Boehner will have his hands full with his newest “Crackpot Caucus”

Has the Speaker gone from herding cats to stopping stampeding elephants in the new Congress?

By Gary Cox

NYTimesThere is an old adage that says, “Be careful what you ask for; you may get it.” This may be the case with a solid control in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, especially for House Speaker John Boehner. While the likes of Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) will be exiting Congress, some of the members entering Congress may make her extremist views look rather mild mannered.

Here are some incoming members of Congress who will surely make the national news in the months ahead. They will be joining “The Crackpot Caucus,” a name coined by New York Times columnist Timothy Egan. The list includes three of Georgia’s own! The names to watch for in the news for outlandish policy positions with accompanying commentary are Rick Allen (R-GA), David Brat (Libertarian-VA), Ken Buck (R-CO), Barbara Comstock (R-VA), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Glenn Gothram (R-WI), Jody Hice (R-GA), French Hill (Libertarian-AR), Barry Loudermilk (R-GA), Alex Mooney (R-WV), Mark Walker (R-NC), and Ryan Zinke (R-MT).

While we can’t list all the crazy comments made by this “Gang of Twelve” in the last election cycle, here are just a few of the most notable quips and positions.  Retired former Navy Seal Ryan Zinke asserted that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the “anti-Christ.” Consultant Barbara Comstock lists as one of her major clients the Koch brothers. Ken Buck (one of our favorites) called homosexuality a “lifestyle choice” and wants to privatize the Veterans Administration hospital system and the Social Security Administrations (his mantra is “the private sector does it better.) Choral Pastor Mark Walker believes that the government should force women to give birth to the child of the rapist. Professor David Brat wants to slash Social Security payments to retired Americans by two-thirds and says, “..rich nations have nothing to fear from climate change.” Evidently he hasn’t vacationed in south Florida where tidal flooding of streets in Miami Beach is becoming common place.

Now to Georgia’s own – State Representative Barry Loudermilk in 2013 wanted to repeal Georgia’s state-run Medicaid program. He said we need to let non-profit hospitals provide indigent care. (Who pays the bill? Yes, you!) Businessman Rick Allen wants to privatize Social Security, gut the Environmental Protection Agency and decrease federal oversight of education. Then, there is radio talk show host Jody Hice, who was voted by Democraticunderground.com as the “craziest new member of Congress.” Congressman-elect Hice has stated that Muslim Americans have no constitutional First Amendment protections because Islam is “not a real religion.”  Hice also said that women should not be involved in politics without the consent of their husbands. In a recent post-election radio broadcast, Hice said that Congress should pass a law that allows people to discriminate against gay people if homosexuality offends their religious beliefs. Michelle Bachmann has nothing on Rev. Jody Hice.

It will be interesting to see if Speaker Boehner is better at stopping stampeding elephants than herding cats in the new Congress. Boehner is going to have a very hard time appeasing his right flank in the new Congress.

To verify the ascribed comments please check these sources:

Democraticunderground.com

http://thehill.com/homenews/house/223409-10-ultra-conservative-freshmen-who-could-trouble-gop-leadership

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-politics/2014/10/20/3edea770-4b2b-11e4-891d-713f052086a0_story.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/04/ken-buck-midterm-election-results_n_5826572.html

http://www.wfmynews2.com/story/news/politics/2014/07/14/nc-runoff-second-primary-election/12657573

http://www.timesdispatch.com/mechlocal/news/th-district-u-s-house-of-representatives-candidates/article_8ee51aca-5f7a-11e4-a98b-001a4bcf6878.html

http://gareport.com/story/2013/01/07/political-notes-loudermilk-wants-to-eliminate-medicaid

http://www.examiner.com/article/rick-allen-and-john-barrow-debate-for-georgia-12th-district

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2014/07/23/jody-hice-is-likely-headed-to-congress-he-also-thinks-the-first-amendment-should-not-cover-islam

 

 

ELECTION DAY: Today Georgia Democrats can be decision makers

gavoterToday is Election Day, so let’s recap the political landscape. There will be tons of post election recaps however Blogging While Blue would like to get in front of the election chatter. Democrats, the Party, Independents and everyday folks have made a huge dent in the perception that Georgians are somehow satisfied with things under the Gold Dome, in Congress or in their personal lives.

National media has latched onto the implications of race in Georgia politics but I think one key storyline has been nearly ignored. A significant number of Georgia voters are worried about their jobs, how much they earn to support their families, their children’s current and future education goals, healthcare options and their immigration status.

For the first time in a long time Georgians are considering the prospect that their votes might actually count. The overwhelming turnout during the 18 days of early voting give hope in a sense of renewed political engagement across the state.

What exactly has been going on in Georgia this election cycle?

Georgia Democrats have offered superior candidates for office in Michele Nunn, Jason, Carter, Valerie Wilson, Greg Hecht, Connie Stokes and others. Each one brings relevant experience and a network of people who know them and their work, they appeal across party lines, communicate effectively and address contemporary issues by using facts rather than fiction.

Michele Nunn and Jason Carter have superior statewide and national name recognition that reflects their families’ political traditions and reputation, integrity and a clear understanding of contemporary issues.

Their campaigns have been exceptional. Michele Nunn and Jason Carter are exceptional leaders. 

The Democratic Party of Georgia has unified under the proficient leadership of Dubose Porter these last few years. Porter, a long time legislator from Dublin, Georgia has rejuvenated the Democratic Party with his business acumen and savvy political skills. He’s brought most Democratic leaders together and worked hard to be inclusive. Even when there was public debate about whether the party had any chance of winning statewide offices, Porter kept his cool and did the hard work of building the party base county by county.

Georgia Victory 2014/ the Coordinated Campaign Get Out The Vote (GOTV) plan was enhanced by independent voter registration, voter education and grassroots outreach across the state.  The Georgia Victory 2014 is a coordinated field campaign enhanced by an extensive network of independent robust targeted initiatives including the New Georgia Project, Souls to the Polls, Georgia Equality, GALEO the Latino Vote organization, the People’s Agenda, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, college NAACP chapters and numerous other organizations from Sparta to Athens to Vidalia to Augusta, Savannah and Atlanta. Each has had success and together these initiatives have ignited excitement among voters across the state.

The top ticket campaigns have combined the experience of national and local political consultants with thousands of committed volunteers joining in. The combined value of the local, national and grassroots political efforts is greater than the sum of the parts. Very few recent top Georgia races have had the foresight and courage to manage campaigns this way.

Whether the midterm elections will be an upset or not will be for the voters to decide on Tuesday. Some are already predicting runoffs in the top ticket races. Some are reporting calculations of how much they have accomplished or contributed. Others have claimed victory already.

Wednesday morning the election results will be known and for Georgians who are tired of the gridlock in Congress and are concerned about jobs, healthcare and their children who are in a state that is stuck at the bottom for employment, educational investment, transportation and environment, we remain convinced our coordinated efforts will prevail because many Georgians are worried about gridlock in the nation’s capital in Congress and partisanship that closed downed government in and stifles innovative policy making and decision making on immigration, on tax reform, on tax reform and minimum wage, on national security and environmental policy and are concerned about their jobs, their health and their children in a state stuck at the bottom for employment and investment in smart transportation, sustainable environment and top quality public education.

Doing the same thing over and over doesn’t change the results!

It is time to change the state’s leadership.

NunnCarterAs Election Day, November 4 nears the pressure is on Georgians to distinguish fact from fiction. My intuition tells me even with Politifact Georgia and media exposure too many Georgians might miss a few of the important facts surrounding this year’s elections.

Georgia’s economic recovery lags the nation in almost every measure. Even the most recent federal reports confirm what thousands of Georgia families know…. our unemployment rate is awful. Georgia has the HIGHEST unemployment rate in the US. That means 49 governors are doing a better job than our governor in creating jobs, retaining jobs and employing its residents. On Governor Deal’s watch, his economic recovery plan of corporate tax cuts, refusing to expand Medicaid and balancing the state budget at the expense of education hasn’t worked! It is time for a change. Jason Carter has the guts to advocate for refocusing Georgia on investing in education. This is the surest method to improve Georgia’s growth in business opportunities and economic expansion. It will insure Georgia’s long-term economic health.  The days of starving education and expecting economic growth are over. In the 21st century a first-rate innovative education plan from cradle through college including technical school are essential to meet the educational needs of Georgia’s children. We all benefit when our neighbors are working too. Those who are unemployed need more than the Governor’s quarrels with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Lip service that “statistics don’t matter” is a disservice to unemployed Georgians. They need job training and access to education.

In the U.S. Senate race to replace Saxby Chambliss, too many attack TV ads make it seem as if President Obama is running to be Georgia’s next senator. He isn’t. In fact, Michele Nunn’s career has been far from partisan. She is on a first name basis with four former presidents, George H. Bush, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter as well as President Obama. She is a bridge-builder who has worked to break down barriers that keep us from working together. In 2009, she worked with Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) to pass the Serve America Act, which gives small grants to volunteers for service projects in their communities.  From her Hands on Atlanta experience to CEO of President’s Bush’s Points of Light Foundation, Michelle has worked to seek full civic engagement of everyday folks that empowers neighborhoods to help themselves. Nunn’s experience and record reflects her ability to work with Republicans and Democrats, which is why her donors also include both Republicans and Democrats. Her top priority is to create jobs and economic opportunity in Georgia – and not outsourcing Georgia jobs to China.

It is time for change in Georgia – it is time to vote for Jason Carter for Governor and Michelle Nunn for the U.S. Senate!

 

Georgia’s Unemployment Rate is Too High–Period.

georg45This campaign season has highlighted a lot of reasons to get to the polls but none is more significant than the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report that lists Georgia as once again with the highest unemployment rate in the country. Georgia’s unemployment rate of 7.9 percent is a full two points higher than the national average, and Georgia lost more than 15,000 private sector jobs in September. This is not a partisan or political issue; it is a grave economic reality for Georgians.

“This is absolutely unacceptable,” said Sen. Jason Carter. “Gov. Deal has driven Georgia to the very bottom. By his own words, he’s rejecting facts instead of accepting responsibility for this crisis. If he can’t even see the problem, why should we trust him to fix it?”

Since Governor Deal was elected unemployment in Georgia has been high so whatever he has been doing it is not working. It is well past the time for us to get our heads out of the sand.

Gov. Deal has been reported as having said, “I believe that somebody who has a job is better than somebody who doesn’t have a job.” I would argue that is especially false for the job of Governor of Georgia.

 

Will Georgia Voters Rebuff Republicans this November?

Twit-FacebookThe national media continues to probe Georgia politicians about the political campaign landscape in the statewide races, especially the Michele Nunn and Jason Carter races. There are discussions about the other statewide races but the national attention is focused on the Senate and gubernatorial races. The primary question to me is whether Georgia voters as diverse as they are—will rebuff the politics of Georgia’s Republican leadership? Or will the demographics shifts in Georgia make a big enough difference to ignite high voter turnout to sweep Nunn, Carter and others into statewide elected positions? In case you are wondering what some of the issues are take a look at Jason Carter’s recent release.

Rankings That Matter: Deal’s Record for the Middle Class

As Gov. Deal continues to trumpet a ranking from CNBC, let’s remember the rankings that show how the middle class is really doing under the governor:

  • A study released this week said that Georgia’s schools rank 32nd overall. The study shows that Georgia has the 4th highest dropout rate and the least safe schools in the country. (WalletHub, accessed 8/6/14)
  • Georgia has the 5th highest unemployment rate in the country (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, accessed 8/6/14).
  • Georgia is one of only two states in which real per capita GDP has declined in the last 15 years (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6/20/14). Adjusted for inflation, the average Georgia family in effect makes $6,000 less than the average family did 10 years ago (Politifact, 1/23/14).
  • The same CNBC ranking that Gov. Deal is trumpeting found Georgia to be among the worst states for “quality of life” and “education,” ranking 32nd in both categories. (CNBC, 6/24/14)

Some other statewide issues like healthcare, transportation and water can be added to the Carter list. Many Georgians live with only emergency healthcare services because Governor Deal refuses to acknowledge the benefits of expanded Medicaid. Healthcare is a critical quality of life issue for Georgians. Without viable transportation solutions, the negative impact of snarled traffic in metro Atlanta will continue.

Our water challenges continue while Georgia enjoys a AAA bond rating in part because state funding of infrastructure isn’t a high enough priority for Governor Deal.

Deal does not advocate for the financing Georgia’s desperate need to expand, renovate and build reliable transportation networks of safe bridges, efficient roads, connected transit, trails and paths and statewide water supply, storm water and sewer systems. In fact, from our experience last winter there is evidence emergency service system and planning needs investment as well.

The data clearly illustrates the problems in Georgia; the only question now is will Georgia voters rebuff the Republican leadership this November.

Voter turnout in a midterm election is usually less than presidential elections. Progressive candidates are counting on a larger than usual turnout to sweep them into office. Georgia’s ineffective leadership and voters desire to change that leadership may be the perfect equation to make this year’s midterm election the exception to the rule.

What Difference Do Our Differences Make?

There but for the grace of God go I.

Creative Loafing photo credit

Creative Loafing photo credit

A recent Atlanta Journal Constitution article by Bill Torpy highlighted the funding crisis for homeless shelters in Fulton County. He points out that in spite of some incredible success stories of programs that have served thousands of homeless men, military veterans, women and children, and the work of the Gateway Center, there is still more work to do. Torpy adds homelessness to the running tally of Great 21st Century American Challenges, which include public education, job development, hunger, affordable housing, and affordable healthcare.

It appears from the article that Fulton County is having second thoughts about their responsibility for funding the human service needs of some of its residents. The same might be said about the State of Georgia as well. Whatever we were doing right for homelessness, we need to get back to doing. There is more hard work to do. Some of that work requires more money–not less. And it means a serious commitment to finding resources not just reordering priorities and shuffling line items in budgets.

A team of 25 civic minded, fully engaged volunteers had the nerve in 2003 to tackle homelessness in a different way. They forged a partnership with dozens of nonprofit organizations across the region to create the seven-county Atlanta Regional Commission on Homelessness. The group was under the awesome and committed leadership of retired attorney Horace Sibley in partnership with then United Way of Metro Atlanta CEO, Mark O’Connell. They along with Jack Hardin, Nancy Boxill, Debi Starnes, Bonnie Ware, Rev. Jim Milner, Bill Bolling, Elizabeth Omilami, and others set the region on a course to improve the lives of those who found themselves homeless. Many people were locked out of services, disenfranchised of their rightful benefits and completely isolated from any chance to get back on their feet. A few trusting foundations, some local and state government funding and individual donors resulted in an infusion of $60 million in seven years of new funding for substantive, reasonable programs to address the urgent needs of metro Atlanta’s most needy.

Talking about this in hindsight might give you the impression this was easy work, one grant or one speech and the work was done. No, this was hard work that took months of research, collaboration and planning. We had to put aside our differences, listen to the people we served, be attentive to the challenges of those organizations on the frontline and disregard our differences. This problem was bigger than any differences we might have had. We had to be flexible and respectable that in some cases those we wanted to serve didn’t want our intervention. A few organizations chose not to join the effort. And that was okay, they had every right to refuse assistance, because their specific mission was different and they didn’t want to get away from their purpose.

We can dwell on what didn’t happen but the more compelling stories are of those 7,000 people served by the Gateway Center last year, thousands of women and children served by City of Refuge and the dozens of families served by Odyssey Villas. None of these organizations existed in 2003. And there are the stories of dozens of veterans who have resettled into apartments with the help of federal grants and local donations.

I know and love an Atlanta that works to get things right. An Atlanta that cares as much about those in need as we do our own success, that can unite to raise $60 million for homelessness, and in the tradition of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Maynard Jackson–doesn’t give up. As mayor, I often referenced the legacies of Mayors Allen and Young as examples of men who were willing to work through the City’s historic and cultural differences in order to make a difference. In tribute to their efforts and so many others, I know that Atlanta is smart enough to find answers to the tough questions surrounding homelessness.

Works Not Words Offer the Best Solution to Poverty

PaulRyan-npr photo

PaulRyan-npr photo

Last week on Bill Bennett’s radio program, House Budget Committee chairman and 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan (R-WI) made some comments that can only be described as uninformed and insulting regarding the issue of poverty in American cities.  He said, “We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work.”

Ryan was addressing a report on poverty that he released earlier which detailed his version how federal spending was impacting our nation’s poor. The reaction was swift from journalists, political pundits, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to the Congressional Black Caucus. Ryan’s views on poverty are neither new nor surprising but the recurring attack on race and class in this country under the guise of the federal budget and big government is disingenuous and ridiculous rhetoric. The Lyndon B. Johnson war on poverty 50 years ago did not end poverty but his political response to a policy issue  cannot be understated or denied. The LBJ administration responded to poverty with action not rhetoric. The government raised the minimum wage; created programs to train and educate Americans for better jobs, provided rent subsidies and student loans as well as enacted Medicaid and Medicaid for those who could not afford healthcare.

The Congressional Black Caucus has invited Rep. Paul D. Ryan to a CBC meeting where a more robust and thoughtful conversation on poverty might be possible. CBC Chairwoman Marcia L. Fudge, D-Ohio has said that she thinks it could be a teachable moment, let’s hope so.

 

Governor, what is the Option?

Online Athens

Online Athens

There have been numerous local and national commentaries on the remarks made by Governor Deal last week in which he said the uninsured should be turned away from emergency rooms because it is too expensive to care for them.

Deal said at an event held at the University of Georgia, “I think we should be able in this passage of time to figure out ways to deal with those situations but not have the excessive costs associated with unnecessary visits to the emergency room.”

It is no secret in Georgia that Deal does not support the Affordable Care Act and has refused to support the expansion of Medicaid that would offer thousands of Georgians much needed healthcare benefits.  A federal government 1986 law required hospitals to provide emergency care whether patients were citizens or they had the ability to pay. Even staunch progressives would argue that seeking emergency care instead of preventive care is expensive no matter how you look at it.  But if you don’t want to expand Medicaid to meet the needs of low-income citizens and you want to close the doors to emergency rooms for desperate patients who can’t afford to go anywhere else. Governor, what is the option?

It is easy to become mired in statistics, budget lingo and the righteous indignation that affords those who have healthcare options to discuss disenfranchising others. And for those who would debate the merits of what is governments’ moral obligation to its citizenry. The answer should never be the horrible consequences of denying the least among us because it is fiscally responsible to do so. It is outrageous and incorrigible.

 

Breaking Barriers to Fulfill America’s Promise

AP photo credit

AP photo credit

What does it really mean when those who were never considered leaders become leaders? Or Pioneers? Millions of Americans were captivated by the movie 42, the story of Jackie Robinson who signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 and became the first African-American to play on a major league team. And while the story obviously focused on racism and his individual battle to break a major barrier, it also created a generation of new baseball fans.

Some 50 years after Robinson stepped on the field as a Brooklyn Dodger in a game against the Boston Braves while the entire country watched and gathered around radios to follow the game, inning-by-inning, and minute-by-minute. Many people were baseball fans and others were simply curious about what would happen when Robinson made his debut. Others became baseball fans because it was exciting to witness this moment in history.

There have been other sports moments like the rise of Billie Jean King in tennis and Tiger Woods in golf, both had similar cultural impacts on increasing interest in their respective sports. In politics, President Obama is the first African-American President and Nancy Pelosi was the first woman Speaker of the House of Representatives. Now, Janet Yellen who was sworn in yesterday as the first woman to head the Federal Reserve breaks through another barrier. Hopefully, Yellen’s rise to the pinnacle of the finance world will have a history making affect on generations of women.

These breakthroughs serve as a reminder that barriers have to be broken if we are to fully realize the promise of an America that exclaims equality for all.

 

Isn’t Being Poor Enough?

foostampsAs factions in Congress debate whether the federal government can afford to support needy Americans through extended unemployment benefits, food stamps, and social security benefits, millions of Americans live everyday in poverty. Researchers suggest that 1 in 5 American households need federal assistance for food security. Food stamps, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP at $80 billion a year it has doubled in five years.

And now those in the medical community are making the link between cutting food aid and higher medical costs. “If you’re interested in saving health care costs, the dumbest thing you can do is cut nutrition,” said Dr. Deborah Frank of Boston Medical Center, who founded the Children’s HealthWatch pediatric research.

Today, poverty is a painful reality for many Americans. States challenging expansion of Medicaid/Medicare, no unemployment insurance extension, minimum wages that are not living wages, a recovering economy with people who have given up looking for work and increasing empty shelves in food banks are logical explanations for why Americans live in poverty.

CBS News reported that Georgia State Representative Greg Morris introduced House Bill 772, which would force low income Georgians to pass drug tests to qualify for food stamps. According to Morris “it’s just fairness and protecting taxpayers’ dollars.” Georgia law currently mandates welfare applicants pass drug tests. Chances are House Bill 772 would be challenged as unconstitutional. Such details don’t seem to matter to some legislators.

Morris’ leadership is needed in Georgia to find ways to expand the economy, to support increased funding for every level of education from preschool through college and technical school, to adopt healthcare coverage for all needy Georgians. What a waste of taxpayer money to chase a bill that most believe is unconstitutional. Though democracy requires full participation from every quarter of the electorate, it is frustrating to have our legislators waste taxpayer money on such frivolous efforts.