Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The New Pharisees

As Newt Gingrich said about himself, it's exhausting work bullying Americans into being better people. He got so involved in it, and loved his country so much, he had to take a mistress. It's a novel defense.

What was the work he was so involved in that he didn't have time for his marriage? Investigating the infidelities of others, notably Bill Clinton. The Savanarolas-in-chief who tried to hound Clinton from office, Gingrich and his sidemen Livingston and Hyde, had their own women on the side. Gingrich's solution was open marriage. It's a bit like a bad country western song, which may be why it obsesses and appeals to the people inhabiting the geographic belt associated with that kind of music and the Bible. God forgives the sinner as long as he or she is busy informing on others. It's all very Republican. Republicans give people medals for this.

It's an old story and there's a long list, this GOP and SuperChristian roll call of misbehaviorists. Gay bashers who are gay in private. Puritans and God-botherers who peek in other people's windows but keep their own blinds drawn. There are also a lot of warmongers who refuse to serve in combat.

Liberalism never had this much appetite for sleaze, nor did it engage in hunting it down. A dirty mind needs an obsession, and what better than scolding and attacking others for the misbehavior you engage in yourself. When outed, attack. When accused, smear the accuser. When you are defending marriage, keep the loosest interpretation for your own convenience. And keep that righteous posture no matter what. The glass houses/stones rule doesn't apply to you. Jon Stewart does the best job of dissecting the strangeness. But is laughing at hypocrites enough?

It'd be funny if it wasn't so poisonous. And we'd be able to get rid of these creeps if they weren't so arrogant and their constituents weren't so easily manipulated. The crowd loved it when Gingrich scolded the moderator for sullying a debate by asking about Gingrich's disgraceful behavior. Is hypocrisy also the sort of thing to be confined to whispers in quiet rooms with doors locked? Add Republican cheers for adultery to the cheers for greed, selfishness, wrongful execution, torture, death to the uninsured, voter suppression and other new Republican ideals.

What creeps me out the most, I think, is how this hypocrisy and turpitude seems to be creeping northward, even into the land of the strong and above average. After two terms of Pawlenty our average has sagged noticeably. The creeps are uniformly right wing, religious and very Republican. When Minnesota Republicans learn to do hypocrisy really big they graduate to the big leagues. It's embarrassing to those who know how rational and decent Minnesotans are by and large. Most of us don't think sanctimonious Christian heterosexual adulterers are superior to gays and lesbians who are faithful partners and good parents.

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Why Income Inequality is Bad for Business

There's a very good, straightforward and powerful explanation of the importance of economic fairness in today's StarTribune, written by David Morris.

Income inequality as it exists in the U.S. today, an extreme inequality which the Republican Party is sworn to continue and increase, is bad economics, very bad for business, bad for the future of private enterprise, bad for our health, bad for our children and grandchildren, downright stupid when you measure its effects on education, and (today being Sunday, maybe we should consider this) it turns Christianity on its head. Why do these "super-Christian" and supposedly pro-business Republicans support policies which undermine everything they stand for? My explanation? It's a shell game, a trick, a sham, a con game. To use a phrase popular in the South "They'd climb a tree to tell a lie." They don't give a damn about the things they trumpet in speeches and commercials. Their loyalty is to money in their own pockets and power in their own hands.

One of the chief lies they tell is this: Democrats who favor greater income equality want everyone to earn the same. This is untrue. What we want is a return to the system which functioned well during the longest prosperity in American history, the period between the New Deal and the inauguration of Reagan, a period when workers' earnings rose as a companies profits rose. Since Reagan it's all been taken apart. Since 1980, the American Dream has been narrowed to the upper classes, to people who own stock for a living rather than working for a paycheck. They forget, and would like Americans to forget, that prosperous working people are the engine of a strong economy. Republicans treat them like the enemy.

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Welfare for Billionaires––Only Billionaires

If you count corporate welfare and tax subsidies of rich people and private companies, the U.S. is a welfare state but one that supports the rich and corporations rather than the poor and working classes. A prof from Washington State University explains it very well.

Moyers & Co discuss how a political system steered by billionaires benefits billionaires.

(Big surprise.)

Meanwhile... The sad and disastrous fact is the billionaires have their money and are content to allow the western economies to collapse rather than forfeit any of it to support such "socialist" schemes as roads and universities and libraries and hospitals. As if the public good is an anarchist plot. A prosperous nation is an insult to their belief system. Infrastructure made it possible for them to get rich, in fact multiplied their wealth-creation with the efficiencies cooperative systems create, but they think nobody else exists in their closed system of spas and resorts and private clubs. Money is created for THEM. People work for THEM. Their idleness is akin to the idleness of the old Roman gods, luxurious and self-justifying. Meanwhile the lives of those who work for a living are growing narrower, shorter, meaner and more unpleasant. To reward actual work––as opposed to dividends on riches–– would inconvenience the lucky 1%. Austerity is killing the European economy rather than inconvenience rich Europeans. Austerity is how the rich teach working people to be poor. It's not happening by mistake. Here's an enlightening article from the New York Review of Books.

How patriotic is it to offshore your millions? Is it worse when those millions are earned from exporting jobs to countries where people work harder and longer for a dollar a day? Is it OK if you sing God Bless America while you are doing it? That's Romney's approach.

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Saturday, January 07, 2012

The Do-Nothing Republican Congress

This current Congress is controlled by Republicans with the sole purpose of preventing the President and the Democratic Senate from doing anything constructive. Their only declared goal: to make sure Obama is a one-term president. Historians from both ends of the political spectrum are calling it one of the most dysfunctional, least constructive Congresses in American history. This NPR story draws its insights from, among others, Norm Ornstein of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, who has co-authored two books on the scorched earth brand of Republican governance.

Contrast this Republican/Tea Party Congress with the Congress from Obama's first two years. Democrats achieved more in two years than any Congress since the '60s, some say more than had been acccomplished since the '30s. Democrats do things for regular people. Republicans cater to the top 1%. The partisanship has come from one side, the Republican side. All the compromising, flexibility, practicality and patient toil has been on the Democratic side. It's as if Republicans want democracy to fail rather than inconvenience their corporate clients. This Bloomberg article lists the achievements of Obama's first two years. Have we all forgotten? (And Bloomberg is hardly a liberal biased publication)

This Christian Science Monitor cites the six very big achievements Obama had with a Democratic Congress, over the intense blockade by Republicans.

This Washington Post article calls them "forgotten accomplishments".

Why forgotten––and forgotten already at the close of 2010? Because of the intense and constant abuse from FoxNews. Not only do more Americans "get their news from FoxNews" but those who do know less––less than people who don't read or watch any news at all. Consider it a nationwide brainwashing.

The sole failing of the Democratic Congress of 2009 and 2010? They didn't brag enough. They just got things done.

Contrast that with the Republican juggernaut that swept in in late 2010. The Republican goal? Same as it had been for the previous two years, but bolder and stronger. Block a recovery that Americans needed. Block reforms. Block jobs bills. Block consumer and environmental protections. (What they couldn't block they watered down.) Block increased taxes on the top 1%, whose wealth had grown in the aftermath of the financial crisis while most Americans suffered. Their goal was to make Americans angry. Discontent and anger helped them regain the House in 2010, it could help them retake the White House in 2012.

The only medicine that can help the nation recover from eight years of Bush, and now two years of a Tea Party relapse is a more Democratic Congress.

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Thursday, January 05, 2012

The Looting of America

This video is worth watching. A former Assistant Housing Secretary for George H. W. Bush explains how the American financial sector has come to resemble a criminal enterprise. How the too-big-to-fail financial giants (who taxpayers bailed out) have systematically looted the middle class, with the protection of the Republican wave of deregulation. It's an interesting cool-headed rant. How valid are the allegations? I don't have the expertise to judge. They square with the events and the trends of the past thirty years, since Reagan inaugurated Voodoo Economics and started dismantling regulations. (The regulations that had safeguarded the longest period without a financial panic or significant downturn in American history, between 1937 and 1974––and the '74 downturn was caused by the 1973 OPEC oil embargo.)

While watching this I had the definite feeling that this played one way, leftward, away from corporate power, toward better government regulation, better enforcement of transparency and fairness...

...but then I find a very aggressive, Tea Party, Obama-bashing website that endorses her video too. (I find no progressive sites commenting on this interview.)

Question is: does common ground exist to overcome the hatred felt by the right wing populists toward this president, toward good-government types, toward Democrats and progressives? Can the Tea Partiers agree that the financial crisis was caused by financiers and speculators, not by the homeowners they ripped off?

Probably not, as long as they are funded by Wall Street billionaires like the Koch brothers and inspired by the manipulative rhetoric of FoxNews and talk radio. The rabble needs to be roused, and they tend to conform to their learned loyalties. Call it team spirit. Or herd instinct.

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