GOP senators to college students: Screw you

This is fairly simple: when a person takes out a loan, whether it’s for college tuition or a car, they have to pay an interest rate on that loan. Ideally, the borrower will find a reasonably low interest rate for paying back the borrowed money.

In the case of college tuition loans, millions of current or former students who have borrowed money are currently stuck with high interest rates, making it even more difficult to pay back this money. Many have been stuck with this debt for years and have interest rates higher than 7 percent.

So while we all agree that college tuition costs are absurdly high and need to be reined in, it’s important that, in the meantime, we try to ease the burden of these costs in other ways. After all, student loan debt in the U.S. weighs in at $1.2 trillion, the second largest source of consumer debt in the country. debt-2

This is where a proposal by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, comes into the fold.

Warren’s proposal is pretty straightforward: borrowers with student loans and higher interest rates would be able to refinance at a rate below 4 percent. The plan would have helped 25 million people save thousands over the length of their loan.

Sounds pretty sensible, right? And, if we had a more open-minded and practical political environment, it might not have even mattered if President Obama and a Democratic senator from Massachusetts were advocating for the proposal. But open-minded and practical are bad words to Republicans who are allergic to anything that the president supports.

As was the fate of so many Senate proposals, from background checks on gun purchases to health benefits for veterans, the bill will not advance. All “no” votes, as is usually the case, came from Republicans senators.

If you’re wondering why politics is so awful and such common-sense proposals keep dying in the Senate, just go onto Google and type, “Senate Republicans block…” The results are astounding: equal pay, jobs for veterans, tax breaks, minimum wage increase, etc.

Sadly, today’s vote to block another logical proposal is simply par for the GOP’s course.

A side note: three GOP senators exercised some bipartisanship and voted in favor of the student loan proposal – Susan Collins (ME), Bob Corker (TN), and Lisa Murkowski (AK). They deserve some praise.

Time to drop the ‘pro-life’ label

The issue of abortion rights has long been a source of heated debates in this country, from kitchen tables to congressional hearings. Many devoutly religious Americans, most of whom vote for Republican candidates in any given election, will not budge on this issue. They proudly claim, “I’m pro-life,” as if it’s a badge they’ve earned fighting in some noble war. But this issue hardly has to do with life, especially since there isn’t much science to support the idea that life begins at conception.prolife11

Still, these people will plaster bumper stickers all over their cars as a way to show how much more compassionate they are than the rest of us, simply because they oppose a medical procedure that some women in dire circumstances opt to receive.

But in instances that involve the actual protection of life, the Republican party and it’s self-righteous, pro-life supporters are nowhere to be found.

If you mention the death penalty in a room full of these folks, you’ll hear applause. Okay, so killing people is morally acceptable if you’re using it as a punishment for killing people. It doesn’t seem to matter if we’re now using questionable methods to carry out these executions, as long as these terrible people are killed. Heck, it doesn’t even matter that a percentage of those put to death actually end up being innocent. Oh well, I suppose, that’s a price worth paying.

How about health care? Jesus was a pretty big fan of providing free health care and healing the sick, was he not? So, anyone who wears the pro-life badge would love the idea of implementing health reforms that expand access to health care for millions more Americans, regardless of pre-existing conditions and financial status, right?  Nope. President Obama signed it into law, so they’ll call it socialism, create a bunch of misinformation surrounding it, and do whatever they can to obstruct it. Opposition to the president trumps saving lives any day of the week.

Okay, but what about gun violence and mass shootings? Just today there was another shooting at a high school in Oregon, and that’s just one of at least 74 school shootings that have taken place since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. Any group that calls itself pro-life couldn’t possibly support expanded access to weapons that are increasingly being used to kill American children, could they? Think again. In states where pro-life governors or legislators are in charge, gun laws have actually been weakened since the shooting in Newtown. Protecting life sounds good, but the NRA lining the pockets of these lawmakers is just a little bit better.

Food stamps to help families have a healthy meal? Nope, they want to cut funding for that. A strategy to combat climate change for future generations? Nah, they don’t even believe that the change in our climate is taking place.

Overall, these folks have done a pretty terrible job living up to the pro-life label they’ve so proudly given themselves.

So, to my Republican friends: I am not asking you to change your views; I know that’s simply not possible. Instead, I’m kindly asking you to drop the disingenuous “pro-life” moniker. It’s a catchy slogan, sure, but there is simply no evidence to support the idea that you care about saving a single life.

Approve the Keystone XL Pipeline

Over the last two years there has been a lot of talk about the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which is a $5.4 billion project that would transport oil from Canada to the gulf coast. I’ve never professed my support or opposition to the project, but I did agree with the Obama administration’s decision to look into the consequences such a pipeline would have.

Two things about this debate are very clear:

  1. Republicans are vastly overhyping the impact that the construction of this pipeline would have on job creation and gas prices; it will result in few permanent jobs over the long term and won’t make a dent in the price we pay at the pump.
  2. Democrats are vastly overhyping the impact that the pipeline would have on the environment; it would not substantially increase carbon emissions or greenhouse gases.proposed-keystone-xl-pipeline

A report released by the State Department underscores each of these two points. The report not only found that a scant 35 permanent jobs would be created, but it also confirmed that carbon emissions would not dramatically increase either.

Regardless of the government’s ultimate decision regarding this pipeline, it’s clear that both sides are exaggerating the benefits or drawbacks of such a project – so I call it a wash on those points.

Ultimately, though, this oil is still going to be developed, with or without the government’s approval of the project. But I’d much rather see that energy transported through a pipeline that was built by American workers. Sure, the vast majority of those workers will be temporary, but I still consider temporary jobs better than no jobs at all.

If Keystone XL is constructed and maintained in a way that won’t harm the surrounding environment – which the State Department’s report says is possible – then I believe the Obama administration should approve it.

My letter to Congressman David Joyce (R-OH): Raise the minimum wage

Dear Congressman Joyce,

I am writing to implore you to be a leader within your party and vote in favor of legislation that would increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour.

David Joyce

Not only would this legislation lift nearly a million fellow Americans out of poverty, but it would, as a result, reduce the amount of government spending that goes toward welfare benefits, food stamps, etc. Isn’t that a staple in the Republican platform – reducing the amount of people who depend on welfare checks?

Not only would it positively impact minimum wage workers, but it would have a positive ripple effect on those workers who make slightly more than minimum wage, resulting in higher wages for them, too.

A letter signed by over 600 economists outlines the guaranteed benefits of such a wage increase and explains how there is no evidence to suggest that it will negatively impact employment.

I voted for you in 2012, along with President Obama, thinking that you were qualified for the job and would do what’s best for middle- and low-income Americans. Unfortunately, you seemed to have been swallowed by the far-right faction of your party that now controls the U.S. House of Representatives.

Please consider leading your party away from their hyper-partisan, obstructionist agenda and vote in favor of a minimum wage increase that nearly three out of every four Americans support.

Thank you,

Sean Colarossi

David Joyce represents Ohio’s 14th district in the U.S. House of Representatives. You can contact him here: http://joyce.house.gov/contact/

Thoughts on Ukraine/Russia/Putin/GOP

  1. I’m sick and tired of Republican politicians in the United States actually praising Vladimir Putin as some figure of strength, simply because he’s in opposition to President Obama. He’s a thug who broke international law, and he shouldn’t be trusted. It’s amazing how far the GOP will go in order to oppose or attack the president. 
  2. To Fox News: I get that your purpose as a propaganda machine is to blame every ill in the world on our allegedly Kenyan president, but stop making it so obvious. For some reason, your network and your mindless viewers like to blame things like terrorist attacks or preemptive Russian invasions on Barack Obama. Have you ever tried blaming terrorists or dictators for their wrongdoings?
  3. Why do you think Putin isn’t taking the United States seriously when we tell him to deescalate? Do the morons who twice-elected George W. Bush seriously wonder why Putin isn’t listening to the country who created the debacle in Iraq? It turns out that when you start a war based on false pretenses, it takes some time before countries take you seriously again.
  4. If we listened to some people in the GOP – see Arizona Sen. John McCain – the United States would be balls deep in military conflicts with Syria, Iran, Libya and Russia by now. Most Americans support a foreign policy of thinking first and shooting later – especially after the last decade. It is not weakness to resist military action and pursue diplomatic solutions.
  5. Do you guys remember when the fools who supported George W. Bush called it treasonous to question their commander-in-chief during times of foreign conflict (see video above)? Keep in mind: this is the guy who oversaw the most deadly terrorist attack in our country’s history, waged a preemptive war in Iraq that was based on concocted “intelligence,” and strained some of our most important international alliances. Now these people are wondering, after over a decade of questionable American military involvement, why a thug like Vladimir Putin isn’t taking the United States seriously?

Sigh.

Sorry, ‘Duck Dynasty’ fans, hateful words have consequences

I’m not sure why everybody is making this so complicated.

Phil Robertson, star of the show “Duck Dynasty,” was doing an interview with GQ magazine when he said this:

“It seems like, to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

He continued:

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.”

He also made sure to throw in a comment about how “blacks” were actually happy in the  pre-civil rights era.Duck Dynasty Season 3

Phil Robertson said all of these words out loud. Not only did he say these words out loud, but his apologists are up in arms that there will be negative repercussions for saying them.

First of all, we shouldn’t be too surprised that this is how Phil Robertson feels. In fact, I would venture to say that this is probably a common dinner-time discussion for the Robertson family – and many families throughout certain parts of the South. It’s sad, but true.

Unfortunately, this hate was spewed in a public forum, not at a dinner table.  And – I’m sorry, “Duck Dynasty” fans – words actually have consequences, especially when you are a popular public figure who represents a television network.

Pretty simple, right?

You say something hateful in a public forum. It makes your employer look bad. You are punished by said employer.

Can we move on?

Probably not. Because now people are trying to make this argument about freedom of speech. But guess what? You can’t just say the most vile things and hide behind the phony defense of “freedom of speech.”

Is the government punishing Phil Robertson for saying such offensive things about minorities? Is he being tried in a court of law? Nope. So, freedom of speech upheld.

Let me try to put this in perspective for all of you angry Phil Robertson supporters – and, of course, the people out there who never watched “Duck Dynasty” but came out of the woodwork to defend the straight, white guy.

Say that Jesse Tyler Ferguson, openly gay star of the hit TV show “Modern Family,” went on some hateful rant about heterosexuals or straight couples. The same morons who are inexplicably defending Phil Robertson would undeniably be calling for Ferguson’s head, and they’d probably cheer on ABC’s inevitable decision to punish him.

Unfortunately, to a certain segment of our population, it’s okay to exercise your freedom to hate one group of people and not another. If somebody says something disgusting about African Americans or homosexuals, it’s called freedom of speech. When a straight, white bible-thumper is criticized, cue the outrage.

Take your selective outrage somewhere else, folks. Hate is hate – and there will always be consequences for it.

Inaction considered a victory for the NRA, gun advocates

One of the most fascinating aspects of the gun debate is how defensive gun owners become when someone has the nerve to propose practical solutions to our country’s flawed gun laws. It’s especially true when talking with die-hard NRA members. Instead of having a serious discussion, they put forth nothing but pro-gun talking points fed to them by these organizations.Newtown shooting memorial

Unfortunately, a lot of people buy into the extreme rhetoric coming from groups like the National Rifle Association. What they don’t understand, however, is that they are only pawns in the NRA’s strategy to make more money – period. Ultimately, nothing can be done as long as this passionate fraction of our population continues to exist and continues to be afraid that “big brother” is coming for their firearms.

Here’s a quick rundown of how this works:

  1. The NRA scares people into believing that guns are always on the verge of being outlawed.
  2. People continue to buy more and more guns, in fear that they may soon be banned.
  3. Gun manufacturers continue to enjoy soaring profits as a result.
  4. The NRA reaps the benefits of these profits, because nearly all of their funding comes from these manufacturers.
  5. This money and influence is used to buy off leaders in Congress, which prevents any rational steps from being taken to address the serious issue of gun violence.

This is not speculation, and it’s not a partisan talking point. If you don’t see through it then you just aren’t paying attention.

The NRA doesn’t care how many people die from guns. They don’t care how many schools get shot up. They just don’t care. They simply care about taking in enough money to give them a stranglehold on our politicians.

In the meantime:

  • 100,000 people per year are shot in the United States
  • Approximately 8 children are killed by guns every single day
  • Nearly 3,000 children will die a gun-related death each year
  • 40 percent of gun purchases are done without a background check
  • Not one of the 60+ mass shootings in the past 30 years has been stopped by an armed bystander
  • The rate of gun deaths is higher in states with looser gun laws, particularly southern states

So, to my fellow gun enthusiasts: You can keep taking your marching orders from the NRA. You can keep listening to the guy with an AR-15 strapped to his back, who keeps spewing the nonsense that the solution is more guns, not less. You can even continue to stockpile your weapons to prepare yourself for the inevitable revolt against the government that you keep fantasizing about.

But you are simply a pawn that helps some rich guy make more money. You aren’t making the world any safer. You aren’t even making yourself any safer.

I won’t suggest here or anywhere that we should be banning guns. But only a fool with a greed-infested agenda believes that we should do nothing to better regulate firearms in this country.

It’s been a year since the tragic deaths of 20 school kids at Sandy Hook Elementary, and no concrete steps have been taken to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Twenty-six more school shootings since Newtown. Nearly 30,000 more gun-related deaths. Almost 20 more mass shootings.

For the NRA and gun advocates, this inaction is considered a victory. Sustaining the status quo is what they want. For the rest of us, though, the thought of inaction as the body count continues to rise is a tragedy in itself, a tragedy that will be sustained until we  all decide to say, “Enough.” 

It’s time for us to start thinking with our brains instead of our guns.