Through the Ceiling

August 1, 2011

I am on vacation, but I do read the newspaper, and words are failing me.  Rather, I should say, words are choking me!  I’ll just use a few  bullets and a quote, and have done with it.

  • Repeal the law that created a debt ceiling.  It’s idiotic.  Just a phony way to impose “fiscal discipline.”
  • Do we have a democracy?  Most people want a taxes on the corporations, the wealthy, and judicious spending cuts.  We got neither, and the show is being run by a bunch of radical lunatics with backing from very big money.  I’m beginning to think Troutsky is right after all.
  • I voted for Obama because I thought he could win and Hillary might not, and of course, he was far better than McCain.  I never expected much.  He has surpassed my expectations in a negative way to an amazing extent.
  • Is he a dunce, a tool of the establishment, or a technocrat robot?

Here’s some text from Paul Krugman (bad on global warming, good on politics!) in his column today on Obama’s abject surrender to the Tea Party arm of Wall Street, and part of his linked text – my emphasis:

Did the president have any alternative this time around? Yes.

First of all, he could and should have demanded an increase in the debt ceiling back in December. When asked why he didn’t, he replied that he was sure that Republicans would act responsibly. Great call. . .

Obama, at his press conference last December, announcing his surrender to the GOP on tax cuts; the questioner was Marc Ambinder:

Q Mr. President, thank you. How do these negotiations affect negotiations or talks with Republicans about raising the debt limit? Because it would seem that they have a significant amount of leverage over the White House now, going in. Was there ever any attempt by the White House to include raising the debt limit as a part of this package?

THE PRESIDENT: When you say it would seem they’ll have a significant amount of leverage over the White House, what do you mean?

Q Just in the sense that they’ll say essentially we’re not going to raise the — we’re not going to agree to it unless the White House is able to or willing to agree to significant spending cuts across the board that probably go deeper and further than what you’re willing to do. I mean, what leverage would you have –

THE PRESIDENT: Look, here’s my expectation — and I’ll take John Boehner at his word — that nobody, Democrat or Republican, is willing to see the full faith and credit of the United States government collapse, that that would not be a good thing to happen. And so I think that there will be significant discussions about the debt limit vote. That’s something that nobody ever likes to vote on. But once John Boehner is sworn in as Speaker, then he’s going to have responsibilities to govern. You can’t just stand on the sidelines and be a bomb thrower. [Oh, yes you can!!]

And so my expectation is, is that we will have tough negotiations around the budget, but that ultimately we can arrive at a position that is keeping the government open, keeping Social Security checks going out, keeping veterans services being provided, but at the same time is prudent when it comes to taxpayer dollars.

Class Warfare

December 9, 2010

Click on the comic above to see it full size – it’s more true than funny.  Since Reagan, the Republicans have been leading an effort to shift wealth to the upper 2% of the income strata in the USA, and to shift the burden of paying for that shift, and the rest of what government does, to everyone else.  Naturally, the “middle class” gets hit the worst because they have jobs and steady incomes from which to pay taxes.  (I use that term in the good ole American sense of anyone making less than $250,000 a year.) 

Bad as it is, there is a humorous side to it.  How else to react to the twin efforts by the Republicans this week to deny health coverage to the 9/11 rescue workers – they are concerned about how to pay for the $7.4 billion – and to lock in the GWB tax cuts for the wealthy for another two years, not to mention the loosening of the estate tax.  The cost of the first tax item alone is about $900.0 billion.  Balanced budget anyone?

And why are we at this juncture?   Our president tells us that liberals don’t have realistic expectations about what can be accomplished.  This may be true – the game was lost a long time ago, before the 2010 election.  Why wasn’t Obama on the warpath about these topics for the last two years?  All that anger in the Tea Party and fellow travellers could just as easily have switched targets from him to the bankers and coupon-clippers.

I think that fundamentally Obama, and most Dem legislators, don’t grasp the concepts of power and class.  It’s quite simple:  people with lots of money and power want to keep it.  They don’t really care if social problems are solved or not as long as their status isn’t infringed.  They may back irrational policies, but that’s okay.  If the works get gummed up, so much the better.  The more stupid government looks, the better.  They can always lobby their senators for a free corporate plum later, and in secret.  The Party of No works just fine in this case.  They can rail against government spending while they shovel money to their friends and not be troubled by the contradiction – there is no contradiction.  The overall goal is being met.

This sort of talk is taboo in mainstream American political discourse, so it’s not surprising Obama doesn’t shout about it.  Sure, he talks about “special interests”, but Unions get lumped in that group.  Senior citizens too.  As if they are all equal.  Obama always said he wasn’t a liberal, and he was being honest.  He’s very mainstream.  He never sought to build a political base for a counter-assault to the Republican class war which is why it’s too late now.  That would have been “business as usual in Washington…”

Politics by the Numbers

September 26, 2010

Hmm…let’s see:

  1. A recent poll from Stanford for the Associated Press indicates that the vast majority of Americans think that health care reform should have gone much farther than it did in changing the health care system by a 2-to-1 margin over those who think the government should stay out of health care.
  2. The Republican Party is banking heavily in the coming elections on their inflated rhetorical pledges to repeal the heath care reform bill.

What shall we think of this?

  • Republicans are very principled competitors, who care not at all about winning – it’s the ideas that count?
  • Republicans are very stupid and out-of-touch politicians who are living in a dreamland?
  • Polls bear little relationship to what people really think?
  • Polls don’t indicate much about how people will vote?
  • Democrats are stupid cowardly politicians because they have been so reluctant to hammer Republicans on health care and other issues?
  • Democrats and Republicans are not very interested in what most voters really want?

I don’t know.  November could be very interesting.  I have felt for a long time that the Democrats will do better than expected, i.e., not lose big.   If items No. 1 and No. 2 are both really true, then perhaps I’ll be proven correct.

Health care

March 22, 2010

So, at last, it seems like we will have a huge reform of the health care establishment in this country.  It’s about time that the USA joined the rest of the civilized industrial democracies!  Of course, the bill is imperfect and does not do many things it should do, and it contains absurdities necessary to placate the regional crotchets of various constituencies, e.g, language on abortion, but it is a big step.  And it can be improved upon.

My hope is that the Democrats will run like hell on this bill and crush the Republicans in the mid-term election.  If people start hearing what the bill does for them, as opposed to the fantasies the Republicans have woven about it – it will usher in death committees, Soviet-style government, crushing taxes on the working man, lack of choice in doctors, etc. etc. – they will realize it works for them, i.e., 95% of the electorate.  The other 5% is so rich, they don’t care either way.

I want to hear the Republicans run on why extending insurance to 30 million people, most of them children, is a bad thing.  And why you should loose all your insurance if you loose your job.  And why you should be denied insurance because you  changed jobs and you have a heart condition that makes you…ahem…expensive to keep  healthy. 

Here’s hoping!  Below is a list of the things that I think are most important about this bill, from

  • Once reform is fully implemented, over 95% of Americans will have health insurance coverage, including 32 million who are currently uninsured.
  • Health insurance companies will no longer be allowed to deny people coverage because of preexisting conditions—or to drop coverage when people become sick.
  • Just like members of Congress, individuals and small businesses who can’t afford to purchase insurance on their own will be able to pool together and choose from a variety of competing plans with lower premiums.
  • Health care will be more affordable for families and small businesses thanks to new tax credits, subsidies, and other assistance—paid for largely by taxing insurance companies, drug companies, and the very wealthiest Americans.
  • Seniors on Medicare will pay less for their prescription drugs because the legislation closes the “donut hole” gap in existing coverage.
  •  Medicaid will be expanded to offer health insurance coverage to an additional 16 million low-income people.
  •  Instead of losing coverage after they leave home or graduate from college, young adults will be able to remain on their families’ insurance plans until age 26.
  •  Community health centers would receive an additional $11 billion, doubling the number of patients who can be treated regardless of their insurance or ability to pay.

Obama electric!

November 1, 2009


I had one of my occasional dips into the democratic political process today – I attended a rally in Newark, NJ for the reelection of Jon Corzine as governor of New Jersey, with Loretta Weingberg, from my town, as Lieutenant Governor.  The wait outside was tedious, but we got to the head of the line with three lovely young ladies we happened to meet, all of them dressed to the nines, and with VIP tickets.

Eventually, we got in, and we watched the entertainment while we waited.  We ended up sitting next to the girls, all of whom are from Kenya it turns out.  Loretta, Cory, and Jon gave their stump speeches, and then the main attraction was on –  Barak Obama.  The crowd went crazy – it was electric!  I had to laugh when he walked out – amazing to see him in the flesh rather than as a flickering image of a political celebrity.  We were only 150 feet away at the most.

He gave a good speech – a mixture of popular politics with some wit and humor.  He manages to weave in important ideas in a way that makes them seem popular, not something for only an elite.  He commented on how Corzine (and he) are mopping up a mess left by the previous administration, and that they don’t really mind doing that, except why do they (the Republicans) have to stand around and say things like:

“Uh, can you mop faster?  You’re not holding that mop right.  Why do you have to use a socialist mop?”  I thought that last bit was a good dig at the GOP, quite witty for an American political speech.

As Obama was led out, people formed a crush to shake his hand or just touch him.  One big fellow was walking towards us, his hand held out – “I shook his hand, I shook the brother’s hand!  Amazing!” – probably never so excited since Christmas morning as a little boy.  My wife shook his hand, the hand that shook the hand …

Oh, that stupid Bush!

January 4, 2009


Yes, I am getting a bit tired of all this Bush-bashing.  Frank Rich’s column in the NYTimes today is a good example.  I agree with everything in it, but really, what’s the point?  Here’s the opening, emphasis added:

WE like our failed presidents to be Shakespearean, or at least large enough to inspire Oscar-worthy performances from magnificent tragedians like Frank Langella. So here, too, George W. Bush has let us down. Even the banality of evil is too grandiose a concept for 43. He is not a memorable villain so much as a sometimes affable second banana whom Josh Brolin and Will Ferrell can nail without breaking a sweat. He’s the reckless Yalie Tom Buchanan, not Gatsby. He is smaller than life.

Uh…I’m not sure I get the logic of that clever allusion to Hannah Arendt, but I”m sure Rich’s smart fans do.  Or think they do.  And his references to all of us leads to the old joke about the Lone Ranger and Tonto:  “What you mean “we” white-man?”  Behind it all, Rich is separating himself and reaping satisfaction with his “I told you so’s” heaped on the Republican right.

Well, if he is going to say “We like …,” he ought to face up to the unpleasant fact that we elected him.  Yes, even those of us who didn’t vote for him!  We live here.  We aren’t renouncing our citizenship.  It’s our country, our society, and it made a big mistake.  If you want to talk about our country in the collective, you have to own up to its failures, too.  It’s like being in a family – the sins of the wayward are, in some sense, your burden, if you are truly a family.

Intellectuals like to harbor the secret thought that if everyone were just smart enough to listen to them, the one’s who are really smart, everything would go fine, but it never works that way.  People are just too…well, let’s say it, dumb! (Or are they not dumb enough?)

Rich isn’t talking about all of us, he’s talking about himself and his friends.  I happen to agree with him completely, but those yahoos who supported Bush aren’t going away, and neither am I.  We’re just going to have to find a way to exist together.

Historical Irony and Booker T.

November 6, 2008


John McCain gave a fine concession speech last night.  High minded and principled.  His admirers say that that’s the real McCain, as opposed to the nasty mud slinger his campaign handlers forced him to be in recent months.  Perhaps so…

He cited Teddy Roosevelt’s invitation to Booker T. Washington to visit the White House and the condemnation that rained down on him for it as an example of how far this country has come in the last century.  For example, the quotation below, with offensive epithets retained for historical flavor:

“The action of President Roosevelt in entertaining that nigger will necessitate our killing a thousand niggers in the South before they learn their place again.”

[quoted inTheodore Rex, Edmund Morris, 2001, 55]

Need it be said that the speaker, Benjamin Tillman was a stalwart of the Democratic Party?

Resentment Politics…

September 5, 2008

Yeah, so, Krugman has a column today about the skill with which the Republicans manipulate feelings of resentment – or shall we say resentiment? – in our body politic.  Isn’t this the fuel that fed the fire of Hitler’s rise?  The simmering anger of the better-off-than-workers-but-not-well-off-enough-not-to-be-worried class? 

The key to this feeling in politics is that it isn’t logical.  People feel pissed off, pissed on, and treated unfairly – and they are!  But not by the people they think, necessarily.  I mean, Romney, a gazillionaire and former governer of Mass. railing against the Eastern Elite?  Pleeeezzzz… 

So why do Republicans get away with this?  Because they play dirtier politics?  I think not.

The best rejoinder to the politics of resentment is to tell it like it is.  You feel spat upon, well THIS is who is to blame.  And here’s why…It’s not hard to lay out the facts, and people aren’t stupid.  For instance, it is a dirty little secret that the Republican party has wanted to eliminate, not fix, Social Security from the day it was implemented.    And they very much like reducing taxes on the top 1% of the people, especially when everyone else will pick up the slack.  And that estate tax that all those regular folks are upset about even though it doesn’t apply to them, they’ll be happy to see that go too.

Why don’t the Democrats say more of this flat out?  I think it’s because when they do, the Republicans accuse them of fomenting “class warfare”.    The Republicans fear that, rightly, as they have NO answer to it.  And the Dems…they usually pull back because, after all, they get a lot of their money from the same people as the Republicans.  We’ll see what happens this time…

2 + 2 = 5

September 4, 2008
Our Big Brother

Our Big Brother

Will I ever tire of citing George Orwell and his book, 1984?  As I like to say, “It’s always 1984 somewhere!”  Right now, it seems like it’s then right here in the USA.  In his book, Orwell has the Party functionaries say that if The Party says the laws of arithmetic are suspended, then 2 + 2 = 5 and that’s it.  Believe it or die!

George Romney told the RNC that we need “a party of big ideas, not Big Brother!”  This from a minion of the party that has implemented domestic surveillance and suspension of habeus corpus.

The Republican flunkeys, one after another, tell us that we should elect their man because “Washington is broken!”  Uh, yeh…YOU’VE been in charge for the last eight years.  No wonder it’s a mess!

Funny also that the bedrock American political culture, even at the RNC, seems to be Democratic:  references to profiles in courage (JFK), the glass ceiling being shattered by Hillary and Geraldine, calls to service (FDR)…etc.

Keep calm…