Compromising with Segregationists and Old School Bipartisanship

Compromising with Segregationists and Old School Bipartisanship

Biden talked this week about compromising with some pretty stubborn and reprehensible segregationists because it was the only way anything could get done. You would think someone who said hateful racist things every day in Congress and blocked programs designed to effectively lift up the children of slaves and other Americans of African descent would have a difficult time in Congress and in elections. You would think s/he (usually a he) would be shunned and ignored. But this has not been the case in America or in the American Congress. Because these men loved to make outrageous racist arguments to prevent black Americans from assimilating into mainstream culture, the media knew that giving these crude voices a bullhorn was a moneymaker. We seem to enjoy whatever is most outrageous, or perhaps some of us just enjoy feeling outraged, however powerless we feel to do anything about it.

So when Biden says that he compromised with segregationists and got things done, it is possible to conclude that the compromises that were made in Biden’s days, and throughout our history, gave us legislation with all the teeth taken out of it.

Conservatives and segregationists may not have had rabid racism in common but they do not like spending money on social programs and they all do have that in common. Because they don’t believe desegregation is desirable or is the province of government every program is assembled piecemeal out of stony opposition and supposedly plain-spoken debate that is actually prejudice, and by the time the assistance program appears in its final form it is watered down almost beyond any hope of proving effective.

Conservatives also worry about the few people who will abuse the system far more than they appreciate the numbers of people who could benefit from the system. To counter real and imagined felonious tendencies of recipients of programs – programs that are supposed to help equalize opportunities for all Americans, to at least provide for basic needs in order to allow people to satisfy higher needs like owning a home or getting a certificate or degree to lead to a better job – the process of obtaining assistance is made so onerous that receiving what was supposed to offer a lift up becomes stigmatizing and demoralizing.

Why have the problems of our inner cities been so stubborn? Why have some black folks been essentially trapped in our inner cities, or in segregated neighborhoods? Given all the time and money dedicated to eradicating differences in opportunities why are so many black people still so poor? Why are so many black people in jail? Why have other groups been eventually accepted in the fold and able to climb the economic ladder?

Conservatives like to pretend that Americans of African descent have low IQ’s and that this makes them inferior to white people. How much of this is still resentment about losing their property? How much of this is still resentment about losing the Civil War? How much of this is about the way the demise of the plantation system changed the entire economy of the South and left it languishing until factories began to leave the North and migrate to the old slave states? How much of this is simply about the color of someone’s skin?

How much of this is the fault of these ancestors of the very people who snatched Africans from their homes to enslave them? How much of this is because of laws that did not allow slaves to learn to read and write? If you prevent people from being educated you really cannot turn around and deride them for being “ignorant”. How much of Conservatives’ active moves to undermine all attempts at desegregation arise from fear that vengeance will be wreaked one day?

We understand the roots of racism pretty well, but we have been far less successful at ridding ourselves of this unwarranted prejudice. So when we passed a welfare program to give struggling folks living in areas of stubborn poverty a living wage recipients became Welfare Queens and those Welfare Queens were not white.

Pretty soon poor white and black folks, many of them single females with children or families with absent fathers, were required to either go to work or go to school, even though they might have to make less than satisfactory arrangements for their children. This put their children into situations that left them behind other children in school, or perhaps exposed them to traumatizing adult situations that then made it difficult for them to socially adjust to schooling.

We funded housing programs, but white neighborhoods with better schools were made unavailable to black folks through informal white segregationist practices like red-lining. Thus people could get assistance with low rent housing with all its inadequacies but they could not buy a home outside of the inner city neighborhoods. These neighborhoods had the advantage of creating and solidifying black unity, and the disadvantages of gangs and violence that come from a need to have control over at least a small corner of the world as your own space and a pathway, however illegal, to wealth.

The intent of these programs may have been to tear down invisible walls that were separating black and white people, especially economically. However we will never know if these programs would have worked if they were allowed to stick to their original configurations and intentions. Compromising with segregationists turned them into reluctant and temporary kinds of assistance that subjected recipients to a loss of personal pride and did not end up lifting any one up. We chose a path and we will never know if the other path would have been better.

I think that today’s Progressive Dems and the apparently despised Liberals are saying that perhaps those Democrats who felt that compromise was a good thing were wrong; that giving in to racists cannot offer any benefits to America or to Americans.

They may also be sad that fifty years or more were wasted. It is likely that we have caused the very problems that haunt our inner cities by allowing what should have been supportive services designed to end segregation to be subverted by segregationists through the very compromises that allowed the laws to be passed. In other words, compromise took all the heart out of the laws and injected meanness.

If bipartisanship means compromises like these blasts from the past, Democrats can no longer afford to compromise at all. This is even more true because Mitch McConnell, drunk on the power of “no”, will never allow for bipartisan compromise as long as he controls the majority in the Senate.

Photo Credit: The Federalist

American Economy/Bring Back Our Jobs

jobs back 2 big

Don’t Ask For What You Want, Because You Might Get It

For the past eight years and longer Republicans have pined for “smaller” government and have promised that if we use a “trickle-down” approach to the American economy, cut taxes on the wealthiest Americans, and endure a few years of austerity the economy will come roaring back. Republicans have held the economy in place for both Obama terms and I don’t think anyone is experiencing a roaring economic upturn. Job growth has been slow and steady, economic growth has been somewhat stagnant. Along comes Donald Trump who promises that he will bring back our jobs that America lost by bringing back the corporations that offered us those jobs.

But what I see whenever I hear this nonsense for the umpteenth time is Republican double-speak covering over the America we will actually have to become in order to bring back those jobs that everyone seems to mourn the loss of. What I see is the possibility of much lower salaries, non-existent or powerless labor unions, a lower standard of living, and employees who work whatever hours the corporations require with few, if any benefits. The corporations will demand much more control over their “own affairs” which will entail drastic deregulation, which Republicans also favor.

The GOP believes (or pretends to believe) that unfettering capitalism will bring an astounding renewal of our economy like the first great flowering of industry at the turn of the 20th century. The Tea Party folks who demand, out of some kind of misplaced nostalgia, that those jobs must be returned to America are not really facing the facts that the old reality can never be reproduced and the new reality may not match their expectations.

What we might get is some kind of “bizarro” America that I (and others) call the Corporate States of America and it answers the demands of an alliance of some pretty strange bedfellows. The Tea Party (which includes truckers, displaced workers, farmers, and rural-garage talk-show lovers), and Big Business have a lot in common these days (sort of in the same way that buffalo and wolves have a lot in common). The Republican Party is the body pillow between the corporations (Big Business) on one side of this big bed and the conspiracy theory lovers (The Tea Party) on the other side. Donald Trump is snuggled up in there somewhere (you decide where). These three groups have one main thing that puts them together in that very small sector at the center of a Venn diagram of that bed. They all want a federal government that is smaller in three ways:

  1. Lower taxes or no taxes
  2. Fewer services or no services
  3. Fewer rules or no rules

This unholy marriage has been arranged by right wing media and the Tea Party and it could be sanctified through a sweep by the Republican Party in the 2014 midterms (done) and the 2016 Presidential election (on its way). Then we could find ourselves living in the Corporate States of America. Perhaps we will pledge allegiance to and sing that new anthem of unfettered Capitalism “from sea to fracking sea”. I’m guessing that most of us will hold a permanent role in the poorly paid worker class that will finally allow America to once again be the number one manufacturer in the world. The only problem is that we will no longer be America. That’s one of my most nightmarish visions for a “bizarro” America that we could belong to in the near future.

jobs back big

Don’t Wish for What You Don’t Want, Because You Might Get It

Actually, keeping that creepy bed in mind you really need to think about whether or not we want our corporations to come back at all. They cannot realistically make the move unless we drastically reduce the standard of living in America. And while you may think bucks are a bit thin on the ground right now, our economy would have to go much lower before these companies will come “home”. Here are some of the wages employees make in China, Southeast Asia, and Mexico:

China

Since 2001, the United States has lost 2.8 million manufacturing jobs to China — that despite U.S. factory workers being far more productive.

Partly, it can be explained by China’s cheaper workers: The average hourly wage for Chinese manufacturing workers is less than a tenth that of their average U.S. counterparts, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It being about twice as cheap to live in China, those lower Chinese wages go further. But Chinese factory workers also tend to work longer hours, making them more appealing to some employers

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/08/average-cost-factory-worker_n_1327413.html

Southeast Asia

Comparative Wages in Selected Countries
July 29, 2016

 

Country/City Daily Minimum Wages Monthly Wage Exchange Rate
Per US$1*
In Country Currency In US$ In Country Currency In US$
Bangladesh (Taka) 176.67 b/ 2.21 5,300.00 1/ 66.42 79.7982
Myanmar (Kyat) 3,600.00 a/ 2.99 108,000.00 2/ 89.63 1,204.9700
Mongolia (Tugrik) 6,400.00 a/ 3.11 192,000.00 3/ 93.20 2,060.0000
Lao PDR (Kip) 30,000.00 a/ 3.65 900,000.00
4/
109.38 8,228.3900
Pakistan
(Rupee)
333.33-400.00
a/
3.16-3.79 10,000.00-12,000.00
5/
94.86-113.83 105.4230
Cambodia
(Cambodian Riel)
18,666.67
a/
4.67 560,000.00
6/
140.00 4,000.0000
Vietnam
(Dong)
80,000.00 – 116,666.67
a/
3.55- 5.18 2,400,000.00 -3,500,000.00
7/
106.54-155.37 22,527.5000
Indonesia
(Rupiah)
36,666.67 – 103,333.33
a/
2.80- 7.88 1,100,000.00 -3,100,000.00
8/
83.93-236.53 13,106.2000
Philippines/XI-A(Peso)  317..00
9/
6.72 9,510.00
b/
201.56 47.1823
Philippines/VII
(Peso)
295.00- 353.00
10/
6.25-7.48 8,850.00 -10,590.00
b/
187.57- 224.45 47.1823
Philippines/III
(Peso)
313.00- 357.00
11/
6.63-7.71 9,390.00 -10,920.00
b/
200.42- 233.07 47.1823
Malaysia
(Ringgit)
26.67 -30.00
12/
6.57- 7.39 800.00 -900.00 199.02-231.44 4.0614
Philippines/IV-A(Peso)  267.00-362.50
13/
6.04-8.02 8,010.00 -10,875.00
b/
181.21-240.66 47.1823
Thailand/Bangkok
(Baht)
300.00
14/
8.59 9,000.00
b/
257.61 34.9369
China
(Yuan Renminbi)
27.67 – 60.27
a/
4.15 -9.11 830.00 -1,820.00
15/
124.61-273.24 6.6607
Philippines/NCR (Peso) 444.00-481.00
16/
9.62-10.41 13,320.00-14,430.00
b/
288.67-312.19 47.1823
Taiwan
(Taiwan Dollar)
920.00
17/
28.77 27,600.00
b/
863.19 31.9745
Hongkong
($HK)
260.00
a/
33.52 7,800.00
18/
1,005.61 7.7565
South Korea
(Won)
44,640.00
19/
39.57 1,339,200.00
b/
1,187.20 1,128.0300
Japan
(Japan Yen)
5,424.00 – 7,280.00
20/
51.69-69.37 162,720.00 – 218,400.00
b/
1,550.56-2,081.13 104.9430
New Zealand
(New Zealand Dollar)
94.40 – 118.00
21/
66.91-83.64 2,832.00 – 3,540.00
b/
2,007.37-2,509.21 1.4108
Australia
(Australian Dollar)
138.32
a/
103.96 4,149.60
22/
3,118.83 1.3305

 

http://www.nwpc.dole.gov.ph/pages/statistics/stat_comparative.html

Mexico

Manufacturing average income – in pesos $551 per month, $353 in dollars

http://www.worldsalaries.org/mexico.shtml

http://www.businessinsider.com/mexicans-get-paid-less-for-their-work-than-any-other-developed-country-2015-7

Overall list

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_minimum_wages_by_country

Clearly if the cost of living in America stayed where it is now these wages would never support individuals or families. If the cost of things fell dramatically in order to match up with the wages what would America look like then? Would it look like the 1950’s when my father was able to barely support 10 people with $10,000/year? The wages we are talking about don’t even get us the 50’s back. Would we look like a more medieval culture with the very poor essentially in serfdom to the very rich? Are you sure you want your jobs back?

We haven’t even talked about the pollution our beloved factories left behind, both the stuff they told us about and the hidden wastes they never remembered to mention. We could have the smog that hung over our cities although I doubt that is something any of us have missed. There are valid things that we really do miss without our factories and the corporations they made things for, but I am starting to picture a viable future economy, however slowly it is emerging, without them. When Donald Trump promises to bring back our jobs, obviously that does not sound quite as positive to me as it does to some of you.

This is the view from the cheap seats.

(This article appears on my website https://www.thearmchairobserver.com/ in a more rudimentary form. Look in the archives dated 4/17/2014.)

The Democratic Ticket

Single payer health care, expanded Social Security, paid
family leave, free quality public colleges, lowered tuitions at private
colleges, cheaper college loans that don’t hound you all the way to the grave,
equal pay for equal work, $15 minimum wage – I want these things, however
unreasonably expensive they sound. We are the people of America and these
things would make our lives easier. Only one candidate offers to fight for
these things and that is Bernie Sanders.
This is problematic because, although I like Bernie Sanders
and feel he would make a fine President, he is not a woman (and this is only
the first problem with Mr. Sanders.) It is high time we had a woman President
in the U.S. and as fate would have it we have an experienced female, Hillary Clinton,
who would also make a fine President. She, of course, has a problem because so
many men want this job and they don’t like to see it opened up to women. They
(men) keep trying to weigh Hillary down with responsibility for political
upheavals that occurred when she was Secretary of State.
Here Ted Cruz gave us the most apt logical fallacy in this
blame game. ‘Just because an arsonist and a fireman are both at the scene of a
fire does not make them equally to blame for the fire.’ Hillary may have been Madame
Secretary when Libya (the new cry now that Benghazi is not as effective) looked
ready to emerge from a totalitarian state to a fledgling Democracy during that
much touted “Arab Spring”, but I doubt that she caused these earth-shaking
events or that she caused the “Arab Spring” to fail. She was guilty, perhaps of
celebrating Libyan freedom prematurely as did many other people at the time who
were ahead of the actual pace of historical change. We have forgiven many, many
such misapprehensions in our male leaders.
Hillary is, on the other hand, not as progressive as I would
like her to be. She is much more towards the center of the left. She will not
try for single payer health care, I am betting, nor will she fight against
income inequality through reforms to the tax code with the passion of Bernie
Sanders, or even Elizabeth Warren for that matter. I doubt that she will make
the fight to expand Social Security a high priority and she is not inclined
towards free quality public college degrees. She is pragmatic which is both
good and bad. She knows the make-up of our current Congress. She suspects that
each of these laws that must be passed to help Middle Class Americans will be
hard fought in this Congress, if they are brought up for a vote at all.
Bernie Sander’s goals are audacious given the fact that
Congress is so “red” right now, so Republican. Hillary will not go for
audacity. She will approach her agenda more mildly and in a spirit of
compromise. Would she perhaps accomplish more if she went after an ideal middle
class agenda with great passion? I don’t know the answer to that. Perhaps
passion will be made to look foolish by those who currently inhabit our
government houses and who are diametrically opposed to the Progressive agenda.
We have the further problem that our elected representatives
seem to be using public office as a road to riches. If you can make a career in
Congress and get elected over and over again you will be worth a fortune by the
time you leave (and have a great pension to boot). Clearly it is not your
government salary that will make you rich; it is your ability to wheel and deal
while you “serve”. The people can see that this happens but we are not sure how
to change it or even if it is advisable. 
Do people who are lining their pockets serve us better than
less greedy people would? If greed no longer motivates public service will
talented people choose to serve? If there isn’t as much non tax-payer money in
government will there be less to “trickle down” to us in the form of “earmarks”?
Will frugal pay make our tax dollars serve us better?
Hillary is unlikely to tackle the issue of career politics or
the fat proceeds to be had in a Congressional career. She, again, is too
pragmatic. She is not a revolutionary in this sense. She herself is a career
politician and turned a tidy profit within the system (no wrong-doing
suggested). Bernie Sanders is far more likely to try to find ways to stop the
political plundering that has become de
rigueur
in Washington. But I do not believe that Bernie can win the
Presidency or that he could achieve much of his agenda even if he did win. And
I want a woman in the Presidency before I am too old to appreciate it.
I therefore recommend that if Hillary Clinton wins the
Democratic primary she should choose Bernie Sanders as her Vice President. If
anyone can nudge Hillary further left it would be Bernie. So that’s my choice
for the Democratic ticket; Hillary Clinton for President, Bernie Sander for VP.
Soon I will see if anyone else agrees with me.
By Nancy Brisson
 

Stripped Down Government: Hot Rod or Junker?

 
 
We have all heard the Republican talking points about a
million times, or perhaps a billion. We know that they believe that smaller
government is the ticket. When they speak about smaller government they are not
always very specific about what that means. Some Republicans want the
government to divest itself of all of what they categorize as socialist
influences. The want to end the programs of the FDR New Deal that remain and
they want to get rid of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, the poverty programs
and the affirmative action programs. That would mean that welfare goes, Social
Security goes, housing assistance programs get tossed out, Medicaid goes,
Medicare goes, and education will no longer be a concern of the federal
government. Consumer affairs will come back off the roster and environmental
concerns will no longer be the bailiwick of our representatives in Washington.

I don’t know if every Republican running for office agrees
with this whole agenda, but the Republican Party has a lot of wealthy masters
and they have a lot of support groups which also, on the negative side, often
become pressure groups. Any time you listened to Republicans on Meet the Press over the past 6 years
they all reiterated the same list of (obviously Party-approved) talking points.
Since they now realize that we have caught on to this and that it makes them
sound a bit robotic, they seem to have abandoned this tactic. They still all
the say the same things but they are allowed to use their own words a bit more
often (or perhaps the Party has written individual scripts). The actual talking
points are the same ones we have listened to for the past six years.

Well, I will say that getting rid of all these social
programs would certainly trim our budget. Would our taxes stay the same? Would
they stop taking Medicare and Social Security “contributions” out of our
paychecks? While we might enjoy that at first could we buy the same level of
care and old age security with the money that was returned to our paychecks?
Perhaps employers would just trim back our pay since they would no longer be
required to send funds to the federal government for health care and employee
retirement? I have always thought that health care should be separate from
employment and since the Hobby Lobby decision I believe that even more
strongly. But will we really use additional money in our paychecks to buy our
own health care and pay into a retirement plan, or will we be the
happy-go-lucky American consumers we have been trained since birth to be and
just “spend it up”? If we are issued a voucher to buy our own health insurance
and retirement plan will the voucher cover the costs of these two items? If, as
Republicans wish, business is confronted by a much lower level of regulation,
won’t the costs of health care keep creeping up and won’t they always outpace
what we can afford? Will our retirement plans give us the returns we need to
live on in our old age, or will the returns fall far short of ever higher
living costs? Does a voucher system make you feel secure?

Closing the Department of Education opens whole other cans
of popping snakes. Will there be national standards for teachers and schools?
How much will education vary from state to state? Will a person schooled in
Alabama be able to seek employment in New York City? Is this all about the
passion some folks have for putting the Bible into schools and setting science
on a back burner, because most scientific discoveries do not appear in the
Bible (a book written 2,000 years ago). There is no Darwin in the Bible; there
is no Einstein in the Bible; the Bible does not talk about climate change
(although if I remember my Leviticus the Bible gives believers a lot of rules
to help them live a healthy life in the world they lived in at that time). I do
not understand how having differing school standards in each of our states will
be a good thing.

I do not see that we have managed to wipe out poverty in
America yet, so it seems counterproductive to throw out the matrix of services
we have developed to at least try to save poor people from scraping bottom. I
know that Republicans think that the matrix we created has become as harmful
and controlling as the fictional Matrix
that Keanu Reeves saves humans from. I have heard them say again and again that
we are now making it too easy for poor people to find a comfortable spot on the
grid and just hang there. And while I agree that there may be people who do
that, I don’t agree that this describes the vast majority of poor people who
find themselves consistently at the bottom because they lack skills and perhaps
do not understand the value of training and education or because their pay is
so low that even if they get a foot up the grid, the slightest crisis sends
them back to their previous level or below it. How many times will you keep
trying to move up the matrix, if you keep failing to find a sustainable new
level?

I don’t like this kind of Social Darwinism. American success
is about survival of the fittest this theory goes; either find a way up or see
if someone will be charitable. So while Congress keeps fixing the laws so that
fewer and fewer dollars must be divided by more and more people, while the
wealthiest Americans roll in money and put a foot in the face  of the climbers, they also want to dismantle
any assistance for those trapped at the bottom. This is not American in any
sense of the word. This is the old world of aristocrats and serfs. This is a
world with no middle class. This is a one way ticket back to the Dark Ages.

To some Republicans smaller government means that the
Federal government would get rid of the IRS and would stop regulating business.
Republicans tell us that if we deregulate, business will come flooding back to
America and there will be a get big boom in economic activity and profit. I
don’t know how much more profit the top 1% will have to corner to allow some
largesse to overflow onto the peons but I suspect their appetites are quite
voracious. There are not a lot of specifics mentioned in their deregulation
plan. What businesses will come back? Will the steel industry come back? How
about the electronics industry? Will the cooler business come home? Will we
merely continue to move oil and gas and coal to other manufacturing nations?
Republicans only talk about old businesses, businesses that we once had in
America. They lead us to believe that deregulation will bring back the fifties.
Will deregulation really provide our “new” prosperity? What about new
innovative businesses? Will deregulation help us with that? Can we hang on to
the car business? What about farming in America? What will the businesses of
the future be; solar, wind, space industries, new infrastructure, environmental
businesses to change the energy landscape of towns and cities? Could we
possibly also become the world’s think tank and sell our innovations elsewhere
to be implemented by others? Not if we keep making it more difficult and more
expensive for Americans to go to college.

Are the people in the Republican base, who are holding
America’s future hostage while they whine about how America has changed, really
calling the shots in America? I think they are. They don’t want to be forced to
wear seatbelts? They want the Federal government to get rid of consumer safety
rules. They want the Federal government to make laws against things that
violate their religious beliefs but to stay away from controlling their
lifestyles. Well, not having so many rules does sound sort of appealing, but
when vehicles collide and no one is restrained by a child seat or a seat belt
the horror component in accidents rises and so do the medical and court costs. We
have learned that what some people perceive as free costs the rest of us a lot
of dollars. I would rather pay for someone’s college education than pay to
rescue them from a troubled country where they should not have traveled in the
first place. I contend that our loss of freedom is directly proportional to the
rise in world population and is probably, in some measure, unavoidable.

The last “beef” I have with Republicans; at least the last
one I will discuss here, is this atavistic push we are seeing to put
Christianity into our government; to turn us into a Christian nation. It seems
clear, however, that that ship sailed a long time ago. We have taken in people
from every continent and every nation who have become citizens of America. It
is too late to declare our country a Christian nation. It would now violate our
Constitution as it might not have when our nation was founded. The forefathers
may not have foreseen Muslim Americans or Buddhist Americans or even Jewish
Americans, but they all hated government telling anyone how to worship and they
did not found a Theocracy, no matter how deeply your religious beliefs call on
you to win converts to the church. I do have faith that a government can strive
to be moral without being religious, but that the fairest way to have a moral
government would have to be the simplest way, perhaps adhering to something
like the Golden Rule.

If we want more efficient government, government that is
more responsive to the needs of the American people, government that tries to
control spending and keep debt within some kind of reasonable boundaries then I
am all for that. Creating a Federal government that is pared to bone and offers
no national oversight over a Capitalism that can become extremely rapacious, offers
no succor to the neediest citizens, and offers no security to the hardworking
middle is to create a barren government robbed of all traces of the idealism
that was proudly built into our Democracy.
 
By Nancy Brisson

How Small is Small?

So when some of the American people long for small
government we have to ask ourselves how small is small? Grover Norquist, who
has been real quiet since he granted the GOP dispensation to roll back the Bush
tax cuts for the very wealthy, famously has been quoted as saying that he “wants
government so small you could drown it in a bathtub.” That’s pretty small. How
do you think America will do with a government this small? My opinion – Yikes!
Many on the right say that they want to close the
Department of Education and just send vouchers or block grants to the states.
There would not be any attempts to standardize schools across America and, it
seems, educational credentials for both teachers and students might no longer
be accepted as people moved from state to state. How will that help anyone? Do
you think this is a good idea?
Another national office that the right would like to
close is the Department of Energy. Conservative states hate the regulations the
Federal government has passed to rein in the energy companies; rules for safety
standards and rules to protect some areas from drilling or mining and rules for
carbon emissions. Should we close the Department of Energy and let oil
companies, frackers, coal miners have their way in each state as allowed by
that state government? What will happen in the case of companies who need to
cross state lines as in the Keystone pipeline? Without the Energy Dept. who
will study these decisions? How many people in America favor this hefty
government cut?
We just got renewed access to Consumer Financial
Protection, but the right would like to close that agency also. Think about
just the laws that have been passed to help us with our credit cards. Think of
the fact that we finally have someone tackling budget-sucking student loans.
How willing are you to do without these protections once again? Do you think
that we can trust lenders to treat people fairly without oversight?
Does the loss of these three behemoth agencies make
our federal government a size you would be happy with? Are these the cuts you
would choose?
Let’s keep going.
The right wants to get rid of the social safety net,
all the programs that fall under Health and Human Services. Welfare – gone. OK,
I sense many Americans think this is a good idea, even though this program is
much smaller than it used to be. What about SNAP food cards? Is the program too
large? Who should be cut from the program? Who should be kept? How about the
free school breakfast and lunch programs? Should we raise the standards until
the program is cut in half? Should we cut it out completely? Should we keep it
the way it is? Do we even know what would be best?
Is the Federal government small enough yet?
There are many more programs such as WIC (Women,
Infants, and Children), SSD – Social Security Disability, Medicaid. Should we
cut these completely? It sure would make the Federal budget smaller, but what
will our neighborhoods be like? Will we still have some measure of safety and
public health? Will gangs roam the streets all over America; gangs of people
who can’t eat or pay rent or wash themselves and their clothing. With our
weather turning more violent and unpredictable will people have to live in tent
towns in America? That sounds like fun (sarcasm). Do we want a government this
small? We’re really getting down there.
OK, seniors – do we agree that the Federal
government should give vouchers to seniors for health care and phase out Social
Security? How will we like America then? What’s left in the budget – salaries for
those in government, Defense spending, (the IRS will be gone), and the NSA. How
does a Federal government like this serve the American people? Will we begin to
resemble Iraq rather than the USA, splitting into factions who war with each
other? How small do you think our Federal government should be?
Actually there are so many government agencies that
no one even knows the actual number. Clearly there must be things that could be
cut or agencies whose spending could be curtailed. Cutting big important
agencies because your political ideology favors corporations and big business
and a free marketplace should not be the method we adopt to get smaller
government. It only favors the views of less than half of Americans for one
thing. Carefully considered cuts don’t seem possible given the level of work
involved to come up with such a plan. Perhaps a series of well-spaced across
the board micro-cuts would be doable but the last round of micro-cuts and not
so micro-cuts was very painful.


Really small government – I hope you will consider this idea very carefully
before you sign on because I believe you will see more downside results than
upside solutions. This is one of my major bones of contention with
Conservatives. I think that if we want our Federal government to be smaller
then budget concerns will serve us better than Federalist ideas that were never
actually written into the Constitution. While the idea of those who were for
and against Federalism are historically interesting, even our forefathers could
not agree about the powers that should belong to the states and those that
should belong to the Federal government or even about how the power should be
divided. Purity may be touted as the issue here, but the right is serving a
master that lives outside our Constitution. If you don’t think they are
controlled by big business puppet masters just follow the recent decisions of
the Supreme Court. 
By Nancy Brisson

The Nanny State – Still?

One thing we can admire about Conservatives is their
consistency. They have not let up on their criticism of the Nanny State, the
Takers versus the Makers, since Obama took office. Although the taker-maker
argument lines up with the GOP love affair with small government, I never
remember hearing this piece of bogus wisdom during Bush’s reign, despite the
fact that the safety net was pretty much exactly the same as it is today. It is
true that the recession, still with us since 2009, is ratcheting up the need and
therefore the demand for safety net services. One example is the greatly
increased reliance on food stamps.
I think we have to be very careful to avoid giving what
sounds like a perfectly logical argument too much power. The theory goes that
when you allow the government to take care of the poor, old, disabled, and
sick, when the government provides a safety net to prevent people in a society
from “bottoming out”, the very system that saves people will turn them into
permanent government dependants. We can all agree that there may be some truth
to this. We all know people who we believe are abusing the system. We all know
families whose economic position has not changed in generations and who seem to
be content with government support, even though we know such support comes with
lots of red tape, a loss of privacy, and negative judgment from the rest of
society. It is also clear that government support does not usually provide a
very comfortable or upscale lifestyle.
You must have read some Dickens. Charles Dickens wrote about
London at a time when the poor, sick, and disabled, had little, if any
assistance. Churches sometimes helped but were so moralistic and judgmental
that most of the poor steered clear. Rich ladies often assisted the poor with their
charitable activities, but they also invaded the privacy of those they assisted
and many avoided them to keep a bit of autonomy. Children of poor parents often
lived in the streets, begged, stole, were used by unscrupulous people, were
ill-clothed, ill-fed, ill-treated and unhealthy. Their lives and the lives of
their parents were harsh and short. And their misery had a great effect on the
whole of London. Their misery created health hazards, made the streets dirty
and dangerous, and made some compassionate Londoners sad. In these ways even
the wealthy were affected by the poverty at the lowest economic levels of the
city.
Wealthy people can enjoy their wealth more when there is
less misery and crime among the poorest members of a society. The wealthy, and our
governments which are usually, however democratic, run by the wealthy, have slowly
learned that propping up those at the bottom made life more bearable and
hygienic for everyone. It would be wrong to assume that government programs for
the less fortunate are a totally altruistic endeavor. I don’t think that the
movement to get rid of these programs is founded on an effort to save
unfortunates from themselves, as proponents suggest. Once again, selfish
interests are probably at the bottom of this movement which has come out
of  Conservative America, this movement
whose goals are to help us become more self-sufficient and thereby to make us
proud of our productivity and ingenuity. At this juncture it looks more like
the wealthy are tired of paying taxes that they feel are being used to
subsidize the sloth of people who have learned how to avoid working for a
living. If we were not so divided, we could take a really good look at this
whole issue of the nanny state and we could probably find a lot of savings and
we could find some ways to make sure that aid got to the truly needy. We could
launch a committee to conduct an in-depth study of the social safety net. We
could answer all the nagging questions like:

           ·        Should we do away with the “so-called” nanny
state?

           ·        
Should we do away with all of it, or some of it?
           ·        
What will America be like if we do?
           ·        
Does the safety net encourage malingering and
suppress initiative?
           ·        
What about the children?
           ·        
What about those who are not inspired by
adversity?
           ·        
Can we come up with better ways to sort those
who are truly needy from those
                  who know how to scam the system?

           ·        
What are the advantages and disadvantage of
privatizing?
           ·        
Will privatizing be used to phase out the safety
net?
           ·        
What will we do if we, the people, can no longer
afford safety net programs?
           ·        
Do we have to cut back on compassion?
           ·        
Do we have to give up on the goal of lifting
everyone up?

I must add that there is a liberal version of the nanny
state which shows rich folks and corporations who have become dependent on
favorable government tax rates, tax loopholes and subsidies that the wealthy
would very much like to keep. If we study the bottom for signs of dependency,
we must also study whether those at the top are addicted to the same kind of
aid as those at the bottom.

(There is yet another version of the nanny state which says
that government is passing too many laws that curtail our everyday freedoms,
such as laws about drinking, wearing seat belts, smoking, eating and sugary
drinks, etc. These are the laws that fall in the category of “big brother” laws.
I don’t think these kinds of laws can be attributed to any one political party.
Some may result from our reliance on health insurance, but these nit-picky laws
are presided over by government. This is not the definition of “nanny state”
that I am discussing here, but is a possible topic for another time.)

A Modern Tale – Oligarchy v. Democracy

Let’s call this a fairy tale, or a modern tale, and let’s
imagine a country that stretches from “sea to shining sea”. And it is a
prosperous country with plenty of jobs that pay pretty well. These jobs are at
factories, and at stores that sell the goods from factories, and warehouses
that store the goods from factories, and transportation companies that move
goods from the factories.

The people who live in this productive country are doing
well. They’re not rich but they feel prosperous and they feel confident enough
to buy things like vacation homes and second or third cars. They can take trips
and support museums and the ballet and symphony orchestras. They are hopeful
that the trajectory will move ever upward. Even people who had been left out of prosperity for decades were starting to feel it.

But foul currents are afoot – the factories are making the
air unbreatheable and the waters undrinkable. There is smog and pollution and
acid rain. All right, these are problems and the people in this country are
problem solvers. They decide, we’ll pass laws that require factories to create
and use procedures that cut down on pollution. But the factory owners aren’t
happy. It’s expensive and cuts into their profits.

The workers need to ask for higher pay to meet rising costs
of goods and services. The factory owners get pinched again. A few factories go
broke and default on the pensions of the workers. Workers get nervous and ask
for higher wages once again. Factories start to leave, wooed by governments
with armies of workers who will not need large pay checks or fancy benefit
plans. More and more factories leave until the once prosperous country finds
that it is no longer an industrial nation. Industry has moved on and left empty
buildings everywhere.

It takes a while for things to turn grim but they do start
to grim-up a bit. There is no money for beauty; life becomes more practical,
even ugly for some. Roads, railroad tracks, runways, trucks, planes, bridges,
and all of the country’s infrastructure starts to look a little shoddy and
neglected. People lose their homes through foreclosure. At first, people think
that the factory owners will miss the workers. They were, after all excellent
workers. They were their neighbors. So for a while the people wait and find any
little thing to do that they can find. But of course the corporations do not
move their factories back. And life must move on; a new prosperity must be
found.

Obviously this nation is America and while we have been
going through all of these changes we have not been getting a lot of help from
government. It almost seems that Republicans are working for those same
corporations who left us all high and dry. They have been able to have things
pretty much their way in spite of the fact that they do not control the
Presidency, because they have used their numbers in Congress to block any
attempt the elected President has made to stimulate and grow the economy. In fact the word stimulus could hardly be uttered without inspiring lectures and contempt. Conservatives
championed a Supreme Court decision called Citizen’s United which turns
corporations into people, although most of us know that corporations are not
people.

Republicans know the American people are not overwhelmingly in
favor of what they have touted as “small government” and yet they have insisted
that debts and deficits must be cut and have made the government smaller by steering
an agenda that has led to cuts and sequesters and more cuts, all of which are
working to make the government smaller. They insist that we cut our social
insurance programs even though economists tell us that this is not absolutely
necessary right now. Once again, as they have their way, government will get
smaller. They have done an excellent job of bullying their agenda into place.
It is interesting to note how much small government would benefit our banks,
our financial sector and those corporations who moved out of America. If they
can make Americans poor enough, if they can get Americans to let their benefits
go, then the ground will be prepared for bringing factories back to America where
all those pesky federal, state, and local regulations can go away with all that
big government, and unbridled profit will rule the day. Since the labor unions
will have also been disemboweled, the cycle of ever-rising wages and benefits
will have been broken and workers will have learned their lesson and learned
their place and happy oligarchy will ensue.

Do we want our factories back? Perhaps we are done with the
Industrial Age. We are already well on our way to finding our way back to a
prosperous America that does not have to buy at the company store. Perhaps what
we won was our freedom; freedom from big business which likes to use money as
muscle to remake America to serve corporate and financial interests. If we
don’t panic; if we just keep doing what we do, which is to try to live valuable
lives that contribute something to our community or to our society or even to
the world we live in, then all that creativity and energy will help remake an
America that is not just an oligarchy ruled by the wealthy power-brokers. We
will become an America that is not a burden on the planet but is, instead, a
caretaker of the planet. We will set ourselves up to be the first country to
enter whatever age follows the Industrial Age, perhaps that is the Information
Age, or the Robotic Age, or maybe it’s the Space Age, or all three. We need to stop these “small
government” people from pursuing their reactionary agenda which would take us
back where we came from, not to the 1950’s everyone supposedly longs for, but to
the 1890’s which no one except the Republicans even remembers. We need to elect
Democrats to Congress in 2014 or we will end up with Grover Norquist’s America.

This is the view from the cheap seats.

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.

We Are Addicted to Novelty

We are becoming shallow people who are addicted to novelty. Out with the old, in with the new, whether the shiny new thing we admire will be good for us or not doesn’t really seem to matter. Four years ago Obama was new. Everyone was so excited. Now Paul Ryan is new and apparently people are shaken momentarily out of their lethargy. Maybe he will continue to fascinate our fickle tastes for a while or maybe our interests will wane when he starts making our brains freeze and our eyes glaze over by talking technical budget stuff and showing us his charts.

Paul Ryan has been around for the past four years. If anyone in the House of Representatives has been most responsible for the partisan divide it has been Paul Ryan. He wields a lot of behind the scenes influence with Republicans. I believe that he stopped the deal that Obama and Boehner had worked out, the deal that might have prevented our credit from being downgraded. He will tell you that Obama failed, but Paul Ryan did everything he could to prevent us from seeing if Obama’s approach would have worked. He is the “new guard” who exerts a powerful sway over the old guard. He is more conservative than the conservatives. He has brought them into line with a passionate belief in his dogma and his mathematical understanding, with which he dazzled them. Are we really going to fashion America’s future after an Ayn Rand plot? Now I’ll have to reread the darn book, The Fountainhead, again. Maybe I’ll just read the summary on Wikipedia. I don’t expect to be as spellbound by it as Paul Ryan. But he is “a lean and hungry man” and he has obviously either convinced the Republicans that he is all that; or they had Romney pick him for VP so they could get him off their backs.
I just could not disagree with anyone more that I disagree with Paul Ryan. Of course, I get my economic advice from Paul Krugman who also could not disagree with anyone more than he probably disagrees with Paul Ryan. Ryan believes in austerity for everyone but the wealthy. He espouses drastic cuts and very small government. He buys into the rugged individualist, pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-boot-straps mumbo-jumbo that the good old boys believe is the essence of the American psyche. It may have been appropriate when there were only 300,000 Americans and most of America was frontier, but not so much when we number 313+ million with no new frontier except space. He mistakes harshness for wisdom. He wants America to get a martyr complex. Paul Krugman does not agree that pure austerity is the way out of the current economic downturn. He writes for the New York Times opinion section, although he has been on vacation recently. When he comes back you should read his articles so you have something to balance against what Paul Ryan has to say. I still hope, even now that we have my worst case scenario, that we will not go there.

Correction: Apparently Paul Ryan like Atlas Shrugged rather than The Fountainhead. My bad. I’ll probably have to revisit both.