Thursday, November 24, 2011

Gingrich Advocates Third World Status for the United States

Newt Gingrich lives in a strange universe. Unfortunately, it's the same universe other Republican politicians have been occupying lately, such as Bachmann, Perry and Palin. Before I go further, let's look at one of Gingrich's ideas that has been appearing in various places such as the Los Angeles Times:
"It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods in trapping children … in child laws which are truly stupid," Gingrich said. "OK, you say to someone, 'You shouldn't go to work before you're 14, 16 years of age.' Fine. You're totally poor. You're in a school that is failing with a teacher that is failing. I tried for years to have a very simple model. Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school." Mr. Bumble from "Oliver Twist" could not have said it better.

What Gingrich fails to understand is that in many poor neighborhoods the janitor's job is one of the more decent jobs available. For more than forty years, corporations generally have been moving out of poor neighborhoods, not in. And millions of those jobs have simply been sent overseas. There have been exceptions in poor areas, usually organized by Democrats such as Bill Clinton, though a handful of Republican governors have managed to buck the right wing politics of their party and done a few useful things (don't include Rick Perry in that crowd—he's done nothing).

Actually, given that today's radical Republican politicians want to either end or cut social security, medicare, medicaid, student loans and various other programs, it's truly surprising they're doing as well as they are in the polls. At some point, it's going to dawn on a large majority of Americans that the vast majority of Republican ideas these days are about cutting jobs. There is nothing in any of their plans about creating jobs.

Newt Gingrich always has ideas that boomerang on Americans. He was certainly one of the people a few years back who supported the call by George W. Bush that social security should be privatized. Under privatization, people could set aside the money they put into social security and use the same money to invest in the stock market. It's one of those ideas that's great for people who are already rich, such as bankers and Wall Street stock brokers, but it's a lousy idea for everybody else.

If George W. Bush had gotten his way on the privatization of social security, tens of millions of Americans would have lost their shirts in the 2008 stock market debacle. The damage done by George W. Bush, as well as others with the same philosophy as Gingrich, can still be seen in the stock market. Quite literally, the blunders that occurred under Bush for eight years are still unfolding. Republicans have done nothing to help Obama deal with those blunders. Instead, they have obstructed him every step of the way. Republicans want to cut jobs, not create them.

If Gingrich became president and did what many Republicans really want to do, he would outright cut social security. Millions of seniors would suddenly not have enough income to be on their own. They would have to live the way old people did it in the 19th century: move in with their children. Of course, Gingrich is either ignorant of what's happening to America's middle class—not to mention the poor—or he doesn't care. For example, right now, thousands and thousands of middle class families in their fifties and even early sixties, are already hosting older children who either are having trouble getting jobs in the current economy or don't earn enough yet to live on their own.

These are not kids who are slackers. For the last 11 years, the total number of available jobs in the U.S. has been falling. The jobs simply aren't there. Republicans have worked hard for thirty years to game the system for the wealthy. One of the consequences is that Republicans have created conditions that could turn the United States into a third world country.

Here's a simple list of six things to keep in mind:

1. Republicans rarely create jobs. They see their job as protecting the rich, while throwing crumbs to various conservative groups to get enough votes at election time.

2. Democrats are job creators. Just look at Bill Clinton's record. Obama's hands have been somewhat tied by the large number of Republican governors cutting jobs and by 30 years of sending jobs to China. But Obama is also a job creator.

3. When it comes to cutting livable wages, the Republicans are the outright winner. The recent attacks on unions absolutely guarantees lower wages for everyone.

4. When it comes to benefits, who's the first to cut them? Republicans.

5. When it comes to banking costs and loans, who's the first to defend bankers instead of middle class Americans? Republicans.

6. When it comes to higher and higher health insurance costs, who resists reform the most? Republicans. When a fat cat insurance executive gets a $20 million bonus, who does he write most of his checks to? Republicans.

Do Americans really want crazy ideas from the 19th century brought back to life again? We'll find out in November 2012.

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Republican Newt Gingrich: A Grand Poohbah of the 1%

He's back. Sometime presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has flown in from his vacation in Greece, Switzerland or Hawaii to assert himself in one of the weakest lineups of Republicans in years.

Newt Gingrich is a lobbyist who denies being a lobbyist and refuses to register as a lobbyist but is a lobbyist nevertheless. Although he receives money from various sources, including Freddie Mac, his real job is much broader. Gingrich believes in the right sort of 1%, the anything goes 1%, the movers and shakers 1% sucking the blood of American workers so they can buy one more estate or one more Lear jet or one more 80 foot yacht. He is a friend of Texas billionaires willing to do anything, and I mean anything, to make a buck, including taking down the American economy. Gingrich believes in a government for the rich and by the rich and will do and say anything for the party of people he serves and considers himself a member of. He is indeed a lobbyist, a bona fide lobbyist for the selfish 1% who are uninterested in democracy and uninterested in the problems of average Americans.

Personally, I think Newt Gingrich would be quite happy to be another Dick Cheney. Like the former vice president, he's discovered that it's actually easier and more fun to operate in the shadows. Would Gingrich deny himself the presidency if it were offered to him? Of course not. But in his heart of hearts he would be happier operating in the shadows.

Pay attention to what's being said in the article in The New York Times about Gingrich:
The payments were far more than had previously been known, or than Mr. Gingrich, the former House speaker, had acknowledged.


Not only is Freddie Mac a longtime conservative whipping post, but the extent of his consultancy for the mortgage giant seemed to be at odds with his own statements about his work there. He has also blamed it for the collapse of the housing market, saying that at least one Democratic supporter should be jailed, and, in 2008, that President Obama should give back any money his campaign received from its executives.

The news of the full extent of his Freddie Mac contract put him on the defensive all day. And all of his corporate work, in energy, health care and other industries, is now sure to be scrutinized by the news media and his opponents.

I have no idea why Gingrich is climbing in the polls. He is a strange character. Here's a guy who received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Freddie Mac but he was one of those behind the mythology that Freddie Mac caused the economic meltdown. Freddie Mac like so many other financial institutions was not innocent but it was a follower of the debacle, not one of the leaders that caused it.

Let me repeat: Freddie Mac did not cause the meltdown. But keep this in mind: President Bush was in charge during those years when regulation was lax, including at Freddie Mac. And if Republicans like Gingrich were advising Freddie Mac, do these clowns really want to put the blame on Freddie Mac?

There is very little logic or rationality in the Republican Party these days. Guys like Karl Rove work with focus groups to find out what nonsensical narratives might work on potential Republican voters. But why don't Republicans use narratives connected to the real values of the 1% that control the Republican Party? The answer is that those values don't connect with voters. Americans don't want to destroy social security and medicare. They don't want to destroy the unions, though they sometimes have gripes with unions. They don't want to see jobs sent overseas. They don't want to see the bottom line dominate everything in our country for the sake of a little extra profit for the next quarter that goes into the pockets of an increasingly smaller number of Americans.

When business corporations first appeared in America, they were allowed to exist so long as they contributed to the public good. Probably most American corporations continue to serve the public good though most of these same corporations could do a better job. A lot of the breakdowns involve the financial sector, the health insurance sector, the Alice in Wonderland world of expensive and sometimes worthless defense contracts, and corporate sectors who profit from the right to pollute in our country and to pollute in a country overseas without paying cleanup costs. There are many exceptions in all areas. For example, investors who are predatory have found it much easier since the early 1980s to buy a legitimate company and basically raid its assets for their personal use. There are articles that have been written about the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Dodgers and how their assets were stripped by their new owners. The same has happened to many other corporations.

Gingrich is an historian who knows these things. Or at least he ought to know. But he's infatuated with conservative economic ideas that no longer work and never did work, except for a very small number of Americans. He's a fossil. He's also an elitist in reality, if not by labeling in the media. When a self-important official threatens to shut down the government because he didn't like his seating on a presidential plane, that sounds like one of those self-important Dukes or Barons from the 18th century. We used to call such people Tories. We rebelled against them in 1776. We're a generous country. Guys like Gingrich, with nothing real to offer to a majority of Americans, ought to pull out of politics and enjoy his retirement.


Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Fossilized Leaders Mislead Americans About Fossil Fuels

Most Republican leaders and a few wayward Democrats fail to recognize several straightforward facts:

1. Fossil fuels are no longer cheap.

2. Besides fossil fuels no longer being cheap, if we take away subsidies from fossil fuels, Americans would really feel the cost.

3. But it gets worse. If we include the total costs of the damage that fossil fuel development and burning has on our country, and also the planet, the real cost of fossil fuels is in fact prohibitive. Our children and grandchildren will be paying the costs for generations to feed today's dangerous hunger for high profits by the fat cats in the fossil fuel industry.

4. If the United States began tomorrow on a massive alternative energy program, it would probably be decades before the United States would stop producing coal, natural gas, and oil. Why? Because it will take time to build up the alternative energy infrastructure. It takes time to build the factories, hire the people, train them as the technology changes, mine rare earth metals essential to alternative energy and again hire the people who will do the mining.

5. Jobs in the fossil fuel industries will take years to disappear. Why? Because as alternative energy grows, the jobs that will be lost are not the ones here at home but the ones overseas. The first thing that alternative energy will do is make the U.S. more energy secure and less dependent on the volatile politics of international oil.

6. And this is the most important: while fossil fuels are becoming more expensive, alternative energy is becoming less expensive.

Mary of The Left Coaster points out that high technology companies are increasingly turning to alternative energy. The trend towards alternative energy, despite the political fossils in Washington, is underway.

Paul Krugman in a recent column in The New York Times points out that that the costs of alternative is dropping. It's economics folks. It's capitalism the way its supposed to work.

For all the noise that Republicans make on Fox News, on the Rush Limbaugh comedy hour, and in Congress, they no longer much care about the kind of capitalism that made America great. Keep in mind this isn't the first time our country has lost its way. We lost our way in the 1890s and we lost our way at the end of the 1920s. When capitalism no longer works for a majority of Americans, something has gone very wrong.

Republicans, the ones who run the Republican Party, are the party of bankers and the wealthy. They have lost sight of why Americans usually like capitalism. Usually, and it certainly hasn't happened lately, capitalism is at its best when people pay less and less for more. Lately, for perhaps 30 years, or more, Americans have been paying more and more for less. Capitalism as today's conservative Republicans define it has failed.

Think of it: the cost of alternative energy is generally falling. Solar panels are cheaper. Windmills are cheaper. Batteries are cheaper. The price of alternative energy will continue to fall for many years to come. That's capitalism at its best. But the cost of most of other things, the real cost, including fossil fuels, are climbing—and the money that pours into the pockets of the top 1% gets larger and larger while jobs get sent to foreign countries. That is not capitalism at its best. If our democracy is to remain relevant, Washington needs to focus a great deal less on the privileges and wealth of the top 1%, and a great deal more on the creation of more jobs, productive jobs, jobs that ensure a future for a large majority of Americans.

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Thursday, November 03, 2011

The Occupy Wall Street Movement and the Decline of the Republican Party

Republicans have a hard time accepting responsibility for their blunders. Charles Krauthammer, for example, is still trying to justify the war in Iraq years after it became obvious that the war was a perpetrated fraud, a war that was utterly unnecessary and irrelevant to the capture of Osama bin Laden and the dismantling of al Qaida. The United States wasted hundreds of billions of dollars in Iraq, with billions quite often unaccounted for. That does not include the ultimate cost of the war.

And Republicans wonder how we got into the deepest economic slump since the 1930s.

Years of deregulation by Republicans and a few of their Democratic friends left the financial sector as about as unregulated as a gambling saloon in 1880s Tombstone, Arizona. The reckless beneficiaries of Republican deregulation were investment bankers on (gasp) Wall Street. Do Republicans really not know what Occupy Wall Street is about? To this day, most of the people responsible for the meltdown have not been held accountable.

The phony rage of the Tea Party movement, largely financed by the 1%, and for the 1%, is largely a resurrection of the John Birch Society (one of the founding members of the John Birch Society is the father of the ultra-conservative billionaire Koch brothers who own Koch Industries). In the 1960s, the John Birchers saw communists under every rock and were radically right wing. Like the John Birchers, the Tea Party folks also have trouble dealing with facts. For example, the debt the U.S. has run up in the last 11 years was not because of welfare, medicare, social security, or student loans. The debt was the result of Republicans refusing to fund two major wars. In twenty of the last thirty years, it has been Republicans not Democrats who have recklessly driven up America's debts. For eight years, Clinton had a surplus. Republicans who consult sources other than Fox News and Rush Limbaugh know this.

Look, I know plenty of hardworking Republicans who vote for Republican politicians—those same Republican politicians are glad to take their votes and money without giving much back. It's a weird world. What people need to remember about the power brokers of the Republican Party is very simple: the Republican Party is the party of bankers and privilege. There aren't that many people who are bankers and who have sweet heart deals courtesy of Congress, state legislatures, and Republican presidents. So in the spirit of P. T. Barnum, Republican leaders cajole a lot of people with odd promises that they half-heartedly keep.

People like Charles Krauthammer work hard to make us miss the obvious. In a recent column, he wrote:
To the villainy-of-the-rich theme emanating from Washington, a child is born: Occupy Wall Street. Starbucks-sipping, Levi’s-clad, iPhone-clutching protesters denounce corporate America even as they weep for Steve Jobs, corporate titan, billionaire eight times over.

These indignant indolents saddled with their $50,000 student loans and English degrees have decided that their lack of gainful employment is rooted in the malice of the millionaires on whose homes they are now marching — to the applause of Democrats suffering acute Tea Party envy and now salivating at the energy these big-government anarchists will presumably give their cause.

Krauthammer lays it on thick—stereotypes, mythologies and all the rest. I'm almost sorry that he doesn't work for our side. Except that over the years he's become a little loose with the facts. It's the only way a conservative can operate these days. There was a time when a conservative could be rigorously factual and argue effectively. William F. Buckley was such a conservative. But Buckley, despite all the debates he so infuriatingly won—at least on debating points—had a weakness, and he knew it. But he exploited the decency of his opponents who either didn't think in certain terms or were too classy in that era to point out the obvious weakness in Buckley's arguments. That the underpinning of Buckley's philosophy was a shameless selfishness. William F. Buckley did not care if the system that so benefited the rich was unfair. He was, however, a little embarrassed by the underpinning of his philosophy. When cornered, he would admit that selfishness was essential to his type of conservatism, but he would say it quietly, in few words and move on quickly. That is the underpinning of the philosophy that dominates the Republican Party. Remember: I'm not talking about Republicans who are farmers, fire fighters and shopkeepers, etc.; I'm talking about high-powered bankers and the privileged, the people who game the system (I'm not talking about George Baily who ran a decent savings and loan; I'm talking about the other guy). The reality is that the Republicans who control the Republican Party care a great deal about the law, as long as it benefits them, and includes a lot of zeroes in the checks they receive.

Krauthammer truly doesn't understand what he's saying. He invokes Steve Jobs, an entrepreneur and job creator (though Jobs loses points in recent years for sending a fair number of jobs overseas). No Democrat I know has a problem with real job creators. Republicans relish creating mythologies about make work projects by Democrats, but Republicans are the ones who create phony jobs for party hacks like 'heckuva job' Michael Brown of Katrina fame and the private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ironic that Krauthammer rails against an English degree. He himself began with a political science degree (though he moved on). That kind of silly name calling doesn't get us anywhere. In any case, isn't name calling an old-fashioned method for changing the subject?

The subject is that Wall Street not only screwed up the economy but no one has been held accountable for the fraud that was committed with the financial derivatives that were based on mortgages and ultimately the fraudulent system of bonuses, commissions, and paybacks for pushing as many home loans on Americans as possible regardless of the creditworthiness of the home owners or the credit worthiness of the banks, investment bankers and mortgage companies peddling the worthless derivatives. The financial collapse did not have to happen. It was not a product of an economic cycle. It was purely a product of lax government control, greed and fraud.

What was pathetic is that in early 2007, when it was clearly possible to do something, reasonably responsible Republicans—who nevertheless bought into the conservative economics of the last 30 years—stood like deer in the headlights, hapless, clueless and incompetent. The Tea Party Republicans are clearly not an improvement.

The people paying for the financial fiasco on Wall Street are not the banks, not the 1%, not the people with privileged government connections, and certainly not the Republican lobbyists doing all they can to protect their wealthy clients. The people paying for the fiasco are the 99% trying to earn a living.

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