California Suspicion

Here is what I suspect. It’s obvious that Republicans are shutting the state down on purpose. I suspect they have a plan ready, and will launch a full-scale “shock doctrine” “solution” to the problem, along with a full-on PR campaign blaming Democrats, “spending” (meaning benefits and services to citizens who are not rich) and government in general (democracy) for the problem.
The “solution” will likely include a flat tax (giving a huge tax cut to millionaires while raising them for the rest of us), probable cutting or even eliminating corporate taxes, maybe school vouchers or just eliminating public schools to some degree, etc.
So let’s see. This is not an accident it is a plan.

Does the Public Think Politicians Are Crying Wolf (Again)?

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.
A recent large headline in the San Jose Mercury News got me thinking.  The headline was, “A dire warning from the Governor”. (Online headline is different from the morning’s print headline.)   From the story, “Schwarzenegger said … his threat … is necessary to prod lawmakers into swift action.”

I have to admit that even I rolled my eyes when I saw that — even though I understand how serious the problem is. And this led me to think that maybe there is a “crying wolf” factor at work here.  This has been going on now or a long time. 

A few months ago the crisis was reaching a breaking point, dire warnings were issued, and most importantly the public was starting to pay attention.  This triggered the leadership in Sacramento to do what I think was the worst possible thing: they came up with the fluffy budget compromise that “solved” the crisis and resulted in the failed May 19 Special Election.  I believe the compromise was a mistake that broke the tension and led people to believe that the “crisis” was over, so they tuned back out. 

I think the “chicken little” aspect of the whole affair kept people away from the polls in droves.

I am not faulting the Governor and other state leaders for headlines like thos and other warnings because the crisis is real.  Our leaders all need to do whatever it takes to get people to pay attention, to realize this budget crisis is real and that everything that can be cut has been cut, that they really are going to have to let people out of prisons and close parks and still will run out of money anyway.  Bankruptcy and all of its consequences looms.  For real.  The public has to get involved and do their job in this democracy.

But I can understand why most Californians have tuned out.  I think part of this budget problem is that it has become the norm to use drama and fear to prod others into action.  And not just with the budget.  There are so many terrible problems hitting us from so many directions.  The economy really did collapse, and we may be on the edge of another Great Depression.  For real.  This has been a headline swarm for months.  Swine flu is real, but is not as lethal as it first appeared it could be.  This was the headline swarm a few weeks ago.  And of course Global Warming is real, and serious.  It has been a headline swarm for years.  

Those are real and serious problems.  But at the same time there are so many manipulative, well-funded and sophisticated PR campaigns, usually from corporate interests, that use fear and/or other manipulation.  Remember the headlines warning aobut possible terrorist smallpox attacks?  Remember being told that Iraq was on the verge of hitting us with nuclear weapons?   Remember duct tape

So people just do not know who to trust and necessarily are becoming immune to drama.

California’s big media outlets could do a better job of explaining the real problems facing the state, beginning by dispelling the idea that the state is just wasting taxpayer money and everything can be solved with a few painless budget cuts.  They need to do this in a serious, respectful way, with comprehensive investigative reporting.  If print media won’t do that, they should close their doors — they aren’t doing their jobs and aren’t helping anyone anymore so they should let their advertisers support a medium that helps democracy rather than hinders it.  If broadcast media can’t do that, they should relinquish their broadcast licenses to others who will.

The poor, elderly and disabled have already suffered the cuts.  They understand that this is for real.  So maybe we need the crisis to hit home so (middle class) people can also understand that it is for real – this time.  
Click through to Speak Out California.

Who Is Our Economy FOR, Anyway?

The Seeing the Forest question: Who is our economy FOR, anyway?
If the government provides good, low-cost health care to citizens it reduces the profits of the big insurance and drug companies. This health care battle lays down a clear choice of who benefits: citizens or a wealthy few?
Republican Senator Snowe of Maine announces her choice. See Open Left:: The Problem With The Public Option Is That It Lowers The Cost Of Health Insurance,

In an Associated Press interview in Portland, Snowe said it would be unfair to include a government-run health insurance option that would take effect immediately.
“If you establish a public option at the forefront that goes head-to-head and competes with the private health insurance market … the public option will have significant price advantages,” she said.

Well, duh. That is the whole point. You can’t lower the price of health insurance unless you start offering lower-priced health insurance. It’s a tautology.
So, naturally, during the fight to lower the price of health insurance, so-called moderate Senators think that the problem with the public option is that it would… lower the price of health insurance. While it may be news to so-called moderate Senators, protecting the crappy products of large corporations is not their job description.

Yes, this health care battle is stripping some of the camouflage from the real fight: do the people benefit from our government, or do a wealthy few benefit?
Who is our economy for, anyway? I first asked that question here just about seven years ago, and it became the blog’s tag line. I think the financial crisis and now this health care battle allow people to clearly see and understand which choice their Washington representatives make. And I think the way these twin crises are unfolding helps people to understanding the choice their own elected representatives make. I think will make a big difference come election time.

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Too Many People

Krugman: Betraying the Planet,

Temperature increases on the scale predicted by the M.I.T. researchers and others would create huge disruptions in our lives and our economy.
. . . In other words, we’re facing a clear and present danger to our way of life, perhaps even to civilization itself. How can anyone justify failing to act?

It doesn’t affect people who are not here. If we see famine, mass migration and other mass-scale disruptions coming there is something we can do roght now to ease the suffering and that is conceive fewer people!
1) Conceiving fewer people means fewer people will be here to need food, hospitable climate, etc. If they aren’t here they can’t starve.
2) Conceiving fewer people means the use of carbon-releasing energy will be lower. So lower carbon emmissions, lessening the problem.
3) Conceiving fewer people means the people who are here have more resources available to them.
4) Duh!

What Should Progressives Do Now?

Scholars and Rogues is starting a discussion of what progressives should do to get the national Democrats to start serving the people. Go read Democrats to Progressives: we’re just not that into you,

It has been observed that the Republicans seem to be more effective with a minority than the Dems are when they have the entire country by the balls. GOPpers derail the train by threatening a filibuster, but the Democrats can’t seem to head off a bad idea with a damned-near buster-proof majority. How the hell is this possible?
[. . .] Longer-term, though, it seems like the progressives can make an argument – and one that is supported by some actual evidence – that they represent the will of a goodly slice of the American public. Even better, given how the youth vote seems to be trending, they can also argue that their hand is going to strengthen over time. Are these premises accurate? Hard to say. But they are testable hypotheses, and the posit is certainly plausible enough to be worth examining.

My thinking, this is a war between a few who control the resources of large corporations and the rest of us. Breaking up the Democratic Party helps the other side. But the threat of breaking up the party does gain leverage over the careerists – those who are in the party for a career and contracts and potential high-paying corporate jobs after they do a few favors. So maybe it is useful to discuss.

Health Care Results Will Judge Value Of Democratic Party

A thought. If the Democratic Party is unable to bring the people health care reform this year — and that means with a very strong “public option” and subsidies so we can afford the coverage — then I think it is time to ask whether the Democratic Party as presently constituted is capable of serving the people, or should be scrapped and a new party built from the grassroots up? There is nothing more basic to the idea of democracy than that the people should realize the basic benefits of modern society, and the most basic of these is a right to health care.

George Will Gets It Right About Government

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.
Sunday’s San Jose Mercury News contains an anti-government op-ed by George Will, “Democrats want nation dependent on government“. (The online headline is different.)
This sounds scary, sinister, even somehow slightly evil. But if you look into the meaning of the words, the effect changes.
Here is what I mean. In America government is us. Our Constitution is the defining document of our government and it couldn’t be clearer, declaring that We, the People formed this country “to promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves”… In other words, watch out for and take care of each other; “We, the People” have banded together to watch out for each other, take care of each other and build institutions to protect and empower each other.
So with them real meaning of the words in mind Will’s headline becomes “Democrats want nation to take care of each other.” Will is exactly right, and good for them.
Will’s column is about the national healthcare reform battle and proposals for a “public option,” which offers a Medicare-like health insurance plan to all of our citizens. Will opposes this, because,

“Competition from the public option must be unfair because government does not need to make a profit and has enormous pricing and negotiating powers.”

In other words, he is complaining that a public option health insurance plan will provide more benefits to more citizens at a lower cost. Will casts this as a bad thing, because it threatens the ability of a few wealthy business owners to profit from people’s need for health care.
Profits for a few instead of benefits to the public appears to be his idea of the purpose of government. But to the rest of us the point of health care reform is to take better care of each other while lowering the costs. This is why the “public option” is necessary — private, profit-driven companies are not designed to accomplish delivery of essential services to everyone. Profit-driven companies are designed to deliver only to those who are willing to pay the most, which when applied to essential human needs violates fundamental tenets of democracy. We are supposed to be a one-person-one-vote country, not a one-dollar-one-vote country.
Again, Will and other conservatives use lots of scary words. But if you look at the meanings of the words, their complaint is with Americans who want to enjoy the fruits of democracy and equality, and take care of each other.
And this is supposed to be a bad thing?
Click through to Speak Out California.

Bush’s Massive Deficits

A commenter points to this article in the neo-con Washington Post pointing out that deficit projections for the next decade add up to $9 trillion. The article says this is because of “Obama’s spending plans.”
So let’s add this up. Bush left office with a $1.2 trillion deficit for a single year. Projections for $9 trillion in deficits over ten years is a reduction in borrowing from Bush levels. How is this because of “Obama’s spending plans?”
And furthermore, Bush spent money on tax cuts for the rich, corrutp government contracts to cronies, and wars. Obama is talking about spending for the people. Unfortunately much of that is for things like unemployment – more legacy from the Republican years…
I see no grounds for complaint, only improvement.

Recession Result Of Low Taxes

A thought: The country and states lowered taxes in the 80s, and now we are seeing the results. Low taxes let people get rich in a hurry so sound and sustainable business practices were abandoned as foolish. Wealth concentrated straight to the top, and now average people are strapped to pay for anything. Meanwhile get-rich-quick schemes stripped the forests, oceans and mountaintops.
Put the top tax rate back to 90% and watch the changes as people have to build real wealth slowly over time. This means they have to use sustainable business and environmental practices. And watch the economy as regular people start to benefit again and national and governments have funds to actually engage in helping regular people again.

Your Tax Dollars At Work

Hey, suckers, take a look at where your money is going: Goldman to make record bonus payout,

Staff at Goldman Sachs staff can look forward to the biggest bonus payouts in the firm’s 140-year history after a spectacular first half of the year…

The bailouts were a wonderful corporate feast. They thank you.
See this chart showing how the bailouts cost more than all the wars, the New Deal, etc. combined. in our history
Up next on the corporate agenda: a law requiring you to buy health insurance from the big insurance corporations. Yes, the same ones who then don’t even cover you when you get sick.