A “Do-Nothing Congress” that set a new record low in productivity left a sour taste in Robert Reich’s mouth, but hasn’t spoiled his appetite for the New Year.
Instead, the former Sec. of Labor produced a new video message criticizing the cause of America’s economic indigestion, praising the public’s hunger for improvement, and showing how sweet desserts could be enjoyed in 2014. (See video below.)
In his own write-up on the clip, Reich says:
Thanks to House Speaker John Boehner and his Republican caucus, the ‘Do-Nothing Congress’ was so awful this year that I decided it deserved its own theme song.
Titled “Congressional Republicans’ Theme Song: Nothing Really Matters,” and set to the tune of Queen’s classic “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the video features Reich detailing the lack of Republican response to established needs in the country.
They’ve done nothing to reform the nation’s obsolete immigration laws; nothing to reform our absurd and outdated tax system; nothing on climate change, or gun safety, or raising the minimum wage.
The GOP’s idleness hasn’t slowed down development on these progressive issues, though.
Even though Congress is paralyzed, America isn’t.
Reich then details the successes achieved by the public in 2013, such as minimum wage increases that take effect in some states and cities on January 1, election of progressive candidates, and labor strikes for better wages.
Together, we can do even more in 2014.
The video was produced by MoveOn.
Reich was Sec. of Labor under President Clinton, and today serves as Professor of Public Policy at Univ. of California-Berkeley.
Congress set a new record in the first year of its 113th session, but not one it can brag about: only 66 bills were passed in 2013, making it the least productive in recorded history.
Making it worse for incumbents, the previous record low in bills passed (80) was set in 2011 of the 112th session.
The public is keeping a close eye on this poor productivity, according to a recent CNN poll.
Conducted December 16-19, the survey found that two-thirds of American adults regard this session to be the worst in their lifetimes, and 73 percent say Congress has done nothing to address the country’s current needs.
These sentiments are shared by all demographics, the poll found.
The blame is applied to both sides of the aisle, as well; “52 percent believe that the policies of the Democratic leaders in Congress would move the country in the wrong direction; 54 percent say the same about the policies of congressional Republicans,” said Keating Holland, CNN Polling Director.
An earlier poll, conducted by Gallup in November, also found bipartisan distaste for Congress, reporting public approval at an all-time low of nine percent.
Few of the 66 bills passed this year were productive, with many serving only as ceremonial puffery, such as Congressional Gold Medal awards, use of the capitol’s rotunda, celebration of previously-passed legislation, and expressions of sympathy to stray animals.
Some only addressed effects of Congress’ lackadaisical performance, and by authorizing particular expenses during the October shutdown.
The few productive bills were commonly passed only after extensive argument and legislative tricks.
For example, the Violence Against Women Act was left to expire in January after the House refused to vote on its reauthorization. In February, nine Republican senators blocked it from coming to the floor for vote in objection to VAWA’s inclusion of immigrants and LGBT victims. It was only reinstated on February 28 after House Republicans’ restrictive modifications to the Act failed.
All House seats and 35 Senate seats are up for reelection in 2014.
Does the government shutdown by House Republicans remind you of some drunken, juvenile prank?
Well, have a few drinks of your own and get ready to fight fire with fire, says a new website that can even help you do it. “Now’s your chance to tell your Representative what you really think of their actions.”
Drunk Dial Congress lets you randomly dial the phone numbers of congressional representatives, giving you avenue to voice your complaints to any and all of them.
The www.drunkdialcongress.org site invites you to enter your personal phone number. A return call from a toll-free number will confirm your desire to participate in the antics (“Is this government shutdown making you want to drink?” a slurring voice asks), then begin random dialing to congressional offices. When you get an answer, let ‘em have it.
Need a few more drinks before you’ll feel brave enough to drunk-dial? Then look over the recipes featured on the site for such mixology masterpieces as “The Bad Representative” or even “The Bloody Bastard.”
Want to partake in the prank but don’t know what to say when someone answers? Just borrow one of the talking points posted on Drunk Dial Congress: “my grandma can’t get her cancer treatment” and “why don’t you make yourself useful and at least mow the lawn?” are just two of the suggestions, which come complete with sources to backup your complaint.
And if you need additional suggestions for topics to discuss when drunk-dialing, then try the new F---You Congress, another website recently created in response to the shutdown.
For example: “A bunch of WW II Veterans needed to bust their way through a barricade to visit a memorial for their fellow soldiers in DC. A real f---ing bangup job there, Congress.”
This other site also helps you tweet your representative with messages like “Yes, it's seriously this bad. You've reduced us to publicly saying #F---YouCongress.”
The site’s founding organizations – Cultivated Wit and I Shot Him creative studios – offer the following explanation for their creation: “Right now, a few Republicans are willing to hurt millions of lives and risk the world economy while others in office pretend they are powerless. F---ing enough already.”
Drunk Dial Congress was just registered on October 6 by Revolution Messaging, a Washington, D.C. company that also creates mobile phone ads and video commercials. F--- You Congress was registered on October 3.
UPDATE: The founding organizations of F--- You Congress were previously misidentified. Common Cause, Sunlight Foundation and Rootstrikers are listed as resources that site visitors can explore for means "to make a difference."
Some spoke earnestly and others angrily at Rep. Mark Sanford’s October 5 meeting in North Charleston, but their sentiments were similar overall.
The government shutdown should cease, the budget resolution should pass, and Congress shouldn’t hold taxpayers hostage on a completely unrelated issue, most offered at the last-minute meeting.
Sanford’s office only told media of the event on the preceding afternoon, but about 200 local citizens still showed up at North Charleston City Hall at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
Tea Party members and 9-12ers sat on one side and tie-dye t-shirts and nose rings occupied the other, but middle-of-the-road , middle-class citizenry took up the middle seating section of the council chambers environment.
They dominated the tone of the meeting, as well, and despite Sanford’s continued statements of shutdown support.
One attendee identified himself as a Sanford voter, but then told the congressman of two reasons he disagrees with the shutdown: first, it left him unemployed from his federal government job, the Charleston resident said. Second, his young child just had surgery, which made him personally reflect on and disagree with the true basis of the shutdown – House Republicans’ attempt to wreck the Affordable Care Act.
Both the national and local economies are at risk, a West Ashley resident said, noting that needed improvements to the Port of Charleston, which both Sanford and Vice President Joe Biden spoke of at an on-site event in September, were now on hold.
A Mt. Pleasant woman warned that the shutdown could even affect national health. Because the Dept. of Health and Human Services and the CDC are so limited in operation at the moment, there’ll be no public notice of flu season, she offered as example, and no vaccination drives, either, she said.
The full closings of other offices, such as the Civil Rights Commission and National Council on Disability, restrict the rights of many, said another.
An agriculture major at the College of Charleston told Sanford that the shutdown ended his internship, in which he was aiding a project on development of anticancer vegetation.
A Summerville man told Sanford he found the circumstance to be hypocritical. “The government’s been shut down by blocking the budget extension, but based on something that has nothing to do with that budget extension.”
Two attendees even agreed with Sanford’s disregard for the ACA, but still asked that the budget resolution be passed so that government can continue normal operation.
The recently-elected congressman respectfully received all comments, but still held to his shutdown support. Even though it had nothing to do with the budget extension, and even though it still continues operating – even expanding the day after the shutdown went into effect – Sanford still defended House Republicans’ plan to thwart ACA.
He not only opposes the healthcare plan, but he questions its current status, too, he said.
Broadly referring to 1,200 companies that have temporary exemption from an ACA rule that makes particular insurance policies a taxable benefit, Sanford said “it’s being administered in a way that’s not constitutional.”
Sanford’s argument, which he’s distributed many times, isn’t well-founded, however.
The Affordable Care Act does apply an excise tax to “Cadillac” plans – high-cost insurance policies that exceed a benefit cap of particular dollar values – that is payable by employers.
Health insurance for those who work in hazardous occupational fields could exceed those caps, though, and many companies have traditionally offered high-value insurance to employees in lieu of pay raises, as well.
The waiver has allowed corporate applicants in such circumstances to remain exempt from the excise tax.
Sanford made other comments that indicated rogueness and even hurt feelings might be playing a part in his support for the shutdown.
He said that during his previous congressional term he and Sen. Tom Coburn, who then was representative of Oklahoma’s 2nd District, would offer hundreds of amendments to bills to delay their final vote, “a method of filibustering,” he acknowledged.
Because the president formally stated he wouldn’t sign a resolution that included any defunding of the AHA, that indicated Pres. Obama was attempting to block such a delay-by-amendment tactic, Sanford said.
He also took as personal insult that the White House didn’t host a 4th of July barbecue for members of Congress. “That’s a tradition,” he said.
Instead, the president celebrated this year’s Independence Day with over 1,000 military troops and their families at a USO-sponsored event on the White House lawn.
Some did offer support to Sanford and his argument. The shutdown can be an avenue to privatization of government, said one wearing a “don’t tread on me” t-shirt, and many offices should be closed permanently, a female retiree offered.
The 90-minute reception answered no questions, though, as Sanford only alluded to darker days arising on October 17, when the federal government will be completely default, resting on assets that could be depleted within only days.
According to the U.S. Treasury, “credit markets could freeze, the value of the dollar could plummet, U.S. interest rates could skyrocket, the negative spillovers could reverberate around the world and recession that could echo the events of 2008 or worse” if default were to result from the shutdown, which it refers to as “political brinkmanship.”
It’s not just affecting the government. The latest “shutdown” ploy by House Republicans has shut down my work, too.
Each of the many fields I delve in – marketing research, public relations, advertising, and even this kid-happy hopscotch on Internet journalism – require data to use as foundations and cited sources.
That means I need to quickly access verifiable info on many different topics. And the quickest source for the widest range of information is always a .gov site.
After this childish shutdown, though, I’m surfing from site to site only to find pages that read “unavailable” or “suspension,” which leaves me scrambling for per capitas and indices and demographics.
As a result, this shutdown hasn’t just put over 800,000 government employees out of work; it’s left me hanging, too. (See the images below of government websites affected by the shutdown.)
Not all websites of federal government departments have been shuttered due to the shutdown, that’s true. Some still offer data that was already present on their sites, but with warning that there’s no new information available.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics, for example, has a homepage notification that new data is not being collected, thus can’t be provided. Facts and figures from its earlier reports are still accessible, however.
But that’s not the case for all of these government sites. The Almighty Census Bureau, for example – the division of the Dept. of Commerce that reports industry data, social surveys, occupational statistics and a smorgasbord of other finely-detailed information – isn’t allowing access to anything. Even old versions of its Statistical Abstract, ordinarily available from www.census.gov in decade-old pdf editions, can’t be accessed.
Neither can MapStats, FedStats, or the spiffy American Factfinder. Those sites, along with the Census Bureau’s (and many others I’ve found), only refer visitors to the generic usa.gov.
But that site carries a shutdown sign, too, so folks who try that link as a secondary option only wind up spinning in cyber-circles.
This shutdown hasn’t just resulted in some department sites that lack updates or are inoperable. Some entire offices aren’t working, either.
Take the Administration on Aging, for example, which provides help and needed reference to our country’s senior citizens, or the Civil Rights Commission. Even the National Council on Disability. They’re not operating online or brick-and-mortar. And these and other temporary closings leave many Americans vulnerable and unrepresented.
What’s worst about this shutdown garbage is that it’s not having the effect the Republican Party wants it to have. Remember, they refused to pass a budget bill solely because of the Affordable Care Act. If it stays operable, the GOP said, then they won’t let the government operate.
There are two profound ironies in this, though. First, the ACA was not included in that budget bill, so for House Republicans to argue against it through some unrelated avenue shows just how unfounded their argument is.
Second and most notable, the ACA and its website are still ongoing. With tremendous expansion, too, since its major elements went into effect the next day after this shutdown.
The GOP’s intended goal, then, is pointless. Fruitless. Idiotic and juvenile.
And self-defeating, too. A very recent Quinnipiac poll on this issue found that 72 percent of Americans think it’s wrong for Congress to shut down the federal government. The public blames the Republican Party for this wrong. And 74 percent of all Americans – even a majority of registered Republican voters (56 percent) – disapprove of the way the Republicans in Congress are operating right now.
And not only has it shot itself in its own foot, but the GOP has thrown away its crutches, too. This childish gesture is estimated to cost our taxpayer-funded government $12.5 million per hour. How’s that for “fiscal conservation”?
When the next election season comes around, the public won’t forget these inconveniences or costs, and not the personal threats to its representational rights, either, all of which are resulting from this latest Republican temper tantrum.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll close this composition to attend a matinee this afternoon with a friend who just got furloughed by the Dept. of Defense. Neither of us can get any work done, thanks to the shutdown, so we may as well entertain ourselves.
Photo by Adam Crisp/Mount Pleasant Patch
Martin Skelly, a Democratic candidate in the special election for South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, formally withdrew from the contest.
At a Feb 11. press conference in Charleston, Skelly credited the strength of one primary opponent’s campaign as the main reason for his withdrawal.
Citing her national name and the Democratic principles of her platform, Skelly endorsed Elizabeth Colbert-Busch.
"(She) has demonstrated that she is an outstanding candidate who can inspire both the party faithful and the political center we need to achieve consensus and end gridlock in Congress," he said.
Colbert-Busch, who was also present at the press conference, said “I am so pleased and honored to accept his endorsement,” the second she’s received from former primary opponents.
Bobbie Rose, a 2012 candidate for the office, endorsed Colbert-Busch on Jan. 30, two days after pulling out from the race.
Skelly’s withdrawal narrows the Democratic candidate slate to two: Colbert-Busch and Ben Frasier, who has run for congressional offices in almost every election cycle since 1972.
Frasier’s candidacy may have contributed to his decision, too, Skelly alluded.
"When I entered the race, I thought that if my pursuit of the nomination required a divisive primary campaign which would hurt the Democrat's chances (in the general election), then I should step aside," Skelly said.
Known colloquially as the “perennial candidate,” Frasier’s reputed to be a Republican plant who enters Democratic primaries only to harm other candidates’ campaigns.
“At the end of the day, you’re either in it for the party … or you’re in it for yourself,” Skelly said.
Despite yesterday's announcement, Skelly’s name might still appear on the primary ballots, the State Election Commission said on Monday. “We will try and hope to (correct the ballots),” said Chris Whitmire, SEC’s Director of Public Information, “but we can’t give definitive answer at the moment.”
Skelly is expected to join Colbert-Busch at a candidate forum this evening in Ridgeland, where he’ll repeat his endorsement.
Hosted by the executive committee of the Beaufort County Democratic Party, the event begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Beaufort Jasper Hampton Comprehensive Health Services facility (721 Okatie Hwy.).
She’s no longer a candidate, but Bobbie Rose is still active in the special election for South Carolina’s 1st Congressional seat.
On Jan. 30, Rose endorsed Democratic candidate Elizabeth Colbert-Busch.
Her decision to offer support during the primary election was based on similarity of their platforms, Rose says.
“I’m glad there’s a candidate who shares my views.”
In 2012, Rose’s campaign included platform issues of business development, labor, health care and environment. She says Colbert-Busch shares the same stances on those topics.
She will join the Colbert-Busch team as an adviser, a job Rose says she’s ready to begin in full gear.
“Time is an issue for every campaign,” she says, “especially in this special election cycle.”
While Rose had nine months to campaign in 2012, this year’s March 19 primary date gives candidates only seven weeks to compete in this special election’s first round. The final election date follows only seven weeks later on May 7.
Although she considered entering this year’s race, Rose formally withdrew on January 28, the last day of candidate filing.
Other candidates on the Democratic Party’s slate are Martin Skelly and Ben Frasier.
Three candidates – a notable name, a newcomer and a non-stop, naysaying novelty – have entered the Democratic Party’s slate for the upcoming special election in South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District.
Filing for the race, which follows Tim Scott’s resignation after his appointment to an empty Senate seat, closed at 12 p.m. on January 28.
Elizabeth Colbert-Busch might not have the national recognition of her brother (political comedian and TV star Stephen Colbert), but she’s quite well-known in the Lowcountry.
She’s worked directly with the Port of Charleston, and through many avenues: intern with the State Port Authority, board member of the Propeller Club, chair of the Maritime Association, founder of the Charleston Women in International Trade organization, and Director of Business Relations for port-user OOCL.
A College of Charleston grad, she serves on the Alumni Advisory Board for her alma mater’s business college, and since 2008 works as Director of Development for Clemson University’s Restoration Institute in North Charleston.
A Virginia native, Martin Skelly has resided in Charleston for only about six years. He’s been active in the community throughout, though.
He once served as president of the Father’s Club at Porter-Gaud, where his children attend school, and was an interim director at Trident Technical College in Charleston.
His work in international trade is evident in Skelly’s campaign, which focuses to date on the economy. “We live in the greatest country in the world, but our dysfunctional Congress is standing in the way of our economy.
“The people of South Carolina don’t want to sit back while the chaos in Congress pushes us closer to an economic meltdown,” Skelly says; “they want a sensible path forward to get our spending under control, achieve energy independence and create good jobs.”
The last to file, and just before deadline, was Ben Frasier, who has run for office in almost every election cycle since 1972.
Frasier stood out in the 2010 race with a platform that seemed identical to Republican candidate Tim Scott’s – he advocated lower taxes on wealth, and spoke openly against labor unions.
“We need to forge new and lasting solutions to the crises that have befallen South Carolina,” he said this afternoon, stating that employment was the district’s biggest need.
Bobbie Rose, the Democratic nominee for this office last year, withdrew her bid on January 28. She stated intentions to examine the candidate slate before announcing any endorsement.
The winner of the Democratic primary will face whichever of the 16 Republican candidates takes the nomination.
The primary race for each party takes place March 19, followed by runoff (if necessary) on April 2.
A general election to fill the vacant seat is scheduled for May 7.