January 2012

  • January 31, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Discussion of the nation’s growing economic inequalities inevitably leads some pundits, notably on the Right, to assert that such talk is fueling “class warfare.”

    In his State of the Union address, President Obama spoke to that charge when he raised the need for the nation’s super wealthy to pay more in taxes. “You can call this class warfare all you want,” Obama said. “But asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most Americans would call that common sense.”

    But the president’s assertion is unlikely to dissuade conservative pundits from whining about so-called “class warfare” anytime soon.

    Indeed, Media Matters For America has complied research detailing the Right’s obsession with “shouting class warfare,” whenever the president or others, for that matter, delve into discussion of the nation’s economic inequalities. 

    For example after the president’s State of the Union address, Rush Limbaugh claimed that the president’s use of the word “fairness” was “code for class warfare.”

    And likely not surprising, Limbaugh’s theme as Media Matters notes was echoed on Fox News. On the network’s “Fox & friends,” the hosts advocated for the poor to pay income taxes. “Kick in a buck, kick in something!” co-host Steve Doocy cried.

    Although class warfare has long been bandied about by the Right whenever talk of raising taxes on the wealthy occurs, the Occupy Wall Street protests and commentary from several economists and more moderate policy makers have intensified the class warfare rhetoric. Elizabeth Warren who advocated for the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been hit with it for her straightforward discussions of income inequality and the need for the nation’s uber-wealthy to start paying their fair share in taxes.

    As Media Matters notes, however, the Right is likely ramping up its class warfare rhetoric in light of statements from high-profile figures, such as billionaires Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, maintaining that their kind simply don’t pay enough in taxes.

  • January 30, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    In the face of continued opposition to filling judicial and other vacancies, President Obama reiterated in his weekly address an urgent call for the Senate to cease with the delays and get to work considering and confirming his nominations.

    Although not citing him by name, Obama alluded to Utah Sen. Mike Lee’s recent comments that he planned to stall all of the president’s nominations because of his recess appointments of Richard Cordray to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and three members to the National Labor Relations Board. Politico reported last week that aides to the senator said “the tea-party favorite could bog down the confirmation process by filibustering and forcing a 60-vote threshold for each nominee.”

    During his Jan. 28 address, the president said, “one of the senator’s aides told reporters that the senator plans to, and I’m quoting here, ‘Delay and slow the process in order to get the President’s attention.’”

    Obama continued, “Well this isn’t about me. We weren’t sent here to wage perpetual political campaigns against each other. We were sent to serve the American people. And they deserve better than gridlock and games. One senator gumming up the whole works for the entire country is certainly not what our founding fathers envisioned.”

    As he did during his State of the Union Address, the president said it’s long past time for the foot-dragging on nominations to stop, and urged both parties to pass “a rule that allows all judicial and public service nominations a simple up-or-down vote within 90 days.”

  • January 27, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Earlier in the week N.J. Gov. Chris Christie drew some plaudits from civil liberties advocates for making an effort to diversify that state’s highest court with the nomination of a gay man. Quickly on the heels of the announcement, however, Christie reaffirmed his opposition to the state legislature’s effort to pass a bill advancing equality, specifically granting gay couples the right to wed. Instead Christie said that marriage equality should be placed before voters. The move, according to The New York Times reporter Kate Zernike “highlighted the considerable political skills that have made him one of the Republican Party’s rising stars.”

    But, The Daily Beast blogger Andrew Sullivan lauds Newark, N.J. Mayor Cory Booker’s recent comments on marriage equality calling them among the “best defenses of marriage equality from a public official,” as well as a “great rebuttal” to Christie’s “deft but cowardly attempt to put civil rights in front of a referendum – even though the legislature is in favor.”

    Taking questions from reporters earlier this week, Booker said there are some very appropriate things to put before voters, such as measures requiring the super wealthy to pay more in taxes. Protections of civil rights, however, should not be placed within voters’ crosshairs, he said.

    “We should not be putting civil rights issues to a popular vote, to be subject to the sentiments, the passions of the day,” he said. “No minority should have their rights subject to the passions and sentiments of the majority.”

    See Booker’s comments below. Booker provided the closing speech at the 2010 ACS National Convention, in which he urged citizens to help advance equality.

  • January 27, 2012
    Guest Post

    By Hilary O. Shelton, Director, NAACP Washington Bureau & Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Policy

    In January, communities throughout the United States join together to commemorate the life and contributions of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  It is around Dr. King’s birthday when many schoolchildren embrace the Civil Rights Movement, recite parts of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and truly understand that they can be whatever and whomever they want to be.  

    Most of us know the tragic tale of Dr. King’s assassination on April 4, 1968, but far too many people don’t know that Dr. King’s final legislative victory is one of his most enduring but largely ignored achievements.  Much of his work during the Chicago Freedom Movement in 1966 was an initiative to ensure just and equal access to quality housing for African-Americans. Dr. King’s historic march in Marquette Park laid the groundwork for our nation’s fair housing laws.  One week after Dr. King’s death, Congress passed the federal Fair Housing Act, a law that protects us from discrimination in housing based on race, religion, color, sex, national origin, familial status and disability. 

    The Fair Housing Act codifies the affirmative responsibility to end segregation and promote integration throughout the United States.  The National Fair Housing Alliance’s (NFHA) issue brief released this week by ACS, “The Promise of the Fair Housing Act and the Role of Fair Housing Organizations,” discusses Dr. King’s quest for fair housing and how fair housing organizations do their part to keep The Dream alive. 

    Today, the Fair Housing Act is a well-crafted tool that must continue to be sharpened in a nation that continues to grow and diversify.  Census projections indicate that in less than 30 years, our nation will be made up mostly of people of color. Yet, the nation our children grow up in today remains strikingly similar in some respects to the nation Dr. King was trying to change.  At the end of every school day, most children of all backgrounds return to segregated neighborhoods.  In neighborhoods of color, there are significantly fewer opportunities for children to reach their true potential.

  • January 27, 2012

    In President Obama’s State of the Union address, the president called for reform to the nominations process for judicial and other public service nominees. “Some of what’s broken has to do with the way Congress does its business these days,” Obama said. “... I ask the Senate to pass a rule that all judicial and public service nominations receive a simple up or down vote within 90 days.” Following the address, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) endorsed President Obama’s proposed rule change, but he suggested that Supreme Court nominees might be an exception.

    Pursuant to an agreement reached before the winter recess, the Senate voted to confirm John M. Gerrard to the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska by a vote of 74-16. In an op-ed in the Omaha World Herald, Nebraska U.S. District Judge Richard G. Kopf praised his state’s Democratic and Republican senators for working together to push through Gerrard’s nomination in the face of opposition, calling their efforts a “template for those like me who wish to return to a time when the selection of federal judges was guided by seasoned politicians.”

    This confirmation, however, may be the last in the near future, as Republicans are weighing retaliation against President Obama for recess appointing four executive branch nominees, Bloomberg reports. “Retaliation against judicial nominees may make it harder for Obama to reduce the 80 vacancies on the federal bench at the end of 2011, or 25 more than when he took office,” the article notes, crediting Brookings Institution scholar Russell Wheeler. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) appears single-handedly poised to block all movement on judicial nominations, saying in a hearing, “I find myself duty-bound to resist the consideration and approval of additional nominations until the president takes steps to remedy the situation.”

    Unmoved, the president submitted three nominations to the federal judiciary. He nominated Robert E. Bacharach to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, William J. Kayatta, Jr. to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and Michael A. Shipp to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.