* The inhumanity of human nature – The Daily Show recently sent a young African American staff member to Florida to meet with a group of retired Jewish people. As he sat with these elderly men and women he asked the question. “What do we have in common?” There was a long period of silence and one man finally responded, “I like fried chicken.” It came off humorously but it emphatically made the point that it is our human nature to identify our differences before seeking common ground. Since I seriously dislike chicken in any form I began to think about what I have in common with this African American and other Americans regardless of race, religion, age, gender or geographic location. We want to live in our country protected from foreign enemies and in neighborhoods free of crime. We want clean air to breathe and sanitary water to drink. We want an economy that provides access to reasonably paying jobs. We want affordable quality education for our children and access to health care that does not become a choice between paying the rent or paying for a prescription. We all experience pain when our child is injured and we confront our mortality when diagnosed with a serious illness. For all of the commonality that we as Americans share, few of these interests have been served under the Republican/Bush leadership and in most cases conditions have worsened. We need to stop listening to the conservative hate-mongers on radio (Limbaugh, Savage, Beck and similar ilk) and Fox News and direct our attention to the real needs of our community and our society. We have to stop embracing the rhetoric and politics of divisiveness and difference. It is time that we as a country matured and selected leaders that serve the common, not the special interests.
* Economics 490 ~ a seminar in fiscal fraud ~ I urge readers who send me emails stating that they fear Democrats will raise taxes to please delete my email address. Of all the frauds emanating from our nation’s capitol “fear of taxes” earns the Department of Homeland Security “Scare the Crap Out of Ya” award. Of course no one wants to pay more taxes so this has been a winning mantra for Republicans in custom-fitted suits running around Washington D.C. They understand that the average voter does not think about the federal deficit and its debilitating effect on our economy. As they increase federal spending and lower taxes for the wealthy they are increasing the amount of money Americans owe – a ploy far more taxing than taxes on the American taxpayer. We are quick to criticize those that live beyond their economic means and then cannot pay their mortgage. An article in USA Today points out that our country is equally deadbeat. The White House has increased their estimate for next year’s deficit to be a record $490,000,000,000 (billion). Using the sophisticated computer tool named “calculator” I learned that this deficit amounts to $1,633 for every man, woman and child in the United States. Adding the 2009 deficit to an existing debt of approximately $9 trillion means that each of the 300 million of us is responsible for over $30,000 of the federal debt. The U.S. National Debt Clock can be seen at this link.
This financial quagmire did not happen overnight. The USA Today article offers graphics depicting federal spending during the tenure of recent presidents. Republican Ronald Reagan ran deficits all 8 years of his presidency. Republican George H.W. Bush ran deficits all 4 years. Democrat Bill Clinton inherited these deficits but was able to run surpluses in the federal budget during the last 3 years of his presidency. What happened when Republican icon George W. Bush snuck into the Oval Office? After the first year the surplus was gone and deficits marked each successive year culminating in an all-time record deficit he bequeaths the American people for 2009. But taxes were not raised!
Why should we be concerned about our federal government operating in the red? The federal deficit is a loan from individuals and foreign countries on which interest is charged. It is costly to the U.S. economy and taxpayer. This high U.S. debt is responsible for the devaluing of the American dollar thereby increasing the cost of imported goods including OIL. The value of the dollar has decreased 45% against the Euro in the last 6 years! And, the full effects of this policy of folly are yet to be realized. The Economic Policy Institute notes: “The current U.S. international debt path is damaging to future U.S. living standards. This damage has not materialized yet because interest rates have been at historic lows in recent years, making U.S. borrowing extraordinarily cheap. However, it would be irresponsible for economic policy makers in the United States to bank on these low rates. As soon as the interest rates begin to rise in the United States, the full consequences of the U.S. international debt problem will have real bite.”
Our government, especially under Republican leadership, has sold us swamp land on which to build our economy. By divining the illusion of lower taxes Republicans have in fact increased the cost of virtually every aspect of our existence while putting our economic future at even graver risk. I once had a friend who was so focused on getting a great deal on his purchases that he often wound up getting screwed. This friend could be the poster boy for the fools who run so hard from taxes that they arrive at bankruptcy.
* Setting the record straight ~ the crooked tongue of “straight-talk” McCain - John McCain has been running ads that are blatantly misleading and flagrantly dishonest. The list is too extensive to address at one time but since taxes are being discussed lets look at two of his biggest lies concerning Barack Obama’s position on taxes:
Lie: McCain said that Obama would raise taxes for people making as little as $32,000 a year.
Fact: Obama said on June 12, 2008, “If you are a family making less than $250,000 a year, my plan will not raise your taxes. Period. Not income tax, not payroll tax, not capital gains tax, not any of your taxes. And chances are you will get a tax cut.”
Lie: McCain said that Obama voted for higher taxes 94 times.
Fact: Fact Check.org analyzes this disingenuous claim in detail. Bottom line: “But by repeating their inflated 94-vote figure, the McCain campaign and the GOP falsely imply that Obama has pushed indiscriminately to raise taxes for nearly everybody. A closer look reveals that he's voted consistently to restore higher tax rates on upper-income taxpayers but not on middle- or low-income workers.”
Thanks to Steve Benen at Crooks and Liars for his research on this topic.
* Headline of the Week – From the conservative Wall Street Journal an article by Daniel Henninger asks, “Is John McCain Stupid?” The article is insightful and questions McCain’s abilities from a number of perspectives. Especially telling was Henninger’s reaction to McCain’s fluctuating positions on Social Security. Henninger said, “This isn't a flip-flop. It's a sex-change operation.” Ouch – from several perspectives.
* A Jiffy Lube oil change – Listen to John McCain in June 2008, "I am very angry, frankly, at the oil companies not only because of the obscene profits they've made but at their failure to invest in alternate energy to help us eliminate our dependence on foreign oil," the senator said, "They're making huge profits and that happens, but not to say, 'We're in this so we can over time eliminate America's dependence on foreign oil,' I think is an abrogation of their responsibilities as citizens." On a campaign stop in Greensdale, WI in May 2008 the Senator suggested that turning to the nation's coast for energy needs would be something of a waste in time and effort and do little to resolve America's broader energy needs. In July 2008 John McBush was suddenly for it as he received over $1 million in campaign contributions from oil interests. The one mil is of course chump change as the five largest oil companies project $168 billion in profits this year. It does not take much to turn John McCain’s head, heart or soul.
~Curiouser and curiouser – Republicans controlled congress from 1994 through 2006 and the White House from 2001 to the present. How often did they promote expanding off-shore drilling? About as often as they promoted free condoms for minorities. Why did it become a burning issue in June 2008? Like a Three Card Monte scammer on a street corner in Manhattan they wanted to mislead and misdirect the public. Republicans have a disastrous history to run on and no viable solutions going forward. Their platform has descended to phony issues and negative attack ads. When Alice asked Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum for directions they asked her where she wanted to go. Alice replied that she did not know. Dee and Dumb retorted that if you don’t know where you want to go it does not matter which road you take. Welcome to the Republican world of Through the Looking Glass.
* Lies, falsehoods, fabrications, deceit, prevarication and mendacity - We are told by oil interests and the Bush administration (evidently one in the same) that off-shore drilling is so sophisticated that there is no evidence of or threat from oil spills. Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman went on Fox News (of course) to push the claim that offshore drilling is safe for the environment. He said, “When we had Katrina and Rita, the two worst hurricanes in — at least in recent memory, in ‘05, some three years ago, there was not one case where we had a situation with oil or gas being spilled in the environment.” Mr. Bodman was apparently busy attending a pig roast at the Crawford ranch when in May 2006 the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS) published their offshore damage assessment from these hurricanes: 113 platforms totally destroyed, and - more importantly - 457 pipelines damaged, 101 of those major lines …. At least 741,000 gallons were spilled from 124 reported sources (the Coast Guard calls anything over 100,000 gallons a "major" spill).” The blog thinkprogress.org offers additional evidence that emphatically contradicts the ludicrous safety claims by our government and the energy industry as to off-shore drilling safety. It almost makes one cynical!
* Speaking of cynical ~ protecting the troops – KBR is an offshoot of Dick Cheney’s former company Halliburton. Both companies have gained billions of dollars in contracts from the Iraq war. For not the first time KBR has been accused of poor performance and shoddy work in fulfilling contracts. Most recently we learned of 16 deaths of US soldiers from electrocution due to inferior construction by KBR building military barracks in Iraq. What could possibly make this situation worse? The Pentagon attempted to cover-up KBR’s negligence! Yes, the Department of Defense knew about the problem while more soldiers died. Sometimes it is difficult to know who the enemy is.
* Speaking of disingenuous and dangerous military myopia ~ meet the Dick Cheney – Pulitzer Prize winning journalist for The New Yorker magazine Seymour Hersh “revealed that Bush administration officials held a meeting recently in the Vice President’s office to discuss ways to provoke a war with Iran…Hersh explained that an idea was considered to dress up Navy Seals as Iranians, put them on fake Iranian speedboats, and shoot at them. This idea… was ultimately rejected.” Recall in 2006 it was revealed that President Bush had suggested to Tony Blair prior to the Iraq invasion that they paint one of our air force planes to UN colors to try to entrap Saddam’s army into shooting it down? These revelations should put an end to any criticism of the Bush administration that its foreign policy lacks imagination and creativity. “Lack of effectiveness” however, is still in play.
* “The greatest crime since World War II has been U.S. foreign policy.”Ramsey Clark (born 1927) lawyer, former U.S. Attorney General and recipient of the Gandhi Peace Award