Nov 022010
 
President George W. Bush and President-elect B...
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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.


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Sep 092010
 

Article first published as Obama Comes Out Swinging in Cleveland on Technorati.

Yesterday in Cleveland, President Obama came out of his corner swinging. Pundits have been counting the President out of late, but if he was beaten and bruised when he entered the ring today, he shook it off like Rocky Balboa.

Speaking at the Cuyahoga Community College West Campus in Parma, Ohio, he had barely finished his opening remarks when he lit into the GOP. Immediately on offense, Obama tore into the opposition by blasting their 8-year reign with a political philosophy that clearly was and still is — government for the elite few.

According to Obama, he ran for president in order to correct what the Republican philosophy has wrought. The President started with a four punch combination: first were their tax cuts — “especially for millionaires and billionaires,” which he immediately followed with their deregulation — “for special interests.” Then a body blow on their trade deals — “even if they didn’t benefit our workers,” and another punch to the gut on cutting back investment — “in our people and in our future – in education and clean energy, in research and technology.” He followed the combo with an overhand smash, that demanded acknowledgement from anyone listening, “The idea was that if we just had blind faith in the market, if we let corporations play by their own rules, if we left everyone else to fend for themselves that America would grow and America would prosper.” And thus the tempo of the fight was set, and the contrast in philosophy defined.

What did America get with all those “sound” Republican policies? As the President termed it, the people got “the illusion of prosperity.” Obama briefly commiserated with the Buckeye audience who has been hurt so badly through job loss, stating that job growth during the Bush years was slower than in any economic expansion since WW2 — and he added — “slower than it’s been over the last year.” The President finished the picture by recalling how income for the middle class stagnated while costs climbed, especially for tuition and healthcare. He also linked this dynamic of lower wages and higher costs to the reactive increase in personal debt that paid for the “illusion.” And with the Republicans on the ropes, the President added that their failure to pay for two wars and two tax cuts for the wealthy had turned a record budget surplus into a record deficit.

Thus began the final 8-week countdown to Election 2010. President Obama was in fighting trim, or campaign form as the case may be. He started by drawing the contrast between left and right and then punctuated his entire speech with references to the America he believes in, “An America that took pride in the goods that we made, not just the things we consumed. An America where a rising tide really did lift all boats, from the company CEO to the guy on the assembly line.” That America demands patriotism, but the President left no doubt that the America that had lost 4 million jobs in the 6 months prior to his taking office no longer upheld those values, and he didn’t pull any punches in assigning responsibility.

Not only did the President attack Republican policies for creating the recession, an assertion that conservatives may be tired of hearing but one that is undeniable nonetheless, but he also drove the point home that they have deliberately delayed the recovery. He cited the success of the Stimulus in that it has created “roughly 3 million” jobs, but also spoke of how the Republicans had fought its passing and chose instead to ride the “fear and anger all the way to Election Day.” And once again, Obama called upon the name of John Boehner, the new face of the Republican Party, and the plan that he recently shared for America — “the same philosophy that we had already tried during the decade that they were in power — the same philosophy that led to this mess in the first place: Cut more taxes for millionaires and cut more rules for corporations.”

President Obama made crystal clear that the distinction between Democrats and Republicans is really about the strengthening or demise of the middle class, and he hammered the case over and again throughout his speech: the Republicans fight for insurance companies to be able to refuse coverage for preexisting conditions, for corporations to be able to move jobs overseas, for banks to be able to raise interest rates at will, and for tax cuts for the richest 2% of Americans. They fight for higher corporate profits and the lower wages that help create them, and they believe in the market over democracy.

In the President’s eyes, Democrats essentially take the opposing position on each of these issues and believe instead in “a vibrant free market, but one that works for everybody.” They contend that government should support the middle class so that, in Obama words, “if they work hard and meet their responsibilities, they can afford to raise their children, and send them to college, see a doctor when they get sick, retire with dignity and respect.” Obama called upon the words of the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, to summarize the Democrat’s position, “I also believe that government should do for the people what they cannot do better for themselves.” Democrats don’t want “big government” — they want effective government.

This is exactly the message the Democrats need to carry to America for the next two months. The lines are now clearly drawn. The Republicans say they’re for small business but fight against legislation that sends them aid in the form of tax cuts and improved access to financing. They say that the main issue for America is jobs, yet they fight spending to create them in order to protect loopholes that send them overseas. They contend that they support the middle class, yet in the President’s words, they “hold middle-class tax cuts hostage” in order to protect cuts for the top 2%. They feign concern for the deficit while refusing to cut defense and simultaneously adding the $700 billion cost for their “wealth-fare” tax cuts.

The President did take time to plug his 6-year infrastructure investment plan and to introduce a proposal to extend tax credits to businesses for 100% of their 2011 capital investments. Also on the table is an expansion of the research and development tax credit from 14% to 17%. All of these proposals would typically be acceptable to Republicans, but as the President suggested in reference to their opposition to the small business tax cuts supported by the Chamber of Commerce, “the only reason they’re holding this up is politics, pure and simple.” Should Americans really place their trust in a party that would deliberately sacrifice the wellbeing of the country for their own personal gain?

The choice couldn’t be more clear, once the thick overburden of misinformation is pulled back and the facts revealed. But the Democrats now find themselves in an uphill climb to set the record straight. They will be well served to follow the President’s lead and draw upon the distinct differences between party philosophies. They can do no better than to frame the conversation as did President Obama — what we now need is to return to “the time-honored values that built this country: hard work and self-reliance; responsibility for ourselves, but also responsibility for one another. It’s about moving from an attitude that said ‘What’s in it for me?’ to one that asks, What’s best for America? What’s best for all our workers? What’s best for all of our businesses? What’s best for all of our children?”

The text of the speech is available at the New York Times. You can also watch the entire speech at C-SPAN.org.


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Aug 282010
 
The Republican Party encourages every form of ...
Image by Cornell University Library via Flickr

Article first published as I Think I’ll Vote Republican — NOT! on Technorati.

On this, the eve of Glen Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally in Washington, I think it a good time to reflect on what it means to be a conservative in 21st Century America. Beck has scheduled his rally on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “March on Washington.” According to Beck, the purpose of the rally is to celebrate “upstanding citizens who embody our nation’s founding principles of integrity, truth and honor.” Such patriotism, such vision, a staunch supporter of the Republican Party, Beck is at the core of contemporary conservatism.

So, what is it that defines today’s conservative? What is the Republican plan for the future of America?

John Boehner shared the Republican vision for America earlier this week. And fortunately for conservative voters, the Republican platform is far more simple than that of their Democratic counterparts. Republicans don’t spend all that wasted time worrying about equity and ethics and all that stupid liberal stuff. Heck, when your objective is limited to maximizing the profits of big-business and minimizing the tax burden of the top 2%, all that fairness stuff just gets in the way.

Oddly enough, the new Republican Party looks an awful lot like the party of George Bush. So drastic is the likeness, that topping their list of priorities is the extension of the Bush tax cuts — for even the very rich, permanently. They even espouse the same disproven Bush tenet that tax cuts pay for themselves. So, although economists contend that the $678 billion price tag to extend the cuts for the top 2% will directly impact the deficit for which the Republicans feign concern — not to worry — we just need to cut spending.

Ah, but where to cut? Not defense! Oh no, the Military Industrial Complex is the heart and soul of conservative America — not to disparage the fossil fuel industry or the gun lobby. But, with defense costing over $1 trillion and representing more than 25% of the budget, where better to slice? Wait a minute . . . what would George Bush do? That’s it — Social Security can be privatized! Never mind that it’s solvent through 2037 and that with minor tweaking it can provide a vital safety net well into the next century; it’s a huge pool of money just begging to be exploited.

But, what about jobs? The problem is that Americans still expect far too much in compensation for their labor. But is it government’s responsibility to get people back to work? Unemployment is actually a good thing, for business, so long as you don’t have to pay benefits. There are really few things better for corporate profits than an abundant supply of labor so desperate for work that pay-scale and fringes no longer matter. So, the solution is self-evident: oppose any government funding of benefits, rail against government investment in infrastructure or energy or anything else that might tip the balance of economic power, and for God’s sake make sure nothing stops the flow of jobs overseas.

So, less taxes, fewer entitlements, an eager workforce, it’s music to the ears of contemporary conservatism. And the final ingredient to restore the Bush recipe for a prosperous upper crust — more deregulation. Just keep those oil wells pumping, those insiders trading, that gas flowing, and blessed will be the fruit of the offshoring multinational. The heck with the environment. What’s a little oil spill here and a little flaming water there? Businesses have to compete on a global scale, and worrying about the environment just isn’t good for profits. Besides, if you’re already exploiting the people, who gives a care about the planet?

Does any of this sound at all familiar? It should, because it’s Bushonomics 101. Today’s Republican Party promises a full return to the very practices that produced the most meager job growth since the 1940s, resulted in the first decline in median household income of any cycle since 1967, set modern records for the concentration of wealth at the very top, crashed the economy, brought us the Massey mine disaster, filled the Gulf with oil, and divided our nation.

The only real difference between the Bush Republicans and the Boehner, McConnell, Palin, Beck contingent is that where the Bushies confined their fear mongering to terrorists and certain foreign enemies, the 2010 Republicans have turned their sites inward. American citizen or not, if you’re Islamic or Mexican, Black, gay or liberal — you are an “Other,” and that makes you the problem . . . or rather the solution, because wealthy or not, the Republicans still need votes, and with a platform that only benefits 2% of the population, distraction is everything.


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