One Way to Save Economy According to GOP Deep Thinkers: Have More Kids!

Oh, this is rich. In a manifesto entitled Room to Grow: Conservative Reforms for a Limited Government and a Thriving Middle Class published by the YG Network, outline a justification and means towards making cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

First of all, it’s interesting to note who the YG network is. This stands for the “Young Guns” of the GOP and consisting of Congressmen Paul Ryan, Kevin McCarthy and Eric Cantor. The latter having just been primaried out of his seat. The editors and writers include some slightly longer in the tooth members of conservative think tanks such as the Manhattan Institute, as well as editors and writers for the National Review and National Affairs. Seriously thinkers and, one would assume, educated in economic policies.

Or not.

There is not a lot new offered up. Tax cuts, tax credits for health care and education, deregulation, vouchers and, naturally, cuts to social supports as well as this not so new idea to help the long-term unemployed: temporarily *reduce* the minimum wage.

OK, so you’ve heard all that before and are still waiting to see those proposals or policies actually WORK as intended. Well, maybe they DO work as intended since those policies historically have only created a LARGER gap between the haves and have nots and we all know that politicians, especially conservatives, work primarily for the haves.

However, even if you disagree with liberals like me and truly believe those policies WILL work to make ALL citizen’s lives better…..I find it hard to believe that you can support this one:

In support of a specific set of social insurance cuts, the authors write:

Social Security and Medicare have ‘crowded out’ the traditional incentive to raise children as a protection against poverty in old age. Today, most workers can reasonably foresee getting enough support from the public retirement system to stay out of poverty when they get older, making it less likely that they will have to call on direct aid – either in cash or in kind – from their own children

Now, I may be viewing this all wrong, but doesn’t that basically state that if only folks would have more kids, then we could stop relying so much on public retirement support? Because then those kids (who magically must be doing quite well themselves in this economy somehow?) would be able to house and support their retired family members, right? Given that the average Social Security check is only $14,000/year it sure seems like adult children can handle replacing that! Forget that most young adults are currently in a downward mobility spiral – or the cost of raising kids and getting them through college (because they would HAVE to go to college to earn enough in their lifetimes to support multiple generations you know!) – just HAVE MORE KIDS!

Can you see the eye-roll I am giving to this suggestion?

Can you see why it is really difficult to take this entire manifesto seriously when *that* is one of their deeply thought out arguments?

I mean, aren’t conservatives supposed to stay out of our personal lives?

Oh, right…they want to remove a woman’s right to choose and they sure as heck don’t want us to safely and easily obtain the health care and birth control that we want so that we can have the same opportunities for a career and upward mobility without relying on a man. It’s like they want us to go back to being barefoot and pregnant and….hey now! FINALLY, it ALL MAKES SENSE! MORE BABIES!

Sigh…..I’d suggest those Young Guns go back to drawing board.

 

Hat tip to the American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner (link to his online articles here) There will be a write up on this manifesto by him in the next issue (July/Aug) of the print version of the magazine. Attendees at NN14 got a copy in our swag bags :)

Netroots Nation 14 – My First Protest!

On Friday the 18th in Detroit, the Netroots Nation attendees added their voices to a planned protest against the water shut offs in Detroit. I joined in to what was my first ever march or protest. I didn’t carry a sign because I wanted to take pictures, but I did chant “Fight! Fight! Fight! Water is a Human Right!” Here’s some of my pictures:

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This was also the first protest march for my buddy Bill – he was INTO it!

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Hey, when The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) tells you to march, you MARCH! Also, yes, I was that close and yes, he was looking right at me (swoon!) :)

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The atmosphere was really fun.

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We wound up at the base of this obelisk in Hart Plaza – there was supposed to be a stage but the police took it away – so the organizers improvised.

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Some of my NN family – Vicki, Pam & Norm.

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The best part is that the protest made a difference. Because so many of us went out there, the march got much more widespread media coverage and the water official who had previously refused to meet with the leaders of the movement promised a meeting the following Monday. And then they put a 15 day hold on water shut offs! Apparently they conceded that the programs available to low income households were not well known so they stopped the process to allow the folks in danger of losing their water to make payment arrangements. Basically they were shutting off water without properly offering up any other options. In the meantime a really cool thing happened on twitter when two folks wondered if they could find a way to connect generous donors with needy households – yes, they could (more protest information & photos at that link)! Click here to help out!

I get that services need to be paid. But, I also believe that water is perhaps more basic than anything to people and one would hope that a balance between need and sustainability can be found. It’s pretty disgraceful when the UN declares a humanitarian crisis in one of the largest cities in the wealthiest country in the world.

NN13 Day Two – Moms and Storytelling

Reference links – Mother Talkers and MomsRising (session 1) and Kate Stayman-London (session 2)

Friday dawned with a schedule that promised to be more about socializing than sessions. I’ll write a separate post just on the parties and Pub Quiz :)

Session 1 – Parenting Caucus hosted by MomsRising

When I go to Netroots (originally Yearly Kos), I always attend the Parenting Caucus. Run by Elisa Batista who is a founder of the Mother Talkers blog which I joined when it first launched, the parenting group is a small but active group of progressive minded parents. No, it’s not just moms – in fact once year Elisa insisted that her husband participate too (Markos of Daily Kos) along with a bunch of other dads. We’ve had a few “off campus” gatherings but recently it’s been a regular session, and she’s been inviting some great speakers to join in. Now she works for Moms Rising so this was technically their event, but it was still relaxed and fun. Elisa always hands out some great swag such as a sweet MomsRising supermom t-shirt! Oh, plus they fed us what was probably the healthiest food I had the whole weekend! A fabulous array of fresh fruits and vegetables and Naked Juice to drink. I always go in saying I am just going to be there to listen and support Elisa (and eat of course!) and then I always end up joining the conversation no matter what :) We do tend to focus heavily on education of course, but also on issues like women’s access to health care – which allows us to control how many kids (if any!) we have – and also family and sick leave time for working parents. It really does boggle my mind that in a country supposedly as “wealthy” as we are that we have the *least* amount of paid family leave. Whether it’s to be home when a new baby is born or adopted, or to care for an elderly parent, working people struggle trying to balance those needs and remain financially stable in the U.S.

Session 2 – Why Screenwriters Make the Best Organizers: Using Storytelling to Build Empathy

I targeted this session because I thought it would help me with my developing writing skills and I must say I took some awesome notes!

The speaker was Kate Stayman-London – here is snippet from her NN13 bio:

You may know her writing from that one video with the cast of The West Wing, that other video with Cher and Kathy Griffin, or all those emails you get from Change.org (among other organizations). Kate worked for many organizations in the progressive movement (AFL-CIO, CREDO, etc.) before heading to Hollywood to get her MFA in screenwriting from USC.

Kate opened up by making us cry. Lovely! But really, when you watch that 6 minute silent montage at the beginning of Pixar’s UP, you probably start sobbing like a small child too. Why? Because great storytellers know how to build up empathy between characters and an audience. Here is the one sentence Kate told us all to write down to sum up that premise:

“Somebody wants something badly and is having difficulty getting it.”

The idea is to create a character people can relate to who is trying to achieve a goal or solve a problem. There are stakes involved of course. Either the high of reaching the goal or the drama and foreboding of what could happen if they fail. In that opener for UP, the initial sense you are left with is failure. The characters who you want to achieve their dreams are thwarted. First, it is the loss of their dream of having a child, then it is their inability to go on the dream adventure trip (which replaces the dreams of a baby) before Ellie dies. (dear gawd how I both HATE that movie for pulling on my heartstrings so much and also ADMIRE it for what it accomplished)

ANYWAY….(sniffle)

After she ripped us apart with that video, she went on to show how storytelling like that can translate into activism. When you are trying to motivate people to organize and support a cause, you definitely want to tell real life stories that pull people in like a movie, but the difference is you want to end the video with a sense of hope – your target audience needs to believe that they can change the ending. That their efforts will pay off to make life better for themselves and/or the people in the tale.

And that makes total sense doesn’t it? Given that the way you grab the attention of people right now is through images and, particularly, video, you can see how this screenwriter’s strategy would work. Six minutes is all it could take to move you deeply enough to say “I’ve got to DO something about this!”

Huh – look at that – 3 weeks removed from that session and just glancing at my notes brought all those thoughts/feelings/ideas back to me. Well done Kate!

More to come….including a picture of me with…a hip hop artist? Yep. Seriously.

#NN13 Day 1 – Blogging and Climate

The first thing that happened when I got to the convention center was a delightful encounter with a young man named Henry Burner.

Here is his site: http://henryburner.com/

Here is the result of that encounter: http://treesflowersbirds.com/2013/06/30/video-interview-from-san-jose/

I arrived in San Jose early enough to kidnap my friend for an off campus lunch outing to In n Out so that he could have his first taste of a Double Double. That, of course, is one of the highlights of my weekend since any one on one talking time I can get with Stormy is rare, but so much more satisfying than our usual 140 character twitter conversations or texts and emails. (OK, we don’t text in 140 or email like that, but you know what I mean!)

Anyway…that all meant that my first sessions were not until the afternoon, and I was able to attend two. As usual, I picked my targeted panels a few days earlier basically based on a combination of either topic, panelists or both.

The first one was right up my alley in terms of topic + panelists, and I chose it since I knew the one it conflicted with was being recorded for later (Mansplaining panel which I will watch right after I hit post on this!)

“Getting Paid to Blog” was the title and with Chris Savage, Digby & Katherine Haenschen on the panel, I couldn’t miss it.

First off – links to their blogs:

Chris Savage – http://www.eclectablog.com/

Digby – http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/

Katherine – http://www.burntorangereport.com/ – this one is particularly prescient right now given the recent activity in the Texas state senate and the monumental filibuster by Wendy Davis.

As someone who has been learning about online marketing for the last two years, it was really interesting to hear them pretty much outline the same strategies to make money online as any non-political business would need to enact. They didn’t necessarily focus on SEO, but they did talk about the importance of excellent content, content worth reading and sharing, and using guest blogging as primary tactics. All of that has to be used to create an audience (website visits) large enough over a sustained period of time, to attract the attention of the blog ad networks. With a politically focused site, they discussed the opportunities for using pop up paid petitions, sponsored content widgets, holding fundraising events, and approaching campaigns early for advertising opportunities.

*As a side note, while my blogs have never meant to be sources of income, I did like the idea of using sponsored or affiliate link widgets on the side as long as they are product or companies that I can personally support. That was a particularly well timed note for me to take – see session #2!*

“Getting Real on Climate” – with my long time twitter friend RL Miller (Climatehawk) & Darcy Burner (mom to Henry). Those two were my reason for attending :)

Links to the sites relevant to this panel:

Darcy’s up and coming business: http://terraheating.com/

A company I wish was in CA – but that will be on my blog soon: https://ethicalelectric.com/

It’s easy to assume when you go to a climate change session that you will hear all sorts of depressing statistics on how we human beings are killing the planet. Well, we are, but thankfully, these panelists knew that we didn’t need to be convinced. We were, as it is, the choir, and we didn’t need preaching! What we wanted, and what they provided, were answers.

First of all, there are the two companies listed above. Different approaches to how energy is provided that will move the country away from fossil fuels and will only invest in other companies that support the same. The continuing explosion in solar electricity has shown that consumers are completely willing to switch to alternative methods of utility deliverance – PARTICULARLY if it saves them money! As always, hit them in their wallets, right?  As someone whose next big home project is to figure out the best way to switch to solar, I get it. An electric car (hey, a Tesla perhaps?!!) would make me giddy. Of course, I need to gather up some money up front in order to save that money over the long haul, but I would happily do it. Since I am getting closer to that being a reality for me, I am going to be exploring every option I can. This session opened my eyes to more possibilites. Including the fact that Ethical Electric has an affiliate sale offer for people willing to list them on their websites. Yes, a widget will be coming to my blog very soon (See?  Tie in to panel #1!)

Also, if the climate is important to you, then please do follow @ClimateHawkVote on twitter and sign up with your email for updates on ways you can help elect politicians who are true climate hawks.

So that was Day 1 – I’ll be back later with more panel write ups and tales of parties and TWiB!

Lessons from State of the Union

(These are my own humble, not a professional anything responses to last night’s speeches. Grains of salt and all that.)

  • Those politicians seated on the aisles who get to shake hands with all the entering dignitaries and, more importantly, get their faces on camera a LOT? Some poor interns from their offices pretty much warmed those seats all day to secure those. Cracks me up how folks who will stand on that same House floor with cameras rolling and call the President all sorts of names and accuse him of all sorts of anti-American shenanigans – and yet there they are on SOTU night, copies of the speech in their hands asking for his autograph like some sort of geeked out fan as he goes by. Lordy.
  • Whenever the White House in the future – ANY White House – provides an enhanced live feed of the speech complete with charts and supporting statistics – watch it. Those charts and statistics help to illustrate where that particular President is coming from in terms of his policy proposals. Agree or disagree, they help to bring you to an understand of why he or she (someday, I hope!) thinks that issue is important. Also, they sneak in some pretty cool and often funny pictures (like the one last night of POTUS and McKayla Maroney doing the “I’m Not Impressed” scowl.)

Not Impressed

  • You can get a pretty good idea of what the President wants to emphasize by looking at the guest list for the family box where the spouses sit. Whoever, is with them will be featured and probably named in the speech and tied back to one of the policy initiatives POTUS wants to highlight. 
  • I thought this SOTU followed up nicely on his inauguration address. He kept consistent with his visions on where he would like to see his second term focus. What I wish is that EVERY policy idea he outlines would be followed up with “And I’ve appointed “x” or tasked “y”” to start hearings/meetings to write up the legislation” similar to what he did with regards to gun violence after Newtown. Or else, cite the specific legislation that is already making it’s way through Congress so that people can petition their representatives to vote on it or keep it moving. There were a few direct examples like that but not all and not the majority and that left me feeling like the proposal was way too much rhetoric and not yet enough action.  Which, I suppose, is true of every SOTU but is certainly something that feeds into the “All talk, no action” impression that the majority of the public has about DC.
  • Now, this one is IMPORTANT – a CRITICAL lesson we must ALL learn! Ready?…….Mamas – do NOT let your babies grow up to give the response to the SOTU! Got that? Really, I mean it. Ever since I’ve been paying attention to this speech, the response has been just awful. Often it is awful in substance, or awful in delivery, or…well..both! Of course most recently this sorry task has fallen to the GOP, but even the last couple of Democratic responses that I recall were sorely lacking. I do not understand how a supposedly polished politician who has won elections and therefore most likely given a stump speech or twelve can STILL be so so so unprepared to give a PREPARED statement on TV. In a controlled environment! For just 5-10 minutes! With no applause or heckling (that they can hear anyway!)
  • My one particular takeaway from the Marco Rubio response was this – no, not the water thing, I actually listened to it on a radio re-broadcast so I wasn’t distracted by those things – the GOP though, has still not learned it’s lesson from the 2012 election. That response sounded like a word for word repeat of a Romney stump speech from the last campaign. You  know, the one they lost? Yup, the response was completely filled with the same perspective/attacks on Obama and his policies and then the same, rejected solutions. Guys? It’s not that the messenger (Romney) was weak, it’s that your IDEAS are weak! Having a fresh faced young hispanic senator repeat the same thing didn’t make it go down any better. Even WITH an awkward gulp of water ;-)

When will the GOP learn?

Hey hi – I didn’t disappear – I just didn’t want to, you know – GLOAT too much after the election :-)

Instead I have been watching and wondering what sort of reaction would occur on the right. Would they continue to just insanely ignore all facts n the ground and still try to spin the results to avoid those realities? Or would there be some cracks in the bubble?

There have been a *few* cracks. Mostly just the folks who already occasional showed some signs of reason & ability to criticize the GOP. Those people have rightly exposed the media bubble and voiced the need for a re-assessment of policies proposed, not just HOW messages are delivered.

The vast majority though are still encased in fantasy-land.  Blaming things like Hurricane Sandy and the lack of real voting restrictions efforts to be put in place in time. Yes, there are some in the GOP who are being much more open about the fact that their voter suppression efforts WERE designed to keep Democrats specifically away from the voting booth. Somehow, that is more honorable than actually admitting your policies and candidates might be…you know…BAD!

No where is this more evident though, than in Michigan. A state that has districts that have been so gerrymandered that even though it overwhelmingly went for Obama and even though the total votes cast for Congress were also heavily Dem, they still send more GOP reps to Congress than Dems. HUH? Yeah, all about how district lines are drawn folks. Beyond that though is their state government. Currently still dominated by the GOP thanks to the 2010 elections (NEVER ignore the mid-terms Democrats! This is what happens!)

The message sent in November was that the voters FAVOR Democratic policies as laid out by Obama. It wasn’t just HIM, it was what he spoke about specifically that brought them out. Michigan state government though, didn’t quite get that. Governor Snyder who as recently as February stepped back from any union busting legislation (having seen the reaction in Wisconsin and across the country to efforts there)…well, AFTER a pretty clear national referendum in support of unions – he decided that Right To Work laws are suddenly fine and dandy and when both houses of the state legislature passed them, he signed it within hours. Gosh, no fast tracking  there! Next up? Abortion! Let’s restrict access to it as MUCH as possible without quite crossing the Roe v Wade line. Also….go ahead and bring your guns to schools and day care centers. That would be cool. There’s more, but you get the point.

The GOP reaction in Michigan to voters telling them they don’t LIKE those policies? Tough noogies! We are still in power and as long as we are, we don’t care if this isn’t the stuff we ran on, we are going to do it anyway because we CAN. So There!

I think that’s what makes me most angry – even if you can say that Michigan voters got themselves into this mess by voting for these candidates – I do know that NONE of them campaigned on these issues. Union busting and abortion and gun laws were NOT on the agenda in 2010. So why have so many in the GOP legislated on them? It’s a bait and switch.

I just look at all this as such a huge waste of time and money. Michigan voters are fighting mad. Now they have to find legal ways to challenge all these laws and/or repeal them. They will most certainly vote a lot of these folks out of office and then that new administration will have to write new laws to fix these bad ones.

I try not to be TOO cynical when it comes to politics and I absolutely HATE conspiracy theories, but MAN it is getting harder and harder to not believe that so much of what they DO once in power is more as a pay back to a big money donor than it is to benefit the people they represent. And when it turns out that ONE particular set of billionaires (Kochs) and their public policy institute (ALEC) happened to WRITE and then fund the campaigns to get those laws put into place?

Well….speaking of not being able to see reality….perhaps I SHOULD be more cynical about all this!

Voter suppression is a disgrace to our democracy

While I am encouraged that the media has covered this quite a lot this election cycle (well, except for Fox of course because they are not really news)….I am way more enraged that there is anything TO talk about.

First of all there were attempts to require ID to vote across many states. This seems innocuous until you think about the many reasons why people might NOT have a currently valid photo ID – such as my older son who doesn’t have a driver’s license and whose state photo ID card expired recently – even though he has been legally registered to vote since he was 18 and has voted every election, he would be turned away this year if we lived in a voter ID required state. There are a LOT of examples for varying reasons of folks who don’t have photo ID and would not have had the time to get one by tomorrow.

In most cases the voter ID laws were struck down by higher courts because their primary impact is to disenfranchise citizens.

Since the confirmed cases of actual voter fraud are less than 1/10 of a percent nationally this seems like complete overkill. More people would LOSE their ability to vote in just this one election than any proven fraudulent totals over the last four Presidential elections.

So it’s good that those laws were challenged and watered down or delayed or struck down entirely.

But wait – that is not the only effort to suppress the vote that has been going on.

In the last few weeks there have been huge problems with early voting. Some of the most critical swing states – Ohio and Florida – made efforts over the last decade to ease up long lines on election day and opened polling places for in person voting for up to 24 days at a time. Allowing for multiple weekend voting and spreading out the crowds. Makes sense right? Voting in person ONLY on the 1st Tuesday in November is ludicrous in 2012. It is one of the most outdated rules we have clung to over the decades and states that have taken steps to change the process are to be applauded. Voting by mail (as Oregon does) and allowing permanent absentee status without conditions (as many states such as CA do) expands the potential participation rates in elections.

Growing up I always heard people lament how low turnout would be and it seems only logical that expanding the days/times/methods of voting is one of the best ways to increase that.

Unfortunately, Ohio and Florida this cycle have taken steps to roll BACK early voting access. In Florida the number of early voting days were reduced, then subsequently added back at the lat minute in certain precincts when lawsuits were filed. And yet people stood in ridiculously long lines – up to 8 hours! to cast their ballot.

In Ohio steps were taken to make the actual ballot used more confusing for early voters thereby increasing the chances that a voter would end up having to vote “provisionally” which then increases the changes that those ballots wont be counted at all. So you stand in the long lines and think you have voted only there is a good chance it wont be counted.

I have YET to hear a logical reason why ANY of these efforts is needed. None. Anyone looking at this would see only one reason why you it would happen like this – those state officials are TRYING to suppress voter turnout and invalidate the ballots of as many voters as possible.

WHY?

Let me digress for a second to pull from a blog post by Steve Benen on the MaddowBlog:

This should not be easy.

This affects every voter, regardless of party or ideology, but because Republicans benefit more from lower turnout and higher disenfranchisement, this is a purely partisan scheme to rig an election in the GOP’s favor.

OK, you’re thinking, early voting in Florida has been disgraceful, but at least voting on Election Day itself will be smoother, right? Wrong — due to Republican budget cuts, there will be fewer polling precincts this year than four years ago, meaning more long lines.

I’ll just conclude with Rachel’s conclusion: “[I]t is frankly an outrage that there are forces at work in our politics right now that not only make this type of situation possible, but that make it inevitable — who see problems like this and go out of their way to try to make it worse…. If you are one of those people being forced to stand in those long lines tonight or tomorrow or on Election Day, honestly, your country needs you to do it. Your country needs you to do it, not only because it’s your civic responsibility, but also because there are people trying to profit politically off of you not doing it.”

 

And then a quote from Rachel Maddow directly “I did not grow up with the expectation that casting a ballot was supposed to be an endurance sport.”

Voting is a right, not a privilege. There is NOT rampant voting fraud that needs to be fixed.  Voting should be EASY, ACCESSIBLE and COUNTED consistently every single time.

Oh…well, there is this one minor detail we should consider here that was alluded to in the quotes.

ALL the states creating these problems? Voter ID laws, early voting cutbacks, provisional ballot rules – ALL have Republican Governors and Secretaries of State.

Because if you cannot convince citizens to vote for you based on your POLICIES, then the next best step is to just stop the people you don’t like from casting their ballot at all.