Why to Vote Democratic in 2010 October 2, 2010Posted by Mary W. Matthews in Politics.
Bill Maher concluded his “Real Time” broadcast on October 1, 2010 with remarks that ought to be reproduced far and wide:
I know, unemployment is high, but you’re the one who’s not working, not President Obama. He has a job. And part of it is stopping John Boehner from throwing YOU off unemployment.
Now, I am not here to carry water for this or any administration, but the facts of the coming election are that Democrats have real accomplishments to run on. Like:
• preventing a Depression;
• forcing insurance companies to cover preexisting conditions;
• stopping banks from being the useless middlemen on student loans;
• lowering taxes for non-rich people.
• Obama has passed a credit card bill of rights;
• he restarted stem cell research;
• he got our ass out of Iraq;
• he signed a nuclear treaty with Russia. (Not to mention the intangible of having a president who can pronounce “nuclear.”)
Why can’t the Democrats get props for what they’ve achieved? Oh, I know, I know, Obama’s black; he’s used to being denied credit. And there’s nothing wrong with being hard on him. He is the president; it’s our job to keep him honest.
But when it comes to voting, when we only have two choices, you have to grow up and realize there’s a big difference between a disappointing friend and a deadly enemy. Of course the Democrats are disappointing; that’s what makes them Democrats! If they were any more frustrating, they’d be your relatives. But in this country, the Democrats are all that stands between you and darkest night.
You know why the Democratic symbol is the letter “D”? Because it’s a grade that means “good enough but just barely.”
You know why the Republican symbol is “R”? Because “Arrrrrr” is the noise a pirate makes when he he robs you and feeds you to a shark.
* * *
Here, in no particular order, are a few more of the accomplishments of Mr. Obama in particular or the Democrats in general. What makes this long list most remarkable is considering that the achievements came over determined Republican attempts to obstruct any action whatsoever. It is no surprise to anyone who follows the news that Republicans, especially in the Senate, have held more filibusters than any other Congress in U.S. history. They have placed more “secret holds” on legislation than any other Congress in U.S. history. They have done their best to deny relief to earthquake victims in Haiti (almost one billion dollars is STILL waiting for Republican Senator Tom Coburn to notice Haitians’ misery!), to the jobless, to needy children, to the elderly, and to 911 first responders, among other startlingly hyperpartisan attacks on social justice.
Despite determined opposition from the Republicans and from their owners (Rupert Murdoch, the Koch brothers, Coors, and their many-tentacled media), President Obama, the Democrats in Congress, or both, have:
- Developed and executed a plan to rescue the U.S. auto industry from certain collapse. Although no Republican news channel, pundit, or politician would ever admit as much, Obama and the Democrats saved millions of jobs; moreover, although the plan cost billions, virtually all of this money has already been repaid, and the U.S. may well end up with a modest profit on the deal.
- Developed and executed a plan to stimulate the economy. As with the rescue of the auto industry, no Republican news channel, pundit, or politician would ever admit that through the economic stimulus, Obama and the Democrats saved or created millions of jobs; moreover, although the plan was originally envisioned to cost $789 billion, that number was recently revised down to $465 billion, and when the dust settles the final cost ought to be around $66 billion — less than a tenth of original expectations. The U.S. may well end up with a modest profit on the deal.
- Developed and executed a plan to rescue the U.S. financial and banking sector. This plan worked so well that the big banks are running at a greater profit (for themselves, anyway) than ever before. Now, if only the Democrats could persuade the Republicans to share these benefits with ordinary citizens rather than exclusively GOP “have-mores”!
- Over vociferous Republican opposition, made significant cuts to wasteful spending. Phased out the expensive F-22 war plane and other outdated weapons systems, which weren’t even used or needed in Iraq/Afghanistan. According to the Republican-biased Washington Times, Mr. Obama managed “to get Congress to ax several programs that had bedeviled President George W. Bush for years.”
- Instituted enforcement for equal pay for women in the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Republicans have already pledged to reinstate discrimination against women if they retake Congress.
- On March 30, Obama signed an omnibus public lands bill, which The New York Times reported “allows for two million more acres to be declared wilderness . . . [with] more than 1,000 miles designated as scenic rivers, and adds land for national trails.”
- USA Today called the Democrats’ credit card reform bill the “most sweeping changes to the credit card industry in 40 years,” adding restrictions on interest rate increases and fees, restricting the marketing of credit cards to college students, and adding new consumer protections from the industry’s undeniably predatory practices.
- The George W. Bush administration worked assiduously to diminish citizens’ freedoms (as by repealing habeas corpus and posse comitatus, to increase government spying on citizens not even suspected of crimes), to have lobbyists for Big Oil rewrite environmental protection laws (and similar biased revisions), and to increase secrecy. Taking the opposite tack, President Obama banned gifts from lobbyists, placed restrictions on the hiring of lobbyists, published White House logs and other records, and has moved to bar lobbyists from serving on advisory boards.
- Passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which, for the first time, gave the U.S. Food & Drug Administration the authority to regulate the manufacturing, marketing, and sale of tobacco.
- Began the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
- Passed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which expands the scope of AmeriCorps and provides opportunities for young people and senior citizens to join in service programs.
- Created the hugely popular “cash for clunkers” program, which offered vouchers to trade in fuel-inefficient, polluting old cars for new cars and which stimulated auto sales.
- The health care system in the United States is by far the most expensive in the world, costing approximately six times more than the next-most-expensive system; and yet the system is far from the best in the world, but leaves almost 50 million people with no health insurance and millions more underinsured. Over heated opposition from Republicans, who were forced to invent fictions about “death panels” and similar nonsense, the Democrats passed a watered-down health reform bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, that includes but is NOT limited to:
- Parents may carry their adult children on their own health insurance until age 26.
- Insurance companies are forbidden to deny coverage based on their declaration that what is being covered is a “preexisting condition.” Until this provision kicks in, federal funding is provided for uninsured Americans who cannot obtain insurance because of their “preexisting condition.”
- Small businesses get tax credits of up to 35 percent of the cost of health insurance premiums to make coverage of employees more affordable.
- Allows you to pick any participating provider without having to obtain your insurer’s permission first; allows you to visit your ob-gyn without having to obtain your insurer’s permission first.
- Closed the Bush administration “doughnut hole” that forced seniors to pay thousands of dollars in costs that lay between an artificially low floor and an artificially high ceiling.
- Forbade health insurers to impose a “lifetime limit” on a given family’s medical expenses.
- Forbade the practice of rescission, a practice in which the health insurance company cancels your insurance if you dare to actually file a claim.
- Instituted free annual well-care and preventive care visits, including free mammograms and other preventive health tests.
- Began a program to increase the pool of available primary-care physicians, nurses, and public health professionals.
- Began a five-year program to increase the number and availability of Community Health Centers for communities in which health care is difficult to obtain, poor in quality, or both.
- Beginning in 2011, established standards for how health insurers set their fees and spend the money the collect. (How much is spent on YOU, and how much goes into the pockets of profit-seeking businessmen like Rick Scott, whose company paid the largest fine in history for Medicare fraud?)
- Improved the process through which an individual who has been shafted by his or her insurance company can appeal the company’s decision.
Naturally, the GOP has already pledged to repeal health care reform “when” they win in 2010, returning health care costs to the out-of-control death spiral — which among other evils TRIPLED my health care costs in less than ten years, despite a marked improvement in my health during the same period.
- Expanded the SCHIP program to cover health care for four million more children in need.
- Appointed the first Latina to the Supreme Court.
- Appointed the first Jewish woman to the Supreme Court.
- Launched a massive small-business program.
- Increased infrastructure spending (roads, bridges, power plants) after decades of Republican neglect.
- Began attempting to close down President Bush’s gulag in Guantanamo Bay, over shrieks of Republican opposition claiming that federal prisons that have never in their existence had an escape could not possibly contain a threat from Osama’s manicurist’s brother-in-law.
- Removed restrictions on embryonic stem-cell research.
- Provided federal support for stem-cell and new biomedical research.
- Ordered all federal agencies to undertake a study and make recommendations for ways to cut spending.
- Ordered a review of all federal operations to identify and cut wasteful spending and practices.
- Arranged to cover the expenses of families of fallen soldiers so that the family can be on hand when the body arrives at Dover AFB.
- Ended the Bush administration media blackout on war casualties, reporting full information.
- Ended the Bush administration media blackout on covering the return of fallen soldiers to Dover AFB; the media is now permitted to do so, adhering to respectful rules and obtaining the approval of fallen soldier’s family.
- Unlike the Bush administration, the Obama White House and federal government are respecting the Freedom of Information Act.
- President Obama instructed all federal agencies to promote openness and transparency as much as possible.
- Unlike George W. Bush, President Obama placed limits on lobbyists’ access to the White House.
- Unlike George W. Bush, President Obama placed limits on White House aides working for lobbyists after their tenure in the administration.
- Ended the George W. Bush “stop-loss policy” that kept soldiers in Iraq/Afghanistan for years longer than their enlistment had required them to.
- Provided new federal funding for science and research labs.
- Unlike the official policy of the Bush administration, individual states are permitted to enact federal fuel-efficiency standards that are stricter than federal standards.
- Provided funds for high-speed, broadband Internet access to K-12 schools.
- Provided new funds for school construction.
- Instituted a housing rescue plan that, alas, has not worked as well as envisioned — largely due to foot-dragging on the part of big insurers, who see more profit in foreclosures than in helping homeowners struggling with mortgage payments sent “under water” by financial innovations enabled by Republican deregulation. Republicans abandoned practices adopted as early as the 1910s to deter usury, bucket shops, “credit default swaps,” and similar chicanery. It will take years to reinstitute laws protecting the public from Republican deregulation, particularly if the Greedy Oil Plutocrats fool a significant portion of the country into voting for them or their Tea Bigot dupes.
- As of mid-2010, the public can meet with federal housing insurers to refinance a mortgage if they are having trouble paying (the new plan can be completed in one day). Because of the above-mentioned Republican obstruction and foot-dragging, this plan is not as successful as the nation needs it to be.
- The secret detention facilities in Eastern Europe and elsewhere are being closed.
- Ended George W. Bush administration policy in favor of torture. The U.S. now has a no-torture policy, and for the first time since 2002 is in compliance with Geneva Convention standards.
- Better body armor is now being provided to our troops.
- The missile defense program is being cut by $1.4 billion in 2010.
- President Obama has restarted the nuclear nonproliferation talks, and Democrats are building back up the nuclear inspection infrastructure and protocols gutted by “profit is the only God” Republican policies.
- Obama and the Democrats have reengaged in the treaties and agreements devised to protect the Antarctic.
- Obama and the Democrats have reengaged in international agreements and talks on global warming and greenhouse gas emissions.
- In his first six months in office, President Obama visited more countries and met with more world leaders than any previous president.
- President Obama authorized U.S. Navy SEALS to do their job, thereby obtaining the successful release of Captain Richard Philips, a U.S. captain held by Somali pirates.
- The U.S. Navy is increasing patrols off Somali coast.
- The first truly tech-savvy administration features a slew of online Q&A sessions, virtual town halls, and countless new websites aimed at strengthening our economy and bringing Americans together.
- Provided attractive tax write-offs for those who buy hybrid automobiles.
- Announced plans to purchase fuel-efficient American-made fleet for the federal government.
- Instituted a $2,500 tax credit for citizens to obtain a college education.
- The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 brought in the most sweeping wilderness protection effort in almost twenty years.
- President Obama signed national service legislation and expanded our national youth service program.
- Instituted a new policy on Cuba, allowing Cuban families to return home to visit loved ones.
- Ended the previous policy of not regulating and labeling carbon dioxide emissions.
- The Obama administration is expanding vaccination programs to improve public health.
- Unlike the “heckuva job” done by the Bush administration, the Obama administration has provided immediate and efficient response to such natural disasters as flooding (e.g., North Dakota, Tennessee, Georgia), derechos (southern Kentucky and midwest), tornados, California wildfires, and the Deep Freeze of 2010.
- Obtained the promise of a $20 billion fund to recompense victims of the BP oil disaster, to be administered not by BP but by the federal government.
- Closed offshore tax safe havens.
- The Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act has greatly strengthened protections against mortgage fraud.
- Organizing for America is a powerful new vehicle for genuine grassroots citizen involvement in government (as opposed to the “astroturf” involvement of citizen programs funded by Republican billionaires who hate Mr. Obama, such as the Koch brothers).
- Negotiated deal with Swiss banks to permit U.S. government to gain access to records of tax evaders and criminals.
- Ended the previous policy of offering tax benefits to corporations who outsource American jobs; the new policy is to promote in-sourcing to bring jobs back.
- Instituted rules requiring energy-producing plants to begin preparing to produce 15% of their energy from renewable sources.
- Ended the previous practice of forbidding Medicare from negotiating with drug manufacturers for cheaper drugs; although Republicans would rather die than admit it, the federal government is now realizing hundreds of millions in savings. The Republicans have already pledged to reinstate this perk for Big Pharma “when” they repeal “Obamacare.”
- Increasing pay and benefits for military personnel.
- Improved housing for military personnel.
- Initiating a new policy to promote federal hiring of military spouses.
- Improved conditions at Walter Reed Military Hospital and other military hospitals.
- Increasing student loans.
- Increasing opportunities in AmeriCorps program.
- Sent envoys to Middle East and other parts of the world that had been neglected for years; reengaging in multilateral and bilateral talks and diplomacy.
- Established a new cyber-security office.
- Beginning the process of reforming and restructuring the military 20 years after the Cold War to a more modern fighting force; this includes new procurement policies, increasing size of military, new technology and cyber units and operations, etc.
- Ended previous policy of awarding no-bid defense contracts to Republican-favored companies like Halliburton, Bechtel, and Blackwater.
- Ordered a review of hurricane and natural disaster preparedness.
- Established a National Performance Officer charged with saving the federal government money and making federal operations more efficient.
- Students struggling to make college loan payments can have their loans refinanced.
- Improving benefits for veterans.
- Many more press conferences and town halls and much more media access than the secrecy-loving Bush administration.
- Ended the George W. Bush administration policy of cutting the FDA and circumventing FDA rules — policies that led directly to the 2010 outbreak of salmonella poisoning from tainted eggs.
- Ended the George W. Bush administration practice of having White House aides and ill-educated partisans rewrite scientific and environmental rules, regulations, and reports, for example to downplay the extent and importance of global warming.
- Authorized discussions with North Korea and private mission by former president Bill Clinton to secure the release of two Americans held in prisons.
- Authorized discussions with Myanmar and mission by Senator Jim Webb to secure the release of an American captive.
- The Obama administration is making more loans available to small businesses.
- Established independent commission to make recommendations on slowing the costs of Medicare.
- Authorized construction/opening of additional health centers to care for veterans.
- Limited salaries of senior White House aides; cut to $100,000.
- Renewed loan guarantees for Israel.
- Changed the failing/status quo military command in Afghanistan.
- Deployed additional troops to Afghanistan.
- New Afghan War policy that limits aerial bombing and prioritizes aid, development of infrastructure, diplomacy, and good government practices by Afghans.
- Announced the long-term development of a national energy grid with renewable sources and cleaner, efficient energy production.
- President Obama returned money authorized for refurbishment of White House offices and private living quarters.
- Instead, Mr. Obama paid for redecoration of White House living quarters out of his own pocket.
- Held first seder in White House.
- Has put the ball in play for comprehensive immigration reform.
- Has announced his intention to push for energy reform.
- Has announced his intention to push for education reform.
Oh, and President Obama built a swing set for his girls outside the Oval Office!
I’m sure I’ve missed some accomplishments and hyped others. (Please drop me a comment if I’ve missed anything important.)
The important thing for voters to remember in November is whom they want in office: disappointing friend? . . . or deadly enemy?