August 2010 Archives

Former Wyoming Republican Senator Alan Simpson is co-chair of President Obama's Fiscal Commission. This is what he said the other day about the relationship between the American people and our government:

"We've reached a point now where it's like a milk cow with 310 million tits!"

This country that was once run by We, the People with government "of the people, by the people and for the people" has become instead a country where the ruling elites can talk about the public as babies, the unemployed as parasites who are jobless because they are "lazy." The prevailing attitude about the public, from the new Versailles that has grown up around Washington, DC -- what bloggers call "the village" seems to be if you feed them they will breed.

Look at the weird situation we are in today. The wealthy are wealthier than ever. The gap between the rich and the rest of us is bigger than ever. Big corporate profits are soaring and the too-big-to-fail multinational corporations have more power than ever. At the same time wages that were stagnant for decades are now dropping, people with jobs are working longer and harder, more of our people are unemployed and unemployed for longer, more without health insurance, more are depending on food stamps for basic nutrition, more are losing their homes than ever with bankruptcies soaring, and small businesses are barely hanging on or are going under at an alarming rate.

But what are our political leaders up to? On the one hand, the deficit commission is focused on cutting Social Security (which does not contribute to the deficit or debt) at a time when more people need it and need it more than ever. On the other hand many in the Congress are looking for ways to extend the deficit-causing Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2%.

And few are talking about our government hiring or helping the unemployed, stimulating the economy, or holding the bad actors who caused this mess accountable. In fact, far from talking about helping our fellow citizens, our ruling DC elites have a different view of things entirely. We, the People are just in the way. It is our own tit-sucking fault, they say, and we need to step up and sacrifice because we are not doing enough to help the people who really deserve it: the producers, the "job creators."

Did you catch the rhetorical trick I used above? I said "our" people, and "our" government. How quaint. You don't hear that kind of talk much anymore. Instead you hear about "personal responsibility," which makes everything that is done to someone by the wealthy and powerful their own fault.

This Is About Democracy vs. Corporatist Plutocracy

These battles over cutting Social Security and extending tax cuts for the wealthy expose the competing worldviews of We, the People democracy vs corporatist plutocracy. Is our country a community of the people, by the people and for the people? Or are we "the help," only here for the benefit of the wealthy few.

In the democracy worldview we are a community that takes care of and watches out for each other. We are each citizens with equal rights and equal value, to be respected equally. Our government and economy are supposed to be for us. In the democracy worldview we should be increasing Social Security's benefits because people really need it.

In the plutocratic worldview held by conservatives and corporatist moderates we are "the help," 310 million loafers ("parasites" is the Randian word) sucking their " unearned sustenance" (more Rand) from the tits of the milk cow when we all ought to be working harder because the portfolios of the "achievers" (and more) are down a bit. Your value to society is only what you "produce." Your role otherwise is to "consume." In that worldview the wealthy deserve tax cuts and the parasites shouldn't be getting Social Security checks at all.

So what is it going to be? Will we see and understand ourselves as citizens, who share this country on an equal basis with the rich and the poor, with rights and entitlements, deserving dignity, respect, protection and empowerment from a government that is of, be and for We, the People? Will we demand those things and fight for them? Or will we quietly yield those hard-won rights to our "betters" and allow ourselves to be told what to do, fleeced by giant corporations, hoping to get a flat-screen TV out of the deal if we behave?


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.


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I always enjoy observing and participating in discussions with my friend and former colleague, the wonderful Sheila Kuehl. She is brilliant, observant, funny, wise and has outstanding politics. She has written an excellent piece that appeared in Monday's LA Times and points the finger of blame for the state's current mess directly and unequivocally at Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. While I don't disagree with her analysis that he has been a disaster for the state, the key factor that distinguishes the current situation from those of chief executives in the past, aside from Schwarzenegger's incompetence is the extreme partisanship and rancor that have taken hold in Sacramento and in Washington, D.C. We're seeing the right-wing extremists emerging into the debate at all levels with all their absurdities, dishonesty and plain ignorance, starting with Sarah Palin's entry into the national political arena with her inexplicable nomination as the Republican Party's Vice-Presidential nominee.

While Sheila's examples are accurate and legitimate, this is a starkly different Sacramento than that of the past. The level of acrimony, irrationality and intractability this bitter, fear-mongering anti-government movement has generated simply cannot be overstated. Sheila contends that other governors have been able to deal with the problems of governing in spite of the structural deficiencies in our system of governance--- like the minority rule provisions of budget and taxation which require a 2/3 super-majority; the creation of artificial and truncated legislative terms; the initiative process that allows anyone from anywhere to put a measure on the California ballot as long as they have the money; the infusion of enormous amount of corporate money---. the combination of all these factors has created the toxic stew that has slammed the doors on governing. But the spirit of compromise is now virtually non-existent.

Sheila is right-on that this Governor thought he could use his movie-star persona and public-relations ploys to "reform" the state. What he didn't understand, and still doesn't, is that politics is a unique process which requires respect, give-and-take and understanding of the goals and purposes for which it was created. While reform is a good thing when done right, "blowing up the boxes" when you have no idea which ones to blow up and how to replace them with something that functions in the best interests of the people is another thing.

That being said, the "tea-bagger" mentality has overtaken the Republican Party, and it started when Senator Kuehl and I served together in the Legislature. A seminal moment occurred in 2002 when then Senate Minority Leader Jim Brulte announced to the Republican Caucus that any member who voted for the budget would be challenged in his next primary and "taken out" in the next election. While this intimidated most of the Republican members, the fact is that the few, brave and reasonable legislators who understood the importance of passing the budget and acknowledged that many compromises had been made to their ideology were all defeated in their primaries or literally harassed not to run for re-election. In my opinion, this was the beginning of the end of constructive politics as we know it in California. The message to the Republicans was clear and simple: You compromise, you're out.

As long as we require this ridiculous super-majority to pass a budget in the legislature, thus allowing the minority to overrule the majority will of the people, the tactics of the right-wing will prevail. For proof, just look at the havoc created in Washington by the Senate Republicans who are employing the 60- vote filibuster rules to destroy efforts made by the majority to implement change in our country that the overwhelming number of Americans supported in 2008.

Schwarzenegger has been a disaster, and a Governor Whitman will clearly be the same. She has got no experience with government, hasn't even bothered to vote for over twenty years and thinks the world will capitulate to her because of her money and her bullying tactics. She's wrong, but until we fix the mess in Sacramento, it won't really matter much.


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Tax Cuts Are Theft

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

Conservatives like to say that taxes are theft. In fact it is tax cuts that are theft because they break a long-standing contract.

The American Social Contract: We, the People built our democracy and the empowerment and protections it bestows. We built the infrastructure, schools and all of the public structures, laws, courts, monetary system, etc. that enable enterprise to prosper. That prosperity is the bounty of our democracy and by contract it is supposed to be shared and reinvested. That is the contract. Our system enables some people to become wealthy but all of us are supposed to benefit from this system. Why else would We, the People have set up this system, if not for the benefit of We, the People?

The American Social Contract is supposed to work like this:

virtual_cycle

A beneficial cycle: We invest in infrastructure and public structures that create the conditions for enterprise to form and prosper. We prepare the ground for business to thrive. When enterprise prospers we share the bounty, with good wages and benefits for the people who work in the businesses and taxes that provide for the general welfare and for reinvestment in the infrastructure and public structures that keep the system going.

We fought hard to develop this system and it worked for us. We, the People fought and built our government to empower and protect us providing social services for the general welfare. We, through our government built up infrastructure and public structures like courts, laws, schools, roads, bridges. That investment creates the conditions that enable commerce to prosper - the bounty of democracy. In return we ask those who benefit most from the enterprise we enabled to share the return on our investment with all of us - through good wages, benefits and taxes.

But the "Reagan Revolution" broke the contract. Since Reagan the system is working like this:

virtual_cycle_diverted

Since the Reagan Revolution with its tax cuts for the rich, its anti-government policies, and its deregulation of the big corporations ourdemocracy is increasingly defunded (and that was the plan), infrastructure is crumbling, our schools are falling behind, factories and supply chains are being dismantled, those still at work are working longer hours for fewer benefits and falling wages, our pensions are gone, wealth and income are increasing concentrating at the very top, our country is declining.

This is the Reagan Revolution home to roost: the social contract is broken. Instead of providing good wages and benefits and paying taxes to provide for the general welfare and reinvestment in infrastructure and public structures, the bounty of our democracy is being diverted to a wealthy few.

We, the People built this country's prosperity and this built wealth. We reinvested that wealth, building the world's most competitive economy. Now a few people are gaming the system and breaking the formula, taking for themselves vast riches, leaving the rest of us to clean up the mess.

We must recognize and understand these tax cuts for what they are. They are a broken contract. These tax cuts for the wealthy are theft. And we must recognize the Reagan Revolution for what it has cost us. Our democracy has been corrupted and our political system has been captured. A wealthy few are taking all of the benefits of our efforts for themselves. The lack of investment in infrastructure, courts, schools and other public structures is making our country less competitive in the world. The Reagan Revolution is stealing our future.

Other posts in the Reagan Revolution Home To Roost series:

Reagan Revolution Home To Roost -- In Charts
Reagan Revolution Home To Roost: America Drowning In Debt
Reagan Revolution Home To Roost: America Is Crumbling
Finance, Mine, Oil & Debt Disasters: THIS Is Deregulation


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This page is an archive of entries from August 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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