Sunday, October 21, 2012
In Memory George McGovern (July 19,1922-Oct 21, 2012)
That's all my brother and I ever had to call him. We knew which Senator we meant. His ill fated Presidential bid in 1972 was our baptism of fire into the world of politics. No more egar, idealistic, stary eyed kids ever burned up the spare time of their sophomore high school year than us. My first crushing political defeat, so devastating it led to my first drunk (the defeat party) and my first hang over (which felt like death).
From the defeat party they dorve me to the home of some guy they knew in the Hill Crest area of Dallas. Upper middle class homes. I'm left in the car while they do in. This guy has an Eastern European name which I wont say but that night I was so drunk I could not say it. So I began wondering the neighborhood knocking on doors and going "is this Less snlorebloxk bosh kie house?" They had to track me down several houses down the way from where they left me.
McGovern was born July 19th, that day day keeps popping up in m life. Herbert Marcuse, another hero died on July 19th and that same July 19, 1979 the Nicaraguan revolution triumphed.
He was a bomber pilot in WWII, he flew a B-24 and was decorated for valor.. Elected to the senate from his native South Dakota in early 60s, he pushed a program of "food for peace," fighting communism by feeding the third world. The Senator was one of the first to speak against the war in Vietnam, a courageous pioneer who was mocked and ridiculed, labeled a communist but who stuck to his guns. When Robert Kennedy was assassinated McGovern was ask to stand in as the replacement candidate for his campaign.
He ran for President again in 84 or 88. and of cousre lost in the primaries and fairly early. He spent his last years in Eruope working for United Nations. See Los Angles Times coverage. McGovern was a Methodist when to a Wesleyan college on the GI bill after the war. He was an avid reader of philosophy and in his college days was taken with the works of Walter Rauschenbusch a leader in the "social Gospel" the forerunner movement of liberation theology.
His 72 Campaign got off to a rocky start then went down hill. He said he was behind Egalton "a thousand percent." Then dropped him form the ticket when it was revealed he had been in a mental institution. He chose Kenndy bother-in-law R.Sargent Shriver (father of Maria) to replace Egalton. Everyone began to say "O he just flip flopps all the time and can't make up his mind." Nixon, the master of atheist style campaigning, branded him a communist. People said "he's a wild eyed radical it would be a disaster if he was in." They never read his campagin literature, they didn't know his popsitons on anything. They were certain he was a dangerous radical. He changes his mind all the time. I had debats in every calss I was in. The other side was always stunned with how rational he sounded when I got through. No one changed their minds.
During the campaign I couldn't keep track of how many people said "it doesn't matter, that Watergate thing is no big deal." That next year after Watergate summer everyone said "O guess you were right." some said 'I guess I should have voted for McGovern after all." I lost count of how many people said I see you were right after all.
Just the way people are. they don't reason, they don't bother to learn the facts they just go along get along until it's too late then look to the past and go "we should have listened." But we are not going to listen now!
I think McGovern appealed to the Texan upbringing of my brother and I. We raised to admire the Alamo and the fight-to-the-death-for-your-beliefs mentality. That's what McGovern always symbolized for me. He was a symbol of my youthful idealism, my compassion or the oppressed, and the never say die fighting spirit that's willing to risk and lose all for higher beliefs.
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
A book by Joan Walsh. This is an excellent book. Walsh argues that government action built the American middle class in the years after world war II. The things government did to create a strong middle were not available to blacks and Hispanics, until the social action of the 60's opened them up to minorities through the civil rights act. From that point on the Republican propaganda merchants begin selling the white middle class on a mythical golden age and feeding them the line they did it all themselves by their own worthiness as superior people. They totally forgot about the G.I. Bill, legislation that fair housing possible controlled lending, created cheap housing for middle class families, medicare which freed people from huge expense being wiped by illness in their "golden years."
Walsh, who is white, daughter of a Steam Fitter and union man, traces the rise of the American middle class from the New deal. Republicans in the Reagan era spread about the myth that Roosevelt didn't do anything. By the time that happened most of the old Roosevelt supporters and the adults of the depression who weathered the storm and aw what he did for them, were old and dying and not longer taken seriously by their children. So no on Remembers what Roosevelt did. The New deal a life saver for millions of people. It put the country back to work at a time when unemployment was 30% (we think we have trouble when it's at 8%--it just fell below 8% but no one cares). Even before the new deal American society was a fudealistic culture with the Rich ruling like monarchs in an unoficial capacity and whole states living in darkness with no electricity. Rural electrification was one of the major things that created the middle class, it gave people lights and telephone labor saving devices like washing machines. The old rich monarch of the community is seen, although most people probably don't know it, in the character of Mr. Burns on the Simpsons who is patterned after characters on Orson Well's film "the Magnificent Ambersons." (see about novel) The joke is Burns is so old he's a hold over from a past age int eh 19th century; the old money families are still in charge, as robber barons they ran coal mines, how they run the nuclear power plant.
The Tennessee valley authority is an example of the kind of government help that got the American middle class on its feet. This problem would be called "socialism" by tea party types it's what up American into the 20th century. About the time programs like fair housing started being administered to minorities, Republican pitch began laying the ground work for the Reagan era by spinning myths of a golden age when conservative Christianity was the norm and everyone was a republican and all white Americans pulled themselves up by their own boot straps. That was the major propaganda line for Reagan. The "America is Back" theme harkened unto that non existent golden age. On Tavis Smiley (the dreaded PBS) Walsh talked about how modern conservatives will speak of "getting government out of medicare" as though medicare is not a government program or an entitlement. It is both. It was major thing that made economic independence of the middle class possible.
SF GATE: Book Review
'What's the Matter With White People?'Joel Whitney
Updated 3:16 a.m., Monday, August 27, 2012
Reagan wielded the phrase "welfare queens," and pushed a false view that most recipients were black, lazy and happy not to work. This helped galvanize a false sense among working-class whites that they themselves had never received government help on their way to the middle class. "I once blamed the conflict solely on wealthy capitalists and their politician-servants such as Nixon and [Pat] Buchanan," Walsh writes, "pitting the two groups at the bottom against each other." No more. Her own side, including the race-obsessed left, played, and plays, into this.
In a sense, Walsh sees herself taking up the actual "sweet, reasonable middle." She describes a whiplash, "one day calling out the racism of the president's worst critics, the next day being accused of racial bias by Obama's defenders if I described his disturbingly centrist political maneuvering."Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/books/article/What-s-the-Matter-With-White-People-3814027.php#ixzz28tFiQBzM
Now the myth is that government is always bad, it's destroyed our way of life. what's destroyed the prospects of the middle class is Bush's policies, before him Reaganomics. The Republicans billed the poor "a special interest" while maintaining that the true special interstates (the 1%) are escaping the rising tide of taxes on the middle class. The label democrats "tax and spend" while they themselves are the one's whose tax cuts were primarily for the rich. Rowney's policies put the tax burden squarely on the backs of the middle class while allowing the rich to escape. Obama's tax policy would give the middle class the break and put the burden on the 1% who have 90% of the wealth and don't pay taxes. While middle class feels ignored because Republican rhetoric has made them feel that regulation is to blame for all their problems. It was the destruction of regulation that allowed the near economic collapse at the end of the Bush years, the need for the big bail out of banks. Despite what Romney said in the debate he had campaigned all along on a formula of decreasing revenue and cutting social program (such as medicare which he would replace with a voucher system). So he's just continuing the policies and the myth of the golden age and the self reliant self made boot strap white people who never had relied on government and are now oppressed by too much government. what they really mean by "too much government" but less protection from rip off and more burden on the middle class, few social programs.
Walsh's book is also a personal memoir of her family. I traces where they came from and what they've been through. This helps the reader relate and to puts our own experiences and our own family histories into focus.
I looked up "what was he accomplishment of the new deal on Yahoo just to see what the popular misconception is:
The purpose was to give the economy a boost. It's major accomplishment though was to keep us stuck in the Great Depression for years longer while the rest of the world was already recovering and out of their depressions.They didn't create any jobs and it was the New Deal that kept us in the depression. those who lived through unanimous to the least 1% new it saved their lives. The know nothing doesn't even realize the rest of the world was coming out of it because they were trying similar things to the new deal.
Primarily, it tried to put unemployed people to work rather than creating jobs for them to get. The difference being that the jobs created by the New Deal were similar to paying some homeless guy to clean your dining table. Sure it's a nice gesture to help out that person, but it's not any sort of real job that impacts the economy. All it does is end up keeping millions of people dependent on the government so they can keep their pseudo-job since no one else would pay them to do that job.
The New deal created millions of jobs. So that perception of it is a total lie. one can find it being taught in economists class all over the country.
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Don't be surprised if we soon see Big Bird of Sesame Street on the corner holding a sign that says "will work for pledges." Romney promised to eliminate funding to PBS. How musch does PBS drain on the budget? Even right wing source like MRC News bulletin shows that PBS is not burden to the budget.
The federal investment in public broadcasting equals about one one-hundredth of one percent of the federal budget. Elimination of funding would have virtually no impact on the nation’s debt. Yet the loss to the American public would be devastating. [...]Rogers's address to the hearing was really moving even the chairman commented on it. (see Video)
Thursday, October 4, 2012
When I was in high school and college debate we had a saying, used at both levels, "who won on the flow?" "The flow" refers to the flow sheet, the legal pads almost all debaters use upon which we would take a special kind of notes designed to getting down everything in that debate format. The reason we distinguished between winning 'on the flow' and 'on the ballot' is becuase there's a disparity. Often we would win the issues according logic an evidence and lose because the judge was not a debater, didn't understand what we were talking about, and would vote on whatever extraneous factor she find, like who was most handsome or the color of a tie. In the Presidential debates last night it seems the spin doctors and the press are saying Romney won. I supposed he may have won on the ballot but he didn't win on the flow.
I think what happened is most people expected Obama to put Romney away. Romney has said some stupid things (we forget the 47% quote was a candied shot after an event--he didn't say it to the public and he's not stupid, he's not going to say that in the debate!). When he came out, spoke well, smiled, looked confidence and knew how many beans make five, it seemed like he's winning. Obama looked tried and apprehensive. That make him look frustrted and being frustrated make it seem he's losing. I felt he was thinking "this misconception of Rowney's is too complicated to explain here." So in other words I don't believe Obama lost, but he looked like he was losing.
Are we going to let little extraneous factors determine the outcome? Are we voting who tie we like the best? Probably. Hey I still content that's why Reagan won. I suggest we nominate David Letterman, I like his ties. The trust of it is Obama did not put Romney away even on the issues. I never thought Romeny was a fool. He's an opportunist and will be much more likely to side with the right than the left. The few reasonable seeming things he did as governor or Massachusetts were probably due to the fact that the legislature was overwhelmingly Democrat. Actually, I have to admit I don't think Romney lost all that badly on the flow (on the issues). I do think he lost, but it was close. It was the closeness that makes people just feel Obama lost. If in fact people feel that. So far I have sen a lot pundits telling me how I feel but little evidence of how people really feel.
One problem that made debating the issues difficult is that Romney's basic ideology is republican trickle down theory. That means that they automatically equate saved money for the rich with stimulus and investment that creates jobs, they don't equate it with lack of revenue. So all of the Republican nominee's estimates about what he will cover, what he will do, how he will pay for things he's assuming something that has never worked out historically. For example in the 80s Regan tax cuts for Steel industry were not spent on updating plants, they were spent investing in oil; this gave the inverter profits but created few jobs. Another assumption Romney made is that 'green energy' doesn't produce jobs, which it does. At several points he kept saying how much money Obama was wasting investing in green energy. He knows the average voter doesn't know about the multiplier effect and doesn't trust green energy, and doesn't see the necessity of it. Romney stated flatly "I'm interested in clean coal." Clean coal doesn't' exist. It requires every expensive scrubbers to clean it an those are not mandated so they don't have to use them. They are cost prohibitive so they wont install them. Coal is the most polluting form of energy. The first study to quantify deaths from pollution was largely quantifying coal pollution, that was the Leave and Suskin study of the early 70s. Yet Obama seemed too tired to answer this so he let it go with minimal defense of green energy as a choice.Americans have been groomed by Republican administrations not to trust global warming senierios so he President was probably leery of getting bogged down in a debate about that.
Another point at which I feel Obama won on the flow was about raising revenue. At one point Romney said "I will not raise taxes on high income" he also said he would not raise taxes middle income. He kept saying they would pay for programs by not spending differently, obviously he means cutting social programs. Obama did talk about they wont have the revenue and the elderly will be on the street. Romney asserts his play will grow the economy and we will have revenue because wee will be creating jobs and the economy will be growing. That's a good dream on paper but what if it works like he Regan tax cuts which allowed the rust belt to determinate and put steel industry out of business? Historically that's what happens when you cuts taxes for the right, they do not create jobs they invest in non labor intensive profit making ventures. Obama did allude tot his but he didn't clarify. Yet he did npoint out the capital short fall. He pointed out the Romey voucher program will cost the average elderly person six thousnd dollars years in permiums and medicine and repealling the health care reform will take away the cheap meds for the elderly. Romney did not respond.
Another area where Obama won hands down was the issue of leaving medicaid to the states. That will be a total disaster. Romney's answer indicates he doesn't understand the issue. He talks about how the states want that. He indicates that because that's what the states would prefur that means they will do a better job. It doesn't dawn on him (or does it?) the reason they want it is because it will enable them to put that money in other things they can't pay for now and cut befits to the poor and elderly. The states with Republican governors are the reason the stimulus package didn't work. They spent the money on things already being done that they couldn't pay for. What would change that with Romney? Especially since he so enthusiastic about leaving it tot he states. Obama pointed this out but he didn't point out that in the sixties the state administration was one of the major means of circumventing the war on poverty. then you have places like Texas where they have raised raiding the funds to an art form. Perry is now in a suit where a state legislator is charging that he took from the education fund to pay for other things, and denuded state education. We know that will happen again. So leaving it to the states is a disaster.
The horror that awaits us from a Romney administration is clear, but in last nights debate it was well disguise beneath a confident smile, affable manner, and competent seeming air. I still think this was all just window dressing and if one studies Romney's answers one sees it's not pretty what he's leading us into. Obama won on the flow and we should understand and take it seriously.
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Americans are all dispossessed millionaires. Even if we are unemployed and have no money we are not working class, we are really rich we are just waiting for the money to come. We see ourselves as middle or above we always identify with the interest of the rich. Rather than place the blame for your current depression on those who caused it, the rich, the capitalist, the bankers, we place it on those who tried to stop it, the regulators. We all millionaires just being persecuted and held back by evil liberals who resist wealth by government regulation. We totally forget we just fought two wars and long and costly as Vietnam (tw0 at once) and went through a housing crisis what saw the devastation and theft of most middle class neighborhoods, brought on by unrestrained greed which uses houses as poker chips rather than places families can live, and a bail out of the banks to cover their own greedy mistakes, paid for by tax payers; the then turned around and dictated to us government policy at the cost of down grading our national credit. We have totally forgotten that the republicans refused comprise and almost allowed the government to go under, are trying to destroy social security, while lying about the nature of health care reform. We replace these memories with pretense that all we need is more capitalism, more pandering to greed, get the evil liberals out of the way and let the rich have more profits form our labor and purify the nature of our worship of money and they we will all be millionaires.
Thomas Frank's book Pity the Billionaire is a good reminder of reality, and Bill Moyer's Interview with him is eye opening.
This interview with Moyers was broadcasted last night, June 16, 2012. deals with the supreme court decision on Citizen's united and Thomas Frank's book Pity the Billionaire.
The Frank interview deals with the overall system of "free market" and the grass roots right-wing populism that has sprang up to promote it. Franks argues that in the near economic collapse at the end of the Bush administration and the we saw the failure of the entire system. All the problems can be traced to deregulation. All the things we had been doing for short term profits, blinding ourselves to ethics, opening the field to money, power and influence all goes back to de-regulating. Yet Ameircans have never before been more enamored of the idea that regualition is villian and less government is the answer. The whole problem we face today is the result of not regulating the market, allowing big money to get bigger. The populace has never been fleeced before like they are now. Like goo obedient lemmings they they march off the cliff reciting the mantras of big money and capitalism. Never before have Americans been more willing to believe that if we just take the restraints off free market everything will even out in a God ordained natural economic democracy.
Pity the Billionaire tells of the rebirth of right-wing populism after its submergence in 1996. The Tea Party movement in America today is driven by a vision of utopian capitalism, Frank observes, "at the precise moment when free-market theory has proven itself to be a philosophy of ruination and fraud". The bailouts that Bush began, Obama continued as if no change of plan were necessary with a change of administration and mandate; but "the bailouts were one of those moments that crushes the faith of a nation". The new populism that Frank describes is a feverish reassertion of faith.
There were available remedies for the collapse besides charging the losses to taxpayers. One solution would have been to put the zombie banks into receivership. Another was to bring the financial industry under regulation again (as suggested by Paul Volcker, Obama's leading economic adviser until he became president). The explanation for such steps could have been simple; but instead, Obama in 2009 spoke vaguely of "fundamental change" even as he became the guardian of the financial status quo. Either of those moves alone would have been risky. Their combination was toxic. By using big government to protect the firms that were deemed too big to fail, Obama supplied new grounds for every suspicion that government could not be relied on to help ordinary people.
In addition tot he Frank interview Moyers talked about Money buying elections and the supreme court decision. He also interviewed Mother Jone's editors Carla Jeffery and Monika Bauerkein, who talked about their book Dark Money, "the conspiracy of cash that allows the rich to influence our most fundamental political freedoms. On the show, Bill calls out some of the biggest super PAC donors, revealing how easy it is for the wealthy one percent to sway an election.."
The re-call election of Walker (Wisconsin) saw 14 billionaires outspending the unions by eight times. To ensure that America doesn't become a socialist state ran by unions Texas Oligarch Tom Perry and Billionaire Diane Hendrix gave huge amounts of money. The Court deicsion sets this up, it sets up the possibility of "dark money" campaign expenses that can't be traced. We don't know who is buying influence.
I did a piece on the re-call when the campaign began (March 2011) on my blog Need More Shovels.
Capitalism without failure
“Let’s face it,” the founder of a super PAC recently told Mother Jones magazine. “Politics in this country is coin-operated.” True enough, as evidenced by the billions projected to be spent in this year’s elections — untold amounts of it unleashed by the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision. Even with all that money being cashed in, the busy check-writers and the influence they purchase remain largely hidden, including those who helped Republican Governor Scott Walker dramatically out-fundraise his Democratic challenger to win last week’s recall election.Don't miss this amazing episode of Moyer's show. This interview is devastating and alarming but it has to be seen by every voter in America. Email it to your friends.
Watch Interview (Pitty The
Frank did a impervious interview with Moyers about how Ameicans had forgotten (by as early as 2010) what things were like before Obama.
Watch The previous Frank Interview
I am a victim and I'm entitled. I'm largely a victim of my own stupidity and I'm entitled to all the rights granted in the bill of rights. I don't see why everyone should not be entitled to or granted the basic right to food, medicine, shelter, and safety. Why should I deny myself what I am willing to grant others?
The major mistake made by the Obama 47 is that they are too obstinate to ask their parents for money. If they would barrow that money form their parents no one would be poor. The economy is still bad and people are still hurting but things are going to pick up in the next couple of years. On ABC News today they talked about five million jobs will be added to the economy in the next two years. Here are a couple of other sources that echo that news.
America's economy will continue its recovery this year and next as it adds nearly 5 million jobs and unemployment falls below 8 percent, say University of Michigan economists.
"The performance of the U.S. economy during much of 2011 did nothing to alter the perception that we were mired in a sluggish recovery," said U-M economist Joan Crary. "Indeed, by late summer economists were considering the likelihood of a double-dip recession.
"The economy regained some momentum during the fall, however, with the closing quarter registering some of the best economic readings of the year. Although the economy is growing at a subpar rate to begin 2012, we expect the pace of economic activity to accelerate over the next two years as the economic headwinds that have plagued the recovery begin to abate."
In their annual spring forecast update of the U.S. economy, Crary and colleagues Daniil Manaenkov and Matthew Hall say that employment rises at a moderate pace, consumer spending increases, the housing market picks up, vehicle sales improve and inflation remains in check in 2012 and 2013.
They predict that payroll employment will rise by 2.5 million jobs during 2012 and 2.3 million during 2013, an average of 200,000 jobs per month.
Obama can't take all the credit because part of it is due to lower energy prices due to the boom in natural gas mined form shale (such the boom in gas drilling in Ft. Worth). Lower energy prices have contributed to boom in productivity and thus in sexpots, according to Scot Malone. (Boston, Reuters). Neither can he take all the blame. The stimulus packed did help and Republicans are holding the jobs bill back and thus negating a million Job increase that would come from that (Daily Kos)
A year ago today, Republicans began blocking the passage of the American Jobs Act. This is not a happy anniversary. Without Republican obstruction, the very jobs report that Republicans are crowing about as proof of the President's failings would instead show an increase in hiring and GDP.
On September 8, 2011..........President Obama laid out a series of policy proposals known collectively as the American Jobs Act. The plan included stimulus spending in the form of immediate infrastructure investments, tax credits for working Americans and employers to encourage consumer spending and job growth, and efforts to shore up state and local budgets to prevent further layoffs of teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other public safety officials. The American Jobs Act never became law....because Republicans opposed it from the start, blasting it as another form of “failed stimulus” that wouldn’t help the economy. (They ignored the fact that the first “failed stimulus,” the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, wasn’t a failure at all.) One month later, the GOP blocked the bill in the Senate, preventing the creation of more than a million jobs and the added growth that multiple economists predicted would occur if the bill passed:
–Moody’s Analytics estimated the American Jobs Act would create 1.9 million jobs and add two percent to gross domestic product.
–The Economic Policy Institute estimated it would create 2.6 million jobs and protect an addition 1.6 million existing jobs.
–Macroeconomic Advisers predicted it would create 2.1 million jobs and boost GDP by 1.5 percent.
–Goldman Sachs estimated it would add 1.5 percent to GDP.
Monday, September 10, 2012
Clinton speaks at Convention
It was a great convention. I was convinced. Of course I've been convinced all along. I like Anne Ricard's Daughter, Cecile. She tried to re create the folksy touch of her mother back there in the 80s when she stunned the convention with her use of Texanisms. She said "that dog wont hunt" and the convention went wild. Cecile's contribution, "if Romney helps me any more I'll have to take in ironing." Good solid Texanism but greeted with mild laughter. The governor of Montana used "that dog wont hunt" (stealing our folksy sayings) and used it as a call and response kind of thing got the coward worked up, all together now "that dog wont hunt." Clinton's speech was brilliant and wonderful. "People are always asking me what magic I used to get down the deficient I tell them one word, arithmetic." Michelle's speech was brilliant and moving. There was a fine film of Edward Kennedy and a couple of Kennedys on hand (Caroline and Robert's grand son Joe III).
One of the most striking and ruder realities was the reaction of the press trying to spin the convention away from the bounce. Every single commentator I heard after Clinton's speech said "no speaker at the convention directly faced the question 'are you better off now than you were four years ago.'" That is ludicrous and it is a lie. Every single speaking, every one said clearly and directly "hell yes we are better off now than we were four years ago." They did say it too because I noticed it and I kept tack. One major difference Romney used the version that says "are YOU better off." The dems used the version "are WE better off?" they answered decisively "yes." Here the press lies about it. Biden's answer was "Ben Ladin is dead and GM is alive." Biden's speech was rousing and moving too. He does repeat himself too much. The speakers of those four days brought out a vast of array of things Obama has done that make us better off than we would have been. No it's not perfect and if allowed to continue Obama is not finished. He laid out a plan for major continued work to bring jobs, create economic growth and save failing programs like medicare. Now that he knows the pitfalls of trying to something he can better deal with it. The Republican strategy is hasten the failure of social programs and then make the rich richer.
No one was better and bring out the triumphs of Obama's record than former President Bill Clinton. As he put it "here's the Republican argument in a nut shell: we gave him a huge mess to clean up, he didn't clean it up fast enough, so put us back in." Of course the elephant (pun intended) in the room is the employment mess. This elephant was talked about. The stimulus program did have one major draw back, because they didn't foresee the fact that would want to destroy it. States like Texas put the money into programs that already existed, and so didn't create many jobs. The next phase will be administrated better. Yet the stimulus package did have an effect. It did not produced he major solution and create full employment, it did create two million jobs and without unemployment would be nearing 10% now. The day after convention it was seen that unemployment has come down from 8.3% before the convention to 8.1%. Of course that's the lag time in reporting not that they did than in four days. Without the program we would be a lot worse off. But the big benefit it was supposed to bring was watered down by ineffective state administration and big increase in unemployment that was already the result of ripple effects from the Bush era.
Obama was given the bank bail out as a continuation of a Bush policy. A lot of pundits and talking heads have said we shouldn't have done the bail out. The republican trickle down spinners have said "O those were failing companies, the banks, just let them fail." That's ok for the 1% and their servants to say that. How many average people were willing to wake up a couple of days latter and find none of their money was any good? The major banks would have filed immediately as soon as they knew there was no relief. The small local banks and credit unions would have started closing like dominoes. I was the first to say Obama should have nationalized the banks. That's easy to say but it probalby would have gotten him shot. If the Republicans say he was is a communist or trying Bob Dole's medical care program can you imagine what they would say if he nationalized banks? He had to do the bail out and it took guts. It put a floor under the fall and saved the economic system.
He also saved the auto industry. That would have been another two million jobs down the drain in addition to the two million that would have been created with no stimulus package. We are clearly better off as a nation with him in. One of the first things he did that never get's talked about is pass the Lilly Ledbetter act
111th Congress, 2009–2010
A bill to amend title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and to modify the operation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, to clarify that a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice that is unlawful under such Acts occurs each time compensation is paid pursuant to the discriminatory compensation decision or other practice, and for other purposes.
- Jan 08, 2009
- Sen. Barbara Mikulski [D-MD]
The health care issue is extremely important. Doubed "Obama care" as a mark of derision but anyone who has any kind of medical issue can tell you we need something. The voucher system* Romney supports is designed to limit care for the elderly and to kill off medicare. Then rhetoric about getting rich and the sanctity of pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. The "Obama care" is also called "take over" which is extremely silly since it's handing the insurance companies the uninsured on a silver platter. What is it taking over? It's making sure the private companies that dominate health care now, and that run the cost up seven times the rate of other prices, will continue to dominate even more. How is that a government take over? Taking away medicare and putting in a lame voucher system to limit care for the elderly is not taking over?
Now of course that was rhetoric at a convention so we can expect it to be somewhat flawed. Politifact.com says it's muddy but essentially Sebeilius is both half right and half wrong. The figure she tags for Romney plan costing the elderly $6,400 is based upon an old plan. She's right there could be a shortfall for those under 55 who have the "preium support" ("voucher") between the premium and the cost of care.
Sebelius recycled an old number about an outdated Republican plan when she said, "Republicans would give seniors a voucher that limits what's covered, costing seniors as much as $6,400 more a year."Ok so they have more protection than a voucher but still not enough. Not as much as they get with the health care reforms. We need all we can get. They are testing it agaisnt a hypothetical voucher system when all we have to do is look at the reality of health care to know any short fall in aid limits care. The Republican rhetoic that Obama "stole" from medicare for "Obama care" and that he took money out of the system was effectively disproved by Clinton.
She’s right that a shift to paying a defined amount for seniors to buy their own insurance essentially offers them a voucher. But the Republicans’ Medicare exchange with market-based premium support payments would offer more protection than a pure voucher. And we simply don’t have enough details about that new plan to know how much extra money seniors might have to pay for traditional Medicare. We rate her full statement Half True.
There's a good discuss about that on NPR
HORSLEY: The president's health care law does reduce Medicare spending by more than $700 billion over the next decade. But that savings is supposed to come from insurance companies, hospitals, drug makers and the like, not from cutting basic services to the 48 million Americans who are on Medicare.The real sense that I came away with is the striking difference that the Republicans are about individual's getting richer and leaving behind anyone can't claw his way to the top. The Democrats are about working together to pull everyone up. Tirckle down vs rising tide lifts all boats.
HORSLEY: Romney has promised to undo the president's health care law, and put that $700 billion-plus back into Medicare....
But doing away with Obamacare would also mean getting rid of some special help for seniors, says Medicare expert Tricia Neuman of the Kaiser Family Foundation.
TRICIA NEUMAN: The other thing that was in the health reform law were provisions that actually improved coverage by expanding the prescription drug benefit in the Donut Hole.
HORSLEY: Mr. Obama told supporters in Iowa this week that measure is already saving money for millions of seniors who take pricey prescription drugs. The president's also sparring with Republicans over how to handle future Medicare for people retiring at least a decade from now.
*is it fair to call it "voucher?" That's the term the Democrats give it to mock it, the Republicans call it "Premium support" to dignify it. Several fact checker pages say "voucher system" does describe it.
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
In Going with Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate, Romney chooses the radical end of the spectrum. Ryan is the the architect of the GOP's plans to slash spending and overhaul Medicare.
Slate, August 11, 2012
JANESVILLE, Wis.— Mitt Romney has made his first presidential-level decision, picking Paul Ryan, the 42-year-old, seven-term Congressman from southern Wisconsin, as his running mate. The choice offers the first real hints about what kind of president Romney will be. Here's what we learned: He takes risks, he can adapt, and he's willing to campaign on a bold set of ideas rather than generalities. If you're looking for the attributes of presidential leadership, these are all strong qualities. The Ryan pick also tells us less flattering things about Romney: He's willing to discard what were once deeply held views about the necessity of business and executive experience and to cosset the GOP base for political reasons at the expense of independents.
Thanks to the endless coverage this campaign of gaffes and out-of-context quotes, it had seemed like we were going to have a donut election: fluffy, sugary, and with nothing in the middle. The stakes for voters have always been high, but the way the campaign has played out has not matched the claims by both candidates that this is the most important election of a generation. Romney has had plans he could point to, but he wasn't really running on them. Now he's put a greater emphasis on those plans. They are no longer in the background, which means this election will be a clearer choice for voters. It will touch on the central question of how you refashion government in a time of scarcity and when a majority of the public is scared, thinking the country is headed in the wrong direction.
Ryan is a nut case tea party guy who continually says that "Obama tried to take over health care." Take it over? By turning it over the insurance industries and passing a law that assures the industry they will be given all the stragglers by law?
Washington Post says the choice of Ryan reshapes the campaign.
Ryan has energized Republicans. Read any report out of the Ryan-Romney bus tour through Virginia (Saturday) and North Carolina (Sunday), and it’s clear that there is an energy in the crowds that wasn’t there a few days ago. The question is how long that positive buzz will last. Remember that then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin drew huge crowds during her first few days (and weeks) as Sen. John McCain’s running mate in 2008. And we know how that worked out. For the moment, the fresh face and Midwestern aw-shucks mentality that Ryan exudes seem to have Republicans excited about their presidential ticket anew — or for the first time.That's to be expected. Any major change in the campaign would probably jar the electorate and bring Romney up in the polls a few points, at least temporarily. Historically the selection of a running mate has rarely if ever really determined the outcome of a race. McGovern's selection of Sargent Shriver to replace Eagelton was heralded as brilliant move but it had no effect on the election.
Ryan's record is complex and shows little compromise:
from the Daily Kos
Voted YES on terminating the Home Affordable mortgage Program. (Mar 2011)Ryan is no friend of homeowners and solidly on the side of the house thieves.
Voted YES on $192B additional anti-recession stimulus spending. (Jul 2009)
Voted NO on modifying bankruptcy rules to avoid mortgage foreclosures. (Mar 2009)
Voted NO on additional $825 billion for economic recovery package. (Jan 2009)
Voted NO on monitoring TARP funds to ensure more mortgage relief. (Jan 2009)
Voted YES on $15B bailout for GM and Chrysler. (Dec 2008)
Voted NO on $60B stimulus package for jobs, infrastructure, & energy. (Sep 2008)
Voted NO on defining "energy emergency" on federal gas prices. (Jun 2008)
Voted NO on revitalizing severely distressed public housing. (Jan 2008)
Voted NO on regulating the subprime mortgage industry. (Nov 2007)
BAD ON ENERGY INDEPENDENCE:
Voted YES on opening Outer Continental Shelf to oil drilling. (May 2011)He's also pro guns and NRA
Voted YES on barring EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. (Apr 2011)
Voted NO on enforcing limits on CO2 global warming pollution. (Jun 2009)
Voted NO on tax credits for renewable electricity, with PAYGO offsets. (Sep 2008)
Voted NO on tax incentives for energy production and conservation. (May 2008)
Voted NO on tax incentives for renewable energy. (Feb 2008)
Voted NO on investing in homegrown biofuel. (Aug 2007)
Voted NO on removing oil & gas exploration subsidies. (Jan 2007)
Voted NO on keeping moratorium on drilling for oil offshore. (Jun 2006)
Voted YES on scheduling permitting for new oil refinieries. (Jun 2006)
Voted YES on authorizing construction of new oil refineries. (Oct 2005)
Voted NO on passage of the Bush Administration national energy policy. (Jun 2004)
Voted NO on implementing Bush-Cheney national energy policy. (Nov 2003)
Voted NO on raising CAFE standards; incentives for alternative fuels. (Aug 2001)
Voted NO on prohibiting oil drilling & development in ANWR. (Aug 2001)
Voted NO on starting implementation of Kyoto Protocol. (Jun 2000)
Rated 0% by the CAF, indicating opposition to energy independence. (Dec 2006)
Paul Ryan = ANTI-CHOICE:see rest of the rest
click on this map for a good interactive large scale map showing
swing states and their profiles.
Saturday, August 11, 2012
Washington post:Bill Turque
Three polls released in the last 24 hours show President Obama widening his lead over the former Massachusetts governor to as much as nine points. The surveys of registered voters, all conducted sometime between Aug. 2 and 8, also have Romney’s unfavorable ratings headed north. Two of the polls show his support among independents slipping.The first is
A Fox News poll found the largest deficit, with Romney trailing by nine points (49 percent to 40 percent) That’s the widest gap Fox has reported all year. Its July survey had Obama up by four points (45 percent to 41 percent). Fox found that Obama’s increasing advantage comes mainly on the strength of a big bump from independents, who now support the president by 11 points, up from four points in July.Next CNN/ORC place the race at 52-45%.Obama leading 9 points.
The new Reuters/Ipsos poll has Romney trailing Obama 49 percent to 42 percent
This is not bad for a guy who just a couple of months ago was being dismissed as "he's done so bad on the economy no way he can get re-elected." Of cousre this is no time to sit back and be overconfident. Still too early for these to be meaningful figures. The conventions haven't even been held yet. We can also expect Obama to dip with the news exposure than choosing a running make will give the Romney campaign. This is the time to make sure everyone understands about the reasons why the economy hasn't picked up:
*fighting two Vietnam scale wars at once for 10 years.
* One or two million jobs created but absorbed by recession.
* Administration of stimulus left to states, who used money for non job creation.
* Major drought and ecological disasters in gulf.
We also need to be clear about Romney's policies which favor the rich, supply empty rhetoric and ideological myths about tax cuts providing jobs when they do no such thing. The Reagan tax cuts did not lead to jobs becuase the rich and corporations do not spend money on jobs they invest to make more money without creating jobs. It's not going to be any different now.
Sunday, August 5, 2012
We remember the late
Andy Griffith.He campaigned
for the health care reform
this was originally posted
11/17/10 as "Remember the Seinors
who cut their own throats"
Remember the elderly guy who voted in the Tea Party because he was sick of government spending, only to realize that his social security he needs to live on is government spending and the Tea Party wants to eliminate it? He also forgot they want to eliminate medicare too. When I was in high school debate (so long ago Nixon was President and Watergate just being thought about) a family of four lived in poverty if they made less than $4,000 a year, according to HEW. Now if they make $19,157 or less they are in poverty. A family of 2 with no children make less than $12,000 are in poverty. A single person 65 who makes less than $9,060 is in poverty. 37 million or 13% of our population in poverty.
social Solutions to poverty.
Using this poverty measurement, 37 million people, or 13 percent of the population, currently live below the poverty line. If a more realistic formula for counting the poor were used, without the flaws of the current poverty threshold, the number of poor would rise to at least 50 million.10% of our seniors or 4 million live in poverty. now they face major cuts in their medical. Wait don't say "what different does that make I'm more well off than that." Middle class poor can wiped out in a minute with disease or stay in the hospital. Very few seniors are able to do without medicare or social security. Make no mistake, cuts are coming in both!
These figures put the United States in the dishonorable position of having the highest poverty rates in the industrialized world.
Center for Economic and Policy Research
One of the important untrue items circulating in policy debates in Washington is that we can have substantial budget savings if we cut Social Security and Medicare benefits for "wealthier seniors." Peter Peterson, the billionaire Wall Street investment banker regularly announces that he doesn't need his Social Security when highlighting his efforts to reduce the budget deficit.
In fact, everyone in the policy debate knows that there are very few people like Peter Peterson among Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries and it would not matter one iota if we took away their benefits completely. The billionaires or even millionaires are such a small share of the senior population, that it would barely affect the finances of these programs even if we could find a simple way to take back all their benefits (we can't).
This is why it is incredibly dishonest when the Washington Post puts forth its case in an editorial for cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits for "wealthier seniors," a change that the paper describes as making the programs "more progressive." Invariably what the Post and others mean when they use this line is cutting benefits for people with incomes of $50,000 or $60,000 a year. While these incomes would put a senior household way above the $29,700 median for the over 65 population, these incomes would not fit anyone's definition of wealthy. By contrast, President Obama put the cutoff at $250,000 when setting an income floor on people for raising taxes.
Medicare population is growing. By 2030 it will be 76 million Americans. Medicare is the third largest government program.(Health Care Crisis, Programing on PBS). Can seniors do without it?
In 1999, Medicare beneficiaries spent approximately $400 out-of-pocket on drugs, and many expect this number to rise. But those seniors who can't afford to pay for their medications often don't fill necessary prescriptions, or they take their medicine irregularly. The consequences can be dangerous, or even deadly. “Original” Medicare does not cover the cost of prescription drugs outside the hospital, which means that more than a third of Medicare beneficiaries lack coverage for outpatient prescription drugs. That number is expected to grow as private sources of coverage get more expensive. This coverage gap becomes more of a hardship as drugs grow more expensive and more important in treating the ills of old age. But some seniors have some drug coverage under other plans, including Medicare HMOs. HMOs and other forms of managed care are often able to negotiate lower prices for drugs from the manufacturers, but people paying for their medications as individuals cannot take advantage of these discounted rates. Logically, people who do not have drug coverage are less likely to fill the prescriptions their doctors give them, and less likely to take medication that could improve their health and prevent more serious effects of chronic diseases.
Drugs still account for only 7 percent of all U.S. medical spending, a figure that is expected to reach 8 percent in 2003. Though the amount spent on drugs may seem small, it is expected to increase dramatically in the coming years. America is the only industrialized nation with a free market for pharmaceuticals, or without government restraints on drug prices. In 1998, there was a record number of new drug launches, and the industry spent $1.3 billion on direct-to-consumer advertising four times the 1994 amount.
We fought off five major cuts in medicare this year. Where was this during the political Palaver of the camping just a week ago? No one campaigned on this. The dems gun shy form health care over the summer, the Tea Party is going to gut the aid so don't want to say anything. The seniors who just got through putting them in power are now faced with feeling their wrath when these major cuts go through.
They just got through cutting their throats so there's no one to champion their cause.
By Summer Smith, Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, November 17, 2010
These cuts are not the fault of the New republicans but the republican congress of the 90s. Yet there now the new tea party budget assassins are in and they have a mandate to cut all aid and murder the poor and elder. No one to stop them. The chickens are about to come to roost.
Doctors worry that looming cuts to Medicare could leave patients without care.
On Wednesday afternoon, doctors, medical staff and Medicare patients held a rally in Bradenton to protest the pending cuts. The rally was just one of many protests held around the United States.
Physicians are slated for a 23 percent cut in Medicare reimbursements on Dec. 1 and another 6 percent Jan. 1.
The reduction is being mandated by the federal government as a way to reduce the budget. The cuts are based on a formula that guides Medicare funding.
So far, Congress has stepped in three times this year to block those cuts from happening. Another push is underway to block those cuts again.
Dr. Andrew Clark, a family physician in Bradenton, said the change would impact his practice. About a third of his a patients are on Medicare.
"It would basically stop us from being able to take care of Medicare patients," Clark said.
Dr. Aaron Sudbury agreed, saying the cuts would limit the number of physicians Medicare patients can see.
"Medicare rates are our lowest paying," said Sudbury, who practices obstetrics and gynecology. "So if we reduce that rate even further, it negates my ability to care for those patients because I can't cover my costs to my office."
Patients like Norma Dunwood are also concerned about the cuts.
"We worked hard for it, they promised it," she said. "Therefore they should stick to their word."
The Manatee County Medical Society recently conducted a survey that found if the cuts go through, 20 percent of doctors say they will stop seeing new Medicare patients. Ten percent said they will opt out of Medicare altogether.
For Barbara Cook, it's a double-edged sword. Not only is she on Medicare, but she also works as a medical assistant.
"If they cut Medicare, then we'll have to cut back with our office staff," said Cook.
The cuts would not only affect Medicare patients, it will also impact private insurance because they base their rates on what Medicare does.
Clark said those cuts could be devastating to the entire medical community.
"It would inhibit us from adequate healthcare," said Clark.
The American Medical Association urges citizens who oppose the cuts to call their Senators and Representatives using the Association's toll-free Grassroots hotline at (800) 833-6354.
By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR, Associated Press Ricardo Alonso-zaldivar, Associated Press – Sat Nov 13, 12:16 am ET
WASHINGTON – Breast cancer surgeon Kathryn Wagner has posted a warning in her waiting room about a different sort of risk to patients' health: She'll stop taking new Medicare cases if Congress allows looming cuts in doctors' pay to go through.
The scheduled cuts — the result of a failed system set up years ago to control costs — have raised alarms that real damage to Medicare could result if the lame-duck Congress winds up in a partisan standoff and fails to act by Dec. 1. That's when an initial 23 percent reduction would hit.
Neither Democrats nor newly empowered Republicans want the sudden cuts, but there's no consensus on how to stave them off. The debate over high deficits complicates matters, since every penny going to make doctors whole will probably have to come from cuts elsewhere. A reprieve of a few months may be the likeliest outcome. That may not reassure doctors.
"My frustration level is at a nine or 10 right now," said Wagner, who practices in San Antonio. "I am exceptionally exhausted with these annual and biannual threats to cut my reimbursement by drastic amounts. As a business person, I can't budget at all because I have no idea how much money is going to come in. Medicine is a business. Private practice is a business."
The cuts have nothing to do with President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. They're the consequence of a 1990s budget-balancing law whose requirements Congress has routinely postponed. But these cuts don't go away; they come back for a bigger bite.
Doctors have muddled through with temporary reprieves for years. This time, medical groups estimate that as many as two-thirds of doctors would stop taking new Medicare patients, throwing the health program for 46 million older and disabled people into turmoil just when the first baby boomers will become eligible.
that was a republican congress too, and who in there now? Will the new Republican tea party congress fight for medicare? You think? We will soon see.
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
I saw this on a blog called "political collectables."
I don't think they will mind if I help them sell their wares. It's a good question because it get's at the foolishness in the Republican argument that giving the rich more money is the only way to move the economy. Its' foolish because, as we have discussed this here before, it assume the Rich re-invest in labor intensive stuff. They don't. We saw that with Reagan, where they gave tax cut on the premise that the steel industry would re-tool but they invested in oil and didn't create jobs. We got the rust belt out of that where the Trissate area, Pennsyviania, Kentucky, West Virginia were unemplyed and all the steel mills were rusting away.
Obama's tax plan would keeps cuts for the middle class, jus close the loop holes for those making over $250,000. Don't forget the stemulus package did create a couple million jobs theyw ere just absorbed into the figures becuase unemployment kept climbing abovea and beyond that. A Romney administation would have created those two million jobs.
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
More about Rev. Barber, an evangelical Christian who supports increased government assistance of the poor and rights of the LGBT community, can be found in this piece on Daily Kos (which also features a far-right evangelical reverse mirror image of Rev. Barber with the same last name). Rev. Barber, steeped in the civil rights movement and the struggle for the poor, is quite adamant about the importance of voting in the 2012 election.
By contrast some claim that because Democrats aren't sufficiently liberal and progressive, and because President Obama isn't bold enough politically or because supports practices such as drone strikes in places like Pakistan, it is better to vote outside of the two-party monopoly for a choice such as the Green Party. Others suggest it is better to protest the electoral process altogether and abstain from voting. The end result is either case in a close election in which President Obama would likely be defeated, which some of the President's former supporters have openly called for.
The problem with the view represented and espoused by individuals such as Professor Roberto Unger in the above linked article is two-fold.
First it underestimates the impact of a politically emboldened and empowered GOP under the influence of the Tea Party and the moneyed interests unleashed by Citizens United. Second, it makes unlikely assumptions about what should or could happen to the Democratic Party after an Obama defeat. Given Professor Unger's clear disapproval of and distaste for the policies of the current incarnation of the Republican Party, it is odd that Unger thinks the consequences of their political ascendance will simply be a cost in judicial and administrative appointments, with little difference in the use of the US military abroad.
That does not accord with the GOP's strongly held and pushed views on either domestic or foreign policy or the collection of advisers gathering around Mitt Romney. There is a much higher potential cost that Unger, and those for whom he speaks, are admitting in the video "Beyond Obama".
Romney has gone on a trip to show that he can be a bang up diplomat even though he has no foreign policy experience. This trip has already been a total disaster. He's prove he has no diplomatic skills, as he p.o.ed our best friends in England by criticizing the Olympics. Now he's in Israel. When he got around to talking about Israel's neighbors, after a long speech in which he spoke only of Israel, it wasn't good.
When Romney finally did broach the topic, he raised the ire of Palestinian officials by attributing Israel’s successes to “the power of at least culture and a few other things,” and contrasting Israeli economic gains to those of its Palestinian neighbors. At a fundraising breakfast on Monday morning, Romney said:
[A]s I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things. …
As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000 dollars, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality.
ABC News reported he stated that culture is what always makes the difference. He compared U.S. to Mexico saying we have a superior culture. Of cousre he shows total ignorance of the fact that that "culture" consists of many military interventions into Latin America, including a war with Mexico in which we stormed their capital.
The assertion that culture is what makes the difference is disproved by quick consideration of Canada. Canadian culture is almost identical to American, even their business habits are similar and they have a good prosperous way of life. They kicked our asses in the war of 1812 and they didn't do badly in the French and Indian war. Yet we came out ahead in the long run, not becuase we have a pure culture or because we have a Superior culture (it's almost the same) but because we have a much larger population and a much larger part of our land mass is more temperate.
Romney made these remarks to court the American Jewish vote. His extension into the discussion of Mexico vs U.S. is no doubt aimed at the tea party types who are alarmed by immigration and who want to close the boarder to more Latin presence. The superior culture bit sounds like a thinly vailied reference to race. Is this the guy we want to be President? He has no ability in diplomacy and may have racist attitudes, doesn't understand the effects of power or its destructive potential and doesn't understand how societies work.
Monday, July 30, 2012
Thoughts of a Christian Centrist: On the Role of Government
Our Friend Wordgazer
the original is here
This editorial does not necessarily represent the views of the blog partners and is more centrist than we usually are. It does represent the thinking of a respected friend who has gone from republican to independent.
Part of who I have become over the past 10-15 years has to do with questioning. I used to just follow the conservative Republican ideas that I thought good Christians were supposed to believe. But as I have questioned things, I have moved more and more into the center, and there, in recent years, I have stayed. Not that I’m really into politics—in fact, I’d rather avoid thinking about them much at all. But to keep some kind of intellectual integrity, and because I have responsibilities as a voting citizen (thank you, suffragettes!) I have had to decide where I stand in the polarized political climate we in the U.S. live in today.
Recently I bought and read Left, Right & Christ (Russell Media, 2011), in which a Christian Republican and a Christian Democrat each take chapters to address the pressing political issues of our time. The foundational issue was the role of government. I wasn’t really satisfied with the Christian Democrat’s response— she seemed to me to skirt all around the issue without ever addressing it head-on. But it turned out that the Christian Republican’s response was one I couldn’t agree with at all.
So here are my own thoughts on the role of government, from a Christian centrist’s perspective.
D.C. Innes, the Republican contributor in Left, Right & Christ, defines the role of government using just two short passages from the New Testament. 1 Peter 2:13-15 says that “governors [are] sent by him [the Lord] to punish those who do evil and praise those who do good. And in Romans 13 we read that rulers carry out God’s wrath on wrongdoers and approve those who do good. Innes concludes from this: “The task of government is simple and limited: punish those who do evil and praise those who do good. . . God appoints government for our benefit, but it is not to provide every good. It is only to prevent bad conduct with creditable threat and punish it. . . .” (pages 58-60).
The problem here is that Innes is making these verses do much more than I think Peter or Paul ever intended. Looking at the context of each letter, neither apostle was in any sense writing a comprehensive theory of government. Paul's letter to the Romans is largely devoted to the theology of justification by faith. Chapters 12-15 answer the question, “how should we live in light of this gospel?” with a series of practical-living precepts for the young Christian church. Peter’s first letter is written to scattered believers in Christ living in pagan cities and is largely about how to hang onto the faith through persecution. Both letters advise Christians to be submissive to the governing authorities and mention the power of civil government to punish wrongdoers and give approval to those who do right. But neither of them says, implicitly or explicitly, that government is meant by God to be limited only to those two things. In fact, the New Testament, which focuses on the new creation in Christ and His kingdom, simply is not about rules for civil government in any sense at all. Proof-texting a complete theory of government from a few passages is not good exegesis.
If I as a Christian am going to come up with a theory of government, I will need to base it on principles: the principles of civil justice found in the Old Testament (remembering that we are not encouraged by Christ or the apostles to attempt to establish Moses’ civil law over any other nation), and the basic principles of justice, fair dealing and do-unto-othering found in the teachings of Christ and the apostles.
So what is the proper role of civil government? This question used to be answered by Christians in terms of the divine right of kings to rule. They used the same passages which are today used to declare such complete limits on government, to establish the full authority of the king over all the people in every area of life. But since I believe these passages were not actually intended to comprehensively enumerate governmental powers, what can I say about what makes a properly functioning government?
This is how I’d sum it up:
The proper role of government includes but is not limited to punishing wrongdoers and praising those who do right. In a very real sense (and especially in a modern representative democracy) government is the community as a whole, acting together— and there are things that a united community can accomplish which groups of individuals or businesses never can. Civil government’s power is in carrying out those tasks which private citizens or businesses cannot as successfully or efficiently do on their own.
Now, obviously this leaves a huge scope of areas where individuals or businesses can act more efficiently and successfully than the civil government can. Private enterprise, family life, individual pursuits and hobbies—in general, I would say that interference of civil government in these areas, except where wrongs are being perpetrated by one person or group upon another, often just stifles the creative thought and individual development of a free people.
On the other hand, when wrongs are being perpetrated by one person or group upon another, I do think the government needs to be able to intervene. Workplace safety standards, workers’ compensation laws, wage and hour protections, prohibition of child labor—all these things are important safeguards that prevent powerful employers from ruining the lives of employees for the sake of profit. (This is another whole topic in and of itself, though, and I’ll be writing more about it next week.)
But what about things that cannot be done very successfully or efficiently by private citizens? What about the building of roads, bridges, water and sewer systems to span large areas or even the whole nation so that everyone is equitably served? What about urban planning and development, so that we don’t end up living in cities of hodgepodge and confusion, with streets going every which way and with some people enjoying the benefits of infrastructure and some falling through the cracks? What about policies of justice for minority groups, so that they don’t get trampled on by the majority? What about the preservation of national resources like Yosemite and Yellowstone? And what about a basic social safety net that’s available to all, and not those who just happen to live where a church or non-profit charity happens to be operating?
I am not for a “nanny state.” A civil government that takes care of all of our needs, cradle to grave, will not encourage resourcefulness or the work ethic that Jesus and the apostles approved—and it also, by rendering private acts of charity obsolete, discourages the moral growth of each individual acting in personal love for the needy. But there has to be something in between nanny-statism and survival-of-the-fittest, social-Darwinist capitalism. Neither one, I think, are what the Spirit of Christ would lead us to.
The United States, as a society, has decided that our community values include no one having to live in shanty towns such as exist all over the third world, boxes of cardboard or corrugated metal without running water or adequate sanitation. We have decided that employees should not have to work 14-hour days or seven-day weeks, and that employers should not be allowed to hire children or to abandon employees who have been injured on the job. We have decided that certain of the most beautiful portions of our land should be set aside for the enjoyment of everyone, never to become factory sites or lines of stores and parking lots. All of these, if looked at in terms of economic freedom, restrict some people’s freedom regarding how much money it is possible to make. Should all of these social contracts, these whole-community values set forth in law, be abandoned in the name of economic freedom? Or should the human tendency to self-centeredness be given free reign—that anyone with enough money to do so, can freely do anything he or she wants to make a profit? Are we so afraid of any hint of what we call “the welfare state”?
Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying, “You cannot ultimately help a man by doing for him what he could and should do for himself.” This makes sense to me. Safety nets should not trap people in the net. They should give people who are able to help themselves, the resources and the hand up needed so that they can help themselves. But those who cannot help themselves, as well as those who just need a hand up, need a safety net that extends under the whole nation, not just in those spots where private charities are in operation. This is something that the civil government can do more effectively than the private sector can—although, given the notorious inefficiency and red tape of civil government, balance through overlap with private charity where possible, is a definite plus.
D.C. Innes says on pages 75-76: “The Christian moral objection to the welfare state is . . . that it violates the eighth commandment [thou shalt not steal]. . . Thieves come in different forms. . . [T]he government’s power to secure property is also the power to take it away. When a mob uses government to pillage its more propertied neighbors, we call it progressive taxation, or redistribution of wealth. Sometimes we call it fairness. But it is theft all the same.”
My problem with that is that the principles of civil justice found in the Bible simply do not equate taxation for the benefit of the poor, with theft. In fact, unrestrained economic rights are foreign to the concept of civil government under the Law of Moses.
Of course, as I said earlier, we should not as Christians look at the government set up for Israel in the Pentateuch as a blueprint for all governments for all time. But we can glean certain basic principles from the Law regarding how a civil society should govern the treatment of one another. God, working with the people of that time and place, simply did not promote economy liberty over basic equity and fair-dealing. In economic dealings, as in other areas of life, the Law restrained the people from fully exercising their liberty, recognizing that the natural human bent towards selfishness and greed needed to be curbed.
The gleaning law in Leviticus 23:22 amounted to a tax on all landowners of a portion of their income, for the benefit of the poor. The Year of Jubilee in Leviticus 25:13 amounted to a redistribution of wealth every 50 years, so that each family could return to its own land and possessions—and so that the concentration of all the nation’s wealth in the hands of a few could never take place. One of the most foundational principles of the Bible is that all of humanity is sinful, and therefore cannot be trusted to simply do the right thing as long as you leave it alone. The Law included certain regulatory provisions to make sure that everyone in the society did the duty of the society to the poor among them. Though free-will giving was encouraged, it was not left up to free will alone. Israel was set up very early on (Exodus 18:25) on government by leaders over groups of thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. If a wealthy land-owner denied a poor person the right to glean in his field, the poor person could bring the matter before judges who would enforce the law.
Christian conservatives usually point out at this point that the mandatory giving in the Old Testament was from the well-off directly to the poor, without a government middle man. This is true—and this worked fine for a small, tribal, agriculture-based country in ancient times. But today our wealth is not held in fields for the poor to glean. Land is not held by tribal families so that a Jubilee would result in everyone knowing where to go home to. I don’t think we can get by in our day and age without monetary taxation and a distribution system. In many cases, government contracts with private companies might be the most efficient and best way to get the resources from those who have more than they need, to those who need them. In other cases, it can work better for government agencies to act as the middle man. But as far as I can see, there is nothing inherently evil in a government agency. The evil is in human nature when there is no restraint on power.
However, humans are also made in the image of God and are inexpressibly valuable to Him. When it comes to the value of every human being before God, political theory should not be allowed to override personhood. Jesus said, in Mark 2:27, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” He healed on the Sabbath because the individual standing in front of him in pain, mattered more than the perfect application of Sabbath policy. Should we be happy when conservative laws hold sway and government safety nets are eliminated, but the people who don’t manage to find a private charity are starving?
It seems to me to be common sense to say, “Hey, the poor need to be helped, by the best method possible, even if it doesn’t fit into your economic theories.” As a Christian, and as a citizen of a nation which has always had a strong ethic of care for the poor, that’s where I stand.
Even if many of my brothers and sisters think it un-Christian of me.