Also, if the debt is truly is the Gravest Threat to Our Future Evah, then tax increases of all kinds, shapes and sizes would be on the table. So let's just return tax rates to Eisenhower-era levels, or hell, even Nixon-era levels and go from there.
Jackie Spier is discovering how difficult it is to shop and buy food on just over $32.00 per week. She and seven other Congressional Democrats have taken the Food Stamp Challenge, where they commit to planning and buying food under the same limits as food stamp recipients. This year, more than others, it's a very big deal since Rep. Paul Ryan and his cohorts seem to think they can slash funding to the SNAP program and people will still be able to survive.
“Day 2 of #foodstampchallenge so I can't drink Joe's coffee,” Lee tweeted Friday before her appearance on the MSNBC show "Morning Joe." “Had peanut butter and crackers for breakfast.”
Schakowsky has taken to Twitter, as well, seeking suggestions for nutritious meals under $1.50, the average limit per food stamp meal. She said she is also keeping a diary of everything she ate and will post it at week’s end.
Her followers tweeted suggestions ranging from wholegrain pasta and chickpeas to a peanut butter-and-banana sandwich.
Del. Donna Christensen (D-Virgin Islands) — who is also participating in the challenge — said she checked grocery store prices and found the challenge would be harder than expected.
“Ok this #foodstampchallenge is going to [be] really hard.,” Christensen tweeted Thursday. “Checked prices in Safeway and so easy to blow the whole week's allotment.”
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) along with eight other congressional Democrats are eating on a budget of about $4.50 a day to show solidarity with food stamp recipients who receive $32.59 a week.
The personal thrift, which is part of a challenge organized by Fighting Poverty With Faith, was reported by Pacifica Patch. The site also listed the food items that Speier was now buying.
Speier displayed some of the items she was able to purchase for her first day of living on a food stamp budget: a bag of coffee and a loaf of bread from the Dollar Warehouse; a can of Campbell's low sodium chicken noodle soup; and a can of sweet peas, possibly to put in a tuna casserole later in the week."And this is my treat for the week," Speier said, holding up a box of microwave popcorn packets.
Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), along with his wife and daughter, chose to live on a food stamp budget of about $1.59 per meal. He tweeted about the challenge, relaying that he ate "generic cereal and part of a banana for breakfast."
Toward the end of Rep. Joe Courtney's week-long SNAP Challenge, during which he and his family — including wife, Audrey, and teenage daughter, Elizabeth —- lived on just over $32 a week apiece, the pickings were slim. For his last meal of the week, Courtney had leftover spaghetti with a little cheese sprinkled on the top.
So Thursday, the first day back on his regular diet, Courtney was acutely aware of the $4.25 bowl of chili he ordered from his Washington, D.C., cafeteria.
This effort is particularly poignant as I begin my annual task of picking through some FEC and IRS disclosures for different Republican organizations. Eric Cantor, for example, spent $365.00 on one meal in New York in September. That's one meal, equal to roughly ten times what SNAP recipients can spend in a week. On August 4th, he spent $370.00 in Washington DC for one meal. Those were not fundraisers. They were simply meals.
Eric Cantor has repeatedly voted to reduce SNAP allotments. Senator Jeff Sessions' PAC spent over $1,800 on meals in August. Not fundraisers. Meals. You may recall Sessions as the one who was so concerned over waste, fraud and abuse in the SNAP program that he wanted even more cuts to it along with assorted other hoops to jump through.
It's good to see some elected officials learning to live on what's allocated under SNAP. Unfortunately, it's not the ones who could really benefit from the learning experience, but at least some can testify.
Senator Jeff Sessions is very, very, very worried about fraud, waste and abuse within the Federal food stamp program (SNAP). So worried he has introduced an amendment to cut funds to the program because he's certain there are just a bunch of poor deadbeats out there taking advantage of the Feds' largesse.
Consider the food stamp program, now known as “SNAP”—the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. SNAP is the largest item in Agriculture Department’s budget. Spending on food stamps has surged over the last decade. It’s nearly doubled since President Obama took office. And in the appropriations bill before us this week, Senate Democrats propose another increase that would quadruple food stamp spending from what it was in 2001.
Eleven million more Americans are on food stamps now than when President Obama first took office. The size of the benefit has increased 31 percent since 2008. When the food stamp program was expanded nationally in the 1970s, food stamps were used by 2 percent of the population. At the beginning of the last decade, they were used by 6 percent of the population. Today that figure has risen to 13 percent—one in eight Americans. This seven-fold increase in food stamp usage demands honest examination.
It’s time to look under the hood.
Gosh, that couldn't be because this crappy economy has fattened the wallets of rich folks while millions are unemployed and desperate to feed their families while still paying the rent, could it? As an experiment, I went to the USDA website and put in a hypothetical family of 4 earning $1500 per month. Estimated benefits were about $490 per month for that family of four with no children under the age of five. The estimated income was unemployment benefits for the 2 adults and rent of $1,000 per month. The UI estimate was high; the rent was on the low end. $490 per month won't stretch over that family without some serious sacrifice. It's not like these folks would be out eating filet mignon every night.
So what, exactly, does Senator Sessions see as the flagrant abuse? Well, he singled out a couple of weird examples of people who, on first blush, shouldn't be eligible.
Judging from the furious reaction of some of the gilded-class crowd and their Republican protectors, billionaire Warren Buffett struck a nerve with his plea to Congress to "stop coddling the super-rich." Former American Express CEO, Harvey Golub and tea party sugar daddy Charles Koch were quick to protest respectively "the unfair way taxes are collected" and that "my business and non-profit investments are much more beneficial to societal well-being than sending more money to Washington." Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor attacked President Obama's "efforts to incite class warfare."
Of course, a truism of American politics is that the side decrying the class war is the one winning it. And at a time when the federal tax burden is at its lowest in 60 years and income inequality at its highest level in 80, Republicans would still rather wave the unbloodied shirt of class warfare than ask what America's rich and famous can do for their country.
That became abundantly clear during the debt ceiling crisis Republicans manufactured. Weeks before Cantor's Sunday op-ed in the Washington Post accused President Obama of class warfare and a desire to "make it harder to create jobs," his GOP colleagues were already singing from the same hymnal. Senators Dan Coats (R-IN) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) quickly called a proposed $4 trillion debt reduction deal 17 percent of which came from new revenues "class warfare." Utah's Orrin Hatch wasn't content to lament "the usual class warfare the Democrats always wage." The poor, Hatch insisted, "need to share some of the responsibility." As for a Senate resolution asking the same of millionaires, Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions said that was "rather pathetic."
Of course, what is really pathetic is the declining tax burden on the small slice of Americans now taking an ever-larger piece of the economic pie.
Even after extorting in December a two-year extension to the upper-income Bush tax cuts and steep reductions in the estate tax impacting only 0.25 percent of families, Republicans refused to countenance a dime of new tax revenue as the debt ceiling debate began. First Eric Cantor and then John Boehner walked out of the debt compromise discussions with President Obama for the same reason. As Boehner put it in his national address in July, "I know those tax increases will destroy jobs."
"The top one percent of wage earners in the United States...pay forty percent of the income taxes...The people he's talking about taxing are the very people that we expect to reinvest in our economy."
If so, those expectations were sadly unmet after the tax cuts of George W. Bush. After all, the last time the top tax rate was 39.6 percent during the Clinton administration, the United States enjoyed rising incomes, 23 million new jobs and budget surpluses. Under Bush? Not so much.
And that everything is free as long as you do what they tell you to
You think it's true
But nothing could be further from the truth, my love
Did you even listen
When they told you to change your name
And that nobody wants honesty when looking at a perfect frame
Play the game
It's a particularly uninspired line up for the Sunday shows. By the sheer number of Judiciary Committee members scheduled (Chairman Pat Leahy, Ranking Minority Member Jeff Sessions, Chuck Schumer, John Kyl and Dianne Feinstein) that Supreme Court Justice nominee Elena Kagan will be the topic of choice. Elsewhere, Pennsylvania Senate Democratic rivals Arlen Specter and Joe Sestak face one another on State of the Union. And if you're looking for something a little on the lighter side, former First Lady Laura Bush will be on Fox and Friends to pimp her new book.
ABC's "This Week" - Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.
CBS' "Face the Nation" - Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.
NBC's "Meet the Press" - Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
NBC's "The Chris Matthews Show" - Panel: Andrew Sullivan, Katty Kay, Joan Biskupic and Pete Williams. Topics: The Goldilocks Pick: Why Do Liberals Fear Elena Kagan is Just Alright? Why Politics Favors Arizona's Tough Immigration Law
CNN's "State of the Union" - Sens. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., and Bob Bennett, R-Utah; Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa.
CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS" - Prime Minister of Greece, the David Cameron and Nick Clegg coalition in Britain and a roundtable discussion on the global economy with Larry Summers.
"Fox News Sunday" - Former first lady Laura Bush and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
On Tuesday, Senate Democrats beat back Jeff Sessions’ filibuster of Obama’s first judicial nominee – Judge David Hamilton – by a reassuring margin of 70-29. Sessions lost ten of his fellow Republicans, including conservatives like Hatch, Cornyn, and Thune, and Hamilton will be confirmed Thursday afternoon to the Seventh Circuit.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that the GOP is winning the battle for the federal courts.
Just a few short years ago, right-wing Senators denounced filibusters of President Bush’s nominees in the strongest possible language and threatened to employ the “nuclear option.” Sessions went even further – he claimed Democrats were violating the Constitution by blocking any Bush nominee (no matter how extreme). But some time after November 4, 2008, his interpretation of the Constitution must have changed dramatically.
Now a Democrat is in the White House, and – hypocrisy be damned! – Sessions is vehemently pro-filibuster and pro-obstruction. And the worst part is that he’s been successful. Judge Hamilton was nominated in March to general acclaim. He received the highest possible rating from the ABA, both his home-state Senators strongly endorsed him (including senior Senate Republican Dick Lugar), and even the head of the Indianapolis Federalist Society backed him. It doesn’t get much better than that.
But the nomination was dragged out for months by the GOP. As a result, Hamilton will become just the seventh Obama nominee to be confirmed to the federal bench. By contrast, nearly 30 such Bush nominees had been confirmed at the same point. We’re talking lifetime appointments to the highest courts in our land. President Obama obviously has his hands full, but he can’t afford to neglect this crucial aspect of his legacy.
But so far, Obama has been playing into the hands of the GOP obstructionists. He’s nominated fewer than half as many people as Bush had at this point. That has got to change, and quickly. The Obama administration has a window of just 4-5 months to return some semblance of balance to the federal bench before the mid-term elections. The choice is simple: act now to fill the judicial pipeline with highly qualified progressive nominees, or let Sessions and Bush win.
There literally is no end to the extent by which Republican politicians will lie, distort, and manufacture statements in their efforts to disrupt, deny, and destroy the Obama administration's attempts to govern. At today's Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on 9/11 trial, the Fort Hood shooter, and terrorism, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) decided to flip-flop on the designation of the Gitmo detainees. Are they "unlawful enemy combatants" or are they "prisoners of war"?
SESSIONS: The enemy, who could of been obliterated on the battlefield on one day, but was captured instead does not then become a common American criminal. They are first a prisoner of war, once they're captured. The laws of war say, as did Lincoln and Grant, that the prisoners will not be released when the war - until the war ends. How absurb is it to say that we will release people who plan to attack us again?
Sessions seems to be saying that because these detainees were captured by the military, they have become prisoners of war and should not be released - even if found not guilty or after serving a prison term (assuming less than a life sentence) - until the "war on terror" is over (which, under a Republican point of view, will never be over). But on the other hand, SecDef Don Rumsfeld and the other fun-loving bunch of Bushites were very firm about NOT calling them "prisoners of war" because they were not supposed to get rights under the Geneva Convention (or any other form of legal writs - see waterboarding, justification of).
In fact, as one of the commenters at the TPM post notes, there was public law developed to explicitly designate any non-US citizen who was accused of supporting terrorism or acting against the United States as a terrorist as being eligible for military commissions.
I thought like you until I read this, from the Military Commissions Act: "‘(e) Geneva Conventions Not Establishing Private Right of Action- No alien unprivileged enemy belligerent subject to trial by military commission under this chapter may invoke the Geneva Conventions as a basis for a private right of action."
This discussion becomes quickly complex with legal passages as a debate over whether the military tribunals should take KSM or if the federal court system has adequate jurisdiction. But it's just so interesting how Republican politicians adroitly jump back and forth as to the question of the detainees' status to how it best fits their argument of the day - are we talking about Geneva convention rights, or are we talking about the process of legal courts?
"I guess when the Right/GOP can say, print (Palin's myth filled book), promote anything without any accountability by the Beltway Press, the GOP has no need for intellectually honest consistency in their claims."
He was talking to Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, about scheduling a Senate Judiciary hearing on the disparity of the penalties for crack cocaine versus powder cocaine
Sessions said he and Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., had been talking about it. "Senator Leahy and I were talking during these hearings, we're going to do that crack cocaine thing you and I have talked about before," Sessions said.
The hearing room cracked up.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., looked over at Sessions. "Please rephrase it, Senator. Please rephrase," he said.
Sessions laughed along with the crowd. "I misspoke," he clarified. "We're going to reduce the burden of penalties in some of the crack cocaine cases and make them fair."
I was struck by this key sentence in Sessions' opening remarks Monday in the Sonia Sotomayor hearings, especially because he presented it as the essential logic behind their opposition to Sotomayor -- their abiding fear that when she sits on the court, she'll be ruling against every white man who crosses her path.
We know this, according to their logic, because she is Latino -- and because she emphasizes her "empathy" for other Latinos, she will be prejudiced against any non-Latinos in her courtroom.
It is, as logic goes, about as obviously faulty as syllogisms get. Normal human empathy is not exclusive -- that is, our ability to feel empathy for one party does not necessarily exclude empathy for another party (or moreover, in Sessions' formulation, necessitate an animus to any other party). Being empathetic typically means the ability to place oneself in another person's shoes regardless of background. Identifying closely with one group at the exclusion of another typically is the antithesis of empathy.
What Sessions is describing is not empathy but rather the crude tribalism that underscores and animates most racist belief systems, and has done so since time immemorial. It is, essentially, an almost astonishing confession to being racist on Sessions' part.
And it animates not just Sessions but nearly the whole of movement conservatism and the Republican Party. If you were to poll Republican senators this week and ask them if they agreed with Sessions' "logic," I'd wager the numbers would be in the vicinity of 90 percent.
Nor is it just the senators. Look at Pat Buchanan yesterday, and Rush Limbaugh every day. The same core belief -- that empathy for Latinos, or black people, or any nonwhite, equals prejudice against whites -- indeed animates nearly the entirety of the conservative movement. I'd like to find a single conservative who would repudiate Sessions' formula. I bet I won't.
Rachel Maddow provided an ample survey of how bad it is out there last night. She was especially appalled by his column calling for Republicans to indulge in nakedly racial appeals to gain the sympathy of white voters -- though of course, for Buchanan, this is nothing particularly new. Back in 1989, he was arguing to the GOP to gradually adopt David Duke's positions at the time. And you know what? They did.
Maddow says Buchanan will be on her show to explain himself tonight. That should be entertaining. She won't need to ask Buchanan if he agrees with Sessions -- I think we already know the answer.