9 11 2009

This gentleman really understands the history of the last 30 years:

All I have to add is that anyone could see at any given time during the Great GOP Period that it was not a populist party.

Things like

in Reagan’s time, using “supply side economics” to pass tax cuts for the rich,

refusing again and again to reign in the ever-greater abuses of the credit card industry,

[trying to] spoil Social Security,

in Bush-the-Lesser’s time, again passing even more tax cuts that mainly benefit rich people,

and, most recently, refusing repeatedly to vote for extensions to unemployment compensation in a time of economic desperation…

these are not populist actions by any measure I’ve ever heard of.

The Republican Party has always shown, by word and deed, that it is the party of the rich. Historically it has not been ashamed of that fact nor, until the last 30 years, has it tried to conceal it. Only in those same last 30 years has the GOP sought to make itself a majority party by grafting onto its vast amalgam of money something called “social conservatives”, which are in large part poor and working people who don’t like to see things change because they subliminally know that they may not be able to figure out how to keep on surviving in a world that changes too much.

After all the GOP’s highly visible betrayals of this latter group, the Democratic Party was perfectly situated to present itself as the Party of The Little Man, as it had in fact been from the 1930s to the Clinton year. Instead, the Big Donkey forever undermined that claim by giving vast amounts of dough to big banks as a way, supposedly, of staving off another Great Depression.

So I am scared as to where that leaves us now.


11 09 2009

Hello, Honored Reader of My Blog,

If you or someone you care about has had a brush with one of the many disasters that can be caused by our current health care system*, then you know it needs to be changed. Here’s any easy way to try to get it changed. Go to the site given below and sign a letter that will be sent to your representatives in Washington in your name.

There’s a place there to add your own personal comment to be sent the the Representative or Senator. Here’s what I wrote:

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to give US citizens something EVERY OTHER FIRST WORLD COUNTRY provides for its citizens. I recently heard in a radio discussion that even the Czech Republic has national health care! I am an old guy, and I know how much a person can find to regret at this time of life. I truly believe that if you successfully oppose President Obama’s health care plan you will come to regret it when you’re in your 60s like me. A lot of people will suffer and die** for want of medical care they can’t afford if things go on unchanged.”

But you say whatever you want. It’s a chance to be heard — maybe even a way to counter all those ridiculous excesses we saw at some congresspersons’ town meetings over the summer.


*Bankruptcy caused by uninsured doctors’ bills may be the most common. How many sad notes requesting a donation to help pay for, say, a battle against cancer have you seen in your workplace over the years? I’ve seen plenty. Why should people fighting a terrible disease have to fight with insurers and bill collectors at the same time?

•• See, for example, THIS:


24 07 2009


Here’s a link to a nice short article about the current state of health care in the USA, and what real reform of it might look like:

I cannot imagine how such reform will ever come about. As one of my bosses used to say, the income equivalent of  “not in my back yard!” is the rice bowl expression that appears at the head of this entry. I assume the expression comes from some Asian country.

Here are the just a few of the groups that can be counted on to mobilize their vast assets to block any filching from their rice bowls over the next decade:

Health Care Reform

This is A Big One:

doctors, drug makers, pharmacies, medical equipment builders, for-profit hospitals, and, above all, insurance companies.

Legalizing Marijuana Use…

(and maybe relaxing some penalties for USE of other drugs)

the Drug Enforcement Administration and all its contractors, supporters, and employees and all their families — along with a great many police departments that love the money that flows into them from seizing and selling the possessions of drug dealers.

Cutting Back on the $$$ We Give Our Military!!! *

This is The Biggest Rice Bowl of All:

We don’t have the mighty Soviet Union to kick around any more, so do we really still need ALL that military stuff? What about all those nuclear submarines? Do terrorists have submarines?

But think of all the military contractors, and all of their investors, managers, suppliers, and employees! Military contractors are known to spread the construction of their multi-multi-billion dollar projects around to most of the states in the Union in order to create supporters of each project in each Congressperson’s district.

Add all the military careerists, present and pensioned, and you might as well give up on this one before starting.**

Limiting Unwise Speculation by Big Banks:

The fattest cats of them all. Watch them spend and spend and spend some more to stop any such limitations over the next few years.


And So On…

The USA is in a set of multiple binds because of the combination of the universal human rice-bowl protection instinct and the fact that in this country a politician must raise many millions of dollars to win a federal office. As reform after reform is suggested, folks who would be adversely affected by each prooposal rise up in turn and spend millions on lobbyists and direct gifts to Congresspersons to stop it.

Oh well, it was a nice semi-democratic Republic for a hundred years or so.


*The Department of Defense budget approximately = the arms spending of all the other countries in the world combined, and about one half of all US discretionary spending.
**But take a look at this amazing development:
Is it just the exception that proves the rule?


3 05 2009

(I’m lifting another comment from an online news story.

It’s a bit further down here.)

I grew up in East Texas in the 1950s and ’60s. My mom was a Scottish immigrant, and, under her influence, while making my weary way to adulthood in Texas, I read a lot of classic novels from England.

My dad, meanwhile, was a classic Texas farmboy redneck.

So it was nasal slang all day at school from my peers, and again at home each night from my dad — as against my mom’s orderly Scotch English and the elegant British English of those old novels. The cognitive dissonance was stunning. The linguistic dissonance was worse. My dad and my peer-group lost the battle for my soul (a poor prize at best, I guess!) because I disliked them both. My mom and those English novelists seemed to share certain ideals of honor, gentlemanly behavior, and economic disinterestedness. My peers and my dad, on the other hand, posited a world where toughness and business success were the only recognized manly virtues (aside from going to church a lot, of course).  I joined up whole-heartedly on the side of my mom and The Sceptered Isle, and gladly brushed the dust of Texas off my shoes (not boots!).

I went to college in the North and majored in English.

Only those who have grown up in poverty in the sticks, speaking the stripped-down language of a place and time where “danger is double and pleasures are few”, can appreciate how desperately such a person may struggle to leave behind not only the benighted place and time, but also its characteristic dialect. Even if one does not have a fine ear for language, the associations with the dialect are all bad.

(I think of James Baldwin here, for some reason.)

In light of the above, imagine my disgust eight years ago when I heard George W. Bush’s twangy malapropisms begin emanating from Washington and the Highest Seat in the Land! Conversely, imagine my pleasure eight years later as I’m beginning to hear the cultivated tones of Barack Obama from that same lofty seat!

I listened to Mr. Obama’s third news conference Wednesday night and immediately decided to post something on this blog about the way he speaks — which meant that I spent quite a while thinking in detail about why I felt enlightened after listening to him. (Yes, ASIDE from the fact that he was saying mostly things I agreed with!)

And then, today, wonderfully!, I was spared the trouble of trying to figure it all out in detail when I read the best description I’ve ever heard of the difference between the ways Bush and Obama talk. It is a post commenting on the Leonard Cohen column in the New York Times of 4/29/2009:

“Mr. Cohen, it is not the language, it is the quality of thought that is wonderful in a politician. What people see in this president and did not in Mr. Bush, is the ability to express his own high caliber thinking in his own words which he has thought about before expressing them publicly. His language makes clear that this time around the presidency is not a committee of oligarchs for whom the president is the spokesman.

President Obama talks, listens, thinks, answers and sometimes rethinks. This is new for this generation. You just have to listen: Bush wanted to be obeyed; that was clear. And he refused to take responsibility for errors. In 9th grade language his speeches were either lies or excuses. President Obama, on the other hand, wants to be right and he lets the people in on his plans and ideas. Nevertheless he can also be deceptive because he uses language as a painter of fine art uses his palette of colors  and his fine brushes to achieve shadow and shading. Mr. Bush did the best he could with his box of seven crayons.

— Moishepipik34, NYC”

(My thanks to Moishepipik34 for explaining so well and to the New York Times and Mr. Cohen for creating the occasion for him to do so.)


27 04 2009

Not too long ago a friend said I had “drunk the kool-aid” by voting for Barack Obama for president. “No way”, I said, “He’s the candidate of The Little Man!”

That’s what my father used to call Democratic politicians. He had been a young man during the Depression, and he had plenty of direct reason to know how much The Little Man needs help under capitalism.

The reason for that need is obvious: Capitalism works by Capital paying for and organizing the work of Labor. The two social classes are symbiotic. But there are very few people around who are wealthy enough to be important capitalists, and there are many millions of laborers. It’s easy for the few capitalists to reach and enforce a consensus among themselves about wages, working conditions, etc., and extremely hard for the millions of working people to do so.

So capitalists have a terrific bargaining advantage when they go looking for labor. They set the terms of employment essentially single-handedly. If you don’t like the pay they’re offering, there’s always another person around the corner who will. And if you turn down x job at pay $y, chances are you won’t find it paying more anywhere else.

In the 1930s unions, aided by a Democratic federal government, balanced the power levels a bit more equally, but that has long gone by the wayside. Republicans have been elected and re-elected, and have indeed gotten “the government off our backs”. So for decades people who are not wealthy have been losing assets and income. The increasing ability of business over the last decade to export jobs to the cheapest possible foreign labor markets has greatly exacerbated this problem.

Against that background I, a lifelong worker, can be excused for hoping that a Democratic president would redress the imbalance. What I forgot was MONEY. With American labor unions moribund, there’s now nowhere for Democratic politicians to get all the money it takes to run for office except from wealthy people — and that is what the Democratic Party has been doing for the last twenty years.

The Little Man, in short, can no longer finance a whole campaign, so now we have government by and for the rich. Sure, Democrats when in power improve things a bit for workers on the margins, but they always know which side their bread is buttered on. This is gradually being made obvious to me by such sources as this:

and this:

and finally this:

I thought I’d found the edge of the desert. In fact all I’d found was an Obama oasis.


14 03 2009


Why Obama?

A Relevant Story

Eleven years ago I moved into an historic little house downtown. The area was then a middlin-high crime area, so I took occupancy with trepidation. About a year after moving in, I was going to sleep around midnight when I heard the empty cans I had in a low box outside clunking against each other. Then I heard someone turning the doorknob to my kitchen door back and forth. I realized I had a prowler!

I called the cops immediately.

By the time they got there I was hearing the slithery, then cracking, sound of someone applying a pry bar to the back door. A minute or so later the cops drove up with their lights out and sirens off, and went back into my small yard. I heard yelling, and a scuffling sound, and soon the cops emerged at the front of the house, frogmarching a young guy in handcuffs. They were rough as they stuffed him in the back seat of the police car. I enjoyed seeing that.

Both of the cops were large men, taller and in much better shape than me. They looked like recently-retired, slightly-deteriorated athletes. I am a short guy who has always been overweight, and so never played any sports when I was a child. Probably for that reason, I have always disliked, and sometimes even hated, big, athletic men. But when those two beefy guys drove up, I was never gladder to see anyone in my life. And I loved the ease with which they subdued that prowler!

Why Obama.

Again, as in 2004 when Bush was re-elected, the American people were scared during the election just past. But, unlike last time, we were scared of something almost none of us could pretend to understand. Economics has been called “the dismal science”. It is boring and very hard. It takes a very determined and smart man to understand it. And here, in Obama, was a man who was calm and resolute, and who, above all, was obviously THE smartest of all the candidates who appeared before us during the long election season.

Lots of Americans don’t normally like intellectuals — for exactly the same reason I detest athletes. I call this phenomenon “cross-bell curve resentment”. But, as my little brush with crime taught me, when you desperately need the abilities of folks on the other side of a bell curve from you, those folks suddenly become as welcome as your long-lost best friend!

And that’s why Barack Obama was elected.

Update: Every once in a while some media person who is paid big money to do what I do for free agrees with one of my points. I am of course delighted. Please see this:


8 03 2009

Surely two more different people are hard to imagine. In fact I think they represent the two extremes of the American male personality: the good old boy and the analyzing intellectual.

Bush is — or more likely chose at some point in his life to act like — the classic Texas shit-kicker. I remember those guys well from growing up in Texas! They are strong and silent. But underneath that they are explosively emotional. They don’t know much about anything except business (which they often know a very great deal about indeed). When put in a tight spot they can be vindictive, even dangerous.

On the other side is a classic type from back east: articulate, elegant, widely-knowledgeable, and highly self-controlled. Many of our best technocrats are probably like this. And so are lots of people with Old Money (some of whom I met many years ago in college). Yet, through a delicious irony, Bush, having chosen to doff his inherited persona of Old — or  in his case Middle Aged — Money, has been succeeded in the highest office in the land by a man who comes from the lower middle class yet acts like a gentleman.

How could one People have elected two such different men in succession? I think the answer in the case of Bush is very clear. He was what a bunch of very scared and angry Americans called out for to save them. After being traumatized by the 9/11 attacks, we wanted someone tough to go somewhere, anywhere!, and whip some Arab ass. Bush, having chosen much earlier in his life to portray primitive American manhood, was just the man to embody our rage. He proceeded to act as ragefully as we could have wished, so we re-elected him in 2004.

Easy to understand.

But what about Obama, the cool, elegant, mixed-raced, smart guy? How could a country with a history of racism, and a streak of anti-intellectualism as wide as the Mississippi River, possibly have elected him President? I’m 61 years old, and the only time I remember our picking such a president in my lifetime was when Jack Kennedy (a Catholic, and therefor arguably unelectable at the time) was elected in 1960, whereupon his urbanity proceeded to charm the nation.

Needless to say, I have a theory about why Obama made it. Read my next post on this subject and see what you think about it.


6 02 2009

Recently I finished a great (and long) book about the Great Depression called The Dark Valley. After the stock market crash of 1929, during all the time until Franklin Roosevelt took office in March of 1932, Republican President Hoover DID NOTHING to simulate the economy, and almost nothing to aid the millions of new unemployed. He simply followed the economic orthodoxy of the age and cut spending in an effort to balance the budget.

Hence the infamy in which the name “Hoover” is still held.

Now the Republicans are about to follow in that Republican President’s footsteps. They’re trying to either defeat the President’s stimulus bill or turn it into yet another round of tax cuts for affluent people.

Tax cuts, Paul Krugman has explained, don’t stimulate the economy as well as direct expenditures that go to hire poor and working class people do. (I understand from elsewhere that that’s because such people spend the money right away, causing it to “turn over” quickly in the economy.) See Krugman’s discussion of the respective stimulative effects of spending and tax cuts here:

We have had tax cuts up to the gills for 8 years. They’ve helped to bring us to where our economy is now. Don’t let the Republicans get yet another round of them, at the same time crippling President Obama’s stimulus package.

Call your Senator and ask him or her to vote for the package that comes from the Democrats, not the Republicans, and to vote to cut off debate if the Republicans try to filibuster.

Republican policies are busted, broke, discredited, old, worn out, proven to fail, and OVER. Please don’t let them do it again.

Here’s where you can find how to contact your Senator. It’s important to do it today.


And, as lagniappe, here’s a post by a man who is better at explaining these things than I:

And another:

And, finally, a response to Republican anti-New Deal historical revisionism: