Saturday, September 29, 2012

What's Right of "Right"?

We can recite chapter and verse what's wrong with our democracy, and how that wrong has impacted our economy--including our individual economic well-being.

Standing back, I see two major defects in the body politic--a political system that thrives on special interest money, and a concomitant, pervasive sense of helplessness gripping the electorate, an electorate that has struggled in vain to take back the reins of government.
Nowhere has this been made more evident than in the 99%, Occupy Wall Street movements, which sought to bring attention to the wildfire raging across this nation, only to be beat back, derided, and pepper-sprayed for their trouble.
I'm what you'd call--paradoxically--a Realistic-Idealist. I see things as they are, but hold fast to the vision of how they might be.
For all that the two parties hold in common, there's still sufficient differences in their approach to governance--their political philosophies--to vote for one or the other. We know all too well where the two political parties' lines merge, but we fail to acknowledge where those lines diverge.
For example: Republicans are autocratic in their approach to winning and governing. Around 20 states are contemplating, or have passed, some voter-suppression legislation, or have purged their voters' rolls, in an obvious attempt to reduce the number of voters--and potential votes--for the Democratic party, preying on blacks, students, and the elderly.
I like the fire and water analogies. Yet, a "leaky faucet" for some is a deluge for others, and the acrid smell of smoke is already flaring the nostrils of those closest to the fire.
We all agree that, without a major shift of emphasis in this country's political and economic philosophies, this country's future as a superpower is in grave danger.
For now, my plan is to stay politically active. This activity will continue until such time the unthinkable happens--Republicans regain control of Congress and/or the White House.
With the fire growing ever so close, threatening both the house and its contents, it becomes paramount that we salvage what we can while doing what some have suggested--indemnifying ourselves against inevitable losses, while "mak[ing] preparations to escape the flames."
Despite the proximity of the fire, we can still make a difference. We can still salvage some things before the roaring flames are allowed to fully consume the house, but not with a Republican administration.
For example: With a Democratic administration, and a supportive congress, we can salvage the Affordable Health Care Act, the current, hard-won law that Millard Mitt Romney has prioritized to repeal as his first official act as president. The Act, not perfect by most metrics, is still better than what preceded it, although a growing number of Americans are opposed to it, which brings me back to the article, "The 1 Percent's Problem," which suggests that people are hardwired to seek their own self-interest.
I say: People are more interested in “being right” (pun intended), even if it kills them!
As a people, we're becoming more and more preoccupied with our own well-being, and less with the well-being of our neighbors, be it their physical or economic well-being.
The prevailing attitude, encapsulated this way--"I've got mine, get yours"--has entered the mainstream of American thought, perhaps driven by conservative talk radio, and a depressed economy placing strain on social services, as the cost for life essentials outpaces family incomes.
With a Democratic administration, and a supportive congress, we can continue our troop draw down in Afghanistan, and foil a potential re-engagement by a hawkish Republican administration, believing that the Obama administration has prematurely abandoned what could be--were we to remain indefinitely in Afghanistan--an indisputable victory.
We can continue to use measures short of war to force Iran to discard its nuclear ambitions, rethink its relationship with Hezbollah, and abandon its supposed plans for the destruction of Israel.
With a Democratic administration, and a supportive congress, we can approach our national debt, not with austerity programs only, but with programs that stress economic growth and expansion. We have seen--by taking account of the lack of success of some countries in the Eurozone with austerity--just how ineffective austerity can be in a down economy--plunging these countries once again into the throes of a recession.
With a Democratic administration, and a supportive congress, we can end the War on the Poor, as outlined in the Paul Ryan Budget, salvaging Medicare without privatizing it, and strengthening Social Security for future generations without gutting key provisions--allowing a portion of it to be invested in a volatile stock market. 
With a Democratic administration, and a supportive congress, we can not only wind down the Afghanistan war (which is now this nation's longest), but bring our bloated defense budget more in line with our current threat assessment, and resist the cry (occasionally by Willard Romney and other saber-rattling Republicans) to keep America strong with an even stronger military, accusing President Obama and his administration of "weakening"
America's  military resolve and readiness.
With a Democratic administration, and a supportive congress, we can bring more balance to this nation's Supreme Court, and the entire federal-court system--countering efforts by Republicans to stack the courts with members of their own party and political persuasion.
Realizing that the federal courts are the last recourse for their draconian laws, and their desire to legislate clear political advantages for their party, Republicans have systematically held up court appointments, while packing the courts with members that often support their radical, conservative agenda.
With a Democratic administration, and a supportive congress, we move one step closer to clinching a deal for a massive infrastructure project, one that will build new roads, and replace dilapidated and unsafe bridges, while putting back to work construction workers, and contractors, while boosting related businesses.
Economist, Paul Klugman, in his new book, "End This Depression Now," is urging the hiring and rehiring of our nation's first responders--police officers, and firefighters--as well as teachers and nurses--groups that have seen their numbers slashed over recent years, because of a loss of state and local government tax revenues during the housing crisis, and the job-reductions that ensued.
In my city alone, firefighters are receiving pink slips, and fire stations have closed, one that would have responded to a fire at my resident had the need presented itself, requiring now a longer response time.
It's axiomatic, that the Republican-held House--currently spending more days in recess,  than in actual work--won't pass the president's jobs bill, and neither will they introduce any of their own, for fear that a recovering economy--and a sanguine employment outlook--will help the president's reelection bid.
Just as it's the first responsibility of a bureaucracy to survive, Republicans will pass no laws that will put Americans back to work in substantial numbers, as the survival of their party hangs in the balance, as they pin their hopes on a continued sluggish and struggling economy.
If asked, I'm sure Republicans wouldn't call their actions un-American, just good business sense, coupling their interests with that of the American people--saying essentially, "What's good for the party is good for America."
Strangely, many Americans aren't upset with this tactic, as Republicans have managed to spin our economic situation to their advantage—even as they promise further tax cuts for the 1%, the uber-rich "job creators"--pledging to reduce our national debt by downsizing government,  and reducing food stamps, and other safety-net programs for the poor.
We're learning--to our chagrin--that people don't always vote their self interest, but their perception of that self-interest (an interest usually molded by others), and are more incline to adhere to established principles, to be right regardless of cost, than to acknowledge the failure of those ideologies to which they've given their heart and
With a Democratic administration, and a supportive congress, we might see higher taxes on the rich, the passage of the Buffett Rule, and full funding for the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
To be sure, the Act does little to address "too big to fail," and other measures that brought this nation's economy to its proverbial knees. But it's a start and, with a little luck, the law may be strengthen under a Democratic congress.
Frankly, it's time that the 1 % pay their fair share, since many of them, and their children, aren't volunteering to fight the wars waged on their behalf, and on behalf of the military industrial complex, from which some of their wealth is derived, with the military subsidizing the true cost of providing oil to an oil-gluttonous nation, by keeping
shipping lanes open, piracy to a minimum, and masking the true cost of a gallon of gas.
With a Democratic administration, and a supportive congress, the federal government could take the lead in ending the War on Women, and their need for low-cost contraception to keep abortions to a minimum by providing a shield against the assault of sex-crazed men, who feel that condoms reduce the pleasure of sex, and that abortions are the answers in cases where child support may be imposed.
We would see an end to the attacks on Planned Parenthood at the federal level, threats from Willard Romney to bring it down--and hopefully a federal push to squash new Personhood legislation, to honor a woman's right to choose, and to keep Republican control statehouses from prescribing unnecessary medical procedures--transadominal
and transvaginal ultrasounds--and, in the process, coming between doctors and their patients, all in an effort to discourage women considering abortions.
In recent months, the demand for ultrasound technicians has quadruple!
With a Democratic administration and a supportive congress, we would see an end to the incessant wrangling over extending the nation's debt ceiling; we could then put in place sound fiscal policies, and reasonable cuts over time to reduce the debt, restoring the nation's AAA credit rating in the process, while preserving critical programs that would negatively impact the poor and the overall economy were they to be cut.
The Republicans' resistance to raising taxes on the top earners to achieve that end--presumably honoring their pledge to Grover Norquist--places an undue burden on society's most vulnerable members--the poor.  As the economy resists rebounding, the plight of the poor garners less and less empathy from lawmakers, with congressional Republicans squarely blaming the unemployed for their out-of-work status.
With a Democratic administration and a supportive congress, the assault on gays and lesbians will diminish--as will calls for a Constitutional provision outlawing same-sex marriage, threats to reinstate "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and promises to enforce DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act.
As Jesse Jackson has famously said, "We have to keep hope alive."
Although not much of a Jackson fan, the sentiment expressed in that aforementioned statement, captures precisely where this nation now stands--our crossroad, so to speak--that may become our cross if we don't choose wisely.
As the ravenous fire approaches, having consumed everything in its path, we--the American people--will have to decide what possessions are worth saving (since we can't salvage everything)--and what can be allowed to perish along with the house, if it comes to that.
 In "The 1 Percent's Problem," the author says this of "rent seeking" and the "rent seekers":
"In a broad sense, "rent seeking" defines many of the ways by which our current political process helps the rich at the expense of everyone else, including transfers and subsidies from the government, laws that make the marketplace less competitive, laws that allow C.E.O.'s to take a disproportionate share of corporate revenue (though Dodd-Frank has made matters better by requiring a non-binding shareholder vote on compensation at least once every three years), and laws that permit corporations to make profits as they degrade the environment."
Although both parties have had a hand in creating the economic conditions that contribute to the income disparities that face this nation, Republicans--almost single-handedly--have become the party almost exclusively devoted  to "rent seekers," convincing a growing number of the electorate that their personal interests lie with those exploiting the system--the "rent seekers."

Saturday, September 1, 2012

I thought Eastwood was chair-itable to Mitt. He created a moment that Mitt will chair-ish all his life.