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Entries tagged "Congress"

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State Bailout Bill Passed

August 11, 2010 ·

Recalled from a shorter-than-expected summer recess, the House of Representatives passed legislation (247-161) securing 300,000 public jobs including those of teachers and policemen. On Tuesday H.R. 1586, commonly referred to as "the State Bailout Bill, allocated $26 billion to states desperate for relief. The funding of the bill, however, makes a bold statement about America's priorities.

With a strong resolve amongst the Democrats in the face of Republican adversity, the bill itself may have taken a severe blow from the onset. In recent months, tension within Congress has grown high regarding the level of the deficit: Democrats contend that the deficit has to grow in order to promote job and economic growth, while Republicans fear an oversized deficit will become too large a burden. With an economy in distress, Democrats pandered to the Republican view. The proposed legislation receives paid-for funding from both closed corporate tax loopholes and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as Food Stamps.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, funds are distributed on four criteria: countable resources ($2,000 if under 60 years old), income level (under $1984 per month for a family of 3), immigration status, and special rules for elderly and disabled. For a family of three earning under $1984 monthly, the maximum allotment is $526 where the poverty line for the same family is an annual income of $17,285.

Given current economic distress, Congress has further alienated an entire class of citizens. Aside from limited resources, recipients of SNAP are not only disadvantaged, they lack adequate access to food and basic needs. With recent debate aimed at the Bush tax cuts, which are set to expire in 2011, Congress can avoid adding $700 billion dollars to the deficit. At a time when America sees its greatest disparity of wealth, an exponential increase in membership of its lower class, and a depleting middle class, America cannot afford to renew these tax cuts. Additionally, Congress cannot continue to recruit funding from the have-nots, or those facing real barriers.

On Tuesday, a divided House of Representatives displayed that it can produce positive action that affects Americans, the economy, and prevents a major destabilization of infrastructure by protecting hundreds of thousands of jobs.

But can Americans without access to the basics of food, shelter, and even jobs afford to pick up a tab for the richest?


Speculation Tax

July 20, 2010 ·

Rep. Pete Stark introduced legislation today that would "simply impose a small tax--of five thousandths of one percent, or 0.005%" on speculative currency transactions, the California Democrat said in on Huffington Post. "The money raised would be put toward investments in children, global health, and climate change mitigation."

Unless you're a Wall Street bigshot, you don't have to worry about the toll this tax will take on your wallet or portfolio. Stark's "Investing in Our Future Act" (aka H.R. 5783) isn't likely to impact your bottom line.

"For ordinary investors the costs would be negligible, like a tiny insurance fee against the crashes caused by speculators," Institute for Policy Studies fellow Sarah Anderson explained in her recent OtherWords op-ed Who Should Pay for the Crisis?, which called for a measure like this on stock, derivative, and currency trading, as well as other financial instruments. Her op-ed has run in at least nine newspapers so far, including The Providence Journal and the Mount Vernon (OH) News.

Arkansas and America's Future Now

June 8, 2010 ·

I'm spending the time I can spare while not editing OtherWords' upcoming commentaries at America's Future Now, which runs through Wednesday. This annual progressive summit fittingly coincides this year with Arkansas' Democratic primary runoff. Speaker after speaker bemoaned the Obama administration's timidity and called on the Democratic-controlled Congress to become more unified and assertive. "We have to stop waiting for Obama," said Bob Borosage, co-director of Campaign for America's Future, which organizes this massive Washington gathering. "We have to stop taking the President's temperature."

The heated battle between incumbent Blanche Lincoln, backed by former President Bill Clinton and mounds of corporate money, and challenger Lt. Gov. Bill Halter may be the first of many. Lincoln has loudly protested the support that Halter's gotten from organized labor, yet he's gotten only seven percent of his campaign contributions from PACs, vs. 38% for Lincoln. Watch developments in this race on the Daily Kos blog as Arkansas voters go to the polls today. "We need to go to the mat for the real deal," is how Ilyse Hogue, MoveOn.org's campaign director put it. "We're going to take the imposters out."

So many influential progressives are publicly venting their frustration with the Obama administration at this conference that prominent media outlets are finally noticing this hardly new trend. Good examples include Politico's Glenn Thrush and Philip Rucker at the Washington Post. This strikes me as a good thing. I've attended this conference, formerly known as Take Back America, off and on for seven years, and often seen major media outlets give this key conference short shrift—focusing on comments made by political candidates and politicians at the expense of reporting the pulse of progressive America.

Twitter fans can follow the debate with the #AFN hashtag. Even if you're not big on Twitter, check out the top tweets from the conference's first day on Campaign for America's Future website.

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