For science (and NOT the election)

Union of Concerned Scientists

Congress: Keep Independent Federal Agencies Independent

After the election, the Senate will likely take up misguided legislation that would give the White House more control over certain federal agencies that protect our health and safety—such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The bill would make it more difficult for these agencies to use the latest science to protect the public from emerging threats—and make it easier for the White House to interfere in the work of these critical independent agencies. As a result, special interests with deep pockets would have even more influence in Washington.

Don’t let the lame duck Congress pass this terrible legislation.

Urge your senators today to strongly oppose the so-called Independent Agency Regulatory Analysis Act.

Take Action Today!

Michael Halpern
National Field Organizer
Center for Science and Democracy
Union of Concerned Scientists

So Who Were Those 14 People Standing Behind the President?

The White House

On Friday, President Obama laid out his strategy for moving our country forward and reducing our deficit in a balanced way. Speaking from the East Room of the White House, the President was joined by Vice President Joe Biden – and 14 others stood behind him at the podium.

So who were those 14 people anyway? One was Pam, a school administrator. Another, Sara, is a veteran recovering from open-heart surgery. Barry has six children and Steve is an orthopedic assistant. Estela recently became an American citizen and voted in a U.S. election for the first time on Tuesday.

What they all have in common, however, is an interest in helping find answers to some of the big questions we face as a nation.

Find out more about the 14 people who stood behind the President.

President Barack Obama delivers a statement to the press on the economy, in the East Room of the White House, Nov. 9, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

President Barack Obama delivers a statement to the press on the economy, in the East Room of the White House, Nov. 9, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

In Case You Missed It
Here are some of the top stories from the White House blog:President Obama Marks Diwali
Yesterday, President Obama wished a Happy Diwali to the Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists celebrating the holiday here at home and around the world.

Veterans Helping Survivors on the Road to Recovery
Facing the task of cleaning up after Hurricane Sandy, a group of former veterans known as Team Rubicon use skills acquired in the military to assist people affected by the storm. Team Rubicon was formed by two former Marines following the Haitian earthquake in 2010.

Saying Thanks to our Troops on Veterans Day
Honoring Veterans Day, Captain Todd Veazie introduces himself as the new Executive Director of Joining Forces. As an active duty Naval Special Warfare officer with 26 years of service, Captain Veazie will join First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden in this national initiative to provide support to service members and their families

People Power vs Big Oil

Pascal V –
In days, Nigeria’s Parliament could approve a $5 billion fine against giant oil polluter Shell and set in motion a law that would hold oil companies to account for the first time ever. The President endorses the penalty, but Big Oil are lobbying MPs like crazy to vote against reform. Our voices can drown them out to win justice for Nigeria’s people. Join the urgent call now!

Sign the petition

In days, Nigeria’s Parliament could approve a $5 billion fine against giant oil polluter Shell for a spill that devastated the lives of millions of people, and pass a law to hold all oil companies to account for polluting and plundering. This is a watershed moment, but unless we all speak out, oil giants will crush it.

Finally, Big Oil is having to pay for the wasteland and violence that they’ve created. President Jonathan supports the Shell fine, and progressive Senators are pushing for strong regulations, but oil companies are slick, and without huge international support MPs could buckle under the pressure.

Politicians are deciding their positions right now — sign the urgent petition for the Nigerian Parliament to fine Shell and support the bill, and then forward this to everyone — when we hit a million signers we’ll bring our unprecedented global call to the steps of Nigeria’s Parliament:

Experts say that every year Big Oil spills as much crude into the Niger Delta as an Exxon Valdez, but as it is Africa, it gets little media play. After a leak occurred at Shell’s Bonga oil facility last December, millions of gallons poured into the ocean and washed up on the densely populated coast — resulting in one of the largest African oil spills ever. The fine and bill on the table are a once in a lifetime chance to stand up to Big Oil.

Oil companies have made $600 billion in the last 50 years in Nigeria, but locals don’t see the benefits. Their land, drinking water and fishing grounds are ruined. And Shell has spent hundreds of millions of dollars a year on security forces, repressing protest against its harmful practices.

The oil industry is crucial to the economy, but companies have never been held to account for the devastation of drilling. Now, the Nigerian President and a few brave MPs are speaking out and they could finally slam the oil giants with tough fines and give fair pay outs to the victims. If we show MPs that the world supports these crucial steps, we can literally change the lives of millions. Click below to sign the urgent petition:

Avaazers have stood up to Big Oil all over the world, from Chevron in Ecuador, to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, to ending fossil fuel subsidies at the Rio Summit. Now let’s do it for Nigeria too. Make sure the politicians send a message to Big Oil: your days of impunity are over.

With hope and determination,

Pascal, Patricia, Alex, Ricken, David, Rewan, and the Avaaz team

Shell Faces $5 Billion Nigeria Fine (Wall Street Journal)

Shell urged to pay Nigeria $5bn over Bonga oil spill (BBC)

Shell’s grip on Nigerian state revealed (The Guardian)

U.N. slams Shell as Nigeria needs biggest ever oil clean-up (Reuters)

Nigeria: Oil spill investigations ‘a fiasco’ in the Niger Delta (Amnesty International)

The Mandate … via a decisive Obama VICTORY

By ThinkProgress War Room

What the Election Means for the Fiscal Showdown

President Obama won a decisive victory on Tuesday. He’s the first Democrat since FDR to be elected twice with over 50 percent of the vote.

As soon as the election was over, discussion immediately turned to the upcoming fiscal showdown. Over the course of the next few weeks, Congress has to resolve numerous fiscal issues:

  • The fate of the Bush tax cuts, particularly those for the wealthiest Americans.
  • $1.1 trillion in automatic cuts to both defense and domestic discretionary spending.
  • The debt ceiling, which may be hit as soon as the end of next month.

If nothing is done by the end of the year, the automatic cuts kick in and taxes revert to Clinton-era rates for everyone, not just the wealthy.

Republicans are already indicating that they think the election either didn’t mean anything or somehow actually validated their viewpoint. House Speaker John Boehner (R) said yesterday that tax hikes for the wealthy were off the table. He then floated what he called a “compromise,” but in reality is basically the same tax plan that Mitt Romney just ran on — and lost. For his part, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R) has already taken the debt ceiling hostage to deep cuts to entitlements and other spending. Cantor also insisted that Obamacare be on the table during negotiations.

Here’s why the election provides President Obama with a mandate to push his vision — a balanced approach that invests in the middle class, makes smart spending cuts, and, most importantly, makes the wealthy pay their fair share. Conversely, the election was also a definitive repudiation of the GOP’s failed top-down approach.

Candidates Ran on Tax Fairness — And Won

The President made raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans a centerpiece of his campaign, and never wavered from that position. On election night, one of Politico’s top headlines read: “Exit polls 2012: Most say hike taxes.” In fact, 6 in 10 voters nationwide say they think taxes should be increased. The question of returning the high end tax rates to those during the Clinton era played an even more central role in key Senate races in blue, purple and even deep red states:

  • Connecticut (D55, R43): Linda McMahon released a tax plan that was identical to Gov. Romney’s proposal and similarly pitched her plan as a tax cut for the middle class even though analysts agreed it would provide massive tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations. Rep. Chris Murphy centered himself as the candidate “on the side of the middle” class, featuring McMahon’s tax policy that benefited the richest in multiple ads, declaring “it’s time to make the rules fair.” According to an analysis of Kantar Media CMAG data by CAP Action, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent at least $550,000 in the final week of the election championing McMahon’s tax plan and contrasting it with “politicians who raise taxes so they can keep spending more”.
  • North Dakota (3,000 votes): Even in solidly red North Dakota, Heidi Heitkamp championed tax fairness and campaigned in support of the Buffett Rule. She also attacked her opponent, Rep. Rick Berg, for twice voting in favor of the Republican budget, specifically citing its tax cuts for the wealthy. Heitkamp also strenuously defended her support for Obamacare, even turning Berg’s support for repealing it into an attack. Crossroads GPS spent heavily against Heitkamp with more than half a million dollars in the final eight weeks used to define Heitkamp on the tax issue.

The American people voted for candidates up and down the ballot that supported getting rid of tax giveaways and special loopholes that favor the richest corporations and individuals.

A Debate Between Two Visions for the Economy

This election across the country was a proxy debate on two competing visions for economic growth: the trickle-down model that suggests that the only job creators are the richest, where it is enough to grow profits without sustaining jobs or wages, and the “middle out” vision of the economy that says the government has a role to play in making prosperity possible for more Americans. And what happened? The middle class as the engine of economic growth won.

  • Exit polls show that a majority believes that the economy generally favors the wealthy (55 percent); what’s more a majority also said that Romney’s policies favor the rich (53 percent). But it wasn’t just about Romney’s support of policies that benefit the wealthiest; it was that people rejected the basis of his top-down economic theory.
  • A poll of 1700 presidential voters the night of the election found that while voters credited President Obama with being better on the economy by only a point, when it came to “restoring the middle class”, voters favored Obama by twelve points.
  • Joel Benenson, chief pollster for the Obama campaign, wrote for New York Times about an 800 person poll they conducted for their own firm, finding: “Spending cuts alone could not address voter concerns — 89 percent of those surveyed agreed that “for my children to have the economic opportunities I’ve had, we need to make real investments in education, creating world-class schools and making college more affordable.” Benenson continued, “And when asked what the key to growing our economy was, nearly two in three voters said it was building a strong middle class over creating a “healthy climate for business.”

Americans made clear this week that they are more interested in investing in growth through the middle class than austerity measures that place more of the burden on the middle class. There is broad support for cutting wasteful spending, including tax giveaways that favor the wealthiest, rather than cutting investments in programs that protect social mobility and growth, like education, infrastructure and public health.

As Elizabeth Warren stated in her speech after defeating Sen. Scott Brown, “This victory belongs to you…we’re going to fight for a level playing field and we’re going to put people back to work.

The Choice

The choices we make over the next few weeks will have huge consequences for the middle class and our economy for a generation to come: will Congress ask the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share, or will they keep the game rigged for the wealthy at the expense of the middle class? One path asks the wealthy to pay a little more in order to reduce the deficit while making investments in the middle class that we need in order to grow the economy over the long-term. A different path asks the middle class and seniors to foot the bill by slashing Medicare and Social Security just to provide another round of tax cuts to the wealthiest – tax cuts that have proven to not create jobs and would effectively preclude investments in energy, education and infrastructure.

As Republicans and Democrats make their case to the American people during the fiscal showdown, they would be wise to look closely at what Americans said loudly and clearly in this election and the brinkmanship and pledges they rejected.

BOTTOM LINE: Republicans made their case to the American people and the American people rejected their approach.