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Third Parties

The Capitol Comments Off
Dec 142010

After reading Matt Bai on Michael Bloomberg’s prospects as a third party presidential candidate along with various recent commentary about the idea of a from-the-left challenger to Barack Obama, I’m coming to the view that too much of this kind of talk focuses on the actual viability (or lack thereof) of possible third party runs. What’s more interesting to me is all the ways that non-viable candidates can make a difference.

After all, it’s reasonably common in recent years for an incumbent or quasi-incumbent center-left party leader to succeed in capturing the median voter and nonetheless lose power in the face of many people voting for further-left candidates. That’s how Al Gore lost, that’s how Paul Martin lost power in Canada, that’s how Gerhard Schöder lost power in Germany, and it’s arguably the reason Lionel Jospin couldn’t beat Jacques Chirac for the Presidency of France. In all these cases, I think the Nader/NDP/Linke/Trotskyite voters were being short-sighted and counterproductive. But the point is that these things happen. A lot of people all around the developed world are basically pacifists and fundamentally don’t accept the neoliberal economic consensus. And there’s basically no way for a center-left movement to win without getting the votes of that constituency, even though few mainstream center-left political leaders (and certainly not Barack Obama) actually espouse those views.

The resulting problem of coalition management is both big and quite difficult. It’s something worth paying attention to even though the idea of a third party candidate winning the presidency or of a primary opponent beating Obama is silly.


In an age of hyperpartisanship, will a legitimate, viable third party emerge?

That was one of the questions that emerged during the first panel discussion at the launch of “No Labels” in New York.

MSNBC host and former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough said it’s “inevitable” that third-party candidates will start winning — if the major parties continue to fail to tackle the national debt and energy independence.

“The practical barriers to a national third party are so substantial,” disagreed outgoing Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh (Ind.). “More likely, one of the two existing parties will get it.”

Asked to rate the partisanship in Washington on a scale of 1 to 10, Republican political analyst David Gergen pegged it at 15. He said the spirit of the World War II generation, that we are Americans first and partisans second, has been eroded.

Newly elected Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said he was struck at his first Armed Services committee meeting how the Democrats and Republicans sat apart – unlike they do at committee meetings in his home state.

Bayh agreed that the caucus system needs to change. “It’s almost tribal,” he said, adding that there were only three times during his 12 years in the Senate that Democrats and Republicans sat down and listened to each other.

“The whole notion of principled comprise seems to have gotten a dirty name on the far left and the far right,” said Bayh, who cited the divisive political climate when he decided not to run for re-election. “If you see people being exceedingly partisan or exceedingly ideological, don’t support them. Join the raging center.”

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Bernstein takes another crack at DADT politicking: 

[W]hether the new plan will work depends on whether Harry Reid and the Democrats (and House Democrats) are willing to stick around and do it.  That, we don't yet know.  It may depend, too, on how quickly the tax bill and any other business can be finished.  And perhaps Republicans will be able to throw up enough roadblocks to run out the clock, after all.

Meanwhile, the original advantages of bundling repeal with the Defense Authorization bill turned out to have been a flop, or at least half a flop.  The idea behind it was always that marginal Senators would be afraid to vote "against the troops" and would therefore vote for the larger bill even if they didn't want to vote for DADT repeal — and that other Senators who may have wanted DADT repeal but didn't want to vote for it would be spared a separate vote.  Perhaps that's worked with some marginal Democrats (all Dems but Manchin voted yes today), but it certainly didn't work with Republicans.

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The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

Postal workers agree to third contract extension as bargaining continues, and more news from the “Bargaining Digest Weekly.” The AFL-CIO Collective Bargaining Department delivers daily, bargaining-related news and research resources to more than 1,300 subscribers. Union leaders can register for this service through our website, Bargaining@Work.

APWU, U.S. Postal Service: The Postal Workers (APWU) and the U.S. Postal Service agreed to a third contract extension, as negotiations continue. If the two sides are unable to reach agreement within 60 days of the contract’s expiration date, they will enter binding arbitration as required by the 1970 Postal Reorganization Act.

AFT, Bethel Park School District: Some 400 teachers in Bethel Park, Pa., are returning to the classrooms today as mandated by state law, after a six-week strike but no agreement. The Bethel Park Federation of Teachers/AFT and the school district will now enter binding arbitration.

BCTGM, Roquette America: In Keokuk, Iowa, Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) Local 48G highlighted the 4.5 million city and state dollars Roquette America has received over the years, as the company’s lockout of 240 workers entered its third month. The workers were locked out Sept. 28, after they rejected a contract Local 48G President Steve Underwood described as “so offensive that no self-respecting employee would accept.”

USW, Honeywell: The United Steelworkers (USW) attended a hearing of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform in recent days to shine a spotlight on the lockout of 230 workers by one of the commission’s members, Honeywell CEO David Cote. Members of USW Local 7-669 were locked out of the Honeywell uranium plant in Metropolis, Ill., in June, after rejecting a deal that would slash health and pension benefits. Local 7-669 President Darrell Lillie said at the hearing, “We think it’s a joke that our CEO can serve on the fiscal commission while he has locked us out, hired hundreds of replacement workers to steal our jobs and now seeks to eliminate our pension plan.”

IAM, Pratt & Whitney: In Connecticut over the weekend, members of the Machinists (IAM) ratified a new contract with Pratt & Whitney that will allow the closure of two engine repair plants in the state while preventing the layoff of the 3,400 workers. Up to 500 workers can accept an early retirement package, while others will be offered jobs at other Pratt & Whitney locations.

UFCW, Multiple supermarket chains: Grocery workers in the Puget Sound area of Washington State ratified a new agreement with supermarket chains Safeway, QFC, Fred Meyer and Albertsons. The majority of workers are members of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 21, and others are represented by UFCW Local 81 and Teamsters (IBT) Local 38.

Disclaimer: This information is being provided for your information only.  As it is compiled from published news reports, not from individual unions, we cannot vouch for either its completeness or accuracy; readers who desire further information should directly contact the union involved.


Third Rail

The Capitol Comments Off
Dec 042010

Brian Beutler reports:

“The third rail is not the third rail anymore,” Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the incoming House Budget chairman, told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast roundtable with reporters yesterday. “The political weaponization of entitlement reform is no longer as potent as it used to be, and the best evidence is this last election.”

Ryan and several other influential Republicans have found new confidence in the idea that the public would support entitlement cuts. Several candidates, Ryan said, won elections in tough districts on policy platforms modeled after his controversial — and conservative — Roadmap for America’s Future would would privatize social security and turn Medicare into a voucher system.

Here’s the Senate GOP caucus complaining that Democrats want to spend too little on Medicare:

I’m not sure which election Ryan was watching.


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Earlier this month, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, the co-chairs of President Obama’s deficit commission, released their recommendations for reining in the U.S. budget deficit. Part of their recommendations included raising the retirement age for Social Security, a proposal that sparked a wide political backlash.

Now, Third Way, which calls itself the “leading moderate think-tank of the progressive movement,” has revealed its own plan for the Social Security system. The group’s proposal radically alters Social Security much more than the Bowles-Simpson recommendations. Not only does it call for hiking the retirement age, but it also reiterates the Bush administration’s failed call for introducing privatization into the system.

Explaining the plan in an exclusive interview with Bloomberg News, Third Way spokesman Sean Gibbons explained that whatever comes out of the deficit commission’s final report “is going to be a hot potato.” He continued, “So we wanted to send something over that was especially hot“:

Washington-based Third Way said its plan would raise the retirement age, trim or eliminate Social Security benefits for high-income retirees, limit cost-of-living increases and provide money to help young workers create private retirement accounts.

The proposal, to be released after the presidential panel is due to issue its report on Dec. 1, is timed to help create a buffer for congressional Democrats to support politically unpopular deficit-trimming measures, said Third Way spokesman Sean Gibbons. “Whatever comes out of the commission is going to be a hot potato,” Gibbons said. “So we wanted to send something over that was especially hot.” […]

The retirement age, now scheduled to rise to 67 in 2027, would gradually increase to 68 by 2041, to 69 by 2059, and to 70 by 2077. This would reduce total benefits by roughly $ 1 trillion by 2040, according to the plan. The plan would provide annual subsidies of up to $ 500 to help workers under age 30 create 401(k)-style retirement savings accounts.

To start with, Social Security is currently projected to be fully solvent until the year 2037. After that, it is expected to be able to pay out 75 percent of benefits until 2084 (once you account for inflation those basically consist of full benefits). It is far from in crisis. That does not mean that there aren’t positive and progressive changes that could possibly be made to the system.

Raising the retirement age, however, would be a particularly punitive way to solve future deficits in the program’s funding. While it is true that average life expectancy has increased over time, these gains are largely a result of life expectancy rising among upper income earners. Among moderate and low income workers, life expectancy has barely changed. And “nearly half of workers over the age of 58 work at jobs that are either physically demanding or involve difficult work conditions.” Raising the retirement age would create enormous burdens on those who work at these jobs.

And introducing privatization into the system is an idea so extreme that it was even rejected by former President Bush’s own party when it controlled every branch of government. Introducing private accounts into Social Security would create burdensome new administrative costs and force benefit reductions, it would impose significant risk on seniors and would actually cost more than the current system.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Third Way co-founder Jim Kessler complains that “strongest and loudest voices on the left have nailed up the barricades on Social Security and said ‘hell, no’ and don’t want any type of cuts in benefits at all.” Yet it isn’t just the “strongest and loudest voices on the left” that would oppose the punitive cuts and privatization in Third Way’s plan. A CBS News poll taken just days before the election found that that 71 percent of Americans oppose cuts in benefits for future retirees and that 54 percent oppose any hike in the retirement age for Social Security. Meanwhile, a May 2005 poll taken at the height of Republican-led dominance in the federal government found that 56 percent of Americans said it was a “bad idea” to introduce private accounts into Social Security.

One place to start to find better, more progressive solutions involves raising the payroll tax cap. Currently, only the first $ 106,800 of a person’s income is considered taxable for the purpose of funding Social Security. Raising this cap significantly or eliminating it would essentially leave the program fully funded for decades to come, and not create undue hardship on those working physically demanding jobs. An Election Day poll by Survey USA found that 85 percent of voters are opposed to cutting Social Security, and that even Republicans by a 2-to-1 margin back raising the tax cap over raising the retirement age.


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Top 25 poll: Oregon, Auburn stay at top; TCU jumps to third
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Top 25 poll: Oregon, Auburn stay at top; TCU jumps to third
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Marquez eyes third Pacquiao bout after beating Katsidis
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A proposal to solve TSA controversy.
American Thinker Blog

The Associated Press declared Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.) the winner in California’s 11th District Wednesday afternoon, leaving only one House race still up for grabs heading into Thanksgiving Day.

McNerney holds a 2,474-vote lead over Republican David Harmer, with over 225,000 ballots cast. Nearly all of the absentee and provisional ballots have been counted, with the exception of about 2,000 in Contra Costa County and a handful from San Joaquin County – not enough to overturn McNerney’s lead.

McNerney already declared victory two weeks ago. Harmer has not conceded the race as of this evening, and, despite trailing throughout the post-election tallying, attended last week’s orientation session for new members of Congress.

McNerney’s victory means that Republicans, despite their landslide victory across most of the country, failed to pick up a single House seat in California – and only netted a total of one seat across the entire Pacific Coast.

House Republicans have netted a total of 63 seats – with one disputed race left in New York, where Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) holds a 235-vote lead over Republican Randy Altschuler.

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