I don’t have a ton to say about Paul Ryan’s response speech except to note it was odd that he didn’t mention any of the proposals associated with Paul Ryan’s “budget roadmap.” He spoke at length about his desire for less spending and more limited government. But he didn’t mention which programs, specifically, he wants to eliminate. Which is particularly odd because the “roadmap” calls for, among other things, the elimination of Medicare. That’s kind of a big deal! If Ryan thinks we should do that, wouldn’t a nationally televised addressed be a good opportunity to explain it to people?
As I understand it, gay soldiers will win the future by riding high speed trains to salmon farms.
I thought it was a good speech; an example of trying to govern from the White House. I would say that zero percent of the speech was dedicated to building support in congress for concrete pieces of legislation that the President hopes to sign into law. And it’s too bad that the president’s not in a position to promise to shepherd big bills through congress. But the reality is that he’s not. So he’s wisely floating above the fray, issuing “sounds good but hard to do in practice” calls for smart infrastructure investments, tax reform, less oil subsidies, etc. Most likely none of it will happen. But it will definitely sound good, and if the president’s lucky some of it will happen!
The tragedy we can see unfolding, though, is the way the president shied away from even mentioning the idea that climate change is a problem. That reflects political reality, but it also reflects the greatest failure of Barack Obama’s term in office.
In tonight’s State of the Union address, President Obama reaffirmed his commitment to American innovation and ingenuity by proposing new investments in clean energy research, development, and deployment. This stands in sharp contrast to the Republican Study Committee, whose plan undermines American competitiveness by chopping away at key programs designed to leverage private investment in clean energy solutions for tomorrow.
President Obama’s clean energy plan would launch the United States into the 21st century by investing in high tech vehicles. This would protect people from pollution, cut foreign oil imports and create jobs. The Republican Study Committee would keep us chained to oil imports by ignoring cars of the future while eliminating investments in high speed rail.
|Clean Tech Innovation and Public Health Protection|
|President Obama||Republican Study Committee|
|Clean tech innovation and job growth||“We’ll invest in…clean energy technology – an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.”
“The President’s Budget will propose increasing clean energy technology funding by a third compared to 2010.”
“The President’s Budget will also …more than doubl[e] investments in energy efficiency and a more than 85 percent increase in renewable energy investment.”
|Eliminates key energy innovation programs including technical assistance for advanced manufacturers and the Applied Energy Research program at the Department of Energy. See Chopping at the Roots of Innovation|
|Tax breaks for big oil||
“I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.”
He would “end the approximately $4 billion per year in tax subsidies to oil, gas and other fossil fuel producers.”
|Maintains $35 billion in tax loopholes for big oil companies.|
|Reduce foreign oil imports|| “With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.”
This would “reduc[e] oil consumption by 785 million barrels by 2030.”
|Eliminates oil saving alternatives to driving by cutting the New Start Transit program, funding for Amtrak, and the Washington D.C. Metro system.|
|Reduce foreign oil imports||“Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80% of Americans access to high-speed rail, which could allow you go places in half the time it takes to travel by car.”||“Eliminate Intercity and High Speed Rail Grants.”|
|Clean electricity deployment||“Clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they’re selling… By 2035, 80% of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources. Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all.”|| Continues to rely on old, dirty coal fired power plants. In 2009, all but eight House Republicans voted against American Clean Energy and Security Act that included a renewable electricity standard.
“Eliminate the Energy Star Program.” The program provides consumers with information about the energy efficiency of appliances and other technologies, many of which are made in the U.S.
|Protect public health||“I will not hesitate to create or enforce commonsense safeguards to protect the American people. That’s what we’ve done in this country for more than a century. It’s why our food is safe to eat, our water is safe to drink, and our air is safe to breathe.”||Over 100 Republican representatives have cosponsored H.R. 97, which would make it impossible for EPA to limit carbon pollution from coal fired power plants, oil refineries or other sources to protect public health. There are 50 cosponsors of other, similar bills.|
President Obama reiterated that he will “create or enforce commonsense safeguards” to protect Americans from harm. This should include requiring coal fired power plants and oil refineries to cut mercury, carbon, smog and other dangerous pollutants.
Our guest blogger is Kenneth R. Bazinet, formerly the White House correspondent for the New York Daily News.
On these nights Presidents love to tell Congress the State of the Union is good, or at least sound. But as many Americans understand, the country is not even close to becoming solvent.
As President Obama stands before Congress and the American people, his mostly inherited federal deficit totals more than $1.3 trillion, while the national debt registers at $14 trillion, according to USdebtclock.org. The five-year freeze on non-discretionary spending he proposes tonight will help reduce the deficit, but the onus of providing revenue to fund the government remains mainly on the backs of the middle class for at least another two years.
A statistical breakdown using government figures indicates about 14 million Americans are out of work, but some economists working with their own models says it is closer to 25 million out-of-work Americans when they take into consideration the workers whose benefits have expired and now find themselves off the grid.
Unemployment and the deficit are “speakable issues,” acceptable conversation topics in either Democratic or Republican ranks. But there are many other topics that are simply unspeakable, even for a President with progressive roots.
There are about 2 million people who are homeless in America, the government has reported, but that is based on the count of those who stay in shelters — leaving those who sleep on the street, in abandoned buildings, under overpasses and in cardboard houses and dumpsters unaccounted for. Some 45 million Americans, some homeless, most not, depend on food stamps to help put food on their tables. Many of those Americans on government assistance work, but cannot make ends meet (that despite the real median household income of $49,777 in 2009, according to the Census Bureau, a clear indication of the difference between the haves and the have-nots). Some 43.6 million people lived below the poverty level in 2009, up from 39.8 million in 2008, the Census Bureau reported.
Then there are those who serve and are too often forgotten. At least 1,286 servicemen and women gave their lives in the war Afghanistan and another 4,430 U.S. forces have been killed in Iraq, according to the count provided by the Associated Press. Another 37,000 American patriots both have been wounded in those two wars, according to various veteran’s groups.
An administration official, speaking only on the condition of anonymity, tells me this evening that the President has no intention of laundry-listing the woes of the American people, so his report on the State of the Union will be incomplete.
“This is about the future,” the source said. “It’s much more forward-looking and forward-leaning.”
Maybe the State of Union really needs to begin with a pledge to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
“This is our generation’s Sputnik moment…. I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: by 2035, 80% of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources.”
The good news: Barack Obama delivered a powerful State of the Union speech advocating an aggressive clean energy strategy (text here). And he acknowledged a fundamental truth: advances in clean energy “will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they’re selling.” Research and development by itself is ineffectual — hence the need for the standard.
The bad news: The President could not bring himself to utter the words “climate change” or “global warming.” These omissions were depressingly predictable (see “Can you solve global warming without talking about global warming?“) and thus, predictably, depressing to climate hawks.
The ‘ugly’ news: The phrase “clean energy” has been redefined.
Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all….
Clean coal, of course, doesn’t exist, and it remains a big stretch to call nuclear ‘clean’, but at least this proposal moves the debate forward significantly. I don’t know whether a serious clean energy standard has a chance, but this appears to be the only plausible way forward in the climate/energy arena, given the death of a serious carbon price and GOP opposition to any funding increases for R&D or deployment.
Obama did defend environmental regulations:
In addition to the official GOP response from Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Rep. Michele Bachman (R-MN) is going to give an alternative response to President Obama’s State of the Union address tonight on behalf of the Tea Party Express, a national group that has heavily promoted her speech. But a major Tea Party group in her own state is strongly criticizing Bachmann’s plans. The Tea Party Patriots of the Twin Cities sent out an e-mail last night saying that Bachmann “does not speak for the Tea Party“:
Please call Michele Bachmann’s Office and tell her that she does not speak for the Tea Party. Michele has announced she will be giving the ‘Tea Party Response’ to the President’s State of the Union Address. The Tea Party Patriots Organization is a grass roots organization. One person has no right to speak for the whole organization.
Aside from this Tea Party split, there is a noticeable rift in the Republican Party over Bachmann’s address. During a breakfast with reporters today, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) called Bachman’s rebuttal-after-the-rebuttal “a little unusual.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), on the other hand, said Bachmann’s Tea Party response is “legitimate.”
Originally, Bachmann’s rebuttal was set to only air on Tea Party Express’ web page, but then CNN announced that they would air both Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) speech and Bachmann’s. GOP aides are reportedly not happy with the decision, claiming “CNN is basically inventing a conflict that doesn’t really exist,” and that “it’s not responsible journalism.” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) also questioned why Bachmann’s address is being televised.
State Marriage Watch: Wyoming Senate Pushes Anti-Marriage Referendum, Hawaii Judiciary Committee Advances Civil Unions
Wyoming is moving even further away from its ‘Equality State’ slogan, having just advanced another anti-marriage initiative through the Senate. Meanwhile, Maryland is pushing forward same-sex marriage legislation with substantial public support. All that and more in today’s State Marriage Watch:
- WYOMING: The AP is reporting that the Wyoming Senate has passed a bill that would allow voters to decide whether the state should recognize same-sex marriages. The Senate voted 21-7 on Tuesday in favor of a resolution, which will face “two more votes in the Senate before it can advance to the House for debate.” Yesterday, the Wyoming House passed House Bill 74 — banning the state from recognizing same-sex marriages performed elsewhere — by a vote of 32-27. That measure is now also in the Senate.
- HAWAII: The Senate Judiciary Committee passed SB 232, civil unions legislation that is identical to the measure vetoed last year by former Governor Lisa Lingle, by a vote of 3-2 vote. “The bill now goes to the Senate floor for the second of three required votes by the full chamber.” A separate measure, SB 231, would accomplish the same goal, but includes various administrative clarifications. A House version of the civil unions bill has not yet been introduced, but may come as soon as tomorrow. Governor Neil Abercrombie (D) has said he will sign such legislation.
- MARYLAND: This morning, Equality Maryland and House Majority Leader Kumar Barve introduced the House version of the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, a measure to expand marriage to gays and lesbians. A Senate version was introduced last week. Meanwhile, a new poll finds that “51 percent of voters say they would favor a law in Maryland allowing same-sex couples to marry, while 44 percent opposed such a law and 5 percent gave no response.” These results are significant since, anti-marriage activists have promised to place the question on the ballot if the bill becomes law.
- IOWA: A constitutional ban on gay marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships and any other legal recognition of same-sex couples “cleared the Iowa House Judiciary Committee Monday, setting the stage for a public hearing next week.” The Iowa Independent reports that 12 Republicans and 1 Democrat — state Rep. Kurt Swaim of Bloomfield — voted in favor of House Joint Resolution 6. Eight Democrats voted against it. The measure is expected to pass the House, where Republicans have a majority of 60-40, but will likely stall in the Senate, where Democrats are have a two-seat advantage (26-24).
- DC: The Hill reported today that Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC), has pledged to push for a vote that would ban gay marriage in the nation’s capital. Jordan had previously pledge to focus on economic issues.
For a complete overview of the latest developments in the marriage battleground states of Rhode Island, Maryland, New York, California, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Wyoming, Iowa, and New Mexico, click here.
As President Obama prepares to defend the Affordable Care Act in tonight’s State of the Union address, a bipartisan group of senators have reintroduced two separate bills to repeal a portion of the law. Both measures seek to eliminate a requirement that businesses fill out a 1099 tax form for purchases over $600:
- SEN. MIKE JOHANNS’ (R-NE) BILL 52 CO-SPONSORS, 12 DEMS: The bill would repeal the reporting requirement and would pay for the loss in revenue by directing Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to identify $39 billion in unspent and obligated accounts. In November, the bill failed 61 to 35, but 21 Democratic voted for the measure.
- SEN. MAX BAUCUS’ (D-MT) BILL CO-SPONSORED WITH REID: The bill would repeal the reporting requirement, without making up the $17 billion in lost revenues.
Both sides have played politics with the issue, although everyone — including Obama — agrees that the measure would present a serious paperwork burden to employers were it to go into effect in 2012. But at the end of last year, Republicans twice objected to attaching a repeal measure to the tax compromise and Democrats have failed to come up with an alternative way to pay for repeal.
Johanns’ measure has its problems, but it’s not clear what Democrats stand to gain by drawing out the debate — if they want to produce their own repeal alternative, then they best find some way to pay for it. One thing worth highlighting, however, is that Johanns is asking the OMB to identify $39 billion in savings while the revenue lost from eliminating the 1099 requirement is just $17 billion. He pays for it and then some.
The 1099 provision was originally designed to bolster the tax compliance of sole proprietors and pay for the coverage expansion in the law.
President Obama will announce tonight that gay and lesbian servicemembers will be able to serve openly in the armed forces as soon as this year, suggesting that he will soon certify repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Under the measure Congress passed last year, the repeal does not go into effect until 60 days after the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Obama certify that it does not undermine military readiness or unit cohesion. From the speech, as published by the National Journal:
OBAMA: Our troops come from every corner of this country – they are black, white, Latino, Asian and Native American. They are Christian and Hindu, Jewish and Muslim. And, yes, we know that some of them are gay. Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love. And with that change, I call on all of our college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and the ROTC. It is time to leave behind the divisive battles of the past. It is time to move forward as one nation.
Earlier this month, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said the Defense Department would begin implementing repeal of DADT “as quickly but as responsibly as possible,” describing implementation as a three-step process that involves changing regulations, prepare training materials, and training the servicemembers. Gates has tasked Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Clifford Stanley to accelerate the first two phases of implementation and said the Pentagon was approaching the task with the philosophy of, it’s better to end the policy “sooner rather than later.”
Several Republicans, however, have introduced a measure in the House to delay implementation. That measure would require the heads of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines to sign off on allowing openly gay service members, even though the chiefs have previously suggested that such a measure would undermine the military’s chain of command.
Southern Baptist Leader Leaves Interfaith Coalition On Mosques After Complaints From Religious Right
Last year, the Anti-Defamation League began an interfaith initiative that supports the rights of Muslims to build mosques, and enlisted leaders of several major religious groups to help in the effort. Today, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Richard Land announced he is leaving the Interfaith Coalition on Mosques because he has received too many complaints from his constituents. Land told the Associated Press that many Southern Baptists felt he was promoting Islam, and not just protecting religious freedom. “I don’t agree with that perception but it’s widespread and I have to respect it,” Land said.
Land frequently inserted his voice into national stories about Islamophobia over the past year, sometimes calling for greater respect of Islam. When arsonists targeted a mosque in Murfreesboro, TN in August, Land spoke out strongly, saying he was “sickened” and “revolted” by the “un-American” acts, and the Interfaith Coalition on Mosques also filed a friend-of-court brief opposing a lawsuit aimed at stopping that mosque.
In announcing his resignation from the Interfaith Coalition on Mosques, Land stressed that his constituents, while they did complain about the Interfaith Coalition on Mosques’ activities, do respect Islam and the right of Muslims to worship. “My constituents, many felt, ‘Yes. We certainly believe in religious freedom. People ought to have a place of worship. But it’s a bridge too far not only to advocate for that, but to file suit,’” he said. “I do think it’s important to note that people were not calling me and saying Muslims don’t have a right to have mosques.”
Those statements do not square with the comments of several prominent members of the religious right who have criticized Land’s work with the Interfaith Coalition on Mosques, however. Buster Wilson, general manager of the American Family Association’s radio network, wrote a post on the AFA website in October excoriating Land and his efforts to promote “false gospels”:
But I will not get involved in helping make the way more readily open for [Muslims] to advance the cause of their false gospels. And that’s the line that feel Richard Land has crossed. He has joined a group is now filing court briefs to HELP Muslims get mosques built in this country. Fight for their RIGHT, but don’t help them advance a “gospel” that is no gospel at all and will send people to hell.
And I disagree that the “radical jihadists” are a recent, small percentage of the Muslim religion. Really? I feel that non-violent, “peaceful” Muslims are the small minority of that religion’s population. Just my opinion. But the truth is, FACT is, that every single suicide bomber, rocket launched into Israel, bus stop blown up, plane downed, is done so in the NAME OF Islam and the Koran! Someone help me understand where I’m wrong about that.
Ingrid Schlueter, a host on Voice of Christian Youth radio, also slammed Land in September:
“If Richard Land showed one tenth as much zeal in defending sound biblical doctrine as he has in promoting the expansion of Islam through mosques, we might have a Reformation in the Southern Baptist convention,” Schlueter remarked.
“As it stands, Land is aiding and abetting the relentless march of Islam in the West. Ironically, he does it in Jesus name,” Schlueter said.
It’s certainly not clear that even a majority of Southern Baptists would oppose helping Muslims build mosques, but a war is being fought between vitriolic Islamophobes with large media platforms, and leaders like Land, who has not been afraid to advocate for religious freedom in the past. Unfortunately, Land just surrendered this particular battle.