Thursday, August 30, 2012

Pulverize the Poor -- Minimize the Middle -- Voucherize and Privatize - the Republican Plan for the Future.

We were a nation that was the strongest in the world because it had the largest and strongest middle class and therefore no class warfare leading to violence.  We were a nation that declared war on poverty in 1965 and within fifteen years had reduced the number of children living in poverty by half.  We were a nation that measured its middle class in three sub-classes: upper, middle and lower. We have become a nation of the poor (including working poor) and the rich (including super rich).  There is now a smaller middle class that struggles to send their children to college and keep up with the Joneses in such a way that many have drifted into the working poor.  They work and earn a salary so they don’t qualify for the revised social safety net programs that the Republicans in the past quarter century have left in place. But their wages which did not increase in real dollars in those same years are insufficient to make ends meet.

Now the radical right wing tea party Republicans in the name of Hooverian individualism would create a two class society of the super rich and everyone else.  They would voucherize Medicare - a successful national health insurance policy for the elderly. They would privatize social security so our senior citizens would be dependent totally upon 401K’s and other private pensions (with public employee pensions further restricted and private pensions unregulated). They would  in effect pulverize the poor whose numbers would increase and we would surrender in the war against poverty condemning generations of young people yet unborn to the lowly peasant like status that was their lot in the 19th century world. The radical right wing tea party republican ideas would minimize further the size of the middle class.  I cannot predict whether we’re looking at ultimately a 10% middle class but likely not larger.  And that middle class would really be working poor holding their heads above water.  They would be trapped in houses if they were lucky enough to own them - trapped because there would be no buyers and the dollars they could get for those properties would be insufficient for them to buy anything else.  So we can expect a poor and a middle class of renters.  Of course that’s fine by the right wing radical tea party republicans who represent the corporate landlords.

The liberal progressive idea was to lift the poor (like boats) as the tide of prosperity rose.  Even the great conservative President  of the twentieth century Ronald Reagan, a child of the lower middle class, saw that when he introduced the earned income credit which gave money to the working poor to help them maintain a lower middle class life style. The consensus reached in America by the 1980's was that the government would provide health insurance and social security and disability insurance and unemployment insurance and the working people of America would contribute into those programs from their paychecks in some cases matched by their employers.  Now that thoughtful and successful approach, which also allowed the reach to invest and make money (they’ve certainly done well in the past quarter century) is under attack by a bevy of right wing fanatics who spout outmoded clich├ęs from Adam Smith (18th century) and Herbert Hoover and advocate the long discredited “trickle down theory”. 
America veered off the right track toward the future when the republican dominated Supreme Court helped George Bush steal the Presidential election in 2000 (remember by the way he was not the choice of the  American voters).  And now they cry that we are on the wrong track.  Yet their approach since President Obama was elected is better we should crash and jump the track than we should resume our journey toward a land of progress.  And while most of their leaders have benefited personally from federal government programs and largesse now they would balance the federal budgets on the backs of those who still need those programs.

The poor may always be with us.  But so will there be those who believe that it is the obligation of others in society to feed the hungry, cloth the naked and tend the sick. And there will be those who strive to build an America where the top 5% are balanced by a bottom 5% with the 90% in between in a successful middle class, assisted when assistance is needed, insured when insurance is needed.

The Republicans call for a second great American century.  Let it be a century that restores the middle class and rebuilds an America for all.  Not a second century where the few enjoy the luxuries and live off the labor of the many.

30 August 2012

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The American War Between the Centuries: the 19th versus the 20th.

The election of 2012 presents yet another battle in the great American culture war.  This one takes place on the Presidential campaign grounds.  It is in fact a battle of the centuries.  A contest between the America of the 19th century and that of the 20th. 

The 19th century was one of progress in economic and geographic terms:  Manifest Destiny, the conquering of the West and the growth of an industrial nation.  In the middle of the century a horrific Civil War ended the question of whether one nation or a few would be built out of the America that became free of its colonial parent in the 18th century.  And it ostensibly settled the question of whether all Americans would be free.  No longer a house divided against itself now one nation it would become a nation of the very rich and everyone else.  The immigrants providing cheap labor while the robber barons controlled industries and through bribery the government.

The 20th century began with Theodore Roosevelt’s assertion of world leadership and his use of the bully pulpit of the Presidency to challenge the power of the control of the industrial magnates.  In 1912, only one hundred years ago, the American voters faced three progressive candidates.  Roosevelt may have been more progressive on social issues and Taft a bit more cautious on economic while the winner Woodrow Wilson ultimately adopted all the visionary planks of the Progressive platform - women’s suffrage, world organization for peace, restrictions on large corporations and government ownership of the railroads.  From 1932 to 1980 there developed in America a consensus, ratified in the election of 1964, that the federal government of this one nation would now pursue policies that would enable the vast majority of people to be in a well off and productive Middle Class.  There would still be the rich (only a few very rich) and of course the poor we would always have with us.  In 1965 believing that the society had coalesced around the progressive ideal the President declared war on poverty and determined to end the permanence of the lower class.  Even as Reagan and Bush 1 followed by Clinton pursued changes they reformed the various New Deal programs they did not gut nor repeal them.

Then came Newt Gingrich followed by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and they began to fight for that old time religion - less government and more of everyone out for them self.  Now the Republican party and the ticket of Romney and Ryan personifies that 19th century view, using the rhetoric of the 18th century and the founding fathers they call for the return to a two class America: the rich (and by that I mean the very rich) and the poor - room for only a small middle class which will be mostly upper lower not lower upper.  Let those who can afford it receive education at secondary and college levels; let families take care of their own elderly so they have to choose between feeding their children or getting medicine for their parents.  On the international scene let America practice a weird combination of neo-isolationism which means we only get involved where Americans can make a dollar and a unilateralism that says we will lead other nations and if they don’t want to follow we go it alone.  We will replace the Rockefellers and the JP Morgans with the Koch brothers and the super rich Wall Street financiers.

Obama and Biden and the Democratic Party carry the banner of the 20th century and the Progressive polices that built the great middle class.  They herald the belief that government was instituted by the governed to secure the rights that yes came from nature and natures’ God.  They support a government that has the dual Lincolnian tasks of helping those who need help and releasing the better angels of men’s nature.  They favor a society where higher education and quality health care are available to all; where men and women will be judged not by the color of their skin, nor the contents of their wallet or stock portfolio but by the nature of their character.  And, they see an America that will lead the democratic and freedom yearning nations of the world into a century of peace and respect for human rights.  Those human rights that include the right of women to make their own reproductive choices and for people of both genders to decide their personal lifestyle and find love and companionship without government imposed restrictions.  It is an even older time religion one that calls for tolerance of all beliefs and restrictions on no one's actions unless those actions harm or threaten others.

So the culture war becomes the focus of the battle of the American centuries.  Will this country continue on the road of the progressive 20th century or veer in another direction as Bush-Cheney tired to shift us until we fell into the ditch of economic depression.  The Obama-Biden administration has lifted this country out of the ditch -- now Romney-Ryan would push most of us off a cliff.

This will likely not be the last battle of the war between the centuries.  On the political front it will be replayed in 2016 and perhaps even in 2020.  In both previous centuries it took the first quarter of the century to settle the direction of the next half.  But this is a significant battle in the culture war.  Presidential elections have often symbolized the countries direction, e.g. Jackson, with an interruption with Lincoln, and the return to 19th century normalcy with Cleveland.  In the twentieth century the delaying of Wilsonian progressivism by Harding/Coolidge, the great victories of FDR, the acceptance of  the New Deal by Eisenhower and the fulfillment of that agenda by LBJ, ratified by the Nixon/Carter years.

At some point in the next decade there will arise in our country someone who can speak to the proponents of one century with credibility and perspicacity and lead them into a consensus with the proponents of the other century.  At the end of the 19th century McKinley actually convinced the urban poor and immigrants to accept the values of that century.  But I would prefer if we had another leader like the aristocrat who in his wheel chair lifted America off its’ knees and saved capitalism in this country and democracy in the world.  Or, perhaps the southerner, who in unmistakable southern accent, forged a consensus to bring our nation into the sunshine of civil rights for black and white.  Whenever this nation has needed such a unifying leader one has emerged even if only for a brief time and like a good pilot set the course of the ship of state aright.

It may not happen in this election nor in the next few years.  But that it will happen I have no doubt.  It is as certain as that the sun rises that this nation will yet have its finest hour.   And, that will be when America leads the world into a future of multicultural toleration and global peace. 

24 August 2012

Saturday, August 18, 2012


So a Republican judge refuses to enjoin the PA voter ID law.  Big Surprise!  The Republicans across the country: governors, legislators, congress people and judges are united in their determination to defeat President Obama and the Democrats seeking re-election.  Since the 1994 Contract for America Newt Gingrich triumph the Republican Party has become a monolithic group of political power seekers now masquerading behind the false image of deficit hawks to appeal to and co-opt the Tea party.  They are social issue right wing religious radicals whose economic policies seek to protect the very wealthy. 

Joseph Stalin is reported to have said it doesn't matter who votes what matters is who counts the votes.  And the Republican party in 1876 and 2000 proved that true by controlling the vote counting in Florida and the “re-counting” by Congress and even using the Supreme Court as they had (often overlooked) in 1876 to give the imprimatur of legitimacy to their stolen elections.

Now the Republicans are concerned that stealing the election through Election Day shenanigans, like machine tampering or false counting, won’t do the job.  So in 2012 they seek to steal the election by suppressing the vote of Democratic voters and in effect stealing the election at the polls.

There are a number of ways to suppress the vote and steal an election and the Republicans are using all of them although not all in all states.

1.      The unnecessary voter photo ID laws (replacing the more rational simple id) is the most widespread and will probably be the most effective.  Many senior citizens do not have birth certificates and if they no longer drive they do not have drivers' licenses.  Without their birth certificates they can’t get non-driver ID cards.  Before Paul Ryan the suppression of senior citizens was seen as a gamble by Republicans; now it may seem a necessity. Seniors students and the poor don’t have the type of photo id the states are requiring (only certain types of state issued photo id with expiration dates).  A photo id from your employer or your church not good enough   People with the best voting records in their precincts are going to find their identity questioned.  Many states have various laws and procedure to prevent identity stealing on Election Day and those methods have worked so well that no one can find the abuse that this so called needed photo id prevents.

            2.   Changing polling place locations as close to the election has possible is known to reduce the turnout at those polls.  This was done extensively                 in Ohio in ‘08 and can be expected to be used focusing on heavily Democratic voting polls in the last week in October.

            3.  Combining polling place locations and reducing the number of polling places. In the name of fiscal efficiency will also suppress the vote as the          further the poll is form a voters house the less likely the voter is travel to o vote.

            4.  Those states that enacted early voting to increase the voter turnout are now restricting early voting   in ways to suppress Democrat and minority                 vote. Ending early voting a week before the election, the week with the greatest voter interest, will reduce the turnout of those least likely to
                  vote. In Ohio they blatantly reduced the number of hours of early voting in heavily Democratic counties and increased them in Republican
                  counties -   then responding to public outrage they decided to reduce them in all counties - the Republican version of being fair.

            5.  Purging voters from the rolls based on unchecked assumptions and sometimes incomplete data will also lower the voter turnout.  Florida has             done that by claiming they can identify probable non- citizens on the voter rolls and they purge them unless they re-register. The evidence
                shows that a large majority of these purged voters are citizens duly registered and past voters.  The time to prevent a false registration is before
                that   registration is accepted and the registrant is allowed to vote.  After that purging should be done on a case by case basis.  The federally
                allowed (under the Bush HAVA law) purge of those who fail to vote in two Presidential elections thus leaving the presumption that they had
                moved - is usually checked by a mailing.

            6 Making the use of provisional ballots more complicated so the counting of those ballots will be minimal.  A provisional ballot was to be given to         voters who were not on the voter lists.  You will see some states printing voter lists as early as they can so the newest voters will not be on them         and then in voter ID states the provisional ballot voters will have a few days to get photo id into the county courthouse in order to have their               paper ballot counted. Of course if he election officials print only a minimal number of provisional ballots not all those eligible to use them will be         able to do so.

            7. The catch-all way to steal an election is to change as many of the particular details of how the election is conducted from the last election so as        to confuse and discourage voters from participating.  In Pennsylvania, for example, online application for voter registration and for absentee              ballots has been stopped and new voters and absentee voters need to go back to the old way of filling out applications with ink and paper and                mailing or bringing them in to county election board offices. These steps had been allowed online.  Other changes that could be imposed with        varying excuses are to change precinct boundary lines which move some voters to new polling places without changing the polling place.  Also
                by merging precincts and precinct election boards and shifting personnel around you can confuse voters who have voted often before.  Voters
                who vote are creatures of habit any change will throw them and all surveys show that Democrats for some reason are less cognizant of changes
                before Election Day and therefore more thrown.

So we have reached a point in America where parties in control of enough of the election machinery can now blatantly seek to steal elections not by rigging the voting equipment nor fixing the count but, as occurred in the South after Reconstruction, by preventing large numbers of voters from voting.  So we face a plutocracy of super rich oligarchs in power by preventing the people from defeating them.  Only the outrage of those who still can vote and whatever sense of justice they have can end this by defeating these anti-democracy forces in this election and making their efforts futile.

18 August 2012

Saturday, August 11, 2012


Presumptive Republican candidate for President Mitt Romney has announced his choice for the Vice-Presidential nomination, Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.  Whether a choice based on the Presidential candidates comfort level, or a Hail Mary pass due to low standing in the polls, or another cave-in to the right wing of his party, Romney’s choice is reminiscent of the recent McCain selection of Sarah Palin.  He has gone for youth, excitement and right wing charisma rather than solid ability to run the country if anything should happen to him in the unfortunate event that he became President.

Paul Ryan now joins some impressive Republican lists.  There is that list of great Republican Vice Presidents who made such a mark on our country’s history starting with Hannibal Hamlin and through Schuyler Colfax and Levi P Morton, Garret Hobart and Charles Curtis to Dan Quayle.

Then of course there is that list of Republican Vice Presidential candidates who didn’t win and went on to become outstanding leaders of their party and nation starting with William L Dayton and going on through John Logan and Charles McNairy and William E. Miller (a NY Congressman).

There is one list that Ryan would try to get on: the list of Republican candidates who lost and became the Republican Presidential candidate - only one on that list Bob Dole VP candidate in 1976 who was tapped by his party 20 years later to run for President and lose against Bill Clinton.

There are two lists Ryan isn’t going to get on.  The list of Republican Vice Presidents who become President - Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge and Chester Arthur are that list. To get on that list the Republican ticket has to win this year and then something untoward has to happen to the President.

There is a list that no Republican is on Vice Presidential candidates who lose and go on to become President of the United States.  There is only one Democrat on that list - Franklin Delano Roosevelt the champion medal winner of our Presidents.

History aside, Cong. Paul Ryan now has the opportunity to help this country by assuring the defeat of Mitt Romney.  With his open attack against Medicare - and despite his attempts to obfuscate the matter his plan to privatize and voucherize Medicare changes that system from   national health insurance for the elderly to assistance in paying for private insurance. Ryan’s plan kills Medicare as we know it.  And, left to his own deserts he would end Medicaid by letting each state decide if they even want that program.   Let no one misunderstand Cong. Ryan’s true intentions. If successful in gutting Medicare he and the radical right wing tea party Republicans will again raise their cry to privatize Social Security and end it as social insurance for the elderly into a fund to infuse more capital into the stock market. 
The Republican party of 2012 unlike General Eisenhower’s Republicans is hell-bent to undo the pillars of the New Deal - Great Society of the 20th century.  Privatize social security,  voucherize Medicare, return Medicaid to the states, end assistance to preventative health care for women such as Planned Parenthood and WIC, end Pell grants, stop environmental and health and safety regulations, bust labor unions, and replace public schools for all with private schools for the few.  All this is in the guise of solving our fiscal problems while reducing taxes on the wealthy to minuscule percentages and continuing the world’s largest military budget without a comparable enemy in site (although the Republicans would have us view Iran as that enemy since most Americans have figured out that China is out to beat us economically no militarily).

Wake Up America!  WAKE UP!  This may just be our last chance to prevent Rep. Ryan from pushing all of us over the cliff not just Grandma. 

11 August 2012