Friday, December 24, 2010

Harry Reid joins a Republican Filibuster

(2/18/13: This editorial is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of Senate rules. Here is my correction. Other than this parenthetical, this post is unaltered.)

On Wednesday, December 22, a miracle occurred. After months of impasse, Congress finally passed the bill which covers the health care costs for 9/11 first responders. The endorsement of various liberal pundits helped put pressure on lawmakers to pass the bill which was many years overdue. However, there was one omission which was rather striking.

The final hurdle the bill had to overcome was the senate filibuster. Republicans decided to filibuster everything until they were sure that the Bush tax cuts would be renewed for all income levels. That included blocking the progress of the 9/11 first responders bill. Specifically, the senate held a vote on December 9th on whether to override the filibuster and proceed to vote on the bill. In order to break the filibuster, they needed 60 votes. They received 57. The vote was almost straight down party lines. All republicans present (Brownback was back home in Kansas preparing to become our state's next governor) voted against overturning the filibuster. They voted to delay health care reimbursements to 9/11 first responders. Every democrat voted for overturning the filibuster, except for one, Harry Reid. That's right, the head of the Democratic party in the Senate broke ranks to vote against overturning a Republican filibuster. I found this fact so shocking that I had to find a second source before I could believe it.

The problem is, no one reported this. Not Jon Stewart, not Rachel Maddow, not The New York Times. In fact, the only news outlet that has mentioned this fact is Media Matters, who said that he changed his vote to a no for procedural reasons. What procedural issue could be so important as providing health care to 9/11 first responders? Moreover, why would the leader of our party join the opposing party's filibuster on anything?

Nevertheless, all of these sources did a better job than fox's opinion programming, which first ignored and then defended the republican filibuster. As always, Shepard Smith bucked the larger talking heads to support the bill that should have been a no-brainer.

What does this episode in the American media teach us? We must be able to do our own research so that we can know what our sources are leaving out.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Inaccuracies and Incivility
An Hour with Ed Shultz

Yesterday, December 6th, I tuned in to The Rachel Maddow Show. I was surprised to find that the calm, cool voice of Rachel Maddow had been replaced by something much more hyperbolic. She couldn't make it to work that day, so Ed Shultz filled in with a second hour of his show, The Ed Show.

I had stopped watching The Ed Show after he held a poll where he asked his viewers, “Are Republicans Heartless?” after Republicans in the Senate blocked unemployment benefits several months ago. Congressional Republicans shouldn't have blocked the extension of unemployment benefits during a time when unemployment is over 9%, but to call all Republicans heartless was too much for me. But I watched the show to see if his rhetoric had changed. It hadn't.

He began by saying that letting the bush tax cuts for the rich expire, “could be used to solve our deficit.” ("Should Dems unite over tax cuts?") However, letting the bush tax cuts expire for the top two percent would bring in just under 70 billion dollars a year (“Vets Target of Deficit Commision?”). Whereas the deficit, the amount of money per year that Congress spends but doesn't pay for in taxes, in 2010 is projected to be 1,400 billion dollars (“Montgomery.”) Letting the bush tax cuts expire on the wealthy would certainly help reduce the deficit, but that action alone could not solve our yearly deficits.

I have tried to find a way to balance the budget, and no one can do so without some difficult spending cuts and tax hikes. You should try the New York Times interactive web feature and try to balance the budget yourself. It doesn't contain all possible tax hikes or spending cuts, but it is greatly informative on how difficult it is to eliminate our yearly deficits.

One of Ed’s many guests on the issue of the president's new compromise with congressional republicans on the bush tax cuts was the recently defeated Alan Grayson, who is serving out the rest of his term before the end of the 111th Congress. To explain his opposition to letting the Bush Tax Cuts expire for income made over $250,000 Grayson said, “The top 1% of the US population owns over 50% of the wealth of the country” (“Should Dems unite over tax cuts?”). In fact, the top 1% owns 33.8% of our country’s wealth (“Crazy Graphs: Rich Vs Middle Class and Poor.”) In a time where millions of Americans lack health insurance and millions more must go into great debt simply to pay for college, I believe that is still too much. But it is never justified to falsify information to support your opinion. And I do believe that Alan Grayson knows that his statement is untrue; he is infamous for using a deceptively edited video-clip of a speech that was made by his opponent in a 2010 campaign ad, making it seem that his opponent was making a point that was the exact opposite of what he was actually saying ("Daily Show: Indecision 2010 - Taliban Dan & Boo-Gate ")

After multiple guests who agreed with Shultz on tax cuts, Ed had both a Democratic and Republican strategist on his show at the same time, to discuss the issue further (“Winners and losers in tax cut deal.”) The Republican strategist, Ron Christie, attempted to make a supply-side economics argument that raising taxes on the rich would discourage them from making money and result in lower returns for the government. Before he could make his case, however, both the democratic guest and Ed shouted over him to the point he couldn't be heard. Ultimately, I do not agree with Christie's argument (here's why), but I do believe he should have been able to make it.

This level of name-calling, distortion, and incivility is the norm on Ed's show. Ed and others who engage in similar practices could gain much in credibility and respect if they interacted with those they disagree with in a more cordial manner and showed a greater respect for factual accuracy.

Works Cited

"Crazy Graphs: Rich Vs Middle Class and Poor." The Young Turks. 18 June 2010. Radio.7 Dec 2010. < VnVJAkhGyjQ>.

"Daily Show: Indecision 2010 - Taliban Dan & Boo-Gate ." The Daily Show. Comedy Central : 29 Sept 2010. Television. 7 Dec 2010.< september-29- 2010/indecision-2010---taliban-dan---boo-gate>.

Montgomery, Lori. "Federal budget deficit to exceed $1.4 trillion in 2010 and 2011." Washington Post 24 July 2010, Print. <>

"Should Dems unite over tax cuts?." The Ed Shultz Show. MSNBC: 06 Sept 2010. Television. 7 Dec 2010. <>.

"Vet's Target of Deficit Commision?." The Dylan Ratigan Show. MSNBC: 02 Sept 2010. Television. 7 Dec 2010. <>.

"Winners and losers in tax cut deal." The Ed Shultz Show. MSNBC: 06 Sept 2010. Television.7 Dec 2010. <>.