Political Dynamics for 2014

DDWe often forget the world is a dynamic place. Instead of embracing its splendor, our senses are blunted by our own inventions and appetites. We have forgotten how to think deeply and make change. We abandon beauty for bad taste. A recent television episode for families featured a child who had lost his tooth. The kid remarked, now he could “suck his own blood.”

Despite the political bloodsucking, it is the time of the year when we celebrate our best and brightest, those whose youth or age has allowed them to bring opportunity to society, and to be recognized for their special gifts. Did these gifts make a difference? Or did they gain the attention of the public eye because we were told they should? In this category belong pre-scandal Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and any guest on Fox.

Unemployment by State. FRED.

Unemployment by State. FRED.

So ignore the national trends. Take a private inventory. Over the last year, who made a difference in your life? Why? How? In that same period, who did you make a difference to? How? Why?

The Tea Party hoped for a difference, but went into a rage of despair when they discovered that in the period between shutting down the government and passing the federal budget their influence had waned, and they still don’t understand why. They are busy making noises and plans to run against those members of Congress who abandoned their ideals. It seems more retribution than strategy.

I have never been sure what those ideals were, but apparently the Tea Party stood for closing the government. That action seemed their pinnacle of success. I remember the smiles and general glee, the joy of their words celebrating an achievement the rest of the world found unthinkable and stupid.

That act alone is a reason to “dig deep.” The Tea Party never seemed to understand that government is the legal structure that supports local business and global commerce, and maintains the social order, and aids the orderly transitions of generations. Their obsession with the balance sheet turns a blind eye to government’s real functions—the safety and security of our economy and our society, an expensive undertaking, but functions which create real long- and short-term benefits for all.

I think the Tea Party doesn’t like the “for all.” Definitely, it doesn’t like how we provide for the “all.” As best as I can tell, it plays favorites. It favors the wealthy who receive government help in greater dollar amounts than the poor, but the Tea Party seems to want to protect that part of the government balance sheet. Government helps the wealthy by removing its numbers from the balance sheet, so the transfer is not transparent and is also invisible. But big numbers posted in the budget before they go out seem to drive the Tea Party crazy.

But big numbers off the government balance sheet have no impact on their attention. Not one Congress member who proudly wears the Tea Party label apologized or was contrite that their action to shutter the federal government cost 120,000 jobs, and cost the economy $24 billion.

Will the mainstream alliance of big business, cronies, and Republican loyalists carry the day in the next Presidential cycle? Will the Tea Party, gaining skill at raising money and still popular as an assembly of anarchist-reactionaries, protect their turf?

Heritage Action, and the dark money the Koch brothers organizations provides, may make the difference. But will their support be enough to help the Tea Party hold its seats against a turning tide?

Democrats can point to a growing list of skilled politicians of exceptional merit. Going into 2016, really smart Democrats are focused on the state level and are building out grassroots organizations. New York State, with Gov. Cuomo and Senator Kristen Gillibrand, and New York City, with new Mayor de Blasio, are the ones to watch. Experienced, key operatives are coming into the state to put a progressive agenda in place, including expanding public education and higher taxes on the wealthy.

Sen. Gillibrand has been a real surprise among Senate Democrats. She deserves greater recognition for her no-holds-barred approach to arm twisting and her willingness to put principles first. She may be New York’s best Democratic female candidate for President. Continue reading Political Dynamics for 2014

Stormy Monday, 7/8/13

If you don’t feel like doing something interesting with your Monday, like clipping your toenails or trying to teach your goldfish to roll over, watch for Rick Perry’s announcement about his “exciting future plans.” Will he declare his intention to run for a fourth term as Texas Governor? Or has he finally remembered the third federal government department he wants to shut down, clearing the way for another presidential run in 2016?

With none other than George Walker Bush urging Congress to get comprehensive immigration reform done, I now have to reassess my own enthusiasm for it. And don’t even get me started on the macabre irony of Bush uttering the words: “It’s very important to fix a broken system…”

Foreshadowing the probable fate of the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” bill, Rep. Michael McCaul claimed in an interview this morning that Americans “don’t want a comprehensive bill like what we saw with Obamacare.” How he knows this, he didn’t say. Maybe he’ll explain it after he and his House Republican colleagues get together behind closed doors midweek to discuss how they’re going to derail reform.

Speaking of Obamacare, if you’re in Virginia or Ohio, watch for this week’s rollout of new TV ads (funded by the infamous America-hating Brothers Koch) designed to convince you that it sucks. The ads will later appear in other states. If the campaign is successful, watch for future Koch-financed commercials aimed at making you doubt and/or despise kittens, electricity and oxygen.

Secretary of State John Kerry returns to Israel later in the week to continue efforts to broker direct talks between that nation and the Palestinians. After last week’s flap about the State Department first denying then later admitting that Kerry spent time aboard his yacht in Nantucket as Egypt’s government was being overthrown, the Secretary no doubt craves the peace and tranquility that have always been hallmarks of the Middle East. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 7/8/13

A Labor Day Message from Disney: the Nazis are Winning

Sometimes it’s interesting to watch the old World War II propaganda films. Labor Day makes me think of how Nazi Germany was portrayed in a 1943 Disney Donald Duck cartoon.

 

 

It’s starts with their offensive song about racial superiority and uber-patriotism. The interesting part is how Disney portrays living in Hitler’s Germany.

Of course, there’s unquestioning obedience to the leader, which is common in any authoritarian government. Then Donald Duck gets up at dawn, works like a dog all day with tiny breaks, no vacation days, and he gets home just in time to fall asleep exhausted. The announcer informs Nazi workers that it’s their privilege to work 48 hours a day for the Fuhrer until they die. He’s made to work overtime while production is sped up even more. It’s a living hell of non-stop work that only goes faster and faster until Donald finally goes mad.

I guess in 1943 that was something that clearly separated America from Nazi Germany. I’m not so sure they could make that cartoon today.

Rapidly since the 1980′s, the productivity of the American worker has gone up while real wages go down. Business economists celebrate that, but it means people are working a lot harder for less pay. Benefits keep getting cut too. Germans today get a standard six weeks paid vacation every year. Americans are lucky to get any paid vacation days at all. Continue reading A Labor Day Message from Disney: the Nazis are Winning