Alicia Keys to visit Philly, give her support at Women Vote Summit
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney may have an edge on President Barack Obama in fundraising, but Obama appears to have cornered the political market on hip entertainers pushing his message.
R&B sensation and multi-platinum singer Alicia Keys is the next celebrity to work on Obama’s behalf. She’ll be the prime draw to Monday’s Women Vote 2012 Summit, which begins at 5 p.m. at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, 1101 Arch Street.
The event is free and open to the public.
Keys will join Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and senior Democratic strategist Valerie Jarrett in discussions of Obama’s various women-related initiatives, including the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the merits of the recently upheld Affordable Health Care Act.
“As a mother and a daughter, I know there is too much at stake in the upcoming elections to sit on the sidelines. I’m excited for next week’s Women Vote summit to talk about issues that are important to me and my family,” said Keys. “In his three years in office, President Obama has been an advocate for us since day one — from making health care more accessible and affordable to ensuring women can fight for equal pay for an equal day’s work. He has proven that he has the people in his heart! As a new mom, I am going to do everything I can to re-elect the president because this election will determine where we go as a country and what kind of world my child will grow up in.”
Recent polls show that the Obama-Romney gender gap is growing; in fact, Romney is facing a wider gender gap than John McCain did in 2008.
And the National Organization for Women recently endorsed Obama’s re-election, which will perhaps further motivate NOW’s 500,000 members and women voters in general.
“It is with great pride that I announce on behalf of the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots women’s rights organization, that the National Organization for Women Political Action Committee endorses President Barack Obama for re-election as president of the United States. NOW/PAC is proud to stand behind a president who unquestionably represents the path forward to achieve equality for women,” said NOW/PAC Chairwoman Terry O’Neill. “Throughout the past four years President Obama has listened to our concerns and repeatedly stood up for women’s rights against a right-wing juggernaut bent on undermining our access to reproductive health care, our economic security and even our safety from intimate partner violence and sexual assault.
“The extremists’ War on Women is all too real, and in order to win this struggle we must have strong allies in the White House who will work with us to implement policies that empower the women of this country to live healthy, safe and productive lives,” O’Neill continued. “President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have shown time and again that they are our allies.”
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Michelle Obama rarely mentions Mitt Romney by name. But everything she says during this presidential campaign is meant to draw a contrast between her husband and his Republican challenger.
She implies that Romney, who had a privileged upbringing, can't relate when she tells middle-class voters that President Barack Obama understands their economic struggles because he has struggled too. And she suggests Romney would have other priorities when she says her husband's empathy will result in a second-term agenda focused squarely on middle-class economic security.
The first lady will make her case to millions of Americans on Tuesday when she headlines the first night of the Democratic Party's national convention, where two days later her husband will accept the party's presidential nomination for a second time. Her high-profile appearance underscores her key role in his re-election bid: chief defender of his character and leader in efforts to validate the direction he is taking the country.
"I am going to remind people about the values that drive my husband to do what he has done and what he is going to do for the next four years," Mrs. Obama said of her speech during an interview with SiriusXM radio host Joe Madison.
Once the reluctant political spouse, Mrs. Obama has embraced that mission to sell her husband anew throughout the summer while raising money for the campaign and speaking at rallies in battleground states.
These days, Mrs. Obama's speeches are peppered with references to the president's upbringing in Hawaii, where he was raised by a single mother and his grandparents. She talks about the student loans he took out to pay for college and the years it took to pay them back.
When Romney accused Obama of running a "campaign of hate," the first lady delivered Obama's strongest counterpoint — without mentioning the Republican candidate.
"We all know who my husband is, don't we? And we all know what he stands for," she said, standing alongside the president at a campaign rally in Iowa.
Key to Mrs. Obama's campaign strategy is maintaining her own personal appeal.
Anita McBride, who served as first lady Laura Bush's chief of staff, said that means staying away from the vitriol that has permeated the White House campaign.
"There are plenty of attack dogs in this campaign," McBride said. "She doesn't need to be one of them."
In many ways, the first lady's challenge Tuesday night will be more difficult than it was when she spoke at the 2008 Democratic convention. Back then, her mission was to vouch for her husband's personal qualities. This time around, she also has to persuade voters to stick with him amid high unemployment and sluggish economic growth.
Many Americans didn't know Mrs. Obama and some viewed her suspiciously before the 2008 convention. Republicans had questioned her patriotism throughout the campaign because she told voters during the primary that "for the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country."
Her convention speech sought to put those issues to rest. She declared "I love this country" and used personal stories about her marriage to assure voters they had nothing to fear about her and her husband's values.
Since moving into the White House, Mrs. Obama has focused on tackling childhood obesity and assisting military families. She's largely steered clear of her husband's political battles, at least in public.
But behind the scenes, she's a sounding board for her husband on pressing policy matters. She also has increasingly promoted his health care overhaul after it was upheld by the Supreme Court.
Aides say she will sprinkle her remarks Tuesday with a defense of the president's policies, including the health care law and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which was the first legislation Obama signed into law. The act makes it easier for women to sue for equal pay if they earn less than their male counterparts. Obama has made the law a key part of his election-year appeal to women, who could give him an edge over Romney in a tight race.
The first lady arrived in Charlotte on Monday and informally rehearsed at the Time Warner Cable Arena. She also taped interviews for entertainment programs that will air before her speech.
Mrs. Obama is staying in Charlotte during the three-day convention and will focus on shoring up support for her husband among key constituencies. She plans to speak to the party's African-American, Hispanic and women's caucuses and address a gay and lesbian luncheon. Along with the vice president's wife, Jill Biden, the first lady will also participate in an armed services event Thursday and put together care packages for U.S. troops serving overseas.
Mrs. Obama will join a crowd of up to 74,000 people at an outdoor football stadium on Thursday night when the president formally accepts the Democratic nomination. The first lady is not expected to have a speaking role that night, but she, and possibly her young daughters, will join the president on stage, leaving voters with fresh images of the photogenic family. -- (AP)
Welfare is being used again for political gain.
In the 1970s, Ronald Reagan used the image of “welfare queens” to assail welfare and other government poverty programs.
For years, conservatives distorted the image of the average welfare recipients as lazy cheats living lavishly off taxpayer’s money.
The rhetoric cooled down considerably after the 1996 welfare reform law when the government replaces a federal entitlement with grants to the states, while putting a time limit on how long families can get aid and requiring recipients to eventually go to work.
Today, welfare caseloads have significantly declined. There are only about 2 million families on what’s now called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF.
There haven’t been a lot of attacks on welfare since the reform. During the Republican presidential primary food stamps was the target of attack.
But a new ad by Mitt Romney’s campaign is renewing the welfare debate.
The Romney ad accuses President Barack Obama of seeking to unravel welfare reform by waiving work requirements.
The Obama administration says it does not want to waive work requirements, but instead primarily federal administrative rules, including some that tie up state caseworkers who could be serving clients.
Usually conservatives argue that states should take on government programs because they are the “laboratories of democracy.”
But when the Obama administration proposes to give the states more leeway on an aspect of welfare reform, conservatives accuse the president of trying to gut welfare reform.
PolitiFact, a fact-finding Web site, gave the Romney ad on Obama’s welfare it lowest mark for truthfulness.
“Romney’s ad says, “Under Obama plan (for welfare), you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job. They just send you welfare check,” PolitiFact said.
“That’s a drastic distortion of the planned changes to Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. By granting waivers to states, the Obama administration is seeking to make welfare-to-work efforts more successful, not end them. What’s more, the waivers would apply to individually evaluated pilot programs — HHS (Department of Health and Human Services) is not proposing a blanket, national change to welfare law.”
PolitiFact concludes its damaging assessment of the ad: “The ad’s claim is not accurate, and it inflames old resentments about able-bodied adults sitting around collecting public assistance.”
When Bill Clinton signed the welfare reform bill he declared: “After I sign my name to this bill, welfare will no longer be a political issue. The two parties cannot attack each other over it. Politicians cannot attack poor people over it …”
Clinton was wrong. Romney and other conservatives are still trying to use welfare as a political issue.
Corporate money drives voter ID, gun right laws
For most of the Republican primary season, the grip of the super PAC has been well-documented.
There are those who feel they are wrecking balls operating outside the candidates’ direct control, fueled by massive influxes of cash from a handful of wealthy patrons. Super Pacs such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in particular, have come under fire.
In April, pressured by watchdog groups, civil rights organizations and a growing national movement for accountable lawmaking, ALEC announced that it was disbanding the task force that has been responsible for advancing controversial voter ID and “Stand Your Ground” laws that particularly hurt people of color and the elderly.
“To simply say they are stopping non-economic work does not provide justice to the millions of Americas whose lives are impacted by these dangerous and discriminatory laws courtesy of ALEC and its corporate backers” said Rashard Robinson, executive director of the advocacy group ColorOfChange. “It’s clear that major corporations were in bed with an institution that has worked against basic American values such as the right to vote. Now that these companies are aware of what they’ve supported, what will they do about it? If ALEC’s corporate supporters will not hold the institution accountable for the damage it has caused nationwide, then the ColorOfChanng community will hold them accountable.”
ALEC, the shadowy corporate-funded proponent of so-called “model legislation” for passage by pliant state legislatures, announced that it would disband its “Public Safety and Elections” task force.
The task force has been the prime vehicle for proposing and advancing what critics describe as voter-suppression and anti-democratic initiatives — not just restrictive Voter ID laws but also plans to limit the ability of citizens to petition for referendums and constitutional changes that favor workers and communities.
The task force has also been the source of so-called “Castle Doctrine” in Pennsylvania and “Stand Your Ground” law in Florida, that limit the ability of police and prosecutors to pursue inquiries into shootings of unarmed individuals such as Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.
ALEC’s dramatic turn of events, has significant implications for state-based struggles over voting rights an election, as well as criminal justice policy. But it does not mean that ALEC will stop promoting one-size-fits-all “model legislation” at the state level.
Many believe super PACs will evolve into full-blown shadow campaigns, a transition that is already under way, with the super PACs supporting Republican candidates beginning to take on voter persuasion operations — like sending direct mail and making phone calls — that have traditionally been reserved for a campaign operation or party committee.
The phenomenon won’t be isolated on the right. President Barack Obama recently embraced the outside groups that he had rejected, saying that he would not unilaterally disarm. The president has dispatched one of his most trusted aides to run Priorities USA, the White House’s super PAC of choice.
The rise of the super PAC parallels a subtle but concerted effort by conservative groups to suppress the vote, which is disguised as efforts to defeat exceedingly rare voter fraud.
A 2011 study by New York University’s Brennan Center found that 14 Republican-dominated states have approved new legislation requiring higher standards for voter identification. The center estimates that five million people could find it more difficult to vote this year. In some 30 cases, state lawmakers received model “voter fraud” legislation from ALEC.
ALEC has received funding from Koch Industries, which is run by the conservative siblings of the same name who have reportedly pledged $60 million to defeat President Obama this fall. Given donation restrictions to campaigns, much of that money would have to go to super PACs.
The primary focus on voter suppression has been the overt actions by Republicans, either with restrictive new laws or in interfering with voters during an election. But last month, the Brennan Center for Justice looks at another, just as insidious but less direct form of voter suppression: big money corrupting politics.
They had the independent Opinion Research Corporation conduct a national survey for them during the month, asking 1,015 adults questions about Super PACs.
While the cynicism disgust about big money in politics might be bipartisan, the effects of it on the voting populace don’t appear to be: 26 percent of respondents said they were less likely to vote this year because of corruption in politics. But it gets worse:
“Dozens of corporations are investing millions of dollars a year to write business-friendly legislation that is being made into law in statehouses coast to coast, with no regard for the public interest,” said Bob Edgar of Common Cause. “This is proof positive of the depth and scope of the corporate reach into our democratic processes.”
Zack Burgess is the enterprise writer for The Tribune. He is a freelance writer and editor who covers culture, politics and sports. He can be contacted at zackburgess.com.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Democrats beckoned Americans to return Barack Obama to the White House despite the agonizingly slow economic recovery as they opened their national convention, casting the president as someone who understands the struggles of ordinary Americans while depicting Republican rival Mitt Romney as privileged and out-of-touch.
The opening of the three-day convention on Tuesday was effectively a rebuttal to last week's Republican convention in which Obama was depicted as driving down the U.S. economy by favoring a welfare state over private enterprise.
The star speaker, Michelle Obama, played up her husband's strong suits, declaring that after nearly four years as president, he is still the man who drove a rust-bucket car on early dates, rescued a coffee table from the trash, and knows the struggles of everyday Americans because he lived them in full.
"I have seen firsthand that being president doesn't change who you are, it reveals who you are," the first lady said to huge cheers Tuesday night in a deeply personal, yet unmistakably political testimonial highlighting the Democratic National Convention's opening night.
Bill Clinton, the last president to preside over sustained economic growth and a balanced budget, gets the star turn Wednesday night in a speech placing Obama's name into nomination — a high point in a checkered relationship between two men who sparred, sometimes sharply, in the 2008 primaries, when Clinton was supporting wife Hillary's campaign for the Democratic nomination.
Romney, a businessman and former Massachusetts governor, appeared nowhere in Mrs. Obama's remarks. But there was no mistaking the contrast she was drawing when she laid out certain values, "that how hard you work matters more than how much you make, that helping others means more than just getting ahead yourself."
Such subtleties were otherwise missing from the stage as speaker after speaker blasted Romney and the Republicans. The party's up-and-coming Julian Castro, mayor of San Antonio, Texas, captured the tone in branding Romney a millionaire "who doesn't get it." Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland said, "If Mitt was Santa Claus, he'd fire the reindeer and outsource the elves."
Delegates cheered as a parade of speakers extolled Obama's support for abortion rights and gay marriage, for consumer protections enacted under his health care law and for the successful auto industry bailout he pushed through Congress in his first year in office.
Polling gives Obama a consistent advantage over Romney as the more empathetic and in-touch leader. But the sputtering economy is the topmost voter concern and Obama's toughest mountain to climb after more than 42 months of unemployment surpassing 8 percent, the longest such stretch since the end of World War II. No president since the Great Depression has been re-elected with joblessness so high.
A new report found manufacturing activity declined for a third straight month. The Treasury Department announced Tuesday that the government's debt passed $16 trillion. And the latest unemployment report, coming Friday, offers more potential fodder for Romney's case against his rival's stewardship unless it shows marked improvement. Romney took a few days off from the campaign trail, preparing in Vermont for three fall debates with Obama that could prove pivotal in this close election.
Mrs. Obama described a marriage of kindred spirits, built from humble roots, and said the president's work on health care, college loans and more all come from that experience. "These issues aren't political" for him, she said. "They're personal."
"Barack knows what it means when a family struggles," she said. "He knows what it means to want something more for your kids and grandkids."
The first lady took the stage as the most popular figure in this year's presidential campaign. Michelle Obama earns higher favorability ratings than her husband, Romney, his wife, Ann, or either candidate for the vice presidency, according to the latest Associated Press-GfK poll. And views of Mrs. Obama tilt favorably among independents and women, two focal points in her husband's campaign for re-election.
Democrats looked to use the convention and its national television coverage to help Obama recapture the hearts of Americans once drawn to his message of hope and change, but now weary after years of economic weakness and political squabbles.
Castro's selection to deliver the prestigious keynote address during prime viewing time was a sign of his rising stardom in the party and the increasing importance of the Hispanic vote, which Democrats are relying on to win several battleground states in the West.
After highlighting the humble roots of his Mexican-born grandmother, Castro ridiculed the advice Romney gave at a campaign event that students could borrow money from their parents to start businesses.
"Gee, why didn't I think of that?," Castro said. "Some people are lucky enough to borrow money from their parents, but that shouldn't determine whether you can pursue your dreams."
The president closed a pre-convention tour of battleground states in Norfolk, Virginia, summoning a crowd at Norfolk State University to resist apathy and make sure to vote.
Republicans are "counting on you, maybe not to vote for Romney, but they're counting on you to feel discouraged," he said. "And they figure if you don't vote, then big oil will write our energy future, and insurance companies will write our health care plans, and politicians will dictate what a woman can or can't do when it comes to her own health."
Obama later returned to the White House to watch his wife's speech with their two daughters, two nights before his own convention-closing speech in the 74,000-seat Bank of America football stadium.
That speech will seek to recreate some of the grandeur of Obama's acceptance address in a Colorado stadium four years ago. At the time, the United States was in the midst of a devastating financial crisis while unpopular wars were dragging on in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama — young, magnetic and eloquent — captured the imagination of many Americans as the first black nominee of a major party. He promised a fresh start after eight years of George W. Bush's presidency and new hope for the economy.
Obama did withdraw U.S. combat troops from Iraq and the United States emerged from the recession. But economic growth has been tepid. Though he stepped up drone strikes on suspected terrorists and gave the order that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden, Republicans cast him as a weak leader. He won congressional approval of an overhaul of the U.S health care system, but his plan remains largely unpopular.
The two conventions highlight the contrasting visions of government that voters will face in the Nov. 6 election. Romney's Republicans, increasingly guided by the anti-tax tea party movement, want to minimize the role of government, which it sees as an obstacle to enterprise and liberty. Obama's Democrats see government as a potential force for good, helping the downtrodden and providing the education and infrastructure needed to help the country prosper.
Candidates traditionally get a bounce in the polls from political conventions, though there is little sign that Romney improved his standing after the Republican convention in Tampa, Florida. Once dramatic events for selecting candidates and debating issues, political conventions are now carefully scripted shows put on by the parties, making them less compelling television programming. -- (AP)
From President Barack Obama’s position on healthcare and his instrumental involvement in bailing out the auto industry, to his actions on equal pay and his stance on immigration, California Attorney General Kamala Harris emphasizes that between Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney, the choice couldn’t be clearer.
Harris serves as co-chair of the national re-election campaign and has been stumping nationwide for Obama’s re-election.
“The job that needs to get done is to remind folks that they’ve got to vote. Turnout has a huge impact on perceptions about how strong our voice is, and that’s about the presidential campaigns and the local campaigns,” Harris said. “The [African-American] community has to vote, because to vote is to use your voice. And the harsh reality is, often your issues won’t be heard if your voice is not heard.”
Aside from urging voters to action, Harris also confronted the contentious Voter ID Law, confirming that voters who do not currently have photo identification will still be able to vote.
“I know there’s a campaign here that is trying to deter folks from going to the polls, suggesting they need an ID to vote. I am here to tell you, they don’t,” Harris said. “As the chief elected law enforcement officer in the biggest state in this country; they do not need an ID to vote, not in this election. So don’t listen to the commercials that say otherwise.”
While Harris isn’t familiar with the particular nuances of the Voter ID Law here, she did say that similar bills in other states have led to an appreciable amount of voter uncertainty.
“When we talk about the specific components of the Civil Rights Movement, part of it was the passage of the Voting Rights Act, but why was it necessary? Because the reality of the history of this country — not too long ago — was that everyone didn’t have access to the polls,” Harris said. “We didn’t have equality in terms of meaningful ability for everyone to vote and be equal in that way … and then, remembering what Coretta Scott King said, which is that ‘The fight for civil rights must be fought and won with each generation.’ Let’s put it in context — which is that we have to always be vigilant in fighting for civil rights, such as making sure everyone has equal access to the polls.”
And while the Voter ID law is a major issue in states that have chosen to enact it, Harris was sure to touch on the other hot-button issues in this election – including the financial standing of the housing market and the reforms made there.
As California’s Attorney General, Harris prosecuted several mortgage-related fraud crimes, and made sure California homeowners received their fair share — $18 billion — of the National Mortgage Settlement.
“I have personal knowledge of the president’s commitment to struggling homeowners and middle-class families,” Harris said, noting that Obama also led the charge to reform Wall Street. “And with his support and encouragement of that multi-state settlement, President Obama has been very clear that he wanted to make sure that struggling homeowners and families in the process of being foreclosed unfairly received relief - and there would be consequences and accountability for wrongdoing by the banks.
“If there is any person in this campaign who identifies with the folks we’re talking about, it’s Barack Obama, and not Mitt Romney.”
Harris commended Obama’s handling of the economy – specifically the auto industry bailout, which Harris says Obama’s involvement saved hundreds of thousands of jobs, whereas Romney didn’t agree and said he would go the other way, which was to allow the industry to go bankrupt.
She also questioned Romney’s stance on a host of women’s issues, noting that one of Obama’s first acts was to sign the Lilly Ledbetter Act for equal pay for women who do the same job as their male counterparts.
“You have to look at what people do. The act gave women a legal right for women to fight for equal pay in the workforce. Romney said he wasn’t sure if he’d sign Lilly Ledbetter or not, and that’s scary,” Harris said. “On the issue of choice, the president is saying that he’s going to leave it up to that individual woman to consult with her minister, her god, her physician and her family to make the best decision, and he would not, as a politician, tell her what she should do with her body.
“That versus the perspective from the Romney-Ryan side, where Ryan said before becoming the vice presidential candidate that even in the case of rape or incest, he’d be opposed to abortion and that women’s right to choose,” Harris continued. “It’s bizarre, it’s paternalistic and it’s scary.”
Last Friday an extraordinary event took place when President Obama and Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich all spoke out on the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin.
To varying degrees they all spoke on the death of Martin, the 17-year-old unarmed Black teenager who was shot to death last month by a neighborhood watch captain in Sanford, Fla., a suburb of Orlando.
The shooter, George Zimmerman, 28, claimed he shot Martin in self-defense, a questionable claim since Zimmerman pursued Martin with a 9mm. Martin was carrying an iced tea and a bag of Skittles.
Martin’s death has sparked a national outcry and the demand that Zimmerman be arrested and charged.
Yet the comments by Obama, Romney, Gingrich and Santorum last Friday on such an explosive case were remarkable.
Obama spoke in highly personal terms about how the shooting of Martin had affected him, saying that “if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”
He cautioned that his comments would be limited because the Justice Department was investigating.
“I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this,” Obama said.
The comments by the president were remarkable because he has been careful not to speak on racial sensitive issues.
The Republican presidential candidates also remarked on the Martin killing.
Romney, the presumed front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, said: “What happened to Trayvon Martin is a tragedy. There needs to be a thorough investigation that reassures the public that justice is carried out with impartiality and integrity.”
Santorum’s pointed remarks criticized the police handling of the case and rebuffed suggestions that Florida’s stand your ground law — which give citizens wide latitude to use deadly force rather than retreat — should be applied in this case.
“Well, stand your ground is not doing what this man did,” he said. ‘There’s a difference between stand your ground and doing what he did. It’s a horrible case. I mean it’s chilling to hear what happened, and of course the fact that law enforcement didn’t immediately go after and prosecute this case is another chilling example of horrible decisions made by people in the process.”
Gingrich said the district attorney had done “the right thing,” in empanelling a grand jury. But speaking of Zimmerman, he said it was “pretty clear that this is a guy who found a hobby that’s very dangerous.”
Both Santorum and Gingrich had played to racial politics earlier in the campaign by linking Obama and African Americans in general with increased food stamps usage.
But their comments reveal how the national outrage and grassroots protests over the Martin killing have shaken the nation’s political establishment.
The hope is that this case will not be racially or politically exploited.
Justice must be served.
Once again, Mitt Romney is on the Pennsylvania campaign trail touting his success with Bain Capital to anyone who will listen. He claims that his record as a businessman gives him the experience we need in a president.
Romney’s right to run his business as he saw fit is not under question here, nor is the private equity industry. What we as Americans must question is whether we want the values and lessons Romney holds as a businessman to define our president.
Given his track record in both the public and private sector, Mitt Romney is the last person we need in the White House. During his tenure as governor of Massachusetts, Romney loaded his constituents with the most per-capita debt in the nation and left his successor with a $1 billion deficit. As a corporate-buyout specialist, Romney economics saddled many companies with debt before bankrupting them and leaving middle-class workers jobless, while Romney and his partners made millions of dollars. According to one of Romney’s former partners at Bain Capital, their purpose was to create wealth for themselves and investors. Romney economics ignored growing companies and creating jobs. It disregarded long term economic growth. Certainly no effort was made to strengthen the stability of the middle class.
Romney would run the country as he ran Bain Capital and the middle class would suffer. His values as a businessman would be disastrous for the economic security of the middle class. Time and again, Romney has trumpeted his work with corporate buyouts as a key credential for running for president. While his policies resulted in tremendous profit for him and his partners, it often came at the expense of workers and their families.
For example, GST Steel of Kansas City, Mo., was in existence for 105 years before Bain Capital took control in 1993. With an $8 million investment, Bain Capital took control of GST Steel and promptly loaded it with debt. Within ten years the debt of GST Steel ballooned to over $500 million and was forced into bankruptcy under the control of Bain Capital. Romney and his partners made $12 million, a 150 percent return on their investment, while a company tied to its community for over one hundred years shuttered. Not only did GST Steel’s 750 employees lose their jobs, but also their severance pay, health insurance and pensions because Bain Capital underfunded their pensions. Clearly Romney can look out for the interests of a few, but is unfit to look out for the interests of a nation.
The values and lessons Romney learned as a corporate-buyout specialist aren’t the ones we want in the White House. His economic policies are based off the Bush-era formula that benefited a few, but crashed our economy and undermined security for the middle class and those trying to join it. Romney economics would hurt the middle class instead of helping it grow. These are policies that Romney would bring to the presidency, ones which we can ill afford as a nation.
We cannot afford to return to the same failed policies that caused the economic crisis in the first place. President Barack Obama is moving America forward and fighting for an economy built to last, where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded. His balanced plan will reduce our debt by $4 trillion, and he’s already signed into law a commitment to more than $2 trillion in cuts.
Obama is rewarding American businesses that stay here. Rooted in his belief in the American worker, he’s helping us compete in the global marketplace and putting America on track to double our nation’s exports by 2015.
Obama is investing in competitive grants to reform Pennsylvania’s great community colleges, supporting partnerships with employers to provide pathways to good jobs, and doubling our investment in Pell Grants so an additional 3 million students from working- and middle-class families can access the college education they need for the jobs of the future.
Mitt Romney and Barack Obama offer starkly different visions for America’s future. The question Pennsylvanians must decide is which of those visions will best represent our values in the Oval Office. I want President Obama’s.
Senator Vincent J. Hughes has been a member of the Pennsylvania Senate representing the 7th Senatorial District since November 1994.
If President Obama wants to win in November he will have to run against the Republican Congress. He will actually not need to spend his time on Romney. When you have people like former President Jimmy Carter suggesting that Romney is not that bad, you have a message problem and one that may not be resolvable in the short-term. On the other hand, as a few people have suggested, if the obstructionist, wealthy Republican Congress can be tied around Romney’s neck, it could quite possibly undermine Romney’s campaign.
What does running against the Republican Congress mean? It means taking a message to the public about what sort of economy we need. It means picking up on the themes raised by the Occupy movement and hammering away at the policies of the Republican Congress and their support of the upper 1 percent. It means walking the streets of our devastated cities and speaking with the unemployed, and particularly speaking with those who have been out of work for years, people who fear that they may never be able to work again. Obama needs to become the voice of the voiceless.
President Obama needs to remind people about the economic policies that got us into this mess. This is something that the white unemployed and precariously employed need to hear time and again. Too many of them seem to be ready to go one more round in the Republican economic fun-house.
If there was one thing that Obama needs to do, and I am not sure that he is prepared to do it, it is to encourage protests and action among the bottom 99 percent against economic injustice. I don’t particularly care that he did not show up in Wisconsin to support the anti-Scott Walker recall movement. Wisconsin needed to be about Walker, not Obama. That said, the people at the base need to hear from Obama the way that we did in January 2009 when he supported the demands of the workers at Republic Windows & Doors in Chicago when they occupied — no pun intended — their factory. When was the last time that we had heard a president of the U.S. take such a stand? We now ask, why was that the last time we heard this from Obama?
We also need President Obama to stop trying to out-Republican the Republicans when it comes to national security. One of the best ways to demoralize segments of his base can be found in the continuing attacks on civil liberties that have been underway during his administration. “Whistleblowers” have come under attack. Peaceful, non-violent protesters — and such as the anti-war protesters in Minneapolis and Chicago — have not only come under surveillance but also have faced various legal charges. Look, we voted for a president we hoped would expand democracy rather than contract it.
We also voted for someone to end these senseless wars. Well, points go out to President Obama for ending the Iraq occupation, but we are still in Afghanistan and these drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen do nothing but inflame local tensions and create more enemies.
To win, Obama needs an “Obama Doctrine” for the 21st century, a clear, non-rhetorical statement that situates his campaign in the hearts and minds of the 99 percent. We do not need any more feel-good speeches. We need change that we can see. — (NNPA)
Democrats cheer, Republicans frown at State of the Union
Reaction to President Barack Obama’s first State of the Union speech of his second term broke down, predictably, along party lines – Democrats praised the president while Republicans criticized.
Two local Democrats applauded Obama’s speech while urging Republicans get behind the president as he opens his second term.
“At the beginning of President Obama’s second term, he has laid out a forward-looking agenda for America. The Congress should step up and be a full partner in moving our nation forward,” said U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, in a slight jab at his Republican colleagues.
Obama gave the first speech of his second term on Tuesday night in front of a joint session of Congress, laying out his plans for his next four years in office. It included a call to reform gun laws, education reform and raising the nation’s minimum wage.
In this week’s speech, the president presented his proposals as a way to boost the middle class, an echo of the just-finished campaign that often centered on the differences between the president and his opponent Mitt Romney, who most voters came to see a voice for the wealthy.
“It is our generation’s task, then, to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth – a rising, thriving middle class,” the president said. “It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country – the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, what you look like, or who you love.”
Speaker of the House John Boehner issued a statement following the speech saying the policies of Obama’s first term have failed and that he heard nothing that gave him hope for the president’s second term.
“Four years after the president first addressed a joint session of Congress, Americans are still asking, ‘Where are the jobs?’ He offered them little more than more of the same ‘stimulus’ policies that have failed to fix our economy and put Americans back to work,” Boehner said. “We cannot grow the middle class and foster job creation by growing government and raising taxes.”
Obama’s first term was tempered by a deeply divided and recalcitrant Congress, which, led by Republicans, attempted to block many of the president’s major initiatives – though the stimulus bill and health care reform did pass.
As his second term began, House Republicans showed little inclination to compromise. The weeks following the election were dominated by bickering over the fiscal cliff and the debt ceiling.
Even in the Senate, which has a Democratic majority, Republicans have held up several of the president’s cabinet nominations and other selections for administration posts including the new Consumer Protection Agency.
Fattah, who has just been chosen to lead the congressional Black caucus’s charitable foundation and serve on the Appropriation Committee’s subcommittee of veterans’ affairs, said Obama “has outlined a bold agenda to create jobs, strengthen the middle class, and support our veterans, men and women in uniform, and their families” for this second term.
He was not alone in praising the president while subtly highlighting what many see as Republican unwillingness to work with the administration.
Rep. Allyson Schwartz praised Obama for his “bold vision” and added that it was now up to Congress to put petty differences aside and work for the good of the country.
“Congress must take action to meet our looming fiscal deadlines and provide certainty and stability for our families and businesses,” she said. “This means not only demanding fiscal discipline in both spending and tax policy that strengthens the middle class, but also providing new revenue to make the right investments for a growing economy.”
Even the audience to Obama’s speech was divided, with more Democrats tuning in than Republicans, found a CNN poll. The same poll found that Obama’s speech did have an impact on its audience.
The poll found that 77 percent of viewers had a “somewhat or very positive” reaction to the president’s speech. That compared to 22 percent who had a “negative” response. CNN reported that more Democrats than Republicans watched the speech – 44 percent of the audience was Democrats compared to 17 percent Republicans. A majority of voters also said the president’s policies would put the country on the right track; 71 percent supported Obama’s policies a jump from 65 percent prior to the speech.