Super Congress must be a transparent Congress

Ilyse Hogue brings up an excellent point in her latest piece in The Nation. In discussing the debt deal, most of the commentary has focused on how much money for essential programs happens to be on the chopping block while ignoring the subversion of our democracy.For example, although large majorities of Americans, including Republicans, favored raising taxes over cuts, the deal had trillions in cuts and no revenue increases at all. It wasn't for a lack of pressure, either - Hogue tallied up an impressive amount of action to directly pressure Congress to raise revenue from the wealthy and avoid cuts, and stacked that against the paltry public display to pressure Congress for cutting spending. It's mind-boggling that the debt deal Congress refused to reflect the American consensus on revenue over cuts in any way. But in a way, it's not surprising. It's what has been happening for years now. Whether it's a normal day in office or in times of deep crisis, Congress continually struggles to come up with real solutions. Somehow those who can afford well-connected lobbyists end up getting the good end of the deal while the average person ends up holding the bag. Accordingly, faith in Congress is at an all-time low.And so it very well could be with the so-called Super Congress, the committee of 12 that will decide what to slash and from sources revenue might be drawn. The super committee will be drawn from both parties and both houses of Congress, and will have enormous power over the budget. If they vote for a budget cutting plan, it will come to the floor to be voted on by each house of Congress, and no amendments can be added. That immense power over the nation's budget will draw an equally massive swarm of lobbyist attention and present new opportunities for untold fortunes in fundraising. Even the appearance of impropriety will further depress public trust in our government. To combat the corrosive taint of backroom deals between the well-connected, our friends at the Sunlight Foundation is calling for the Super Congress to be super transparent with the following demands: All meetings of the committee should be streamed online and archived for easy review. There's no reason the public shouldn't be informed as to how the committee is proceeding in their decision making. Additionally, the super committee should make public any recommendations that they receive from other congressional committees. And the committee should post its final report for 72 hours before taking a vote on it.Rather than the normal rules of lobbyist disclosure, which only require quarterly reports, members of Super Congress should report online each and every meeting with both registered lobbyists and those connected to powerful interests, along with any materials received. Staffers for the committee should also disclose their personal finances to avoid any sense of impropriety.In addition, committee members should post campaign contributions in real time on their campaign websites, rather than waiting to file quarterly reports. Same goes with any campaign fundraisers being held between now and the time committee members vote on a budget. Sunlight will continue to track all congressional fundraisers online at their website Party Time. Sunlight Foundation is calling for folks to sign a petition to demand accountability and transparency. Please sign it, tweet it, share it on Facebook, whatever you can do to get the word out. If you're tweeting about it (and I suggest that you!) please use the hashtag #opencongress.


Matt Damon says we should tax the rich

A clip of Matt Damon supporting teachers in an argument with a conservative reporter is deservedly making the rounds, but this one has slipped under the radar. A conservative reporter asks Damon if he would support taxing the rich, and then asks what he thinks is a gotcha question about what would happen to job creation if taxes for the rich went up.Damon handles his questions with ease. Watch the video:Maybe this clip escaped notice because it is so utterly noncontroversial. Most Americans, even a majority of Republicans, favor raising taxes on the rich. Well, maybe in conservative circles it's controversial, but back in the real world, people understand that those who do well in America should do right by America.


Florida Governor Rick Scott gets a pink slip

Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) revived an old gimmick that previous Florida governor Bob Graham became famous for, working the job of an ordinary Floridian for a day. It's not hard to imagine why his handlers would try this gimmick out - Florida's economy remains in the tank, Scott's actions have worsened the crisis with massive layoffs, and accordingly his poll numbers consistently show him with only slightly better numbers than a supervillain. But Scott's first try at his new job didn't go any better than his job in the Governor's Mansion. At Nicola's Donuts, where Scott stood behind the counter filling bags with donut orders, the Pink Slip Rick campaign showed up and gave him, well, a pink slip for his horrible record on job creation and privatization during his first six months in office.Watch the mother calmly and forcefully rip into Scott midway through the video:Mother: "You should be ashamed that I have to go out and buy things for my daughter's classroom because of a shortage of funds."Scott: (pause) "Thanks for coming."


Anger boils up at Congress over debt deal

Even though the House voted on Monday to approve the debt deal which included trillions in cuts and an unaccountable Super Congress to ram through further cuts, it's worth noting that because so many were angry about both the hostage taking process and the cuts-only outcome, thousands still turned out on Tuesday to visit congressional offices to show their opposition. The fact that our government was even discussing cutting Medicare and Social Security without considering slightly raising taxes on the wealthy pushed plenty of people out of the home and onto the streets, even when the deal was practically assured passage.For example, in New Jersey. protestors voiced their anger at Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ), not because he voted no, but because he voted against the debt deal only because it did not cut the government enough. And in Columbus, Ohio, visitors to Republican Senator Rob Portman's office expressed their anger that the only actions from their representatives seemed to be cut, cut, cut, when there are no jobs. One man pointed out that Gov. Kasich canceled a high speed rail project that would have brought thousands of jobs to a corridor across the state, jobs that could not be outsourced. Another talked about how conservative policies over the last few decades have brought about the greatest inequality in this country since the 1920s. And a grandmother despaired about how it's all going to end.You can watch the video of the "Satan Sandwich protest" visit:


Bumper Sticker Crowdsourcing Project

We're a big fan of crowdsourcing around here. We believe that the collective experience and imagination of thousands of you can be brought to bear to create something truly unique and interesting. We've already seen that in evidence with our Contract for the American Dream, where hundreds of thousands of Americans outlined a powerful, positive agenda to grow the American economy and protect the middle class (more on that very soon as we sort through the feedback from the July house meetings.)In addition to the upcoming unveiling of the Contract for the American Dream, we're also going to be rolling out all sorts of merchandise with which you can display your support loudly and proudly, We want to ask for YOUR help in coming up with some great slogans for our bumper stickers. What logo or slogan you think would best inspire people to help rebuild the American Dream? Remember, these need to be concise enough so that people can read them driving behind you on the highway, and catchy enough so that they'll remember them when they get home.


AFP sends out fake election reminders to Democrats

Wisconsin has upcoming recall elections in several state senate districts, elections that could tip the balance in the Wisconsin Senate back against Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) and his antiworker austerity agenda. If Democrats pick up a net three wins in the next two weeks, Walker's allies will lose control of the Senate.On the heels of Gov. Walker's attempts by to suppress his opponents' votes by closing voter registration locations in Democratic districts and coming up with bizarre rules to block voters from obtaining voter IDs (captured on video), it appears that Walker ally Americans for Prosperity has been caught redhanded trying to mislead Democratic voters to cast their ballot on the wrong date.

Via Politico, Americans for Prosperity, a rightwing advocacy group funded by the conservative billionaire Koch brothers, sent strong Democratic voters instructions on filling out an absentee ballot, instructions that included a deadline two days past the actual postmark deadline for sending in the ballots.The Americans for Prosperity response has been to say that this was an embarrassing typo and not an intentional error. But the fliers that AFP sent to card-carrying Democrats also gave instructions to send absentee ballots to the wrong address. The address is allegedly for a "Ballot Processing Center", but in fact matches up with another rightwing organization, the Wisconsin Family Action PAC.AFP also has a history of faking official government notices. Last year, they placed fake eviction notices in poor areas of Detroit to scare locals into blocking a local bridge project.For more on the story, Dane101 has excellent coverage.


Residents deposit blighted property trash at bank

Residents on Sinbad Avenue in East San Jose have long dealt with garbage dumped in the yards of foreclosed homes in their neighborhood. Wells Fargo, the title holder for the foreclosure properties, continued to drag their feet on cleaning them up, even after repeated citations from the city. The neglected homes are a drag on the property values in the entire neighborhood and discourage further investment in the community. The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment heard their complaint and helped the street's residents clean up the yard at one of the houses. Instead of hauling it to the dump, however, ACCE brought it to the people who should have been cleaning up after their mess the entire time - Wells Fargo. The city was not sympathethic to Wells Fargo's grumbling about the difficulty of taking care of foreclosed properties. Said code enforcement official Mike Hannon, "Oftentimes, it takes one or two citations to get the message to them that you're in San Jose, you own property, you're expected to maintain that property, and if you don't, here are the consequences."Watch the video:


Protesters disrupt House over debt deal

Via National Journal, protesters disrupted proceedings in the House of Representatives today, chanting "Boehner, get off it, it's time to tax corporate profits!" and "Hey Boehner, get a clue! It's all about revenue!"Watch the video:


What do you think of the deal?

Question Mark

Now that there's been a little bit of time to digest what President Obama and Congressional leaders have agreed to, ending the standoff over the debt ceiling, what do you think of it?Ezra Klein at the Washington Post has an overview of the deal and a breakdown of the winners and losers in the agreement, if you need a little more information about what the deal actually does.UPDATE: I've added more articles in favor and against the deal below:-Here's a detailed rundown from The Huffington Post on what exactly is in the deal.-New York Times columnist Paul Krugman calls the deal a "catastrophe on multiple levels."-The White House, on the other hand, calls it "A Win for the Economy and Budget Discipline."-Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich argues "the radical right has now won a huge tactical and strategic victory."-The New Republic's Jonathan Chait says we won't know who won this debate "until after the fight over the Bush tax cuts has been settled."


VIDEO: Emergency Rally Recap

Here's a video recap of our rally on the Capitol steps yesterday. In case you missed it, the rally relayed the message to Congress from a wide array of legislators and faith, labor, environmental, and women's rights organizations that any debt deal has to be a fair deal for Americans, without any cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The energy of the crowd and the speakers was off the charts, so if you missed the live broadcast, you'll want to watch it now!Some media outlets attended the rally, and here's what they had to say.The Capitol Hill-based Roll Call:

In addition to phone calls and emails to Congress, MoveOn.org and the PCCC worked with other groups to organize events in Congressional districts around the country that they said drew more than 20,000. American Dream Movement members also gathered Thursday on Capitol Hill to demand that Democrats stand their ground against deep spending cuts.

Democratic Members, including Rep. Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), urged activists to fight to protect Social Security and other government benefits.

“We believe in a country where after you’ve worked your whole life, you get to retire in the knowledge that your financial and health security will be met,” she said.

NPR had a story about both progressive and rightwing response to the default crisis:

NAYLOR: Meanwhile, outside the Capitol, several hundred people turned out for a steamy noonday rally led by an assortment of progressive groups, from Planned Parenthood to MoveOn.org. A procession of Democratic lawmakers and other speakers made clear they were none too happy either with what was going on inside the Capitol.

John Gage, the president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said Congress had its priorities wrong.

JOHN GAGE: Here we are going into a debt crisis when we really have a jobs crisis.

The Nation's media blogger noticed the difference in media coverage over the tiny Tea Party held nearby only a day before compared to the rally we held yesterday:

But then, Thursday’s American Dream rallyorganized by MoveOn, Rebuild the Dream, AFSCME, and AFGE, and featuring speakers like Van Jones, Rep. Keith Ellison, and Rep. Jan Schakowsky --clocked in an estimated 450-500 people (the permit’s limit), according to the coalition. Oddly, though, as of 24 hours later, Politico didn’t mention it. CNN.com, meanwhile, talked up the tea party rally both the day before it took place and afterward--when it spun the measly crowd (and its own pre-event notice) by writing: “Don't be fooled by the tiny turnout at the tea party rally on Capitol Hill Wednesday. The conservative movement doesn't much need rallies anymore. November 2010 changed all of that.”