Class Warfare Blog

December 7, 2011

Not Your Grandfather’s Republican Party

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 9:01 am
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President Obama’s speech yesterday echoed a speech made by Theodore Roosevelt August 31, 1910 in Osawatomie, Kansas. Roosevelt, having failed to get the Republican nomination to run for president in 1912 created the Bull Moose Party and ran as a progressive. That today’s Republican Party cannot claim to have T.R. as an ideological descendant is made clear from the following quotes from that 1912 speech.

“The National Government belongs to the whole American people, and where the whole American people are interested, that interest can be guarded effectively only by the National Government. The betterment which we seek must be accomplished, I believe, mainly through the National Government.”

“‘Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.’” Abraham Lincoln Quotation

“The absence of effective State, and, especially, national, restraint upon unfair money-getting has tended to create a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power. The prime need to is to change the conditions which enable these men to accumulate power which it is not for the general welfare that they should hold or exercise. We grudge no man a fortune which represents his own power and sagacity, when exercised with entire regard to the welfare of his fellows.”

“I believe that the officers, and, especially, the directors, of corporations should be held personally responsible when any corporation breaks the law.”

“No man should receive a dollar unless that dollar has been fairly earned. Every dollar received should represent a dollar’s worth of service rendered—not gambling in stocks, but service rendered. The really big fortune, the swollen fortune, by the mere fact of its size, acquires qualities which differentiate it in kind as well as in degree from what is possessed by men of relatively small means. Therefore, I believe in a graduated income tax on big fortunes, and in another tax which is far more easily collected and far more effective-a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes, properly safeguarded against evasion, and increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate.” (This was prior to the adoption of an income tax.)

“One of the fundamental necessities in a representative government such as ours is to make certain that the men to whom the people delegate their power shall serve the people by whom they are elected, and not the special interests. I believe that every national officer, elected or appointed, should be forbidden to perform any service or receive any compensation, directly or indirectly, from interstate corporations; and a similar provision could not fail to be useful within the States.”

“The people of the United States suffer from periodical financial panics to a degree substantially unknown to the other nations, which approach us in financial strength. There is no reason why we should suffer what they escape. It is of profound importance that our financial system should be promptly investigated, and so thoroughly and effectively revised as to make it certain that hereafter our currency will no longer fail at critical times to meet our needs.”

“The essence of any struggle for healthy liberty has always been, and must always be, to take from some one man or class of men the right to enjoy power, or wealth, or position, or immunity, which has not been earned by service to his or their fellows. That is what you fought for in the Civil War, and that is what we strive for now.”

“We grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well used. It is not even enough that it should have gained without doing damage to the community. We should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community.”

“A broken promise is bad enough in private life. It is worse in the field of politics. No man is worth his salt in public life who makes on the stump a pledge which he does not keep after election; and, if he makes such a pledge and does not keep it, hunt him out of public life.”

“In every wise struggle for human betterment one of the main objects, and often the only object, has been to achieve in large measure equality of opportunity.”

“One of the chief factors in progress is the destruction of special privilege. The essence of any struggle for healthy liberty has always been, and must always be, to take from some one man or class of men the right to enjoy power, or wealth, or position, or immunity, which has not been earned by service to his or their fellows. That is what you fought for in the Civil War, and that is what we strive for now.”

“At many stages in the advance of humanity, this conflict between the men who possess more than they have earned and the men who have earned more than they possess is the central condition of progress. In our day it appears as the struggle of freemen to gain and hold the right of self-government as against the special interests, who twist the methods of free government into machinery for defeating the popular will.”

“I stand for the square deal. But when I say that I am for the square deal, I mean not merely that I stand for fair play under the present rules of the game, but that I stand for having those rules changed so as to work for a more substantial equality of opportunity and of reward for equally good service. (. . .) When I say I want a square deal for the poor man, I do not mean that I want a square deal for the man who remains poor because he has not got the energy to work for himself.”

“. . . this means that our government, National and State, must be freed from the sinister influence or control of special interests.”

“. . . every special interest is entitled to justice, but not one is entitled to a vote in Congress, to a voice on the bench, or to representation in any public office. The Constitution guarantees protection to property, and we must make that promise good. But it does not give the right of suffrage to any corporation.”

“The true friend of property, the true conservative, is he who insists that property shall be the servant and not the master of the commonwealth; who insists that the creature of man’s making shall be the servant and not the master of the man who made it. The citizens of the United States must effectively control the mighty commercial forces which they have called into being.”

“It is necessary that laws should be passed to prohibit the use of corporate funds directly or indirectly for political purposes; it is still more necessary that such laws should be thoroughly enforced. Corporate expenditures for political purposes, and especially such expenditures by public-service corporations, have supplied one of the principal sources of corruption in our political affairs.”

“It has become entirely clear that we must have government supervision of the capitalization, not only of public-service corporations, including, particularly, railways, but of all corporations doing an interstate business.”

“I should be heartily ashamed of any American who did not try to make the American government act as justly toward the other nations in international relations as he himself would act toward any individual in private relations. I should be heartily ashamed to see us wrong a weaker power, and I should hang my head forever if we tamely suffered wrong from a stronger power.”

“Nothing is more true than that excess of every kind is followed by reaction; a fact which should be pondered by reformer and reactionary alike. We are face to face with new conceptions of the relations of property to human welfare, chiefly because certain advocates of the rights of property as against the rights of men have been pushing their claims too far. The man who wrongly holds that every human right is secondary to his profit must now give way to the advocate of human welfare, who rightly maintains that every man holds his property subject to the general right of the community to regulate its use to whatever degree the public welfare may require it.”

“If our political institutions were perfect, they would absolutely prevent the political domination of money in any part of our affairs. . . . It is particularly important that all moneys received or expended for campaign purposes should be publicly accounted for, not only after election, but before election as well. Political action must be made simpler, easier, and freer from confusion for every citizen. I believe that the prompt removal of unfaithful or incompetent public servants should be made easy and sure in whatever way experience shall show to be most expedient in any given class of cases.”

Why has the Republican Party gone so far astray that it is in direct conflict with the likes of Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln? Lincoln I could vote for. T.R. I could vote for. Newt Gingrich? Michele Bachmann? Mitt Romney? Egad.

December 6, 2011

Why Do Republicans Hate Labor?

Filed under: Economics,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 8:41 am
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I have written on this topic before, essentially referring back to The New Deal and Republican’s hatred of it and all it stands for, and support for labor was a keystone of the New Deal. But I don’t think the “truth” can be captured in a bottle and nailed down on a page or in a single book. My thinking continues.

One of the effects of President’s Reagan’s deal to lower the highest federal marginal tax rate from 70% on highest earnings down below 40% is that the now infamous “1%” of the country is no longer just old money and is now heavily larded with corporate types. Think of old school Republicans and you come up with a mix, certainly war heroes, but also quite a few scions of old money. (Think Kennedys and Rockefellers.) Modern Republicans are more corporate. (Think Tom Delay (pest exterminator) and Mitt Romney (leveraged takeover specialist).)

Interestingly in modern corporate management circles, at least those on the creative leading edge, many are advocating more worker freedom, more control of workers over their own workplaces, and other “perks” that encourage creative workers to stay with their corporation. These conditions are also necessary for the creativity needed in fast paced marketplaces. These are the methods of the management teams at Google, eBay, Apple, Zappos, etc. This is in stark contrast to old school management which considered labor to be shiftless and lazy, that if their workplace were not highly regulated and regimented and supervised, the workers would slack off and be unproductive.

And, as one observes the reality of the situation, as businesses transition to more worker-led workplaces, worker productivity continues to climb. Less regulated, less regimented, and less supervised workplaces are becoming more and more and more productive.

So, why are Republicans taking cheap shots at labor (If you are poor, blame yourself. Shut up and get a job!) and trying to disempower labor unions? I think you can trace much of it to two causes. The business types attracted to Republican leadership are the low hanging fruit, so to speak. (Think Herman Cain and Mitt Romney.) These are not cutting edge business executives who see labor as the source of their wealth. And, the key constituency of the Republican electorate are white, male working class people, precisely the people who have been treated as being untrustworthy by their employers for decades, but since they have been hard-working and honorable, it is easy for them to think “those other people” are shiftless and lazy and looking for a handout. Republican presidential candidates cater to this audience (among others, of course).

Blaming the working poor for their own state is a common political tactic. It will only stop working when people wake up and recognize it for the pandering it is. American workers are by far the most productive on the planet as many businesses are finding out the hard way. When they shift jobs overseas, they get a stock price bump because analysts tell investors that this is “a good thing.” But China’s workers wages are approaching 60% of ours and when you add the shipping costs and the lower productivity in, the gains are not as big as corporate executives expected. Companies are starting to invest in American labor and will be benefiting accordingly. Those that do not will pay a price. The price currently being paid is based on the fact that 70% of our entire economy is internal and since so many workers are out of work or have taking lower paying jobs in desperation, there isn’t enough domestic demand for goods and services to pull out of the hole left by the Great Recession. Unfortunately corporati0ns are taking the opportunity to depress wages and other labor costs and are raking in record profits, which leads me to the topic of the morality of commerce, my next topic.

December 5, 2011

The Corruption Papers, No. 4, Opinions on Science and Technology

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 2:25 pm
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Once again we have politicians chiming in on scientific matters, namely Republican candidates for the presidency having to state their opinions on the two bug bear Republican issues: evolution and climate change. Of course there are also the issues of stem cell research and abortion and the viability and safety of energy technologies (like “clean coal”).

It is bad enough that we have clergymen chiming in on science and technology issues, clergy who clearly do not understand the science and often don’t understand their own religion. But shouldn’t we expect our politicians to understand, at least rudimentarily, the topic in question. Recently a Florida State Senator introduced a bill there to include “Intelligent Design” into the school curriculum along side the theory of evolution. One of his comments was: “If we are descended from apes, why are apes still here?” He apparently didn’t read the posting on the “Answers in Genesis” website that tells creationists to never use that argument (because it makes you sound like an idiot). Anybody who makes such an argument surely does not understand the theory of evolution. And how much credence should we give to someone’s opinion who clearly doesn’t understand the issue in question? (How about “none.”)

Similarly, shouldn’t our federal politicians understand the issue of global climate change in order to have an opinion on it? The amazing thing is our presidential candidates aren’t even asked about their understanding during their debates. Shouldn’t we expect these people to know something about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, its history for example, in order to have an opinion on what we need to do? Or is it just another you-becky-becky-stan-stan? Shouldn’t they be at least capable of understanding these issues? And should we be quizzing them on their ability to do so?

Why aren’t the following questions asked?
● Please share with us your understanding of the theory of evolution.
● Please share with us your understanding of the theory of global climate change.
● You have advocated “clean coal” technology. Can you explain what that is?
● You have advocated extending the leases on overaged nuclear power plants. Can you explain what technologies are in use to prevent these from failing like other old nuclear plants, as most recently in Japan?
● You have advocated cutting corporate taxes. Can you describe the current state of corporate taxation, what will happen if taxes are indeed cut, and why you believe so?
● You have advocated the inclusion of “Intelligent Design” to be taught alongside the theory of evolution. Can you describe the scientific basis for the theory of The Intelligent Design Theory?

Why do we respect opinions of our politicians that are so clearly bought and paid for by lobbyists and corporate interests, especially when they haven’t even done enough homework to explain their position rationally?

Maybe Donald Trump will ask the tough questions.

December 4, 2011

What Mystery?

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 9:08 am
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Is anyone mystified by the fact that the U.S. Congress’s approval rating is 9%? Why is Congress so dysfunctional? It is almost as if someone has a campaign to undermine any faith in government at all!

Outrageous, you reply! Is it? Isn’t there a political party that has been blaming all of our problems on the government for the last 40 years, beginning with President Ronald Reagan? Isn’t there a political party using the filibuster rule in the Senate to block anything of substance from happening? Isn’t there a party claiming (erroneously) that the Founding Fathers favored small government and that our government needs to be made small enough that it could be drowned in a bathtub?

Certainly our government is far from perfect and has systemic problems associated with it that need addressing, but without government to buttress the general population from the excesses of business we would really be in the soup. But, still, there is one party that wants to do away with all of that government regulation! Some in that party go so far as to advocate eliminate the Department of Energy, the department that regulates and oversees nuclear energy businesses. Are you willing to put the handling of nuclear waste into the hands of corporations alone? Are you willing to put the regulation of nuclear power plants in the hands of corporations alone, the same corporations who are applying to extend the operating licenses of nuclear power plants that have already been extended beyond the engineered lifetime of those plants? (Was Japan no lesson at all?)

I would rather see the Department of Energy’s mandate expanded to cover all of the commercial forms of energy. They all need regulation (some, like coal, more than a little) and they all need oversight.

If you think corporations can be trusted with these tasks, well, do you remember Enron, the seventh largest company, not just energy company, in the U.S. which made up figures out of thin air to support lavish stock prices and executive bonuses only to have the whole house of cards collapse when it was found that there was nothing behind those bogus numbers? The Enron scandal was considered a corporate wakeup call, but in the ten years since, we have seen a parade of corporations going under for cooking their books in the exact same fashion: Tyco International, WorldCom, Bear Sterns, Lehman Brothers, AIG, MF Global, not to mention the very reputable Bernie Madoff.

So should you vote for the people in this party, the people who declare “you can trust corporations, but you can’t trust government.” Are you nuts?

December 2, 2011

You Never Have to Offset a (Republican) Tax Cut

Filed under: Economics,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 12:33 pm
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The Internet is awash with videos and quotes of Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, the second ranked Senate Republican, saying that “you should never have to offset the cost of tax cuts on Americans” as late as Jul 11, 2010. Then Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell followed up by indicating that Senator Kyle was speaking for all Republicans, in his humble opinion. Why then am I not surprised that Senate Republicans are adamantly claiming that President Obama’s proposal to extend the payroll tax cut one more year (for 2012) must be offset so as to not increase the federal deficit. Apparently “never” in Jon Kyl’s dictionary amounts to less than 18 months time.

If you are not convinced that Republicans are trying to discredit the entire federal government then this lie should convince you. (Which statement was a lie is up to you: the first, the second, or both.) Whatever opposes President Obama is what the Republicans choose, contradictions be damned. I imagine that were President Obama to sponsor legislation lauding “Mom and Apple Pie” the Republicans would declare it a state right (and socialist) and oppose it.

Anticipating Republican perfidy, President Obama included an offset in the legislation. The tax break for relatively poor people (those who work for . . . eewe . . . wages) would be paid for by a small surcharge tax on incomes exceeding $1 million dollars. Republicans, outraged, huffily stated that we should not raise taxes on Americans during a weak recession recovery. Apparently they didn’t notice that there is no tax increase involved. This is a tax transfer. No new revenue comes to the federal government; the taxes not paid by working people would be paid for by wealthy people.

Apparently Republicans don’t think we will notice, either.

December 1, 2011

Paint, Paint, Paint, . . . , Oops, Corner!

Filed under: Economics,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 1:22 pm
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Republicans have loudly proclaimed two guiding principles of late: 1) we will never raise taxes on the American people and 2) the Defense Budget should not be cut (basically ever). Unfortunately they, themselves, without being tricked into anything have created a situation in which, if they do nothing, taxes will go up and the defense spending will be cut. And they planned the whole thing!

The tax increase will come automatically when the Bush tax cuts, passed by a Republican dominated Congress, expire at the end of 2012. They were scheduled to expire last December but Republicans got them extended for two more years. So, without having to cut a single deal, Republicans will have orchestrated the largest single tax increase in the history of the federal government!

And, a deal they themselves brokered, in place of a deal to cut $4 trillion dollars from the federal budget over the next decade (because it had 15% of the savings in the form of “new revenue”) the Republicans created legislation to create the now infamous Supercommittee of Congress, which if it failed to cut 1.2 trillion dollars from the next decade of federal budgets would trigger 1.2 trillion dollars of cuts, half of which are from the defense budget. It failed.

Republicans whined that President Obama didn’t play a big enough role in the Supercommittee to get a deal cut. Why the president would inject himself into the business of a congressional committee regarding the single most important job the Congress has (paying the country’s bills), is beyond me. The only thing I can imagine justifying the whining is that they had just discovered the corner they themselves had painted us all into.

Now that falling off the cliff is on the Republican’s calendar, they might do something desperate, like negotiate in good faith.

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