Monday, February 28, 2005

Kerry: Support the Troops at Home

Our military needs a better ally at home
By John Kerry

Monday, February 28, 2005

I recently traveled to Iraq where I was proud to visit some of America's most remarkable young men and women.

I wish I was as proud about what is happening in Washington, where "supporting the troops" is often confused with simply supporting the administration's policies. Sometimes supporting the troops means challenging the policies that put them in harm's way or harm the families who pray for their safe return. It also means Congress has a special responsibility to our troops - both in the field and at home.

Our troops must have every tool they need to succeed. Every recent commitment of American military power, including the "air war" in Kosovo, has required sizeable ground forces, at the very least to provide post-conflict security. There's just no technological substitute for boots on the ground.

I introduced the Strengthening America's Armed Forces and Military Family Bill of Rights Act to permanently increase the size of the military by 30,000 to 40,000 in the Army and 10,000 in the Marine Corps to meet challenges of the new century.

Let me be clear: This is not a proposal to increase U.S. forces in Iraq. But our experience there is instructive. Our ground forces are stretched. The Army recently began calling back retirees ranging in age from their mid-40s to late 60s. The Guard and Reserve are stressed, too. The chief of the Army Reserve warns that his troops are "rapidly degenerating into a broken force" and at this rate couldn't meet future missions.

If we had begun expanding the military in 2003, when Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and many of us began calling for it, our military would not be as overstretched as it is today.

We need a Military Family Bill of Rights, a set of policies enshrined in law to meet the needs of military families.

Investing in military families isn't just compassionate - it's a smart investment in our national security. The Military Family Bill of Rights would:

Expand TRICARE to all Guard and Reserve members, whether mobilized or not. Members failing physicals impacts combat readiness, yet as many as one in five do not have health insurance.

Allow widows to stay in military housing for one year. For those with children, the current policy of 180 days can mean changing schools in the course of a year.

Establish a Military Family Relief Fund. Just as we let Americans donate a few dollars to finance presidential elections on their tax forms, they should be able to thank our troops.

Allow penalty-free withdrawals from Individual Retirement Accounts for deployment-related expenses, like increased child care.

Offer a tax credit to small businesses that make up the difference between Reserve and National Guard members' civilian and military pay.

Expand post-traumatic stress disorder programs and require more outreach. As many as one in six soldiers returning from Iraq show symptoms of PTSD, yet barely half of all VA medical centers have treatment facilities.

Increase the military death benefit. Last year I proposed increasing the benefit so that, combined with the Servicemembers Group Life Insurance, the families of those who die in military service would receive $500,000. No one can put a price on a life, but the current $12,000 is insulting. The president recently embraced a formula to reach $500,000 but limited it to deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. Congress should embrace the broader benefit for all troops, regardless of where they die, and act immediately to make it law.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Kerry: Don't Allow Drilling in ANWR

Since Republicans continue to fail passing an energy bill that would allow drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge now they're trying to sneak it in the Federal Budget.

In this exclusive essay, Senator JOHN KERRY vows to take the fight to the GOP leadership. (Read: The Gloves Are Off)

George Bush and his allies plan to make ANWR drilling a top priority this year, and I plan to be on the front lines of the battle. They fought us on this in 2001 and 2002, and we stopped them by forcing the debate to the floor of the Senate, where we filibustered, making it clear we'd rather shut down the Senate than surrender. This spring, the Republicans will use the federal budget to railroad drilling through Congress. We need to hold the line, and we need to demand that thoughtful Republicans never permit their conservative leadership to hijack bipartisan bills.

You can also TAKE ACTION: Email your Congress People to protect our natural heritage from drilling. (Thanks to the League of Conservation Voters)

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

GOP Hatchet Men Back At It: Going after AARP

The same group of political operatives who maliciously smeared John Kerry during the 2004 Presidential Election are now going after AARP because they disagree with President Bush's Social Security plan.

Ex-Marine Chris LaCivita, who wrote the incendiary Swift Boat commercials ripping Kerry's war record, is coordinating the anti-AARP media campaign.

Rick Reed, whose Virginia-based ad agency Stevens Reed Curcio & Potholm handled production on the Swifties' print and broadcast ads, will be standing over the editing console again.

Creative Response Concepts of Arlington, Va., the Swifties' public relations firm, is handling PR this time, too.

And lurking in the shadows nearby, ready to rush out any late-breaking anti-AARP books, is the hard-right print shop known as Regnery Publishing. These are the ruthless knife-twisters who published the hateful anti-Kerry screed, "Unfit for Command."

When will Americans wake up to their lies?

Read: Bash-the-AARP effort off to a smarmy start

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Kerry, Clinton Offer Bill to Revamp Election Laws

John Kerry and fellow congressional Democrats offered a bill on Thursday to address voting problems like those reported last November in the pivotal state of Ohio.

Among other things the Bill would call for a National Voting Holiday to encourage voter turnout.

Read More

Friday, February 11, 2005

Kerry Works to Build Opposition Party

In a letter to almost 3 million supporters Kerry praised the incoming DNC Chair Howard Dean and asked his supporters to give Dean the resources he needs to build the party. (Read: Stand with Howard Dean) As a show of support, Kerry also transferred 1 million dollars from his campaign fund to the DNC to help fund grass roots efforts.

The LA Times, in an article about the new united democratic party also highlights Kerry's intention to stand up and take on President Bush.

Kerry, the Massachusetts senator and the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, lashed Bush's record on healthcare in a speech one week after the president's second inauguration. Al Gore, the 2000 Democratic nominee, gave his first speech criticizing Bush more than one year after Bush's 2001 inauguration.

Kerry is assuming a day-to-day opposition role unprecedented for recent presidential losers. He has even conferred with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who initially led the Labor Party when it was a minority in Parliament, on how to build an opposition party.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Kay Warns U.S. Not to Repeat Iraq Mistakes in Iran

This is a valuable reminder from Kay. While Bush touts his Iraq success, the hard facts point to the limitations of his preemptive foreign policy: No weapons of mass destruction, an overextended military, thousands of dead and wounded Americans, hundreds of billions of dollars added to our nations deficit, and OBL is still making videotapes threatening Americans. Will we learn?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. official who declared the White House's hunt for illicit weapons in Iraq to be a failure driven by faulty intelligence has warned the Bush administration against repeating its mistakes in the current war of words with arch-foe Iran.

"There is an eerie similarity to the events preceding the Iraq war," David Kay, who led the search for banned weapons of mass destruction in postwar Iraq, said on Monday in an opinion piece in The Washington Post.

"Nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran would be a grave danger to the world. That is not what is in doubt," he wrote.

"What is in doubt is the ability (of) the U.S. government to honestly assess Iran's nuclear status and to craft a set of measures that will cope with that threat short of military action by the United States or Israel," Kay added.

President Bush justified the March 2003 invasion of Iraq by saying Saddam Hussein posed a threat because Baghdad had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and was reviving its nuclear weapons program.

No such weapons were found. Kay told the Senate Armed Services Committee a year ago that U.S. intelligence was "almost all wrong," and later urged reorganization of the U.S. intelligence services.

2 for 2: Bush Wrong on Social Security

In my second letter to the editor to be published in a major national magazine, I refined my reasons why President Bush's plan for privatizing Social Security Insurance is a bad, bad idea. (Read first letter.)

Keep in mind I was originally open minded about SS privatization, because I had been repeatedly told the system would be bankrupt, (which I took to mean I would get $.00 upon retirement) however it turns out that "bankrupt" really means I would receive 7o-80% of current promised benefits, if NOTHING is done to the existing system. AND since the benefits are indexed to wage increases, the payments would still be more than what today's retirees currently receive. Not exactly bankrupt.

Here's my letter published in US News and World Report:

At 33, I'm worried about the solvency of Social Security. However, it seems President Bush's current privatization plan of choice does little to actually offset his proposed cuts in benefits and adds trillions of dollars to our national debt, all while creating a windfall for the investment and financial community. In essence, his plan would cut benefits drastically for today's younger workers like me, while gutting the "Security" aspect and relying on the market to overcome large benefit reductions. Wouldn't it make more sense to modify Social Security benefits and gradually raise the retirement age in conjunction with more 401(k) and IRA perks and incentives? Additional changes might allow early withdrawal options for 401(k)'s/IRA s to offset any future increase in the minimum retirement age for Social Security. In this way, Social Security remains a viable option with limited market risk for retirees, yet people can take control of their own financial future through increased private investment.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

I Would Support John Kerry in 2008

This post is in response to a Pro Kerry Diary at the Daily Kos, which speculates on a Kerry run in 2008.

Here's why I hope Kerry will run in '08?

Bottom's personal.

In May of 2003 I began my political life volunteering for Kerry. I was a novice, but his lifetime of action inspired me to act. I saw in him the rebirth of John Kennedy's dreams and aspirations for America: the work that was started before I was born, and that I read about, but that for most of my 33 years has been on hiatus or completely off track.

The people I met and the stories we shared on the campaign trail are the reason I believe Kerry will give it another go. I believe he will be a better campaigner a second time around, and those of us who grew to know our own influence at his side will be stronger and wiser too.

Kerry inspires loyalty like no other. It's not that his friends and supporters don't see his faults, we do, but we see his potential and his unyielding belief in America. An America with faults, but endless possibilities.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Kerry Responds to State of the Union

Statement by John Kerry on State of the Union Address

Wednesday, February 2, 2005

“President Bush said tonight that the state of our union is strong and confident, but millions of Americans know it can and must be stronger. The best way we can instill real confidence in their future is if we follow the true mandate of the last election -- a mandate for unity and true bipartisanship. The political campaigns are over and now we must get down to work. For the 11 million children in this country without health care, we must make our union stronger. For our brave soldiers in Iraq and their families, we must act now in the wake of the Iraqi elections to give them reasons to be as confident about their future as they are courageous under fire.

“The best way to begin genuine bipartisanship to make America stronger is to work together on the real crises facing our country, not to manufacture an artificial crisis to serve a special interest agenda out of touch with the needs of Americans.

“Our country faces a real crisis in health care, a real challenge of record budget deficits, and every American deserves a real plan to improve retirement security -- not weaken it. The problems of health care can be solved if we stop giving tax cuts to those who have the most, and start making health care affordable for those working harder and harder for too little. I was disappointed the President did not spend more time addressing this problem that keeps millions of Americans up at night worrying about their children's future.

“The problems facing Social Security 50 years down the road can be fixed tomorrow if Washington ends the borrow-and-spend policies that are running up a record debt and dumping it on the backs of our children. The challenge of retirement security can be solved if we sit down in the true spirit of bipartisanship and make it possible for young people to save and invest while still guaranteeing that Social Security remains insurance against poverty and disability that can never be wiped away. “Watching Iraqis go to the polls for the first time was an inspiring beginning this week, but we can't stop there. It wouldn't have been possible without the bravery of American troops. I am glad the White House will at long last act to provide a $250,000 benefit for the families of troops who've made the ultimate sacrifice. We must do more for those who give of themselves for God and country. But the greatest tribute to the memory of the fallen is an exit strategy called success. Elections were an important milestone, but to go the distance the President must now bring other countries to the side of the Iraqis to rapidly train a security force capable of providing stability. Even more critical is bringing Iraqis together and making clear to millions of Sunnis who stayed home that they have a stake in a secure nation. “We must succeed in Iraq, but we must also wage and win a more effective War on Terror. We must never take our eye off the ball in the greater struggle against extremism. I was disappointed that the President didn't mention Osama bin Laden's name once tonight. Wherever that terrorist who has murdered Americans is hiding tonight, he should know America will never rest until we've destroyed him and his terrorist network.

“The state of our union -- our faith, our families, our values -- is strong, but we must challenge ourselves and challenge Washington to make the country we love as strong as the freedom that makes it special.”