Is Obama Progressive?

I think Jerome a Paris does a good job answering the question in his diary, Daily Kos: Obama is better than the extreme-right,

I’ve already described Obama as a “sane conservative” – he is running policies that would have been mainstream right-wing 30 years ago, and which would be mainstream rightwing in most of Europe, he’s restoring competence in government (something I consider a major thing in itself, even if it makes few headlines) and he’s mostly governing on the line he promised. It’s welcome progress from recent years, and it beats the available alternatives on offer at the voting booth. He’s doing the best with the system he inherited. But is he a progressive? In my view, not really. I’m of the opinion that the current system is hopelessly flawed and cannot continue as it is in the long term. And I’m not happy that Obama’s policies have been to basically patch the system as it is, and push any resolution of its current contradictions further down the road. There will be a real crisis (a much bigger one than last year’s) at some point in the future, but it’s hard to tell if it’s going to be next year or in a decade. Many people think authorities did a good job in avoiding the worst following last year’s financial collapse, and that we’re now back on the right track; if you’re one of them, then the criticism of Obama as a hostage (or, if you’re less kind, ally) to the banking lobby makes little sense and I fully appreciate that. [emphasis added]

“The System Worked” Is Another Big Lie

Just so you know the facts:
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that once the incident occurred, “the system worked.” AFTER the bombing attempt people did their jobs and procedures were followed.
Republicans have twisted this into a widespread big lie that she claimed that “the system worked” in response to questions about how the guy got on the plane with explosives.
Well OF COURSE no one would say that. And the system did work, AFTER the bombing attempt.
Here is what she said, unedited and complete, which you won’t see on any Republican news networks:

NAPOLITANO: One thing I’d like to point out is that the system worked. Everybody played an important role here. The passengers and crew of the flight took appropriate action. Within literally an hour to 90 minutes of the incident occurring, all 128 flights in the air had been notified to take some special measures in light of what had occurred on the Northwest Airlines flight. We instituted new measures on the ground and at screening areas, both here in the United States and in Europe where this flight originated. So, the whole process of making sure that we respond properly, correctly and effectively went very smoothly.

Rachel Maddow did a good job on this the other day, so take a look here: Rachel Maddow systematically dismantles GOP attacks on failed Christmas Day bombing attempt.
All they have is smears and lies. Don’t fall for it.

Taxes: Let’s Just Go Back To A Simpler Time

Are you concerned about the country’s large budget deficits? Are you wondering how we are going to pay for two wars, bank bailouts and economic recovery projects while continuing to maintain our roads and bridges and pay for our schools and police and firefighters? Are you wondering what we can do about the great concentration of wealth and income into the hands of a very few at the top?
There are so many budget problems. It would be so nice if we could just go back to a simpler time.
Well there is something we can do to solve most of these problems in one fell swoop. We really can just go back to a simpler time. Why don’t we just go back to the income tax structure that we had back when budgets were balanced, our infrastructure was maintained, our schools were good, the economy grew at a nice, fast clip and the middle class knew that their incomes would grow steadily? What I am suggesting is that we just return the income and corporate tax rates to where they were during the Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations.
After these “golden years” we cut those top taxes and things started to fall apart. Then we started borrowing to make up for the lost revenue and even borrowed all of the money in the Social Security Trust Fund. We deferred maintenance of our infrastructure of roads and bridges, etc. We cut school budgets. We cut … well almost everything except what the richest were taking home.
Cutting and passing the savings to a few at the top became the corporate business model, too, once executives no longer had to pay high taxes.
As a result of these policies income and wealth have concentrated at the very top ever since. While working people haven’t had much of a raise since the 70’s, the top 1% now recieve the highest share of the nation’s income since 1929. (If that date rings a bell, there’s a reason.) UC Berkeley Professor Robert Reich recently wrote, “In the U.S., the root of the problem is a growing share of total income going to the richest Americans, leaving the middle class with relatively less purchasing power unless they go deep into debt.”
Suppose we did go back to the tax rates of a simpler time? What effect would such a change have on how our country is doing?
The United States now has to pay a huge share of its budget just to cover the interest on the borrowing that tax cuts made necessary. Raising taxes, stopping the borrowing and paying off the debt would remove this huge drag on our economy.
Raising the top tax rates removes the incentive for corporate executives to lie, cheat and steal. Today they can pocket huge sums in a single year, and leave behind the mess they make for others to fix. But high taxes at the top would force longer-term thinking. When it takes years to build up a fortune you want your company to be around for a long time, and you need the surrounding public infrastructure to be in good shape to support your enterprise. So we would all benefit.
I know I am going to be accused of wanting to “punish the rich.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Taxes are not punishment; they are what we all pay to have the benefits and protections of modern society. Those benefits and protections enable people to become wealthy, and we ask that they give some back so others can prosper as well. We all want to be rich. With this tax structure, the more people make the more they can pay in taxes so we all benefit.
So of course we want our corporations to make money, too – and lots of it. That way they can distribute the money so shareholders benefit – and pay taxes.
I am asking that we return to a tax structure that builds wealth but also leaves the companies and communities that helped build the wealth intact and in good shape for the long term.
This was written as part of the Commonweal Institute Progressive Op-Ed Program and appears at the Commonweal Institute’s Uncommon Denominator blog.

The Right’s Nasty Propaganda Machine

Here’s a typical right-wing propaganda operation. The right has been working to knock down the public’s positive impression of John F Kennedy for decades because JFK is a stand-in for “liberals” in people’s minds. If they can get people to think negatively about JFK they can get them to think negatively of liberals. I’ve been watching this campaign unfold for decades. Some billionaire somewhere put a ton of money into this and the funding still hasn’t run out…
So out comes a nasty hit piece on JFK, with an old “snapshot” on old, crinkled-up photo paper, supposedly showing JFK on a yacht with naked women.
The sensational headline: “The JFK Photo That Could Have Changed History.” The cover story:

The photo was eventually given to a man who owned a car dealership on the East coast. The man kept it in a drawer for years, and would brag to friends he had an image of JFK on a boat with naked women. The man died 10 years ago and one of his sons inherited the photo.

Of course the right’s blogs pick it up… eliciting the comments that give voice to what we are all supposed to think:

It just another affirmation that the Kennedy’s were PIGS and they lived a life of LIES. They then FORCED their disgusting liberalism on Conservative Americans while professing to live the life of good Catholics while living the life of TRASH!

But now in the age of the internet these kinds of things get exposed and we all find out pretty quickly.

In reality, the photo appeared in story about Playboy’s “Charter Yacht Party: How to Have a Ball on the Briny with an Able-Bodied Complement of Ship’s Belles.” As seen in the below page from the November 1967 issue, the Playboy photo is in color. The “Exclusive” TMZ image is the same photo, just reproduced in black and white.

So, was it up on Drudge and pulled down, or hadn’t they put it up yet. Is the Washington Times quickly pulling a front-page story? Will Limbaugh talk about it anyway? Will it become another conservative “truth?”

Does Corn Syrup Cause Obesity?

All you have to do is look around to see that something has changed in the American diet. Everyone is gaining a lot of weight. It isn’t “personal responsibility” if it is systemic. You can’t blame everyone who is getting fat if everyone is getting fat at the same time.
Many have suspected that corn syrup has something to do with it, and the timing certainly makes it look that way.
The corn problem is huge: The big ag corps get these huge subsidies to grow corn. So they pump corn products into everything. They use some of the subsidies to bribe legislators to give them more subsidies, further corrupting our government. Animals are fed corn, which makes them sick, which makes them need antibiotics, which eventually makes the antibiotics useless. The Gulf of Mexico has a huge dead zone coming out of the mouth of the Mississippi because all the fertilizer from growing corn runs down the river and pollutes the Gulf. Poor farmers in Mexico can’t make a living growing corn because American corn is so heavily subsidized, so they give up and migrate north.
So take a look at this: High Fructose Corn Syrup Proven to Cause Human Obesity.
Stop the corn subsidies. Just stop them. Cut them off. This will lower “government spending” – especially when you add in the amounts spent on the resulting health care needs – and save our health, Mexican incomes, reduce government corruption, reduce pollution in the ocean, help stop animal suffering and even help us have antibiotics that are effective.

Electing Different People Isn’t What We Need

(Bumping this up to the top, adding a bit)
Are you disappointed in the results of the health care reform fight? Do you feel swamped by all the conservative/corporate “talking heads” on the right? I think progressives should work to reach the public and create demand for progressive policies. But to do this we need to build “progressive infrastructure” institutions that employ people to blog, write op-eds, appear on TV and radio, write books, and generally push for progressive solutions to our problems.
How do we build a movement that brings about change, instead of relying on politicians to make it happen?
Electing Different People Won’t Make Much of a Difference.
Go read this and donate some money to help make it happen. How much did you give to Obama’s campaign? Well that money just went up into the air for TV ads. Campaign ads do not change the public’s long-term thinking.
We have to change people’s minds. We have to reach out to the public and explain to them the benefits to them of a progressive approach. We have to create demand for progressive policies and candidates.
THAT will change the things that are happening in Washington.

Corporate Money in Politics — Is It Bribery, Or Is It Ineffective?

Just why is corporate money used to influence legislation? It is either to bring about a profitable result, or it is not. For those who make the argument that bribing lawmakers is running the business, by benefiting the shareholders, the answer is that such a quid pro quo is bribery under our laws, and we should put the people making the decision to use the company’s money like this into jail.
But if they argue that they are not using the company’s money with the expectation of a return, they should be fired for using the company’s money and getting no return.
So which is it? It is one or the other. But both of them already are prohibited under our rules, just not enforced.
As long as we think of corporations as sentient entities we are keeping ourselves from identifying the real problem – which keeps us from fixing it. It is not corporations, but PEOPLE using corporate resources that are the problem.
We need to do is keep corporate resources from leaking out of the corporation. We need to apply strict accounting standards and laws about use of corporate money for anything other than running the business.

Getting Corporate Money Out Of Politics Must Become Our #1 Priority

Health care: huge majorities of the public want something – anything – along the lines of a “public option” or Medicare buy-in. In the last election people turned out and overwhelmingly voted in Obama, 60 senators and a huge majority in the Congress.
But after “the system” plays itself out we instead end up with government power ordering all of us to buy insurance from giant insurance corporations. It remains illegal for us to buy into Medicare because this would interfere with the stream of money flowing from all of us to a few already-wealthy executives and owners.
It is so clear now what our system has become. The wealthy have a lock on our politics, and we can’t help but see it. It is in the way of getting anything done. It is blocking our ability to do anything about our urgent problems like health care, climate change, financial reform, and of course the low-wage, everything-to-the-top structure of our jobs.
The other day I wrote, Concentration Of Wealth = An Influence Lock On Our Politics,

We have now reached the point where wealth is at least as concentrated as it was in 1929. With similar consequences.
Just how concentrated is the wealth and income? The L-Curve website graphically illustrates the disparity. Here’s how it works. … [click through to read this part] . . .
The societal consequences are dramatic. This happened as a result of wealth’s ability to influence our country’s decision-making. And that influence was used to increase the wealth of the influencers, which increased their influence. But this has come at the expense of regular people, whose incomes have stagnated, forcing them into increasing debt.
We have reached a breaking point where a consumer-based economy can no longer be sustained. But this has not led to any loosening of the grip that money has on our political system. If we don’t force the political system out of that grip and restore democracy we will not be able to fix our economic system.

The question is, with the mask pulled aside – with everyone seeing how the wealthy are controlling the system – will we find ways of fixing it? Will we be able to take back democracy from the malefactors of great wealth? The obvious steps include getting all corporate money and influence out of our politics – and our lives. But even if we manage to vote in 100 Senators and 100% of the Congress, will we be able to accomplish this?
We all have to start talking about this, and making it the #1 priority of our political efforts. Nothing else can be accomplished until we take this on, but if we take this on then we can finally get on with the business of governing for the people.

Happy Holidays from the Johnsons

The back of the card reads:
Published by Sudeep Johnson
Doggie Paw Cards Inc.
Many thanks to Toby, Paddington, Cooper, Fergie and Popcorn, without whom there would be no card.
Here is last year’s card, and you can trace back through all the cards over the years.

Don’t Kill The Health Care Bill

Here is what I think. Fight like hell to change this health care bill, but start now to put the blame where it belongs – on the obstructionist Republicans.
This year we can realistically expect only one gain – kill the mandates.
Then, at the beginning of next year’s legislative session change the rules of the Senate so that raw obstructionism no longer works, and pass something better for the public. One suggestion I read somewhere is keep the same 60 vote requirement on the first vote to end a filibuster, wait 2 days and require only 57 on the next, two more days and make it 55. And maybe go a bit lower, like 53 after a few more days. The objecting Senators get to make their point and get some time rally the public if they can. If they can’t rally the public the bill has a chance to pass.
So next year bring in free Medicare-for-All paid for by taxing the rich, and maybe settle for a strong, strong public option.
And kick Lieberman out of the Democratic caucus.