Sunday, September 15, 2013

Republicans: Determined to Damage Our Economy, Whatever it Takes

I took a short break from my focus on gun violence prevention to write about how Republicans are damaging our economy and harming the middle class with their incessant drive to cut government spending. Particularly relevant as Republicans are now threatening to shut down the government come Oct 1 and let the U.S. default on past spending obligations if they don't get their way.


House Majority leader Eric Cantor asserts the deficit is growing, using that as the rationale for further cuts in federal spending. In fact, as reported by the Congressional Budget Office, the deficit is falling steeply, to less than half of what it was as a proportion of GDP in 2009.
This continued deception by Republicans as a means of advancing their obsession with fiscal austerity is doing the opposite of what it claims. Across the board, corporate, academic and government economists are telling us that job growth, economic recovery and longer-term prosperity are being hindered by cuts in government spending.  
The Federal Reserve was uncharacteristically blunt when it said “fiscal policy is restraining economic growth.” The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco reports that fiscal policy has become “unusually contractionary.” It estimates that growth could be reduced by as much as 1 percentage point annually over the next three years if current policies continue.
The International Monetary Fund believes the sequester has put a “heavy toll” on short-term growth, and that its “indiscriminate” cuts in investment-oriented spending could reduce longer-term economic growth.
As reported in The New York Times, Bank of America Merrill Lynch told its clients that “fiscal drag has likely reduced growth this year at least 1.5 percentage points, and isn’t over yet.” The chairman of the Economic Advisory Committee of the American Bankers Association stated “greater-than-expected fiscal drag…could still pose downside risks.”  
Princeton economist and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman has reported extensively on the fallacy of austerity policies, noting that “any fiscal savings come at the expense of reduced output and higher unemployment.” Calling austerity in the current environment “a terrible idea,” Krugman explains that contractionary policy “may inflict long-run economic damage that actually worsens the long-run fiscal position.”
Despite this, Republicans are gearing up once again to use debt ceiling negotiations to blackmail the Obama administration into further spending cuts, mostly at the expense of the less advantaged. At significant cost to the recovery, Democrats have already made major concessions on spending. 
Tax and entitlement reform are necessary to long-term economic growth, but in the short run, stimulus is what’s needed, not austerity. It’s time to listen to the experts, and stand firm against the destructive Republican economic agenda. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Add your name to my Background Check letter to Congress!

On June 12 and 13 I will be traveling to Washington, D.C. with the Newtown Action Alliance to hand-deliver letters to members of Congress, asking them to vote for universal background checks for all firearm purchases, legislation supported by nine out of ten Americans.  The letter I will be delivering is below.

I'm trying to add as many names as possible to the letter, so please add yours.  Add a comment to this post with your name, city and state, or send me a message via Facebook or email.

IF YOU WANT TO BE INCLUDED, PLEASE RESPOND by Tuesday morning, June 11.




A Plea to Pass Universal Background Checks and other Common-Sense Gun Regulation

Dear Senator/Representative:

Gun rights advocates are quick to use the Constitution to defend unfettered access to even the most lethal firearms. But before the Constitution came the Declaration of Independence, which asserts that we are endowed with certain unalienable rights, including those of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It continues, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted…”
It is time now for the federal government to protect our right to be free of gun violence. It is time for you and the U.S. Congress to put this right on the same high pedestal it affords the right to bear arms. It is time for you to heed Supreme Court Justice Scalia who said “like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.” The Court was clear about the need for gun regulation: “…nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on … laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”  The Court even goes so far as to recognize the right of government to prohibit “the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons’.”
Right now we are urging you to vote for comprehensive universal background checks for all firearm purchases.  Common sense regulation, starting with universal background checks, is urgently needed to protect the lives of Americans in their places of work, houses of worship, shopping centers, movie theaters, parks and schools. 
It is completely indefensible that Congress cannot pass universal background checks when an overwhelming majority of Americans support this common sense measure. Universal background checks will not restrict the ability of law-abiding citizens to own guns, any more so than vehicle registration makes it impossible to own a car or TSA security checks make it impossible to board a plane.
Beyond simply extending background checks for all gun sales, you must close loopholes and strengthen reporting requirements. The federal government has spent trillions on the war on terror, yet people on the F.B.I. terrorist watch list are legally entitled to buy firearms, which they have been cleared to do more than 1,000 times in the past ten years.
Some defend the status quo by claiming that common sense gun regulation, including background checks, won't protect Americans from all incidents of gun violence.  President Obama in his State of the Union address said what is obvious:  "Our actions will not prevent every senseless act of violence in this country.  In fact, no laws, no initiatives, no administrative acts will perfectly solve all the challenges ... But we were never sent here to be perfect.  We were sent here to make what difference we can..."
It is time for you to make a difference in the epidemic of gun violence that claims more than 30,000 American lives every year. You need to vote for comprehensive universal background checks along the lines of the Manchin-Toomey proposal (not the misleading and ineffective Grassley-Cruz amendment).
Beyond background checks for firearm purchases, we urge you to require similar background checks for the purchase of ammunition. We know that even with stringent purchase requirements, criminals will come into possession of guns. Adding another layer of defense is a common sense measure you should support to save lives. To protect their safety, Americans get physician approval nearly three billion times a year to purchase prescription drugs.  Why is it any more intrusive or inconvenient to require gun owners to get approval to buy ammunition to protect our safety?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Disturbing Silence on Gun Violence Prevention from CT State Senator Frantz

Even in Conn. where moderate Republicans still exist, they evidence strains of what is keeping common sense gun regulation from passing.


At his town hall meeting last week, State Senator L. Scott Frantz told a large gathering of constituents that he could not reveal his position on common sense gun regulations.   He claimed the General Assembly’s Gun Violence Prevention working group on which he serves was under a self-imposed gag order so that they could reach a “historic” bipartisan agreement. 
After that buildup, it came as a surprise that the very next day the task force released separate Democratic and Republican proposals.  Although there are areas of agreement, the Republican proposal is less comprehensive and leaves out key provisions that would help reduce the death toll from gun violence, including an expanded definition of assault weapons and limits on the capacity of ammunition magazines.
More disturbing than Sen. Frantz’s silence is that he and his Republican colleagues are so out of touch with their constituents.  A Quinnipiac University poll found overwhelming support for both tighter regulation of assault weapons and limiting magazines to ten bullets, by margins of more than 2:1.  By an even greater margin, nearly 3:1, voters support handgun registration with annual renewal.
Sen. Frantz is also out of touch with constitutional law, judging by his town hall statement that “whatever comes out of the General Assembly and is signed by the governor will withstand some serious constitutional challenges.”  Apparently three months studying the issue was not sufficient to make him aware that Justice Scalia’s District of Columbia v. Heller opinion states “like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited."  Pertaining to assault weapons bans, the Supreme Court goes on to say "nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on...laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms."
Neither does the Second Amendment pose problems for limiting magazine capacity. The New York Times reported that "Constitutional lawyers, including many conservatives, generally believe that limiting magazine size falls well within the boundaries of recent Supreme Court decisions on gun rights…" Had limits on magazine capacity been in place, we would likely have seen reduced death tolls at the Newtown, Tucson and Aurora massacres.
It is time for legislators to stop affording deference to the constitutional rights of gun owners without similarly recognizing the "unalienable right" of all Americans to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" which is enshrined in our Declaration of Independence.
On the positive side, in correspondence to individual constituents, Sen. Frantz has described himself as “a person who believes in reasonable gun control.”  Now that the cone of silence has been lifted, it is time for Sen. Frantz and the rest of the Greenwich state delegation to demonstrate leadership and actively speak out in favor of common sense gun regulations. With their support, Connecticut has a unique opportunity and the moral authority to show the country a united, bi-partisan front in the quest to reduce gun violence.
Let’s show Sen. Frantz and Reps. Camillo, Floren and Walko that the Quinnipiac poll holds true in Greenwich.  Let’s urge them to support comprehensive gun regulation (contact information for legislators can be found at the CT Against Gun Violence website, www.cagv.org).  The death toll climbs every day, the time to act is now.

Postscript: Sen. Frantz, while introducing multiple amendments to carve out restrictions on tighter regulation of firearms (which all failed), when on to vote for the tough package of gun violence prevention measures passed by the Conn. General Assembly.  Thank you Sen. Frantz.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Speak Out for Common Sense Gun Regulations

It's time for legislators to show a fraction of the courage shown by the teachers at Newtown and stand up to the gun lobby. Maybe it will cost them their jobs. At least they'll still have their lives. Unlike the thousands of victims of gun violence. It's clear to me that getting them to act will first require the "common sense majority" to speak up.  Although this op-ed is focused on Greenwich, CT where I live, the message is the same across the country.

The N.R. A. and gun rights advocates are quick to use the Constitution to defend unfettered access to even the most lethal firearms.  But before the Constitution there was the Declaration of Independence, which asserts that we are endowed with certain unalienable rights, including those of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It continues, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted…”

It is time now for government to protect our right to life from the threat of gun violence. It is time for politicians to put this right on the same pedestal they afford the right to bear arms. It is time for them to heed Supreme Court Justice Scalia who said that “like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.”  The Court was clear about the need for gun regulation: “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on…laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”   It even goes so far as to recognize the right of government to prohibit “the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons’.”
Some are defending the status quo by claiming that common sense gun regulations won't protect us from all incidents of gun violence.  President Obama in the State of the Union address said what is obvious to most folks:  "Our actions will not prevent every senseless act of violence in this country.  In fact, no laws, no initiatives, no administrative acts will perfectly solve all the challenges...But we were never sent here to be perfect.  We were sent here to make what difference we can..."  
Common sense regulation is urgently needed to protect the lives of Americans in their places of work, houses of worship, shopping centers, movie theaters, parks and schools.  Among these are universal background checks for gun and ammunition purchases, stricter bans on military-style assault weapons, bans on high-capacity gun magazines, and registration of firearms.  None of these restrict the ability of law-abiding citizens to own guns, any more so than vehicle registration makes it impossible to own a car or TSA security checks make it impossible to board a plane.
But little is going to change unless concerned citizens speak out and demand action from politicians.  Greenwich has very effective advocates in Washington—Senators Blumenthal and Murphy, and Representative Himes—who are publicly and vocally pushing for more effective gun regulation.  But they need our support in the face of a gun lobby that not only opposes any restriction on gun ownership, but recommends a rush to arms as the solution to gun violence that kills 30,000 Americans every year.  In the words of N.R.A. executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, “The enemies of the Second Amendment will be met with unprecedented defiance, commitment and determination. We will Stand And Fight.”
The Greenwich delegation to the Connecticut State Assembly—Senator Frantz and Representatives Floren, Camillo and Walko—appear to support more effective gun regulation, but they need our encouragement.  We need them to do more than cast their votes when the time comes.  We need them to join other Connecticut legislators who are showing leadership by publicly and forcefully making the case for tighter gun laws. In the aftermath of the Newtown tragedy, Connecticut has a unique opportunity and the moral authority to convince law-abiding Americans and their political representatives that sensible limitations on gun ownership are vital to public safety.
At the March for Change rally in Hartford, one legislator noted he is being overwhelmed with email from those opposed to gun regulation.  Yet polls show that a majority of Americans, including gun owners and N.R.A. members, favor tighter gun laws.  But many politicians are hesitant to speak out and vote in favor of sensible gun regulation without hearing from this silent majority.  The time to act is now (contact information for elected officials representing Greenwich can be found at the website of the League of Women Voters of Greenwich, www.lwvg.org). 
According to Slate, at least 1,850 Americans have been killed by guns just since the Newtown massacre.  We can’t afford to wait.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Gun Regulation: Where do your legislators stand?

It is clear to me that gains in sensible gun regulation will not come easily.  If you want to see changes, I encourage you to make your position known.  The people against implementing effective means of reducing gun violence are not rethinking their positions, as Wayne LaPierre, NRA executive vice president, made abundantly clear.

Along with this letter to the editor, I have written each of my state and federal legislators to find out where they stand, pressure them to change their positions, or support them for pushing for effective gun regulation.

Here's the letter:


It is encouraging to think that the horrific massacre of children and teachers in Newtown, CT will lead to sensible gun regulation that puts the rights of ordinary citizens ahead of those of gun owners.  But it would be na├»ve to believe that it will happen without equal measures of sustained pressure on elected officials who dodge the issue, and strong public support for legislators who show the courage to stand up to the gun lobby.
Here in Greenwich, we have politicians of both types.  Our federal delegation of Representative Himes, Senator Blumenthal and Senator-elect Murphy have all come out with strong statements endorsing common-sense regulation to reduce the gun violence that is taking one American life every 20 minutes.
Where our state delegation stands is less clear. Reviewing the websites of Senator Frantz and Representatives Camillo and Floren, it’s difficult to determine what their position is on gun regulation, because they haven’t published anything on the issue other than expressions of shock, grief and support for the Newtown community.  While that is compassionate, it does nothing to prevent these tragedies from reoccurring. We do know from a Project Vote Smart questionnaire that in 2008 Mr. Camillo believed that in some respects Connecticut’s regulations were too stringent, because they prohibited or delayed some people from purchasing guns.
We need politicians who have a fraction of the courage that the teachers at Sandy Hook showed in protecting their kids.  So, Mr. Frantz, Mr. Camillo, Ms. Floren, and Mr. Walko, where do you stand?  Are you going to push for effective background checks, limits on numbers of guns purchased, bans on military-style guns and high-capacity gun clips, and mandatory waiting periods?  Or are you going put the desires of the gun lobby and Connecticut’s gun manufacturers ahead of children and teachers, movie-goers, shoppers and employees?  Please let us know, so we can decide if you need to be pressured or supported.