If the U.S. Senate general election for Kentucky were held today, who would you vote for?

If the U.S. Senate general election for Kentucky were held today, who would you vote for?

If the U.S. Senate general election for Kentucky were held today, who would you vote for?

If the U.S. Senate general election for Kentucky were held today, who would you vote for?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Drone wars begun, they have!

"Of course, this is the way the program would work in an "ideal" world. Realistically, it is very difficult to gain a sense of a community, especially one foreign to your own, from 25,000 feet in the air, and misunderstandings often happen. On February 4, 2002, an MQ-1 Predator drone surveilled and coordinated an airstrike upon a group of men in a place called Zhawar Kili, because a tall man who was thought to be Osama Bin Laden (Osama was 6’5"), was being "treated with reverence" by the two other men who were in the group. It turned out to be local scrap metal collectors. Daraz Khan, the tall man (who was 5’11") and about 31 years old, from the village of Lalazha, and two others, Jehangir Khan, about 28, and Mir Ahmed, about 30, from the village of Patalan. All three died instantly. Currently, surveillance by drones is not banned or regulated by any aspect of international law."  American Friends Service Committee.
        END DRONE STRIKES NOW!  STEPP FOR CONGRESS!

Drone wars begun, they have!

"Of course, this is the way the program would work in an "ideal" world. Realistically, it is very difficult to gain a sense of a community, especially one foreign to your own, from 25,000 feet in the air, and misunderstandings often happen. On February 4, 2002, an MQ-1 Predator drone surveilled and coordinated an airstrike upon a group of men in a place called Zhawar Kili, because a tall man who was thought to be Osama Bin Laden (Osama was 6’5"), was being "treated with reverence" by the two other men who were in the group. It turned out to be local scrap metal collectors. Daraz Khan, the tall man (who was 5’11") and about 31 years old, from the village of Lalazha, and two others, Jehangir Khan, about 28, and Mir Ahmed, about 30, from the village of Patalan. All three died instantly. Currently, surveillance by drones is not banned or regulated by any aspect of international law."  American Friends Service Committee.
        END DRONE STRIKES NOW!  STEPP FOR CONGRESS!

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

THE POVERTY BELT VOTES REPUBLICAN SO THE REPUBLICANS CAN CUT SOCIAL SPENDING!



Report Shows Grim Poverty Trend

Poverty Regions 2
Census Bureau

The Report shows the South is a solid poverty area except for Florida, Virginia, Maryland and Deleware.   During the New Deal, the poverty area states were solidly Democratic, supporting the New Deal and President Franklin Roosevelt.  In the 2010's the poverty area states vote mostly Republican, getting their food stamps, Medicare, Medicaid, and public education funding slashed.  Why do people living in poverty want their government benefits cut?  I don't know.  Maybe you could tell me why people living in poverty vote for the Republicans that will remove their safety nets from worse poverty.   Kenneth Stepp is a Democrat.  STEPP FOR CONGRESS!

Friday, June 20, 2014

KENNETH STEPP OPPOSES SECRET TREATIES.




                                                            •     

                                                              Breaking: #WikiLeaks Publishes 19 Pages of the Mega TISA Secret Trade Agreement

                                                              By: wendydavis Thursday June 19, 2014 9:16 am
                                                              (This is strictly by way of a public service announcement; I’m not versed at all on TISA, so  I may not be able to answer comments.)
                                                              #WikiLeaks

                                                              Press Release – Secret Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) – Financial Services Annex    2014-06-19
                                                              Today, WikiLeaks released the secret draft text for the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) Financial Services Annex, which covers 50 countries and 68.2%1 of world trade in services. The US and the EU are the main proponents of the agreement, and the authors of most joint changes, which also covers cross-border data flow. In a significant anti-transparency manoeuvre by the parties, the draft has been classified to keep it secret not just during the negotiations but for five years after the TISA enters into force.
                                                              Despite the failures in financial regulation evident during the 2007-2008 Global Financial Crisis and calls for improvement of relevant regulatory structures2, proponents of TISA aim to further deregulate global financial services markets. The draft Financial Services Annex sets rules which would assist the expansion of financial multi-nationals – mainly headquartered in New York, London, Paris and Frankfurt – into other nations by preventing regulatory barriers. The leaked draft also shows that the US is particularly keen on boosting cross-border data flow, which would allow uninhibited exchange of personal and financial data.
                                                              TISA negotiations are currently taking place outside of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) framework. However, the Agreement is being crafted to be compatible with GATS so that a critical mass of participants will be able to pressure remaining WTO members to sign on in the future. Conspicuously absent from the 50 countries covered by the negotiations are the BRICS countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China. The exclusive nature of TISA will weaken their position in future services negotiations.
                                                              The draft text comes from the April 2014 negotiation round – the sixth round since the first held in April 2013. The next round of negotiations will take place on 23-27 June in Geneva, Switzerland.
                                                              Current WTO parties negotiating TISA are: Australia, Canada, Chile, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Colombia, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, the United States, and the European Union, which includes its 28 member states Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
                                                              China and Uruguay have expressed interest in joining the negotiations but so far are not included.
                                                              [1] Swiss National Center for Competence in Research: A Plurilateral Agenda for Services?: Assessing the Case for a Trade in Services Agreement, Working Paper No. 2013/29, May 2013, p. 10.
                                                              [2] For example, in June 2012 Ecuador tabled a discussion on re-thinking regulation and GATS rules; in September 2009 the Commission of Experts on Reforms of the International Monetary and Financial System, convened by the President of the United Nations and chaired by Joseph Stiglitz, released its final report, stating that “All trade agreements need to be reviewed to ensure that they are consistent with the need for an inclusive and comprehensive international regulatory framework which is conducive to crisis prevention and management, counter-cyclical and prudential safeguards, development, and inclusive finance.”
                                                              Read the Secret Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) – Financial Services Annex
                                                              Read the Analysis Article – Secret Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) – Financial Services Annex

                                                              From RT, further commentary and reactions, including:
                                                              ‘Dr. Patricia Ranald, a research associate at the University of Sydney and convener of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network, told the paper that the documents suggest the US wants to “tie the hands” of other governments, including allied ones, by way of sheer deregulation.
                                                              “Amendments from the US are seeking to end publicly provided services like public pension funds, which are referred to as ‘monopolies’ and to limit public regulation of all financial services,” she said. ”They want to freeze financial regulation at existing levels, which would mean that governments could not respond to new developments like another global financial crisis.”
                                                              Earlier this week, US Trade Representative Michael Froman said the TISA deal was already well on its way to being put together.
                                                              “The basic framework of the agreement is in place, initial market access offers have been exchanged, and sector-specific work in areas like telecommunications andfinancialservices is in full swing,” Froman said, according to Reuters.
                                                              The document published this week by WikiLeaks is dated April 14 — two months before Froman last weighed in on the progress of the negotiations and six months after his office hailed previous re-write to the proposal. Along with representatives from Canada, Israel, Mexico, New Zealand, Turkey and dozens others, American policy makers will met in Geneva, Switzerland later this month starting June 23 to begin the next round of negotiations.
                                                              WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, meanwhile, remains confined to Ecuador’s embassy in London where two years ago this Thursday he arrived seeking asylum. Assange, 42, is wanted for questioning in Sweden but fears his arrival there would prompt a swift extradition to the US due to his role in exposing American state secrets."…..
                                                              KENNETH STEPP OPPOSES SECRET TREATIES.

                                                               
                                                               

                                                              37 Responses to Breaking: #WikiLeaks Publishes 19 Pages of the Mega TISA Secret Trade Agreement

                                                              1. Jane Hamsher June 19th, 2014 at 9:56 am 1
                                                                Thanks Wendy. Very interesting.
                                                              2. wendydavis June 19th, 2014 at 10:02 am 2
                                                                In response to Jane Hamsher @ 1
                                                                Welcome, Jane Hamsher; I’m embarrassed to say that I know less than nothing about TISA. The TPP and TAFTA, at least a bit. I don’t even remember Lori Wallach at Global Trade Watch writing about it, but then my memory is crap. I will look over there off and on; surely she’ll weigh in.
                                                                Crash courses are hard for most of us, and I’d need one.
                                                              3. wendydavis June 19th, 2014 at 10:09 am 3
                                                                Ha!
                                                                ‘Statement of Lori Wallach, Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch on Text of Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) Financial Services Text that Has Been Posted on WikiLeaks Today’ (pdf, one page):
                                                                ““If the text that was leaked today went into force, it would roll back the improvements made after the global financial crisis to safeguard consumers and financial stability and cement us into the extreme deregulatory model of the 1990s that led to the crisis in the first place and the billions in losses to consumers and governments.
                                                                This is a text that big banks and financial speculators may love but that could do real damage to the rest of us. It includes a provision that is literally called ‘standstill’ that would forbid countries from improving financial regulation and would lock them into whatever policies they had on the books in the past.”
                                                                Jane, if you or anyone else would like to host this, please do.
                                                              4. TarheelDem June 19th, 2014 at 10:40 am 4
                                                                As best I can tell this effort is independent of TPP and TAFTA but has a larger number of countries involved and is focused to service businesses – of which finance is the section released. Too bad there were not more sections of the document dumped.
                                                                A quick reading shows two interesting areas to watch: (1) the impact on postal banking (and proposals for postal banking) and other financial services offered by a government postal service;(2) the immigration accelerated processing (or demands for wave-throughs) of non-national executives of financial services corporations. A two-tiered system of mobility of labor.
                                                                Dispute resolution is through some sort of expert panel. That is a perennial thing to watch in these agreements.
                                                                And BRICS exclusion seems to be a feature, not just a coincidence. Isn’t that interesting?:)
                                                                BTW, the reporting on Obama’s statement about Iraq seems to mean that the coup to bring Ahmed Chalabi to power won’t be happening despite Paul Wolfowitz’s rube grifting tour of the Wall Street media this weekend.
                                                              5. Jane Hamsher June 19th, 2014 at 11:22 am 5
                                                                In response to wendydavis @ 2
                                                                I had to look it up myself. Thanks for including this statement from Lori Wallach, guru of all trade issues:
                                                                If the text that was leaked today went into force, it would roll back the improvements made after the global financial crisis to safeguard consumers and financial stability and cement us into the extreme deregulatory model of the 1990s that led to the crisis in the first place and the billions in losses to consumers and government.”
                                                              6. JamesJoyce June 19th, 2014 at 11:43 am 6
                                                                “The draft has been classified to keep it secret not just during the negotiations but for five years after the TISA enters into force.”
                                                                ‘In late 2010, in response to unofficial government pressure, Visa, MasterCard and PayPal cut WikiLeaks off from receiving donations after WikiLeaks started publishing a trove of secret US State Department cables, despite the fact that its publications were fully protected by the First Amendment.
                                                                So when Americans want to donate money and effectivley use it to support groups with positions which affects their interests, corporations can nix the donation process under government pressure while politicians hide monied interests donations using social welfare organizarions like a mafioso store front booking, for political scumbuggery? But money is speech!
                                                                Classifying and hiding any potential agreement which impacts the live’s and liberties of Americans is patently fascist. Limiting the ability to use money to support organizations is fascsit. This is corporate fascism, America.
                                                              7. onitgoes June 19th, 2014 at 11:51 am 7
                                                                The draft Financial Services Annex sets rules which would assist the expansion of financial multi-nationals – mainly headquartered in New York, London, Paris and Frankfurt – into other nations by preventing regulatory barriers. The leaked draft also shows that the US is particularly keen on boosting cross-border data flow, which would allow uninhibited exchange of personal and financial data.
                                                                We can run, but we cannot hide.
                                                                Thanks, wendydavis. What a mess. We are so screwed.
                                                              8. tuezday June 19th, 2014 at 11:51 am 8
                                                                I want that bumper sticker.
                                                                So this is different from the TPP?
                                                                Needs to be stopped right now.
                                                              9. marym in IL June 19th, 2014 at 12:08 pm 9
                                                                In response to wendydavis @ 3
                                                                There’s a commenter mellon who posts regularly at correntewire mostly about free trade agreements on healthcare programs, but it some sort of freezing of the bad stuff seems to be a common thread in these agreements. Countries can make things worse (more privatization, less regulation, more corporate arbitration instead of legal proceedings) but can’t unwind from existing bad stuff. I haven’t followed his comments very closely yet, but it would help to explain some of the rush to privatize as much as possible as fast as possible that we’re seeing everywhere.
                                                                Thanks for this report.
                                                              10. jo6pac June 19th, 2014 at 12:29 pm 10
                                                                In response to marym in IL @ 9
                                                                Yes, mellon covers this subject well and yes things like aca, pensions and other Main Street helpers are gone so the 1% can feel better about themselves.
                                                              11. wendydavis June 19th, 2014 at 1:39 pm 11
                                                                In response to TarheelDem @ 4
                                                                Great catch re: no BRICS (that’s one of the reasons wee keep you around here, Eagle Eye). Ah, yes, more US hegemony:
                                                                “In the United States, services account for 75 percent of economic output and 80 percent of private sector jobs; in the European Union, they account for almost 75 percent of gross domestic product and employment.
                                                                But their importance in trade is often under-estimated. The hidden value of services can be almost as much again as raw services export figures suggest, according to calculations from the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).”
                                                                As opposed to China’s 10% service economy, according to Reuters. Jayzus, these deals are fascism in a basket.
                                                                Er…please say you’re joshin’ about my favorite Bad Penny Shape-Shifter Ahmed Chalabi? As I said, I’ve totally looked away from Iraq.
                                                              12. wendydavis June 19th, 2014 at 1:46 pm 12
                                                                In response to Jane Hamsher @ 5
                                                                I’d even checked her archives; barely a mention of TISA. Pretty freakin’ secret, I guess, at least on this side of the pond.
                                                                Mike Ludwig at Truthout writes:
                                                                “Demonstrations erupted in Geneva in April as diplomats met in secret for the sixth round of negotiations over TISA, which would cover international trade in a wide range of service industries ranging from finance and telecommunications to transportation and even local utilities such as water. Protesters demanded that the draft text be released, but it has remained secret until now.
                                                                Public Services International (PSI), a global trade union federating public service workers in 150 countries, has reported that TISA threatens to allow multinational corporations to permanently privatize vital public services such as healthcare and transportation in countries across the world.
                                                                “This agreement is all about making it easier for corporations to make profits and operate with impunity across borders,” said PSI General Secretary Rosa Pavanelli in response to the leak. “The aim of public services should not be to make profits for large multinational corporations. Ensuring that failed privatizations can never be reversed is free-market ideology gone mad.”
                                                                PSI’s pdf report.
                                                                The Geneva protest link has video en Francais.
                                                              13. TarheelDem June 19th, 2014 at 1:54 pm 13
                                                                Is SEIU in the veal pen on this?
                                                              14. wendydavis June 19th, 2014 at 1:54 pm 14
                                                                In response to JamesJoyce @ 6
                                                                Sounds just about right, JamesJoyce. But Pierre says he never knew!!!
                                                                The PayPal 14 still face jail with too few pennies comin’ in. (This donation button is no good by now, I checked.)
                                                              15. wendydavis June 19th, 2014 at 1:57 pm 15
                                                                In response to TarheelDem @ 13
                                                                Well, now…that’ a very good question, THD. Their ‘working families’ schtick turned out to be bogus as all giddy-up, didn’t it?
                                                              16. wendydavis June 19th, 2014 at 2:02 pm 16
                                                                In response to marym in IL @ 9
                                                                Yes, the Investor State provisions are some of the most egregious portions, including governments paying for imaginary lost profits due to national laws that Limit Corporate Freedoms a li’l bit. And the drug provisions in at least the TPP are barbarically punitive for citizens.
                                                                Lambert Strether has this brief squib up so far. ‘Secret law is not law’. Sorry, Lambert… If secret grand juries can inict one….
                                                              17. TarheelDem June 19th, 2014 at 2:23 pm 17
                                                                In response to wendydavis @ 16
                                                                In Lambert’s defense, he has a point. Secret laws cannot be willfully obeyed or disobeyed; ignorance of the law is the normal state.
                                                                The grand jury thing is an interesting one. The idea of secret grand juries was to protect the innocent from slander; the grand jury had to pass a “true bill” to indict. What has happened is prosecutors, being incentivized to convict, manipulate grand juries in secret to deliver false “true bills” given the evidence at hand. (Or for some people who are legally immune, false “no bills”.)
                                                                Secret law is arbitrary rule under the cloak of legal procedure."   KENNETH STEPP OPPOSES SECRET LAW AND SECRET STATUTES!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

                                                              Wednesday, June 18, 2014

                                                              I AGREE WITH HILLARY, IT'S TIME TO REIN IN THE FEDS!

                                                              Hillary Clinton: Laws passed after 9/11 gave the executive branch too much authority



                                                              By Dan Roberts, The Guardian
                                                              Wednesday, June 18, 2014 8:17 EDT




                                                              US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to reporters at the State Department in Washington on July 24, 2012 (AFP:File, Karen Bleier)


                                                               
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                                                              • Hillary Clinton has thrown her weight behind political efforts to rein in US surveillance powers in her most forthright criticism yet of the National Security Agency (NSA).
                                                              The former secretary of state, who has hitherto largely stayed out of the debate sparked by leaks from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, called on Congress to restore constitutional privacy protections weakened after terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre.
                                                              “We are finally taking stock of the laws that we passed after 9/11,” she told Fox News interviewer Greta Van Susteren. “We did all of this in an a hurry because we were worried and scared and now we need to take a step back and figure out how we make sure that the balance between liberty and security is right.”
                                                              Clinton, who admitted in an earlier CNN interview that she had disagreed with her husband’s cautious support for Snowden, defended the government’s legal right to carry out some bulk collection of American data but said she now backed efforts in Congress to change the law.
                                                              “Laws that were passed after 9/11 gave the executive very broad authority … what has happened is that people have said, OK, the emergency is over and we want to get back to regular order,” she said.
                                                              “It’s a really difficult balancing act, but you are absolutely right that we need to make some changes to secure that constitutional right to privacy that Americans are due.”
                                                              The House of Representatives recently passed a version of the USA Freedom Act that seeks to outlaw the bulk collection of American data, although civil liberties campaigners worry that it has been watered down by administration lawyers and are pushing for a tougher version in the Senate.
                                                              Clinton was also scathing the of NSA’s spying on the leaders of foreign allies such as Germany and was asked whether chancellor Angela Merkel was right to be angry.
                                                              “Yes, she should be. That was absolutely uncalled for,” replied Clinton. “There is [legitimate counter-terrorism] work that we need to do with the Germans and inside Germany … that has nothing to do with Angela Merkel’s cell phone and that should be off limits.”
                                                              The Fox News interview, a rare foray by Clinton in hostile political territory, was dominated by familiar questions about her reaction to attacks on US consular staff in Benghazi but the former secretary of state also strayed into more contemporary diplomatic questions during a separate interview on CNN.
                                                              Clinton appeared to distance herself from suggestions by current secretary of state John Kerry that the US could seek assistance from Iran in stemming insurgent attacks in Iraq.
                                                              “I am not prepared to say that we go in with Iran right now until we have a better idea what we are getting ourselves into,” she told CNN.
                                                              But Clinton also supported a growing consensus inside Democratic circles that unilateral US military intervention could also be a mistake.
                                                              She criticised Iraqi prime minister Maliki, claiming he had “purged the military that we trained … and forced out some of the most able commanders” and suggested the White House was seeking tougher assurances from him before offering support.
                                                              “I think that right now there are those hard negotiations going on,” said Clinton. “With respect to air attacks that needs to be part of a larger package and I believe that is part of the intense negotiations that are going on.”
                                                              She also said it was a mistake for Iraq not to strike an agreement for an ongoing US troop presence after its main military withdrawal.
                                                              guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2014"
                                                              I agree with Hillary, it's time to rein in the Feds.  Constitutional restraints on government should be kept in place.  STEPP FOR CONGRESS!

                                                              Capitol’s spending bosses rare bipartisan success!

                                                              Capitol’s spending bosses rare bipartisan success! 





                                                              FILE - This Jan. 14, 2013 file photo shows House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky. on Capitol Hill in Washington. On the face of it, one of the most powerful pairings in Washington is a hopeless mismatch _ a former social worker and liberal Democrat from Baltimore’s working-class Fells Point neighborhood and an old-school, cigar-chomping GOP conservative raised in a dry county in the mountains of southeastern Kentucky. But in a bitterly divided Congress, the odd couple of Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Rep. Harold Rogers is a rare bipartisan success story. (J. Scott Applewhite, File/Associated Press)
                                                              June 17 at 6:59 PM

                                                              WASHINGTON — On the face of it, one of the most powerful pairings in Washington is a hopeless mismatch — a former social worker and liberal Democrat from Baltimore’s working-class Fells Point neighborhood and an old-school, cigar-chomping GOP conservative raised in a dry county in the mountains of southeastern Kentucky.
                                                              But in a bitterly divided Congress, the odd couple of Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Rep. Harold Rogers is a rare bipartisan success story.
                                                              Mikulski and Rogers are chiefly responsible for divvying up $1 trillion in federal spending as chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and chairman of the same committee in the House. While their personal backgrounds could hardly be more different, their operating styles are remarkably similar.
                                                              Both are pragmatists in a Congress littered with ideologues. Neither minces words or tolerates foolishness. Both prefer deal-making to speechifying. And each understands that in order to strike a deal the other side needs to claim some wins.
                                                              “Hal is a conservative but he is not a hard-headed ideologue. He’s a realist,” said former Appropriations Chairman David Obey, D-Wis. “He’s good at saying, ‘Look, I’ll level with you. This is what I can do and this is what I can’t do.’”
                                                              Mikulski has a reputation for toughness though her once-fearsome temper seems to have mellowed in recent years. “Her BS quotient is very, very low. She doesn’t tolerate BS and she doesn’t dish it out,” Obey said. “She is very pragmatic, very hard-nosed.”
                                                              Rogers and Mikulski face an enormously difficult task: advancing 12 spending bills setting the annual operating budgets for federal agencies and most government programs, ranging from funding the armed forces and overseas military operations to air traffic control, the national parks and forecasting the weather.

                                                              House and Senate leaders used to give great deference to the committees but their standing has slipped of late. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was a longtime Appropriations Committee insider but has usually given short shrift to the panel’s pleas for floor time to debate its bills. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, barely hid his disdain for the panel’s parochial, clubby ways during his first two decades in the House. One of his first acts as speaker was to impose a ban on popular home-district pet projects known as earmarks.
                                                              The result is that many lawmakers have less reason to vote for spending bills. The appropriations process is a challenge in good years. Amid broader battles over taxes and whether to expand or shrink the government, it has been derailed in recent ones.
                                                              Boehner, for example, sided with the GOP’s tea party wing in 2013 and saddled Rogers with a budget outline that pleased conservatives but shortchanged domestic programs and doomed appropriators to failure last summer. Rogers could only watch as tea party forces steamrolled House leaders into a government shutdown last fall.
                                                              What eventually came out of it was a two-year budget deal that paved the way for Rogers and Mikulski to get the process back on track. In January they accomplished several months’ worth of work in a few weeks, negotiating and winning passage of a $1.1 trillion catchall spending bill for 2014.
                                                              Jim Dyer, a former Republican staff director for House appropriators, said Rogers and Mikulski were under a lot of pressure to reach a deal that could pass both houses. “If they had failed, people would have thrown the last shovel of dirt on appropriations,” Dyer said. “Now, what you have is ... the only show in town currently working well — and these two people deserve the credit.”

                                                              With a strengthened hand and a common spending ceiling for 2015, the two appropriations chairmen are off to a promising start, handling this year’s spending bills the old-fashioned way, with open debate and amendments instead of waiting until year’s end and cobbling together one massive omnibus bill behind closed doors.
                                                              Mikulski first bill was slated to hit the Senate floor Tuesday — a hybrid Mikulski cobbled together from three measures funding the departments of Commerce, Justice, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Agriculture. The Senate is likely to spend most of two weeks on it. The House is scheduled to open debate Wednesday on Rogers’ spending bill for the Pentagon.
                                                              “She’s determined to get the train back on track with appropriations, as am I,” Rogers said of Mikulski. “To do that you have to understand the other side’s point of view and perspective and needs, politically to get the bills passed on the floors of both bodies.”
                                                              Mikulski says her approach is “to focus with civility and courtesy. Old school values. Don’t do surprises or stunts and negotiate directly and not through the press.”
                                                              Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell describes Mikulski as forceful and results oriented. “I think she’s terrific.”
                                                              “She is no nonsense ... and that really gives her the credibility to work with her colleagues that other people wish they had,” said former Democratic Leader Tom Daschle.
                                                              Mikulski is more engaging and approachable than her predecessors as appropriations chairman, the late Sens. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., and Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii. She’s spent decades honing relationships with members of both parties, learning their needs and end goals.

                                                              “She knows that if you know somebody and what they want you can help them be successful. And when you help people be successful, Republicans or Democrats, that’s how you move bills,” said Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, a Mikulski protege.

                                                              Tuesday, June 17, 2014

                                                              Hal Rogers' and the Republicans' War on the Poor Continues!

                                                              "Dean Baker
                                                              Co-director, CEPR; author, 'The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive'
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                                                              Doing for the Poor and Doing to the Poor
                                                              Posted: 06/16/2014 8:15 pm EDT Updated: 06/17/2014 9:59 am EDT Print Article
                                                              "Washington is full of well-meaning types who want to help the poor. The list of prospective helpers includes not only the standard liberal do-gooder types talking about programs like pre-K education, but also conservatives like Paul Ryan who argue that taking away food stamps and other benefits will give low-income people the motivation they need to go out and get a job.
                                                              While sincere efforts to help the poor should be encouraged, we should also realize that our current economic policies are doing much to harm the poor. First and foremost we should realize that the decision to maintain high rates of unemployment is having a devastating impact on the well-being of millions of low- and moderate-income workers and their children.
                                                              The reasons are straightforward. When the overall unemployment rate goes up, the rate for the less-educated and minorities rises even more. This has been a regular pattern in the data for many decades that has been very visible in the current downturn.
                                                              Before the recession the overall unemployment rate was at 4.5 percent. It peaked at 10.0 percent in the fall of 2009 before gradually falling back to its current 6.3 percent. By contrast, the unemployment rate for workers without high school degrees rose from just over 7.0 percent in the months before the recession to a peak of more than 15.0 percent in peak months in 2009 and 2010. This is an increase of 8.0 percentage points. The unemployment rate for blacks rose from just over 8.0 percent before the recession to a peak of more than 16.0 percent, also a rise of 8.0 percentage points.
                                                              High unemployment doesn't just hurt those at the bottom by denying them jobs, they also work fewer hours than they would like. The analysis in my book with Jared Bernstein, Getting Back to Full Employment, found that hours worked for families in the bottom fifth of the income distribution increased by 17 percent in the boom at the end of the 1990s. By contrast, hours worked barely increased at all for those in the top fifth.
                                                              And a lower unemployment rate means higher wages for those at the bottom. We found that a sustained one percentage point decline in the unemployment rate is associated with a 9.4 percent rise in real wages. To summarize, for the poor, lower unemployment translates into more jobs, more hours, and higher pay.
                                                              While the data on these points may be clear, many people will question that having high unemployment is a policy choice. That requires a little bit of thought.
                                                              At this point we have solid evidence that we can reduce the unemployment rate with increased government spending or tax cuts targeted to those who would spend the money. We have opted not to do so in order to reduce the deficit.
                                                              Some people may consider lower deficits to be a greater priority than increasing growth and reducing the unemployment rate, but that doesn't change the fact that this was a choice. Congress and President Obama (more the former than the latter) pushed policies to quickly reduce the deficit. This choice denied millions of low- and moderate-income people the opportunity to work and tens of millions more the opportunity to work more hours or to get higher wages.
                                                              In the same vein our trade policy has also been a major factor depressing the income of those at the bottom. Our trade deficit exploded in 1997 following the East Asian financial crisis. The policies imposed on the crisis countries led to a sharp run-up in the value of the dollar.
                                                              A higher priced dollar made our products much less competitive in the world economy. As a result we are now running a trade deficit of more than $500 billion a year. This is demand that is generated in the United States but is creating jobs in Mexico, China, and other countries. The trade deficit translates into a loss of more than 6 million jobs.
                                                              The point here should be clear. We can hugely boost employment and create enormous opportunities for low- and moderate-income families by having budget policies and trade policies that promoted high employment instead of policies that lead to high unemployment.
                                                              The government is actively working to deny low- and moderate-income families jobs and opportunities in a really big way. The people in Washington involved in the decision-making process that leads to this outcome may not think about the impact of these policies in this way, but who cares?
                                                              The damage they do to the poor with their ignorant policies swamps by several orders of magnitude any good they may hope to do with their small bore anti-poverty agendas. And for which they think the poor should be grateful.
                                                              Follow Dean Baker "
                                                              Kenneth Stepp is a friend of poor people and a Democrat.   STEPP FOR CONGRESS!   HAL ROGERS IS NOT YOUR FRIEND.  STEPP FOR CONGRESS!