Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Pledge to America

You'd think Republicans and Democrats have such genuine philosophical differences that they could have a political debate about those differences.

Instead they tell lies about their own positions and the other's positions. Makes me think both sides' elected reps lack the courage of their convictions.

As a Democrat I find plenty on my side that's egregious--particularly about illegal immigration and public employee unions. But the jaw-dropping whoppers emitted en masse by the Republicans beggar the efforts of the Democrats to bamboozle voters.

The latest is the Republicans' "Pledge to America." tackled this on their website. I don't always agree with them but they do strive to call it as they see it and not get involved in ideology--just the facts, ma'am--and if they don't always succeed, at the very least they certainly criticize Democrats often. So it's not like watching something utterly one-sided like Fox News or the Huffington website.

They factchecked the "Pledge to America" here. This is their executive summary:

  • It declares that “the only parts of the economy expanding are government and our national debt.” Not true. So far this year government employment has declined slightly, while private sector employment has increased by 763,000 jobs.
  • It says that “jobless claims continue to soar,” when in fact they are down eight percent from their worst levels.
  • It repeats a bogus assertion that the Internal Revenue Service may need to expand by 16,500 positions, an inflated estimate based on false assumptions and guesswork.
  • It claims the stimulus bill is costing $1 trillion, considerably more than the $814 billion, 10-year price tag currently estimated by nonpartisan congressional budget experts.
  • It says Obama’s tax proposals would raise taxes on “roughly half the small business income in America,” an exaggeration. Much of the income the GOP is counting actually comes from big businesses making over $50 million a year.
These are not minor errors. Nor are they differences in opinion. They are lies. Conscious, manipulative, baldfaced lies.

They didn't have to say these lies to mount a conservative critique of this Democratic administration. Yet they chose to, and to do so across the board, in a disciplined reiteration of the lying talking points of this "Pledge to America" by nearly all Republican congressmen, spokespersons, pundits and right wing "journalists." Turn on the radio, turn on Fox News, look at press conferences--where are the conservatives denouncing the unconscionable lies in this fake Pledge?

And why does the Republican Pledge--42 pages long--contain not one word about corporate responsibility, alternative energy, or the environment. To the Republicans, therefore, CEOs invariably behave in the interests of America, we don't need any form of energy except what we get from oil, coal, and nuclear power, and the environment has no problems. Don't worry, be happy. It's Morning in America!

Real conservatives should be disheartened. Instead they seem to tacitly approve of whatever means will get their tribe back in power.

Well, they've made a pact with the devil.

As for the Pledge--the wording is incomplete. What it really is, is this:

Our Pledge to America's Billionaires:

We'll do whatever we can short of physical violence to get back in power so we can serve your interests as we did during the Bush era. We pledge to do everything in our power to turn our government into a government of the billionaires, for the billionaires, by the billionaires--in particular to keep working on turning America's demographics into those of a third world country, with a tiny, hyper-wealthy ruling elite and everyone else running like a hamster in a hamster wheel just to stay in place.

Replacing the stars on the American flag with dollar signs will take more time, but we're working on it.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Lying almost without lying

The Republicans in Congress are united in trying to get the Bush tax cuts made permanent instead of being allowed to lapse.

A key argument they make is that many small business owners have incomes over $250,000 a year, and so taxing them more is a "job killer." Note the "job killer" is the GOP's favorite catchphrase this year, for obvious reasons.

But only 3% of small business owners have incomes that high. And as labor pundit Robert Reich observes, most of those "small businesses" are actually individuals with few or no employees, who've incorporated themselves as "small businesses" for tax purposes. Think doctors, lawyers, investment bankers.

And because they hire few or no people regardless of whether their income goes up or down, taxing them has zero impact on the number of jobs out there.

Moreover, letting the Bush tax cuts lapse returns us to the tax structure of the Clinton years--in which far more jobs were created than in the Bush tax cut years.

But apart from the particulars of this argument, see how they lie? They classify as "small businesses" entities that aren't what most people think of when you use that term. BTW they also include as "small businesses" hedge funds with billionaire managers and Price Waterhouse to boot. But if you torture the term "small business" they aren't exactly lying.

But then they build an authentic lie on top of that deception: that restoring Clinton era taxes would be a "job killer." I can only assume they're hoping to trigger such fear and anger in voters that they lose their powers of reason. That's certainly worked before often enough.

And in fact the real "job killer" is supply-side voodoo economics. Giving rich people more has created lots of jobs--in China, India, Malaysia and elsewhere as they've offshored manufacturing. And rich people's own job-creating consumerism is microscopic compared to that of a bunch of middle class people if they, in aggregate, had the same income as that rich person.

Consumer spending overall is down today because ALL of the increase in worker productivity since around 1980 has been appropriated by America's billionaire class once you adjust for inflation. So people are working harder for the same or less than before.

As was also true in 1929--the last time the disparity in wages was this great. That disparity went down and stayed down until the late 1970s, but has been increasing ever since--and still is.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The rich do get richer and the rest of us do get poorer

Today PBS reported on a new analysis of income inequality in America. Turns out the recession has increased it "to the widest margins since the census began counting." Some factoids:

1. Last year 20% of Americans (those who make more than $100K/yr.) got 49% of all income in the country.

2. Last year 20% of Americans (the bottom fifth this time) got 3.4% of all income here.

3. This is the biggest disparity between rich and poor of all modern industrialized nations.

4. This is recent--it only started in the late 1970s. Before then, from 1929 to 1979, incomes were becoming more equal.

5. This is because the gains in productivity that corporations have enjoyed have been kept by top management and the investor class instead of being shared with the workers whose increased productivity produced the gains. Consequently real wages of most Americans have stagnated while income of the richest has soared. The .5% richest Americans have appropriated most of the increase.

6. And all this has been accompanied by a huge surge in poverty.

7. Income opportunities for workers without college degrees have sagged.

8. Immigration has not been a major factor except for the 10% of Americans who didn't graduate from high school. College grads are unaffected by immigration.

9. The sagging wages of lower and middle class people was obscured by home equity borrowing for decades; now that that's impossible for many, the true consequences of the appropriation of so much income from so many by so few over the last several decades is finally becoming obvious.

Reported on PBS News Hour today. You can see the report via podcast.

"I'ts the rich wot gets the gravy--it's the poor wot gits the blame."

Monday, September 27, 2010

To look for America

As I said in an earlier post, my spouse and I spent most of September camping in the Yosemite high country, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Grand Canyon National Park (north rim and south rim), Hoover Dam, Death Valley National Park, Diaz Lake County Park in Lone Pine CA, and finally at the Fallen Leaf Campground by Lake Tahoe. We also spent a few days in Las Vegas coming and going, including seeing the Cirque du Soleil's show "O."

This is a political blog so I won't go into the travel aspects except to say Zion Park should be on everyone's bucket list. The combo of riparian woodland and wildly carved cliffs was just magical. I actually liked it more than Grand Canyon, grand as it was.

Politically--it drove home to me what a fantastic country I had the foresight (so to speak) to be born into. We encountered innumerable tourists from other countries who'd traveled here to sample these wonders. And we ourselves traveled in the company of an Indian from Pune, a Russian from Moscow (both now American citizens), and a pair of recent immigrants from Belarus. It was fun seeing our wonderful natural landscape through their dazzled eyes, and helping them all learn the ins and outs of camping in America.

One thing that surprised the Eastern Europeans was the fact that we could leave our stuff in our campsites, go adventuring all day....and our stuff would still be there when we got back. That was new for them. And in general they were surprised at how easily Americans struck up conversations with anyone and everyone, and generally tried to be helpful to each other. These are precious traits to be nurtured in our country.

And I hope that before Americans reading this plan their next big trip they'll consider what's available here in this country. I've traveled around the world, and our scuba diving habit takes us abroad often, but there really is a lot here not just to see but to marvel at. Our travels took us from 190 feet below sea level to nearly 10,000 feet above sea level, camping mostly between 6,000 and 9,000 feet above sea level, under skies so full of stars it was hard to make out the constellations. Nor do you have to be some rugged Man O' the Woods. Most parks we went to had hot showers and real bathrooms, and modern tents and sleeping bags can be easy to set up and comfortable on chilly nights. And where we went we experienced exactly zero problems with biting insects or larger pests. Didn't see or hear from a single bear, for example.

Now we're back with thousands of photos to go through and many rich memories. When you're married to someone in the other party, as I am, it's especially helpful to have these experiences together--to remind us of the things that unite us two, and which should unite us all.

E pluribus unum.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Winning elections by making the other side lose

Ostensibly each party's goal in an election is to get out the vote for their side.

But remember the story about the two campers in Alaska who're awakened one night by a ferocious grizzly bear poking its head into the tent? As the bear roars, one of the guys starts pulling on his tennis shoes. The other guy says incredulously, "What are you doing that for. You know you can't outrun a grizzly bear." The first guy replies "I don't have to outrun the bear."

Ditto in elections. To come in first, all you have to do is make sure the other guy comes in second. That is, you don't have to get out your vote if you can get the other side's rank and file to not vote.

Southern polling quizzes and poll taxes of yore were the obvious way to do this. Along with notices posted in black neighborhoods telling people to vote on the wrong day or in the wrong place. Or, as in Ohio a few elections ago, they put fewer polling places in places that were majority Democrat, resulting in 10 hour waits to vote in some places, and people abandoning their quest for enfranchisement right and left.

But the best way is through adroit use of propaganda--witlessly aided by the other side's ideological purists--to portray the other side's people as either stupid, corrupt, or simply "not of our tribe." Showing Kerry windsurfing was a perfect example. Guys don't windsurf. Metrosexuals do. You wouldn't want a metrosexual to marry your sister, would you?

This is also always part of a party's backup plan--that is, even if I can't convince you to love my guys, if I can convince you to not love yours, you just might catch the A's game on voting day instead of taking time out to go to the polls.

So as you watch this campaign's hijinks, pay close attention to how each party tries to get the other side's faithful to be, well, faithless.

And remember: the people who voted for Nader elected Bush. They thought there was no difference between Gore and Bush. Does any sane human being on this planet think so today?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

See America!

My spouse and I are setting out on a camping trip to see the Yosemite High Country, Vegas, Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon North Rim and South Rim, and probably Death Valley.

We're traveling with two new citizens from Russia and India, and a couple from Belarus who won the green card lottery. These are the kinds of immigrants we want--an Oracle program manager, an art therapist, a Google programmer, and another programmer. The Belarussian couple will be seeing all these things for the first time--they got here in February--and the wife is a pretty serious photographer.

It's going to be fun seeing them all seeing these places. We'll be back September 20, and I look forward to sharing some highlights from this trip with readers of this blog.

Meanwhile keep thinking, please. Don't fall for political ploys just because they're promoted by people who claim they're on your side. The folks who peddle ploys are always on their own side. And always give the devil his due. For example, I thought Bush the 2nd was a staggeringly bad president. But he was a good family man, and he's comported himself with dignity since leaving office, and done some worth charitable stuff with Bill Clinton.

Now to see just how much more stuff we can stuff into our little camper...