The Political Middle is Gone -Which Means No Deals

Right of Liberalism and left of Conservatism is the place where the majority of American electorate resides. It is the place where calm reasoned logic supersedes screaming, reactionary tomfoolery. It is where the typical politicians go running to after they have “secured” their base; and where they go running from when there are no more campaigns to wage. However, it is where the future of American politics resides.


Looking for the political middle in Congress? It’s gone.

In 1982, there were 344 Members whose voting records fell somewhere between the most conservative voting Democrat and the most liberal voting Republican in the House. Thirty years later, there were 11. That means that in 1982 the centrists — or at least those who by voting record were somewhere near the middle of their respective parties — comprised 79 percent of the House. In 2012 they made up 2.5 percent of the House. So, yeah.

There are any number of reasons for this disappearance — partisan gerrymandering and closed primaries being the two most obvious — but the numbers are unbelievably stark, particularly when you consider that roughly 30 percent of the electorate consider themselves political independents. (According to exit polling, 29 percent of people named themselves independents in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.)

This explains why there will be no grand or even big bargain on debt and spending — or much of anything else — anytime soon. The political incentive to make deals simply does not exist in the House and, in fact, there is almost always a disincentive for members to work across the aisle.The deal-makers — as we have seen from the last month in the House — are largely gone. The two people who do seem capable of crafting deals — Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — come from a different time in politics. (Biden was elected to the Senate in 1972, McConnell in 1984.) The middle’s voice in the House is so soft as to be almost non-existent. And it’s hard to see that changing — at least in the near term.

All of which means one thing: No deal(s)

Raining on Your Parade

In short, it’s one thing to win an election in a non-presidential year, when minorities and young people stay home and older, whiter voters make up a disproportionate share of the electorate. It’s another thing to win when a Democratic presidential candidate is luring the party’s base back to the polls — especially when that candidate is Hillary Clinton, the most popular Democrat in America as of right now. 

Elections Have Consequences


In a democracy, there’s no such thing as an election without consequences. We are not satisfied with today’s Democratic Party; we wish it was more populist and more progressive. But it is absurd to argue that little will change if Republicans take the Senate. A lot will change—and it will be for the worse. A Republican Senate, working with a Republican House, will be a wrecking crew.

GOP control of the House and Senate could be catastrophic for the environment, for workers, for women and for minorities.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, has already promised the Koch brothers that “we’re not going to be debating all these gosh-darn proposals…like raising the minimum wage…extending unemployment…the student loan package.” And it won’t just be progressive proposals that are stymied. Consider the judges who will never make it to the bench, including the highest, if Chuck Grassley, not Pat Leahy, is in charge of the Judiciary Committee. Consider the destabilizing political circus Republicans will create if Darrell Issa’s hyperpartisan investigations into fake scandals spread from the House to the Senate.

GOP control of key Senate committees will reorder the debate. What happens, for example, if Senator Pat Toomey, former president of the right-wing Club for Growth, takes over Sherrod Brown’s subcommittee overseeing financial institutions and consumer protection? What happens to nuclear negotiations with Iran if McConnell, Lindsey Graham and John McCain are deciding when to bring up a sanctions bill?

But a GOP takeover is not a threat just because of what Republicans will do. Progressives should also worry about the many areas of potential agreement between Obama and a GOP-controlled Senate. It is Harry Reid, for example, not Republicans, who is denying the president fast-track authority on corporate trade deals. Without Reid in the way, pacts like the Trans-Pacific Partnership—which labor leaders describe as “NAFTA on steroids”—are likely to become the law of the land. Likewise, Obama and Republicans could agree to pursue lower corporate tax rates—as opposed to infrastructure investments and job creation—as their primary economic-development initiative. And let’s not forget that Obama has repeatedly floated Social Security cuts as a bargaining chip in negotiations with GOP leaders.

Perhaps the most worrying consequence of a GOP-controlled Senate will be the extension of the damaging austerity agenda. Think, for example, about the next debt-ceiling fight. Republicans have repeatedly used the debt ceiling to hold the economy hostage, but they have relented each time because they knew that they would be blamed for the consequences—not the president. But if Republicans take control of the Senate, that calculus will change. What happens when they send Obama a bill to prevent default on our debt at the eleventh hour, attached to a bill that ravages Social Security? The Republicans will be able to force the president to choose between impossible options.

They will also be able to advance the Keystone XL pipeline, ban abortions after twenty weeks, decimate an already-weak Dodd-Frank Act and shred the torn social safety net.


Remember to Vote.

Samuel Gompers and the Tea Party

          Samuel Gompers and the Tea Party

Remember Samuel Gompers from History Class? He was the founder of the AFL-CIO. He hated immigrants and was appalled at the flood of them into the United States. Gompers was convinced they were undermining the union member wages. He went on to write a pamphlet titled, Meat vs. Rice: American Manhood Against Coolieism: Which Shall Survive?” Samuel Gompers was quoted to say, “Caucasians are not going to let their standard of living be destroyed by Negroes, Chinamen, Japs or any others,”

What do the Tea Party and Samuel Gompers have in common? They both rose to prominence during economic inequality in our country and both squarely place the blame on immigrants.

In Gompers day there is evidence that shows mass immigration led to lower wages and spread the gap between the wealthy and middle class. But it wasn’t the immigrants fault as companies are to blame for exploiting them as a cheap labor force and the laws of the United States allowed them to do that. In fact, scapegoating immigrants makes inequality worse, because it creates an opportunity for corporations and politicians to drive a wedge between native-born workers and those from foreign lands, to the disadvantage of both.

It appears to be justified that immigrants deserve lower wages because they have fewer skills, education and lack a deep understanding of the English language. It is not surprising that immigration is a focus of the Tea Party’s populist resentment. Non-college-educated whites may always be skeptical of mass immigration — and of politicians who support it. Their opposition to immigration isn’t just about race. It’s about money, too.

If the Tea Party really wants to reduce the impact of immigration on American wages, they should lobby for laws that make life easier for immigrants, not laws that aim to drive them out of the country.


The opinions in this blog belong to Tom Knuppel

Is the American Medical Association a Terrorists Organization?

Is the American Medical Association a Terrorists Organization?

In June, the well-respected Journal of the American Medical Association published an article that proposed “Banning the Handshake From the Health Care Setting.”

The AMA had this to say:

The handshake represents a deeply established social custom. In recent years, however, there has been increasing recognition of the importance of hands as vectors for infection, leading to formal recommendations and policies regarding hand hygiene in hospitals and other health care facilities. Such programs have been limited by variable compliance and efficacy.In an attempt to avoid contracting or spreading infection, many individuals have made their own efforts to avoid shaking hands in various settings but, in doing so, may face social, political, and even financial risks.

“Fist bumping” — the gesture made popular by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama during the 2012 election campaign — transmits significantly fewer bacteria than a handshake or a high-five.

A West Virginia University study published in the The Journal of Hospital Infection found that significantly more bacteria are transmitted when people shake hands, as opposed to when they simply bump fists. This is due to the increased surface area exposure and length of skin-on-skin contact associated with the handshake.

“We surmise that the fist bump is an effective alternative to the handshake in the hospital setting,” wrote lead researcher Tom McClellan in the journal. “[Fist bumping] may lead to decreased transmission of bacteria and improved health and safety of patients and healthcare workers alike.”

Whoa, stop right there. The AMA is calling for fist bumping and it was made popular by President Obama? We might need to check into this. Let’s examine the history of fist bumping as written in Time magazine.

The origins of the bump are murky, though most communication experts agree on a basic — if fuzzy — evolutionary timeline: the handshake (which itself dates back to ancient times) begat the “gimme-five” palm slap that later evolved into the now universal “high-five” and, finally, the fist bump.

Some claim the act of knuckle-bumping began in the 1970s with NBA players like Baltimore Bullets guard Fred Carter. Others claim the fist bump’s national debut occurred off the court, citing the Wonder Twins, minor characters in the 1970s Hanna-Barbera superhero cartoon The Superfriends, who famously touched knuckles and cried “Wonder Twin powers, activate!’ before morphing into animals or ice sculptures. One might also credit germaphobics for the fist bump’s popularity. Deal or No Deal host Howie Mandel reportedly adopted the gesture as a friendly way to avoid his contestants’ germs.

But the President and his wife did a fist bump in front of America. On June 6, 2008, a Fox News personality asked if that was a terrorist jab.

During the June 6 edition of Fox News’ America’s Pulse, host E.D. Hill teased an upcoming discussion by saying, “A fist bump? A pound? A terrorist fist jab? The gesture everyone seems to interpret differently.” In the ensuing discussion with Janine Driver — whom Hill introduced as “a body language expert” — Hill referred to the “Michelle and Barack Obama fist bump or fist pound,” adding that “people call it all sorts of things.” Hill went on to ask Driver: “Let’s start with the Barack and Michelle Obama, because that’s what most people are writing about — the fist thump. Is that sort of a signal that young people get?”

The AMA wants you to fist bump. They say it is to control germs but can we trust them? Is there an underlying agenda here?


(no, there isn’t)


This blog was written in jest and the opinions in this blog belong to Tom Knuppel


Calling Boehner’s Presidential Lawsuit What it Really Is

Let’s Call John Boehner’s Presidential Lawsuit for What it Is?


There was a time, and not very long ago, the Republican Party was spouting about frivolous lawsuits but that in not happening today. In fact, they file them and brag about them. Hence, the lawsuit filed against the President of the United States.

John Boehner’s attempt to explain the most frivolous lawsuit ever, his plan to sue President Obama is possibly the most outrageous and frivolous of all. Considering that, by anyone’s account, this has been the most “do nothing” Congress ever. So now, having led the Congress to do nothing, the Speaker plans to sue the president for doing something — and to force taxpayers to pay for it.

There are two reasons that Boehner uses to defend his lawsuit. He had this to say, “In my view, the President has not faithfully executed the laws when it comes to a range of issues, including his health care law, energy regulations, foreign policy and education.” Did you catch the important words in that sentence? He said… “in my view.” Just because it is his view doesn’t make it true.

Secondly, He has not sighted one single example of the President failing to carry out the law. Maybe he didn’t realize that Obama was exercising his authority as commander in chief when he ended the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Maybe he didn’t know the Supreme Court upheld the regulations on carbon emissions.

The fact of the matter is he can’t cite any specific example of failure to execute that law. He just can’t. Now this is classic and he has accused the President of signing too many executive orders. That is poppycock. He has signed 182 of them. Bush sign 291 by this time in his presidency. FDR totaled 3522 executive orders. The only reason Obama’s signed even one executive order is because the Republican-controlled House refuses to do its job.

So let’s recognize it for what it is. It is a cheap political stunt to mask the embarrassing lack of action on many items by the House. Items like minimum wage, extending unemployment insurance, renewing the Highway Trust Fund and other issues of pressing nature in our country

Instead of suing the president for doing his job as president, we’d all be better off if John Boehner would just do his job as Speaker.

Politicians Playing Political Ping-Pong Places People in Peril

Politicians Playing Political Ping-Pong Places People in Peril

Congress will adjourn for a month-long recess so that the Congressional members can go home, meet their constituents and rest up for the next session. Man, oh man, they have to be exhausted from their work which was mainly playing political ping-pong.

How is political ping-pong played? It doesn’t matter who serves but it goes like this: The House sends a volley to the Senate and the Senate smacks it back to the House and the House spikes it to the Senate and it goes on and on. Is there a loser in this game? Yes there is. The American People are the losers as they get nothing done by their representative except lots of smack talking to other members and those in other branches of government.

Here are some other articles and books about Congress and political ping- pong:

MSNBC article from October of 2013

WatchPaul Website from May of 2014

Ping-Pong DiplomacyBook by Nicholas Griffin


It doesn’t matter if your work is done or not. Go ahead, keep the humanitarian border crisis burning longer. We don’t need to solve it til later.

From Houston News: (where border issues have an impact)

Congress is about to go on a month-long break without resolving how to tackle the humanitarian crisis on the Texas-Mexico border.

It appears Congress will adjourn for its August recess next week.

Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar of Laredo, whose congressional district is directly affected by the surge of undocumented children entering the U.S. illegally, said, “We cannot have failure as an option.”

Cuellar emphasized, “We can not do that. It would be very irresponsible for us to do that and we have to stay here until we get it done.”

But House Speaker John Boehner has said he is not optimistic Republicans and Democrats can agree on a solution before the August recess.

The White House says it would be “pretty extraordinary” for Congress to leave town for a month without addressing the issue.


Let’s NOT forget, this Congress has already shown us they are capable of some “pretty extraordinary” things.


The opinions in this blog belong to Tom Knuppel