Debt Talks Reveal Republican Apocalyptic War on Government

July 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Harold Meyerson

As Default-on-Our-Debt Day creeps ever closer, America’s two major political parties have embarked on a round of ideological redefinition.

Republicans have subordinated even the appearance of concern for many of their historic priorities — reducing deficits and the debt, maintaining a passable system of roads, even reducing Medicare and Social Security payouts — to the single goal of blocking any tax increase on anyone ever again. Taking the adage that “that government is best that governs least” to an extreme, at least some seem to view a government shutdown as a consummation devoutly to be wished. GOP presidential candidate and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty is running ads hailing the shutdown of his state’s government, the result of the same kind of political impasse that threatens to shutter the feds’ doors.

If it was possible to give libertarianism a bad name, today’s Republicans would be doing just that.

On the Democratic side, President Obama has moved so far to the right that he has picked up many of the ideals the Republicans have jettisoned and embraced them as his own. It’s Obama who’s now the deficit-and-debt hawk and who has proposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Congressional Democrats oppose the president’s proposed entitlement cuts, but in fact they’ve already voted to reduce Medicare spending (though not benefits) by passing health-care reform, and, as part of the current budget negotiations, have agreed to major cuts in domestic as well as military spending.
In Obama’s defense, the Republicans he has to deal with have moved so far right that they make even the Gingrich-era GOP with which Bill Clinton grappled look like the Berkeley City Council. The fiscal constraints on his presidency far exceed those Clinton confronted, too.

But if the factors that have pushed Obama rightward are at least intelligible, those that have prompted the Republicans to winnow their agenda to one-note opposition to taxes and spending are nowhere so obvious.

For one thing, federal tax revenue as a percentage of the gross domestic product is at its lowest level since 1950. The correlation between low federal taxes and job creation looks more inverse than direct. The economy generated far more net new jobs during the ’90s (approximately 22 million during Clinton’s presidency alone), before the Bush tax cuts, than it has since (approximately zero). Yet in opposing any tax increases on the rich as part of a debt-reduction deal, House Speaker John Boehner vowed Monday that “the House cannot pass a bill that raises taxes on job creators.”

Job creators? What job creators? Over the past two months, according to employment statistics, we seem to have completely run out of job creators, though American multinational corporations are having no trouble creating jobs in the cheap-labor nations of Asia. Small businesses, however, cannot expand until American consumers start buying more, and American consumers can’t start buying more until they work their way out of the debt they incurred during the recent decades of pervasive income stagnation.

The Republicans, that is, have embraced market libertarianism at the very moment that America’s market capitalism is functioning worse than at any time since the Great Depression. Their timing is so perverse that we have to seek explanations for their radicalism that go beyond those of economic philosophy.

Republicans, to be sure, have long waged a war on government, but only now has it become an apocalyptic and total war. At its root, I suspect, is the fear and loathing that rank-and-file right-wingers feel toward what their government, and their nation, is inexorably becoming:

multiracial, multicultural, cosmopolitan and now headed by a president who personifies those qualities. That America is also downwardly mobile is a challenge for us all, but for the right, the anxiety our economy understandably evokes is augmented by the politics of racial resentment and the fury that the country is no longer only theirs. That’s not a country whose government they want to pay for — and if the apocalypse befalls us, they seem to have concluded, so much the better.

Most Americans, thankfully, don’t share the right’s romance with cataclysm — something then-Senate Republican leader Bob Dole realized when he called off the shutdown of 1996, something that current Senate GOP chief Mitch McConnell realized Tuesday when he unveiled a cynical and circuitous plan to back off from the impending smash-up. Dole persuaded his fellow Republicans to stand down. It’s not clear, given the furies that possess today’s Republicans, that McConnell can do the same.

meyersonh@washpost.com

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Deliberate Act of Insult and Humiliation

March 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dr. Aslam Abdullah, TMO Editor-in-chief

The day our vice president talked of peace in Israel, the right wing religious fundamentalist government of Benjamin Netenyahoo slapped him by making the announcement that the Jewish state would construct 1600 new houses in the occupied territories. Of course, building of illegal settlements is nothing new. Israel has been indulging in illegal construction against the will of all the civilized world, but humiliating a friend the way Biden was treated is something new in Israel’s defiant diplomacy.

It is learned from reliable sources that the prime minister knew of the announcement well in advance and many US Jewish leaders also knew about before the start of the Biden visit.

It is believed that the act of making the announcement was  deliberate and the purpose was to teach the Obama Administration a lesson in promoting a new Jewish lobbying group against AIPAC and conventional Zionist groups. The Muslim Observer has learned from close Washington sources including many congressional sources that Israel wanted to hurt the Obama Administration at a time when Washington is divided over health care reform and financial stimulus package. Israel had hoped that its supportive members in Congress from both the parties would ensure that the decisions to construct illegal settlement is accepted.

The Israeli prime minister knew about the announcement in advance as he was briefed by the interior ministry. It is obvious that the purpose was to punish Americans and hurt the Obama Administration.  Israel however did not realize that the reaction of the Administration would be strong. It did not expect the State Department to reprimand the fundamentalist government.

Obviously, the AIPAC is doing all it can to intimidate and placate congressmen on both sides. With elections in November, many congressmen feel that they are  in a corner. In tight races, they believe they cannot afford to anger AIPAC and Jewish voters. They are trying to influence the vice presidential office and the state department to tone down their condemnation.

The Muslim Observer has learned from sources close to several l congressmen that  AIPAC supporters allegedly threatened to withdraw their support to them if they did not openly oppose the State Department.

Simultaneously, the religious right and pro-Zionist Christian groups are being approached by the pro-Israeli lobby to ensure that those who are take the side  of Biden and Clinton on this issue are taught a lesson in November election.

It is apparent that Israeli lobby is making determined efforts to impact the Administration and the forthcoming congressional elections. Certainly, this is going to hurt the interests of the US as it s engaged in a war against terrorism. By opening a new front to humiliate the US and hurt its interests, the so called closest ally has tried to weaken American resolve to fight terrorism and defend its dignity.

Israel is telling 300 million Americans, we do not care about you and about the international community because we own the congress as our supportive organizations are in total control of the electoral manipulations.

With friends like these who would need enemies.

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“Healthcare, Yes or No?”

September 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Keith Ellison: Do We Want Health Care or Do We Not?

By Rep. Keith Ellison

EllisonObama So, my friends, what were we thinking? Did we really think that extending health care coverage to all Americans would be easy? Did we really believe that those who reap g’zillions of bucks from our ‘health’ (read: ‘sick’) care system were going to give it all up without a fight? Of course those who benefit from the status quo are attacking the Public Option. Of course they are falsely claiming that Medicare reimbursement for end-of-life discussions are “death panels”. Of course they are disrupting town hall forums — some even carrying firearms. It’s not an element of reform they oppose; it’s reform itself.

The special interests and protectors of the status quo acted worse when America was on the brink of passing Civil Rights and Voting Rights legislation. They spread lies and fear when America was contemplating women’s suffrage too.

Maybe it’s us, and not opponents of reform, who have failed to grasp the magnitude of this moment. We are on the verge of bringing about health care reform 60 years in waiting. Yes, we’re going to have to fight for it. I worry that a little rough stuff has discouraged some progressives. As Frederick Douglass famously said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will.” It’s easy to figure out who the “Power” is. The 10 largest health insurers took in $13 billion in 2007 with CEOs earning an average $12 million a year, according to Health Care for America Now.

I have been a little concerned about some Democratic leaders who appear to be dancing away from the Public Option. But momentary wavering in leadership has provoked expressions of clarity from the people. Sixty Progressives in Congress have roared back in favor of the Public Option declaring their unwavering support in a letter to the White House. Thousands of people are raising their voices for the Public Option around America. Everyone has someone in their family who has been hurt by not having health care, and now is the time to speak up for every denial for a pre-existing condition, every forgone procedure, and everyone facing bankruptcy due to medical debt.

We are relearning a valuable lesson, aren’t we? The ones who want to conserve the status quo, sometimes known as Conservatives, will accept no compromises. Nothing. Jettisoning the public option won’t bring forth a bipartisan bill.

I appreciate U.S. Senator Richard Shelby’s candor. He recently said that defeating healthcare reform would benefit Republicans politically. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) told reporters on a recent conference call that he stands opposed even to health care co-ops. Rush Limbaugh had this to say: “These co-ops, like we’re too stupid to know what that’s all about,” Limbaugh said. “Co-op? Why don’t they just call them communes?” Sen. Jim DeMint famously said defeating healthcare would be Obama’s “Waterloo.”

So Good. No more wasting time. Now, we need a new message: Can you say “reconciliation”? With a reconciliation vote, you don’t need 60 votes to pass a health care bill through the U.S. Senate, but rather a majority vote of 51. Given the intransigence of Conservatives, reformers must begin a drum beat for a reconciliation vote for health care.

We have the power to start that drum beat. Call your representatives every day. Post it on your Face book. Twitter for Healthcare. Bring it up in casual conversations. Talk to the clerk that sells you your groceries. Call your Mom. Call your Broker. Pray for the public option in church, synagogue, or Mosque.

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Modern DC Corruption … from “the select few”

July 16, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, Truthout

greedy

If you want to know what really matters in Washington, don’t go to Capitol Hill for one of those hearings, or pay attention to those staged White House “town meetings.” They’re just for show. What really happens – the serious business of Washington – happens in the shadows, out of sight, off the record. Only occasionally – and usually only because someone high up stumbles – do we get a glimpse of just how pervasive the corruption has become.

Case in point: Katharine Weymouth, the publisher of The Washington Post – one of the most powerful people in DC – invited top officials from the White House, the Cabinet and Congress to her home for an intimate, off-the-record dinner to discuss health care reform with some of her reporters and editors covering the story.

But CEOs and lobbyists from the health care industry were invited, too, provided they forked over $25,000 a head – or up to a quarter of a million if they want to sponsor a whole series of these cozy get-togethers. And what is the inducement offered? Nothing less, the invitation read, than “an exclusive opportunity to participate in the health-care reform debate among the select few who will get it done.”

The invitation reminds the CEO’s and lobbyists that they will be buying access to “those powerful few in business and policy making who are forwarding, legislating and reporting on the issues …

“Spirited? Yes. Confrontational? No.” The invitation promises this private, intimate and off-the-record dinner is an extension “of The Washington Post brand of journalistic inquiry into the issues, a unique opportunity for stakeholders to hear and be heard.”

Let that sink in. In this case, the “stakeholders” in health care reform do not include the rabble – the folks across the country who actually need quality health care but can’t afford it. If any of them showed up at the kitchen door on the night of this little soiree, the bouncer would drop kick them beyond the Beltway.

No, before you can cross the threshold to reach “the select few who will actually get it done,” you must first cross the palm of some outstretched hand. The Washington Post dinner was canceled after a copy of the invite was leaked to the web site Politico.com, by a health care lobbyist, of all people. The paper said it was a misunderstanding – the document was a draft that had been mailed out prematurely by its marketing department. There’s noblesse oblige for you – blame it on the hired help.

In any case, it was enough to give us a glimpse into how things really work in Washington – a clear insight into why there is such a great disconnect between democracy and government today, between Washington and the rest of the country.

According to one poll after another, a majority of Americans not only want a public option in health care, they also think that growing inequality is bad for the country, that corporations have too much power over policy, that money in politics is the root of all evil, that working families and poor communities need and deserve public support if the market system fails to generate shared prosperity.

But, when the insiders in Washington have finished tearing worthy intentions apart and devouring flesh from bone, none of these reforms happen. “Oh,” they say, “it’s all about compromise. All in the nature of the give-and-take-negotiating of a representative democracy.”

That, people, is bull – the basic nutrient of Washington’s high and mighty.

It’s not about compromise. It’s not about what the public wants. It’s about money – the golden ticket to “the select few who actually get it done.”

When Congress passed the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, “the select few” made sure it no longer contained the cramdown provision that would have allowed judges to readjust mortgages. The one provision that would have helped homeowners the most was removed in favor of an industry that pours hundreds of millions into political campaigns.

So, too, with a bill designed to protect us from terrorist attacks on chemical plants. With “the select few” dictating marching orders, hundreds of factories are being exempted from measures that would make them spend money to prevent the release of toxic clouds that could kill hundreds of thousands.

Everyone knows the credit ratings agencies were co-conspirators with Wall Street in the shameful wilding that brought on the financial meltdown. But when the Obama administration came up with new reforms to prevent another crisis, the credit ratings agencies were given a pass. They’d been excused by “the select few who actually get it done.”

And by the time an energy bill emerged from the House of Representatives the other day, “the select few who actually get it done” had given aw ay billions of dollars worth of emission permits and offsets. As The New York Times reported, while the legislation worked its way to the House floor, “It grew fat with compromises, carve-outs, concessions and out-and-out gifts,” expanding from 648 pages to 1,400 as it spread its largesse among big oil and gas, utility companies and agribusiness.

This week, the public interest groups Common Cause and the Center for Responsive Politics reported that, “According to lobby disclosure reports, 34 energy companies registered in the first quarter of 2009 to lobby Congress around the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. This group of companies spent a total of $23.7 million – or $260,000 a day – lobbying members of Congress in January, February and March.

“Many of these same companies also made large contributions to the members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which has jurisdiction over the legislation and held a hearing this week on the proposed ‘cap and trade’ system energy companies are fighting. Data shows oil and gas companies, mining companies and electric utilities combined have given more than $2 million just to the 19 members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee since 2007, the start of the last full election cycle.”

It’s happening to health care as well. Even the pro-business magazine The Economist says America has the worst system in the developed world, controlled by exe cutives who are not held to account and investors whose primary goal is raising share price and increasing profit – while wasting $450 billion dollars in redundant administrative costs and leaving nearly 50 million uninsured.

Enter “the select few who actually get it done.” Three out of four of the big health care firms lobbying on Capitol Hill have former members of Congress or government staff members on the payroll – more than 350 of them – and they’re all fighting hard to prevent a public option, at a rate in excess of $1.4 million a day.

Health care policy has become insider heaven. Even Nancy-Ann DeParle, the White House health reform director, served on the boards of several major health care corporations.

President Obama has pushed hard for a public option but many fear he’s wavering, and just this week his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel – the insider di tutti insiders – indicated that a public plan just might be negotiable, ready for reengineering, no doubt, by “the select few who actually get it done.”

That’s how it works. And it works that way because we let it. The game goes on and the insiders keep dealing themselves winning hands. Nothing will change – nothing – until the moneylenders are tossed out of the temple, the ATM’s are wrested from the marble halls, and we tear down the sign they’ve placed on government – the one that reads, “For Sale.”

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