The Big Question: Should Obama get tough?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer their frank insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.

Today's question:

Should President Barack Obama be more assertive in pushing the rest of his
legislative agenda?

Background reading here.


The Big Question: What does Hutchison's loss mean for Washington?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer their frank insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.

Today's question:

Does Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's loss in the Texas GOP gubernatorial primary spell trouble for incumbents in Congress?

(Read today's answers after the jump.)


The Big Question: Was Bunning right to block renewing benefits?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer their frank insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.

Today's question:

Was Sen. Jim Bunning's objection to the temporary extension of some unemployment and COBRA healthcare benefits a good decision?

Some background reading here.


Don't tell John Boehner (Rep. Anthony Weiner)

I said it on Wednesday, and I'll say it again: the Republicans really are just a wholly owned subsidiary of the insurance industry.

Thursday's summit proved it: They want to destroy Medicare, shovel money to insurance companies, and screw over the American people.

First we let the Gang of Six make the rules, then we let Olympia Snowe and Joe Lieberman have their turn. It got us nothing!

We need to let the majority make the rules. The public option passed in the House and it's time to force a vote in the Senate.


Finish the kitchen: stand strong on health care reform (Rep. Jay Inslee)

Contrary to some reports, health care is not dead.

The Democratic loss in Massachusetts did not change the fact that health care inflation is dangerously sandbagging our economy, and it didn't change the fact that tens of millions of Americans remain uninsured.

Right after the Massachusetts election, I had a chance to speak to the House Democratic Congressional Caucus. Members were anxious, frustrated, and generally pessimistic about the loss and what it meant for all of our major policy plans, especially for health care reform. 


What it took to get our troops the benefits they earned (Rep. Bruce Braley)

On Thursday I was pleased to announce that long overdue policy guidance was released by the National Guard Bureau which will ensure that Iowa's Army National Guard and Reserve members are finally paid the "Respite Leave" payments they were promised when they completed the longest deployment since World War II in 2007.

For some of us, this change in policy has been a long-time coming. Over the last two years, I've joined with my Congressional colleagues in bipartisan, bicameral efforts to pressure the Department of Defense to expedite their bureaucratic delays, and to pass the necessary legislation to pay soldiers these benefits.

During this long process, I always had the help and support of my amazing staff, and together we made this one of our top priorities.


Government led recession (Rep. John Campbell)

We can debate exactly what caused the near economic collapse in the fall of 2008, but clearly over leveraging and excessive risk taking by consumers, banks, and “non-banks” was a major contributor. The economy continues to have a drag caused by deleveraging and fallout from the losses incurred during that period. The U.S. Federal government prevented that collapse by putting the imprimatur of the United States Treasury on a lot of private debt in order to stop the run. It worked because the world markets had a tremendous level of trust in the full faith and credit of the United States government.

But the shoe may soon be on the other foot. Federal spending as a percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is now over 25%. The last time the government represented that much of the economy, we were building B-29 bombers to drop their payloads on Japan and Germany. As a result of the economic downturn, taxes collected are only about 15% of GDP (whereas 19% has roughly been the average for the last 40 years) hence the huge deficits.

And that’s only the federal government. State and local governments now comprise (roughly) an additional 10% of GDP. So combined, government at all levels in this country now account for over 1/3 of economic activity in the country. I happen to think that this is way too much but we can debate that point at another time. The point here is that government at all levels now represent a much larger part of the economy than they ever have before, outside of a World or Civil War.


Recovery Act: saving and creating jobs, laying the foundation for economic growth (Rep. George Miller)

One year ago, our nation was headed toward an economic collapse, shedding an average of 600,000 jobs a month. State and local budget cutbacks were putting teachers' jobs -- and our students' education -- in peril. Our economy was in need of emergency triage that would immediately begin to save and create jobs and lay the foundation for longer-term economic growth. One year after its enactment, it is clear that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is meeting these core goals.

To date, the law has already created or saved two million jobs and helped our economy grow at its fastest rate in years. It has funded more than 300,000 education jobs, keeping teachers in classrooms and children and students of all ages learning. It has helped minimize harmful cuts at public colleges and universities and provided students with larger Pell Grants to pay for college.


No Deal

Senate Republican obstructionists are working overtime to block the interests of working people. Today we hear the White House and Senate have cut a deal with Republicans that will keep President Obama's nominees off the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for even longer.

The NLRB's job is to protect workers' rights--but for more than two years it has been functioning with only two members instead of the five it should have. Working people need an NLRB that can enforce the National Labor Relations Act--not one hobbled by vacancies.

President Obama's nominees--Craig Becker and Mark Pearce--are highly qualified, well-respected labor lawyers who were nominated seven months ago, in July.

But Senate Republicans have ignored the working people they represent and blocked the appointments.


The Story That No One Will Tell (Rep. Grayson)

The story that everyone wants to tell is that the Democratic Party is disheartened and disintegrating. Teabagger Republicans are juiced up and on top. Or so the media says, over and over again.

But the House candidate who raised the most money in the entire country during the last FEC reporting period -- $860,000 in three months -- is not a teabagger. He is not boosted relentlessly by Fox News. He's not even a Republican. He doesn't think that the Earth was created 6000 years ago, that President Obama was born in Kenya, or that global warming is a hoax.

This House candidate also, remarkably, had the largest number of contributors. Over 15,000 individuals contributed, many of whom have given time after time, whatever they could. The House candidate who raised the most money did so without French-kissing lobbyists, without flattering the idle rich, and without reaching into his own pocket.

The House candidate who raised the most money, from the most people, is an outspoken populist who tells it like it is on the war, on jobs, and on health care. His website is called In the 100,000 e-mails that he has received this year, the most common refrain is, "You are saying what I've been thinking."

I know who he is. Because he's me.

But no one has reported that the House candidate who raised the most money, from the most people, is a proud Democratic populist. No one.

There are something like ten thousand political reporters in this country, maybe more. The information above is readily available. Anyone could have visited an official government website,, any time this past week, and seen it for themselves. We did our part -- we sent out two news releases, both local and nationwide. But in lieu of any actual reporting in the media, there is instead what Simon & Garfunkel vividly described as the "Sounds of Silence":

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence.

The political reporters camped out in D.C. often act like a giant Xerox machine for the fib factory known as the national Republican Party. Recently, they saw fit to report (and repeat, and repeat) the Republican Party's crackpot claim that we are withholding a secret poll with bad news in it for us. (We aren't; there is no such poll, but the Republican Party is soooo good at manufacturing plausible lies.) Not one word from those reporters, though, about what would seem to be an irresistible "feel good" story -- that thanks to People Power, that brash, plain-spoken Democratic Congressman from Orlando is the Number One fundraiser in the country. Nothing about that.

The fact that an unapologetic progressive Democrat could amass such support, not by trading favors for money, but by striking a chord with so many ordinary people, refutes the pervasive meme of Democrats divided and despondent. Particularly when it's a Democrat who says that "you can't beat a Republican by being one." Particularly a Democrat who quotes Harry Truman and Howard Dean: "If you run a fake Republican against a real Republican, the real Republican will win every time."

Freshman Democrat Alan Grayson, number one in the country. The story that no one will tell. It doesn't fit their preconceptions. So you're just not going to hear about it.

Unless you happen to read the Huffington Post.

Cross-posted from The Huffington Post