Nel's New Day

July 18, 2011

Debt Ceiling Crisis–It’s Real!

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 2:56 PM

For several days, Michele Bachmann and Fox “News” have promulgated the myth that Congress doesn’t need to raise the debt ceiling because it would only increase spending. According to this myth, there would be no problem if Congress fails to do this. When I read a letter to the editor this morning, though, that ignorant approach toward the impending financial disaster really hit home. These people are not in touch with reality.

This myth surrounding the debt ceiling, that it controls spending and deficit, is totally off-base. Congress has already decided what money to spend, for example when it gave the Pentagon twice as much money last year as it did ten years ago. The debt ceiling also does not control revenues. Once again Congress makes that decision. If conservatives had worked on job development instead of eliminating abortions during the past six months, more people might be paying taxes and fewer of them would need unemployment. Instead they gave more money to the wealthy and took from the bottom 90 percent. No progress—just the party of no controlling the House (a future blog!)

Not raising the debt ceiling will stop people from getting money because the government needs $23 million to meet its debts on August 3 but they will receive only $12 million that day. Because of the disastrous condition of the economy, “close to $2 of every $10 that went into Americans’ wallets last year were payments like jobless benefits, food stamps, Social Security and disability,” according to The New York Times.  These states will suffer the most because a large percent receive their income from the government: West Virginia (28 percent), Mississippi (26.2 percent), Kentucky (24.8 percent) and Arkansas (24.5 percent). These states are controlled by conservatives. Three-fourths of the dozen states that depend most on federal payments for household income are considered conservative.

The economy will tank ever further if these people don’t get their money because they can’t buy things—like food. No customers, no employees. Only about half of the $14 trillion in wealth lost during the crash has been recovered. When people don’t have money, they don’t spend or they try to get new loans, personal household debt that drags down the economic recovery.

Without raising the debt ceiling, higher interest rates for businesses will result in less money for employees. Interest rates for credit cards will go up, and people will spending less because they have to pay these higher rates. In addition, more government money will go to interest because those rates will increase. A two-week “blip” in 1979 from a computer malfunction “resulted in a permanent increase in interest rates” of more than half a percent, according to The Washington Post. The Post added that, “over time [those increased rates] translated into billions of dollars in increased interest payments on the nation’s debt, a cost shouldered by taxpayers.” The effect of the “blip” lasted at least ten years.

The other pain to federal income will be the loss of revenue from the lost employees after people stop spending. Government tax revenue hit an all-time low in 2009 since 1950. Another recession would hit tax revenues once again as well as increasing the need for government assistance for all the new unemployed and others forced into poverty by the “trickle-down” process of refusing to raise the debt ceiling.

It’s all a row of dominoes, and they’re ready to knock the next one down when the first one falls.

Ironically, twenty-nine private companies have more cash on hand than the U.S. Treasury does at this time, money that conservatives have given to these companies. After the U.S. Treasury went from $130 billion to $39 billion in the first half of July, its holdings equaled those of Google, far less than some of the major banks.

House and Senate Republican leaders understand the direness of this situation. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) persuaded House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to float an idea that would call for Congress to vote on whether or not to disapprove a debt limit increase, avoiding a government default by allowing Republicans to register their disapproval of the increase but still allowing it to pass. McConnell also had a rather convoluted idea of voting to allow the president to raise the debt ceiling with the proviso that Congress could defeat this by a two-thirds’ vote. Clever strategy: blame the president. No dice on either one. Working his way up to the top position, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) is holding fast to no new taxes–no compromise, despite President Obama’s offer to meddle with Social Security and Medicare, infuriating more progressive Democrats.

Back in 2006 when he was a senator, President Obama voted against raising the debt ceiling, a vote he now regrets. But the Republicans have also made their share of mistakes. “I hope we do not have an extended debate and a lot of breast-beating about the issue of increasing the national debt,” Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-IA) said on the Senate floor. He added that the vote on the debt limit increase “ought to be very pro forma.” But that was back in 2006. Now the raising the ceiling is anathema.

Boehner has scheduled a vote tomorrow on his “cut, cap and balance” plan, which would not increase the debt limit without passing a constitutional amendment that requires the federal government to balance its books each year. It’s the same delay tactic because bill stands little chance of passing the Senate. Freshman Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) said he would “oppose any and every effort to raise the debt limit” without this constitutional amendment. No new taxes, cut spending, and pass an amendment—their blackmail for the next two weeks. Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) said, “There is no additional negotiation.”

A problem that these House conservatives face, especially the new ones who have to face re-election in a little over a year, is that polls indicate that the people in this country want higher taxes to reduce the deficit and improve income inequality. At least 19 polls in 2011 show this. The conservatives are following Grover Norquist and his “no new taxes” pledge instead of their constituents.

Friday is Obama’s deadline for Congressional leaders from both parties to agree on a deal to raise the country’s debt ceiling because Congress needs to write and pass legislation before August 2. Failure to accomplish this could have disastrous affects on global financial markets and plunge theUnited Statesinto another recession.

Congress knew this battle was coming. Why did they put it off for six months? I agree with E.J. Dionne Jr. when he says, “Every member of Congress who got us into this debt-ceiling fight should be docked six months pay. They wasted our time on political posturing instead of solving problems. Better yet, the voters might ponder firing them next year.”

July 17, 2011

Legal Battle against Abortion Laws

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 3:00 PM

Despite the huge increase of anti-woman, anti-choice laws flooding the nation because of ultra-conservative legislators and governors, organizations are fighting back.

KansasU.S.  District Judge Carlos Murguia issued an order blocking the licensing regulations—all 36 pages—for women’s clinics that provide abortions.

Indiana: The federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services told the Indiana government in June that its restrictions on Planned Parenthood funding with Medicaid dollars would violate the “free choice of provider” provisions under Medicaid and thus put all Medicaid funding to the state in jeopardy. Planned Parenthood also sued the state to block the law. The state’s defunding law affects 34 facilities; Planned Parenthood operates 28 of these in 21 counties, serving 9,300 Medicaid patients. Only four of the clinics provide abortions. In a 44-page opinion June 24, U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt ruled that because “the federal government has threatened partial or total withholding of federal Medicaid dollars to the state of Indiana,” it was in “the public interest” to continue funding Planned Parenthood.

Idaho: The state attorney general’s office has stated that the new legislation, that makes no exception for rape, incest, fetal abnormality, and the pregnant woman’s emotional health, is unconstitutional, violating the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision allowing abortions until the fetus becomes viable.

Arizona: Newly enacted restrictions on abortion services are on hold while Judge Richard Gama of Maricopa County Superior Court considers a legal challenge, pending an Aug. 22 hearing on a challenge filed by Planned Parenthood Arizona. If these laws were to go into effect, women would be forced to travel to either Phoenix orTucson, both in the southern part of the state, to get abortions. The suit states that the laws violate state constitutional protections for privacy and equal protection under the law.

Texas: The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit to overturn the new anti-abortion law, arguing that it requires doctors to give information about the mandatory sonogram forces them to say things against their will and violates medical ethics. Such ethics say a physician may not act upon the patient without her consent, the physician must respect the patient’s autonomy, and the physician must act in the patient’s best interests. U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks said he would issue a ruling on the injunction request before Oct. 1.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma County District Judge Noma Gurich blocked enforcement of a new state law that requires women seeking abortions to have an ultrasound and hear a description of the fetus a year ago until the case is heard in court.

Illinois: The Illinois Appellate Court has continued to block the enforcement of the Illinois Parental Notice of Abortion Act, which would require that a parent or guardian be notified 48 hours before a child under 18 has an abortion. The debate goes to Cook County Circuit Court, where a trial will determine whether the legislation violates the state constitution.

Waiting periods have been enjoined in Delaware, Massachusetts, Montana, and Tennessee. The laws criminalizing abortion except to save a woman’s life in Louisiana and Utah have likewise been enjoined.

South Dakota: U.S. District Court Judge Karen Schreier blocked South Dakota’s requirement of a 72-hour waiting period and mandatory counseling from a crisis pregnancy center (CPC) before obtaining an abortion while the law is being challenged in court. Attorneys from Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed the lawsuit in late May against the law.

Judge Schreier gave a superb description for abortion laws’ denigration of women when she stated, “Forcing a woman to divulge to a stranger at a pregnancy help center the fact that she has chosen to undergo an abortion humiliates and degrades her as a human being. The woman will feel degraded by the compulsive nature of the Pregnancy Help Center requirements, which suggest that she has made the ‘wrong’ decision, has not really ‘thought’ about her decision to undergo an abortion or is ‘not intelligent enough’ to make the decision with the advice of a physician.” This statement about the anti-women philosophy of these laws is true for not only the forced counseling but also the mandatory waiting periods, ultrasounds, and absolute refusal of conservatives to follow Roe v. Wade.

July 16, 2011

Abortion Laws Endanger, Criminalize Women

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 4:08 PM

Danielle Deaver was 22 weeks pregnant when her water broke. Nebraska law defines “inducing labor” as “abortion” if the goal is not to save the fetus, impossible in a 22-week pregnancy. Eventually she went into labor, the baby died within 15 minutes, and Danielle developed a serious infection. Danielle would not have been safer if she had lived in any one of  several other states, say Indiana, because of new restrictive laws that ignore the impact on women’s health.

Elizabeth Ferries-Rowe, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Wishard Memorial hospitals, gave this example of how the Indiana law endangers women’s health: “A woman loses her amniotic fluid at 16 weeks of pregnancy. If her pregnancy isn’t quickly terminated, she risks serious infection that can damage her organs and cause brain damage or death. Given Indiana’s law, however, doctors would not be able to terminate her pregnancy.” According to Ferries-Rowe, the law has “tied the hands of physicians attempting to provide medically appropriate, evidence-based care.”

During the six weeks after the Indiana law preventing abortions after 20 weeks went into effect, doctors at IU and Wishard hospitals could not terminate pregnancies for about 70 patients, including many with complications that put the patient’s health at serious risk or cases in which the fetuses could not possibly survive. The language of the law’s language was so murky that doctors couldn’t help at-risk women on Medicaid.

The new laws that force women to carry unviable fetuses to full term have horrendous results. For example Gilda Restelli’s fetus had only fragments of a skull and almost no brain. Claudia Crown Ades’ fetus had “a fluid filled nonfunctional brain” and a “malformed heart.” Tammy Watts’s fetus had no eyes and extensive internal organ abnormalities including failing kidneys. And Viki Wilson’s fetus suffered from encephalocoele with two-thirds of its brain outside its skull. These women and many others in similar situations have had to endure unimaginable anguish, not to mention the possibility of infertility, permanent disability, and even death, thanks to the conservatives’ indifference.

The indifference of conservatives also includes arresting and imprisoning women who do not carry their fetuses to viability. Amanda Kimbrough is one of these women. When her fetus was diagnosed with possible Down’s syndrome and doctors suggested she consider a termination, Kimbrough declined. The baby had to be delivered by caesarean section prematurely and died 19 minutes after birth. Six months later Kimbrough was arrested at home and charged with “chemical endangerment” of her unborn child on the grounds that she had taken drugs during the pregnancy, a claim for which there is no proof.

Pregnant at 15, Rennie Gibbs lost the baby at 36 weeks in a stillbirth. Prosecutors charged her with the “depraved-heart murder” of her child, which carries a mandatory life sentence, because she had a cocaine habit. Yet they had no proof that drug abuse was involved in the stillbirth.

Last December in Indiana, Bei Bei Shuai, 34, attempted suicide, which is not a crime in that state. Friends who found her persuaded her to go to the hospital, and her baby, delivered by cesarean section, lived only four days. Less than three months later, she was arrested, jailed, and charged with murder and attempted feticide. She is still being held in jail without bail.

The only reason that these women were arrested was that their pregnancies resulted in the death of a fetus or infant. They have no protection from the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. If prosecutors are successful in winning conviction, no pregnant woman who fails to being a fetus to full-term in a healthy condition is safe from prosecution. In the past, states have attempted to prosecute women with child abuse and endangerment laws but have failed. Our new, far more radical culture allows life imprisonment of a women who has no healthy new-born to show for a pregnancy.

Jonathan Turley said, “Ambitious prosecutors are using these kinds of cases to further their political careers, at the expense of the women they target.” If the Gov. Bobbie Jindal and other forced-birthers in Louisiana had their way, women who obtained abortions and their physicians would actually be Mirandized because the procedure would be illegal.

An amicus brief in the case of Rennie Gibbs states: “Prosecuting women and girls for continuing [a pregnancy] to term despite a drug addiction encourages them to terminate wanted pregnancies to avoid criminal penalties. The state could not have intended this result when it adopted the homicide statute.” It would be safer for women to have an abortion than an accident in which the pregnancy is terminated.

At least 38 of the 50 states across the United States have introduced fetal homicide laws. Originally created to protect pregnant women and their unborn children from violent attacks by third parties, usually abusive male partners, they are increasingly being turned against pregnant women by renegade prosecutors.

South Carolina was one of the first states to introduce such a foetal homicide law. National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) found only one case of a South Carolina man who assaulted a pregnant woman having been charged under its terms, and his conviction was eventually overturned. Yet in South Carolina dozens of pregnant women with drug abuse problems have been arrested under fetal protection laws although they have virtually no access to drug treatment programs. NAPW estimates that as many as 300 women in the nation have been arrested for their actions during pregnancy, actions that are not illegal for women who are not pregnant.

Pregnant women can be protected without criminalizing them. Laws in thirteen states apply stiffer punishments for murdering a pregnant woman. If the death of a fetus is not a separate crime, the law avoids giving rights to fetuses or interfering with abortion rights and ensures that women do not lose their rights while they are pregnant. Conservatives aim want to control women, however, so this solution will not satisfy them.

July 15, 2011

Abortion Laws Demean Women

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 10:14 PM

A little more than six months ago, a new crew of legislators, many of them from the Tea Party, took over the U.S. House of Representatives and several of the state legislatures and governors. Their victory came from campaign claims that they would solve the country’s fiscal woes—provide jobs for everyone and cut spending with no new taxes. In their campaigns, they cited no social issues concerns. Smaller government. Stay out of private life.

Charles Krauthammer, a strong spokesman for the ultra-conservative wing, denies that the Tea Party members want to legislate social issues. “The Tea Party has distinguished itself in being almost exclusively about governance, the reach of governance, taxation, economic issues. It is not the social conservatives. The Tea Party is a spontaneous, leaderless movement which is economic and not social conservative,” he said.

The minute that the Tea Party sat down in those new seats they exchanged their campaign promises for legislation that fit their personal fundamentalist morality. Since the new gang took over, they have been obsessed with eradicating gay and abortion rights. Since last January, 80+ new anti-abortion laws have swept 19 states while the first law out of the U.S. House was a duplication of an existing anti-abortion bill as well as an attempt to defund Planned Parenthood. The 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade made abortion is a constitutionally protected right across the nation, but you would never know it with the new laws.

As of a month ago, 29 states require waiting periods of 18 to 72 hours between the visit with physician and the procedures; 34 states require counseling. Twenty of the states require warnings about the “mental impact” of abortions, and ten states require that the pregnant woman be told about the pseudo-science myth of “fetal pain.” In seven states women are forced to hear the falsehood that an abortion would make them more likely to get cancer. Even ultrasounds are required for pregnant women in nine states before they are allowed to get the so-called legal abortion. Maps are available that show the status of the states in connection with abortion laws. These are up-to-date although the other information in the article is dated.

States are also making access to abortions more and more difficult. Texas’s law requiring doctors to conduct a sonogram before performing an abortion also requires a doctor to describe the fetus’ features and allow the pregnant woman to hear the fetal heartbeat. Women cannot opt out of the description, and exemptions are allowed only cases of rape or incest and when the fetus has fatal abnormalities. (Oddly enough, the law allows women to close their eyes and cover their ears during the doctor’s visit.)

One law sweeping the nation is restricting or banning abortion after 20 weeks—instead of 24 weeks—of pregnancy. Claiming fetal pain, at least six states—Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma—have passed 20-week laws, and more are likely to follow. Only 1.5 percent of all abortions occur after 20 weeks of pregnancy, most of them medically necessary. Idaho’s law with its no exceptions for rape, incest, fetal abnormality, or the emotional health of the mother comes from God, according to its sponsor who said the “hand of the Almighty” was guiding lawmakers. Indiana, Kansas, and Nebraska are the other states with the 20-week limit that grant exceptions only for a woman’s physical health or life.

Instead of a 20-week limit, Missouri’s law gives fetus viability as the guideline. In the past, the state has used that as the criterion; the new law deletes the mental health issue, allowing abortions only to save the woman’s life or when the pregnancy poses permanent physical harm “to a major bodily function.”

Another approach to make abortion illegal was to defund Planned Parenthood clinics throughout the state. After Indiana prevented Planned Parenthood from receiving any Medicaid funds, similar laws were passed in Tennessee, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Kansas, New Jersey, Texas, and New Hampshire. Indiana’s new law actually made any organization that performs abortion ineligible for state funds including hospitals.

South Dakota’s anti-abortion law mandates a 72-hour waiting period, two separate visits to a doctor, and counseling at a “crisis pregnancy center,” a place explicitly created to oppose abortion. In the state’s 755,000 square miles, only one abortion clinic is open once a week when a doctor comes from out of state.

Closing the clinics under the pretense of new architectural regulations is another method of preventing abortion.Virginia eliminated 17 of its 21 clinics when it required clinics that provide first-trimester abortions to meet the same standards as hospitals. Under the leadership of sometimes Republican presidential candidate Gov. Sam Brownback, Kansas clinics that provided abortions as part of their services to women were given one day to comply with the new stringent architectural guidelines. The regulations are 36 pages long, this from a political party that objects to regulations and wants smaller government. These guidelines would stop all abortion access in Kansas.

Brownback also nominated Operation Rescue defense attorney Richard Macias to the Kansas Board of Healing Arts, tasked with licensing and disciplining Kansas physicians. Scott Roeder, the killer of Dr. George Tiller who performed abortions, has been linked to Operation Rescue, a pro-life Christian activist organization.

Kansas legislators have also approved a ban on insurance companies offering abortion coverage as part of their general health plans except when a woman’s life is at risk. Anyone who wants abortion coverage has to buy a supplemental policy that covers only abortion. State legislators have criticized women for not being prepared, I guess for rape. One actually said, “I have a spare tire.” Because insurance companies don’t provide supplemental abortion policies, even women who want to be “prepared” cannot get that coverage. Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Utah have also passed laws restricting abortion coverage under all private health care plans.

Arizona’s shotgun approach toward making abortions illegal varies from state requirements on personnel, equipment, facilities and procedures in clinics to a law that prevents abortions requested because of the gender or sex of the fetus. Another law prohibits nurse practitioners from performing medication abortions, which account for about half of the abortions performed in Arizona.

Kansas, Arizona, North Dakota, Nebraska, and Tennessee banned women from receiving counseling via videoconference from an off-site physician to authorize on-site staff to dispense medication. This is especially damaging considering the shrinking number of abortion providers nationwide, especially in rural and small towns.

Because Tennessee’s counseling law was struck down by the state Supreme Court in 2000, the legislature is putting the issue on the ballot. Prime Sponsor Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) praised the initiative for allowing women to receive “informed consent” information about the surgery and to wait 48 hours before they receive an abortion, as if there were a state law that would have prevented “informed consent” information and a waiting period. The state Supreme Court has also ruled against a Tennessee requirement that all abortions after the first trimester be performed in a hospital. The people will vote in November 2014.

Somewhere far further right than anti-abortion is the “personhood” movement which purports that personhood begins at fertilization. No state has passed personhood legislation, but in this year alone, representatives have sponsored personhood bills in North Dakota, Iowa, Georgia, Montana, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Alabama. Mississippi voters will consider this amendment in November if the state Supreme Court permits the initiative: “Should the term ‘person’ be defined to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the equivalent thereof?”

Fortunately Louisiana backed off their proposed “personhood” law that would totally eliminate abortions—and probably birth control—because it might run afoul of federal law (duh!) and cost $4.5 billion in federal Medicaid dollars. The Hyde Amendment requires states to use Medicaid funds for abortions to save the life of the mother or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. The proposed bill did not provide an exemption for pregnancies from rape or incest. I guess it does always come down to money for conservatives.

Six out of ten people now believe that abortion should be both legal and available. Legislators’ criticisms of these medieval laws include the following: “The Legislature should be focused on what they said they would focus on: creating jobs and strengthening education.” “Legislative leaders who vow to make government less intrusive and protect individual freedom are advancing a bill that does just the opposite.” “Anti-abortion laws do not trust women to make personal decisions.” Far-right presidential candidate Rick Santorum disagrees with these viewpoints, however. He believes that women who have abortions are responsible for the Social Security problems because their children would be paying FICA taxes.

Ironically the most conservative states suffer the most from anti-abortion laws. These states rate the highest in divorce rates, STD transmission rates, and teen birth rates. One reason red states have higher divorce rates is that they have more people marrying without foresight because of unplanned pregnancies. Anti-abortion laws lead to no education and no provision for family planning. The higher a state’s unplanned pregnancy rate, the higher the abortion rate.

These laws reflect the conservative belief that women are impulsive, prone to lying, and ignorant,  far inferior beings who need protection from rash decisions. A U.S.  Supreme Court Justice actually stated that idea in one of his decisions about limiting abortion for women. According to the far-right’s prevailing beliefs about abortion, women of color need extra scrutiny. Yet all available research demonstrates that women rarely make this difficult and what should be a private decision easily.

Instead of obsessing about abortion, far-right conservatives need to focus on providing greater access to birth control, teaching comprehensive sex education, and improving maternal health and childbirth outcomes. In a poll, 79 percent of adults agreed with the statement, with 49 percent agreeing “strongly.” As long as the conservatives concentrate on an evangelical morality, however, they will fail to meet these needs.

If state and federal legislators were as creative with ways to stimulate the economy and motivate businesses to hire more workers as they are with taking away the right to reproductive freedom, the economy would be booming.

In the next few days I will address the laws’ serious adverse effects of medical and criminal issues facing women and the legal opposition to states that are making a constitutional right illegal.

July 14, 2011

Fox Propaganda

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 5:49 PM

Fox (Faux) News has gained great notoriety recently (except on Fox News itself) because Rupert Murdoch’s British tabloid, News of the World, closed after 168 years because of its hacking into famous and infamous figures and its payoffs of Scotland Yard police officers. In the United States, Murdoch’s News Corp. owns Fox News, the New York Post, and the Wall Street Journal. That leaves the question of whether these Murdoch companies are hacking phone messages here, but Murdoch refuses to answer that question.

Part of the country avidly watches Fox News, swallowing everything that is said on the cable network as God’s truth because Fox says that their news is “fair and balanced.” The rest of the country understands that Fox News lies about issues such as climate change, uses racist rhetoric, and openly promotes Republican positions and candidates. Even people who work for Fox, such as Chris Wallace, know that they are providing unbalanced news in retribution for what they see as the “liberal media”—or maybe just to make money and contribute to the conservative cause.

Dr. Cynthia Boaz, assistant professor of political science at Sonoma State University, has compiled a list of 14 propaganda techniques that Fox News commonly uses to control their audience.

1. Panic Mongering: One step beyond simple fear mongering, the goal is to terrify and terrorize the audience during every waking moment from Muslims to swine flu to recession to homosexuals to immigrants to the rapture itself. This approach is the fastest way to bypass the rational brain; when people are afraid, they don’t think rationally. And when they can’t think rationally, they’ll believe anything.

2. Character Assassination/Ad Hominem: Rather than debating ideas, Fox just goes for the jugular by assassinating opponents—their credibility, motives, intelligence, character, or, if necessary, sanity. No offense is beneath Fox as they also use ad hominem attacks against both individuals and entire categories of people to discredit the ideas of every person who is seen to fall into that category, e.g. “liberals,” “hippies,” “progressives,” etc.

3. Projection/Flipping: Taking whatever underhanded tactic you’re using and then accusing your opponent of doing it to you first is frequently used in the Fox immigration discussion, where anti-racists are accused of racism, or in the climate change debate, where those who argue for human causes of the phenomenon are accused of not having science or facts on their side. It’s often called upon when the media host finds themselves on the ropes in the debate.

4. Rewriting History: Fox News makes the facts fit their worldview, for example Sarah Palin’s mangling of the Paul Revere ride story, which Fox reporters bent over backward to validate. Historical facts can easily be demonstrated to be false, but dogmatic minds actually find it easier to reject reality than to update their viewpoints. They will literally rewrite history if it serves their interests, and they’ll often speak with such authority that the casual viewer will be tempted to question what they knew as fact.

5. Scapegoating/Othering: This combination of both fear mongering and diversion is so pervasive that it deserves its own category. You find a group to blame for social or economic problems andthen go on to a) justify violence/ dehumanization of them, and b) subvert responsibility for any harm that may befall them as a result. This works best when people are already terrified.

6. Conflating Violence with Power and Opposition to Violence with Weakness: This is a deeply-held belief manifested in the way news is constantly reported. For example, terms like “show of strength” are often used to describe acts of repression, such as those by the Iranian regime against the protesters in the summer of 2009. People feel falsely emboldened by shows of force, turning wars into sporting events. Also, in the context of American politics, displays of violence, whether in war or debates about the Second Amendment, are considered noble and (in an especially surreal irony) moral. Violence becomes synonymous with power, patriotism, and piety.

7. Bullying and Yelling: This works best on people who come to the conversation with a lack of confidence which the bully exploits by berating the guest into submission or compliance. Less self-possessed people may feel shame and anxiety when being berated and end the immediate discomfort by ceding authority to the bully who then interprets that as a “win.”

8. Confusion: With a less-confident and self-possessed audience, the speaker deliberately confuses the argument but insists that the logic is airtight and implies that anyone who disagrees is either too dumb or too fanatical to follow along. Less independent minds interpret this confusion as a form of sophisticated thinking,  giving the user’s claims veracity in the viewer’s mind.

9. Populism: This is especially popular in election years. The speakers identify themselves as one of “the people” and the target of their ire as an enemy of the people. The opponent is always “elitist” or a “bureaucrat” or a “government insider” or some other category that is not “the people.” Making the opponent harder to relate to and harder to empathize with fits well with scapegoating. The speakers are so definite about their own non-elite status that listeners forget that the accused “elitists” (aka “liberals”) advocate for non-elite groups whereas the speakers themselves advocate for the wealthy.

10. Invoking the Christian God: Similar to othering and populism, this type of morality politics declare the speakers and their allies as patriots, Christians, and “real Americans” ( inseparable categories in this line of thinking) and anyone who challenges them as not. Basically, God loves Fox and Republicans and America while He hates taxes and anyone who doesn’t love those other three things. Any challenge  is perceived as immoral.

11. Saturation: The three components are being repetitive, ubiquitous, and consistent. The message must be repeated cover and over, it must be everywhere, and it must be shared across commentators: e.g. “Saddam has WMD.” Veracity and hard data have no relationship to what is being said. For example when people said over and over “Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States,” more and more people came to accept the statement as truth. Another example is the repetition of Fox’s own slogan as “Fair and Balanced.”

12. Disparaging Education: Higher education is often viewed as elitist, and having a university credential is perceived as a lack of credibility. Educated people are treated snidely and as anti-American because critical thinking is a direct threat to a “hive-mind mentality.”

13. Guilt by Association: Glenn Beck and Andrew Breitbart both use this approach to decimate the careers and lives of many good people. For example, if your cousin’s college roommate’s uncle’s ex-wife attended a dinner party back in 1984 with Gorbachev’s niece’s ex-boyfriend’s sister, then you, by extension are a communist set on destroyingAmerica. Period. (Think the 1950s McCarthy era.)

14. Diversion: When on the ropes, the media commentator suddenly takes the debate in a weird but predictable direction to avoid accountability, for example when most Fox anchors start comparing the opponent to Saul Alinsky or invoking ACORN or Media Matters, in a desperate attempt to win through guilt by association. Or they’ll talk about wanting to focus on “moving forward,” as though by wanting to analyze the current state of things or how we got to this state of things, you have no regard for the future. Any attempt to bring the discussion back to the issue at hand will likely be called deflection, an ironic use of the technique of projection/flipping.

People who continually watch Fox News frequently show an attitude of being privileged, and any disagreement with whatever Fox News states must be vehemently defended—like belonging to a private club or gang. This makes Fox propaganda even more powerful because it cannot be questioned. Fox audiences, birthers, and Tea Partiers often defend their arguments by pointing to the fact that a lot of people share the same perceptions. Murdoch’s News Corporation reaches a far larger audience than any other single media outlet, and the watchers tend to agree with Fox’s positions. The fact that a lot of people believe something, however, is not necessarily a sign that it’s true; it’s just a sign that it’s been effectively marketed.

Several U.S. lawmakers are urging the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission to look into whether News Corp. broke a U.S. law banning payment of bribes to foreign officials. In addition, there is a question of whether Murdoch tried to use bribes to weaken this law. Last summer News Corp. contributed $1 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce which then put forward a six-point program for amending the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or FCPA. Some media pundits have raised questions over whether News Corp.’s U.S. broadcast license could be revoked, given that federal communications law requires owners of TV stations to be “of good character.”

What would happen to these people if Murdoch’s empire crumbles? I’d like to find out!

And an addendum. Over the past four years, Murdoch’s U.S.-based News Corp. earned $10.4 billion in profits and would have paid $3.6 billion at the 35 percent corporate tax rate. Instead, it actually collected $4.8 billion in income tax refunds, all or nearly all from the U.S. government. I guess that’s a -46 percent rate. Not bad if you can get it.

July 13, 2011

“Bullying Is Healthy,” Says Tea Party Activist

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 6:18 PM

“Bullying is healthy.” That’s a recent statement from Tea Party Activist Rich Swier who has his own radio show inFlorida. “There are many bad behaviors such as smoking, under age drinking and drug abuse that are behaviors that cannot be condoned. Homosexuality falls into this category. Homosexuality is simply bad behavior that youth see as such and rightly pressure their peers to stop it,”  Swier said in response to a statement from Gulf Coast Gives, a group supporting civic enhancement projects in the Gulf region. During a fund-raising project, Gulf Coast Gives talked about the horrifying statistics of anti-LGBT youth bullying, including that fact that “77% of all bullying victims are picked on due to sexual orientation, gender identity, or the perception of either.”

Human Rights Campaign is asking people to protest Swier’s inflammatory words.

Swier’s definition about bully reveals the working of the conservative mind. According to Swier—and many other conservatives—bullying is merely “peer pressure and healthy.” That would explain why conservative political candidates lie about their opponents and why their supporters pay money for licentious advertising for far-right causes and candidates. For example, the vicious ads against Janet Hahn, when she ran against an ultra-conservative in a California Congressional race decided yesterday.

Hahn ran on a platform of  “green” jobs, the return of the troops from the Middle East, and the end of tax cuts for the wealthy. Her opponent, Craig Huey, called Hahn a “career politician” who wanted to cut federal spending, repeal “excessive” business regulations, and raise taxes. Calling Planned Parenthood a “murder mill” and extolling the death of Medicare as the “real blueprint moving forward,” Huey cited a down-the-line conservative position—vote against raising the debt ceiling without an equal decrease in government spending.

Nothing about these differences was particularly surprising. The appalling part was the inexcusable racist and sexist television advertising from those “mysterious third parties” that showed Hahn as a stripper supporting gang members. A local Fox news report, later discredited, declared that Hahn used her influence to get a gang-connected criminal out of jail and funnel tax dollars to active gang members. When Hahn denied the report, Huey’s campaign consultant Dave Gilliard said, “We think she’s been lying about this program ever since the story broke.” Huey’s campaigners left DVDs of the Fox 11 report at residences throughout the district.

Peer pressure didn’t work in this case. Janet Hahn won her election yesterday.

During the past six months people in Wisconsin have lived with the “peer pressure” from Tea Party activists, many of them from out of the state. In protest to Gov. Scott Walker’s decisions to give money to corporations while taking it from the middle class and poor, partly by stripping the unions of rights, they recalled six Republican legislators. In retaliation, Tea Party money from Utah paid to recall three Democrats with highly dishonest practices.

To defeat the Democrats in their recall elections, conservatives ran what they openly called “fake Democrats” in the primaries, delaying the general election for a month. Concerned that this might not be successful, the Virginia Right-to-Life organization made robo calls to Democrats on yesterday—Election Day—instructing them that they didn’t need to go to the polling place to vote. The script said, “You don’t need to worry. Your absentee ballot is in the mail.” And of course, the new law that required photo IDs to prevent the non-existent voter fraud was rushed through to be used for these primaries.

Yesterday all six “real” Democrats won their primaries, despite the fact that Wisconsin has open primaries, meaning that Republicans can also vote in Democrat primaries. Five of the six winners had at least 65 percent of the vote, based on unofficial results. The sixth, Shelly Moore, had 54 percent. Their next election is on August 9 when they take on the incumbent Republicans in their districts. A seventh Democrat is running unopposed in that election. The Republican primary in two other races is on July 19 with that general election against Democrats on August 16. There is also a general election in one race on that day. Wisconsinites will have a very busy voting summer; they better hold onto their photo IDs.

So far health peer pressure from conservatives in Wisconsin isn’t working. We’ll see how it all plays out by the end of August.

A classic case of bullying also comes from Wisconsin. Newly elected state Supreme Court Justice David Prosser (newly elected because of the magical discovery of the right number of ballots two days after the election) assaulted his colleague, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley in June. According to Bradley, Prosser put her into a chokehold when she told him to get out of her office. Prosser’s defense is that his hands “encountered her neck.” Prosser has been known for making disparaging remarks about Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, calling her a “bitch.”

I guess that Swier would call this bullying “healthy” because Bradley and Abrahamson disagreed with Prosser about upholding a bill regarding collective bargaining rights for public employees. Prosser won his magical votes because he opposes union rights. The ends justify the means, according to Swier’s definition of healthy bullying.

From the conservative five-four votes on the U.S. Supreme Court to causing kids to kill themselves because of excessive “peer pressure,” the country is inundated with conservative bullying. As the Wisconsin Republicans have been fond of saying, “Elections have consequences.” We can only hope that the consequences of the next election will save this country rather than destroy it.

July 12, 2011

Exxon Fouls Montana

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:36 PM

When the mainstream media gets a big story, they set their teeth into it, like a dog worrying a bone, to the exclusion of all else. For example, the debt ceiling crisis overshadowed the Exxon Mobil pipeline rupture in the Yellowstone River ten days ago.

Hundreds of residents were evacuated, wildlife died, the riverbank was fouled for at least 25 miles, and the oil plume traveled at least 240 miles from Montana into North Dakota as the flooding river carried the crude oil throughout the famous national park named after the river.

The first big issue in this travesty is that way that Exxon officials lied about the extent of the disaster. Not really a surprise how they worked hard to minimize what had happened. According to them, the breach in the pipeline didn’t compromise anyone’s health, kill any wildlife, or damage any of the riverbanks. First they said that the pipe was shut down after ten minutes, and then they changed the time to one half hour before they admitted that it took 56 minutes to stop the crude from spewing out into the river. It may have been even longer than that because, as we know, Exxon lies. One official estimated about 1,000 barrels of oil escaped; another one guessed up to 42,000 gallons. Independent observations via satellite think it is as much as 50 percent more, almost 70,000 gallons.

Exxon officials first claimed that the line was buried under “at least 12 feet of cover” where it crosses the river near Laurel (MT). That turned out to be the depth of the pipeline at the riverbank. Exxon’s measurements showed an actual depth of five to eight feet under the river bottom. No one knows for sure how deep it was after the erosion caused by flooding because the river bottom is such a mess that no one can check it out.

The second issue is the way that Exxon refuses to provide information to the public. The company has security workers guarding access to their command post in Billings in the same hotel where the government has stationed EPA and other federal agencies. Government officials also refuse to talk to the media. Because of state employees’ lack of access to any information, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer moved them to the state Department of Transportation offices. “The state will no longer have a presence at the Crowne Plaza because Exxon Mobil tells us they can’t respect the open government laws we have in Montana,” Schweitzer said.

The cleanup process, however, should be the biggest embarrassment for Exxon, a company that makes $5 million each hour. Despite the large sum that taxpayers give them for research, the oil booms thrown into the river and the over-size paper towels duct-taped together to sop up the thousands and thousands of gallons of crude oil represent a 40-year-old solution. When I talk to people about cleaning up this horrible mess with paper towels, they can’t believe it. Looking at the photographs and videos of the workers wandering along the river banks with paper towels show the horror of the oil company’s stupidity.

Effects of the chemicals in crude oil vary from milder irritations of skin and mucous membranes to burning, swelling (edema), pain, and permanent skin damage. Difficulty of breathing, headaches, dizziness, nausea, confusion, and other central nervous system effects are more noticeable than the serious effects of lung, liver, and kidney damage; infertility; immune system suppression; disruption of hormone levels; blood disorders; mutations; and cancer. The oil that leaked from the Exxon pipeline moved down the river, covered the river banks, infected the air, and leached into the wells, negatively affecting every living thing in proximity.

Exxon received seven pipeline violations last year, but they use taxpayers’ money to pay off the fines. No problem, they think. They just keep fouling land, destroying the economy as people lose their jobs after the spills, and give campaign money to conservatives who want to give Exxon even more money. Remember, Exxon is the company that pays .4 percent (not four percent, but four-tenths of one percent) annual federal taxes. Conservatives refuse to raise their taxes despite the U.S. debt crisis because most of the Congressional legislators signed Grover Norquist’s pledge not to raise taxes—which includes not removing unnecessary, expensive subsidies. Temporary tax cuts  and tax breaks that have lost their purposes after shifts in economic changes cannot be changed. People must die because of the rigid ignorant approach that conservatives take.

July 11, 2011

Conservatives Set to Destroy U.S.

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:27 PM

Talks about raising the deficit keep breaking down as the conservatives stick to their “no new taxes” bargaining—taxes meaning, at least to them, anything that would make the wealthy pay more such as subsidies. They claim to have the magic wand that will solve the problems with the lagging economy: give to the rich and take from the poor.

How well have their predictions worked in the past three decades? Not at all. Conservatives predicted a disaster in 1982 with Ronald Reagan’s tax increases. They didn’t. Conservatives predicted the same disaster in 1993 with Bill Clinton’s tax raises. They didn’t. Conservatives predicted that President Obama’s stimulus would make the economy worse. It didn’t.

Their predictions that tax cuts would help the economy were equally accurate (not). Conservatives said that George W. Bush’s 2001 tax cuts would start a boom time. They didn’t. Two years later they said the same thing about more tax cuts. They didn’t. Now these conservatives claim that renewing Bush’s tax cuts would cause magically turn around the economy. They didn’t.

One definition of insanity is repeating the same failure over and over. Conservatives want no increase in revenue and claim that this is the solution—eventually. Ezra Klein noted the other day that the Republican approach to tax policy “is no longer based on any recognizable economic theory.” Conservatives just follow their religion of “no more taxes.”

Conservatives refuse to understand that as government stops spending, the economy will get slower and slower like a car that has run out of gas. Conservatives refuse to invest in infrastructure, send aid to states to prevent public-sector layoffs, provide another payroll tax cut, pump more money into the economy, and extend the TANF Emergency Fund. They want private sector jobs, but they don’t seem to realize that for every one job lost, two more people lose theirs—and usually in the private sector. That’s trickle-down poverty, something that conservatives want.

The post-World War II middle class boom was built on public investment, low-interest rates combined with finance regulation, and rising wages from a strong labor movement. During this time people went to public universities, bought homes, enjoyed rising income, and often supported a family on one income. Now we have low-interest rates, but with those we have no regulation, no public investment, escalating tuitions at public universities, homes too expensive for the middle class, and falling salaries. The result of the conservative approach is a disintegrating country where a family can no longer able to support itself with two wage-earners.

Progressives have recommended a budget that will result in a surplus within ten years, the same amount of time that conservatives used to destroy the surplus. It proposes increasing taxes on the wealthy, putting the money into increased jobs and social programs while cutting back on military spending.

Conservatives recommend nothing but less and less spending without any way to save the country—no compromise, just extortion. Between 1980 and 2004, real wages in manufacturing fell one percent, while real income of the richest one percent rose 135 percent. During that time the percentage of private sector workers in unions shrank from 35 percent to seven percent while 35 percent of teachers, firemen and public service workers had access to collective bargaining before conservative state legislatures hacked away at their rights. Without more unionization, trade and tax policies that encourage higher wages, and a massive jobs program to putAmericaback to work, the economy will head in a downward spiral.

Hedge fund manager John Paulson is an example of the vast income inequity. Last year he made $5 billion–$2.4 million dollars an hour or $40,064 per minute. He made as much as a minimum wage worker every 23 seconds. Due to a special tax break (that the conservatives refuse to change), he and all hedge fund managers had a federal tax rate of 15 percent instead of 35 percent. And you can bet that he had enough tax loopholes that he paid much less than that.

A budget deal has to increase the incomes of the middle class and reduce the swelling economic inequality. Using the Republicans’ proposal of cutting Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid dooms the budget to the same failures as the other ones that they have proposed in the past three decades. The only way to solve the problem is to increase revenue by making the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share of taxes. That won’t happen unless President Obama and the rest of the Democrats in Washington call the conservatives’ bluff.

As Paul Krugman says: “Obama caved in over tax cuts, and [the Republicans] expect him to cave again. They believe that they have the upper hand, because the public will blame the president for the economic crisis they’re threatening to create. In fact, it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that GOP leaders actually want the economy to perform badly.

“Republicans believe, in short, that they’ve got Obama’s number, that he may still live in the White House but that for practical purposes his presidency is already over. It’s time—indeed, long past time—for him to prove them wrong.”


July 10, 2011

Social Security, Medicare Insurance Programs

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 2:26 PM

Last year Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) riled the entire nation when he proposed the privatization of Medicare. Now, after the Republicans have beat on people about the evil of entitlements and threatened to crash the world’s economy, President Obama may be considering cutting back in both Medicare and Social Security benefits. In the past, these benefits were considered “the third rail,” meaning to touch them meant political death. Conservatives, however, have whipped the country into such a frenzy of fear—after spending an inordinate amount of money during the past decade—that what was considered unthinkable before Bush is currently a consideration.

Repeat anything long enough, and people begin to believe it. The constant reference to government programs as “entitlements” has moved the Tea Party, and the Republicans with them, into a far ultra-right position. In economics, an entitlement is a “distribution or exercise of an absolute privilege or right to an economic benefit (such as old age pension, social security, unemployment stipend) granted by contract or law, automatically upon meeting the required qualification.” Sounds pretty awful when people just believe that it’s their right to have something that they paid for, sort of like people think that they should have salaries for working.

Republicans maintain that all the money that people pay for Social Security benefits just belongs to the government. According to them, “You don’t own your benefits until you cash the check.” The scary part of this statement is that it’s true. According to the 1937 Supreme Court ruling, the Social Security tax is constitutional only if it’s a tax like all others. “The proceeds of both [employee and employer] taxes are to be paid into the Treasury like internal-revenue taxes generally, and are not earmarked in any way.” Later the Supreme Court decided in Flemming v. Nestor (1960) that “entitlement to Social Security benefits is not a contractual right.” Congress is in charge, and they can do anything they want by majority vote. The conservatives are now determined to get rid of Social Security by spreading myths.

Myth One: The use of the term “entitlement” implies that Social Security and Medicare are simply government largess, a type of welfare charity. Think again! Both of these programs are insurance programs. The payments that come out of our wages pursuant to the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) are deposited in four separate trust funds: Old-Age and Survivors Insurance; Disability Insurance; Hospital Insurance (Part A of Medicare); and Supplementary Medical Insurance (Part B). We pay insurance payments or “premiums” (a percent of our earnings) into these government-sponsored insurance trust funds so that when we no longer have earnings, due to retirement or disability, we will receive these insurance benefits in the same way that any private insurance program should work. Social Security “spreads risk” like any other insurance program, public or private, whether the risk is against illness, car wrecks, or house fires. Everyone in the particular insurance pool is insured against the same risks, but not everyone will benefit to the same extent. 

Myth Two: Social Security is in deep financial trouble and is the cause of our national deficits. Definitely not. The 2010 actuarial annual report of the Trustees’ of Social Security and Medicare shows assets of $2,540.3 billion in Social Security and $380.8 billion in Medicare, Part A and B. The Trustees report that “the outlook for Medicare has improved substantially.” Part A “is now expected to remain solvent until 2029, 12 years longer than was projected last year.” Part B’s program costs are “down 23 percent relative to costs projected” earlier. (See Myth Five.)

Myth Three: “It’s a Ponzi scheme!” (I heard this one from Ann Coulter on the Bill Maher Real Time Show last Friday.) Not at all. A true Ponzi scheme is a mythical source of revenue-generation, intended to make a profit for those who run the scam; Social Security is openly underwritten by tax revenue with potential adjustments for sustainability—impossible in a Pyramid scheme. For example, FICA is not charged on earnings above $108,800.Why should people who earn less pay on their entire earnings but people who earn more do not? Insurance companies and the stock market are Ponzi schemes; Social Security isn’t. 

Myth Four: A private company would be more effective in operating a pension program. Not even close. Social Security operates on less than 1 percent administrative costs; no other comparable public or private agency can even come close to that claim.

Myth Five: Social Security is an unfunded liability. Way wrong! From 1939 through 1968, surplus Social Security funds were in a separate government account, supervised by the Secretary of Treasury, with the funds invested in both non-marketable and marketable securities. In 1968 President Johnson declared that the surplus funds could be added to the general fund. Once he did that, Social Security surplus funds were used to finance wars and the daily operations of the federal government—anything and everything. At the present time, the government has sold special treasury notes on almost $3 trillion of FICA taxes and used these funds to cover the loss of revenues resulting from the miniscule tax rates given to the wealthy and corporations. For example, George W. Bush needed funds to cover the loss of revenues from the tax cuts to the upper three percent of the population. On paper he showed an increase of revenues by stealing from not only Social Security surplus funds but also unused funding from any other program and then added these funds to the general revenue column as though these increases were generated as an actual result of the welfare tax cuts.

Although men would be hurt by the loss of Social Security, women would be destroyed. Because of our country’s cultural structure, far fewer women have their own private pensions, fewer than one-fourth in 2006. Thus Social Security, $11,377 annual average payment, provides half the total income for older unmarried women while this income is 90 percent of the total for 46 percent of them. Men receive 25 percent more money from Social Security and are less likely to depend on this for their income: SS benefits comprise only 38 percent of unmarried men’s income and only 31 percent of couples’ income. Thirty percent of unmarried men have their own private pensions. 

Social Security, now almost 75 years old, was a brilliant concept of Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Oddly enough, a major point of opposition was that it would cause a loss of jobs. It also required reshaping: most women and minorities were excluded from the earliest Social Security because of the job categories that were not covered, perhaps because of the power exerted by the Southern Democrats.

Legislators who want to destroy our insurance programs need to be told that we have paid into these programs and deserve the insurance premiums. Conservatives deny that a Social Security trust fund never existed and that FICA taxes are there for the plucking. President Obama needs to be told not to cave into the conservatives’ unreasonable approach. Their strategy is to make outrageous demands and then refuse to accept their own conditions to make even more egregious demands. They need to be told NO.

July 9, 2011

Worry about Jobs, Not Spending & Deficit

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:15 PM

When  President Obama held a live “Twitter town hall” to solicit U.S. people to suggest ideas to lower the deficit, Speaker of the House John Boehner, the man next in line for the presidency after the vice-president, inundated the event with his tweets, including his infamous question, “Where are the jobs, Mr. President?”

The great irony of his question is that Boehner has not only done nothing to find a solution to the high unemployment of people in this nation but also wielded his power to stop unemployment. Since the Republicans took over the House under Boehner’s leadership six months ago, their only bills have been anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-women, and anti-children beginning with H.R.1 that tried to make abortion illegal. While most Americans say that jobs and the deficit are the nation’s top problems, the House concentrates on anything but.

Every economist knows that the only way to help the economy is by spending, but Boehner refuses to discuss any spending, instead proposing innumerable ways to give corporations and the wealthy tax breaks. Actually I’m wrong. The House did pass a bill to increase Pentagon spending by $17 billion while forcing even greater reductions for those in desperate poverty and need.

The presidential candidate hopefuls are on the same bandwagon as shown by their proposals to drastically reduce taxes—eliminating taxes on capital gains, interest, dividends, and inheritance. As one pundit said, comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted.

Technically, the country is in a recovery, albeit mild. It doesn’t feel like a recovery because 88 percent of the rise in national income has gone into corporate profits while only one percent has gone to household incomes. The recovery is not helping wages and salaries because corporations don’t send their increased wealth to wages and salaries. All the large corporations have cut back on the number of employees since the Bush tax cuts during his early presidency—the same tax cuts designed to increase the number of employees.

Boehner and the other Republicans want to give even more money to these corporations. Their argument is that the U.S. has higher taxes than other countries. That’s a lie: instead of the second highest corporate tax rate in the world, the U.S. has the second lowest, behind Iceland, as a share of GDP. By 2009, U.S. corporate taxes fell to 1.3 percent of GDP from 4 percent in 1965. While other countries have lowered their corporate tax rates in recent years, they have closed tax loopholes for corporations while the U.S. has increased these, providing more money to U.S. corporations.

Even ultra-conservative commentator Bill Kristol agrees that corporations don’t need the money that the U.S. gives them. On Fox News Sunday, he asserted, “Republicans are making a mistake if they focus on big businesses and corporate tax rates. Corporations have a ton of cash. The corporate tax rate is not killing big business in America.”

Exxon makes $5 million an hour. Every hour. But they still receive large subsidies because the Republicans are getting campaign donations from them. Without these subsidies, Exxon Mobil would have paid an average of 17.6 percent taxes on its annual earnings from 2008 to 2010. That may be less than your tax rate. Its subsidies reduced that tax rate to only 0.4 percent. I’m sure that this rate is less than yours.

So where are the jobs? Since President Obama took office, the nation has lost 500,000 employees in the public sector—teachers, police, firefighters, etc. States refuse to pay for public service employees because they give tax breaks to corporations. An example is the $27.15 billion budget that Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) has just signed. He cut services but refused to allow an extraction fee for natural gas drilling that would give $310 revenue to the state. Pennsylvania is the only major as producer that does not tax its use while the natural gas industry has given Corbett almost $1.3 million in campaign contributions. Since President Obama took office, the government should have increased the number of employees by 500,000, not decreased it. That’s where 1,000,000 jobs have gone.

Meanwhile, the Republicans want the government to fire more people. Despite the facts, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) claims that stimulus slowed the economy and cut jobs. Reagan cut taxes: huge deficits resulted. Clinton raised taxes: the deficits went away. Bush cut taxes: we went back to huge deficits.

In Racine (WI), prison inmates are replacing unionized workers. Georgia’s Gov. Nathan Deal is sending probationers to work the fields after the migrant workers left in fear of the punitive legislation. The latter idea has proved unsuccessful because the work is too strenuous for the probationers—and for anyone else except the migrant workers. The more prisoners who provide the work, the fewer jobs for those not in prison. That’s where the jobs are.

Republicans continue to claim that the way out of the recession is hiring by private employers. But this hasn’t happened for the past decade. Until people have jobs, they won’t buy houses and cars and lots of other stuff. Without their buying these things, the private sector will not hire anyone to make and sell these things. History can show that the Republican philosophy is doomed to failure; just look at Herbert Hoover’s disaster eighty years ago. Companies are buying machinery, not hiring workers.

The Bush wars have cost the U.S. $4.4 trillion (yes, trillion), money that would have provided infrastructure repair, education, health care, surpluses, etc. etc. Those who claim that this war should be blamed on Congress should remember that Bush is the person who lied about the “weapons of mass destruction” which led to the panic voting.

The Pentagon budget is double what it was ten years ago, with no indication of shrinking. Last spring, the Pentagon identified $178 billion in savings and efficiencies through fiscal year 2016.  If the U.S. withdraws one-third of its 150,000 active-duty troops stationed in Europe and Asia, it can save $50 billion through 2016 without damaging American security because of long-range strikes and rapid-troop transport. The U.S. could stop building aircraft carriers at $15 billion each while retiring two of the eleven we have–eleven more than any other country, saving another $7.4 billion. With these savings and more, the U.S. could take care of a good chunk of the deficit without destroying people’s lives. Spending over $700 billion each year on the military is far more dangerous than the deficit.

Even Pentagon officials want money to go to other agencies so that they can do their jobs. Republicans keep giving them new “war toys” that the Pentagon has not requested in order to keep the factory owners in their districts happy. The United States spends 43 percent of the entire world’s military budget. Two years ago, the Center for Economic and Policy Research stated, “Defense spending is a direct drain on the economy, reducing efficiency, slowing growth and costing jobs.” The drain is moving faster and faster.

In response to the “Twitter town hall,” Robert Reich, the Berkeley professor who was Labor Secretary in the Clinton administration, called on Washington to drop its fixation on spending and deficits and turn to jobs. His tweets suggest the following: Jobs plan #1: Exempt first $20K of income from payroll taxes for a year. Jobs plan #2: Recreate the WPA and Civilian Conservation Corps. Better to put millions to work directly. Jobs plan #3: Fed govt should lend money to states and locales so teachers, firefighters, police, and others can be rehired. Jobs plan #4: Amend bankruptcy laws to allow distressed homeowners to declare bankruptcy on primary residence. Jobs plan #5: Enlarge and extend the Earned Income Tax Credit Jobs plan #6: Provide partial unemployment insurance to people who have lost part-time jobs. This is a true jobs plan.

John Boehner knows full well that high unemployment will be good for electing Republicans in the next general election. That’s why his goal is to guarantee that people will not find jobs, an obvious approach toward the 13.9 million out-of-work people. Michele Bachmann agrees with this philosophy. When approached by Carl Quintanilla (CNBC) about her election success going up with the unemployment rate, she said, “I hope so.”

If we want to stop corporations from having more rights than people (despite the recent approach that corporations are “persons”) and keep them from destroying the bottom 90 percent of U.S. workers, then check out Move to Amend. It’s time for a Tea Party to-the-left movement!

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