Dems censure the votes of Cantwell, Murray, Larsen , DelBene and Kilmer to fast-track TPP

Several Democratic and labor organizations in Washington State have censured or condemned Senators Cantwell and Murray, and Reps. Larsen, DelBene, and Kilmer for their votes in favor of  Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), the fast-tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Washington State Labor Council passed a resolution censuring the TPP supporters, as discussed here. The Washington State Progressive Caucus’s resolution is here.

Below is the version of the resolution under consideration by The King County Democrats’ Resolution Committee. The 32nd LD Democrats adopted a similar resolution on Aug 12.

These resolutions are significant, because President Obama worked closely with Republicans to support TPP and TPA.

The platform of Washington State’s Democratic Party explicitly opposes trade agreements such as the TPP.

RESOLUTION CONDEMNING THE VOTES OF SENATORS CANTWELL AND MURRAY, AND OF REPRESENTATIVES LARSEN, DELBENE AND KILMER, TO “FAST-TRACK” THE TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP

Whereas multilateral negotiations among unidentified corporate representatives of the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations have been conducted in secret for 6-7 years, to develop an agreement to be known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (“TPP”) for governance of future trade among those nations; and

Whereas, despite the ongoing exceptional secrecy, it has become known that the TPP would, as in past international trade agreements, establish a system of Investor-State Dispute Settlement (“ISDS”) tribunals comprised of corporate trade lawyers empowered to override, without judicial review, existing labor laws, environmental protections and health and safety regulations in any participating nation, insofar as those measures might be thought to adversely affect the expected future profits of multinationals and other foreign corporations; and

Whereas there is every reason to believe that the TPP would produce disastrous results much like those of such other recent pacts as NAFTA and the infamous “Korea Free Trade Agreement” that have offshored high-wage jobs and collectively boosted our overall trade deficit to more than $248.5 billion (“Business and Industry Council,” Tradeticker.org) – growing by $5 billion yearly (Economic Policy Institute, Dean Baker) – including our own state’s trade deficit of $147 million; and

Whereas the Washington State Democratic Party, in convention assembled in Spokane in June 2014, adopted a State Democratic Platform expressly opposing “Foreign trade agreements, such as the Transpacific Pact (TPP), that put the interests of corporations above the rights of workers [and] environmental protections, and that overrule the authority of federal, state, and local governments;” and

Whereas resolutions of unequivocal opposition to the TPP, and/or to a “Fast-Track” process for expediting its approval, have been adopted many times since January 2013 – by the Seattle and Bellingham City Councils, by numerous Washington Democratic organizations at the legislative district and county levels, and by the Washington State Democrats; and

Whereas the continued strict secrecy surrounding the TPP’s content has vitiated effective review of the TPP by our elected representatives and prevented any direct review whatever by the American public to whom they are responsible, thus making unreasonably short the 60-day limit imposed by “Fast Track”;

Therefore, be it resolved that we hereby adopt this resolution condemning the votes in favor of Fast Track authority cast by Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray on May 14 and June 23, 2015, and by Representatives Rick Larsen, Suzan DelBene and Derek Kilmer on June 12 and 18, 2015, and

Be it further resolved that we strongly urge our Washington delegation to make a concerted effort, before TPP or any similar treaty is brought to Congress for approval, to assure that the agreement (1) strikes or significantly modifies any ISDS mechanisms so that their operations are transparent and cannot overrule actions by democratic governance systems; (2) prevents any ISDS tribunal from forcing companies or governments to pay compensation for “expected future profits;” and (3) sustains local, state and national laws that mandate physical and economic protections for workers, prohibit child labor, and protect the environment and consumers’ health and safety.

Sponsored by the KCDCC Resolutions Committee

DelBene, TPP, and Microsoft stock: should she recuse herself?

Rep. Suzan DelBene is apparently going to vote in favor of trade promotion authority (“fast track”) for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, unlike Reps McDermott, Smith, and Heck.

A friend called DelBene’s office and an aide said she is voting for fast-track.

Last fall I spoke to her and asked her to oppose it. She was very polite but said that progressives aren’t the only people she represents. She is not a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Instead, she is a New Democrat (a centrist Dem).

Furthermore, according to this Seattle Times article from January of this year, President Obama named DelBene to the Export Council. This is an indication that Obama is confident of her support for TPP.

Microsoft would benefit from TPP. DelBene is an ex-Microsoft executive, as is her husband Kurt. Could her support for TPP be related to their ownership of Microsoft stock?

Rep. Suzan DelBene

According to ThinkAdvisor.com, DelBene is the 10th richest member of Congress and is worth $37.8 million. “DelBene’s wealth, which increased $14 million over last year, comes from the sale of Microsoft stock. She and her husband, Kurt, were both executives at the software behemoth. Besides investments, they own a home worth $5 million, which was purchased in the last year.” It doesn’t say whether they still own Microsoft stock.

KUOW reported in 2012: “According to DelBene’s financial disclosure reports (PDF), she and her husband have a net worth of between $23 and $83 million (candidates are not required to report the exact amount of their assets). DelBene’s husband Kurt DelBene is president of Microsoft’s Office division. Securities and Exchange Commission filings show Kurt DelBene owns 635,693 shares of Microsoft stock.” Other than #1 Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.(net worth $357 million) and #2 Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas ($117.5 million), the other eight richest members of Congress are Democrats.

Here is her filing with the SEC.

My question is: do DelBene and her husband still own stock in Microsoft? If so, shouldn’t she recuse herself from voting on the issue, since it is a conflict of interest?

How libertarian talk of "freedom" is a big scam

Robert Kuttner, of the American Prospect, has written a clear and convincing repudiation of right wing worship of the free market — the kind of worship you hear from the Freedom Foundation.

Kuttner writes in It’s Bizarre: Libertarians Are Clueless About the ‘Free Market’ That They Worship: “the free market is neither efficient, nor fair, nor free from periodic catastrophe.”

On the supposed efficiency of the market, Kuttner mentions global climate change as a huge market failure. “The price of carbon-based energy is “correct”—it reflects what consumers will pay and what producers can supply—if you leave out the fact that carbon is destroying a livable planet.” He goes on:

The other great catastrophe of our time is the financial collapse. Supposedly self-regulating markets could not discern that the securities created by financial engineers were toxic. Markets were not competent to adjust prices accordingly. The details of the bonds were opaque; they were designed to enrich middlemen; the securities were subject to investor herd-instincts; and their prices were prone to crash once a wave of panic-selling hit. Only government could provide regulations against fraudulent or deceptive financial products, as it did to good effect until the regulatory process became corrupted beginning in the 1970s. Deregulation arguably created small efficiencies by steering capital to suitable uses—but any such gains were obliterated many times over by the more than $10 trillion of GDP lost in the 2008 crash.

In short, we shouldn’t mistake corruption and negligence for freedom. We need government to regulate markets, provide for the common good, and lay the foundations for capitalism itself.

As Karl Polanyi famously wrote in a seeming oxymoron, “laissez-faire was planned.” Markets could not exist without states defining the terms of property ownership and commerce, creating money, enforcing contracts, protecting patents and trademarks, and providing basic public institutions.

As Kuttner admits, nowadays government is so corrupted by private interests, in particular from Wall Street, that it often doesn’t serve its intended function. Consequently, the public has lost faith in government and the political system. Of course, Republicans and libertarians love it when government doesn’t work and when people give up hope. We need to fix that.

For related articles see

Countering anti-government propaganda: the case of the Freedom Foundation

Without government, we’d be hunter-gatherers

Bring on the Reagan Counterrevolution

Government is like a Computer Operating System

Republicans are raising YOUR taxes, but not the taxes of rich people

Republicans in Washington State are planning to raise your taxes.

On Monday, March 2, the State Senate, under control of the Republicans, voted to raise gas taxes by 11.7 cents over three years.

Now, in fact, I support raising the gas tax, both because it generates revenue needed for transportation and because it discourages driving, which pollutes the air and contributes to congestion and global warming.

The problem is that the Republicans are hypocritical.   The gas tax is regressive: it disproportionately affects the poor and the middle class.   Poorer people often need to drive long distances to and from work, because they can’t afford homes close to work.   For the poor and the middle class, gasoline purchases comprise a much more significant proportion of their income than for the rich.

True to form, the Republicans are willing to raise regressive taxes but not progressive taxes.

Specifically, Republicans want to raise the regressive tax to pay for transportation funding (with a big emphasis on roads), but they won’t raise the progressive capital gains tax to fund education —  despite the State Supreme Court ruling demanding that the legislature come up with an additional $5 billion to pay for K-12 education.  Gov. Inslee has proposed a capital gains tax which would help reverse the perverse regressivity of our state’s taxes. (For more about Gov. Inslee’s proposal, see images below from the Budget & Policy Center.)

Indeed, Washington State has the most regressive tax system in the nation, due to its reliance on the sales tax and due to  the absence of an income tax.

Just last week Republicans tried to invoke a 2/3 super-majority rule for raising taxes in the state Senate. But the State Supreme Court has declared such a rule unconstitutional, and Lt. Gov. Brad Owen refused to enforce the rule.

In fact, the infamous no-taxes pledge that many Republicans nationwide have signed prohibits raising income taxes but makes no mention of sales taxes or gas taxes. See The Norquist anti-tax pledge allows signers to support raising the sales tax.

Will Republicans agree to tax the rich? Or are they only OK with taxing the poor and the middle class?


capital gains tax 1

capital gains tax 2

capital gains tax 3

capital gains tax 4

capital gains tax 5

capital gains tax 6

See here for sources.

Hey, conservatives! YOU are responsible for torture, widespread death, and trillions of wasted dollars

As Americans, we have a fundamental right to vote and to support candidates, parties, and positions of our choosing.

But voting and political advocacy aren’t just a right. They’re also a weighty responsibility.   Sometimes we support candidates or positions that result in great harm.

For example, during the presidency of George W. Bush, our nation systematically tortured prisoners. This has been known for years, but only recently did the US Senate release a report enumerating the heinous acts performed under the direction of the highest officials in the US government.

Not only did our nation torture, it also initiated a fraudulent war against a nation, Iraq, that was unrelated to the attacks of 9/11. Moreover, that war was planned long before those attacks.  The war resulted in the loss of over 4000 US lives and of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives. Some reputable estimates are that over a million people died.  The war wasted trillions of dollars and incited anti-American hatred and jihadism.

People who voted for Bush & Cheney bear responsibility for those outcomes. (Not all conservative voted for Bush & Cheney, but most conservatives did, I’m sure.)  People who supported Bush & Cheney in 2004 are especially culpable, because by then the facts had become available about the fraudulence and recklessness of the war.

Do you conservatives apologize for your support of Bush & Cheney? Do you acknowledge the injustice of their acts?

In 2008 I voted for Barack Obama, thinking he’d be a transformative president who would turn a page on the corruption, class warfare, and war-mongering of his predecessors.  Things didn’t turn out that way. Obama  protected the torturers, the war criminals, and the crooks of the financial industry.  He prosecuted whistle blowers. He surrounded himself with Wall Street cronies.  He escalated the war in Afghanistan, instigated drone attacks in several nations, and meddled in the Ukraine and other countries.  He compromised early and often. He failed to lead.  The health care plan he chose as a centerpiece of his domestic policy was devised by the Heritage Foundation.  His passivism and centrism helped the Democrats to get a shellacking in 2010 and again in 2014.

Still, most of the responsibility for the shellacking is borne by Congressional Republicans who opposed every policy initiative Obama proposed, often with unanimity. Republican intransigence, and the opposition of conservative Democrats, resulted in the Affordable Care Act being as bad as it is.  Basically, Republicans forced a bad health care plan on the American people and then blamed the Democrats for problems with the plan.

But Obama can’t just blame the Republicans. He was a poor leader who chose many bad policies. And as Obama recently said of himself, “My policies are so mainstream that if I had set the same policies … back in the 1980s, I would be considered a moderate Republican.”

This was clear to me by 2010.  So I did not vote for Obama in 2012. And now I regret having supported Obama in 2008.

But the choices in 2008 were not good. Hillary Clinton and John McCain were (and continue to be) more hawkish and more friendly to Wall Street than Obama.   At most I could have made a protest vote, for a candidate with no chance of winning.   Besides, om 2008 I was deceived by Obama’s speeches and campaign propaganda.

So, I apologize to the American people and the world for voting for Obama in 2008, though I plead naiveté and ignorance.   Had I supported Obama in 2012 I would have been more culpable — as were those who supported Bush & Cheney in 2004.

Perhaps many of the conservatives who voted for Bush & Cheney in 2004 knew that he wasn’t so good but figured that he was the lesser of two evils. Indeed, one day in 2006 a Republican coworker came into the office and said, “Yeah, Bush and Cheney have done a terrible job. ” He shook his head and thought for a moment. “But I still wouldn’t vote for a Democrat, because they’d be even worse.”     I really don’t understand that attitude, given how horrible Bush & Cheney were.

We live in a sick society, and our political system is nearly dysfunctional.  People have become so disillusioned with the system that they don’t bother to vote. Turnout in 2014 was the lowest in 70 years.   The candidates our political system delivers for national office are almost uniformly horrible.

Our health care system is insanely expensive and is less effective than that of many industrialized nations.

Our campaign financing system invites corruption, thanks in part to the five Supreme Court justices who voted in the Citizens United ruling that money is a form of speech.

Scientists tell us that global climate change threatens the health of the planet. But many Republicans in Congress think climate change is a liberal myth.

Concentration of wealth and the national debt continue to rise (though the rate of the rise of the debt has slowed down during the Obama administration).   Many corporations avoid taxes by stashing money overseas.   The tax rate for unearned income is lower than for earned income. But Republicans in the next Congress plan more tax cuts for rich people. Is that fiscally and morally responsible?

Washington State has the most regressive tax system in the nation, and the state Supreme Court has held the legislature in contempt for not adequately funding education.  But voters continue to elect Republicans who work to maintain tax breaks and to oppose progressive taxation that would benefit the middle class and the poor.