Grand Junction Sentinel Slams GOP Sen. Ray Scott

Sen. Ray Scott (R).

Sen. Ray Scott (R).

After yesterday's story by the Grand Junction Sentinel's Charles Ashby about the death in a GOP-controlled Senate committee of a bill to provide relief to rural communities impacted by layoffs, that paper's editorial board weighed in this morning with a blistering editorial against the chair of the committee responsible: Republican Sen. Ray Scott of Grand Junction.

Scott, a Republican representing Mesa County, denied that politics was involved. Yet, he turned his back on rural Colorado despite support from Colorado Counties Inc., the Colorado Municipal League, the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado and the state Department of Local Affairs. Representatives of these organizations all testified before Scott’s committee in favor of the bill…

If this wasn’t a purely political move to thwart passage of a Democratic bill, Scott offered little in the way of an alternative interpretation. After the 3-2 vote, Scott said the bill would cost too much, but then added it didn’t go far enough in helping more of rural Colorado. He said the bill needed an amendment to use severance tax money to pay for it, then failed to exercise his power as chairman to offer that amendment himself.

It's important to keep in mind that the Sentinel endorsed Scott in his Senate race last year, meaning this isn't some kind of knee-jerk liberal tantrum. The fact is, it's very difficult to reconcile voting to kill the Rural Economic Emergency Assistance Grant Program bill with the constant refrain from Colorado Republicans, including Sen. Scott, that Democrats have "turned their backs" on rural Colorado.

This mealy-mouthed double talk is insulting. If you’re going to kill a bill that would have helped our neighbors in Delta County, you better be prepared to explain why. For a lawmaker who has long railed against the governor for ignoring the plight of rural Colorado, the hypocrisy is galling.

The lack of minced words tells us this was a serious misstep by Scott, most likely for the shallow purpose of denying freshman Democratic Sen. Kerry Donovan a win for her constituents–and it's going to have lasting consequences for Scott's credibility with the Sentinel's editorial board. At the very least, it will be harder for Scott to make his boilerplate case about Front Range Democrats telling the Western Slope to eat cake.

Because this time, that was him.

Sen. Scott’s “War on Rural Colorado”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Yesterday alleged "rural champions" Senators Scott and Sonnenberg conspired to kill a bill carefully tailored to benefit rural Colorado.  Charles Ashby is reporting in the Daily Sentinel:

DENVER — For all their recent protestations about Democrats allegedly waging a war on rural Colorado, Senate Republicans shot down a bill Tuesday aimed squarely at helping less populated regions of the state still trying to recover from bad economic times, a Western Slope senator said.

The Senate panel, chaired by proud fossil fuel aficionado Grand Junction Senator Ray Scott, offered no explanation for its decision to kill SB36 Rural Economic Emergency Assistance Grant Program which would have created a $2 million grant program for rural communities in the state facing large scale lay-offs.  Like in Delta County, where I live, SB36 would have brought help for the hundreds of coal miners let go over the past year from two of three mines in the North Fork (due to a canceled TVA contract and a coal mine fire).  

SB36 had the support of the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado  (formerly led by now Mesa County commissioner Scott McInnis and currently run by Bonnie Peterson, formally head of Club 20), the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (run by another former Club 20 director, Reeves Brown), Colorado Counties Inc. and the Colorado Municipal League.  

…representatives of which all testified before the committee saying virtually the same thing: This bill will help rural Colorado.

As Ashby notes in his thorough and lengthy article, also reporting that the legislation had explicit support from the Boards of County Commissioners in Delta, Gunnison, Lake and Pitkin counties and even support from Tri-State, which operates the coal-fired power plant and coal mine in Craig. 

The only explanation, such as there is any worth noting, is that the bill was sponsored by Kerry Donovan, the lone Senate Democrat from rural western Colorado, and victor in a bitter race that pitted fossil fuel interests against conservationists.  

(more…)

Colo. Unemployment Dropped More Than Any Other State in 2014

UPDATE: Colorado Democrats celebrate via social media:

demsunemployment

—–

Good news for Colorado, as the Denver Business Journal reports:

Colorado added 4,700 payroll jobs in December and finished 2014 with an unemployment rate of 4.0 percent, the state's lowest since October 2007, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment reported Tuesday.

The state's private-sector employers added 5,500 positions to their payrolls in December, while government jobs declined by 800 from November levels, the monthly CDLE report indicated…

…A separate survey of Colorado households, which does include those job categories, is used to estimate unemployment rates and the size of the labor force.

That survey showed Colorado's unemployment rate having dropped for nine consecutive months. December's 4.0 percent rate was down a tenth of a percentage point from November and down 2.2 percent from December 2013.

Improving Colorado's economy was the major theme of Gov. John Hickenlooper's re-election campaign in 2014, and the numbers certainly validate that strategy. Sure, there are plenty of different reasons why unemployment is falling so quickly in Colorado, but no matter how you look at it, this is a big talking point for Democrats. Colorado's unemployment rates dropped faster than any other state in the country in 2014, at a time when Democrats controlled the legislature and the Governor's office.

Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch (Pay Equity Edition)

His-Hers

This week, the new Republican majority in the Colorado Senate flexed its plus-one-seat muscle in a number of ways, one of which was the effective killing of the Colorado Pay Equity Commission in the GOP-controlled Senate Business, Labor and Technology. The pay equity commission's work to develop best practices for the state and private industry was not finished, and state experts had recommended the commission's mandate be renewed to continue to address the problem. FOX 31's Eli Stokols reported this week:

Democrats, while ostensibly angry about the 5-4 party-line vote by the GOP-controlled Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee, are already returning to their oft-used narrative that the GOP is hostile to women by scrapping a body charged with rooting out gender discrimination in the workplace.

“Hard working women across Colorado deserve better than they got from the Republican Colorado Senate majority today,” said Amy Runyon-Harms, director of Progress Now. “We call on the General Assembly to immediately take up a new bill to continue the vital work of Pay Equity Commission to its conclusion. There is too much at stake for this short-sightedness.”

Republicans on the committee alternately argued that pay equity is not a problem, or a problem best solved "by the private sector"–consistent with the arguments made by the minority of witnesses testifying against continuing the commission's work. The 5-4 vote to "sunset" the pay equity commission was party line.

Perhaps not so well timed, the Denver Post's Aldo Svaldi reported late yesterday:

Women working full-time in Colorado earned a median weekly wage in 2013 that was 77.9 percent of what men received, according to a report Friday from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Colorado women reported a median weekly full-time wage of $762 versus a median weekly wage of $978 for men.

Back in 1997, when the bureau began tracking the wage gap by state, women made 74.6 cents on the dollar versus what men in Colorado made. The gap narrowed during the dot-com boom days to around 84 cents on the dollar in 2002 but has trended lower since then.

As you can see, no problem whatsoever! Good thing five Republicans state senators agreed it was time to kill the commission studying pay equity in Colorado. For all the complaints about Democratic overuse of the "oft-used" "War on Women" narrative, we still wonder a little whether Democrats might invoke the "War on Women" less if Republicans didn't validate it every chance they get.

Because, you know, they kind of do.

Nobody Does Nothing Quite Like Senate Republicans

The Captain does not approve

Republicans hold a one-seat majority in the State Senate, and they are off to a fast start in promoting their policy agenda. We dare say: nobody does nothing quite like Senate Republicans.

While destroying limiting government is a pretty common refrain to hear from right-wing Republicans such as Senate President Bill Cadman, Assistant Majority Leader Kevin Lundberg, and Majority Caucus Chair/culinary expert Vicki Marble, we'd venture a guess that even they've been a little surprised at just how easy it can be to make government do nothing. Hell, they're making nothing happen without even doing anything!

Consider what Senate Republicans didn't accomplish today: they allowed two important bipartisan commissions to expire on their own by not voting to renew them. Republicans didn't have to create any new legislation or come up with any ideas of their own — all they had to do was not let the commissions expire.

Equal Pay for Equal Work: Senate Republicans ended the Pay Equity Commission by doing nothing to allow it to continue. The Commission was created to study the existing pay gap between men, women, and minorities, and to come up with solutions for closing the gap. According to information provided by Senate Democrats, "Colorado women are still only paid 80 cents for every dollar earned by men, and the gap is wider for women of color. African American women earn only 67.5 cents and Latinas just 52.5 cents for every dollar earned by the highest earners."

Promoting Fair and Modern Elections: Say goodbye to the Colorado Voter Access and Modernized Elections Commission (COVAME) , which will cease operations on July 1, 2015. Today Republicans on the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee allowed the clock to run out on re-authorization of the committee. Nevermind the constant refrain from Republicans about how concerned they are when it comes to voter fraud — the magical Private Industry Fairy will save them. A press release from the Senate Democrats explains more about COVAME:

The General Assembly established the COVAME in 2013, as part of the Colorado Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act (HB 13-1303).  This measure sought to make elections simpler and more accessible for all eligible voters, and some of its provisions called for changes in how elections are physically conducted.  Notably, it called for mail ballots to go out to all voters in general elections, Voter Service and Polling Centers to replace traditional precinct polling places, and for allowing voter registration up until Election Day.

The final COVAME report is not due until mid-February of 2015, and it will provide analysis from the 2014 election and offer recommendations for 2016. 

We've said before that Colorado Republicans appear to have misinterpreted a one-seat majority as giving them a mandate to do whatever they choose. This would appear to be yet another example of that fallacy; we're pretty confident that Colorado voters weren't looking for the GOP to sit on their hands once they took office.

GOP Talks Immigration, but Only in Spanish-Language Translation of English Rebuttal…Wait, What?

Sen. Joni Ernst

Yes, Senator Ernst, there were apparently two versions of your speech last night.

The Republican Party supports working with President Obama on immigration reform…but only in Spanish?

Republicans chose freshman Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) to deliver the GOP response to President Obama's State of the Union speech last night, which is about where this entire story stops making sense.

Florida Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo was tapped to deliver the Spanish-language version of the rebuttal, which was supposed to be a translation of the Ernst speech…except that Curbelo added a section about immigration reform that Ernst does not actually support. It should be noted here that Sen. Ernst is an advocate of making English the "official language" in the United States; in other words, the GOP Spanish-language rebuttal was intended to be a translation of a speech given by someone who doesn't really think we should be speaking Spanish anyway.

Of course, that's not what actually happened.

To help explain what went down after the President's speech last night, we'll begin with a preview yesterday as reported by Mother Jones magazine:

The GOP has also announced it will be offering a Spanish-language rebuttal, which will be delivered tonight by freshman Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a young conservative from a diverse Miami congressional district. But there's a wrinkle. According to a press release from the House Republicans, Curbelo will not be sharing his own thoughts and words with the public. Instead, he will only be reading a Spanish translation of Ernst's speech.

Curbelo's office confirmed that he will not be delivering his own remarks. [Pols emphasis]

By the way, Ernst has endorsed English as a national language and once sued Iowa's secretary of state for offering voting forms in languages other than English. Her office did not respond to requests for comment.

Congressman Carlos Curbelo

The role of Sen. Joni Ernst was played by Rep. Carlos Curbelo, or something.

Okay, that's a bit strange — but it seems straightforward enough, right? Perhaps, though the plan went awry at some point. As Politico reports:

Republicans sent mixed signals on immigration in their two official rebuttals to President Obama Tuesday night: Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst’s rebuttal made no mention of the topic, but the Spanish-language version of the rebuttal, delivered by Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo, said Republicans wanted to work with Obama to fix the immigration system. [Pols emphasis]

“We should also work through the appropriate channels to create permanent solutions for our immigration system, to secure our borders, modernize legal immigration, and strengthen our economy,” said Curbelo in Spanish. “In the past, the president has expressed support for ideas like these. Now we ask him to cooperate with us to get it done.”

Earlier on Tuesday, House Republicans had described Curbelo’s response as “the Spanish-Language translated address of Sen. Joni Ernst response.” That language was later removed from the release, according to Mother Jones.

Curbelo has bucked many in the Republican Party to support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, while Ernst opposes that.

Ladies and gentlemen, your Republican majority in Congress! And we didn't even mention Sen. Ted "Eh, Lemme Start Over" Cruz.

Hickenlooper Hints at TABOR Reform in Inauguration Speech

As Charles Ashby reports for the Grand Junction Sentinel, the winds are a swirling around TABOR reform in Colorado after Gov. John Hickenlooper's inaugural speech on Tuesday:

The governor didn’t offer specifics on issues he intends to address in his second four-year term, possibly intending to save that for the State of the State speech he will give to a joint session of the Legislature on Thursday. Still, he hinted at a few, not the least of which are the revenue caps mandated under the Taxpayers Bill of Rights.

Under that constitutional amendment approved by voters in 1992, revenues that the state collects that exceed the current year’s budget, plus inflation and population growth, are required to be refunded to taxpayers.

But some state legislators are considering asking the voters if the state can retain some or all of those TABOR surpluses to put toward things such as K-12 education or transportation, saying both had dramatic cuts during the recession and aren’t yet fully restored.

Our state Constitution mandates that we increase our expenditures and simultaneously cut taxes,” Hickenlooper said. “If that does not sound like it makes much sense, that’s because it doesn’t. Nothing can grow and shrink at the same time. However, it is also true that careful pruning can allow for quicker, stronger and more effective growth.” [Pols emphasis]

Reporter John Frank of the Denver Post added some more TABOR-reform flavor from yesterday's festivities. Gov. Hickenlooper invited former Governors of Colorado to offer advice on his second term in office, and former Democratic Gov. Roy Romer got right to the point:

“My advice is, governor, lead a movement in this state to repeal the TABOR amendment,” he said to cheers from the crowd at the Fillmore Auditorium, where guests paid $100-a-plate to attend. “We need to invest in the future of our children’s education and the infrastructure of this state. We need to return that power, that authority, that decision, to the people’s representative, the legislature and the governor.”

Romer kept at it. “We need to revise this tax system and do what the conservatives do — invest in the future of this state,” he continued. “We need to revise the TABOR amendment and get a better tax system it needs not a political election, it needs a movement. Governor, lead that movement.”

As much as Republicans will be squawking about any suggested reform to TABOR, there's reason to suggest that this is more than just a talking point. Republican Senate President Bill Cadman's first piece of legislation this session deals with TABOR adjustments — though certainly not on the level that Colorado really needs. We couldn't sum up the problem any better than Hickenlooper did last night, when he said, "Nothing can grow and shrink at the same time." Will Republicans heed that reality?

Springs NAACP Bombing: No big deal?

(It should be – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

POLS UPDATE: Think Progress notes the bizarre lack of coverage:

A bomb detonated at the Colorado chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) last night, but you may not have heard much about it. It appears that the major 24-hour cable networks gave the incident little to no air attention.

A ThinkProgress search of television databases suggests CNN gave one cursory report on the incident at 6:34 a.m., while MSNBC and Fox News appear to have not mentioned the incident on air since it happened. Other networks, including Headline News, (HDLN) mentioned the incident in the morning news.

ThinkProgress searched the database TVEyes and Critical Mention from Tuesday evening through Wednesday afternoon, using the terms, “NAACP,” “colored people,” and “bomb” along with “Colorado.” It found only one mention on CNN, at 6:34 a.m., in the course of what appeared to be a scheduled interview on community-police relations. The incident was mentioned when the interviewer asked former NYPD officer and Secret Service agent Dan Bongino whether he thought the bomb in Colorado could be “seen as retaliatory” and Bongino said it was possible. Representatives from CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News did not respond to ThinkProgress inquiries on their coverage of the bombing.

—–

This thing is not quite getting the coverage we should expect from a local terrorist act during days of increased racial tension and numerous incidents of Police v. Public. Oh yeah, it's not considered terrorism if a white guy does it. The non-stop verbal attacks on the President, people of color, the "news" of Republicans who like to hang out with Klansmen are considered by most to be background noise, if they are considered at all.

In a time when racial tensions in our country appear to be growing, the troubling nature of this act of domestic terrorism should be blatantly obvious, but the lack of mainstream media coverage of the bombing for most of Tuesday morning, afternoon, and night was downright disturbing. CNN released its first piece about the bombing a full 16 hours after it happened, and the incident wasn't mentioned on national nightly news broadcasts.

But I think we can say for pretty-darned-sure that the bile does have an effect when it's spread so freely, so regularly, so casually. How can it not? Listen to Savage, Randall, Beck, Hannity, Rush and Rosen for a day if you can. Then imagine those who listen all day, every day. 

We can be thankful that this moron didn't know how to make something more destructive.

We can assume he'll be arrested peacefully, without incident, given all the protections available.

We can assume it'll be forgotten by the time of the Super Bowl and we can carry on with business as usual, where an aggrieved White Guy felt his best option for Tuesday was to bomb the local NAACP offices.

Ken Buck: National Default Wouldn’t Be So Bad

Rep.-elect Ken Buck.

Rep.-elect Ken Buck.

Roll Call's Emma Dumain catches up with Rep.-elect Ken Buck of Colorado, the new president of the 114th Congress' freshman class–who now says he "respects" President Barack Obama, apparently on longer losing his appetite at the sight of America's first black President.

We'd say that's good news.

In addition, Buck has a message for all you worry-warts concerned about the direction the GOP-dominated House and Senate might take in Obama's last two years with the nation's debt obligations:

Buck…said he hoped the federal government would not default on its finances when Congress has to raise the debt limit early this year, but was noncommittal on whether he himself would provide a likely much-needed vote to advance a “clean” extension of the Treasury Department’s borrowing authority.

“I don’t believe the consequences of failing to raise the debt limit are what the president and some others in the United States Congress have said,” Buck explained. [Pols emphasis] “I think we have a lot of room to cut our spending. If we do that, we will in fact avoid the catastrophic consequences that others talk about.”

Just like that, folks! It's good to know that when the brinksmanship over defaulting on the nation's debt obligations starts up again, Ken Buck is in the "default denier" caucus–the only lawmakers who could be considered even more irresponsible than lawmakers threatening default for negotiative advantage. Why negotiate at all if nothing bad will happen–even in the worst case scenario?

In any negotiation, there are helpful participants and unhelpful distractions. Rep. Ken Buck, in case there was ever a doubt, will be part of the latter camp.

What’s up with the TABOR rebates? What’s going on with the TABOR lawsuit? Join us on Jan. 9 and find out.

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The agenda for the year’s No. 1 gathering for all things fiscal has been set. Join us! Register here for the 2015 Colorado Fiscal Forum on Friday, Jan. 9 at the Colorado Convention Center, hosted by the Colorado Fiscal Institute.

Breakfast and networking starts at 7:45 a.m. and then settle in for our program starting at 8:30 a.m. sharp.

The Colorado Fiscal Forum brings together the top minds in the state on fiscal and state budget policy issues, but we keep an eye on federal issues and the broader economy as well.

This year, we’re fortunate to have Ellen Nissenbaum, senior vice president for government affairs for the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities in Washington, D.C. to tell us how the new political landscape in Washington could affect the federal budget and funding for health care reform.

We’ll have some insider discussion from attorney David Skaggs about the federal lawsuit against TABOR and from attorney Kathy Gebhardt about the newest legal challenge to school funding. We’ll also have briefings from Natalie Mullis, chief economist for Colorado Legislative Council, and Phyllis Resnick, lead economist for the Colorado Futures Center at Colorado State University, about revenue projections and the road ahead.

Finally, we’ll have an update from CFI economist Chris Stiffler about Colorado’s Genuine Progress Indicator and CFI Executive Director Carol Hedges will lead a discussion on cutting edge public opinion research being done in Colorado on the prospects for voter approved revenue relief.

The Colorado Fiscal Forum is the No. 1 event for Coloradans who want to be in the know on the state budget and TABOR. You won’t want to miss this year’s lineup. Register here today!

Spokesman unchallenged when he said Buck would have voted against budget bill

Whether you're a leftist blogger, a right-wing talk-radio host, or a sad-eyed dog, you know by now that a government shutdown would be a blow to the economy.

So if you hear of a politician saying he'd risk shutting down the government by voting against bipartisan budget legislation in Washington, you should ask for his thoughts about the well-known damage from such a vote.

But Fort Morgan KFTM radio host Jon Waters didn't question former state Sen. Greg Brophy, U.S. Representative-elect Ken Buck's new spokesperson, today when he stated that Buck would have voted against the Cromnibus bill.

BROPHY: Ken has said he wouldn’t have voted for it. I think he said that publicly on a radio show, so I’m not speaking out of school. I’ve got to be a little careful because I’m not speaking for myself. But, I mean, the whole thing represents absolute failure by Washington [D.C.] to work, and you have to put the blame squarely on Harry Reid’s shoulders….

WATERS: You mentioned that, right at the end, ‘governing by crisis,' and passing legislation to avert crisis at the eleventh hour, which has been standard operating procedure for a number of years, now.

BROPHY: It has, and I think they like it that way back here, frankly, because it lets them put stuff into a bill that they otherwise may not be able to get passed. It’s a lack of leadership. And so, when there is no clear leadership, and there’s no clear lines of authority, bad things have happened throughout history. And, you know, when you don’t have regular order, you’ve got disorder. And that’s what we’ve had back here, and that’s what the Cromnibus and all the previous omnibus bills represented. And, you know, the Republicans have tried to stop this stuff, and most of the time the media blame them then for shutting down the government. And heck, it’s really Harry Reid and Barack Obama’s fault, but our team takes the blame. So, it’s made some of them gun shy, and that’s arguably why a bunch of the guys voted for the Cromnibus bill. And I think, you know, that maybe some of them are thinking, “Let’s just get this garbage behind us so that we can get on to starting fresh and doing things right, come January — show the people of America what real leadership looks like, what a government that’s here to work for them actually looks like. And it will be transparent and it will be done on time, and it won’t be crisis after crisis, which is where bad things happen. You let people jam stuff through, just because it’s a crisis, and you have to do it.

Senate Passes “CRomnibus,” Another Tea Party Tantrum Backfires

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

The Hill reports on somewhat unexpected passage last night in the U.S. Senate of the $1.1 trillion "CRomnibus" spending deal, which funds most of the federal government through next September but contains provisions upsetting to both the left and right:

The debate exposed divisions within the Democratic and Republican caucuses on both sides of the Capitol and sets the stage for what could be a year of internecine squabbling in 2015. 

Twenty-one Senate Democrats voted against the bill while 24 Republicans voted for it, including every member of the Senate GOP leadership.

Democratic opponents included several senators rumored to have presidential ambitions such as Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.)…

As Politico reports, the vote on the spending bill yesterday came after "Tea Party" Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee demanded the Senate remain in session this weekend to vote against President Barack Obama's recent immigration executive order–this after Senate leadership had agreed to wait until this week to finish debating the divisive "CRomnibus" spending bill. Seeing an opening, Sen. Harry Reid took advantage of the tactical mistake to pass "CRomnibus," and also move ahead on another major Democratic priority: confirming Obama's many stalled nominees.

In the end the Senate passed the $1.1 trillion spending bill, 56-40, but not before Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was able to begin moving forward on 24 of the president’s nominations, including controversial figures like Vivek Murthy to be the new surgeon general, White House adviser Tony Blinken to be the deputy secretary of State and Sarah Saldana to head Immigration and Customs enforcement and a dozen federal judges to lifetime appointments.

Republicans fought Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for months to block these nominees from moving forward and many believed as late as Friday that they’d won as the holidays approached. But when Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee took to the floor on Friday night to call for a vote on the president’s executive action on immigration and demand their colleagues stay through the weekend to do so rather than adjourn until Monday, they allowed Reid to exploit a procedural quirk and get the nominations rolling…

Had Cruz and Lee agreed to Reid and McConnell’s deal, the conservatives could have received the same constitutional point of order vote on Monday, though they attracted extra attention from both their colleagues and political watchers by forcing the Saturday session. But the point of order was defeated, so the result was the same: The omnibus was sent to the president without defunding the immigration order — and Obama appears set to win quicker approval of his nominations.

With Obama, Reid, and Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell all in support of the spending package, its passage in the Senate was always assured, despite the anger over the bill's campaign finance, banking rule, and environmental protection rollbacks from the left in both the House and Senate. Those objections are much more legitimately aggrieving to progressives than anything the right has been asked to swallow in this spending deal. Still, Cruz and Lee's antics allowed Reid to get the jump on Republicans on the issue of Obama's stalled nominees, which could in the long run prove the bigger win.

Both Colorado Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet voted to approve "CRomnibus" yesterday, again expected though it won't please liberals who followed the rancorous debate in the House last week and are aware of the bill's many compromises. But especially in the larger context of Reid moving the President's stalled nominees, that vote can now be plausibly chalked up as a win for Obama and Democrats–which seems to be the prevalent media spin today. Looking ahead, we do think this debate was good for progressive Senate leaders with higher career aspirations who opposed it, foremost Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

But the big loser here is the Tea Party, whose pointless sound and fury has once again backfired.

Where is Michael Bennet on Tax Extenders and another Wall Street Insider at Treasury?

Colorado's soon to be only Democrat in the U.S. Senate, Michael Bennet, is going to have to make some tough decisions soon. By most accounts, the planning for 2016's election is already underway, with larger strategies that will have to be make public being dissected and fine-tuned. 

Bennet has played it fairly safe throughout his career and managed to win a not so easy election last time. He figured out the P.R. part of his job quite adeptly: a feint to the left on the public option (where he ended up doing nothing) was matched with a blatant give to the right on union "card check" legislation.

Playing the dispassionate "third way" type along with small-ball stuff for Colorado and consistent whining about DC's Republican-rooted dysfunction (both sides don't "do it", Michael. -z) rounds out a conventional term by a conventional politician subscribed to all the standard Democratic political conventions of the last several years.

I don't think those conventions will hold the last 2 years of Obama's presidency. I'm not the only one who thinks that way; and voters surely rejected those conventions in the election we just witnessed. How else to explain why progressive policies won while candidates who ignored them – Landrieu, Udall, et. al – didn't? (That's a rhetorical question, CPOLS. cheeky)

This makes Michael Bennet's next public pronouncements, on tax extenders for Big Corporations and (maybe) the Middle Class, and another Wall Street Insider nominated by President Obama, all the more important:

Only progressives are opposed to the rich-people's gifts. So, progressives — Merkley, Warren, Reid (are you with us?) and friends — why not play a strong game instead of a weak one? 

Instead of surrendering almost everything you care about to get the least bit of something, progressives should threaten everything the other side wants and frankly, call their money-loving bluff. The White House wants the rich to have these gifts in their stocking; all Senate Republicans agree; and so does every corporate-loving Democrat (like "sorry for playing hard" Michael Bennet). Make the other side fight for the money, and look like it.

Could progressives kill the whole deal if they don't get what they want? If you put me in charge of the Open Rebellion insurgency, I'd try. After all, the entire left press is on your side — consider that Volsky's source could already be Senate progressives. In addition, the issue is hugely visible. And even if you lose, you'll get the best deal possible, not the worst one available. Just say to the other three players:

"Progressives in the Senate stand for working people and those struggling with poverty. The deal on the table is unacceptable in every way. We would rather have no deal than the one on offer. If you want our vote, put the deal on the table in 2014 that we voted for in 2013. That way everyone wins. That or nothing from us."

The White House and less-progressive senators will play the kitten card and complain, "But what about the poor?" You then say: 

"We care as much as you do. In fact, we care so much about the poor, we want the best deal possible, not the worst."

"Triangulate this," in other words. The White House has already come out against the size of the "bonanza." This offers them a chance to look even better by siding with you (they've already promised a veto, your own bottom line) — and at the same time, shows them a corner and offers a paint brush if they don't. I think this is worth a test. 

Progressives who really care about people are always blackmailed — far too successfully in my opinion — with a "kitten held hostage" as I alluded to above. Here the kitten (and believe me, kitten lives are valuable) is a set of tax breaks for the poor and renewable energy credits, items of real value. But the only way to end blackmail is to walk away from it. "Do you love your kitten as much as we love ours? Let's find out. No kitten needs to suffer in this deal." 

Bennet can keep doing what he's done in the past, and start lining up his post-Senate gig, or he can come out like a proud, progressive Democrat, and start fighting for more than just the minimum that it takes to be called a Democrat these days………which hasn't been a whole hell of a lot up to now.

 

Oh Frack! OPEC Calls Shale Bluff, Sends Oil Prices Into Free Fall

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

It seems that faced with declining profits of their own, as the frenzy to drill in American shale plays sent stockpiles skyrocketing and prices crashing, that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) decided to call the shale drillers’ bluff.  Reuters is reporting:

Saudi Arabia's oil minister told fellow OPEC members they must combat the U.S. shale oil boom, arguing against cutting crude output in order to depress prices and undermine the profitability of North American producers.

For at least a couple of years a few observers have pointed to how over-leveraged most shale-heavy oil and gas drillers are, that shale oil–no matter how abundant hydraulic fracturing makes it appear–is an expensive prospect that cannot sustain itself.  Over-leveraged with a need to drill more and more and more at an ever higher ‘break-even’ cost, some astute observers have noted that shale bears all the hallmarks of a classic ‘bubble.’

“In 2016, when OPEC completes this objective of cleaning up the American marginal market, the oil price will start growing again,” said Fedun, who’s made a fortune of more than $4 billion in the oil business, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. “The shale boom is on a par with the dot-com boom. The strong players will remain, the weak ones will vanish.” 

As with bubbles in the recent past, shale contrarians have been met in the manner of all naysayers during halcyon days of hype and hucksters.  But many have nonetheless steadily insisted that shale is not the panacea and ‘revolution’ its barkers want those seemingly born daily to believe.  And now, it appears likely, that the other shoe is about to drop: the shale bubble is about to POP

Investors have wiped more than $50 billion off the value of Europe’s biggest oil companies after OPEC members rejected calls to cut their oil output. 

Go ahead, seems the message sent by OPEC, make our day: See how long you can “Drill, Baby, Drill” with a mountain of high-interest debt and oil prices collapsing. And as with bubbles in the past—like booms in the western energy fields—any observer of history should already know how it ends. 

The only question: will this be the time we learn better?

 

 

 

Who Did The Shutdown Hurt Most? Colorado Springs.

militarymoney

As the Colorado Springs Gazette's Wayne Heilman reports–we've talked at length in this space about the harm done to Colorado's economy during the GOP-engineered shutdown of the federal government in October of 2013. At one point late last year, it seemed as though the shutdown was going to do real damage to Republican electoral prospects in 2014. The issue did come up in the recent elections, but the principal target Rep. Cory Gardner overcame whatever damage those ads may have done.

In tourism-dependent communities like Estes Park, the shutdown of the national parks cost the local economy millions of dollars from cancelled bookings. The shutdown resulted in some delays in the federal government's response to the devastating September flooding along the Front Range. And, says the Gazette today, furloughed soldiers and federal employees in government-heavy Colorado Springs lost income, which cost the entire region economically:

The area's income per person rose just 0.2 percent, or $81, from 2012 to $41,250, according to a report released Thursday by the agency. In 2012, per-person income rose 2.1 percent from 2011.

The national average for 2013 was $44,785; the Colorado Springs number is $3,535, or 7.9 percent, lower – the biggest gap between local incomes and the national average in data since 1969.

The prime reason for the area's poor showing: a $110.8 million decline in earnings by military personnel and civilian federal employees, largely the result of furloughs and other cost-cutting measures put into place during the federal government shutdown in October 2013.

The area has about 36,000 troops on active duty and 13,500 federal civilian workers. About half of the civilians were off the job without pay during the shutdown.

The irony of staunchly Republican El Paso County taking one of the hardest hits from the October 2013 shutdown is obvious. And the numbers don't lie: this is a much bigger economic hit than Colorado's tourism economy took. That this clearly destructive and preventable action did not have any discernable impact on the 2014 elections, either in El Paso County or across the state in the U.S. Senate race, reflects one of the great conundrums of American politics today (see: Thomas Frank's What's The Matter With Kansas?).

We don't have the solution, but here is one of the clearest examples of the problem you're likely to ever see.