Uncommon Sense

October 24, 2013

Just Keep Telling Them Lies

I was reading an article by Lawrence Davidson appearing at www.consortiumnews.com called “Right-Wing Ideology Run Wild” in which he says “Today’s struggle to return us to minimalist government and maximum economic “freedom” is led by a collection of fundamentalist Christian right-wingers and Tea Party mad-hatters.”

This struck a chord in me because too often liberal leaning folks have allowed the far right to establish the terminology of the debate. In this case the objectionable phrase was “return us to minimalist government.” The word “return” doesn’t belong there because this country has never (never, ever, never) advocated minimalist or small or reduced government (ever).

I date the creation of the United States to the Ratification of the Constitution. The Constitution defines us, it says who we are and why we exist as a nation. It’s adoption marks the beginning of our existance as a nation. And since we are this grand experiment in self-government (. . . of the People, by the People, and for the People, . . .) we created a Constitution that took certain rights for the federal government and left all other rights of government to the states and to the people. There is no limit to how we can govern ourselves, no limits as to how much government we can have, nor is there any endorsement of any amount of government less than all we want.

There is no “return” since we have never been there. The last time we had “minimal” federal government was under the Articles of Confederation and that was a near disaster (and before the creation of the U.S.).

Let’s see this as what it is. The plutocrats want less government because government means taxation and they don’t want taxation (except for to pay for the police (to keep the riff-raff in order), the military (to make wars to protect their economic “rights”), and the courts (to protect their contracts)). Government also means regulation and the plutocrats do not want anyone opposing their path to greater and greater wealth accumulation.

When Ronald Regan, as President, began the “government is the problem” campaign, what has happened to middle class wages and what has happen to wealth inequity? If you do not know, you are either asleep or a fool. Wake up.

They Are Who We Thought They Were

Back in May of 2010 in my 13th post, I described the Tea Party folks pretty much to a tee. Many don’t remember but the Repubs were crushed when Barack Obama won back in 2008. So many people couldn’t believe that their candidate was beaten by a black guy that they stopped identifying as being Republican. The percentage of the electorate willing to identify themselves as Republican sharnk to a frightening low. I described it as a flash flood having scraped away all but the bedrock of a stream. It was then that radical conservatives (the rock-ribbed Repubs, see the metaphor and the linkage, nice, eh?) realized that they then formed a majority of the shrunken Republican Party and were energized to take over. They had always been consider a fringe part of the GOP family so they were pandered to but not taken seriously. That was to change.

The zeitgeist for these people was that “their country” was being taken over by “those people,” and the thought of their tax monies being given to unworthy black and brown people was just evil, it was Socialism, it was Naziism, it was unthinkable. They wanted “their country” back, you know the one run by and for white people.

While I think that having a Christian Evangelical core didn’t help, the behaviors of these people clearly show that they worship not Jesus, but money, power, and prejudice. Because the Supreme Court has seen fit to multiply the voices of the rich over the poor and middle class, and the rich are largely conservative, power flowed to these “New Conservatives.” Access to that power has attracted the unscrupuled who care little for the country, less for its black and brown citizens, who they fear, and who are willing to burn the house down to remove the infestation.

It will be interesting to see how many voters actually continue to vote for these people.

September 25, 2013

If Ted Cruz Were to Take His Clothes Off, Would You Look?

The junior Senator from Texas Ted Cruz has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he craves attention. He has done nothing since being elected to the Congress. He has no novel ideas, he seems to have no ideas at all. He seems to skim the surface of the political pool and finds a crusade to attach himself to then starts looking for microphones to approach. He has offended the traditions of the Senate in which newly elected Senators are supposed to wait and take their turn at the microphones.

Mr. Cruz wants two things right now: attention and money and he doesn’t seem to care how he acquires them. Threatening to shutdown the federal government as a ploy to accumulate campaign contributions? Sign him up. Threatening the credit rating of the entire country and with it the robustness of the economic recovery of this country (such that there is) and the whole world . . . as a ploy to raise even more money? Yeehaw, sign him up.

When he strips naked to get even more publicity, will you continue to watch?

Mr. Cruz is a living political train wreck, the equivalent of a bad reality TV show, our generations Joe McCarthy, etc. something you are embarrassed to watch but can’t take your eyes off. The sad thing is that so many Republicans say that during their caucus meetings, he is the brightest bulb in the room. So, it is true, in a country of the blind, a one-eyed man is King, because that sparkle isn’t glitz, it isn’t intelligence, . . . it is snake oil.

March 23, 2013

Put Them to The Question!

To put someone “to the question” was a phrase associated with the Inquisition and while I intend no torture, I expect more than a little discomfort.

The people to whom “the question” needs to be put are those who, like the guy at the CPAC gathering blurted out that slaves should have been grateful for the food in their bellies and the roofs over their heads (apparently he didn’t know that slaves mostly had to build their own shelter and grow their own food . . . after work, of course). Other pro-slavery comments seem to come from the Christian Right and, predictably, from Southern politicians.

Appalling. For every one who utters such appallingly ignorant views, I suggest the question below to be put:

You are awoken from sleep, clapped in handcuffs and ferried in the dark to a new location. There you are forced to work for free, are expected to eat very substandard food, and sleep in very substandard circumstances. Complaints result in beatings if you are male and rapes if you are female. You may be sold to some other but you get none of your purchase price. Your life doesn’t change. If you try to escape your bondage, you will be mutilated or crippled but not so much that you cannot still work . . . for free. The question is: “Would you volunteer for this?”

If slavery were such a fucking bargain, if Africans were to benefit so much for being exposed to American culture and be given free food and free shelter, would they not have volunteered?

There were such cases, called indentured servants, mostly involving poor Europeans but there were laws and rules governing how they were to be treated, and there was a time limit with each such contract. If you were abused by your “bondsman” you had legal recourse. No such guarantees were offered to slaves.

All of the above mentioned idiots need to have the question put to them. If they answer “yes” you will know everything you need to know about them. If they answer “no,” there might be (just “might” be) some hope for them.

October 1, 2012

Our Infrastructure Revisited

In May of 1938, Harry Hopkins, President Roosevelt’s WPA czar, toted up just some of the accomplishments of his Works Progress Administration: 43,000 miles of new roads, 119,000 miles of road improvements, 185,oo culverts, 105 new airports, 12,000 new schools and other public buildings, 15,000 small dams, 10,000 miles of water and sewer lines, and more than 10 million trees planted. To this he added:

These things constitute national wealth and national assets. Any private business which builds improvements
to its physical plant counts these improvements as assets, and considers itself richer because of them.
Government alone counts the cost of such improvements on the red side of the ledger.

Now, these projects were not cheap. Was the federal government in a place where it could easily pay for all of this? Clearly not having recovered much from the Great Depression, the answer is an emphatic “no.” But the political will was there (mostly . . . Republicans were trying to block everything and roll back everything that got passed then as now—consistent they are). But, a great deal of misery was prevented in the process, along with starvation, disease, and declining self worth. Families were saved.

Our current infrastructure woes are well documented. Our roads and bridges alone need over 1000 billion dollars worth of improvements. We need a better power grid, one no so vulnerable to outside meddling. Our infrastructure needs are vast. And, because of the depression, the cost of borrowing money is almost if not zero. Putting American workers to work repairing our roads and bridges would revitalize the construction industry and the economy as a whole. People’s lives will be made better and the “trickle down” effect when those workers spend their wages is real, not imagined. That money will go through many hands during the year. If we wait, the cost of materials, labor, and financing all go up. It is time to proceed. All we lack is the political will.

If President Obama is re-elected do I think the Republicans will see the wisdom of this path and stop blocking it?

I think not.

I don’t think they are bright enough to see past the ends of their noses and when they do they come up with things like “President Obama has turned over interrogation of our prisoners of war to the ACLU.” (Michele Bachmann) The only hope is to re-elect the President, as flawed as he is, and de-elect as many members of the Tea Party Madness as can be.

January 31, 2011

Obama—The True Conservative?

Filed under: Education,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:10 am
Tags: , , ,

In my last post I asked the question: Who are these people?, meaning the new Republicans. They describe themselves as conservatives, but one must ask: what kind? These are most definitely not the conservatives of my younger days. The first conservative voice I became aware of was William F. Buckley, who founded National Review magazine, still a standard bearer for the U.S. conservative movement, and had a television program called Firing Line. Bill Buckley was a Yale University educated intellectual. Following on the heels of Buckley was George Will, who had M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in politics from Princeton University. George is still plugging away but no longer is at the point of the conservative spear. Today’s learned conservative voices are more like David Brooks, who holds a degree in history from the University of Chicago, and is a thoughtful and intelligent man who writes a regular column for the New York Times newspaper (part of the liberal mainstream press!) and appears weekly on National Public Radio’s program News Hour (NPR is a conservative whipping boy). Not the point of the conservative spear either.

At the point of the spear are the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. Limbaugh attended Southeast Missouri State University for a year but, “He flunked everything,” according to his mother. Beck, a Fox News star, had the singular accomplishment of “getting high” on marijuana every day from the ages of 15 to 30. He managed to graduate high school in there. Neither has run for or held political office or even helped run a campaign as best as I can find out. Yet they make millions of dollars a year “commenting” on politics. But these two vigorously describe themselves as being “entertainers” to hide from the impact their hate-filled rhetoric has on our political and social processes.

Where or where have the thinking Republicans gone? Like a teenager, they have gone “out” swelling the ranks of “independents” who now outnumber the Republicans and Democrats as the largest segment of the U.S. electorate.

The remaining Republicans like to claim that the U.S. public is “conservative” and that they represent the core of the country. This untruth (the new civility forbids me the word lie) is hammered away at as it is a featured talking point for Republicans. Say something over and over and it sounds true after a while. Actually this is not true, the U.S. public is schizophrenic. When we feel uncertain, we tend to be conservative, trying to hang on to what we’ve got. When times are good we tend liberal, being generous with part of the spoils. And we are not consistently so, what we exhibit as an attitude does depend on the issues.

What has happened to the Republican Party is what movement conservatives have wanted all along, all but the most extreme conservatives have been purged from the Republican Party, like a river sweeping away the lighter stones, exposing bedrock. The “Tea Party” (which is not a party) is part of the exposed bedrock. It was always there as part of the Republican Party because what other choice did those folks have. But this is a small part of the U.S. electorate, just as liberals are a small part. Let’s be generous and place both blocks at about 20% of voters which leaves 60% in the center. Those in the center are neither conservative nor liberal, they are basically pragmatists, asking for our politicians to do what seems to be needed at the time.

The conservatives of my youth were asking questions like “What would a conservative welfare state look like?” because they admitted that a welfare state was in no way in conflict with conservative principles. True conservatives value social stability through guiding institutions. But true conservatives have been drummed out of business by movement conservatives who think that the institution of government should play as small a part in our lives as is possible. This ignores that fact that conservatives have always granted that government is the only political actor that can protect the poor from the imbalances of free market capitalism, for example.

So, we have the strange situation that President Obama, labeled a socialist and liberal by the movement conservatives, and who actually represents the center (mostly) is behaving like a true conservative as the times and the Great Recession dictate. (President Nixon believed in spending to stimulate the economy and President Reagan, in eight years, killed exactly one federal program.) And the movement conservatives, who are far to the right of where the Republican Party has ever been, are in a position to exercise their will through their control of the House of Representatives.

If you want to know how things will work out I ask this question: Which U.S. President best exemplifies holding true to the principles of the movement conservatives?

The answer: George W. Bush. His faith-based initiatives, his wars of aggression, his tax cuts for the rich, his disdain for the “liberal media” etc. all hewed to the line of the movement conservatives. So we have a preview of how their ideas will work.

January 28, 2011

WTF? Who Are These People?

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 12:52 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

The most recent utterances by today’s sad crop of conservatives boggle the mind. One is tempted to go looking for the proverbial rock from under which they crawled. Who are these people?

I have commented before that today’s “conservatives” are still making war upon the New Deal from the 1930’s. This was brought to mind by some quotes delivered on the Rachel Maddow show a couple of nights ago. Here they are:

“Workers have a right to organize into unions and to bargain collectively with their employers. And a strong, free labor movement is an invigorating and necessary part of our industrial society.”

“Only a fool would try to deprive working men and women of their right to join the union of their choice.”

“Should any political party attempt to abolish Social Security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things, but their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

No surprise that a self-avowed liberal like Maddow could utter these but they were quotes from . . . drum roll, please . . . President Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1960). The contrast with today’s Republicans couldn’t be greater. Do realize, though, that Eisenhower beat out Robert Taft for the 1952 Republican nomination and one of Taft’s delegates after the convention was reported to have uttered “This means eight more years of socialism!” (Name calling has long been a cherished political practice and the epithet of “socialism” has been used ever since the first conservative had it explained to him. Subsequent usages have not required understanding.) Taft, of course, was a “true” conservative who wanted to roll back the New Deal, which was, of course, socialism promulgated by “Ivy League” intellectuals to destroy the country. Sound familiar?

Yes, today’s Republicans can have nothing but contempt for Eisenhower who confirmed many New Deal policies, and also for Ronald Reagan who raised taxes (and the National Debt), and Richard Nixon who recommended a system of national health insurance. These people’s roots go back considerably farther, of course, as there has been this streak in the American psyche since its inception. And what they have to offer is fear as they are entirely fear-based.

They are Republicans and conservatives because they fear what people will do if they aren’t constrained by the institutions of society. People just would not be moral without “the Church” (religion by itself is not enough, one must be a church goer, and they will tell you which churches count and which do not). The police protect us from crime (when in actuality the police protect very little; their jobs are to catch the bad guys afterwards and possibly create a deterrent). The military protects us from foreigners, etc. Their entire ideology is based on the fear of what people might do. Black people still might raise up and try to punish us for slavery when we actually had noting to do with it, that sort of thing.

Their current call for “limited” or “small” government is another fear-based position. These people are not opposed to government poking its nose into your private business, they just don’t want the government poking its nose into their private business. For example, they say that government should not intrude on decisions that doctors and patients should be making. But they make exceptions when it comes to medical procedures of which they do not approve, and then it is perfectly okay for the government to intrude. It apparently is okay that insurance companies have been taking huge numbers of critical decisions away from doctors and patients, after all insurance corporations are institutions.

They think that corporate tax rates are too high, yet two-thirds of all corporations paid no corporate income tax last year. Can you guess why that is so? It is because the U.S. Tax Code is full of special tax breaks for businesses. Can you guess who it was that voted to put those tax breaks into place? Yes, these same Republicans. (To be fair, so did a lot of Democrats because the businesses in their districts paid them to do so.) But, government intrusion into business affairs in the form of regulation is not to be brooked. The current crop of Republicans opposed the most recent regulations of obviously out of control Wall Street banking institutions (as mamby-pamby as they were) because the recent problems were caused by too much regulation, not too little!

So, these folks are for limited government. The only government needed is just enough to: support more military spending than the entire rest of the world combined (currently true), outlaw abortion and gay marriage, ban organized labor, and give tax breaks to businesses and rich people.

The rest of us can go fuck ourselves.

This is who these people are.

May 29, 2010

Tea Party Bunkum

The news media are all aflutter about the “Tea Party,” with most describing it as a new force in American politics. A force, maybe, but “new” is certainly inaccurate. Simply put, the Republican Party has shrunk so much that these people, formerly a reliable core of republican voters, can compete with it. The so-called Tea Party is nothing more than the far right of the American polity. They have always been there, buried within the Republican Party which seemed like their only option for candidates to vote for. But the Republican party has so weakened itself, both in numbers and quality of politicians, that these “core conservatives” no longer feel like it provides their only options. They are going out and getting their own candidates.

And some of those candidates are winning. Stunning? Hardly.

There are so few Republicans left to vote that beating them is no great feat. Take Rand Paul’s “stunning” victory in the Republican Senate primary election in Kentucky. Even though he won in a near landslide, both of the Democratic candidates got more votes that did he. The numbers of Republicans are so small, that this large voting block is pushing the party even farther to the right. mainstream Republicans like John McCain are embarrassing themselves trying to reframe their records as hide bound conservatives, just to save their jobs. So, they are having an effect . . . on republican primaries; whether they will have an effect in general elections remains to be seen.

So, who are these “new” Tea Party folks? According to a CBS News/New York Times Poll, “The Tea Party Movement: Who are They” from April 5-12, 2010:

“89% are white; just 1% is African American. Tea Party supporters are older than the general public, including 29% who are seniors.

“In terms of politics, more than half (54%) identify themselves as Republicans, and four in 10 are independents. Only 5% of Tea Partiers are Democrats.

“Tea Partiers are more likely than Americans overall to attend religious services each week (38%) and to indentify themselves as evangelical (39%).”

They are also more well to do than the middle class with 20% reporting incomes over $100,000 per year and a greater proportion of these folks get Medicare and Social Security benefits than does the population as a whole.

Basically these are older conservative Americans who have fairly good lives and they don’t want to lose what they have. Just the election of a black president has raised fears that black people are going to extract revenge upon whites by benefiting “poor” people at their expense. This is where the phrase “I want my country back!” stems from.

Again, from the poll: “Negative perceptions of President Obama extend beyond his job performance. 84% of Tea Partiers have an unfavorable personal opinion of him, while Americans overall hold a more positive view (33% unfavorable).” (My italics.)

And “25% of Tea Party folks feel blacks are favored over whites by the Obama administration as compared to 7% by non-tea party white people.”

These people have been around forever and have become the unwitting dupes of the rich. Because they want to hold on to what little they have, they share a basic attitude with big business and rich people and therefore espouse many of the same attitudes. The Tea Partiers biggest issue is smaller government, which leads to less regulation and less taxes, which are right in the wheelhouse of the monied interests.

Their belief in their own vision of what is happening is so strong that 64% of Tea Party supporters think the Obama administration has increased taxes for most Americans, (while only 34% of the general public says that) and when, in fact, their taxes have actually gone down.

Just an aside, the Republicans argued that the Federal Economic Stimulus wouldn’t work (a big Tea Party belief); they argued only tax cuts would work, so the Obama administration included $200 billion of tax cuts in the $700+ billion bill even when the economic evidence shows that tax cuts do not stimulate the economy in hard times (people just save the money or use it to pay bills, they don’t spend on new things). Republican leaders have since claimed that “not one job was saved” while the Tea Partiers were claiming “our taxes have gone up.” Apparently a connection with reality is not needed.

The Tea partiers faith in their own vision may be related to the following poll finding: “63% of Tea Party identifiers say they get most of their political and current events news on television from Fox News Channel.” Fox “News” is really Fox Propaganda as it engages in lies and deceptions on a daily basis. These Tea Party folks apparently don’t care about veracity and continue to look to this network for their information.

So, is the “Tea Party” the new power in American Politics? Will there be an actual organized Tea Party? In a word: no.

These people didn’t come together by accident. They were gathered by “Astroturf” specialists as anti-Obama shock troops. (Astroturf organizers are people who organize “grass roots” events, events falsely appearing to have occurred spontaneously.) Whether the Tea Party will find its political footing and organize into something potent is really a moot point. Since these folks were subsumed by the Republican Party, pulling them out of there will reduce the Republican Party to a nonviable size or at least split it into two very small parts which, when they contest with one another over the conservative vote, will surely alienate some of their own voters which will actually reduce the influence of the right wing of the country.

But, but, . . . what about Rand Paul and Scott Brown, and. . . . Hey, Scott Brown never identified himself as a representative of any Tea Party. And, whatever happened to “all politics is local”? The Democratic candidate for Ted Kennedy’s old seat ran an awful campaign and deserved to lose. The primary cause of the loss? Taking the attitude that the position was a safe, Democratic seat in Congress. No one likes being taken for granted, which is what the Republican Party is finding out about their extreme right wing core aka “the Tea Party.”

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