August 30, 2010

The Backlash Against Obama’s Blackness

The beauty of this piece is that it calls out the Tea Party and their thuggish leadership and financial backers for being essentially what they are – a loosely organized group of people whose platform stands entirely on and for hatred and intolerance. There’s no political ideology behind them, and there’s no real conservative set of ideals either. Observe:

The August madness into which America has descended is about several things. It’s about the still-sputtering economy, of course, and the fear it engenders. It’s about xenophobia, never far below the surface. And it’s about a rightwing media-political complex that plays on the public’s ignorance.

But there’s a unifying theme that few wish to acknowledge. What we are witnessing at the moment is the full, ugly furore of white backlash, aimed directly and indirectly at our first black president.

The case was made, inadvertently, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece last week by Republican congressman-turned-lobbyist Dick Armey, the godfather of what might be called the Tea Party movement’s corporate wing. Armey and his co-author, Matt Kibbe, proudly dated the birth of the Tea Party to 9 February 2009.

Barack Obama’s $800m stimulus bill was not approved until three days later. Which is my point. The most notorious political movement of the Obama era, grounded in racial fears if not flat-out racism, sprung into being within weeks of Obama’s inauguration, before he’d had a chance to do anything, really. If Obama was for it, they were against it.

The Tea Party winter and spring of 2009 led to the “death panels” of summer, and to rightwing hero Glenn Beck’s declaration that the president harboured “a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture”. Minor issues involving Acorn, a heretofore obscure agency that helped register urban, mostly minority voters, became a cause célèbre. A little-known African American bureaucrat, Van Jones, was hounded out of office for having allegedly expressed offensive views about the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 – views he later said he had never voiced and did not hold. Protesters spat upon and directed racial epithets at African American congressmen as the healthcare debate reached its climax.

And now we come to the full fruition of all this race-baiting. According to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 18% of Americans – and 34% of conservative Republicans – believe Obama is a Muslim, proportions that have actually risen since the 2008 campaign. Another poll, by CNN/Opinion Research, finds that 41% of Republicans believe Obama was definitely or probably not born in the United States.

It’s something of a sad summation, and proof positive that more progressive groups, as opposed to paying attention to their pet causes, should rally together to help control the message and spin a bit. When you have an “opposition” who stands not to inspire ideas or call to action but instead to do nothing but bait and inflame the masses, you need a voice of reason on the other side of the line – and the halls of government can’t do it, they have a job to do in terms of keeping our democracy running, and they would only be perceived as defending themselves from attacks by the people. The American people – the True Majority – need to stand up and end the silence that’s allowed this hatred to bloom as much as it already has. For example:

But to experience the pure fury, you have to watch this video of a black man who had the temerity to walk through a group of people protesting the centre. It is a terrifying moment.

There is more – so much more. The anti-immigration law approved in Arizona, which made a star of Republican governor Jan Brewer, notwithstanding the inconvenient truth that illegal immigration across the Mexico-Arizona border is at its lowest level in years. The political crucifixion of Shirley Sherrod. The continuing phenomenon of Sarah Palin, who, at long last, feels empowered enough to reach inside the deepest, darkest recesses of her tiny little heart and embrace a fellow rightwinger’s repeated use of the N-word.

It’s a frightening time to be an American and to watch this insanity unfolding all around us. There’s a sense that anything could happen, none of it good.

What’s all too easy to forget is that though Obama was elected with the strongest majority of any president in recent years, he received only 43% of the white vote. Now, it’s true that no Democrat since Lyndon Johnson in 1964 has won a majority of whites. But it’s also true that 100% of voters who would never support a black presidential candidate cast their ballots for someone other than Obama. Now they’re roaming the countryside, egged on by the Republican party and the Tea Party and Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, looking for new objects on which to unload their bitterness.

The traditional media, built as they are on the notion of fair-minded coverage of equally responsible, equally reasonable political forces, can barely process what’s going on. You literally cannot understand the current moment without watching the political satirists Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. But, hey, they’re only comedians.

Strangely, there are virtually no political observers who hold out the prospect that the folks whom the right has alienated will turn out to vote against the Republicans this November. George W Bush, after all, worked mightily to appeal to Latino voters. That’s gone. Bush even won 70% of the Muslim vote in 2000. That’s long gone.

The Republicans hope to ride the white backlash back to power, and perhaps they will. But they may also find that the hatred they have embraced will come back to haunt them this November – and well beyond. For the rest of us, though, the consequences of that hatred have yet to play out.

And that’s the clincher: there’s nothing to make us believe that any of these rabid tea partiers will actually turn out to vote. These people had nothing but hatred in their hearts from the moment that President Obama took office – there’s no way they could be somehow against his platform, opposed to his policies, or prefer a different course of action in government. There were none of those things when they formed, and they had already lit their torches and tied up their nooses before the Bible he was sworn in on was put back into safe keeping.

There have been a few surprise primaries lately, but they’re primaries, and mostly in areas where any representative with fire in their bellies and money in their pockets can overturn an incumbent or play to the beliefs of their base and their party. The truth will come in November, and while I don’t expect it to be completely positive news, I do hope that it plays out moderately well for our country.

[The Backlash Against Obama’s Blackness ]
Source: The Guardian UK

Barking at the Sun, and Other Glenn Beck Hijinks

By now, the completely unremarkable crowd of about 2500 people who descended on Washington DC to the utter and prompt annoyance of us locals, complete with their attitudes of ownership of the city and their privilege (seriously, these folks assumed that because they were white and “proud” so much that they wouldn’t have to actually, you know – spend money to get around town on the Metro) are all gone, leaving the rest of us to go back to the duties at hand that are important to the fate and future of our Republic.

Behind them in their wake, aside from the trash they left behind on the streets and lawns of Washington and the stench of their putrid ideology in the air, they leave behind questions about why Sarah Palin can’t seem to speak in public ever and make a coherent sentence, and why Glenn Beck ever hid behind his so-called “divine providence” that led the event to be on the same day at Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech 47 years ago.

There are a couple of reasons behind this, but I think Henry Rollins said it best and with finer words and a finer point than I could hope to put on it in a recent blog post at Vanity Fair:

I get the feeling that this pitiful gathering will be more about angry white people who think they have lost something. These are people who can’t handle the fact that with time, things change. The restoration of honor they strive for is nothing more than regaining a perceived position of superiority they feel is rightfully theirs, that has been taken away. Who took it? The Muslim from Kenya? Liberals? Activist judges? Probably.

Glenn Beck has told his followers not to bring signs. Smart thinking. He knows his demographic well. He knows that there would have been some atrocious sentiments expressed on those signs. Not that Fox News would carry the images, but certainly real news outlets would have. Had the signs been present, would anyone be surprised at what they said? You know what this grouping of woefully misinformed and willfully ignorant participants is all about. It’s not about honor, it’s not about freedom, and it’s definitely not about what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for and died for. It is about white anger, indignation, desperation and severe plot loss. Their numbers will be few. Many of them have to be bussed in, perhaps unable to even find the nation’s capital on their own. It is yet another pathetic exercise of a small group of people whose beliefs are regressive and repellent. They are only left with their hate, ignorance, and fear. This non-event is their moment to bark at the sun.

[ Comedy Critic’s Choice: Glenn Beck’s Restoration of Honor ]
Source: Vanity Fair

I think that’s absolutely well put, and even after the event, Henry Rollins felt bad for him more than he thought the event or the speeches were contemplative in any fashion, and I wholeheartedly agree. Conservatives in general put up a lot of bluster and pomp and circumstance, but at the end of the event, what were the tea partiers supposed to go home with? What were they supposed to do, except be themselves? How were they supposed to go about “Restoring Honor” in their communities?

After Mr. Beck had mercifully ended his speech and the man in the kilt came onto the stage playing Amazing Grace, it fully registered with me what a huge non-event this was. The speech, full of references to God, over and over, possessed not one concrete thing to take away. When the people who were at this event get back to their normal lives this week, what changes will they make? What steps will they take to restore honor? Seems to me there would be no place for racism or homophobia in the life of an honorable American, so I guess we won’t be having to deal with any more of that. Mr. Beck wants his people to make God the central force in their lives. Does that mean they get all generous, tolerant, and kind now? Cool.

When was the honor lost? Operation Ajax in 1953? The bitter opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964? The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968? The covert bombing raids into Cambodia in 1969? Watergate? The invasion and occupation of Iraq? I am not listing president Clinton and his sexcapades because no one was killed, although millions of dollars were wasted. So, were these instances where America lost some traction on the honor-highway? Or perhaps it was things like the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 that abolished child labor and established a minimum wage or Social Security that pushed America off the shining path to honor?

So, Citizen of the Republic, what are you going to do to make a change? What is your resolution to the restoration of America’s lost honor? More prayer? Tithing? Perhaps maybe even reading some of the speeches of Abraham Lincoln? Where is the next stop, great restorer of honor? To Florida for the 9/11/2010 Koran burning, perhaps?

[ Pity, I Guess ]
Source: Vanity Fair

This makes me think about Sarah Palin’s speech, where she – true to her own “did anyone actually read this before she opened her mouth” style, claimed that she and her followers are resistant to change, and instead they want to “preserve” America in the image of its past. Which of course amounts to changing the way it is today. But they don’t want change, they want to preserve….by changing it from what it is today. You see the problem?

Like Rollins says, the entire thing amounts to saber-rattling on the part of the far right, which sadly does nothing except get them out to the polls, which could be bad enough for the future of our country, frankly.

These folks don’t have ideas on how to improve our communities, our schools, our jobs, or our environment – ideas and thinking are their strong suit. What they do have, is a lot of anger, hatred, and bluster, and a deep-seated fear of the changing demographics, dynamics, and power structure of America in the 21st century. They see their old standby, privilege, slowly being eroded in favor of equal opportunity and equal rights, and they fear it and hate it with the same fervor as a infant whose rattle has been taken away. And they behave as such.

It’s up to the rest of them to note the fact, marginalize them, and move on without them. We must.

August 23, 2010

Lest We Forget: What it means to be an American – Have You Forgotten? [Video]

Found on YouTube – absolutely fabulous, and I think it should be required viewing for some of our conservative friends, if not in most schools. Maybe we should re-do this with a modern twist, but I worry it might lose some of its effectiveness.

Rebutting Climate Science Disinformer Talking Points in a Single Line

This one’s well worth reading, especially if you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to defend the place of science as a primary motivator of decision making in public life. All too often we wind up hearing about people who drag out ancient, disproven, or unproven statements about climate science to try and claim that global climate change isn’t happening, or if it is happening that it’s somehow natural and has nothing to do with human activity on Earth.

Of course, anyone with any sense who’s been following actual research on the matter (see Real Climate) will know otherwise, but this piece over at Climate Progress has a series of fantastic one-liners to rebut these kinds of lies and half-truths instantly:

Progressives should know the most commonly used arguments by the disinformers and doubters — and how to answer them. You should know as much of the science behind those rebuttals as possible, and a great place to start is SkepticalScience.com.

BUT most of the time your best response is to give the pithiest response possible, and then refer people to a specific website that has a more detailed scientific explanation with links to the original science. That’s because usually those you are talking to are rarely in a position to adjudicate scientific arguments. Indeed, they would probably tune out. Also, unless you know the science cold, you are as likely as not to make a misstatement.

Physicist John Cook has done us a great service by posting good one-line responses, which I repost with links below. For instance, if somebody raises the standard talking point that the climate has changed before, you can say, “Climate reacts to whatever forces it to change at the time, which now is dominated by humans.”

Fantastic. There are dozens of these too – I almost wish they could be printed out on a small card and given to people who, you know, live in fact-based reality. They’re glorious.

[ Rebutting Climate Science Disinformer Talking Points in a Single Line ]
Source: Climate Progress

Conservatives Try to Smear Islam the Way they Smear Judaism, but Voters don’t Care

I’ve been pretty quiet about the matter of the community center near ground zero that everyone is calling a “mosque,” when in reality it’s nothing of the sort. I’ve also been quiet because logically it doesn’t make sense to care so much about a mosque near the site of the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11, because if people cared so much about such things they would have shut down the other community centers nearby, the strip club nearby, and just about everything else the conservative right could work themselves into a lather over that’s just as close or closer than the community center that’s being planned for the region.

Sadly, it’s just another example of first – how there’s a small group of very vocal people who are still trying to use a tragic event in American history that occured almost 10 years ago to benefit themselves both monetarily and to their own political gain, with no respect for the events of the day or the people who died, and how there’s a small group of people who are still trying to use that same event to steer political policy in a way that retains their power and privilege, making sure that Americans live in the same state of fear we experienced that day – only now backed with a strong dose of hatred against a minority group that, the way the Germans did with the Jewish people after World War I, are easily blamed for all of society’s ills and dangers without demand of evidence.

Over at Tablet Magazine, Daniel Luban explains why this is exactly the issue at hand, and why this isn’t about one community center, this isn’t about a mosque, this is about the rampant Islamaphobia that’s spread out from the ignorance and bigotry of Americans far from New York City and is sweeping the nation thanks to the fervent push from the conservative right to actively deny and smother education to the contrary:

After Abraham Foxman waded into the “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy,opposing plans to construct an Islamic community center a few blocks from the World Trade Center site, the Anti-Defamation League chief was assailed by critics who charged that the ADL was giving license to bigotry and betraying its historic mission “to secure justice and fair treatment to all citizens alike.” A week after initially coming out against the mosque, Foxman announced that the ADL was bowing out of the controversy, but the damage to the group’s reputation had been done.

The problem for the ADL is that there simply isn’t much anti-Semitism of consequence in the United States these days. While anti-Semitism continues to thrive elsewhere in the world and to molder on the fringes of American society, Jews have by now been fully assimilated into the American ruling class and into the mainstream of American life.

At the same time, many of the tropes of classic anti-Semitism have been revived and given new force on the American right. Once again jingoistic politicians and commentators posit a religious conspiracy breeding within Western society, pledging allegiance to an alien power, conspiring with allies at the highest levels of government to overturn the existing order. Because the propagators of these conspiracy theories are not anti-Semitic but militantly pro-Israel, and because their targets are not Jews but Muslims, the ADL and other Jewish groups have had little to say about them. But since the election of President Barack Obama, this Islamophobic discourse has rapidly intensified.

While the political operatives behind the anti-mosque campaign speak the language of nativism and American exceptionalism, their ideology is itself something of a European import. Most of the tropes of the American “anti-jihadists,” as they call themselves, are taken from European models: a “creeping” imposition of sharia, Muslim allegiance to the ummah rather than to the nation-state, the coming demographic crisis as Muslims outbreed their Judeo-Christian counterparts.

Heard this story before? Of course you have – it’s what led to the Germans locking up Jewish families and barricading Jewish communities during the early years of World War II. Now I normally hate to Godwin’s Law up any discussion like this, but the parallels are too close to ignore – and the frothing hatred is starting to get to that eerie fever pitch where an entire group of people are to be subjugated to culling and retribution by the masses because of the actions of a few. The last time I saw behavior like this was in the 1970s and 1980s when the conservative right, largely White Americans, were outraged at the so-called epidemic of “Black on White crime,” while killings among and between other minority groups went largely ignored. I fear we’ll see the same apathy until the drug war simmering in Mexico spills over enough to take White American lives; then Latinos may find themselves bundled up with Muslims.

Here’s the clincher though – voters really don’t care. Over at The Nation, Katrina vanden Heuvel points out some interesting statistics about recent polls:

Pundits and politicians are working themselves into hysteria over a mosque near Ground Zero. But this election won’t be about mosques in Manhattan. It won’t even be about the deficit, really. It will be about manufacturing on Main Street, and which party can talk effectively about the progressive solutions Americans desire.

Not surprisingly, polls from Gallup to the Wall Street Journal show Americans are worried most about the economy and jobs. And a just-released poll—from progressive outfits Campaign for America’s Future and Democracy Corps with sponsorship from MoveOn.org Political Action and two labor unions—gives a more detailed look at what voters are looking for. Respondents, in particular the “rising American electorate” —youth, single women and minorities that constitute a majority of voters and are President Obama’s most supportive base—support bold steps for renewing the economy.

The poll tested a range of messages, with the greatest support for one calling for “rebuilding infrastructure” and another calling for constructing “an economy on a new foundation”—that is, investing in education and a 21st century infrastructure, leading in the green industrial revolution and balancing our trade.

But what about that deficit? Americans worry about the deficit, but less for reasons usually given by deficit hawks than because they think it may get in the way of creating jobs and of protecting Social Security. The poll shows equal support for a five-year plan to revive America’s industry and a five-year plan to cut deficits—and in equal intensity. The two are linked. Put people to work and revive manufacturing, and you will bring the deficit down. Bring the deficit down, and you’ll help put people to work.

And by large margins, Americans don’t think deficit-cutting should include cuts in the federal benefits workers have already fought to get. It is widely rumored, for example, that President Obama’s bipartisan deficit commission is considering raising the retirement age on Social Security as part of a deficit-reduction plan. It better think again. Poll respondents want Social Security and Medicare protected. Over 60 percent of Republicans, of independents and of Democrats oppose raising the retirement age on Social Security—or Medicare, for that matter. Similarly, when AARP asked if Social Security should be cut as a “way to help reduce the federal deficit,” 72 percent of respondents were strongly opposed.

Proof of the matter is that right now, the American people care more about the economy and jobs, and care enough in an intelligent way, that it’s safer to say “It’s the economy, stupid,” and that the President is doing the right thing by dismissing the entire controversy about the community center in Lower Manhattan as exactly what it is – an arbitrary attempt by a few bigoted people who are more interested in carrying the American flag for their own benefit and trampling the graves of those who died on 9/11 in a rush for their own personal and political gain than it is any substantive controversy or matter of concern. He points instead at the first Amendment to the Constitution of the United States as a shining example of exactly why such a community center should be built, over all opposition.

He’s right – but the conservative right in America has never listened to reason over the voices of hatred in their own heads – it’s up to the rest of us to make sure they listen to us and our voices at the polls instead.

[ Rage Against Islam: The New Anti-Semitism ]
Source: Tablet Magazine (courtesy of AlterNet)

[ It’s About Main Street, Not the Mosque ]
Source: The Nation

August 16, 2010

The Racists Return

If you ever have questions about whether or not racism still exists in America, I think we’ve provided you dozens of examples here over the years – and while conservatives like the folks at rags like the National Review would claim that there’s no such thing as racism in America anymore (despite mountains of evidence to the contrary – but then again, the National Review was never in the business of printing facts) I think there’s more than enough evidence that in this so-called post-racial society, the loud and proud racist hordes, marching under their Tea Party banners and frothingly obeying their lord and master Glenn Beck, are not only racially motivated, they’re racially driven as well. It plays a role in everything they do, and ensuring that their hatred stays good, high, and at the fever point.

Because I simply can’t bear to dice the piece up, this is the entire op-ed by Joe Conason of the New York Observer, published over at TruthDig:

Among the most revealing aspects of life during the Obama presidency is the panoply of responses to a black family in the White House. What made so many of us proud of our country on Jan. 20, 2009, has increasingly provoked expressions of hatred from the far right. That is troubling, but not nearly as troubling as the behavior of conservatives who excuse, embolden or simply pretend to ignore the bigots surrounding them.

Last spring, after unruly tea party protesters on Capitol Hill were accused of spewing racial epithets at civil rights hero John Lewis, an African-American congressman from Georgia, conservatives rose up in furious denial. Where was the proof? How could anyone suggest that racial prejudice lurks behind the festering right-wing hatred of President Obama (and his family)? Anger over that episode still lingers in certain quarters, motivating the deceptively edited video attack on Shirley Sherrod and the NAACP by a website called Big Government, Inc.

Even if the alleged assault on Lewis and other black congressmen did occur, argued prominent commentators on the right, it somehow only proved that there is no racism in America worthy of concern. A writer for National Review (the conservative magazine that historically opposed civil rights legislation) confided that the whole subject made him yawn:

“That these things are even remotely newsworthy leads me to one conclusion: Racism in America is dead. We had slavery, then we had Jim Crow—and now we have the occasional public utterance of a bad word. Real racism has been reduced to de minimis levels, while charges of racism seem to increase.”

But this summer has seen several loud and ugly outbursts of very real racism—including threats of violence against the president of the United States—that go well beyond the utterance of any single word. As if suffering from a facial tic, leading figures on the right cannot seem to suppress their inner Klansman these days.

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Is there any other way to explain Glenn Beck’s crazed rant comparing the Obama administration to an old movie about a society where apes and chimpanzees dominate humans? What did the Fox News host mean, exactly, when he shrieked: “It’s like the damned Planet of the Apes. Nothing makes sense!” Is there any other way to explain the grotesque new best-seller by radio host Laura Ingraham, “The Obama Diaries,” where, among other things, she depicts first lady Michelle Obama eating ribs at every meal? Why would she feel the need to describe the president as “uppity” by putting the word in the mouth of his mother-in-law? No wonder Stephen Colbert taunted Ms. Ingraham to her face for “hideous and hackneyed racial stereotyping.”
Of course, these are only two of the more egregious instances in recent weeks of social poisoning that dates back well over a year. Symptoms can be seen across the country now, even in amusement parks and church carnivals, where small children are exposed to this spiritual sickness.

At the Big Time fair held by Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Roseto, Pa., last week, a game called “Alien Attack” featured “an image of a suited black man holding a health care bill and wearing a belt buckle with a presidential seal,” at which players were encouraged to aim their popguns. Anybody who hit the cardboard figure in the head or the heart could win a prize. Irvin L. Good Jr., owner of Goodtime Amusements, who is responsible for this disgusting garbage, denied that the figure represents Mr. Obama. “We’re not interpreting it as Obama,” the inaptly named huckster told a local newspaper. “The name of the game is Alien Leader. If you’re offended, that’s fine, we duly note that.”

Meanwhile on the New Jersey shore, patrons of the Seaside Heights boardwalk could hurl baseballs at a black, jug-eared Obama figurine, winning a prize if they managed to smash it. As seen in a video posted on the Gawker website, this object closely resembles the grinning “lawn jockey” statuettes that used to festoon suburban lawns in a less decent era.

Most conservatives were late in taking responsibility for their movement’s immoral opposition to civil rights. It is time for them to step up and denounce the racism that is again disfiguring our country in their name.

[ The Racists Return ]
Source: TruthDig

How Letting the Bush Tax Cuts Expire Could End the Economic Crisis

Some economists have the right idea about the Bush-era tax cuts. You know, like I said in my last piece, That “Change” is Working Out Great for Me, Thanks for Asking!: the ones that did nothing to stimulate the economy or create new jobs?

The money that will come in to government coffers when you force those people to be accountable who were supposed to stimulate the economy, invest in new businesses, and hire people with all of the money they didn’t have to pay the government in taxes but simply didn’t will actually go to balance the federal budget and books that the conservative right has been whining about so much.

And that’s the clincher, and that’s why the Tea Party thug gallery simply has no idea what they’re on about – they complain that the government needs to find ways to pay for things, and they they can’t spend like this with no money coming in…but as soon as there’s a way to hold government accountable for the money that it’s not bringing home and ending a program of tax cuts that never yielded the benefits they were supposed to, they start screaming and crying. It seems the conservative right and the Tea Party thugs are only interested in balancing the budget and bringing in more money to government coffers if that really means the money will wind up in their pockets and if they’re able to cut the throats of the neediest Americans in the process.

Here’s the scoop, thanks to Anthony DiMaggio at TruthOut:

Allowing the Bush-era tax cuts to expire will remove a massive boon for America’s rich, which benefitted the most from Republican policies over the last decade. Reinstatement of the Estate Tax, the Alternative Minimum Tax and the return of pre-Bush income tax levels for the richest Americans (among other tax changes) will result in an increase of more than $217 billion in tax revenues for 2010 and 2011. The expirations will then contribute another $1.25 trillion from 2012 through 2015, and an additional $2.2 trillion from 2016 to 2020.(13) The Center for Economic and Policy Research projects that it could take a decade for the US to return to pre-2008 unemployment levels.(14) The unemployment problem, however, could be greatly reduced if even a portion of the more than $3.6 trillion in public revenues that would be restored within this same period were used to bolster private economic development and preserve state public sector jobs.

The 2009 economic stimulus was credited with preventing the recession from growing worse. Recent data suggests that national unemployment would have reached 16 percent without it.(15) The effects of the stimulus were blunted, however, due to the relatively small amount allocated in 2009 – totaling $787 billion – in addition to the refusal of states to raise taxes to make up for declining tax revenues.(16) Total state budget gaps for the fiscal year are projected for 2011 at $84 billion.(17) This means that, if the Bush tax cuts were allowed to expire, the revenues gained from them (from 2010 and 2011) are far more than enough to fill all currently existing state budget deficits for the next ten years (assuming the deficits remained at current levels, which they most likely would not once a full recovery took place), while still leaving an additional $2.76 trillion dollars left over to promote further economic recovery.

Business apologists will no doubt complain that the restoration of pre-Bush tax levels will stifle business initiative, investment in the economy and future growth. They argue that only by pushing tax cuts for business and the rich can economic recovery occur. These claims are difficult to take seriously considering that American corporations have returned to pre-2008 profit levels, while systematically refusing to invest in the economic growth needed to decrease unemployment from near historic highs. The top banks in the country were rescued under the TARP taxpayer funds under the assumption that they would begin to loan money to jump start the economy. They refused, preferring to take the money to pay CEO bonuses and buy up their competitors. The Bush tax cuts were intentionally frontloaded with benefits for the masses of Americans, with the vast majority of cuts for the wealthy (which constituted the bulk of the tax cuts under Bush) appeared only in the later years of the tax cut timeline laid out in 2001.(18) The Bush tax cuts, like the TARP funds, have not been used in the last few years to help bring about an economic recovery. These cuts are set to expire this year and renewing them will likely do little to nothing to promote recovery if they have had no effect up until this point.

Bingo. If the Bush-era tax cuts haven’t done anything up to this point – and even unlike President Obama’s stimulus, which while controversial there’s at least evidence that it made an impact and kept the situation from getting as bad as it could have – there’s no reason to believe that the Bush tax cuts will do anything favorable for the economy now….aside from what would happen if you let them whither and die, like they should have in the first place.

Who knows – maybe the whole mess wouldn’t have been so difficult to deal with if the vastly Republican Congress at the time never passed the tax cuts in the first place.

[ The Coming Tax War: How Letting the Bush Tax Cuts Expire Could End the Economic Crisis ]
Source: TruthOut

August 9, 2010

That “Change” is Working Out Great for Me, Thanks for Asking!

I’ve never been a fan of bumper sticker politics: I find it overall relatively crude and demeaning not only to everyone involved (both the person idiotic enough to put something like “Miss Him Yet?” on their car and the person who has to see it while they’re headed to work or home from it) but there’s been one little trend of short-memory and revisionist history among conservatives and Republicans that I feel compelled to note.

Admittedly, the Right’s attention span has always been short, and their capacity to revise history to make themselves look glowing (see Ronald Reagan) has always been remarkable, but President Obama has been in office for 18 months and not only are conservatives trying to pretend that he’s not still busy cleaning up the messes of the past 8 years (“hurr when will you stop blaming the last guy for what’s happening now, hrurr”) but also conveniently shaping today’s issues in short-term language (instead of properly pointing at the near 30-year history of American conservatism as responsible for the deregulation of our financial industries, energy industries, and transportation industries to the point where they’re only accountable to their shareholders and the desires of their executives to line their pockets – at the expense of the American people.)

Bumper stickers like “How’s that change working out for you” and “Miss him yet?” have been appearing on the cars of the angry, who want you and I to believe that the world may as well have ended 18 months ago and now we’re all picking through the smoldering ashes of our civilization. To those questions, I have two very simple answers:

* That change is working out great for me, thanks for asking!
* No, I don’t miss him at all – in fact, I’m happily on my way to forgetting he ever existed.

Starting at the very bottom, I’m particularly glad that I have a President who, while he isn’t perfect, is leaps and bounds more perfect than the last guy, and a President who I don’t have to worry will lock me up and waterboard me if I disagree with him and don’t march in lock step behind. Now I have a President who, as a matter of policy, doesn’t strip American citizens of their rights and due process just so they can be thrown in a dark cell until the powers that be can think of what do to with them. Again – our current Administration isn’t perfect on this point, but at least they’re willing to listen to suggestions and open to changing course – the last Administration would have simply called you “un-American,” “un-patriotic,” and thrown you in a cell just for speaking your mind.

The last Administration listened in on the phone calls of American citizens without a warrant, and the last Administration locked up American citizens for no reason. The last Administration was responsible for the Patriot Act, which while it hasn’t been repealed, has been used with significantly more caution and judgment than it had been in the past. The last Administration was obsessed with the State Secrets Act and shutting down human rights lawsuits just by invoking it.

So no, I don’t “miss him yet” at all, and that “change” has been a huge breath of fresh air.

Let’s move on to some more tangible examples though:

Would Mad King George have appointed two women to the Supreme Court? Likely not.

Would McCain have signed the Lucy Ledbetter Act, mandating equal pay for equal work? Never.

Would Bush Jr. have committed to drawing down troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, even if those plans are slow to take shape? Never – they would have said even talking about leaving would have emboldened our “enemy.”

Would the Little Bush or McCain ever strive to provide health insurance to millions of uninsured Americans, pass a Patient’s Bill of Rights, put Medicare on sound financial footing, and cut near a trillion dollars from the budget defecit over the next 10 years by reforming the way Americans get and spend on health care? It would have been a laughable proposition.

Would McCain or Palin have signed an executive order mandating that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” be repealed? Wouldn’t have even crossed their minds.

Would Bush Jr. ever thought to close Guantanamo, much less actually try? Never.

Would a Republican president ever have sought to re-vitalize the Civil Rights wing of the Department of Justice, ousting political appointments that sought only to minimize the amount of work the agency did by throwing out legitimate cases and complaints and marginalizing career lawyers who have fought for equal rights their entire lives? Nope.

Would McCain or Palin have fought to restore science and scientific analysis to its rightful place in American discourse, especially on such important topics as climate change, space science, and medicine? Never.

Would McCain or Bush Jr. be on nearly as solid terms with our allies as Obama is, and managed to completely turn around our antagonistic relationship with Russia the way he has? Never – we would have seen more bluster and saber rattling, and likely be in the middle of another war with another faceless enemy designed to make us afraid by now had we voted differently.

Would McCain ever have gleefully signed ethics reform into law that would ensure there were strong rules to make sure the the field day that Republicans had during their majority time in office prior to 2008 (remember the cascade of ethics and sex scandals coming out of Congress back then? Oh how soon the right wing forgets…) never happen again? Not a chance.

Would Bush Jr. ever have given woefully needed money to the American auto industry – even if it was unpopular – and then been able to stand behind them as, as happened last week, they all post revenue gains and profits as opposed to the record losses and debts they had over a year ago?

The economic downturn was in full swing when President Obama was elected, as were both wars and all of their issues – so blaming President Obama is only ad accurate as you can blame someone for not cleaning up someone else’s mess fast enough. Someone recently pointed to a story about the vast majority (something like 96%) of money slated for reconstruction in Iraq being unaccounted for, and snarkily commented about whether or not this was something that people would just blame President Bush for – to which I responded that yes, it is – it’s only the right that seeks to unload accountability for their own actions and leadership decisions onto the people that follow them. President Obama has accountability to cleaning up that mess, but he has no accountability for having made the mess in the first place.

To that end though, would Bush Jr. or McCain ever have pushed through legislation designed to stimulate the economy, fund thousands of new infrastructure projects, put hundreds of thousands of Americans back to work, and, with time, eventually turn the job decline into a slow but steady job incline? Not at all – there would have been some tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans (like the Bush tax cuts being debated now in Congress – you remember, the ones that did nothing to stimulate the economy or create new jobs?) and the Republicans would have resorted to their old stand-by, that people who are unemployed somehow “want to be jobless” or “deserve it.”

Would Bush ever have had the gravitas or political will to push through a massive financial system reform bill into law that not only forces more accountability in the financial sector but also establishes a new government agency that the public can turn to for their own protection against those massive Wall Street entities? Never. Would McCain? Hardly – he may have handed over some more money to them, but never have fought on our behalf.

So when you ask me if that “change” is working out for me, I’m more than happy to say yes.

When you ask me if I “miss him yet,” I can answer with a smile and say “miss who?”

Because overall, there’s plenty of work left to be done, and we’re not out of the woods, and everything isn’t perfect, but I’m more hopeful now than I ever have been, and I’m confident that America is moving in the right direction under a leader who at least considers the best interests of the people and the nation over their own personal whim or delusional personal “calling.”

Yup, that change is working out for me just fine, thanks. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Rep. Inglis Tells All: GOP Using Racism, Demagoguery in Response to Obama

The thing that amuses me the most about this recent story is that this is more proof that the Republican party and their Mad Hatter’s Tea Party group of thugs really are the political parties of racism and intolerance in America. And as soon as one of them is ousted because they’re “not conservative enough,” they’re willing to blow the whistle on the whole cabal of madness for what it really is: a gaggle of political elite interested in taking and exercising power for themselves and their friends with no accountability to or interest in serving the American people – and they’re willing to take that power by any means necessary, especially if it resorts to racism, religious intolerance, discrimination, sexism, and madness like “revisiting” the 14th Amendment to the Constitution (a hilarious desire from people who claim to be so interested in protecting and preserving it – it’s funny how quiet the Constitution-thumping libertarians are on this one.)

Back to point though, as soon as one of them is ousted, they have a lot to say all of a sudden, like any other politician who’s found themselves out of favor because they simply weren’t good enough for the cabal. No honor among thieves, but at least the rest of us get affirmation of what we knew all along:

In June, Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC) became one of the first incumbent Republicans to be knocked off by an insurgent Tea Party candidate. Although he maintained a 93 percent lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union, primary voters deemed Inglis to be insufficiently conservative. In an interview with Mother Jones, Inglis said that one of the reasons for his defeat was because he refused to demagogue like other conservatives in the House. In one instance during the primary, Inglis was chastised simply for not calling President Obama a “socialist.” He also noted that many of the GOPs criticisms regarding Obama’s response to the economic crisis were motivated by racism:

Instead, he remarks, his party turned toward demagoguery. Inglis lists the examples: falsely claiming Obama’s health care overhaul included “death panels,” raising questions about Obama’s birthplace, calling the president a socialist, and maintaining that the Community Reinvestment Act was a major factor of the financial meltdown. “CRA,” Inglis says, “has been around for decades. How could it suddenly create this problem? You see how that has other things worked into it?” Racism? “Yes,” Inglis says.

Inglis also had particular criticism of House GOP leader John Boehner and GOP whip Eric Cantor, whom he accused of being unwilling to “summon the courage” to stand up to Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Tea Partiers.

Straight from the elephant’s mouth.

[ Rep. Inglis Tells All: GOP Using Racism, Demagoguery in Response to Obama ]
Source: ThinkProgress

Conservatism Is Bad for Your Health: “Red” States Sicker than “Blue”

For all of their fighting over the health care reform law, and their continued desire to try and sue it out of existence so – heaven forbid – conservatives don’t have to help their fellow Americans get adequate health care and insurance, it turns out that the proof really is in the pudding and so-called “red states” are actually sicker and have worse health care than “blue states.”

This really shouldn’t surprise anyone – most red states don’t believe in community well being, instead touting the line of low taxation as the path to prosperity, which in turn means that everyone gets more money in their pockets due to low or no state income or sales taxes but also has the side-effect that conservatives ignore: poor health care, underfunded health and wellness programs, understaffed and understocked hospitals, health clinics that are few and far between, and fewer doctors left to take care of the people who need medical care the most.

Blue Texan over at Instaputz pointed to a couple of data sets, where I found an interesting correlation.

The first is Gallup’s ranking of states by ideology, according to the share of residents who self-identify as liberal or conservative. The second is this United Health Foundation ranking of states by the health of their citizens, according to a combination of 22 different metrics.

The ten least healthy states are all among the “red” states*. Five of the least healthy states are among the ten most conservative.

Nine of the ten healthiest states are among the “blue” states. Five of the healthiest states are among the ten most liberal.

Sound familiar? Now of course correlation doesn’t necessarily equal causation, and there are several factors at play here, but it’s hard to not acknowledge that the people who most self-identify as conservative, claiming that they can take care of themselves and they don’t need “big government intruding into their lives” are the ones who really are the least likely to take care of themselves and the most likely to wind up being the problem that the rest of us have set out to solve: the people sitting in emergency rooms because they have no primary care physician, because their communities couldn’t raise the money to build a clinic in their neighborhoods, for example.

It’s very likely we’ll see more of this kind of conservative ideology coming home to roost in the next several decades unless we do something to stop it – but there’s only so much you can really do when you have an entire group of people who are not only willing to deny the medicine that can save them, they’re willing to deny everyone else the same medicine as well.

[ Conservatism Is Bad for Your Health: “Red” States Sicker than “Blue” ]
Source: AlterNet