Were Founding Fathers REALLY For Limited Government?

Go read Did the Founders Want Government Small?

America’s revolutionaries had read their history. Every previous attempt to establish republican rule, they knew from that history, had failed. Athens. Rome. Venice. Florence. The cause of that failure, as the Founders came to see it: a deep and divisive maldistribution of wealth.
The Founders came to believe, notes Huston, that a republic could only endure with “an equal or nearly equal distribution of landed wealth among its citizens.”

The founders of this country wanted democracy. Democracy requires equity. Concentration of wealth destroys democracy – and we are seeing this in action today.

“Both Sides Do It” — Senior Republican Leader Equated With Guy On A Blog

I wrote a post a few years ago, Who Is The Crazy Person In The Room? that California’s Debra Bowen used in her campaign stump speech. It was about how if you try to describe to people who do not follow news very closely what is going on with the Repubicans these days, they’ll think YOU are being crazy and extreme.
This is one area where I feel “mainstream” news outlets like the New York Times and major broadcast networks are failing their readers/viewers. Someone who only gets their news from those sources is not being informed about what is really going on inside the Republican party, and just how extreme things have gotten. These news outlets feel they have to “present both sides of the argument” so they won’t be accused of being “the liberal media.” Imagine the howls if they described a typical Ann Coulter or Glenn Beck speech and the audience reaction – and then pointed out that she is not on the fringe but is standing next to perhaps Dick Cheney or Mitt Romney on the stage! And readers just would not believe it if they carried the transcript from even a minute of Rush Limbaugh.
For example, this weekend AP wrote about the many flat-out untruths that Mitt Romney told in his speech at the conservative CPAC convention: Analysis: Untruths have consequences in politics. But they had to make it a “both sides do it” piece. To accomplish that, the piece equates a speech by a senior Republican Party leader, one of their candidates for President, with a pseudonymous “liberal” blogger.

“While Romney and fellow Republicans were filling the air with red-meat distortions, liberal Democratic activists were torturing facts online as they wrote commentary about the conservative gathering.”

So what example is given of “liberals” torturing facts?

“And so it was this week, when liberal bloggers reacted to the CPAC distortions with false attacks of their own. On the Daily Kos Web site, one blogger noted the standing ovation given to “the self-confessed war criminal Dick Cheney.”

The “false attack” against Cheney? The blog post reported that Cheney himself said on ABC’s This Week the other day, “I was a big supporter of waterboarding” — a war crime for which the United States government has prosecuted people.
So a senior Republican Party leader and Presidential candidate telling whoppers is equated with a guy on a blog who points out that Cheney said he had in office approved of torture.

Conservatives: Against The Community

m4s0n501

Here is Glenn Beck addressing the conservative convention CPAC:

In an apparent reference to John McCain, Beck condemned a “guy in the Republican Party who says his favorite president is Theodore Roosevelt.” He then read disapprovingly the Roosevelt quote that “we grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well used . . . so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community.”
“Is this what the Republican Party stands for?” Beck demanded. He was answered with boos and cries of “no!” “It’s big government, it’s a socialist utopia and we need to address it as if it is a cancer.”

Let it sink in: The crowd boos the very idea of benefit to the community.

Whirlpool Exec Responds: The System Made Us Do It

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.
In last week’s post, Whirlpool Bites Hands Of American Taxpayers That Feed It, I wrote about Whirlpool closing a factory in Evansville, Indiana. In summary,

    • Whirlpool closes a plant in Evansville
    • Taxpayers will shoulder the unemployment and other costs.
    • All the local supplier, transportation and other third-party jobs are destroyed.
    • Even more home foreclosures in the area as a result.
    • Local businesses are stressed or have to go out of business.
    • They are playing nearby Iowa against Indiana for tax breaks and subsidies to keep just a few of the jobs.
    • Whirlpool is profiting from making all this someone else’s problem.
    • And, of course, Wall Street celebrates the move.

This would be just one more “dog bites man” story – a company closes a plant and moves production out of the country, destroys workers’ lives, devastates communities and small businesses, sets states against each other, increases their profit margin, and Wall Street cheers. We read the same story over and over again for decades now, and the economy and the country of course have reached a limit of what can be lost. So what? What else is new?
But at Huffington Post a Whirlpool spokesperson responded, saying the post is “based on misinformation that’s floating around the Internet.” He wrote that their decision was based on “competitive factors.” In other words, Whirlpool says that the system made us do it. (The response in full is at the end of this post)
The spokesperson for Whirlpool is exactly right. It is the system that makes them do this. They are only following the market’s orders.
Set aside for a minute the lack of humanity in Whirlpool’s response, the lack of patriotism, the placing of market values (privatize the profits, socialize the costs) above human values, and the lack of concern for the destructive effect of their moves on the larger American economy. The system – the market – lets Whirlpool plead that those things are not Whirlpool’s job or concern. They are only trapped in the rules of the playing field and it is the job of We, the People to set those rules. It’s OUR fault, not theirs…
So to the extent that we are upset that Whirlpool moves jobs to Mexico, devastates surrounding communities, sets Indiana and Iowa bidding against each other for a few scraps and killing off the supplier and other businesses it isn’t Whirlpool’s fault, “WE” have fallen down on the job. WE have allowed a few large monopolistic corporate giants to take over the job of defining national policy. And of course those monopolist giants set the rules to their own advantage and against the interests of the rest of us, including all of the Whirlpools (unless Whirlpool becomes lucky enough to be the biggest, then THEY get to set the rules.) A few monopolistic giants benefit greatly from keeping this system the way it is, so their lobbying power keeps the country from changing the rules to benefit anyone else.
The rules are what they are. Yes, that’s a huge part of the problem.
BUT while Whirlpool pleads a “competitive factors” case, let’s look at Whirlpool’s competitor GE. GE isn’t perfect, but they are finding ways to move jobs BACK to the US. For example, look at this recent news report,
General Electric announces new product coming to Appliance Park

GE announced Appliance Park will get a new product – a “hybrid” or energy efficient water heater. The product line will arrive in 2011 and bring with it 400 new jobs.

How was GE was able to make Louisville work for producing durable goods, when Whirlpool is not able to make Evansville work? Is it a lack of corporate imagination on Whirlpool’s part? Why isn’t Whirlpool inspired to go the extra mile to find ways to keep jobs here, to help the communities that surround them and to help the workers who build their products for so many years? Are Whirlpool’s executives just happy enough with their profit margins, and this is all that matters? Will Whirlpool work to change the system that makes them do the things they do?
And more importantly in the big picture, I conclude this post with the same question as the previous post concluded: Will Congress listen?
Here is the Whirlpool spokesperson’s response:

Dear Dave Johnson and readers of the Huffington Post:
In reviewing your blog post, I noticed it appears to be based on misinformation that’s floating around the Internet. I’d like to contribute the following facts for the sake of context and clarity.
• Whirlpool has approximately 17,000 U.S.-based manufacturing employees – more than any of our competitors.
• We produce the majority of our major appliances in the U.S., while some of our competitors do not produce any of their major appliances in the U.S.
• The economic downturn and other factors lead us to expect lower demand for the refrigerators produced by our plants in Evansville, Indiana and Apodaca, Mexico, and we therefore decided to consolidate their manufacturing in one location.
• We based our decision to consolidate in Apodaca on a full analysis of all the competitive factors between the two plants.
• We worked with Indiana state and local officials to keep the company’s Product Development Center of 300 design engineers in Evansville.
• As a recipient of $19 million in stimulus funds from the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Smart Grid Investment Grant program, we are required to match that amount with an investment of equal value in the development of new smart products. The grant and related investment are completely unrelated to the manufacturing of existing product lines such as these refrigerators.
• We have honored the Union and others’ requests for meetings to discuss the decision, but given the competitive nature of the industry and the state of the markets, no combination of changes proposed at those meetings could make the plant competitive.
We appreciate the support shown for our Evansville employees, and hope that this message helps clarify the facts.
Thank you,
Christopher Wyse
Corporate Director
Communications and Public Affairs
Whirlpool Corporation

Create Real Jobs That Pay Off: Update Our 1970’S Infrastructure

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.
One legacy of the Reagan tax cuts is that we stopped maintaining – and never mind modernizing – our infrastructure. As a result there is a LOT of work that needs doing. And there are a very, very large number of unemployed people. Hmmm…
There are so many more ways our economy suffers as the consequences of Reagan-era choices come home to roost. The current economic doldrums are in great part the result of Reagan-era choices:
* The deferred infrastructure maintenance and modernization that resulted from the tax cuts mean that our economy is no longer world-class. Bob Herbert has been writing about this problem for a while. From his most recent,

Schools, highways, the electric grid, water systems, ports, dams, levees — the list can seem endless — have to be maintained, upgraded, rebuilt or replaced if the U.S. is to remain a first-class nation with a first-class economy over the next several decades. And some entirely new infrastructure systems will have to be developed.

So here we are with a massive infrastructure deficit that is harming our ability to compete economically in the world. Just one example: China has 42 high-speed rail lines coming into operation connecting their major cities, and we are just starting our first one connecting … Tampa to Orlando?
* The education cutbacks then are really hurting now.
* Energy. Cancelling all of Carter’s efforts to solve our energy problems has left the economy dependent on last century’s expensive and polluting energy sources and the monopolistic giants that control them.
* Debt. Tax cuts creating “structural deficits” have built up tremendous debt and the accompanying burden of paying interest on that debt and dependence on those who fund our borrowing habit.
* Militarization. We spend more on military than every other country on earth combined. The big defense corporations keep us from doing anything about it. Historically this kind of military spending and the resulting debt has ruined empires and kingdoms, and here we are.
* Government. Outsourcing/cutting/destroying/hating government and the commons has left us ill-equipped to catch up with China and others, and deal with monopolistic multinational corporate giants.
Schools, highways, power grid, … everything. And all this work needs to be done on top of the need to retrofit all of our country’s buildings to be energy efficient. Or we will just continue to fall forther behind. There is so much work that needs to be done. I wonder how the cost compares to the amounts that have been transferred to the very rich since the tax cuts started.
Hmmm… Let’s see … high unemployment … lots of work that needs doing … massive wealth accumulated at the very top … hmmm… dot. dot. dot. And on top of that, there is all that evidence that past investment in infrastructure leads to great prosperity in the years following the investment … dot. dot. dot. hmmm… Ideas are forming… connections are being made…
I can hear the shrieking from the “free market” conservative bunch now, just for thinking such thoughts: “But … but .. that would be just WRONG to just … give people jobs doing what needs to be done!!! and taxing the RICH — the very beneficiaries of past infrastructure investment — to pay for it? How can you even dare suggest such a thing???!!!”
Public works projects — infrastructure. Example: In the 1950s, with top tax rates at 90%, we started the massive public works project that is the Interstate Highway System. How did that investment work out for our economy? How many companies benefitted from the ability to deliver trucked goods across the country in a short time? How did those top taxpayers do economically as a result of such investments?
Hmmm…

Whirlpool Bites Hands Of American Taxpayers That Feed It

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.
Whirlpool, recipient of federal stimulus “smart grid” dollars, is closing an Evansville, Indiana freezer-topped refrigerator and icemaker production plant and moving the 1,100 jobs to Mexico.
Whirlpool knows that taxpayers will shoulder the unemployment and other costs. Closing a plant like this also means all the supplier, transportation and other third-party jobs go away. For example, 100+ Disabled Workers Could Lose Jobs

Whirlpool employees aren’t the only ones losing their jobs when the plant closes. More than 100 blind or disabled individuals could also be left jobless. The Evansville Association for the Blind has issued a public plea, asking businesses to consider using their employees.

There will be more home foreclosures, and local businesses are stressed or have to go out of business. Whirlpool is profiting from making all this someone else’s problem.
Whirlpool is even playing nearby Iowa against Indiana, shaking the state down for millions to move just 60 of the 1,100 jobs there.
So, of course, Wall Street celebrates the move, the setting states against each other, the cost-shifting and the resulting “increase in margins.”
The workers are still trying to do something about this. Inside Indiana Business writes about a rally on February 26,

Organizers have invited guests including AFL/CIO President Richard Trumka and Jim Clark, president of the IUE-CWA union with which Local 808 is affiliated.
Employees with the least seniority are expected to lose their jobs first, March 26. The remaining workers will be let go until production ceases in early summer.

Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO President, writes:

The Whirlpool Corp. is closing a refrigerator manufacturing plant in Evansville, Ind., putting more than 1,100 people out of work. Even worse, Whirlpool will continue to produce these refrigerators, but not in Evansville and not anywhere else in America. They are planning to manufacture them in Mexico, where weaker labor and environmental laws make them “cheaper” for Whirlpool to produce.
This is outrageous and unacceptable, especially in light of Whirlpool’s profitability and the $19 million dollars in economic recovery money Whirlpool recently received from the federal government as a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Those are OUR economic recovery funds, not Mexico’s.

You can sign their Whirlpool: Keep It Made in America petition here.
Will Congress listen?

Pass Health Care With Strong Public Option Or No Votes For Dems

Here is something that the Democrats in DC need to understand: the “base” has not forgotten about health care with a public option. They have not dropped it. They have not run from it.
Pass health care with a strong public option, or a LOT of people are not going to show up at the polls in November.
I am not advocating this, I am afraid of this. Out there in “the real world” people are not tuned into the finer points of the legislative process. ALL they know is that the Congress spent the year on health care, and nothing has been done. And the polls still show that the public option is what the pubic wants. None of this has changed, even if Washington is tired of it.
Meanwhile, if you are watching the CPAC convention of crazy conservatives this week you are seeing the people who are going to be in office if people are not given good reasons to show up and vote.
The Republican agenda is Tax Cuts, Torture and Triggering a depression. We really don’t want that. Democrats, get your act together and pass that health care! The country need to you get this done.

Yes, Nuclear

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.
I believe that global warming is the most serious threat humanity faces. So we need to use every possible technology we can to replace energy sources that put greenhouse gases into the air. This includes nuclear energy.
One big problem with nuclear is figuring out what to do with the dangerous radioactive waste. But here’s the thing, when we burn coal and oil we’re just putting the dangerous waste product into the air and it is destroying the planet. So we can’t make the perfect the enemy of the good — nuclear waste is not destroying the planet and fossil-fuel waste is. We simply have to replace coal and oil as our energy source.
Climate change is an emergency. We need to do everything we can. This means we need to put up every windmill we can, every solar panel we can, every solar power plant, biofuel and geothermal facility that we can. We need to retrofit every building to be energy efficient, switch to electric cars, stop eating meat that is not grass-fed. We need to do research into finding ways to sequester carbon from coal. And we need to build nuclear power plants. What part of “everything we can” did I miss?
Please, let’s make this a discussion. Please join the discussion and leave a comment with your thoughts on this.
BUT
As we proceed with this, we need to learn some lessons from the past. As we build a new generation of reactors there are some things that need to be clear from the outset.
Make them safe. This means a highly regulated effort, not a free-for-all for profits. Tax dollars are involved, and even if they were not public safety must be the primary focus. Newer reactor designs eliminate Chernobyl-style “meltdown” fears but we need close supervision by government. We need the government “meddling” and “interfering” and “snooping” every step of the way. We, the People need to be sure that every best practice is followed and no corners are cut to make a buck.
Buy American. If we are building nuclear power plants we should regulate that they create American jobs, not offshore in China or anywhere else. There are federal funds guaranteeing loans for these projects and they should specify that we Buy American. Use American –made components, right down to the steel. China’s and other country’s governments are helping their own economies, let’s us help our own economy this time.
There are also safety concerns for Buy American. We need very close inspection of every component and material that is used in these plants. How would we monitor the manufacturing of the components and the quality of the steel if it is done outside the US? Do you remember the faulty welds in the Chinese components that shut down San Francisco’s Bay Bridge last year?
Protect the environment. There is also the environmental impact of making steel in China and then shipping it versus making it here — in our highly productive steel industry. China creates three times the greenhouse emissions when they make steel that our own steel plants create. This is one reason their steel costs less. What is the point of building nuclear to lower greenhouse gas emissions and using greenhouse gas-creating processes?
So I say Yes, Nuclear, and make sure that we use Big Government oversight to keep it safe, create American jobs and mostly to protect the environment.