Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – November 2, 2012

The November 6th election is a major event, right? But someone forgot to tell Mother Nature. Hurricane Sandy not only proved the unpredictability of this planet, it also proved that the Teapublican theory of small government only works if there are no problems, disasters or tragedies. Meanwhile the RomneyRyan Lyin’ Machine has shifted into high gear falsely claiming that Jeep is shipping American jobs to China. And finally, is it possible that Mitt Romney is going to actually make it to November 6th without making a full financial disclosure? Shame is too weak a word.

The Big Government Exception

The power and fury that was Hurricane Sandy absolutely demolished huge swaths of the Northeastern United States. Death and destruction and disruption instantly became the universe of over sixty million Americans.

To the rescue came the federal government as well as multiple state and local governments. Hundreds of thousands of public employees – police, fire, sanitation, hospital workers, etc. – saved lives and provided support and hope in the midst of tragedy. The government did not discriminate so Teapublican victims received the same treatment as everyone else.

Mitt Romney has been quoted as saying that emergency management and disaster relief should be the sole province of state governments and moved over to the private sector “if possible”. He has said that it is immoral to spend taxpayer dollars on emergency relief.

Clearly he didn’t mention this to Chris Christie, the governor of storm-ravaged New Jersey who was more than pleased to host President Obama and all of the representatives of the federal government who were bringing relief to his beleaguered constituents. And just as clearly, the RomneyRyan vision would leave victims of nature, economic downturn or health tragedies to depend on the kindness of strangers.

It didn’t work for Blanche Dubois and it won’t work for Americans.

The Great Jeep Lie

Perhaps the RomneyRyan Lyin’ machine senses impending defeat. That is the only explanation for the outrageous and transparent lies that emanate from the campaign that it promotes.

Most recently and infamously, the RomneyRyan campaign has claimed that Jeep is planning to ship American production jobs to China and that this is the legacy of the Obama Administration’s bailout of Jeep’s parent, Chrysler.

This lie was so outrageous that the CEO of Chrysler sent a letter to every Chrysler employee stating that it was untrue that any Jeep production jobs would be sent to China, or anywhere else. The RomneyRyan Lyin’ Machine response was to deluge Ohio voters with the same lie over and over.

Politics is not the province for angels, but that doesn’t mean that absolute lies should be thought of as a winning strategy. Winning at all costs, including the cost of the truth, is dangerous and shameful.

Where Are Your Papers?

It is four days before the election and Mitt Romney continues to defy a political tradition started by his father that is almost a half century old. He is aiming to be the first major presidential candidate not to divulge his finances to the American people since 1968.

There can no longer be a question as to whether Mitt Romney has something to hide. He is clearly hiding in plain sight. Whether it is his Bain financial dealings or his foreign bank accounts and investments, there is something that Mitt Romney does not want the American people to know.

No company would hire a CEO without a full background check, including a financial background check. That Mitt Romney would not provide this information is damning evidence of his complete disdain for the American people.

Someone should tell Mr. Romney that he is running for president not king. But don’t tell him until November 7th.

Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

A New York State of Mind

As you are reading this column the New York State legislature will have passed a budget that contains over $10 billion in spending cuts. The budget largely reflects proposals from recently elected New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and it appears that the New York budget scenario is being played out in state capitals across the country.

A few facts – Governor Cuomo is the son of the historically liberal former New York Governor Mario Cuomo and worked for the historically progressive former President Bill Clinton as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. He was elected as the progressive alternative and antidote to the toxic right wing of the right wing gubernatorial candidate Tom Golisano.

The public in New York and throughout the country has understood that local, state and federal budgets are in need of reformation and restructuring. The damage wrought by the great economic collapse of 2008 cannot be overstated.

Years of treating taxation as punishment instead of part of the price that all people (and corporations) pay for living in a civil society has created unsustainable imbalances that have to be rectified.

The turning point in these fiscal discussions has been focused upon whether these budget battles are going to be about dollars and sense or will they be about reforming the social and political landscape in this country. There are those who are willing to pursue a prudent social services agenda while also being fiscally prudent.

And then there are those who are willing to use the public sector fiscal crisis as a Trojan horse that will permit entry inside the gates built by a century of progressive reform so that they can begin to dismantle the safety nets for all citizens.
The New York state budget is a case in point.

Governor Cuomo and the legislature have determined that no tax increases are possible. Indeed, in the new budget any New York citizen who makes over $200,000 per year will get a tax cut. Meanwhile statewide aid for education will be cut by $1.25 billion and Medicaid benefits will be cut by $2.8 billion.

And certainly, and most clearly, the citizens of New York who earn the least, who own the least and who control the least will be the ones who will bear the brunt of these budget cuts.

This scenario is being replayed from Wisconsin to California to Washington, D.C. The balanced budget mantra is overlaid with the themes of reducing the tax obligations of the wealthiest Americans (and corporations) and reducing the services provided to citizens, especially the citizens with the fewest resources and the greatest need.

There is an empty and heartless meanness to this approach that transcends the numbers and figures that are in a budget discussion. The suggestion that it somehow makes sense that a corporate behemoth like General Electric has a final tax bill of zero while Headstart programs are closed and veterans’ benefits are cut is difficult to comprehend.

Just as no one is entitled to great wealth, no one is entitled to unnecessary hardship and misery – particularly in a country with the highest standard of living in the history of the Planet Earth.

The sense of community that brings citizens together into a caring and cohesive entity is clearly fraying. Perhaps this is attributable to the fact that the sense of shared obligation has been diluted to a point that it is hardly noticeable.

Spending has been supported at the local, state and federal level for everything from football stadiums to bridges to nowhere and the taxation consequences have been largely deferred or ignored.

As is the case for every celebration, there is a bill that has to be paid. It would seem logical, fair and patriotic that those who have benefited the most from American society would have to pay their fair share of the cost of that society.

The constant caterwauling about “no new taxes” might make sense in some other circumstance, but not during a time of crisis. That point seems to be lost upon those who see taxes as punitive and view cutting social services as the only logical choice.

Americans who lived through the Great Depression and World War II learned about shared responsibility and common sacrifice out of necessity. And out of that necessity was born the G.I. Bill and the beginning of the largest middle class expansion in world history up to that point.

That sense of shared responsibility and common sacrifice resulted in everything from the national highway initiative to the Great Society to landmark civil rights bills.

If you wonder if any of those bills would pass today you only need to look at the scorched earth that resulted from the debate and passage of the recent healthcare bill and you will have your answer.

Blanche Dubois was probably wrong to depend on the kindness of strangers. But I do believe that Americans should be able to depend on the compassion and concern of their fellow citizens.