Republicans on ACORN: Haters Gonna Hate!

Critiquesv2.ACORN and the Obama AdministrationMontreal         A Washington Post blog was hard for me to ignore. Philip Bump was amazed to find that when he charted the data on the top dozen Republican attack themes during the Obama Administration that ACORN stood out so loud and proud, practically dominating in 2009 and 2010, but carrying over as a major target after attack into 2012. Of course it is no surprise that the Republicans have been obsessed with ACORN. Perhaps the surprise was how much it seems to have been part of their message, rather than simply a crazed obsession.

In a dramatic graphic, in 2009 and 2010 the number of times that ACORN was spewed from venomous mouths of Republican politicians sometimes reached 80% of the total message and rarely got below 60% of their sound bites. Congressman Steve King, Republican from Iowa, was the leading hatemonger by far. Note to self: send King’s office an ACORN flag to hang in their waiting room in DC.

The statistics indicate that the Republicans enjoyed Benghazi for a moment and the IRS, which in some ways was just the other side of the coin from ACORN, had a heartbeat for a while, but a careful look at the numbers Bump analyzed from the Sunlight Foundation seem to mainly establish that only Obamacare roused more fire from the Republicans that ACORN, and if not for the healthcare plan, alive or dead, the Republicans were ready to throw down at ACORN at a moment’s notice.

Why? Of course this corresponds with the Republican evangelical gospel that ACORN stole the election for Barack Obama in 2008 and was going to continue to steal all kinds of elections in 2012 and state by state, which is why there was a desperate need to restrict voting with voter IDs and justify all sorts of other malarkey.

Not crazy and not an obsession, but a strategy and a message, as it becomes clearer and clearer over time. Eight states passed restrictive voter measures and three of the eight are in the toss-up category now for control of the U.S. Senate by the Republicans including Georgia and North Carolina. A Tulane University professor, Justin Levitt, looked at all cases of people voting in someone else’s name in all elections in the USA since 2000 and out of a billion votes cast found 31 instances where someone with a fake ID voted for someone else, which is the only thing the voter ID bills can establish, other than intimidating and suppressing overall voting itself.

The Republican strategy was crystal clear. Target ACORN. Blame the organization for everything, and no matter how unsubstantiated the claims, keep people looking at the pea under the ACORN shell, while in a devious sleight of hand you change the voting rules to allow a minority party to win a couple of elections by reducing the pool of potential voters. Get enough haters and whacks like King, Darryl Issa, Michelle Bachmann, and Tea people troops to repeat the mantra of the message, and by the time people figure out the truth, if ever, ACORN is crippled, the voters have been snookered, and the Republicans have won a couple of more seats they needed.

Haters are gonna hate, and ACORN lives in peoples’ hearts and actions so will always rise, but between such cynicism on one hand and the effort to buy elections on the other, how does democracy survive?


Please enjoy Burning Bridges by Lucinda Williams, thanks to Kabf.

Making Earned Income Credits a Better Incentive for Work and Fair to the Childless

Energy-Tax-CreditsPeterborough    In a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Princeton economist, author, and former Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Blinder made a brilliant case for Congress to actually read Obama’s proposal and do more to make the Earned Income Tax Credit really increase citizen wealth and even, are you listening my Republican buddies, act as an incentive for lower income workers to in fact work more.  It’s worth reviewing his arguments and sharing them widely.

            First, he simply pointed out how the program works now in three stages:  phase-in, plateau, and phase-out. 

In the phase-in stage, as Jane’s annual earnings rise from zero to $9,720, the EITC reduces her tax bill by 34 cents for each additional dollar she earns. Thus, if her employer pays $10 an hour, Jane nets $13.40 for each additional hour worked—providing a financial incentive to work more. The credit stops increasing at $3,305 a year—which happens when her earnings reach $9,720 a year—and then remains on this plateau until her earnings reach $23,260 (less if Jane is single). The credit then begins to phase out—at 16 cents for every $1 earned. The tax credit would be entirely gone when Jane’s earnings reach $43,941 a year. Notice that the EITC actually creates a disincentive to work more in the phase-out range by raising Jane’s effective tax rate.  But the EITC is vastly less generous if Jane has no children—as it has been throughout the credit’s history. If Jane is childless, her subsidy rate during the phase-in would be just 7.65% rather than 34%. The benefit would plateau at $496 a year rather than $3,305, and the phase-out would begin when she makes $13,540 rather than $23,260. These are huge differences.

            Secondly, he basically argues that President Obama’s proposal is too moderate, because it does not equalize the EITC benefit between childless workers and workers with children, but he advocates the proposal, despite its modesty, as still doubling the maximum benefit for childless workers, and therefore also doubling the work incentive. 

            Why a program initiated by Republican President Gerald Ford, heralded by Republican President Ronald Reagan as the “best antipoverty…measure to come out of Congress,” and extended by both President’s Clinton and Obama, is nickeling and diming between workers with and without children makes no sense to me at all.  Work is work and workers and workers, so systemic discrimination just seems counterproductive and mean spirited, but maybe that’s just me.

            It especially seems callous to not at least do what the President is proposing because Blinder points out that the cost is only $6 billion to make this happen, which is hardly a rounding error in the federal budget these days, and is easily offset by closing even minor tax loopholes that Congress is so generously providing to the rich on a daily basis.

            If our political ideology worships the dignity of work, then why can’t Congress put our money where its mouth is?

*** song of the day

Please enjoy Robert Cray’s You Move Me

Going Small versus the Grand on Immigration Reform

familiesNew Orleans  Sitting in at the California field office of the House majority whip, Angelica Salas, the esteemed, outstanding director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), was informed that the House would not take up the issue of immigration reform before the end of the year, virtually taking the rest of the air out of hopes that there might be Republican movement finally on this issue.   With the mid-term elections in Congress now on a one-year countdown, it is hard to believe that a change of heart is likely that will lead to real relief for all 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

            Talking to Chris Newman, the legal director of the National Day Laborers’ Organizing Network (NDLON) last week on Wade’s World on KABF/FM, he was candid about the internal debate now being waged intensely within the immigration reform movement about whether it was finally time to adjust strategies and go small, rather than big on potential legislation.   This has long been a debate at various levels since President Obama was first elected and activists sensed the time for change might be imminent.  Five years ago the DC-based, beltway voices prevailed over those arguing that more popular measures like a re-tooled DREAM Act for children brought to the US by their parents might succeed where more comprehensive reform was less likely.   The subsequent courage of the DREAMers won them some relaxation and relief even without a real, permanent solution.   Even Rick Perry, the rightwing, Republican Governor of Texas has argued that not finding a solution for children is simply “inhumane.”

Now, talking to Chris it was clear that the debate has once again focused on whether or not there are pieces of the reform mosaic that might be assembled if, as seems increasingly likely, the chances of comprehensive reform passing in both houses of Congress are remote.   As interesting were the points Chris made about the President and the discretion he could still exercise through executive orders.  Chris’s point was essentially, that if Obama could suspend deportations for young people so that they could move forward with their lives, then why could he also not use similar discretion to significantly reduce deportations of other immigrants that has now reached record levels under the Obama Administration and its enforcement guidelines.  

There may have been a tactical reason for the Administration to prove they were tough on border control and deportations in exchange for a strategy of holding out for the full loaf of reform, but now that we’re talking slices, what’s the excuse for not similarly easing back in specific areas involving particularly family separations which could suspend deportation for millions as well?  Additionally, Newman and I discussed the fact that California under Governor Jerry Brown was now leading on immigration reform and given the fact that the strongest immigration reform groups were actually local, not national, like CHIRLA in California, Casa de Maryland, and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), and the most dramatic fights have developed in places on the frontline in places like Arizona, perhaps going smaller would also allow grassroots strength – and anger – to lead where lobbying was failing in Congress.

Change is inevitable, and reform at whatever level and on whatever issues can get traction is needed immediately, so a new strategy may now be necessary to move the needle in steps, and even locally, while it is stuck in Washington.

Congress Gone Wild with Crazy Votes on ACORN and More!

debt-showdown-2jpg-f2fb58ea0df1d3f7Little Rock   Congress has left for a 5-week summer vacation, and this time whether they have earned it or not, they probably need the rest.   Perhaps in some kind of rehab clinic or re-education camp in fact, because one vote after another in the House of Representatives in recent weeks could be clinically classified as crazy.

Ok, yeah, adding an amendment to the Department of Defense budget to de-fund ACORN and what House Republicans call “all of its affiliates” for the third straight year, since the leadership of the US-organization dissolved the outfit November 5, 2010, does strike me as absurd, and, yes, I take it personally.   But, since the list of the so-called “affiliates” also still includes totally independent operations like the Service Employees International Union, progressive DC-based think tanks, and random other progressive organizations, which never had any direct familial relationship to the ACORN group of organizations, that does strike me as crazy.   Maybe crazy like a fox, but still crazy!

            And, how about the fact the House has now voted 40 times, but, hey, who’s counting, to repeal the Affordable Care Act or what they call, Obamacare, even knowing that they can’t get by the Senate or the President with that one.  Don’t they have real jobs over there in the House or what?

            Maybe they are simply trying to send a message to the poor to hurry up and die and be done with it?  The fact that the majority also voted to cut the food stamp budget in half leads to the conclusion that besides trying to keep the poor from healthcare they have already picked their preferred method of death for the poor:  starvation.

            Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman points out that besides being crazy, they seem to be just plain chicken.  He points out the fact that they embrace their big cuts and then run away when presented budgets by the Department of Transportation for example and see the impact of their draconian policies.  Gee, did they really think no one would be hurt back home?  And, yes, that’s crazy!

            Max Brantley blogging for the Arkansas Times commented on a call for a protest in Little Rock at the airport to greet a couple of elected representatives flying home for the recess to ask them what the heck they were doing up there, said it reminded him of the old days:

The occasion took me back in memory to the Wade Rathke days at ACORN. Reba Whipple, Elena Hanggi and other stalwarts from ACORN would turn up in a bank board room or other rarified place noisily asking for consideration of the interests of working class people. Over time, their protests had incremental positive impact, even as it made the organization a dirty word with the comforted class and stirred some sympathetic backlash for the fatcats who were embarrassed.

Brantley might have a good idea there.  While House Republicans are in rest and rehab in coming weeks, maybe the rest of us need to dust off our old picket signs and get our old ACORN t-shirts washed up again to remind them that whatever the structure, the spirit of protest and simple sanity in dealing with the poor, working people, and the rest of our citizens has to be the real standard of government.

Marking Time for O’Keefe, ACORN, and the Crazies of Congress

New Orleans   Almost three years since the ACORN board and staff at that time pulled the plug on the organization and spread to the four corners of the country, it was suddenly another “ACORN week” in many ways in some weird coincidence of the calendar.  

            James O’Keefe, III, the criminal videographer who recently had to pay a significant settlement in California for his highly selective editing techniques in his unprincipled takedown of ACORN, celebrated the end of his probation for another one of his whacko schemes involving mischief with the phone system for the New Orleans district office of Senator Mary Landrieu located in the Hale Boggs Federal Building.  Nothing about any of that was anything but moronic:  phones, federal building, US Senator – how much dope were they smoking?  

O’Keefe celebrated by seeing if he could visit the Philadelphia headquarters of ACTION Now, formerly Pennsylvania ACORN, and supposedly say “hello” to his old friends since this was the scene of one of his earlier crimes as well, and he was desperate to prove that he had learned absolutely nothing over the last 4 years.  According to his short clip, he didn’t get past the door, but of course they probably didn’t recognize him.  Looks like he has added about 30 pounds, and it was probably a good thing in his case, and of course he wasn’t wearing his pimp suit either.  Oh, wait, I almost forgot.  He never wore a pimp suit except for his self-promotion did he? 

Meanwhile several members of the Republican Crazy Caucus in Congress have made sure to add amendments to various budget bills pending in committees to continue to defund the deflated ACORN hoping it doesn’t rise again.  The progressive press finds this ironic and humorous but of course it is neither.  The long list of organizations included in this punitive “bill of attainder” is sweeping and chilling and continues to hamper work going on today in many cities and states with low-and-moderate income organizations.  It is probably too much to hope that reason will prevail and these amendments will be rejected, but then again, Michelle Bachmann has announced that she is resigning her seat in the House of Representative so hope springs eternal.

Meanwhile I noted that it has now been 5 years since I resigned as Chief Organizer of ACORN on June 2, 2008.   People always say everything is different after 5 years.  That’s really not true as you can see.  I continue to organize every day.   ACORN International continues to grow around the world.  I work with many of the same projects and organizations as I did and with some new ones.  And, now I enjoy the irony that many of these organizations never made the Congressional hit-and-hate list.  How sweet is that irony?   Well, it’s not bad, but it’s not good enough to offset the mourning that I hear from ACORN members every week who still miss their organization and the chance to make change and build power in America for their families and communities.  There’s little that I can say to them, except keep fighting and working and you never can tell what might still be possible, because, hey, America, what a country!

ACORN Week Audio Blog

House Republicans Propose “Groundhog Day” Ban on Federal Funding for ACORN

New Orleans  They’re back!  The Republican Hater Patrol is roaming the streets of Congress again, and this time they are pulling white sheets of paper up to their heads.  It appears the Republicans are working hard to re-brand themselves as vampire hunters modeled after last year’s movie about the young Abraham Lincoln as his pre-presidential avocation as a vampire scourge, but instead they are coming off as pathetic actors in their own private version of Groundhog Day and seemingly committed to going after ACORN on regular basis.

Bloggers with the Huffington Post and other sites did the thankless task of actually looking through the more than 200 pages of the Republican introduced continuing resolution on the federal budget.  There on page 221 in section 205 was the following: “SEC. 510. None of the funds made available in this Act may be distributed to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) or its subsidiaries or successors.”

As Zach Carter pointed out on the Huffington Post website:

“Independent investigations by the California attorney general, the Massachusetts attorney general and the Brooklyn, N.Y. district attorney would later clear ACORN of criminal wrongdoing, and an investigation by the Government Accountability Office would clear ACORN of charges that it mishandled federal funds.   But the damage to ACORN’s reputation had already been done. By November of 2009, Congress had defunded the organization, using broad language that applied to “any organization” that had been charged with breaking federal or state election laws, lobbying disclosure laws, campaign finance laws or filing fraudulent paperwork with any federal or state agency. The funding ban also extended to any employees, contractors or others affiliated with any group charged with any of those things.”

No sense arguing again about the Constitutional protection against “bills of attainder” which hold that Congress has no power to declare anyone or any organization guilty without trial, the ACORN attack has become a signifier to the hooligans on Capitol Hill that it’s time for night riding and door-to-door searches to root out their enemies.

The old law is bad enough and survived court challenges.  Now that Obama is pardoning some folks who actually committed crimes, we can think about a campaign to get a pardon for ACORN and its “subsidiaries and successors.”

We would need a blanket pardon, since anyone with progressive politics or who stands with the people and the poor is similarly banned, because in truth we are all ACORN’s successors.  And, I might add, speaking personally, proud of it!