed a bill in the House of Representatives to provide a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, immigration reform could be doomed for 2010 if it’s not introduced in the Senate by this Spring. Otherwise, it’s very unlikely that Congress will get around to debating the issue by the end of the year.

Aware of these bitter facts—and even more cognizant of the human rights abuses that will continue so long as the status quo is maintained—reform proponents are gearing up for a number of key battles to improve the immigration system.

La marcha

Born from dissatisfaction with Congress and Obama’s inability to deliver reform, organizers from around the country are preparing to march on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. On March 21, the first day of Spring. The objective is to draw tens of thousands of immigrant rights supporters to Capitol Hill. As New America Media reports, March for America “will be a test of immigrant advocates’ organizing capacity and their increasing use of technology to stoke a popular groundswell on immigration.”

The march, which is organized by the Reform Immigration For America coalition, will also “bring together advocates focused on different parts of the immigration policy agenda,” including supporters of agricultural labor, better immigrant detention standards, and the DREAM Act, federal legislation that provide a pathway to citizenship for certain immigrants who entered the United States before the age of 16.

While mainstream media coverage of the march has been relatively quiet, with many English-language outlets ignoring it completely, the organizing behind the scenes has been even more hush hush. This is a massive grassroots effort to raise public awareness around the country. Members from hundreds of state immigration groups are attending churches, making phone calls, knocking on doors, and organizing caravans to get people to Washington in March. Even mainstream Spanish-language outlets have gotten involved and encouraged their audiences to contact the Reform Immigration For America campaign for all the latest information.

Perhaps most refreshing is that unlike the immigration reform fight in 2007, which was plagued by a number of organizational hurdles, national immigration organizations in Washington have reached out to grassroots groups across the nation for the march. As Bill Chandler, an executive director for the Mississippi Immigrant’s Rights Alliance, told the National Radio Project recently, “The grassroots groups were left out of the discussion [in 2007] and what we’re trying to do is make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

Speed bumps on the Trail of Dreams

While organizers are preparing for his month’s march, four young students are continuing a 1,500 mile trek on foot, dubbed the “Trail of Dreams,” in support of the DREAM Act. The students, three of whom are undocumented immigrants, started their journey on Jan 1. in Miami and are currently hiking through Georgia on their way to Washington, where they are expected to arrive in May. Along the way, they are educating people about how the DREAM Act would help kids like them.

Under current law, some of the walkers still face deportation, even though they were only children when their parents brought them into the United States. While the four students have encountered a lot of support from the communities that they’ve visited, they’ve also come across some ugly opposition. As AlterNet notes, a recent Ku Klux Klan rally in Georgia “was timed to occur when the Trail of Dreams walkers were passing through the area,” and there was a “a stark difference between the messages of the two groups: one for tolerance and human rights, the other for hatred and racism.

Immigration Detention Abuses Continue

The Varick Federal Detention Facility, a privately-run immigration prison in New York city that was overseen by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, is closing and relocating approximately 250 of its inmates to a New Jersey lockup. As RaceWire reports, the move is “partially because of public pressure” since “Varick has a well-documented track record of detainee abuse and fatal medical negligence,” but “shutting down one facility doesn’t address the broader system.”

When immigration officials granted a media tour to The Nation shortly before the prison closed, reporter Jackie Stevens described the scene inside: “The dorms are packed with rows of narrow beds, fifty in all; the law library has dated resources; there is no privacy; and there is no natural light, ever.”

On top of that, even “the agents hosting the tour seemed embarrassed and emphasized the upcoming transfer as we looked through a long hall window at men slouching, feet on the floor, using their beds as backless chairs.” Varick is just one of many immigration detention facilities with documented abuses, and while the Department of Homeland Security, the agency that ultimately controls ICE,  has promised to reform the system, they have still refused to introduce any legally-binding regulations for detainee treatment.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse . This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.




Weekly Pulse: Obama Stalls for Time with Health Care Summit


By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium Blogger

President Barack Obama’s February 25 health care summit, where he will appear on TV with Republican leaders, has been hailed and assailed as yet another gesture towards bipartisanship. But the summit is really a delaying tactic. It’s a decoy, something shiny to keep the chattering classes entertained while Congressional Democrats wheel and deal furiously behind the scenes.

At this point, there are two ways forward, and neither of them require Republican support. The first option is for the House to pass the Senate health care bill as written—but with the understanding that the Senate will later fix certain contentious parts of the bill through reconciliation. The second option is for the Senate to pass the reconciliation fix first and the House to pass the bill later.

Someone has to go first

Art Levine of Working In These Times diagnoses a severe case of paralysis on the left: Nancy Pelosi is willing to entertain the first option, but labor leaders like Rich Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, want the Senate to go first because they don’t trust the Senate to fix the bill later. Nobody wants to go first, but somebody has to. If neither the House nor the Senate takes the initiative, reform will fail by default and Americans will continue to suffer.

If the Democrats are going to attempt reconciliation, they need a plan to steer the legislation through the Senate. While everyone else is talking about the summit, procedural experts are probably huddling with leadership, nailing down the details.

Obama’s ‘Waterloo’

Everyone knows that Obama isn’t going to pick up any Republican votes, summit or no summit. The House bill got 1 Republican vote, the Senate bill got 0. Quite simply, Republicans want health care reform to fail. No Republican president since Richard Nixon has attempted comprehensive health care reform. In opposition, Republicans have been intractably opposed reform because they’re afraid the Democrats will take credit for it. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) famously said he wanted “break” Obama by making health reform the president’s “Waterloo.”

Health care reform in the media

Meanwhile, as Monica Potts notes in TAPPED, the media seems to be bending over backwards to treat the Republican’s pro forma suggestions as serious proposals for reform, even though the Congressional Budget Office has already analyzed the plan and determined that it will leave millions uninsured without lowering costs. The health care bills as written are already chock full of Republican proposals, like eliminating the public option, easing restrictions on buying insurance across state lines, allowing people to band together in insurance-purchasing coops.

Kevin Drum of Mother Jones worries that the upcoming summit will just give the Republicans more free airtime to spread falsehoods about “government controlled health care.”

Voices of the uninsured

This week, The Nation is publishing the stories of some of the millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans: An uninsured woman who was diagnosed with throat cancer last month; a father with a severely disabled son who is about to hit is $5 million lifetime insurance benefit cap; a single mom on the verge of medical bankruptcy; and many others.

In other news

Dr. Gabor Maté, the official physician of Canada’s only supervised drug injection site, talks about the science of addiction and his new book with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!.

Todd A. Heywood reports in the Michigan Messenger that American Family Association of Michigan is doubling down in the dying days of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Not only do they want to ban gays from the military, they want to re-criminalize homosexuality.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

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The President's Weekly Address

In his weekly address, the President pledges to rein in the deficit, citing three specific steps to this end. He praises the Senate for restoring the pay-as-you-go law, discusses his proposal for a freeze in discretionary spending, and calls for a bipartisan Fiscal Commission to hammer out further concrete deficit reduction proposals.

While the President notes that his number one priority is job creation, he seems to be putting more focus on controlling the deficit. I'm not sure these are goals that can be tackled concurrently. To give you a measure of the unemployment problem, I'll point to one statistic. Speaking on a panel on the topic of the global economic outlook at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Larry Summers, the chief economic advisor in the Obama Administration, noted that one in five American men aged 25 to 54 are unemployed. He described the US economic situation as “statistical recovery and a human recession.”

Dr. Summers went on to say that given a “reasonable recovery,” that rate could improve to one in seven or one in eight. That still contrasts with a 95 percent employment rate for that group in the mid-1960s. One in eight is still 12.5 percent. Such a level is simply not acceptable nor do I believe achievable without direct government intervention in the economy. The reality is that our current economic model is broken for the overwhelming number of Americans. That the economic model, one that favors the aggrandizement of financial assets over the creation of productive assets, works for the financial elites is not in question but for the middle classes, the American dream is fast becoming a nightmare. There are simply no jobs to be had.

At any rate, the President is unveiling a new proposal involving a $33 billion tax credit aimed at small businesses in the hopes of stimulating job creation by reducing payroll taxes.

More on this from the New York Times:

In proposing a one-year, $33 billion tax credit for small businesses, the Obama administration is simultaneously seeking to stimulate hiring by reducing payroll taxes and to turn its attention to a constituency that has historically been associated with Republicans.

Hours after the Commerce Department announced that economic growth had picked up at the end of last year, President Obama visited a machine plant in Baltimore on Friday to promote the plan, which would give companies a tax credit of up to $5,000 for each new hire and reimburse them for Social Security taxes if they expand their payrolls. The credit is capped at $500,000 for each employer.

“Now is the perfect time for this kind of incentive because the economy is growing, but businesses are still hesitant to start hiring again,” Mr. Obama said at the Chesapeake Machine Company, which makes custom industrial equipment.

Earlier this month, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluded that reducing the payroll taxes of employers would be the most cost-effective approach — after extending unemployment benefits — to stimulating economic output and job growth.

Even though this latest proposal is out of the GOP playbook, Republicans have had a muted response. Representative Dave Camp of Michigan, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees tax matters, said, “A sprinkling here and there of a few poll-tested proposals won’t provide enough help or get small businesses hiring again.”

And so it goes.

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