Nov 032010
Trick photo, decapitated man with bloody knife...
Image by George Eastman House via Flickr

Article first published as Indictment of the American People on Technorati.

The 2010 midterm election is more an indictment on the American people than the politicians of either party.

The Democrats spent the last 22 months trying to save our nation from the ravages of Republican rule. They made mistakes along the way, but everything they did was a move toward helping and protecting average Americans. Meanwhile, instead of helping to create jobs and restore the economy, the Republicans did everything possible to force extended suffering for their political advantage — tragically, the American people have rewarded them for their treachery.

Way to go America!

For the record, President Obama and the 111th Congress inherited the worst American economic collapse since the Great Depression. The average American household had lost a quarter of their wealth, $13 trillion in all. The Dow would close at a low of 6,547, with stocks overall dropping from a high of $22 trillion to $9 trillion. Job loss was at 3 million for 2008, and the economy was still shedding more at a rate of over 600,000 per month.

The first action the new Congress took was to stop the hemorrhaging with the federal Stimulus. Split between $228 billion in tax cuts for 95% of Americans, $224 billion in funding to help the unemployed and prop up Medicaid, and $275 billion for direct investment in job creating infrastructure, energy and technology projects, the legislation passed the House without a single Republican vote.

The very same Republicans who had voted in favor of spending $700 billion to bailout Wall Street bankers just three months prior, suddenly became budget conscious and adopted intransigent positions against spending to help average Americans. Republican leaders, including John Boehner and Eric Cantor, rallied to the aid of Wall Street but dug in their heels and fought against helping Main Street.

In retrospect, it’s obvious that the writing was already on the wall the moment that President Obama took office. The initial action of a Republican minority to oppose the Stimulus grew into unrelenting opposition to any form of legislation that would help the American people, impede the unfettered profiteering of Wall Street, or slow the offshoring of jobs.

While the Democrats continued striving to keep the average American’s nose above water, the Republicans did everything they could to make sure they kept choking.

Democrats attempted to address the issue of more than 45 million Americans without healthcare insurance. And instead of working to ensure that any legislation was effective, instead of embracing reform to deal with skyrocketing costs, the Republicans blocked all attempts without compromise. They fought to maintain the profits of healthcare insurers and Big Pharma and instead of helping to govern, seized the opportunity for political advantage with fear-mongering sound bites about the “government takeover” of medical services, death panels and the coming of Armageddon. All incidentally complete lies!

The Democrats later attempted to pass Wall Street reform to prevent a future round of too-big-to-fail collapse and bailout. The Republican response was to meet with the Wall Street bankers and plan their strategic opposition. The bill passed the House, again without a single Republican vote, but it was in diluted form in order to gain any minority support in the Senate.

For 22 months, the Republicans fought every action taken to create jobs. They opposed legislation to address the rising costs of education. They attempted to block Democratic efforts to close tax loopholes and stop the bleeding of jobs overseas. They fought against repairing our infrastructure, against small business aid, against unemployment insurance, against saving the jobs of teachers, nurses and firefighters. They argued against the President’s attempts to hold BP responsible for destroying the ecosystem of the Gulf and blocked efforts to increase their liability limits. They battled against climate legislation, clashed on the issue of gays in the military, and resisted all attempts to require disclosure of campaign funding sources They even opposed legislation to lend aid to 9/11 first responders and stood against extending the Bush tax cuts unless the extension included the richest 2%.

The bottom line is that the Republicans did everything they could, from gross distortion to outright lying, from uncompromising rhetoric to unprecedented filibuster to stop any form of legislation that might improve the lot of average Americans. Their aim was to make things as bad as they possibly could for the American people in order to leverage their misery for political gain — and they were rewarded for it.

Manipulated to feed the source of their exploitation, the American electorate deserves an indictment for societal insanity. But there’s no sense in convening a jury, because all evidence points to the conclusion that the defendant is already brain dead. This is a sad day for America.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Nov 022010
President George W. Bush and President-elect B...
Image via Wikipedia

Article first published as A.D.D. America on Technorati.

How short is the memory of the American People? How ephemeral is their focus and attention?

Do you remember where you were when Kennedy was shot? How about when the Iran hostage crisis occurred? The opening of the Berlin Wall? If you’re of voting age, there’s no doubt you remember the events of September 11, 2001.

It’s equally certain that you remember the bank collapse of 2008 and the Great Recession that followed. Americans seem to have vault-safe memory of those events that are etched into our collective consciousness, but somehow when it comes to remembering the facts leading up to those events, that steel vault is all too often turned into a plastic sieve.

The 2010 midterm election will happen tomorrow, and virtually all polls indicate that the American people will return control of at least one chamber of the Congress to the Republican Party. Much of this is anti-incumbent hostility stemming from a bad economy, but that’s certainly not the whole story. The most recent Gallup poll on the question of whether voters believe the country would be better off with Democratic or Republican control of the Congress shows a clear plurality, 45% compared to 23%, backing the Republicans.

Those people who dig beneath the hyperbole and spin, those who actually check facts are likely to shake their heads in bewildered disbelief at the writing now on the wall. They may still be in denial, as so many in Washington still appear to be, or they may have resigned themselves to the expected outcome of the election. But regardless of their reaction, knowledgeable voters must all be stupefied at the amazing capacity of the American people to be manipulated and used by those willing to play on their fears and ignorance.

President Obama is fond of using the “drove the economy into a ditch” metaphor to describe the Republican-created mess that he inherited. He asserts that they “can’t have the keys back, because [they] don’t know how to drive.” The Republicans naturally respond that the President needs to stand on his record and stop trying to blame his predecessor.

Well, there is a problem with President Obama’s metaphor, and there’s also a practical sensibility to the Republican response. The President is patently wrong about the Republicans driving us into a ditch — it was a freaking canyon — it was the economic Mariana Trench. And it makes perfect sense that those responsible for the collapse, the feed-the-rich Republicans would be vehemently opposed to assigning any blame where it was due.

The truth of the matter is that the American public has been ripped off by the nation’s corporate elite and had their return to prosperity held hostage by the corporate lackeys commonly known as the Republican Party. And now, in order to punish the innocent and avoid holding accountable the thieves who helped pillage the wealth of the American middle-class, the electorate is going to put the greed-drunk drivers back behind the wheel.

Hurray for the American way!

If only the American people would recall the events that brought us to this point. If only they remembered that George Bush inherited a $236 billion budget surplus that he turned into the $1.2 trillion deficit he passed to President Obama. If only the sting of the 3 million jobs that were lost in President Bush’s last year in office was still clear in their minds, or if they were still mindful that the economy was hemorrhaging nearly 600 thousand jobs per month when Obama took office.

Would we be in the same situation for election 2010 if American voters would call to mind the fact that 65% of the Bush tax cuts went to the top quintile and 50% if his 2001 cuts went to the top 1%. What if they remembered that the price tag for the cuts to the top 1% in 2008 alone was $79.5 billion? How about if the average American even understood that 37% of the much maligned Stimulus, $288 billion, was in the form of tax cuts that went to 94% of the working families in America?

Would it make any difference if the people were aware that, as bleak as things have been, more private sector jobs have been created in 2010 than under the entire 8-year term of George Bush? How about if they grasped the fact that the Republican policies that wrote the economic book for the past decade and tested the effectiveness of growing the economy and creating jobs by cutting taxes, has been proven to be an abysmal failure? If they knew that the first decade of this century produced ZERO net job growth, while no other decade going back to the 1940s produced less than 20%

Americans should be casting their votes with full awareness that Bush and his Republican colleagues had the worst job creation record since 1945, established the policies that gave America its first decline of median household income since 1967, while simultaneously giving the top 1% it’s highest share of after-tax income since 1979, and concentrating more wealth in the top 1% than in the bottom 90% combined.

But the truth of the matter is that, while Republican policies have nearly destroyed America for all but the very rich, a manipulated electorate has allowed itself to fall prey to the incessant Republican barrage of distorted facts and fear mongering. The American people are suffering from severe Attention Deficit Disorder and have sadly forgotten who was driving when our economy went off the cliff.

President Obama has certainly made some mistakes since he took office. In retrospect, the biggest amongst them was probably to underestimate the gullibility of the American people — perhaps he should have played the Republican game of politics over people — he could have omitted the Stimulus and allowed the Great Recession to take its full toll.

But that’s not what real leaders do. No, they set about the hard work of recovery, and when you’re in an 8 million job hole, that takes some time. It’s too bad the American people can’t stay focused long enough to ensure it happens.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Oct 282010
California State Capital in Sacramento
Image via Wikipedia

With less than a week until the midterm election, here’s the final installment of my Voter’s Guide for the propositions. I’ll give you my take on the final three propositions and share my reasoning.

Proposition 25: Changes legislative vote requirement to pass budget and budget-related legislation.

Present California law requires that the state legislature submit a budget to the governor each year by June 15. For reasons not pertinent to this discussion, the law also requires a two-thirds majority of both houses for passage of the budget. Proposition 25 will reduce this requirement to a simple majority. It also ensures that legislators will no longer be paid retroactively for monies withheld while the state operates without a budget.

Of issue on this matter is the state legislature’s abysmal record on budget passage. Since 1980, the legislature has met its June 15 deadline only 5 times. And the current fiscal year continues the pattern, marking the ninetieth time in the last 25 years that the state started the fiscal year without a budget.

Proponents of the initiative claim that late budgets cost taxpayers millions of dollars, hurt schools and services, and damage California’s credit rating. They cite the fact that, without an approved budget, teachers must be handed pink slips and small businesses and state workers given IOUs. Projects are also shutdown and services delayed, which adds additional cost increases with restarts and further damages the state’s credit rating.

Proposition opponents assert that Prop-25 is a backdoor means for legislators to spend more money.  They claim that the circumvention of the two-thirds majority will result in politicians raising taxes. They even assert that the measure will somehow “eliminate the right of voters to use the referendum to force a vote and stop taxes disguised as fees.”

A reading of the text of the proposition seems to reveal that the argument against Prop-25 is nothing more than scare tactics designed to get voters to reject the measure. The initiative in no way changes the two-thirds majority requirement for tax increases. In fact, it specifically states that the two-third requirement to raise taxes is to be retained. Likewise, the proposition is devoid of any language to repeal citizen’s rights to vote.

Proposition 25 promises to end the budget gridlock in Sacramento and hold legislators responsible for passing timely budgets. It will retain the existing super-majority requirement for tax increases and dock legislators pay if they fail to perform as directed. This is long awaited reform that brings California into line with the other 47 states that only require a simple majority for budget passage. Voters need to say NO to scare tactics and vote Yes on Prop-25.

Proposition 26: Requires that certain state and local fees be approved by two-thirds vote.

This initiative is all about making it more difficult for the legislature to increase revenues. Current California law allows the legislature to raise “fees” with a simple majority vote but requires a two-thirds super majority for tax increases.  Prop-26 will broaden the definition of what constitutes a tax and render many payments that are currently considered fees to be taxes.

The fees affected by the initiative are those that “benefit the public broadly,” which mostly means those used to address health, environment, social and economic concerns. Oil recycling and hazardous waste fees fall into this group, as do certain fees on alcohol retailers.

Proponents of Prop-26 promote the initiative as a means to stop politicians from “enacting hidden taxes.” This claim is based on a blurring of the distinction between taxes and fees and a conclusion that raising fees with a simple majority is equivalent to raising taxes.

While there is a basis of truth in this claim, it fails to recognize that taxes are typically applied in a more broad sense where fees are levied for very specific circumstances. Many of the fees in question are those associated with ensuring that polluters pick up their own tab. One example of this is a so-called Prop-26 “hidden tax” that is levied against oil companies in order to cover the costs of oil spill cleanup. Other examples are fees on polluters for cleanup of hazardous waste and fees on tobacco companies for the adverse affects of tobacco.

The truth is that the major proponents of Prop-26 are the oil, tobacco and alcohol companies who pay the fees in question. These companies, including Chevron, Exxon, Mobil, and Phillip Morris have funded virtually the entire campaign for Prop-26.

Smart voters will not allow these deep-pocketed polluters to pass their tab to the taxpayers. A vote against Prop-26 will ensure that vital health and environmental services are not robbed and that the companies that pollute continue to pay for their own way.

Proposition 27: Eliminates state commission on redistricting.

Prop-27 is the polar opposite of Prop-20. Where 20 seeks to expand the authority of the Citizens Redistricting Commission (CRC) to include control of congressional districts, Prop-27 completely eliminates the Commission and returns authority for the redistricting of both state and federal districts to the state legislature.

So, the decision for California voters is as follows: vote Yes-on-20 and No-on-27, which will put all authority in the CRC; vote No-on-20 and Yes-on-27, placing the state legislature in control, or vote NO on both propositions, thereby maintaining the present split authority.

Prop-27 does include certain provisions that require the legislature to hold public hearings both before and after they create redistricting maps — a measure that could help limit gerrymandering. The initiative also requires that all districts be essentially equivalent in size. These are positive moves, but neither of these measures, nor the small savings in redistricting costs, represents sufficient cause to support the proposition.

As with Prop-20, the decision is really about the best way to address the issues surrounding an ineffective legislature and the predominance of incumbent reelection. And in the end, there’s really no proof that an independent commission will improve this situation in any way. A redistricting bureaucracy that answers to nobody is a recipe for perpetuation of the problem — it’s another Band-Aid that will only create an appearance of change while leaving the broken system intact.

There are far more effective measures that we can take. If we’re serious about effective change and holding politicians accountable, we need to move in the direction of public campaign finance, preferential voting and term limits. The problem isn’t that state legislators serve their own best interest; it’s that California voters allow them to. If you don’t like what the legislature does — you can vote them out. We need structural change in Sacramento, not another bureaucracy. We need to empower the legislature and then hold them accountable — vote YES on Prop-27.

So, there you have it — Dave’s entire $0.02 on the California propositions — paid in full.

Enhanced by Zemanta