Disclaimer: The thoughts and views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Democrats for Progress or its members.
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War is a series of battles, but is always about a bigger prize. The I Ching warns of this, and every hunter knows: watch with your eyes, listen with your ears. Know where you are and what’s ahead before you make your next step.
War has two goals: 1) win; take away, tie up or use up options to bring defeat to your enemies and put people, resources and authority under your control; 2) a new system; alter the methods and positions of power, both as a deterrent and control.
Without guns, America is witnessing a political civil war. It’s not loose talk or noise. It is advanced by legislative procedures that breach trust, crater resources, and weaken the entire Republic. It leaves opponents without a defense. It accumulates power for a well funded, fortressed minority. Its losses embolden its backers and voters.
Let’s look at the logic of the healthcare-government funding fight: why will Republicans not eliminate tax credits for Big Oil not tied to life or death, or cut defense? Why will they endanger the lives of citizens by denying healthcare in the name of freedom and jobs?
Because healthcare is only a flag; as in battles of old when the the object was to bring down the flag and the courageous flag holder—the battle within the battle—healthcare is one of the main dynamics of changes the GOP targeted in their march and attacks to restrict opportunity and install limits on personal liberty, especially for women.
Flag and flag holder: on the day that marked his greatest success, perhaps the greatest day of his presidency, Barack Obama was forced to watch the government he was elected to head shut down.
That government, while he has held its flag, tightened equal pay requirements, protected financial consumers, increased Wall Street oversight, enabled people with intra-gender sexual preferences to serve openly in the military, provided middle class tax cuts, cleaned up the Gulf, and developed a working agreement to end the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
America rejects the New Orleans idea of the spy boy; it doesn’t seem to want a President with forward vision. It’s too busy looking backward, or stuck in the present. The national character is one of passion, excited by the unexpected, without realizing these moments are often planned.
Like a magician’s act.
Republicans have leveraged this naive view of politics into skillful deceptions, with the assistance of media’s commitment to the doctrine of false equivalency. Media reports a world that lacks comparisons, outcomes and consequences, and in the name of fairness, only reports narratives of blame.
The media didn’t widely report some Republicans in the House ran on the intent of shutting government down. Republicans blitzed the flag and flag holder, the people’s government and its elected President. If they didn’t get the flag, they took up the siege.
A few spy boys took note: A New York Times commenter on Paul Krugman’s blog wrote:
“None of this is about the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare; It is about whose legacy this legislation stands to benefit: A black man.”
It’s also about how easily he has dismantled their most cherished myths and took power that was for so long in the grip of their hands. So, chagrined at losing their mojo, they confuse their decline with insolence. But they are impertinent about the basics we expect of national elected officials. As the Washington Post put in an editorial:
“Pay the bills and try not to embarrass us in front of the world.”
Publicly and privately, these officials have named and targeted government the enemy. And before day one, these officials and their financiers questioned, at every level that involves rumor and error, Barack Obama’s constitutional right to be President.
Hardball MSNBC show host Chris Matthews had the following exchange with Rep. Steve King (R-NY) this week:
MATTHEWS: I’ve had members, they know who they are, they say — ‘I really can’t say with these lips that this man, Barack Obama, was elected President.’ They choke on that. How many are there in Congress on your side that represent that rejectionist front? […]
KING: I would say there are probably 30 or 40 who are like that. As there were a number of Democrats who felt that way about George W. Bush, and going back to when you and I first met, Republicans who felt that way about Bill Clinton… This is a very dangerous aspect to our government… The fact that we have people who are willing to demonize the President of the United States because he’s from a different party… and now, obviously, with President Obama, it’s definitely there.
Texas Governor Rick Perry said implementing Obamacare is a felony.
So, in the riving throes of contempt, the GOP wants to show that America can do without government and nothing bad will happen. It is a near-sighted approach to power, because, in fact, government manages the long term. The drift of environmental poisons, food safety, federal land, highway safety, air traffic, weather reports, passports and a host of other invisible services dampen short-term shocks by effective long-range planning.
Government has a positive, sustaining impact on our lives. So nothing will happen today. Or likely, tomorrow.
But that’s not the point! The short term is safe not because we don’t need government, but because government has worked effectively to make it secure. Continue reading The Spoils of War: For One Side, Healthcare; For the Other, an Incurable Condition
Unlike movies or television, print close-ups should have context. The intellectual appeal of print is the ease with which it shows connections and reasons missing in a visual world, because print can find and express a hidden interior, and show how it is shared and developed.
Immediately, it’s easy to realize Ted Cruz is a national prototype that fits Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Allen West. The prototype loves to play dare, shames anyone who doesn’t adopt its ideological and self-righteous line, and except as space fantasies, the prototype has no plan for progress. Its working models are extortioners and exhorters. They are empty of compassion and confuse fantasy and ideas. They are media masters. They lie easily. They feign outrage.
They think they are gods.
They are not statesmen.
It is their marginality that makes possible their outsized impact of their singular acts.
We look at their views on issues like healthcare, but that is the wrong place to find their passion, which is a repeated faith in a self-directed belief in the importance of their own ideas. Cruz doesn’t care about healthcare, is no expert on the legislation. Cruz is having himself a grand time at the expense of the nation.
He’s an outlier. The outlier’s most dangerous trait is the refusal, within society, by law or morality, to recognize the value of permission. Outliers do not discuss, negotiate, reach out; they are tone deaf when it comes to others’ views. They overturn the idea and stand against compromise. Outliers make self-evident references to their own will.
Without permission, as they break old limits, be aware that anything goes, not all of it radical. Some of it’s worse.
Nikki Haley is genteel and mean, inept, but by South Carolina’s system of home rule, in which local authority derives from the state legislature, minor and unimportant. Michele Bachmann, a rhetorical flamethrower, is a dismal, ineffective legislator. Remember her Tea Party televised answer to a State of the Union Address, in which she spoke to the wrong camera? Bobby Jindal also failed the green light test. Sarah Palin passed.
Governors Scott Walker, Rick Perry, Chris Christie, Representatives past and present Jim DeMint, Anthony Weiner, Scott Desjarlais, the entire Republican caucus of North Carolina’s General Assembly, Virginia’s GOP candidates for governor and lieutenant governor (noteworthy for ideological extremes which are really personal beliefs they seek to impose on society) have more in common with the outlier world view than conservative ideology.
In fact, conservative principles mask their deep, personal investment in seeking and wielding power, their desire to hold the absolute ability to bend communities—the world—to their will and fancy. I haven’t yet seen this in Tim Scott, but Jeff Sessions shape-shifts on judicial votes (the result of his unforgiven slight at being refused decades ago a seat on the Federal bench). Marco Rubio lacks sea legs, but doesn’t rise to the level of the outlier; he lacks the desire, the inner drive.
The outlier embraces the secret zeitgeist of every generation, the sci-fi kid who could beam up into a magic world and owns the tractor beam.
But Cruz is singular. By the speech of the 1950s, Cruz is gone: he is journeying inside of his own noise: he offers no reasons to end Obamacare. So fixed on its collapse, he has no alternative. And standing in the well of the Senate, reading Green Eggs and Ham, a children’s book about the folly of resisting things you haven’t tried, is not compelling or proof.
As Cruz read Dr. Seuss, the world’s leaders gathered in New York to make remarkable speeches about their national priorities and their concerns about the state of the world; also available, like Cruz’s grandstanding, on live media.
Argentina’s President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, especially, was compelling as she talked about war and peace. As Cruz meandered, she recalled the gripping 41-year old portrait from Vietnam of the young girl running down a highway, naked, her clothes burned off, her face in an anguished silent scream, just after an Air Force bomber dropped napalm on her and other fleeing villagers by mistake.
Note that Fernández de Kirchner and every world leader who stepped forward to speak (they continue today!) cited expanding and improving healthcare as a major national goal, whether improving sanitation, nutrition and creating ample clean water, or fighting contagious diseases or domestic violence. The leaders of the world, in every continent and corner, in nations rich and poor, in every climate region, from islands to arid plains and broad forests, viewed healthcare as vital to their national prosperity and stability, to their country’s growth and freedom, to improving the lot of the poor—as most of America saw and heard Ted Cruz read Dr. Seuss, without a mention or peep about what the rest of the world was doing and saying about healthcare, or war and peace. Continue reading The Cruz Prototype (updated)
It was a stunning performance! No candidate ever boldly told so many cheery, rapid-fire lies in 90 minutes, pushing aggressively to bullet point the base. Romney offered not policies but pledges.
His first pledge stunned America, caught off guard by the bold detail expressed when Romney overlooked Obamacare and leaped forward to announce the first detailed cut included in his budget and tax plan. Kept tightly secret; no leaks, no rumors or predictions; no one was suspicious that something big was about to break.
The self-styled jobs creator’s first announced act, in line with his budget criteria, was to cut Big Bird. Old habits die hard. Always the venture (many say vulture) capitalist, Romney knows how to target and dismantle valuable enterprises to extract value and create outsized capital returns that others miss. He casts a hard eye. With government funds, cuts can reduce the deficit, be used as subsidies, consultant fees, put into private contracts, be given away as tax breaks, or lower debt.
The problem is Big Bird’s annual federal share is less than 1/10th what the Justice Department prosecuted in 2012 federal health care fraud cases against private and corporate doctors and service providers who stole $4 billion in taxpayers’ money. United Technology was fined $75 million early this year for violating US trade laws in selling highly classified, prohibited military materials to China that, if trafficked outside of the company, would have amounted to espionage of state secrets; its fine was 1/6th of Big Bird’s and his whole crew’s annual budget. Big Bird is small potatoes when it comes to federal funding.
As the shock died and recovery began, Romney later emphatically stated his goal to strengthen education. That bullet point offered evidence of the Romney fissure, the old disconnect of his warring, divided vision, the way he separates rather than combines things. He can point out valued pieces, but he can’t put them in combination. Synergy is less his strength than demolition; salvaging, extracting value.
He had just pledged to use the power of government to cut the best the government had to offer in early education—a program in the most crucial time—an innovation so original it stimulated learning, reduced childcare costs for working families, taught life lessons, and moved an eight-year-old after the debate to write a powerful letter pointing out what should have been obvious even by Romney’s blind criteria.
According to Romney, the costumed character and legendary early childhood educator—one of the nation’s best and most cost-effective, the wildly successfully Big Bird—is bad, wasteful, off-target government; Romney implies only private education, offered as public subsidy, is able and effective—and can be strengthened with your taxes. To Romney, their overwhelming broadcast success confirms Big Bird and Sesame Street belong in the private sector; he ignores the suitability and match of the content and purpose of their goals to public and non-profit markets, and the unique protection these markets offer to Sesame Street’s creative ways and means.
Big Bird is a big entrepreneur, but he took a different path than Romney’s. In 40 years, Big Bird has grown. Along the way, he created jobs. Sesame Street, his home place, is exported for broadcast to 140 countries, adapted to each country’s culture; Nigeria, for example, offers Zobi the Cookie Monster. Early countries included New Zealand, Norway, Germany; it was the top children’s program in Kuwait for 15 straight years. Big Bird’s home territory created hundreds of different products, generates income, excise, and sales taxes, meets a high wage payroll, supports ancillary jobs in a wide variety of industries.It has no offices outside of America. It is a universal early foundation of later workforce training.
By exporting broadcast and other products, Sesame Street helps lowers the US trade imbalance. It now offers leading edge, new media products and a full catalogue of traditional fare: games, toys, clothes, and a publishing division that publishes books and magazines, along with DVDs and other media. Approximately 60% of its annual revenues are license-generated.
But one of its broadcast licensing demands directly contradicts the demands of the private market: all of its broadcast materials must be commercial-free. This reinforces the strong social impact of its mission in countries like Israel and South Africa. China wants in—with Big Bird. Frankly, Sesame Street brings a lot to the table for the government. I would be trying to embrace the program the world loves; it’s peanuts in the national PR budget, its good will is inviolate, and I wouldn’t want word to get out around the world that my first act was to put Big Bird on the chopping block, killing the $1.25 a year per capita the program indirectly receives from station fees.
Its low debt and strong annual cash flow makes Sesame Street the perfect takeover target were it not protected as a non-profit.
But most importantly, Sesame Street sets the global standard for media-crafted early childhood education in every region and language. It has won 143 Emmy and 8 Grammy awards. Although the show continually innovates in its markets, it is a lower-cost producer than the private sector.
It began by capitalizing on a vision outside of its highly successful, positive balance sheet, a big idea best suited and pursued in the non-profit marketplace. With large grants from the Carnegie Foundation, and later the Ford Foundation, Sesame Street also established an endowment rather than leveraging its assets through borrowing, a high risk, capital reward and extraction strategy Romney repeatedly employed at Bain. It wisely did not put itself in danger by borrowing against assets—as did Lehman Brothers, JPMorganChase, and others that racked billions in losses and required government bailouts.
In large part, the show’s 40-year stability is because it is outside of the capital markets and does not serve its masters. But Romney doesn’t understand markets focused on value, not profits. He wants to eliminate those markets. He’s okay if the government transfers money through services or contracts, but values mean, for him, picking “winners and losers.” He picks against values. That why Romney wants to punish the Bird’s neighborhood (it can’t be sold or outsourced!) and make it an example of waste rather than an example of huge value and global good will, an amazing American brand reaped from a minor investment of government aid, at a current per capita cost of less than a $1.25 a year.
But Romney sees success as the province of only the private sector balance sheet, claiming in another bullet point that the private sector always lowers costs, increases innovation, and grows jobs, telling Barack he didn’t know of any examples that differed—ignoring the contradictory example he cited in his opening detail of items to cut. Romney, unlike Warren Buffet, was never a buy-and-hold investor. He’s only put nominal money into his own candidacy this time; he’s inclined toward leveraging and short sales, turnovers.
The program is slated for Romney’s ax or red pen, he says, because it does not meet his “one” criterion: being worth the sale of US debt to China at an average rate of 2.1 %. China’s US debt share is 13%, less than the combined 17% shares of Great Britain and Japan, the second and third largest international purchasers of US debt. Number one are the American people and domestic institutions. Apparently selling debt to China to fund battleships and rejected weaponry for the Pentagon to defend against an unforeseen military threat from China is okay. But Big Bird, used to teach China’s children, doesn’t meet that threshold. Continue reading Style Points For Lies
In August of 2009, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin cynically attacked the Obama administration backed Affordable Health Care bill on the grounds that it would create “death panels.”
What’s a “death panel”? Ms. Palin explained it to us via the favorite method of angst-ridden teenagers with no social skills everywhere by turning to Facebook. Once again exploiting her own children to score political points, she raised the specter of her Down’s Syndrome afflicted child standing before:
Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.
Of course, this was all nonsense. The part of the proposed legislation that allowed her to make this fanciful claim was the portion that would allow Medicare to compensate health care professionals who counseled individuals facing end-of-life decisions. This would include the terminally ill, those advanced in age, and anyone else who was seeking hospice care, was designating someone who had legal authority to make decisions for them in the event they became incapacitated, or simply wanted to devise a living will. This twisting of the truth moved the respected website Factcheck.org to name Ms. Palin’s lie as one of its “Whoppers of the Year” for 2009.
Despite the fiasco of false fear and paranoia brought on by Ms. Palin during the health care debate, a year and a half later we might want to find it in our hearts to thank her for laying out in such stark terms what the issues really are when we consider making sure the most vulnerable among us have access to desperately needed health care. Certainly the thought of a child with a genetic disability being denied needed care should shame a society with the high moral standards we demand. Judging whether one is worthy of care based on their “level of productivity to society” is not what the land of the free is all about. We would never want to be known as the nation that brought into wide acceptance the notion of condemning our grandparents or our children to die simply because they needed to see a doctor and could not afford to do so.
Well, most of us don’t.
Enter Paul Ryan, the ultra-radical Republican Representative from Wisconsin who has cornered the market on proposing some of the worst ideas to come out of Congress this century. Mr. Ryan has been telegraphing his budget proposal for 2012 on YouTube and through Republican-controlled Fox News with the vigor of an advertising executive. The details of this budget were released for public scrutiny today, but we already knew enough just from his showmanship to get a fairly clear picture of what he and presumably the rest of his radical Republican colleagues in the House of Representatives demand. Continue reading The Death Panels: Rep. Paul Ryan, Commissioner