Monday, January 11, 2016

Progressive Breakfast: Here's Where the Real Debate About the Struggles We Face Took Place


In South Carolina on Saturday, the Republican candidates for president got together to discuss what they would do to address poverty in America. If you missed it, they promised that if elected they would do everything in their power to make things worse by cutting services, slashing corporate taxes and furthering the dehumanization of people of color and the poor. What a contrast to what was happening at the same time in the heartland, where real solutions, ambitious strategies and fierce hope led the agenda. In Iowa, 1,000 grassroots leaders from across the Midwest came together at the Putting Families First Presidential Summit.

State of the Union

Obama to focus on future in his final State of the Union speech. CNN: “It was tempting for the President to follow the lead of his predecessors, take a victory lap and mainly tout his administration’s achievements. But Obama’s instruction to his team was simple: Don’t do that. ”Don’t take our foot off the gas,“ the President told a group of West Wing aides and speechwriters preparing drafts of the speech, according to a senior White House official who attended meeting. … Obama previewed his plan to talk about his vision for the future in a video teaser tweeted by White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. ‘The big things that will guarantee an even stronger, better, more prosperous America for our kids. The America we believe in,’ Obama said in the video.”
Guest list for Obama’s last State of the Union tells story of his presidency. Washington Post: “Over six months of training at the Army’s famously difficult Ranger School, Maj. Lisa Jaster grew to realize something, she said: She was ‘the unicorn.’ … The decision to invite Jaster — as well as others, including a Syrian refugee, the plaintiff in the lawsuit that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide and two early supporters of Obama’s first White House bid — reflects the president’s determination to adopt a defiant pose during his speech to the nation. While the first lady’s box provides a visual representation of what he has done in office, it also shows where lawmakers have blocked his agenda: One seat will be left vacant to symbolize the Americans killed and injured by guns each year.”
On the eve of Barack Obama’s last State of the Union address, Paul Krugman touts ‘the Obama Boom’: “So what should we say about the Obama job record? Private-sector employment — the relevant number, as I’ll explain in a minute — hit its low point in February 2010. Since then we’ve gained 14 million jobs, a figure that startled even me, roughly double the number of jobs added during the supposed Bush boom before it turned into the Great Recession. If that was a boom, this expansion, capped by last month’s really good report, outbooms it by a wide margin. … So what do we learn from this impressive failure to fail? That the conservative economic orthodoxy dominating the Republican Party is very, very wrong.”

Oregon Standoff

Oregon standoff tension mounts as so-called ‘3%’ groups refuse to leave. The Guardian: “The heavily armed rightwing groups who descended on rural Harney County in eastern Oregon on Saturday – to protect the peace, they said – made clear they had no intention of leaving, as the occupation of the Malheur national wildlife refuge entered its second week. Observers, meanwhile, noted that many such groups were extremist entities with histories of promoting bigotry, racism and violence.”
Ranchers’ cause, not tactics, gains support in GOP circles. Associated Press: “Republicans have widely condemned the armed standoff by a group of ranchers to reclaim federal land in eastern Oregon, but their goal of taking back some of Washington’s vast holdings in the West has gained traction in the GOP. The decades-old idea could garner even more momentum should the party recapture the White House this year.”

The GOP Takes On Poverty

Paul Ryan dreams of a kinder, more substantive GOP. Politico: “Paul Ryan talked about the ills of the criminal-justice system. He quizzed GOP presidential hopefuls at a forum here about what they’ve done to help the impoverished and vowed that Republicans, if they put their minds to it, could “make breakthroughs” in the war on poverty. This is what Ryan wants his Republican Party to look like. …So as Ryan tries to reassert the party’s substantive side with a series of policy rollouts in the coming months … he’s also looking to give the House GOP its own identity. The speaker’s effort could also provide his 246 members a layer of insulation from the mess playing out on the national stage.”
Paul Ryan Was the Winner of GOP Presidential Poverty Forum. NBC News: “ House Speaker Paul Ryan was the big winner at a Republican presidential forum on expanding opportunity on Saturday. He moderated the event in Columbia, South Carolina, where most of the seven presidential candidates who attended endorsed central components of his domestic policy agenda. … One of the central components to addressing poverty were versions of Ryan’s proposal to block grant safety net programs, including food stamps, officially called SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) and welfare, or TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.) … It’s a proposal backed at least by Bush, Carson, Rubio and Kasich. ”

Breakfast Sides

Robbert Kuttner, writing at HuffPo, maps out where economic distress meets political disfunction: “ Here’s where the economics meets the politics. As a number of commentators have pointed out in recent days, the Republican Party is on the verge of splitting wide open between grass roots right-wing populists and the GOP establishment, based on ‘class divisions.’ … Dig a little deeper, and you’ll see the problem. Wage stagnation is indeed partly the result of trade deals, but those trade deals have been supported by both parties and most recently championed by the Clintons and by the Obama administration. … In short, there is little that Donald Trump of Ted Cruz is offering that would change the life circumstances of voters like Leo Martin. But they channel his frustration that neither party cares about people like him.”
Ex-Obama adviser Van Jones rips Trump for emboldening racists: ‘It’s time to look in the mirror’. The Raw Story: “Appearing on CNN’s State of the Nation, a former Obama White House adviser took GOP front-runner Donald Trump to task for a campaign so firmly rooted in bigotry that it has emboldened racists to make unsolicited robocalls in support of his candidacy. … ‘This is troubling. If I were [Donald] Trump, this is a time to look in the mirror. Who am I inspiring? Who am I attracting? Why will horrible racist groups say I’m the only candidate that speaks for them?’ Jones said. ‘This is what is — my deep concern is that Donald Trump is beginning to legitimate some of the dark things that have been in our country for a long time, and now starting to let them elevate, let them rise.’”

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