Chained CPI-- RIP? Now Let's Get To Work Strengthening Social Security

Last year, President Obama offered to compromise Social Security inviolability on the alter of the plutocrats and their advocates (the GOP and the ConservaDems) who want to cut-- if not abolish-- social insurance. It was a bad mistake but, lucky for America, the Republicans, who had demanded it, refused to compromise and Chained CPI wasn't adopted. This year, the president has decided to focus on his State of the Union message about opportunity as his budgetary vision. It's a reflection that the budget is falling rapidly already and would fall more if Congress passes immigration reform. AP reported Thursday that there will be no Chained CPI cuts in this year's budget-- at least not Obama's. Ryan, of course, will have that… and worse.

Part of this victory for progressives had to do with mobilizing against Chained CPI cuts, as has been reported lately in the press.

We haven't come across a single House Republican who doesn't back Chained CPI cuts to Social Security, from Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan, all the way down the food chain to ineffectual backbenchers like Rodney Davis. We reached out to all the Blue America candidates and all of them oppose Chained CPI and other conservative schemes to cut Social Security. Since we mentioned Paul Ryan and Rodney Davis, let's begin with their opponents' statements. Rob Zerban (D-WI): "There is absolutely no way I could imagine a scenario where I could support a change in the calculations to the colas for for Social Security. Chained CPI is nothing more that an attempt to reduce benefits to senior citizens at a time when they can least afford it.  At this point the best thing we could do for our economy is to lower the retirement age to encourage workers to retire.  We would then open up more positions for those seeking jobs and reduce the unemployment. To make Social Security more solvent we need to remove the caps on higher income earners. I never understood why people making the most would pay less taxes for Social Security than those earning less. This is a simple fairness issue. If eliminating the caps on incomes is not enough to make the programs solvent indefinitely then we need to adjust the contribution we pay into the system to ensure that American's can retire with dignity and security."

Down in Illinois, George Gollin, the progressive alternative to Davis, sees it much the same way Zerban does:

Early in the last century, many of those who became too old to work suffered a rapid descent into poverty, infirmity, and mortal illness. The Social Security Act of 1935, which guaranteed a decent standard of living for “aged persons, blind persons, [and] dependent and crippled children,” changed this.

Eighty years ago a loaf of bread was a nickel. Without cost of living adjustments to earned benefits, the elderly would have long ago tumbled into the Dickensian nightmare of privation that is so fiercely defended by the Tea Party.

Cost-of-living calculations should include more than just inflation. We expect our spending patterns to change as we age--medical care will cost us more than it did when we were invincible twenty-somethings-- and COLA ought to take this into account. The original intent of the Social Security Act was, after all, to protect us from an irreversible slide into poverty after a lifetime of work.

But Washington is abuzz with a push to cut earned benefits, delay the retirement age, and implement a bogus inflation index called “chained CPI.” These indecent rollbacks are proposed so that someone with an annual income of $1 million will pay no more into the system than someone else with an income of $120,000.

Lifting the cap on income taxed for Social Security-- so that system is supported with a more progressive schedule of contributions-- would keep the system solvent indefinitely, and would increase taxes only on the top 5% of earners.

But that’s not how we do things anymore, with our politics awash in corporate cash that buys favors for the wealthy. Real people-- though not corporations-- are ground to dust in a down economy. Most members of Congress appear unconcerned with providing workers a decent standard of living.

It is not right for us to tolerate such a grotesque tilting of the rules.

This is a big deal across the Midwest and our other candidates from the region were as animated as Rob and George. Mike Obermueller is running for the seat occupied by right-wing fanatic John Kline in southeast Minnesota. "Social Security," he told me, "has been critical to making sure seniors can retire with dignity in this country. No program in history has been more successful at lifting seniors out of poverty than this one. That’s why it’s so frustrating that Republicans (and even some Democrats) are fixated on cutting these benefits for people who need them and who have earned them. Chained CPI would eliminate the financial stability and independence Social Security was created to provide. We have to set priorities and protecting the middle class against this gimmick should be one of them."

In the suburbs east of Cleveland, Michael Wager is running for the seat held by David Joyce, a Boehner lackey. "Chained CPI," Michael told me, "is, in fact, a cut in Social Security benefits, and undermines the already tenuous financial health of millions of Americans. Many in Washington continue to look to Social Security to address budget concerns, yet Social Security has not contributed to budget deficits. Still suffering from the effects of the 2008 financial crisis, low and moderate income seniors, quite simply, should not be asked to endure reduced benefits in name of 'fiscal responsibility.'"

Another top Boehner lieutenant and committee chair, Fred Upton (R-MI), is being challenged by Paul Clements. Upton is a big Austerity booster and backs Chained CPI and other deprecations against working families in the Ryan budget. Paul does not-- in a big way: "Introducing policy schemes like Chained CPI into budget discussions is a reckless move that imperils our seniors and the economic prosperity of our nation. For years, we've watched members of our own party team up with conservatives to slash programs aiding the jobless and our seniors. More people are living in poverty than ever before and Washington continues to hurt more than help. We must work to make critical investments and strengthen programs like Social Security, not engage in more schemes that hurt our seniors."

Same for Pat Murphy, the front-runner in the race to succeed Bruce Braley in Iowa's first congressional district. He is the former Speaker of the Iowa House and he has a keen understanding of the role of leadership. "Social Security is a cornerstone of my progressive beliefs. My parents raised me to keep my word and stand up for what’s right. We’ve made a pledge to seniors who have worked hard and paid into Social Security and Medicare for decades that their benefits will be there when they need them, and I intend to keep that pledge. It’s the right thing to do. Cutting benefits to those who have paid into the program to simply make budget through 'chained CPI' is wrong.  By raising the cap for folks who make over $106,000 a year would increase solvency, have the ability to expand benefits and better serve our seniors."

The progressive candidate for the open seat in Oklahoma City (OK-05) is Tom Guild, who is of no mind to compromise away the rights of working families on this or anything.

Approximately one in five Social Security recipients has no other income. The current Social Security COLA doesn’t cover the increased costs of living for seniors. Expanding Social Security benefits would give many additional seniors peace of mind, and help them keep pace with cost of living increases. We owe it to the generation that did their part to build our country, to make good on the promise of Social Security, that they wouldn’t have to live their golden years in poverty. It makes sense and is the right thing to do to increase the Social Security stipend for our seniors. By lifting the cap on the $114,000 of income currently taxable to support the program, we can extend the life and promise of Social Security for generations past 2031. This is a concrete way that we can demonstrate our thanks to our seniors who have done so much for us.

If the national government funded just one programs adequately, it would be Social Security.  This is a proposal to adequately fund Social Security. It would protect and enhance benefits, and increase the revenue stream supporting this vital program by abolishing the cap on income subject to the tax dedicated to Social Security, and increase the dedicated tax by 1/20th of 1% for six years. This would secure Social Security for additional decades. Since 2/3 of today’s retirees receive more than half of their income from Social Security, and about 1/5th are completely dependent on this source of income, this proposal would greatly enhance tens of millions of Americans’ retirement security. It would ensure that seniors’ cost-of-living would not continue to outpace benefits received by recipients, who paid into the Social Security fund for their entire working lives. Sometimes we should just do the right thing for those who spent their lives building our country. That time has arrived.

A chained CPI would take us in the wrong direction, and take desperately needed funds out of seniors budgets. It is time to move forward, and not allow those who have tried to destroy Social Security since 1935, to take the first step toward dismantling and undermining this vitally important program protecting American seniors from poverty and hardship in their golden years.

Like Tom, state Senator Daylin Leach, the Liberal Lion of Pennsylvania's legislator, wants to expand Social Security, not cut it: "For the life of me I can't understand why the administration is buying right-wing propaganda about the need for cuts to Social Security. To be blunt, its bullshit. There is no problem with Social Security that can't be solved (and then some) by uncapping the FICA tax. At a time when private pensions are shrinking and disappearing, and people rely more than ever on their Social Security check, it is morally abhorrent to unnecessarily cut these benefits because paying higher taxes makes a few rich people sad. It's time to expand, rather than cut, Social Security benefits." And I'll close with a statement from our newest candidate, Stanley Chang from Honolulu:

Social Security is the bedrock of the safety net our seniors have earned. The current Republican efforts to dismantle Social Security are a grave and immediate threat to the livelihoods of too many families in American. Make no mistake, Chained CPI is a euphemism for deep, harsh cuts to Social Security, which keeps 22 million seniors out of poverty.

At a time when the middle class continues to struggle and there are far more people living in poverty than ever before, we need to be protecting and expanding Social Security, not cutting it. Simple, common sense progressive plans such as raising the taxable income above the current $106,000 ceiling will extend Social Security’s solvency for decades to come.

Surely we can do better than to balance the budget on the backs of working families who have worked a lifetime to enjoy a secure retirement. Social Security must be strengthened and expanded, not gutted and scraped for parts.

We've got to get this conservatives out of power and out of office and off our backs. Electing these progressive candidates is going to help.
You can do that here and keep in mind, there is no such thing as a contribution being too small.

We are all in this together,
Howie, for Digby, John and the Blue America Team



Open seat in California--Let's turn it BLUE!

Friday morning the PCCC officially endorsed Lee Rogers and Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent, under the eye-catching headline, "A Dem Candidate Who Would Expand O'Care And Social Security," went beyond the Beltway conventional wisdom/claptrap and got to the heart of why the race in the Santa Clarita, Antelope and Simi Valleys (CA-25) is so important for progressives.
Yesterday, GOP Rep. Buck McKeon, a longtime member of Congress and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, announced his retirement. The move could pave the way for an interesting experiment, one that could provide a glimpse into how progressive policies play in a swing district that’s already very difficult for Democrats.

The Democrat vying for the seat is Dr. Lee Rogers, who not only aggressively embraces Obamacare, but wants to expand it to achieve “universal” coverage, and even wants to expand Social Security. In an indication of what this candidacy might look like, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which supports Rogers, notes that he champions “Medicare access for all,” and in a PCCC email going out today, Rogers says: “I’ll fight to allow people to buy into Medicare. I’ll push for Medicare to negotiate drug prices to lower costs. And I promise to help bring us closer to universal healthcare coverage.”

…Make no mistake, this one will be a steep climb for Dems. Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report doesn’t think Rogers has a shot, because a big chunk of the district is made up of Latino voters among whom turnout could drop off in a midterm election. “This district has unique voting patterns that more or less doom his candidacy from the start,” Wasserman says.

However, it could still be an interesting test of progressive messaging at a time when public worries about inequality and declining economic mobility seem to be rising. ”If he gets more than 45 percent than he got in 2012, maybe that’s a sign his message was effective,” Wasserman says.

Whatever his chances, the race is worth watching, partly for the simple reason that Rogers’ support for expanding Social Security is a relative rarity among Dem candidates. The issue is emerging as an increasingly important issue for progressives, one central in the debate over whether the Democratic Party should embrace a truly economically progressive platform. It’ll be interesting to see how expanding Social Security (and Obamacare) play politically, given that many Dems have shied away from such positions-- even as there is strong public support for protecting social insurance and the safety net.
In the past, we've written about DCCC Chairman Steve Israel's "mystery meat" candidates. Israel warns candidates to not take controversial stands on big issues, especially not progressive stands. When I asked one freshman who ran as a progressive and then joined the Wall Street-financed New Dems and started a distinct pattern of voting against the progressive agenda she ran on, she was very frank and told me she had followed the DCCC's instructions to freshmen "100%" and that that was how they told her she could be reelected (in her D+3 district that Obama won with 56 and 54% in 2008 and 2012).

Friday, when Israel was crowing about McKeon's resignation in a press release, he didn't even mention Rogers' name, even though Rogers beat McKeon in the Antelope Valley in 2012-- the fastest growing third of the district and an area McKeon had never previously lost-- and even though many members of the California House delegation have been Rogers' most vocal and persistent champions.

Israel: “Congressman McKeon is getting in a crowded line of Republican moderates who are abandoning John Boehner’s broken Congress so that they don’t have to defend their party’s indefensible priorities to the voters. Congressman McKeon’s retirement puts yet another Republican-held seat into reach for Democrats, as he joins the likes of Tom Latham, Jon Runyan and Frank Wolf and others in rejecting the irresponsible behavior of their party. In this competitive district, Democrats will stand behind a candidate who is dedicated to working across the aisle to solve problems for hardworking California families and who will put a premium on creating jobs and growing the middle class. Meanwhile, Republicans are already facing yet another divisive primary where they will compete in a brutal race to the right.”

Buck McKeon, a "moderate?" Only in a topsy turvy Beltway universe where "ex"-Blue Dog Steve Israel could be head of the DCCC. McKeon is a radical right ideologue whose political positions are very extreme across the board. He was the financial go-to person in the Mormon jihad against LGBT equality in California. He has consistently and unwaveringly voted against women's rights, against unions, against economic security for working people, against basic human rights, against environmental sanity.

Sargent's point is well-taken. What would happen if grassroots Democrats like Rogers-- and like the rest of the Blue America endorsed candidates-- who espouse the actual values and principles of the Democratic Party, were the ones who were financed by the DCCC, instead of the conservatives Israel has dug up? For one thing, voters would have a real choice on election day, something conservative Democrats like Israel fear to the core of their being.

Please join us today in reaffirming Blue America's three-year old determination to turn CA-25, not just blue, but PROGRESSIVE. You can do that by contributing to Lee Rogers' campaign here.

We are all in this together,
Howie, for Digby, John and the Blue America team



Time For House Democrats To Find New Leadership


Enough of this crap

All the House Democratic leaders, from conservatives like Steny Hoyer, Steve Israel, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Joe Crowley to "liberals" like Nancy Pelosi, Jim Clyburn and Xavier Becerra, are working to round up votes inside the caucus to back Obama's plan to bomb Syria. Pelosi became leader of the Democrats because she stood up to Bush and Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt when they asked Congress to approve plans to attack Iraq. Most Democrats joined Pelosi against that war-- and that ended Dick Gephardt's political career. That was a very different Nancy Pelosi than the one leading House Democrats today.

On the other hand, we still have plenty of Democrats in the House strenuously opposing the war arguments-- Alan Grayson, Raul Grijalva, Barbara Lee are three excellent examples. Pelosi announced last week that she has no intention of ever being Speaker again. The vultures waiting in the wings-- Hoyer, Wasserman Schultz, Crowley-- to take over the leadership of the House caucus would all be catastrophic for the Democratic brand and for grassroots values that make someone a Democrat instead of a Republican.

It's time to start thinking about electing a leader of the House Democrats who is NOT a conservative and who is not a pillar of institutionalized Beltway corruption.

The way WE can help that process along is to elect more progressives to Congress who will not be beholden to the Steve Israels, Steny Hoyers, and Debbie Wasserman Schultzes. It's imperitive that we help elect people who will be open-minded about electing caucus leaders like Grayson, not yesterday's stale leftovers like Hoyer and Wasserman Schultz. A grassroots progressive in Oklahoma, Tom Guild, is an independent thinker and is going to have an open mind. "Syria is a basket case," he told us, "with heartbreaking tragedies piled one on another. The [Assad] government is evil and much of the opposition is affiliated with enemies of the United States. We should tread carefully and make sure we are not drawn into another war without end. American cannot be the world’s policeman, and we have paid a heavy price trying to do so."

Nick Ruiz, a professor who once ran as a Green, is the progressive Democratic candidate in the Orlando area running against GOP warmonger John Mica, also gave us a position just before Obama announced he would ask for a congressional vote before attacking.

"Why not conference and engage the Syrian leadership and factions-- and Iran, along with Russia and China for good measure? Before drones and Tomahawks, bombs and killing; as an alternative to the stereotypical language of violence that the world is so tired of hearing. Let's talk about it; not naively, but intensely; let's argue about what's happening in Syria, with the Syrian leadership and rebellion, their neighboring ally Iran, and advocates of sovereignty: Russia and China. We get it. We understand boundaries and sovereignty. And we ought to thoroughly understand rebellion, having been borne of it... The world's interests are better served with an eye toward de-escalation, rather than aggravation and aggrandizement... My vote would be NO on assaulting Syria.

"As Democrats we know better than to fight unjust wars; we do not leave the poor defenseless, nor erode civil rights or ignore social injustice. We helped to define these vital, democratic concepts in the modern era. When our leaders change for the worse, and seek to lead us toward the lowest common denominator, then we should thank them for whatever good they've done in the past-- but must tell them 'No, we will not follow you there, and further, you will not lead us any longer.' It is a crucial time when one must have the good sense to choose new leaders. But it's now true: that time is upon us."

As the other, better-known, progressive political leader from the Orlando area, Alan Grayson said, "Nobody wants this, except the military-industrial complex." We need a new generation of leaders to represent the Democratic Party, not the money-driven Establishment shills who have more in common with their Republican House colleagues than they do with grassroots Democrats.

Please consider supporting the 2014 Blue America candidates for Congress.

As you can see, we've recently added three new ones, Tom in Oklahoma, plus Danielle Adams in North Carolina and Paul Clements in Michigan. Clearly, Washington needs new leadership-- leadership that is rooted in the Democratic grassroots. Electing candidates like this to Congress is a healthy first step.



Blue America Chained CPI Contest! Candidate Nick Ruiz Speaks Out

Where do Blue America challengers stand on President Obama and Speaker Boehner's "Chained CPI?" Watch this video from Nicholas Ruiz III running for Congress in Florida's 7th District. If you want to know what the other Progressive challengers on Blue America's "Save Social Security Page" think about the planned cuts to Social Security and Medicaid, go here. If you like what you read, vote for Nick or any other candidate on that page and you could win a very rare RIAA certified Platinum Award for the band 311. Vote with your dollars (even 1 buck works) the candidate with the most votes gets a check from Blue America for $1,000. Anyone who "'votes" at this link is entered to win the award.



Blue America chat: Activist Debra Cooper for New York City Council

When the Netroots first appeared in the middle of the last decade, there were a few people who instantly joined up as supporters, benefactors and activists who "got it." But no one got it more clearly than our good friend Debra Cooper, a long time champion of women's rights, New York NARAL board member and Democratic Party activist. From the very beginning Debra understood the power of this new force in American politics and embraced our work and enthusiastically participated in our activities, often to the befuddlement of other experienced organizers who failed to see the potential of our new medium. Debra has been a stalwart supporter of Blue America since its inception and we are thrilled to return the favor by making her our first endorsee of 2013.

Blue America doesn't normally get involved in local races, but a New York City Council seat is not the usual local race ... and Debra is not the usual candidate.

As she says:

I have been an unabashed progressive my entire life. And I have been around long enough to see that it matters is we move forward as progressives and not react backward. If we aren't pushing forward on our agenda, the right wing is pushing us backward. And it goes from everything from women's reproductive rights to social security to the safety net to the issue of gun control. Those issues all matter. We have to push forward, we have to enlarge the conversation to include our solutions and not just react to their solutions.

I have been asked about my lines in the sand. Actually I have lines in quick drying cement. And those lines are about principles --- progressive and democratic principles. Lines in the sand are for tactics and for strategy. They are moveable and they are erasable. Principles are not. They are firm and they are clear. You use lines in the sand to negotiate. And over the long term, as a progressive , if we want to move the conversation in the right direction, we want to make the lines in the sand the same as our lines in cement.

A couple of years back Debra wrote a piece that I've often quoted on my blog because it's so important. She talked about abortion in the language of freedom, which is frankly something I've never heard anyone do before:

For women ALL Roads to freedom and equality - economic equality and most particularly the ability to avoid poverty START with control of their bodies. If they can't control how they get pregnant and when they will have a child then poverty is the result.

There is theory about something called the Prime Mover - the first action or the first cause. Well for women it IS reproductive rights. It precedes everything. It really is simple. Without the abilty to control your own body then you are a slave to everything else.

Frankly sexism, the need to control women's lives by controlling their bodies and the things that arise from it, are endemic to any social structure. It is ever enduring and even when it seems to be quashed it returns in another form. That is the story in the modern era of women's rights. One step forward after a long struggle - suffrage and then a step back. (And no way do I say that women are not complicit in their own subjugation. We are.)

I am reading The Reactionary Mind by Corey Robin. In the epilogue he makes a point of saying that the loss of power and control is what the elite and the reactionary fear the most. More than a specific loss itself the fear the rising volcano of submerged anger and power. And for them it is most acutely felt compulsion for control in the "intimate" arena. That is the most vexing and disturbing of all.

It is why they want to control women. And controlling their reproductive lives is the surefire way to control them.

It is why abortion rights are absolutely central to every other kind of freedom.

Wouldn't it be great to have someone who thinks like this in elective office? She is one of us, a stalwart progressive who has been inspired and motivated by our work --- and your commitment --- to throw her hat into the ring and represent our shared values in elective office.

John, Howie and I are proud to support her and we hope you will too.

Hopefully everyone had a chance to rest up during the holidays and take a breather. But the reactionaries never sleep. As Debra says, if we aren't pushing our agenda, the right wing is pushing us backwards. It's time to start pushing.

Please welcome Debra to Blue America for our first chat of the New Year.

You can donate to Debra's campaign here.



Blue America, Onward And Upward: Good Guys Always Win In The End

Media error

The first time he ran for Congress, Alan Grayson lost the primary. Two years later Blue America encouraged him to run again and he did. Derided by the political Establishment in Florida and in DC, he beat their favorite in the primary and went on to beat the incumbent Republican congressman in the November general. He then went on to inspire millions of Americans desperate for political leaders who could and would stand up to the conservative consensus that dominates Beltway politics. And when Grayson lost in 2010, he started working on the 2012 race. Blue America was with him every step of the way.

And on Tuesday we celebrated when he won the biggest congressional comeback in American history-- a 62.5% victory that saw him win the vote in every municipality in Florida's 9th district. He won among men and he won among women; he won the youth vote and he won the senior vote and he won the votes of people in between. He won among white people, among black people, among Hispanics and among Asians. He won the urban vote, the suburban vote and the rural vote and he won over 60% of the vote in Orange County, in Osceola County and even in red-leaning Polk County! 3,205 individual contributions from Blue America donors added up to $57,190 for Alan this year.

Yesterday, Grayson said in a statement that speaks volumes about his dedication to the ideals embodied in the men and women who put him back in office:

"Let’s not fall into the trap of thinking that one Democrat is as good as any other, that we’re all interchangeable parts. We’re not. Some of us have a head, and a heart, and a spine, and some of us don’t. Blue America concentrates on helping the Democrats who deserve our help, the Democrats who can make a difference. Blue America’s encyclopedic knowledge of every Congressional race means that they do your homework for you. When you support Blue America, you’re supporting the best of the best, in the most important races in the country. It sure made a difference in our election.”

And Alan wasn't our only big win this cycle. After we helped a young reform-minded El Paso City Councilman, Beto O'Rourke, oust longtime corrupt incumbent Silvestre Reyes in a primary that sent shock waves through the DC Establishment, Beto went on this past Tuesday to roll up an awe-inspiring two-to-one landslide, beating his Tea Party opponent 65.5 to 32.8%. Aside for raising money for Beto, we also introduced him to Alan Grayson and Jared Polis so that he would have a base among other reform-minded Democrats in Washington and not just the corrupt, corporate-oriented glad-handing party leaders.

As you know by now, all three of the people Blue America backed for Senate -- Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin -- won incredible victories. Bernie was reelected with over 70% of the vote. Elizabeth was the only Democrat to dislodge a sitting Republican senator -- Wall Street's favorite member of the Senate, no less -- and Tammy Baldwin beat back a four-term governor to become Wisconsin's first woman senator, and the first openly gay person to even win a Senate seat in America.

In 2010, Annie Kuster and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter were both victims of the Tea Party wave that swept over New Hampshire. Tuesday that wave reversed itself, and both outstanding grassroots progressives won congressional seats and helped turn New Hampshire dark blue again-- with a new Democratic governor and an overwhelming victory in the state legislature. And across the country in California, state Senator Alan Lowenthal, a principled and determined progressive, who got no help from the DCCC, won a powerful 10-point victory over Climate Change-denier Gary Delong.

Blue America is very proud of all our winners, of course -- and very proud of our members who gave and gave and gave and gave so generously and so consistently. We're also incredibly proud of the candidates who didn't win their races but who fought hard, usually against overwhelming odds and with no help from the DCCC or the Beltway Establishment or the state parties that take their cues from Washington. Rob Zerban gave Paul Ryan the biggest fight of his career and came closer to ending it than anyone who's ever challenged him before. Rob will be back.

And Rob isn't the only one we will be working with again. Some of our youngest first-time candidates -- Aryanna Strader, Lee Rogers, Nate Shinagawa, Nick Ruiz -- have assured me that what we've worked so hard to build won't be wasted. Lee took on the powerful and entrenched chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and gave him the first close call of his long, corrupt career. Will McKeon even run again? None of these candidates had any help from the DCCC; all of them outperformed expectations and made a mark. The morning after his near victory over Tea Party debt collector Tom Reed, the DCCC asked Nate Shinagawa to suit up for 2014, which indicates that might actually support him next cycle. I'm certain, with your help, Blue America will.

Let me share with you a note I got on Wednesday morning from Aryanna Strader our candidate in PA-16, who waged a lonely battle against entrenched incumbent Joe Pitts:

Continue reading »



Blue America Welcomes Beto O'Rourke

At the end of May, progressives and reformers had a big win in Texas to celebrate. Texas? Well... sort of sure. El Paso is its own unique little corner of Texas, closer, some people like to say, to Los Angeles than to Houston. And in a different time zone from the rest of the state. The big victory was undeniable-- an entirely grassroots campaign by a reform-Democrat on the El Paso City Council, Beto O'Rourke, that swept away longtime Congressman and Machine Democrat Silvestre Reyes, a cog in the Military Industrial Complex wheel.

When I asked Beto what topic he would most like to discuss at our Blue America chat at today (noon, El Paso time, 11am, PT) he didn't hesitate for a moment, although it's a topic a lot of Democrats shy away from: immigration. Beto, 39 years old and the father of 3 small children, is a 4th-generation El Pasoan, a graduate of Columbia University who returned to El Paso and started a technology and media company downtown--not to mention the band, Foss with Cedric Bixler-Zavala who went on to play in At the Drive-In and The Mars Volta. Cedric went on to other bands-- and Beto went on to City Hall, winning 3 elections as a no-nonsense reformer, where he opposed vigilante Minutemen groups on the border, opposed the wasteful and failed so-called "war on drugs," and pushed through a forward-looking downtown revitalization plan. He was effective and controversial and his enemies kept trying to recall him... but readers of El Paso's biggest weekly voted him the city's Best Elected Official-- beating both Mayor John Cook and, ominously, Congressman Silvestre Reyes.

TX-16, Beto's district, is one of the bluest in Texas. When most of the state was giving McCain a 55-44% landslide over Obama, El Paso voters gave Obama a solid two-thirds victory. Both Gore and Kerry also won in TX-16 while most of the state rallied around its former governor. Beto's victory in the primary stunned DC insiders. They saw a business-as-usual member of their own corrupt little club fall to a steely-eyed reformer. For Party bosses that's scarier than the opposite party winning a seat, which probably explains why the DCCC is completely ignoring Beto's race. That has a lot to do with why Blue America is stepping in with a fill throttle endorsement and why we're asking you to help us make sure he beats the Republican candidate who hopes to flood the district with corporate money.

Beto's adamantly pro-Choice, pro-marriage equality, pro-immigrant stands have angered the haters and bigots and they're determined to defeat him. The DCCC is uninterested in helping. You think they want to hear things like this?

"El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua are home to over 2.5 million people from all over the hemisphere, and together we form the largest bi-national community in the world. This is where Latin America and North America meet, where cultures, economies, families and histories come together.

"The numbers alone are staggering: $80 billion in trade and millions of pedestrians and automobiles cross the five international bridges that connect our two countries annually.

"But our imprint on history is incalculable.

"It was in this bi-national community that the Mexican revolution was planned and launched; it’s here that millions of immigrants first experienced this country as they made their way deeper into the United States, making El Paso the Ellis Island for those coming from Latin America; and it’s El Paso’s history of tolerance and progressiveness that has broken so many national barriers when it comes to race and ethnicity (we elected the first Mexican-American mayor of a major city in 1957; we won the NCAA basketball championships in 1966 with the first all-black starting five; and we were the first city in the former Confederacy to desegregate places of public accommodation).

"Our connection to each other and our isolation from the centers of power, in Washington D.C. and Mexico City D.F., have made us stronger, more self reliant, and less influenced by the conventional wisdom from our respective country’s capitals.

"It means that when we look at the issues related to the border-- issues like immigration, security, trade or Plan Merida-- we understand them better than any community in America, because we live them.

"When D.C. wants to build billion-dollar walls to keep people out, we know it’s money wasted that could be better spent connecting our two countries. When we invest in military helicopters and drug war materiel in Mexico, instead of in schools and social infrastructure, we know that we are condemning our neighbor to more violence and failed policies.

"We see immigration as a huge benefit to this country-- one that fuels our economy, enriches our culture and helps positively define who we are, both to this country and to others around the world.

"We know that we’re offered a false choice when asked to decide between security and mobility. We understand that cities like ours, with large immigrant populations, are the safest in the country.

"Whether you look at it through the prism of economics, demographics or culture-- we are the future of this country. I look forward to sharing a positive vision of the U.S./Mexico border and helping ensure that the best values of our party and our country are reflected in our national policy."

Beto is part of the future of the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party, part of the future of a new Texas and part of the future of our dynamic country. Please help him write history in November.



Blue America Welcomes Sue Thorn (D-WV)

Blue America is proud to be officially endorsing Sue Thorn today. Sue is a grassroots community activist whose ideas about the role of government hearken back to a time when West Virginians very much saw government as a way of balancing the inordinate power of corporations and the wealthy arraigned against ordinary working families. She'll be joining us for a live blogging session here in he comments section at 2pm (EST). Her opponent is freshman David McKinley, or, as folks in northern West Virginia like to call him, Moneybags McKinley. He's a millionaire member of the top 1% and Blue America wants to help Sue Thorn send him packing. Before coming to Congress, McKinely was already a career politician, working the system to please his dirty-dealing campaign contributors, sleazy coal CEOs and shady special interest groups, at the expense of or the ordinary working families. After a slim victory against his DCCC-backed Blue Dog opponent in 2010, McKinley joined the Tea Party caucus. Now that he’s facing Sue Thorn, a real populist Democrat with widespread grassroots support, he’s proved he’ll say or do anything to get re-elected. Anything? You betcha!

• McKinley ran for office railing against taxpayer-funded mass mailings, or franked mailings, during election years, calling them an “abuse” of taxpayer funds. Now, he ranks as one of the top spenders in the House, spending hundreds of thousands of tax dollars mailing constituents campaign propaganda, full of conservative talking points.

• He campaigned with Tea Party rhetoric against big banks and bailouts, then accepted thousands in donations from the banking industry and supported legislation that turns regulatory power over to the bankers.

• McKinley says he is a “Friend of Coal” and claims to support coal miners, but refuses to sponsor coal mine safety legislation along with the rest of the WV Congressional delegation. Mining deaths and rates of black lung disease are on the rise in WV, but McKinley has proved to be a puppet for the profit-hungry coal industry, working in back-room deals to dismantle the EPA, weaken the Mine Safety and Health Administration, and push through anti-regulation bills that would pollute WV communities and poison the water supply.

Sue Thorn was asked to run for Congress because the people of West Virginia's first CD were sick of representation by conservative Democrats who vote with the Republicans and DC insiders who vote to slash safety net programs that benefit working families. Sue is not a career politician. She’s worked in economic development and community organizing and she aims to bring people together, not divide them. When we first spoke with her, we asked why she had decided to run.

“I’m running for Congress because I’m sick of the rich getting richer and the rest of us getting left behind. The extreme conservative Republicans currently controlling the House of Representatives don’t have the middle class in mind. They’re focused on passing bogus legislation that will keep campaign donations coming in from Big Oil, super PACs, corrupt CEOs and greedy special interest groups. At a time when the gap between the rich and the poor in this country is at its highest since the great depression, the House Republicans are recklessly voting for tax break for millionaires. I’m running for Congress because we need to rebuild the middle class.”

This is a winnable race, but Sue won’t be doing it with the help of the DCCC. They’re sitting this one out, after wasting a fortune trying to elect a Blue Dog Democrat in 2010 that the people of WV-01 didn’t want. Sue’s running in a traditionally Democratic district, previously represented by Democrats for over 40 years. She even pulled in 13,000 more votes than McKinley in the primary. But she also has to contend with McKinley’s campaign coffer of $1.4 million. Please consider helping her with a contribution here on our Blue America page.

We need to send the crazy conservative freshmen in Congress back where they came. Let’s start with David McKinley by helping to elect a true champion for regular people, Sue Thorn.



Blue America Welcomes Matt Heinz

Democrats generally cheered when Ron Barber won the special election in AZ-8 a couple weeks ago-- or at least when Jesse Kelly lost it-- to finish out the remainder of Gabby Gifford's term. No one paying attention exactly expected her district manager to be a progressive voice in Congress but I don't think anyone expected him to get into the House and immediately start voting for the Republican agenda-- against the environment on this first day and then against Eric Holder a few days later.

On August 28 there's a primary in Arizona and Democrats will be asked to pick a candidate for a new congressional seat, AZ-2, that includes much of the old 8th. It's significantly more Democratic and there's no need for a Blue Dog or anyone else who caters to Republicans and kicks his own party's values and principles to the curb. We covered it yesterday. Today at 11am (PST) Blue America is welcoming a young Arizona doctor and state Rep., Matt Heinz for a live blogging session in the comments section below. Matt is the newest candidate to be endorsed by Blue America.

Like many Democrats in the district, he was disgusted when Barber jumped right on the Boehner-Cantor team, giving them an opportunity to call their anti-environment jihad "bipartisan." Matt had a very different perspective. “I understand the importance of securing our borders,” explained Matt, “We cannot do it at the expense of our environment and civil liberties. Our environment is irreplaceable. We must be stewards of our natural wonders, particularly the unparalleled beauty of Southern Arizona's Sonora desert. We must stand on our convictions and principles to make the right decisions and not be cowed by hollow Tea Party claims that we need to degrade our environment in order to ensure our security and prosperity.”

Apparently Barber thinks he knows better than Mo Udall and senior agents of the Border Patrol. There is a difference between true bi-partisanship and caving to ideologues that are out-of-touch with the very agency they claim to support. Ron Barber failed to see that distinction. Matt had a 100% rating in 2011 with the League of Conservation Voters and a 100% rating with the Humane Voters of Arizona. Unlike Barber, people know where Matt stands on conservation, environmental and wildlife issues. Bipartisanship is about putting aside your politics for the greater good, not throwing out conviction for political gain.

Like most of us, Matt-- Doctor Heinz-- had mixed emotions when the 5-4 came down last week upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, which he supports as a step in the right direction (and which Barber has more positions on that lead no where than Mitt Romney does).

“I feel strongly that every American has the right to see a doctor. I am dedicated to the solutions that ensure access to medical service for all Americans regardless of socioeconomic status.

"While I cheered the Supreme Court for finding most of the Affordable Care Act constitutional, I paused to consider the ramifications of Court’s ruling on the Medicaid expansion. The Supreme Court found that the federal government cannot penalize states for refusing to expand Medicaid eligibility to under-served populations. Without this incentive for states like Arizona to expand eligibility, the health and wellness of our most vulnerable populations remain at risk. This is a situation that we cannot stand for any longer. It is a glaring problem I promise to do all I can to fix.

“One day, a woman named Bobbie Thayer entered my legislative office and told me tested positive for breast cancer and had no idea how she could afford the treatment she needed to save her life. Her provider said because of a loophole and bureaucratic red tape, she did not qualify for insurance coverage for the treatment.

"As a legislator and a physician, I had to find a solution-- not only to help save Bobbie's life, but to make sure other women did not have to face near certain death because of byzantine loopholes because so many people face similar situations. No woman should be denied breast cancer treatment because of her income level.

"At that very moment, we embarked on our journey to change the law. Before our efforts, if a woman was not screened by a Well Woman Healthcheck Program provider (WWHP), she couldn’t receive treatment through the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (our local Medicaid program). Uninsured women were denied lifesaving medical attention simply because they unknowingly walked into the wrong clinic.

"The law I passed will broaden WWHP access and lift age restrictions so we can save Arizonan women’s lives."

Matt has taken it on himself, as a doctor and as a lawmaker, to make sure women don't get pushed around by misguided right-wing ideologues. Arizona's state government, completely dominated by far-right Republicans with no checks and no balances, has been passing crackpot laws that have targeted the most vulnerable among us. Matt went on Fox News with Greta Van Susteren show to counter ultra-conservative attacks on women's privacy after Gov. Brewer signed HB 2625, a law requiring women to provide proof that prescribed birth control are taken for reasons other than the prevention of pregnancy in order to receive reimbursement. Under the guise of employer's rights, conservatives attacked women and Matt took them to task for it. I doubt I have to remind people that women are facing the same battle nationally and need someone who has proven themselves. Matt also denounced Arizona HB 2800, a ban on reimbursements paid to Planned Parenthood for non-abortion services provided to low-income women. That ban will impact thousands of women who rely on Planned Parenthood for preventive treatments and evaluations, including mammograms, cancer screenings and vaccinations. Matt: "Proponents of this law created a problem that does not exist in order to infringe upon a women’s privacy and freedoms. I am committed to efforts to repeal this
law.” So it probably won't surprise you to know that Matt is also standing up for equal pay for equal work.

“Promoting a woman's right to equal pay and societal status is another fight that is near and dear to me. It is egregious that an estimated 18% payroll gap exists between men and women who perform the same job. I support Congressional efforts to pass measures like the Paycheck Fairness Act. This law would ease wage dispute procedures and do more to hold employers accountable for salary gaps.”

Again, the primary is August 28. Early voting starts August 2-- exactly one month from today. Please consider making a contribution to Matt's campaign here on the Blue America ActBlue page.



One Week From Today: Super Tuesday... For Progressives

Next Tuesday, June 5th, is primary day in several states, including three where we have critical contests pitting progressive, dynamic leaders against, at best, garden variety Democrats. In California, two races stand out above and beyond all others: the CA-2 primary to replace retiring Lynn Woolsey and the first shot in twenty years for the Democrats to replace corrupt reactionary curmudgeon Buck McKeon. Our candidates, respectively, are Norman Solomon and Lee Rogers. Also here in the West, there is a primary for Montana's one at-large House seat and there is one outstanding candidate, state Rep. Franke Wilmer. Similar story in New Mexico, where the Albuquerque district has a corrupt conservative and a well-funded careerist being challenged by one of the most important progressive leaders running anywhere in America, state Sen. Eric Griego. These are 4 of the most outstanding candidates for office running anywhere and it's crucial to elect each of them-- and polling in all 4 races looks good.

Blue America would like to appeal to you to help us hit the ground running for these candidates for the general election. We want to get right into action against House Armed Services Committee chairman/bigot Buck McKeon in northeastern L.A. County and against extremist crackpots Janice Arnold-Jones in New Mexico and Steve Daines in Montana. And, because California's strange new "jungle primary" is likely to force Norman Solomon to face off against a corporate garden variety type Democrat, Jared Huffman, we need to help explain to voters why Norman is the exceptional candidate worth their trust and support. A lot of work. And we're asking for your help again.

Here on our Blue America ActBlue page, it's easy to contribute to all of our candidates or any one or two or more of them. And we love you for doing it. We'd also like to ask you to think about contributing to the Blue America PAC this week as well, a fund we use for one thing: communicating to targeted voters. We've been using TV, Internet and radio spots, mailers and billboards. There is no such thing as a contribution being too small. So whatever you can do, we'd be really grateful.

Last week Dennis Kucinich sent a note out to his own northern California supporters-- as did Alan Grayson and Raúl Grijalva. (By the way, Raúl has also endorsed Lee Rogers, Franke Wilmer and Eric Griego.) This is what Dennis told his folks why he's so enthusiastic about Norman, who he referred to as "one of the top peace candidates for Congress anywhere in the country":

Norman and I have been friends for almost 15 years. He is a powerful intellectual, a gifted writer and an activist who is willing to put himself on the line for the principled causes of peace, justice and the environment.

He will be one unique member of Congress...

Norman is a true progressive. He is an independent thinker. Too many Democrats go along with outrageous military spending, deadly wars and Wall Street greed, all of which demoralize our nation, drain our federal treasury and cause resentment around the world. Norm Solomon is unafraid to stand up and speak out when others are silent.

Norman will stand up to the Wall Streeters who continue their high-stakes gambling at public expense. He refuses to take corporate PAC money or lobbyist donations. That puts him at a disadvantage in this primary battle.

As you know, I will not be returning to Congress next year. We need Norman in Congress so that he can share his insight with all members. Because of his fierce dedication to the public interest, Norman will be an instant leader in Congress-- on war, on bloated military spending, on Wall Street, on threats to Social Security and Medicare (from either party).

Norman Solomon was an advocate for the 99%-- challenging the 1%-- before there was an Occupy Wall Street movement. Every supporter of mine should be a natural supporter of Norman. Help him carry on the legacy of strong peace and justice advocacy in the U.S. Congress.

And that is what Blue America has sought out in all of our candidates and it's what these four candidates all have in common-- proven leaders who will be advocates for the 99% and will not buy into the abysmal bipartisan corrupt ways of Washington. Unless you live in Montana you've probably never heard of Timm Twardowski. He runs AFSCME in that state and knows Rep. Wilmer well. "There is no doubt that Franke is the only candidate that understands what it means to do the 'work' for Montana in Washington, he told us. Which is why AFSCME endorsed Franke. "Franke's Montana experiences have shaped her deep commitment to the issues that affect us here at home and I know she will bring that message and hard work to Washington. Franke understands the unique nature and challenges of America's working families and will work to protect the middle class and restore the American Dream. It’s not about politics; it’s about doing the 'right thing' and putting our trust into someone who has walked in our shoes. Franke understands the work that needs to be accomplished in Washington and will always defend our beliefs."

This year Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, is working harder than I've ever seen progressives work to help elect more progressive candidates to Congress. Raúl has endorsed all 4 of these candidates. Here's what he had to say about Eric Griego in the state next door, New Mexico:

Eric Griego believes that "the last thing we need to send to Washington is a Democrat who's a kinder, gentler version of the Republicans." I agree. Democrats must fight for a government that works for all people, not just those with deep pockets and fancy titles.

Eric fought to get corporate money out of politics as an Albuquerque City Councilor, where he passed one of the strongest local campaign finance reforms in the nation. As State Senator, he took on the Big Oil companies and put middle-class workers first by passing a green jobs bill into law.

Eric is supported by leading progressive groups and major labor unions-- and he is the only candidate in the race to have a lifetime 100% rating from Conservation Voters New Mexico.

I need Eric Griego fighting by my side in Congress.

Alan Grayson also wants one of our candidates fighting on his side when he's back in Congress next year. Last year Alan sat down with Lee Rogers at a medical convention in Orlando and got to know him and to give him some of the helpful advice that is helping Lee beat the Buck McKeon machine. Here's the endorsement of Lee Rogers that Alan Grayson sent us yesterday:

I'm happy that Dr. Lee Rogers, candidate in CA-25, is a solid progressive. I'm happy that a Rogers victory means the defeat of Buck McKeon, who has been called the most corrupt Member of Congress. But I'm especially happy that Dr. Rogers knows something about something-- a
quality that Congress sorely needs.

When I was a lawyer, I had a client with a severe case of diabetes. I watched his health deteriorate over the years. The circulation in his legs weakened to the point where a foot was amputated.

It was terrible.

Dr. Rogers is a podiatrist and medical researcher. He pioneered a new protocol for such cases that reduced amputations by 72%.

Dr. Rogers runs the Amputation Prevention Center in Los Angeles. He teaches medicine. He has received awards for his research.

Healthcare is now one-sixth of the US economy. Imagine how good it would be to have someone in Congress who knows it so well.

Let's face it; many Members of Congress are good at only two things: getting elected, and getting re-elected. Whether Dr. Rogers is good at either of those things remains to be seen. But for the good of
Congress, and our health, I'd like to see it happen.

All the Blue America candidates are on the same page. And they all will need the help to go all the way in November. And the race to keep an eye on for today? Progressive insurgent Beto O'Rourke is challenging corrupt El Paso incumbent Silvestre Reyes in Texas' 16th CD. This could be another blow against the DC Establishment Machine and polls show Beto winning handily among early voters.




Paid for by Blue America PAC, blueamerica.crooksandliars.com, not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.