Tag Archives: Speaker Pelosi

Speaker Pelosi and House Dems Block Wealthy Tax Bonus Plan

In a private caucus meeting, House Democrats said that they would not pass the Obama concession tax plan as it stands:

“In the caucus today, House Democrats supported a resolution to reject the Senate Republican tax provisions as currently written,” Ms. Pelosi said. “We will continue discussions with the president and our Democratic and Republican colleagues in the days ahead to improve the proposal before it comes to the House floor for a vote.”

The caucus vote, which is not necessarily binding, nonetheless put Ms. Pelosi in a rare direct conflict with the White House, which is pressing Congress to approve the tax cut proposal.

“House Democrats share the president’s commitment to providing the middle class with a tax cut to grow the economy and create jobs,” Ms. Pelosi said. “The House passed a bill last week to provide tax cuts for all Americans but not a bonus tax cut to millionaires and billionaires. The extra tax cut for the top 3 percent does not create jobs and increases the deficit. (New York Times)

As Chairman Burton pointed out, the “tax deal” was a giveaway to the Republican goals. It blocked attempt after attempt to balance out the funding, and instead handed billions of dollars to a tax cut bonus for the wealthiest in the country. But, this isn’t just a national blog, so there’s more to the story.  The tax plan, as written, would have piled another $2.7 billion or so onto the California budget deficit next year because of the way the the estate tax is handled.

California has collected hardly any estate tax revenue for several years in the wake of the 2001 Bush tax law changes. Come 2011, absent any action on the federal level, the estate tax law would revert to 2001 law, in which case the state would gain $2.7 billion in revenues.

But the tax framework negotiated between President Barack Obama and Republicans appears to eliminate the mechanism that once provided estate tax revenues for states like California, according to the Tax Policy Center of the Brookings Institution and Urban Institute (hat tip to the Legislative Analyst’s Office for sending the link). That mechanism was phased out over the past few years, so the fact that it has again been eliminated was not entirely a surprise.(SacBee)

So instead of providing additional stimulus to the states to help us preserve education, public safety and other important day to day expenditures, the tax plan was to take away funds from the states? The estate tax is one of the most common sense items in our whole arcane tax structure.  After all, America, as a nation, was founded on anti-dynastic principle.  The development of a group of new oligarchic families should not be welcomed by even the most anti-government amongst us.

In the end, I think Speaker Pelosi might have even pulled some punches. The deal was a mess from the get go.  While we took a beating on Nov. 2, we still control most of the levers of government. We don’t need to cede power just because John Boehner is coming.  We’ll see what the next step is, and whether the Republicans are willing to really play for the nation’s interest or whether they stick to grandstanding.

Thursday Open Thread

• Over to our east, the Nevada Dems aren’t doing so bad.  Two Congressional Races were just upgraded by CQ, with state Senator and former gubernatorial candidate Dina Titus now in a toss-up in the Vegas ‘burbs.  Titus is a good candidate, and everything is looking up for her: fundraising, name ID, and the polling.

Speaker Pelosi tells JoMentum to STFU. It seems she’s had enough of the ridiculous attacks on Obama. About time.

• Some grassroots activists in the Sacramento area are gearing up to oppose the Peripheral Canal.  Apparently some didn’t get the message back in the 80s about this bad idea. It would decimate wildlife, among other disastrous consequences.  Interestingly, there’s substantial conservative opposition to the Canal, and not just from the farmers in the region.

• Universities across the state are lobbying to get the Greenhouse Gas Institute that might be set up if it gets through the somewhat unimpressive legislative process. The institute would aim to find solutions to climate change.  A rather small task, IMHO.

This is an interesting lawsuit. The supporters of Prop 2 (humane farm conditions) are alleging that a partially government funded marketing group, the American Egg Board, has designated $3 million to fight Prop 2. The trouble is that under law, they cannot get involved in politics. Keep an eye on this.

UPDATE by Dave: Let me just add a couple things to this:

• The long battle between the Navy and environmentalists over sonar off the California coast came to an end yesterday with the Navy agreeing to restrict low-frequency sonar to protect whales and other sea life.  This is a win for environmentalists, and it doesn’t impact the Navy all that much to boot – the sonar wasn’t necessary in these training exercises.

• The Oakland man who carjacked Don Perata has been indicted.

• There’s more on South LA’s decision to restrict construction of new fast-food restaurants in the New York Times.  There’s concern that pupusarias and barbecue joints might get caught up in the shuffle, as the definition of “fast-food” is a little vague.

UPDATE by Brian: Paul Hogarth at Beyond Chron has a wrap-up of the San Francisco DCCC endorsement meeting.

A note on Speaker Pelosi (CA-08)

Yesterday, we chose to issue a “no endorsement” to Speaker Nancy Pelosi. While not speaking for the entirety of the Editorial Board, I wanted to share my take on this. I was quite torn on whether to endorse the Speaker. As a San Franciscan, I am proud of all the incredible things she has done for San Francisco, California, and the nation.  She is simply an incredibly historic figure in American politics.  She destroyed the glass ceiling in Congress, and for that alone, we, and all future generations, owe her a tremendous debt.

I have followed Speaker Pelosi’s career for as long as I can remember, though I only moved to California relatively recently. From healing a fractured activist base after first being elected in 1987, to being active in the Progressive Caucus, to becoming the first female Minority Whip, then Minority Leader, and then finally Speaker. She has had an incredible career, and has been an incredible leader for San Francisco. I’m proud to have been able to vote for Nancy Pelosi several times now, including the June 2008 election.

Perhaps my expectations were unrealistic, but her incredible record in the past led me to believe that she would, in fact, bring “San Francisco values” to the Speakership. Maybe it was simple naïveté to believe that we would be able to completely claim victory over the Republicans with a mish-mosh of 233 Democrats, some of whom would gladly break ranks to show off for the cameras. The fact that we have a Lieberman-fueled majority in the Senate doesn’t help either.

But, still, she is Nancy Pelosi, from whom we expect so much. I wanted to see more pushback on the President’s Iraq Occupation “strategy” or lack thereof.  I wanted to see a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act brought to the floor of the Congress. I wanted to see Nancy Pelosi running the House like I know Nancy Pelosi can.

Thus, I pushed “no endorsement” to make a very specific point: I know Nancy Pelosi can do better.  That is what this is about. Not that I don’t want her to win. Not that I don’t want her to be Speaker of the House come 2009. The point is that I think she can do better. The Speakership brings a higher profile, more responsibility, and therefore deserves more scrutiny and being held to a higher standard.

I want to make this point only precisely because I know she can do better.  I know that she will, given a Democratic President, and greater majorities, bring an end to the senseless Occupation of Iraq. I know that she will work for equality of rights for all Americans.  I know that she will work to ensure that telecommunications companies are not given a free pass, and that the Administration, Democratic or Republican, is not simply given a free pass and a blank check to spy upon Americans, kidnap foreign citizens, or torture.  

I know she can do that.  Now I want to see that.

Hearing with Speaker Pelosi on the oil spill.

Oil Spill HearingI’m at a Congressional hearing about the oil spill in SF Bay, with most of our local congressional members, including the Speaker. It’s not clear what needs to happen,but it is very good to see this happening here in SF rather than just DC.

Rep. Tauscher asked a # of questions about bunker fuel an howmuch info we need on the cargo ships. Rep. Lantos seems to want to take this back to terrorism. While using language like “calvacade of calamities” he wanted to know whether this could have been prevented and whether language barriers are to blame.

UPDATE: I’m back at home, but the hearing is still going. I’m sure there will be lots of news on TV and in the papers, though. I think a number of good points were made by both the Congress members and the witnesses. This was clearly a preventable incident. What we can do to systemically prevent the incidents is the important question now.

Our Speaker and the Frankensteinian Farm Bill

I must admit, I’m hardly the expert agriculturist, but I do know that the farm bill currently pending in the United States House could go a long way towards determining what our farms and food supply looks like for the next ten years. The Bill emerged from the Agriculture Committee as some sort of Frankenstein-type thing with grafts of “reform” stuck to it. You know, like a nose of “income limits” and a kneecap of “loophole closures” except the underlying fact remains that this bill must undergo a lot more work before we can truly declare, “It’s Alive”

In a press release entitled, “Pelosi: Farm Bill is Critical First Step for Reform” the Speaker attempts to put a fig leaf over Frank’s gruesome parts:

“The Farm Bill represents a critical first step toward reform by eliminating payments to millionaires, closing loopholes that permit evasion of payment limits, and promoting our nation’s family farmers. 

“This bipartisan bill provides a safety net for America’s farmers, promotes homegrown energy and conservation initiatives that will help us achieve energy independence, and invests in nutrition and healthy eating.  I look forward to supporting farm country by passing the Farm Bill on a bipartisan basis.”

See, while there are reforms in this bill, it still leaves much to be desired, more over the flip.

With any farm bill, we need to pursue a number of goals. OF course, the entrenched ag interests would like to see status quo, but that could be said of most issues. Here, there are a number of big players. One is the corporate farm, which pull massive subsidies. It’s not enough for ADM to pull billions of subsidies for ethanol, they want more. The Ag Committee added gross income thresholds, but apparently the loopholes are wide enough to drive a tractor through.

Furthermore, we need to stop subsidizing foods which are bad for you to the detriment of foods which are, um, good for you. Namely, the farm bill heavily subsidizes corn. So, other fruits and vegetables are costly in comparison. Have you ever noticed how cheap corn is when it’s in season? Like 8 ears for a dollar or somesuch? Doesn’t that strike you as a bit too cheap? Why is it so cheap? Well, that’s your government dollar choosing corn over, say, asparagus or tomatoes or yada, yada. The favoritism of corn is part legacy of older bills, and partly because manufacturers have gotten so used to cheap corn. They’ve learned to make corn into other products. SO they use corn syrup instead of sugar, etc.

If we are going to choose winners in what’s being grown, shouldn’t we at least choose a balanced diet? It’s not like our nation’s populace is getting any skinnier.  That’s where Speaker Pelosi comes in. She needs to fight for amendments which tighten up the loopholes and work to get more fresh fruits and vegetables to American dinner tables.

A morning well spent with Speaker Pelosi

Bright and early Saturday morning (8AM to be precise), I arrived at the Bill Graham Civic Center in San Francisco to help some immigrants become Americans. It wasn’t particularly glamorous work, it was basically helping people fill out forms. And while I emerged into the warm San Francisco afternoon tired, hungry, and a bit hoarse, I also knew that it was a richly rewarding experience.

Speaker Pelosi, along with other Democratic Representatives from across the nation, organized these citizen workshops to help people apply for citizenship before the fees increase from about $400 per application to $675 per application. Everybody whom I worked with was nice and very appreciative. While most probably could have done the form themselves, the combination of form assistance, immigration attorneys and a general one-stop application shop made it much easier for people to get motivated to apply. 

Now, of course, the next step is to make sure we register these new citizens  to vote when they complete the naturalization process.