In philosophy, where the ideas and logic that are mental models for appropriate acts and policy reside, a single person and a single idea have driven American elections since 2008—President Barack Obama and race. These two factors have influenced policy, changed political ethics, and revealed a new American challenge: a fight for truth and a new future opposed by bedfellows of special interests, wealth and hate. Conservative voters and candidates speak of freedom but really fight for power: to weaken the Presidency, the executive agenda, and seek to affirm the wrong and rich as the strong.
Votes are justified and driven by anger and fear. Every GOP official trumpets or complains the President’s agenda is driven by race, expense and incompetence. At state and national levels, elected officials claim every idea President Obama proposes is a threat to America and American lives (whether death panels, debt, immigration, Ebola, ISIL, food stamps). Every judgment and pronouncement is distorted by a lens colored with racial prejudice (labels of “buckwheat-in-chief,” posters of bones through Obama’s nose, nasty “nigger” jokes, lynched chairs swinging from nooses strung over tree limbs). The Democratic rearguard retreat in the last election reinforced these jaded reasons by not revealing their ridiculousness.
So political stupidity grew exponentially. In South Carolina, a retired school teacher loudly, publicly accused—in fact was assured and certain—the President attempted to explode Charleston with a nuclear strike during a military training exercise. Because of Obama’s orders, she claimed two generals retired. Rick Santorum stood stoically, listening, when he knew it was all a lie.
The oppositional conditioning is so pervasive that the opposition no longer cites the kinds of examples of myths and mistakes that Ronald Reagan famously employed. Now, officials declare the power of winning as the power to turn back, turn over, turn in, turn out, citing the actions and examples of progress that their change seeks to reverse.
Gay marriage. Out. Affirmative action. Ended. Rape. Harder to persecute. Taxes. Lower (for the rich!). Higher education. Cut. Education, K-12. Privatized, underfunded. Government services payments. Billions given away (ask Rahm about Chicago’s parking meters). Abortion. Denied. War. Endorsed. Air and water. Unregulated. Income. Stifled. Immigration. Unaddressed. Safety nets. Cuts lurking. Healthcare. Barack Obama. The source of all evil. Race. The source of all waste. Denial: “I am innocent of all blame.”
I recently realized a valuable lesson watching Jimmy Stewart westerns. The more the Native Americans defeated the cavalry and settlers who precipitated the attacks against them, the more they were hated, mistreated and dehumanized. With each victory, the natives were condemned for lacking honor and virtue, even when their efforts were in self-defense or intended to promote peace. As the Indians won, hate reached a fever pace and objectivity and morality were abandoned. Think: the Iran agreement being negotiated to halt its development of nuclear arms, hasn’t it attracted a rising swell of voices whose accusing judgment is based on a desire for power rather than justice?
Haven’t those same voices, in the name of security, created the outlines for a global and local alliance, well funded internationally by Sheldon Adelson, the modern counterpart of Augsburg’s Jakob Fugger or England’s Baring brothers for funding geocentric, xenophobic ruling alliances. Adelson’s work in building a supra-alliance that tacitly benefits the Chinese and that is a loose but well connected ideological cult of eugenics is deeply (and darkly!) rooted, a part of the history and world view of the family policies of the Koch brothers and their father, who marginalized and expressed stereotypes for global ethnic groups, and propped up ideas of ethnic superiority for European genes by pointing to individual gaps and the failures of social programs fighting sophisticated neo-colonial structures and directed wealth flow.
Barack Obama is their evidence of what happens when one slips through the cracks and refuses their bidding, and wins despite their sustained plans for his defeat and collapse, their desire for his being driven out of office and humiliated, his character and intellectual virtues destroyed, his humanity stripped without apology or defense. Continue reading Race As National Policy Potpourri
Along with Republican obstructionism, add another wedge-based, ideological power tool: reductionism. Reduce every incident of the magnitude of the world’s greatest tragedies to a simple formula of failure and lay them neatly at the President’s feet.
In the Republican playbook, reductionism is a call to action; it focuses on President Obama as the enemy-in-chief; at once inept and over-reaching, an indecisive President making too many decisions, a weak President who has preserved America’s peace, a budget-cutter who spends too much, a President who ignores Congress after spending an entire term seeking a Grand Bargain with the Republican Speaker; an international leader who has squandered America’s leverage even as his policies of international sanctions are working; a leader who doesn’t understand and stifles businesses and finance, even as his Justice Department settles a civil case against a global behemoth of a bank for violations of the laws of business practices, settling for $7 billion, $2.5 billion of which will go to assist mortgage holders, with $180 million used to build affordable housing, the first time fees from government penalties will go to taxpayers.
Reduction presents a simple fact as it engages in massive distortions of the truth. True, no President in history has experienced or overseen the kind of humanitarian crisis involving children along the US southern border as Obama has, but no President has improved the US image as a beacon of hope to attract a pilgrim’s journey of thousands of children threatened by death and violence, by sexual exploitation by national gangs of drug thugs who hold power through force and intimidation in several Central American nations.
Reductionism ignores causes and settles on blame. Often without more than the appearance of evidence based on circumstances and without proof.
Reductionism is the exception that denies it’s the exception; it makes victims out of people who are then blamed as victims. It’s a double-edged sword that cuts both the leadership and the people: health care costs are rising—Obama’s fault—yet lazy workers are waiting on a handout—healthcare is affordable if you are willing to work.
Can’t find a job? Your fault. Obama’s fault.
Other reasons? Nope. The above sums it up. Well, add too many taxes on business, too much noise about higher wages, fears of inflation, too much regulation in every business sector, too much interference in what should be the rights of the states.
Reductionism works best in an atmosphere of anger. Much of the racial opposition to Obama has been reduced to anger, anger waiting to attach itself to a cause that supports its cherished conclusions of power, privilege and competence. Reductionism docks with that anger. Both are then gravity-fed by high-pressure blame. Continue reading Republican Obstruction Gives Way to Reduction
I never knew so many bad things would happen if I asked for and got a raise on the job. First, I would be told by everybody from HR (human resources) to our highest politicians in the Congress that I can’t be singled out for special treatment. If I get a raise everybody will want one, and fairness will demand everybody’s pay be increased!
That would cut into profits—bad for the stockholders and executives whose bonuses are tied to higher profits; bad for the economy because lowered profits would reduce company growth and therefore national economic growth. My raise would slow down the economic recovery and reduce exports since other countries have a wage advantage. Finally, since wages are tied to the job—and I am doing the same job—why should I warrant an increase for doing the same work?
Thinking about it, maybe I am greedy and self-serving for refusing to accept how my demand for more cash inflicts pain and deficits on important items on the balance sheet—profits, earnings, exports, GDP, the rate of growth.
Maybe I should consider a cut in pay. That way jobs would be created rather than lost! And America would be competitive!
Aah, even Ralph Kramden (played by Jackie Gleason on The Honeymooners, who, in television’s worst case of serial misogyny, continuously threatened to punch out his wife: “one of these days”) and Archie Bunker (played by Carroll O’Connor, who later played a Southern sheriff who romanced, married, and kissed a black woman) the television bastions of America’s iconic conservative confusion, never presented these arguments for the current wage status quo.
What they did present and what the arguments above lay out is another fact-free paradox. The form, and its suspension of reality, was once a favorite of advertisers.
Remember the 1967 Colt 45 malt liquor commercial whose drinker watched a series of short action adventure scenarios unfold right under his (never her!) eyes while being bored, even turned off, by their frivolous intrusions? Women, danger, action simply didn’t measure up to the hidden thrill and experience of the elixir poured professionally into the glass!
Believe it? You see it! You watch each step and desire every temptation.
It’s a great story! It creates an anti-hero to admire and emulate. Indifferent to everything except his special brand of joy; fully confident and unconcerned with the distractions and buzz that are the meaningless noise attempting to intrude on his power and space, his satisfactions are divorced from the reality around him.
The great thing about the fact-free paradox is it involves three strategies in one.
The first is follow-the-liar. This strategy involves an ontological assumption that money is God, despite the Pope being a Marxist (says Glenn Beck).
For questioning the intrinsic nature of wealth as all virtuous, Beck declared the Holy Man to be a hater. Beck, a former alcoholic, now a “dry drunk” (someone who exhibits the attitudes and behavior of a wet drunk), with severely damaged brain cells and weird voices, reduced one of the world largest faiths (and collection plates!) to a closet ideology in which the Bible makes no mention of social justice (or by Beck’s logic, divine justice) and poverty is no longer God’s problem.
Hate looks an awful lot like stupidity until you realize it’s even worse than you thought. Of course, the visceral dislike for our President has been evident since before his swearing-in during his first term, and it has increased its intensity and scope in the early days of his second term.
The ways are familiar by now; ugly criticisms of his policies, one-sided attacks, a litany of invented character flaws, pushes for a series of single agendas without a review of facts or alternatives offered by the White House; scorn and blame, a variety of symbolic and real gestures of disrespect, including the latest: a bill entered into the hopper by a Texas Congress member that would specifically prohibit the President from being transported to play golf for as long as tours of the White House are shut down because of the sequester the same Congress member and his party voted for.
Many who are deeply vested in following politics report being physically and emotionally affected: experiencing loss of appetite, bouts of anger or lethargy, frustration and anxiety. Wouldn’t you have dread if you thought the Mayan calendar was more accurate than the President’s sequester predictions, as the website for the Republican Study Committee (RSC) claims?
What makes this hatred worse is the way it covers up the hatred Republicans have for America. They love the losing side of our history and hate the values, traditions, communities, families, and politics of progress by opportunity rather than privilege. Only in the most extreme times in our history have individuals and states taken positions which are now the Republican norm. Those extremes led to a Civil War, when states with positions so reactionary to progress decided to withdraw from the Union. Today, these reactionary extremists employ a new strategy: destroy the Union from within. Dismantle the government. Empty its treasury. Destroy its power.
And what makes the current Republican hatred of America even worse is the way this hatred and its stupidity–aimed at women, immigrants, Democratic voters, disaster victims, Native Americans, the ill and retired, minorities, youth, public employees–is being used to conceal the clear-headed, relentless pursuit of wealth and power.
Clear-headed hatred maybe the ultimate oxymoron, but it is the prime Republican strategy, and is the basis of the budget, tax and revenue policy of nationally elected Republicans, especially in the House.
Budget deficits are driven not by spending, as the Speaker implies, but by collections, the huge annual loopholes that forgive the tax obligations of big corporations and industries. Big Oil will receive $44 billion in federal tax breaks over the next ten years. Yet amazingly, meeting the obligations of the taxes owed if the loopholes were removed is seen as a tax increase. It’s not. It’s an honest fair share. Government has a right to be paid. Continue reading The Government Has a Right to Be Paid
Barack Obama has a modest economic record and here’s why: Timothy Geithner, Lawrence Summers, and others gave him bad advice; his political people, David Axelrod, Patrick Gaspard, David Plouffe and others, had no feel for the broad suffering of America and lacked technical know-how or institutional experience in managing the world’s largest macro-economy; from Europe to Asia, global headwinds stalled job growth, the Council of Economic Advisors was a revolving door, and Barack’s own mastery and knowledge of economic fundamentals is weak. Twenty-nine million Americans looking for working is the result, a dismal record, especially four years past the Great Crisis.
Legislatively, Republicans blocked the recovery by threatening the integrity of American credit, by turning wrongheaded ideas into talking points, by ignoring truth (government does create jobs!), by passing bill after bill never destined to reach the President’s desk, bills never intended to help American families, never proposing a change in the rules that aided families burdened by mortgages and foreclosures, never stimulating demand—the key to job growth. They offered instead cuts in safety nets.
Yet the index for equity markets doubled from their 2009 bottom and more than ever companies saw record profits by 2012. Capital tells a very different story than jobs. Why the contradiction between record profits and job recovery, between community suffering and corporate swag?
Hidden in plain sight, it’s the part Mitt Romney conveniently leaves out of his message. Again, Mitt switches positions to pretend he is something he is not: he has no “know-how” about creating jobs—none. Mitt is a balance sheet guy. He creates capital—not work. He extracts capital gains—he does not increase paychecks. Wealth is profit; labor is an expense. His goal is to take out cash, not increase what workers take home. His entire corporate life, his constant activity has been extracting wealth, trading capital, increasing its return as capital gains. His ideas have a single source: profit, capital wealth.
And where did that capital wealth come from? He robbed labor. Without conscience, he fired workers, stole their pensions, stripped their benefits, sold their machines overseas to increase his personal wealth. He did not grow production; he extracted its value. He wrecked perfectly solid companies.
Now, with relish, he thinks his success and its carnage of unemployed workers will benefit the nation, the “small businesses” he cites. He never mentions the word “workers”—or their families, hoping we confuse capital wealth with increased demand. If Romney’s view were true, record profits would already be driving hiring. The top ten companies holding cash are behemoths of strength and stability, all in Fortune’s Top 100 US.
Here’s a partial list: Exxon Mobil (energy), $17.8 billion; WellPoint (health insurance); $20.3 billion; Amgen (biotech), $22.5 billion; Pfizer (drugs, equipment), $24.3 billion; Apple, (technology) $27. 6 billion; Oracle (software) 30.7 billion; Google (technology networks), $41.7 billion; Cisco Systems (technology) $48.7 billion; Microsoft (technology) $62 billion.
These are not small businesses. Mitt Romney knows nothing of small businesses, whether tailoring or coffee shops, lawn care or day care, mobile labs or fund raising, bed & breakfasts or convenience stores. He never walked their path. He does not know their craft—or the balance sheets of the Patels, the name identified with the large Indian community who now own 70% of American hotel rooms; they know more than Mitt about creating jobs and wealth. Washington, DC’s immigrant Ethiopian community turned service jobs into a several-block area of restaurants and stores (bounded by U and 9th Streets NW), creating a core of businesses and experiences that supports a network opening new neighborhoods and cities. Koreans and Iraqis have done the same with inner-city groceries.
The list of cash hoarders that Mitt wants to help in the name of workers are not small business—or job creators. He ignores the successful examples and models right under his nose! The culture of the giants he comes from and supports pushes profit and power, demanding concessions, lowered costs, global franchises. The frantic pleas of 29 million Americans are written off as national depreciation, a group that exceeded its usefulness and is somebody else’s problem. The 47 percent. Continue reading Obama Will Make Bad Better
Hello, my name is Steve Leser. I am a principal with Democratic Spring Strategies and a writer for Democrats for Progress and I am going to talk about the Romney strategy for the First Debate.
In the several weeks’ long run-up to the October 3rd debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney, the Romney campaign let it slip several times that they had been practicing for this debate since at least June. I remember reading that and wondering what he could be working on for so long.
I’ll get back to that in a moment.
One of the astounding things about the October 3rd debate is that it was a debate on domestic policy of which the economy is probably its most important component, and after the debate, we have no idea what one of the candidates would do with regards to the economy if elected.
Think about that.
If you are running in an election to become the executive of any country, state, province, county, city or village, anywhere in the world, you owe one thing to the people who may vote for you. You owe them a fair representation of how you intend to govern. In terms of the economy, the basics for this are all the same. Are you going to raise or lower taxes? Are you going to spend more in your term than is currently being spent? Are you going to cut spending? If you are going to lower taxes how are you going to pay for things? If you are going to raise spending how are you going to pay for the increase? If you are going to cut spending, who is going to bear the brunt of those cuts?
If you are having a debate between two or more candidates, the discussion of those specifics is a vital part of helping the people voting to decide which candidate to choose. The candidates challenge each other regarding their respective plans and tell the American people why their plan is good and why their opponents plan is lacking.
Mitt Romney stood in front of 60 million American people, denied the plan he had been touting for 18 months and didn’t name any plan in its place.
The real loser in what happened in the first debate is the American people. After the debate, virtually all voter groups said that they didn’t receive enough specifics about the candidates’ plans. Actually, there were several specifics outlined by President Obama, including tax breaks for everyone except the wealthiest Americans. There were no specifics from Mitt Romney.
So, back to the five months of practice put in by Romney and his campaign, I thought about it for a few days after the debate. What did they practice? They certainly didn’t practice selling his economic plan because he didn’t talk about one. So what was all that practice about?
Then it hit me.
Every Presidential election year in the US, you have debates with a similar dynamic on the economy. The Republican nominee attacks the Democratic nominee for (in the GOP’s opinion) proposing to spend too much and tax too much, and the Democratic nominee attacks the Republican nominee for proposing to cut taxes too much, increasing the deficit, and for potentially needing to cut programs like Social Security and Medicare.
The public knows about these lines of attack, voters already know where they stand on those issues and thus the debate doesn’t move many people either way. What if, however, you could make it completely one-sided? I think this is the question the Romney senior campaign staff was floating internally back in May and June. I think they tossed that question around for a few weeks, and then someone came up with the idea of denying his plan and not offering any specifics. Continue reading Video: The Plot Behind Mitt Romney’s Debate Strategy
Should Congress continue as normal with its summer recess, or return to Washington to work on the myriad of crises facing the country?
It appears that the people are as divided on this issue as their representatives are on everything else, albeit with a far more civil tone.
“Who let these bastards leave their posts in the first place?” asked longtime credit card model John Q. Public, “Can you name anybody else who screws up their job that bad who doesn’t get fired – let alone a five-week paid vacation?”
Others expressed a desire to see both the House and Senate remain in session for other reasons.
“I want to know they’re in Washington and not among the general population – especially young children,” said Fr. John W. Gacy of Our Lady of the Holy Assault Weapon Church in Devil’s Lake, South Dakota, “when they’re back in their states and districts, they always seem to find excuses to spend time in and around schools. Frankly, it weirds me out. I feel better knowing I can turn on C-Span and get a live shot of their empty seats, knowing that there’s a slim chance they could show up on my screen at any moment.”
Others, however, see things differently. Most who favored that the summer recess continue shared the view that those in office should have ample time to meet face-to-face with their constituents, with priorities ranging from ‘so they can face the music’ to ‘so they can see what they have done’ to ‘so that the voters can not only share, but also demonstrate how they feel’.
ONE: Thou shalt not waste any more of the country’s time.
No psychic ability was needed to know in advance that the jockeying for the Republican 2012 Presidential nomination would be a Grand Guignol spectacle of breathtaking proportions, even this far out. And so it has been.
Newt Gingrich, the eyebrow-raiser. Michele Bachmann, the hell-raiser. Donald Trump, the hair-raiser. Santorum, Barbour, Pawlenty, Huckabee, Palin, Romney. That’s a seriously hilarious roster.
Roy Moore, the former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice who lost his job after erecting a monument of the Ten Commandments outside the state’s courthouse, plans to announce in mid-April that he is setting up a presidential exploratory committee, an aide told CBS News.
The aide, Zachery Michael, said Moore’s platform will be focused on repealing the health care overhaul law, replacing the progressive income tax with a flat tax and bringing “commonsense solutions” on immigration and border control.
Moore said in a release that he is concerned about what he called the country’s moral, economic and constitutional crisis.
So concerned that he’s willing to impose his unique combination of theocratic gibberish, pig-ignorant conservatism and willful misinterpretation of the Constitution on the republic for four years, if that’s what it takes to save it. And if that were insufficient, then presumably he’d run for a second term.