Kirsten Gillibrand, the Democratic Senator from New York who is running for President in 2020, standing in front of the Trump International Hotel on Central Park West in New York City, drew a strong contrast between herself and those who would stand up for American values as “brave” while attacking Donald Trump as a coward and Washington in the pockets of special interests. Here are highlights from her speech –
Our president is a coward…
that’s not what we deserve. We deserve a president who is brave, who will walk
through fire to do what is right. We deserve a president who inspires us to
stand for something greater than ourselves.
Look up at that tower, a
shrine to greed, division and vanity. – now look around you, the greater
strength by far is ourselves. We are here to reject the politics of fear..
The ideals of this
country – opportunity, equality, justice – are worth fighting for. We are here
to embrace our shared humanity and rise above our differences. We don’t build
walls that are emblems of racism and fear. We build bridges, communities and
hope…our unity of purpose lifts us higher than any tower.
We are here today
because we know that when we join together and fight for our values, Brave wins.
.Americans prove this with their own bravery every single day…..
The people of this
country deserve a president worthy of your bravery- who not only sets an
example, but follows yours – your bravery inspires me every day, and that is
why I ‘m running for president of the United States….
I will go to toe to toe
with anyone to do the right thing – powerful institutions, the president, even
my own party. I’m not running for president because of who I am fighting
against, but who I’m fighting for.
I’m fighting for an
America where power truly belongs in the hands of the people, where our leaders
care about everyone in this country – and lead not from ego but strength of
character – where compassion and integrity define our government, not self-interest
and corruption – where we don’t just care about profits we make today but the
future we are leaving to our grandchildren – I know we can be that America –
but it means starting at the root of our problems – greed…
Right now, the special
interests are displacing the interests of the country …opioid manufacturers
get a pass rather than the indictments while neighbors are sold addictive drugs
on purpose, the NRA stops commonsense gun reform while stray bullets kill our
children; dark money is at the heart.. We need to crack open government, …
I will fight against the
dysfunction poisoning Washington. As your president, I will answer to you and
Our goals are ambitious,
but truth is not controversial – Americans across party lines support commonsense
ideas – make quality affordable health care a right not a privilege, must pass
Medicare for All, I have fought for this since my first house race in 2006 – we
have a plan to get from current system to single payer – and I know because I
helped write it – we will create competition, get costs down, eliminate the
On education: it is time
to guarantee universal pre-k, … provide high quality education for every kid in
America no matter what block they grow up on… We must make higher education
affordable, accessible for everyone, reduce the crush of student debt – the fed
government shouldn’t be making money off the back of our students,. In my
administration, we would refinance all student debt to lowest available rate.
Here’s a big idea: let’s
improve and expand the GI Bill to make college free for anyone who agrees to do
national public service – young people can pursue their dreams debt free while
To grow the middle
class, we need to start rewarding work again- make full employment a national
priority – invest in free job training through apprenticeship, free college at
state schools, training, skills, jobs in their community in the fields of their
interest. Workers rights are under attack more than ever, I would protect
collective bargaining by unions; raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour
And transform the
infrastructure of work by finally making national paid leave a reality. It is outrageous
that we are the only industrialized country in the world without it – you should
never have to risk your job, your income to take care of new baby, sick family member
or your own medical needs. I refuse to accept the false choice between your
paycheck and your family.
I have led this fight in
congress since 2013, when not part of national conversation – hear me when I
say this, paid leave, equal pay and affordable day care are not just women’s
issues – these are economic issues, ones that will determine whether or not our
We need to dismantle
institutional racism that holds back millions of families – in health care,
education, criminal justice systems- in growing crisis of black women’s growing
maternal mortality, in criminal sentencing decisions, in the wealth gap between
communities of color and white that only widens generation to generation – these
challenges call for solutions both targeted and broad – like higher standards
for maternity care, a national commitment to full employment, postal banking,
ending cash bail, and legalizing marijuana.
We need to restore our
moral leadership in the world – we must secure our borders effectively and
fight terrorism relentlessly, but let’s be very clear – racism and fear is not
a national security strategy. Building a wall, ripping apart families, banning
Muslims and turning our backs on refugees and asylum seekers isn’t just wrong,
it makes us less safe. We need to repair our relationship with our allies and
stop fawning over our adversaries. We need to leverage our diplomatic tools ot
make Americans more prosperous and more secure, and always treat military force
as a last resort.
We must bring an end to
the endless wars – America’s commander in chief is not a dictator, and the
decision to deploy our troops can never be made lightly or unilaterally without
And we need to protect
the integrity of our elections, by holding accountable any threats to our
democracy from abroad or right here at home.
The stakes just got higher
on Friday – the Mueller Report must be made public. All of it. No one in this
country is above the law or immune from prosecution, not even the president. I
don’t often agree with Nixon, but he was right to say the American people have
a right to know whether their president is a crook.
Finally, we need to
treat global climate change like the existential threat that it is. We need to
pass the Green New Deal – let’s make this our generation’s moon shot –
addressing a global challenge of this urgency will take massive effort,
transformational vision, which is exactly why we should do it.
Let’s invest in our
crumbling infrastructure, create sustainable green jobs, protect clean air and
water as a universal human right. I would go further than others – I also put a
price on carbon to use market forces to steer companies away from fossil fuels
toward clean, renewable energy.
We can’t afford not to
do this. We don’t have time to waste – John F. Kennedy said he wanted to put a man
on moon in next 10 years, not because easy but hard. I believe we should look
at global climate change in the same way – look to zero carbon emissions
in next 10 years not because it’s easy but because it’s hard, a challenge we
are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone and one that we will
None of these big
fights, and equally big goals will be easy – nothing worth fighting for has
been – but I have never backed down from a fight, and I am not about to start
My faith tells me to
care for the least among us – to feed and clothe the poor, help the stranger,
the sick, incarcerated. I believe we are all called to be the light of the
world, to defeat the darkness and treat others the way we want to be treated.
I am running for
president to fix what has been broken, repair our moral fabric, … this fight is
so much bigger than any one election. It’s about making a choice and deciding
who we are, and who we are going to be. After all, America is and always will
be the home of the brave, no matter how difficult the course before us, no
matter how dark the hour, the lessons of our history is that justice, fairness
and truth are possible but only if we are willing to put everything we have on
the line to achieve it – so each one of us has a choice today – will we defend
this democracy, will we speak for what we believe in, will we reject the hate,
fear, greed and corruption, will we fight with every fiber of our being because
everything we care about is at stake.Will we be brave? You already answered
that question just by being here, if you are with me, ready to fight and take
on this fight with me, join my campaign, kirstengillibrand.com,
contribute to help power this movement forward.
I believe in my bones
that we can do this – years from now will look back at this moment in history
and be able to say we did something about it, we stood up, locked arms and
proved to America and the world that when people come together to drive out darkness,
hope rises, fear loses and brave wins.
Bernie Sanders held his first major rally of his 2020 campaign for president on the campus of Brooklyn College, just a few miles from where he grew up in a 3 ½-room rent-controlled apartment, and where he attended his first year of college. As many as 7,000 people crammed in to see him on Saturday, March 2 – like the 2016 campaign, mostly young people. Judging by the enthusiasm, The Burn is back.
While the agenda now has become pretty standard fare
for all the Democrats running for President – universal health care, lower drug
prices, gun safety, immigration reform, climate action – and while others have
emphasized the need to restore civility to political discourse (in contrast to
the crass vitriol that constantly spews from Trump), what was decidedly
different about Bernie is his willingness to name names, to take on the
corporatists and the billionaires: Amazon and Jeff Bezos, Netflix, Disney,
In some ways, Bernie, while taking credit for the
leftward shift of the Democrats’ platform, needs to stand out – and this is his
way. He also seems intent to correct any missteps from the 2016 campaign. This
time around he is emphasizing his humble origins whose father migrated from
Poland on his own at age 17 with “not 5 cents in his pocket, not speaking
English” to escape crushing poverty and anti-Semitism and make a better life.
He described a hard-scrabble life, appreciating full well the stress and
anxiety of 800,000 government workers furloughed by the record-long Trump shutdown,
who live paycheck to paycheck, at the mercy of employers.
The campaign emphasized his early years as an activist, protesting against housing discrimination and horrible public schools for Chicago’s black children – but he was too modest during the 2016 to focus much attention on his early activism on behalf of civil rights. This time around, Nina Turner, who heads Our Revolution, put Bernie on the same pedestal as Martin Luther King, Jr., and journalist/activist Shaun King connected him with Black Lives Matter.
This time, Sanders also made certain to include issues that concern women on a long “to do” list: child care and women’s reproductive rights.
Taking to the podium to introduce her husband, Jane
Sanders declared, “I’m honored to be his wife – that might not be politically
correct to say, but it’s one of my greatest honors of my life.”
She added, “Today is only the beginning. not a moment, but a movement.”
But as Bernie is forced to differentiate himself
from the rest of the dozens of Democrats who are running, most of whom are
championing the same agenda, he has to go even further than he did, and that may
well turn off centrists, moderates and independents, and fall right into the
hands of Trump and his minions who are made to turn against the notion of
affordable, accessible health care and pharmaceuticals as some kind of Communist
takeover. Imagine, as Trump told CPAC, “taking away private insurance from 180
million people,” banning beef, airplanes, indeed, individual liberty.
And don’t Democrats want as their #1 priority to
have a candidate who can beat Trump? Which means not just the hard-left and
youth who still only vote at a dismal 39% rate and are easily made too peeved
to bother, but centrists, moderates, independents, who might be put off by
being branded a Socialist and not the European-style Democratic Socialist
(which have universal health care, parental leave, child care) but the
Venezuelan kind, especially with such radical talk of a federally guaranteed
job and a Green New Deal?
“Every card carrying American
who loves their Social Security, public schools, roads, police, and fire services
will love their Medicare for All. Labels don’t define us, we come together
around issues – Medicare for All; free college,” a campaign worker noted.
“Bernie believes another
world is possible, that in a modern developed world, people don’t die for lack
of access to medical care. The issues are not blue or red, they are human
In actuality, the
Republicans have portrayed every liberal as a Socialist with images of work
camps and everyone collecting the same wage – including Obama, Hillary Clinton,
Why choose Sanders? “He’s
been consistent for 30 years. He’s been there for 30 years and knows where the next
remark to a young fellow as we are crammed into a subway car after Bernie’s
rally at Brooklyn College, how it is that with 30 years in Congress, Sanders
has very little to show in the way of accomplishing the lofty goals he set out
in 2016 and again for his 2020 campaign, and question how he would he be more
successful as a president, given the obstructions Obama faced from a Republican
minority willing to use ruthless tactics. His reply? Sanders’ success has been
to inspire a revolution at the grassroots – look at what has happened in
localities and at the state level. He alone among the Democrats who now all
champion the same ideals of social, political, economic and environmental
justice, has inspired such local activism.
Here are highlights from Sanders’ speech:
“Thank you for being part of the revolution, part of
the campaign that will not just win the Democratic nomination and defeat Trump,
the most dangerous president in modern American history, but with your help,
will transform the country and finally create an economy and a government which
works for all.
“The underlying principle of government will not be
greed, hatred, racism, sexism, homophobia, religious bigotry, tax breaks for
billionaires and efforts to take millions off health care. This campaign will
end all that.
“The principles of our government are based on
justice: economic, social, racial, environmental justice. Tell the insurance companies we will have
Medicare for All, say to Pharmaceutical companies you will no longer charge the
highest prices in world for medicines people desperately need. Your greed will
“We will raise the minimum wage to at least $15,
rebuild infrastructure, and when we do, we will create up to 13 million decent
“We will have quality affordable child care…. we will
make public colleges and universities tuition free.
“We say to seniors, you can’t survive on $14,000 Social
Security; Republicans want to cut Social Security Benefits: we will raise it.
“We say to Trump and the fossil fuel industry:
climate change is not a hoax, but an existential threat to the entire planet.
We will transform away from fossil fuel into energy efficiency and sustainable energy,
and when we do that, we will create millions of good paying jobs.
“All of us have moral responsibility to make sure
the planet we leave our kids, our grandkids, is healthy and habitable.
”We say to the prison-industrial complex (boo), we
are going to achieve real criminal justice reform. We will end the
international embarrassment of having more people in jail than any other – take
the $80 billion a year and invest in jobs and education instead. No more
private prisons, no more profiteering form locking people up.
“No more war on drugs or keeping people in jail
because too poor to afford cash bail.
“We will have real criminal justice reform –people
have records for possessing marijuana
but not one Wall Street executive went to jail for destroying the economy in
2008. Instead, they got a $1 trillion bailout (boo).
“Instead of deporting undocumented immigrants, we
will pass comprehensive immigration reform and provide a path to citizenship,
legal status for 1.8 million DACA-eligible recipients. We will develop a humane
border policy for those who seek asylum – no longer snatch babies from the arms
of their mothers.
“We say to the 1% and the large profitable corporations in America, under a Sanders Administration, you’re not getting more tax breaks (big cheers). We will end their tax breaks, loopholes, and they will start paying their fair share; we will end the loopholes where Amazon, Netflix, General Motors pay nothing in federal tax, where corporations and billionaires stash money in the Caymans and other tax havens.
“We will end the military industrial complex. We won’t spend $700 billion – more than the top 10 nations combined spend. Instead, we will invest in affordable housing, public education, invest in our crumbling infrastructure. No more major investment in never-ending wars.
“Trump wants to divide us by skin color, where we
were born, gender, religion, sexual orientation. What we are about is doing the
opposite: bring people together – black, white, Latino, Asian, young, old, men,
women, native, immigrant, we are together.
“As return to where I was born, as I launch my
campaign for president, you deserve to know where I came from, the values I
developed… I grew up a few miles from here on Kings Highway, in a 3 ½ room
rent-controlled apartment. My father was a paint salesman who never made much
money; my mother raised the two of us. I learned about immigration from my
father who came from Poland at age 17 without 5 cents in his pocket and no
English, to escape crushing poverty and widespread anti-Semitism. His entire
family was wiped out by Hitler. Coming from a lower middle class family, I will
never forget how the lack of money always causes stress in family. My mother’s
dream was to move out of rent control apartment to a home of her own. She died
young and never saw that dream.
“I came from a family that struggled. That
influenced my life, my values. I know where I came from and will never forget.
“Unlike Trump who shut down government, left 800,000
employees without money to pay their bills, I know what it is like to live in a
family that lives paycheck to paycheck.
“I didn’t have a father who gave me a $200,000
allowance when I was three years old – my allowance was 25 cents a week. But I
had something more valuable – a role model of a father with courage to journey
across an ocean with no money, to start a better life.
“I didn’t come from a family of privilege, who
entertained people on TV by saying ‘You’re fired.’ I came from a family which
understood the frightening power of employers. I didn’t attend an elite private
school, I was educated in public schoo0ls in Brooklyn.
“I didn’t build a corporate empire based on housing
discrimination. I protested against housing discrimination. One of my proudest moments
was joining the March on Washington with Martin Luther King.
“The last two years and before, you, I and millions,
fought for justice in every part of society. Had some success against billionaires
who attack unions, slash wages. We succeeded in raising wages to $15 across
country – forced Amazon, Disney to do the same.
“We stood with teachers across country who went out
on strike to fight for better schools.
“The forces of militarism kept us engaged in war. We
fought back and for first time in 45 years, used the War Powers Act to end the
Saudi-fueled war in Yemen.
“We fought to end the war on drugs, to get states to
decriminalize marijuana possession and we are beginning to see records being
“We won some victories but clearly have a long long
way to go.
“Because of the work done, we are on the brink of
not just winning election but transforming our country.
“When we are
in the White House, we will enact a federal jobs guarantee.
“We will attack the problem of urban gentrification
and build affordable housing this country desperately needs.
“We will end the decline of rural America – so young
people in rural America have decent jobs and can remain in their communities. We
will reopen rural hospitals.
“We will end the epidemic of gun violence, pass
commonsense gun safety legislation.
“We will address national, racial disparity of
wealth, root out institutional racism wherever it exists.
“We will end the cowardly outrage of voter
suppression, and make it easier to vote.
“We will protect a woman’s right to control her own
body – that is a woman’s right, not federal, state, local government.
“Make no mistake, the struggle is not just about
defeating Trump but taking an incredibly powerful institutions that control
economy and political life of the nation: Wall Street, insurance companies,
drug companies, the military-industrial complex, the prison-industrial complex,
the fossil fuel industry and corrupt campaign finance system that enables billionaires
to buy elections.
“Brothers and sisters, we have enormous amount of
work ahead. The path forward is not easy.
“Wealthy and powerful elites will do all they can to
defend their financial interests, and have unlimited money. But we have the
“This is what I believe: if we don’t allow Trump to
divide us, if we stand together – not blue states, red – but as working people
believing in justice and human dignity, love and compassion, the future of this
country is extraordinary and nothing we will not be able to accomplish.”
Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, spoke for 23 minutes in frigid 14 degree temperature (feeling like 4 degrees), in a thick snowfall, without hat or gloves, in front of hundreds of supporters on Boom Island who had stood for hours to hear her declare her candidacy for President. Already, with an unprecedented number of women running for Election 2020, the tone is different, as Klobuchar raised issues of child care, universal health care, lower prescription drug prices, gun violence prevention, climate action, criminal justice reform, fair wages and taxes, the need for diplomacy and international alliances as key.
Here are highlights from her speech declaring
her run for President:
Prosperity shared leads
to better lives for all. [America is] a beacon for democracy, one in which
every one matters. We start in this place…
[Recalling when the
deteriorating I 35W Bridge over the Mississippi collapsed, killing 13 and
injuring 145, and the first responders dove in to try to save them, a wake-up call
to the nation’s deteriorating infrastructure.] A bridge shouldn’t fall down in
America..Suddenly the eyes of a nation are on our state. The nation saw in
visceral way that everyone matters. Later, I worked across the aisle and
rebuilt that I 35 bridge- that’s community shared, a story or ordinary people
doing extraordinary things.
That sense of community is fracturing across the
nation, worn down by the petty and vicious nature of our politics. We are tired
of shutdowns, showdowns, gridlock and grandstanding. Today, in this snowy day,
on this island, we say enough is enough
Our nation must be governed not from chaos, but
opportunity, not by wallowing over what’s wrong, but marching inexorably to
It starts with all of us.
My family story – both on
my Mom and Dad’s side, arrived in this country with nothing but a suitcase.
They made a home here.
Like so many immigrants
they wanted a better life for their family. My grandfather worked 1500 ft below
ground mining. My Dad – now age 90 – got a two-year degree, then finished at
University of Minnesota and became a journalist. As a young AP reporter, he
called the 1960 race for JFK, interviewed everyone from Reagan to Ginger Rogers.
Freedom of the press wasn’t some abstract idea to my dad; he embraced it, lived
My Mom, a proud union member,
taught 2nd grade in the suburbs until she was 70 years old, her
students still come up and say she was their favorite.
On this island in the middle of mighty Mississippi,
in nation’s heartland, at a time when we must heal the heart of democracy and
renew our commitment to common good, I stand before you, as granddaughter of
iron ore miner, a daughter of newspaper man, the first woman elected to US Senate
from the state of Minnesota, to announce my candidacy for president of the United
I am running for this job for everyone who wants
their work recognized and rewarded, for every parent who wants a better world
for their kids, for every student who wants a good education, for every senior
who wants affordable prescription drug, for every worker, farmer, dreamer,
builder, for every American, I am running for you.
And I promise you this,
as your president, I will look you in the eye, tell you what I think, focus
on getting things done, that’s what I have done my whole life. And no matter
what, I will lead from the heart.
Let me blunt.
For too long leaders in Washington have sat on
sidelines while others tried to figure out about changing economy, impact on
our lives, disruptive nature of new technology, income inequality, political
and geographic divides, changing climate, tumult in the world.
Stop seeing these as
obstacles on our path – let’s see obstacles as
This is what I mean.
There are insidious
forces every day trying to make it hard to vote, drown out voices with big
money – time to organize, galvanize, take back our democracy. It’s time America.
It’s time to pass a
constitutional amendment to overturn
Citizens United and get dark money out of our politics.
It’s time to stop
discriminatory action by restoring the
Voting Rights Act. Time to pass my bill to automatically every young person
to vote when they turn 18.
The obstacle they are
throwing at us with big money, obstacles to voting, are obstacles but also our
path – as Paul Wellstone would tell us, it’s how we organize.
Here’s another: Climate change. The people are on our
side – because like you and I, they believe in science.
That’s why in the first 100 days of my
administration I will reinstate the Clean Power rules and the gas mileage
standards and put forth sweeping legislation to invest in green jobs and infrastructure.
And on Day 1 we will rejoin the International
The obstacles, they are
Another challenge: Way
too many politicians have their head stuck in the sand when it comes to the digital revolution. It’s not coming,
it’s here. If you don’t know the difference between a hack and slack, it’s time
to pull off the digital highway.
What would I do? Put
some digital rules of the road into law
when it comes to people’s privacy.
For too long big tech
companies have been telling you, ‘Don’t worry, we have your back’ while your
identities are being stolen, your data being mined. Our laws have to be as
sophisticated as those who are breaking them.
I would guarantee net neutrality for all; connect
the digital divide by 2022 – that means you, Rural America. If they can do it
in Iceland we can do it here.
Train our workers today for the jobs of
tomorrow, strengthen economy for what’s ahead– strengthening certifications, 2 year degrees, make it easier to
And comprehensive immigration reform. It is time America.
Close those tax loopholes designed by and for
the wealthy and bring down our debt and make it easier for workers to afford child
care, housing and education – that is what I mean by shared prosperity.
But we can’t get there
if people can’t afford their health care – that means getting to universal health care, and bringing down
the cost of prescription drugs.
Last week, my guest at
the State of the Union, here with us today, Nicole Smith Colt. Her 26 year old
son Alec, aged off his parents’ insurance just 3 days short of payday. A
diabetic, he couldn’t afford insulin, a simple drug that’s been around for
nearly a century. He tried rationing but it didn’t work, and he died. This
disgrace should never happen in the United States of America today.
The obstacle to change?
Big Pharma. Well, they don’t own me and they don’t own Nicole.
We are teaming up to pass meaningful legislation,
to bring in cheaper drugs from other countries, stop keeping generics off
market – harness the negotiating power of 43 million seniors, lift the ban on negotiating
cheaper prices under Medicare.
I’ve always believed in
doing my job without fear or favor – that’s what I do as a senator, what I did
as a prosecutor – convicting the guilty, protecting the innocent.
It’s why I have and
always will advocate for criminal justice reform.
And, in a state where we
all value hunting and fishing and the great outdoors, I am not afraid to join the
vast majority of Americans, including many gun owners to stand up to gun lobby and put universal background checks and commonsense
gun legislation into law. It is time America.
Even if we isolate from
the rest of world, the rest of world won’t let you – international problems
come banging at the door just as opportunities come knocking.
We must stand consistently with our allies, be clear
in our purpose, respect our front line troops, diplomats and intelligence
officers, who are there every day risking their lives for us. They deserve
better than foreign policy by tweet/
And one last obstacle we
must overcome: To move forward together, stop
the fear-mongering and stop the hate. We may come from different places, pray
in different ways, look different, love differently but we all live in the same
country of shared dreams.
In Minnesota, we have
the biggest Somali population in the country and we are proud of that
community. A few years ago, at the height of angry rhetoric, a Somali family of
4 went to dinner. A guy passing by said, ‘You four go home where you came from.’
The little girl said, ‘Mom, I don’t want to go home. You said we could eat out
for dinner out tonight.’ You think of the innocent words of that little girl – she
only knows one home, our state, one home, the United States.
Walt Whitman, the great
American poet, said: I hear America singing the very carols I hear.” For
Whitman, those were the songs of the mechanics, carpenters, masons, shoemakers,
and those carols are still being sung today – that is also the song of our
sisters and brothers, a chorus of different races, creeds, way of life.
E plurbus unum – out of many is one.
It is more than a motto,
America – it is the North Star of our democracy. It is the North Star of our
I am asking you to join
this campaign – it is a homegrown one.
I don’t have a political
machine, I don’t come from money, but what I do have is this: I have grit.
I have family, I have
friends, I have neighbors and have all of you who are willing to come out in
the middle of winter, who took the time to watch today from home, willing to
stand up and say people matter.
I am asking you not to
look down, not to look away. I am asking you to look up, at each other, the
future before us, let us rise to the
occasion and meet the challenges of our day – cross the river of our divides
and walk across a sturdy bridge to higher ground.
As one faith leader
reminded me: to pursue the good we must believe that good will prevail.
I do believe it, and so
Let’s join together as
one nation, one nation, indivisible, under God and pursue the good.
Elizabeth Warren, the senior Senator
from Massachusetts, launched her campaign for President in Lawrence, a small
mill town which was the site 100 years ago, textile workers, led mainly by
women, went on strike to demand fair wages, overtime pay and the right to join
a union. She laid out a platform built
on rebuilding the middle class, strengthening democracy, equal justice under
Here are highlights from her speech:
A little over 100 years ago, the textile mills in Lawrence
employed tens of thousands of people, including immigrants from more than 50
Business was booming. The guys at the top were doing great. But workers made so
little money that families were forced to crowd together in dangerous tenements
and live on beans and scraps of bread. Inside the mills, working conditions
were horrible. Children were forced to operate dangerous equipment. Workers
lost hands, arms, and legs in the gears of machines.
One out of every three adult mill workers died by the time they were 25.
But one day, textile workers in Lawrence – led by women – went on strike to
demand fair wages, overtime pay, and the right to join a union.
It was a hard fight. They didn’t have much. Not even a common language. But
they stuck together.
And they won. Those workers did more than improve their own lives. They changed
America. Within weeks, more than a quarter of a million textile workers
throughout New England got raises. Within months, Massachusetts became the
first state in the nation to pass a minimum wage law.
And today, there are no children working in factories. We have a national
minimum wage. And worker safety laws. Workers get paid overtime, and we have a
forty-hour work week.
The story of Lawrence is a story about how real change happens in
America. It’s a story about power – our power – when we fight together.
Today, millions and millions of American families are also struggling to
survive in a system that has been rigged by the wealthy and the well-connected.
And just like the women of Lawrence, we are ready to say enough is enough.
We are ready to
take on a fight that will shape our lives, our children’s lives, and our
grandchildren’s lives: The fight to build an America that works for everyone….
Over the years, America’s middle class had been deliberately
hollowed out. And families of color had been systematically discriminated
against and denied their chance to build some security.
The richest and most powerful people in America were rich, really rich – but
they wanted to be even richer – regardless of who got hurt.
So, every year, bit by bit, they lobbied Washington and paid off politicians to
tilt the system just a little more in their direction. And year by year, bit by
bit, more of the wealth and opportunity went to the people at the very top.
That’s how, today, in the richest country in the history of the world, tens of
millions of people are struggling just to get by.
This disaster has touched every community in America. And for communities of
color that have stared down structural racism for generations, the disaster has
hit even harder.
We can’t be blind to the fact that the rules in our country have been rigged
against people for a long time – women, LGBTQ Americans, African Americans,
Latinos, Native Americans, immigrants, people with disabilities – and we need
to call it out.
When government works only for the wealthy and well-connected, that is
corruption – plain and simple. It’s time to fight back and change the rules….
is enough, enough is enough.
is enough. Enough is Enough, the crowd responds.]
will say it is “Class warfare” – they’ve been waging class warfare against
middle class for decades. It’s time to fight back.
protect their economic advantage, the wealthy and well-connected have rigged
our political systems as well. They have bought off, bullied politicians in
both parties to make sure Washington is always on their side, some even try to
buy into office..The economy is working great for oil companies, government contractors,
private prisons, great for Wall Street banks and hedgefunds, but not anyone
of Climate Change, our existence is at
stake, but Washington refuses to lift a finger without permission from fossil
fuel companies. That is dangerous and wrong.
isn’t just climate change – any other major issue in America – gun violence, student loan debt, crushing
cost of health care, mistreatment of veterans, broken criminal justice system,
an immigration system that lacks commonsense and under this administration,
lacks a conscience. Overwhelming majorities want action – huge crowds march on Washington
demanding change, there are letters, phone calls, protests – but nothing
Because if you don’t have money and y9ou don’t have connections, Washington doesn’t
want to hear from you.
government works, only for wealthy and well connected that is corruption plain
and simple, and we need to call it out.
is a cancer on our democracy, and we will get rid of it only with strong
medicine, with real structural reform.
fight is to change the rules, so that our government, our economy, our
democracy work for everyone.
want to be crystal clear about exactly what I mean:
First we need to change the rules to
clean up Washington, end the corruption.
all know trump administration is most corrupt in living memory – but even after
Trump is gone, it won’t do just to do a better job of running a broken system. We
need to take power in Washington away from the wealthy and well connected and
put it back in hands of people where it belongs.
is why proposed strongest, most comprehensive anti corruption laws since
shut down the revolving door between Wall Street and Washington; end lobbying
as we know it; ban foreign governments from hiring lobbyists in Washington, and
make justices of US Supreme Court follow a basic code of ethics.
members of Congress from trading stocks. How is that not already illegal?
just one more: make every single candidate for federal office put their taxes
on line – I’ve done it.
Change the rules to put more economic power
in the hands of the American people. Workers and small businesses, middle class
families and people of color have been shut out of their chance to build wealth
for generations. That requires real structural change. Right now, giant
corporations in America have too much power, just roll right over everyone
else. Put power back in hands of workers. Make it quick and easy to join a
union. Unions built America’s middle class and will rebuild America’s middle class.
American companies accountable for their action; raise wages by putting workers into corporate
board rooms where real decisions made; break up monopolies when choke off
competition; take on Wall Street banks so big banks can never again threaten
security of our economy. And when giant
corporations and their leaders cheat customers, stomp out competitors and rob
workers, let’s prosecute them.
more thing: I am tired of hearing that we can’t afford to make real, real
investments in child care, college
and Medicare for All. I am tired of hearing we can’t afford to make
investments in things that create economic opportunities for families,
investments in housing and opioid treatment, that we can’t afford
to address things like rural neglect
or the legacy of racial discrimination,
I am tired of hearing what we can’t afford because it’s just not true.
are the wealthiest nation in the history of the world. Of course we can afford these investments. But we
need a government that makes different choices- choices that reflect our values
– stop handing out enormous tax giveaways to rich people and giant
corporations. Stop refusing to invest in
our children. Stop stalling on spending money, real money, on infrastructure and clean energy and a Green New
asking the people who have gained the most from our country to pay their fair
share. And that includes real tax reform
in this country, reforms that close loopholes
and giveaways to people at the top and an ultra
millionaires’ tax to make sure that rich people do their part for the
country that made them rich.
Change the rules to strengthen our
starts with a constitutional amendment
to protect the right of every American citizen
vote and have that vote counted.
that’s just the beginning.
every single voter suppression rule
that racist politicians use to steal votes from people of color.
partisan gerrymandering – by Democrats
Citizens United, our democracy is
not for sale.
not just elections. Real democracy requires equal justice under law. It’s not equal justice when kids with
ounce of pot gets thrown in jail, while bank executive who launders money for
drug cartel gets a bonus. We need reform.
not equal justice when for the exact same crime, African Americans are more
likely than whites to be arrested, charged, convicted, and sentenced. Yes we
need criminal justice reform and we need it now.
We must not allow those with power to
weaponize hatred and bigotry to divide us. More than 50 years ago, Dr. Martin
Luther King Jr went to Montgomery and warned us of danger of division, how bigotry
and race bating used to divide blacks from white Americans so rich people can
keep picking all their pockets – that playbook around forever, whether straight
against gay, middle class against poor – same – rich and powerful use fear to
divide us. We’re done with that. Bigotry
has no place in the Oval Office.
is who we are – we come from different backgrounds, religions, languages,
experiences. We have different dreams. We are passionate about different
issues, and we feel the urgency of this moment in different ways, but today,
today we come together ready to raise our voices together until this fight is
movement won’t be divided by our differences, it will be united by the values
we share. We all want a country where everyone, not just the wealthy, everyone
can take care of their families; where every American, not just the ones who
hire armies of lobbyists, lawyers, can participate in democracy, a country
where every child can dream big and reach for real opportunity and we are in
the fight to build an America that works for everyone.
get it – this won’t be easy – a lot of people with money, power, armies of
lobbyists and lawyers, people who are prepared to spend more money than you and
I could ever dream of to stop us from making these solutions a reality – people
who will say, extreme or radical to demand an America where every American has
economic security and every kid has opportunity to succeed.
say, get ready, because change is coming
faster than you think.
is coming, change is coming, the crowd roars.]
This kind of fundamental change will be
a lot of people, including some of our friends, will say it’s so hard, it’s not
worth trying. But we will not give up. When I was home with my first baby, I had
the notion to go to law school. It was a crazy idea, but I persisted. It took
some time but eventually I figured out admissions, applications, how to pay
tuition, mapped out the 45 minute commute to campus. Weeks out, there was just
one more thing: child care.
daughter Amelia was nearly 2 years old. I looked for childcare but everywhere,
I struck out over and over. So down to the weekend before law school would
start, I finally found small place with cheerful teacher, play area, nothing
smelled funny, I could afford it. But the place would only take children who
were dependably potty trained. I looked over at Amelia – 5 days to dependably
potty train and almost 2 year old. I stand before you today courtesy of 3 bags
of M&Ms and a cooperative toddler.
that day – never let anyone tell me that anything is too hard.
they have tried.
said it would be too hard to build an agency that would stop big banks from
cheating Americans on mortgages, credit cards. We got organized. To date, big banks
have paid $12 billion to those they cheated.
When Republicans tried to sabotage the agency, I came back to
Massachusetts and then ran against one of them. No woman had ever won a Senate
seat in Massachusetts, and people said it would be “too hard” for me to get
elected. But we got organized, we fought back, we persisted, and now I am the
senior Senator from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
So, no, I am not afraid of a fight. Not even a hard fight.
the women of the Everett Mill walked out from their machines and out into that
cold January air all those years ago, they knew it wouldn’t be easy, but they
knew what was at stake for themselves and their families, and they weren’t
going to tell anyone it was too hard – doubters told abolitionists, the
suffragettes, the foot soldiers of civil rights movement, it’s just too hard,
but they all, all kept going and they changed the history of America.
Sure, there will be plenty of doubters and cowards and armchair
critics this time around. But we learned a long time ago that you don’t get
what you don’t fight for. We are in this
fight for our lives, for our children, for our planet, for our futures – and we
will not turn back.
So here is the promise I make to you today: I will fight my heart out
so that every kid in America can have the same opportunity I had – a fighting
chance to build something real.
And here’s a big piece of how we’ll get it done: We’ll end the
unwritten rule of politics that says anyone who wants to run for office has to
start by sucking up to rich donors on Wall Street and powerful insiders in
taking a dime of PAC money in this campaign or a single check from a federal
lobbyist. I’m not taking applications from billionaires who want to run a Super
PAC on my behalf. And I challenge every other candidate who asks for your vote
in this primary to say exactly the same thing.
We’re going to keep building this campaign at the grassroots.
So now that Democrats have taken back control of the House, there is the internal (eternal) argument between the progressives and what I would call the pragmatists as to whether to act immediately to impeach Trump or use their powers for good and solve the ailing problems of the nation (health care, immigration reform, infrastructure, criminal justice reform, voting rights). As if that were even possible, given Mitch McConnell’s death grip over the Senate, and Trump’s likely veto.
But Democrats can do both – develop, debate and pass necessary legislation on health care, drug prices, protecting DACA recipients, rational immigration reform, gun violence prevention, campaign finance – and still hold the hearings and fulfill their Constitutional obligation for oversight and checks-and-balance on government.
Trump must be impeached. And it doesn’t matter if impeachment is likely to fail in the Senate where it is unlikely to get 67 votes. In the best of all worlds, the evidence would be so compelling, so damning, that even Republicans will go to Trump (as they did to Nixon), and say: resign or else (the “else” would be prosecution of Trump for high-crimes, along with his children; threats to prosecute his close associates would likely not bother Trump at all.) That is, if Republicans retain even a scintilla of actual patriotism and concern for the national good rather than retaining power, no matter how unscrupulously.
Certainly, Democrats should wait until the Mueller investigation is concluded – or re-start the hearings that should have taken place in Congress until sabotaged by the likes of Devin Nunes and others more loyal to Trump than to their oath of office. (Nunes, don’t forget, was on the transition team that brought Michael Flynn in as National Security Adviser.) Those hearings need to be held because the Republicans did a superb job of protecting and insulating Trump and preventing any real understanding or defense against what Russia did and how they did it, opening the way for others – be it China, Israel or North Korea, or a billionaire with a mission like Sheldon Adelson or the Kochs – to replicate the process with even greater sophistication and efficiency in the future.
Despite the fact impeachment would likely fail to get the 67 votes needed in the Senate, if Trump is not prosecuted for the slew of “high crimes and misdemeanors” already committed (violation of Emoluments Clause, repeated obstruction of justice, abuse of power, likely violations of Federal campaign laws and tax evasion, not to mention the likely conspiracy or collusion with Russia and other felons who hacked into the DNC), that sets a new standard for what a candidate and a president can do.
Either you have an Emoluments Clause or you don’t. Either you impeach for “high crimes and misdemeanors” or you say that actual “high crimes and misdemeanors” has nothing to do with it, impeachment is “political” with a political standard of criminality so that unless you lie about committing adultery when your opponents control Congress, nothing you do is illegal. You can violate Federal Elections law, hack voting machines, steal absentee ballots, but if you win and become president through such criminality, well then, tough luck for the rest of the world that has to abide by laws. If impeachment is only based on who has the majority, then there is no real Rule of Law, and no bedrock principle that “no man is above the law.” This would incentivize the next billionaire Mafioso who can offer $1 million and a pardon to a henchman to flip votes or hack or undertake a propaganda campaign (and shouldn’t there be some sort of “Truth in Advertising” standard for political messaging?).
In all of American history, there has never been a person endowed with the powers of the presidency who has been this blatantly corrupt and the very epitome of the monarch wannabe the Founders feared and thought they had inoculated the country against. It’s as if Trump things if he commits crimes openly, the outrageousness of it inoculates him. The Founders may have had their bouts with fake news but could not have anticipated data mining and Facebook and gerrymandering with the precision of knowing how to cut through a single block to produce an edge. They couldn’t have predicted black-box voting, the ability to hack into election rolls, to purge voter lists based on their propensity to vote for the other party, the mathematical calculations that go into shutting down polling places and devices.
The Justice Department has a “policy” against indicting a sitting president? Well, it’s just a policy. The Constitution actually requires the Senate to “advise and consent” on Supreme Court nominees, but that didn’t stop Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from doing the unprecedented thing of blocking Obama’s nominee for a year to save the seat for a radically right wing “justice.” The Justice Department has never been faced with a sitting president who has been named as Individual #1 in multiple felonies.
“Policy” didn’t stop the Supreme Court from ruling that a civil suit against President Bill Clinton having nothing to do with his presidency or crimes against the state, should go forward, or requiring him to give testimony under oath, or for that matter the Republican Congress from impeaching him, rather than censuring him, for lying about a consensual adulterous affair.
So far, Trump, who reacted to the sentencing memos against his consigliere Michael Cohen, and his former campaign manager Paul Manafort, both of whom had pleaded guilty, that included him as “Individual #1” as if he had somehow been absolved because he wasn’t actually named, and instead of the word “collusion,” Mueller used a synonym, “synergy.” Trump may also be thinking that because Russia had worked with his flunkies, even for their own reasons (Manafort to pay off his debt?) or to enrich the Trump Organization rather than win, not realizing that Putin was out to win the presidency, that therefore he will be absolved of actual “collusion” or “conspiracy.”
“Totally clears the President. Thank you!” Trump tweeted, very possibly because he didn’t actually read the sentencing memos or doesn’t understand the meaning of the word “synergy.”
But if Trump is not impeached and his campaign’s criminal activity that amounted to stealing an election are not held to account, what will stop the next celebrity billionaire from buying his way onto the ticket, paying for a propaganda campaign, possibly paying off hackers to switch just enough votes with the promise of a hefty cash reward and likely pardon, or collaborating with a foreign power to use the full force of its intelligence/cyber apparatus? (Answer: Nothing. It will become the new modus operandi, and you don’t even need a foreign power to collude.)
The argument that Democrats need to be focused on “solving the problems” of the nation is sweet and sentimental, but the reality is anything that comes out of the Democratic-controlled House will be stopped in the Republican-controlled Senate, or by Trump veto. And when progressives realize that Democrats were ineffectual, instead of rallying in 2020, they will punish Democrats, as they did in 2010 (recall Sanders led that charge, then too, and got progressives to “protest” by staying home) and 2014 (when I bet Hispanics punished Obama for failing to get Comprehensive Immigration Reform through) despite McConnell having said right after Obama’s election that his priority was to make him one-term president. You can see it already in the way the progressive wing is determined to destroy any ability of Democrats to be successful by attacking Nancy Pelosi instead of advancing one of the young bucks into a different leadership position so they can be groomed when she does in fact step aside.
But if Trump is not impeached for high-crimes and misdemeanors, for obstruction of justice (firing Comey, Sessions, to list just two); abuse of power (sending US military to the border for a political purpose); campaign finance violations; violations of the Emoluments Clause and using foreign policy for personal enrichment (Russia, Qatar, UAE, China, India), tax fraud, money laundering, then what would be impeachable? Lying about adultery? (Oh, he did that too).
“Pride and Purpose” is the slogan for Hofstra University. It could also be the slogan for the “new” Democratic party, exuded by New York State Democrats at their convention, held at the university’s stadium in Nassau County last week. There were not taking a backseat to Cynthia Nixon and the Working Families Party progressive values. Instead, Hillary Clinton, Tom Perez, Joe Biden, and Andrew Cuomo, himself schooled them on the art of pragmatic progressivism: getting progressive policies enacted.
Not the ideals, the hyperbole, the theory, not that hot air balloon that raised Bernie Sanders and still fills the Bernie Bro’s and those who attach to him, like Cynthia Nixon who has no clue at all how to achieve or change any of the wrongs. Hillary Clinton, in one of her debates with Bernie Sanders, noted that “politics is the art of the possible.”
The theme for the first day was “Moving Forward,” – a slap at Republicans cynical actions to move the clock back to a time when women, minorities, the disabled and vulnerable were subjugated without consequence. The theme for the second day, when Andrew Cuomo gave his acceptance speech, was “Fighting Back.”
Taking the podium in the same venue as the first 2016 presidential debate where she showed the presidential pretender, Donald Trump, to be the fool he is, Clinton answered the question constantly posed to Democrats (but not Republicans): What do Democrats stand for? Well, it may not fit on a hat, but Clinton provided the answer:
“Look around this room: people who stand for an economy that works for everybody, universal health care, and even better, people who have plans to get us there. You’ll see defenders of civil rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, rights of people with disabilities. I don’t believe these are minor issues –they matter to millions and millions of New Yorkers, Americans.
“So much of the progress we see in the United States is because we Democrats pushed open doors to opportunity for people who have been shut out. And we, my friends, are not going back.”
At a time when income inequality is the greatest since 1915, she said, “I think it’s a bold idea that everyone in this country should have a decent standard of living and a good job to pay for it…That everyone deserves the best possible start in life..Quality health care throughout and a safe, secure retirement. Even bolder is to have plans to make those realities, the way Democrats do.
“Let’s remind ourselves: Democrats are the party that rescued country from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression; passed, then saved, the Affordable Care Act; helped keep Planned Parenthood’s doors open. We’re the party that will save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security from persistent Republican attacks. We are the party that will keep fighting every day to achieve universal health care and universal job opportunities. So don’t let anyone tell you differently.
“If you want an economy that works for you and your family, you have to vote for Democrats…..quality health care….protect and expand the rights of all Americans, not just the top 1%, you have to vote for Democrats.
“If you believe in woman’s right to make her own health care decisions …in well funded public schools, colleges, and the resources so that teachers can succeed.. If you believe in actual commonsense gun safety laws to help save lives…understand that we are facing a real crisis with Climate Change…and believe we can stand up for our values and keep our country safe, you have to vote for Democrats.
“If you believe in comprehensive immigration reform and protecting Dreamers …… getting money out of politics and getting all voters to the polls..if you believe that standing up for evidence and reason and respecting the rule of Law is critical for our democracy, you have to vote for Democrats.”
“Now more than ever we need leaders who will stand up for progressive values and up against to those who will turn neighbor against neighbor and sow seeds of division. Most of all, we need leaders who believe in producing results and getting things done – leaders like Andrew Cuomo and Kathy Hochul.”
Indeed, Cuomo has chalked up quite a record in his 7 years that align perfectly with the progressive agenda:
Erased $10 billion deficit, added 1 million private-sector jobs to a record number of 8.2 million; raised the minimum wage to $15, passed the strongest paid family leave policy in America; stood up to protect a woman’s right to choose, and defended access to the state’s version of Obamacare; implemented marriage equality and stood up against racism and sexual abuse.
Implemented commonsense gun safety laws, promoted criminal justice reform and created a mechanism to investigate deaths by police. Put affordable college education in reach of every New Yorker, making the state the first in nation to provide tuition-free college for low and mid-income students.
He’s unleashed the most massive overhaul of infrastructure since Franklin D. Roosevelt was governor, to the tune of $100 billion that has seen new bridges, mass transportation improvements all across the state (built with union labor), invested in innovation and business incubators. Much of this is also to realize the target of 50% of the state’s energy needs coming from renewable by 2030, and he has backed it up by shutting down coal-fired plants, investing in offshore windpower.
He has stood up for Dreamers and for immigrants, creating a legal fund so that those who Trump and Sessions would race to deport have the benefit of due process enshrined in the Constitution and a stable of American values.
And Hochul, probably the hardest working Lt. Governor in the nation, has done an outstanding job to promote gender equity.
“This is not your father’s Republican Party,” former Vice President Joe Biden told the audience. “They are not who we are. They are not who America is. What they are doing is sending a vision of America around the world that is distorted. That is damaging. That is hurting us… this phony populism, this fake nationalism…. It’s time to say ‘no more.'”
We have seen how the Republicans govern: pulling back on rights for workers, women, voting rights, overturning environmental, consumer and financial protections (how is that helping working people?). Doing nothing to expand access to affordable health care, rather, doing their best to destroy Obamacare and watch as health care premiums rise.. Doing nothing to make college affordable, address student debt; nothing to address the opioid crisis or address spiraling rise in drug prices that put life-saving drugs out of reach. And that $1.5 trillion infrastructure fantasy? As Biden said, Trump gave it away to the 1% in the GOP tax scheme.
“This election isn’t just about winning, though win we must,” declared Jay Jacobs, chair of Nassau Democrats. “It’s about the soul of America – what nation we are, who we will about moving forward.
Here’s the tidy slogan that Democrats should embrace and it even fits on a hat: Justice. Fairness. Opportunity.
Governors of New York and California and the Governor-Elect of New Jersey and California joined forces to condemn the Republican tax plan as a “stake in the heart” of the nation’s economic engine, a cynical ploy to punish Democratic-majority states, and only the first-step toward generating such an increase in the national debt to justify cuts in Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, CHIP and other social programs, and threatened to challenge the legality of elements of the tax plan should it become law.
In a joint press call, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, California Governor Jerry Brown and New Jersey Governor-Elect Phil Murphy and using phrases such as “evil,” “nefarious” and “cynical,” raised issues of the legality of elements of the Republican tax plan, which shifts $1.5 trillion in wealth from middle class and working families to the wealthy – indeed, 50% of the tax cuts go directly into the pocket of the top 1% – through lowered tax rates, elimination of the AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax), reductions if not elimination in the Estate Tax (which only impacts 2 out of 1000 families now), and new rules enabling the wealthiest to shelter tax through pass-throughs.
But the Republicans pay for the cuts by largely eliminating or significantly reducing the deductibility of state and local taxes, including property taxes, effectively double-taxing, something that has not existed since income taxes were first implemented in 1913, which disproportionately targets 12 states that happen to vote Democratic and also happen to be the donor states that account for 40% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). A similar effort during the 1986 Reagan tax reform effort was defeated by both Republicans and Democrats. The governors say this may be challenged as unconstitutional double-taxation.
Other provisions, such as establishing a legal framework for “personhood” may also be challenged as unconstitutional.
The way the Republican tax plan is structured, it shifts wealth from the 12 “donor” (Democratic-majority) states, to the rest of the country, by eliminating or dramatically reducing the tax deductibility of state and local taxes, including property taxes. In effect, it makes those states structurally uncompetitive by effectively increasing taxes by 20-25 percent for homeowners, may reduce home values by that amount, as well as make it difficult for schools (which account for 60-65% of New Yorkers’ property taxes and 40% of California’s) to raise the revenue they need to property function. But while individuals lose the deductibility of SALT, corporations do not.
In a further blow to public education and stripping away of the separation of Church & State, the Republicans would allow the tax-exempt 529 funds, created to fund college, to be used for K-12 education for parochial and private schools, even homeschooling. (This is on top of repealing the Johnson Amendment, opening floodgates of “charitable” contributions to religious institutions to become political PACs; a particularly insidious breach of the Constitution’s Establishment clause because the religious leader preaching from the pulpit has a special ability to coerce.
The governors held at the hope that the wildly unpopular Congress (only 13% approval) and the most unpopular president in history (33% approval), will recognize the tax plan is similarly wildly unpopular, with barely 20% support, and that Republican Congressmen who have to stand for election in 2018, will do what is best for their constituents.
The Senate version, which eliminates the individual mandate from the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), would result in 13 million more people without health insurance by 2025, and 10 percent annual increases in premiums on everyone else.
The bill also “pays” for the tax cuts to the richest Americans and corporations by eliminating the deductibility of student loan interest, tax credits for renewable energy, and opens the way for drilling in the Arctic National Refuge, and other provisions which help the upward mobility of working families and middle class striving to achieve the American Dream.
The governors held out a glimmer of hope that enough of the Republicans (the only ones who voted in favor of the tax plan) would vote for their constituents’ interests.
“The tax plan that passed Senate, the House, and is headed to reconciliation, is a long way from done. It is a fraud on the American people. They talk about tax cuts for middle class and working people, but what it is, is tax cut for the rich – 50% of the tax cuts go to the top 1%. That’s an inarguable fact. Their theory isn’t new or novel. It’s ‘trickle down’ on steroids.” He argued that instead of corporations taking their tax cuts to raise wages for workers or create more jobs through investment, corporations in the past have pocketed the extra cash or used it to buy back stock (raising the share prices) or paying dividends.
“To add insult to injury,” Cuomo said. “the tax cut is then targeted at 12 states that happen to be Blue States where they target eliminating state and local deductions. People don’t understand what that will do, but it will be devastating for states. In essence, it is an increase in property taxes and state income tax only on those 12 states. It puts us at a structurally competitive disadvantage because structurally our taxes will be higher.” That gives residents additional complaint about their government (Republicans even now charge that New York’s taxes are high because of mismanagement, or lavish spending on services). Cuomo countered the claim by Republicans that the poorer states somehow subsidize the public services of the richer states. New York, California and New Jersey are donor states, which means we put more into the [federal] till than we take out. This aggravates and enhances the injustice where we are subsidizing the other states, and now you’re using New York and New Jersey as a piggybank to finance tax cuts in other states.
“That amounts to political retaliation through the tax code. That’s why they passed it with only their own votes,” Cuomo charged.
California Governor Jerry Brown assailed the Republican tax plan saying, “the most immediate evil of this cynical maneuver called the tax bill is to further divide America when we are at one of our most divisive periods in history. The idea that a president and representatives only in the majority would use that power to penalize 12 states – most of which voted strongly against this president– is not going to bring country together. We are divided while some of our most important competitors are getting more unified, authoritarian. We need to come together. This will further divide blue states from red, Democrats from Republicans. It is evil in the extreme. It exacerbates inequality….It’s not right. It won’t stand.”
New Jersey Governor-Elect Philip Murphy further expounded on the devastating impact in terms of widening inequality and continuing down the awful path of us vs Washington leadership.
“It is based on the trickle down theory, which we have seen time and again doesn’t work. Executives get paid better, the gap between the top of corporate food chain and bottom widens; shareholders benefit from buybacks while working people are neglected. It is a scam at the ultimate extreme. On more than one occasion we all heard, when asked for the rationale, the awful answer [from Republicans] was ‘it is our donors, our donor base will dry up if we don’t.’ We saw the chaos Friday night, literally lobbyists hand-writing in pen, amending the bill. This is as bad as it gets.
“But in a ‘glass half full’ sense, as Governor Cuomo stated, It’s not over yet. This is the ninth inning. Each of our states have Republican House members. This is beyond Republican, Democrat; it is a clear question of whether you are representing the constituents who elected you. Black & white.”
“The changes in the SALT deduction, are particularly problematic, Murphy said. “That’s been part of the tax code since income tax became legal in 1913. For over 100 years, Congress realized taxing people twice is unfair. We are the biggest odnor states in terms of the federal money we give. This will only make it worse.
“The stronger we are together, the more numbers, the more locked arms, we fight together as a team. There is a lot to be said for that. I am honored to be with you.”
Asked what actions, beyond political pressure on Republican members of Congress, the governors might take, they said that just as the Republicans, the day after Obamacare was signed into law, pledged to repeal and replace, they would also take whatever means – even court challenges– to repeal and replace this tax law.
“We’re looking at the legality now. [SALT deductions] has been in the tax code since it started over 100 years ago. This is double taxation – they are taxing taxes, this from the party that’s against taxation, redistribution [or what Republicans used to condemn as “class warfare”]. This is redistribution in an exponential form –taking from richer states and subsidizing a tax cut in less wealthy states. Hypocritical. Everything they said were against: double-taxation, taxing tax for first time, redistribution state to state, so may well be illegal, unconstitutional. We’re looking at it.”
“There may be some legal action but this is a quintessentially political challenge,” Governor Brown stated. “Our job is to communicate the fraudulent and nefarious character of this tax bill – the way it proceeded, which John McCain said follows no normal pathway. We want to make sure our members of Congress know they are hurting New York, California, New Jersey but also hurting America. We are the key elements of America’s engine of prosperity, and when Trump and his allies attack New York, New Jersey, California, they are attacking the vital seams of the American economy. That’s stupid. They will regret it, and we will do everything we can to convince our Republican representatives that the right thing to do is defeat.
Murphy said they are working with state Attorneys General “to tear up all the floor boards, to the fullest extent of law, and challenge this. There are 500 pages of amendments, a lot handwritten. I am betting there are flaws, holes. If we don’t succeed in the next few days, we will have to take this to the limit.
“This is double taxation and I’m not sure it’s legal,” said Cuomo. “We will find out if it is. But Governor Brown’s point is that it is counterproductive. These 12 states are 40% of GDP. If you say this will help the American economy, how do you do that by assaulting 12 states that are 40% of GDP: this will be negative for our states and regional economies. No doubt about that.”
“Attacking the innovation of NY, CA, NJ and others is just a dumb move, only explained by the desperate situation the Republican leadership find themselves,” Governor Brown added. “This president is the most unpopular is history. They are riding a dead horse in this tax bill, acting irrationally, not in interest of country, throwing a wrench into engine of economy.”
“The more people understand, the more people understand how unfair, divisive and harmful it is to them individually,” Cuomo commented. “The problem is, there is so much news, so much happening. This is so complicated – elimination of state and local taxes but the more people understand it, the more they are against it. Congresspeople and Senators ultimately have to go home, and if they vote for this, they are voting against the interests of their constituents, and they have election next year. Ultimately democracy works. A congressperson who votes for this, there’s no going home again.
“I’m an optimist for the simple reason that we all believe in a different America than this bill articulates,” Murphy said. “The more people understand what’s in this thing, the more actively they push back. What it will do for higher education by repealing tax deduction for student loans, stripping credits for renewable energy, opening Arctic to drilling, on and on –repealing the individual mandate in ACA – the more people realize what’s at stake, the more collectively they say this can’t go forward.
Largely eliminating the SALT deductions, Cuomo said, contradicts the Republican claim their tax plan is supposed to spur the economy. “But targeting 40% of GDP, then saying that’s how you are going to spur economy, by putting arrow into economic heart of these 12 states? There are predictions it will drop the value of homes in our states because property taxes in effect will go up 20-25% over night. If you drop the value of homes, disrupt the whole financial system. Mortgage foreclosures. I don’t think they understand what they are doing.
“We talk about [eliminating SALT deductions] as if it were a new concept,” Governor Cuomo said. “It’s not new. They proposed eliminating SALT during Reagan’s time. At that time, Democrats and Republicans both said it was wrong and defeated it. The difference now is the political extremism and their willingness to divide, and the political extremes they will go to.
“This is only step one of their plan – we know what their plan is, because not new, we’ve seen the playbook. Step one is tax cuts for the rich. Step 2, is to drive up the debt, the deficit, and then come back and say we have $1.5 trillion debt that we created (by cutting taxes for rich), and now we have this debt, we have to address it by cutting government spending. Where will they go? The right to Medicaid, healthcare for poor people. The right to CHIP for poor children, Right to housing programs, food stamps, etc. That’s inevitable. They are creating the debt that will then justify their philosophical step to cut government spending to hurt the poorest Americans.”
“Look at this in its entirety, beyond SALT,” Murphy added. “This is their way to cut Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security. It is the height of hypocrisy from the so-called deficit hawks. Look at higher education and student loans, Obamacare individual mandate, Seen result of trickle down. Pass through. Taken in its entirety, the Republican tax plan is exceedingly damaging not just to our states, but entire country.”
“Republicans saw Obamacare passed and the next day they started Repeal & Replace,” Cuomo said. “If they do this, the next day, we will start the repeal and replace of the divisive Tax Act.”
None of them mentioned, but should have, the increasing pressures on the federal government for disaster relief from climate catastrophes (hundreds of billions of dollars in 2017 alone), the need to address the opioid crisis, and to rebuild and mitigate infrastructure.
The Republican tax plan (scam) – whether the House or the Senate version or whatever will come out of conference – would be devastating to New Yorkers in particular, but the nation as a whole. More than 50 percent of American households will wind up paying more in taxes, with the various cuts in deductions for all the things that enable upward mobility – home mortgage, local property taxes, education loans, medical costs.
Instead of simplifying the tax code and eliminating loopholes, the Republicans have only cut taxes for the wealthiest and corporations without eliminating the loopholes that enable profitable multi-nationals like Apple shelter profits from US tax. There is no incentive for corporations or wealthy individuals to invest in the US, or to create jobs, or even to raise wages. Instead, the Republicans would cause the biggest transfer of wealth from the poorest and middle class to the wealthiest, at the same time, creating a new American aristocracy of wealth and political power. It would intensify the already growing gap between rich and poor – the greatest gap since the Gilded Age and the Robber Barons – hollow out the middle class. Meanwhile, the poor and middle class would be living with heightened insecurity because of loss of access to affordable health care.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released its report which clearly shows that the federal government would be raising taxes on those making less and generously benefiting those making more. For instance, Americans making less than $30,000 in 2019 will pay $2,580,000,000 more in taxes – while those making over $200,000 will pay $118,550,000,000 less in taxes in 2019.
“The Republican tax plan [which eliminates the deductions for state and local taxes] would be devastating for Long Island,” Congressman Tom Suozzi, Democrat of Long Island told a Town Hall attended by 150 people in Great Neck. “The current tax bill passed by the House and proposed by the Senate would be bad for the country but especially bad for New York State and Long Island. Devastating…. It will cause people to move out – make people move away – not just the billionaires and millionaires making oodles of money, but people who are just making it.”
Housing values will likely fall because the tax deduction of the mortgages – $1.5 million is average home cost for New York City – will be eliminated. Houses will be even less affordable.
The Republican tax plan is “structured in a way to take money out of the middle class to pay for tax cuts for the very wealthy and corporations. They had to find revenue to pay for tax cuts – they couldn’t go over $1.5 trillion deficit over 10 years in order to pass the bill with only 51 votes in the Senate.” They came up with the biggest reduction in deductions – eliminating the deductions for SALT (state and local taxes), which if they put back in, can’t give the tax cuts to corporations.” It is even questionable if it is constitutional, since it would essentially double-tax that income – first at the state and local level and then again at the federal level.
“It’s a conscious decision that affects states like New York, New Jersey, California, and a few others” – states with high state and local taxes which also are “donor states” sending far more to the federal government than comes back in federal aid., which also happen to be “blue” states. It’s also part of the strategy to “shrink the federal government” and attack the social safety net put into place since FDR’s New Deal that came out of the Great Depression and continued by LBJ’s Great Society: Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid because budget deficits will trigger mandatory reductions in spending – $25 billion worth in 2018 alone.
“This is the issue we have to shut down the government on,” said a town hall participant, Howard Weitzman who was a village mayor and member of the Nassau County Board of Assessors. “They cannot destroy the economic engine of this country – all this tax money going to government. They are willing to destroy this area to give tax cuts to people who don’t need them. [Budget Director Mike Mulvaney charged, “Why do people in Alabama have to support New York” but the opposite is true: he knows very well that New York sends $48 billion more to the federal government, which go to states like Alabama. “Shut down the government.”
Democrats would be right to shut down the government. And the Donor States like New York, California, New Jersey (not coincidentally which are Democratic), should withhold the excess revenue to the federal government, much like a tenant-landlord dispute, putting the money into escrow for use to accomplish the infrastructure projects and transition to clean-energy economy that would have been federally funded. (See: Republican Tax Plan is Attack on Blue States; Fight Back by Holding Money ‘in Escrow’)
Trump and the Republicans intend to bankrupt the nation, to justify $25 billion in cuts to Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid next year, and billions more thereafter. Their tax policy would saddle the nation with $1.5 trillion more in debt while doing nothing to pay down the $20 trillion in debt we already incur – that interest payment alone, unless Trump defaults as he has on his own debt, will amount to 5% of the annual budget, more than $200 billion worth each year.
The Republican tax plan would raise taxes on the 59 million households that make $50,000 or less; and by 2027 the 86 million households who make less than $75,000. Trump appealed to the suffering masses whose salaries haven’t kept up in the 40 years since the Reagan “revolution” – but as Suozzi said, “the world is dramatically changed because of globalization and technology. We need to figure out how to get more companies to locate in US and create jobs where people make a decent living –enough to buy a house, educate their children, have health insurance and retire without being scared.” But the Republican plan will “starve the beast” and break the “engine” of economic growth by cutting off revenue that would pay for education, infrastructure and health care, while increasing the national debt which will raise interest rates. It is a cycle of destruction.
NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo Reacts
Here’s New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s response to Senate Budget Committee’s 12-11 vote strictly along partisan lines:
“The President and Republican members of Congress appear determined to pass a tax plan before the end of the year because after an otherwise entirely fruitless legislative year, they are in desperate need of an accomplishment. They must believe in the old adage that “doing something is better than doing nothing.” In this case, that could not be less applicable.
“The GOP tax plan is not just a marketing fraud. It is a schizophrenic hybrid of extreme conservative political ideology and crass electoral politics. The House and Senate have different plans, but both have the same DNA. Both plans pretend to offer tax relief to the middle class, but in reality the policy they advance is just old, discredited trickle-down economics on steroids: disproportionate and large cuts for the rich and the big corporations that are then supposed to result in economic growth that is magically passed on to the workers as wage increases. This is a purely ideological concept that lacks data to support either the idea that the economy will be stimulated or that higher wages will result.
“Both the Senate and House plans are financed in large part by the particularly obnoxious, and possibly illegal, elimination of deductions of state and local taxes (referred to as the SALT deduction). The GOP plan eliminates the deductibility of state and local taxes which is a direct attack on the states with higher state and local taxes. New York and California top the list of the twelve states that will most directly face hardship if SALT deductions are removed. Curiously, all twelve are “blue” states and if this change to accepted tax law passes, these states will be at a competitive disadvantage to other states with lower local taxes.
“The deductibility of state and local taxes has been a sacrosanct principle of tax law for the past one hundred years. It is the underpinning of the economic system for state and local governments. Republican ideology that has always espoused “state’s rights” now tramples on that theory with the elimination of this provision. And anti-tax conservatives are now proposing the first ever double taxation – to tax the taxes an individual pays locally. There is a serious legal question as to whether this double tax is constitutional.
“The elimination of the SALT deduction is the ultimate redistribution of wealth making conservatives who vehemently oppose this philosophical concept all the more hypocritical and disingenuous as they now support it. Eliminating the SALT deduction will redistribute wealth from richer states to poorer states. New York and California will effectively serve as piggy banks to finance tax cuts for other states. Our loss is their gain.
“In New York, six of nine Republican Congress members opposed this plan. The three who stood in support, voted in opposition to the interests of their constituents out of sheer party loyalty. Their justification for supporting this plan is flawed factually and ideologically. If New York raises taxes on the rich and corporations, people and business will leave the state for lower tax states and the remaining tax burden will fall to those left behind. The deduction of state and local taxes is not a federal subsidy for New York.
“New York State is the number one donor state in the nation, sending $48 billion dollars more to Washington than we get back. Eliminating SALT will compound the Federal taking adding approximately $18 billion to the $48 billion now taken. If the Republican Congress returns the $48 billion that New York sends to Washington, then I would be open to discussing eliminating the SALT deduction.
“And to make matters worse, the Senate GOP version proposes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, another legislative promise that the GOP controlled Congress has failed to achieve. It is just healthcare policy masquerading as tax reform. The reality is that lower income Americans won’t have access to health insurance and the individual tax cuts that are set to expire in 2027 will result in half of American households paying higher taxes than they would have if the Senate bill had never passed.
“The Republican Congress is correct that the American people expect action from their government. But in their attempt to save legislative face, they should heed the old adage: “do no harm.” It’s true in medicine and politics. This tax reform plan hurts the country’s poor, working and middle-class families and will have a devastatingly negative economic impact on the twelve states targeted by Washington.
“To be this reckless and dismissive of the economic interests of so many Americans, the Republican’s political assumption must be that they have lost the “blue” states anyway. That is no way to govern or – dare I say – to prepare for mid-term elections.”
(MINEOLA, NY) –Nassau County Democrats are raising alarms about what repealing the Affordable Care Act would mean for county residents and appealed to County Executive Ed Mangano to compile a comprehensive report that would quantify the impact on residents and the county’s budget.
Minority Democratic Leader Kevan Abrahams and Legislator Laura Curran stood with their democratic legislative colleagues, along with local healthcare advocates including Long Island Progressive Coalition and Nassau County Planned Parenthood calling upon the Nassau County Executive, commissioners, and administrators to compile a comprehensive report that measures the impact of what looks like the inevitable repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
According to a report issued by New York State’s Office of the Governor on January 4, 2017, Nassau County stands to lose $17,866,829 in direct funding which “goes directly to counties and helps to lower property taxes”.
Under the ACA, Nassau County saw a 33% decrease in the number of uninsured according to the most recent U.S. Census. The number of uninsured people on Long Island has declined rapidly over the last decade, while the proposed GOP healthcare bill will undo that work by putting 24 million at risk of losing coverage, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The American Health Care Act proposed by the Republican Party may affect more than 1 in 4 Nassau residents. Those at risk of coverage changes include, but are not limited to, the 204,681 Nassau seniors enrolled in Medicare and 133,324 residents who enrolled on the Affordable Care Act’s open marketplace.
“After making inroads for more affordable healthcare access, the proposed law could force counties to choose between supporting low-income residents who rely on Medicaid for health services,” said Minority Legislative Leader, Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport).
“President Trump is leading us down a very dangerous path and County Government is going to be left holding the bag while taxpayers’ costs could skyrocket. Trumpcare is no longer a campaign talking point but an imminent threat to the financial and physical health of our community, and we must be prepared,” said Legislator Laura Curran (D-Baldwin). “Repealing the Affordable Care Act and replacing it with Trump’s alternative is going to drive a massive hole in the County budget while leaving more residents uninsured and without the benefits of preventative care. So that the County is prepared for these massive changes, County Executive Mangano, County Commissioners, and Department Administrators must immediately start preparing a report that outlines the real impact of losing the Affordable Care Act and what it will mean for Nassau taxpayers.”
Today, Nassau Democratic Legislators called upon the Nassau County Executive, county commissioners and department administrators to prepare an impact study that outlines the real impact losing the affordable care will have on Nassau County residents and the services they receive.
Such a study was just announced by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and is being undertaken by county governments all over the country, Lisa Tyson, Executive Director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, said.
“The repeal of the Affordable Care Act will deprive Long Islanders’ access to affordable healthcare that can be a matter of life-and-death. Nassau County residents deserve to know how losing the Affordable Care Act might affect their family both financially and physically,” she said.
The repeal of the Affordable Care Act. could be detrimental to citizens of Nassau most in need: low-income families, young adults, seniors and those in need of mental health care and substance abuse treatment. All these programs are at risk of being affected as the legislation currently stands.
“Repealing the Affordable Care Act will have real consequences for our community and we need to know how many of our neighbors will be affected and what costs will fall to the County. Obvious questions are whether our Medicaid costs will rise, and by how much; how increased emergency room visits will affect Nassau University Medical Center; whether the workload and costs of the County’s Department of Health will skyrocket; whether the County’s drug abuse rates are likely to soar due to diminished treatment options; the projected costs that will result; and many more. Governor Cuomo estimates that 133,000 Nassau residents (one out of ten residents) would lose coverage, and that should serve as a chilling wake-up call to every stakeholder in government and healthcare. Our taxpayers deserve to know exactly how much they will be affected by Washington’s costly decisions, and the County’s planning must start now,” said Legislator Curran.
Older residents will see a rise in healthcare premiums, with a projected 20-25% increase for those in their early 60s, given the current proposed GOP tax credit structure, which does not take income into account. For Nassau’s poor and working families, the halting of Medicaid expansion coupled with rising premiums will disintegrate any chance of affordable healthcare.
“Repealing the Affordable Care Act and defunding Planned Parenthood will mean that many women – across the country and right here in Nassau County –who receive their care at Planned Parenthood health centers won’t receive care at all. We are calling on congress to stop these political attacks, but, until they do, Planned Parenthood will leave no stone unturned in fighting back for our patients and ensuring that our doors stay open,” said PPNC President & CEO JoAnn Smith.
For Long Islander Rachel Siehs, not having healthcare at a most crucial time in her life could have been a matter of life-and-death. After Rachel was laid off from her job in October 2015 she battled the very same conflict so many do when they lose their health insurance – in this case, she gotten it from her previous employer. “I was on the fence if I should buy health insurance? I couldn’t afford Cobra. Plus, I am young and healthy and thought I could wait to start a new job and acquire insurance that way,” said Rachel Siehs. “After discussing the issue with my parents, they encouraged me to find coverage on the Affordable Care Act marketplace and thankfully I did – I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma only two months later and would fight cancer for most of 2016.”
Since then, Rachel, 28 years old, has successfully fought Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She was able to see doctor because she had health coverage through the Affordable Health Act. Like many Americans, she risks losing health insurance again after the repeal.
“I don’t know if I would be here today if I didn’t seek coverage on the ACA marketplace. I would start a new job in January 2016 but my health insurance would not have kicked in until April. But also, who knows if I would have scheduled the doctor appointments if I would have had to pay completely out of pocket for them. The impact is real here in Nassau. Health care is important. It needs to be well thought out and studied and shouldn’t be a rushed vote. This is people’s lives,” said Rachel Siehs of Melville.
While County Executive Mangano has already indicated his disinterest in undertaking such a study, which he decried as purely political, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo did provide some indication of the impact on New Yorkers of the American Health Care Act – 2.7 million New Yorkers would face substantial loss in their health care coverage from what they have now, while quality and availability of health services across the state would be jeopardized. Also, an amendment just introduced by Chris Collins, an upstate Congressman (and Trump spokesman) and John Fasio, which would apply solely to New York State, would ban federal reimbursement for state Medicaid funds for local governments outside of New York City, cutting Medicaid for these local governments by $2.3 billion. When added to the $4.5 billion cost of the ACHA over the next four years, the total cost to the State would rise to $6.9 billion.
Tom Suozzi’s town hall, his first as the Congressman representing New York’s 3rd District, was Standing Room Only, but he handled it with grace and aplomb, managing to organize what could have been an unruly outpouring of frustration, consternation, anger and anxiety into a productive discussion.
He presented the four key issues he believed most people wanted to discuss – Obamacare (Affordable Care Act), Trump-Putin ties and conflicts of interest, the travel ban, immigration and the environment – then held it up to a vote to ask if that met with approval. Then he picked four or five people to ask questions before moving on to the next topic.
Who wants to stay until 8:30? 9:15? 9:30? All night? 9:30 was the decision.
That’s how it went throughout the night with a return to key points: this is what democracy looks like. Let’s be realistic: I’m a junior Congressman from a minority party. And finally: it is up to you. Your voice. Your activism.
Most ingenious of all: he divided up his 3rd Congressional district into 16 neighborhoods – “The Third Will be Heard” – and tried to recruit people to join committees to stay active – write letters to local newspapers (the media with the most trust, he said), go door to door if necessary, engage in conversations with friends, family and others, instead of that old-saw of politics being a taboo subject.
Whenever someone introduced themselves as an expert – such as the scientist with Feinstein Institute who is a member of a newly formed Science Advocacy of Long Island (who have much to be concerned with as the Trump Administration destroys data on climate change and looks to shut down NASA’s Climate monitoring activities) – he would recruit them onto the committee. The high school fellow too young to vote whose friends are completely apathetic? You’re recruited. Get your friends engaged.
“Take that energy, that excitement and use it in a constructive forum to win the battle,” he said.
With the debate swirling over whether Democrats should be as obstructionist as the Republicans were during Obama’s presidency, Suozzi clearly appreciates that “politics is the art of the possible” (as Hillary Clinton said, much to the consternation of the Bernie Sanders ultra-left progressives who likely were among the 92 million voters who did not come out and vote, handing the reins of power and policy to the exact opposite of Obama/Clinton).
Indeed, Suozzi as Congressman is functioning exactly as he said he would during the campaign: as someone who prefers to find common ground in order to accomplish something.
He told the packed audience that filled the room to capacity that he is a member of a newly formed (can you imagine?) Problem Solvers Caucus, consisting of 20 Republicans and 20 Democrats. They are trying to find some consensus on issues such as infrastructure and tax reform (good luck with that).
Interestingly, when Suozzi asked for a show of hands of people who had never been politically engaged before, an estimates 40% of the room raised hands.
Some of the questions and comments were extremely moving: the woman whose husband is being treated, thanks to Obamacare, for cancer “he’s on the verge of being cured, but if Obamacare is repealed, he would have a preexisting condition”; the son whose father has advanced Parkinsons, who lost his job and if Obamacare is repealed, faces the dilemma of providing quality of life for the father or the family.
A woman speaking haltingly because of her disability, fearful of proposals to cut Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security and instead to send money to states to use as a block grant, a fear echoed by parents and of siblings of disabled people, who declared “I’m tired of people characterizing us as lazy”.
An immigrant man whose college-age son can’t get an internship because of his status; the woman who migrated from India 28 years ago as a 15 year old, who described the “extreme vetting” then, which has only gotten more intense under Obama; and people who asked what can be done to alleviate the anxiety in their communities over sweeps.
Suozzi noted that as Glen Cove Mayor he fought against having local police become defacto ICE agents because of the importance of the community having trust in its government and law enforcement and the value of “community policing”.
He also acknowledged when someone brought up something that he was not aware of – like the problem with a local pre-school that serves special needs children which has to negotiate individually for grants from state and county government, and has seen only a 2% increase in funding over the last six years.
“The Third Will be Heard”
Suozzi did not disguise the surprise at the turnout, noting that in his years as an elected official (Mayor, Nassau County Supervisor) well accustomed to holding town halls, he has never seen anything like this.
He asked what groups were represented: a number were newly formed in response to Trump’s election including several Indivisible groups, who came with pre-printed signs “Agree”, “Disagree” (an effective mechanism to communicate with the Congressman. Others included Reach Out America, Moveon.Org, Science Advocacy of Long Island, Long Island Together, Every Child Matters, Planned Parenthood of Nassau County, 10100, NY Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Campaign, NOW of Nassau-Suffolk, Code Pink Long Island, Long Island OptOut, Huntington Democrats, among others.
One of reasons Democrats lost is because they didn’t mobilize locally, he said, which is why he hopes to try to keep the energy going, and why he kept going back to the need for the people to get the change they want.
He started off with some of his own comments:
Travel Ban? We are less safe, he said, and putting the ramifications of the Muslim ban and curtailment of immigrants and refugees, he said. “There are 80,000 people worldwide in organized terror groups. There are 65 million refugees, due to climate change, civil war, feminism. This is a nation of immigrants, a nation dedicated to two propositions: all men and women are created equal and entitled to respect and dignity.”
The enhanced sweeps of undocumented immigrants (unfurled in a way that shows the lie of only going after the “bad hombres”) “makes us less safe when communities distrust their local police force. People turn to gangs for protection when they are afraid of law enforcement.”
He was asked about the Stop Arming Terrorists Act that Tulsi Gabbard has proposed. “I have to research further,” he said honestly, adding, “It’s true the US funded Osama bin Ladin against the Russians, and Saddam Hussein, and funded the Syrian regime before, and we are still funding the Saudis who fund terror groups. We did it to have access to oil.
“But, for the first time 50 years we are not dependent on oil from the Mideast. This is an opportunity that is not likely to be seized on by the Trump Administration.”
Had Trump not reversed all the Obama policies that bolstered homegrown, clean renewable energy, the US could have said to these dictators, “We don’t want your land your oil. But we need to move more to clean energy to make this happen.” (Trump, in his speech to the CIA the day after the inauguration, as the Women’s March was going past the White House, said that he thought we would have a second chance at taking Iraq’s oil, because he had been taught that “to the victor belongs the spoils.”)
Obamacare: Mend It Don’t End It
On the first topic, Obamacare, a man said he was walking proof of the problems, because his wife suffers from cancer, and over the past two years, one insurance company after another pulled out, until the hospital where his wife was being treated said they would not treat her because there was no carrier in the exchange. Now, his wife has a pre-existing condition.
Suozzi said, “There are problems with ACA. But we need to mend it, not end it.” He said he supported single-payer (essentially Medicare for All), but that wasn’t possible under Obama, who instead bent over backwards, even picking up on the right-wing Heritage Foundation’s model that preserved for-profit health insurance companies as the intermediary for obtaining health care which had been put into place in Massachusetts under Governor Romney. Obama was unable to get a public option. But even after bending over backwards to accommodate Republicans, not a single one voted in favor of ACA, but instead, spent six years voting 60 times to repeal it, even forcing a government shut down.
People raised concern about the proposal to tax people differently for health care based on age, not income, a scheme to cut $216 billion in spending ; of capping how much employers give to employees for health insurance which then would be taxed as income.
“It’s time to get out the Uzzi and go after Price [the new Secretary of Health & Human Services, whose 2015 bill repealing Obamacare is the most likely model]. Go after Republicans for raising taxes.”
A young man described how his father had advanced Parkinsons and then was laid off and lost his health insurance. Now he has a pre-existing condition. Repealing Obamacare, he said, “would force our family to choose between my father’s well-being and our family’s.”
Suozzi responded, “This is real life, the devastating effect of repealing Obamacare.”
Turning next to the Trump-Putin and conflicts of interest topic, Suozzi said he would support a bill to require Trump to release his taxes, and would support an independent (not just bipartisan) commission to investigate his ties to Russia and possible collusion of his campaign with Russian agents to swing the election.
“This is why you are so important,” he said. “I don’t want you to understate what you are doing. It’s working. We need reasonable Americans to put country ahead of party. Since McCarthy, Republicans have tried to paint Democrats as unpatriotic. This is a generational opportunity to change that dynamic.”
Travel Ban: Guns Kill, Not Refugees
A man noted that none of the 7 countries under Trump’s ban has had anything to do with terrorism in the US since 1975 (on the other hand, terrorist acts were committed by people from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia and none of these were included in the ban), using the premise of public safety. But 34,000 people are killed each year by gun violence.
“Guns kill, not refugees,” a woman said.
Suozzi said that even when he brought together gun rights advocates with gun control advocates, there was general consensus on the need for universal background checks (instead, the Republicans just overturned Obama’s requirement for mentally ill people receiving services from Social Security to be included in the database). The reason there is no commonsense gun regulation is the same that reasonable health care is blocked: moneyed interests. “It’s always about the money.”
But the focus on Trump’s use of fear and under the guise of “national security” push through anti-democratic policies (such as his threat to “send in the feds” to Chicago and use military precision to round up undocumented immigrants with expedited review so that their cases are not properly adjudicated, his attacks on free press and an independent judiciary and reestablish private prisons) prompted a woman to remark, “Be afraid. The America you know won’t exist in 15 years. Republics disappear. Commitment is important. We should be afraid that America will slip away from us, we must persevere.”
This raised the issue of campaign finance reform and gerrymandering and voter suppression. Suozzi confessed his inability to significantly change any of that, but that it is up to the people to get people out to vote, which is another compelling reason for his neighborhood-based activism. He said his office would be engaged in voter registration campaign.
Rachel Carcalelli of Great Neck Plaza, an environmentalist, noted that Superstorm Sandy cost $75 billion. “We need to rebuild infrastructure in sustainable ways – public transportation, water systems, renewable energy, sanitation.”
Instead, Nassau County will see $6.5 million cut in bus service.
In each case, Suozzi went back to his go-to – that people need to stay active and engaged, to join his neighborhood teams in order to spread the word.
Challenged by a Sanders supporter to reject everything the Republicans propose, Suozzi said, “I’ve been in politics 20 years. I won a lot, lost a few. JFK described himself as an idealist without illusions. I’m not a sucker. I still believe in this country, the power of people. Politics is a noble profession. I will remain an idealist as long as I can, but with eyes wide open.”
A woman noted that many in the audience “are new to politics, to this forum” and might be helped to have more realistic expectations of what Suozzi and the Democratic party, being essentially powerless in the House, can achieve.
Indeed, Suozzi offered a dose of reality to many of the speakers, such as when he was asked to solve the eons old problem of campaign finance reform and gerrymandering. “Nice idea but it’s not realistic for junior member in minority party,” he told one speaker. “All the stuff coming over transom – there’s no free time.” He listed what he is engaged in so far: foreign affairs committee, armed services committee,. “I want to focus on important things in the district- the Northport VA, the North Shore plume (the Navy and Grumman are the responsible parties to clean up a 40-year old site estimated at $500 million to clean up); airport noise in northeastern queens, two major research centers (Cold Spring and the Feinstein Institute), a Coast Guard facility. I decided to make the Problem Solvers Caucus one of my big focuses –if I could get Republicans interested in campaign finance reform and gerrymandering.”
The youngest speaker of the evening, Zachary, about seven years old, stood on a chair to say, “Impeach Trump. He’s messed up. How did we get into this mess?”
One of the older speakers of the evening, Harry Arlin, wearing an Army baseball cap, said, “I lived briefly under Hitler, had to run; lived under Mussolini and was incarcerated, then under Stalin and had to flee… Now I am living under Trump. Impeach Trump. I’m too old to run again.”
Though the issue of the alarming increase in anti-Semitic incidents across the country since Trump’s election was not specifically raised in this Long Island community with a significant Jewish population, Suozzi acknowledged at one point that the town hall was being held in a Jewish Community Center in Plainview, and JCCs have received over 50 bomb threats in recent weeks.
Suozzi periodically would stop and poll the audience again to get their sense of whether to move on to the next topic. It was remarkable to see how he could actually offer a wide opportunity for people to air grievances, questions, comments in such a large and energized group and have something constructive come out of it: namely, a better understanding of issues and concerns, and also to gauge where constituents are on these key issues.
It wasn’t even close: the 3rd Congressional district wants to retain and improve Obamacare, overturn the travel ban but okay to vet, end the terror and insecurity in immigrant communities and provide a path to some kind of legal status, protect the environment, protect the integrity of the election from foreign influence while protecting the ability of people to cast their ballot.
Gabby Giffords Mocks Republicans Dodging Town Halls
Suozzi’s town hall was very different from what many Republican Congressmen are experiencing around the country – Long Island’s Peter King didn’t even hold one during this President’s Week when traditionally Congress members return to their districts to hear from constituents. Trump and his sycophants have accused those coming out in force to protest the repeal of Obamacare as “paid liberal activists” or, as Trump told CPAC, “the losing side” (neglecting to mention there were 65 million voters, three million more than his side).
And ironically, many of the Republicans are citing fear of their constituents as the reason, prompting Gabby Giffords, who was a Congresswoman until she was shot in the head while holding a public availability at a shopping center in Tucson, to write:
“As a member of Congress, I believed that listening to my constituents was the most basic and core tenet of the job I was hired to do. So I was a little surprised yesterday to hear Congressman Louie Gohmert invoke my shooting as a reason not to face his constituents at a public town hall.
“I was shot on a Saturday morning. By Monday morning my offices were open to the public. Ron Barber – at my side that Saturday, who was shot multiple times, then elected to Congress in my stead – held town halls. It’s what the people deserve in a representative.
“So to Congressman Gohmert and others who are abandoning their civic obligations, I say this: Have a little courage. Face your constituents. Hold town halls.
“Many of the members of Congress who are refusing to hold town halls and listen to their constituents’ concerns are the very same politicians that have opposed commonsense gun violence prevention policies and have allowed the Washington gun lobby to threaten the safety of law enforcement and everyday citizens in our schools, businesses, places of worship, airports, and movie theaters.
“In the past year, campaigning for gun safety, I have held over 50 public events. And if I am still willing to do it, they should be too.”