Monday, November 01, 2010

What the Democrats Did - and Didn't Do

Wheeler School: my favorite polling station.

As pollsters and pundits talk of an "enthusiasm gap" between Democrats and Republicans, with pro-Democrat percentages of "likely voters" lagging behind those of "registered voters," it's worth taking a look at what we should be enthusiastic about, what we should and should not fear, and what is at stake this Election Day. Republican tea partiers have boogiemen set before them daily in place of the real President Obama and other actual Democrats, substituting what they supposedly want to do in place of what they've actually done or tried to do. Let's do a reality check:

Below are a few of the accomplishments Obama and the 111th Congress have made, as listed on the political blog "Rescue Truth." Lest you fear that as a blog it's a dubious news source, it's backed up with lings to actual news stories backing up its substance:

25 Tax Cuts Passed By Obama and Democrats[3]

  1. “Making Work Pay” tax credit
  2. Earned Income Tax Credit increased
  3. Increased Eligibility for Refundable Portion of Child Credit
  4. “American Opportunity” Education Tax Credit
  5. First-time Home Buyer Credit
  6. Temp. Suspension of Taxation of Unemployment Benefits
  7. Tax Credits for Energy-Efficient Improvements to Existing Homes
  8. Sales Tax Deduction for Vehicle Purchases
  9. Premium Credits for COBRA Continuation Coverage for Unemployed Workers
  10. Economic Recovery Credits to Recipients of Social Security, SSI, RR Retirement, and Veterans Disability Compensation Benefits
  11. Computers as Qualified Education Expenses in 529 Education Plans
  12. Plug-in Electric Drive Vehicle Credit
  13. Tax Parity for Transit Benefits
  14. Health Coverage Tax Credit Expansion
Small Business
  1. Extension of Enhanced Small Business Expensing
  2. 5-Year Carryback of Net Operating Losses for Small Businesses
  3. Extension of Bonus Depreciation
  4. Exclusion of 75% of Small Business Capital Gains from Taxes
  5. Temporary Small Business Estimated Tax Payment Relief
  6. Temporary Reduction of S Corporation Built-In Gains Holding Period from 10 Years to 7 Years
Other Business
  1. Advanced Energy Investment Credit
  2. Tax Credits for Alternative Refueling Property
  3. Work Opportunity Tax Credits for Hiring Unemployed Veterans and Disconnected Youth
  4. Delayed Recognition of Certain Cancellation of Debt Income
  5. Election to Accelerate Recognition of Historic AMT/R&D Credits
Fun Fact: 1/3 of the $862 billion stimulus was for tax cuts, something Republicans claim to support … although they still stand against stimulus.  I suppose it depends on who gets the tax cuts.
As has been noted by the New York Times and elsewhere, many Americans have no idea that Obama and Congress have cut taxes. Most tea partiers simply assume that the "tax and spend Democrats" have raised their taxes. Plus the supposed "Obama tax hike" looms on the horizon, which is actually the built-in expiration of a tax cut instituted early in the Bush administration. President Obama wants to extend these to all but the richest 2% of Americans, who would still get a tax cut on part of their income but not to the extent that their getting it now. This "tax cut for the rich" translates to an increase of "$36 billion to the federal deficit next year" compared to the Democrats' plan," according to the Washington Post. That's more than can feasibly be made up by cutting spending on trivialities like education, safe food and drugs, safe mines and oil rigs, a cleaner environment or unemployment benefits. Check out the graphic - is this the fiscal discipline you're looking for?

More accomplishments listed by "Rescue Truth":

Women’s Rights

  • Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
    • Protection against pay discrimination
    • Restores interpretation of Title VII of Civil Rights Act that protected women and other workers

Financial Rights

  • Credit CARD Act
    • Prevents retroactive rate increases
    • Requires companies to provide 45 days notice before changing rates and other contract provisions
    • Additional restrictions placed on fees
    • Prevents companies from taking advantage of students
    • Ends unfair double-cycle billing practices
  • Financial reform bill
    • Establishes Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which seeks solely to ensure financial institutions are being fair to consumers, and improvement in the simplicity in contracts
    • Prevents taxpayer bail out of financial institutions
    • Allows the GAO to audit the Federal Reserve
    • Various mortgage and derivatives reform, etc.


  • Student loans[1]
    • Ends “socialistic” federal subsidies to banks and other financial institutions (Interestingly, Republicans are okay with the kind of socialism that redirects taxpayer money to banks and other financial institutions.)
    • Eliminates unnecessary “middle-man” in student loan process, which placed financial burden on taxpayers while banks took in profits
    • Annual student loan payment capped at 10% of income
    • Saves an estimated $61 billion over 10 years

Health Care

  • Children’s health insurance bill[2]
    • CBO said bill will allow states to cover more than four million uninsured children by 2013, in addition to seven million already covered
    • Requires states to provide dental and mental illness coverage to children
  • Tobacco regulation
    • Provides graphic warnings on tobacco use risks
    • Restricts advertising to prevent marketing to minors
  • Health care reform
    • Insurers cannot cancel coverage when a person gets sick
    • Requires health insurance corporations to cover preexisting conditions
    • Eliminates lifetime limits
    • Allows insurance purchase across state lines
    • Allows young adults to stay on parents’ health insurance policy until 26

Crime and Civil Rights

  • Hate crime legislation[4]
    • Provides protection for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people
  • Tribal Law and Order Act


  • The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act
    • Expands service and volunteer opportunities
    • Benefits education, health care, energy, etc.
  • Stimulus
    • Cash for Clunkers successfully contributed to 680,000+ vehicle sales in summer 2009
    • Largest clean energy investment ever made
  • Reduced deficit by $122 billion[5]
  • Reduced federal spending by 2%[5]

  1. ABC News. Obama Highlights Student Loan Reforms Within the Health Care Bill
  2. Obama Signs Children’s Health Insurance Bill
  3. PolitiFact. Axelrod claims Democrats passed 25 tax cuts last year without the help of Republicans
  4. CNN. Obama signs hate crimes bill into law
  5. Raw Story. Democrats shrank US spending, deficit in last fiscal year, figures show
That's a pretty good list of accomplishments in two years, especially with Republicans doing their best to kill or water down every bill, with the stated purpose of making Obama's presidency a failed one. To be sure, they have not accomplished everything they've tried for, largely because of attempts at bipartisan compromise; but it's still pretty impressive: saving the U.S. car industry, making the financial industry less predatory, ending preexisting condition clauses in health insurance, making student loans more cost-effective for both students and the government, etc. Now let's look at what the Democrats have not done, despite claims to the contrary:
  • Place the government in the hands of a secret Muslim terrorist born in Kenya. For the birthers to be right, not only do the many people who have examined the actual Hawaii birth certificate have to be lying, but someone has to have had the foresight to place fake birth announcements in two Honolulu newspapers when the baby with the funny name was born.In addition to this, Obama has a long, well-documented history of regular church attendance. If he were a terrorist, wouldn't we have seen some evidence of this in the past two years? Heck, he hasn't even managed to close Guantanamo!
  • Take away your guns. Putting aside the fact that not everyone owns a gun or wants one, this threat seems entirely empty. Although the NRA sent out mailers making this claim, and many people still believe it today, Obama's stated position is quite different. According to his 2008 position papers, as reprinted on, "Barack Obama believes the Second Amendment creates an individual right, and he respects the constitutional rights of Americans to bear arms. He will protect the rights of hunters and other law-abiding Americans to purchase, own, transport, and use guns." He is, however, in favor of "commonsense measures that respect the Second Amendment rights of gun owners, while keeping guns away from children and from criminals who shouldn't have them. They support closing the gun show loophole and making guns in this country childproof. They also support making the expired federal Assault Weapons Ban permanent, as such weapons belong on foreign battlefields and not on our streets." This is a far cray from the NRA claims that Obama wants to "ban use of firearms for home self defense" and "ban the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns." So much for the claims. The reality? In two years of legislation by the mostly-Democratic Congress under Obama's leadership, no attempt has been made to take away the average person's guns. Almost nothing appears of a list of active legislation in the Senate, and what has passed has been mostly gun-friendly, as an article in The Hill points out: "Quigley noted the 111th Congress has not debated closing the gun-show loophole or reauthorizing the assault weapons ban, which Obama promised to pursue on the presidential campaign trail. Instead, Democrats have passed gun-rights measures, including the “Protecting Gun Owners in Bankruptcy Act of 2010” and legislation that would allow guns in national parks and on Amtrak trains."
  • Indoctrinate your children in school. Although the federal government does help to fund children's education, what this comprises is determined at the levels of the state and local school board, leading to frequent battles over the teaching of evolution, book bannings and the content of textbooks. When Present Obama addressed schoolchildren on a national basis for the first time, right-wingers fearfully kept their children him to protect them from the harmful effects of hearing what the President of the United States wanted to tell them. Obama's insidious message: stay in school and work hard. Shocking!
  • Institute Sharia Law. Never happened. Never attempted.
  • Steal elections with massive voter fraud. The Republican nominee in my Congressional district, Jesse Kelly, made a spurious claim last week that people are bused in from Mexico to commit voter fraud on behalf of Democrats. Aside from the small problem that they would have to already be registered to vote in the precinct and be able to show idea, there's the fact that it simply has not happened, according to Arizona's Republican Secretary of State, who called such rumors "a kind of urban legend": "As Arizona’s chief elections official, I take seriously any allegations of fraud in our election process. As soon as these accusations came to light, we got in contact with elections officials in Yuma County and across Arizona to determine if a fraudulent scheme was afoot. With our initial inquiry complete, I’m happy to report that these latest allegations of rampant registration fraud are without merit." Part and parcel with this local story are similar claims about ACORN (which not longer exists thanks to scapegoating and an entirely deceptive videotape) The New Black Panthers (just a couple of guys, apparently) and "at risk" districts which just happen to be populated by minorities and others likely to vote Democratic. At what point does poll-watching become intimidation? We may find out tomorrow, as Tea Party poll-watchers look for people they can accuse of voter fraud. Actual voter fraud cases, by the way, are exceedingly rare.
  • Institute Death Panels to determine whether Grandma must die. The actual passage in the health care reform bill said simply that if you want to consult your doctor before making your own end-of-life decisions (i.e. a "living will"), insurance should cover the office visit. Ooh, scary!
  • Put you in jail for not buying health insurance. There never was any such provision in any of the health care reform bills.
  • Take away your freedom. Are you less free than two years ago? People have openly carried firearms at political rallies, shouted slurs at members of Congress and spat on them, and carried signs depicting Obama as Hitler, the Joker or a tribesman with a bone through the nose. Nobody's been taken to an internment or reeducation camp, or even prosecuted for such things.
Much of the argument on the Republican/Tea Party side this year is based on fear-mongering, trying to convince you that Obama is a scary foreigner who wants to hurt you, or at least cost you money, and that Muslims and Mexicans are all out to get you. The vast majority of the claims made, against them and against your particular Democratic candidate, are distortions and fabrications. Meanwhile, many of the Republican contenders are the most extreme they've been in decades, looking to privatize or "personalize" or even end Social Security, close down the EPA, resist food safety regulation (you have a personal taster, don't you?) and protect the Constitution by getting rid of amendments they don't like, such as the one that lets you vote for your Senator. Much of the Republican money machine this year is bankrolled by billionaires and corporate fat cats who know that Republicans will support their interests over those of the average person, and by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which takes millions in contributions from foreign and domestic corporations that outsource jobs as much as they possibly can. These folks want to scare you into voting against your own interests: your own safety, your own freedom, your own financial well-being. They want to convince you to value greed over fairness, "us" over "them," fear over facts.

Don't let fear and greed rule this election at the nation's expense. Vote Democrat.


1 comment:

Carly said...


Yes, it's true, I felt a good bit of fatique about voting for any democrat given the way the Obama administration has handled some things. I could go into a long rant about his refusing to see that the GOP will never work with him, but it's actually beside the point. California didn't just turn the state a little more blue, we turned it MIDNIGHT BLUE and I expect it will be for a long time. Meg WHitman and Carly Fiorina would have been a disaster for the state... and we all knew it. Frankly, voting for Barbara Boxer and Jerry Brown and others made me feel wonderful. Just to be a part of it. I don't see that kind of enthusiasm for Obama in 2012 unless he starts acting like a President rather then a defeated whimp. The young people who turned out for him in 2008 were promised something, and they didn't get it. The left has needed someone to fight for us, not negotiate away what we need. Someone who will stand up to the lies, and adress and expose them on a case by case basis. Reason is not winning out. Truth will be the next to go, if something doesn't change. But that's if he makes it another 2 years, impeachment is not off the table, not while the right pursues it's agenda of political pride.