Point of View Columns

Send in the Clowns

In the past, news that the circus was coming to town was a cause for great anticipation and celebration. Who wouldn’t want to see the Strong Man, the Contortionist, the Clowns, the High Wire Act and the Fat Man? It all sounds like very exciting stuff….and a lot of fun.

And the G.O.Tea Party circus would be a lot of fun except we are living in very serious times. It would be a lot of fun except the excesses and errors and lies of the Bush Administration have come home to roost big time. And so it is not a lot of fun and it is kind of sad that the best that the Republicans can do is put together a circus instead of credible candidates for the office of President of the United States.

Instead we are witness to the antics of Newt Gingrich as the Strong Man. He is supposed to be possessed of tremendous intellectual capacity, strong enough to lift this nation out of its economic doldrums. But it turns out that the weights that he is hoisting are made of cardboard and his so-called policy statements are nothing but a dusty rehash of the Republican mantra of lowering taxes and cutting the budget – all the while reducing services to the American people and limiting investment in the American future.

Mitt Romney is starring in this circus as the Contortionist. He continues to amaze and thrill audiences as he twists this way and turns that way explaining how the universal healthcare legislation that he signed in Massachusetts was a good thing while the universal healthcare legislation that President Obama signed is a bad thing.

Mr. Romney might be a champion at Twister but he is never going to convince the right wing of the right wing of his bona fides.

And then there are the Clowns. Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin have locked up these starring roles with their mangling of the English language, their massacre of historical facts and their reckless disregard for logic and common sense. Their pie in the face approach to the challenges and problems of the day might be entertaining but they are more than dangerous in the real world.

Clown #1, Congresswoman Bachmann has stated that the Founding Fathers tried their best to abolish slavery. This would have come as a great surprise to the owners of slaves like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.

Not to be outdone, Clown #2, Sarah Palin went on the record contending that Paul Revere rode to warn the British not to take away the weapons of the colonists. We will soon learn from her that the National Rifle Association was a part of the Continental Army.

The High Wire Act stars Congressman Ron Paul as he repeatedly defies gravity and common sense with his contention that the draconian reduction of government would actually make life better for all Americans. The tragic impact of his policies and philosophies are there for all to see, yet he wobbles on his rhetorical high wire, daring us to believe that he will not fall.

The Fat Man would be New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. He has become a champion of the G.O.Tea Party by taking on “special interests” like teachers and government workers while advocating tax breaks to the wealthiest of the wealthy in the Garden States.

The Fat Man amazes crowds with his attempts to leap across the chasm of credibility while burdened with the weight of hypocrisy, such as his use of a New Jersey State Police helicopter to see his son play baseball even while police and teachers are being laid off in because of his policies.

Simple logic would dictate that the G.O.Tea Party will have no chance of unseating President Obama with the circus troupe that is contending for the Republican nomination. But simple logic will not apply in 2012.

The reality is that unemployment continues to ravage the lives, dreams and future of Americans across the country. The reality is that the devastation visited upon the American economy and financial system by the transgressions of the finance elite and the lies of the Bush warmongers has left a national landscape where fear no longer lurks in the shadows.

When people are afraid, deception presented as an answer is gobbled up like cotton candy at the circus. The peanuts and popcorn of fake solutions and deceptive salvation at least offer a temporary respite from the fear of today and the terror of tomorrows that don’t seem to offer a future.

It would, therefore, be a good idea for President Obama and his campaign team and supporters to refrain from thinking that simple logic is part of a useful campaign strategy. These are times that are full of fear and illogic and the message of intelligence and purposeful strategies and policies can get drowned out by the calliope of the circus parade.

Standard
Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – April 22, 2011

Easter and Passover are being observed as this week comes to an end. We also observe that John McCain is in Libya calling the anti-Gaddafi rebels his “heroes”. Really? A great circus movie, “Water for Elephants” opens this weekend but it is being eclipsed by the Republican circus featuring clowns for candidates. And by the time you finish reading this column the price of gasoline will have been raised again. Just another week on the Planet Earth.

Send in the Clowns (Part I)

There has been tremendous pressure on the Obama Administration to do more to support the rebels who are waging a war against Muammar Gaddafi that is not going well for them. Clearly, in response to this pressure a decision has been made to send in the clowns.

That can be the only explanation for the sudden appearance of Senator John McCain. He landed in Libya earlier today and immediately announced that the insurgents were his “heroes”.

One wonders if his dimming memory recalls American support of the mujahedeen in their battle in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. They were also the “heroes” of inveterate jingoists like John McCain.

Of course, these “heroes” morphed into the Taliban (who are killing U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan) and Al Qaeda (which is responsible for 9/11 amongst countless terrorist incursions around the world).

The Libyan rebels may be noble Washingtonians and Jeffersonians for all we know. Or they could be the spiritual cousins of Osama bin Laden. The point is we just don’t know. And John McCain certainly doesn’t know.

This might not be the best time for the United States to get entangled in another alliance that leaves bite marks on its posterior.

Send in the Clowns (Part II)

It is safe to assume that the Republican Party will run a candidate for President in 2012. It is also safe to assume that the right wing of the right wing and the G.O.Tea Party element of the Republican cohorts will ensure that this candidate will be against healthcare, environmental protection, taxes and abortion. What this candidate will be for is open to speculation.

In looking at the array of potential candidates it would seem that the greatest danger facing Barack Obama is complacency and overconfidence. Donald Trump swears that he would make a great Chief Executive. But The Donald may have to contend with the hundreds of not so silent contractors who built his New Jersey casinos and never got paid and the thousands of sullen holders of bonds in various Trump enterprises who lost every penny in the multiple Trump bankruptcies during the past two decades.

Sarah Palin is probably eternally discredited after her misbegotten star turn in the Tucson Massacre aftermath and Mitt Romney is without a political (or moral) compass and cannot recant his Mormon religion, thereby disqualifying himself in the eyes of the powerful Christian evangelical sector of the right wing of the right wing.

Only Michelle Bachman takes Michelle Bachman seriously and Herman Cain has yet to demonstrate how being the CEO of a chain of pizza shops qualifies him to be President of the United States.

There are other would be aspirants – they remind me of the circus car with an endless number of clowns exiting the doors of what appears to be a compact. The G.O.Tea Party has clearly taken on the challenge of entertaining the America public instead of challenging the American public with new ideas and emergent policies.

Gas Pains

As you read this column the price of gasoline is going over $4.00 per gallon across the country. Republicans, pundits and ordinary citizens have joined in a chorus to demand that President Obama “do something” about these rising fuel prices.

In response he has directed Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate any instances of fraud, collusion, speculation or price-fixing. That pretty much describes day to day operations in the oil industry.

Of course, when President Obama has proposed sustainable energy alternatives and conservation strategies he has been opposed by many of the same Republicans, pundits and ordinary citizens that now want him to “do something”.

Perhaps magic is what they have in mind.

Have a great weekend!

Standard
Point of View Columns

The Big Frame Up

As this column is being written Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services cut its outlook on the United States to negative, warning that the U.S. fiscal profile may become weaker than that of other major countries if the budget deficit cannot be “tamed”. This bit of news raises the specter of the credit rating of the United States being downgraded from Triple-A.

By the time you read this column the “budget hawks” will be circling and preparing to swoop down with the only “solution” to the budget deficit – too much spending on social services, infrastructure and investment in the future of this country. This “solution” would cripple this country and deface its future far more than any credit rating downgrade by a discredited credit agency but that is not how the discussion will be framed – it’s a frame up.

Keep in mind that Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services is the same S&P that routinely gave favorable ratings to the noxious and toxic mortgage related bonds peddled by Wall Street firms. Those would be the same Wall Street firms that successfully bet against the economy of this country and reaped billions when the economy crashed. And S&P was more than an enabler; it has been a willing co-conspirator in the fleecing of investors from around the world.

That S&P has any credibility in the current debate regarding the United States budget and its deficit borders on the absurd. The fact that S&P alumni are not standing in a lunch line in orange jumpsuits in a federal facility is a testament to how people can benefit from the Big Lie.

Meanwhile the budget hawks will attack with this latest report from S&P grasped firmly in their talons. Their “solution” will be that it is necessary to cut expenditures and the cut taxes. Whether it is Planned Parenthood or NPR or assistance for homeless veterans, the budget hawks will demand that a cleaver be wielded and that all expenditures be put “on the table”.

Increased taxes will not be “on the table” of the budget hawks. Increasing revenue to government is anathema as far as they are concerned and any solution that calls for increased taxes is considered unworthy of discussion and is not subject to negotiation.

It is at times like this that an historical perspective is useful. Using the so-called philosophy of the budget hawks and the G.O.Tea Party, the additional governmental expenditures that helped to build the transcontinental railroad and the Panama Canal would have been rejected, thereby retarding the progress of this country in countless ways.

This would be, of course, very similar to the current cutting of the federal budget to eliminate funding for high speed rail and the expansion and improvement of the interstate highway system.
If the pseudo-philosophy of the G.O.Tea Party was employed in the past, the large governmental expenditures that literally saved the lives of the grandparents of their members – expenditures for the WPA, Social Security, the CCC, the Tennessee Valley Authority and Hoover Dam never would have been made.

It is impossible to imagine Michelle Bachman supporting the governmental expenditures that funded the G.I. Bill and changed the lives of tens of millions of Americans. Clearly Rand Paul would not have supported the creation of tax revenues that resulted in the NASA space program that accelerated technological advancement in this country, creating the environment for the advancement of personal computers and the internet.

And now here comes the big frame up. S&P, the handmaiden and enabler of Wall Street makes a pronouncement that unless the budget is “tamed” the credit rating of the United States will be downgraded. Wall Street firms and major corporations that have never been enamored of taxes of any kind (e.g. General Electric paying NO taxes on billions of dollars of revenue and profit) are financial supporters of the G.O.Tea Party.

The G.O.Tea Party, waving a cash-stained and morally tattered banner of patriotism will parade on Capitol Hill claiming that “taming” the budget is a national priority and that it can only be “tamed” by cutting the budget. Once again, no new taxes can even be considered.

This bit of bamboozling is so transparent and so barren of subterfuge it is a wonder that anyone is taking it seriously. But logic has been cast aside and we are faced with a framed up debate on how to cut a budget that has increased in part because the population of this country is now one third of a billion people.

The budget has increased in part because services for the elderly, the disabled, the poor, the young and the homeless are now part of the national rationale for a civil and compassionate society. The deficit has increased in large part because of mindless wars, irrational tax cuts and an engineered collapse of the national economy that almost worked.

If the truth is supposed to set us free it would seem that lies are meant to entrap and enslave. The big frame up has to be seen for what it is. In this instance time is not our friend.

Standard
Point of View Columns

The Day of the Living Dead

Last weekend America was treated to a spectacle right out of Alice in Wonderland. A budget compromise that left the blood and hopes of the poor and needy on the floor was pitched by the Democratic Congressional Committee as a victory by limited the slicing and dicing of the federal budget to “only” $38 billion while tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires remain the most sacred of cows.

The Democratic Party controls the Senate and the White House. The Tea Party Caucus of the House of Representatives, headed by that anti-genius Michelle Bachmann, consists of 85 members, at most. Yet the Tea Party, playing Pinocchio to the Koch brothers Geppetto, has hijacked the national debate on policy, budget and the future of this country.

Somehow the Democratic Party has mastered the art of the Rope a Dope, minus the rope. And as a result the defeat of the horrific proposal to defund Planned Parenthood is viewed as a triumph. The mindless ambition of the G.O.Tea Party to defund the newly minted national healthcare program is a shortsighted as it is Neanderthal in motive and intent.

The fact that these proposals ever saw the light of day is shameful. Viewing their (very) temporary defeat cannot possibly be seen as much of a victory.

We continue to wait for President Obama and the leadership of the Democratic Party to come to their collective senses and realize that there is no bargaining with maniacs. We are watching the fabric of the social net being shredded, bit by bit, and deferring the next thrust of the blade is not a cause for celebration.

And still, there is no collective voice from the party that controls the White House and the Senate that says “enough is enough”.

I have written previously that the budget agenda of the G.O.Tea Party is not about fiscal matters but rather it is about a social agenda that is slanted towards meanness and away from compassion.

The G.O.Tea Party barely blinked at the near billion dollar cost of the Libyan incursion but it froths and foams at the mouth at the mere thought of millions going to NPR or Planned Parenthood.

Indeed, the attempted defunding of Planned Parenthood is a textbook example of the disgrace that is the G.O.Tea Party. The attack on this universally acclaimed women’s healthcare program began with the lie that federal funds were being used to fund abortions.

It’s a lie because the Hyde Amendment, passed in 1976, prevents the federal funding of abortions. It is also a distortion in the bargain because less than 20% of the services of Planned Parenthood involve abortion. The rest of that organization’s programs involve birth control, sex education and basic healthcare for women who cannot afford it elsewhere.

When Margaret Sanger founded Planned Parenthood in 1946 it was seen as a progressive and positive step in providing healthcare, birth control and sex education for women – all of which are indispensable elements in the liberation of women.

Who could imagine that less than 70 years later there could be a serious proposal by a major political party to defund the laudable efforts of this organization?

While we have read muted protests and muffled objections, I continue to wait for leaders of the Democratic Party to draw the line in the sand and say “no more”.

In the instance of Planned Parenthood, it is shocking to see female members of the G.O.Tea Party (like Michelle Bachman) ranting against Planned Parenthood like a cheerleader from some forgotten nightmare – and no element of the progressive women’s groups and organizations will confront these abominable policy proposals being advanced by women.

It is clearly past the time to take the Tea Party and its cohorts and fellow travelers seriously. Wishing and hoping that they will go away is a waste of valuable time. Their agenda is as clear as it is despicable.

Dismantling social services while labeling them “entitlements” is a bit or rhetorical trickery that belongs in the circus but not on the national stage. The quality and availability of social services are what define a country and a society – they are not privileges or favors from the wealthy to the poor.

Portraying taxes as punitive by their very nature is not only wrong; it distorts the notion of a social contract. Companies like General Electric spend millions of dollars, not on research and development, but on tax departments that too often successfully reduce their tax obligations to zero – this is corporate social irresponsibility and we all pay for it.

Yet the G.O.Tea Party and its Koch brothers financiers believe that this is kind of business agenda that make sense for the future.

The current political arena seems like some bizarre version of a “Night of the Living Dead” scenario, except that it is taking place in broad daylight.

It is time to be afraid, very afraid.

Standard