Thursday, January 31, 2013

PRESS RELEASE: Ed Rendell Headlines Democratic Gala on Feb 10th

Amy Rohrer, Executive Director,
Democratic Party of DuPage County
January 31, 2013


The DuPage Democrats are preparing to celebrate the biggest day of their calendar year, the Annual Presidents’ Day Gala at the Drury Lane Oakbrook on Feb 10th.  And they have lots to celebrate!

“Just 5 short years ago at this time,” points out Chairman Bob Peickert,  “only 18 precincts out of 740+ actually had a Democrat they could go to with any of their concerns.” At this year’s Gala, over 17 representatives from United States Congress to DuPage Forest Preserve will be in attendance to herald the historical 2012 election in which DuPage voters finally drew a big blue swath across a large majority of its 750 precincts.

Executive Director Amy Rohrer had this to say about their success. “Every year we have attracted more volunteers, more dollars, more press. When we turned some of these races over in November, the Democrats who had been undercover in their seemingly ‘red’ neighborhoods finally saw that the tide had turned and contacted us.” She further pointed out that 2012 was the first time that DuPage had ever re-elected a Democratic President.

On Sunday February 10th, Former Mayor of Philly and Governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell--no stranger to inter and intra-party struggles and challenges--will be in town to talk with the gathered Gala group. Often a controversial voice on MSNBC, Rendell also has a new book whose title presents a provocative premise: A Nation of Wusses: How America's Leaders Lost the Guts to Make Us Great

Former Governor Rendell has been in politics for nearly 35 years in many roles and was the prototype for the Eric Baker character in the West Wing TV series.

Tickets are still available for the DuPage Democrats Presidents’ Day Gala which is being held at the Drury Lane in Oakbrook from 5 pm until 10 on February 10th. Please get details at or call 630-629-1125

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

America Needs Construction, Not Sequestration

By Dale Bowling

There was an article in the Washington Post this morning that showed that for the first time since the official end of the Bush Recession, economic growth contracted this past quarter. The downturn comes largely from cuts in military spending.

Government buys less stuff from people and employs fewer people and guess what happens? Fewer people have money in their pockets.  It's actually not hard math.

But you would not know that from hearing many people in Washington among other places who have drank too deeply from the Font of Fiscal Austerity. 

Since 2011, the Congress and the White House have cut $1.5 Trillion with a "T" from the Federal Budget. They have together agreed to an addition $500 Billion (with a B) in new taxes, nearly all on the wealthiest Americans. That is together $2 Trillion toward deficit reduction.

But sequestration will mean further cuts and the more cuts we're going to see, the more severe the economic downturn will be for exactly the same reason this past quarter has seen an about-face in growth.

Some in Congress subscribe to the "Starve the Beast" approach to Government, but unfortunately the Beast in question is job growth. More cuts means less money being funneled into job creation.

A fragile recovery needs more help from Government, not less. Once the economy is back on its feet, cut spending and pay down the debt like we've done countless times since World War II.

How's this for out-of-the-box thinking? Right now is the perfect time for that Big Infrastructure Bill which America has desperately needed for decades. An influx of money now would promote more job growth and economic renewal in a year than austerity will produce in twenty.

The American Jobs Act has been sitting and waiting patiently for passage for a year and a half. It's fully paid for by offsets in spending and could be implemented immediately. Economists think it would produce a couple of million jobs, give or take.

The only reason to not pass it hitherto has been that the Republican House wanted to deny President Obama anything that might help his reelection, but since America has made that issue irrelevant, it's time to dust it off the shelf and put it to good use.

But it shouldn't stop there. We need to invest in our infrastructure. It's been decades since we have and it's showing its age. Not only would a big infrastructure bill foster job growth, it would leave us with a top notch 21st century infrastructure that can fuel economic growth for the next half century.

Literally everyone would win.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Here's an actual, honest-to-goodness pension fix

By Ralph Martire
(Reprinted from Crain's Chicago Business)
There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth when the recent lame-duck session in Springfield ended.

Why? No action was taken to address the $95 billion in debt owed to the state's five pension systems.

This leaves the systems with just 40 percent of the funding they should have currently, which is well below the 80 percent generally deemed healthy for public systems. Good government groups and editorial boards alike lamented the Legislature's failure to pass yet another proposal to reduce that ginormous obligation - this time by cutting almost $30 billion in benefits earned by current workers and retirees.

But rather than being dismayed, folks should be relieved. Here's why.

A problem really can't be solved unless the proposed solution addresses its true cause. And the proposal that failed to pass during the lame-duck session - like every other proposal introduced to date on this subject - focused its solution on benefit cuts and thereby failed to deal with this particular problem's true cause.

See, three factors have contributed to the creation of this unfunded liability. The first two are items inherent to the pension systems themselves, like benefit levels, salary increases and actuarial assumptions; and investment losses suffered during the Great Recession. But if those were the only factors creating the unfunded liability, the systems would be around 70 percent funded today, meaning no crisis.

The vast majority of the unfunded liability is made up of the third contributing factor: debt. Indeed, for more than 40 years. the state used the pension systems like a credit card, borrowing against what it owed them to cover the cost of providing current services, which effectively allowed constituents to consume public services without having to pay the full cost thereof in taxes.

This irresponsible fiscal practice became such a crutch that it was codified into law in 1994 (P.A. 88-0593). That act implemented such aggressive borrowing against pension contributions to fund services that it grew the unfunded liability by more than 350 percent from 1995 to 2010 - by design. Worse, the repayment schedule it created was so back-loaded that it resembles a ski slope, with payments jumping at annual rates no fiscal system could accommodate. Want proof? This year the total pension payment under the ramp is $5.1 billion - more than $3.5 billion of which is debt service. By 2045, that annual payment is scheduled to exceed $17 billion, with all growth being debt service.

It is this unattainable, unaffordable repayment schedule that is straining the state's fiscal system - not pension benefits and not losses from the Great Recession. And no matter how much benefits are cut, that debt service will grow at unaffordable rates. Which means decision-makers can't solve this problem without re-amortizing the debt.

Given that the current repayment schedule is a complete legal fiction - a creature of statute that doesn't have any actuarial basis - making this change is relatively easy. Simply re-amortizing $85 billion of the unfunded liability into flat, annual debt payments of around $6.9 billion each through 2057 does the trick. After inflation, this new, flat, annual payment structure creates a financial obligation for the state that decreases in real terms over time, in place of the dramatically increasing structure under current law. Moreover, because some principal would be front- rather than back-loaded, this re-amortization would cost taxpayers $35 billion less than current law.

One last thing - it actually solves the problem by dealing with its cause.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Makers, Takers, Fairness and Playing by the Same Rules

By: Dale Bowling

Life isn't fair. I hear that all the time and I'm sure you do too. 

And life really isn't fair, is it? Some people get more opportunities than others by the sheer fact they
were born into one family versus another or in one neighborhood or city or country instead of some
other one.

Some kids have two parents who love them and some don't have any.

Not everyone is equally smart or equally healthy or whatever. Sadly true.

Life's not fair.

But it's not its truth that causes that phrase to be repeated over and over again.

The reason it gets repeated is that it allows people to accept something terrible as inevitable and then
feel just fine about not doing anything about it. It gets trotted out a lot whenever there is an injustice
that someone can't be bothered to rectify.

There are people who feel that everybody has the right to life, but not right a decent life. Because life's not fair. The Government should be there to make sure you take your first gasp of breath but after that, you're on your own Kid.

People who struggle can be allowed to struggle because life's not fair. Hungry- too bad. Life's not fair. Sick, but not insured? That's tough.

"Life's not fair" is really code for "that's not my problem".

But these same folks are all about fairness to themselves. They say, "Is it fair that I work and they
don't?"  47% or 90% or 53% (depending on who you talk to on the Right) of people aren't being fair to the Makers of Wealth. They're just Takers.

Does it matter that a lot of these "Takers" do work, but make so little they still meet the income
requirement for assistance? Does it matter that a lot of these "Takers" would really like to the
opportunity to improve themselves or their position in life?

These self-described Makers are usually the same people who have had every advantage up to now. They had access to good educations, parents who understood the system and could advise them accordingly, had connections, some capital. All the good cards were dealt to them. The game was theirs to lose from the get-go.

But as we go forward many of these self-described Makers are increasingly stacking the deck. They can make up rules as they go and those rules don't have to be fair because life isn't fair.

In 2010, 93% of income gains went to the top 1% of earners. Was that 93% fairly acquired since that top 1% worked so hard or were so much more self-disciplined or so much smarter than the bottom 99%? 

Nope. Stacked deck. That means that 99% of Americans (including a whole lot of self-described Makers) got screwed on the deal.

Let's turn this whole business on its head. The fact that "Life's not Fair" is all the more reason why we
as Americans need to shuffle the deck and all play by the same rules.

We can't have a Nation where some have opportunities to contribute and not others or where only some can rise - just because life wasn't equally fair to all Americans.

Playing by the same rules obviously won't make everyone equally successful. Life really isn't fair. But it will allow everyone to have a shot at improving themselves and their lot in life. Playing by the same rules just gives all Americans a chance at the American Dream.

And when everyone has a stake in the system, we are a stronger, better America as a result.

And that's what we want as Democrats.

Friday, January 25, 2013

It's Now Or Never On Climate Policy

By Dale Bowling

Ironically the more climate change proceeds, the less the powers-that-be have been willing to address

Ever since George W. Bush withdrew America from the Kyoto Treaty that would have limited emissions by industrialized nations, environmental legislation here in the States has been mostly in the form of deregulation. US environmental legislation has been to allow more things into the atmosphere, to allow corporations to police their own emissions, etc.

Obviously, not only has government done little to stop climate change, but it's actually helped it along. And by not taking strong stands on the climate change it has allowed climate change deniers free rein to direct the conversation.

The Corporate Pollution Lobby has spent a lot of time and money to convince you and I that climate
change is a hoax, even as we're waist deep in Sandy clean-up, still experiencing terrible drought here
in the Midwest, and hardly a week goes by when you don't see another article about arctic or antarctic
ice melting faster than scientists' most dire predictions.

Frequently we hear how it is unethical to mire future generations in government debt, but rarely do we hear about the immorality of leaving them with an environmentally-compromised planet which will sap the quality and diminish the quantity of their lives.

And the problem is rapidly moving toward what scientists call the "Tipping Point" where even if
humanity throws everything it has at the problem, there will still be no way to reverse it.

I've talked about how climate change is already costing you and I more at the grocery and the pump,
increases the cost of insurance and how more of your tax dollars are going to pay for clean-up every
year. This costs each of us a couple of thousand dollars a year on average.

But reaching the "Tipping Point" is more than costing us money, however considerable. If we don't stop ourselves from reaching it, we'll be among the most endangered species.

Imagine the world's ice caps and glaciers completely melt and never refreeze. Every year, we get a little closer to this. Scientists predict this would lead to the Earth's ocean levels rising in the tens of meters. For the non-metrically inclined, 10 meters is about 30 feet. So a rise of 10.5 meters is roughly 45 feet. Anyplace on Earth where the elevation is below 45 feet is now underwater. Think New Orleans. Think Lower Manhattan. Think South Florida or L.A. Think anywhere on the entire coast of America. Easily 100 million Americans will be treading water or spending trillions to keep it back.

Think globally what that will mean. Entire countries devastated. Millions of people would be dead or
environmental refugees and would crowd together in the places which are safe for human habitation.
Rivers that people depend on for drinking water contaminated by sea water or depleted by the lack of
snow runoff in spring. Permanent melting of the arctic and antarctic ice alone would be an
unprecedented global disaster.

And of course there is the increasing intensity of natural disasters. Fed by warmer oceans, hurricanes
larger than Sandy and Katrina are in our future. Floods, droughts, wildfires will greatly impact human
habitat and food production. Water shortages will become increasingly common, especially out west.
And if you think states like Colorado, Nevada and California want Great Lakes water now, you ain't
seen nothing yet.

All this at the time when world population is expected to increase to 9 billion towards the end of the
century. The urgency of dealing with climate change means that this has to be a priority now.

The President has outlined some of the changes that need to take place. In his first term, Mr. Obama
pushed for and obtained stronger fuel efficiency standards on automobiles. The Stimulus also
promoted research and development of alternative energy. These are good first steps, but we need to
pass stronger emission standards for power plants, revisit the idea of a carbon tax to incentive
corporate polluters to reduce their carbon emissions and expand alternative energy tax credits.

And lots of things we haven't even thought of yet.

In short, this country needs a unified, consistent climate policy which is given the same importance
and set of resources as monetary policy or foreign policy. We missed an enormous opportunity to lead the world by example when President Bush withdrew America from the Kyoto Treaty. It makes it hard for us to say to China or India or anybody in the future that they need to watch their carbon emissions.

We need to reclaim the high ground now and lead the world in combating climate change.

I'm not Elvis, but it's now or never. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Kind of America We Want Doesn't Come Cheaply

By: Dale Bowling

Fiscal Cliff followed by Debt Ceiling followed by Sequestration and now most likely followed by Debt Ceiling again.

For months this is all we're going to hear about from Congress because each of these mini-crises provide Republicans with opportunities to strike at Big Government, which in case you were still interested is their only reason for existing anymore. 

Democrats then will continue to juggle America's long term fiscal health with the good of the Nation as a whole. And they'll do so single-handedly.  Again.

This spectacle is too familiar and excruciatingly pointless. It's like watching Gilligan and the Skipper and wondering if they'll get off the island this time.

But beneath all the GOP's white noise (no pun intended) the question of why we have Government in the first place deserves some thought.

Because in essence when people start talking about taking down Big Government what they're really talking about is weakening or abandoning things that Americans dearly love and have paid for years to receive. Like Social Security. Like Medicare. And like help for America's most unfortunate- Medicaid and Welfare, because I think most of us realize that besides being the decent thing to do, it's in our own best interest. That could be us needing help in the time it takes to hand out a pink slip.

This is not the vision of those who are using the Budget Deficit (ironically a debt created by their own wars and tax cuts) to call for the demolition of Big Government. Ultimately these slash-and-burn types want a government like what America had in the nineteenth century. Let's call it Small Government.

Small Government's only job was to administer justice (that is, protect life and property) and to provide security from foreign powers (that is, protect life and property). Because it doesn't do much, it didn't cost much. There wasn't an income tax in nineteenth-century America. They didn't need one.

Small Government also didn't stop anybody from doing what they wanted to do. Didn't want to do that sort of thing and couldn't afford to anyway. Small Government stood as a champion of, or at least not a hindrance to individual liberty
Freedom is a good thing, right? The freedom dump whatever you want in the water or air, the freedom to employ or not employ whomever you want at whatever salary they're willing to accept. The freedom to rise as far or fall as far as fortune allowed.

Small Government facilitated a Nation of Winner and Losers on a spectacular scale because it didn't and couldn't intervene in the process.

There is a passage in the Gospel that goes something like, what good is it to save your life only to lose it? I think the idea is that to save your neck, but lose your soul is no bargain.

I'm very much reminded of this verse these days. Government exists to serve its citizens. If Republicans succeed in whittling down Big Government so that it can remain solvent but no longer work to improve the lives of Americans, what good is that government anyway?

The majority of Americans realize that the kind of government we want and the kind of America we want don't come cheaply. And we're OK with the costs because a stronger, better, fairer America benefits us all.

Most of us don't want to see the Social Safety Net removed because without a net, the fall can hurt pretty bad.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Our Opinion: Time for Quinn to act on Illinois' fiscal cliff

From the State Journal-Register
Our Opinion: Time for Quinn to act on Illinois' fiscal cliff
The Editorial Board
Posted: 01/19/2013 10:59 PM
The numbers in Gov. Pat Quinn’s three-year budget projection are stark and a reminder of Illinois’ own impending fiscal cliff, starting in 2015.

The 2011 income tax increase that raised the individual rate from 3 percent to 5 percent expires at the end of 2014, which is midway through the 2015 fiscal year. That means the budget lawmakers are supposed to pass by June of this year, FY2014, will be the last containing a full year of the increased revenue.

The governor’s budget office projects that state sources of revenue (the corporate and individual income taxes, the sales taxes and other miscellaneous sources) will dip from $29 billion in FY2014, to $27 billion in FY2015 to $24.8 billion in FY2016.

That means nearly $4 billion more in cuts at a time when health-care costs and required pension payments continue to rise and education and health care have already been whacked.

There was chatter at the Statehouse that Quinn would nudge the legislature to make the income tax increase permanent during the recent lame-duck session, but such an effort didn’t materialize after Senate President John Cullerton iced the idea, saying whether to extend the increase is an issue for the 2014 election.

It wouldn’t have to be if Quinn and the legislature decided to tackle reforming the state’s tax system before then.

Illinois’ tax structure is an archaic relic of the economy of 30 years ago. The state sales tax doesn’t tax the growing service sector. It doesn’t effectively tax online sales. Both the sales tax and our flat income tax disproportionately hit the poor and middle class. Two-thirds of the state’s corporations don’t pay the corporate income tax, partly because of special treatment afforded them in the tax code.

Indiana, the panacea for pro-business politicians looking for a model state for other policy reforms, has a modern tax structure. It applies its income tax to retirement income and its sales tax to many services that Illinois does not. The Senate Democrats analyzed Indiana’s tax structure and determined that if Illinois had the same framework — before the income tax increase — the state would have $5.6 billion more in revenue. Illinois raised $6 billion to $7 billion by raising its income tax.

For his entire political career, Quinn has been for a progressive income tax, but in his four years as governor, he has never offered a serious proposal to institute one. His 2010 primary opponent, Dan Hynes, did offer a plan, one that would have spared 97 percent of taxpayers a tax increase, taxed some services and raised $5.5 billion in new revenue.

There’s a grand tradition of politicians stealing their opponents’ ideas after the election. Former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar famously swiped Democrat Dawn Clark Netsch’s plan to overhaul school funding but couldn’t get it through the General Assembly.

Quinn ought to say today he won’t seek to extend the temporary income tax increase when it expires.

The governor should dust off Hynes’ plan and make it his own. He should urge legislative Democrats, who now have supermajorities in both chambers and can place a constitutional amendment on the ballot without Republican support, to flex their political muscles. Quinn ought to ask the legislature to send voters an amendment in 2014 that would allow for a progressive income tax and then run alongside it as a permanent budget fix. He ought to couple that with a comprehensive plan to reform the state’s tax structure from top to bottom.

Quinn, who has indicated he plans to run again, continues to have low approval ratings. The sharks are circling. Recent weeks have brought rumblings from Chicago that former White House chief of staff Bill Daley is serious this time about running for the Democratic nomination for governor. Attorney General Lisa Madigan might also jump into the fray.

Quinn could get a jump on both by offering a fresh idea and some hope that Illinois’ fiscal state won’t continue to circle the drain.

The governor talks a lot about the need for bold solutions to problems. This is one. And it happens to be good politics, too.


Monday, January 21, 2013

To Truly Honor Dr. King, America Must Continue His Work

By Dale Bowling

Today is Martin Luther King Day and as such it is the day that we honor one of America's greatest

Today is also the Inauguration Day celebration for America's first African-American President.

America has come a long way.

I am thrilled that we have a National Holiday commemorating Dr. King and his achievements. (It wasn't that long ago there was debate about whether there should be a National Holiday, can you believe it?)

The last few years however, I have felt a vague unease with MLK Day. Well, not MLK Day itself, but our reaction to it.

The fact that we have this holiday that looks backward at Dr. King's life and work and how much
progress the African-American community has made since his tragic death, Americans sometimes
allow themselves to become too complacent about how far we still need to go.

Some sobering statistics:

On average, African-American families earn less than 60% of what white families earn.

The rate of poverty among Blacks is almost three times that of Whites.

African-Americans are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as Whites.

African-American males are six times as likely to be in prison than white males.

Now I suppose that some of us in this country are looking for Adam's Smith Invisible Hand of the
Market to eventually fix all this. Personally, I think we've given it enough time. It's time for action to
help fix this problem.

I've heard others lament that the African-American community should fix its own problems, but this is very difficult when there is so much inequality in the system. African-Americans are less likely to go to good schools, less likely to live in secure neighborhoods, less likely to graduate from high school and even if they do, there aren't enough decent jobs for the Black community to substantially improve their lot.

This is not to say there aren't African-American success stories. There are plenty of them. But they
exist as the exception that proves the rule. Success generally comes from a combination of smarts,
hard work and luck, but the deck comes stacked against the Black community from the start.

The answers to the problems facing the Black community aren't easy to solve. But we know where to
start. America needs to invest in its people and communities. Really this is true of all people and all
communities, but none so much as the Black community which America has shortchanged from time
immemorial. If we can create an environment where African-Americans can cultivate their talents and have a place to utilize them, they will do so.

And I know there are people out there who are not particularly motivated by feelings of decency or
fairness or justice, so let me put it also in way they can understand it. This is all in our best interest

First of all, fostering the creativity and productivity of the African-American community would pay big dividends for the American economy. 

Secondly, it costs taxpayers way less to properly educate young African-Americans, keep their
neighborhoods safe and help to bring opportunities to them than it does to incarcerate them,
impoverish their families and kick the can down the road for the next generation.

Alleviating the fundamental inequality which African-Americans face is the best way to honor the
legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King and realistically the only way to turn Dr. King's Dream into a Reality and build a better, stronger, fairer America in the bargain.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Recommended Readings (And Other Media) for Thoughtful People

By Dale Bowling

One of the great things about the Democratic Party is that we are a party of many voices, many perspectives. Our diversity gives us strength; it makes us willing to see each other's points of view since we know we're all working toward the same goal - building a better, stronger, fairer America.

Our diversity also means that we truly represent the broad spectrum of America as a whole. We embrace all types of Americans and welcome them. Recently, I heard another DuPage Democrat say that the demographics have changed in DuPage County and we're the only party that has changed with them.

Well said, my friend. Well said.

Because Democrats have this openness, another great thing about our party is that Democrats aren't afraid to try something different. We're not the types who say, "we've never done it that way before so we shouldn't now".

So in the spirit of openness to new experience and the inclusion of many voices, the DPDC blog begins a new series, "Recommended Readings for Thoughtful People". This inaugural edition (appropriately enough) deals with what to expect in Obama's second term.

Remember that DuPage County went for Obama this past November and this was the first time ever that DuPage Co had voted to reelect a Democratic President.

The times they are a changin'.

Here are some readings/podcasts to check out.

NPR's Morning Edition asks if Obama's Second Term Agenda is ambitious enough. Definitely worth listening to.

This older article from WaPo tells it like it is about the limitations on Obama's second term agenda. A good companion to the above podcast of Morning Edition.

A article on what it considers the top three issues in Obama's Second Term.

The Brookings Institution, one of the few liberal think tanks, came up with a series of general foreign policy recommendations for Obama's second term. The map labelled with "black swans" and "big bets" is a very cool, interactive way to talk about potential foreign policy threats and opportunities.

Another good WaPo article. This one on the upside and downside of Obama's use of increased political leverage to shape his second term agenda.

Article on about how Obama's legacy is already set by First Term accomplishments. Interesting, but I don't know where that leaves us now.

From HuffPo. Good to see that energy and environmental issues are back on the agenda since the fate of the planet is kinda important.

And a glimmer of hope at the end of a long list of grim political realities...

Just in case it didn't go without saying, the opinions in these articles and certainly in the comment sections do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DPDC. Or me. Or you. The nice thing about ideas is you don't have to agree with them to think about them.

Since this is by no means exhaustive, feel free to put your own recommended readings in the comments section and tell us what you liked about that article.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Universal Background Checks For Gun Purchases Won't Usher In Dictatorship

By: Dale Bowling

Today President Obama is going to unveil his policy initiatives for curbing gun violence in America. This is the first meaningful attempt to hinder this senseless carnage in almost 20 yrs and it's about damn time.

Recently I came across the meme about how if the President can just outlaw a constitutional right
then we no longer live in a free republic. This caught my attention for obvious reasons.

As I thought about it, there were really two implicit questions there.  Can the President outlaw a
constitutional right and is President Obama doing that?

Not surprisingly, the answers are no and no.

The first: All Presidents have used Executive Orders, but Executive Orders can be reversed by the
Courts if they are determined to be "making law" which is the job of Congress. This is why Presidents are very careful to cite existing law when using Executive Orders since the job of Presidents is to execute existing law. E.O. can also be defunded by Congress so as to not be implemented theoretically, but this almost never happens. E.O.s are routine and usually uncontroversial. George W. Bush used them 300 times despite having a pliable Republican Congress for 3/4 of his two terms.

As to the second question, Executive Orders on firearm purchases would largely involve better coordination and information sharing between law enforcement agencies that already exist as well as universal background checks. Neither of these are controversial from a constitutional standpoint.

Since background checks have been on the books for years without constitutional challenge, would an E.O. ordering universal background checks violate the Constitution? Nope. And actually the legal
reasoning behind dropping the gun show loophole is very compelling. If background checks are on the books to prevent "bad guys" from having guns, why is there this loophole that easily circumvents the existing legislation? The President would absolutely be right to argue that the E.O would execute the intent of the existing law, rather than making new law.

Other initiatives, like a new assault rifle ban, would require new legislation and would need to go through Congress. Whether they can get through no one can say for sure. But the adminstration has said rightly that their priority is extending background checks, cracking down on illegal gun trafficking, etc. These are likely to do a lot of good, with very minimal impact on lawful gun owners.

And because they are such common sense measures with little real consequence for firearm
enthusiasts, it's not surprising that most gun owners agree with them. In a Washington Post-ABC poll, 86% of gun owners favored universal background checks. 76% of gun owners favored background checks for ammunition sales.

The point of all of this is that while we can never completely end gun violence, we can reduce it
through common sense measures that have very little impact on lawful gun ownership. And this is
totally worth doing.

Monday, January 14, 2013

What Would Martin Do?

What Would Martin Do?

A timely blog piece from Americans for Democratic Action

Want Economic Growth Now? Increase Government Spending

By: Dale Bowling

Economic growth doesn't just happen for no reason. It happens because money gets spent.

The advent of the Bush Recession meant that the Private Sector (individuals and businesses) saw its
income drop off sharply so there was less money to spend, more debts to pay off and more worries about
the future.

In previous recoveries when the Private Sector showed up with empty pockets, government spending
temporarily filled the gap.

During the Reagan Recovery of the 1980s, Big Government came into its own. It's well known that Reagan tripled the Deficit. Under Reagan, government spending was strong at all levels- Federal, State and Local and this helped fuel the recovery of the 1980s that Republicans say they like so much and that we should embrace as a model for our current Recovery.

Contrast this with what we have today. Federal spending is way down- the lowest its been in decades.
Aid to state and local goverments has been sacrificed at the altar of fiscal austerity. At his current rate
of spending, Obama would have to be President for 20 years to spend as much as Reagan did in 8. In
the last two years trillions of dollars have been cut from the Federal budget and Republicans still want more cuts.

And what this has primarily yielded is job losses. Because as much as Republicans would like everyone to believe that Government is merely taking your tax dollars and flushing them down the toilet, what they really do with them is pay for things - mostly for you and me.

Like when Big Government builds a highway - they pay workers to do the job, they buy materials from businesses for construction, vehicles need fuel and servicing, etc. Money gets cycled back through the economy, Americans get back to work and America ends up with a highway. It's a good deal for everybody.

If Government had been allowed to grow at the rate that it did under Ronald Reagan rather than face
repeated cuts, we'd have over a million more jobs than we do now and unemployment would be a full
percentage point lower.

Over 200,000 teachers have been laid off since the beginning of the Bush Recession. They were joined on the unemployment line by 56,000 policemen, 44,000 firefighters, 20,000+ first responders. These job losses hurt more than just the economy; they hurt America.

And this doesn't even mention all the private businesses that do work for taxpayers and have suffered
from this austerity.

Now don't get me wrong, eventually all this spending needs to be paid for. That day comes when
America's economy is back on its feet and the Private Sector can fuel economic growth without
government help. Remember when the huge deficits of the Reagan years came due and President
Clinton had to raise taxes and cut spending to pay for them? That was in a boom. And what happened?

The Deficit was paid down without wrecking the economy.

So the main thing to take from all this is that the current set of priorities are all wrong. The time
honored thing to do is for Big Government to step up its investment in America, create jobs now and
pay down the debt later. America has done this countless times since the New Deal. We know it works.

Why are we talking about further cuts now when they can only hurt the economic growth we need to
get out of this crisis entirely?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Memo to Neo-Cons: It's Defense, Not War Secretary

By: Walt Zlotow

Nothing gets a war loving neocon's ire up than the possibility of a Defense Secretary committed to defense of the US instead of perpetual war. That is why the neocons, led by Sen. Lindsey Graham (Rep. SC) and media titans such as the Washington Post editorial board and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, are apoplectic over President Obama's nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel as Defense Secretary. Let's not forget the Likud wing of the Israel First Lobby, which is already trotting out the ludicrous "anti-Semite" charges due allegedly to Hagel's long ago remark that the Israel Lobby exercises too much control over US foreign policy, which it most certainly does. It's deplorable that there is more debate amongst Israelis in Israel over their foreign policy than is allowed here in the good 'ol USA. That must change.

President Obama, like the vast majority of Americans, is sick of the foolish and senseless wars that the neocons marched us into when they controlled the Bush II administration. That is precisely why Obama picked Hagel, a twice wounded Vietnam vet, who turned against the Iraq and Afghan wars when he realized how foolish and senseless they were. President Obama always opposed the Iraq war and fulfilled his campaign promise to end it. He opposes continuing our equally failed Afghan war and set a December 31, 2014, to say "Adios" to corrupt Afghan President Karzai. The neocons have already launched their propaganda campaign to stay in Afghanistan indefinitely. With gobs of money and power at stake, they care not a whit how much canon fodder must suffer and die to stay at war.

Even more important, Hagel is Obama's pick to keep the neocons from forcing Obama to pick another catastrophic fight, this time against Iran.

Let's also not forget that in Hagel, the maimed vets, the wounded vets, the psychologically scarred vets, the homeless vets, the jobless vets, will have a champion. His battlefield experience and work in the Veteran's Administration under President Reagan, have made him a hero they would select in a heartbeat to represent their interests.

America's long love affair with senseless war is presaged in the former title of the job Hagel seeks - Secretary of War - which lasted from the Articles of Confederation in 1781, till July 26, 1947, when it was wisely changed to Secretary of Defense. Maybe our weariness with a second world war slaughtering 50 million and impacting most of the 2 billion survivors caused that symbolic change. Maybe its time for another change. How fitting it would be if President Obama could stand at the presidential podium after his confirmation and introduce us to "Chuck Hagel, America's first Secretary of Peace".

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Climate Change Is Costing You Money Right Now

By: Dale Bowling

Well, it's official. 2012 was the hottest year since human beings started keeping track.

One year doesn't mean anything statistically so it's always good to look at the other hot years. Of the
hottest ten years on record, the other nine were all in the last 15 years.

A remarkable coincidence? Not according to climate scientists.

Now the people who find the air a very cheap and convenient place to dump stuff have spent a fraction of that savings (which still works out to millions of dollars) to sew the seeds of doubt about whether humans have caused climate change, whether it's going to have severe effects on us, whether we can do anything about it and whether it wouldn't be so cost-prohibitive as to not be worth doing.

They are aided and abetted by the Media which shies away from taking sides on the issue to prove
their objectivity. In the old days, telling America that 99+% of scientists say one thing while the folks
who have a financial stake in carbon pollution say otherwise would have been considered a necessary
disclosure, but not anymore.

In fact, a recent study showed that on the Sunday morning news shows, which are in theory supposed to inform Americans on policy issues, that no scientist has been quoted about climate change in years. Literally years.

Let's imagine we're talking to people who are totally unmoved by the idea that a hot Earth might not be able to support human life in the future or that in many places in the Third World, climate change is eroding their already precarious standard of living and quality of life. Let's imagine we're talking to only the most self-absorbed.

The bottom line is that climate change is affecting your bottom line. Now and in the future.

By 2020 - just a few years down the road, climate change will cost the average American $1,250 per year.

But wasn't doing something about climate change supposed to be the expensive thing? Well, it
certainly won't be cheap, but the ironic thing is that doing nothing will also be expensive. Here's why.

Remember all the drought we had this year? A huge share of the corn crop failed to produce any cobs
at all. Soy did a bit better, but still had a tough year. This means higher prices at the grocery store.
And not just for corn and soy, because so much of our food supply is derived from them- meat, dairy, eggs, processed foods are all more expensive as a result of this drought.

And at the pump. Ethanol is added to each gallon of gas here in the Land of Lincoln and higher corn
prices mean higher gas prices. Gas prices are down now, but gas goes back above $4/gallon and this becomes a big deal.

Higher costs to industries get passed to consumers. The Timber industry reports a large increase in the number of pests due to earlier springs and later autumns. This makes timber more expensive and this cost gets passed to industries that rely on timber- Construction being most notable, but practically every other one was well. Those costs will be passed to you and me.

Insurance companies already have started paying out more for floods, wildfires, etc and this raises the
price of insurance for everyone.

Also, do you remember how House Republicans failed to bring to a vote a $60 billion dollar aid package for those whose houses, possessions  and infrastructure were washed out to sea by Super
Storm Sandy? The hotter the world's oceans get, the more storms like Sandy we're going to get and
more $60 billion dollar checks that will have to be written.

If you combined the taxpayer money spent on Katrina, Rita, Isaac, Andrew, Hugo, Sandy and the rest in the last 20 years you are talking serious money that you and I have already spent. 

Taxpayers and consumers are paying for the mess climate change is making, but not receiving any
tangible benefits. Those benefits go to industry. The ill affects come down in torrents, but any upside
largely doesn't trickle down to us.

This sounds eerily familiar...

In any case, politicians everywhere need to make managing and reducing climate change's impact on
the environment a major priority. And as a major priority, it requires a major investment of attention and capital.

You're going to pay anyway, you might as well get something for your money.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Job Creation Should Be Our Universal Concern

By Dale Bowling

With the intensity of the Fiscal Cliff/Debt Ceiling debacle, even normally level-headed Democrats have allowed themselves to be sucked into the parallel universe which Republicans inhabit where everything is backwards. Let's call it Republiverse.

A reasonable person would say, "what produced Problem X?" and then try to come up with solutions to the causes of that problem.

This doesn't happen in Republiverse. In Republiverse, you look at things that aren't problems or at least, not the real problem and then try to make that into a real problem.

Works in reverse, see.

Whenever Democrats find themselves there, they always end up debating things that don't make sense.

Our hypothetical sensible person asks, "America had a projected surplus when Bill Clinton left office, Bush left us with this huge Deficit- what happened in those intervening eight years?"

The answer to that question is

1) Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (the first wars in American history not to see an increase in taxes to pay for them) and

2) an enormous tax cut that gave away the revenue that the Government would have used to pay for things (like the above wars, for example) instead of adding them to the Deficit and lastly,

3) The Bush Recession which decimated people's income and therefore reduced the amount of taxes the Government collected that would have gone to pay for things.

In a place where Reason reigns we would try to fix those problems. Those problems are primarily revenue-related. What should be the highest priority for bringing down the Deficit? Job creation.

The latest employment figures were solid (155,000 in December), but America can do a lot better. Our economy is capable of producing $15Trillion/yr in goods and services, but currently we're only using a fraction of our potential.

Business types will tell you that what creates jobs is investment. Ideally, the private sector should do the investment, but if it's paying down debt from the Bush era or just too afraid there won't be demand in the economy, this is when Government needs to step up and be the Hero.

America's infrastructure is crumbling. We're in 20th place and falling for lack of investment in roads, bridges, highways, schools, etc.  Americans also need jobs. A big infrastructure bill would get businesses going again, hiring workers to meet the demand and leaving something to show for
the money - improved infrastructure which pays for itself over time.

This is what we would be debating if Democrats hadn't allowed themselves to fall through the wormhole to Republiverse.

In Republiverse, we argue about spending on badly-needed social services that are helping to keep Americans' heads above water and our economy afloat when they weren't even the problem. In point of fact, the main reason why spending on social services is increasing is the lack of jobs.

President Obama and Congressional Democrats need to return to this universe and put job creation at the top of their list.  Besides improving the lives of average Americans, strong economic growth solves a lot of the other problems facing America in a way that raising the age of Medicare eligibility
for example, does not. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

From Fiscal Cliff To Debt Ceiling

By: Dale Bowling

The Fiscal Cliff drama is finally over.

First, the good news: we won't see any cuts to our badly-needed social safety net or to earned benefits
like Social Security or Medicare and the tax increases from wealthier Americans will definitely help
keep the US on a sound financial footing.

Bad news: We're a month away from the Debt Ceiling being up for renewal and Republicans are out for blood this time.

You may say to yourself, "when haven't the Republicans in Congress been out for blood?" and you
would of course, be right. But last time (in the summer of 2011) Republicans were much more
optimistic about the future. They thought President Obama was in deep trouble politically and the
Senate would theirs as well as the White House after 2012.

This time the GOP's back is against the wall. Obama was handily reelected, the Senate did not go Red
and the only reason they kept the House is that redistriciting had stacked the deck against Democrats
so profoundly. Republican popularity is in the toilet and the GOP has just been outmanoevered on the
Fiscal Cliff negotiations.

In other words, Republicans need a big win right now and they think threatening government shutdown is the way to that victory.

And what do they want in exchange for not breaking the government and punishing millions of
Americans for entirely political reasons? Big cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

The Debt Ceiling is shaping up to be a continuation of the Fiscal Cliff debate. It will be just another
Republican attempt to strike at Big Government.

And by Big Government, I mean the things that ordinary Americans have paid for and expect to be
there for them when they need them.

It is really hard for Republicans to argue that Government is the problem (as Reagan put it) when Social Security and Medicare are so universally popular and successful.  The GOP's only option is to sabotage Social Security and Medicare to the point they don't work well and then say, "see, Big Government doesn't work".

Like what they did to financial regulation, environmental regulation, etc. - defund the agencies, lay off droves of their workers and then loudly decry the backlog or failings in oversight that develop as a result of those cuts.

So in this Neverending War against Grandma Poor People Big Government, you and I must put our foots down and say, "No More!".

Contact your Congressperson (remember, you might have a new one) and Senator to let them know
that deep cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are off the table and the debt ceiling in non-

Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth- Illinois  8th Congressional District

Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth
United States House of Representatives
104 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Ph: 202-225-3711

Congressman Bill Foster - Illinois 11th Congressional District

Congressman Bill Foster
United States House of Representatives
1224 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Ph: 202-225-3515


Congressman Mike Quigley - Illinois 5th Congressional District

Congressman Mike Quigley
1124 Longworth House Office Building
Washington DC, 20510

Phone:  202.225.4061




Congressman Peter Roskam- Illinois 6th Congressional District

Peter Roskam
United States House of Representatives
227 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-1306

Ph: 202-225-4561



Twitter: @PeterRoskam

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin

Sen. Dick Durbin
United States Senate
711 Hart Senate Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Ph: (202) 224-2152




Illinois Senator Mark Kirk

Senator Mark Kirk
524 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC, 20510

Phone: 202-224-2854