Don’t Let the Foxes Design the Hen House

 
 
I want to
reiterate that I think the safety net could stand to be modernized. That does
not mean I favor any of the ideas that have been suggested so far. I do not,
for example, favor chained CPI which would supposedly preserve social security
by tying it to a manufactured consumer index which has been offered purposely
to cut social security payments to seniors. I know it is theoretically designed
to keep the program solvent longer, but it is not the answer. Seniors rely on
social security and it is already too small to survive on if it is the sole
source of income. I see my stubbornly independent 96 year old mom trying to do
this every day. Medicaid and Medicare may need tweaking, but no one who relies
on these programs wants to see them privatized. Paul Ryan has many ambitious
ideas for cutting the social safety net, but not one of them will really help
the people for whom they are touted as panaceas. The only steady refrain in GOP
politics is still about money; and not money for the middle class and the poor,
money for the predators, for those who already have more money than they could
spend in several lifetimes, who reside at the top of the American food chain.

We cannot
afford to let Republicans “fix” the social safety net because we already know
they want to dismantle it.  If you are designing a new hen house
you don’t give the job to the foxes. How could the American people ever trust Republicans to help
modernize the safety net when we know, in their greedy hearts, they just can’t
stand to think that any of their tax dollars are going to slackers and all of
the poor are slackers. How, in a supposedly bipartisan government, would we be
able to reform anything without input from both parties? Well the Republicans
have taught us how to do that. Obstructionism works really well. Of course,
first you must have control of at least one house of Congress.  
 
 

If we elect
Republicans and let them have their way with reforming America we will get all
those crazy, off-the-wall, say-anything, I-just-can’t-help-myself Tea Partiers,
who have said so many amusing (and scary) things that the writers on the
internet love to publish lists of the most obnoxious quotes ever made by the
members of this one wind of one political party.

Here are
some links in case you would like to wander down memory lane:

Until the
Republican Tea Party fever breaks we cannot let them get their hands on our
social safety net because they have already told us that they think it is bad
for poor Americans.
This is the view from the cheap seats.
By Nancy Brisson
This blog post is also available at http://brissioni.com/
 
 

 

Can the Relentless Paul Ryan Budget Machine Be Shut Off?

How much longer do we have to pay heed to
this twisted social nonsense that passes for Republican policy? There is
nothing; no scientific evidence, no precedent from history to back up their
constant claim that poverty is self-perpetuating when there is a social safety
net (except a few remarks by Bill Cosby). They insist that poor people will not lift themselves out of poverty
unless they experience daily the miseries of that state. The logic goes that given just enough
money to keep heads above water the poor will be happy to remain buried up to
their necks treading water forever.

Paul Ryan says that there are 100 programs
designed to help those Americans who live in poverty and he says that these
programs are designed to lift the poor out of poverty. The first claim is true
because they do keep people from the worst aspects of poverty; the second goal,
to lift these people out of poverty, was never a part of most of these
programs, at least not in the short term. He says these programs don’t work and
they have become a “poverty trap”. This, we must remember, is Paul Ryan’s theory,
not an argument proven by any body of facts. In fact, there are centuries of
examples of societies without safety nets and we do not find any marked levels
of social fluidity in those societies. Life for the poor in those centuries was
harsh and often deadly; life expectancies were very low for the poor in those
culture. The poor were relegated to lives of misery before the advent of modern
programs designed to keep them above that misery level. We have managed to keep
those misery levels low and life expectancies high for even poor Americans. If
we have some people locked in poverty it is because we have not done enough or
our programs have been incorrectly targeted or we need to be more nimble about
changing our social programs to match social needs as they morph and change.

I can’t believe Paul Ryan has the nerve,
after meeting the American people in person, to present us with the same budget
cuts and the same foundationless rationale for these budget cuts once again.
Cutting poor people loose to sink or swim on their own will only send more
wealth to those who are already wealthy and make the gap between the rich and
the poor even greater. But it will provide the wealthy with that third world
work force they dream about – a work force that will accept any pay employers
offer no matter how low they go. Providing safety net programs that make it
possible for poor people to choose work, such as transportation stipends, child
care, family leave time, and on-the-job training, and retiring unsuccessful programs,
programs that don’t meet current needs or programs that don’t get results would
be far more appropriate than leaving the poor with no safety net. We must have
gained wisdom in these matters over the past decades since social programs
began and we perhaps could do a better job of applying this wisdom to engineer
effective programs in the future.

Of course, the Republicans have brought
the United States government to a screeching halt until we have a new election,
so we cannot rework any of our social programs, or accomplish anything that is
not part of the GOP agenda. Still, I can’t believe that we have to keep
speaking to this. Do most Americans agree with Paul Ryan? Do we have data on
this? And if they do is it just because they have been programmed to think it
by Conservative radio?

And why do we have to hear over and over
that married couples fare better economically than single parents. We cannot
coerce people to get married. We have tried offering financial incentives to
encourage marriage in the past and any positive effects were fairly
short-lived. This is like saying that eating ice cream increases in summer and
drowning increases in summer so eating ice cream causes drowning. Although
marriage looks like it correlates highly with keeping a family out of poverty
we have to look for other factors that lead to financial solvency because
we can’t force people to get married or punish them for not getting married. We
have to accept where our demographics are and find ways to help single people
earn a living wage while giving them the supportive services they need to keep
jobs.

Can’t we set this social Darwinism aside
once and for all? There is no way that anyone can offer satisfactory proof that
our safety net is causing entrenched poverty. Find a new way to justify cutting
taxes for the wealthy. We are the people and we do not want anyone to get rid
of the minimum wage in America, because we know what will happen in that case.
We want a safety net that keeps the poor from abject misery, we want a raise in
the minimum wage, and we want Paul Ryan and the GOP to find a new tune to sing.
This one is interfering with our sleep and our peace of mind.
There is a way. We need to elect Democrats for the foreseeable future.

 
This is the view from the cheap seats.
By Nancy Brisson
This blog post is also available at http://brissioni.com/
 
 
 

Democrats – Talk to the Middle Class

 
from valuesandcapitalism.com
 
 
I am so tired of defending the social safety net against
rapacious Republicans and misinformed middle-class (for short Middle)
Americans. The situation is much like the one that pertains with “Obamacare.”
People favor the individual items of the healthcare act when taken one by one.
They like that their children can be covered until they are 26. They like not
having to contend with being denied insurance because of a preexisting
condition. They like no lifetime caps. They do not like the idea that they are
paying for deadbeats, illegal immigrants, and scammers, although this was as
true before the ACA (Obamacare) as it is now. 
Would they choose having their old insurance plan and doctor if they had
to give up the benefits listed above? We hate being lied to. I don’t blame
anyone for feeling that way. I do not know if Obama deliberately lied or if he
was misled, but either way, it was not helpful in establishing “good street
cred” for the new healthcare program. 
Still I think most people would not trade back to all private health
insurance.

If you ask people about individual parts of the safety net,
their responses vary a bit more. Social Security, most Middle Americans want
it. Medicare gets a yes vote. People want Welfare gone (Aid to Dependent
Children) but this program is quite small, adds little relief to taxpayers if
cut, and mainly, if cut, affects children. Middle Americans feel that the SNAP
program (food stamps) is rife with abuse. They believe there are more people
who scam this program than there are truly needy recipients. They do think they
would be OK with cuts to this program and it looks like they will get to find
out.  I don’t believe that they actually
will enjoy what happens if these cuts become reality, however. What they really
want is a system that cannot be scammed. I don’t know if that is doable.

Another safety net program skeptical Middle Americans feel
is abused is the Social Security Disability Program. Everyone knows at least
one person, and sometimes more than one, who does not appear in the least bit
disabled, but who will never again have to work a day in his/her life because
s/he won a disability case which might have involved a less-than-scrupulous
lawyer and doctor.

Middle Americans, whose anger may have been stoked by FOX
and by right wing radio, but who still have used their free will to accept or
reject these arguments really dislike the idea that we prop up illegal
immigrants and refugees newly granted asylum who often seem aloof and unappreciative
(probably because they are in the middle of cultural changes way beyond their depth). Even
extended unemployment benefits have been tainted by Republican messaging.

So there is this disgruntled and put-upon group of
Americans (mostly white, I am guessing) who sort of agree with Republicans
about smaller government as long as the programs they like remain intact. They
believe that their tax dollars will, if no longer thrown at the poor, either
stay in their pockets for their own use, or be used by the government to benefit
Middle Americans who have lost so much ground in recent years and who signed on
to that great unwritten American contract which says that, if you work hard all
your life, America is set up to reward you (which is now looking like another great
big lie).

Middle Americas may vote with Republicans because they feel
and are somewhat justified in feeling that they have dug deep for decades and
have believed (or at least wanted to believe) that their hard-earned dollars
would lift up the poor. Democrats have done a terrible job of showing them the
positive results of their “bounty” or their sacrifices, depending on
perspective.

Talk to everyone you are already talking to, but also to
those Middle Americans, Democrats, if you want to get elected in 2014. They
have lost their homes, their jobs, their pensions, and they are hearing no
sympathy and receiving little relief. They don’t see the connection between
austerity and lack of growth in the economy. They need some more personal
attention and reassurance. They need some facts, a blizzard of facts, that show
why Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, et al are not telling the truth.
Middle Americans should not be susceptible to the Republican message, but because
the Democrats have not answered their concerns they are.

This is the view from the cheap seats.

by Nancy Brisson

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href=”https://plus.google.com/106400053554887373790″
rel=”publisher”>Google+</a>

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

 

No Scientific Evidence Favors Social Darwinism

 
There is no scientific evidence that proves that social
Darwinism does anything to lift up the people at the bottom. The only evidence
I know of that suggests that a government social safety net robs the citizens
of a given society of initiative and keeps these citizen on the bottom comes
from a theory described in a fiction book read by sophomores, (The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand) which is
being construed as proof and offered up as such by Paul Ryan and the Republican
party and by some wealthy Americans (who don’t even accept Darwin’s theories).
Although I like fiction and I do feel that it often explores philosophical themes
and points of view, fiction is not usually mistaken for science. I not sure
that there is even any evidence from the social sciences, which explore issues
with too many variables to be classified as pure science, to suggest that
offering supportive services to the poor keeps them from climbing the
socio-economic ladder.

We already know what the world was like when the poor had
no safety net beyond the kindness of strangers. The poor had little or nothing
to fall back on for centuries. Did it make them more innovative? Did it give
them incentive to become entrepreneurs?

In most accounts I have read poor people often turned to
crime to pay their way; petty theft, picking pockets, robbing homes or rich
people. Some starving people stole bread or food. People could be sent to
prison for stealing bread. There’s a whole classic novel about this social
trend too (Les Miserables by Victor Hugo). Is it possible that some people rose
above their abject beginnings and moved their families slowly up that
socio-economic ladder? Of course it happened, but not reliably.

Is it possible that people who know they can rely on their
government for money, income and/or food, etc. will hug the bottom of the
socio-economic ladder because they are basically lazy, or the assistance has
robbed them of their pride and their fighting spirit? I suppose it is, after
all, there are all kinds of people. I suspect, though, that even with
government assistance, life at the bottom is not all that appealing. Do we
think that most people will lose all ambition if they have enough free money to
survive, even though their survival level is way less comfortable than that of
others in the society? Do we think these are the same people who would rise to
the top if they weren’t given “free” money? Spending even more money and
putting it into a really effective educational system that meets the needs of
the poor would seem more effective than taking away money that is keeping
people from lives filled with hopelessness.

Isn’t it quite possible that rich folks are using this
theory taken from the pages of a fiction book because they feel burdened by
increasing numbers of poor folks at the bottom of our culture, even though it
this very culture which has skewed its financials to favor these rich folks for
so long that they are able to convince themselves that they earned all their
wealth with no help from the laws of our nation or from those same people who
used to work in their factories and who are now unemployed. The burden of the
poor has gotten heavier since the recession but the taxes on those who “have”
have only been raised once. The poverty at the bottom of America is dragging
the federal budget down into greater and greater debt because the wealthy
refuse to pay more and because they want the federal government to fail. They
still are trying to convince us that if we are kind to the people at the top of
the ladder they will shed crumbs that can be collected by those at the bottom
of the ladder and that these crumbs, wisely used, can bring those at the bottom
closer to the top (this is trickle down which has never worked – there have
always been poor people – this is also a theory that cannot be proven
scientifically).

I just don’t buy this self-serving, untested theory; this
theory which flies in the face of centuries of proof that the opposite is true.
In a system with no social safety net the poor stay poor and the effects on the
society as a whole are more negative than in societies with a social safety
net. We may reach a point where we actually have to pay people not to work in
the same way we pay people not to farm. There seem to be plenty of goods and
services around even given the number of adults who are not working. I just do
not see any evidence that getting rid of or drastically cutting back on the
social safety net will benefit either society or the poor.
 

Saying something over and over does not in any way
constitute proof that what is being said is true especially when this idea
comes from the pages of a book of fiction.

 

This is the view from the cheap seats.

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

 

The Social Safety Net Guilt Trip Debunked

 
 
 

A friend posted this very
interesting chart on my Facebook page and I thought I would pass it along. When
I read the name of the blogger, who was my friend’s source, I got a bit worried
about the provenance, but if you look at the small print you will see two
sources that readers are more likely to trust. I found this information quite
interesting because it is another strong argument for keeping the safety net,
and it is not a moral or philosophical or even a sociological argument; it is
an empirical argument, an argument based on numbers, which always seems to
trump every other kind of argument.

 

Responsive Reading with Refrain

The Republicans have become “experts” in so many areas
lately. They are “experts” about health care and “experts” about computers, “experts”
about what will and won’t help rid America of mass shootings, “experts” on the
economy and how much debt America can deal with and how much the budget needs
to be cut. They are “experts” on what our foreign policy should be and on how
big and well-equipped our military should be. They must be “experts” on all of
these things because they believe that every decision President Obama wants to
make in these areas is wrong and because they share their expertise with us
constantly whether we want to hear it or not. They are also, apparently, “expert”
scientists who are not afraid to scoff at the science which says that climate
change is real; and they are “experts” in morality who will swear that they
know that abortion is wrong for every single woman on the planet, that they
know when life begins, and that they believe birth control means millions of
tiny abortions.

Lately, and problematically, they also believe they are “experts”
on what will help the poorest people in our society, the disabled, and even
seniors find their way up out of the “muck” of government support which, like
quicksand, keeps sucking them back to the bottom. They believe people are
staying poor, disabled and old on purpose and that they will continue to do so
as long as the government gives them financial assistance or subsidies. They
believe our government can no longer afford to offer support to those in need
or those who have earned their retirement (and who thought they had paid for
their retirement).  Forget that corporations
and farmers have been receiving subsidies for years because in this one way
corporations are not like people. Government support doesn’t make businesses
dependent on government largess according to that know-it-all party, the GOP,
which does not favor cuts to corporations or farmers.

I sort of feel that we need to offer the Republicans a
little exercise in responsive reading, because as such great Christians, this is
surely a format they are used to.

Let’s talk about Welfare:

During the Great Depression in the 1930’s a program was created
called Aid to Families with
Dependent Children (AFDC). In 1996 the Congress passed the Personal
Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act which gave each state a
flat rate to spend based on population with the proviso that the state would
keep its funds by making sure recipients were preparing for employment or were
actually employed. By 2011 America was experiencing the highest poverty rate
since the end of the Great Depression – over 15.1%. The GOP wants to end or
severely cut welfare.

RESPONSE:  (everyone) CONGRESS,
YOU ACT LIKE IT’S YOUR MONEY YOU ARE SPENDING. IT’S NOT YOUR MONEY – IT’S THE
PEOPLE’S MONEY!

Let’s talk about Social Security:

Social Security began in a limited form in the 1930’s (the
Great Depression) as social insurance because the poverty rates among seniors
exceeded 50%. The Social Security Act was enacted on August 14, 1935 when FDR
was in his first term. He was the first president to advocate federal
assistance for the elderly. Programs like Title I for assistance to aged
individuals, Title III for unemployment insurance, Title IV for the AFDC, Title
V for Maternal and Child Welfare, Title VI for public health services and Title
X for the blind were included in the same act. In 1937 the Social Security
Trust Fund was created and benefits were provided to wives, elderly widows and
dependent survivors. The FICA tax was legislated in 1939. The retirement age
and the amount of the FICA tax rate have changed several times since 1961.
Payments amounts to recipients have also been adjusted a number of times. In
1972 amendments established Supplemental Security Income (SSI) which is not a
Social Security benefit but a welfare program, because elderly and disabled
poor are entitled to SSI regardless of work history. Amendments continue to be
made to Social Security. This is a very brief summary and leaves out all kinds
of difficult to follow machinations by Congresses over the past 7–8 decades.
Our government now tells us that Social Security is going broke. They say they
want to save Social Security but the GOP seems intent on either privatizing Social
Security or cutting back on payments to recipients. They also lead us to
believe that those who retire in the future will not be able to receive Social
Security.

RESPONSE:  (everyone) CONGRESS,
YOU ACT LIKE IT’S YOUR MONEY YOU ARE SPENDING. IT’S NOT YOUR MONEY – IT’S THE
PEOPLE’S MONEY!

Let’s talk about Medicaid, the health program for families
and individuals with low income and resources. It’s a means-tested program that
is jointly funded by the state and federal governments and managed by the
states. Medicaid recipients must be US citizens or legal permanent residents and
may include low-income adults, their children, and people with certain
disabilities. This program was created by the Social Security Amendments of
1965 (Title XIX). There is section of this program that is offered to schools
throughout the US for the reimbursement of costs associated with the services
delivered to special education students. In 2010 the ACA extends Medicaid
services to citizens without health insurance if they qualify. Republicans,
although I don’t recall that they have mentioned Medicaid specifically would
probably agree that they want to defund Medicaid or privatize it as part of
their overall budget cutting measures.

RESPONSE:  (everyone)
CONGRESS, YOU ACT LIKE IT’S YOUR MONEY YOU ARE SPENDING. IT’S NOT YOUR MONEY –
IT’S THE PEOPLE’S MONEY!

Let’s talk about the school meal programs:

The most prevalent school meal program in the United States
is the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), a federal program signed into law
by President Harry S. Truman in 1946. Before this help was sporadic. In 2011
the program served low-cost or free lunches to over 31 million children per
day. This program has been revised a number of times over the years as things
like nutrition guidelines were added. The School Breakfast Program (SBP), which
was developed as part of the National School Lunch Program, began as a pilot
program in 1966 and then became permanent in 1975. There is much more
information about these programs available on-line. They have a complex
history. Republicans would like to privatize school lunch programs, cut them,
or discontinue them, although I am just drawing this conclusion as an extension
of other opinions they have expressed about the social safety net.

RESPONSE:  (everyone) CONGRESS,
YOU ACT LIKE IT’S YOUR MONEY YOU ARE SPENDING. IT’S NOT YOUR MONEY – IT’S THE
PEOPLE’S MONEY!

Let’s talk about Medicare:

Medicare is a national social insurance program,
administered by the US federal government since 1966 that guarantees access to
health insurance for Americans aged 65 and older and younger people with
disabilities as well as people with end stage renal disease and persons with
ALS. Medicare has gone through a number of changes since its inception. We
contribute from our pay checks to Medicare funding until we retire (this only
applies to the aged, some other groups are covered without charge). We are also
told that this program is in jeopardy as it is too expensive. The Affordable
Care Act, in addition to all of its other objectives, is supposed to help bring
down medical costs and extend the life of the Medicare program. The Republicans
have been rabid in their campaign against the ACA.

RESPONSE:  (everyone)
CONGRESS, YOU ACT LIKE IT’S YOUR MONEY YOU ARE SPENDING. IT’S NOT YOUR MONEY –
IT’S THE PEOPLE’S MONEY!

Let’s talk about food stamps (SNAP):

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly and
still popularly known as the Food Stamp program, provides financial assistance
for purchasing food to low and no-income people living in the US. It is a
federal aid program administered by the US Department of Agriculture, though
benefits are distributed by individual US states. The first Food Stamp program
ran from May 16, 1939 – Spring, 1943). After 18 years of studies, reports, and 1964
legislative proposals we arrived at the Pilot Food Stamp Program which ran from
1961 – 1964. The program we have now, although it does not use food stamps, but
now uses EBT cards, began in the Food Stamp Act of 1964. Another incarnation of
the Food Stamp Act was passed in 1977. This act has probably gone through more
changes than any of the others. $5 billion dollars in cuts kicked in for the
SNAP program last Friday and the Republicans have separated the food program
from the farm bill because they would like to see $39 billion in additional
cuts from food stamps (SNAP).

RESPONSE:  (everyone) CONGRESS,
YOU ACT LIKE IT’S YOUR MONEY YOU ARE SPENDING. IT’S NOT YOUR MONEY – IT’S THE
PEOPLE’S MONEY!

Let’s talk about WIC:

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women,
Infants and Children (WIC) is a federal assistance program of the Food and
Nutrition Service (FNS of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
for healthcare and nutrition of low-income pregnant women, breastfeeding women,
infants and children under the age of five. The eligibility requirement is a
family income below 185% of the US Poverty Income Guidelines. WIC currently
serves 53% of all infants born in the US. WIC was formally created by an
amendment to the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 on September 26, 1972 sponsored by
Senator Hubert Humphrey (D) of Minnesota. WIC is another program that the
Republicans are eyeing for cuts.

RESPONSE:  (everyone) CONGRESS,
YOU ACT LIKE IT’S YOUR MONEY YOU ARE SPENDING. IT’S NOT YOUR MONEY – IT’S THE
PEOPLE’S MONEY!

 

These laws represent the way an enlightened society cares
for its most unfortunate citizens and for its elderly. If we undo this system
the consequences will be so hard to live with that we will just be forced to
reenact these humane laws all over again. We must continue to find the money in
our budget to finance these priority programs. America is a country that is
governed by its people and we determine how we spend our money. We are against
privatizing our social safety net. We are against cutting the budgets of our
social safety net programs until we once again live in more affluent times with
good jobs available to any citizens who can work. Many of us might be willing
to pay slightly higher taxes if that is what it will take to preserve the
social safety net. Stop threatening to refuse to fund the programs that prop up
those who find themselves at the bottom of the American economy. It is not your
money! It’s the people’s money.

I gathered these facts from Wikipedia because that allowed
me to use one source for the info I needed. In some cases program descriptions
are exact quotes from Wikipedia. In other cases the exact language of Wikipedia
was condensed or rephrased to be less technical and more readable. Comments
about what the Republicans would like to see happen with the social safety net
are stated in my own words, but are taken from current news stories.
 
 

 Thanks to The Guardian who I “borrowed” the first picture from and to Northern Insights Blog for the second.

This is the view from the cheap seats.

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

 

 

 

 

Culling the Herd – Limited Government

 
 
So now we have seen it – we have seen some of the
flaws in our Constitution and they are not ideological, they are structural.
Our forefathers had a healthy dose of paranoia, but their paranoia was used to
build protections into the Constitution to prevent a President from declaring
himself King or herself Queen (an eventually they never imagined, of course).
They did give a lot of thought to balance amongst the branches of our
government, the executive, the legislative and the judicial by creating that
system of checks and balances we all know so well. I don’t think they really
imagined that some Americans would want to wrest control from within one branch
of government, because they felt they had built in sufficient protections. They
did not foresee 2013.

Apparently there are flaws in our system – flaws that
nullify the checks and the balances. We’ve seen obstruction before, but not to
this degree. We’ve seen incivility before, but again it is a matter of degree.
There is apparently no part of the Constitution that protects the American
people from losing control of our government to a small band of radicals, in
this case radical but duly elected reactionaries. It is astonishing to me that
these people have been pursuing strategies that seemed relatively harmless
because they affected such small areas of the country and that they have been
patching together a system that allows these very radicals to be elected over
and over again without challenge. We have no safeguards against these tactics.
They are subverting the election process. Once they are in Congress they do not
need to do anything at all to keep their seats. If they don’t face the
possibility of losing their seat based on how they vote in Congress they have
found a way to bypass the Constitution and we, America, are in trouble.

I have always been proud that our forefathers
thought through and wrote down a way to govern that was basically fair, (even
more astonishing as they were elitist slave owners),  that was based on ideals that seemed
enlightened and laudable, and that was structured to last and to still be
usable hundreds of years later. What these radical Republicans are doing is
threatening to end the usefulness of this document we have made the center of
our governance. They are pointing out the flaws in our beloved Constitution. We
have no way to rid ourselves of these people who are ruining our government in
the name of Federalism. They have been very consistent in their beliefs. They
want small government. They want deregulation. They want America to become the
loose federation of states that they feel it was intended to be. They want all
of the social safety net gone. They do not feel that the federal government should
be in the business of lifting up the least fortunate Americans, even though all
modern societies do this and even though it keeps misery at bay, both for a
society and its people. They do not like any rules or regulations on energy use
and against pulling fossil fuels out of the earth so they want the EPA gone. They
want the Department of Commerce gone and they think the federal government
should close the Department of Education. They see this as their moment in time
to achieve their objectives to limit the size and scope of government. They
hate the Affordable Care Act because it goes in the opposite direction from
limited government. It makes government even bigger.

Most of us accept what Republicans are saying about
the need to make government somewhat smaller, but I don’t think most of us want
a federal government as small as these radical tea partiers do, or as small as
the libertarians do. We will not be living up in the rarified air at the top of
the affluence pyramid. We will be living down here with the sewage running in
the streets and the begging children and the rampant disease. We will be drinking the polluted water. There are 7
billion people on this little planet. If you are trying to kill off a big
percentage of the current population, hoping to do what nature does when an
animal population gets too big, then you are pursuing the perfect strategy for
it. Because to argue for smaller government when population numbers are ballooning
will turn our cities into even bigger killing fields than they already are and,
of course, you will not be affected up there at the top of the triangle.

If we make it through this assault on the government
of our nation, the assault that is coming from within that very government,
then we need to pass some laws which will allow us an escape route if some
minority group decides to stage a coup again. I don’t think the issues here are
as small as the media paints them. I think the issues are huge. I think these
folks, mostly from the southern hinterlands of America are deadly serious. They
own guns. They are hunters. I’m not saying that they are planning to turn their
guns on us, although if it comes down to it they might some day in the future.
I am saying that they think like hunters and they are planning to cull the
herd, to get rid of those Americans who can’t or won’t provide for themselves.
Every society has poor people. Every society has disabled people. Every
society, in 2013, does not want to force unfortunate souls into pits to fight
for their lives. We definitely need a way to ditch elected officials if they
try to stop government. If the majority can prevail over this small, but
determined, minority, we will need to amend our Constitution. Which America
will we be when this is all over?

This is the view from the cheap seats.

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

Is This What You Really, Really Want?

 
 
 

The Republicans have become little old stingy men in the
nation’s pantry counting the rice grains and reporting back that the cupboards
are bare. They chant the word “debt” and the word “deficit” as if these were
the only important words in America. They do not accept the reasoning that
judicious spending could stimulate the economy and that this would make the
“debt” and the “deficit” loom less large. They do not accept that we could all
be in this together. We the people have become the enemy.

Republicans are saying that corporations were chased away
by greedy workers (in unions) and by too many regulations, both environmental
and financial. I guess they don’t live next door to one of the dirtiest lakes
in America, full of heavy metal waste from industries like Solvay Process,
Allied Chemical and Honeywell like I do. I guess we are to blame for getting
upset when corporations dirtied our air, our ground, and our water. We aren’t
even supposed to notice this or complain about it because that’s the kind of
stuff that made industry leave us. We are supposed to believe what the oil
industry says about global climate change because we all know what liars
scientists are.

It is unfortunate that the next new thing; that new
invention or innovation that will require us to flood factories with workers,
has not been invented yet. If we perfect more and more robotics to do the work
people used to do we may never see the day when factories will once again cover
America and employ Americans? We may have to pay people not to work the way we
pay farmers not to grow crops or raise cattle or chickens?

I get the point of the Conservatives and Libertarians. They
do not want to support people who don’t work. Everyone is not suited to be an
entrepreneur however. We could use more plumbers, more electricians, more
computers repair people, although we often don’t bother with repairs anymore.
We could use more people who understand computer coding and programming. And we
could certainly use more people who can secure our computers, which apparently
leak data like sieves. We still need farmers, and grocers and truck drivers.
Medical workers are always in demand from lightly trained workers to extremely
well-educated practitioners. Some training money might help make more people
employable.

I don’t know if people really understand that Republicans
are already cutting the federal government through the sequester and by
refusing to pass any laws, even appropriation laws. They are serious about
ending safety net programs and they are just moving ahead with cuts with or
without our permission. Remember all those poor factories workers who lost
their pensions when their factories closed. Soon that will be all of us. The
GOP already separated funding for food stamps from the Farm Bill and they intend
to pass the Farm Bill without the traditional funding for food stamps. They
intend to get rid of the SNAP program and to let hungry Americans rely on
churches and charities. They have voted 40 times to repeal health care and now
they may listen to a few extreme voices in their party who want to refuse to
raise the debt ceiling or pay America’s debts until Obama agrees to kill health
care. They would like to kill all federal health care.

Do you really want to get a voucher for school for your
children and a voucher for health care? What if schooling and health care costs
more than the amount of your voucher? What if the costs keep going up? Do we
want to trust private companies to educate our children? Our schools are far
from perfect but are we sure this is the way we want to go? Once we lose all
our safety nets how easy will it be to get these programs back if we need them,
when we need them? I wouldn’t want to have to hold my breath while I waited for
another Great Society. How poor will we all get?

The Republicans want to end birth control and abortion.
There will be more of us. How long will it take before we are at each other’s
throats? Have you stockpiled some weapons in case we need to have a revolution?
I hear that Republicans have lots of guns stashed away. Will you end up on the
poor side or the well-off side? The odds of ending up poor are getting better
and better.

I really think you ought to give this all some thought
because the GOP is already succeeding in pulling the rug out from under us.
There are millions of us who should be standing on the rug anchoring it in
place. If we were all paying attention that rug could not be yanked away even
though the floor beneath it is slippery. You better jump on the rug soon or
that warm rug we all paid for will disappear and you and I will be on that
cold, slick floor until the economic cycle turns everything topsy-turvy once
more (which could take a very long time.)

The Democrats have not exactly been towers of strength, but
we had better vote for them in 2014 and in 2016 because at least they don’t
blame us for everything and they don’t want to privatize everything. I think we
can trust that the Democrats will not pull the rug out from under us. By the
time all of us wake up in the empty pantry without the rug and wishing we could
smell the coffee, it may be too late.

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

 

No Means No in Politics Also

 
No means no. I know this phrase is weighted with the freight
of its use in situations of sexual abuse so I apologize for temporarily
employing it, but I feel strongly about this issue and I think this message is
also appropriate, at this moment, to what is going on in Washington. We have a
group who lost a national election (the Republicans), a group who said that the
election would serve as a referendum on their ideas (the Republicans), and yet
a group that refuses to accept that the nation wants to try a less extreme
approach to government and to the economics of government.  I will not draw out this analogy any farther.
I will just reiterate—we said no, we meant no! No to small government (although
we might want to work on smaller government)—no to the dismantling of the
safety net (although we might be open to some “fixes” to the safety net). We
say no to a party (the GOP) which seems to have adopted the mantle of righteousness,
which seems to believe that the GOP alone knows the proper way to “save”
America; an America which the GOP feels is wandering away from a strict adherence
to the Constitution. And we say no to a party (the GOP) that believes it alone
holds the key to solve our economic woes (always in ways that mysteriously
favor those who are already prospering).

Although we have already said no, insisted that we mean no,
reiterated that our answer was no, this party (the Republicans) keeps coming
back at us with their same old message. Not only do we have to listen to their
dogma over and over again, but they refuse to let the people pursue the agenda
they actually did agree to in the last election. We do want a balanced approach
to the budget. We don’t want austerity. We want some growth policies. We want
to see the reform of a tax code that has long favored the wealthy and we are
not interested in seeing tax reforms zeroed out with tax cuts for the wealthy.
These corporations have taken their business elsewhere, the corporate owners
live like men without a country so they will not have to pay taxes, and now
they insist that we give up our already quite inadequate security net which we
trusted our government to administer for us. Someone (named Johnson) even
suggested last Sunday on television that the money in the Social Security Trust
had already been borrowed and used and no longer exists. We can borrow our own
money, but can the people embezzle their own money? Did our past selves sell
out the retirement and health care of our present selves? If we did, will we be
able to repay the Trust fund and continue to supply Americans with a modicum of
security in their old age? Do we really want to cut the poor loose to fend for
themselves? We voted no to all of these things; why are we still fighting this
battle? We are still fighting because the Republicans have taken over our
government. The Republicans will not let the people try Obama’s approach to our
economy.

The media is not blameless in all of this. When I spend my
time watching the news, and I spend a lot of time watching the news, the
Republicans are everywhere. All day long, I have to listen to Republicans argue
for their extremely austere economics that is skewed steeply towards the
wealthy. I have to watch the Republicans try to tip-toe into the present without
becoming more centrist (not possible). I know our media is also supposed to be
balanced and give equal time to all, but then we have something like CPAC which allows
Republicans to grab all of the air time all week. If it wasn’t for having a new
pope we would be watching Sarah Palin channel Tina Fey over and over again. I
do not feel an equal presence of Democrats in the media because they are not as
“out there”; they are not “entertainment”. But by choosing to be “entertaining”
the media is skewing the message in favor of the GOP. If these nutburgers (the
GOP) get their way and our social safety net goes away and if that happens just
in the name of good ratings I hope we eviscerate the media. It is no wonder the
Republican Party does not believe that no means no. But I do. I believe that no
means no.