Feinstein accuses Reeps of trying to take away ‘essential rights’

In an unusually fiery speech, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein accused Republicans of threatening to take away “essential rights” from workers, women and the middle class by undermining government under the guise of reducing the deficit.

The typically temperate six-term senator, speaking at a Democratic State Party convention luncheon Saturday, offered what amounted to be her first volley for the 2012 U.S. Senate campaign with a hard-hitting assault on Congressional Republicans.

She took a swipe at the Tea Party movement while she was at it — to the delight of more than a thousand party activists who attended the lunch.

“What I’ve seen in Washington — it’s the most difficult environment I’ve seen in American politics,” she said, “made harder still by the far right wing and the Tea Party who have entered into the arena of politics with an agenda to cut government so it cannot serve the people.”

The far right, she said has tried to “systematically disassemble the American dream” by seeking to roll back investments in infrastructure, health care reform and Medicare.

“They are more radical and hostile to working people and hostile to a Democratic president than the Gingrich Congress,” she said. “This is our fundamental challenge.”

It was the Bush presidency that brought economic upheaval to the nation by fighting two wars while providing tax cuts to the wealthy, Feinstein said.
“Americans have always fought wars with taxes — people pay to help,” she said. “The Bush administration put it all on the debt. That’s the debt President Obama and the U.S. Congress inherited.”

The continued economic stagnation, controversies over Obama’s health care reform, and the bank bailouts all led rise to the Tea Party movement and punishment at the polls for Obama in 2010. Republicans swept into office and took control of Congress, but Feinstein said she believes they have overreached whatever mandate they earned.

“They have no plans for jobs and an economic recovery,” she said. “They’ve come in with a radical ideological agenda to dismantle our social and economic safety net. Their solution is to shift the burden of debt reduction onto middle and low income families. And we have to stop them.”

One of the most blatant examples of using their new-found powers to pursue their ideological agenda rather than lift the country out of its economic doldrums, Feinstein said, was their attempt to halt funding for Planned Parenthood.

“This is an organization that literally saves women’s lives and they wanted to kill it,” she said. “As long as I’m in the Senate, that will never happen.”

She singled out U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, the chairman of the House budget committee hailed as the Republican guru on fiscal discipline, for doing the bidding for the wealthy. Ryan was the author of the U.S. House’s budget bill, which has been criticized for falling too heavily on the poor while maintaining tax cuts for the wealthy.

The Ryan budget, she said, essentially privatizes Medicare and turns it into a voucher program, increasing premiums and doubles the out of pocket costs for seniors. It slashes $127 billion in food stamps, includes large cuts on energy and infrastructure and defunds the Affordable Health Care Act.

“It shreds the social safety net at a time when the economy is still stressed,” she said. “Two thirds of Paul Ryan’s cuts would hit the low and middle income Americans very hard, and 72 percent of the cuts would go to fund tax cuts that would largely benefit the very rich. Ladies and gentlemen, it is wrong and it must be stopped.”

Steven Harmon

  • Common Tater

    The libs and their union buddies do not have a fundamental right to pick my pocket whenever it pleases them (and it pleases them far too often.

  • John W

    As one of the libs (I guess), I support collective bargaining. Unfortunately, when they invented the public sector version of it, they forgot to include a few things — like the bargaining part, and the “arms length” part, and the two-sided table part. More like collective collusion than collective bargaining.

  • Elwood

    Holy Mackerel, I agree with John W.!

  • Wendy Lack

    @John W:
    And don’t forget the CCT’s recent story on elected officials’ compensation. Elected officials in some jurisdictions are all loaded up with fat salaries and rich benefits, which adds to the appearance of a conflict of interest at the employee bargaining table.

    Is it a coincidence that the County Board of Sups is reluctant to make the necessary reforms of the County’s compensation system — to effectively take back promised benefits and work rules that were unaffordable from the get-go — when they receive the same comp package themselves?


    Q: Who represents taxpayers at the County bargaining table?

    A: Zero, zip, zilch, nada.

    We’re all big fat suckers for allowing this outrageous state of affairs to continue.

    Q: Why doesn’t the BOS reverse its decision (made just a few years ago, if memory serves) to grant themselves six-figure salaries and full benefits — effectively making them full-time County employees? It would be a nice, symbolic gesture that taxpayers — if not County employees — would surely appreciate.

    If Sups had less time to devote to their public duties, the County’s financial situation might actually improve — fewer “bright ideas” floating around in search of justification and funding. In any event, it’s unlikely that things would be worse!

    Just sayin’.

  • John W

    Re: #3

    Seems fishy to me.

  • John W

    Re: #4 Wendy Lack

    Totally agree.

    Bear with the following pension comparison. It takes a bit to explain it, so just skip if you don’t want to read it.

    Defenders of the status quo on pensions dismiss private sector comparisons as a “race to the bottom” mindset. So, I took a real life top-of-the-line defined benefit pension from a large company known for generous benefits and compared how much a retiree living to 80 would receive under that plan compared with somebody under a public sector plan. Long story short, the non-safety public sector plan used for comparison pays out 3-4 times as much.

    Public sector plan: $80k employee retires at 55 with 75% pension starting at $60k and guaranteed cost-of-living hikes. By 80, receives $1.5 million (in constant dollars due to COLA’s). Also gets health benefits.

    Private sector plan: A plan started in the early 1970’s (the glory days of defined benefit pensions, even though only about 40% of workers had such plans even then). The plan has not been watered down. $80k employee retires at 65 with a 46% pension (I’ll skip the formula details) of $36,800 based on 35 years service. Could take pension early, but it would be reduced due to fewer years of service credits and adjustment for more years of retirement. At 55, accrued pension would be reduced to 50% of the accrued full pension amount, or to 80% at 62. By 80, receives $552k with no COLA’s. Present value is less than $552 due to lack of COLA’s — probably more like $400k. Gets no health benefits.

    Just as the public sector invented a bastardized version of collective bargaining, they did the same with the concept of pensions. Retirement experts used to speak of a secure retirement plan being based on the three-legged stool of pension, social security and personal savings. The idea was that those three combined would replace 80-90% of pre-retirement income. The pension component was never intended to replace 90%, 75% or even 60% of pre-retirement pay, let alone start in full at 55 or 60 or get COLA’s.

  • This is an organization that literally saves women’s lives and they wanted to kill it.