Posts Tagged ‘Republicans’

Corruption with a Capital “C”

September 29, 2014

From the musical “The Music Man”

“Trouble, oh we got trouble,

Right here in River City!

With a capital ‘T’

That rhymes with ‘P’

And that stands for ‘Pool'”

In this case the “pool” is millions of our “pooled” business incentive funds inappropriately doled out by Texas Republican leaders, often to Republican political donors.

Connect the dots:

  • Texas creates the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), the 2nd largest funder of cancer research. An official in that organization was indicted for dispensing funds inappropriately.
  • Texas creates the Major Events Trust Fund to draw major events to the state. The San Antonio Express-News is reporting discrepancies with the $250 million application for Formula One racing.
  • Texas creates the Texas Enterprise Fund to draw large employers to the state. An audit revealed funds were dispensed without proper review, some without the recipient even submitting any application at all.
  • Rick Perry is indicted for using his authority to coerce removal of the Travis County District Attorney who oversees the Public Integrity Unit which is responsible for prosecuting State corruption. He wanted her resignation so he could appoint her replacement – 3 guesses why.

It’s not as though incentive programs aren’t a good thing; they are. But these cronies have been going about it all wrong and that speaks directly to your vote in the November election. They’ve run these programs without adequate oversight, transparency and accountability to prevent corruption and abuse from which they politically benefited.

The central players in these scams are:

  • Texas Governor Rick Perry appointed officials running these funds – and the officials themselves, one already indicted.
  • Attorney General Greg Abbott failed to exercise direct oversight responsibility for CPRIT and general oversight responsibility for all State transactions. He also ruled as Attorney General that the public wasn’t entitled to see applications submitted to the Texas Enterprise Fund.
  • The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts failed to set up and follow transparency and financial accountability of these funds.

Are your dots connected? Even some Republicans realize they need to save their party from itself. Vote for the “best people for the job” to end this corruption: Wendy Davis for Governor, Sam Houston for Attorney General, Mike Collier for Comptroller. All have proven themselves honest, expert in their fields, and devoted to the people of Texas.

Political Polarization and Slippage of Time

August 17, 2014

The editor of my hometown newspaper claimed that today’s political polarization was the result of extremists on the right and left. She also claimed that those seeking to address climate change were the extremists on the left, comparable to Sarah Palin on the right. Then she asked for rebuttal, but would only allow 400 words in that rebuttal. So I sent a drastically cut-down version to her paper and post the full response here.

I’ll bite on Alpine Avalanche Editor Lisa Hannon’s invitation for alternative views to her description of the political polarization of today. Serious analyses have been done regarding this subject which clearly show a distinct movement farther to the right by Republicans and little or no movement to the left by Democrats.

I recommend reading “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks” by Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution and Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute. These serious political analysts, one on the left and one on the right, agreed that movement rightward by Republicans is the core polarizing factor. They described today’s Republican Party as “…an insurgent outlier- ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition”. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Glen Beck, Dan Patrick, Tom Tancredo,, Fox News, World Net Daily, etc., all cases on point! No one on the left is in any way comparable to those on the extreme right who have taken control of our media and the Republican Party.

And I don’t say that with pleasure. I grew up in Alpine at a time when liberals and conservatives took each other to dinner and argued politics ‘til the cows came home yet stayed close friends. They agreed that we needed good government that served the needs of the people; they just disagreed about how to do it. They didn’t demonize anyone and they didn’t shout and talk over others to make their point. Above all, they both believed in science and education and accepted facts. I would love for the Republicans to pull back from extremism, not just because it would make life more sociable and fun, but also because we are all in this life together.

The Editor presented a false equivalency between Sarah Palin and those who insist or dealing with human-caused global climate change. Really? Are the highly educated climate scientists, over 90% of whom agree about climate change, extremists? Science told us too many were dying in car wrecks. We regulated vehicle safety and it worked to reduce the carnage. They said we could go to the moon and we did. They said industrial emissions were causing acid rain; we changed the regs and reduced it. They gave us antibiotics, heart transplants, television, computers and mobile phones. Science and scientists have been right so many times, we should not bet our children’s and grand-children’s future that they are finally wrong about something.

The claim that global climate change couldn’t be a real crisis for us today because at certain times in its history the planet has been warmer or colder leaves out this simple fact: When the earth was at those different temperatures it was not a climate suitable for humans, plants and animals as they exist today. It is not extremist to be very worried about the global effects of the industrial revolution and use of fossil fuels. It’s just plain common sense.

So, where are the extremists of the left that Editor Hannon equates with the right? They don’t exist. Furthermore, scholars of income inequity and societal health have found that, wherever the gap widens between the few at the top of the scale and the many below, this polarization, with it’s distrust, demonization, denial and division, results. Polarization is entirely predictable by our extremely inequitable economy which today is the worst ever in America and worse among Southern states governed by Republicans (like Texas). I wrote an article in 2012 based on the worldwide research finding regarding income inequity which readers can find in books such as “The Spirit Level” (Wilkinson and Pickett), “The Health of Nations: Why Inequality is Harmful to Your Health” (Kawachi and Kennedy), and “The Impact of Inequality” (Wilkinson). By the way, the time I spoke of with nostalgia above was also a time to LOW income inequity and a growing middle class in America.

Ironically, political polarization becomes the major obstacle to reducing income inequity and thus feeds a downward spiral in society. There are actions our government could take right now to reduce economic inequity, but extremists on the right fiercely obstruct them. Why? Because those extremists in the media and politics are funded and supported by those at the top of the economic food chain – billionaires, banksters, multi-national corporations, fossil fuel industrialists – who do not want to see action taken to reduce either economic inequity or global climate change.

This is why I hope thoughtful Republicans and other conservatives will recognize that polarization exists, reject extremists in their midst, and return to seeking real solutions to our considerable problems. “Time keeps on slipping into the future” (Steve Miller Band); the question is will humans be there to see it?

Confronting Congressman Francisco Canseco, Texas Dist 23, With Some Inconvenient Truths

October 18, 2011

A fellow progressive Texas Democrat and I attended the town hall meeting conducted Saturday, October 15, 2011, by Congressman Francisco Canseco in Marfa, Texas.  To our surprise, we were the only citizens there, so the Congressman said we could proceed in a more informal manner.  Instead of listening to his entire speech then commenting or asking questions, we were able to stop him at various points for discussion.

His presentation can be summarized as the facts are ALL fixed around the policies and the policies ALL serve large corporations, banks, Wall Street and the wealthy.  In an effort to convince us that government debt was the country’s most serious problem, he first presented the same chart as at the last town hall in Alpine.  It says it’s based on Congressional Budget Office projections, but it went far beyond those for purely dramatic effect.  While CBO does no projections further than 10 years, his chart projects the debt out to 2077 and assumes no action to reduce it.  No wonder the debt goes off the chart.

We asked why he didn’t mention the causes of the debt.  It’s only logical to look there if aiming to reduce it.  He falsely insisted that it was all due to excessive spending under President Obama. We reminded him that the debt rose from roughly $5 trillion to $10 trillion under President Bush.  And furthermore, most of the debt under President Obama ($4 trillion) is due to continuation of policies he inherited, such as the Bush tax cuts, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and Medicare Part D giveaway to pharmaceuticals.

Then there is debt due to stimulus spending necessary to recover from the economic collapse caused by deregulation of financial institutions.  Over the past 2 decades “Big Money” was able to get Congress to legalize their scams then bail them out when it all blew up.  Now, this Republican Congressman, who sits on the Financial Services Committee, wants to repeal the Dodd-Frank regulations and let Big Money destroy the economy again.  We asked him why and he insisted “regulations were causing uncertainty.”

In trying to sell us on the need for a Balanced Budget Amendment to force the Federal government to spend no more than it receives, Congressman Canseco claimed that almost half of Americans were not paying any personal income tax, as if to imply they were freeloaders.  We stopped him there to remind that the reason they don’t pay is they don’t earn enough to pay income taxes.  The percent of non-payers used to be around 35% and now has risen to 47% as most American incomes have stalled or fallen.  Furthermore, all those non-payers of income tax do pay other taxes – payroll taxes, sales, and property taxes.  As a result middle and low income Americans pay a much higher percentage of their earnings in overall taxes than do the wealthy and corporations.

The Balanced Budget Amendment is such a non-starter that Congressman Canseco didn’t bother to sell it further.  It only sounds good – “don’t buy what you can’t pay for on the spot.”  Families, small and large businesses and states do have to balance their budgets, but it is not the same with the Federal government.  It sets the value of money and has responsibility for operation of the economy, overspending when necessary to restore balance and deal with emergencies such as natural disasters.  Furthermore, families, small and large businesses and states do have to operate with some debt within their balanced budgets.  So to imply that a Balanced Budget Amendment would end government debt is misleading.

The reason the amendment is being pushed by the Big Money backing Congressman Canseco is that it’s paired with a provision requiring a supermajority (e.g. 60%) vote to raise taxes.  That’s the same undemocratic provision as California’s Proposition 13 that severely damaged the state economy and cut services for all Californians.  And it is similar to one of the rules of the US Senate that has turned that body into a roadblock to passing much-needed legislation.

At a time when a clear majority (actually even a supermajority) of Americans want to raise taxes on the wealthy and corporations, Republicans like Congressman Canseco are now blocking it and trying to make it almost impossible to achieve in the future.

We addressed his other false talking points one by one.  One was that “government doesn’t create jobs.”  It’s mystifying to have to explain this to a supposedly knowledgeable US Congressman.  It’s obvious that government creates millions of jobs, some by directly employing people to do the public’s work.  Millions more are created through government contracting whereby private companies hire workers to do things like infrastructure improvement.  They buy materials from other companies supporting more jobs.  And those employees go out and buy food, goods and services, which creates jobs throughout the economy.  Then taxes come back to the government at all levels.

Another talking point was a claim that small businesses are struggling under “burdensome regulations.”  We informed him of a recent survey of businesses nationwide which revealed their biggest concern was providing health insurance for employees and business insurance.  They were also concerned with inability to get loans, high interest rates on credit debt and a lack of customers.  Regulations were not a major concern for small businesses.  But two kinds of businesses do want fewer regulations:  Big polluting industries like oil, gas and minerals and large financial institutions, both Congressman Canseco’s base.

High gasoline prices are also restraining our economy and up to 40% of the price is due to speculation in oil commodity futures.  Congressman Canseco denied these facts and refuses to regulate that speculation.

We discussed a non-economics issue, asking why he voted for HB 358, the “Let Women Die” Act.  Currently, if someone appears in an emergency room in need of life-saving treatment, the hospital has to provide treatment if it can.  This bill makes an exception for one group of people, pregnant women.  It allows a hospital to refuse to treat a women bleeding to death from a miscarriage if the life-saving procedure is an abortion.  Congressman Canseco denied that this was in the bill and insisted that it was only about federal funding for abortions, something already prohibited under the Hyde Amendment.  Cynically, the bill was formally titled “Protect Life Act” to deceive apparently even the Congressman.  Its passage by the House was all for show.  It’s unlikely to pass the Senate and President Obama will veto it if it does.  But this is what our Congress was doing instead of passing a true jobs bill.

Perhaps none of our input got through to the Congressman, but we left him with the assurance that we were not going away.  We’re going to continue to “occupy” his space in sympathy with the Occupy Wall Street movement and on behalf of the 99 percent of the American people now under the thumb of the 1% wealthiest he serves.

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.)

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.