John Conyers Owes the President an Apology

obama conyersThis morning we heard that Congressman John Conyers - whom I have a lot of respect for and who has done wonderful things on behalf of the American people - let loose on President Obama at an event held by the House Out of Poverty Caucus. He is calling for White House protests because he claims that the President put Social Security "cuts" on the table in the debt limit talks, not the Republicans. In fact, Conyers went on to pretty much absolve the Republicans of their responsibilities. He has had it with the President. Well, Congressman, some of us out here have had it with you and your pals talking out of whack.

First of all, let's be clear what we are talking about. It is a dastardly lie that "Social Security cuts" were proposed or even accepted by President Obama. I have covered the issue of the Social Security reform and the COLA calculation adjustment before, and suffice it to say that there are no cuts to the basic social security benefit being proposed by President Obama or anyone else. None. That is a fact.

The antics of Congressman Conyers trying to "educate" this President at an Out of Poverty Caucus event
is as rich as it is shameful. Before trying to school President Obama on poverty and jobs, maybe Congressman Conyers needs to be reminded of some things:

  • President Obama's health reform is the greatest anti-poverty program in a generation. It will help millions poor Americans gain health coverage through Medicaid, and subsidize the private health plans of millions in the middle class. It also invests $11 billion in community health centers, where Americans of limited means (or really, anyone) can go to get primary and preventive care regardless of ability to pay. Conyers should know about this - after all this is a law featured on his Congressional website.
  • President Obama singlehandedly saved the auto industry in Detroit, Michigan, in the face of ridicule and the stiffest opposition faced by any President in recent memory, saving at least a million jobs. And now Detroit's big three are surging. One would think Detroit's Congressman would be mindful of these little factoids.
  • President Obama signed into law Wall Street reform that created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is there now to help millions of Americans - disproportionately poor - who fall pray to the financial industry's loan-shark practices.
  • This President's Recovery Act spent $8.7 billion in Michigan in more than 8,000 awards for project contracts, loans, and grants, and that's not even counting unemployment extensions and other entitlement payments.
  • This President extended unemployment benefits to last for 99 weeks, and he extended COBRA coverage, at federal expense for people who lost their jobs.
  • This President gave every working person - especially the working poor - a 2-percentage point payroll tax cut for 2011, and now he is trying to expand it to next year. Has John Conyers forgotten that almost the entire tax burden for the working poor is the payroll tax, and that Barack Obama is the only person in Washington that seems to be fighting to this reduction?
This is the man you think is the problem, Mr. Conyers? Shame on you.

And as long as we are on the subject of the poor and Social Security, is Congressman Conyers simply unaware that the President's plan - the much derided Fiscal Commission's plan - would set a floor on Social Security benefits at 125% of federal poverty - literally lifting people who have worked all their lives in low-wage jobs out of poverty? Does John Conyers simply not care that the same plan would define full Social Security benefits at age 62 for those who cannot work beyond that because of the nature of their trade? Is John Conyers completely oblivious to the fact that the much dreaded Fiscal Commission plan would raise the basic social security benefit for those whose average lifetime income is $15,000 or less, and, for example, for someone with an average lifetime income of $15,000 (in 2010 dollars) raise the basic Social Security benefit by $3,500? Is he so caught up in the soundbites that he has entirely missed these details?

Oh, by the way, Congressman Conyers, do you remember your vote in 1993 to raise taxes on Social Security income (more details from the Social Security Administration)? But I suppose that is not a cut in benefits. No, not at all. I don't want to call you a hypocrite, Congressman; I have too much respect for you for that. But what you just did by going after the President is rank hypocrisy.

And here is Congressman John Conyers, practically calling the President a traitor to the poor while placating the Republicans. How dare he? We have an entire political party dedicated to bringing the economy to the brink of disaster and a significant faction of it clamoring for disaster and John Conyers goes after the President who is taking all their hits and trying to protect the poor, the middle class, students and people raising kids?

Congressman Conyers is wrong, he should be ashamed of himself, and quite frankly, he owes the President an apology for demeaning him and ignoring his tremendous work as President on behalf the poor and the middle class. He owes every working American and every American in poverty an apology for confusing them, and he owes every person on Social Security an apology for scaring them.

And another thing: how does John Conyers know that the President put it on the table? So far as I can tell, the people in the negotiations were: President Obama, Vice President Biden, Speaker Boehner, House Leaders Pelosi and Cantor and Senate Leaders Reid and McConnell. Did I miss something here, or does John Conyers just seem to be making crap up? In any case, I have emails out to the staff of the Out of Poverty Caucus and to Leader Pelosi's office asking for their reactions, and if and when I hear from them, I will let you know.

... On a related note, it seems like there are a few primary challenges brewing against John Conyers in his district (or rather, what would be the new MI-14th district after redistricting). Good, maybe we need to remind Congressman Conyers there are people watching him, too.

Contact Conyers:

If you are as outraged about this as I am, please contact Rep. Conyers and let him know. You can't send him an email through his Congressional website if you are not his constituent, but you can send him one through his campaign website. Here is all the contact info:

Email form:

DC Office:
2426 Rayburn H.O.B., Washington, DC 20515
202-225-5126, 202-225-0072 (Fax)

Trenton Office:
2615 W. Jefferson, Trenton, MI 48183
734-675-4084, 734-675-4218 (Fax)

Detroit Office:
669 Federal Bldg. 231 W. Lafayette, Detroit, MI 48226
313-961-5670, 313-226-2085 (Fax)

Like what you read? Chip in, keep us going.

Big Effing Deal: Health Reform Leads to Historic Low in National Health Expenditure Growth

PBO Saving Consumers Money, Reducing Our Dependence On Oil, And Protecting The Environment