June 24, 2005

Make America Safe, Not Divided

[Excerpts of remarks by Senator John Kerry on the Senate floor on Thursday, June 23.]

"None of us here will ever forget the hours after September 11... and the remarkable response of the American people as we came together as one to answer the attack on our homeland.... [I]t brought out the best of all of us in America.

That spirit of our country should never be reduced to a cheap, divisive political applause line from anyone who speaks for the President of the United States.

I am proud, as my colleagues on this side are, that after September 11, all of the people of this country rallied to President Bush's call for unity to meet the danger. There were no Democrats, there were no Republicans, there were only Americans. That is why it is really hard to believe that last night in New York... the most senior adviser to the President of the United States [was] purposely twisting those days of unity in order to divide us for political gain.

Rather than focusing attention on Osama bin Laden and finding him or rather than focusing attention on just smashing al-Qaida and uniting our effort, as we have been, he is, instead, challenging the patriotism of every American who is every bit as committed to fighting terror as is he.

Just days after 9/11, the Senate voted 98 to nothing, and the House voted 420 to 1, to authorize President Bush to use all necessary and appropriate force against terror. And after the bipartisan vote, President Bush said: "I'm gratified that the Congress has united so powerfully by taking this action. It sends a clear message. Our people are together and we will prevail."

That is not the message that was sent by Karl Rove in New York City last night. Last night, he said: "No more needs to be said about" their "motives."

I think a lot more needs to be said about Karl Rove's motives because they are not the people's motives... They are not the motives of a nation that found unity in that critical moment--Democrat and Republican alike, all of us as Americans.

If the President really believes his own words, if those words have meaning, he should at the very least expect a public apology from Karl Rove. And frankly, he ought to fire him. If the President of the United States knows the meaning of those words, then he ought to listen to the plea of Kristen Breitweiser, who lost her husband when the Twin Towers came crashing down. She said: "If you are going to use 9/11, use it to make this nation safer than it was on 9/11."

Karl Rove doesn't owe me an apology and he doesn't owe Democrats an apology. He owes the country an apology. He owes Kristen Breitweiser and a lot of people like her, those families, an apology. He owes an apology to every one of those families who paid the ultimate price on 9/11 and expect their government to be doing all possible to keep the unity of their country and to fight an effective war on terror.

The fact is, millions of Americans...are asking Washington for honesty, for results, and for leadership--not for political division. Before Karl Rove delivers another political assault, he ought to stop and think about those families and the unity of 9/11.

The Right-Wing Response to 9/11: All Talk, No Results

Whenever the president’s domestic agenda hits rock bottom—like clockwork—right-wingers trot out the 9/11 card to distract people from wildly unpopular policy decisions. On Wednesday, the president’s chief political architect, Karl Rove, claimed:
“Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers.”
We’ll never know his exact motives, but perhaps the president’s self-described “Turd Blossom” was projecting the administration’s own need for counseling to make up for its complete lack of success in fighting terrorism.

1,382 days after 9/11, Osama bin Laden is still at large and al Qaeda is regrouping. More than three-and-a-half years ago Bush vowed to capture terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden “dead or alive.” He’s failed. The administration wants you to think it is hot on his tracks, however. CIA director Porter Goss said he had “an excellent idea” where Bin Laden is hiding. Vice President Cheney said he had “a pretty good idea of a general area that he's in.” With all the bluster, you’d think they could close the deal.

1,382 days after 9/11, terrorist attacks are at an all time high. By quantitative measures, the Bush administration’s approach to combating terrorism is an abject failure. Last year “[t]he number of serious international terrorist incidents more than tripled,” according to the Washington Post. State Department data shows that “attacks grew to about 655 last year, up from the record of around 175 in 2003.” How did the administration respond? By halting the publication of the State Department report.

1,382 days after 9/11, the Iraq war—a complete diversion from the fight against al Qaeda—has produced more terrorism not less. According to the CIA, “[t]he war in Iraq is creating a training and recruitment ground for a new generation of "professionalized" Islamic terrorists.” An in-house CIA think tank concluded that in the poorly planned aftermath of the invasion, “hundreds of foreign terrorists flooded into Iraq across its unguarded borders.” There is a serious risk that Iraq is now “creating newly radicalized and experienced jihadis who return home to cause trouble in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and elsewhere.”

June 20, 2005

Sign "Dean Speaks For Me" Petition

As DNC Chairman Howard Dean plans his visit to South Carolina, the media, desperate to create a controversy where none exists -- is gobbling down Republican talking points and spewing news stories that paint our Party as divided.

For years before I became politically active, I endured the endless name calling of Republicans against Democrats. I listened as voters wondered why Democrats were so QUIET... so WEAK... as Republicans and their talk radio noise machine painted progressive values -- working class values -- as evil, irrelevant, and wrong for America.

FINALLY, we get a chairman who speaks for the common man. We get chairman who PUNCHES BACK. We get a Chairman who says things like this:

"My view is FOX News is a propaganda outlet for the Republican Party and I don't comment on FOX News," Dean said. That was in response to vice president Dick Cheney calling Howard Dean "over the top" on Fox News on Sunday.

AMEN!! I'm glad we have a chairman who is willing to load up and throw some punches. Democrats have been the punching bag for conservative talk radio and Republican politicians for years... so let's not get fooled into turning inward on our own party.

The fight for working class American values will not accomplished by attacking Howard Dean. Let's prove we're smarter than Republican strategists. Sign the petition below and send them a clear message:

WE ARE A UNITED PARTY. WE SUPPORT OUR LEADER. WE EXPECT ELECTED DEMOCRATS TO DO THE SAME.

http://www.PetitionOnline.com/Dean/

Democrats anxious as Dean visit nears

Democrats... articles like this are TOXIC to us and totally skew how most of us feel about Howard Dean. I'm not embarrassed to be a Democrat, and I'm certainly not embarrassed to stand behind "The People's Chairman".

I'm glad Dean is coming to S.C. -- we desperately need progressive voices down here. I'll certainly be watching the Democrats who have a PRIMARY to win (ahem... Mr. Moore, Mr. Willis)... and the candidate foolish enough to buy into Republican talking points and avoid Chairman Dean will find an Oconee Democrat who will work VERY HARD to ensure they get left on the sidelines once primary votes are counted.




South Carolina Democrats will be holding their breath next week when their embattled national chairman arrives in town to have a few beers with the grass-roots and raise money for the state party.

Please, Howard Dean, don’t say anything that will embarrass us or subject us to ridicule, the party faithful pray.

Dean still is smarting from his remark that Republicans are “pretty much a white Christian party.” Several congressional Democrats have called him on the carpet and ordered him to halt his divisive comments.

A handful of S.C. Democratic leaders tried to downplay a series of controversial remarks made by Dean since he wrapped up the race for party chairman earlier this year.

State Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, a member of the Democratic National Committee, wishes Dean would temper his comments a bit. But she doesn’t want to put a muzzle on him.

“We’ve got too many tired old wimps in the party,” she says. “Dean is doing a great job. I have not seen one comment he has made that is not true.”

Including the one about the “white, Christian” GOP?

“I associate myself 100 percent with his comments,” Cobb-Hunter says.

Dean has provoked controversy with a myriad of comments:

• “Republicans are not very friendly to different kinds of people. They are pretty much a monolithic party.”

• “I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for.”

• “Do you think the Republican National Committee could get this many people of color in a single room? Only if they had the hotel staff in here.”

• “Republicans are mean. They’re not nice people.”

Political analysts aren’t sure what good the state party — already playing from behind in a conservative-leaning state — will reap from a visit from Dean, who comes off as a Northeastern liberal after you get past all the incendiary remarks.

When the former Vermont governor and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate took the helm of the DNC, Dean declared he would make the party competitive in all 50 states — including the South.

South Carolina is one of the last states on his agenda. He will huddle with party activists at Jillian’s the evening of June 29 — without the media. That’s very un-Dean-like, but maybe after a few beers he’ll hold an impromptu press conference.

Political experts are somewhat puzzled by the timing of Dean’s visit.

“It’s the kiss of death,” says Atlanta-based political consultant Claibourne Darden. “There seems to be a suicidal streak in the South Carolina Democratic Party.”

With the most recent controversy still fresh in the minds of folks, Dean couldn’t be coming to South Carolina at a worse time, says Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia.

“If I were in South Carolina, I’d have him visit under the cover of night,” he says.

Merle Black, an Emory University professor, says, only a bit facetiously, “This is just what they need. This is a red-letter day for the South Carolina Democratic Party.”

Don’t expect Democratic bigwigs like State Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum, or gubernatorial challengers Tommy Moore and Frank Willis, to show up and have their pictures taken with Dean.

“They will send in their regrets, saying they have increasingly pressing business overseas,” jokes Winthrop University analyst Scott Huffmon.

Still, Dean likely will attract a large crowd.

He’s entertainment.

Tax modernization should be on front burner



JUNE 19, 2005 - - Almost as constant as the rising sun every
morning, people complain about paying taxes.

It's easy to do. But without taxes, we wouldn't be able to live in a
civilized society. As much as people hate taxes, they provide the
foundation that civilizes America. By paying taxes, we provide funds
for government to provide needed services, such as military
protection, garbage pickup, road construction, schools and more. By
having taxes fund services, we share the burden to get a better
quality of life.

Imagine, for example, if you had to pay a toll for every road that
was built. It would drive you more nuts than the few cents extra you
pay at the pump for roads.

Beyond the constant political rhetoric about taxes, it's time for
the state to take a long look at modernizing our tax system. Over
the summer, lawmakers are planning big pow-wows on the property tax.
But instead of a small fix here or a minor tweak there, lawmakers
need to look at equity and fairness to make sure the whole structure
is as balanced as possible.

As Columbia economist Harry Miley relates, if you try to tweak one
tax, it likely will have unforeseen consequences on the other taxes.
It's kind of like poking a finger in balloon, he says. The more you
poke it, the more it will expand in another direction. If you poke
it too much, it will burst.

"There's no tax that's perfect," Miley says. "The only reason we
have taxes is we have no other way to provide the public services we
all demand. That's why most economists say if you start tinkering
with one tax, you've got to look at all of them."

Currently, our tax structure is antiquated. It's built on three
major foundations - - taxes on the sale of goods, taxes on income
and taxes on property. A growing fourth foundation is the use of
fees for services provided.



Taxing property has been the most enduring way for government to
generate revenues. As states provided more services, they looked to
broaden taxation. Income tax didn't really get started in earnest
across the country until after 1913 when a national income tax was
approved with the 16th Amendment. Across the South, sales taxes
didn't become a big deal until the 1950s when they were passed
mostly to improve education.

In other words, we're operating in the 21st century with a system of
taxation that stretches back for generations. The last big update
was almost 50 years ago.

As they tinker with property taxes, lawmakers should recall:

Sales tax. Over the last 50 years, the country has changed from an
economy based on sales of goods into a computer-driven economy that
has an increasing mix of services. According to a 1997 report, South
Carolina only taxes 32 of 164 services. And since the 1970s, the
sales tax rate has increased 49 percent across the nation, but the
sales tax base has increased only 20 percent, which indicates a
shrinking base.

Meanwhile, the state has more than 60 sales tax exemptions that
cause it to lose $1 billion a year in revenue. Also, it's losing up
to $395 million a year in sales taxes on Internet and catalog sales.

Income tax. The state offers six income brackets for income tax. The
top bracket is $12,000, which means that almost everyone pays income
taxes at the top bracket. The brackets haven't been altered in
years. If lawmakers stretched brackets some, income tax would become
more progressive (to balance the regressive nature of sales taxes).
Additionally, by adding a new top bracket with a slightly higher
rate, they could generate some new revenue and broaden the state tax
base - - or give credits to low-income earners to make the system
fairer.

Other taxes. To generate more revenue - - or to decrease reliance on
income and sales taxes - - lawmakers also could consider updating
the cigarette tax to the national average, which would bring in more
than $150 million a year to fund things like school improvements and
health care increases. They could consider hiking the gas tax, which
could pay for much-needed maintenance on state highways. They also
could consider means-testing some tax breaks for seniors to level
the taxpayer playing field.

Bottom line: There are lots of options to make the system fairer and
more balanced. As lawmakers talk about property taxes this summer,
they should also consider limiting sales tax exemptions, dealing
with lost taxes from online and catalog sales and broadening the
sales tax base to include more services. Additionally, they should
consider revising income tax brackets to make them less flat and
more connected to reality.