The Kochs Mess With Texas, Our Minds and Our Future

April 16, 2011

Sometimes when you turn over a rock all sorts of creepy things crawl out. Think Progress, a project of the Center for American Progress, has produced a report on the political dealings of the brothers Charles and David Koch, and the Center for Public Integrity has reported on the Koch lobbyists in Washington.  What crawled out when they turned over these stones is truly disturbing. These reports can be found at:

For decades, these legacy-billionaire brothers have moved their radical right, libertarian agenda to make them and their partners more loot.  The agenda is anti-government, anti-tax, anti-regulation, anti-environment, anti-education, anti-science, anti-human and essentially anti-American. The only thing it’s “pro” is corporate domination.  From their libertarian roots, Koch organizations took over, funded and molded the tea party.  And, though in years passed the Republican Party rejected this ideology as too extreme, now the GOP has embraced it.

A few things about this agenda must be said.

First, if any suffer under the misperception that this corporatist agenda aims to help people or make this a better world, just “fuggedaboudit.”  Most of us matter only as paying customers, not beneficiaries, of this agenda.  And there are no plans for a time when we’ve been bled dry and can’t pay anymore.  There are no plans regarding which planet earthlings can escape to when our resources are exhausted.

It doesn’t have to be that way.  There are a number of very large corporations who make dandy profits while helping people and protecting the planet.  They act on the basis of enlightened self-interest that has long been a fundamental American value.  The economist Joseph Stiglitz explains, “It means appreciating that paying attention to everyone else’s self-interest—in other words, the common welfare—is in fact a precondition for one’s own ultimate well-being …. Those canny Americans understood a basic fact:  looking out for the other guy isn’t just good for the soul—it’s good for business.”  The enlightened understand that we’re all in this together; not so the Koch brothers and their band of corporatistas.

Second, the public policies in the Koch agenda don’t even work, never have, never will anywhere on the earth.  They don’t result in better government and healthier societies made up of happier people.  They don’t even, in the long run, lead to prosperous businesses.  They lead to societies divided into “them up there” and the rest of us pecking it out down here.  They lead to economic bubbles that inevitably burst and slime everyone, like our recent housing and financial collapses.  And they lead to ruin of the environment upon which the future depends.  Theirs is the path of disaster crony capitalism.

And third, the reason the Koch/corporatist agenda doesn’t work is that it is “a house built on sand.” The underlying information upon which it rests is a collection of fantasies, distortions, lies and unscientific notions.  Small wonder that part of the agenda is anti-public education and that it created “think tanks” to give the appearance of a credible information base.  Heaven forbid that the truth be told!

It is on the misinformation campaign where the Koch brothers started their work that continues today.  Their father Fred was a founding member of the ultra-right John Birch Society in the 1950s.  In 1977, Charles Koch co-founded the libertarian Cato Institute and in 1980 David Koch was the Libertarian Party’s vice presidential candidate.  In 1984 David Koch created Citizens for a Sound Economy which in 2004 split into FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity Foundation.  (There’s no doubt whose prosperity they are for, their own.)

The reports say they have given at least $85.9 million (that we know of) to 85 right-wing think tanks and advocacy groups over the last decade and a half. Some organizations that receive Koch support are: Heritage Foundation, Reason Foundation, Federalist Society, American Enterprise Institute & Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies, Texas Public Policy Foundation, and the American Legislative Exchange Council.

They’d like you to think these nice-sounding organizations are about genuine public policy.  For example, they’d like you to believe economic measures are analyzed objectively to derive economic policy recommendations.  Actually, just the reverse is true.  Like the lead-in to the Iraq war, “the intelligence is being fixed around the policy.” For example, though these organizations call for “free market solutions” they can’t point to a single instance of genuinely free markets even existing much less working well.  And, they favor corporate tax breaks and subsidies that benefit the oil, chemical and agriculture industries. So much for “free market.”

Here’s another:  They claim regulation of polluting industries kills jobs when actually the opposite is true.  Still another:  They attack the science of global climate change when we can clearly see the ongoing change all around us.  And another: They claim public sector employees earn 69% more than private sector employees, but they are comparing well-educated government scientists to private sector burger-flippers, not employees in comparable jobs.

Notice the American Legislative Exchange Council listed above.  ALEC is an organization for elected Republican officials.  It cranks out legislative wording for adoption by primarily state governments.  This is why in “red” state after state (Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Kansas, Maine, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina), we are seeing the exact same legislation put forth. The organization stands for limited federal government, greater power to the states and, there you go again, “free markets.”  A list of companies on the Enterprise Board of ALEC reveals the corporations that have signed on to the Koch agenda.  These include Energy Futures Holdings, Johnson & Johnson, PhRMA, American Bail Coalition, Kraft Foods, GlaxoSmithKline, Coca-Cola, AT&T, Pfizer, Peabody Energy, Intuit, Inc., ExxonMobil, Bayer, Reynolds American, WalMart, State Farm Insurance and UPS.

These corporations want a weakened federal government because the federal government is the only entity that can stand up to them, if it will.  It’s the only entity that can regulate them to protect workers, consumers and the environment.  Want to know why gas prices are so high right now? It’s not supply disruption; it’s commodity futures trading in oil by a branch of Koch Industries and other speculators.  They want to continue doing that to us without restraint.

Whew!  I’ve run out of space, but there’s more to this tale yet to tell.

Our Congressman Misrepresents the Facts and Misrepresents Us

March 24, 2011

It would be paying him a compliment to say that Republican Representative Francisco Canseco didn’t personally write the February column “Job report not clear indicator of reality,” though he put his name to it.  It consisted entirely of talking points and misinformation Koch Industries/tea party propaganda thunk tanks are pushing in similar columns and letters to the editor.

Wouldn’t we prefer to hear from our Congressman what he is doing for us, how he is representing us?  Shouldn’t he be informing us of happenings in our district?  Instead, we got another false partisan attack on the Administration.

The article claimed Democratic efforts to recover from the Great Recession are not working.  But this month’s job report is an even better indicator than last month’s report that those efforts ARE working.  We added 192,000 more jobs and the unemployment rate dropped to 8.9%.  This must be very disturbing to Republicans who wanted to keep doing all the things that caused the recession in the first place – tax cuts for the rich, cuts in government services, outsourcing, deregulation and privatization.

The article called the policies of the last two years “intrusive and burdensome” without a shred of evidence that they’ve been either one.  It continues, “Washington’s answer to our economic woes has been to spend more of your tax dollars and grow government.” Government has not grown significantly; no evidence was presented that it had.

Then there’s a real whopper: “This approach has halted job creation, leading to 2.45 million lost jobs….”  The 2.45 million jobs were lost BEFORE any of the recovery programs could be implemented, and Republican policies have lost us 8 million jobs since 2007!  Now we’re back to gaining jobs due to stimulus spending the article falsely claims has failed.

Hello folks!, government spending is the ONLY way to recover from a recession this deep.  Some spending is even automatic.  And, you betcha, we want OUR tax dollars spent; we want them spent to improve OUR wellbeing!  We want our taxes to come back to us, to the citizens and small businesses that paid them!

Consumer and business spending is about 70% of our economy.  If it drops off severely, either because jobs were lost or incomes have dropped, a downward spiral develops that feeds on itself.  Businesses are selling less and earning less, they cut business spending and layoff employees who, in turn, cut further back on spending.  Businesses also reduce investment because they don’t see future demand for their products.  This is recession and the only way to recover is for the government to boost spending to build back lost jobs and public infrastructure.

The claim is made that if government just gets out of the way and cuts their taxes private entrepreneurs will create jobs.  How’s that been working for us for the last decade or two?  Not so well, because entrepreneurs will not create jobs unless there is demand for their products and they won’t invest in their businesses unless they have incentives to do so.  They are NOT the job creators; demand is.

Government spending needs to be up, not down, until recovery is complete and employment rebounds, even if that spending adds to our debt.  As the economy recovers, more workers become taxpayers who pay down debt.  So our present problem is economic recovery and jobs, not the debt, which is a long-term problem.

This information is lost on Republicans.  Or maybe it isn’t lost on them and they purposely want to kill recovery by cutting government spending.  Do they actually believe that if they do that and harm our entire country, the voters will reward them by booting the Democrats out of office?

Their budget cuts are not just bad economics; they are morally indefensible.  Budgets are moral documents.  They express who in our society receives the benefits of our society.  Republicans already got their temporary tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires in exchange for Democrats getting recovery spending for Main Street America.  Not content with that, elected state and national Republicans are attempting to slash and burn government spending, most particularly spending which helps those in greatest need.

As Speaker Boehner said, if jobs were lost, “So be it.”  Really, Mr. Boehner?  “So be it” to 700,000 jobs the Republican-proposed budget cuts? “So be it” for the teaching and public service jobs Republican-run states like Texas are cutting? No! Their moral compass is spinning backward!  Those aren’t just jobs, they’re HUMAN BEINGS working at jobs, teaching our kids, building our future!

They say over and over that we’re broke, but we’re not.  TRILLIONS of dollars sit in the hands of billionaires, millionaires, corporations and banks.  Republicans have given them still more and are trying to make middle America pay for it.  There is a term for this extremism:  Disaster capitalism.  It has been used elsewhere in the world to take nations to their knees and turn them over to corporate control.  Read The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein.

Speaking of shock, I was shocked, I say, shocked and awed to hear our banker Congressman calling the financial reform legislation “over burdensome.”  What passed in financial reform won’t faze Wall Street and the banksters much less burden the rest of us.  It really was quite mild after Republicans watered it down and it didn’t address systemic problems with the financial system like the “too-big-to-fail” banks and toxic investments.

The rest of the article was stock blather – “free market” – “private sector solutions” – “government out of the way” – “out-of control spending” – “lower national debt” – “ simplify the tax code” – “end burdensome Washington policies that stifle job-creation”  – etc.  Representative Canseco should save that nonsense for fundraising like that which got him in the news before he was even sworn in (read “Incoming GOP freshmen rapidly embracing big-money fundraisers,” Washington Post, December 6, 2010).

No matter how many times these corporatist talking points are repeated it won’t make them true.  And the disaster capitalism Republicans are pushing on us has not only failed the USA, there is not a country on the face of the planet where it HAS worked.

(Note: I see in a more recent paper another deceptive column on cutting government spending from Rep. Canseco.  More on that nonsense later.)

Oh, The Horror! Of the Financial Crisis

February 8, 2011

I’ve been reading material that is surely no snooze: The report of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, a horror story made worse by being true life.  Here’s the effect of the financial collapse of 2008 that led to our current “Great Recession:”

“As this report goes to print, there are more than 26 million Americans who are out of work, cannot find full-time work, or have given up looking for work.  About 4 million families have lost their homes to foreclosure and another four and a half million have slipped into the foreclosure process or are seriously behind on their mortgage payments.  Nearly $11 trillion in household wealth has vanished, with retirement accounts and life savings swept away.

…The collateral damage of this crisis has been real people and real communities.”

The commission’s charge was to determine how and why this collapse occurred, or “…how did it come to pass that in 2008 our nation was forced to choose between two stark and painful alternatives – either risk total collapse of our financial system and economy or inject trillions of taxpayer dollars into the financial system and an array of companies [TARP bailout], as millions of Americans still lost their jobs, their savings, and their homes?”

I recommend reading their report at  I’ll not repeat all the conclusions here but, in sum, they found that the crisis was avoidable, was caused by the mortgage financing industry, investment banks and Wall Street, and was enabled by a regulatory system they politically and ideologically controlled. “… there was a systemic breakdown in accountability and ethics”   similar to the lead-in to the Great Depression.

Yet we don’t hear much about this report from corporate-controlled media, do we.  What we do hear is conservatives and libertarians pushing the same stale economic policies that caused this crisis.  They have no solutions, only misinformation and attacks on the Democrats who DO have proven solutions that are working.

Somebody forgot the lessons in the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life” in which community banker George Bailey discovered his positive impact upon his community.  Let’s hear it for the community banks!  Most of them operate under the regulations enacted after the Great Depression. While making a reasonable profit, most of them handle our checking and savings accounts properly.  Most handle our loans properly because they OWN our loans; if we default it hurts them too.  So they don’t engage in predatory lending to unqualified borrowers.  They don’t sell our loans to others.  They don’t speculate on Wall Street using invented securities.  They’re lending banks, not investment banks, and vital to our economy.  Yet, when they do fail they are quickly restructured and put back on a steady course by the government.

It was the titans of our financial industry – mortgage brokers, credit rating firms, investment banks, holding companies and Wall Street – who engaged in “regulatory capture,” whereby an industry takes political control of the regulatory agencies and corrupts the standards that protect consumers and the country.  These financial titans did everything they were NOT supposed to do using a shadow banking system and artificial securities based on toxic mortgages that violated all reasonable safeguards.

To make matters worse they sold toxic investments around the world and, far worse, they lured elements of our safety net, retirement plans, to participate in the scheme with disastrous results. While most of us learned in kindergarten that rules help us live better lives, these people followed the myth that capitalism can operate properly without regulation.  This myth persists today in conservative and libertarian calls for deregulation. With financial reform we made a few steps to rein in some but not all misbehavior; we got back much of the TARP bailout money but now the stock market is in another bubble.  And conservatives want to go back to square one.

Few of the perpetrators have been prosecuted, but more may be.  Note that few of the truly malfeasant were homeowners who defaulted on loans.  And NONE were workers who lost their jobs.  Yet conservatives would have us believe homeowners caused this crisis and that the unemployed purposely destroyed their own jobs so they could “bask in the glory” of temporary unemployment insurance at a fraction of their earnings.

We haven’t slipped into another Great Depression.  For that we have our safety net of social programs to thank.  At the onset of the Great Depression we had no Social Security, no Medicare and Medicaid, few employee retirement plans, and no unemployment insurance. Wisely we put those in place to build the middle class in America and even out the ups and downs of the economy.

We now also averted a depression by government spending to stimulate demand while meeting known needs such as infrastructure.  The loans – they were NOT bailouts – to the auto industry were elements of that successful stimulus.  Yes, these increase the debt some, but, here’s another truth:  Growing back the economy is the BEST way to pay down that debt.

Yet, hawking the myth that our debt is the major challenge we now face, conservatives demand that the safety net and stimulative spending be cut. Until we get the economy going and employment up, stimulative spending should not be cut and the safety net should be enhanced not reduced.

The truth is that most of our debt, over half of which is owed to our fellow Americans by the way, came first from the Bush tax cuts followed by two unpaid wars and a prescription drug benefit giveaway to drug makers.  The next part of the debt came from spending to save the economy.  None of that was caused by President Obama or the Democrats.

It’s a blatant lie that Social Security is bankrupt. It’s not even in trouble, has a $2+ trillion trust fund separate from the general fund, not part of the budget deficit.  It has been the most successful program of its kind in history, never defaulted on benefits and is secure as is until 2037.  The fund is invested in US Treasury notes, not Wall Street.  Can you imagine what damage would have occurred had Social Security been privatized as conservatives want and its funds invested in this toxic soup of mortgage-backed securities?

All this conservative denial and misinformation begs the question:  Are conservatives so intent on winning the next election that they would try to prevent our recovery from an economic crisis THEY created?  Or have they too been “captured” by the financial industry to do its bidding?  Bottom line:  The financial industry should serve the people, not the other way around.

Lend An Earmark To More Lies

January 10, 2011

“I don’t want to be a rich man in a poor country.”

– A German millionaire, upon being asked why he didn’t mind paying taxes

Tea party Republicans are calling for government spending cuts and banning earmarks from legislation.  This resulted in a ridiculous charade starring the usual suspects, including Texas’ own Senator John Cornyn.

While newly-elected tea partiers can attribute ignorance to “newbieness,” Cornyn cynically played along when he knows better.  He knows an earmark is simply a Representative or Senator’s designation of funding for a specific project within their jurisdiction. For example, in infrastructure bills they can designate an amount for building a certain project.

Some call it “pork” but others see it as “bringing home the bacon” to the people who elected them. Earmarks create jobs and economic prosperity in the home district in addition to addressing the targeted purpose.

Earmarks are not a significant portion of spending, amounting to less than 2-3%.  Furthermore, axing an earmark doesn’t necessarily mean the spending doesn’t happen. If you simply ban earmarks, who decides where the money gets spent? The Executive Branch, AKA the President. So, those who would lop off earmarks simply give up their legislative power.  Given Republican expressed irrational hatred of this administration, does doing that make sense?

The problems with earmarks are that it’s corruption for a legislator to secretly designate funds benefiting contributors or cronies and it is wasteful if they designate funds for useless projects. Sunshine disclosure of who requested each earmark is the simple cure.  Openness has already been implemented and the number of earmarks reduced significantly.  So this call to “ban ‘em” is a game of smoke and mirrors to make you think they’re really cutting spending when they are not.

This brings us to the ridiculous charade of Republican obstruction to the federal $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund FY 2011.  In December, Senate Republicans used their favorite blunt instrument to block passage of the bill in the Senate. Why? They said, “Too many earmarks.”  Who says? John Cornyn.

He sent a fundraising letter blasting Democrats for 6,600 earmarks in the bill totaling $8 billion (less than 1% of the total).  Where did those earmarks come from? A bunch came from Republicans, including $16 million from Cornyn himself!  And he’s been a top earmarker, inserting dozens totaling $228 million last year.

Surprise, surprise! A Fox News interviewer, Bill Hemmer, actually called Cornyn on his hypocrisy.  Whereupon Cornyn said he was not going to defend his earmarks – “I support those projects but I don’t support the bill.”  All this occurred after the bill had gone through many hearings and had been pared down to a total Republicans said they’d support.  Then, of course, they didn’t.

Without giving specifics, the obstructers claimed the bill didn’t fulfill the demands of the 2010 voters to cut spending.  That’s claiming a mandate they do not have. Even all Republican voters, who were only slightly over half the voters, didn’t demand a meat cleaver be taken to their government. The majority of voters, indeed most nonvoters as well, are demanding jobs and a recovery from the recession.  And simply put, we cannot do that by cutting government spending now.

So what’s going on here is entirely something else. Republicans are openly yearning for a government shutdown like they forced in 1995-96.  After trying to block everything the President and Democrats have done FOR YOU in the last two years, they are still trying to damage this President. They apparently think that, if they shut down government and keep it from doing the people’s business, you’re going to blame President Obama, not them, and vote him out of office in 2012.  Say what? The shutdowns of the 1990s were a political disaster for Republicans.

They’re saying they’ll refuse to extend the federal debt ceiling, which would have only one very, very bad result.  If the government fails to acknowledge its debts and its intent to repay them, it damages the “full faith and credit” of the United States of America with worldwide repercussions. We have never failed to extend the debt ceiling when needed and it surely is needed now to recover from a major recession!

As new Speaker of the House John Boehner was sworn in, Republicans continued the duplicity.  He said they would operate transparently and allow debate and amendments on legislation; then they immediately proposed repeal of health care reform without ANY hearings, debate or amendments.  They call health care reform “job-killing” when actually the opposite is true.  REPEAL of health care reform will kill jobs and increase health care costs, add $230 billion to the deficit, and most important, harm, even kill, human beings who are already benefiting from the reforms.

The bipartisan neutral Congressional Budget Office evaluates legislation for fiscal impact. House Republicans don’t like their findings, for example, that repeal of health care reform adds to the deficit.  So, they now are going to bypass CBO and allow the Republican head of the Budget Committee to distort and politicize “scoring the bills.”

The House also had a rule called “Pay-Go” which requires that any bill that adds to the deficit must have some mechanism of paying for itself by savings or revenue.  Republicans have now rejected that when it’s inconvenient for them, e.g., to give more tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires or to deregulate their corporate sponsors.

This is part of the mishmash of conservative propaganda that government spending is wasteful and doesn’t create jobs, cut it, taxes are too high, cut ’em, axe the government no matter what happens to the people it serves.  All they really intend, though, is to cut taxes; they don’t really intend to cut spending at all.  Since Ronald Reagan, EVERY Republican administration has cut taxes and still overspent, driving up the deficit and total debt.  They blamed it on the Democrats, yet Democrats balanced the budget, paid down the debt and told the truth to the American people.

These irresponsible Republicans must want to be “rich men in a poor country.”  Unless we stand up to them, they may get their wish.

Calling Them Out As We Should

December 17, 2010

What some call “common sense” is now nonsensical and speaks not for the common man.

When you hear in political discourse the same comments, the same exact phrases, repeated again and again, and they’re no better grounded in fact on the umpteenth time than when first heard, you know someone’s in the back room cranking them out for someone else to repeat.  That, in fact, is what’s happening, and for a reason.  There’s method to the madness in these lies.

Let’s sample a few of the prominent lines and address their veracity, or lack thereof.  For example, was health insurance reform “crammed down our throats?”  On the eve of President Obama’s election in 2008, in public opinion polls, health care reform ranked 3rd among the most important issues to deal with, superseded only by the collapsing economy and the Iraq War.  Americans wanted health reform at that time; 95% wanted access to care for everyone.   After it was adopted, polls indicate support for the effort is high and rising as people discover what the reforms include.

Was reform a “government takeover” of health care?  No, in fact, it gave private health insurers millions of new customers in return for ending their most egregious abuses.  They started raising premiums before the ink was dry and blamed it on reform.  In 2010, health insurance profits are up 41%!  They sure don’t want it repealed now and Republicans who got elected by calling for repeal are already walking back those plans.  Yet, while over 70% of the American public wanted a government-managed insurance option, the reforms did not include it. [After writing this, today I learned that Politifact has dubbed this the “Lie of the Year.”  They said, “Uttered by dozens of politicians and pundits, it played an important role in shaping public opinion about the health care plan and was a significant factor in the Democrats’ shellacking in the November elections… The phrase is simply not true.”]

Are Social Security, Medicare, and Unemployment Compensation simply “entitlements” and inducements to lazy living?  Actually, they’re all insurance programs that people pay into against the day they will need the benefits.  Is Social Security bankrupt?  Far from it with a $2.5 trillion surplus, and it is not part of the federal general budget deficit.  Does unemployment compensation encourage laziness?  The prerequisites for receiving it are documentation that you are looking for employment and that you lost your job through no fault of your own.  It temporarily provides, not a living wage, but a percentage of earnings when you worked. These are not incentives to kick back and forget about working.

Another myth:  Higher personal income taxes hurt the economy, always are too high and should be cut.  This isn’t even true in a thriving economy, but it sounds so delicious we gobble it up.  In a shaky economy, such as ours, it matters more whose taxes you’re talking about.  If it’s middle income tax payers, yes, taxes should be kept low to help them meet their needs and build demand in the economy.

However, if we’re talking about marginally higher incomes, the dollars earned beyond say $250,000, it is HIGHER, not lower, taxes that benefit the economy.  If those dollars come from a business, higher taxes are an incentive to leave those extra dollars invested in the business.  If those dollars come from speculation, higher taxes are a disincentive to speculation and savings.  And speculation, as we have seen, leads to bubbles that burst and hurt everyone, including the investor.  Excessive savings suck the very wind out of the real economies of agriculture, manufacturing and services.  Finally, higher taxes on marginal dollars allow greater public investment in building the real economy.  And, another myth is that the government doesn’t create jobs. It does.

Is there a moral equivalence between the capitalist backers of the tea party and Republicans vs the wealthy who support progressives and Democrats?  No, there is a very obvious factual difference between them.  The capitalists who fund today’s political right are clearly, openly engaged in electing those who support government policies that directly enrich them in return.  They have a direct financial interest in the public policies they seek.

Take the Koch brothers, for example.  They are today what Standard Oil was in an earlier era – oil refineries and pipelines, paper, lumber, a conglomerate of companies second only to Cargill in scope.  They funded libertarian, tea party and Republican officials to enrich them directly through public policies that lower taxes on higher incomes and corporations, maintain subsidies for oil and commodities, deregulate polluters and financials, privatize public services and ignore global climate change.

The political right elected a President to appoint Supreme Court Justices who granted corporations personhood free speech rights.  They’ve got their own TV network, Fox News, to spin misinformation 24/7.  They literally do have whole operations dedicated to distorting facts and disseminating misinformation.  That’s the method to the madness.

On the other hand, wealthy progressive and Democratic supporters are not in it for the dough personally.  George Soros hasn’t made a dime out of his support for progressive public policies around the world.  Lyndon Johnson made nothing from enactment of Medicare. Kerry and Kennedy have family wealth.  Clinton and Obama made their money from writing popular books.  In fact, these wealthy people stand to lose personal wealth by implementation of progressive public policy.

Is great wealth an indication that you work harder or are smarter or better than other people?  Not these days, friends.  Not on the scale we’re seeing of the capitalist take.  The people who earn their incomes are people like truck drivers, nurses, teachers, restaurant managers, carpenters, manufacturing workers, miners, fishermen, farmers, store operators and people who provide services that others need to enhance their lives. They’ve seen their incomes flatten or go down over the last decades, while the capitalists at the top, the hedge fund managers, bankers and CEOs of big corporations, have accumulated wealth many times beyond their need.  And it is not “their money;” they got it from all of us.

I’m not demonizing wealthy people or corporations. It is the behavior of some that brings their own shame, because the moral distinction lies in what people do with what they have.  However, we must call these political deceptions for what they are, greed.  And we must stand up to it, even if that requires rethinking our political alliances, because the Country belongs to the people, not the corporations.

The Depravity of Republican Senators

December 3, 2010

Here’s what the Senate Republicans sent to President Obama regarding tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans:   “…We write to inform you that we will not agree to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase that is currently awaiting all American taxpayers. . . .  While there are other items that might ultimately be worthy of the Senate’s attention, we cannot agree to prioritize any matters above the critical issues of funding the government and preventing a job-killing tax hike.”
At issue is a 3.9% tax cut ONLY on taxable income exceeding $250,000.  Those taking in above that would receive the tax cuts for their taxable income in the lower income brackets.  So under the Democratic proposal EVERYONE would get to keep SOME tax cut.  It is not a “job-killing tax hike” either, since it’s been in effect for 10 years and didn’t create any jobs.  Actually raising the tax rate on this income might encourage more job-creating investment.
This shows the depravity of Republican lawmakers.  They would hold out for that ADDITIONAL tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and hold every other action needed, whether tax related or not, hostage to getting that ADDITIONAL cut for the very wealthy.  They’re vowing to stop repeal of DADT (which close to 80% of Americans indicate they want), approval of the New START arms control treaty (a national security essential treaty created and championed by Republicans and Democrats alike), the DREAM Act (to allow a path to citizenship for young folk who serve in the military or get higher education), EVERYTHING unless they get that additional tax cut. They would even hold up payments of benefits under unemployment INSURANCE that people paid for and should receive – sending millions to the streets for Christmas.
These Republicans are cynical, crazy and ignorant racists who would sacrifice our entire country to their goal of politically damaging our President. I don’t think that, in the history of the US, there has ever been such a blatant attack on our whole nation by it’s own elected Senators.   Yesterday, in the House, the Democrats passed a tax cut affecting EVERYONE with Republicans voting against it because it did not keep the additional tax cuts of 3.9% on income above $250,000.  The Democrats are on YOUR side.  The bill will go on to the Senate where it surely will encounter Republican obstruction.  Furthermore there’s no indication that, even if the Republican Senators got their tax cut for the rich, they would vote for these other high-priority bills.  They work for their corporation and ultra-rich campaign contributors, not for us.  Keep this in mind come 2012.

A Principled Solution for the Deficit and Recession

November 22, 2010

Guiding Principle:  Those who caused and profited from the deficit and the recession should pay back the money they’ve taken from the American people.

Four Revenue Solutions:

1)    Raise the highest bracket income tax back where it was before Reaganomics trickled down on the rest of us

2)    Raise the capital gains tax on speculative investment income.  Tax earnings from speculation at least as high as earnings from labor.

3)    Keep the inheritance tax

4)    Raise the cap on income subject to Social Security withholding

Four Spending Solutions:

1)    Cut defense spending, especially contracts

2)    Cut subsidies for big oil and unnecessary farm subsidies

3)    Establish a public plan option in health insurance to lower health care costs

4)    Invest in jobs (now!) to grow the economy by adding taxpayers

It’s the Economic Collapse, and We’re Not Stupid

November 18, 2010

There are opinions aplenty on the meaning of the midterm election results  Here’s my two bits:  Don’t read the “tea leaves” wrong. No matter how loudly some may proclaim, the election was not a wholesale swing of support from the Democratic to the Republican agenda by the American people.  Similarly, the results were not “it’s the economy, stupid,” – anger that recovery has not been accomplished in 18 months. Consider that the real story was “it’s the economic collapse, and we’re not stupid.”

Midterm elections always see a drop in turnout, but this one was amplified by major social upheaval.  This worst economic collapse in 80 years was bound to cause severe social disruption. Millions are out of work, have lost their homes and schools, moved and become disconnected from the political process. Millions are in personal crisis and, when in personal crisis, people deal with it personally.  They become depressed and disheartened. And this collapse has fallen most heavily on the lives and spirits of whom? The middle class, young folk, low-income families, and minority group members.

Data is still accumulating, but indications are that those above didn’t vote in numbers they did in 2008. For example, the youth vote was down from 18% to 11% of the electorate. As a Democratic precinct chair, I called voters in my precinct to encourage voting. Again and again, for young voters I heard “not a working number.” They likely moved and became separated from their voting “home” where they’re registered to vote. University students who had been misled to register back in their home counties tried to vote where they were on election day and could not.  What a shame!  Seeing this, I thought of the many others who could be thus disconnected from the electoral process and I realized that it was not just young folk.  Not this time.

So, the message of the election was not in the “will of the voters” but in the pain of the nonvoters. Millions were disenfranchised by economic and social disruption, and progressives and Democrats didn’t do a good enough job of communicating with them to maintain their political involvement.  Still, most of them would have voted as they did in 2008. And, on issue after issue, Americans support progressive public policies that help ordinary Americans and provide security and wellbeing for all – policies championed and implemented by President Obama and the Democrats. Many are aware that it was capitalistic economic and regulatory policy that directly caused the recession and the greatest income inequality in the history of our nation.  They see the Republicans now calling for more of the same and they don’t want it.

Also not surprising for a time of economic upheaval, we’ve seen the corrupting influence of piles of dough from anonymous capitalist sources. It is more than ironic that, after unfettered capitalism caused the economic collapse, now, after the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, it wrecked further havoc on the democratic process. It anonymously funded lies and spin, hate, fear and division to further its purposes. It co-opted the tea partiers and turned normally rational (and probably even surprised) Republicans to its will. Unfortunately, fear, hatred of others and lies can motivate some to vote, even to vote against their own best interests.

In particular, small business owners may have voted against their own best interest. If you are one, do the math on your business plan if middle-class incomes drop, jobs go away and there is less demand for goods and services you provide.  Which would you rather have, a small tax cut or a much larger income from higher demand? Which of those will lead you to add jobs and build the economy?

Keep in mind that our federal taxes actually are very low – comparable to the 1950s overall. And Democrats in Congress – some of whom ironically just got voted out of power – brought businesses all kinds of tax deductions and credits to spur growth and gave over 95% of working Americans a tax cut. They did so against stiff Republican opposition. The Bush tax cuts that Republicans now want to continue for the highest incomes have been in effect since 2001.  They haven’t created any jobs and represent $700 billion of the deficit.

Since much of federal spending goes to states and local governments, when federal spending drops, state and local costs go up.  Texas has around a $20 billion dollar deficit right now, even after receiving massive assistance from the federal government our Governor demonizes.  If that shortfall is resolved by service cuts, YOUR prosperity will drop because it’s dependent on the prosperity of everyone else. Do you really want low taxes and low services from your government?  Do you really want cuts in government spending even though it makes no business sense for you?

The Republican Party of today has become the servant of the very, very wealthy – banksters, Wall Streetwalkers, multi-national corporations and their CEOs.  Aside from tax cuts on high incomes, they seek deregulation for big polluters and financial firms.  They want to shrink the parts of government that help ordinary Americans and the parts that would hold big money accountable.  Small businesses and individuals at all income levels have always fared better under Democratic government.  It’s a fact.  Everyone prospers when every one prospers.

So the “message in the bottle” is that, while economic collapse and social disarray disenfranchised many, they are still out here and will return to the political arena. It is the high-turnout, not the low-turnout, election that is the better indicator of the will of the voters. So, though the tea party/Republican agenda may have scored a temporary and limited victory, its days are numbered.  It looks backward to a past that never was, is out of touch with reality (to put it nicely), is socially divisive, has no concrete plans to improve our lives and prioritizes capitalism over people and the Earth.  I don’t think most Americans want that.

Don’t read the tea leaves wrong

November 4, 2010

It’s not clear at all that the American people are dissatisfied with the Democratic accomplishments or agenda. In fact, most of them may be both aware and supportive. Why do we always take exit polls of voters as the “will of the American people?” It’s not; it’s the sentiments of the people who voted. If you combined the progressives who voted and clearly support what this Administration has done with the millions who were disenfranchised or left out and thus could not or did not feel motivated to vote, the American people likely have very strong support for Obama and the Democratic agenda. Among the unemployed, which are millions, how many do you suppose would vote Republican? What about the people who have lost their voter registration because they lost their job and/or house and had to move? And the mobile young folk ? (There I will fault Obama for not keeping them and OFA more in the loop.)

Stick to your guns, progressives and Democrats, and fight for ALL the people, those who voted and those who did not.

All this election proves is that

A) hate, fear and lies will motivate significant people to vote against their own best interest; and

B) social disruption on the scale we’ve seen since 2008 disenfranchises millions; and

C) corporate control of the media and the message destroys democracy.

Please, Young Folk, Do Vote

October 25, 2010

Please, young folk do vote!  This election is all about you and your future.  The divide between Democratic and Republican policies is a generational divide that has never been more stark. For example, Democrats accept the science of climate change and are creating a new industry of green jobs in which you can work while you save the planet. Heavily backed by the polluting industries, Republicans oppose control of energy usage and pollution and pretend global warming is not caused by human activity. They’re in denial about your future.

When Democrats reformed the student loan program to lower your costs, Republicans opposed it; they sought to preserve bankster profits instead. While falsely claiming that Social Security is bankrupt, Republicans seek to privatize your future SS plan, giving profits to Wall Street while lowering your benefits. Yet they have no plans to alter their own SS benefits.

Young women, against Republican opposition, Democrats enacted equal pay for equal work for you. They brought young people health insurance coverage the Republicans now want to repeal. The Texas Republican Governor cut funding for education that is critical for your future economic wellbeing; national Republicans would do away with federal education standards and funding. State and national Democrats are working to build educational opportunity and quality.

You are a diverse generation and increasingly tolerant of others whom Republicans would demonize and discriminate against by law.  Democrats support inclusive policies and preservation of civil rights.

In 2008, most of you voted FOR your own future; this election is just as important for securing that future. We’ve all seen what Republicans are against – everything, except tax cuts for the rich. The Republican Senate leader has said point-blank that his “most important job” is to defeat President Obama and the Democrats. They simply don’t care about us or even the country; it’s all about their power.  And unless we can keep Democratic control of the House and Senate, they will use their power to continue to obstruct progress, favor corporations and destroy the environment.

Democrats need your vote and ongoing support to keep working for you. It’s your future and your country; keep it with your vote.