REPUBLICANS GO POSTAL

9 11 2009

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

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/09/opinion/09krugman.html?_r=1

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.





DECEPTION ON THE HORIZON

8 09 2009

Conservatives haven’t given up trying to kill the remnants of the New Deal and the Great Society–i.e., Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Welfare (what’s left of it), Food Stamps, and maybe even unemployment compensation.

In the coming 20 or so years, as the baby boomers (one of whom I am) age and die, Conservatives can be expected to step up that struggle, since only people boomer age and older remember the kinder world America was before the Reagan Age.

And when we consider that everyone who turned, say, 15, in 1980 when Regan was elected is 44 now, those conservatives might succeed handily. I believe that most people absorb their basic political assumptions around the time they develop favorite songs — and then remain loyal to them for a lifetime.

The best way to kill all those New Deal and Great Society programs, of course, is to pretend to be a pragmatist and declare that we can’t afford them. Here’s one of the first such  shots over the New Deal’s bow:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/08/opinion/08brooks.html

And here are the three liberal arguments in response (which ought to work but may not, given the aforementioned loyalty humans have to stuff imbibed as teenagers):

1. It’s Republicans — largely that last, most inept President — who have been the most wasteful:

http://community.nytimes.com/comments/www.nytimes.com/2009/09/08/opinion/08brooks.html?permid=3#comment3

and

http://www.skymachines.com/US-National-Debt-Per-Capita-Percent-of-GDP-and-by-Presidental-Term.htm

2. Hey, why don’t  we cut that huge military budget first?

http://community.nytimes.com/comments/www.nytimes.com/2009/09/08/opinion/08brooks.html?permid=6#comment6

(The US military budget is now about 1/2 of all the military spending in the world combined.)

and, finally, liberals should make the following point, which would be unanswerable but for the existence of the strange doctrine of American exceptionalism:

3. How come all the major European countries can have lots more benefits for their people then the USA does, and they don’t build up huge deficits?

See my earlier post, “Is it True What They Say About Sweden”, here:

https://nightman1.wordpress.com/2009/01/04/is-it-true-what-they-say-about-sweden/

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The answer to liberals’ question number 3 is implied in question number 2, about our mad continuation of the military spending that our government, and especially conservatives, justified during the Cold War as necessary to deter the Evil Empire…

…and then just kept up, unabated, for some strange reason, indefinitely.

Even if we need a strong army to fight in Afghanistan and future similar places full of Muslims who hate us, we don’t need all those super weapons we bought to deter the Soviet Union from launching a nuclear war or a conventional State v. State war. These are two very different kinds of war, requiring different approaches. Fighting irregular troops like the Taliban requires boots on the ground, and only enough air power to maintain control of the air, which is pretty easy when dealing with folks who don’t have an airforce. We don’t need a new line up of super-duper and super-expensive airplanes, missiles, etc., every few years.

But hey, we need to keep those defense contractors fat and happy, right?





KNOWLEDGE v. NO-NOTHINGISM: UPDATE

14 08 2009

LLLLL

A journalist has done a good job finding the people who started the “death panel” nonsense.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/14/health/policy/14panel.html?_r=1&hp

Republicans, and especially conservatives, have specialized in scaring people at least since the 1980s, most memorably in the “Willie Horton” scare that helped to defeat Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis in the 1988 presidential campaign.

The Wikipedia article on “Willie Horton” is informative:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willie_Horton

The misrepresentation concerning Horton and Dukakis was intentional on the part of the Republicans. Look for the name “Lee Atwater” in the Wikipedia article.

I’ve seen this kind of scare tactic used repeatedly by Republicans over my 61 years. Each time the Big Scare is successful I am amazed that people could believe the lie of the moment. Lots of Americans are either stupid and ignorant, I once concluded.

But I think I was unfair in that. Americans can only know the information they’re given. We have a poor education system, and above all a set of media that almost always goes for the most sensational story, and seldom bothers any more to provide background on anything. Go to the websites for major European media, like the BBC (England),  Deutsche Welle (Germany),  and Radio Nederland (Holland), and read and listen for a while. You’ll see the difference.

Why this difference? Why its our old friend PROFIT, of course. In the 1980s and ’90s, as all of US society became much more business-oriented, owners of big media began to adopt the idea that their News Division should become profit centers — no longer the unprofitable public service that they had once been. More profit requires more viewers. More viewers are gotten by showing or printing more sensational,  and less informative, material in the News.

That means there’s not much time for facts in our most of media anymore. It’s as simple as that.

_______________________________________

UPDATE:

“Two minds with but a single thought”:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sue-wilson/its-war-media-war_b_256115.html

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ANOTHER UPDATE:

Another interesting reaction to this story: This one is by the feisty economist / Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/14/opinion/14krugman.html

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PARTING SHOT:

Democratic politicians consistently fail to anticipate the viciousness and sneakiness of Republican attacks (with the notable exception of Mr. Obama in the last election). My favorite theory as to why most Democrats are so dense on this subject is that they fail to step back and take an analytical — in fact, anthropological –, approach to the problem.

If you don’t step outside the American Cultural Box and look at its rather jumbled contents dispassionately, you are likely to consistently miss the fact that Republican laissez faire economics overlap to a degree the most basic form of the foundational myth of American culture, namely the “American dream” (which says that ANYONE who works hard enough can access the opportunities the USA offers and thus become affluent or wealthy.)

If I am poor but believe with almost religious fervor that one day I’m going to be rich, then I won’t be grateful if you create social programs to make the life of the poor easier. I don’t expect to be in that wretched group long enough to enjoy such programs!

And if you tax the rich to pay for such things, then I’m really gonna be pissed off. That’s my future income you’re taking!

You just can’t trifle with a society’s foundational myth without sparking a lot of righteous anger….

Except at those rare times when lots of people wake up and realize that said myth is probably never going to come true in their lives. That happened on a massive scale in the Great Depression. It happened again to a lesser degree during the Viet Nam War in the ’60s — when a lot of draftable young men took notice of the fact that the war could very well kill them before they could even begin their climb toward wealth.

It may be happening again today. Working people may be waking up and noticing the true grimness of their futures in current America. See my post below titled “So THAT’S Why You Both Have to Work!”

This unpleasant awakening from the deteriorating American Dream may be why a lot of people voted Democrat last year.

And it may also be why this year a lot of other people are mobbing health care discussion forums and chanting, “Give us our America back!”

They are in the anger stage of mourning.





KNOWLEDGE v. NO-NOTHINGISM

12 08 2009

LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL

People on the Right have been known to scare us into doing dumb things (Think Iraq war!). A sad current  example of that practice is discussed in the article referenced below. The article explodes the myth that some on the Right have recently created about this one doctor and the larger issues he has taken positions on. The article also explains succinctly why scaring folks works so well so often.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/20090812/us_time/08599191583500

And, no, the “Frightening” that the Right has used in the health care debate and elsewhere is NOT paralleled on the Left by warnings about global warming. The difference is that our warnings of global warming are based on the work of LOTS of reputable scientists, while, at least in the case of the doctor discussed above, the Frightening practiced by the Right has generally been accomplished by distorting the facts.

For an authoritative look at the science behind global warming, visit the site of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:

http://www.ipcc.ch/

I always give scientists at least the benefit of the doubt, and I usually believe them when their pronouncements make sense in light of the moderate-to-good scientific knowledge I have.

I grew up in a world where extreme moralists were incessantly claiming to speak authoritatively about every aspect of life–from what happens to people after death to whether dancing should be prohibited.

I was troubled by all this hectoring, because I was serious about being a responsible guy, and I wanted to know who to believe. Then I learned about the scientific method and I realized that scientist don’t just make up their pronouncements or take them from ancient books. Instead, scientists actually TEST their hypotheses with real-world experiments, and change their ideas when experimental results require.

And then there is the fact that the child of science, technology, routinely produces new, wonderful things that we can each test for ourselves, and in the process  see the device’s underlying scientific theory  actually working, often spectacularly,  in the real world.

Since its inception around four hundred years ago, experimental science has increasingly routed the practitioners of the traditional “our ancestors believed it so it must be true” school of analysis.

What a relief for any thinking person!





DON’T TOUCH MY RICE BOWL!

24 07 2009

LLLLL

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:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/22/business/economy/22leonhardt.html?hp

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.

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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.

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*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.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Department_Of_Defense#Expenditures
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**But take a look at this amazing development:
http://www.slate.com/id/2223287/
Is it just the exception that proves the rule?




GOOD NEWS FOR THE REST OF US

13 06 2009

GOP-Leaning Majority Fading in U.S.

(This report in the Washington Post tells about an in-depth analysis of recent political outcomes made  by experts from both right and left.)

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/13/AR2009061301209.html?hpid=topnews

I’ve always felt this shift would happen eventually. Here’s why:

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/09/18/introducing-this-blog/

This chart, in the blog of economist Paul Krugman, shows the share of the nation’s total income that has gone to the richest 10 percent of the American population over the past 90 years. There was a startling increase in the percentage of total income that THE REST OF US received back in 1942, and a steep decrease in our percentage of the pie beginning in 1982. Krugman calls this increasing widening of the gap between the Rich and THE REST OF US “the great divergence.”

I could see the results of this divergence, starting back around 1990, in the everyday life going on around me. A few of the indicators I saw:

1.  Continual growth of Walmart, and, at the other end of the retail scale, of high-end
retailers like Neiman-Marcus, while retailers like Sears steadily declined.

This was evidence that the rich had ever more money to spend, while THE REST OF US had ever less, so we had to make finding “the best price” the controlling criterion in all our buying.

2. Continual decrease in the American savings rate, and a matching increase in use of credit.

This was evidence that THE REST OF US were being increasingly pinched as we tried to maintain a middle-class lifestyle on incomes that were not growing and often shrinking.

3. Observation of my fellow low-level office workers, among whom both parents’
working has become essentially universal, and among whom the wives invariably
take off no more than six weeks for childbearing — a period that I could see routinely
caused moms to leave their new babies so early that it almost broke their hearts to
do so. (And, no, most of these, are not jobs that represent promising careers for the
moms that would make them eager to get back to work.)

4. Ever-growing number-of-hours-worked-per-year statistics for THE REST OF US in
the USA, so that we are now THE people in the entire world who work the most. (We
passed the Japanese some time ago!)

This weakening of the American middle class relative to American rich people was the inevitable result of the long dominance of Republican ideas here. In every Western country since the middle of the 19th Century there has always been a Right, which represents the interests of the owners of capital, and a Left, which tries to make life better for workers.

That is the essence of the great, long contention between the two sides of the political  spectrum — an economic class struggle, represented in the USA by the struggle between Democrats and Republican. And ever since the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 Republicans and Republican ideas have predominated here.

When workers are continually being weakened economically, eventually the worm will turn, and we will have a swing to the Left.

We are now seeing that swing begin.





OH I WISH I WEREN’T IN DIXIE!

9 06 2009

You have to live in the place for a few years and watch our legislators in action to see what an ignorant and mean-spirited place it is:

10. Our governor’s ideology-driven indifference to working people doing its inevitable harm (but not, unfortunately, to his political career–yet):

http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/legislature/49055021.html

9.  On the first page of the Internet version of my local paper 6/18/09. Note that Randy’s sports chat is first under “Today’s Headlines”. The picture speaks for itself.

Live, from Omaha, Advocate sportswriter Randy Rosetta is participating in an online chat about LSU baseball today at 1 p.m. The red-hot Tigers are one win away from the College World Series, championship series. To ask a question in advance, fill out the form on the chat page or check back at the scheduled chat time to join the conversation.

8. Anyone remember “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice in Fantasia?

Four former governors of Louisiana met yesterday with our current right-wing twerp ideologue governor to remind him that it would be unwise to ruin the state’s higher educational system in his zeal to cut the state budget.

http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/47814247.html

7.  Unemployment Compensation? We don’t  need no stinkin’ unemployment compensation!

From public radio show, “Marketplace”:

http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2009/06/04/pm_ants/

“Employers pay the taxes that fund unemployment insurance. States set the tax rates. And lawmakers are often under pressure from business to keep those taxes low.

And that’s just what happened here. [a Southern state. Are you surprised?] Remember the “ants and grasshoppers” fable? South Carolina’s a grasshopper; it failed to save for an economic winter. Back in 2000, its trust fund was more than $800 million in the black. Business leaders worried that money, money collected from employers would be diverted to pay for other state programs. So the legislature cut taxes, and the unemployment fund headed down, down, down.”

________________________________________________________________________

6.  Sock it to me, you big strong insurance industry, you!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/06/09/mary-landrieu-opposed-to_n_213211.html

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5.  Think of the rich people (6/02/09)!

This one’s complex: Back in 2002 a Louisiana state representative named Stelly pushed through a change in the state income tax that made it more progressive. I was amazed. He must have been a closet liberal.

Now we’re back to the usual. Last year the Louisiana Legislature rolled back one of Stelly’s changes, making our tax law be kind to the rich again. In this newspaper story they reject any going back on that, though this year the state has an unprecedented budget emergency.

Louisiana, thy name is Guatemala!

http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/46681172.html?index=14&c=y

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4.   Amazingly, this one (pushed by the state dentists’
organization) failed (5/20/09)

http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/45456832.html

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3.   Extended unemployment benefits in a recession are actually
BAD for us (5/19/2009)

http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/45411062.html

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2.   Bill to allow guns on campus (5/18/09)

http://www.2theadvocate.com/opinion/45268152.htm

These Louisiana folks either think they’re living in the West in the 19th Century, in which case they’re fools, or want to, in which case they’re dangerous throwbacks.

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1.   State tax holiday for guns proposed (5/19/09)

http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/45373872.html