Basically A Rant

 

The correct strategies for America are not always
the most selfish ones. It’s not all about us all the time. Sometimes we must
look at the big picture because everything is interconnected. Some string that
is pulled somewhere else can unravel or re-knit our future.

And, then there is the truth that, at this point in
time, the Republicans will not allow Obama to pass any new laws that improve
the economy, the infrastructure, or jobs. If we don’t elect Democrats in 2014
we have almost 3 long years to concentrate on foreign affairs. If we truly do
not want to get involved in any more wars, I would trust Obama much more than I
would trust the Republicans to admonish a dictator without getting us involved
in a foreign war. The only way the war in Syria can escalate and suck in the
world is if a powerful force like Russia joins in. If Putin is serious about
helping get rid of the chemical weapons in Syria, then he probably is not
interested in starting World War III. If we stay civil and Russia stays civil
then perhaps we can pull this off. Americans do not appear to be too fond of
civility right now, sad to say. Instead all the little voices fall in line
echoing the charge that Obama is a weak President. I repeat; if Obama can end
the use of chemical weapons in Syria without starting a new war, then he is
anything but weak.

If there is anything this President does that is
weak it is to give Republicans another opening to tout his weakness and force
him to bargain when these Republicans know all along that they will say “no” to
him again and again and again. This does not make Obama seem weak to me. It
makes him seem like a President who respects the Constitution and who tries to
give Republicans every opportunity to cut out the partisan politics and do
their jobs as outlined in that very Constitution that describes how our
government is supposed to work. Nowhere in the Constitution I read does it say
that people outside the government should be promised a stronger allegiance
than is given to a fair consideration of the laws that build a stronger
America.

Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Grover Norquist and the
Koch brothers should be like the rest of us. They are citizens with one vote
each. But they have found ways to pull the strings of large numbers of
Americans turning them into disenchanted citizens and puppet voters who repeat,
like mantras, arguments drummed into them by skillful pundits. These pundits
know the fears some Americans hold in their hearts and minds and they stoke the
fires lit under these fears, bank the coals, and then stoke them again. They
have fostered a bunch of conspiracy junkies and they will ruin America if we
let them. These pundits have been primed to serve the interests of Grover
Norquist, the Koch brothers, the Tea Party and whatever other shadowy figures
are in the Conservative Cabal.

So we have plenty of time to take the big view, the
long view, while we wait for America to wake up and throw off the strings of
the mind controllers who have taken over the GOP.

What would we like to see happen in the Middle East?
Perhaps we would like to see strong, healthy Middle Eastern countries where
government and religion are separate. Perhaps people in the Middle East will
chose peaceful coexistence and tolerance over hate and aggression; these
nations’ peoples will find a balance that will allow the citizens to live
stable and productive lives in which there is no dictator holding on to all of
the nations’ wealth. What can we do to encourage this? Wouldn’t such an outcome
have a profoundly positive effect on us and the world? Playing a bit of referee
doesn’t seem too much to ask from the rest of the world community. After all we
have plenty of time right now to keep an eye on the violations of war behavior
which result in the horrors of genocide. If we allow these practices we will
never achieve that real peace, tolerance, and prosperity we wish for the Middle
East and the world.

If you want Obama to accomplish our goals for our
domestic future then you had better raise your voice and tell Republicans to
stop obstructionism in Congress, to stop encouraging red states to pass laws
that challenge the current laws in America, and to stop brainwashing and
scaring gullible Americans. We need to elect Democrats in 2014.

This is the view from the cheap seats.

 

This blog post is also available at www.brissioni.com

 

Done Celebrating

I am done celebrating because, as all admit, it was only one
victory in a long list of issues that must be decided. I am done celebrating
because the pundits tell us that Presidents can’t accomplish much in their
first term because they have to keep an eye on getting reelected and they can’t
do much in their second term because everyone knows they are on their way out.
I find this a very depressing attitude and it is one of the reasons that I
advocate amending the Constitution so we only have a Presidential election
every eight years. Although this would probably kill Wolf Blitzer on CNN, who
seems to live only for the hoopla of a perpetual election cycle, we should
still give it serious consideration. Wolf is already trying to engage in
speculation about who will run in 2016 with every interviewee he can corner.
This kind of fast forward election express makes actually governing look dull
and we need to get more excited about day-to-day governance and watching a
President create his legacy to the American people.

I am done celebrating because we did not get rid of the ubiquitous
Grover Norquist. He has given the Republicans dispensation for what looks like
a tax increase but is actually not. He does this on the basis of a
technicality. Since nothing happened by midnight on December 31st
Grover tells us that we had already reverted to the taxes as they were before
the Bush tax cuts so the taxes went up by default. He tells us that what the
Republicans ended up doing was lowering taxes for most Americans and leaving
them the same for those above the $400,000/$450,000 levels because the timing of the
vote had already caused those higher tax limits to kick in without a vote. So
based on this technicality the pledge is still in force, Grover Norquist lives
to fight another day on behalf of a teeny-tiny federal government and no
Republicans will suffer for their vote on the teeny-tiny revenue plan with all
the attached special bequests to groups with strong lobbies in Washington.
Whew, isn’t dispensation fine!

In return for a victory which was hardly a stunning loss to
Republicans, the GOP has vowed revenge. They insist that they will block Obama
at every turn and that they would rather ruin the American economy than raise
the debt ceiling again. Raising the debt ceiling was always a given, but now
that the GOP feels that they own the House, they continue to use the debt
ceiling as a dangerous bargaining chip. This behavior should outrage Americans
far more than the Tea Partiers are outraged about the missing cuts in the
recently passed tax bill. We have a new Congress, can we hope for a new era of
cooperation? To go from a very large government to a very small government cold
turkey is not realistic or desirable. Even if we do get bullied into downsizing
government it will have to happen in stages. There are excellent reasons to
compromise and take baby steps. There are no excellent reasons to use the debt
ceiling as a bargaining chip. In fact it is one of those positions which I
would consider treasonous because it puts private interests above the best
interests of America.

Neutralize Norquist

Get rid of Grover. Neutralize Norquist. Quit the comedian.
Leave the Libertarian in the dust. Stop being puppets. Prove that you can abandon the pledge that
hinders your ability to negotiate. Raise top tax rates. That will end the power
of the pledge. Then we can see if there is a better deal to be had. People
voted to return Republicans to the House not because they wanted the Republican
agenda but because they like their representatives. This does not give the
Republicans any kind of mandate. John Boehner is being strong-armed by the same
right wing extremists whose views we rejected in the election; Mitch McConnell,
Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan. We could probably negotiate with John Boehner but
not with these stubborn and arrogant men who exercise a power that is far
greater than their position in our government warrants.

The last time we almost had a Grand Bargain, Obama was open
to negotiation and he offered to do some of the things that Republicans wanted
and Democrats didn’t, namely cuts to entitlements. John Boehner also appeared
to offer some wiggle room on taxes, but when Boehner went back to the House
they yanked the bargain away and went for all or nothing supposedly on behalf
of the America people. And that is what the American people got: nothing. Why
would Obama bargain with these people again? If he accepted their offer, lame
as it is, just to get a doable compromise, what is to stop the GOP from yanking
it away once again in order to make Obama look incompetent? Obama is much
better off being as tough and inflexible as these disrespectful “young guns”
and their not-so-young cohorts.

One more time: get rid of Grover.  Break the back of the pledge. Agree to raise
taxes on the wealthiest Americans to show that you are truly done with Mr.
Norquist. If you do that then I bet the entire procedure will become easier. You
have lost two presidential elections in a row. No matter how committed you are
to small government, the American people are not. Get a grip on reality. Can we
impeach our Representatives? Let’s find out.

What Will Your Legacy Be, GOP?

I am addressing this to the Republicans who, I guess,
honestly believe that they have the answers when it comes to the economy, or
they believe they must honor a pledge they made, or they believe that the
wealthy need protection. You need to stop holding the line on taxes. You offer
to cut or privatize all services that meet the needs of the poor, the disabled,
the children of the poor, our seniors and those who are ill. How nice of you!
You protect the wealthy like you were set to guard the gates of a temple. You
stubbornly insist that we must have smaller government, less government, even
though you have lost two elections in a row. You continue to demand that
everyone must do things you way even though most Americans have not chosen that
path. This is very disturbing and it does amount to holding our government and
the American people and our economy hostage to your agenda. Should we begin to
treat this as a “bloodless coup”?

 You could earn a
legacy in history for being the party that pitched in and saved the economy
including the budget, the jobs crisis, our debt, and our deficit. You cannot do
this until you defy Grover Norquist. Do you want to appear in history books for
signing a pledge to an individual who served the American government in no
capacity whatsoever? This is getting really frightening. Will this be the end
of America as we have known it? Will the people lose their voice and the rich
rule right up front instead of behind the scenes? Will someone become the new
American royalty? Will Grover be the King, or will he be the Fool?

Raising taxes on the wealthy is not the last straw. It will
not ruin America. In fact, if you cannot bring yourselves to end that
unconstitutional pledge the damage will be far worse. You have the chance to go
down in the history books as flexible and intelligent people who understand
that there is more than one path to a desired goal and who understand that
trampling the Americans who happen to be on the bottom right now will not make
you proud, or famous, or brilliant statesmen; you will only live in infamy in
the books that teach school children the history of America. You will not be
known for helping America achieve a prosperous future for all; you will simply
be known as selfish, pompous, inflexible and wrong. Surely you don’t want to be
remembered like that.

An End Run Around Grover Norquist

Wealthy men built our railroads. They didn’t do it out of
the kindness of their hearts. They did it from necessity. They were making
products to sell and mining coal and drilling for oil and they needed an
efficient way to get their goods to the population centers where people would
buy and use them. These men did not invent railroads – they had already been
invented and were in limited use. But these men raced to build the railroads
(with slave and/or very cheap labor) once they realized how effective the railroads
would be as product movers. They competed with each other to try to get a
monopoly on certain routes; a monopoly which might drive competitors out of
business.

Vanderbilt, Rockefeller and Carnegie were three of the
competitors we remember best and these men, already wealthy, became very
wealthy indeed in the process of creating and improving on this piece of
American infrastructure.

All of this history has implications for the present. If we
cannot, after heroic attempts, get the GOP to agree to raise taxes on the
wealthiest Americans, maybe we can get them to contribute monies to an
infrastructure fund to bring us a futuristic transport apparatus that can
flexibly accommodate high speed rail and cars that drive themselves, but
require electricity along with oil and gas. Of course they are already richer
than Vanderbilt, Rockefeller and Carnegie so they need reasons to take on this
huge project. Well, it might help bring business back to America, it would take
a big expense out of the federal budget, in the long run it would grow their
personal wealth,  it would give them
something meaningful to accomplish, and they would become the “new
philanthropists”. Since the wealthy wouldn’t have as much free time as they do
now, it might also make vacations exciting to them again.

They could get rid of all our crazy elevated super-highways , clover leafs, and double clover leafs that cut up our cities. They could build by-passes around our cities with parking lots at the exits where public transport to the city center would be provided. We would not use our vehicles in cities at all, only small electric public vehicles (taxis).

 

New lanes could be added to highways for cars that drive
themselves. Newly updated service areas that recharge electric cars quickly, in
addition to providing fossil fuels, would be built. High speed rail would
complement all the highways improvements. Perhaps there could be considerations
for accommodations that could help travelers at places which frequently
experience extreme weather also.   

You guys have already shown that you have skills to make
money or at least hold on to money, so I am sure you could form, fund, and
manage a company or group that could take this on. Although it might require a
huge infusion of your cash to begin with I’m sure you could figure out ways it
could benefit your bottom line in the end. And we wouldn’t have to raise taxes
so we would get around that pledge you all made to Grover Norquist. It’s a
win-win strategy. “If you build it they will come.”

If It Sounds Too Good To Be True, It Probably Is

There is a group called Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), headed by John Boehner, GOP Speaker of the House. This group wrote a pledge, which our elected representatives and even our governors are being “asked” to sign. We know how much pressure there is on Republicans to conform so we can guess that signing does not necessarily mean all of these Republicans are totally in line with the program. Doubts aside they have all promised that they will not raise taxes.

They agree to “oppose any and all increases to personal and business marginal income tax rates as well as any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless it is matched by other tax rate decreases.”

On the face of things this is designed, I believe, to appeal to everyone and turn Republicans into our heroes. But just the thought of it made me so angry I could not sleep. I spent half my night trying to “use my words” so I, and others, could understand my anger. As usual I came up with several hundred words.

1. By signing this document these Republican Congress people and governors have told us that they will not have the flexibility they need to help solve our financial dilemmas.

2. They have included all American taxpayers to get personal income tax payers on their side, however, most of us know that our taxes cannot be raised right now because we are not solvent enough to rescue the economy and we can’t spare that money. So, this is about the top 2% of Americans and corporations (perhaps also some small businesses, but not the other 98% of us.

3. Since most economists believe we will solve our debt problems by a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases, this pledge, by taking revenue increases off the table, means that we are left with only spending cuts. Guess what they intend to cut? And here we are back to Medicare vouchers and the demise of Social Security. We paid our money and we want it used for us as per the promises we grew up with. It is not our fault that our government has squandered our safety net, although it is our problem.

4. Once again this turns America into a shallow country with only one goal – profit! America has tried to be so much more than this. We need to think about the future in enlightened ways that go way beyond simple greed.

5. And, although I think this pledge is a political trick and is wrong in so many ways, I think it reflects the change in the importance of the average citizen to those top 2 percent. Since they no long need us as employees they do not intend to continue the safety net that protected us as employees and protected them as employers. We are superfluous and perhaps “lazy.” While this makes me “throw up a little bit in my mouth,” it does suggest that we may have to reinvent ourselves even far into our senior years and invent incomes that we can rely on in case these pledge signers succeed in dismantling our benefits which are somehow now called entitlements. This is not just semantics, it is politics.

6. Stop voting for these people. You are not rich enough to be in their exclusive and very expensive club.

So far 263 members of the House of Representatives and 41 Senators have signed this agreement and 1263 state legislators have also signed a similar agreement on the state level. You can find a copy of the pledge and a list of signers at http://www.atr.org/taxpayer-protection-pledge-a2882

Enhanced by Zemanta