Mostly under the Build Back Better rubric, Bernie and other progressives came up with a relatively strong package of programs to address Climate Change and the social and economic challenges that have been building up for decades and are confronting America's working and middle class. The problems progressives chose to address came both before they began the BBB process and while it was proceeding. Two very simple examples: 1- raising the minimum wage and 2- lowering the cost of prescription drugs, both extremely popular with the American public... each more popular and well-regarded than any political party or any politician. And yet... the national minimum wage is still pathetically low and the prices of prescription drugs are still astronomically high.
The problem, in one word: conservatives. Conservatives exist to block change for one overriding reason: keeping taxes on the wealthy low. That's it; there is virtually nothing more to it. And conservative politicians-- all Republicans and enough Democrats to derail the initiatives-- have blocked raising the minimum wage and blocked lowering the cost of medicine.
The last time the House brought up the minimum wage-- Bobby Scott's "Raise the Wage Act" (H.R.582)-- it passed 231-199. The Republican Party position was to oppose it and just 3 Republicans defied McCarthy and crossed the aisle (Brian Fitzpatrick, Francis Rooney, who was retiring and not afraid to cross Trump or McCarthy, and Chris Smith). The Democratic Party position was the opposite-- to prioritize passing the increase. Six scumbag conservative Blue Dogs voted with the Republicans against it:
Hard core enemy of working families Anthony Brindisi (NY)- defeated, Nov., 2020
Hard core enemy of working families Joe Cunningham (SC)- defeated, Nov., 2020
Hard core enemy of working families Kendra Horn (OK)- defeated, Nov., 2020
Hard core enemy of working families Ben McAdams (UT)- defeated, Nov. 2020
Hard core enemy of working families Xochitl Torres Small (NM), defeated, Nov. 2020
Hard core enemy of working families Kurt Schrader (OR)- still not defeated (Please help progressive Jamie McLeod-Skinner do that next November by contributing here.)
Yesterday, Jamie told me that "Raising the minimum wage is simply a matter of decency. Oregonians want to feed our families and put a roof over our heads. Refusing to raise the minimum wage creates generational poverty and dependence. Gutting social infrastructure programs endangers communities and undermines the dignity of working families. Voting against both of these is a violent act of cowardice against our families."
Senate Republicans then refused to allow the bill to be voted on. Early this year, when Change Research asked registered voters how they feel about ending the filibuster, 49% favored the idea and 40% opposed it (with 11% unsure). When informed that the filibuster was preventing passage of a $15 minimum wage, the numbers changed significantly-- 53% in favor, 39 against it and just 7% unsure. Conservatives, however, absolutely refuse to be budged, regardless of what voters want.
The situation with lowering the cost of prescription drugs is similar. Progressives are strongly pushing it; conservative Blue Dogs and New Dems from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party are either outright opposing it (again, Schrader, along with Blue Dog scumbags like Ed Case and Lou Correa) or dragging their feet and whittling the scope of the bill down. As for Republicans, they are united in their opposition to allowing Medicare to negotiate fair drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry. And the voters? This poll by Data For Progress was from the end of September. Even Republicans want to see Medicare negotiate fair drug prices.
Among Democrats, 83% are in favor and 10% oppose
Among independents, 71% are in favor and 21% oppose
Among Republicans, 65% are in favor and 26% oppose
In other words, the net approval among all registered voters is +55%. There are no politicians with an approval rating that is even half as good as that. And, still, conservatives, are dead set against allowing this to go through.
Democratic Party leadership, trying to cater to the interests of both working people and capital at the same time-- a virtual impossibility-- refuses to push too hard for fear of alienating corrupt corporate whores like Gottheimer (Blue Dog-NJ), Schrader (Blue Dog-OR), Case (Blue Dog-HI), Costa (Blue Dog-CA), Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX), Correa (Blue Dog-CA)... So, between that and the GOP stonewalling, nothing happens. Well, this happens:
See, and you thought it was all Manchin, Sinema and McConnell holding back progress! It is, though, a good time to point out that when Biden and Pelosi lied to House progressives that if they voted for Manchin's and Sinema's shitty corporate infrastructure bill, Manchin and Sinema would allow BBB to pass, only 6 trustworthy progressives called them on a lie that just about everyone with a bit of sense feared would tank the bill... as it has.
Heading into the midterms, what was blown up by the conservatives is basically the whole package of campaign promises the Democrats made to the voters and that delivered them the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives. So what do progressives tell the voters in their districts now?
Culver City mayor Daniel Lee, a candidate for the open west L.A. congressional seat, told me today "The conservatives in both the Republican and Democratic parties have traditionally been thought of as moderate or cautious. But, with ideas like raising the minimum wage, lowering prescription prices and passing Medicare For All outpacing practically all politicians and parties in popularity they've been exposed for what they truly are selfish extremists who have no idea what American families are going through. We have to get rid of them!"
Lourin Hubbard in the progressive candidate working to replace Devin Nunes-- and battling it out with two conservative Democrats, Jim Costa and Phil Arballo. Yesterday, he shared that "A congressman’s job as a policymaker should be ensuring a level playing field in social and economic affairs. As a progressive I believe in using the power of the government to maintain fairness between the powerful and the less powerful, and fairness in competing interests that usually hold unequal power. Conservatives have claimed that the power of the free market will solve wage issues on its own for decades, but we’ve seen productivity rise and wages stagnate. For example unskilled low-wage workers have no leverage to bargain for higher pay so when social and market forces do not naturally promote fairness the federal government must step in. In this case it is up to the government to impose a reasonable minimum wage. That’s the fundamental difference between progressives and conservatives. We are focused on policies that protect and benefit people, while conservatives like Devin Nunes, are concerned about profit and property."
I hope you've gotten to know who Jason Call is by now; he certainly writes more than any of the other Blue America-endorsed candidates. You can contribute to him, Daniel, Jamie and Lourin and any of the other candidates by clicking on the thermometer or here. Anyway, yesterday Jason told me that "Build Back Better was supposed to be transformational. All of the progressive voices keep calling it transformational. But where we are right now, with the bill failed for the time being, gives us an opportunity to examine how we talk about spending bills. I want to be clear-- at $1.75 trillion, Build Back Better was not transformational. I know it's a terribly cynical position to take, but there's a greater point to be made about how progressives are under pressure to acquiesce to conservatives in the Democratic Party. For instance, with Climate Action spending at $400 billion over 10 years, we're looking at a mere 7% of the annual military budget. The US military is the biggest non-state polluter in the world. If it were a country, it would rank 26th in pollution. And the military is largely exempt from any agreements on pollution reductions that were agreed to at COP26 (if you remember, Nancy Pelosi and Frank Pallone tried to assure independent journalist Abby Martin that this was perfectly normal.) So in the context of what is actually needed to avert global disaster, any reasonable person must agree that whatever is being spent on climate in BBB is not at all transformational. But the problem is, as much as progressives want to get something on the table, their language on the investment (not social spending) gives a free pass for fossil fuel funded corporate lackeys like WA-02 incumbent Rick Larsen to say he's backing something transformational, saying that the BBB bill is 'FDR-like', saying that 'this is more money than we've ever spent on climate action.' This country has never spent a significant amount on real climate action. It was a marked failure of the Obama administration, with financial commitments in the low tens of billions (consider that the 2014 commitment to spending on 'keeping the United States at the forefront of clean energy research, development, and deployment by increasing funding for clean energy technology across all agencies' was approximately $7.9 billion.) So while it's true that BBB is more money that has ever been committed to climate action, ten times nothing is still nothing-- and I say that with the backdrop of 'almost nobody in the US government is at all serious about addressing climate change.'"
He continued by noting that "The other point to be made about this paltry sum of climate action spending and calling it transformational, is that if this legislation does pass intact (and it probably won't), we're not going to see more climate spending for years. Considering the recent IPCC report, this is fairly well a doomsday scenario. So those of us with our eyes wide open, wanting to call balls and strikes, must be critical of the progressive approach, which is one of continued acquiescence to the corporate class. The stakes are way too high to be concerned about optics-- in fact, the optics that people need to see are 'we're going to fight like hell for the future' (and then use the bully pulpit to keep telling the unadulterated truth without fear of corporate leadership reprisal.) The all-encompassing message that progressives need to use consistently is that corporate funded politicians are corrupt, and they are not working for YOU. I'm betting that this will be a winning strategy, and so are many other grassroots funded candidates in 2022."
A few days ago, The Hill spoke with Pramila and noted that "if the worst-case scenario happens-- where members are left hobbling into the new year with low presidential poll numbers, a contagious new coronavirus variant and a broken pledge to address many of the nation’s social problems"-- she and her colleagues will continue "working on more drastic avenues to minimize the damage." She would like to see-- and is urging-- Biden to sign some pieces of the BBB package as executive orders.