Producers Vs. Moochers, Freeloaders And Losers — The Cruel Pro-Rich Propaganda Of The Right

“Producers” and “parasites.” Cruel language justifying extreme greed seems to be mainstream now. Even Presidential candidates feel free to disparage 99% of us! In today’s right-wing folklore government by We, the People is an evil thing that takes from “producers” and gives to “moochers,” “freeloaders,” and “losers.” Government and taxes “take money out of the economy.” Decision-making by We, the People is “collectivism” and “mob rule.” And those of us who think the insanely wealthy should pay fair taxes suffer from “envy.”
In today’s discourse wealthy elites receiving $20 million a year in “capital gains” while paying almost no taxes are “producers,” while janitors or nursing home workers, working two jobs and not making enough to pay rent and feed themselves, are “moochers” and “freeloaders.” Right.
This email came in to CAF yesterday, (see also Richard Eskow’s take on it, John Galt Is A Crybaby And So Are You)

I am really curios to know what motivates the mind of a socialist. Why do you think its fair to penalize those of us who produce while rewarding those who do not? If healthcare should be a right then where does it stop?
Could one not use the same argument that everyone has a right to free housing? A free car? Perhaps free air travel? Who will pay for all this?
What happens when the government has exhausted the money acquired from the producers? I have a feeling producers will stop producing if the government is just going to take it. Again, I ask why should the people who produced be punished to reward free loaders?

Actually, a right to housing, health care and decent transportation sound like the kind of things that proud citizens in a democracy ought to demand, if you ask me.
The Ayn Rand Poison
This email and others like it echo the language of the novels of Ayn Rand, which so many Republican politicians today embrace. The people writing them are disciples of Ayn Rand. They used to be teenagers who resented being told to clean their rooms; now they are grownups who don’t want to be told to pay their taxes. Republicans have enthusiastically embraced the poison of Ayn Rand, its justification of psychopathic greed and selfishness, along with her belief that altruism and democracy are “evil.”
This Ayn-Randian idea that there are two kinds of people, “producers” and “parasites,” is reflected across the language of the right today. The wealthy “producers” are “job creators” Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner, for example, regularly echoes this core philosophy of “producers” and “parasites,” saying,

I believe raising taxes on the very people that we expect to reinvest in our economy and to hire people is the wrong idea,” he said. “For those people to give that money to the government…means it wont get reinvested in our economy at a time when we’re trying to create jobs.”

“The very people” who “hire people” shouldn’t have to pay taxes because that money is then taken out of the productive economy and just given to the parasites — “the help” — meaning you and me…
Who Is The Real Freeloader?
With the release of his (but for some reason only the most recent) tax returns we learned that Mitt Romney collects over $20 million a year, while doing nothing, from the many millions he was able to get control of by stripping companies and laying people off or making them take huge pay cuts and loss of benefits. According to the Christian Science Monitor, this is the story of what happened to the workers in one company when the Romney/Bain machine “came to town”:

The new owner, American Pad & Paper, owned in turn by [Mitt Romney's] Bain Capital, told all 258 union workers they were fired, in a cost-cutting move. Security guards hustled them out of the building. They would be able to reapply for their jobs, at lesser wages and benefits, but not all would be rehired.

According to the cruel language of the right, those workers are “losers.” If they need to get unemployment or food stamps they are “parasites” and “freeloaders” who are “asking for handouts.” When old, they will need the Social Security and Medicare they paid into all their lives, more “handouts.” People like Romney says these “entitlements” — the things we are entitled to as citizens in a democracy — are “draining the economy.”
Mitt Romney says government is the culprit, not people like him who show up and strip our jobs, factories, companies, industries and economy. Romney, who pays very little in taxes on the $20-plus million he receives in “capital gains” every year, wrote in a December USA Today op-ed titled, What kind of society does America want? that the very existence of government itself costs the economy jobs, writing, “With the growth of government has come an inevitable contraction of the private sphere.” Romney writes that programs like Social Security and Medicare are examples of “government dependency.” And, finally, he writes, “Government dependency can only foster passivity and sloth.”
Right. Mitt Romney, producer — who receives $20-plus million a year for not working — as contrasted with the “losers” who work two jobs at minimum wage, making so little they need food stamps just to get by. (They used to make more, but Mitt Romney came to town, buying the company they worked for, chopping it up and sending the parts they don’t sell to China, laying them off or cutting their wages in half, and taking their health care and pension.)
The Dependency Index
The conservative Heritage Foundation has published an “Index of Dependence on Government,” saying we have “unsustainable increases in dependent populations.” Heritage writes that, “Americans are haunted by the specter of enormously growing mountains of debt that suck the economic and social vitality out of this country.”
Heritage fails to mention that we were paying off the nation’s debt before Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy. In fact, at the rate we were paying off the debt when Clinton was President the entire US debt would have been paid off by now. Except for those tax cuts for the wealthy. But according to Heritage, the problem is not wealthy people paying very low taxes, it is humans who have human needs who are a “a potentially ruinous drain on federal finances.”
Please take a look at Heritage’s “dependency index.” Social Security is “government dependence.” Medicare is “government dependence.” And on and on. Heritage says nothing about the huge, bloated, corrupt, enormous, massive, ginormous military budget — that doubled under Bush. Heritage says nothing about the incredible subsidies government provides to oil and coal companies. Heritage says nothing about the cost of all of the tax cuts handed out to the wealthiest since the Reagan era. Nothing at all.
Heritage says that We, the People doing things for each other “encourages dependence.” They talk about people as if they are squirrels. Like building the interstate highway system encourages dependence or having good public schools encourages dependence or a pension after a life of hard work encourages dependence or public health programs that keep epidemics from spreading encourages dependence or giving vaccines to children encourages dependence or, I guess, in the old days helping a neighbor put up a barn encouraged dependence.
It is the Romneys, getting their $20-million-plus checks for doing nothing — the “gains” from stripping our economy and sending our jobs to China — who are dependent. Not the people that the Romneys threw out of work or cut their pay in half. Not the people working two jobs yet not making enough to pay rent and get enough to eat. The real “producers” in our economy are the 99%, the people who work, not the1%er “parasites” who use their wealth and power and connections to game the system and reap vast “gains.”
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Third World America: Reagan Revolution Drags Us Down

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
The recession ended in June, 2009? What? Seriously? No one told the millions of unemployed. And last week we got more bad news: 44 million of us living in poverty, and that was last year, before unemployment and COBRA subsidies started running out for the unemployed,

… four million additional Americans found themselves in poverty in 2009, with the total reaching 44 million, or one in seven residents. Millions more were surviving only because of expanded unemployment insurance and other assistance.

We are living in the Reagan Revolution every day. Conservative policies are making us poor and poorer,

Who counts and who doesn’t count? We hear so much about the “middle class” but rarely about the plight of the poor. And of course we hear again and again that the wealthy are “successful” and the “job-creators” who shouldn’t be “punished” by being asked to give something back to the country that enabled their wealth. Conservative “market” thinking and Ayn Randian “the poor are losers” dehumanizing ideology has become pervasive and dominant as we transition from one-person-one-vote democracy to one-dollar-one-vote plutocracy. In this plutocratic environment the national discussion of tax cuts for the wealthy saturates the corporate media, while the 44 million of us in poverty now are barely mentioned and count for little.

Arianna Huffington’s new book, Third World America, documents what is happening to us. RJ Eskow explains,

Third World America is direct and clear in its message: Decades of aggressive corporate lobbying, driven by bankers and other large corporations, have led to a series of policy decisions that are eroding the American standard of living. The details are all there: The financial industry’s gone from 2.5% of our GDP in 1947 to 8.3% right before the meltdown. Financial profits went from a maximum of 16% between 1973 and 1985 to 41% right before the crisis hit. And rather than being chastened by their failure, or disciplined by taxpayers in return for being bailed out, bankers have embraced their old ways with enthusiasm. Meanwhile the American households that rescued them lost $13 trillion in wealth between mid-2007 and March 2009.

Last week more than 300 economists issued a dire warning that the current conservative “austerity” approach to the economy is dangerous. Focus on jobs now they say,

More than 300 economists, policy experts and civic leaders have signed a statement warning political leaders of “a grave danger” that the still-fragile economic recovery will be undercut by austerity economics of the kind being pushed by conservative politicians and by the White House deficit commission. Read the statement and more at dontkilljobs.org.

Meanwhile, all over the blogs this weekend was the story of the whiny rich, complaining that they “only” make a few hundred thousand a year. Why are they whining?

The reason is that the income inequality has become so extreme that even the really rich see people above them who make VASTLY more than they do, so they feel like they aren’t making hardly anything at all. They don’t look down, they look up, and they see people making millions, hundreds of millions, even billions in a single year.
One more nasty outcome of the Reagan Revolution: even the really rich feel poor compared to the really, really rich who are the primary beneficiaries from conservative policies.

What can you do? There is a One Nation Working Together rally in DC on October 2. PLEASE click this link and find out what you can do to help, even if yo can’t make it to DC. There are local events across the country.
And remember, the election is coming up. We need to remind people that it was conservative policies that got us into this mess. It was conservatives who bailed out the banks. It was conservatives who ran up the massive debt. It was conservatives who killed the jobs.

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Unpaved: Out-Of-Cash America Undoing Its 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.

In case you missed Rachel Maddow last night, she had a segment on American cities and counties actually undoing their infrastructure because they are out of money. She listed city after city across the country that is shutting off its streetlights, turning paved roads into gravel, shutting down bus systems, shutting down schools, firing police, and other steps to save money.
To me, the most striking comment was, “Somewhere in China it is entirely possible that a businessperson sat down for a ride on a 200mph state-of-the-art levitating bullet train, and cracked open the Wall Street Journal, and read about how in American we’ve decided we can’t afford paved roads anymore.”
Is that how we want the rest of the world to think of us? Do we really want to become a broken-down, corrupt, uncompetitive 3rd-world country? Well, that is where we are going. We can see the infrastructure crumbling around us.
Meanwhile, as the country falls further and further behind the rest of the world the government is unable to function. In Washington the conservative Senate minority continues to use the filibuster — over 110 times since President Obama took office — to block every effort to do anything about our problems. They block helping states keep teachers. They block helping the unemployed. They block job-creation efforts. They block everything government does for We, the People.
And at the same time as they resist spending to help the country, publicly pleading that the deficit and debt are too high, the conservatives also resist doing the things that will fix the problem: raise tax rates on the wealthy, and cut the huge, massive, bloated, more than $1 trillion per year military and military-related budget.
They think a worsening economy with no solutions will demoralize enough voters that they can turn out their “base’ and win in November. Destroy the economy and the country to get votes. Great. You’ll make marvelous leaders — oh wait, been there, that’s how we got into this mess.
Yes, we know how we got here. Everyone this knows that the deficits and debt come from tax cuts for the wealthy, and huge increases in military spending. AConservatives know. They said their plan was to cut taxes and thereby “starve the beast” as a way to cut government. Their reason to cut government is to make way for the only available alternative: so that the large corporations and the wealthy can rule instead. Cutting government means cutting the controls and protections that We, the People have been able to build up over the years, ensuring that we get a slice of the pie. This has been going on for thousands, even ten thousand years, as the broad masses of regular people work to assert their rights over whatever wealthy and powerful group has seized the reigns of power and is trying to grab everything for themselves as fast as they can.
Look where this cynical strategy is taking the whole country! We are not only not maintaining and modernizing our infrastructure, we are falling into 3rd-world status. This can’t even help the wealthy and the big corporations they control. The conservatives still have to live here even if this scheme does bring them control. They will still have to live with fewer police, fewer teachers, fewer streetlights, unpaved roads, crumbling factories, and an ever-less-competitive economy.
Will it be worth it?
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Make Them Work

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
Conservatives seem to think of America’s citizens as “the help.”
“Everyone knows Americans are lazy, shiftless, always looking for a way to shirk their responsibilities. People don’t want to work so we have to make them work. And good dose of humiliation is good for the soul. If you let them have any dignity they might get uppity.” That is what conservatives sound like when they talk about the long-term unemployed — who, by the way, are out of work because of conservative policies.
For example, from Tuesday’s WaPo, No extension of unemployment benefits in sight for the long-term jobless,

“Workers are less likely to look for work, or accept less-than-ideal jobs, as long as they are protected from the full consequences of being unemployed,” said Michael D. Tanner, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. “That is not to say that anyone is getting rich off unemployment, or that unemployed people are lazy. But it is simple human nature that people are a little less motivated as long as a check is coming in.”

That’s right, you have to make them work, or they’ll just sit around and wont be “productive.” They wont face up to the “consequences” of unemployment. These parasites will just suck the blood out of the producers. You hear language like this all the time from conservatives. The unemployed are “lazy,” or “on drugs” etc. They are not “productive.” They are mooching off the rest of us.
This is all in sharp contrast to the noble rich, who are an entirely different species biologically and spiritually. They are the “wealth producers” who we must treat with kid gloves and certainly not ask them to pay for their use of infrastructure or government services lest they decide to stop working. They just want to keep working, and what they do is so important, so pure, so necessary to the sustenance of the rest of us that they must be coddled at all times lest we lose their golden-egg magic touch!
Maybe this kind of attitude towards their fellow citizens comes from the slaveholder roots of conservatism. According to Robin L. Einhorn, author of American Taxation, American Slavery,

…Americans are right to think that our antitax and antigovernment attitudes have deep historical roots. Our mistake is to dig for them in Boston. We should be digging in Virginia and South Carolina rather than in Massachusetts or Pennsylvania, because the origins of these attitudes have more to do with the history of American slavery than the history of American freedom. They have more to do with protections for entrenched wealth than with promises of opportunity, and more to do with the demands of privileged elites than with the strivings of the common man. Instead of reflecting a heritage that valued liberty over all other concerns, they are part of the poisonous legacy we have inherited from the slaveholders who forged much of our political tradition. [emphasis added]

As for this idea of low taxes, smaller government that we hear about so often, (and please read this, it is so important)

It might seem strange to trace our antitax and antigovernment ideas to slavery instead of to liberty and democracy. Isn’t it obvious that a democratic society where “the people” make the basic political decisions will choose lower taxes and smaller governments? The short answer is no. In this democratic society, the people might decide to pool their resources to buy good roads, excellent schools, convenient courthouses, and an effective military establishment. But slaveholders had different priorities than other people—and special reasons to be afraid of taxes. Slaveholders had little need for transportation improvements (since their land was often already on good transportation links such as rivers) and hardly any interest in an educated workforce (it was illegal to teach slaves to read and write because slaveholders thought education would help African Americans seize their freedom). Slaveholders wanted the military, not least to promote the westward expansion of slavery, and they also wanted local police forces (“slave patrols”) to protect them against rebellious slaves. They wanted all manner of government action to protect slavery, while they tended to dismiss everything else as wasteful government spending.

Compromises with the slave states became entrenched in our political system with consequences to this day,

Majorities voluntarily renounced the right to regulate their society by majority rule. Giving up the essence of democratic self-government, they celebrated the outcome as democracy. The consequences would outlive the slaveholders who played such a large role in establishing this attitude toward government and taxation. Long after slavery was gone, a regime forged around preferential treatment for the slaveholding elite came to favor very different elites—commercial and industrial elites who shared little with their slaveholding predecessors except a demand that majorities renounce their right to govern what ostensibly was a democratic society.
. . . Today, this brand of politics looks eerily familiar. We have experience with political parties that attack “elites” in order to rally voters behind policies that benefit elites. This is what the slaveholders did in early American history, and they did it very well. Expansions of slavery became expansions of “liberty,” constitutional limitations on democratic self-government became defenses of “equal rights,” and the power of slaveholding elites became the power of the “common man.” In the topsy-turvy political world we have inherited from the age of slavery, the power of the majority to decide how to tax became the power of an alien “government” to oppress “the people.”

Please go read it all.
It is time to take a fresh look at what it means to be a citizen in a country where We, the People are supposed to be in charge. This idea that we should force people into demeaning jobs with no minimum wage and make them work seems antithetical to democracy. A government of We, the People should be about taking care of each other, protecting and empowering each other and respecting each other. You are supposed to be the boss of you here. And we are supposed to be in charge.
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If You Feed Them They Breed — And Other Dehumanizing Conservative Idiocy We Should Ignore

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
The country is in an economic emergency. Unemployment — especially long-term unemployment — is at extremely high levels and the recovery is faltering. Conservatives are obstructing efforts to solve this because they believe it helps them in the November election. To this end conservatives are throwing out every possible argument against helping the economy to see if any of them stick, and to provide cover for opposing taking any action that might help matters.
The latest nonsense they are spreading is that helping the unemployed keeps them from finding jobs. Good Lord! This is basically the old “if you feed them they just breed” storyline. They say “it makes them dependent” as if hard-working people laid off because of Wall Street’s scams are squirrels. Or, to hear the nasty way conservatives talk about these human beings, they are like rats. “Hobos,” one Congressman called the unemployed! And the DC elite listen, chuckle and repeat.
But while they say unemployment assistance keeps these lazy parasites from finding jobs, they also obstruct bills that create jobs by maintaining and modernizing our infrastructure. This tells you it’s just something they say, to cover for what they do. And what they do is obstruct any effort to fix the problem because they believe they will benefit if it is not fixed.
For example, the big DC drumbeat right now is against “spending.” They claim that government spending caused the crisis, ignoring and passing the buck on everything that actually caused it, especially their deregulation and their lack of oversight. They blame government for everything, so why should this be different.
Along these lines they claim that the stimulus didn’t work, or even that spending made the problem worse, because there are still people out of work. But look at the following chart. The right side of the chart shows the effect of the stimulus. (Source, Jed Lewison and Karina Newton)
monthly_private_sector_job_creationloss
A conservative, anti-government myth that is everywhere now is that “Government forced banks to give loans to people who couldn’t pay them back, and this caused the financial collapse” — and its variant that it was about forcing banks to “help minorities. This is an example of the tactic of repeating a lie over and over until enough people believe it. To deflect people from understanding what really caused the crisis and from seeing that they are obstructing the effort to reform the financial system they made this one up” Unfortunately this has become what bloggers call a “zombie lie” — no matter how many times you prove it is just a lie, it comes back from the dead.
The Zombie Lie Problem
The “zombie lie” problem shows that it is a mistake to think that just arguing facts is a way to shoot this stuff down. Spending your time arguing facts with people who are trying to mislead misses the point. The lie is not about the facts, it is cover for the obstruction. When you try to argue a fact they will make up something else to throw you off track. Facts are not what this is about, feeding a narrative of no action is what this is about, because they understand that a bad economy helps them in the Fall.
Listening to this stuff at all, and trying to argue facts just contributes to the lack of action. There comes a point when you have to stop llsteneing and getting bogged down by intentional distractions and get something done for the economy and the public.
It Is Time To Stop Listening To This Stuff And ACT
Enough with these stupid, heartless, dehumanizing right wing “if you feed them they breed” arguments that are preventing action. People are out of work and the recovery is faltering. It is time to push aside the nay-sayers, and get something done. The government simply has to step in and act. First, do the minimal, obvious things:
1) Pass the unemployment extension, because people can’t find jobs.
2) Continue COBRA subsidies, because so many of the long-term unemployed are older people who cannot get or afford insurance any other way. This is simple humanity, people! And, by the way, COBRA itself is running out for many people, never mind subsidies.
3) Send aid to the states. 900,000 jobs in the states are riding on this help.
At a minimum do this. Don’t get lost in the weeds of what bill to attach it to. Just do it. Bring it out by itself for an up or down vote so the public can clearly see who is helping and who is voting against jobs and help for the unemployed.
But what Congress really ought to be doing is passing the George Miller “Local Jobs for America Act.” .
As economists like Paul Krugman keep saying we risk going into a serious depression. At the least we are entering a pattern of slight recovery, slight decline for a decade. Look at what happened to Ireland when they tried “austerity.”
Here is an undeniable fact about government spending. Government spending on infrastructure creates the conditions that enable businesses to prosper. Tax cuts leave nothing behind, but the roads, transit systems, ports, electric grid, Internet, courts, schools, universities, research, and all the rest that government spending creates make us competitive and are needed by businesses
Do it. Ignore the obstructors who are trying to set the stage for November. Put people to work. Help the long-term unemployed. Pass jobs bills.. And spend on modernizing our infrastructure so American can be competitive again.
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Drill Baby Drill Judge Pits Mega-Corporations Against The Rest Of Us

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
American deregulated corporatism: Short-term profits for a very few at the expense of the rest of us. The Gulf oil spill is driving home the “expense of the rest of us” part of this equation. And the corporatist/conservative reaction to government’s efforts to reign in an industry that provides so much of their funding highlights for us the battle lines of the equation.
Conservatives say that getting a company to set up a fund to compensate its victims is “Chicago-style thuggery” and a “shakedown” and apologize to the company! Instead we demand they apologize to democracy for this.
But this is not really about “corporatism” it is about raw bigness translating into raw power. This is big industries and companies and a few extremely wealthy people that “have” vs not-as-big industries, companies and the rest of us that “have not.” Big, centralized oil is a “have.” Fishing, tourism, alternative “green” energy – these are industries and corporations too — and democratic decision-making are “have nots.” This is not corporations vs democracy, this is big corporations (really, the wealthy few people who control their resources) against smaller corporations and the rest of us.
Yesterday a Reagan-appointed, oil-stock-owning judge set aside the Obama administration’s moratorium on exploratory offshore oil drilling, citing “potential economic harm to businesses and workers” in the oil industry while ignoring the not-potential threat of harm to the fishing, tourism and other industries now being destroyed by that industry. Big oil’s wishes, a judge appointed by the guy who took Carter’s solar panels down from the White House roof and dismantled mass-transit and alternative energy programs, and an anti-government conservative movement out to dismantle democracy combine to push back against the “thuggery” of a public daring to attempt to assert that safety is assured. The battle is over who is in charge.
The administration placed the moratorium while they develop new safety standards and procedures. This followed the revelations of near-complete regulatory capture of the Minerals Management Service by the oil industry, resulting in the chain of safety-ignoring, cost-saving diversions from standard procedure. They filed a xeroxed spill plan citing dead phone numbers and dead consultants, and the dead regulatory agency never bothered to read it before approving it. The blowout preventer wasn’t working and they knew it but didn’t want to take the time or expense to fix it. Etc, and etc.
Since so much was wrong on this rig the government wants to take a look at the other rigs drilling offshore and make sure they are operating safely, and get procedures that work in place. The industry is infuriated that government is “interfering’ in their profit-making enterprise. Their oil is under our water and they want it now.
The industry threatens to just move oil rigs out of the Gulf to other areas, taking the jobs with them. Democratic oversight of corporate behavior is again held hostage to the threat of moving jobs across a border. The judge lets them get away with it.
This is the fight. The big and wealthy industries, corporations and people against the smaller industries, corporations and the rest of us. This is the same fight as that unleashed by the recent Citizens United case. It is not corporations vs democracy, it is the the wealthy few people who control the resources of the biggest corporations against everyone else.
And it is in no way clear who will come out on top.
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Washington Times Against Protectionism Before They Were For 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.
President Obama is visiting Asia, and is blasted over and over about America’s supposedly “protectionist” policies.

“China on Monday accused the United States of increasing protectionism…”

Think about it, the country with the massive trade surplus accuses the country with the massive trade deficit of being “protectionist.” Call it The Audacity Of Projection.
Our trade opponents have learned that all they have to do is shout the word “protectionist” and their American enablers will quickly run from doing anything that might help American companies and workers. But what happens later, when the consequences start hitting home? Do the “free trade” shouting, foreign-competition enablers take the blame and accept responsibility when Amercan dollars are spent overseas and American workers lose jobs and American factories close? Who could have known that they would point the finger at the President instead of themselves?
Here is what I am talking about:
On February 8, 2009, during the debate over the stimulus package, the conservative Washington Times joined the “free trade” chorus, denouncing the package’s proposed “Buy American” requirements as the same kind of “protectionism” that conservative mythology says caused the Great Depression: EDITORIAL: How to cause a depression,

…Tucked within the economic stimulus bill the House passed last week was a clause requiring state and local public works agencies to buy American iron and steel for their reconstruction projects, and the Senate expanded it to all manufactured goods.
[. . .] The stimulus bill has a way to go before it reaches Mr. Obama’s desk, but if strong “buy American” mandates are present at that time, he will have no choice but to veto the bill. Otherwise, he will be forever known as Barack H. (Hoover or Hawley) Obama.

Conservative free-traders got what they demanded. In response to these and other cries of “protectionism!” the Senate backed away from the Buy American clause, changing it to vague language requiring that the money be spent in ways consistent with existing treaties.
Since this wording gives the President some discretion in how the money is spent conservatives started demanding the President spend it … outside of the country. For example, a Washington Times editorial on March 24, EDITORIAL: The Mexican-American War of 2009, ended by blasting President Obama for wanting American stimulus dollars to stimulate America’s economy:

“Wasn’t Mr. Obama going to be the “international” president who was going to get the rest of the world to love us? The path to improving relations does not involve destroying jobs in other countries as well as in our own.”

So now it turns out that many stimulus dollars are being spent according to the wishes of the “free trade” conservatives, with money to purchase wind turbines creating jobs in Europe and China, and who could have known, the very same free-trade conservatives are JUST OUTRAGED that President Obama is sending American stimulus dollars out of the country! For example, a Washington Times editorial on November 13, EDITORIAL: Stimulus creates jobs in China, begins,

Of the $1 billion in clean-energy stimulus money spent since the beginning of September, $850 million has gone to foreign wind companies. It doesn’t take a bunch of experts at a hastily planned “jobs summit” to discover this isn’t the way to bolster employment in America.
Indeed, the 11 U.S. wind farms that received stimulus money from the Treasury have imported 695 of the 982 wind turbines to be installed, creating 4,500 jobs overseas. That’s far more overseas work than the stimulus money has created in the United States.

Yes, how DARE they not require that American stimulus dollars be spent in America! This from the very same Washington Times editors who earlier in the year demanded exactly that.
Who could have known that conservatives would attack President Obama for the consequences of giving in to conservative demands??!! The Washington Times was against protectionism before they were for it. Call it The Audacity Of Hypocrisy.
The lesson to be learned here is to stop listening to these conservative, “free trade” clowns. They are only interested in making the rich richer at the expense of the rest of us and will say whatever advances that goal. We should start just doing what is right for the country, our workers, our factories, our companies and our jobs.

Free-Market Conservatives Are Just Wrong

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.
There are things you can see in front of your face, and then there are things that conservative “free market” ideologues tell you.
One example is when they talk about the minimum wage. (An increase in the national minimum wage goes into effect today.) Conservative “free market” ideologues tell you that raising the minimum wage “costs jobs.” They say that if employers have to pay a few cents more per hour they won’t employ as many people.
But then there is something you can see in front of your face: whenever the minimum wage is raised, things get better. Things obviously get a little better for the people who work at the minimum wage, and for their families. As this works its way up the food chain things get a little better for the people and stores these workers rent and buy from. But also, studies looking into the effect of what actually happens after the minimum wage is raised show that the net effect is no loss of jobs.
Here is why. Employers hire the number of people they need to get done what needs to get done, according to demand. Ideally they employ the correct number of people to fill orders, run checkouts, stock shelves, etc. They don’t just have extra people sitting around for the heck of it. Of course there are some tasks where a calculation of a few cents in wages can make someone “not worth it,” but in the aggregate any jobs lost from this are offset by the new people hired to meet the increased demand created by people spending the higher wages. More people with more money to spend increases demand, which is good for business. Profits for some employers may be reduced a bit by the increase in labor cost, but these are also offset by increased profits for others due to increased demand.
Even so, conservative free-market conservative ideologues continue to make the claim that increasing the minimum wage “costs jobs” anyway. It’s what they do. They make a bad thing out of paying American workers good wages and benefits. They complain about workers getting pensions and health care. They just don’t seem to like it when regular people are better off. But here is a warning: never, ever dare suggest to a free-market conservative that a CEO or a trust fund child should pay some taxes – you’ll get an earful about how this would just ruin the economy.
The free-market conservatives are just wrong.
A second thing a free-market conservative ideologue wills tell you is that it is good for more and more of the things that used to be made here to be made in other countries instead. They say that by moving factories to other countries we all benefit because “we pay lower prices.” They say we benefit because “foreign competition encourages greater productivity” (even though we are talking about moving our factories from here to there.) They say that moving factories to other countries, “unites people in peaceful cooperation and mutual prosperity.”*
They say that moving factories to other countries, to make the same things that the factories were making here, should be called “trade.”
But we can all see right in front of our faces that none of this is so. Moving jobs out of the country to make the same things that were made here is not “trade” and it certainly hasn’t brought us prosperity. It is just moving our jobs out of the country to make the same things that were made here, so a few people can pocket what was being paid to the American workers, while they stick the taxpayers with their unemployment pay and the costs of trying to keep their devastated communities alive.
Free-market conservative ideologues seem to believe that society works better when a few people get paid a lot, while the rest of us have very little, and advocate policies that bring that about. They have been the dominant force in our country’s policymaking for many years, and we can see in front of our faces that the result is that a few people are getting paid more and more and the rest of us less and less. (Bailed-out Citigroup is paying one person a $100 million bonus, 738 others bonuses of $1 million or more, and Merril Lynch paid 696 people bonuses of $1 million or more.) They have put in place policies that stick the taxpayers with the costs and the wealthy few with the benefits.
We can all see that moving factories out of the country has destroyed lives, torn apart communities, created massive debt, created a very few massively rich people at the expense of the rest of us … oh, and ruined the economy. That, too.
It is time for us to realize that these free-market conservatives are just wrong. They get paid to say that stuff, but it is just wrong. Moving a factory out of the country to make the same things it made here is not “trade.” It does not benefit anyone except a few, and when the purchasing power inevitably dries up it doesn’t even benefit those few either. They made a short-term profit and now we all suffer a long-term loss.
it is time for us to come up with new policies, new plans, new strategies and new rules of the game.
*Actual claims at Cato Institute’s Center for Trade Policy Studies

What Sen. Spector’s Party Switch Tells California Voters

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.
Pennsylvania Republican Senator Arlen (“Single-Bullet“) Specter switched from the Republican to the Democratic Party this week.  Rush Limbaugh reacted to this news by welcoming Specter’s departure, and added, “take McCain with you.”

Specter left because the extremist wing of the Republican Party — the ones who listen to and agree with Rush Limbaugh and will tolerate absolutely no compromise of any kind from the most extreme conservative positions — have taken over and are driving others out. This rightmost element, who call themselves the only “real Republicans” have a special name for people like Arlen Specter and John McCain.  They call them “RINOs.”  RINO stands for “Republican In Name Only” and refers to Republicans who are not conservative enough to meet approval of the absolutists.  (What is conservative enough?  Half of Texas Republicans want Texas to secede from the United States.)

Arlen Specter is hardly a liberal.  He has a solidly conservative voting record, (after switching parties he voted against President Obama’s budget), but not conservative enough for the hard core purists.  John McCain won the ire of this element for not supporting torture.

The Limbaugh branch of the party have been working to drive moderate-right members like Specter and McCain out, and are increasingly successful.  Maine Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe, another target of this element, warned that,

“being a Republican moderate sometimes feels like being a cast member of ‘Survivor’ — you are presented with multiple challenges, and you often get the distinct feeling that you’re no longer welcome in the tribe.”

This demonstrates just how far the Republican Party has moved from its roots.  They have drifted so far away from their mission that even their last Presidential candidate is being urged to leave the party!  They have drifted so far from their mission that the “party of Lincoln” has a solid contingent supporting having their states secede from the Union!

This hard-core extremism is also being demonstrated in California, where not a single Repubilcan will vote for a budget — any budget — because their strategy for the state is to “let it go into bankruptcy, let it go off a cliff, we need to prove a point.”  The reason that crazy-sounding line has quotation marks around it is because it is a quote.  It is also the definition of extremism.  And, combined with the 2/3 rule that lets them block budgets, it is the reason California is becoming ungovernable.

Roberts and Trounstine at Calbuzz write that, “the California Republican Party is doomed to minority status” by this extremism.  For example, California Republican Party chairman Ron Nehring said of Specter’s defection,

“The Republican Party didn’t leave Arlen Specter. Arlen Specter left the Republican Party some time ago,” Mr. Chairman said in his statement. “Arlen Specter decided on his own – no one forced him – to violate core Republican principles by voting for the wasteful $787 billion stimulus bill while every single House Republican, including California’s entire Republican delegation, voted with taxpayers in opposition instead.”

In other words, it violates Republican principles to vote to help the people.  The “taxpayers” they “support” are their wealthy and corporate campaign donors.  And, they add, it doesn’t make sense for Party leaders to “applaud Specter’s defection, as if losing prominent party members holds the key
to growing the party and returning it to majority status.”

Why they are wrong:  The hard-core conservative values these people support are “limited government, free markets and personal responsibility.”  But what is this government that they want to limit?  Abraham Lincoln, another RINO, famously said that our American government is “of the people, by the people and for the people.”  So today’s Republicans want to limit the people’s ability to make decisions (government by the people) and instead hand this ability over to “the market” (ruled by big corporations.)  They want to replace a country where we watch out for and take care of each other (government for the people) with a system where we are all left on our own at the mercy of these corporations — which they call “personal responsibility.” 

There is an alternative to the extremist right’s approach.  Progressive values and policies are better for people.  Instead of limiting our government progressives believe that the people should have more power to make the decisions that affect all of us.  Instead of a one-dollar-one-vote “market” approach to decision-making, progressives believe in one-person-one-vote equality where people are on an equal footing, with an equal right to benefit from our common resources. 

Progressives believe in a community-based, democratic approach to deciding how we should run our state and country.  We’re here for each other, not just for ourselves.

So let’s welcome all those disenfranchised Republicans into our tent. We’re big enough and tolerant enough of differing opinions, so long as the best interests of the people are at heart. I think they’ll like being part of a true democracy where the people come first.

P.S. See Assemblymember Nancy Skinner’s invitation to Republicans.
Click through to Speak Out California and leave a comment.

Are Clinton and Obama Communists?

The right has been cranking up the communist charge in this election. I guess it worked for the 50 years ago, so why not trot it out again?
I came across this today at the Republican TownHall site: Townhall.com::Obama, Clinton And Capitalism: It’s Okay For Them, But Nobody Else,

The big irony here is that while Obama has done extremely well for himself in our very unique free-market economy, he has the “audacity” to demonize others who have done well for themselves, and to propose economic policies that, if implemented, would radically change our nation into something more akin to a Western European socialist state.

OK, let’s examine that for a minute. Aside from the implications that they are communists, what does “Western European Socialist State” really mean? European citizens get 5 weeks paid vacation per year for everyone, free full-coverage health care for everyone, generous pays and pensions for everyone (with retirement earlier than here), corporations required to benefit the public, modern public transit systems, child care, clean public-oriented cities, governments responsive to the people instead of the wealthy, the corporations and the big military contractors, … oh I could go on and on about the terrible state of things for Western European citizens…
And what are some of the examples of Clinton and Obama’s supposedly communistic policies?

Obama has proposed a federal crack down on what he deems “excessive pay” for corporate executives. He has proposed that the federal government begin taxing people’s capital (not just earnings or interest payments, but, yes, capital itself). He has proposed that the capital gains tax rate be raised to 28%, nearly doubling its current rate of 15%. And he has made it a constant theme of his campaign to lament “Bush’s tax cuts for the rich,”
. . .[Clinton] has berated the reality of America being an “ownership society” (despite the recent increase in mortgage foreclosures, home ownership in America is still at an all-time high), saying that in reality we are an “on your own” society. Her remedy for the “problem” is for us to become a “we’re in this together society,” a nation of “shared responsibility” AND “shared prosperity.”

Conservatives lament that people should have to actually give back a bit to the public by paying taxes, after the public’s investment in roads and bridges and law enforcement and military and schools and the legal and financial infrastructure made them rich. The writer thinks that the roads and bridges and schools and everything else that enabled that ecosystem which enables people to get rich just magically appeared. The writer doesn’t seem to know that it was taxes that built that system — OUR taxes — and thinks the beneficiaries of this public investment should just freeload off the rest of us.
Taxes are the reason we have a thriving economic ecosystem. Tax cuts make us poor. And people getting rich off of our public investment and giving nothing back is the reason we don’t get 5 weeks vacation, health care, and all the rest here.
If the conservatives are trying to scare me away from voting for Clinton or Obama by claiming that if elected they will bring us 5 weeks paid vacation a year, free health coverage and the rest, and that the cost will be taxing rich CEOs and corporations — well I gotta tell you I want to get me some of that!

Marketing Conservatism and Corporatism

“Conservatives and their ideas are good, liberals and their ideas are bad.”
You hear the message repeated a thousand different ways, over and over, every day. It is a strategy, an organized marketing campaign to create demand for conservatives, their policies and their candidates. Over time and unanswered, it sinks into the brain.
The fact is, marketing creates demand. So after decades of this, people start to demand conservative policies and candidates and their politicians just ride that wave. In some areas conservative candidates can just point and shout, “liberal, liberal” and win elections. We see the results all around us – trillions of OUR dollars flow to the top. Our resources are “privatized” into the hands of corporations. We work longer hours for lower pay, losing our health insurance and pensions and rights… Our environment is polluted and our resources extracted.
Repeat: this is a strategic marketing campaign to get people to accept being ruled by wealthy corporatists. Marketing creates demand. Repetition drives a point home.
Today’s example just came in the morning e-mail. Read this and you’ll see that it follows the same tired script: liberals and their ideas are bad, and conservatives and their ideas are good. Marketing creates demand, and this is marketing, promoting conservative values and ideas and candidates.

The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11
“Why do they hate us?” Some conservatives, following President Bush, believe that Muslim anti-Americanism stems from irrational hatred of our freedom and democracy. Others lay the blame on our foreign policy. Now comes bestselling conservative author Dinesh D’Souza to argue that both views, while they contain elements of truth, miss the larger reason. In The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11, D’Souza makes the startling claim that the 9/11 attacks and other terrorist acts around the world can be directly traced to the ideas and attitudes perpetrated by America’s cultural left.

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Are Progressives Good? Then TELL PEOPLE!

Every time you turn on the radio or a cable news show you hear one form or another of the same old message, “conservatives and their ideas are good and liberals and their ideas are bad.” Think about how often you hear one or another variation of that theme.
But how often do you hear that liberals and progressives are good? How often do you hear that liberal/progressive ideas are better for people than a conservative approach? And if you are reading this you’re looking for progressive ideas. So how often do you think the general public is hearing that progressives and their values and ideas are good?
The public does not hear our side of the story very often – if ever.
Why is that? Maybe it’s because we aren’t telling people our side of the story!
There are literally hundreds of conservative organizations that primarily exist to persuade the public to support conservative ideas (and, therefore, conservative candidates.) The people you see on TV or hear on the radio or who write op-eds in newspapers are paid by, or at the very least draw upon resources provided by these organizations. You might or might not have heard of the Heritage Foundation or the Cato Institute or Americans for Tax Reform or the This Institute or the That Foundation or the Government-and-Taxes-Are-Bad Association – but there really is a network of well-funded conservative organizations marketing the conservatives-are-good-and-liberals-and-government-and-democracy-are-bad propaganda every hour of every day and they have been doing so for decades.
Click this link to visit a collection of links to articles, studies, reports and other resources for learning about the right-wing movement, its history, how it is funded and how it operates.
Now, can you think of any organizations that exist to tell the public that progressive values and ideas and policies and candidates are good? Do you know about any organized effort to persuade people to support progressive values and ideas?

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