Tuesday, February 1, 2011

What A Difference A Few Decades Make

“The test of our progress is not whether we add to the abundance of those who have much. It is whether we provide enough to those who have little.” - Franklin D. Roosevelt

Sometimes I wonder what has happened to us as a nation. How have we allowed greed and selfishness to thrive and flourish so rampantly in our society? How can anyone take these so-called leaders seriously when on the one hand they continue to provide the corporate class and the wealthy with tax-cuts and on the other they tell the other classes that they are costing the country too much money? Can someone explain to me how the last time we faced similar economic conditions and the country was suffering so much pain that we created safety nets and today we are demolishing safety nets? How could we in the midst of a catastrophe find the resources and courage to provide for our countrymen but today we can provide for oil companies, wars, and corporate subsidies yet nothing for education, the unemployed or medical care?

I wonder what has fundamentally changed in our national psyche that we can now look at our fellow citizens suffering and have the ability to not only walk right by them but also curse them as we do so. The problem is not that we don’t have enough resources. It comes down to our priorities and what things do we value. Shortly there will be debates concerning our national priorities and what resources we are willing to allocate to them. There will be a lot of posturing and demagoguery concerning entitlements. Entitlements have become the new scapegoat for all that is wrong in America. Programs that have allowed seniors to live longer and more fulfilling lives will now be cut to shorten those lives. Obviously, it has been working too well and we have to cull the herd according to the wing-nuts. Death panels? Pulling the plug on grandma? How is this possible that even programs that have been successful are now being cast as failures? Sound familiar?

It is simple they have to cast these programs as failures so they can cut and eventually demolish them. The wing-nuts are realizing that the socialism tact is losing steam and so they have to develop a new strategy and with the help of the Democrats they will. If you continue to reduce revenues or shift revenues to corporate subsidies and war then of course the deficits are going to go up and spending cuts are going to seem like a necessary evil. The problem with this theory is that it flies in the face of reality and in the face of the majority of Americans who do not support these draconian cuts being proposed by the wing-nuts and the teabaggers. The majority of Americans do not support reducing the deficit on the backs of the poor and the elderly. The majority of Americans want to see the taxes of the wealthy increased not reduced and yet here we are. In America it is never about lack of, it is always about priorities.

We have gone from the poor and the elderly having problems to saying they are the problem. You see this is one of the things governments do, they support the weak and the old. So by saying that the government is the problem you are by extension saying these folks are the problem and to me that is a problem. The continued and strategic assault on unions, the middle-class, the elderly, and the poor is beginning to pay dividends, but for whom? If the majority of Americans support these items and yet the politicians are continuing to press their eradication then somewhere there is a disconnect. The will of the people is being circumvented by the interests of the moneyed few.

If our politicians aren’t willing to listen to us then we must “take our government back”, but not in the false sense of the teabaggers and their desire to return to 1776 when only white male property owners had rights. No, we must return to a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people”. Decades ago in the midst of a worse economic crisis our leaders used that opportunity to tell the American people the truth that many of our economic woes were due to the greed of unchecked capitalism and laid the foundation of many of the programs that ushered in the middle-class and dignity for our seniors. Wow, what a difference a few decades can make. Now our political leaders are telling us that the problem is no longer unchecked greed and capitalism it is the victims of unchecked greed and capitalism. Yeah, that’s it. This is akin to saying that prior to Nader’s crusade against unsafe cars that what caused the needless traffic fatalities wasn’t that automakers were designing and building unsafe cars, it was that drivers were buying and driving the unsafe cars.

When the “great debate” begins about cutting this and cutting that I hope we remember what made us a great nation. It wasn’t our huge military, it wasn’t our giveaways to corporate America, and it certainly wasn’t the unchecked greed of capitalism. What made us a great nation was our willingness to provide for the least of these and to provide an opportunity for all to succeed. These policies allowed a child from a family of 12 children living in a 2 bedroom house to attend college and grow up to be the Speaker of the House. It’s funny how these same folks who have benefited from these policies once they gain power want to pull up the ladder behind them. I will never understand the arrogance of these people.

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. - Dwight D. Eisenhower

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Citizens United By-Product?

We need to start making things again in this country, and we can do that by reducing the tax and regulatory burdens on job creators. America will have the highest corporate tax rate in the world. Think about that. Look no further to see why jobs are moving overseas.Michelle Bachmann Response

I cannot remember ever having three State of the Union speeches in one year. Normally the party in the White House gives the traditional State of the Union speech followed by the out of office party giving a response. Now thanks to our political system being awash in cash any crank can go on television and get their 15 minutes of fame. My question is who funded this little Bachmann escapade? Michelle Bachmann is supposed to be a money maker and according to reports she is a fund-raising machine, but where does this money come from? No one knows. I would venture to guess that it is the same AstroTurf funders who started the teabagger movement.

I have a hard time believing that it would be difficult to raise money with a platform of tax-cuts for the wealthy, removing regulations on businesses, and repealing health-care reform. I think there are a number of wealthy folks who would contribute to those causes, so the fact that she raises money should not be falsely correlated to her popularity. Cranks like Bachmann will always appeal to 15-20% of the population and while this sells a lot of gold and dog food it doesn’t translate well in national elections. Michelle Bachmann and her ilk are the pit-bulls of the right to make sure any compromise will be their compromise which is no compromise at all. Moving forward the new hostages won’t just be the unemployed, the poor, and the middle-class it will be the full faith and credit of the United States.

The new target will be the infamous entitlements. The line will be that you can’t be serious about deficits if you don’t cut entitlements. This of course will come from the same folks who want to make the Bush tax-cuts for the wealthy permanent. What I fail to understand is that we are having this one sided conversation about cutting the deficit without the other side of the equation which is to increase revenues. The way that Bill Clinton created a surplus was not by cutting Social Security and our safety net; he did it by raising revenues. And guess what the sky didn’t fall and the wealthy and the corporations did not move to Eastern Europe where the rates are much lower. The idea that you are going to cut your way out of this debt is ludicrous.

Is it just me or is it coincidental that following the Citizens United decision we are now being provided with every extremist view on full display. My concern is that we will be bombarded by these fanatical views not because those who espouse them are credible or even electable. The strategy will be to push the center further and further to their extreme view so that views that were once unthinkable are now being debated as mainstream. How many formerly extreme views are now a part of our political discussions? Anyone remember the 14th Amendment and how now it is open for public debate and re-litigation against Latinos? It wasn’t that long ago that this would have been considered an extreme remedy for the immigration crisis. Or how about referring to the unemployed and seniors as lazy and stopping benefits in the middle of an economic downturn like we haven’t seen since the Great Depression? Even the most ardent critics would not have proposed cutting off unemployment benefits in the midst of the "Great Recession".

The upcoming Presidential election is going to be full of cranks and fanatics and their goal will be to distract and confuse the electorate. They will be able to do so with the help of the Citizens United decision and the 501(c)4 organizations flush with cash that it spawned. These unnamed donors will be able to manipulate the issues and steer the debate away from the real issues and towards the dark hordes that are storming our borders or the socialist liberals who have the audacity to ask them to pay their fair share of taxes. Thanks to 24/7 cable news and the Supreme Court the airwaves will be flooded with the likes of Palin, Bachmann, and O’Donnell. The teabagger Barbie’s will be on full display and in rare form providing not only verbal, but visual distractions for the punditry.

We now have Supreme Court Justices hiding income from their spouses and conducting behind the scenes political talks for congressional audiences. My question is what job did Ms. Thomas perform to make $686,589 from the Heritage Foundation? Whether there is criminal intent or conflict of interest is not the issue. The issue is that under this Court more controversial decisions have been made and it doesn’t appear those decisions were based in Constitutional law, but instead on a political agenda. It is odd to me that the citizen’s of this country are overwhelmingly opposed to the Citizens United decision and yet our judiciary blatantly and apologetically displays their partisanship in a way that would have been unheard of just a few years ago.

It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first. - Ronald Reagan

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

He Doesn’t Feel Our Pain

After listening to the President’s State of the Union address I couldn’t help but to feel a sense of loss. I understand that this was a political speech in a lot of ways and will surely be the kick-off speech to his 2012 run for re-election, but with all of its platitudes and feel good rhetoric there was something missing. Could it have been that unemployment was not mentioned? Or that the poor and the middle-class were conspicuously absent? I don’t know about the state of your union, but in my union these issues are still alive and well. I have yet to hear this President connect to the pain that so many Americans are suffering from, especially black Americans.

One of the troubling aspects of the speech was how the President basically threw American manufacturing under the bus as a consequence of globalization. He stated that the American worker had to raise their game to compete for the future. That’s funny everything I read says that the American worker is one of the most productive workers in the world. Maybe instead of prodding the worker the President should have mentioned how the worker’s boss’ have outsourced all of their jobs overseas as China’s and India’s economies are the fastest growing in the world because they are making the things we used to make. The challenge should not have been that we have to give up manufacturing to these other nations but how American manufacturing can return and compete against these other nations.

This speech is named the state of the union for a reason; instead we got the state of globalization. The President should have been imploring this nation to support and rebuild our manufacturing base and buying our products. I don’t understand how promoting one’s own nation today is now considered un-American. I guess that’s because it is no longer what is good for America it is what is good for America’s multinationals. The truth be told as we found out during the gilded age is that what is good for Standard Oil is not always what’s good for America. I know there are those who will defend this President no matter what he says and does and I understand their fierce loyalty, but this is not about personality it should be about principles.

My fear is that in an attempt to appease the wing-nuts this administration is going to cave in some form on Social Security. We will either raise the retirement age or cut some benefits to show their seriousness in cutting the deficit. What is not being discussed is that Social Security was created by taxes that we all pay throughout our working lives for the benefits we receive. This isn’t some government give away where we take general tax dollars to support the weak, aged, and affirmed. There are less draconian ways to shore up Social Security but none of this is being mentioned or even part of the discussions. The problem with negotiating with folks who want to destroy what you are negotiating is that their aim is not to salvage it but to undermine it. I think Congressman Ryan made that point crystal clear last night.

This is a future in which we will transform our social safety net into a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency. - Paul Ryan's remarks

So on the one hand we have the President telling American workers they have to stop whining and on the other hand we have the wing-nuts telling the American workers that they are lazy and complacent. I don’t know about you but my answer to Republicanism is not Republican lite. Just once I would like this President to speak to the pain of those folks on Main Street as eloquently as he spoke to the folks in Tucson. He should give a voice to the voiceless instead of vocalizing the talking points of the opposition. I am not naïve to the process of negotiation and it is important to throw meat to the opposition to appear open to compromise, but what has been missing from this equation is the suffering of the poor and the middle-class and the enunciation of their concerns.

Last night the President spoke to Wall Street and the business communities letting them know loud and clear that this administration is open for business. The problem with this is that they aren’t the ones suffering. The Dow is approaching 12,000, the banks are sitting on boat loads of cash, and businesses are doing likewise. These folks need signals like the millionaires and billionaires need a tax-cut. The message the President should be sending is to Main Street that this administration is serious about creating equal opportunity and securing workers rights. The problem is not the American worker it is the greed of the American corporation.

“What does labor want? We want more schoolhouses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures,” - Samuel Gompers (1st President of AFL-CIO)

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Bankruptcy Is Not An Option

"Should taxpayers in Indiana who have paid their bills on time, who have done their job fiscally be bailing out Californians who haven't?" House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., asks. "No. That's a moral hazard that we are not interested in creating." - Fox News Blog

So the financial wiz-kid of the Republican Party believes that we are just a group of states that happen to share borders but have no inherent connection to one another? It is this type of rhetoric and mentality that fosters the divisions that keep us from moving forward as a nation. This simplistic view of the economy shared by the wing-nuts and tea-baggers makes it difficult to take any of their proposals seriously. We are not talking about some teenagers who have overspent their allowance and so the answer is to send them to their room with no dinner. We are talking about our fellow countrymen who just happen to live in another part of the country, our country. We are talking about our fellow countrymen who just happen to live in another part of the country, our country. We already know that being born in Hawaii makes you a foreigner, but this is ridiculous.

The fact that these clowns speak about morality just demonstrates their own immorality. Is it a moral hazard to watch our fellow countrymen suffering because the wealthy in this country decided they needed another transfer of wealth through market manipulation? What is a moral hazard is that we have seen the biggest financial theft of our economy in history and no one was prosecuted, no one was so much as even charged. Has our definition of morality been so corrupted that it is morally right to give billions to millionaires and billionaires, but immoral to give support to the elderly, the unemployed, and or the mentally ill?

As long as we continue to allow these snake oil salesman to advocate their bad medicine we will continue to focus on cutting out our safety nets so we can continue to provide tax breaks to the wealthy. I’m sorry I obviously missed the memo that stated paying taxes in a democracy is optional. It’s amazing how all of the tea-baggers want government services, but they don’t want to pay for them. The wing-nuts want wars, nuclear arsenals, and government bail-outs they just don’t want to pay for them. There is a reason why we pay taxes. There are certain things we have decided as a society that are important enough to share the costs. The problem arises when one segment of the population is paying more than their share.

One of the challenges we will face as a country is how do we make the tax code more progressive and more balanced in the face of this anti-tax and cut spending at all costs false meme being promoted by those who have demonized the very concepts that have made our country great. Shared sacrifice, social safety nets for the needy, and a common sense of fairness are concepts that make a nation strong. We can no longer continue to allow the corporate interests and the money changers to undermine and tear at the fabric that makes us a nation. This idea of undermining the middle-class and the poor is nothing new to America. From the Hooverites, to the greed of the 80’s, to the butter and war rhetoric of the last administration we have been under assault it seems with every generation. And every generation has had to reconfirm our commitment to what makes America great.

Unfortunately with the decline in liberalism and the ascension of conservatism with it’s everybody for themselves mentality the very underpinnings of our society are at risk. Programs such as Social Security, benefits for the unemployed, and funding for education are now bargaining chips, but what is not on the bargaining table are tax-cuts for the wealthy and military spending. What type of society is willing to defund the programs for the middle-class and poor to reduce the taxes of the wealthiest among them? I could understand if the tax burden for the wealthy and the corporations were oppressive but under our current tax system the secretary of a CEO will probably pay more in taxes than her boss. To argue that our current tax system is unfairly slanted towards the wealthy is an understatement. To present Mr. Ryan, as a voice of reason in the deficit conversation when he is saying that everyone is on their own is like saying that a secessionist was a voice of reason during the civil war.

We are a country; we are a diverse nation that still manages to share some common threads. We should not allow those common threads to be unraveled for the benefit of a small group who value profits over national interests or their own citizenry. It’s amazing to me how the media and the pundits criticized the Chinese when their president was visiting, but no one has found it necessary to criticize the very American business people who have handed the keys to the American economy over to the Chinese and the Indians. Mr. Ryan doesn’t want to bail-out the states but he doesn’t have any such misgivings about bailing out the folks who have put the states in dire straits.

“Corruption and hypocrisy ought not to be inevitable products of democracy, as they undoubtedly are today” - Mahatma Gandhi

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