New Women in Congress Set a New Path

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Being drowned out of the controversy about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s promotion of a 70% tax rate is the fact that in 1956 the tax rate went up to 90% at the highest bracket. 1956 was also the year President Dwight Eisenhower enacted the Federal Aid Highway aka the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act.  Originally authorized at $25 billion over ten years, it was the largest public works project ever done in the United States. Those high tax brackets paid for the highway system that is taken for granted today.

What AOC is proposing with her 70% tax for the highest incomes is an updated version of what payed for Eisenhower’s highways and substitutes the Green New Deal of converting the nation from fossil fuels to renewal energy to protect the climate, address the nation’s infrastructure and lessen income inequality. This young Hispanic woman makes good sense, which is why the conservatives can’t stand her and why they are so easily mocked.

Also in 1956, photos of the U.S. Congress would have in it only 18 women and three African-Americans. This 116th Congress of 2019 has 106 women, 54 African-Americans, 41 Hispanics, 15 Asian and Pacific Islanders, 4 Native Americans and 8 who identify as LGBTQ. There has never been a Congress like this and we are allowed to imagine that anything is possible.

And we must also be mindful that the makeup of the Congress, cheered by some, is proof to others of the takeover of the America they remember when white people were in charge of everything and others knew their place. And when Trump speaks of immigrants, drug runners and sex traffickers, he is also casting subtle shade on the new Congress which must be of concern to his base. This Congress is their fears made real.

It is also the fear of the traditional powerful interests that exerted themselves through financial and personal relationships. These interests have no say with these new congresspeople, they are just learning their names and learning how powerful the people’s voice can be once heard. And these new representatives are speaking “truth to power” in a straightforward way as Rep. Rashid Tlaib (D-Michigan) does with her “Justice for All Civil Rights Act,” that expands the powers of individuals against powerful, moneyed interests. She says the Civil Rights Act was watered-down, we need Medicare for all and the campaign finance laws need to be corrected. And then there is the problem of the tax breaks for the rich that have ballooned the deficit. Tlaib says movement on all of these fronts is possible because “it’s the will of the People.”   As the Congress starts “to look, talk and feel as the rest of the country,” she says she has “tremendous hope and inspiration that the disconnect we feel with the nation’s politics will be corrected.” Expect her to be attacked regularly by Fox News.

Rep. Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico) makes it clear that she is a woman ready for a fight and not backing down in her effort to do nothing less than re-center Congress on the need to get to solving problems (real problems) of the people and forcing them to look at reality. “The wall is a fantasy. Climate change is the crisis.”  And she dismisses the idea that Donald Trump feels the pain of others: “I know what it’s like to be on food stamps and the president does not.”

This is a Congress bringing a whole new ball game, get your popcorn and grab your seat.

Latest on Trump and the Russians

Collusion n. Definition: A secret agreement between two or more persons for a deceitful or fraudulent purpose.

Script writers must be in a swoon over the characters in this Russia-Trump saga. Now it appears that Paul Manafort, while campaign manager for Donald Trump, for which he took no pay, flew to Madrid to share the campaign’s internal polling data with a Russian agent.   This data would have told the Russians how best to target the messaging of their social media campaign to benefit Trump. And so, the net tightens.